Forward – by Dalmatia Flemming
Forward – by Dalmatia Flemming
Ellen took a sip of coffee. It was lukewarm. Instantaneously she was transported back to reality; this coffee tasted awful. She realized that her stomach was not feeling quite right, the coffee was making it acidic. Ellen thought she better eat something, that’s what the problem was. She had been anxious and it seemed to have dampened her appetite so she didn’t eat. Ellen opened her backpack and found some bland crackers. She ate some.
Ellen picked up her phone to text her husband. “Hi Mark. On second train now. I’m nervous! I’ll meet you at the restaurant around 7:30 for dinner. Have a fun day! Xo E”.
Ellen looked out the window of the train. The landscape looked familiar, yet different. It had been twenty years since she was last here and the circumstances were very different then. She heard that the compound in which she had grown up was now a nature preserve. This relieved her a little; maybe it wouldn’t be so hard to face her past after all. Perhaps all the bad cult mojo had been broken down to atomic particles, rearranged into goodness and consumed by beautiful plants … maybe?
Ellen nervously assembled her things in preparation to leave the train. She checked her phone for messages. Mark had answered back; “Hey E. You’ll be awesome. Remember what your counselor said. Now you can move forward. Xoxo M.”
The five minute warning whistle blew and people began to work their way towards the door. Ellen noticed three adults fussing over about thirty kids all about the same age. Ellen figured it must be a class field trip. The kids were cute, so innocent looking. Ellen thought back to when she was their age. Suddenly she was beginning to wonder if this was such a good idea after all.
The door to the train opened and everyone began to file out. Ellen held back a little and watched them all exit, watched the teachers gathering up the kids.
“Miss, is this your stop?” the steward asked.
“Um … yes it is. Thank you.”
Ellen exited the train. She turned and looked back at the steward. He gave her a big smile and waved. How nice to not be fearful, Ellen thought. She smiled and waved back. The train pulled away.
There was the entrance. It looked peaceful enough. Was it a trap? Ellen slowly walked forward. “One ticket please …. Thank you.” Ellen walked through the gate.
It was beautiful, so far anyway. The plantings were very lush, with blown glass sculptural forms artfully intermingled with the plants. Wow, Ellen thought. What a change. It was so sparse in the cult days.
Ellen picked up a trifold pamphlet and opened it. Inside was a map of the preserve. Ellen studied it. It looked as though most of the buildings were still intact, the same layout that Ellen remembered. It had been a school campus prior to being donated to the cult, so Ellen had been told. The map reflected that sort of arrangement and feeling. Ellen looked around. But the buildings looked different, they no longer looked like the bunkers of Ellen’s memory.
The current preserve café and gift shop was the former cult mess hall. Ellen’s mom had spent hours there preparing breakfast, lunch and dinner for hundreds of cult members. Ellen’s former dormitory, the children were separated from their parents in the cult, was now a desert vivarium. Ellen decided she must at least go and see this.
The old dormitory was almost completely glass now, as much glass as was structurally possible and still be able to stand. Ellen could see cacti, some that looked familiar and some exotic looking ones she had never seen before. It reminded her of the area surrounding her current home in Southern California. Well, maybe she should go inside.
Upon entering, Ellen could feel the sudden change to arid air with her first breath. And the heat. It felt good on her skin. Ellen slowly began to walk through the displays. She saw some lizard-like creatures, some that reminded her of the ones at home and again, some exotic looking ones.
Was this the theme for the day? Maybe the theme for more than just this day? Everything was the same and different at the same time. She was the same person, but different after twenty years had passed. This place was the same and different compared to before. But truly better than before. The cult was gone, it was really gone and Ellen decided right then that the cult would no longer have a grip on her. She would be free of it.
Ellen saw the teachers and school children. She approached them and started up a conversation in their native language. She had learned a little as a child and completely mastered it while working as a hostess in a bar when she first escaped the cult.
Ellen pulled out her phone to text Mark; “Hey Mark. A-OK over here. Maybe I can meet you earlier. I think I’ll leave earlier. Check your phone. Xo E.”