Wings

{Shortlisted for the Sony Young Movellist of the Year 2013! - DUE TO BE EDITED}

Firstly, it was just the prisoners that were used.

Then it became orphans, and even some of the elderly.

Now it is everyone in a society where people are struggling to find work.

Money is offered to anyone willing to volunteer themselves or their children to take part in scientific trials run by the organisation called Calox.

Except no one ever gets the money.

No one is ever seen again once they've volunteered for the trials.

---- Copyright © 2014 Danielle Paige. All rights reserved.

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4. Chapter 3

 

Sara wasn’t sure exactly why she was flying. All she knew was that she was miles above the ground, soaring through the cold night air. In a way it soothed her – maybe she was on her way to heaven and the suffering was over. On a more negative note, she could be plunging towards hell. It wasn’t like she cared anyway. She’d never believed in either of them.
   The ground looked so distant, almost blurred from such a height. She felt like she was lighter than air itself, as if she was levitating, and found that it required no effort to do so. She drifted thoughtlessly through the sky, looking back to see that she still wearing the same scruffy black trainers she’d been wearing in the prison.
   Upon remembering the prison, she dipped a little, trying to think back to what had happened. She was sure that she’d died, especially now she was flying, but wasn’t able to recall why she’d died. She screwed up her face in frustration; her curiosity overwhelmed her and she realised she was falling faster than she thought was possible. The ground was getting closer and closer with every passing second, and Sara was filled with disappointment as she realised that she was going to die... again.
   She closed her eyes for a moment, opening them again in time to see that the ground was only metres away. She hadn’t slowed down and knew that her second death would be painless compared to her first, not that it made her feel any better about the predicament she was in. She was so near to the ground now that she could make out the individual blades of grass stood innocently below her. Bracing for the inevitable impact, she closed her eyes, only to find that – when she opened them – she was back in her cell.
   “Sara!” Ford cried, “You’re back, at last.”
   She rubbed her eyes without saying a word and looked up at the two men crouching protectively around her. So many questions flooded her mind, taunting her, mocking her inability to form words. She was exhausted, but unhurt. Her hands found her neck and she massaged her throat softly; she arched her back slightly and noticed that part of her body was scraping the rough wall. Her eyes widened with her breath caught in her throat. She was sat over a foot away from the wall, so why could she feel it.
   “What happened to me?” Sara demanded, “What did you do?” 
   There was a short silence before Eric mumbled: “You survived, Sara. The first in the whole of the prison to accept a strand – number seventy of avian.”
   Her mouth fell open and then awkwardly shut again. One eyebrow rose slightly as she began to think through the finer details of her situation. She skimmed her hand over her shoulder and let it creep down her back until it came into contact with something soft, which she let her fingers travel along. There was a small fold where part of the object was pinned beneath her elbows and she gasped as she realised that, not only could she feel the softness beneath her fingers, she could feel her fingers against whatever the object was.
   “You’ve changed,” Eric tried to explain slowly, “You have, well, wings.”
   Sara nearly screamed. She’d expected to die – she’d actually wanted to – not to be stuck with some feathers protruding from her back. Eric and Ford both sensed her disappointment. It was hard for Ford to know he’d done this to a girl who’d rather have died than survived it, but at the same time, he could barely contain his excitement. Sara had lived through it, as painful as the process may have been, and grown beautiful white feather wings.
   “Wings,” Sara repeated, as if it was some sick joke, “Why didn’t I die? Why didn’t you kill me?”
   Ford raised his hands in surrender: “You were able to handle the mutation to your DNA. You’re extraordinary – everything we’ve worked so hard to achieve! You can’t possibly think that these are a bad thing, can you?”
   “Yes!” Sara exclaimed, “I’m a freak. I’m part bird!”
   Eric stood between the two defensively; ready to break up a fight that hadn’t even started yet. The aura that hung in the air was a negative one, fuelled by rage and disbelief. Sara stood up, rising to her full height, and stretched her wings out so that the tips crumpled up against either side of the cell. It was only then that Eric realised that the DNA had mutated her beyond humanity. She was something else, harnessing the energy of the eagle. Somehow she looked more graceful and powerful, almost intimidating.
   “You’re not a freak,” Ford said in awe, “You’re incredible – something new.”
   Sara wasn’t listening anymore. She was trying to find the strength to make her wings function; her extra limbs were proving to be quite hard to use. It was almost like learning to walk all over again. She managed a slight twitch and was knocked backwards by the sudden rush of knowledge – all at once, she knew exactly what to do. She felt the power flow through her veins and stretched her wings further, gently lifting them inch by inch.
   “Sara...” Eric warned.
   But she still wasn’t listening. Instead, she was trying to flap her wings as elegantly as she could without damaging herself. She’d finally been able to think of her wings as a part of her, not a separate object she carried around with her. They were connected by skin, flesh, and bone; she really had changed into something different and it was making her stronger. She nearly lost focus when her feet lifted from the concrete below them but managed to maintain her unstable hovering for a matter of seconds, her wings gracefully slicing the air on either side of her.
   “The subject appears to be responding well to the mutation,” Eric was reporting to the video camera that was still monitoring everyone in the room. “The subject’s flight ability is strong.”
   Sara didn’t even care about the camera or the two men in the room anymore. She felt so alive and was so close to freedom that it she was ready to fly out of the prison. However, her flying was draining and she found herself crumpling against the floor as her wings stopped. There was a dull ache in her shoulders that she couldn’t ignore, but otherwise, she remained completely uninjured.
   “Guards,” Ford peeked out of the cell at the waiting guards, “You must ensure this subject does not escape. Get her anything she asks for – we’re not sure what dietary effects the changes will have made.”
  The guards nodded as both understood and memorised the instruction. Then Eric and Ford stood up. The camera had been switched off and the two men were leaving the cell, leaving Sara to cope with all the confusing thoughts swirling inside her brain. Alone and in the dark, she felt more alone than ever. Tears formed in her eyes, clouding her vision, but she did nothing to stop them and just let them fall silently down her pale cheeks.
   Instinctively, her wings wrapped around her for both warmth and comfort. She felt the softness of her feathers brush against her bare arms, drying some of the tears that had dropped onto her skin. Pressed tightly against the wall, she closed her eyes to stop the tears flowing, and tried her hardest to get some rest.

*

When she finally woke up, there was a tall, slender woman towering over her. She had silky brown hair flowing down past her shoulders and piercing green eyes that had seen too much. Her forehead was creased with wrinkles and there was a scar running through her left eyebrow that ruined the symmetry of her face.
   “Sara Worthington,” the woman said abruptly, “Congratulations. You seemed to have survived the DNA alteration.”
   She was stating the obvious, treating her like she was stupid. Sara’s blood began to boil so she stood up and began to unfold her wings but the woman was prepared. She lashed out, striking Sara just below the ribs to wind her. Then three guards entered her cell, increasing how confined she already felt, and grabbed at her. She tried to move but there was nowhere to go. The guards locked their grips on her and dragged her, crying from the cell. The woman’s laughter echoed throughout the floor, filling the other children with a sense of unforgettable dread.
   The woman stopped at the young boy in the cell next to Sara’s. Smirking, she rattled the bars of his door and whispered to him: “You’re next.”
   Sara began to wriggle out of the first guard’s grip, blasting her wings into the sides of the other two and trying to run. One guard reacted faster than the others, charging after her. The woman whistled to get his attention before throwing a taser towards him, which he caught and fired instantly. Sara dropped to her knees, convulsing as the electrical charge jolted through her body.
   “Sara,” the woman snapped at her, “Where do you think you’re going?”
   Sara couldn’t answer. She was held down by a terrible force that drained the life out of her. She could hear the clicking of the woman’s heels as she approached and saw that she was wearing black leather boots as she got nearer. She crouched down next to her, knowing that Sara was defenceless.
   “You are going to become one of the finest fighters in the world,” she whispered to Sara sweetly, “You will fight for us, and you will win. You will use your powers for the survival of the human race and our dominance over the machines.”
   “You’re c-crazy,” Sara managed to choke out.
   The woman threw her head back and laughed loudly: “No, Sara. I’m not the crazy one. Our governments are crazy, thinking that we won’t fight back. Well, we are – and we’re using our own resource: us.”
   The guards had caught up now and lifted Sara up, before strapping her wings to her back with strips of what looked like denim. She struggled against them but it was a waste of what little energy she had left and she found herself barely able to move; she felt even more trapped than when she was in the cell. The woman grabbed her with the guards, leading her towards the stairs, and pushing her down the first few steps. Sara walked slowly, taking long, deliberate strides, conserving as much of her strength as she was able to.
   “Where are we going?” Sara asked, “Where are you taking me?”
   “I told you, Sara,” the woman answered, “You’ll fight for us, and for that, you’ll need to be trained. You will learn to fight, to hurt, and to kill.”
   Sara’s heart sank. She was still young and had only ever been in a couple of fights. She was strong and was light on her feet, but was far from a killer. She’d never even thought about what it would be like to have someone’s blood on her hands – it was the type of dirt that she could never wash away, an incurable guilt.
   “I can’t,” Sara admitted, “It’s a waste of time training me. I can’t kill people.”
   The woman simply laughed. 

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