“Hi, Bobby. I was just coming to find you, but I got a little sidetracked.”
“Wait,” said Anne, “this is Penelope?”
“A pleasure to finally meet you, Anne.”
“How do you know my name?” asked Anne. “Oh, wait. Never mind.”
“I’m sorry if I caused you any trouble,” said Penelope, “but it won’t happen again. I’ve made some new friends and they’re going to help me out. Look, they even gave me a job. I’m the newest docent for the Havers Gallery.” She smiled as she proudly showed off the blazer she was wearing.
“This day just keeps getting weirder and weirder,” said Anne. “So, here’s a question I thought I’d never have to ask. Why aren’t you invisible anymore?”
She pointed over her shoulder to the smooth, black obelisk behind her. “That thing. When I’m near it, whatever makes me vanish doesn’t work anymore. Unfortunately, the effect doesn’t go farther than this room.”
“Is it safe?” asked Wesley. “Should we be standing this close to it?”
“It’s not radioactive or anything, if that’s what you mean,” she said. “We’re not sure how it works exactly, or even where it came from. It only seems to react to people like me though.”
“People?” asked Anne. “How many of you are there running around?”
“I’ve only met two others, but they’re not like me. Oh, there’s one of them now.” Sarah and Amanda, one of the other docents entered the hall. “Sarah, come and meet Bobby, the boy I told you about.”
Sarah came toward them but Amanda stayed back by the entrance. As Sarah passed the second rope line they had set up to mark the boundary that would trigger a reaction, the floor began to hum, and she lost her balance, landing hard on the floor. The pull was much stronger this time and Penelope found she couldn’t move. She fell down on her hands and knees as did Wesley and Anne. Bobby was lying flat on his back beside her.
“What’s happening?!” cried Bobby.
“Try to crawl away from the obelisk,” shouted Penelope. “The pull gets weaker the farther you are from the source.” Anne and Wesley managed to put some distance between them and the artifact, making it to the edge of the effect before Sarah could even get her footing.
Above them the glass of the skylight began to crack as the frame twisted under its own weight. A sheet of glass slipped out and came hurtling down, accelerated by the increased gravity. It hit the floor harmlessly on the far side of the dais, but it sent shards flying out in all directions.
“Sarah, keep them back. One of them must have a gift.”
Sarah stumbled backwards toward the markers. Even with her strength she was having a hard time standing upright. As she crossed the line, the humming stopped and they could all move again. Anne and Wesley tried to rush to Bobby’s side, but Sarah held them back. Penelope checked on Bobby who was scared but unhurt. He started to sit up, but stopped and looked past Penelope to the ceiling directly above them. The skylight, weakened by the pull from the obelisk, collapsed in a cacophony of shattering glass and bending steel.
Bobby screamed as Penelope threw herself over top of him to shield him from the falling debris. She braced herself for the impact, but instead she was amazed to see a steel wall rising up all around them. In a split second, a hemisphere of metal completely covered them, as though someone had trapped them under a giant stainless steel bowl. The skylight crashed harmlessly against the dome, although the noise was almost deafening in the darkness. When at last it fell silent again, the metal casing dissolved as quickly as it had appeared, all at once becoming a fine dust which settled to the floor and promptly disappeared.
Penelope knew it was Bobby who had been the third person, the one who had triggered the device. She nearly cried. He was so young, as young as she had been when she had gotten her power. Invisibility had ruined her life, and she hated to think what might happen to him now. He didn’t deserve what these powers would do to him.
“Is it over?” asked Bobby as he struggled to his feet. “Did I save you this time?”
Penelope bent down on one knee and hugged him. “Yes, Bobby. You saved us both.” She stood up and led Bobby around the broken glass back toward his mother and father. “You can let them go, Sarah,” said Penelope. “but don’t cross the line. He’s one of us.”
“No,” said Anne as she charged forward to embrace her son. “You’re not getting my son mixed up in this freak show. Whatever you did to him, you undo it right now!”
“I’m sorry, Anne. It wasn’t us. We don’t know why we were chosen, but Bobby is definitely special.”
“We should get out of here,” said Wesley, “before the rest of the roof caves in.”
Anne took Bobby by the hand and led him away. Wesley followed after them with Penelope right behind. Bobby was wailing that he didn’t want to go. “Yes, let’s go,” agreed Anne. “You can keep your powers and your talking dogs, just stay the hell away from my son.”
“Talking dogs? Penelope asked Sarah as she passed, but she just shrugged in reply.
Penelope followed the family out into the hall, begging them to stay, but no amount of apologizing from Penelope could keep them from leaving. As they approached the exit, Penelope realized that they couldn’t hear her anymore. She had gone past the limits of her tiny realm, and now only Bobby could hear her. With no options left, she shuffled back into the main hall. Sarah and Amanda were there waiting for her.
Penelope guessed that Amanda must have seen the whole thing, including her disappearing act, so there was no point in trying to hide the fact. After she popped back into existence, she walked over to talk to her. “I guess this needs some explanation.”
“Actually, I have a story of my own to tell you.”
To be continued…