When Penelope had run after that couple and their son, Sarah had explained about what each of them could do. She didn’t remember Penelope actually disappearing. To her, it was more like the woman had wandered off when Amanda wasn’t looking. Even when it was explained to her, she could not picture her fading away or suddenly winking out of existence like they were in an old tv show. The sensation was more like, “Where did she go? She was here just a minute ago?”
In contrast, what had happened with the skylight and the little boy had been all too clear. Even by the doorway where she had been, the pull from the obelisk could be felt. When that silver dome had gone up to shield them from the falling debris, it was obvious that she had finally found what she had been searching for.
It had been just over a year since she had learned that she could make objects appear just by writing a story about them on an old laptop that she had found at a yard sale. Whatever she wrote magically appeared at midnight, like a reverse version of a fairy godmother. Her mother had raised her to be pragmatic, however, so she never abused that power or took it for granted. After a few months of luxury to pamper herself, she became bored travelling and began to wonder about the deeper mystery of her little computer.
Amanda had tried to coax an answer out of the machine itself, but to all appearances it was no different from any other laptop. Try as she might, it would not give up its secrets. It would give her any physical object she could imagine, even living creatures, but it would not tell her how or why. She knew that if there were others like it out there in the world, however, they might leave some trace of their existence. After all, not everyone would be as cautious as she was, and maybe they would have answers she lacked. After weeks of sifting through everything from police reports to conspiracy websites, all the clues had led her here to the Havers Gallery.
The Gallery was meant to be the crown jewel of his estate, featuring the rarest and most bizarre collection of art and antiquities in the world. Havers had been half-crazy, but when you were as rich as he was, people tend to overlook a lot of eccentricities. One of the more fanciful stories had been about a journal that he had kept. It was said that whatever he wrote in the journal would come true. A few people had even suggested that was how he had made his fortune and built the Gallery so quickly, all of which was steadfastly denied at the time. No records of the construction could be found to check, however, and some people still insisted that the building had sprung up overnight. When Amanda had read that, it had naturally piqued her curiosity. She had boarded the next plane to see the place for herself.
When she had arrived, she had learned that they were hiring, so she had taken the job as a docent as cover. Her plan had been to spend as much time as she could going through the records and learning as much about the man and his family as she could, but to her surprise, she found that she liked the job. It let her interact with people in a way that she hadn’t been able to when she was under that thumb of her controlling husband or wandering the world aimlessly as a tourist. It gave her a purpose that she didn’t even know she had been lacking, and she was determined to stay on, even after her research was done.
This business with the obelisk had finally brought a lot of secrets out in the open, so Amanda decided that it was finally time she share hers. She asked Sarah if she could call Mandeep and ask him to join them. He’d need to know what happened in any case, and having him there would keep her from having to repeat the story to him later. He came in a few minutes later and stopped dead when he saw the damaged roof.
“Holy hells, I just had that skylight fixed,” he said. “The board’s going to hand me my ass for sure.”
“I think I can help with that,” said Amanda, “but it’s going to take some explanation. And I think we can help each other with the bigger situation.”
“What do you mean?”
“She knows, Manny,” said Sarah. “She saw that kid Bobby throw up some kind of metal barrier out of nothing when the ceiling came crashing down, and she barely batted an eyelash.”
“The kid Penelope was talking about?”
“The same,” said Sarah.
“What was he doing here?” he asked.
“Looking for her, I guess,” she said. “It turns out he has a power too. That’s what set off ol’ dark and pointy over there.”
“All right, it’s almost closing time,” said Manny. “Why don’t you order a pizza, and I’ll try to get everyone out of the building. Bring a table and some chairs down here so Penelope can join us.”
Half-an-hour later, the four of them were seated around a folding table in the narrow buffer area where Penelope could be seen, but they would not trigger the artifact. Amanda told them about her research, and how it had led her here. She explained how she thought that Havers must have been one of them, or at the very least he’d had an artifact like Amanda’s computer. If true, it would explain much – not only his sudden rise to wealth, but also his interest in the strange and unusual.
“So what you’re saying,” said Manny, “is that all you have to do is tap out a few words on your laptop, and this entire mess will be cleaned up like it never happened?”
“I know it sounds like magic when you say it out loud,” said Amanda, “but that’s the gist of it.”
“This I’ve got to see,” said Sarah.
“Here’s the part that I don’t get,” said Manny. “You can have anything you want, literally with the push of a button, and you choose to work here?”
“I understand,” said Penelope. “Once you can have everything, it all loses value. Being invisible, I could rob every bank in town and not worry about being caught, but I’d give all that money up in a second just for someone to talk to. Or to have my purse back.” She clutched the bag like it was her child. The boy’s mother had left it behind in all the commotion.
“It’s what you can’t have that you always want the most,” said Amanda, “and the thing I want now is some answers. That’s why I came here. I was hoping to get a look at the some of the records in the Havers archives, but so far I haven’t found anything good in the public sections.”
“It’s lucky that you know people in high places then,” said Manny as he dangled a set of keys in front of her. “As the director, I have full access to every corner of the building, including all of Haver’s private documents and personal effects. If there’s an answer in there, I’d be glad to help you find it.”
“Perfect. We have a couple of hours before midnight. I might as well have a look now while we’re waiting.” Amanda stood up and walked toward the exit.
“I’ll go with you,” said Manny. “What are you two going to do?”
“From what I understand of what Amanda has told us,” said Penelope, “I might have an idea how we could get some answers as well. I need some time to think about it though.”
“I’m not much good with books,” said Sarah. “I keep tearing the pages out. I’ll just stay here and keep her company.”
“Thanks,” said Penelope.
Upstairs in the tiny corner office, Amanda poured over Haver’s papers. He’d been an active partner in several enterprises, so there was a lot of documentation to sort through. Unfortunately, much of it was the same dry financial records that she had founded elsewhere. If they held any secrets, it would take more than a few hours to sort out.
While she was busy with that, Manny set to work examining the rest of the collection, from old clothes to antique spectacles, to see if there was anything unusual about them. His search in did not prove to be fruitful either, and there was no sign of the legendary journal anywhere. At eleven-thirty, they gave up and went back down to the main hall.
Penelope greeted them with a smile. “We came up with what we want you to write. You can change any part that you feel isn’t quite right, but it think we got it narrowed down to the essentials.”
Amanda took the piece of paper which Penelope was holding out for her and read it over. “Yes, this could work. It’s risky, but it might work.”
She handed the paper to Manny who laughed when he read it. “It’s crazy. I like it.”
“I’d better get started then,” said Amanda. “It’s almost time.” She typed for a few minutes. When she was done, she saved the file and closed the lid of the laptop. As she tucked it back into it’s carrying bag, she said, “All we have to do now is wait.”
They sat quietly around the table until the alarm on Manny’s phone announced that it was one minute before midnight. He stood up and asked Amanda, “Is there anything we need to do before it starts?”
She got up and stood beside, “No, just watch.”
They all moved to the edge of the second barricade, which was as close to the centre of the room as they could get without setting off the obelisk. There they waited, looking around and up at the clouds through the hole in the roof. One minute passed, and then another.
“Nothing’s happening,” said Manny.
Amanda could hear the faint whispering that she knew was the beginning of the change. The sound gradually grew louder until it hummed like a fan and then a swarm of angry bumblebees. On the floor the shards of broken glass began to melt as though they were bits of ice on a hot frying pan. The broken pieces frame dissolved into dust and vanished leaving the floor clean and polished as though it had just been freshly waxed. Above them the edges of the broken skylight began knitting themselves together, rapidly closing the gap like an iris contracting in bright sunlight.
As the last of the gap sealed, the hall seemed to shine brighter, until Amanda realized it was not just a trick of her eyes. Layers of grime build up over the years were vanishing, leaving the walls and columns as though they had just received a fresh coat of paint. Small cracks and imperfections disappeared from the floor and walls until the room looked like it had been sculpted by a divine hand rather than pieced together by mere mortals. When it was done, the hall looked pristine, better than new. The buzzing was fading away now, as whatever force was responsible moved on to the rest of the building. The board of directors would certainly have nothing to complain about now.
“Wow,” said Manny. “A part of me didn’t believe it was true, even when it was happening in front of my eyes. I must say I’m impressed.”
“I think you’re wrong, Amanda,” said Penelope. “It is a kind of magic.”
“What about the second part,” said Amanda. “It was a little vague, but by necessity. Do you see anything?”
Penelope looked around her, and then rummaged through her bag. “Huzzah!” she shouted as she lifted an envelope into the air. She opened it up and read its contents aloud. “If you have received this invitation, know that you are not alone. You have been invited to a join a gathering of people with remarkable talents like yourself. If you need help or answers, join us there and we will try to help.”
“It worked,” said Sarah. “Now everyone with a power will get that invitation and hopefully meet us next week.”
“No doubt,” said Manny. “I guess there’s no going back now.”