Chapter 1

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Ria, are you OK?


1 - Ria


There are some things in this world that no one has ever seen. Some hidden in the darkest corners of long, forgotten caves, others remain dormant in the bottom of the ocean, and many things are buried under the asphalt that paves our highways and cities.

The world hid them to make them difficult to obtain, and the elements play their part to make sure they remain hidden. But the day will come when they are discovered - by me. My name is Ria, and I'm a treasure hunter.

Ever since I was a kid, I'd been fascinated by mysterious things. Not the supernatural ones, but the kind of things you see every day, the ocean, the sky, the stars, the universe. Things that envelop you in their immensity and take your breath away with their magnitude. They make you question existence itself, making you feel minuscule and powerless in their presence.

As a child, I also liked looking for things that were hidden or lost. I would ask my mother to hide something for me to find again. She would record the time it took and tell me whenever I broke my record.

Flashbacks of me waiting impatiently outside my bedroom door frequently spring to my mind, with me trying to catch whatever rustle my mom made inside the room while she was finding a place to hide the object from me. (It just happened to be that later, I found out that she actually knew I was listening, so she used to make some random noises just to put me off.)

Then she would open the door and smile.

"OK Ria, are you ready?"

I would nod excitedly.

"Find the pen I've hidden, and if you find it in under two minutes, there's ice cream for you."

Then she'd say, "GO!" and I would go crazy trying to find the pen.

May 7th, Two thousand five. She said she had a special surprise for me. I waited outside the door patiently as I had done countless times before, only this time I couldn't hear any sound coming from the inside. Oh yes, it was also my thirteenth birthday.

She instructed: "The object I need you to find for me is a small piece of paper. Now, I am aware that a small paper could be easily slipped in or rolled into anything, anywhere, which is why I'm giving you a whole twenty-five minutes to find it."

Piece of cake, I thought. I had never had more than fifteen minutes to find something before. I knew this room like the back of my hand, plus I had a whole twenty-five minutes. There was no way I could fail.

"And what's my prize?" I asked her as she was leaving the room.

"This time it's a surprise." She set the timer and said, "Go!" closing the door behind her.

After she left the room, I felt the air getting heavier and heavier, weighing my whole body down, as if she was controlling the atmosphere in the room.

Ignoring my gut feeling, I systematically started searching every corner of the room, unfolding all the clothes, shaking out the pages of every book and inspecting every crack and crevice where there would be enough space for a small paper to slot into.

I painstakingly inspected behind the light switch. I unplugged everything to check if it was rolled into the sockets in the walls. I unscrewed the electrical plugs in case it was stuck onto the back of it, and took apart all the electrical appliances in the room with the tiny Swiss Army knife I had always carried around in my pocket.

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