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Posted:|| December 2, 2020 Views: 20|
The first Tale Of Noxinview. In Ms. Abby's POV
"Meeting Agent Viola"
by E.E. Loura
Telling Richard about us was a mistake on Elizabeth's part. She thought that he of all people would understand, but it resulted in him reporting us to the Society for the Prevention of Abnormal Mindscapes. How I hate that organization! I had refused to speak with their agents years ago and I was not going to cooperate now.
"Ms. Abby, you have to," Elizabeth pleaded. "A merger with Richard depends on this investigation."
"No!' I replied firmly. "I will not have our lives turned into some circus freak show! I want no third-party interrogations and absolutely no peace drugs in our streams again! This is a hill that you and I are supposed to die on. There is no 'abnormal' mindscape here, only a man who wants to seize control of our city by painting you as incompetent and subsequently having us deposed."
Elizabeth frowned. "You can't say that about Richard, it isn't true."
"You only say that because he has already begun to make alterations!"
Dealing with the Society for the Prevention of Abnormal Mindscapes years ago had been Elizabeth's own trouble and I had involved myself minimally. She had brought it upon herself by telling one of their agents that she had help from us aspects... Well, those were rather unstable times so they assumed there was some sort of insurrection planned. When Beatrice (well Beatriz, she prefers the Spanish spelling and pronunciation), Elizabeth's bodyguard, led a group to topple the silos storing the peace drug, I was rather proud of her. I never told her this, of course. She was angry at my lack of involvement for those two years, angry that the status quo of being obedient and honest was somehow responsible for such actions not being taken earlier. I always was and perhaps always will be loyal to Port Royale, our mother-city. I do not take well to rebels like Beatriz. She was new to Noxinview then. Perhaps she had always lived here, but we had only been acquainted nine years ago and it took at least a year to warm up to her. Elizabeth had been easy. I met her when she was an insecure child having a difficult time adjusting. The temper, appearing as a pyromaniac teenager was not the best protege but I knew that if the sudden bursts of anger could be tamed, she would be a perfect source of protection.
I was not angry with Elizabeth for telling an agent, sent by Port Royale, about us then. She was under pressure and was not allowed to retract her statement. Do I regret not getting involved sooner? No comment. Because Noxinview was still in the process of development as a city, we hadn't the autonomy to send the agents away or to stop the shipment of peace drugs. There was nothing I could have done. Beatriz thinks otherwise. I wanted to prove to Port Royale that Noxinview and its surrounding areas were peaceful and prosperous. Beatriz desiring to fight the agents would harm the cause. It took both resisting and building to finally have the agents gone. (That and the governing system changing but that is a whole different story.) This time around, I felt a tad betrayed. I know Elizabeth thought that Richard would understand considering his own intense run-ins with the Society for the Prevention of Abnormal Mindscapes. He had been arrested by the Society, as a matter of fact, something that Port Royale's first lady always threatened whenever Noxinview had been behind on pumping the streams. It was surprising how quick he was to report us when nothing destructive came from our existence.
"Richard says that if peace drugs are needed, we must take them to keep the merger deal. What if the agent --"
"Then the deal is off," I snapped. "Or we fill out the chart as if a dose is being poured into the stream and discard the vile stuff. We are not poisoning our citizens for a man like Richard. I am telling you, Elizabeth, this is all a plot to take control over Noxinview. The more complacent he makes you, the better it is for him."
"But he comes from a place that uses peace drugs," she said.
"He has no sense of self-preservation, Elizabeth. Nor does he have any self-control. Richard is far below your league, dear. He is not a representative like you. He is not an administrator or a mayor. He and his father own some farmland and that is all. The farm is not even to Richard's name! Why, those peace drugs make it difficult to yield crops. They are lacking in resources that Noxinview is rich in."
"But without those peace drugs, he would have an insurrection," Elizabeth said. "He claims there is a vendetta against his life."
"Malingering fool," I muttered, turning my gaze out of my study's window at the bright city. "The vendetta is surely a myth to gain sympathy. He can help himself and beg elsewhere. There is darkness in that man. I know he is hiding something from us. If there is indeed a vendetta, there must be something those gourd farmers have to avenge."
"Ms. Abby!" Elizabeth's dark eyes widened, appalled. "I don't think he's clever enough to come up with something like that."
"If you honestly believe that you are not allowed to question his motives, congratulations, that is exactly what he wants you to think. So, what is it, Elizabeth? Is he plotting something or is he not clever?" I clasped my hands together as I waited for her to answer.
"It's like what Ms. Sophie says. He just wants to be happy."
"And why not ask for the hand of some other young lady to make him happy? Why not seek out another city, or someone from his own countryside? Surely, there are plenty across the ravine?"
"Because none of them want him," she replied.
"There must be a reason for that, Elizabeth. Stop talking like Ms. Sophie for a minute and analyse this! You must understand that you are prolonging the inevitable. If we take this merger, we will lose much support from Port Royale. We will no longer be under their jurisdiction but that won't mean freedom. It is out of the cooking pot and into the flames! I will never sign away the rights to our city to someone so incompetent as Richard! Refuse the agent and allow him to walk away.
"We can't say these things!" she said as I turned my back to her once more.
"Yes we can, Elizabeth. This is our Noxinview."
Of course, Elizabeth did not listen. Somehow, the thought of losing all rights to govern the art district we practically built from the ground failed to properly inspire her to leave Mr. Richard. He really had the girl under his sway! What power sympathy has! It was clear that Elizabeth had been listening to Ms. Sophie for too long this year. She is compassion, empathy, everything we don't need when putting a foot down. I made sure to keep Ms. Sophie busy and away from the mansion.
"I got the business card for the agent," Elizabeth said, placing it on my desk
"Throw it out," I said, turning my nose up without even glancing at it. "Tell Richard you lost it or something."
"He won't believe me and he hates it when we lie to him. ...What do I even tell the agent? Richard was angry when I did not mention you while arranging things on the phone with her."
"Well for starters, don't tell the agent about me or Beatriz, Sophie, or Izzy," I advised her. "Do what you did with the last agent you were obliged to speak to... the one who also stated that Richard's merger is a miserable idea. Tell her the truth about everything else, make sure the mindscape sounds normal."
"Will you be in the parallel when I speak to her?"
My eyes widened, appalled. "No."
"Ms. Abby --"
"Get out!" I stood, pointing to the door of my study. Elizabeth appeared hurt but I paid no mind to that. This was for her own good. "If I parallel, you won't be able to hide us. I don't want to hear another word about this. Simply convince the Society for the Prevention of Abnormal Mindscapes that this is a normal mindscape and that shall be it."
Elizabeth nodded slightly, got up, and left. For the next two weeks, I received calls from the girl but I refused to pick up the antique phone in my study. I kept it on its hook and ignored its tinny bell. Perhaps with a long-enough absence, Elizabeth would convince herself that she had faked the whole thing. There is no Ms. Abby, there is no Beatriz, Sophie, or Izzy. Oh, and no Estrella either but we never speak of her. That is what resulted from my previous absence. Why, I'd sent the girl blushing! She had dared to write a report about each of us outside of Noxinview (except Estrella because she only woke up a year ago). Between my absence, Sophie merging with Angelica (the artistic aspect), and later forced into dormancy, Elizabeth had been convinced that she had simply told a story. If she ever tried to document us before, mum was the word. I was not going to allow exposure and I was not going to allow the label of abnormality to stain the good name of Elizabeth.
She was not the prodigy I had expected but as I gazed out the window of my study and watched the hustle and bustle of central Noxinview, I allowed myself to forgive Elizabeth for not being all I had hoped. The flowers were blooming in Ms. Sophie's garden and in every window box throughout the town. Every stone building was new, modeled after the architecture of a bygone time. Thick clouds rolled overhead. There was potential in Noxinview for prosperity and grace. A bad merger would erase everything. I would rather have the city torn down myself than have it gradually lose its spark. This symbiosis is new to me, actually. I had been Elizabeth's Critic for years but for the first time, she felt as if I was guiding instead of tormenting her. Now, after a month of influence in the parallel, my silence was for her own good. Of course, Elizabeth would not understand.
"I will only go if you come with me," I heard Elizabeth say to Richard. She could not hear me. She could not even remember how my voice sounded like, but I could eavesdrop on her. "Don't speak for me though!"
"I thought you said emotional support was for the weak," Richard scoffed in his twangy nasal drawl.
"I did, but I won't tell her anything. Hell, I'll cancel the appointment!"
"Why did you lie to her on the phone?" Richard was clearly angry. "I told you say --"
"It's not a lie, Richard. I don't even know why you want me to go so badly."
"Because this is not normal!"
"Yes it is normal, for me!"
"For the love of...! You are so irrational!"
"I'm not telling her."
"Why you... cold calculating banshee!"
This man would, believe it or not, claim he never pushed anything. I must confess, I was tempted to enter the parallel but I resisted the urge. Noxinview needed its Critic.
"He snitched me out," Elizabeth told me the following week. Now this caught my attention. "He outed you and the others to Agent Viola."
I dropped my fountain pen in disbelief. The nerve of that man!
"I had to explain it to her, Ms. Abby. I'm sorry."
"When is the next time you meet with this Agent Viola?" I inquired, standing from my desk. I had only picked up the telephone because I was curious about how the meeting with this agent went.
"Next week. She isn't like those other agents, though. Viola uses methods that are not conventional. It's supposed to actually work, unlike peace drugs."
I breathed a sigh of relief. "But Richard interfered?"
"She offered to be the caseworker for both of us, a couples' deal you know, but he refused to take a tool box."
"Tool box?" My brow flew up.
"Nifty devices, and there's a place out in the countryside for us. A cabin she said we can use. She encourages everyone to communicate, you, me, Sophie, Beatriz..."
"And the tools?"
"It's for a panel of switches inside the cabin. You have to come and see it. It's like the old 'Start-Over' button I used to use a long time ago when things got chaotic, but more complex! You need to meet Agent Viola, Ms. Abby. I don't think she and Richard trust each other."
My brows flew up and I allowed the slightest semblance of a smile. This was the beginning of the end. Elizabeth did not know it, but I had suspected it, and this Agent Viola... she knew it.
I had been expecting someone who looked more professional but Elizabeth did inform me beforehand that Agent Viola was not a conventional agent. She had salt-and-pepper hair and wore wire-rimmed glasses, dressed casually for an agent. I still saw to it that Elizabeth's outfit was presentable. She was clean and elegant, the way I had taught her to be. Richard was present and I said nothing as I stood in the mediation room, a large glass room where I could see beyond Noxinview. It is the antechamber to the parallel. I do not want to refer to it as the "real" world, as Noxinview is the real world to me so I will simply say that it is the world parallel to mine. The man spoke quite a bit before Agent Viola did something I had never seen an agent do before. The window suddenly went dark, completely black so I could not see the office anymore. When this darkness cleared up, Elizabeth was no longer in the office with Richard. She was inside a cabin, where she opened the door to a library. For Elizabeth's sake, I will not not speak of the confidential details but to put it briefly, Agent Viola guided her in sorting out the records of her life. Records of Port Royale, the first lady, and Richard, any page attached to resentment or regret was torn out but the lessons were kept. I observed Elizabeth painstakingly do this task before she walked out of the library, down the stairs, and outside to the cabin's back deck.
The cabin was overlooking a blue glistening lake and mountains beyond. It was the sanctuary Elizabeth used to fantasize about when the first lady of Port Royale threatened an arrest. She had spoken about fleeing to a place in the mountains... I suppose all these years later, our girl had finally found it. Agent Viola had given it to her. I was not phased at all by the use of teleportation (or swatching, as we call it here), but I was surprised that an agent was familiar with it. A glowing orb of light then floated from the top of these mountains and across the lake, above where Elizabeth was standing. The scene before me glowed gold, then flashes white before we were back inside the office with Richard and Agent Viola.
Before the meeting with the agent was over, Richard stepped out of the office.
"I know there are things you can't tell me while he's in here," she said quietly to Elizabeth. The girl nodded.
"If you need anything, give me a call."
I continued to shadow Elizabeth for the remainder of the day, opening the silver door out into the parallel. She and Richard were walking uphill to his house, stepping over fallen branches. The spring air was chilly though the day was warm. The wind, however, did not rustle my long skirts nor did it blow any of my hairs out of place. I was directly behind Elizabeth and could overhear her conversation with Richard clearly.
"As if my life wasn't so stressful already, I needed to have a stupid counsellor yell at me," he complained.
I tapped Elizabeth on the shoulder, inspiring her words. "Maybe if you had done what she asked and taken the couples' deal, Viola wouldn't have been mad at you."
"I don't need help, Elizabeth. You do!"
"It's not like you're all that stable either," she muttered.
"I got over my problems because I worked to do so," he said.
"I don't have problems!" she insisted. "This isn't fair to those who actually suffer and who actually need to be helped. I'm taking a slot that belongs to them."
Richard growled in frustration. "And this is exactly the kind of thinking that needs to be fixed. And besides, you have to deal with your mother, who is a problem."
"She's not. At least I'm trying to get along with my family. Why do you say that family values are so important then tell me to cut mine off?"
"Because they're unsupportive of our relationship. Do you want this to work out or not?"
"No!" I shouted.
"Yes," Elizabeth muttered.
"Then you must accept that you have a problem!"
"You can't be uncooperative then wonder why people get mad, though," she said.
Richard paused to light a cigarette, his thick brows raised. "And can you speak American? Why do you even sound like that?"
Elizabeth's dark eyes widened as she turned to look over her shoulder at me. I had come off too strong. "Well, Ms. Abby has been --"
"I don't want to hear it!" Richard snapped. "She's not real. This whole thing about the people in your mind, it's all BS!"
She entered his house while he finished his cigarette on the front porch. It was a dreadful place, if I may say so myself. Personally, I refuse to touch anything dirty. All of the furniture was old and looked like it hadn't been dusted in years. I took my usual seat in one of the arm chairs and kept watch of Elizabeth. Richard could not see me. Here there was no city of our own. There is no record of me anywhere. This was simply a girl who, in my opinion, was in danger of ruining her life. Everything else is a daydream.
I will not speak much further about Richard because there is a certain amount of confidentiality I must practice myself but let us say that Elizabeth needed to call Agent Viola not long after this, for the darkness in Richard showed itself. I will not tell the story and will be discreet regarding the circumstances, but what I will say is that there was a fit of jealous rage, a stack of accusatory notes, and nothing but excuses. A boundary was set, no seeing Richard for three days, but thanks to Sophie, it was easily broken.
"He needs me!" Sophie threw Richard's note down, her blue eyes beginning to tear up. "If I don't go to him, he'll- he'll do something terrible!"
I tried to block the door to the mediation room but she pushed past. "No he won't."
"Sophie!" I followed her inside the mediation room, where she immediately turned the microphone on and examined the options on how to respond to Richard's notes.
"I will come over once work is finished."
Elizabeth sent that message inspired by Sophie, driven by compassion and empathy. It was a breach of the boundary I had set up. They were both being played!
Another note from Richard appeared in the capsule across the way. He said it was too late in the day for him.
"Tomorrow!" Sophie whimpered, scheduling the boundary for demolition.
"Sophie!" I turned the microphone off and grabbed Ms. Sophie by the shoulders, shaking her. "It is not your job to save this man from himself. He is only saying these things so he doesn't lose Elizabeth. Everyone must follow my lead right now, not yours. I have made up my mind."
She made eye contact, looking terrified. "No!" she whispered. "Richard's my friend, Abigail. I still love him!"
"Look at what he is doing to you right now!" I pointed at the graphic pictures accompanying the notes. "This is precisely the effect he wants. He wants you to fear for him. He wants you to be remorseful. He cannot be away from Elizabeth for two days? She is an individual person, not another man's drug!"
Sophie shoved me away. "How can you say that about Richard?!" She shook her head, tears accumulating then falling. "He's only saying this because he is in pain. We're responsible for his pain, don't you understand?"
"I completely understand, Sophie, that Richard has certain motives for playing up his melancholy. I know that guilt works as an effective fulcrum when trying to pry away at a boundary. He is using you as an emotional sponge. Elizabeth's mother did that to you once. I see the pattern!"
"Or maybe we're the ones using him," she muttered.
"No!" I shouted. "That is what he told you, that is what he wants Elizabeth to feel but my dear Sophie, you want nothing more than to give and give. What is there to take from him anyway? He is an empty mine, a fallow field. In a sense, we are rich. We are self-made, clean, resourceful. He wants us to stay so he can keep taking from Noxinview ... from Elizabeth," I whispered her name, a protective urge rising. I needed Sophie out of the way to ensure she would not interfere with Richard's release. Compassion is necessary, a virtue even, but it can be appealed to easily and played like a cheap guitar.
Elizabeth confided in Viola that she had given in too easily, thanks to her Compassion. Releasing Richard felt impossible to her. She was too afraid. This, I know, is typical of Elizabeth. Sophie is a push-over but Elizabeth is outright timid. The acknowledgement from Agent Viola both surprised and impressed me. Elizabeth once reported to an agent about how she was getting along better with us aspects only to be told she still needed fixing.
"We all have different sides to us," Viola said, "Some of us are gifted with pictures. We can communicate with those aspects. I fight with myself all the time! Those who don't have the gift don't understand."
That would explain why Richard did not understand... despite having troubles of his own. I listened intently in the mediation room and it seemed as if Viola was speaking to me at times. She came close to making eye contact even. Most importantly, she knew as much as I did and better than Elizabeth that Richard needed to go.
"Most others in my practice would suggest drugs for it," said Viola, "but I don't think you need them. Drugs make you complacent and Richard was hoping I would recommend them so you would be easier to control."
"I knew it!" My intuition had been correct.
"I glanced at my colleague, Dr. Smith, at the agency when I booked your case and I asked him 'how much longer until she leaves'? This happens all the time in my practice. One party, the one who is actually causing harm, will report the other to the Society for the Prevention of Abnormal Mindscapes. I knew this was the case because when I asked why you were here, Richard spoke for you and said you needed help, that you have a problem but when I offered to help him too, he wouldn't have it."
"I wish he had taken the couples' deal," Elizabeth said. "Maybe things would be different if he did. Richard said this would save our relationship, but..." she trailed off. "I can't unsee it."
Agent Viola took off her wire-rimmed glasses and shined them on her sweatshirt. "He is a textbook case. There's no saving that."
Elizabeth knew I had been correct, or so I would like to believe. Intuition always wins.
I cornered Sophie in the mansion's parlour. She was working on embroidery, threading a piece of pink floss through a needle. The sun rays coming through the translucent day curtains reflected off her short strawberry blonde curls.
"What is your latest work?" I asked, forcing a smile.
"Oh, this is only the border," she said, holding up the embroidery hoop to show the floral pattern. "I was thinking of stitching some words of joy, something wishing Elizabeth and Richard a..." she trailed off, noticing how cold my expression became when she mentioned that man's name. If I had any second thoughts about what I was about to do, they were gone.
I closed the drapes behind us, placed one hand on her shoulder, preventing her from standing, and the other over her eyes. "This is for your own good," I whispered as she slumped over in her chair and the embroidery hoop fell out of her hands and onto the floor. I proceeded to exit the parlour and lock the door with Sophie still inside of it. We could not risk her interfering.
As much as I despise bringing Beatriz along with me into the mediation room, she was our surest chance at getting rid of Richard. Elizabeth was not on board with my plan. She knew I was out to sabotage them but I had Beatriz and she no longer had Sophie. Here, Richard was telling a sob story, but without Sophie, Elizabeth was less compelled to comfort him and with Beatriz in the mediation chamber, the air around us fizzled with annoyance before she took the microphone and did not hold back.
"You're a weak son of a gun," Beatriz taunted him. "Do you have any idea how long I have been around, telling this girl she should just throw it all away? I have wild ideas too, but you know how many she has acted on? None!"
"Stop talking like that. I know this is all BS!" Richard snapped.
"Oh, so your little voice can say 'off yourself' and you listen but this is weird?!"
Beatriz proceeded to take out her lighter and start clicking it on and off and Elizabeth mirrored this action with Richard's own lighter, which he snatched out of her hands before grabbing his packet of cigarettes and storming out to the porch to smoke. Beatriz's lighter, however, was still in her hands. She had both the determination and my blessing to burn this man's bridge.
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