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Original Fic: Waterhouse

This story came about in a contest called LJ Idol on livejournal. We had to intersect stories with another participant. You might be able to read the story I based mine off here: recklessblues LJ

Waterhouse
by jennickels (aka Jen Connelly)
original
words: 1363
rating: PG
WARNINGS:

My boots clicked along the polished wood floor. The hall was dark and musty, the faint scent of burnt ozone tickled my nose. I pulled the crumpled piece of paper from my pocket and read it. Nothing had changed from the first dozen times I’d looked at it since arriving at the University in Brandywine.

Room 220-B
Survey of History: The Fall
Prof. E. Barth

I came to the last door on the right—a tall, solid wood door worn on the edges from years of countless students swinging it opened. A shiny metal plaque next to it read 220-B, and a card clipped under that simply said, “HISTORY-BARTH.” This was the place. I shoved the paper back into my pocket. Why were my hands shaking? I willed them to still, for my suddenly raspy breathing to even out. This detour was not part of the plan, but disrupted none of the important aspects of it. I was just curious.

The clop, clop of distant footfalls alerted me to another presence. I slinked back into the shadows of a staircase. The clack of shoes slowed outside 220-B.

“Who’s there?” called a woman’s voice. “I know you’re there, I can hear you breathing.”

I considered my options. I could attempt to stay hidden until she left or reveal myself and risk being recognized. Or she might not leave at all, and I’d be trapped here forever, cowering in the dark. I had more pride than that. I stepped forward, my arms stiff at my side, face schooled.

“Who are you?” the woman asked. “State your purpose here.”

The woman was quite breathtaking. Her hair—a dark mass off tightly coiled curls—seemed very familiar, but I couldn’t put my finger on why. Instead I steeled my resolve again.

“I’m Willard Ambrose.” I hoped she didn’t hear the waver in my voice. “I-”

She narrowed her eyes at me then slid them to the door between us. “Are you in this class?”

“Yes, as of today.”

Her face softened, but was then quickly caught in a scowl. She regarded me with an apparent new lens this added information gave. Then she tsked me. I had not heard such a sound directed at me in many years. More years than I could reasonably remember.

“Well, Mr. Ambrose,” she said, pulling the heavy door open, “you are late, and I don’t abide tardiness.”

Inside the theater the class settled at the sight of their instructor. She waved me through, and I bit back my retort: “are you not also late at this very moment?” I slipped past her, and took a seat in the back. Professor Barth clomped down the stairs to the stage, placing her briefcase on a metal desk set off to one side.

Several students near me glanced in my direction. They couldn’t recognize me. They were all so young, and many years had passed already. They wouldn’t know me. I ducked my head, made my hands busy with a pen from my pocket. They eventually returned their attention to Barth.

She took her place at the podium, her voice carried clearly. “I’m sure you have all done the reading. What can you tell me about the Waterhouse Memoirs? What are their significance?” She looked up at the stony faces of her students. “Anyone?” When no one volunteered she called on a meek looking girl three seats in from the center aisle, about ten rows up.

She stood, straightening her skirt. “Um. The memoirs were written by an unknown author and chronicle the events leading up to the fall of Waterhouse.”

Even from this far aloft I could hear the sigh. “Anything else. Come on people, you are here to think, to reason, to assess; not to regurgitate facts from a book. You must have ideas.”

A daring lad near the front raised his hand and shouted, “it’s all a bunch of nonsense. Waterhouse is a myth, and this isn’t even history.” He held up the book they all possessed. “This is literature, and has no point in a history class.”

A tall fellow stood. “Waterhouse isn’t a myth. I’ve seen the place. Or what’s left of it. The Heart is a myth, though.”

“Bullshit. When did you ever see Waterhouse?”

The tall fallow grew flustered, his face reddening. “My father took me when I was small, before they closed access.”

“Whatever. I don’t believe you. No one goes outside any more. And for good reason.”

“What would be the reason, Mr. Brooks?”

He shrugged. “It’s toxic out there. That’s why we’re in the Bubble.”

“Now who’s falling for stories,” said a girl in front of Mr. Brooks. “Just because you heard it doesn’t make it true.”

Brooks waved her off, apparently tiring of the conversation. I was pretty much done, too.

I stood and called, “what exactly is the significance of these memoirs to the history of this place?”

Professor Barth squinted up at me. “Mr. Ambrose, I presume. The Waterhouse Memoirs are an example of truth in literature. We do not know exactly what this heart is meant to be. We believe it is allegorical, but the writings have been verified. Marat Afanasyevich was the son of Doctor Ivan Afanasyevich, the great architect of The Society that saved the human race. Shortly after the Memoirs were written came The Fall. The Memoirs chronicle that time from a civilian point of view.”

“Your facts may be correct, Professor,” I nearly spat the words, “but your history is wrong. An abomination. The Heart was not meant for this so-called Society, but to save the entire planet. To fix whatever ailed it, and then return to Waterhouse to save it, not let it rot. Not to leave it a soulless, wretched hell on Earth.”

Professor Barth looked taken aback. Her hands twitched on the edges of the podium, and her mouth worked to make words, but none came forth. The entire class turned in their seats to behold me. And yet I was still not recognized.

“The Heart isn’t even real,” yelled a young man—I believe it was Mr. Brooks. “It’s another myth”

“Oh, it is very real. This place, this Society, shouldn’t even exist. The Heart was meant to save everyone, not just the select few. Not to make Afanasyevich famous. He lied to everyone.” I looked down at the pen in my hand. “He lied to me.”

“Who are you?”

I did not answer, but strolled to the stage. In the light she examined my features. I hid nothing this time, proudly accepting my identity.

“It can’t be,” she muttered. “You can’t be. It was over five hundred years ago.”

“Yes, funny how these things sometimes work out.”

“But how.”

“Do not ask me, I’m not the scientist. That was my father. And he lied. He took the Heart for his own reasons. For his own selfish ambitions of fame and money. He left me to die.”

“I don’t understand.”

I smiled at her—such a sweet, trusting woman. I sat behind the metal desk, and put my feet upon it, leaning back in the creaky wooden chair.

“Oh, you will, Ms. Barth. You will. The Heart is very real, and should be on its way to its rightful place. On its way to Waterhouse. To save those still struggling at life. See, it didn’t destroy us all. And things work differently inside the Bubble. For you five hundred years have passed in relative peace and prosperity. For those on the outside, those in Waterhouse, it has been but ten years. Ten years of struggle and torture. Ten years you will soon experience, madam.

I could not help the smug look that overtook me at her confusion. The lights flickered. Flickered and struggled to maintain power, sucking up the last bit of it still in the lines. And then they went black. A siren, loud and piercing, wailed in the distance. I sat and waited. Waterhouse would be restored. I might not live to see it, but I will know it. And that’s all I needed.
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