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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4. Chapter 3

By tomorrow morning I'm sure someone will have let those Monitors out of the closet and the first thing they will do is report Mallery and me. They'll give a description and before I know it every Monitor in the city will know exactly what we look like and will hunt us down. I can't let them catch me. If they catch me they will kill me. They'll throw me to the ground and press their Counter to my neck. I can practically feel the burning sensation as the numbers drop lower and lower, as my life is ripped away.

I don't know what it will feel like to have Agent-10, the reaper drug, running through my veins, but I imagine it's like liquid fear. Stripping me of what makes me a Number and ultimately stripping me of my life. It must be horrible to know your going to die when your number hits zero and the cool liquid shoots through your body. At least nobody feels it for long, they're knocked out and before they know it they are dead.

'No, I'm not going to die,' I tell myself. 'They won't find me.'

The lock on our front door still works, but the apartment didn't exactly come with a key, so when both Adrian and I leave we have to lock the front door and climb in and out of the window. I look up at the apartment building I live in, part of me just wants to lay in this ally and give up, but the other part is terrified of what would happen if I did.

My feet are planted firmly, one on the ground and one on the window sill of a first floor apartment. Using my legs, I push myself up until I can feel the cool stone of a second story window sill. The sun is already up, so I'll have to hurry. Hand over hand, foot over foot, I quickly wake my way to my apartment and force open the window. My legs swing inside followed by my body.

The apartment is just as empty, small, and dirty as when I left it, but now it is my safehaven more than it ever was before. The smell of soot and old food hangs in the air as it always has, yet it feels comforting now.

I sit on our torn up couch and press my hands to my forehead. If I just stay calm this will all blow over. The window screeches open and Adrian pulls into the apartment. She sits down next to me with a thud but I don't look up.

"Maura told me what happened with you and Mallery. Are you okay?" Adrian asks. Adrian isn't usually the sympathetic type, but she is always there for me no matter what.

I look into her big, blue eyes and give her the best answer I can. "I'll be fine. Just know if they find me you'll have to keep moving."

Adrian gives me a horrifies look. "They aren't going to find you."

"But, if they do-" I start but she cuts me off.

"They won't."

"You don't know that for sure," I tell he.

"Yes, I do. I won't let them find you," she says almost viciously. Sometimes I feel like the younger sibling with Adrian, she's always so fiercely protective over me.

I give her the best smile I can manage in the situation. "Alright lil' sis, I guess my life is in your hands."

I stand up with Adrian grinning at me like a maniac. I spent the entire night running and hiding, so now I'm pretty wiped. The bedroom door creaks open as I stumble into the room. I really don't want to change, but I can't ruin my barely usable sheets with my soot covered clothes.

When I've put on a fresher pair of the standard baggy, white shirt and pants I crawl into my bed. As soon as my head hits the pillow my eyes flutter shut and I enter a deep, dark sleep.

The rain comes pouring down around me. I know I'm not supposed to leave the apartment, but when I saw the rain clouds rolling across the sky. Going to the roof just before it rains and just waiting is one of my favorite things to do, there is something so reviving about that first rain drop falling onto your skin. This is the time I think best.

Every time I come up here I get stuck in the rain since climbing the building during a storm is definetly not safe. The water soaks through my clothes and I usually end up getting a cold, but I don't care.

I hold my legs to my chest and rest my chin on top of my knees. The water has already managed to drench every inch of me and it runs across my skin like small rivers. It tangles itself in my hair and finds its way into my green eyes making them water, yet every drop makes me feel alive.

Today I chose to sit right at the edge of the roof even though I usually prefer to sit right in the center. I guess I felt like testing death today even though I can't die.

The veins of the street below me are empty, most people are at the factories and the rest have taken refuge from the rain, so they only run with water. That's another reason I like coming up here when it's raining, I can see the streets run with water instead of fear.

"Indie," a voice says quietly from behind me, no more than a whisper in the wind.

My neck cranes to see behind me and my eyes desperately search through the sheets of rain, but there is nobody there. I turn back to the street and dismiss the clearly nonexistent voice.

"You need to leave, " the voice comes again with more urgency. I can tell now that the voice is masculine, but I don't recognize it.

I now crouch in the rain on edge. "Who's there?" I call out because I still can't see anyone.

"Indie, you need to leave!" the voice insists with great urgency/

"Why?" I demand. "Who are you?"

"Leave! Go! Now!" the voice is yelling at me and I find myself on my feet ready to flee.

"Why?" I beg the voice. "Where do I go?"

"Away from here. Just go!" the voice yells.

Before I can move away from the edge a pair of hands, no more visible than who ever was speaking to me, press against my shoulders and push me off the roof. My body falls through the air like a stone from a cliff, wild and unpredictable. The rain pelts me from all directions and stings my skin having suddenly picked up in intensity.

My neck feels like a hot coal has been pressed to it and I know what's happening. My number is dropping. When I hit that pavement I won't come back to life.

Each number burns into my skin as it drops lower and lower. I can feels the numbers changing.

22967

15438

8021

Everything around me flashes around me in rapid succession as I zoom towards the ground.

1956

534

236

59

The pavement is getting dangerously close and I can practically feel my bones breaking on the hard cement.

5

4

3

2

1...

I sit up in bed with a start. Sweat drips from my face as if I actually had been in the rain. The terror from the dream still pounds in my heart, but it wasn't real. I'm still safe.

The worn carpet tickles at the bottom of my feet like grass in one of the fields in the free world. The pantry door opens with a click and the smell of stale food wades into the air around me. I pull out one of our weekly gallons of water. Numbers are only allowed to buy four gallons of water per person in their house for one week. The first gallon was already empty and it was only Sunday.

With a sigh I pull out the empty gallon and set it on the counter, I'll have to get it filled at the end of the week. I'll have to hold back on the water for tonight, we never know when we'll need it.

 The sky outside is both dark and no rain clouds in site, though; my dream still hangs over me like one. I'm about to go back to bed when I hear a sharp knock on the door followed by words that make my heart sink.

"Open up! This is the Monitors and if you don't comply I can assure you that you won't like what happens!" a heavy voice demands.

I want to sit down and cry or possibly throw up, but I can't do that. I have to act. My body reacts before my mind does and I run back to the bedroom. There is no way I'm handing myself or my sister over to the Monitors.

"Adrian, you need to wake up," I say hastily as I enter the room, but she's already awake. "Come on we got to go. They came for me."

She just sits on the bed. "They didn't come for  you, Indie."

"What? Of course they did. Now let's go," I say with more force as more banging comes from the door.

She looks at me with her blue eyes that contrast with her tan skin. "They came for me, not you."

I had my fingers wrapped around her wrist getting ready to pull her towards the door, but now I drop her arm. "Adrian, what did you do?"

"I-" she begins, but is cut of when a loud splintering comes from the front.

The Monitors stream into the apartment, there are at least ten of them, we stand no chance of escaping now. Adrian stands up as three of the Monitors come into the bedroom with their guns pointed at us, which seems kind of silly since we can't die and there is no Agent-10 running through our veins.

"Put your hands up and get down on your knees, both of you," a wolf-like woman demands.

Adrian and I drop to our knees knowing that we can't escape. Two Monitors come behind us and grab our hair pulling us back and exposing the numbers on the side of our necks. They pull out their Counters and hold them to the side of our necks waiting to turn them on.

The wolf-like woman stands in front of us in her stiff, black uniform and watches us like prey. "Which one of you stole the card?"

"The what?" I ask confused.

The woman narrows her eyes at me and says viciously, "The acces card. One of you two stole it, we tracked it here."

That's what Adrian, stole an access card. The access cards can be used to override the security systems on any building in Manhattan, the Monitors have them in case of an emergency.

"So, which one of you stole it?" the woman demands.

I look at Adrian willing her not to speak. If we don't say anything maybe they'll think someone planted it on us. But, Adrian speaks anyways. "I did. I stole the access card."

"Adrian!" I cry out wishing she hadn't said anything and then I turn to the woman and say, "There must be a mistake. The card must have been planted on us."

The woman gives me cruel grin and replies, "Your sister just confessed to stealing the card, are you saying she lied to the government? Because that would be treason."

'I..." I start but stop knowing there is no way out of this.

"Now that that's cleared up, drop both of their numbers to zero," the woman commands.

"What? Indie didn't do anything. I stole the card," Adrian buts in.

The woman turns to Adrian and gives her the same cruel smile she gave me. "I don't know that for a fact. She could have very well helped you steal from the government."

The woman walks out the door before anyone gets another word in and I hear a clicking sound as the Monitors turn on their Counters. The pain is just as bad as it was in my dream, it's the pain I feel every week after the executions but ten times worse. I've never had my number dropped more than fifty spots at once and the pain is unbearable.

They say your life flashes before your eyes before you die, but mine doesn't, not that mine was much of a life anyways. The only thing flashing before my eyes is bright, hot flashes of pain like a hot poker.

Tears trickle down my cheeks as the numbers flee from my neck. I know what my dream means now. I should have left when I had the chance, taken Adrian and fled. It's too late for that now.

"Indie," Adrian whispers to me. "I'm sorry."

"It's okay," I tell her. "I love you, Adrian."

"I love you too, Indie," she says back.

The Monitor behind me kicks me in the back for talking, but I don't care anymore, if I'm going to die I'm going to be there for my sister. I reach for my little sisters hand as I feel my number coming close to zero. She reaches for me and I get to hold her hand for just a moment before I black out.

My number has reached zero.

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