Wilhelmina Winters, Fifty-Two

(One full year of Wil! Click here for the very first one.)

The dame sat stiffly on the old couch, holding onto her man’s hand like a woman holds onto her man’s hand. They looked expectant, wary. Inspector Winters nodded to them, curtly. She hoped the gesture would get them talking. She needed them to talk, or she’d never get anywhere in the case of Yesterday’s Letter.
Her informants did not relax. Or talk. The clock ticked forward. Winters would have to break the ice, or they’d be frozen up like last week’s informant: permanently. She shuddered a bit at the memory.

But, that was all that was left of the Legend of Wilhelmina: a memory. Some folks liked to think they knew the true story, regardless. You’d think a person would know what could happen or not after living, but many seemed to believe the longest yarns a body ever told no matter how old they were. It didn’t take much for a new person to come through with some new-fangled doodad, telling some heap of story about something or other -and you’d have every body in town talking about it by sundown.
Never you mind the circumstances. It didn’t even matter if the person was a flaming green dragon. If he talked real smooth and pretty, they’d lap up the lies like Farmer Brown’s poor thirsty dog on a hot Tuesday.

This was not a Tuesday. To be precise, there were no longer days measured by irrelevant identifiers like names. If the current intelligent species had persisted in archaic traditions, the day would be Friday. Once the Governing Council of Stars had reasonably determined more accurate methods of counting time, proving the system to be based on unfair emphasis on only one ancient group of peoples, further proving to be based on ancient supernatural beliefs, the current method of a ten time cycle was enacted. This we know.
These facts were known to Family Unit W1NT3R as well, and yet they still felt tired at some times during Waking and felt awake at some times during Sleeping. As precise as travel, time, and other measurements were, their bodies were still organic and subject to faulty behaviors. Perhaps the beeping machine was the better species. Of course, it needed to be built and maintained by intelligent creatures. They were not obsolete yet.

Soon, Cynthia would be obsolete. The long, twisting plastic coil ran down the couch until it stabbed into the flesh of her left hand. Its contents ran smoothly, inexorably, into her unresisting blood stream. It healed for now, but some day it would be useless. Everyone had his end.

Wil gulped and hoped this was not the end. She had long wanted to be entrusted with the Scroll of Truth-telling. With it, she could complete her level of training and move on to working directly under Grandwizard Grinzdle. With it, she, too, would know the secrets of the land, and join her parents at Couch City.
Together, they would bring peace, happiness, and light to the world. Unified and powerful, they would fight this battle to its end. Secrets would be banished. Fear would have no place. Truth and love would triumph.

“Wil,” Rob said. “I have a letter I need to show you.”

In the hand that was not holding his wife, he held a small paper rectangle. It was the envelope he had taken so quickly to his room the day before, the one Wil had entered his room to search for.

She could see that it had been forwarded by the post office, that it had been written on with cursive, and that it bent a bit over her father’s grip. After she moved closer, Wil also saw that it was addressed to her.

Rob lifted his hand, holding the letter out to her.

 

Continued from Fifty-One.
Keep reading to Fifty-Three.

Wilhelmina Winters, Forty-Eight

She walked the course she often trod alone,

Perceiving little more than faceless crowd.

A shadow trailed beyond her body’s own,

As silent as the roiling mass were loud.

 

“Wil,” it spoke, out from obscurity.

Its target jumped and yelped in real surprise.

“It’s me,” Hope said, unnecessarily.

As Wil saw, true, Hope’s smiling face and eyes.

 

“I know you have but little time,” Hope said,

She turned and walked along the hall with Wil,

Matching Wil in gait, balance, and tread,

Causing Wil to marvel at such skill.

 

They reached Wil’s locker ere she e’en knew it.

She spun the combination absently.

The presence of Hope flustered her a bit,

Although, Wil thought, she should feel diff’rently.

 

“I’ve had two thoughts about your case,” said Hope.

Wil glanced at her, up from the task at hand.

She tried to meet Hope’s gaze, while fingers groped

And dial turned; its tri-code numbers scanned.

 

“The first I recommend is just to wait,”

Hope said, “Although that may be hard to do.”

Wil’s face showed doubt and restlessness innate;

Her patience never lasted long, she knew.

 

“I find my parents tell me what I seek,

When given time enough to organize,”

Hope said. The locker opened with a creak,

And Wil withdrew her backpack, books, supplies.

 

“The second, if you’re sure you want to look,”

Continued quiet girl with piercing glance,

“Is think where you hide what you don’t want took:

Beneath a pillow, bed; or drawers, by chance?”

 

Wil nodded, then asked anxiously, “Oh, but-

How do I move, and not make so much sound?”

“Well,” Hope thought, “Just try to sneak somewhat,

And, use distracting noises all around.”

 

So speaking, shadow nodded once, then left,

Melting subtly as she had advised

Among the crowds. So, leaving Wil to theft

Or patient wait -whate’er she would devise.

 

Continued from Forty-Seven.
Keep reading to Forty-Nine.

Wilhelmina Winters, Forty-Five

February 5: Chemistry

I haven’t written in a long time. Paper and pencils are scarce and I can’t always get good light to see by. Also, I don’t always remember to write.

They keep us pretty busy here at Camp. I think that’s also why I can’t write frequently. Frequently. Frequency. The teacher just talked about frequency.

He wants us to call him “doctor,” but I think that’s weard. He isn’t a doctor that can heal people. He just really likes science and went to a lot of school learning about science.

If I went to school for that long, I would not want to end up teaching jr high.

What would I want, you wonder? Well… I can’t say exactly, in case this diary gets taken by Them. Let’s just say it’s more interesting than teaching. And it would pay better. And I wouldn’t have to deal with kids. Kids are mean.

Actually, I have met some nice kids finally! I suppose it’s more like they met me. I really wondered how they knew me, until I talked to one of them today. She is unnerving. We learned that word yesterday, and that is Hope. Maybe that can be a talent listed.

Oh, yeah: they have this thing for listing -Oh, nevermind. Secrecy. I keep forgetting.

Anyway. I really wanted to say that I don’t know why they talked to me. Or why they think I belong with them. Most people say I can’t pay attention and that I don’t understand people. Does anyone understand people?  It seems like I always hear adults saying they don’t understand teenagers, so how can I be expected to understand?

Dr. L. just lit his notes on fire. a bit. At least he’s funny, though I don’t think he means to be that exciting. Maybe. I can’t tell what he is really thinking because of those thick glasses he wears.

They all are masters of disguise here at Camp: watching us when we don’t think they are, reporting what we do. I need to be more careful. More discreet (right, Mr. Poll?). He’ll like that I use so many vocabulary words, I’m sure.

I’ll keep this hidden so it won’t get found. But I will also write discreet in case they are watching.

Speaking of watching, someone is in this class with me. I don’t want him to be punished by Them, but I have to write it. Someone has a nice smile. And dreamy eyes. Maybe he’s nice to everyone though?

I had that dream again, but I could feel other people in the woods. And, I was holding a letter.

I hope I find out what’s going on.

I hope they really like me.

-W. W.

 

Continued from Forty-Four.
Keep reading to Forty-Six.

Wilhelmina Winters, Forty-Four

Wil waved goodbye to her father as she ran, so focused on Hope that she heard nothing of what he said. Rob watched his usual parting image of her hand, scarf, and coattails bidding him farewell. He swallowed bittersweet memory flavors and reached over to close the car door Wil had left open in her haste.

Wil rushed anxiously, feeling clumsy and unusually noisy compared to the shadow of a person she sought: the elusive and silent Hope. Hope seemed to melt from shuffling groups to winter landscape without solidifying. She was like air, though Wil had heard air make more noise than that when it moved.

Wil’s coat flapped; her scarf swished. Her boots clumped on solid ground, then crunched on brittle snow patches. The inevitable squeak sounded at each left foot clump once the snow’s moisture soaked into her heel. She could do little to move silently; and so, focused on hurrying instead.

Hope had reached the doors to inside when Wil barely snagged the girl’s backpack. “Hope!” Wil managed to gasp as she grasped.

Hope’s shyly smiling face turned around to Wil. She looked expectant, a fact that shocked Wil enough to claim the breath she’d just managed to find for talking.

Hope moved them to the side of the entryway, apart from the oblivious masses entering the school building. She continued to smile at Wil, a twitch of humor playing at the right side of her mouth. “Yes, Wil?” She asked kindly.

“I, well, I wanted to talk to you,” Wil said. She felt unsure how to phrase her question, and suddenly embarrassed at addressing someone she didn’t know well. Jakob often teased Wil for reckless actions such as this.

Hope waited. She appeared trustworthy enough.

“I wanted to ask you about sneaking,” Wil blurted. She glanced at Hope to see how this news would affect her, but Hope had not changed expression. “See, my dad got a letter last night, and I wanted to read it,” Wil finished.

Hope nodded and looked thoughtful. Wil watched her expectantly.

Hope met Wil’s gaze and smiled kindly again. “I can talk to you about the letter, but not until lunchtime,” she said.

The first bell rang, its dull note somewhat deflating the catalytic hope Wil had felt when she saw the girl.

Hope put her small hand on Wil’s coat-clad arm. Her deep brown eyes met Wil’s hazel ones, though they resided in a face much lower than hers. “It’s okay, Wil,” she assured her.

Then, Hope left. Wil caught fleeting glimpses of her between teenagers heading to classes, before remembering she, too, should be heading to class.

She breathed a sigh. Hope had given her something to look forward to.

 

Continued from Forty-Three.
Keep reading to Forty-Five.

Wilhelmina Winters, Forty-Three

Wil awoke somewhat to the familiar irritation of a blaring alarm clock. She silenced it while maintaining a comfortable stupor of half-asleepness. The dark trees and mists of her dream still lingered round her subconscious, and confused her mind when mixed with the images her eyes sent of her plain, dark bedroom.

She yawned and chanced opening her eyes further. All was shapes and shadows of monochrome grays. She heard no sounds.

Her parents had been up late talking. Talking -and coughing, in Cynthia’s case. Her father rarely spoke, so Wil had found the deep rumble of his voice distracting at such a late hour. The coughing was not so distracting, since her mother had been doing it for such a long time -not that it ever ceased to be disturbing.

Wil decided that Cynthia would probably choose to sleep in, and complete her morning exercise with their neighbor. Rob could wake Cynthia to start her other routines before they left for school.

Wil’s assumptions were correct. After dressing, there was still no sound of waking from her parents’ room. She had to rouse them, then follow her father’s zombie-like tread around the apartment and out the door to their car.

She watched his face in the lines of streetlights, flashes of headlights, and dull glow of early morning as the car moved inexorably to school. Rob’s eyes opened only as far as necessary. His jaw -the entire bottom of his face- hung relaxed and unshaven below drooped eyebrows and tousled hair.

Wil wondered what had kept him up, and what still occupied his thoughts.

In fact, Rob emanated distraction more than fatigue. Although Wil was rarely able to sit quietly around her family, she picked up enough on his odd mood to not ask any questions.

Actually, what really silenced her were the only looks he had given her. Rob had looked at Wil when he first awoke with a sort of shock. The other two times, after he was more alert, his expression seemed sad and -well- distracted.

The only strange event of the evening before had been a letter he’d taken to his bedroom after getting home from work. If her father didn’t explain things by tonight, she was going to have to search for that letter.

Wil was not very sneaky, however, nor very good at finding what people hid.

“Bye, Gwen -er, Mina,” Rob said, as Wil exited the car at the curb.

At that exact moment, Wil was distracted by the vision of Hope walking alone. Maybe Wil wasn’t good at sneaking, but she knew someone talented enough to be listed officially.

 

Continued from Forty-Two (Again).
Keep reading to Forty-Four.

Wilhelmina Winters, Forty-Two (Again)

(Because this number needs an accurate tribute.)

The apartment squatted at the end of a small path on the interior of the complex. It was the bottom corner of a building with five other apartments, and had a view of a few tree branches hanging over the back of the cement walls of the communal garbage bin. Not an exceptional apartment at all -it was built during the economic recession, stuccoed, rectangular, and had decorative stucco accents along its side of a color and position which basically failed to appeal to anyone.

The people for whom the apartment held any significance were the Winters family, and that was only since they lived there. They had been renting for about four months, ever since the lease agreement ran out on their last apartment because it made their bank account too low. They had come out of the recession as well, leaner and usually serious. What made them more serious was when people asked why they looked so solemn.

Rob Winters worked at a machine shop which he always told his family nothing about because he rarely enjoyed talking. They knew it, too -that is, they knew nothing about what he actually did every day at his job.

The Winters hadn’t quite come around to the idea that disruption wanted to visit this place where they lived.

In the evening of a Thursday in February, Rob Winters didn’t feel well. He came home tiredly, walked in the door, trudged tiredly into the kitchen, deposited the mail on the counter, saw a letter written in a familiar hand, noted his family, and stumped to the sink to wash.

Soap foamed into his palms -thus. Scrub.

Wil’s face – turned to her father. He met her gaze. A different face looked at his with his own hazel eyes. Shaking his head, Rob saw his daughter again. He finished cleaning his hands, rinsed, dried, and stumped to the couch to seek someone lovely to hold in his arms.

Cynthia, couch, IV, arms, hug. Sigh.

Wil saw a thought cross Rob’s features and attempt to settle distantly in his eyes.

The envelope on the counter was small and worn, with extra inked messages stamped by the post office.

He turned to look at it.

“Letter,” Rob said to Cynthia, who responded with a puzzled look.

Wil matched the definition for a vocabulary word, and another. She wondered if her father might be late for an appointment with his bed. What was he thinking about? Was there something important in the mail? She thought it likely. Wil saw the small, crumpled corner of an envelope. “Letter?” she wondered to herself.

Rob sat up and remembered. Cursive, he thought. Why was that familiar? He hazily recalled reading it before, reading that handwriting somewhere significant. Wil saw him sitting, but considering something nagging, she thought: the best way to describe her father was preoccupied. There was something he’d received today.

Rob realized the letter had been sent awhile ago, been forwarded, and only just reached their new address. Incredible. He turned to look at his wife again. He would figure it all out, he resolved, he usually took care of everything, nothing changed. He could figure it out.

The workday had paid Rob’s wages in exhaustion. He looked at his wife, stepson, and daughter. He ran a hand through his blond hair. Letter, he told himself. The image of cursive handwriting on a forwarded letter floated round his brain, attempting recognition.

Forty-two seconds later, Rob was off the couch and tearing open the envelope in the safety of his own room with the door closed.

 

Continued from Forty-Two.
Keep reading to Forty-Three.