Adventuring through twisted time.
And so, there is this tale from long long ago.
About these women who would come and go.
From once they came and where they would head no one would know.
Oh, "The Women from Nowhere" always roll into your life for a time.
Dancing with the sunset and leaving you in their wake to think you're fine.
But in the end, you always realize her crime.
For she changed your life but left you alone for the rest of your time.
Artemis opened her eyes. The Emerald gleam they held shining in the darkness of her room. Running is all she had done as of late. She missed chasing The Wind. The carelessness of her freedom. The allure of being able to freely blow in and out of people’s lives. Instead, she was hiding out in New York. Using the chaos of the Titanic sinking to slid right in without anyone questioning where she came from or how she’d gotten here. She was just another displaced face in the crowd. And so, two years past and the war arrived.
Every hair on Artemis's body stood up straight. Her bloodlust singing in her ears and running down her spine in the temptation to disguise herself as a man and join the war. She could join as a nurse but that would just be torture. So close to blood she knew she’d not be able to feed on for fear of being discovered by anyone. At least the bedlam in the battlefield would hide it better. But no, she stayed away from it altogether. She blinked a few times and blew a breath passed her lips to focus back on her work. She didn’t need to breathe... Anymore... But it was always just simpler if she acted as if she did.
“You can’t stay because you’re afraid of what your birth family might?”
“Oh, sweet child. I have been around for a very very long time. I know a thing or two.”
There was a thick and heavy silence between them. Artemis dropped her head. Mama let out a very faint breath as she rose and wrapped Artie in an extremely warm hug. Kissing her head as she took in her scent realizing suddenly, she was going to miss the vibe she contributed to Nowhere. And so, Mama huffed breaking through the silence like a knife through smooth butter.
“We’ve lost so many children. My only fear is what everyone will do upon losing you... “
“But baxt tuke.”
“Earth to Artemis! Damn kid again!?”
Artemis focused back in. Her body still moving as she did her job purely on muscle memory. The woman standing beside chuckling but held a stern face as she shook her head. “where do you go?” it was a rhetorical question because she walked away from Artie after asking. Artie kept her glinting eyes on her before looking at what she was doing. Sorting the mail into their proper boxes and shoots. With lightning precision that nobody questioned because she sucked at this when she first started.
The lunch alarm rang and everyone gathered in groups and chatter and laughter lifted in the air. This was always a peculiar time of day for Artie and if she didn’t play this smart each day the women around her would catch on to her never eating. She quickly dug into her pocket and withdrew and crumpled paper and a short little pencil. “oh my God!” the woman who was speaking to her earlier exclaimed as she spotted Artie starting at the page as she rolled her lips together. “Will you please eat someone, fuck!” Artie jumped but not because of the language that she was used to. But because the lady had thrown a sandwich at her. And so, Artie was placed in a delicate situation with the woman’s eyes on her.
“This is the tenth missing coworker…”
“Artemis, I really don’t know
what you want us to do about it.”
Artie grumbled under her breath and went back to flinging letters before into the appropriate air shoot with lightning precision. “I want us to be cautious. Curious. And concerned."
“Curiosity killed the cat hun.”
Suddenly the alarm flashed again but different this time. This wasn’t the alarm go indicate the end of their lunch hour. Everyone around Artie began to scatter. The machines stopped clanking. The chatter and vacant songs to bid the time all quieted quickly. And so, as everyone ran to hide from the blaring alarm and the loud clanks of the giant iron door being lifted to where they were, Artemis continued her job. Sorting her letters and sending them up with the air shoot. Her coworker, whom she had been no bickering with grabbed her to pull her off to the side to hide.
“Ay, you!” but it was too late.
Artie wiggled free and stepped out into the man’s view.
“It’s your lucky day. Artemis this is Madeline.
Alright now that you two know each other so well show ‘er the ropes.”
As soon as the man left and the door came slamming down leaving all the mailwomen in the dim-lit basement of this high rise all the women came out and got right back to work. Completely forgetting about the rest of their lunch hour. Ignoring Madeline but scorning Artemis for being so stupid. Artemis rolled her eyes “Ignore them. They’re all just chicken shits is all. Come on let’s get you acclimated!..."
She studied Madeline for a moment and it didn’t take long for her to not only figure out where she worked before this but also that she wasn’t all human. A kind smirk grew on Artie's face.
“…You a newsie?”
A person's eyes were often quite telling, even when you thought you hid your emotions well. Outwardly Artemis held herself together; always smiling, laughing, and speaking her mind to make it seem like there was not a storm brewing beneath her surface but Madeline had learned enough about people to know that that look in this woman's eyes was one of grave nervousness... Concern even. Which she always found peculiar because it was not often she found someone with genuine concern for another, one they hardly knew too. Madeline could feel herself give Artemis a reassuring smile but Artemis's rather sudden concern worried her. What if she knew something about Virginia that made the need for the concern? Madeline could not help but instantly wonder if maybe Virginia was the one behind the curious case of missing women. She seemed to hold a lot of power here, seemed to be someone who would know the going on's of this company from the top floor to the bottom basement. Maybe Artemis knew this about Virginia?
I drummed my fingers across my cheek as I thought before trying to swallow hard or yarn to make my ears open after popping on the way up here. I doubt I would ever get used to that reaction to being this high up. The distorted chime from the elevator as it opens brings my attention back to in front of me just in time to catch those lovely sneers and snarls as I walk out. Ignoring them as I make it to Carol's office, I knock and enter slowly. She is on the phone but gestures for me to come in quick and close the door behind me so I do. I stay quiet which is not hard at all as it is what I am used to doing most of the time. Pretending not to listen to her call but I can not help it as I am now on edge about Mrs Carol but she does not say anything suspicious. She seems stressed and agitated about her male workers not doing their jobs. I want to snort but then she would know I was listening so I hold it in and look around to admire the decor of the room.
"So you are here another day. Does this mean you will stay?" Virginia questions as she hangs up, looking down at some papers on her desk as Madeline's head snaps towards her as she speaks. "I have decided to stay, yes." Madeline smiles as she turns on the southern charm in her accent and Virginia looks up and smiles back but only partially. Her smile is sad and never touches her eyes "I hate to ask but, the red letter you gave me yesterday... Did you read it?" There's a heaviness to her voice wrapped in sadness but sprinkled with a little hope. Madeline's brow forwards and a worried expression highlights her face as she shakes her head no. "I was told they usually bare bad news and given that we are in the middle of a war it is not hard to imagine what one might say. With that knowledge, I thought about how I would want some privacy with the letter's context and gave it to you as is. Unopened and unread." Madeline said with a shrug.
She seemed relieved after hearing my words but somehow still stressed all the same. I knew the letter when we got it was unopened and was in my hands nearly seconds after it arrived in the mailroom so no one there could have read it before me. That only left those who handled it before me and those after me if Carol did not read it immediately. Which she did not seem to want to when I delivered to her."Was there something else you needed me for?" I ask and she blinks as though my words guide her out from a trance back to reality 'huh? Oh uh...' She stammers and then thinks. Something has clearly gotten her shaken up and I begin to think my initial thought about her knowing was wrong. That maybe what has her so thrown now was news of what has been happening below. '..No' she says a moment later than she might have had she not been so distracted. I nod and hum to myself "I will just be going then." I say in an almost question and she nods so I spin on my heels and head for the door. "Mrs Carol..." I say to grasp her attention again as I glance over my shoulder "...have you heard anything about workers around here going missing?" I ask because I had a faint hunch and needed to see her response.
Drumming from the machines. Ticking of the clock. The sounds of letters flying through the tubes. The clatter of packages hitting their designated bin. And the drumming of Artemis's fingers on the nearest surface.
Time was passing but nothing was happening.
Madeline was still up there somewhere. But also that fateful alarm that sent them here into a frenzy hadn't yet rung. It was late. Not that it really had a set time but it'd have usually gone off by now. And another familiar face would be found on the side of a milk carton. She nibbled on the inside of her lip wishing she could distract herself from work but she had no letters to send up. Organize. Or label. She asked around and offered to help the others here. But no one needed it and by the look of things, she wasn't the only one disconcerted by the missing... Kidnappers.
Chatter quickly filled the basement. With speculation. Pessimism. And even some faint hope. But Artemis was wise enough to get her hopes up.
When things change in situations like this they only worsen.
If the men she trusted and even other women on the higher floor would believe the basement workers. Or even listen to them then maybe Artie might have had a better feeling or outlook on the situation. She quieted her mind and focused her senses. Trying to see if she could hear those dreadful footsteps. Thinking maybe they would take the women by surprise. But nothing. This was a stressing and distressing conundrum. One no one needed or had time for with this war.
Artemis huffed despite not needing the breath. And rather just wanting the relief a deep breath could provide. And when at last a loud chime blared through the basement everyone's first response was panic. Until one by one, they realised it was just the whistle for them to clock out. Coming to that realisation after seeing Artemis head to clock out unphased.
Once outside she started at the sunset once again. As always.
"Hey, have you seen the new girl with the weird accent?" Scoffing lightly as the woman tells her she's still up there with Carol. And so with no one looking and everyone gone she sped up there. Letting herself into Carol's office. At first, setting out to enter with a snarky remark but quickly reading and feeling the heaviness of the room. Her cheeky smile simmers to just a sly smirk that plays at the corner of her lips. And So, her Emerald gaze meets Virginia's Auburn stare.
"Well if it isn't Annabelle."
"Oh. Hello to you too Virginia..."
A sudden stillness filled the room and brought a heavy silence with it that fossiled them for a moment. Madeline studied Virginia's face meticulously seeing the way her muscles softly twitched and the micro-movements of her face. Things you would miss if you did not pay enough attention to them, but that was exactly what Madeline was looking for; confirming her hunch as she hummed to herself. When Virginia began to move again she role her shoulders back with a slow and harsh breath from her nose before going to check her door. She peaked out to be sure no one was snooping around and carefully shut the door behind her. "Keep your voice." She instructs making her way back to Madeline. "I thought you said you did not read my letter." She accuses as she crosses her arms over her chest.
"I did not but talk travels fast when you are the victims." I nearly cut her off by saying "the women in the basement are scared beyond just what they say. I have seen the fear that plays in their eyes enough to recognise it in anyone..." I huff out as I go and sit on the sofa in her office. "... The same unsettling fear I see in your eyes now," I speak softly as I look at her and take her in; speaking of her unsettled gaze you can see how unsettled she was in her demeanour. She wore it well better than most of the other women in the basement, fear. I swallowed a dropped my head taking a deep breath and noting Carol's silence. "It was not hard to connect your fear to theirs." I continue knowing my hunch was confirmed. Virginia was not behind these abductions and if by chance she was it was not purposeful.
Virginia placed her hand on her stomach and took a steadying breath. "I... Need a drink..." She admits as she makes her way to her liquor caddy and pours a scotch on ice tossing it back after offering a glass to Madeline who turned it down. She took another heavy breath as she leaned on her desk. "I was hoping it was not true." She cursed under her breath and groaned softly. She sat in her chair and stared out in front of her as she opened her mouth to speak and then changed her mind. "I want to trust you." She tutted her tongue "But t I fear I am yet again reminded of how no one is to be trusted and I have shared far too much." Her words are more to herself as she tetters back and forth with her options and wants to trust the young Madeline.
I begin to become familiar with the silence that surrounds us, unsure really what to do or say and curious if this was why she wanted me up here in the first place. In my experience, you could not force someone to trust you so I remain quiet. ' What have you heard? What do the ladies say?' Carol breaks her contemplative silence and I turn to look at her. I take a moment to gather my thoughts, to quickly organise the quick whispers and gossip I have had the chance to hear during my very short time here. I shake my head and open my mouth but am cut off by the opening of the door somehow surprised and not at the same time to see Artemis. Though hearing her called Annabelle was the most surprising thing here. I watch from my seat the two women face off; aware previously that they knew one another from the way Artemis spoke of Carol. However, I was unsure of what terms they stood with each other and the way they stared at one another was disconcerting enough to cause concern.
It was a standoff between them. The new intensity mixed into the silence of the room. Nether lady moved a muscle. Lay in wait for what the other might do.
Time ticked onwards.
Until they both cracked. And so faint buoyant laughter filled the room. At a hope, it'd lift the weight of heaviness in the room off their shoulders. It didn't last. Nothing joyful really never lasts in a place like this. "I would normally be offended by this intrusion, but it's easy to tell you're friends." Virginia waved her hand so Artemis would relax and sit. As Virginia wasn't quite done with either lady yet. After a pause, she sat beside Maddie. "Not going to question how I knew you were friends?" Virginia seemed disappointed.
"I'm friends with everyone." Artie shrugged. "You figure. After ALL this time I'd have come to see you sooner if I were just there to see you. But the moment you have her..." She gestures toward Madeline. "... I just show up out of the blue and let myself in." Artemis looks at Virginia at the side of her gaze. A small smirk tugging at the edge of her lips. "So there is a brain in there after all." Virginia scoffs. She soon sighs and drops her head. Running her hands through her hair to push it back as her head raises back up.
"Did you read the letter?"
Her scrupulous gaze studies Artemis. Whose smirk quickly fades. She blinks a few times as her brow forwards and she shakes her head. "It was in Madeline's hand nearly a second after its arrival. So I don't really see how I could..." She looked to Maddie then. Quickly studied her and Virginia again. Humming to herself faintly. "It was about those missing women."
Artemis watched Virginia's reaction. Almost in shock for a moment. "No. The topsiders don't care for us furnace folk. And those of us being targeted are too scared to say. Do. Or believe that this is our real life. That this is happening."
"And you didn't think to tell me!?" Artemis was thrown by Virginia's abrasive tone. "I don't have much proof. If any." She chose to remain calm. "All I've got is my eyewitness account, while everyone denies that they see the same thing and rumors. So why come to you with this wild story I've no way of proving?"
Madeline could not help but hold her breath as her many thoughts played out as a range of motion on her face in the thick of this silence. Overall she was worried about the history between these two letting her past relationships with people guide her into thinking that maybe they were not friends and in fact on bad terms with each other. Which made her wonder if that were the case then who had wronged the other if at all and would a simple conversation settle it between them? Madeline was quick to release a soft but quick sigh that was almost audible in this deafening silence. Mentally scolding herself for trying to figure out if she could help because she needed to learn that she can not help everyone, even when they want to be helped.
Their laughter brought me back and it melted every chill frosted onto my bones in the cold our silence created. A chill that quickly crept right back when their warm chuckles faded. As their conversation picked back up I suddenly found myself sinking into the couch as I found I really had nothing to contribute to the conversation and the feeling of uselessness was subtly creeping in. Both women were arrogant and matter of factly in their own ways and it just reminded me of just how sheltered from the world I have been. But I am quick to shake the feeling and they were not... Are not excluding me from the conversation so therefore I can chime in whenever. Yet for now, I listen; thinking about their words and how I might be able to contribute something towards a solution.
"If the letter is not proof enough then maybe some sort of plan might be able to get us the proof we need?" She spoke at last as the other two bantered. Madeline's aquamarine eyes flicked between them and when she was sure she had their attention she gave a curt nod quickly realizing they might believe she had a plan. She did not. She takes in a drastic breath to avoid stuttering and stammering as she came up with something quick and then suddenly something in her thoughts clicked. "How many exits are in the basement?" She quarried towards Virginia as her brow pushed together and after taking a second to study Madeline's expression and likely try and catch her train of thought Virginia smirked. "Let me get the buildings Blueprint."
Artemis was quite good at identifying one's species. Gypsies acquired this trait alone through their vast travels and interactions with people of all sorts. This was only aided by Artie's acute ability to smell people's blood. Furthering her identifying skill but Madeline mystified this quality. Her attributes were very odd and didn't align with any species Artemis knew and then there was the scent of her blood. Which was... Different... Somehow.
The thought crossed her mind. She had only ever known one Fae. To her knowledge at least. Her sister Selina. Who was only half-fae but whose blood smelled similar to Madeline's. Though not relatively. This was different from Madeline's natural scent. One Artemis couldn't deny not liking but was overpowered by the scent of her blood.
And so suddenly that wicked thirst crept up on Artemis.
Fortunately, Madeline spoke up and joined the conversation. Which gave Artie a moment to compose herself as the two women focused on each other and their new task. She could control it. The thirst. She was good at control. So good actually that she the world fooled into believing she was an uncontrolled wild woman of those wicked sun dancers.
When the opposite of the truth.
Virginia rummages through all the filing cabinets in her office. Until she came upon what she searched for. Rolling the old blueprint out across her desk. Artemis rose and joined them at the table at a slower pace than usual. Wanting to be sure she had a good grip on the ravenous dehydrated beast within.
"Two exists. The main up and over roller and a small side door." Artemis watched Virginia's delicate hand point them out with her words. Luckily this print seemed up to date but gods they were doomed if there were ever a fire.
"It'd be easy to watch the doors then. Clock anyone who doesn't belong."
That seemed really easy actually and in fact far too easy. So easy it made Artemis uneasy. "How do they even get in, passed the front desk and the slew of people going and coming even before you reach the stairs or lift leading to us? How do they even know about us?"
If they could accurately determine all the possible paths these abductors were coming then they could possibly form a plan to capture them before they captured another woman. It was clear this had been going on for quite some time and at this point despite having just arrived, Madeline did not even care if she was not the one to capture the culprits. It was probably better that way as there were far more capable people around who could easily apprehend them; she just wanted this done and over with seeing as it had gone on for far too long. Her mind even drifted away to the women who had already been taken and if catching their thieves would in the end bring them home.
I could see how Virginia got to where she was today because in the mere matter of seconds we had the blueprint out she had already tallied the exits and all paths to the mailroom. She even pointed them out for us but seemed to second guess herself as she asked us to be sure she did not miss anything or maybe she was just being thorough a quality I admired. I looked between the two women a moment though as I found this whole ordeal bizarre and could not ignore the red flags any longer. It was not obscene of me to think that they might be a part of the scheme and this was just another way they got who they wanted. It was rather elaborate I will admit but with all the blizzard adventures I have had in my life this far I had to consider it.
Although Madeline was there she actually never quite let her guard down and while she seemed to trust Artemis a bit more than Virginia her incognito guard never faltered. It was a bit parasitical on her part the part she played but in the end, she would have the truth if she could just keep this up. Befriend them, earn their trust and beguile them out of the truth. It was a long con sure but it would likely be shorter if they were I fact trying to con her or anyone for that matter. She listened to them scheme and toss their ideas back and forth; they seemed way too sincere and even nervous for them to be a part of this devious plot they were trying to unfold but Madeline was still unsure.
I twisted my mouth as their ideas bubbled and popped through the air. They were not bad but none of us seemed to be sure they were foolproof and that suddenly made us doubt which caused us to second guess and keep trying. "We are gator hunting" I spoke realising I had not actually participated in the planning yet though I was the one to ask about the exits, and had just been making faces and groaning when a plan did not sound quite right. "In the bayou when we want to catch a gator what we do is wait for it to leave the water... And then jump on its back. " I said with a shrug as they seemed to just...stare? "It sounds crazy but applying that method here means we wait for them to come and grab someone but we grab them instead. Have your men waiting with us to jump out any moment and get ehm." I continued hoping to be more clear.