"Disappearance": A short story

“Hey. Wake up. We’re nearly there.”

I opened my eyes, looking around groggily. It took me a few seconds to remember why I was sitting in the passenger seat of a moving car, and who the stranger driving next to me was. Once I remembered, the heavy feeling that had sat in my stomach all day returned. I closed my eyes again, wishing I could slip back into sleep so I could forget everything that had happened that day, and stop thinking about everything that was yet to happen.

I pressed my forehead against the cold glass of the car window, watching the world zoom by as we raced along the motorway. It was pitch dark outside, but I could see the rain still lashing down the way it had been all day. It had been one of the driest years on record, but the rain seemed to have picked today of all days to come back with a vengeance. It was like the weather had decided to perfectly mirror my state of mind today. Or perhaps it knew what I’d done, and it was crying in distress.

“Hey.” I turned to see that the red-haired woman in the driving seat was looking at me, brow creased in concern. “You okay?” she asked.

I gave a half-shrug. “I guess,” I replied. Not really, was what I wanted to say.

She seemed to perfectly understand what was going through my mind. “Stupid question,” she muttered, turning back to the road. “Of course you’re not okay.” She flicked a sideways glance at me. “We’ll be at the airport in about ten, if that makes you feel any better.”

I nodded, and turned back to the window. I wished I could be more polite to her, but in the current state of mind I was in, I found it impossible.

I liked her. I’d only known her for the hour and a half that had gone by since I’d gotten in this car, but she seemed like a kind person. She was the first Society agent I’d ever come across who actually seemed sympathetic to what I was going through, who seemed to understand. Perhaps that was why the Society had picked her to be the agent who would pretend she was my aunt. She’d told me that her name was Kathy, but the alias she was using was Summer Jones, so that was what I had to call her. Like me, she’d been given a fake passport with a false name, and also like me, she had no idea what country we were going to be flying to – another agent would pass us the plane tickets once we got to the airport. “Let’s hope it’s somewhere nice, eh?” she’d said in an upbeat voice, right at the start of the drive. “Personally, I’ve always wanted to visit Hawaii. Though I wouldn’t say no to New York, either.”

I didn’t think we’d be flying that far; I suspected we’d be going somewhere in mainland Europe, but I appreciated the attempt to lighten the mood. It didn’t really work, though. The only thing I could think about was that I was leaving. Leaving my home, my life, my family. Going somewhere unknown, never to return to my previous life. It made my stomach feel like it was twisting itself up in knots.

I’d been working for the Society for the past three years, since they’d recruited me when I was twelve. They’d found out about my code-breaking and computer skills, and they contacted me, telling me that they wanted to give me the opportunity to become one of their agents, wanted to train me to work for them. I was apprehensive at first – who were these mysterious, shadowy people who called themselves the Society, and what exactly did they want with me, a twelve-year-old kid? But at the same time, the idea of working for a secret society filled me with excitement. I knew that I was smart; people around me had been calling me a computer genius since before I could remember… the Society gave me a choice: I could live a perfectly ordinary life, using my intelligence to get a degree and a prestigious, well-paid, boring job, or I could work for the Society, hone my skills and use them to help catch criminals, working for a security agency that no-one knew existed. Well, it didn’t take me long to make my mind up. I accepted their offer, not even considering the possible consequences of that decision.

How I wished now that I’d thought it through a little better. How I wished I’d made a different decision. A perfectly mundane life didn’t seem like such a bad deal right now.

So I worked for the Society, keeping it secret, of course, from my parents and friends. For the first year or so they trained me, teaching me to break codes and hack computers. After that, they started letting me work on cases, using my skills in the field. I was by far the youngest agent there, and I don’t mean to brag or anything, but I was good. Very good. Everyone at the Society’s London field office, where I worked, knew about me, talked about me: the teenage prodigy who had already helped out on so many cases. I felt so proud, and I was optimistic about the future; I would keep working there, moving up through the ranks of agents… a bright future was waiting for me, I knew it.

Then it all went wrong.

I was on an assignment with a few other agents. We were trying to bring down a gang of vicious criminals that had been wreaking havoc throughout London. To the very day, I’m not quite sure what went wrong; the bottom line was, the gang found out who the agents with me and I were – and they came after us. One by one, the agents I’d been working with on that assignment were targeted – murdered… and so were their families.

I knew that I was in grave danger. The Society could offer me protection, but how long would that last? They’d tried to protect the other agents, and look how well that had turned out. They gang would come for me before long… they wouldn’t care that I was just a fifteen-year-old girl; these were people who had no qualms about killing innocent people, and they wouldn’t hesitate to kill me. And I wasn’t the only one who was in danger; my parents were, too…. My loving, caring, supportive parents who had no idea what I’d been doing for the past three years. I couldn’t bear the thought of anything happening to them because of me.

I talked about it with my colleagues at the Society, and after long hours of trying to come up with a solution, we realised that there was only one way for my parents and me to survive.

I had to disappear.

Fake my own kidnapping, disguise myself and leave the country under a false name: leave behind everything I’d ever known and start a new life somewhere far away.

The idea tore a hole through my heart. I would never see my friends or family again – at least, not until the gang targeting me had been neutralised and it was safe for me to return, and that could take years. The worst part was, I couldn’t tell even my parents what was going on or what I was about to do… they had to believe I’d been kidnapped too. They’d never know what had happened to me: they’d think I was dead, or worse, alive and kept prisoner somewhere; they’d search for me tirelessly, trying to bring me home, but they’d never find me. No-one would ever find me. I was about to become one of the thousands of teenagers that went missing every year. My parents’ lives would be destroyed… but I was doing this for them. I was doing this to keep them safe.

The Society would provide me with a disguise and the false documents I’d need. They had enough resources to help me disappear without a trace. The day before it all happened, the agent who had taken charge of the whole operation ran me through exactly what would happen the next day. If I followed their instructions to the letter, he told me, it should all go without a hitch. I just nodded, feeling completely numb; at least if I had to remember instructions it would keep my mind off thinking about what I was doing.

The hours leading up to me leaving were the worst hours of my life. I was forced to pretend that everything was all right as I spent an ordinary morning with my parents for the very last time, struggling to hide the fact that every time I looked at either my mum or dad I felt tears pricking at my eyes. I had lunch with them – not that I managed to eat much – and we talked about trivial, unimportant things that I can’t even remember anymore. My dad asked me what I was doing later. I replied that I was going to meet friends at the park at two o’clock, and he jokingly told me to try not to get wet, as the forecast said it was going to rain later. Mum asked me if I was feeling all right, as I’d barely touched my lunch. I said I was fine, just not very hungry.

When the time came for me to leave, I nearly broke down. As I stood by the door to the living room, watching Dad working on something on the computer and Mum sitting on the sofa reading a magazine, my heart started racing, my breathing quickening. I couldn’t do this. I couldn’t leave. I wasn’t brave enough. The gang would find us, but I didn’t care anymore; at least I wouldn’t have to do this. I wanted to run to my Mum and Dad, throw my arms around them, sob my heart out and tell them everything; how I’d been lying to them for three years, how I’d been working for the Society, and how we were all in terrible danger from some very bad people who wanted to kill me. Perhaps they’d be able to come up with another plan, I thought hopefully. Maybe they could come up with a solution that didn’t involve me leaving. But then I started thinking logically again… and I knew there was no other solution. Leaving was the only thing I could do.

I hugged them both before I left, and I have no idea how I didn’t fall apart there and then. They seemed somewhat surprised at the gesture – I’d never been the most affectionate daughter – but they didn’t seem to realise that anything was wrong.

I took one last good long look at them before I left. Then I stepped out of the house that I’d lived in all my life, shutting the door quietly behind me.

I walked quickly down the road towards the park, knowing that if I slowed down or even looked over my shoulder, my resolve would shatter and I’d break down again. I had to be by the west gate of the park by 2:14 p.m., when a white van would stop for a few seconds on the narrow road beside the gate. That van would be driven by an agent, who would drive me out of London to a small town, where the next part of the plan would be put into motion.

I entered the park through the south gate, which was the closest to my house, and started making my way across the grass to the west gate. It had started raining by then; a thin, cold drizzle that chilled me to the bone and made me shiver in my grey hoodie. I quickened my pace, trying to keep warm.

I made it to the west gate with a few minutes to spare. There was no sign of the white van yet, so I sat down on a park bench to wait.

At exactly 2:14 on the dot the van showed up, coming to a halt close to the park gate. I recognised the agent in the driving seat; I’d worked with him a few times before. I opened the van’s door and got in beside him.

And then we were off, leaving behind the south London suburb where I’d grown up and racing somewhere unknown to me.

We barely spoke a word to each other during the two-hour drive that followed. I just stared out of the window, feeling numb. I couldn’t think about what was happening. I couldn’t think about anything, if I wanted to stay in one piece. I just stared out at the country landscape flying by, keeping my mind carefully blank.

It was raining heavily by the time we arrived at the small seaside town. I pulled up the hood of my top before stepping out of the van; partly to keep myself dry, but also to keep my face hidden from any possible surveillance cameras that might be in the area. I was now officially a runaway kid; I couldn’t let myself be recognised.

The van came to a halt at a deserted road by an old rubbish dump. “Good luck,” said the agent as I pushed the door open.

I nodded my thanks, and stepped out into the pouring rain.

I made my way down the road, keeping my head down and my hands in my pockets. I watched as the van drove off beside me and disappeared around a bend in the road. I wasn’t sure what would happen to that van; it would probably be taken back to the Society’s headquarters, somewhere that the police wouldn’t find it when they investigated my disappearance.

I wondered if my parents had realised that something was wrong by now, if they were wondering why I hadn’t come home yet. They probably thought I’d just gotten held up somewhere and would be home before long.

Shaking my head to rid myself of these thoughts, I peered out over the rubbish dump, looking for what I’d been told to look for: a faded blue rucksack. I found it within a few moments, propped up against a withered old tree in the centre of the dump. I wound my way through the rubbish to it, picked it up and hoisted it over one shoulder, then quickly left before anyone could see me.

I kept walking, heading for a nearby fast-food restaurant. I reached it within a few minutes and ducked inside, glad to be out of the freezing-cold rain, then followed the signs to the bathrooms.

I entered a toilet cubicle and locked the door behind me. It wasn’t as bad as I’d thought it would be; there was enough room to move around, and a large enough sink. I closed the toilet lid and propped the rucksack on it, then opened the bag and rummaged around its contents. It had exactly what I’d expected it to have; a change of clothes, a bottle of hair dye, coloured contact lenses, a pair of glasses, some make-up, a cheap phone, a small handbag and, right at the bottom, a passport.

I pulled the passport out first, flipping it open to read the details inside it. There was a computer-generated image of me wearing the disguise I was about to put on, and my new name: Isabella Mason.

Deciding to hurry up, I changed into the clothes that were in the rucksack; a high-necked black jumper, a brown skirt, and thick dark tights. Not the type of clothes that I ever wore, but that was the whole point. I opened the bottle of blonde hair dye and read the instructions on the packet, then massaged the dye into my long black hair. Trying not to think about the chemicals probably seeping into my skull from the dye, I moved on to the next part of the disguise: slipping on the grey lenses over my brown eyes, using the make-up to make the shape of my eyes and mouth slightly different, and putting on the fake glasses. Checking my watch to make sure the five minutes I needed for the hair dye to work were up, I ducked my head under the tap, scrubbing out the dye. Then I straightened up and looked at myself in the mirror.

A stranger looked back at me. The disguise was so effective I could barely recognise myself. Staring out of the mirror was a blonde, grey-eyed girl with glasses who I’d never seen before in my life.

Lexa Hennessey, the introverted technology genius who I’d been my whole life, had vanished. In her place stood Isabella Mason, a complete stranger.

Realising I was taking too long, I took out the small handbag and put the passport and phone inside it, then stuffed the jeans and hoodie I’d been wearing earlier inside the rucksack. I shouldered the handbag and rucksack, then left the bathroom.

Nobody looked at me twice as I made my way out of the fast-food restaurant. Nobody seemed to have noticed that one girl had entered the toilets and another girl had left. Everyone was too busy getting on with their lives.

As I made my way back outside I felt the mobile vibrate. I pulled it out of the bag and fumbled with it, trying to open the text message I’d just received. It was a super-outdated brick phone, the kind my parents used to have, and as I struggled to use it properly I couldn’t help missing my smartphone – I’d left it at home, of course, to avoid being tracked. I managed to open the message and I saw that it contained an address – somewhere not too far from here.

I continued walking through the pouring rain, which seemed to be falling more and more heavily by the minute. To get to the address I had to cross through the centre of the town, which turned out to contain nothing but a small supermarket, a pub and a post office. As I passed by the pub I couldn’t help peering in through the window, trying to catch a glimpse of the TV to see if there was anything on about a missing fifteen-year-old girl from London called Lexa Hennessey, but the TV was angled away from the window and I couldn’t see.

I entered a residential area: small, old-fashioned, well-kept cottages bordered by neat lawns and leafy bushes. It was around five by now and the light was fading fast; it was mid-autumn, after all, and days were getting shorter and shorter. I was cold, and lonely, and tired, and afraid of what was still to come. All I wanted was to go home and curl up in bed with my laptop and mug of hot coffee.

I made it to the address that I’d been texted and sat down on a low wall to wait. I only waited for a few minutes until a blue car pulled up beside me, driven by Kathy – Summer – I wasn’t sure how to refer to her. She motioned for me to get in, I did, and off we drove to the airport.

Which is how we came to be driving together along the motorway on that dark, rainy evening. I stretched out on my seat, stiff from sitting still for so long, and thought about what would happen when I got to the unknown destination. I’d go to the Society’s headquarters in that country, and there they’d help me settle in to my new life, arranging all the details.

I pressed my eyes closed again. I didn’t want a new life. I wanted my old life. But in the space of a few days, that had become impossible. I could only hope that things would turn out all right.

I could only hope that maybe one day, I’d be able to make it back to my family.

                                                                                                                                         

Well, I hope you enjoyed this. Hope you had the patience to read all the way through to the end (I realise this is over 3,000 words. What can I say, I get carried away sometimes). If you did, please leave a comment! They honestly make my day.

-IndigoSky

Comments

  1. THIS IS AMAZING, OH, MY GOODNESS! This could be a full length novel, it's that good!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Omg thank you so so much!! I'm so glad you liked it! Knowing that people like my work makes me feel so happy :)

      Delete
  2. I wish I could write something as good as this. Keep it up. Really enjoyed it...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you! And I'm sure you're a great writer ;)

      Delete

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