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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32. Chapter 31

Chapter 31: Chemical Family

"I'll never stop dreaming that one day we can be a real family, together, all of us laughing and talking, loving and understanding, not looking at the past but only to the future."

-LaToya Jackson

"Indie, I'm sure there has been a lot on your mind recently," Avalis says as she shuffles the deck of cards in front of her.

"I suppose so," I tell her, unsure of what I've been thinking about these past few days. I can only think of a few clear thoughts I had. "It was mostly just a mind numbing silence."

Her hands flutter over the edges of the cards as she pulls them apart in order to deal them. "Oh, and what was that like?"

I think back to the time I spent alone in the cell, before and after Ross was there. It was lonely, both quiet and loud, depending on the time, long, and, more than anything, it was boring. When I wasn't thinking about people dying or trying to convince myself not to care, I had some of the deepest and strangest thoughts I've ever had; though, I doubt Avalis would understand or care about any of it. She would never understand what it feels like to be protected only so you can be killed later on, especially when you know that people you know and are about are dying while you are safe. I wonder if Avalis has ever truly cared about anyone.

"Well, silence is silence. It's simply the lack of noise. I'm sure you're intelligent enough to imagine what that's like," I say after deciding to not get into some sort of philosophical conversation with her.

Apparently Avalis wants to start a philosophical conversation despite my wishes because she says, "I've always felt like you can never have true silence while you're still breathing. The thoughts just clutter the ears too much, even if try aren't real noise.

For some reason I have the urge to laugh, but I manage to keep my face stoic. "If that's supposed to be a threat, it's not a very good one. I've already thought of that, the idea doesn't scare me."

"The idea of not breathing anymore doesn't scare you?" she asks quizzically, neither confirming or denying that her previous statement was a threat.

"No, the idea of not breathing scares me as much as it scares the next person. I'm not afraid of true silence, I think I'd enjoy it rather than go insane," I reply, telling the truth. 

She hands out cards as she thinks about what I said. Her suit is crisp, her posture stiff, and her movements precise, yet she seems completely and totally relaxed, like playing cards with prisoners is an every day kind of deal.

I peer at my cards, trying to act as nonchalant as possible as I wait for her answer. I'm very curios to hear what she says. Is the great leader afraid of death or silence? Or, is she as immune to fear as she is to compassion?

"We are more alike than I ever thought. Maybe we'll be as alike as I've always hoped; God knows Adrian and I have no similarities." She peers up to see if I'm falling her line of thought, which I am, but I wish I wasn't. "You see, like you and almost everyone on this planet, I fear death. The difference between us two and everyone else doesn't lie in that though. Most people couldn't handle total silence, it would drive them insane and tear them apart, while you and I would thrive on that insanity."

"Wow, I think you're already insane," I mumble under my breath because, despite my attitude, I really am afraid to insult Avalis to her face.

"Only as insane as you are," she says, having heard me.

My face flushes red with anger at her words, not because it bothers me to be called insane, but because she compared me to her, again. "Wh-what's that supposed to mean?"

She gives a hefty sigh like she's made herself clear plenty of times before, which she has, I just want her to say it's not true. "You and I are the same. We think the same way, so we can only be as insane as the other is."

"I don't think that's how that works," I mutter angrily.

For the first time since I've met her, Avalis actually appears to be annoyed. "Just look at your cards, Indie, so we can start the game."

I'm as done with putting up with her as she is with me, so I do as she says. A queen, a three, a jack, and a six reside in my hand. The queen and jack were lucky, especially in the same hand. Nothing is particularly special about the six and three.

"Would you like to switch?" she asks, covering up her annoyance nicely or maybe she isn't annoyed any more. She seems like the type of woman who could put up with just about anything, including me, a lowlife Number.

"Umm, yeah," I tell her and give her my three before grabbing one of her cards. Another jack.

"I'll switch too," she says snatching up my old jack before I can react and giving me an eight in its place.

We each take one last look over our cards before looking up. "Ready?" I ask seemingly out of turn; though, Avalis doesn't act like she cares. She gives a curt nod and I flip over the cards.

A king, a queen, an ace, and a jack. The exact same cards as last time. That's one hell of a coincidence. While I sit there like an idiot, shocked by the sheer unlikeliness of the situation, Avalis does the same thing she did last time. The king slams down on the table with a little too much force, making the legs rattle unevenly, and then Avalis scoops up the pair and rips them in half. She must have a lot of spare decks of cards if this is how she plays all of the time.

My hand shakes for a reason I can't explain as I set the queen down on the table. The cars tremor in my clammy hands as I pick them up and rip them into two pieces each. Avalis's eyes bore into me the entire time and a grin fills her face like I just walked into her well thought out trap. 

We both reach for our remaining cards, I reach for my jack and she probably does the same. The two cards land on the table at the same time, both trying to occupy the space where the third jack lays on the table. For a moment she looks at me with hopeful eyes, waiting for me to admit just how similar we are, we both just played the same card after all. But, I don't take the queue and she frowns disappointedly. No longer thinking about winning or losing the game, I let her take the cards and rip them apart, including my jack. 

"You look pale, Indie. Is something wrong?" I hear genuine concern in Avalis's voice, but I don't care about that. I care about whatever message she's trying to send me. There's something about the way she ripped the cards up and the cards she put on the table, specifically the king. She really seems to care about getting rid of the king first.

"You know what," she says, noting my inability to respond. "Let's take a break from the game. There were some questions I wanted to ask you anyways."

I swallow the lump in my throat and look up at her. There's is nothing she could ask me that she'd both want the answers to and I'd have the answers. It's not like I have any top secret information. Or maybe she needs information on people. People like Maura, who were able to avoid the government for so long. I won't tell her if she asks.

"What kind of questions?"

"Personal ones," she tells me as she casually rests her head in my hands, appearing to be intrigued by whatever I have to say.

"Like?" I ask, preparing to lie in order to protect who ever is still left after Adrian's betrayal.

"Like, how's Edwin?" If it weren't for the handcuffs keeping me attached to the table, I would have fallen out of my seat. Instead, they leave me in a weird squatting position with the metal biting into my wrists and my heart racing.

"I don't know any one named Edwin," I reply, assuming she can't possibly be talking about the Edwin I'm thinking of.

She gives me the goofiest grin I've ever seen as I clamber back into my metal chair. "Sure you do. He's a little stuffed panda, about this big," she says, holding u her hands to give an idea of the size of the panda. "You used to carry him around all of the time when you were a kid."

"How do you know that?" I ask terrified. So, we were thinking of the same Edwin.

"Don't you know who I am?" she asks, not answering my question but expecting me to answer hers.

"A monster," I say without flinching. Maybe I'm being more honest than I meant to.

She simply raises her eyebrow at the insult. "Anything else?"

"I don't know," I tell her, keeping up my honest streak.

"Who would know about your stuffed toy from your child hood?" she asks, waiting for me to say the answer that I don't know.

The king. Edwin. The way she came for me during the initial attack. She wants me to realize something, has since the first time we met. Why else would she take such and obsession with me? I think I know the answer, but the very idea of it makes me feel sick.

"Have you ever wondered why you can't remember your own mother's face? That's a little weird isn't it," she says, leaning closer to me.

"Stop it," I say feverishly.

"Or why we're so alike? It all couldn't just be a coincidence right," she presses.

"I said stop it." I'm almost yelling now.

"It was better you forgot all about me before, but now you need to remember." Her face is only inches from mine. Her breathing is light and calm, while mine is heavy and keeps catching in my throat. I want to leave, but I can't.

"Please, just stop, mom." The word is out before I can think about what it means. Avalis's delighted grin returns and the word is left suspended in the air. Mom.

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