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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33. Chapter 32

"Each generation wants new symbols, new people, new names. They want to divorce themselves from their predecessors."

-Jim Morrison

The king. The queen. The jack. The ace. They all make so much more sense now. Their hidden meanings seem so plain and simple now that I think about it. They're also rather cruel. Avalis wanted to rub it in, to show me that she can do whatever she wants and get away with. She's a power hungry monster that needs acknowledgement.

The cards were mearly symbols of our tragic past as a family. They represented the split in our family; though, I'm not sure we were ever a family to begin with. Cards with perfectly unreal faces and no real meaning can not sum up or symbolize the past like Avalis meant them to. She wanted to display her actions in all their glory to me through the cards, but ripping a king in half will never be able to live up to its representation of my father's death. A symbol never quite equals its meaning.

I know that the king was supposed to be my dad and the queen was Avalis, which only makes me happy to know that I ripped it in half, but what about the other two cards? The ace and the jack? Which one is me and which one is Adrian? If the jack is me then Avalis wants to kill me, or at least hurt me, but if it's Adrian then she'll go after her instead. Whoever is the ace must be the one who is safe, she left it unharmed during both games even though she could have easily rigged the deck to get an ace, like she did in order to start with the same four cards during the games. She's obviously after one of us.

I can't stop thinking about the way we both went for the jack at the same time. It's like she wanted me to take it, yet deep down I know that it felt wrong. I'm very glad I didn't rip that card in half now; I have no intention of killing Adrian or myself. But, which one of us does she intend to kill. Hopefully it's me. I could never let her lay a finger on MY little sister.

There's nothing left for me to do at this point but worry- worry about Adrian, worry about Avalis's intention to kill one of us, worry about what's happening outside these walls, worry about my friends. No matter how much I worry about these things there will never be anything I can do about it. I have no choice but to kneel in the face of concern and let it lord over me. It knows all of my weaknesses because my weaknesses are the soil that the devil crop grew from and my fear became the water that nourished it. It grew from within me and now it binds me, restricting my mind from thinking about anything but my worry. Concern is pretty narcissistic in that manner, it wants to be the only thing on your mind at all times. It's rather rude when you wish to be thinking about anything but how worried you are.

Concern is one of the few things in life that force you to live. I'm not saying that there are almost no reasons to keep breathing, it's just that concern makes you keep living instead of just encouraging. I would say that revenge and promises have the same effect. All three also have the unfortunate side effect of emptiness once fulfilled. They all end at some point and then there is a void where they once consumed your whole being. No one to seek vengeance against. Nothing left to worry about. No more promises to keep. Then what? Sure, you could go back to your old life, but what if one of those things was your life? What is your purpose then?

What am I going to do when all of this worry is over? Right now I'm assuming that I'll be dead, but if I'm not then I have no idea what I'll do. There won't be a Manhattan left, so I'll just spend the rest of my life on the run from the government, I doubt I'll get the chance to run, or maybe I'll be brainwashed into being Avalis's sweet little daughter like she seems to want me to be. She wants me to be just like her and she already thinks we are so very similar. Adrian is more than willing to be brainwashed into that role, she doesn't need me. Yet, she doesn't believe Adrian is similar enough to her. What does that mean for Adrian?

I stare blankly at my highly scuffed, once-white tennis shoes. Adrian is a knife in my heart every time I think about her. It's like just by picturing her in my head I'm allowing her to bend space and stab me repeatedly. At this rate I might just end up giving myself a heart attack over the amount of times I think of her.

The door opens behind me and Cartwright walks in to give me what I assume is my dinner, but it could also be breakfast, considering I'm pretty oblivious to the time. Cartwright sets the food at my feet, remaining as silent as the stone he appears to be carved from the entire time, and leaves with another swish from the door. 

Cartwright has said less then ten words since I met him. That makes him by far my favorite Monitor, especially compared to Craggier and her pig like snorts. Neither of them are good people, it's impossible to be a good person if you're a Monitor, the words "good" and "Monitor" contradict each other, but Craggier sticks her red face in everyone's business and laughs at their pain.

The metal tray that Cartwright set at my feet touches the tip of my sneakers. I stretch out my feet to release the cramps building up in my calves, pushing the food towards the other wall. The tray skids for a moment, grating against the floor and making a loud screeching noise, before bumping into the wall and coming to a stop. At this slightly greater distance the food almost looks appetizing. It's impossible to tell how stale the bread is or how soggy the broccoli is. I almost mistake it for a delicious meal, but I'm not that easily fooled.

My knees pull back up to my chest and let my chin rest on top of them and my arms hug them. The food, despite it's generally horrible taste, actually looks appealing, but my body has become lethargic. It refuses to move despite protests from my stomach and brain. They want to eat, but my body is unwilling to retrieve the food.

'You're being pathetic,'I scold my body desperately and stare at my feet, willing them to start moving and drags my legs with them.

My toes curl inside my sneakers as a reply, almost like a shrug. 'We could, we're too tired,' they seem to say.

'You're being selfish,' I tell myself. 'Think about your stomach.'

Now my toes don't move at all. They're giving the silent treatment and ignoring my protests for food. My eyes settle on my fingers and they stiffen as if their hoping I'll look away from them if they don't move. 'You won't have any energy later if you don't reach for that food.'

They drum against my knee indecisively. 'You'll feel all cold and your stomach will keep on growling but you'll have absolutely no energy to get them. Even less energy than you have now,' I remind the ten long digits.

They bunch up into fists, their nails biting into my palms. I feel like they would say, 'Make your feet stand up and get it,' if they could talk.

'My feet are selfish,' I explain patiently, my eyes still probing my fingers. 'Besides, you'd have to pick up the tray and feed my mouth the food anyways.'

'We're selfish too and that sounds like an awful lot of work,' they want to tell me, but they're caving, I can tell because they slowly begin to release their grip on my palm.

'You'll feel much better afterwards, I promise.' With that my fingers release my palms completely and inch towards the tray, dragging my torso behind them.

I grab the tray quickly and crawl back into the corner of my new cell in the center of the building- they still haven't moved me back to my old cell, though, the explosions and gun fire have gotten less frequent. I don't want to think about or know what that means.

The broccoli tastes like the soot I'm so used to breathing in and has the same consistency as the rubber tires I used to make in the factories. I'm surprisingly grateful for it. Normally I would never have access to something as nutritious and vitamin-filled as broccoli. The bread is the same quality as the bread I've always eaten, that is to say incredibly low. It's stale, dense, and leaves a sour after in my mouth, but hey, it fills my stomach.

My teeth clamp down on the side of the bread, exerting a shocking amount of pressure just to break through the stiff crust and into the slightly more chewy inside. The key word there is "slightly". With a sharp tug that can be felt in every muscle in my body as they all struggle together, a piece of bread tears away with a satisfying ripping sound. I have no choice to chew with my mouth open in order to break down the bread. My teeth clash loudly together after each chew. Eating the bread on this island is always quite the jaw work out. 

I'm just opening the carton of milk they gave when the door hisses open and Cartwright steps in. "Your eating time is up. Are you almost done?"

"Five more minuets?" I ask, eyeing the carton of milk. It's a treat I rarely get and I plan on enjoying it.

Cartwright nods his head and leaves. He's willing to bend the rules for little things like this, but not because he likes me, it's more like he doesn't want to argue with me. If it was Craggier watching me she'd probably take my food away five minutes early instead
of giving me five extra minutes.

With that the door closes and I begin wolfing down the remaining broccoli. I'm just glad I finished the bread before he came in, but still annoyed with my body for not retrieving the food earlier; I would have had a lot more time to eat of stupid body hadn't been so stubborn.

As soon as the broccoli is gone, I lean against the wall and begin leisurely sipping my milk but not too slowly, I figure I have only four minutes left. The milk is probably pretty low grade, but to me it tastes heavenly. It doesn't have a funny taste that sticks to the roof of my mouth like the broccoli and it isn't close to impossible to consume like the bread. It's a huge treat in Number standards. 

The door swooshes open too soon and I'm forced to chug the remaining milk in the carton, leaving me with a thick, white milk mustache that I have to wipe away with my sleeve. Cartwright grabs the tray from my hands after I put the carton on it and leaves without a word.

At least I got myself to eat. Now I'll have at least the energy to go back to thinking with a clear head and go back to living out of pure concern. Those cards, those symbols are constantly on my mind and constantly worrying me.

Something icy clings to the bottom of my stomach and begins to crawl upwards. It's long, creepy legs leave cold butterflies in my stomach, and not the good kind of butterflies either. These are the kind of cold butterflies that tell you something is wrong. The thing on my stomach inches upwards, but a bitter cold radiates from it, leaving my whole body trembling as if I had just walked into a grave yard. The further upward it goes the more I shiver. 

Something feels very unnatural and I suddenly I find myself very afraid. It's that sixth sense that everyone has for danger. That terrible feeling that something very, very bad is going to happen. It was bound to happen eventually in a place like this, but I was expecting to be dead by now. It wasn't supposed to take this long to show up and haunt me.

The feeling randomly leaps to my heart and squeezes tightly. Just like that the door opens and Cartwright is back with Craggier and a man in a white lab coat.

I've never heard Craggier sound so serious in her overly deep voice, but she sounds dead serious when she says, "Indaline Marie Caserento, you're ordered to come with. It will be easiest for all of us if you don't resist."

"What's happening?" I ask as my stomach begins to do summersaults and I feel like I'm going to throw up the lunch that I just ate.

Neither Craggier or Cartwright answers me as if they are not allowed to, yet the man in the lab coat lights up. His bright eyes seem to bore into my soul as he says, "The plan."

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