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Four white walls encased me, my eye blurring against the bright hues. My breath was quick, my heart pounding in my skull. This wasn’t where I had been before. No, I had been at school, walking home by myself as usual… and then – BAM! - black. Now I’m here; white walls, no visible doorway; a foreign room. I had never been here. Not in my dreams, not in theories – never had truly heard of a place such as this. Someone had taken me here. My mind was in a panic – thoughts flew faster than birds at the sound of gunshots. There was a presence I could sense watching me, my every move, breath, twitch, and sigh. I wasn’t alone, no matter how desolate this tiny room seemed to appear.
I silently took in my surroundings, the thoughts that ran rampant in my mind became calm, my breathe slowed to a near stop, and I became aware of every twitch and noise in the room. I felt a burning sensation in my wrist, as if someone had taken a hot prong and poked met; a mark that hadn’t been there. A series of numbers had been tattooed on to my wrist: 1482 0308 6918. As I studied the numbers, I became aware of a buzzing noise, small at first, but it had developed into a strong whirring before long. I whirled – where was it? I had to find it. Had to. Find. It. My instincts of “fight or flight” were doing over time, and not the “fight” part.
“Piper Adele,” I turned – there, in the center of a wall, a door had opened. The light emitting from the doorway shadowed the figure despite the white walls.
“Who are you? Why do you know my name? Answer me!” I demanded. Never had I been a timid child, or had I been a very quiet one.
“Piper Adele,” the voice repeated, “You’ve eluded us for a long time now. How has it been that you’ve managed to run for so long? I assume you understand what those numbers on your arm mean, little Piper?” it crooned. The voice that came from the now slowly approaching figure was like nails on a chalk board.
I stared at my red wrist, the numbers shining a sleek black against my pale, porcelain-like skin. I shivered, remembering the stories I had heard from my youth. During World War One, the government began experiments on a select number of humans fit enough to handle the mental strains. These subjects gained power, each different according to the individual. Some gained control over minds, other can cause pain with so little as a glare. I could shift my form into that of a small rust-colored dog. W were seen as threats to society. Later on – years later, the U.S. Government decided that, efficient as these “assassins” were, they had become mentally unstable. The President had ordered Hunters, more genetically altered beings – though more “stable”, I wouldn’t know why. They couldn’t live for more than twelve or so years – to hunt down the Tagged ones. Now, teenagers – like me, and sometimes even children and toddlers, were spirited away by the state government to be taken into custody for a certain number of days. There, housed safely within top-secret confines, those adolescents were then given a number, and sent out into the world as a branded object. Those individuals became known as the Tagged. For a while, they had merely been let out into the public again, with the Hunters keeping a close eye on every move they made. Now, however, the Hunters were free to chase, and often times, kill Tagged ones. It was in their program to do so, so they did as they were told.
I shivered, terrified that I may actually be facing a more horrified life on the run, that the life I had once known with my friends at school would be over before I knew it. What had I done to deserve this? I didn’t choose who or what my parents were! My breath began to quicken as my heart began to pound. Louder, and louder, and louder it pounded until nothing else could possibly reach my ears.
“No need to fear, little Piper; I’m no Hunter. But those will come soon, just as soon as I let you out,” the voice said, “I’m going to give you a head start. You have ten seconds to flit your merry little way out that door before I call the Hunters, sweet Piper. Do you hear me? I’m counting, Piper.”
At first, I couldn’t register as to why he would possibly want to… help me?
“8…7… Piper? Time is ticking, Doll,” he scratched.
I shook my head, stumbling at the sudden rush of blood, before darting toward the light behind him. Just as I passed him, I hit a seemingly immovable wall; the shadow man had me by my tiny arm. I struggled and growled
“Y-y-y-you! You lied to me! How could you? Let go this instant!” I roared. The scratchy, creep-o voice answered only in a line that children say during a game;
“Tag – you’re it.”
I tore from his grasp, not bothering to look behind, and set off at a galloping bound straight forward. I was in the forest, somewhere cold, and somewhere up north. I thundered through the woods, not bothering to phase into my little dog form – it would do no good. I could hear, already, that the Hunters were hounding my trail. I glanced ahead of my oncoming path, only to find a looming lake blocking it.
I performed a professional about-face, only for my face morph into terror.
There, before my tiny frame, was Hunter. She was slim, tall, and wiry in every sense of the words. Her mouth was stretched impossibly long, curved into a sick, fanged smile. Hollow eyes bored into me, and my breath caught in my throat, and my eyes widened. No!