Nobody could have known it was coming. There wasn’t a warning or a way to stop it, but it was life changing. The change was slow, barely noticeable, it started with symptoms of a common cold. Stuffy nose, a wet cough sometimes with phlegm. Disgusting. When my sister had caught it my mother would give her the red cough syrup that tasted like a sweet cherry sucker, but with an aftertaste of strong bitter cherries that lingered on your tastebuds for hours on end. She didn’t get better. The “cold” got worse, and so did Kate, my sweet baby sister, till she was nothing but a vegetable. Just like that, she was gone.
It was like the universe had something against me. My family was being picked off one by one. First Kate, then mom and dad. I had no one. Alone. Always and forever, alone. I waited for my time to come as well. A slight sniffle, I was sure to have it. An ache or pain, bingo. I was done for. The disease never came to get me, it never ripped my life from under my feet just as it did my family.
If you have not yet caught the virus, come to St. Mary’s hospital. We will have food and shelter there for you.
The transmission that been repeating every minute since the virus began to take hold. I listened to it and it took hold in my mind. It was my only option, so I began to take action. I began moving in the direction of St. Mary’s desperate for help. I was getting close.
One block. That’s how close I am. I grab mother’s golden locket that has Kate and I in one side then her and father looking at each other with loving eyes in the other. It makes my heart ache with grief at my loss, but also stirred determination inside of me to move forward.
I look down at the street people. They were running at rapid paces and stumbling over the elderly that were obstacles in their path. I decide that I’m going to have to move fast if I’m ever going to make it before all the rooms are filled.
I slip on my mint green converse high tops and jean jacket. As I open the garage and get on my bike I see a man running toward me. A blood curdling scream coming from his open and enraged mouth. Arms flailing. I start off going a sharp left and when I can almost feel his hot breath on my face I turn quickly right and leave him face down on the cement driveway. The virus is changing people, and not for the better. My heart was pounding hard in my chest like someone was knocking on a cavern door. I decided that I had to get out of here.
As I get to the hospital, there is about ten people in line. The others too scared to go in. I see a pen. Just to the right of the government officials. Almost like something you would use to contain pigs. There is three scared faces with eyes pleading to let them go. Tears streaming down their faces. I feel bad but also guilty, for I was happy to not be in their position. When I get up to the front of the line, I see that they are testing our blood.
“ Arm please.” Quick and urgent. I lookup and see a woman. Dark hair but striking blue eyes.
“ Arm now, please.”
Quicker now. Almost instantly I raise my arm to her. I feel the prick like a quick pinch that a mother would give you if you were messing around with your sister in church. The officer called over a man in a black suit. He looked at the device and said,
“She’s immune. Put her in with the others.”
Everyone froze. You could almost hear a pin drop. Strong, thick arms picked me up and moved me towards those six pleading eyes. I was one of them.
I’m numb. When they sit me down I feel nothing. Images of my family and their last days run through my head like they are on some type of loop. They roll over and over again without stopping. Baby Kate’s face is the last thing to slip from my head before the true world comes into focus. Six eyes. Two eyes on each of the three faces. Silver eyes, all six of them. My eyes are silver. Do all the immune have silver eyes? Questioning, I turn towards the line of people. Brown, brown, blue, green, and silver. A teenage boy with silver eyes.
My stare never falters. My eyes are trained on him as he approaches the front of the line. I know I do not look as desperate as the six eyes in the corner. All huddled together as if they are making a game plan of which way the quarterback will throw the football.
I watch as he raises his arm to the device, I heard them call it a transmitter. His fate is the same as mine. They do not have to pick him or show him his way, he simply walks over and plops right down next to me. All I do is stare.
- - - -
“Munies over here,” the big guy in the black suit says.
We are then collected and put us on a helicopter. I remember how my dad would always call these whirlybirds. I smile at the thought when I finally hear the boy talk.
“Where in the world are you taking us? Just because we’re divergent doesn’t mean you shouldn’t provide us with the proper information of what we are doing here.”
“We will get there soon enough and if you don’t be quiet soon I will find a way to make you be quiet.”
The black suited man says. I found out his name is actually Richard. It’s the last words said on this flight. Approximately five minutes after being led onto the helicopter we were off. Unsure and unaware of where we are going.
Once we get to the facility, we are split off into groups according to our age. The boy and I are the same age so we have to room together, I start to speak up about how I am not going to feel comfortable, but was ordered to silence before a word gets out. We get to our room and it looks like a boarding school dorm. Grey walls, gray bedding, gray desk, and gray clothes folded neatly on the bed. No wrinkles and pressed to perfection. I look up and see him staring at me.
“Since we will be rooming together you have to know my name”, he says, “My name is Kendall my last name is irrelevant now. I am sixteen years old my family is dead. My father went crazy right in front of me and tried to kill me. I got away and went to St. Mary’s hospital and now I’m here where they will manipulate us and see why we are immune.”
I’m confused. I’ve never been good at fast facts and trying to remember is definitely not my strong point so I just stare and try to remember everything about his face. His sharp jaw set tight, striking silver eyes, and his dark brown hair swayed messily to the right.
“Now that you're done staring at me tell me your name and your story.”
“Uhh my name is Grace. My family is dead too. My mind sometimes wanders and I don’t often talk.”
“Well Grace……,” his voice fades off as I see Richard walk through the door and grab Kendall.
“Time for testing.”
“Testing? This is outrageous!”
As Kendall gets pulled out the door, I see this little fire in him spark. He’s going to be trouble and I fear he’s going to take me with him. I wander around the room and look at everything every detail I must remember. I have to try.
They come for me for my testing. I am brought into a room with a bright white light over a surgical table. I’m changed into a hospital gown with sunshines and rainbows on it. They lay me on a table and begin to poke and prod me. Drawing blood. Checking my brain patterns. They check my mouth, ears and nose. They ask as series of questions wanting to know if I have ever gotten the flu or had to have surgery or broken a bone. I say no to all of these and they finally let me go back to the gray room that shows no happiness as the hospital gown did. I change into the gray clothing and sit on my bed. They bring in a plate of hot steaming food and Kendall eventually. I eat greedily and watch Kendall pick at his food and push it around his plate. He eventually takes a couple of bites, comes to the conclusion of how it has no nutritional value and pushes it away. After I finish, he asks me what type of tests were run.
“Oh just physical ones, nothing like the ones we would take if we were in Algebra.”
My brain makes me think of Mr. Wells. He would always tap his marker a little too hard on the board, and he would have about fifteen markers but only one would work. When you would go up to the board you would have to test every single one before you finally found one that worked, but you’d find that he is carrying the only working marker.
“Grace for the last time listen to me!” Kendall exclaims, breaking through my thoughts.
“Oh yeah, sorry.”
“We are getting out of here. I do not find it respectable to us as human beings to be poked and prodded like cattle. So, are you with me?”
Well that was quick. I don’t feel well. I don’t feel well at all. I stood up. My thoughts race as I search for the perfect words. I barely know Kendall and he just wants to run away with me. I’m so irritated that he is so naive to the outside world.
“Kendall I don’t think that is the right thing to do. I mean they give us food and shelter, I know it is not like what it was with our families. I know that it wasn’t right for them to take us away from the hospital but we can’t just run away. They have guns and a high security system. How in the world do you suggest we get around that.”
“Well since I have the key to the armory,” suddenly Kendall swings the key from his pocket, “ and I know how to shut down the security systems from inside the armory where there is a dated computer but nothing I can’t hack of course. Also, I have the schedule for when the security guards are off duty and changing shifts.”
I don’t know how and I don’t know when he would have been able to gather this information, but I wouldn't put it past him. It's a risky plan. So many things could go wrong. Maybe it's my drive to succeed. The quiet but ever burning fire in my eye that my dad always said I possessed. If we were going to do this it would have to be soon and fast. I don’t know what compels me to do it but apparently my mouth has an answer.
¨Ok so, when do we start?¨ I said. No matter how much confidence I had then I was still very shaky in my knees.
A quick smirk on his face and then Kendall got down to business explaining every detail.
This could work. This could actually work. Many, many flaws yes but the tiny amount of hope running through my veins and that is all I need. ¨When is this plan being put into action?¨ I ask.
¨Tonight at 12:35 a.m. The guards will be changing shifts and there is always a five minute time frame in between.¨ Kendall exclaims like he has all the answers.
We had only been here for about six hours and he already knows their shifts. Hopefully they are the same every night. We pack the extra gray jumpsuit in a gray duffle bag. When they come in to give us our lunch the lady tells us there will not be any testing today because tomorrow there will be a big operation so they want to give us a day of rest before drawing any blood or checking our brain patterns again. Lucky us.
- - - -
We pretend to be asleep when we hear the knock at the door. Soft and quiet. Not urgent enough to be something important but it still compels me to answer. I look over at Kendall who is watching me with his wide eyes that almost look like they belong to an owl. I sprint to the door and open it. A small petite woman about the size of a fourth grader quickly comes in and closes the door. Just before she does, I see a glimpse of her name tag on her lab coat. Dr. Paige. I have never met her. In the dark you can barely see her small frame but her silver eyes are almost glowing in the dark room.
¨Let's turn on a light shall we,” Dr. Paige flicks on the light. “Okay now I know you don't have enough time with you trying to escape but hear me out.¨
She knows. How in the world does she know. I look at Kendall who looks like a firecracker going to explode.
¨Young man I assure you I'm not going to turn you in even though this is your doing, but I am glad that you were smart enough to figure out all the things you need to know to have a good escape. Anyways, this is why I am here. I want to come with you. I know this must be a shocker to you, since I work for the government and all, but I know the terrible things that have been done here and I do not want to be a part of it. I can assure you that I will be very helpful to you because I know the hallways and ways out of here like the back of my hand, so let's get a move on and get out of here.¨ I walk over to Kendall.
¨She's telling the truth. You can see it on her face. I bet they are doing testing on her too because she's immune like the rest of us.¨
¨I think you're right. She looks desperate and we could really use her.¨ Kendall says.
We look at Dr. Paige and it's like she can read our minds. ¨Wise choice. Alright let's be off.¨
I open the door and look down the corridor. I look at my watch. 12:35 right on time. Dr. Paige pushes to the front and leads us down the first hallway, suddenly she stops and puts a hand up as someone walks by. How did she know they were there? When they close the door behind them to the room, she waves us ahead. I look at the intricate tiles and beautiful wood flooring. All the doors have stained glass windows of beautiful flowers and scenes of the outside world.
¨Grace we're moving.¨ A harsh whisper from Kendall.
“Sorry.” I say as I sprint to catch backup with them.
I must have missed going to the armory because Kendall and Dr. Paige already have loaded guns and launchers prepared on their backs ready for any attack while I stand defenseless. Luckily, Kendall throws me a launcher and a hard stare not missing a beat. As we round the next corner Dr. Paige whispers back that we are almost to the exit as a booming voice rings out behind us.
“Stop! I order you to stop!”
Dr. Paige turns around without a trace of fear in her eyes. More of a look of determination is found. She raises the launcher to the man's chest and fires. Before he can move out of the way the electric bolt connects with his chest causing him to fall and convulse on the floor.
“We have to go now,” said Dr. Paige. Urgent and determined. I look at the man behind us he's stopped moving but he's not going to stay like that for long. We turn and sprint down the corridor and burst through the last set of doors. At the end of the hall you can see the glowing exit sign at least one-hundred feet in front of us. Marching. Almost like an army preparing for battle, marching right behind us. Adrenaline races through my body and I don't think I just let it take over. I sprint forward towards the door halfway down the hall. Dr. Paige comes next and after her is Kendall. Just before he reaches my side it's like a lightning bolt hits the wall just above my head.
“GO!” a scream erupts from Kendall full of fright almost no hope is left in his voice.
I turn and see Dr. Paige was hit and just before I reach out to her, she struggles to find the words but when she does, I hear them clearly, “Go now there is no hope here. Save yourself I'm going to be cheering for you.” A tear falls and runs down my sweaty cheek. Kendall grabs my arm and pulls me through the door past the red exit sign. Away from the tests. Away from the terrible people. Away from Dr. Paige. Away.
- - - -
We made it. We actually made it. Dazed and shaken up but together in one piece. They will look for us I'm sure of it but now that we are free we will be free till this terrible disease is over. I hope. I turn to face Kendall, squinting with one eye due to the blinding sun.
¨We did it.¨
I say as I pull him in for a hug as we turn to face the world ahead of us together.