SETH – Intro Teaser

5 minutes, 10 seconds
Songs of Seong
Songs of Seong
SETH - Intro Teaser

My story starts in a car traveling up Mt Malema. The green flora slaps against the windows as we speed up a heavily muddied path that I would never call a road. My heart thuds in my chest as I realize what it means we were basically offroading to get to what will be my home for the next year.

Ungrateful girl. Mother’s words mock me for traveling across the world instead of finding something closer to home. She’d have been happy if I worked at a pharmacy for just over minimum wage and never left home.

The car jerks and tosses me against the front seat as we damn near fly over another dip in the path. Instead of slowing down, we seem to pick up speed. 

“What’s going on? Is he drunk?“ I ask my guide, a portly man with a bald head and skin like burnt clay. He is the second guide since the city; the first had charmed me with his bright blue eyes and cheerful smile. Enough that I hadn’t said a word when he passed me off to baldie. I don’t hate the man or blame him, but as the car lurches again and the driver lets out a wild giggle, I’m fucking concerned.

“Nah, Mama. We speed up, or else we slide down.”

I damn near hold my breath until we finally seem to crest, and although the road is still rough, my heart isn’t trying to drop into my stomach, and I’m able to lean my head back against the seat and concentrate on not vomiting. 

About twenty minutes later, the car comes to a rolling stop, and I hold back bile as the world settles and I chance opening my eyes. It’s darker here than I expected. The canopy above shields everything from the sun, and it’s so thick it reminds me of dark, stormy Oklahoma days. Well, unlike Oklahoma, I doubt there will be bright days. Not through those leaves. This was it for the next year. 

The door opens for me, and I roll out of the car on unstable legs. As much as I don’t trust him, I’m still thankful that Baldie is there to grab my arm, his thick black and gold ring feeling hot against my skin. He lets go when he catches me looking at it and moves to get my bag out of the trunk. He is a little taller than me, with dark tanned skin and a deep blue button-up shirt. Dirty, but then, we all are. 

I glance around, and it doesn’t seem right until Baldie nods his head to the right through a dense path. I can just barely see the outline of a series of trailers and steel containers. Their once clinical white is now covered in mud and moss. Ah, home sweet home. 

I grab my backpack and sling it over my shoulder before following Baldie up the path to my new home for the next three hundred and sixty-five days. It feels like my heart is in my throat, but this time I’m not a car. 

  Baldie drops my stuff off at the edge of the camp and just stands there, feet shoulder-width apart and his hands clasped in front of him like some kind of mafia henchman. Jesus, my imagination is wild. The dude has the right to stand however he wants without some hick-ass Oklahoma girl like me stereotyping him in my head. 

“Welcome, welcome! You must be tired from your journey. The trip up the mountain is… Unforgettable, is it not?” An older gentleman with salt and pepper hair and a white lab coat, and a bright white smile approaches and holds his hand out for me to shake. How did he keep his teeth so white out here? I let my breath escape from between my teeth as I extend my hand and clasp his. Maybe this place wasn’t as removed from civilization as I thought. 

“Well, the welcome packet did say ‘Once in a lifetime’…” I grin and shake his hand, ignoring the voice in my head that coached me on giving a firm, but not too firm shake. “Doctor Goodman, it’s really an honor to meet you.”

His warm hand squeezed mine. “You must be Alice. Trust me when I say the pleasure is all mine.” 

The hairs on the back of my neck pickle as I look up into his storm gray eyes, and I swallow down my nerves. Daddy issues. My inner critic is such a bitch, but I’m saved by a throat clearing beside me. Baldie. Who knew he would be my savior. 

“Yes. Well. Let me introduce you to Maria, our den mother, of sorts. I have more business with Tomas.” The doctor reaches to grab one of my bags, which I try to insist on carrying, but he waves me off. “A gentleman carries a lady’s bag, Alice. I’m too old and set in my ways to change now.”

One more glance at the stoic Baldie, I mean, Tomas, and I follow the doctor through the brush to the makeshift camp. Up close, the trailers are worse off than I thought. Though the temperature probably never got cold enough to need much insulation, the sliding windows with no screens made my forehead crease. How did they avoid mosquitos? And were those bars? Were they worried about someone breaking in? 

I open my mouth to ask just that when the nearest trailer door swings open, and an older, curvy Latina with a warm smile steps out and down the metal stairs to meet us. “This must be Mae-” 

“Alice.” The doctor interrupted, reaching a hand behind me to push me forward gently. Although it’s not uncommon even back home, I still feel a small ping of annoyance that a stranger, even a respected doctor, felt comfortable moving me around like I don’t have two legs. I swallow the discomfort again. I’m okay. I can’t keep seeing ghosts where there are none. Not everyone wants to hurt me. 

“Oh, si si. Alice, we’ve been looking forward to meeting you.”