CHAPTER 7: Hinge and Pandora began speaking at the same time and awkwardly stopped, waiting for the other to continue. This went on for a few seconds, and as humorous as it was, it was making me impatient again. I picked Hinge to explain it to me, expecting Pandora to be a little peeved that I preferred him over her but she visibly relaxed as soon as he began speaking.
"I have been waiting for this question, Juilliard. I can see that you will not fail me, as you seem to do everything I expect without me having to request it of you."
Somehow, even with his intense procrastination skills, Hinge was able to put me at ease with things. I don't know how, and I wasn't quite sure I like it, but for the moment it was pleasant to not be overly worried about anything. He went on to say that a tracker had been on me since my mother disappeared. We had been holed up in the shack for a few months prior to her disappearance and the Pack had been informed of it. When I began my journey, a few dogs kept up with me.
This thought brought a lot of uneasiness to my stomach since I had been travelling all this time thinking that I'd been doing a grand job of not leaving a trail and never taking the same route twice. Apparently my thoughts and my actions told two different stories. And if the Pack had been tracking me, who, or what, else had been following me this whole time?
I was so confident in my skills that I became less careful than I ever thought I could be, and this was the most disconcerting thought my mind has ever produced.
"Do not worry. Your whereabouts have been discovered by none. We make sure of it. The only way we were able to find you originally was your mother. She wanted to keep you safe so she told us your whereabouts."
At the mention of my mother I interrupted with an important question, "What happened to her?"
"They came for her. She prepared you well for the day when you would be alone because she knew she could only hide for so long. Had anything serious occurred, or had you been at high risk of imminent danger, we would have intervened, but you needed to learn self-dependence. You needed to learn the importance of trust and why you cannot simply give your trust to anyone."
Trust. It just seems to come up everywhere doesn't it?
"Yeah, Hinge, but what happened to my mother?"
"She left you. She knew that it would be hard to get along without her for a while, but she knew They were coming for her and she wanted to be sure that if she were to be caught you would not be as easy to find. She thought it best to separate and lead Them in different directions, all away from you. Remember, Juilliard, she was only trying to protect you."
I suppose I was wrong in my hypothesis. I thought my mother was taken, but now I'm not so sure anymore. For all I know she could still be alive, keeping the Superiors and their Soldiers going in their chase. This worried me even more than the idea of her being already taken.
"But you don't know what happened to her?!" I asked again, "I lost my mother, Hinge. Can't you at least have the decency to not beat around the bush until I explode?" I was once again almost in tears. I know that at nineteen, having been alone for about nine years, I shouldn't have had any tears left. But there they were at the corners of my eyes, ready to trace new paths down my cheeks.
The most important person in the world had disappeared and no one seemed able to tell me what had happened to her.
Pandora took me into her arms as if I were only a small child just milliseconds before I collapsed into a shivering heap on the ground. She spoke softly, so only I could hear, "Juilliard, we don't know what's become of your mother. After she left we never heard from her again. Like she didn't want to sacrifice you, she never made contact with us for fear that it may be tracked and your only help would be useless. She took great measures to help you. Be thankful for that."
So my mother could be dead, a soldier, or somewhere out there by herself, trapped in a world of enemies, possibly even fighting for her life. Now that
That is always a pleasant thought. I desperately wanted to find her, but both Hinge and Pandora managed to convince me that food, rest, and planning would be the best place to start.
Pandora left Hinge and I to our own devices, and Hinge led me to my personal chamber. We passed many other dogs, and some people as well, but I was too overwhelmed and caught up in my own thoughts to pay any attention to their open stares.
I was led through many more dark tunnels and small, but lit, rooms and then we appeared at the opening of a smaller, dimly lit tunnel. Hinge paused before entering and explained that this was one of many private room tunnels located throughout the Underground (I discovered some time earlier that this place was nicknamed the Underground. I suppose this was simply for ease of conversation. Although I'm not sure who any of these Underground members would be talking to other than those who lived in the Underground like themselves
Each tunnel had doors branching off into individual rooms for members of the Underground clan. Mine was in the third tunnel, which was the one we had stopped in front of. We walked a ways into it and Hinge nodded toward a door on my left.
The doors were the push open type and didn't lock. I was a little uncomfortable with the no lock, easy open system. If any Superiors, or their Soldiers, were to get in everyone would be open to attack and capture. That isn't something I felt was a safe idea. At the same time, though, the dogs (as smart as they are) still don't have fingers and can't open doors with handles. I guess the risk is worth the comfort. And if the tree were the only entrance to the Underground, it would probably be perfectly safe seeing as only one person can fit through at a time. But it's not the only entrance because dogs can't climb trees. I guess it wasn't really my problem, though, since I'm only a temporary guest of the clan.
I came out of my thoughts and pushed open the door to my new lodging. It was plain and a bit dark, but it's just for me to sleep in so I didn't mind at all. The walls were just wood and dirt held up in columns with some more dirt, rocks, and some crudely made bricks thrown into a mix to make solid walls. The ground and ceiling were just dirt, too, although the ceiling was supported by more wood columns. There was bed made of old clothes and tarps located up against the wall farthest from the door. In the opposite corner behind the open door was a tiny wash basin. I assumed it was so simple because of the dirt floor's ability to absorb the splashed water. It was a simple room, but it suited me perfectly. My only concern was that I hadn't slept in full darkness in a very long time. I didn't want to start my day unrested.
I was also a little concerned about the fact that we were underground. The last thing I wanted was for the whole place to collapse as we slept. But as Hinge left me alone in my own private room and I laid down on my own somewhat real bed, all my worries were forgotten in a completely dreamless sleep.