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Ron

Ep

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PART ONE

Ep was a girl I met in high school. She just appeared one day. She was lanky and had curly brown hair, beautiful eyes that melted your heart, and the slightest freckles. You couldn’t quite tell what her ethnicity was, but there was an exotic quality to her. That quality drew you in, like a magnet. It made you want to talk to her.

So I did. One day after our 2nd period trig class, I’d talked to her. She had spoken English with an accent, confirming my suspicions that she was from another country, and was surprisingly shy. I don’t know why I had expected her beauty to entail a confident personality. Anything she said tended to whoosh out of her lips as a whisper. I leaned in to her whenever she spoke, otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to hear. She made no effort to speak up, which bugged me a bit at first, but what are you gonna do?

There was a charisma to her. Something mysterious. She didn’t say much, and the fact that when she did, it was hardly audible contributed to this bizarre aura that hung over her. I’d started sitting with her at lunch compulsively and my friends asked why. I realized I didn’t have an answer. Something was just pulling me to her and I couldn’t identify what that thing was.

After about a week of sitting with her, it occurred to me one night just before I was going to bed that I didn’t know anything about her.

I had spent a full week with this girl and it’d been mostly me talking and her listening. Whenever she did speak, it was to ask a question, or to offer a triviality or blanket statement. She did happen to have a whimsical sense of humor that came off as childlike and innocent in her quiet tone. Still, nothing she said revealed anything about herself and I decided that night that I would probe a bit farther.

The next day, I asked the simple question, “Where are you from?”

Her eyes narrowed and she said nothing.

“Ep?”

Again, she said nothing. I looked down awkwardly and picked at my food.

“So, uh, do you –” I started.

“I don’t know where I’m from.”

My eyes darted to hers, but now she was looking at her food. Thousands of thoughts flooded my head. Is she an orphan? A criminal? Does she have amnesia? How could she not know where she’s from? Is she a refugee? Why is her name Ep?

“You don’t know where you’re from?” I finally settled on saying.

She shook her head ever so slightly.

“Why is that?”

“What do you mean ‘why is that?’” she said in a cutting tone, with her voice raised for the first time. She almost got to a conversational level, realized how loud she’d gotten, and immediately shrank back into her chair.

“Well, I, uh… I just don’t understand, I guess.”

“I don’t know where I’m from.”

“Yeah, but like… you just don’t remember?”

“I’m not sure.”

“Don’t your parents know?”

She hesitated. “I’ve got to go.” She tried to beeline to the bathrooms, but I grabbed her wrist.

“Wait,” I said.

I saw now that her eyes were now filled with fear.

“Please don’t go,” I added. “Just talk with me.”

Glancing back at her seat and then at me, she slowly resettled and composed herself.

“I don’t have parents,” she said.

There was another long pause. I was just about to ask another question when she added abruptly, “But I have God. I talk to Him.”

I wasn’t totally sure how to interpret that one.

“Like, praying?”

She shook her head. “No. He actually speaks to me.”

“But in, like, a Christian way.”

“No. I hear His voice… like how I hear your voice right now.”

I squinted. What the hell did that mean?

“And what does He say?”

Ep bit her lip.

“I don’t know if I’m supposed to say.”

“Why wouldn’t you be able to?”

“Because… it’s… I don’t know. It’s between us.”

“You can’t tell me anything He’s said?”

Again, she gnawed her lip. The way she was sitting told me she was incredibly uncomfortable. I was starting to think she was crazy.

“Well, He’s told me I’m not from here. He just won’t tell me from where… to answer your earlier question.”

“Not from here as in not from Casselbury? Or the United States, you mean?”

She shook her head. “Not from here.”

It hit me then that she meant she wasn’t from Earth. At that point, I dismissed her as a nutjob. Maybe she genuinely believed she was some celestial being or angel or whatever, but that clearly wasn’t true, she was flesh like me, and so I made the decision to get her some help. Thankfully, the bell rang shortly after she made that insane claim and I went to one of the school counselors and reported what had happened.

Ep hung on my mind for the rest of the day. Something about the encounter had rattled me. It reminded me of when I’d visited my Uncle Bobby in the ICU a few years prior. He’d slammed head-on into a motorcycle and it didn’t look like he was gonna make it. Entering that hospital felt like entering another world, and then seeing my uncle laying there… it didn’t seem like him. And then, in the midst of being doped up and out like a rock, he suddenly started to talk. Not crystal clear, in a mumbled drawl, but still clear enough to make out words. “I see it,” he said three times. “I see it… I see it now.” Doctors said it was normal for patients having just undergone a traumatic experience. But the incongruity between my uncle before the crash and after the crash was mindnumbing to me. Uncle Bobby had survived and although he walked with a limp, every time I saw him thereafter, something was off about him.

Like Ep. Something was off with her, and that’s what was persisting in my mind about her – she had a mental issue. And it horrified me.

I awoke the next morning, made cereal, got dressed… the usual. Ep wasn’t yet on my mind. Almost as though I’d forgotten about her, that I’d never met her.

I didn’t see her at school that day. I brushed it off.

The day after that, she was also conspicuously missing. Alright, she’s probably sick.

Then she was gone Friday.

And then Monday.

Tuesday.

Finally, on Wednesday, I went back to the counselor who I’d reported Ep’s case to.

“Ms. Wilkes, do you know where Ep’s been? She hasn’t been at school for over a week.”

My counselor looked at me quizzically. “Sorry, who?”

“Ep,” I said. “Ep… uh.” I realized I didn’t know her last name. Ms. Wilkes stared at me.

“I don’t know who that is,” Ms. Wilkes said. “You said her name is Ep?”

I nodded, my throat suddenly dry. Ms. Wilkes turned to her computer, tapped two letters and hit “Enter.” Her brow furrowed.

“I don’t have an Ep here, honey,” she said. “Are you sure that’s her full name? Maybe Ep is her nickname?”

It hadn’t even occurred to me that Ep might not be her real name.

“Is there any other way to find her on there?” I said, nodding to the computer.

“Um… just ID pictures, but that’s over 2,500 pictures to look through, hon. Do you know any classes she had?”

“Oh, yes! 2nd period trig! Mr. Drylie.”

Again Wilkes typed. She scanned the class list, mumbling the names of students under her breath as she went.

She shook her head. “Nobody named Ep in this class, and class history shows nobody named Ep was ever enrolled in 2nd period trig. Closest is an Ella Manning…. Is that her?” She turned her screen to show the ID picture of my classmate Ella Manning, a blonde ponytailed girl full of acne. Not Ep.

I shook my head dejectedly, confused. I thanked Ms. Wilkes and left.

Ep began to consume my mind. Who was this girl? I had no way of contacting her. I couldn’t report her missing, because was she actually missing? Or was she just a nomad orphan shifting from place to place?

Another two weeks went by. Ep’s hold on my mind began to loosen and one early Tuesday morning, I was able to make my cereal without her wandering through my brain. Then I turned on the TV and the headline flickered “17 year old girl found dead in river.” A police sketch of the unidentified dead girl flashed on the left side of the screen.

An unidentified dead girl that was unmistakably Ep.

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