In the middle of a raging war in Europe is orphaned Siani, adopted by a family who was once her enemy. Years pass, and she quickly finds her place in her new countryside community, but the time inevitably comes for her to leave home and start a life of her own. When she ventures outside her little village, however, she finds that the rest of the nation isn't as accepting of her as her adoptive family was. If she can't be seen as an equal, as one of them, maybe it's time to start acting like the enemy she was born to be...
It's cold outside—not the kind of miserable cold, but the kind that comes before a storm, the kind that makes you shiver in your coat and you still somehow grin about it. I look at my watch—2:51pm. The music building is along my walk home, but it seems silly to go there. What would I do? Show up, say "Hey, you wrote a note in my book. Thought you ought to know!" and pop out? Still, something about it all seems to draw me in, to call to my curiosity.
I walk up the steps and pass through the front doors of the Saint-Saens Fine Arts Building, sighing as the foyer's warmth washes over me. Sculptures, paintings, and other student projects are displayed along the sides of the vaulted room, while hanging from the ceiling three stories above is a delicately designed mobile with thousands of intertwined pieces of paper undulating in symphony to form a mesmerizing harmony of shapes. There's a giant staircase that curves around the middle of the room, and I head to the landing that takes me down to the basement.
The dissonant voices of muffled classical instruments dominate the hallways of the basement. Hundreds of doors mark the entrances to an assortment of musical practice rooms, some as small as a closet, others large enough to house an entire orchestra. I make my way down the hall, searching for room 32d. Finally, near the end of the hall I arrive at a small branch of rooms tucked in the corner and slip through the aisle until I'm in front of the room from the mysterious note.
The room inside is dark, and when I try to peer through the tiny slit of a window all I can make out is a cruddy stand-up piano in the corner. I knock on the door lightly and lean my head against it.
“Hey, is there an Owain here?” I ask, feeling silly for even asking. I knock lightly one more time and am about to leave—kicking myself for being dumb enough to actually come down here—when the door clicks and opens just a crack. I turn back, startled, and open the door a little bit wider. I step inside when I don’t see anyone and flip the light switch on, but the room remains dark, even after I jiggle the switch a couple times.
There's nothing here. Just the piano, a music stand, and a couple crumpled up sheets of music. I’m seconds away from giving up and heading home for an early dinner—I’ve got some bread and summer sausage waiting for me—when all of a sudden there’s a light in the corner closest to me accompanied by a gentle buzz. A cell phone.
My intrigue now piqued, I go inside for real and pick up the phone. It’s an unknown caller. Thinking that whoever put the note in my binder might be the owner of the phone, I press the green answer button and put it to my ear.
“Close the door.”
The voice on the other end is firm, yet soothing. I obey and shut the door, putting myself in almost complete darkness. Once it’s closed, the voice continues without allowing me to respond. “Siani, I have a window of exactly two minutes to talk to you, so listen closely and do not speak.”
Her accent is rough, maybe Panamerican, but her tone is persistent. So, I hold my tongue and fight the urge to ask how she knows my name. “The world is at war, even if the world doesn’t know it yet. Every single day hundreds of lives are lost, power changes hands a dozen times over, and we all wait anxiously as we sit on the edge of extinction. All it’ll take for the world to go up in flames is the smallest of sparks, and wherever the fire starts will determine who rises from the ashes.
“This isn’t how I’d want us to meet, but under the circumstances this is our only option. I know who you are, I know where you come from—I’m sure these Coalitioners remind you frequently—but more importantly, I know about the project you’re working on. This project is more than it seems. Whether you realize it or not, you hold the spark that will ignite our lives as we know them, and it’s very important that you think carefully about where you want the fire to start. You can’t hold onto that ember forever; one way or another it’ll break free, but if you act now you have the power to save a lot of lives, the right lives.
“What I will ask you to do will go against many of your instincts; after living in the land of your conquerors for so long it would only be natural to forget your true home. But don’t be fooled. These people will never accept you as one of their own, as I’m sure you can already see. You were probably told that you were chosen for the Grassroots project because of your skill or your unusual aptitude, but you can be sure that every action the Coalition takes is deliberate, every action has a darker intention behind it; history doesn’t lie. You were chosen because the Coalition wanted you to be chosen. You will be nothing more than a pawn for their games, for their propaganda.
“So, with that being said, you have a decision to make. You are in a very unique position of power. You can choose to continue on your way, to continue serving those who took everything from you. Or, you can be engraved in the history books alongside some of the world’s greatest heroes. We need you, Siani. The world needs you.
“I wish we had the luxury of time, but we do not. If you choose to continue living your life as a second class citizen, all you have to do is place this phone down and walk away. If my words have stirred up anything inside of you, however, I beg you to just meet me. Hear me out, and then you can decide whether I speak the truth or not. I’ll call this phone exactly twenty-four hours from now with more details.”
The line goes dead and I pull the phone from my face.
Call ended. 2m 00s
Another shiver runs up my back.