Mind Games

In a world slowly drawing to an end, a strange mutated disease manifests. Youths who suffer from heterochromia suddenly have the ability to project their thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations directly into the minds of their peers. These Freaks, as they are called, as a menace to society and a danger to the populace, are sent into government controlled isolation camps, where their new powers cannot harm others. However, the government hides a horrible secret. Within these compounds, hundreds of experiments are being preformed upon the healthy, unwanted children who find themselves placed there. Because the men in power don't really want a cure. They want an army.
In the midst of their suffering, two unlucky teenagers find each other and, through their bond, stay sane in a world going mad. But can love really save a life, or is it all just a lie concocted to make them more malleable?

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4. Blood

            We met in the alley, as arranged. I got there first, for once, so I was kept waiting. I wished I hadn’t been the first one there because I’d already worked up the nerve to confront him, and now I was losing it.

            “Hey!” 114’s voice was much too loud in the still night, but I didn’t mind. As soon as I saw him, I took a deep breath and readied myself. Apparently, 114 saw me. “Whatcha doin waitin ‘round here?”

            I couldn’t help myself then. 114’s attempt at nonchalant slurring was ludicrous, and we both knew it. Pulling myself together long enough to gasp in a breath between giggles, I shrugged. “Just looking to see what the night’s got by way of company.” I leaned toward him conspiratorially. “You know, I hear that there’s this kid that sneaks out every night to meet a girl. Apparently, this is a really good place to hang.”

            “‘Course it is! Just look at the scenery!”

            I looked at the overflowing garbage bin full of old food and wrinkled my nose. “Ok, sorry, but not really my idea of romantic…”

            114 laughed. “Oh? Didn’t know you had such high standards.” And he grabbed me easily into his arms and brought his face to mine. Out kiss was hot and hungry, like a starving dog offered a bone. It was intoxicating. The feeling of his lips pressed against mine made my mind go nuts. And then I felt my head explode in pain.

            His hand clamped shut across my mouth as I screamed. I jerked, trying to pull away, but he held tight. Who was this man, attacking me like this? Father always did warn me about walking at night, but really. No one actually got attacked like this, did they?

            I stopped screaming and looked up at my assailant, and somehow his eyes looked familiar. They were golden, but the left iris was a little darker, especially around the tiny indent near the bottom. I knew those eyes from somewhere. The ringing in my ears quieted enough for me to hear his voice. “793! Quit it!” As soon as he realized that I wasn’t going to scream, he let go of my mouth. I thought about running, but knew I wouldn’t make it. This boy looked fast. “Sheesh! What was that about!”

            “Please… please let me go! I swear I won’t tell anyone, just let me go! I need to get home before my dad gets mad.”

            The boy looked at me like I was crazy. “793, what are you talking about?” He squinted at me, then narrowed his eyes. “Shit! What did they do?” I felt a burst of pain in my head and hot tears ejected themselves from my eyes with a sob. The world around me seemed to ripple a little, as if I was underwater. And then, as suddenly as the pain had appeared, it was gone.

            I was in a dark alley behind the Trough, lying on my back on the ground with 114 crouched worriedly over me. All around me, grass was poking its way out of the parched dirt and garbage. “What’s wrong? What is this?”

            “793, I need to tell you something, and it’s important. Are you going to flip out on me again, or will you just listen. After I say it, you can tell them if you want, but hear me out first, alright?” And then I remembered.

            “I forgot you! 114, what’ s happening?” The tears came again, insistent. They didn’t want to stop. But this time, they were just ordinary tears. There was no pain with them, no pounding in my head. “What’s happening to me? I didn’t recognize you at all!”

            114 took a deep breath before answering. “It’s my fault. Look, there’s something you need to know about me. I’m-”

            But I interrupted. “I know you’re a Freak, alright.” When he gaped at me in astonishment, I sighed and continued. “I’ve known since they tried to whip you. That night, I came, if you remember. Your left eye was dark, and blood was leaking down your cheek.”

            114 laughed. “But I’m not a Freak! Don’t you get it! At least, I wasn’t born one. My… uncle…he thought he’d found something amazing. He’d thought he could make a way to control the Freaks. He was wrong. What he made was me, and a couple others like me. I’m a Channel. I can maneuver the Freak abilities into safe hosts, where they won’t do as much damage.”

            “So you picked me.” I realized it as I spoke. “That night at the campfire, that was your mind I felt, directing the Freak into mine. It was always you.” Horror built in me. 114 was the reason I had been sent to Testing. He was the reason for my scar, for the pain and the headache.

            “I’m sorry, I’m so sorry. I just reacted instinctively that night. I lashed out, and I reacted, and I was so tired, and-”

            “Just shut up.” I threw my arms around 114. I hadn’t realized how much the idea that he’d been a Freak scared me. Now that I knew he wasn’t, my anger was dying. “Just shut up, you idiot.” When I’d finally recovered enough that the tears stopped staining 114’s jacket, I pulled back. And I gasped.

            “What? What’s wrong?” 114 shook me, his hands on my shoulders. Maybe he thought that I was having another memory loss episode.

            But I just pointed. “Your eye,” I said. “It’s totally black.”

            “Shit!” He looked freaked out, panicked. “Ok, relax, we’re fine, no one’s around. Just give me a sec.” He drew back and turned around, then he struck out and hit the wall hard enough to break the skin on his knuckles and cursed again. “Shit!”

            Then he grabbed me again with one hand, his other hand reaching down toward his boot. “Ok, listen, 793, there’s no mirror. There’s no way for me to see what I’m doing, so you gotta do it for me. It’s not hard, just stick it in slow.”

            And I saw what he held up. A thick, sharp metal splinter, faintly reminiscent of a needle. “No way in hell.”

            “Listen, please, if they see it, they aren’t going to hesitate. Please!”

            “No.”

            114 took a deep breath and sagged against the wall. He closed his eyes and looked so… defeated. I felt terrible, like I was betraying him somehow. So I turned away, and started looking through the pile of junk on the ground. Then I found one of the metal lids from a can. The shiny aluminum was perfect.

            “Use this.” I held it out to 114, and he actually smiled. It was just a tiny quirk at the corners of his mouth, but it was enough.

            “Thanks.” I had to turn away as he held up the lid and brought the metal splinter toward his eye. I waited a few moments, waiting for the cry of pain I was sure was coming, but nothing happened. After a minute, 114’s hand closed on my shoulder.

            “It’s done.” I spun around and saw that he was being honest. The dent I’d noticed before was more pronounced – a tiny prick of red in the sea of gold. The entire left side of his face was covered in smeared blood, as was his shoulder.

            “How do they not notice this?” I asked, pointing to what I was sure would be a hugely obvious stain.

            114 smiled a little at my obvious attempt to avoid talking about the fact that he’d just stabbed his own eye. “I get in a fight, make sure I lose. They just assume I’ve got a broken nose or something.”

            “How often does it... do you… you know?”

            The boy shrugged. “Every few weeks. More often when I’m agitated.”

            I took a moment to ponder this. “Are you agitated right now?”

            He smiled and winked at me. “You agitate me. I see you and I just want to-” The rest of 114’s words were lost as his lips met mine, crushing me against him. Every line of my body fit perfectly into him, like two pieces of a puzzle. I had the feeling that without 114, I wasn’t whole.

            It was a strange experience, being friends with a boy only for the sake of the freedom it allotted us. Kissing him just because we could. Laughing conspiratorially, because, while the Camp watched us constantly and allowed no interaction, we managed to smuggle this time. This time was ours. And it was then, tangled with the boy who’d become my friend and accomplice in this act of defiance, practically buried in old garbage and empty boxes, that I realized that, while what we had wasn’t real love, it was love all the same. I cared about 114 in a way I hadn’t cared about anyone since being sent to Camp. Since being separated from my brothers, sacrificed so that they might have a chance at life.

            “You ever get the feeling like this was meant to happen? Like you had really no choice in it at all, and you’re just a pawn on someone’s chess board?” I asked as soon as I had my breath back and my heart-rate had slowed to a normal speed.

            “Nope. No government or official or even God Himself can force me into anything.” 114 looked me in the eye, his face solemn. “We live our lives. The Camp can tell us what to do, but even they can’t manipulate what we think and feel, no matter what they say. And God leaves us to stand or fall on our own.”

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