This is chapter one of The Select Four, that book I was showing you sneak peeks of earlier.
The sun was just beginning to rise. It shone through a broken window of the Hellborn manor, revealing a dismal scene within. Gloria Eleanor Hellborn was lying asleep upon it, her hand outstretched so that it hovered a few inches over the dusty floor. The room looked as though no one had been in it for several hundred years. The only sign that it was currently occupied, besides the sleeping girl, was a path, to the bed, that was dustless from the many times Gloria had trudged there after a day of hard work.
For work was hard at the Hellborn household. What else would it be, with 64 children eating their parents out of house and home? That’s 66 mouths to feed. 66 bedrooms to clean, not including the rest of the rooms in the house. Although most of Eloise and Edwin Hellborn’s children were old enough to have a job and move out, none of them did. Why work for your money and pay for your food when you could lounge around and be waited on? While Eloise Hellborn worked like mad to pay for the many necessities of raising a family of 66, everyone else in the family did nothing. Well, almost everyone. One out of the 64 children had to help serve, clean, cook, and help the rest of the family. The youngest. Gloria Hellborn.
Gloria had silky, brown hair that might have been beautiful had it not been so matted and dirty. She was rather thin, the resolute of being under-fed and over-worked. Gloria was now wrapped in an extremely filthy bed sheet shivering quietly in the autumn wind, which was blowing through the shattered windowpane. Suddenly, the alarm clock rang and eyelids flickered open to reveal sea-green eyes.
The clock did not quite ring. It actually shouted at Gloria in a nasty-tempered short of voice.
“WAKE UP, YOU PESKY BIT OF FILTH!” cried the clock. “WAKE UP AND GET TO WORK! IS THAT THE ONLY THING SCUM LIKE YOU IS GOOD FOR? GET UP! GET UP! IF YOU DON’T GET UP RIGHT NOW I WILL KILL YOU! GET UP RIGHT NOW! NOW I SAY! YOU HORRIBLE LITTLE BIT OF DIRT BETTER—OR I’LL—ARRRRRRRRRRGH!”
Gloria had smacked a limp hand against a button on the alarm clock causing, which belonged to Edwin Albert Hellborn. He had recorded his voice onto a disk and put it into the player so that instead of beeping, it shouted at Gloria every morning.
Now, as you may know, there is no worse way to wake up in the morning than being shouted at. And Gloria didn’t like it, either. She grumbled and trudged out of bed and I to the hall, which was long and seemed endless. Gloria passed all 66 bedrooms and arrived at the end. There, there was a plain, wooden, door.
Gloria walked through it and passed the sitting room, the dining room, and a second hall that led to the bathroom, attic, basement, and living room, and entered the kitchen. Although no one else was yet up, cooking breakfast took several hours in the Hellborn household. It was time to get to work.
Gloria’s day went normally until 1:34 P.M. After making breakfast, she cleaned the bathroom, attic, basement, sitting room, living room, kitchen and hall. Then the rest of the family woke up and Gloria served them breakfast. It was then time for Gloria to pack 15 lunches for the siblings that still went to school to eat at school and her mother to eat at work.
Eloise Hellborn was a thin, vulture-like woman with charcoal black hair. She was a secretary for a company that made gelatin. She knew the owner, Mr. MacNead, and was paid much more than other secretaries. How else could she earn enough to feed all of the kids?
After Eloise and the 14 other children left the house, all of the children still remaining in the house sulked of to their rooms, leaving Gloria and her father, Edwin, alone in the dining room.
Edwin Hellborn was a rather beefy man. He was fat, red-faced, and had a violent temper. Some might call him lazy to, as he didn’t work, watched television, and bossed around Gloria all day while his wife earned 3nough to raise the family. Gloria just called him father. That was all she had the right to call him.
The day proceeded as usual. Edwin forced Gloria to clean the cat boxes, prepare him and her siblings who were still in the house a gourmet lunch, clean the many bedrooms, except, of course, for her own, and do a great many of other of household chores. Then, at 1:00, her siblings and her mother returned home.
“I did wonderfully at work today, darling.” exclaimed Mrs. Hellborn to Mr. Hellborn while hurriedly shuffling into the musty manor. “You won’t believe this, but MacNead tripled my salary! You know how much I was getting paid! Can you imagine! For the first time, this family will have extra money!”
In celebration of Mrs. Hellborn’s new salary, the entire family went shopping. Winter was on its way, so they all were all wrapped in so many coats, scarves, and hats that they were barely recognizable as themselves. Soon, the family arrived at Main Street. Here, at line of little shops, a bunch of pedestrians were doing tier Christmas shopping. And here, as the children crowded around a candy shop window, something unusual happened to Gloria. She found a five- dollar bill.
Gloria was the youngest in her family. By the time she was born, her parents had had enough of children to last them a lifetime. So Gloria had always been abused and mistreated.
Never, in her life had she been given pocket money. She had never been given a toy or a book. All Gloria had ever known was chores, chores, chores. A world of possibilities opened up to Gloria. What would she buy, now that she had money?
“MOM! LOOK AT WHAT GLORIA HAS!”
Gloria was interrupted from her thoughts by a shout. It was her brother, Markus Hellborn. He was 13 and the second youngest, after Gloria. And so Gloria was forced to watch, with pleading eyes, as her mother pulled the bill from her grip. She would never spend it now.
Later that night, Markus cornered Gloria in the hallway.
“Ha!” he cackled rudely, “I bet you wanted to spend that money. Well, you’ll never spend it now. Hey, look!”
He held up a five-dollar bill for inspection. “Mom let me keep it because I noticed you with it. You know if you want something take, this.” He said thoughtfully, jamming a hardcover, leather-bond book into her chest. “My teacher gave it to me, but it’s blank. Don’t ask me what you would do with such a thing—write!” He obviously thought it was useless, because he smiled carelessly and, stroking his bill, strolled away.
Edwin became rather giddy over the next few weeks. He left often to visit various pubs and bars. He drank a glass of wine at every meal. He was known to laugh and giggle at inappropriate times. Edwin became harsh to everyone in the family, not just Gloria. And one day…
“I’m going to Peru!”
The Hellborn family was having supper. Edwin had been on his fifth serving of wine when he had suddenly exclaimed that he was going to Peru.
“What?” repeated Eloise Hellborn, “What?”
“I’m going to Peru.” Edwin said again.
“There’s no way we can afford for you to go to Peru. I’m sorry, but it’s never going to happen.”
“BUT, I WANT TO GO TO PERU! NOW!”
“What would you even do in Peru? Drink more wine or champagne? Beer or brandy? Come on, we can’t afford it! We’re barely making enough to support this family as it is! Money doesn’t grow on trees, you know. Do you know who has to work for it? That’s right. I DO!”
But, in the end, Eloise agreed and the entire family, with the obvious exception of Gloria, was planned to go to Peru the following week.
Gloria met her babysitter the following day. He was a rather old, rabbit-like man with lopsided, wire-rimmed spectacles.
“P-pleasure to m-m-meet y-you, madam.” He stammered clutching Mrs. Hellborn’s hand firmly. “Ahh, and t-this is the l-l-lovely……”
“Gloria.” said Gloria “My name is Gloria.”
“It’s Gloria. Just like glory only with an “ah” at the end.”
“G-gloria. I’ll c-chew on it.”
The next Sunday, the babysitter, whose name was Mr. MacBeth, showed up early. Edwin and Eloise left Gloria as soon as he arrived. Surprisingly, Gloria was not that upset. You see, she was usually forced to do work ceaselessly all day. This week, she could finally have free time to whatever she wanted.
Gloria started to her room and thought. What would she do with free time now that she had it?
Gloria thought. And thought. She wasn’t used to having time to spare. She gazed around at her pitiful room. There was nothing around her to entertain her. Well, almost nothing.
And then, Gloria’s eyes fell upon something sticking out from beneath her bed. Gloria picked it up. It was the book Markus had given her a few weeks before. Markus’ words rang in her ears. ‘Don’t ask me what you would do with such a thing—write!’ Write. She would write.
‘Dear Diary, My life is simply horrible. Markus and my parents seem to work to gether to make my life miserable. Fortunately ,today is my lucky day! My father, like so many before he, has given himself up to drink. Through I surely should be worried about this, I see no reason to fret like my mother. In his drunken state, my father has gone quite mad. Only a week ago, during dinner, he had a sudden urge to go to Peru. My mother made plans for the entire family, with the exception of me, of course, to visit Peru this week. So, I’m here alone, except for my rather nervous, rabbit-like babysitter, Mr. MacBeth. Since I don’t have a single toy, book, or any other enjoyable way to pass one’s tme, I’m writing in this book this weekend. I…’
The book went on this way for quite a while. The only thing that finally caused Gloria to stop writing was when Mr. MacBeth yelled the stairs, “L-lights out in t-t-ten minutes!”
The following week was the most enjoyable time Gloria had had in a very long while. She got up early each morning and stayed up as long as the babysitter allowed, leaving her room only for the bathroom and for meals. But she knew it couldn’t last.
‘Dear Diary, I am enjoying my freedom.’
‘Dear Diary, Only four days free of my parents left.’
‘Dear Diary, I fear my freedom is drawing to an end.’
‘Diary, Tomorrow will be the last day I will write!
‘Goodbye, Diary, this is my last entry!’
And then, as soon as those words were on the paper, as soon as she told the book it was her last entry, something incredible happened. Something impossible. Yet…
As though a magical hand was flying across the page, words were appearing across the parchment.
‘You know, it doesn’t have to go back to being that way.’
Gloria stared at the words.
‘Books do not write on their own!’ she told herself.
Gloria closed her eyes. ‘I was imagining things. When I look again those words will be gone.’
Gloria opened her eyes again and stared. She had been right. There was nothing there.
Gloria took a deep breath. She had to be sure. Glancing down at the parchment, she wrote, right where the words had just appeared.
‘Who are you?’
Gloria eyed the patch of parchment directly below her own words. And then…
‘I am a figment of your imagination.’
‘See.’ Gloria told herself. ‘Even the book agrees with me. Oh my God! Even the book agrees with me! I must be insane!’
Gloria watched as the book’s latest message faded into the pages of the journal, this time replaced with a fresh note.
‘Come with me and you will never have to encounter your good-for-nothing father and nasty vulture of a mother again.’
Taking a deep breath, Gloria jotted a response, hoping against hope that no answer who come.
‘Do you have any thing to tell you me?’
‘Do I have anything to tell you? Of course I do. But not here. Not now.’
‘What do you have to tell me?
‘Come with me. Come… Come…’
Gloria felt herself going in to some sort of trance. It was a dream. There was no other explanation. It was a dream. She was asleep. But, Gloria had only a second to think. Because the next thing she knew, her head lolled onto her shoulder, her vision bleared, and the room began to spin. Something was wrong, something was very wrong. Then, Gloria closed her eyes, fell to the floor, and remembered no more.