A Thousand Ways to Pay a Price

After escaping nearly being kidnapped, Teresa and Maya are on the run. Not knowing why they are being chased or who's following them, their only hope is to find the mysterious organization known as Infinity.


2. Teresa

I walk through the doorway and pause in shock. I take a few steps forward to clear the way for Maya, after she bumps into me. She looks around and I see her amber eyes widen. 

"How?? What??" I'm at a loss for words. The door closes behind us and disappears. "Maya, I've a feeling we're in Kansas anymore!" I laugh nervously. The rope handcuff things didn''t come through the doorway with us. I rub the bruises they left on my wrists.

"Teresa! Is this really the time to be making jokes?" she scolds. I can tell she's even more confused than I am and something normal, like my comment, is helping her grasp reality, if that's what this is.

Ok! Wait! Let me fill you in:

So here's what you know, I'm heading for Maya's place when I'm very rudely interrupted by a faux police officer. After that I get to her place and people try to kidnap us. I mean, really? Kidnapping? That's so clich�! Anyways, people are just out to ruin my day. 

So, this magic door appears out of nowhere and we both escape through it. And, you guessed it! It teleports us to right outiside City Hall! City Hall! I mean, what the hell is going on?? Did someone slip me some magic mushrooms??

"This is really weird...That's City Hall!" Maya says, pointing. Thank you captain obvious!

"No, really? I hadn't noticed!" I pause at her hurt look, but decide to continue anyway. I'm in a bad mood, "Sorry, I'm just a little stressed right now, almost getting kidnapped can do that to someone."

"I meant this is is even more weird than it seems," she explains not bothering to tell me off, she knows when I get this way it's best to just ignore me and not start an argument, "I was thinking about this place when the door appeared."

"What are you trying to say? You somehow made the door? Let's get back to that later, once we have more information to make assumptions. At the moment, I'm wondering : why has no one's noticed two girls come out of a magic door?" I ask turning around slowly, looking at all the people around us. There's a young couple, a family with their kids, a group of friends and some homeless people.

I freeze when I see one of the homeless men in hysterics. The thing that really sets me off are his eyes. They're milky white and don't have pupils. 'He must be blind,' I think.

Even though he can't see, his gaze seems to be piercing me. "The two girls who came through the door! Come by for a visit!" he yells and keeps laughing, but quieter now.

I start walking towards him, when Maya grabs my arm. Her charcoal bangs falls in front of her eyes, "What are you doing?" she demands.

"Going to see the man?"

"You're going to go see some homeless man just because he asks you to? Ever heard of stranger danger? Look at him! He's probably lost it!"

"You're such a worry wuss. He's just as sane as I am."

"Oh that's reassuring!"

"Come on Maya, look around! Out of this entire place nobody noticed anything except him. Maybe he has answers!"

I pull my arm out of her grip and walk towards the man. After a moment, Maya follows hesitantly.

As we approach she continues trying to convince me to turn around.

"We were almost kidnapped less than two minutes ago, and now your willingly walking towards a complete stranger? For all we know he might be working with the people trying to kidnap us!"

"He's a blind old man, what can he do to us?"

"A lot!"

I sigh, "Tell you what, the second he seems shady we'll leave. Ok?"

"He already seems shady!" but she sees the look on my face and gives up. She knows how stubborn I can be, "Fine, but the second he seems even the slightest bit fishy, we're leaving."

I smile, triumphant.

We get to where the old man is sitting against a wall, and I sit down next to him. Maya remains standing in front of him. I can tell she's nervous.

"How does a blind man see two girls walk through a magic door, when the rest of the world doesn't?" I ask him.

He chuckles, "Most people these days only see what they want to see. I'm not most people."

"And what makes you so special?" I inquire.

"I rely on my ears more than most, I picked up your conversation. You don't have to worry, I'm a User, just like you."

"A what??" Maya and I say in sync.

"That's what the man without a mask called us," Maya remembers aloud.

I look up at her and notice she's fidgeting and can't say still. "What's wrong?" I ask.

"I just need to- I have this urge to- It's like a craving really- I really need to pet a cat!" she bursts out.

I give her a look, while the man says, "You're in luck! I happen to have a cat." He whistles and calls, "Shadow!"

I blink and where I could've sworn there was nothing a moment ago sits a black cat with a patch of white fur on his left hip shaped like a crescent moon. The cat seemed to appear like the door did... I decide to file this thought away for later.

The man pets the cat affectionally, "This is Shadow," he introduces, "you can keep him." He releases the cat - Erm... Shadow - who jumps into Maya's arms, where she starts petting him with a relish.

The man laughs again, "He seems to like you. How rude of me! I haven't introduced myself. You can call me Bill."

"I'm Teresa and this is Maya," I say, not bothering to gesture, because the recipient of this information is blind. "Back to what you said before," I say, changing the direction of the conversation, "you said we were Users?"

"I did," Bill confirms.

"What are Users?" Maya asks.

He seems a little shocked, "You're serious? You ain't pulling my leg now, are ya? No? You're serious? Oh... Newbies then? I just wanted to have a chat with some young ladies and then... Whew! Ok... Umm... Where to start? Well, first thing you need to know is that Users are people with superpowers. It's not some slang for drug users and we're not using some kind of fancy drug to get our powers. But ya see, we don't get these amazing powers for free now. Everyone has a 'Price' they have to pay every time they use their powers. It varies from person to person, as do powers. So, basically that's the main things you've got to know. Let me think for a second... I feel like I'm forgetting something..." 

A year ago I wouldn't believed him. Come to think of it, I wouldn't have believed him yesterday... But with all that's been happening... I mean, you only see this kind of stuff in books and movies and fairy tales and make believe stuff like that... But the things I've seen today... You just can't do that with special effects or slights of hand. Wait a second... Are we in the Matrix?? No, that's ridiculous... This has to be real, there's no possible way to fake up this level of things. I mean, a rose turning into a rope? A doorway leading from Maya's living room to City Hall of all places? That means Bill is... Telling the truth! Wait! City Hall? Didn't Maya say something about thinking about this place when the door appeared? That means...

"My God! Maya? You know what you were saying, about thinking about this place when the door appeared? That's your power! Making doorways between different places!" I burst out, finishing my thought aloud.

"So then, what's my price?" she replies. I can tell she believes Bill now, but still doesn't trust him 100%. She's probably at more of a 78ish%.

"It can be something you have an irresistible urge to do, or you may find yourself unable to do something. For example, you have to play hopscotch or you're unable to lie or your hearing's getting worse or you've aged or you have to eat pizza. It's usually something like that. Once in a while you see a really no big deal one, where it's like touching your tongue to the roof of your mouth, or something super easy to do, like that. And sometimes you see people who's Price is something awful, like drinking blood or breaking a finger," Bill explains.

"I think my Price is petting a cat," Maya says, still stroking Shadow.

Bill laughs again, "Like I said, you should keep him. He'll come in handy, I promise ya. Dead useful, that one is," he motions in the general direction from where you can hear quiet purring. 

"How come no one knows about Users? You'd think people would have realized..." I adjust my position, somewhat uncomfortable, "And is there a way to tell someone's - power - before they've ever used it?" 

Bills's eyes widen in realization and he smiles in sympathy, "Unless you've used your power, there's really no way of telling what it is or if you even have one," he explains, "though, once you have used your power for the first time you get a mark on your skin that looks like a black tattoo. It can be connected to your power or your price. See, mine is on my forehead and it's an eyeball," he pushes up his long shaggy bangs and Maya and I lean in to get a better look, "As answer to your other question, like I said earlier, people don't notice what they don't want to notice. They block out all information that doesn't match their version of reality. Also all Users have been working really hard to keep this on the down low. We don't want to be captured and worked on as experiments or anything."

"It's like the guy in my living room, he had a tattoo of a broken mirror," Maya points out, "and Teresa, I think you have to be a User, because the man without a mask said we both were, remember?" 

"I'm not sure if that's a good thing or a bad thing," I say under my breath.

Bill gasps, "Did you say broken mirror? That means... Damn! I should have guessed! I only caught the end of your conversation, so it didn't seem like it, but... You guys were almost kidnapped right?" not waiting for a response he continues, "That means you're on their radar. This is more serious than I thought... You two just love skipping me when you're handing out the important information, don't you? They're probably heading here right now..."

"Who's heading here? The people who tried to kidnap us?" a note of panic registers in Maya's voice.

"They don't have a name... We call them the Underworld. Everywhere you go assume they're watching you. Their goal : gaining power to achieve world domination. Their ideal world is one where the weak are subject to the strong. Their group consists of both Users and normal people - if you can call them that. They have a User who can sense other Users, that's the man they sent to find you. They collect Users and brainwash them into joining their cause. They have agents in every country, every city, every organization in the world. Well... Except one : Infinity. You'll be safe there, they take in fugitives running from the Underworld. Basically everyone there is a User. You've got to go find their base. Go! Now!" Bill gives us directions and I quickly memorize them. He is practically shouting now and is motioning upwards with his hands, "Wait! You got cellphones?"

"Umm... Ya," I say, taking mine out. Maya doesn't have hers.

"Pull the battery and leave it here with me, they can use it to track you."

"Wait, you're not coming?" I say shocked as I do as he asks and drop the phone and the battery by his feet.

"An old geezer like me? Nah, I'd only slow ya down. Go now, they're coming. Don't worry I'll lead them off your trail. Now, Maya I need you to open one of your doors to a forest somewhere."

"But I don't know how..." she starts.

"It's ok, I'll lead you through it," Bill encourages, "Picture a forest you've been to once. You've got the image in your head? Good. Now what does the forest smell like? What sounds can you hear? How does the ground feel against your feet? How do the leaves feel against your skin? What does the air taste like? Add all the senses into your picture. Now, move yourself there, take yourself there. You aren't here, you're in that forest."

I see a leafy door that's made out of wood that looks like it's part of a living tree appear. The entire door looks alive.

"Ok," says Bill, "go now! Teresa, I hope you quickly figure out how to use that power of yours, it'll come in handy. Good luck and godspeed!" he pushes us through the open door.

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