“This seems so sudden!” Aidan remarked as we emerged from our cottage and headed towards the front of the property.
“Yeah! I’m so curious who was desperate to buy a farm with very little crops and a broken aqueduct!” I was glad to hear that Aidan shared my suspicions about this hasty purchase! We didn’t get a chance to discuss it last night because, well, you know- the usual chaos ensued! No one else seemed particularly worried though! I guessed that they assumed that the new owners would abide by the same routine, but I had a feeling that this entailed more than a mere change in management…
Mom scoffed, “You guys are too untrusting! Why can’t you just hope for the best?”
I countered, “I’ll hope for the best when the evidence takes us in that direction! This transaction is too strange for optimism!”
“It is pretty weird!” Kinsey concurred with our argument. “Usually, this is the part of the story where everyone gets murdered!”
“See? We’re not that pessimistic!” Aidan pointed out to Mom.
As we neared our destination, I lowered my volume as I posed to the others, “Doesn’t this make anyone else nervous?”
Jackson piped up, “I’m a little anxious about skipping some of my classes…”
“Why? You afraid of getting an even lower F?” Laraleigh probed.
“Welcome, dear friends!” A woman walked outside wearing a long, white dress and bare feet. Her curly, blonde hair was adorned with a crown of blue and white flowers as well as green leaves, and her sapphire eyes gazed slightly above our heads as though she was staring deep into the sky. Her appearance gave off the impression of a total bohemian, but something about her aura gave me a sickly sensation at the pit of my stomach! “Are we having a rough morning?”
With big, goo-goo eyes, Jackson responded, “I forgot!”
The woman giggled in a very doll-like tone, a quality that didn’t normally make me edgy… “You can forget all of your previous troubles for I am creating a blissful paradise for you to reside in! You may call me Mother!”
“Can we not?” I shot back. Everyone but Aidan stared at me in shock of my curtness, but I didn’t care! First of all, I wasn’t about to use the term “mother” for someone who must have been at least ten years younger than me! Second, and more importantly, it is not normal to go by an alias like that! I couldn’t put my finger on why it was yet, but to me, this move proved she was up to no good, and I resolved to prove it prior to anything drastic happening!
“Ah, I can see you need my assistance more than anyone, Sophia Swetinbedde! … The previous owners of this land had files on all of you.” She added when she beheld the baffled expression on my face. “I know all about my new tenants!”
With the knowledge of our true identities on my mind, I grinned slyly and cracked, “Oh, I doubt that!”
Mother eyeballed me as though she were trying to scan my brain to gain the information I hid, but eventually, she let it go and announced, “Let me give you a tour of the premises and share my vision with you! Merripen! Jera! Adrian! Come, let’s journey through the grounds!”
I fully expected three similarly clothed men to emerge and keep guard of their mistress, but to my startlement, three Fay Folks came out! The fire orange one stood to her left, the crimson one stood to her right, and the mantis green one was tall enough to be seen as he stood behind her. They were rather buff, and not one of them smiled, so they stood in great contrast to Mother! And yet nobody else’s apprehension seemed to heighten! Although I was certain Aidan’s law enforcement instincts must have been setting off alarm bells! His cool visage didn’t give away any of his qualms though, and Mother didn’t grow skeptical of him as her observed, “Your roommates are all Fays!”
“We are all one community here!” Mother spoke in ethereal vocalization and put her hands together as if in prayer, and I was glad that she missed me rolling my eyes! “We are all brethren, we share the same space. Speaking of the space, allow me to show it to you!”
“Allow her! Psh! Like we have a choice!” I muttered under my breath as one of the Fays opened the gate leading to the front yard. One of them glanced behind him as if he was trying to detect who had committed a grave offense, and I struck a nonchalant pose so I could avoid castigation. I had no idea what these potential adversaries were capable of, so I committed myself to biting my tongue going forward!
Mother spread her arms proudly to display what laid in front of her on the dirt road. “Ta-da!”
Harper noted, “It looks the same.”
“Temporarily, yes! But feel the spirit! Doesn’t it feel different?” Mother petitioned us. None of us understood enough about this subject to feign interest to humor her, so we sort of hung out there awkwardly and shrugged.
“What? What’s happening? What are we looking at?” Minna shouted to us from a distance.
Mother broke from her cherub-like demeanor and puzzled, “Who’s that?”
Aidan filled her in, “That’s my stalker. Since she’s forced to work with us, they put a restraining order spell on her, which prevents her from going within ten feet of me. I guess they thought it’d make things tolerable, but it hasn’t helped much!” Mother seemed uncomfortable with that concept, so Aidan offered, “I can have the police come and remove it if you want.”
“No!” Mother refused with more intensity than she meant to. She swiftly smiled and continued in a more sing-song manner, “That won’t be necessary. We can work around any challenge!” As soon as she turned her back, Aidan and I exchanged vigilant glances. Mother then directed us, “Follow me, my children!”
“Wow! You have a lot of Fays working for you!” Mason remarked as we neared the old egg farm and saw numerous Fay Folks doing reconstruction.
Mother illuminated us, “We are a colony dedicated to rehabilitation of the recently departed! We provide an environment for them to grow morally and spiritually so that they can get into Heaven.”
Mom nudged me. “Hey, Sophia! That sounds right up your alley!” I grinned while I was in Mother’s scope, but I wiped that away as soon as she wasn’t.
“This sector is devoted to worship,” Mother went on. “We hold services each day, but you are permitted to enter the premises during your free hours to pray if you’d like.” She traversed a bit further, and we stopped outside of the cave where Lake Ana Wai used to exist. “I have assigned a special team to research how to restore these waters.”
“Can Kennedy and I get placed on this team?” I requested.
Mother denied me, “No!”
Aidan whispered to me, “Thanks for being so snarky with her!” I felt a twinge of guilt over that, but I withstood greater angst picturing myself sucking up to her so we could gain access to this project! I had no inclination of divulging any of the intelligence we gathered throughout our unofficial investigation, but I was certainly curious as to what, if anything, they learned about the mo’o’s disappearing gift!
When we all turned around, Minna espied our movements and assured us, “I can roll backwards, it’s cool!”
“This will be our source of income,” Mother elucidated. “We shall harvest the livestock and a select few shall deliver it to the market for sale. That few have already been chosen.” She indicated to me, which didn’t phase me in the slightest. Unless Lopaka stashed something in his old territory which related to our case, I could have cared less about entering into this territory!
“I wonder if he at least took Anela!” Mom fretfully checked over the animals to make sure that this particular goat hadn’t gotten left behind. It would have been pretty heart-wrenching if he was willing to abandon a beloved pet, but I had no inkling on where he went from here, so I didn’t know what we could have done about it if he had committed that misdeed!
Mother guided us back to the Hekekias’ previous abode, and she relayed to us, “This shall be the marketing headquarters as well as mine. Soon, our community will grow by the hundreds, maybe even the thousands! We’ll all live and work together until that sweet day we meet our maker!”
Minna hollered, “Holy smokes! I thought our quarters were crowded before you all came!”
I cringed at the notion of sharing our lodgings with dozens of individuals we didn’t know! My only sense of hopefulness came from the idea that the kids would create an uncomfortable enough experience that no one would want to stay! To my surprise, Mother was cringing too! She begrudgingly told us, “We are not permitted access to your residence, so it will remain solely yours!” It relieved me to hear this until she threw in, “I still expect you to report to the fields at dawn!”
“Dawn? Why on God’s green earth would you make us wake up at such a hellish hour?” Laraleigh reacted in aghast. I was thankful she said it and not me- I imagined that if I had done it, I would have had to go through some kind of horrible punishment for my pattern of back-talk towards her! Furthermore, it alleviated me that they were starting to grasp onto the fact that we were not in an optimal situation at the present! I crossed my fingers that we could return to our dwelling after this tour so I could convince everyone to pack their bags and hightail it out of here! I was sure that Agent Hearne would have understood our motive for doing so once we described the details of this bizarre interaction!
“Every minute is precious! We cannot waste the daylight!” Mother reasoned.
Adian strove to uphold a significant level of politeness with her as he argued, “Listen, I’m guessing your files portrayed us as skilled farmers, but we actually suck at it! We would prove to be better assets for your organization if we took on a role more of our style. We’re more of the intellectual types…”
Willow unexpectedly discerned, “Wait, an F grade is bad? I was thinking we were at the top!”
“Grades aren’t always indicative of genius!” Aidan struggled to smooth that out. “Look at Einstein, he-!”
“I wouldn’t worry about school anymore,” Mother advised. “You won’t be going anymore!”
Laraleigh speculated, “What, did they just flunk them and say to try again next semester?”
Mother announced, “No. I’m turning off your internet.” All of us gaped at this development, but prior to any of us protesting this, she sweetly reckoned, “Well, I can’t have you communicating with the outer world, can I? No one can until you’ve attained a momentous degree of trustworthiness! Oh, that reminds me- take their devices and wands!”
Merripen, Jera, and Adrian encircled us in addition to several of their colleagues, and I considered breaking protocol to fight them off, but I couldn’t have possibly executed a spell with an enemy at every angle! Regardless of where I aimed, someone out of my range of sight could have easily knocked my weapon from my grip! If I did a hex to harm them all, I would have risked injuring one of us in the process! I very reluctantly handed over my wand and cellphone, and my insides began twisting around in knots- there was no escape from this place!
“You can’t run away now!” a Fay leered to Minna as he stole her wand.
“Is than an ableist joke?” Minna retorted as she gestured to her wheelchair.
The entire group was frozen from bewilderment, and I couldn’t resist spouting, “I told you! Is anyone else scared yet?”
Mom disdainfully regarded me, “Is this something you wanted to be right about?” She had a valid point, so I buttoned my lip.
Mother smirked, and then she ominously bade us, “All hail The End Is My Friend!” As some Fay Folks unveiled the new sign, I pondered how we were going to get out of this jam!