The great expanse of the night’s canvas was blanketed with twinkling stars among which hung the silvery halo, bemoaning. The moon bathed in the glorious light of the sun, longing for the one she loved. The calming night stretched out for long hours was a golden opportunity for the creatures of the dark, the lovers of the moon. But for Hannah Winters, the thrilling time of the eventide was ruefully snatched away from her. She took a deep breath and entered the room to commence with her night class for the next three hours. Once she placed her bag on the table, she turned to look at the students that were already sitting at their desks, minding their business. Someone was scribbling a beautiful sketch before her eyes, while another one was spinning a book on their finger. As she continued to observe them, a huge wave of monotony washed over her soul. What on earth am I doing? Her mind was screaming at her. I didn’t ask for any of this! Hannah barely pulled herself together and assuming a small smile on her face, she began the class.
Three hours went by excruciatingly slowly for her and the fact that the students had bombarded her with so many questions didn’t help the case. But alas, the class came to an end and a genuine smile filled with glee crossed her face when she saw her students hurrying to get out of there and into the night. Hannah found herself rushing along with the students, excusing herself so that she could leave early without being held by anyone with any more queries. Since her apartment was only a few minutes away from the school, she had decided to walk that night. After giving polite nods to her pupils, she began her walk back to her home. Something quite unusual happened on her way back home. When she reached outside her apartment, she found a book lying on the ground. Now, in normal circumstances, Hannah would never pay heed to things that didn’t belong to her but that night she felt the lack of excitement in her life was suffocating her tightly around her neck. So, she didn’t care if she was intrigued by the mere book that was calling her name.
Hannah bowed down and picking the book up, she ran her hand gently over the cover. A soft smile lingered over her lips. The cover was a little battered but it was still in good condition. Once Hannah showered and settled in for the remaining of the night, she opened the book, only to gasp out in surprise as a note with a letterhead fell out of it. Brimming with curiosity, she read the note that said: “If you are reading this, you have been chosen.” Hannah sat there with a frown betwixt her brows, reading the words over and over again.
“What does this mean?” She muttered to herself. She looked at the cover again before flipping through the pages. It was an antique copy. Why would such a book have a note like that inside it? “Could it be for some competition? Is it a library book?” She kept racking her brain, but no suitable explanation seemed to help her with the message. A thought dawned on her, her face clouding with anger instantly. “Am I being pranked?!” She threw away the book across the room and muttering obscenities underneath her breath, she decided to put the whole thing out of her mind and go to sleep.
But her mind had plans of its own.
No matter how much she tried, the book didn’t leave her thoughts. The fact that she saw a stranger who was lurking at the parking lot of the school for a couple of days, watching her every time she entered the building, didn’t put her mind at ease. Hannah began to worry that she was seeing things, losing her mind over that goddamn book but when she saw the same woman skulking the hallway of her night classroom, Hannah noticed herself freaking out.
“Can I help you?” Hannah’s voice was laced with anger and a twinge of anxiety.
The woman before her stood a few inches taller than Hannah with gorgeous black locks cascading down her shoulder, a stark contrast from Hannah’s golden ones. The feature that immediately drew Hannah’s attention towards the stranger was her eyes. Big brown eyes, looking intently into Hannah’s blue ones.
“I’m sorry, I don’t mean to bother you but I was looking to enrol myself into the night school.” A thick English accent, Hannah observed.
“Oh? Have you talked to the principal?”
“Yes, I have!” The woman rummaged around her bag for a minute before taking out the yellow slip for the night classes.
“Why have you been following me?”
“I beg your pardon?”
“You heard me. I have seen you watching me at the parking lot, around the school campus and now here you are, wanting to join my class. Is this something to do with the book?”
Hannah was expecting the woman to look confused, to assure herself that she was reading too much into nothing. But what came next surprised her to her very being.
“Yes, it is my book. Well, it was.”
Hannah composed herself right away when she saw a student of hers pass by them with a confusing look on his face. Hannah gave a slight smile and waved towards him to which he just nodded before heading into the class. Hannah ushered the woman towards a more private area so they could talk without being heard or seen by anyone.
“What do you want from me? Do you want the book back?”
“No, it’s yours now. You’re it’s keeper.”
“Keeper? What does that mean?”
“Haven’t you read the instructions?”
“What instructions? It’s an old book! Why would there be directives in it?” Hannah was beyond perplexed with the whole situation.
The woman rolled her eyes at Hannah. “You’re useless!” Hannah was taken aback by the insult. “Excuse me?”
“Did I stutter?” The woman smirked, challenging Hannah. The latter just kept on frowning.
“After the class, I want you to come with me.”
“Just come with me if you want to know more about your destiny, okay? If not, your loss!” The woman shrugged her shoulders and left Hannah to her thoughts.
That night, they had communications class where everyone was asked to choose a partner and role play with each other on a given topic. Hannah found it extremely odd that the students behaved quite rudely when she was introducing the new member of the class, and even sinister that no one wanted to pair up with Katherine, the new comer. Since everyone was already coupled up, Hannah paired herself with Katherine. Ready for their turn, Hannah was aghast to find her pupils wearing bizarre expressions on their faces. But their countenances changed the moment the pair began to communicate with each other, leaving the class in awe of their performance.
For the first time in her life, Hannah enjoyed being in a classroom.
After the class ended, Hannah observed herself in Katherine’s car, making their way outside the city. Silence loomed over them and within thirty minutes, they found themselves parking outside an abandoned building. Hannah knew that there was a good chance of her throat being sliced by this stranger, and yet she was experiencing a strong tug towards Katherine that she didn’t understand. All she knew was that she wanted to go with the flow. To live a little, just for once in her life. For five restless minutes, the building was covered in utter darkness before blinding lights flooded the area, dazzling Hannah for a few seconds. Before her stood an army of women from all walks of life. Everyone was cladded in maroon robes with their heads lowered. “Is this some sort of a cult?” Hannah blurted out.
“No, my child, it is not a cult,” came a soothing voice from the back. Everyone made room for a towering woman, adorning a black robe, to walk through them.
The woman overshadowed Hannah’s average frame and removing her hood, she let out a tender smile. “Welcome, Hannah. Welcome to our abode.”
“How do you know my name?”
The woman’s smile remained intact. “We know everything about you, my dear.” She turned to look at Katherine. “You’ve done well, Katherine. I will take it from here, thank you.” Katherine bowed low before the peaceful but overpowering voice and joined the rest of them.
“Let’s take a walk, shall we?” Hannah nodded.
On their walk, Hannah unearthed a lot of things. The woman she was talking to was only a year older than her. She had no name, but everyone referred to her as The One. Her parents, unlike Hannah’s, met a tragic end when they were brutally murdered before her eyes. Hannah remained quiet, reflecting the information that was being fed to her. The One apologized, with a soft voice, to Hannah about her parents casting her aside when she was a baby. Hannah gulped past a lump that had formed in her throat. She didn’t ask how they knew so much about her because no one seemed to want to answer that. “It’s our duty to know things,” was the only answer she got.
“Why have I been chosen?”
“Oh, now, that I can tell you!” Hannah’s eyes gleamed with excitement. “We have chosen you because you have the potential, Hannah.”
“To become The One.”
The next few days, Hannah found herself training incessantly for becoming someone she had no inkling about and yet deep down, she knew she wanted it. The moment her eyes landed on that book that special night, she knew she was drawn in. Something powerful was pulling her and she also jumped on it because she wanted to break the cycle of dullness that had been casted like a curse over her life. The students in her class had undertaken the task of observing her, noting how distracted she had been. They were aware of the glances that she exchanged at the back of the class, where Katherine sat with a smug look on her face. Hannah was also walking funny because her whole body was sore from all the exercising. With passing days, her chores became harder and more painstaking. There were times when she would bellow at Katherine, her trainer, wanting to give up but neither Katherine nor The One let her. They only made the challenges tougher, more strenuous for her.
However, what Hannah didn’t know was that behind the mask of gallantry and serenity laid a vicious savage named The One. Hannah didn’t have the slightest idea of the madness that swirled in The One’s mind and the sense of revenge that ran through her veins. Hannah remained in the dark about the biggest secret that The One was the real killer of her parents.
After a month of maddening training, Hannah was called into the principal’s office of her school. “May I come in, Mr Brown?”
“Yes, Hannah, please come in.”
Hannah took a seat opposite from Mr Brown with a tentative smile on her face. She had no opinion has to why she was being called in his office.
“Are you alright, Miss Winters?”
“Yes, of course, Mr Brown. Why?” A ditch occurred between Hannah’s brows.
“I have had some complaints about unusual behaviour from your students.” Mr Brown had sympathetic eyes.
“From my students? What kind of complaints?”
Hannah saw Mr Brown shuffle through some papers before reading a list of complaints. “I’m sorry if I seem a little distracted, I’m just busy with something personal. But what’s that about acting absurdly in class? What does that mean?”
“Miss Winters, you have to understand that these complaints are not from just a couple of students. If it were so, I wouldn’t have paid any attention to it. But all of them are coming in with the same criticisms. They tell me you have been talking to yourself on a regular basis!”
A look of horror flashed on her face. “That’ ridiculous. I haven’t been talking to myself. Why would I do that?”
“Who’s Katherine, Miss Winters?”
“She is a student of mine, why?”
Mr Brown was silent for a minute. “I would like to sit in your class tonight. Is that alright?”
Even though Hannah was quite insulted, she had nothing to hide or be accused of. “Yes, of course. You’ll see that I’ve been wrongly cited for.”
“I’m sorry, Miss Winters, I’m just doing my job. Your pupils sound exceedingly disappointed because they quite enjoyed your class before and they are concerned for you as well.” Mr Brown inched his hand to place it on Hannah’s but she withdrew it before he could. He curbed his flinching and collected himself.
“I don’t see why they should be concerned but you’re more than welcome to sit in my class while I give my mental evaluation to you.” The last thing Hannah saw was Mr Brown’s sad eyes before she stormed out of his office.
Hannah gave a curt nod to Mr Brown when he walked into her class. Before she began, she told the students that their principal would be observing the class with them. Unbeknownst to Hannah or the principal, one of the students started video recording. Hannah waited a while until Katherine showed up for the class, the others waiting patiently too. When Katherine came in, Hannah turned towards the door and let out a welcoming smile and asked her to quickly join the class. Hannah noticed Mr Brown looking at her with a peculiar manner. Throughout the class, he tried to behave but Hannah found it immensely uncivil of him to sit like a gaping fish. But she ignored him, and concentrated on teaching. Once the classed ended, and everyone shuffled out of the room, Mr Brown awkwardly stayed behind, searching for words. He walked towards Hannah, with terror swimming in his eyes.
“I-I will see you tomorrow, Miss Winters.”
Never had Hannah seen Mr Brown so terrified in her entire life.
“Are you ready for your last exercise?”
Hannah nodded. It had been nearly two months and within those couple of months, Hannah had learnt rough boxing, the art of calming her mind when people were throwing profanities at her, making herself immune to gratification, but how to seduce if need ever be, holding her breath in freezing water, to walk on burning coals without flinching, among other dangerous things. The One was right, Hannah did have the potential. But finalising that she was the next The One would be determined by the final test. Hannah’s eyes widened when The One held out a gun towards her.
“This is your last exercise, my child. I know you have it in you.” The One was beaming.
“Why do I need to learn to use a gun?”
“To reach your full potential.”
“And, what do I do after I become The One?” Hannah finally asked the question she wanted to ever since she was told that she had the calibre to become extraordinary.
The One smiled wider. “You will do what you’re meant to do.”
She didn’t say anything else, and Hannah didn’t ask for more. Extending her hand out, she took the gun from The One and held it in hers. A surge of power coursed through her body and her whole being shook in its wake. Hannah took her stance and eyed her target, a fire raging within her. No one dared to come near her, or to teach her. There was complete silence in the air. Hannah and the gun had become one, connected by an invisible thread. And, then, it happened. She pulled the trigger and the bullet soared right through the target, leaving a burning hole behind. A smile so forbidding graced Hannah’s lips for she knew what she had to do.
The One closed her eyes, a deep moan elapsing from her lips. And, just like that, she collapsed on the floor.
As the previous One passed on, the new One rose with better potential, more vigour and strength. Hannah couldn’t hide the spring in her step when she went to teach the next day. But her joy didn’t last long as Mr Brown had some distressing news to share with her.
Mr Brown tried to remain steady. “I’m sorry Miss Winters but we have to let you go.”
Mr Brown led Hannah to a screening room. “I know this was unprofessional but one of your students recorded you the day I was in your class. I know you wouldn’t believe me so I think it’s better if you see it for yourself.”
Hannah sat down on the chair offered to her and looked at the screen. At first, she was appalled by the fact that her student would stoop down to this level but once the video gained momentum, she got increasingly confused. In the video, she saw that she was talking to herself. Why would she do that? Where was Katherine? She should be talking to her when she looked at the door but there was no one there. She yelped when she saw herself sitting at the back of the room while no one was teaching. Another video was played that dated back to the time when the class did communications. Hannah was surprised to see that her partner Katherine was missing and that Hannah was assuming both the roles, and talking and acting exactly like her pupil, Katherine.
“What is this nonsense?” Hannah stood up so fast the chair went flying back.
Hannah saw that a man with kind eyes was standing next to Mr Brown. “Hello, Hannah. I’m Dr Carl Henson. Would you please come back to the office?”
“No! Not until someone tells me what’s going on!” Hannah’s voice was suddenly changed into a thundering growl, resembling close to The One. Mr Brown backed away a little whereas Dr Henson stepped forward with stillness in his eyes.
“It’s alright, Miss Winters. Please, come with us.”
Hannah quietened down a little and followed the doctor.
“Miss Winters, I’m a psychiatrist working for over three decades in my field and what you’re going through is something I excel in.” Hannah was going to interject but the doctor carried on. “I know you don’t think anything is wrong with you, Miss Winters, but you’re suffering from dissociative identity disorder.”
“No, that can’t be true!” Hannah’s protest was long gone as right before the doctor’s eyes, he saw a new identity sit casually with her arm dangling by the chair and a sly smile gracing her features while her eyes shone with fascination. “Katherine, I presume?”
“And, you’re Dr Handsome right?” She smirked, biting her bottom lip ever so leisurely.
The doctor cleared his throat, shifting a little in his seat and Katherine’s menacing laughter filled the room. “I want to help you, Katherine.”
“Why? We don’t need any help.”
“How many are we talking about, Katherine?” But Katherine kept distracting the doctor with her ministrations. “How many, Miss Winters?” That seemed to have stopped Katherine and brought back Hannah, her foot inches away from his groin. Hanna straightened herself at once and apologized for her bearing.
“Katherine. . .Katherine isn’t real?” Hannah started hyperventilating. “Then, none of it was real? Are you telling me it was all in my head?”
“Miss Winters,” Dr Henson sat beside her and took her hand in his. “Can you please tell me everything that has happened to you?”
Hannah told Dr Henson everything from the day her parents abandoned her as a baby and the frightful treatment that was thrusted upon her at the foster homes to when she found the book until the day The One had passed away, only for her to rise as the new One. After retelling her whole story, Hannah was a broken mess. Mr Brown and the doctor gave her some space but they became alert once again when she suddenly got up from the chair.
“I’m sorry I have to go to the building. Why would I make all this up? You can come with me if you like, I can prove it to you.”
“Miss Winters, please.”
“No!” Katherine peeked out. She grabbed the doctor’s arm and dragged him out of the office towards her car. The doctor tried to reason with Katherine but she wouldn’t listen to his words so she covered the thirty-minutes’ drive in fifteen and parked right outside the old building once more. “You see! The building is real!” Hannah was back. “I was not imagining it. Katherine had brought me here and introduced me to The One and all the others who helped me train and reach my full potential.”
When they entered the building, Hannah exclaimed in shock as the place was filthy and appeared as if it hadn’t been used in years. “Are you okay, Miss Winters?” Hannah was gawking at the place. It was falling apart before her eyes but for two months, it was so clean and organized and she practiced all her tasks here and in different rooms. She hurried to check all the rooms but the doors were already broken down, with chambers filling up with dust, while some doors wouldn’t budge no matter how much she pushed. “What the hell is happening!?” Hannah cried out.
“You’re losing your potential, your power, my child.” The One’s voice echoed clearly.
“Did you hear that, doctor?” Hannah looked around but there was no one except the doctor who was looking at her with eyes filled with empathy.
“Remember your mission, my dear. Remember what they did to you.” The doctor was now concerned because he knew she was saying those words out loud.
“Miss Winters!” No reply. “Miss Winters!”
Everyone was chanting now, repeatedly. “MISS WINTERS!!”
Hannah glanced around to look at the doctor. “Yes-s?” She replied, unevenly. The doctor ran up to her as she couldn’t hold it any longer and crumbled into his arms.
When Hannah opened her eyes, she could hear hustling and bustling around her. “Where am I?”
“You’re in a hospital. You’re okay.” Dr Henson’s voice was gentle.
Hannah sat up on the hospital bed and looked at the doctor with eyes filled with tears. “Am I in a mental institution?”
“No, of course not. We don’t admit anyone without their consent.” The doctor let out a small smile. “But I reckon you should think about getting yourself treated, Miss Winters.”
“I don’t want to feel like this anymore.”
“I know you don’t.” The doctor placed his hand on hers and gave a tenderly squeeze. “Would you like to get yourself admitted? We promise you; we will take good care of yourself.”
“Let’s go.” The doctor helped her out of the bed once she was given the okay to leave.
Hannah insisted that they should go back and get some of her things before she was admitted into an institution. The doctor waited outside while she quickly grabbed a few things from her home. “Are you ready, Miss Winters?”
“Yes, let’s go.”
“We’re not going to take your car. I have called an ambulance.”
She nodded. “Of course.” I’m a patient now, she thought to herself and sneered in frustration.
She sat down next to the doctor inside the ambulance. She exchanged an array of words with him out of courtesy before becoming entirely silent. The doctor took the hint and decided to be quiet as well. But he didn’t know that a war was seething inside her mind. The One was attempting to rise again because she argued that Hannah was a weakling. Katherine became the only one who stood up for Hannah, who believed in her. Everyone was talking, debating at once but Hannah sat there, catatonic, with eyes reflecting a sea of calmness in them.
He turned to face her to find her already staring at him with a sweet smile. “Thank you for wanting to help me.” The doctor smiled widely. “But I’m sorry, we don’t need your help.” Before the doctor could react, he felt a sharp pain at the side of his neck, instantly paralysing him.
Hannah took her gun out of her bag and threatened to kill the driver if he didn’t stop the vehicle right away. Horrified, he abruptly hit the brakes. Once they were out of the ambulance, Hannah gave them a crooked smile before she fired two shots, allowing them a quick death.
Standing before her was Katherine with a proud smile on her face. “Let’s go.” Hannah said, her voice steadfast.
With determination gleaming in her eyes, Hannah would finally do what she was meant to do: kill her parents.