Oriana put her empty cup on the table smiling broadly, “and that’s it? You found this place and built it?”
Kent nodded proudly.
“That’s brilliant. How do you get electricity? Is it just from all those car batteries?”
“I installed some solar panels on the roof of the factory. They keep those batteries over there charged. I set up the electrics with mostly spare parts that I found.”
“are you an electrician?”
“No, I bought an electrician’s textbook and read it cover to cover.”
“But you don’t have a certificate? What if you made a mistake?”
“Actually, I got a certificate for ping pong when I was twelve; so I couldn’t possibly make a mistake after that,” joked Kent, “but in all seriousness, how would an electrician’s certificate stop me from making a mistake? It’s just a piece of paper. Having a piece of paper doesn’t mean a person knows what they’re doing. Also, just because someone doesn’t have a piece of paper it doesn’t mean they don’t know what they’re doing.”
Oriana pondered aloud, “Yeah, I see, electricians know what they know from reading the same book; so anyone who reads that book, and understands it, would be a qualified electrician! That’s what you mean, but that still sounds rather courageous… Hey! Does that mean people only have teachers because they’re afraid they can’t learn something by themselves?”
“That’s entirely possible, teachers might also help people to learn faster. I mean, if you keep trying you will eventually succeed. Unless you kill yourself that is.”
Kent answered so candidly Oriana found herself laughing again. Kent offered Oriana some biscuits which she graciously accepted.
“I had no idea that people lived like this, Kent. I mean, I know some guys who have bought RVs or put a bed in a van. But living underground like this. This is quite different.”
“What about you Oriana, where do you live?”
“In a house, like everyone else,” she laughed, “I guess that makes me a boring person, huh?”
“What do you mean? Why would living in a house make someone necessarily less interesting? Do all interesting people live underground?”
“Because everyone else lives in a house, you living underground makes you different.”
“Does it? I have two eyes, two legs, and a nose like everyone else. How am I different to other people? What if I lived in a house; would that make me uninteresting?”
“Well yes… I mean no… I mean…,” Oriana smiled and drew a deep breath before continuing, “I guess it really doesn’t matter where a person lives they could still be interesting. It is just that I wouldn’t have even noticed you if you lived in a house like everyone else. Living underground makes you stand out.”
“That is important. So there are probably many interesting people out there, but you don’t notice them because they live in houses. You only notice the people who don’t live in houses?”
“Yes. That’s true.”
“So it is entirely possible that I am not an interesting person at all, I just happen to live in place that attracts notice?”
“No,” said Oriana with unexpected conviction, “No, that’s not actually true.”
“Oh?” startled Kent, “Could you explain why?”
“It is not true because you chose to live in this place, and you built most of it yourself. Only an interesting person would choose to do something like this. Someone that’s different from other people. Someone who is different in their beliefs.”
Kent was silent and still. He regarded Oriana with warmth in his eyes for he was impressed with something she had just said. Oriana smiled, she was delighted with herself for saying something that had left him speechless. Eventually Kent spoke.
“That’s true, but what if I am just a shallow attention seeker? I live here because I want attention for standing out and being different, not because I actually have a deeper purpose for living underground?”
“Why are you giggling?”
“A deeper purpose for living underground,” she exclaimed.
Kent laughed too but before returning to his earlier question an expression of concerned came over his face. “I have thoroughly enjoyed talking with you Oriana. I am afraid that I have responsibilities to attend to now. But I would be delighted if you would visit me again in the future.”
“Sure, I might just do that.”
“Oriana, could you just do me one favour?”
“What is it?”
“Please don’t tell anyone about where I live. Especially if any strangers should ask you about it. Even if they claim to be authorities or something. I value my privacy down here you see.”
Oriana casually agreed and Kent lead her back through the underground tunnel to the drain box. She climbed out by herself and turned to wave good bye to him. He waved back to her and promptly disappeared as she set off back to her father’s factory.
At this point in time Oriana was not sure if she would ever talk to Kent again. She had merely been interested in him as a mystery. While it was impressive how he had built his own home underground. It was still a rather dark place; dirty even. Also there was something a little more than mysterious about his manner; condescending perhaps? She thought him to be a little preachy too. All in all she was pleased with herself for investigating him and had found the conversation with him stimulating. But conversing with people who live down storm drain tunnels was not something she had an intention for getting used to.
This is until the two men in grey suits appeared at the factory.
They walked in boldly, scrutinising all the people around them. They spotted Oriana and immediately singled her out. Oriana’s father interjected and asked the men who they were. They spoke plainly, but with great authority in their voice. They declared they were detectives with the police and just wanted to ask Oriana a few questions in private. Oriana and her father were surprised but quickly capitulated to their request. The men insisted it was nothing to worry about, but they were firm that they should speak with Oriana privately. A few minutes later the two men were sitting across from Oriana in a factory office together.
“My name is detective Peterson, and this is agent Nix. I will cut straight to the point: Have you been in contact with a suspicious person recently?”
To be continued