Ellie woke up with a start. Only to be reminded that it was her alarm clock. She hated herself for turning it up so loud but she never seemed to wake up if it didn’t scare the life out of her. As Ellie walked into her first-period class she felt somewhat unsettled but she wasn’t quite sure why. She looked across from her and Jenny seemed to be ignoring her. Maybe it was just a bad morning. Then a couple of rows across she caught a glimpse of Rachel giving her a stare that seemed to reek of rotten eggs. It dawned on Ellie that her secret might have been cracked. She fidgeted in her seat a bit trying to calm down. Her anxiety was peaked right as class started and her teacher began to start the slides on The Great Gatsby. She hated the book. She couldn’t understand why her brother loved it so much. It just seemed to be about a bunch of rich people going to parties. Today, she needn’t have worried about passing the time daydreaming, because all she could think of was the stare Rachel had given her. She wondered if Rachel would do anything to her because she had said that Rachel ate raw eggs and had salmonella. Her fear soon turned to anger as she thought of Jenny telling her secret. Not even a day and she had already spilled. She remembered the game that her brother played and was realizing the significance of the one girl calling it a game. In real life things got messy.
She glanced at Jenny again and realized the body language that she took for contempt was more furtive in nature. Ellie decided to play it cool and figured it was best to not say anything. She wondered now what happened in her brother’s magic game. Nothing she could do about it now. She tried to focus again on the lecture. Her teacher had a quote up on the slide: “For a transitory enchanted moment, man must have held his breath in the presence of this continent, compelled into an aesthetic contemplation he neither understood nor desired, face to face for the last time in history with something commensurate to his capacity for wonder.” Of course, just then the teacher paused and called on Ellie.
“What do you think of this quote Ellie?” Mr. Davenport asked.
Ellie had no idea. She just remembered her brother talking to mom about it back when he had to read the book in high school. He seemed to think the only thing that was true about the sentence is that no matter our circumstance life has plenty to enjoy and wonder about. It is our capacity to appreciate the wonders of life that is the limiting factor. Ellie’s answer didn’t come out as she had pictured in her head. Ellie answered, “Well I guess life has to do with our capacity to wonder.” Mr. Davenport smiled, and gave a look that seemed to say “ya I know that is what the quote says, but what do you think about it.” He didn’t say it though, and just asked somebody else what they thought. Another rephrasing of the quote was stated and the teacher soon gave up having any actual discussion as it seemed to be getting nowhere. Back to the monotony of clicking through slides he went and Ellie went back to daydreaming. She wondered what happened next in her brother’s journal. It had seemed boring at first but now she was intrigued. At least for now it had reached her capacity to wonder. Her teacher, try as he might, wasn’t able to do it. It could have simply been that kids came into class expecting to be bored so that is exactly what they got, filled to their capacity to wonder. Why that expectation of boredom in high school occurs in the first place remains a mystery.
It was the end of the day and some of the students had gathered outside in small groups talking this and that. Ellie was talking to Jenny on a small bench in front of the school as she waited for her mom to pick her up. She could take the bus but mom came from work about half an hour after school and so she just grabbed her on the way. In some ways, it was perfect because so much happens socially in that half hour after school. It’s like everyone’s daydreams of what they will do finally culminates into succinct conversations of actual importance. If you miss those conversations one could find it hard to make new friends. Of course, it’s easy to lose them after school too. Rachel chose this point to approach Ellie.
“Hi Ellie,” Rachel said, “you think it’s funny to spread rumors and gossip about other people huh?”
“Well no…” Ellie said as her voice drifted into thought. She was about to explain her brother’s journal and about casting magic spells but figured that she would be worse off saying that.
“I didn’t think it was a big deal. I guess we know that you don’t eat raw eggs now.” Ellie said instead.
Rachel gave a hmph and then turned to speak to Jenny.
“Come on Jenny, come hang with us, you don’t want to be seen hanging out with liars like Ellie.” Rachel said.
Jenny looked to Ellie with her mouth open about to say something but eventually resolved that there was nothing that could be said and decided to simply make new friends with Rachel. Just like that Ellie was found sitting alone on the bench. Ellie was so sick of friendship. She never wanted another friend again. What’s the point when friends will just leave you for the next good thing that comes along. Yet there was deep emotional yearning for intimacy as she thought it.
She got into the car with mom and soon she was safe in the basement playing pinball on the old computer. Like clockwork mom yelled from upstairs, “Ellie get your homework done before you start playing!” begrudgingly she closed the game and was about to go upstairs to do homework when she remembered her brother’s journal. She decided to read some of the journal entries real quick.
She scanned the first few articles and most of it was boring and repetitive talking about classes and how hard math was and whatnot. Then in article 6, her brother started to talk about the game again.
4/12/1997 9:46 pm
It has been a long couple of weeks. I am so sick of math. Today, Ruby, that one girl who played the game with me before spring break, came up to me again and asked how my spring break was. I told her it was good. She asked if I was down to play our game again after school and I said sure. When I arrived at the spot I was surprised to see not only her but the boy that I was supposed to keep the secret about. They both looked at me with a smile. I wasn’t sure if they were going to kill me or hug me. Suddenly I was acutely aware of all the times people had asked me if Randy ate raw eggs. I wondered if everyone was in on it or something. It made me feel like my whole life was a simulated game. They told me that they were grateful I didn’t share the secret and that they wanted me to keep playing the game with them. My curiosity grew as much as my annoyance with this stupid group, but that was all they wanted to say today so they left.
4/14/1997 4:45 pm
My strange friends asked me to meet them again after school. They said that I should start reading more books as they looked to continue to develop trust with me. They told me to read a biography about Benjamin Franklin. I have started to read and it is somewhat interesting. It’s cool that he was a founding father but had humble beginnings. I am not going to have very much time now between reading that book and doing my other homework. They want me to finish the book by the end of next week.
4/16/1997 12:32 am
I have read the first quarter of the book now and I think I have come across some things that have clued me in on what kind of game this girl is trying to play. Benjamin Franklin’s formed a group known as the Junto. It was a type of group designed for a gathering of knowledge, and deep intellectual discussion. It seems maybe this is what the group is trying to do. The only thing to figure out now is why they are being so secretive. It is quite curious and if anything it is more interesting than my math homework. I also read some things about freemasons and that group was quite secretive. It was a group to which Benjamin Franklin became devoted. I am beginning to enjoy their little game. I wonder what their goals are. I wonder what they want with me. Well, I better try to get some sleep.
Ellie had to hurry upstairs to do her homework because she could hear her mom coming down the stairs. She had to make sure to beat her to the last step.
“Good about time you started to come up,” Ellie’s mom said
“Yep I’ll get my homework done,” Ellie said as she leaped up the stairs.
Ellie was starting to wonder about what she knew of her brother. Maybe his getting involved with this group explains what led him to be so distant from the family. Either way, she was going to figure out the secrets behind all of it starting with finishing the journal. She resolved that she wouldn’t be messing around anymore. She was going to start dedicating significant time to figuring all this out as fast as she could.
Archive email #65
We are no longer going to pursue these games with you. We know that you were very dedicated but unfortunately, the leadership has agreed that your skills are not what we are looking for. We have managed to find other people more suited to our ideas. Please no longer contact us. Do not disclose any of our secrets. If we find anything linked to you sharing knowledge of our organization we will kill you.