Chapter 42:

Book 2, Ch. 17: The Collective Chaos

ANNO DOMINI ~Allium~ [Beta version]


***THANKS FOR READING!***Bookmark here

Salutations, Honeyfeeders! If you like this wackiness, then abuse that "Like" button's feelings! If you comment, I'll try my besty bestest to reply.Bookmark here

*******Bookmark here

CHAPTER 17: THE COLLECTIVE CHAOSBookmark here

It was customary for everyone in Saint Baptiste Monastery to wake up no later than 8:00 AM every day, at which time Father Dood and Sister Farrah woke up their guests Saturday morning. Chris and the others were fed a simple breakfast of oatmeal and fruit, although they felt out of place eating in the long, narrow refectory among the many quiet monks and nuns. Even so, the residents did not stare at nor intrude on the “outsiders,” and were courteous toward them.Bookmark here

After breakfast, Brother Samuel escorted Chris, Robbie, Bret, Sandra, and Al to the monastery gate. As the sun shone through the partly cloudy sky, Al addressed the group once they were outside the monastery grounds.Bookmark here

“Because I’ll need to assist with the restoration of my bandalores,” Al said while they stood on the sidewalk close to the gate, “let’s plan on meeting later this evening. When we do, we’ll discuss putting things into action.”Bookmark here

“Meeting again tonight?” Robbie gave Al a pained expression. “You don’t even wanna give us a full day to recover?”Bookmark here

Al raised an eyebrow.Bookmark here

“You are recovered,” she told Robbie impatiently, “because of Sandra’s healing technique. And, unlike me, your powers should have fully recovered because you don’t require magical restoration or rely on regenerative tools, like my bandalores.”Bookmark here

Bret yawned. “You’re gonna be a little slave driver, ain’t ya?” he told Al curtly.Bookmark here

“We need to act quickly,” Al said, keeping her anger in check. “I’ve given you guys a place to sleep with water and food, and I’m giving more than half a day to do whatever you’re all gonna do. That’s enough, I’d say. In fact, I’ve completed missions with far less.”Bookmark here

“We’re not in your damn organization,” Bret grumbled, pointing his finger at Al, “and we were all normal people before this stuff, so piss off.”Bookmark here

When the redness flared up on Al’s cheeks, Sandra quickly stepped in.Bookmark here

“Bret’s saying we need to take it easy,” she said. “I agree. We weren’t raised in a hardened lifestyle like you, so we need to be slowly introduced into this. Our entire way of life has been flipped on its head.”Bookmark here

“Hmph.” Bret shook his head. “Whatever. Just show me the enemy and I’ll pound ‘em. And damn, do I need a cigarette…”Bookmark here

Chris heard his phone indicate a received text message. Wondering who was texting him so early, he was surprised to see it was from Marilyn.Bookmark here

["Hey Chris! R u busy today? Maybe we can meet up and study together if u want. Katie and the Canadian beaver kid might join us"]Bookmark here

Marilyn wants to study with me? That might be okay if we do it early enough.Bookmark here

Chris glanced at his companions as they talked about a time and place to meet that night, and he sent a text back to Marilyn.Bookmark here

["Id like to. What time and where?"]Bookmark here

In seconds, Marilyn replied:Bookmark here

["Noon? I was thinking of the Stadium of Rad-Tastic Literature"]Bookmark here

“Chris,” Al said, catching the boy’s attention. “We’re meeting tonight at six here at Saint Baptiste.”Bookmark here

“Oh, okay,” Chris replied passively.Bookmark here

“Pay attention, will ya?” Al told Chris huffily. “Your eyes are glued to your phone and we’re having a serious discussion here.”Bookmark here

“Sorry,” Chris said.Bookmark here

“Yeah, yeah.” Bret stuffed his hands into his pants pockets and shuffled down the sidewalk, the others looking after him. “I’m outta here. Later.”Bookmark here

“What a dickhead,” Sandra grunted when Bret was out of earshot. “Do we really need him around?”Bookmark here

“Unfortunately, yeah.” Robbie shrugged, zipping his green and gray sports jacket halfway up. “We could use all the help we can get.”Bookmark here

Around the corner, after everyone had gone in their directions, Chris replied to Marilyn’s text message.Bookmark here

["Noon will work. I never been there. Im meeting some people later so I should have enough time. Did you ask Drake if he wants to come with?"]Bookmark here

He continued the walk home, deciding not to take any public transportation. After all, Al had said the distance between his house and Saint Baptiste Monastery was walkable. All the way, he worried about what his mother would say about his ripped clothes.Bookmark here

Another text message came:Bookmark here

["Yay! And yes I asked Drake but he said he was too busy but would try to make it. He has a lot of stuff to do lately doesnt he?"]Bookmark here

A fluffy cloud moved in front of the sun, casting a chill down on Chris as he typed another message on his phone and sent it.Bookmark here

["He does. I hope he doesnt push himself too hard"]Bookmark here

*******Bookmark here

Marilyn beamed as she approached Chris a block away from the Stadium of Rad-Tastic Literature. He was staring at his phone, not doing anything on it, when Marilyn robbed him of his absentmindedness.Bookmark here

“Hi!” she greeted eagerly.Bookmark here

Chris deliberately needed to shift his thoughts to the present situation, and seeing Marilyn’s smile served as a great beacon to guide him back to reality.Bookmark here

“Hey there,” he said, putting his phone in his pocket.Bookmark here

“Katie and Garret couldn’t make it,” Marilyn said. “It’s too bad. It would’ve been fun with more people.”Bookmark here

“Heh, oh well.”Bookmark here

Marilyn adjusted her book bag hanging from her shoulder. “I brought all of my books and notes, so, uh, if you forgot anything, you can borrow from me.”Bookmark here

“Okay.”Bookmark here

There was a downcast edge in Chris’ mannerisms Marilyn could pick up on, but it was so slight that she hardly knew she had noticed at all.Bookmark here

“Worried about school?” she asked somewhat automatically.Bookmark here

“Huh? No, not really,” Chris said somewhat instinctively.Bookmark here

“I haven’t seen you wear that hoodie in a while.” She looked at the Callout 89 hoodie Chris wore.Bookmark here

“Oh yeah. My jacket got ripped up last night.”Bookmark here

“Skateboarding accident again?”Bookmark here

“Uh…”Bookmark here

“I’m kidding.”Bookmark here

The intersection was unusually busy as they crossed to the other side. When the two of them approached the main entrance to the Stadium of Rad-Tastic Literature, the first thing Chris noticed was its spacious, inviting vibe that compensated for its blatant, off-putting size. Passing through the doors, he was greeted by lunchtime smells and down-home sights reminiscent of visiting his grandparents’ house; cozy, secure, and suspended in timelessness.Bookmark here

Marilyn giggled when she saw Chris’ stupor.Bookmark here

“I can’t believe this is your first time here,” she said.Bookmark here

“I’ve heard a lot about it, but never actually came.”Bookmark here

“Are you awestruck? You seem like it.”Bookmark here

“You could say that.”Bookmark here

Chris followed Marilyn through the book emporium that was the ground-level floor. In the elevator, the spectacular view through the glass walls gave Chris a perspective on the expansive interior and the noteworthy customer base that filled it. The scent of warm cinnamon coming from Marilyn was the perfect complement for the smells already occupying the air, like a puzzle piece from a different set that somehow worked better than the original piece.Bookmark here

“Whoever thought of making this elevator with glass,” Marilyn said dreamily, “kudos to them. It makes it worth not taking the stairs.”Bookmark here

“It’s really cool. You can see almost the entire first floor.”Bookmark here

“And that’s just the first floor. Wait until you see the second.”Bookmark here

The elevator dinged when it reached the top. Chris stepped out, finding it hard to believe he was in a bookstore with so many games and activities taking place. Every aspect of the social atmosphere was playful. Throughout the area, unlicensed remixes of songs by the American electronic band Krewella were gently pumping out from overhead speakers.Bookmark here

Chris looked around, pleasantly surprised.Bookmark here

“This isn’t what I expected.”Bookmark here

“Isn’t it amazing?” Marilyn absorbed the surroundings while buzzing with the enthusiasm that seemed to compose the very floors and walls. “That’s why I wanted to have a group come. We could totally have game nights here with everyone, don’t ya think? Or big study parties and stuff.”Bookmark here

“Yeah,” Chris said, smiling. “I’m down for that.”Bookmark here

“Let’s go find a place to sit. I think I see some open spots at those tables back there.”Bookmark here

They made their way through the congregation of college and high school students, and it was easy for Chris to feel like he fit right in. Seeing and hearing everyone enjoying themselves made Chris happy, and he took a mental note to come back with more people as Marilyn had suggested.Bookmark here

Marilyn suddenly stopped walking. Before Chris could ask why, Marilyn pulled him closer and whispered in his ear.Bookmark here

“Hey!” She pointed to a person sitting alone at one of the tables. “Do you see that girl?”Bookmark here

One look was all Chris needed to recognize who it was. The girl in question wore an outfit so mismatched that it harmonized. Her long, black hair with accents of seafoam blue and frost white was styled such that it resembled an ocean wave, and was memorable enough to be picked out in a crowd of people.Bookmark here

“Yeah,” Chris said indifferently.Bookmark here

“She’s a local author,” Marilyn explained. “Bridge Snow.”Bookmark here

Chris chuckled. “I know. I’ve met her before.”Bookmark here

“You have?” Marilyn’s hazel eyes widened with fascination. “C’mon, let’s go sit by her!”Bookmark here

“Uhhh…” Not necessarily against the idea, Chris was merely concerned about being thrust into another awkward conversation, just like when he had met Bridge Snow and Bret at the café in Uptown.Bookmark here

Marilyn hurried over and approached the vibrant novelist like an excited puppy; if she had had a tail, it would’ve been wagging.Bookmark here

“Hi there!” Marilyn greeted without a second thought. “I have to ask…are you Bridge Snow?”Bookmark here

Bridge Snow was reading from an e-reader in a blue suede protective case, a cup of cappuccino steaming on the table. She looked up—her dazzling electric blue eyes were magnetic and stormy, like lightning in marbles. The smile she gave Marilyn could have been on her face the entire time, as if anticipating the encounter and preparing her response ahead of time.Bookmark here

“I am, thank you for asking.” Her French accent added her soft speech to her exotic nature.Bookmark here

Marilyn proceeded without missing a beat.Bookmark here

“I’m a fan, especially of your poetry. And your newest novel, When Shadows Bite, the Darkness Feasts was, like, ooh…so good! I mean, it’s all good. It’s all so vivid and super creepy…I mean that in a good way, of course.”Bookmark here

With the most subtle of nods, Bridge Snow replied, “Thank you.”Bookmark here

“Do you mind if we sit here?” Marilyn asked, already pulling out one of the chairs on the other side of the table. “We’re just going to do some studying.”Bookmark here

It seemed to take ages…uncategorized measurements of time, in fact…before Bridge Snow said, “Be my guest.”Bookmark here

During this standstill, the novelist directed her stormy-night gaze toward Chris, sweeping her eyes across the table before moving up to him. The motion of this gaze had a strong mutual relationship with her smile, which broadened without moving, all while her eyes evolved into moonlit reflections below the tide of her oceanic hairdo.Bookmark here

Chris took a seat next to Marilyn and directly across from Bridge Snow.Bookmark here

“How are you?” was all Chris could say to the novelist.Bookmark here

Bridge Snow took a sip of her cappuccino. “Well.”Bookmark here

To occupy the silence, Chris removed his history textbook, notes, and study guide. Marilyn fanned out a rainbow of colorful mechanical pencils (the pencils were colored, not the graphite), figuring out which one she wanted to use first. The color of her pencil usually decided the subject she would work on.Bookmark here

“The yellow one,” Bridge Snow said, not looking away from her e-reader.Bookmark here

“The yellow one, huh?” Marilyn picked up the yellow mechanical pencil with a decisive smile. “That would mean I’m starting with history.”Bookmark here

“We have that test on Monday,” Chris said, opening the textbook to the section with scant information about the Illiniwek Juncture.Bookmark here

“Yup. There are a few tests next week, math and social studies, too.” Marilyn saw Chris had his history textbook open. “You’re starting with history, too?” Turning to Bridge Snow, she added, “What a coincidence that you’d pick the yellow pencil.”Bookmark here

Looking at Chris’ history textbook, Bridge Snow replied, “The cover of that textbook has a color scheme with purple as the dominant. The subtractive color model, known as CMYK, is the color model for inks and paints, such as the ink on the book’s cover. Referring to the CMYK model, purple is the opposite color of yellow.” She looked at Marilyn’s yellow pencil. “That’s why I picked yellow.”Bookmark here

Marilyn’s mouth was open. She was fascinated.Bookmark here

“No way! That’s exactly how I choose which pencil goes with which class.” She leaned over the table to get a closer look at Bridge Snow, as if examining a tantalizing test subject. “How’d you guess?”Bookmark here

Bridge Snow took a slow sip of cappuccino.Bookmark here

“Patrons of the creative arts share the collective chaos,” she said in a mystical tone with a tiny, yet profound smile.Bookmark here

Overjoyed and elated, Marilyn squealed.Bookmark here

“Holey cheeses, you know I’m an artist! Yeah, I paint and do photos and stuff like that. I have this awesome camera,” she presented her camera with impressive speed, which Chris didn’t realize she had with her, “and I’m waiting for the results of this photography contest I entered for a magazine.” She slammed her palms onto the table with a dutiful, passionate expression on her face. “This…is…too…cool…” She stood up and grinned at Chris and Bridge Snow. “I’m gonna buy some snacks and stuff! I’ll be right back!”Bookmark here

And like that, she hurried off to the food stand, leaving Chris alone with Bridge Snow.Bookmark here

“So…uh,” Chris said, trying to think of a conversation topic that could possibly pique the interest of the person across the table, “what was that you said about creative artists sharing the collective chaos?”Bookmark here

Bridge Snow looked at Chris over the top of her e-reader. Her smile widened.Bookmark here

“The chaos,” she said, almost whispering, still smiling, “weeps itself to sleep.”Bookmark here

“I don’t know what that could possibly mean,” he said flatly.Bookmark here

That response seemed to amuse Bridge Snow, and she returned to her e-reader.Bookmark here

“You wouldn’t know,” she eventually told him. “You’re not a creative one.”Bookmark here

Not allowing himself to be perturbed, Chris looked around. However, his mind was wandering more than his eyes, and he found himself revisiting the events of the previous night in Seward Park. Going back further, he began to contemplate the various things leading up to last night’s event. If, indeed, the chaos wept itself to sleep, then the order slapped itself awake—somewhere in between, Chris believed he had ended up.Bookmark here

He looked down at his textbook, then across the table at Bridge Snow. She had one hand on her cappuccino as it rested on the table, and held her e-reader with the other hand; she didn’t seem to be paying attention, but she seemingly never seemed to be anything denotative.Bookmark here

“I want to ask you something,” Chris said to her.Bookmark here

She looked at him, and actually “seemed” to be curious and interested by whatever question was about to come her way. Chris’ mind was a gust of scattered papers—each page an essay on a different thought, topic, and notion—as he kicked himself for bringing up the subject.Bookmark here

“You’re a fiction writer,” he continued. “Does that mean you’re familiar with all sorts of fiction? I mean, not just the type you write.”Bookmark here

“I have knowledge and interests of all sorts of stories,” she replied, placing her e-reader on the table, folding the blue suede cover over its screen. Her full attention was oddly intimidating in a lavish way, but did not deter Chris from saying more.Bookmark here

“Well, uh,” Chris gave it some thought, “let me say it like this. Let’s pretend I’m a superhero.”Bookmark here

“I like to pretend.”Bookmark here

“…Cool. Anyway, we’ll say I basically act out this superhero thing in real life. It’s kinda hard to explain, though.”Bookmark here

“You’re talking about LARPing?”Bookmark here

“What?” Chris asked.Bookmark here

“Live action role-playing,” Bridge Snow explained. “It’s when you act as a character, possibly in any role-playing game, and incorporate the game into real life.”Bookmark here

“Basically, we’ll go with that,” Chris said. “So, I’m like a superhero. Not really a distinct one, but also not just a basic, generic comic book superhero, but more realistic.” He paused, glancing at the open page of his textbook with the Illiniwek Juncture introduction. “How do you think I stack up to other fictional superheroes?” He paused again and laughed, feeling embarrassed. “Sorry, it’s a weird question, and kinda vague. I just have this weird thing on my mind.”Bookmark here

To Chris’ surprise, Bridge Snow was quite invested in the discussion and replied without hesitation.Bookmark here

“Do you have a tragic backstory?” she asked.Bookmark here

“Um, not really,” Chris answered. “I’ve had it really well, up until recently when I learned about my powers…and my enemies.”Bookmark here

“Anything tragic happen so far?”Bookmark here

“No, not permanently.” Chris shook his head. “Nothing truly tragic. Not yet…”Bookmark here

Saying “not yet” didn’t settle well in his stomach.Bookmark here

“In most genre fiction, such as those containing superheroes,” Bridge Snow explained, “the focus is on action and moving plot, and less on the characters themselves. Still, if there is no emotional connection to a hero that the audience feels, then the story’s integrity will suffer. In such stories, having a tragic past or despairing life is vital to connecting the audience to the characters…” she took a slow sip of cappuccino, “unless the characters’ development is central and effective, in which case it risks cessation of being true genre fiction. Importantly, satires and parodies of genre fiction may override those points for humorous effects.”Bookmark here

“I don’t really think my character is designed for development.”Bookmark here

“That’s unfortunate. Do you have allies?”Bookmark here

“Yeah, they’re really helpful. They…also are very unique from one another.”Bookmark here

“Are they more interesting than you?” she pressed. “This is only crucial if you’re the main character, which you probably aren’t in a live action role-playing game, because it’s equal for all players.”Bookmark here

“It’s hard to say if they are at this point in the game,” he told her, “but…I think of myself as the main character of my own story—my own life. I wonder if they think that way about themselves, sometimes.”Bookmark here

“Do your allies rely on you?”Bookmark here

Chris gave it some serious thought, so seriously that he plunged far below the surface of the brightness surrounding him and drowned it all out.Bookmark here

“That’s yet to be seen.”Bookmark here

With a smile that could have been insulting, possibly bored, Bridge Snow held his attention with nothing more than her own attention.Bookmark here

“If you ask me,” she finally said, “you’re a boring superhero, and if you were the main character, you’d be an utter failure.”Bookmark here

Chuckling, Chris said, “People tell me similar things all the time.”Bookmark here

“There’s hope, though,” she added. “There are no rules to telling a story, only rules of telling a marketable one.”Bookmark here

“Ah.” Chris suddenly felt as if the conversation was treading somewhere he didn’t intend to take it. “I guess I could be appealing because I’m different.”Bookmark here

“Many wish for that. It’s not very different to think you’re different.”Bookmark here

“I don’t really care, though,” Chris said with a shrug. “As long as I’m doing what feels right, I’m fine with it.”Bookmark here

“Yes…a truly boring superhero.”Bookmark here

“You don’t even know my powers.”Bookmark here

“They don’t matter at this point. They’ve all been done before.” Bridge Snow finished her cappuccino; the sound of an empty cup being placed on the saucer was very distinct compared to that of a full cup. “But your confidence and intuition of what’s right is what makes you a better person than a character.”Bookmark here

“So, I shouldn’t worry about it too much,” Chris replied, half to himself.Bookmark here

Bridge Snow put her hands together and gently interlocked her fingers, saying, “This has been very enjoyable to speak with you about this topic.”Bookmark here

“That’s good.” Chris smiled. “So, what’d you find enjoyable about this conversation? I actually like superhero movies and games and stuff.”Bookmark here

“You asked me to critique these characters and the genre,” she replied—a moonlit tempest caught an updraft through her eyes, and her lips curled playfully, “yet this feels like I am critiquing you.”Bookmark here

Chris stared at Bridge Snow, and she returned a gaze equally as electrical as her colorful outfit and attire.Bookmark here

“Maybe we’re all just characters in something pointless?” he said, shrugging.Bookmark here

Bridge Snow’s playful, watchful expression didn’t budge, her teasingly restrained smile holding its form. However, it was this very lack of reaction that gave away her excitement. She had difficulty looking away from Chris, and the boy was aware of it.Bookmark here

“That was a melancholic remark,” she replied, “and yet, you did not say it as such.”Bookmark here

“Well,” Chris said straightforwardly, “it doesn’t make me upset. I don’t even think it’s a bad thing if it’s all for nothing…I think…”Bookmark here

“Do you consider yourself a nihilist?”Bookmark here

Blinking, Chris answered, “Huh? What’s that?”Bookmark here

Bridge Snow didn’t reply, but only looked at the table while wearing an amused face. Marilyn arrived with a platter of something that looked and smelled delicious, but had no discernable characteristics worthy (or possible) to explain.Bookmark here

“Here we go!” Marilyn said happily, putting the food on the table. “Muzzleloader Bacon Bombs! I only had enough money for one order, but I swear I had enough for two…maybe the price went up.” She took a seat next to Chris. “So, did you guys have an engaging conversation about writing? Did Bridge Snow tell you about her craft, or what she knows?”Bookmark here

After a moment of nonverbal dialogue with the stormy-night eyes across the table, Chris smiled at Marilyn and said, “Actually, we did. It was…” It was what? “…in-depth.”Bookmark here

“I’ve been trying to read different kinds of books,” Marilyn said, “but some of it is, like, over my head.” She blew on a bacon bomb to cool it down. “I’m having a hard time with Marcel Proust, although the descriptions are really good. Have you heard of Proust, Bridge Snow? The French author.”Bookmark here

Bridge Snow focused on the question, feeling immensely entertained.Bookmark here

“I love Proust,” she said, her eyes staring into an unspecified point—her lips were again curled playfully upward. “I plan to do a third read-through of In Search of Lost Time, in German this time. I have read it in French and English.”Bookmark here

The bacon bomb’s route to Marilyn’s mouth was thereto delayed by her marvel.Bookmark here

She gasped. “Isn’t that the book that’s, like, crazy big?”Bookmark here

“Nearly one million, two hundred seventy thousand words in the English translation,” Bridge Snow told her, “spanning seven volumes. By comparison, the seven main Harry Potter books are just over one million, eighty thousand words.”Bookmark here

“And you’ve read it twice? In two different languages?”Bookmark here

Bridge Snow nodded. Chris couldn’t tell if she was proud or not.Bookmark here

There was a study guide to help prepare for the test, which Chris ignored. Instead, he brought up the internet browser on his smartphone and did an online search. He wasn’t there for actual homework.Bookmark here

Marilyn noticed Chris slide his study guide back into his class folder and get on his phone.Bookmark here

“Whatcha doing?” she asked curiously.Bookmark here

“I’m doing extra research on the Illiniwek Juncture conspiracy theories,” Chris said, being honest.Bookmark here

“The Illiniwek Juncture.” Marilyn thought about it for a moment. “That’s the big thing that happened in Chicago in the early 1900s. Or supposedly happened, I mean.”Bookmark here

“Yeah, that’s right.”Bookmark here

“But it’s just a conspiracy theory, or something.”Bookmark here

“There are lots of conspiracy theories about it,” Chris told her, looking at the list of online search results on his phone.Bookmark here

“I didn’t know you were into conspiracy theories.”Bookmark here

“Well, I’m not, really,” he replied, remembering Lavi’s obvious hint about researching the infamous event. “I just had a sudden curiosity.”Bookmark here

“What about your study guide?” Marilyn asked. “You get extra credit for filling it out.”Bookmark here

With an assuring smile, Chris replied, “It’ll be fine. This counts as studying too, doesn’t it?”Bookmark here

Marilyn didn’t look very convinced as she glanced at her open history book, but she nodded.Bookmark here

“I guess,” she said.Bookmark here

Selecting a search result, Chris opened an article aptly titled “Top Illiniwek Juncture Conspiracy Theories” on a website called The Allium Layers. It started with a brief introduction of the Illiniwek Juncture, summarizing the information contained in Chris’ history textbook.Bookmark here

Reading further, the article soon dived into what Chris had been looking for. Despite knowing better, he looked across the table at Bridge Snow, and their eyes met briefly before she again engrossed herself in her e-reader.Bookmark here

Bracing himself for whatever he was about to read, Chris delved back into the conspiracy theory article:Bookmark here

[“Many conspiracy theories encircle the Illiniwek Juncture, all of which are entirely or partially rejected by official entities and mainstream academia. Although conventional Chicago historians refute these theories by use of official documents and records, many theorists believe those records to be incorrect, intentionally fabricated, or incomplete with many portions hidden or destroyed.Bookmark here

“Here are some of the most popular conspiracy theories. Remember, this is only a compilation of information from various unofficial sources (as conspiracy theories, they themselves are ‘unofficial’). The sources are difficult to verify, so understand that this article is not the source of information, but a compilation.”]Bookmark here

Chris looked away from the screen, realizing he was about to venture into something he normally avoided.Bookmark here

This is gonna get crazy, he thought. I don’t usually buy into this stuff…but Lavi knows something, and I think he wants me to know it, too. But why can’t he just tell me these things himself?Bookmark here

When he looked back at the screen, his heart skipped a beat as he read the header for the first theory.Bookmark here

[“THEORY 1: A Secret Society Caused the Event”]Bookmark here

The notion of a secret society hit uncomfortably close to Chris’ circumstances, and he instantly thought of Al and her mysterious organization as he read on.Bookmark here

[“This is one of the more accepted theories. While there is no solid proof of such a secret society, there is a bevy of information circling around the web about what is commonly referred to as the Alliuminati.Bookmark here

“The Alliuminati is believed to have orchestrated much or all of the Illiniwek Juncture, and used any combination of politics, urban development, economics, social reform, and religion to shape the Chicago metropolitan area in an advantageous favor.Bookmark here

“There is no unanimous agreement among theorists as to what goal(s) the Alliuminati wished to achieve, but commonalities include creating a society headed by an ideological figurehead, concealing knowledge deemed too dangerous for the general public, and guiding the evolution of the human race to create a new species capable of building a utopia; some theories involve all three of these points.Bookmark here

“One valuable piece of evidence for the Alliuminati theory is the Saint Baptiste Monastery located in Chicago. Built in 1902, the monastery was controversial because it did not adhere to any previously known denomination of Christianity, although it is sometimes speculated that the observed religion within is not Christian at all.Bookmark here

“Originally deemed a ‘cult,’ the residents are notorious for having no traceable communication with the outside world. This includes taxes, from which they typically should not be exempt, and there is no proof of the monastery having a financial income. All monasteries require money to operate, and the discipline of ‘work for a living’ is a common and ancient teaching of monasteries around the world. Therefore, it is strange for Saint Baptiste Monastery to be operating at all, and questions arise as to how the IRS handles the monastery’s lack of taxable financial responsibility. This opens up the possibility of the monastery having some sort of connection with (or as) a secret society that has influence over Chicago’s socioeconomics.”]Bookmark here

Chris looked up from his phone. He blinked, feeling as if his eyes had gone dry.Bookmark here

It mentions Saint Baptiste Monastery. It all is connected. Al…who are you?Bookmark here

The following headlines for the other theories involved ancient aliens and a time-travelling Adolf Hitler. Staring at his open textbook, Chris was now completely uninterested in his schoolwork.Bookmark here

More online searches for the Illiniwek Juncture either turned up similar information, or were so heavily biased that they actually confused him. Eventually, he was searching for other Chicago urban legends, such as random campfire smells within the city, the origins of Cold Fjord’s mascot, and the alchemist abilities of the local musician/radio personality DJ Kenny Streets.Bookmark here

After a while, Bridge Snow received a phone call, had a short conversation in French, and excused herself. Marilyn had a college boy use her camera to take a picture of herself, Bridge Snow, and Chris. Minutes later, Chris and Marilyn wrapped up the study session, Marilyn feeling confident about the upcoming tests, and Chris feeling even more insecure toward Aleph-Naught and her organization.Bookmark here

While packing away his supplies, Chris received a text message from Drake.Bookmark here

“Drake just texted me,” Chris told Marilyn. “He said he’s available to study with us now.”Bookmark here

Marilyn pouted. “Aw, but we just finished.”Bookmark here

“We can still hang out, can’t we?” He focused on Marilyn. “I…really want to see my friends while I still can…”Bookmark here

“Um,” Marilyn checked the time on her phone, “actually, I need to get home. My dad is treating us to a late luncheon thing his job is holding, because he just got promoted, and I need to get ready.” Her face became slightly sullen. “My stepmother wouldn’t be happy if I missed it.” She perked back up. “But I want to go anyway! I’m so happy for my dad, he’s such a hard worker!”Bookmark here

“Oh, good for him,” Chris said. “I’ll hang out with Drake. You go do that.”Bookmark here

“Yeah!”Bookmark here

The ride down in the elevator was shared with other people, and another girl complimented Marilyn’s cinnamon aura. As Chris and Marilyn walked out of the main entrance, they said goodbye, then Chris called Drake to arrange a meeting.Bookmark here

Chris needed to make as many arrangements with his friends as possible, because he knew there would be fewer opportunities with each passing day.
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