For the last fifteen years, I’ve served as the Chief Executive Officer for the Vision of Hope Orphanage, referred to by the staff as The Orphanage for Unfortunate Children. We are far from an ordinary orphanage; only those with the highest level of security clearances even know of our existence.
Located 125 miles off the coast of California, the fortress-like building sits atop a refitted deep-sea oil rig. Manned guard towers sit at all four corners of the platform, connected by rows of barb-wired and electrified fences. These security measures sound extreme for an orphanage, but the children we house have unique needs that make it all very, very necessary.
Bella, as I will call her, came to us at the tender age of five. She had these big blue eyes that could melt even the coldest of hearts, a pink bowtie always adorning her perfectly trimmed hair. All the guards absolutely adored her, just as much as they feared her.
She was sent to the orphanage after her parents died under extremely mysterious circumstances; her father’s abdomen was found floating amongst space debris by Chinese Astronauts. Her case was sent through the proper channels, and eventually, she landed with us — as all children of her ilk do.
I’ll never forget my first conversation with Bella, her innocence and predatory nature on full display. I’ve transcribed a redacted version of our initial conversation below — this is from about an hour into our session.
LOG # – 1479XP3 (August 15th, 2003)
X: Bella, you told me something really interesting about your shadow earlier. Do you think we could talk more about that?
Bella: My shadow? I don’t know that makes him mad.
X: It’s alright, Bella, we spoke to him earlier, and he’s okay with it.
Bella: You did? I thought he only talked to me, but ok! That’s pretty cool he talked to you. Did he tell you about Fuzzy Bunny?
X: Of course.
Bella: So you didn’t get scared when he said what he did to Fuzzy Bunny?
X: Believe it or not, I never get scared — that’s why I work here.
Bella: Really? I get scared all the time. Like when Shadow took fuzzy bunny to the no-no place. I hate the no-no place.
X: I see. Is that where he took your parents? To the no-no place?
In an instant, Bella transformed into something much darker. Blackness erupted just behind her eyes, her features sharpened, and the room grew deathly still. Sensing the inherent danger, I initiated a safety protocol designed to subdue Bella specifically. Only an intense blast of UV Light was able to put her down, even if it was for just a moment. We’d lost three guards perfecting that system, but the loss of life was common when kids first arrived.
Bella was held in a mixed enclosure, meaning she had access to the inside and outside. Before night fell, she’d be ushered into a cell lined with UV emitting bars that pulsated all night long. Once she awoke, the whole process would start anew.
As is probably clear by now, Bella’s weakness was light, more specifically, the type of light emitted by the sun. Her modifier, as we call them, was activated by darkness, or, the absence of UV light. If those conditions were met, the consequences would be undoubtedly deadly.
Bella’s ‘shadow’ was sentient, although if its action were solely independent has never been proven — I, for one always believed Bella to be in at least partial control. This being was able to rip at the very fabric of the universe, creating micro-wormholes and other cosmic anomalies. It reveled in death and violence, and when given the chance, it never hesitated to inflict pain. A creature of pure malice and hatred attached to a charming young girl — it was quite the juxtaposition.
This may all sound very harsh, cruel even, to treat a young girl in such a way, to cast such ghastly suspicions upon her. A majority of my upper-level staff viewed her as a victim, constantly advocating for increased freedoms and early release — but I never gave in.
Despite all of the secrecy, security, and intensive therapeutic (and other) treatments, we are not all-powerful. At the age of eighteen, or in very rare cases twenty-one, we must release a child into the world as a free person. It doesn’t matter what happens while they are detained, murder or otherwise, once they are of age, they will walk out those doors. Standing firm in my convictions, Bella remained until she turned eighteen.
Sometime in 2015, the exact date is beyond my security clearance, Bella was airlifted back to her hometown, somewhere in Argentina. That same year, a horrific string of seemingly unconnected, horrifically violent crimes swept across the country’s rural north. If you looked closely and knew what to look for, it was abundantly evident these were connected acts that only one individual was capable of committing.
Believe it or not, Bella calls my office once in a blue moon. Patients are eligible to partake in consultation sessions up to ten years after discharge, in person, or over the phone. I haven’t heard from her in over a year, but I often think about one of the last things she told me before leaving the facility.