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Where Am I
When I opened my eyes, I saw a white tiled ceiling with small glow in the dark stars glued to it. I rubbed the sleep out of my eyes and slowly sat up, my back popping as I did so. I looked around the room, it was whitewashed and nearly empty, besides the small twin bed I was in and a dresser across the room from me. Not to mention, it was freezing in here and I was in a thin gown, maybe a hospital gown of sorts. I pulled the blanket back from my legs and swung my legs over the bed and placed them on the ground. The ground was freezing, and the puppy dog socks I had on this morning were gone. I stood up then stretched my tired legs and crossed the room to the dresser. I opened it and my clothes from this morning were sat inside, neatly folded. I pulled them out of the drawer and put them on, discarding the hospital gown.
Once I was dressed, I walked to the door which was in the right corner of the room, a few feet from the dresser, and opened it. I stuck my head out the door and the halls were as white as the room I was in, and as empty too. Suddenly someone, maybe a nurse based on the all-white scrubs she was dressed in, began walking down the hall. I hurriedly pulled my head back into the room and shut the door. I could feel my heart pounding against my ribcage and adrenaline pumping through my body. I backed away from the door until my back hit the dresser and I stopped, nervously watching the door. Sweat was forming on my forehead and on the back of my neck, but I was freezing cold. The door slowly opened and the person in scrubs I saw earlier walking down the hallway stopped in front of the door, not entering the room.
“Ms Howser, would you join me? I can answer your questions for you, and get you something to eat. You must be hungry after such a long day.” The nurse smiled at me, not moving an inch, watching me intently. “Oh, I apologize, it was rude of me not to introduce myself. My name is Maggie, Maggie Foster. You can call me Nurse Maggie though.” She tucked her clipboard under her arm and slowly stepped into the room, her hand out as a gesture to join her. “Don't be afraid, I won't bite you.” I slowly took a step towards her, which seemed to make her smile grow larger. I approached her slowly and took her hand and she dropped our combined hands to her side, as she intertwined them. I had no idea how to feel, but I returned Maggie’s smile, which seemed to make her smile appear cheerier. She walked us out of the room and we ventured down the hall together. I scanned the hallway, looking in open doorways where people sat on beds or on the floor, or they were empty as we had left mine. What the hell was this place? It seemed like a psychiatric ward, but last time I checked, I was mentally stable.
“This isn't a psychiatric ward, you are indeed ‘mentally stable.’ This is simply a safe space for people just like you,” Maggie said abruptly, answering my thoughts. It's like she read my mind… “Ah, yes, it does seem like that doesn't it? It's because I did read your mind, Ms Howser. It's in my code.” I looked down at Maggie, who was slightly shorter than me, but her curly head of hair made her seem taller. She looked up at me with an innocent smile, her blonde hair bouncing around her red cheeks. I contemplated pulling my hand away and making a run for it, but her hand squeezed mine softly. “Do not run, you are safe here. I did not mean to frighten you, Ms Howser..”
“Could you actually refer to me as Mr? Or by my name; Oliver?” I responded. Her mouth made an “o” shape and she nodded.
“Of course, Mr Howser, I did not realize. I apologize.” Maggie smiled at me. I nodded and resumed my silence. Maggie and I walked down the hallway together in silence, Maggie bouncing with every step.
“Listen, I don't know why I'm here and if I'm being honest, I want to go back home. Not to offend you at all, I just, my mom will be worried about me if I don't get back home,” I rambled to Maggie, “and she is making my favorite dish for dinner since I got all A’s on my report card, I really don't want to miss out on that.” Maggie let out a little giggle in response and stopped in front of giant double doors.
“Mr Howser, your mother signed the papers to allow you to come here. I'm sure you understand.” Maggie removed her hand from mine and took two steps back and stood across from me, her feet placed together and facing my directly.
“No, no, I don't understand. I don't know why I'm here, how the hell would I know? I just want to go home!” I snapped. Maggie continued to smile at me, her expression not faltering at all. “Why am I here, Maggie?” I asked her, more calm than before.
“That's better,” Maggie responded, “You can have a look for yourself, Mr Howser.” She turned to the double doors and pulled one of the doors and held it open, and looked back to me. She gestured for me to enter the room and I looked at her with contemplation. How the hell did I know that she isn't a part of some killer, cannibalism community and some doctors with face masks were about to chop me open and eat my organs? How did I know that she wasn't some whacko and I'm actually in some mental hospital that my mom put me in? How did I know that I wasn't dreaming?
“This is no dream, Mr Howser. You must trust me,” Maggie said. She gestured once again to the open door and I sighed. What's the use? I would never get out of here without complying. I walked over to her and she gave me a small reassuring nod, and I entered the room. I looked around at the huge room, which looked like a ballroom, and it was completely different from the all-white, tiled hallways. I looked back to Maggie who was standing behind me, the doors now shut and the hallway now just a memory. I looked back to the large room, which had a few other people in it. There was a girl with high pigtails, tied with red ribbon, sitting at a grand piano in the corner of the room, playing a soft melody as her head bobbed along. She looked about ten and was in overalls, a yellow striped shirt underneath.
“That is Alyssa, she was brought to us when she was only four years old. Her parents were convinced she was a child of the Devil, able to do things no other child could.” I turned back to Maggie, who was now in a black button down shirt and jeans. She was smiling in the direction of Alyssa.
“What do you mean, ‘things no other child could’?” I asked her. She looked up at me and her smile faded slightly as if I said something horribly depressing. Then she looked back to Alyssa and sighed.
“About a week before Alyssa was brought to us, her parents told us, she killed her uncle,” Maggie said, her voice quiet. I opened my mouth to ask how, but Maggie was spreading answering my unspoken question. “How, you ask? Well, Alyssa developed her ability when she was very young, which isn't rare, but when you develop your powers young they are much harder to control. Alyssa has the ability to rob people of their life, their energy. And since she had no control over her powers, she accidentally killed her uncle simply by touching him. She was so young, she didn't understand what had happened. When her parents found Alyssa and her uncle dead, Alyssa told them that ‘they were just playing dead.’” Maggie took a deep breath and I put my hand on her shoulder hesitantly. She looked to me with a smile. “I know you don't completely understand yet, Mr Howser, why you're here, but we will help you.”
“Thank you, but could you answer some of my questions? Like, why did my…”
“Mr Howser, I will bring you to someone who will answer each and every single one of your questions. Just, wait here for a minute while I go and talk to them,” Maggie said, placing her hand on my shoulder. I nodded and Maggie walked off, leaving me alone in the large ballroom. I took this chance to observe the room. I looked up the walls and my eyes were brought to the ceiling where a large mural was painted. It was of a woman in an elegant gown that reached all the way to her ankles, with a large split down her left leg showing her tanned skin. She had her hands stretched out from her body and small flames were protruding from her open palms.
“It's pretty isn't it?” A voice from beside me asked. I quickly whipped my head towards the sound of the voice and it was a boy of about my same height, looking up at the mural. His skin was dark and his hair was curly and silver, some of it stuck to his forehead. He looked over at me, which revealed his blue-grey eyes that reflected the lights of the hanging chandeliers. I nodded mutely and looked back up to the mural, admiring the woman. “My name is Robin, if you were wondering,” said the boy next to me. I looked back to him and he was already looking at me, awaiting a response.
“My name is Oliver, nice to meet you,” I responded. I stuck out my hand for him to shake, which he accepted with a grin. “So, uh, you know who that is?” I asked Robin and he looked back up the mural and nodded.
“Yeah, that's the headmistress of his place. Her name is Farha Abdella, she's awesome,” Robin mooned with an excited smile. I have a soft chuckle at his enthusiasm over the fiery woman (Haha, get it? Since she has fire coming out of her hands? Ya know what, forget it).
“So, uh, Robin. How long…”
“How long have I been here?” Robin finished my sentence and looked back at me.
“Oh, can you read minds too? Like Maggie?” I asked curiously, but Robin laughed and shook his head.
“No, no. It's just a common question. That's the first question the newbies ask when they get here,” he responded. I felt my face heat up from embarrassment.
“Oh, gosh, I'm sorry. Was that, like, inappropriate to ask?” I asked him worriedly. He laughed again. I felt like a damn comedy show here.
“Nah, you're good. But I've been here for, hmm, let me see.” Robin counted it out on his fingers as if it's been that long he can't remember. “I've been here twenty four years and three months.” Okay, this guy must be playing with me. He obviously hasn't been here for that long, he looked like he was my exact age.
“Haha,” I laughed sarcastically, “but seriously, how long have you been here?”
“Robin is able to change their appearance, Mr Howser, that is not their true face.” I turned to see Maggie walking up to me with a smile. “Hello Robin,” Maggie greeted Robin, who gave a small wave in return. I looked between the two and sighed, pressing a hand to my head. The two laughed in unison.
“Robin, may I steal Mr Howser from you?” Maggie asked. Robin shrugged and said bye to me before crossing the room to a small figure sitting in a couch reading a book. Maggie put her hand on my shoulder. “May we go, Mr Howser?” I nodded in response and she walked me to the stairs. I looked over the ballroom once again and saw Alyssa, the girl at the piano, staring as I walked up the stairs. I gave her a small wave of acknowledgement and she just turned back around and continued playing a soft melody on the piano.
“She is like that to everyone, don't worry,” Maggie said to me reassuringly. I looked to Maggie with a smile and nodded. We walked down a long, carpeted hallway and when we reached the end and made a right turn and came across another set of grand double doors. Maggie pushed the doors open and it revealed a large office with loveseats on either side of the room and a desk placed in the far back, in front of a big set of windows. In the chair at a woman, the woman from the mural to be more specific. Maggie and I approached her desk together and Maggie gestured towards me. “This is Mister Oliver Howser, Ms Abdella. He was brought in this morning, as you know.” Maggie had a smile plastered on her face, but she seemed more tense now than before. I brought my eyebrows together in confusion.
“Yes, hello, mister Howser. You can call me Ms Abdella. It's a pleasure to finally meet you.” Ms Abdella offered her hand to me to shake. I took it cautiously, remembering the fire sprouting from her hands in the mural. We did a simple shake and she pulled her hand from mine and offered me a seat in one of the chairs in front of her desk. As soon as I sat down, Maggie did as well. I looked over to her and could tell she was nervous, or scared. Her back was straight up against the chair and she stared forwards towards Ms Abdella, but her leg was bouncing nervously and she was twiddling her fingers anxiously. What was she so anxious about? Was she scared of Ms Abdella?
“I understand you had some questions, Oliver?” Ms Abdella said, pulling me out of my headspace. I looked over at her and nodded. She leaned back in her chair with a small grin and folded her hands over her stomach.
“Yeah, um, so, where am I? Why am I here?” I asked and leaned forward in my chair.
“Well, Oliver, you are at the School for Enhanced Children, and you are here because you are indeed an enhanced child. Your mother told us about your ability, and signed you in to stay with us,” Ms Abdella said and got up from her chair and circled the desk and sat in front of us on the edge of the desk.
“What ability? I have no idea what you're talking about?” I shook my head, frustrated. “I've never known about any ability I've had before, so what ability do I have? Can I change my appearance? Read people's minds? Kill somebody by touching them?!” I snapped. I took a deep breath and put my face in my hands. After a few seconds, I lifted my head and rubbed my eyes.
“Listen, I'm sorry. I just, I'm really frustrated that I literally know nothing that's going on and everybody else does. I just feel left out of my own life.” I sighed and looked up at the headmistress who stared down at me, unblinking. I narrowed my eyes and leaned forward in my chair and waved my hand in her face. She didn't move. I continued waving my hand in her face, but she still didn't move. I felt my heart pounding again, adrenaline coursing through my body. I looked over at Maggie who had her hand out, stopped midair just inches from my face. I reached out and touched her hand, she didn't move.
“H-hello? Guys?” I said panicked. I rubbed my hands over my face and sighed heavily. Of course this would happen to me… Wait. Is this my ability? Is this the thing I can do? I, like, stop time? Well, I don't like it. I hate it. It just gives me bad anxiety. I reached out and waved my hand in front of Ms Abdella’s face again and when she didn't respond I groaned and threw my head back.
“Oliver.” I heard a voice say. I sat up and looked around and my eyes landed on Maggie. That's right, she could read minds and stuff! That means she could communicate through minds as well, right?
“Maggie?” I asked and reached out to touch her hand.
“Just focus on time, you can return it again. Patience yields focus,” Maggie's voice replied. I nodded and took a deep breath and focused my vision on Maggie. I strained myself for about ten minutes or something, who knows with this time stop, before I got frustrated and groaned at the “progress”.
“Mr Howser, you're not focusing. You're trying too hard, relax.”
“What the hell does that even mean?!” I snapped out of frustration. I shook my head and repeated to myself what Maggie had told me and closed my eyes. I reached out and grabbed Maggie's hand and pictures some giant clock in my mind slowly beginning to tick. I kept my eyes closed until the clock had returned ticking at a normal pace.
“Oliver, how was it?” Ms Abdella’s voice rang out. I opened my eyes and saw Maggie looking over at me with a smile. I then looked over to Ms Abdella.
“It was horrible,” I said bitterly and the two women released humored laughs.
“We will help you control it, don't worry,” Ms Abdella put a hand on my shoulder. Maggie nodded in agreement and I smiled.
“Thank you… So I'm staying here?” I asked them and Ms Abdella gave my shoulder a light squeeze.
“Yes Oliver, you will stay here. At least until you can control it.” Ms Abdella smiled. “Maggie will help you, she is very eager to help students who are struggling.” I looked over towards Maggie, who still had a hold on my hand.
“I will help, I want you to have a happy and stable life. I care about you, as I do all of my other students.” Maggie gave my hand a light squeeze and I nodded.
“Then I can't wait,” I said.