Evelyn awaits the arival of the man with the red ribbon, it is entwined with her fate
The Red Ribbon
Beneath Evelyn’s arms the bright steel of the railing was cold and smooth, a single bright sensation in a mass of sepia and grey. Beside her Evelyn could hear the noise from the room she had just left. The glass doors were bright but they shed no light on the rest of the balcony; grey concrete surrounded by a fence of straight black poles and topped with a silvery steel tube, smooth but dull in the darkness.
Tears streamed down her pale cheeks, burning her skin in the night. She had dressed smartly earlier that day, and hadn’t intended to be outside for more than a dash between her taxi and the restaurant. She was wearing her favourite dress, its eggshell blue colour so pretty and unusual. It was appropriately conservative, reaching just above her knee and the gently rounded collar of the neckline rested just against her shoulder blades. Her arms were bare and unprotected from the cold of the night. Evelyn’s hair was long and naturally straight in deep mahogany, a thin white headband tried ineffectively to hold it off her face as she rested her head in her arms.
The door onto the balcony opened and the sounds from inside got louder for a moment before the door was clicked shut again. The balcony was large and there were steps down to the street at one end. Evelyn held her breath and kept quiet, hoping the person was just walking through. Behind her someone paused.
“What do you want?” Evelyn whispered the words without lifting her head from her arms, ashamed at the horrible brokenness of her voice. She could see stains of mascara seeping through the web of the skin on her forearms. And out of focus below she could see the black street through the bars of the balcony.
“Evelyn please.” It was a voice she knew, a friend. Evelyn took a deep breath somehow it would have been better if it weren’t; she was embarrassed to be seen like this. She looked up at the sky, trying to swallow down the feelings which threatened to bring her to her knees.
“Has someone called them then?” Above her the sky was black. The stars were there, somewhere behind the silhouettes of the buildings rising all around them, but she could not see them from here. With no stars and the moon not yet out the sky was not really there, it was just a stretch of nothingness above. Behind her silence gave her the answer she had known. As soon as she lost control she had known someone was probably already on the phone. They probably told themselves they were doing her a favour, but secretly they enjoyed it. They pretended like the finest actors, denied it to even themselves, but Evelyn had seen the secret joy in their eyes as she had fled outside.
“You should probably go before they get here Mary.” Below on the street the sound of a car coming to a stop pieced the silence of background noise.
“Just explain Eve, you’re under a lot of stress, “Mary’s voice was urgent, hurried but hushed, but as she too noticed the car a note of panic entered her words, “I’m sure they will understand.” Evelyn smiled as her friend spoke. Her words arrested the slow pulse of pain which beat through Evelyn’s chest, touching a small smile to her eyes.
“Thank you Mary.” Behind her the sound of hurried footsteps signalled her friend’s departure. But Evelyn’s eyes were on the car now. It was black, Evelyn didn’t know much else about cars, but it looked expensive and secure. She watched as the driver got out, her was wearing a grey suit and a black shirt. He went round to the curb-side back door and opened it for the first passenger. He wore a grey suit also, three piece, with creases ironed precisely down the legs and arms. The waistcoat below his jacket was a slightly darker shade of grey, and his shirt was a slightly darker shade again. He was tall, and powerful looking, but his face was nondescript. Not handsome or ugly, or plain, he was nondescript, with his not pale or tan skin and his neat brown hair he looked like anyone on the street that you wouldn’t notice. Except for the suit, and the ribbon in his hand.
The ribbon was red. It was even more red than Evelyn had imagined it to be. In the dark sepia landscape of the balcony it shone like a beacon. The nondescript man held one end in his hand, and the other end floated into the depths of the car, lighter than air. It waved as whatever, whoever, was on the other end arranged themselves to get out. She noticed a foot first, in patent leather, his legs clad in the trousers of a suit as expensive and well made as his handlers. It too was grey, paler than the nondescript man’s. He wore no jacket, just a waistcoat in pale grey his shirt was black, with a straight high collar that did not fold. Around his neck was the other end of the red ribbon. Tied somewhat like a cravat. He stood up and the driver shut the door behind him, the sound echoed through the sounds of the night.
On the pavement below her Evelyn watched as the handler started to move towards the stairs at the end of the balcony. The ribbon which floated to the neck of the final man wavered and tightened as he took up the slack. The handler stopped as he realised the final man wasn’t moving. The man with the ribbon round his neck had looked up as the car door shut. He had looked straight up at Evelyn when the others hadn’t even noticed her. His eyes were large and brown. Strange that she should be able to see the colour of them when everything else lacked it. They sat in his face large and warm and beautiful as the rest of him. He wasn’t handsome, he was beautiful. He stared at her, stared up into her. The handler followed his charge’s gaze up and he frowned when he found Evelyn in the dark. With a small tug of encouragement he pulled the red ribbon and his charge along after him.
The beautiful man followed, the ribbon waving between them through the air like seaweed caught in a current, his eyes not watching where he was going, but still on Evelyn. Then they rounded the corner at the end of the balcony. Evelyn gasped for breath and looked up to the sky as fresh tears streamed down her face. She heard the gate at the bottom of the stairs leading to the balcony open, and faintly steps climbing them.
“You are Evelyn Peggy Young?” To one side of her she heard the pair stop as the handler addressed her.
“I am she.” Evelyn spoke back but her eyes still stared up at the empty sky, so dull and monotone.
“I am handler 34AX5. This is Seer Tomas X5. We have been called here today on report of a breach of emotional contract, and blasphemy of the highest order.” His voice was calm and official, as if he simply announced the weather.
“Yes, that is correct.” Handler 34AX5 paused for a moment, Evelyn still hadn’t looked at them, she didn’t want to because she knew if she looked at the man with the red ribbon round his neck, Tomas X5 he had been called, then she would lose everything that made her who she was. The handler looked at his charge. Tomas was looking at the girl, outwardly it appeared he was waiting patiently but the ribbon attached to his neck told another story. It arched through the air in waves but it had stopped flowing, instead it was stationary. The handler glanced from Tomas to the girl with caution.
“Do you agree to come with us? If so we will take you to Home and see if your soul can be saved.” The handler continued. Evelyn remained where she was, arms folded on the smooth steel railing, head tipped up to the sky, she did not acknowledge that he had even spoken.
“If you don’t then we will have to exorcise you now.” The handler’s voice betrayed his growing impatience. They had been returning from an important and tiring mission and the handler did not have the energy or patience to deal with a civilian mishap tonight, however serious it might be. With a frown he watched as Tomas X5 took a step forwards, he had not been given orders to do so. Tomas X5 could not exorcise the woman without his handler’s permission so it was safe enough, but Tomas had been odd since they got out of the car. Tomas closed the two steps of gap between him and the woman, drawing the ribbon out between him and his handler. Tomas stood next to Evelyn, watching her for a moment, reading her soul. The report which had come through on their way home had said she had broken emotional contract and committed a damming sin. The woman’s pain and sorrow had blasted him as soon as he emerged from the cars. Tomas X5 watched the terrible aching pain in her chest and he watched the tears running down her face now smeared with mascara and red and puffy from crying. He saw through her skin and tears to the terrible pain which burnt her insides, threatening her very being, threatening her faith. And that was what puzzled him, her faith was still very much intact and whole, her soul shone with it even as her pain threatened to overwhelm it.
The handler watched, there was no danger yet. Tomas raised a hand to Evelyn’s face drawing her round so she was looking at him. He was taller than her so even though she was still looking up now his face obscured her view of the sky. His other hand he rested over her heart.
“Our father can soothe this pain.” She could feel the heat of his hand through the material of her dress where it rested over her chest, it burnt her skin like the red of the ribbon round his neck burnt the grey of the night. His other hand, the one on her face, was cool and soothing on the hot of her teary cheek.
“My faith… fades.” Evelyn managed to speak, her voice coarse and wavering. Behind them the handler grimaced at the blasphemy, but Tomas’s face remained impassive.
“If it has not gone out completely then it can be reborn anew from the ashes.” His eyes didn’t leave hers but she felt him look also at the room behind her. “Do not confuse your faith in others with your faith in our father.” Evelyn sighed, her breath coming out shakily, beneath him she was shivering, trembling with sudden awareness of the cold. And with an immobilising fear of the man before her who could look through her soul and wipe it clean with a thought.
“You are terrifying.” Evelyn managed to get the words out, her voice quiet and shaking.
“Yes. I am.” For a moment he almost sounded remorseful, “But I am here to protect you now, so do not fear me.” His hands dropped from her face and chest and caught hers from where it rested on the railing. He didn’t give her chance to hesitate or dispute his decision.
“Seer Tomas X5 and Evelyn Peggy Young are ready to return to HOME with Handler 34AX5.” His grip on her hand was solid, his voice was monotone and impersonal. Evelyn looked up at the sky as she was led from the balcony. The Handler first, the red ribbon waving through the air connecting him to the terrifying thing that was Tomas X5, then Evelyn led along by the iron grip of the Seer’s hand. Leading her to a place which was the stuff of children’s nightmares where there was a high probability that she would be killed by then man who now led her by the hand, his grip hard but warm.
“If you do exist God, watch over me now.” Evelyn kept the prayer to herself as she climbed into the car behind the handler and Tomas. The driver shut the door behind her, sealing her in the expensive leather interior with the two other men. Evelyn stared out of the window of the car in silence, watching the lights of the other traffic pass by.
“I am glad I did not have to kill you Evelyn Young.” Tomas said after several minutes of silence. Evelyn shut her eyes but did not wince at his words. They were not intended to scare her she knew, although they were indeed terrifying to hear. “Now you are more peaceful I can feel your faith more clearly. It is small now, I can see how much those people have destroyed you. But your faith is beautiful, like a cool spring pond, it fills me with joy.”
“That is enough Tomas.” The handler interrupted, silencing anything else that Tomas might have said. Silently more tears began to stream down Evelyn’s face. Tomas stared at her in silence for the remainder of the journey. Until they arrived at HOME.
The driver opened the door on the handler’s side this time and the handler slid easily and gracefully from the car. Tomas grabbed her hand again, his grip strong and hot. Evelyn had to shuffle awkwardly across the leather seats to follow him out. She straightened her dress with one hand as she stood on the gravel outside the car. Behind her the driver shut the car door and drove off, she realised that he had not spoken a single word. In front of her was a house, Evelyn supposed this was HOME, it looked like an office, it was low, just two storeys above ground, and made of concrete steel and glass. There was the faint impression of wood in some panels of the concrete. Everything was rectangular. Evelyn was led along by the hand up the shallow stairs which led up to the large front door. Evelyn blinked as she realised that the massive double front door was made of intricately carved wood and was so ancient that the panels bowed in the middle.
The handler turned the massive circular handle with ease and the double doors slid open by themselves. He led the three of them inside and the massive wooden doors swung swiftly shut behind them. For a moment they were in darkness then dull grey lights flicked into life and illuminated them. They were sealed within a glass porch, considerably more modern and secure looking that the outside doors had looked. The walls of the porch were grey glass but it was impossible to see through them. Inside the porch there was nothing except for a thin metal plate on a pedestal. The Handler placed his hand onto that plate, and waited. After a moment a set of doors opened in one side of the glass porch and the handler led them forwards again.
This room was a large entrance hall. The walls were all bare concrete. Concrete stairs led up and down, they were not illuminated at the moment so seemed to disappear eerily into the darkness. From somewhere another man appeared and silently took Tomas’s ribbon from the handlers grip. The handler nodded at Tomas who stared blankly back his hand still gripping Evelyn’s. The ribbon was motionless between him and the new man. Tomas turned to Evelyn, massive brown eyes wide and almost unblinking.
“I wish to see you again Evelyn Young.” Evelyn, looked from Tomas to the handler and her fear was not dulled by the look on the handler’s face. Tomas’s hand touched her cheek, pulling her gaze back to him, much like it had done earlier. “Don’t fear me child.”
“Tomas X5 that is enough.” The handler 34AX5 had taken back the ribbon, wrapping it round his arm so the length of it was halved. The ribbon of it was rigid now, like a steel bar as Tomas stilled, he let Evelyn’s face go but kept hold of her hand and turned to handler 34AX5. “She must be judged before the court of our council. They will decide her fate, not you.” Tomas stared at the handler, the red ribbon still taught between them. Then suddenly it loosened and sagged in the air, wavering just slightly.
“If she is found guilty then I will be surprised, and sad to kill her, but still, that is the way of things I suppose.” Tomas turned back to Evelyn.
“Do not fear child, your faith is there, I can feel it. I would like to speak with you after your trial. To help you find our father, I like the feel of your heart.” Handler 34AX5 interrupted him,
“Tomas X5, you are confined to your room for three days contemplation. If you do not go with Handler 31HX5 now then your confinement will be extended to seven days.”
“Farewell then Evelyn.” He released her hand in a swift decisive movement and stepped away from her, following the second handler as he was led downstairs by the bright red ribbon. Evelyn thought that the ribbon floated through the air more heavily than it had done when she had first seen him.
“That was close.” Evelyn turned to handler 34AX5 as he spoke, “Follow me.” Evelyn did as she was told, doubting the handler would be as lenient with her as he had been with Tomas. She followed him down a dimly lit hallway, above them lights glowed to life on as they walked, illuminating the grey concrete walls. Eventually he stopped outside a plain door, there was no number on it, and it looked the same as all the others they had passed down the long grey hallway. He opened the door for her and ushered her inside. The handler remained in the doorway, he indicated the room briskly.
“You may use whatever you wish in here. There are clothes in the wardrobe, there is food in the cupboard. There are washing facilities through that door.” He pointed to one thing after another. “You have a day of contemplation before your hearing in front of the divine court.” He stared at her in silence for what seemed like a long time. Evelyn stared blankly back, unsure what to say or do. “Do not let Tomas’s words go to your head.” She swallowed and shook her head in denial,
“That man is terrifying, how could I find comfort in what he has said to me this evening?” He stared at her again for a moment,
“Very well then. Try and find your faith, what Tomas X5 sees in you you must prove to the court.” Evelyn nodded and turned away to survey her new room again. In the door the handler hesitated. “It would be wise of you not to disappoint him.”
Evelyn looked back round at the handler, framed in the concrete doorway. Without the ribbon in his hand it was almost possible not to notice him at all. “For me, or for you?”
“For us both I imagine.” And with that he turned and stepped back into the hallway, pushing the door shut behind him. As it clicked shut Evelyn noticed that there was no handle on the inside.
She sighed and sat down on the small bed. It was neatly made in white bed-sheets, a small pillow at one end. There was a large window in the wall opposite the door to the hallway. It was too dark to make out what was beyond it. There was a small bathroom, with a toilet washbasin and shower, a small white towel was folded into a square next to her on the bed. There was a narrow white wardrobe in one corner, hanging inside were some clothes pretty and neat in pale shades of pastel yellow and cream. Folded on the shelf at the bottom was a pale blue knitted cardigan and a white nightdress. Evelyn shut the door and turned to the chest of draws on the other side of the room. One side was a cupboard containing some food, the other side was two draws, some plain underwear in the top draw and other cleaning and beauty necessities in the second.
Evelyn sighed to herself yet again. Picking up the towel, the nightdress and a few of the cleaning products from the bottom draw she decided to get a shower. The water washed away the streaks of mascara from her cheeks, leaving her face naked and exposed, her puffy bloodshot eyes stared back at her from the mirror afterwards. She wondered how the party was going, if she was being talked about even now. She wondered if any of them had a clue about where she was, and if they did, whether anyone cared. Maybe Mary would care, she had come out to try and help her. But it had been too little, too late. And here she was. She pulled the nightdress over her head and climbed into the bed. It was narrow but comfortable. The grey light that had illuminated the small concrete room turned itself off. Immersing Evelyn into darkness. She closed her eyes and tried to sleep but behind her eyes a red ribbon rippled through the darkness of her mind. Its colour was almost blinding against the backdrop of monotone and grey, it wrapped itself around her neck. It was soft like satin against her skin.
“I want to see you again Evelyn Young.” Evelyn turned over in her sleep, shivering at the echoed words of Tomas X5 as in her dreams the red ribbon tangled around her.
So I wrote this in an evening, obviously a lot of things are still kind of vague I have half a plan to elaborate on the story of Evelyn before and after her capture and along with more explination as to who, or what, Tomas X5 is. I haven't writen anything but essays for a long time now so some feedback would be greatly apriciated. Just a couple of words of encouragement, or putting me in my place, would be greatly apriciated.
Update, so I have started writing a bit more about Evelyn now she has arrived at HOME, her trial is in
#1776318 The Red Ribbon (continues).
Just to warn you it is not complete. Any suggestions or feedback welcome
Many thanks, Hannah