The next morning, I did my best to avoid Miles. Tonight was my introduction to The Love room but my excitement turned to dread after what had happened the night before. How could he bring me here only to tell me to get out? I knew obsessing about it would just distract me and would hold me back from The Light.
During breakfast I sat with some new people, the same group that was always in The Darius' room sitting in an entranced meditation. They ate on the stone path that led to The Darius' room, just far enough from the others to be secluded but close enough to observe them all.
"Ivy, congratulations on becoming Freedom House's secretary. That is such an important role here. Are you excited about tonight?" Jonas gave me a bright-eyed stare as he said this.
As Jonas was speaking, my eyes moved across each member in the group in the hopes of catching a look of suspicion in someone's eyes, my attempt to discover the person who was watching me and Miles the night before. How much did they hear?
"Ivy?" Jonas asked.
I snapped out of thought. "Thank you, I am very excited. I've been waiting for this."
No one in the group seemed to know what happened last night or if the person was present, they were putting on a flawless facade.
"When do you start your work with The Darius?" Sylvie, one of the more attractive girls there, said. Sylvie had long dark voluminous hair that had a natural wave that framed her face. Her skin was olive and she had the perfect figure. Whenever she spoke, she always made strong eye contact with her seductive brown eyes.
"After breakfast I have a meeting with him."
"He is so amazing. Just pure beauty." Sylvie said.
"I've never met anyone like him before. Where is he from anyways?" I asked.
"What matters is that he's here now. What matters is the Journey to Freedom. He is the only one who can lead us there." Cyrus spoke sternly.
"Of course, Cyrus. That is why we are all here." Sylvie interjected.
"Not all." Cyrus said. He stood up and walked away.
"Don't mind him, he wants to work closer with The Darius and he's been trying really hard." Jonas shrugged it off.
"You're really going to enjoy The Love room, it's life changing." Sylvie smiled.
After breakfast, I saw Miles feeding the animals. I walked briskly past him in the hopes that he wouldn't notice me. "Ivy," he followed me. I continued to walk down the stone path to The Darius' room.
"I am meeting with The Darius. I can't talk."
"Okay, we can talk tonight. I'm still your mentor and I'll be introducing you to The Love room."
I walked through the doorway of The Darius' room and left Miles behind me, knowing he wouldn't follow me since he had to feed the animals. I stopped when I entered, a long white carpet led to where The Darius was sitting.
"Beautiful Ivy, come forward." The Darius articulated every letter, every syllable.
The same people always sitting in the room were there, this included Jonas, Sylvie, and Cyrus. They didn't make eye contact with me. They just sat and looked at The Darius, with the faintest of smiles, almost nonexistent. The room was dark as always with candles lit along the walls.
I walked down the carpet and sat down in front of The Darius, crossing my legs like him. "Ivy, we need to begin faster preparations to move everyone into The Free stage. I know you are just entering The Love room tonight, but you need to understand that we must move quickly to The Light. I had a vision and the darkness is coming. If we do not enter The Light soon, we will all be consumed by this darkness. I will announce this in evening meditation."
"What do you need me to do?" I asked.
"You will need to revise all schedules and add an additional pain meditation and an additional pain yoga to each day. We need a total of four pain practices each day. I need you to remove dinner from the schedule. From now on, everyone will begin fasting from 2:00pm until the following morning."
"Okay The Darius." It was fascinating. He knew exactly what we needed.
"There is one more thing. Everyone needs to be placed into The Love phase. I need you to create the schedule for The Love room and make sure all members are introduced to it within the next two days."
"I can do that."
"I know you can. You are very special." The Darius looked into my eyes; his stare moved down into my body. He leaned in and placed his hands on my waist, "We cannot let the darkness consume us Ivy." His touch sent chills up my back.
I walked down the white carpet to exit. This was serious. I had to get to work. When would this darkness come? What was going to happen to us if we didn't move fast enough to The Light? I walked into the kitchen and Penelope was chopping squash.
"Hello Ivy. Are you feeling better today?" She continued to chop as I spoke. Jody crosses my mind.
"So much better. Thanks."
"That makes me happy to hear."
I looked down at her chopping the squash. She chopped with her right hand and held the squash securely with her left. Her left fingernails caught my attention. They were stained red with dark red grime under her nails. She was leaving pink fingerprints on the squash. My stomach turned. The chopping sound stopped.
"Something wrong Ivy?" Behind her smirk was a joke she was only aware of.
"Um, no, I just wanted to inform you that we'll be taking dinner off the schedule. The Darius' order."
"Isn't it great. He knows exactly what we need." She continued chopping. As I began to walk away, Penelope started to hum a song. It made me stop but I forced myself not to turn and look back at her. Why was that song so familiar? I know. It was the same chanting sound I heard the night before behind the red door. I took a breath and continued to walk away. I had a lot of work to begin.
It was finally time. I had to meet up with Miles and begin my introduction to The Love room. I was not looking forward to seeing him. We met in Freedom Park at the coy pond. He was sitting on a bench staring into the pond. I walked right up and sat next to him, not saying anything.
"This has always been my favorite place at Freedom House. The coy have been here since the beginning as well."
"Miles, about last night, I still don't understand."
"One died today."
"What?" I was confused.
"I found a coy fish dead. I took it out with a net. It's finally free from this confined pond."
I acted like I didn't hear him. "Miles, I'm sorry I said you were jealous. I just don't get this."
"Are you ready for The Love room? It'll make sense there."
Miles opened the door to The Love room. The ceiling was heightened to the heavens, so high up with a sunroof window at the very top. Brightly lit stars shimmered, the universe watching us through the sun window. Transparent, sheer cloth were hanging down the mattress frame in a repeating pattern, inviting and protective. I couldn't help but run fingers along it, smooth and light as air. Long skinny carpets were laid out all around the room and leading to the bed. There was nothing on the walls. In the far, left corner, there was a beautifully carved wooden wardrobe with two doors. To the right, was a doorway that led into a room with marble floor and one large white porcelain bathtub. A strong scent of flowers hit my nose.
Miles closed the door behind him and locked it. We were the only ones in the room. "Let's sit Ivy."
We sat on the mattress. I put my hands in my lap, knees tightly press together and my feet on one of the soft rugs. "Ivy, I'm sorry about last night but I'm only trying to protect you. There's a lot that goes on here that you couldn't even imagine."
"Like what? Everything here is perfect. I didn't have a life before Freedom House. What could be so wrong?" I asked.
"Your introduction to The Love stage and this room is to prepare you for The Darius'."
"And what's so wrong with that? The Darius is beyond special. He is Life."
"You don't understand Ivy. When a person enters The Love, they are groomed to be intimate with The Darius. He is very particular in what he wants so he has all the mentors prepare new members. Then he takes over The Love room with them."
"The Darius knows I'm beautiful so what's wrong with that? He is beauty and so everyone else here. Like he says in meditation, we are one and together we must move toward The Free to get to The Light. This is just all part of it." I was flattered. No one had told me I was beautiful before The Darius and now he wanted to get me ready for a special night with him.
"Ivy, I won't do it. You're fourteen. Don't you see? This isn't okay. Think about on the outside, it's wrong."
"This isn't the outside Miles. We are doing something bigger here. It's not like I'm being forced, I want it."
"I'm not going to prep you. You are a wonderful girl, but you don't deserve what's coming."
"The Darius deserves it Miles and I have been waiting my entire life to be important. You can't take this away from me. I guess I'll need to tell The Darius to assign me a new mentor."
"You know if you do that, I will face the consequences." Miles voice cracked from concern.
"Then prep me."
"Ivy, I really like you, but this isn't right."
"It's my job to help Freedom House move closer to The Free stage and this is part of it. If you don't prep me, I will go to The Darius and have someone else do it."
Miles' eyes swelled with tears. His lips were tightly sealed as he forced his tears to stay put but one broke free, a small droplet fell over his bottom waterline and gracefully danced down his cheek, starting slow and picking up speed as it dripped down his cheek. He slowly lifted his hand to his face and wiped it.
"I can't let someone else do it. Just know Ivy, I am forever sorry."
How couldn't he understand how important this all was? Everyone else seemed to get it. He led me over to the wardrobe. He grabbed both wooden knobs and opened it widely. On the top two shelves there were bottles of different sizes and colors filled with liquids. My eyes ran across in awe and I caught some words. Lube. I had never heard that word before.
On the bottom shelves there were objects I had never seen before, but they looked interesting. Some were bright pink, some just plain black. Some had round circular shapes attached, and others were long and cylindrical. I grabbed one, "I like this one."
Miles grabbed one of the bottles that contained lube. We went back to the mattress and he helped me get undressed. He got undressed. He looked me in the eyes, reached his hands gently to my face and said, "I am so sorry Ivy."
-Written by Sterp
All Rights Reserved.
I am Sterp. I write horror fiction and have a very unhealthy obsession with disturbing narratives. I am the author of The Cult Called Freedom House: Sophia Rey Book One. My short story The Lost Tea Cup will be in Issue 26 of The Literary Hatchet in 2020. I am also a painter.
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