Chemical Numbers

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  • Published: 29 Oct 2013
  • Updated: 29 Sep 2014
  • Status: Complete
What if death didn't apply to you?

What if you could have infinite second chances at life?

That's what the Numbers seem to have, endless chances at life. They are mutants who come back to life every time they die. But, with the Numbers System in place, their chances of survival are zero. The Number System requires them to be tagged with numbers on their necks that drop as fifty more Numbers are executed each week using the chemical Agent-10, a chemical that strips Numbers of they're regenerative abilities.

Indie Caserento is a seventeen year old Number living with her sister, Adrian, in Manhattan. Working for a band of thieves has made them wealthier than most Numbers, but still on a count down to their deaths. They think they have a few more years left until their numbers are up, but when Adrian steals from the Monitors both of their numbers are dropped to zero. Their deaths seem imminent until the government makes them an offer that could change everything.

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20. Chapter 19

Most people have no idea what it's like to die and I hope they don't find out for a very long time. Unless, of course, I hate you, then it's more like I couldn't care less when you die.
Dying is like daydreaming. Well, it's not quiet as positive as daydreaming, but still, the two are fairly similar. As your heart stops beating the world around you goes fuzzy like when your mind starts wondering in class. Then it completely disappears and your left with only a vague idea of where you are and what you're supposed to be doing. Eventually that too fades and your left in a completely different space where your mind is just gone.
I've only died once before and I came back before I went beyond that point of complete nothingness. Now that the second time has come around the emptiness feels so much longer, so much denser, as if it were trying to consume me all together. I don't have the energy to push out of it and I'm not sure if I really want to. I have no where to be, right?
Darkness. It surrounds me in all direction like a galaxy that has lost it's stars. No light to be found anywhere, just a sprawling field of blackness that stretches it's fingers into eternity. There is something comforting about the complete darkness; it's warm and inviting like its here to protect me, to keep me safe. I don't know how long I've been cocooned in the dark, but I don't really care. There is no sense of time here and it's impossible to think straight, impossible to worry about anything. The only thing I'm aware of is the idea that someone will come take me out of the darkness, but I don't know where they'll take me.
***
"Adrian, we need to ke...." The noises fade in and out around me and I can't move. Where am I? What's happening? I just want to go back to sleep.
Someone's touching the side of my face and saying something to me, but I don't care. I just want them to leave me alone.
"We need to leave now," a new voice adds in. "She's dead and she's not coming back." I can't help but wonder who died. Was it someone I know? I hope not.
The person touching my cheek takes in a rattling breath as if they were crying. Wow, they must have really cared about the person that died, but they shouldn't be crying on me, I'm not a pillow. "Just one minute," the person whimpers, but the sound fades as they're roughly pulled away from me. 'Thank goodness. Now I can sleep again,' I think to myself as the sound of whimpering and feet move away from me.
The darkness falls over me again and I'm pulled back into the oblivion. The oblivion feels safer. There is no fear in the oblivion.
***
"She's dead, you idiot," a hollow voice snaps, come to think of it everything sounds hollow, the dripping of water on stone, the sound of feet thundering down a tunnel? Is that where I am? A tunnel? Weird. "You weren't supposed to kill her! They need her alive, it was part if the deal!"
"I was aiming for the blonde one, we don't need her, this girl just got in the way," another voice yells back.
"I wouldn't want to be the one to tell her that you killed Indie Caserento." Her? Indie Caserento? Who are these people and what do they have to do with me? They can discuss her and Indie Caserento elsewhere. Don't they know I'm trying to sleep?
"It was an accident!" one of the annoying people snaps at the other. I want to yell at them to be quiet, but I can't control my body. My lips refuse to form the words and my vocal cords stay frozen in my throat.
Shuffling feet indicate the first movement from the pair I've heard. "Doesn't matter. She's dead and she's supposed to be alive." Why does everyone keep talking about dead people?
"Should we take the body with us?" Fear leaks into the man's voice, a sudden shift from the anger. Who's he so afraid of?
"No, we have to go after the others."
There must be some sort of silent agreement because the pair takes off in a sprint down the tunnel, if that's where I am.
Silence. Finally. Yet, something nips at the back of my mind. I had forgotten everything, the only thing in my existance were the voice and the sleepiness, but now it trickles into my mind like a steady stream. Indie Caserento. That's me. I'm dead or at least they think I am. What happened? As if a dam broke in my mind the stream turns into a roaring river of memories.
Ross missing. Finding Mallery. Wreslting Kern. The Agent-10 bomb. My crushed ribs and bruised throat. The gun shot. Venaree's body. Mallery's shaking hands. The Monitors. Jumping into the sewer. The ringing of gunshots against stone. The impact. My blood. Blackness.
Those bastards shot me, well they were aiming at Mallery, but I made the decision to be a human shield. With the Agent-10 I should have been dead, how am I not dead? Any number of possiblities for my miracle of a survival run through my head, but only one makes any sense. The Agent-10 wore off. Most of the chemical wore off and I was able to regenerate even though it took longer than it should have.
I still don't have full control of my body, I can manage to wiggle my fingers, but when I try to move my limbs they flop around in a sporadic motion.
The others need me. They're being hunted by the Monitors at this very moment and all I can do is flop around like a fish out of water.
'Come on Indie,' I chastise myself. 'You're stronger than this. Get a grip for God's sake. You're friends need you. You're sister needs you. Think of Adrian. If you don't get up she'll die and she won't come back like you.'
With that last thought I manage to push myself onto my knees. There must have been at least a little Agent-10 in my system because the last time I died it took less than a minute to regenerate and get back on my feet. That's how long it's supposed to take, but who knows how long it took me to come back to this time. An hour? Two? No, less than that. The Monitors had been right on our tail. Four minutes max, I decide. That's still four times as long. A lot of wasted time.
My hands move to my chest as I take a deep breath and then my throat. No pain. I'm completely healed. There is not a single scratch on my body. No bullet hole, crushed ribs, or bruised throat. I'm a brand new person. The only evidence of my injuries is my blood soaked clothes.
I wipe the dirt that covers my face from my nose dive into the ground and wipe it on my shirt, letting it cover up just a little bit of the dried blood. Now my life will smear out the meaningless nature of my death the same way I thought my death had drowned out the meaning of my life. I am new. I am whole.
With a surge of strength I stumble to my feet and lean against the wall. My motor functions are coming back to me slowly, but surely. I can save Mallery, Adrian, and Kern. I have to save them. There is no other option. Not finding them could mean the end of the Numbers because who could I turn to if they died? Simoran and Grey certainly, but it doesn't seem fair to drag them into this, or maybe they are already involved just by letting me stay with them. I guess all Number are involved in this since it's a genocide against them.
With my legs solidly planted under me, I not so stealthly stumble through the sewer tunnels. My leg and arm can move a lot more freely than before since the bullet wounds from what feels like ages ago are gone. It's like I was never even at the Court House accept for the fact that the Monitors want to arrest for breaking out of the Court House. Funny how that works.
The sewer is grimier than the city above. The walls are covered in a slimy film of mold and the ground is a mixture of sewer water, rat droppings, and various types of garbage. Empty water jugs and card board boxes that could have once held anything from Monitor uniforms to what us Numbers affectionitly refer to as "mush", litter the ground, threatening to trip my unsteady foot and knock me onto my ass with every shaky step I take.
Rats squelch from behind the walls and one daringly runs between my feet unaware the my heavy tread might accidently stomp down on it's head. That's what it's probably like to be a Monitor, knowing you could simply stomp out a Number's life as easily as I could crush the rat's head with my foot. But, I wouldn't do that. Unlike the Monitors I actually have some value for life.
Trying not to trip over various trash items and fall into the stinky river that runs tthrough the center of the sewer becomes a sort of game for me as I slowly gain back my coordination and try to not think about Adrian, Mallery, and Kern. Worry will slow me down. Jump over that box, dodge that tattered pile of clothes, leap over the crate of spoiled food. As my skill comes back I'm sprinting down the sewer jumping and twisting around obstacles. Almost to the nearest man hole.
The sewers run under all the main streets so it's not any harder to navigate the sewer than the streets above considering I know where I entered the sewer.
I'm faster than I've been since I first went to the Court House, all my thief prowess coming back in it's entirety. Like this I'm almost as fast as Kern, who is by far the fastest person I know. I can catch up to the Monitors and save my friends. There is nothing to hold me back now.
I move at a break neck pace. The scurring rats and moldy, brown rat no longer a concern. The only thing that matters is the task ahead. My feets push my off one side of the sewer river and land solidly on the other. Adrenaline hums in my veins and blood roars in my ears.
The man hole cover is just above my head and I move up the ladder before squaring my shoulders to lift the heavy, metal disk. With a grunt and the sound of metal of concrete, the cover comes off a clatters onto the street above. I pull myself through the hole to find a few startled Numbers staring at me, but thankfully no Monitors. Even if there were Monitors I'd just out run them. They're probably still looking for me unless they got the message that I'm dead, but it didn't sound like the Monitors in the sewer were to keen on telling anyone.
I press a finger to my lip and wave my hand, telling the Numbers to disperse. Us Numbers generally help eachother out or at least turn a blind eye. There is no sense in giving one of your own an early death. There were times during my early days of stealing that a Number wandering the streets would see me breaking into a warehouse, but they's just turn away as if they'd seen nothing at all.
In my head I imagine the layout of the city. Kern said to meet at the shed where we fought. That's clear on the other side of the city and a long distance without cover plus Monitors on your tail. I'll have to move faster than I thought.
I probably look like a madwoman running through the streets at a furious pace and covered in blood. If Monitors see me they hopefully won't recognize me and I doubt they'll waste they're time chasing what they think will just be another Number. As long as no one disturbs them, you haven't done anythin illegal, like steal, or you're number hasn't hit zero, they really don't care what you do. A crazy chick running down Main Street will just be another day in Manhattan.
I don't know how many Monitors had been chasing us, but I know that the two who had stopped to hover over my body weren't the only ones. They were just making sure I was dead. The others will be even closer to Kern, Mallery, and Adrian.
Buildings whistle by me and I pay no head to them, they are mere obstacles, things getting between me and my friends. But, thankfully they are also getting between the Monitors and Kern. The Monitors rotate out every three toe four years, but Mallery, Kern, and Adrian have been here most of there lives. They know the streets better. They can use that to their advantage.
When I hit the trash littered beach and the toxic ocean I skid to an abrupt stop. Where are they? I can clearly see the shed where I fought Kern, Venaree, and Cano, but I don't see anyone now. A loud bang comes from one of the sheds and my heart squezzes. What was that?
I tentavily open the door and my heart leaps with relief. Inside are Kern, Mallery, and Adrian along with two unconcious Monitors. All three look like they're ready to fight until they realize it's me. Shock s painted evidently on their faces.
"What the hell?" Mallery exclaims.
"You guys left me in the sewer," I say with a smile.
Adrian lets out a strangled cry and wraps her armsa around me. Her face is buried in my bloody shirt, but she doesn't seem to care. "I'm here. I'm alive," I say as I place a steady hand on her back.
"We thought you were dead!" she sobs.
"I thought I was dead too," I admit as she pulls away from me eyes red from crying.
She wipes the tears from her cheeks and gives me a weak smile before grabbing me again. I hold her close afraid that if I let go one of us won't come back. I thought I had lost her once and she just thought she had lost me, neither of us needs to go through that again.
"What happened?" I ask Kern in a shaky voice.
"I'll explain later and hopefully you'll be able to tell us what happened to you, but we need to get out of here. Two Monitors already found us, more will be coming," he says quickly as his eyes dart around me and Adrian to watch the streets.
"Alright," I say. "Lead the way."

 

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