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It started maybe six months ago.
She was girl of twelve or thirteen, with skinny arms and skinny legs, large green eyes, and a curtain of straight brown hair. She came out of the dark around 10:00 PM, dropped a shard of glass at his door, rang the bell, and disappeared.
“He” was Arnold Hemingway, a retired man in his late sixties, who lived alone.
But that was only the first time.
From that day on, every Saturday night, at exactly 10:00 PM, a small broken item was dropped on his doorstep, the bell was rung, and the girl disappeared.
As for me, I'm just an onlooker.
My name is Nate Harbinger. I live in the house next door to Arnold's, and that's how I first saw her.
It was 10:59 PM, I was sitting on my bed, reading a comic, when the automatic light on the side of my house flickered on. I live in a suburb, so usually when the light comes on, I look through my window, expecting to see a stray cat or dog, but not this time. I peeked through my window, and there was the girl, dressed in all black, dropping that piece of glass at Arnold's door, and disappearing again.
I've watched every night since.
Sometimes she drops things like pieces of rusty car axles or a broken camera or the inside of a watch. From what I've observed, she's never dropped anything whole.
I've never seen her in the neighborhood during the day, or at my school. I've asked around, but no one else has seen her, either.
So one night, I follow her.
I pull my black hood over my head and pursue her quietly, following her small dark shape as she weaves through the shadows.
I step on a twig.
I stand deathly still, trying to control my breathing.
Thankfully, the girl presses on. She leads me behind the houses, through a small forest, and onto the open street. Then behind a few allies and dumpsters, and back into open space. To my surprise, a dusty piece of flat land and dry grass opens up. A tall, daunting, barbed wire fence comes into view. Its full of warning signs: DO NOT ENTER, HIGH VOLTAGE, TOXIC WASTE.
Suddenly, the girl pulls down her hoodie, revealing her long sheet of brown hair.
“We're here,” she says. I jump back, surprised.
“You knew I was following you?”
“Since you left the house.” I stand back, confused.
“But why did you let me follow you here?”
“Come with me.” I follow her as she moves aside two bushes, revealing a huge hole in fence. She crawls through, and I crawl in reluctantly after her. Once we're inside the fence, I realize it's a huge junk yard, with mounting piles of garbage. But in the middle, there's a small gray building with a flickering light. The girl leads me forward.
When we reach the building, she pushes open a huge metal door.
It's clearly a lab, but it looks like it had been abandoned quickly. Bottles of brightly colored liquid are spilled on the floor, DNA samples and a microscope are smashed on the ground. The whole place is damp and cold and wreaks of wet mold. The girl goes over to a drawer and opens it up. She stands back for me to look. I pull out a folder and open it.
Inside are newspaper clippings describing the mysterious disappearance of a little girl. “I don't get it . . .” I say quietly, but then I see the resemblance. There's a picture of the girl, and everything matches up—the large, intelligent green eyes, the flat brown hair, the pale skin and thin lips. I pull out another file—the girl is found alive at the edge of a dumpster. I ignore the gaze of the girl as I continue flipping through papers and other files. Another catches my eye. This is the basic gist:
The girl is said to never speak, she never talks about where she went, she disappears again the following month.
Suddenly and inexplicably, a lab is shut down the girl's file is announced a closed case, though the government never offers explanation or reveals the girl's identity.
Among other documents, a murder case, lab tests and DNA records.
“What does all this mean?” I ask the girl, my throat tight. Something isn't adding up. There's no document that says she was found, why was the case closed? Where do I come into the picture? What's the connection with the lab—this lab?
The girl steps forward and looks at the picture.
“I was quiet,” she starts.
“I lived in a small neighborhood, an old neighborhood, and at first, no one questioned me. I was just a stupid girl who couldn't talk.
But then I made a mistake.
My father was a drunk. I watched him, I observed him. He hated me, he hated my mother. I hated him. He was in bad shape and everyone knew it. One day, when I was six years old, I decided I wanted rid of him.
I slipped rat poison into his drink, he got sick and died.
When the poison was discovered as the cause of his death, he was filed as a murder case. My mother was put on trial and pleaded guilty. She was sent to jail.
But something wasn't right.
My mom had been visiting her sister the month my father had died. When this information emerged, my mother was released and further investigation led nowhere.
Until they found the poison in my room.
It was hidden inside my pillowcase, but of course I was unsuspected at the time of my mother's trial.
I confessed one night to my mother, that it had indeed been me.
My mother told the authorities.
They couldn't exactly put a six-year-old in jail, so I was sent to a lab for psychological testing.
What they found out was like nothing they had ever seen before.
Not only were my brain genetics different, but my DNA had unidentified strands of genes. I was sent back home for a short while, but when the lab came back with the results, they took me away without government permission.
When they were done testing me, they threw me behind the dumpster. The police connected the dots, and the laboratory was shut down.
Before they were shut down, however, all the work they had done was found completely incinerated.
The police tried to get the scientists to talk, but they had gone crazy, mumbling nonsense and refusing to talk.” She took a heavy breath.
I flicked through the files.
“So . . .who exactly are you?” I asked faintly. She looked at me.
“My name is Mara Harbinger.”