Third part in a four part short story about Meelo, a supporting character in one of my novels in progress. I just couldn’t get Meelo out of my head, even after his purpose in my novel was complete, so I wrote him a story. Get caught up with part 1 and part 2, and look for the conclusion next week.
Meelo didn’t move. It was him? He was the one the man in grey had chosen? Why? The administrator was glaring, but Meelo was only vaguely aware of that.
Bennett slapped his hand on Meelo’s shoulder, startling him out of his stupor. “Good luck, kid.” He nodded in a way Meelo could only assume was supposed to be reassuring, and then Bennett slipped away into the hall and out of Meelo’s life. Another person gone.
Meelo managed to stumble toward the administrator, who turned and exited the room the same way the man in grey had gone. Meelo hesitated to follow and found himself being prodded by one of the guards. He only looked back once as the last of the indentureds disappeared into their world. His world too. He didn’t know how to live outside of it anymore.
He followed the administrator down the hall and into a waiting area. A neatly folded pile of clothing waited on a chair. “These must be for you,” the administrator said. “The sanitary room is just over there. Go change.”
Meelo picked up the clothing and entered the sanitary room alone. It was much nicer than the barren concrete sanitary rooms the indentureds used. He shrugged off the brown uniform and pulled on the provided clothes. The grey pants were a bit short in the ankles and loose at the waist. The white shirt tugged at his shoulders and the sleeves didn’t quite reach his wrists. There was a mirror above the sink and Meelo almost didn’t recognize himself without the brown jumpsuit.
He walked back into the waiting room. The administrator was gone. The guard remained. Meelo wandered over, careful not to get too close. “Might as well take a seat,” the guard said, not unkindly.
Meelo slumped into a chair. The man in grey came back, directing two citizens to place bags on the empty reception desk. The administrator was with them, alternating between watching them, and tapping on his tablet.
The man in grey looked over at Meelo. “You found the clothes. Looks like the fit isn’t too far off.”
“I think this should cover it, sir,” the administrator said, drawing the man’s attention away from Meelo.
“Bring the rest in,” the man in grey ordered the two citizen helpers. They left to obey.
“But sir, you have paid the agreed price for the indentured. Unless you wish to make another purchase we do not need the other bags.”
“Pull up the woman’s file, the one I wanted,” the man in grey said. The administrator did so, hesitantly. “I am using the rest of the bags to make a payment against her debt.”
The administrator’s eyes popped open and his jaw dropped. “You want to what?”
“I want to pay down her debt. Obviously, I don’t have enough for all of it, but I think it should make a significant dent.”
Meelo was as confused as the administrator. Why would the man pay part of Kestrel’s debt?
“Sir, you do realize that this will in no way benefit you. It will only allow the woman to gain her freedom faster, decreasing the chance that she will still be here should you acquire the proper funds.”
“I know exactly what it means,” the man said coldly. “Record the payment. I want to see it entered before I go.”
The administrator gawked at him, but the man’s cold stare didn’t waver. Finally, the green clad administrator looked back down at his tablet. The man in grey watched over his shoulder as he tapped in the payment. “She’ll be out of here in a year,” he said softly, but not happily.
“Less, I imagine,” the man in grey agreed. The faint hint of a smile played on his mouth. He looked at Meelo. “Let’s go.”
Meelo jumped up, and hurried behind the man. Outside it was already dark, and there was a black vehicle idling nearby.
The man didn’t look back at the administrator. “Climb in the back,” he directed Meelo, and he slid into the front passenger seat and shut the door. Meelo did look back. The administrator still looked surprised, though the surprise was morphing into severe displeasure. He opened the back door and slumped inside. Once he pulled the door closed, the world felt different somehow. Quieter, and…warmer.
“Get us out of here,” the man in grey said with a hint of bitterness. He spoke to the driver, a woman with a forest of black curly hair. She nodded and pulled the car away from the Peetzland government building. Meelo turned and watched it disappear behind them. When they pulled onto the tree lined highway, Meelo turned to face his new owners.
The driver glanced at him in the rear-view mirror. “I expect you’re hungry. There’s food in the bag next to you. It’s not a feast, but I think it’ll hold you over until we’re over the border.”
Meelo picked up the bag and it crinkled in his hands. “I-I’m Meelo,” he stuttered, hesitantly opening the bag. The smell of food wafted up at him.
“We know who you are, Meelo,” the man said.
They knew him? The question buzzed in the back of Meelo’s head, but the only thing he really cared about was the food. There was bread and cheese (cheese!!) and some dried meat. A crisp red apple.
“It’s all for you. We already ate,” the girl said. She must have seen him hesitating in the mirror.
Meelo took a bite of the bread and broke off some cheese and for the next little while he thought of nothing but food. He didn’t even notice which direction they headed. His stomach was full before the food ran out—a thing that had never happened to him before. The night was dark as they sped along the deserted Peetzland highway, perfectly cleared of snow, despite yesterday’s storm. Last year he had been one of the unlucky indentureds who cleared the icy roads. This year it was the newer indentureds.
The car was still warm and the food sat comfortably in Meelo’s stomach. His eyelids were heavy and he leaned his head back, trying to think of what he should do next. Could he escape when the car stopped somewhere? Should he wait until they reached their destination? If they always fed him like this, did he really want to escape?
The steady velocity of the car on the smooth road was hypnotizing and Meelo’s thoughts wandered until they became strange dreams of knights and princesses and magical adventures.