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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6. Chapter 5

Green. That's what I see when I peel open eyes. The color is a startling contrast from the black that filled my eyelids only a few moments ago. This brilliant color is comforting after what feels like an eternity of black. Everything is fuzzy like the static on the television screens I sometimes see in the Monitor operating rooms, but I can still make out the color perfectly among the haze.

I blink slowly a few times trying to get the fuzziness cleared from my vision and everything comes into view. The bright green trickles together until it forms a pair of luminous eyes just like my own. I watch the eyes for a moment before I take in the person they belong to. My mind is still jumbled and confused from blood loss, so I have to take in this person piece by piece before I can see them as a whole. Wavy, golden brown hair, a young face, mouth in a thin line of concern maybe, and of course their luminous eyes. Each piece fits into the puzzle that is the young girl leaning over me. 

She sees me move my eyes across her face trying to understand what I'm seeing and her tight pressed lips turn into a smile. "You're awake!" she exclaims like she thought I'd never wake up.

I try to sit up, but the world immediatley starts spinning like a merry go 'round. My palm presses against my forehead to try and make the pounding in my head go away. I collapse backwards onto the old couch I was  laying on and my mind starts reeling. This is not the ally I passed out in. Where am I? Who's that girl?

The girl waves her hand in front of my face. "Hello, you okay there?"

"Where am I?" I ask and the words come out slurred. Everything around me is unfamiliar, a dingy aparment. It looks like the one I live in or used to live in. It's definetly not somewhere I've been before or at least I don't remember coming here. I can't remember much of anything right now.

"What?" the girl asks clearly not understanding what I said.

"Where am I?" I repeat making sure to say each syllable slowly and clearly so she'll understand me.

The girl starts taping her foot nervously before answering. "Um, this is my apartment," she says nervously.

"Why am I here?" I press as I try to figure out how exactly I got here. All I know is my head is spinning and my arm and leg feel like they're on fire.

"I found you in an ally. You were bleeding pretty badly, so I brought you up here and stitched you up," she tells me.

I pull my pant leg to the spot that's burning and the pants are covered in blood and find carefully done stitches, but the injury is completely foreign to me.

"I also noticed something else about your..." she trails off and runs her fingers over the spot on her neck where her number is, 42715, a higher number than I ever had.

"My number?" I ask uncertain. "What about it?"

Her brow furrows in concern. "It says zero."

I feel like all the oxygen has just been sucked out of my lungs. "That's not possible," I say as loudly as I can.

Her eyes are full of sympathy when she says, "Your neck says zero."

I force myself to stand despite the dizziness and move as fast as I can in my unbalanced state to the closed window where I can just make out my reflection. She's right, the number zero is imprinted on my neck where I could have sworn it said 29584. Suddenly I feel like I just ran full speed into a brick wall and I find myself curled up in a ball the ground.

The memories of yesterday slowly begin to trickle in one by one: the Monitors punding on our door, my number dropping to zero, waking up in the Court House, the crooked smile man, running through the halls, and... leaving Adrian. A strangled sob escapes my lips and I press my hand to my mouth to stop it. The girl looks at me looking like she wants to say something, but stops herself.

I remember getting shot, escaping the Court House, and finding my way into the ally, but most of all I remember screaming Adrian's name. I left my sister and now she's probably dead.

"Are you okay?" the girl asks cautiously.

"I remember what happened," I tell her.

"What happened?" she asks.

My mind is spinning from both dizziness and thought now. By being here I'm putting this girl in danger;  the Monitors will come looking for me, if they aren't already, and if they find out this girl helped me they'll kill her. I can't get anyone else killed.

"I need to leave," I tell her urgently.

I fumble to stand up and open up the window, but the girl grabs my arm. "You can't leave. You'll rip open the stitches."

I shake my head. "No, I really have to leave. I'm putting you in danger," I insist.

She grips my arm tighter, but I shake her off and force open the window. My arm trembles with just the effort of opening the window. It's a long way to the ground and I don't know how I'm going to climb down there in my condition.

The girl speaks up as I look down the face of the building. "If your numbers at zero then you're supposed to be dead and if you're not dead then they'll be looking for you."

"True and true," I say as I try to work out the easiest way to get out of the building without having to use the front entrance, one of the most likely places for someone to spot me.

"I can help you. My brother's a fighter, a really important one, and I'm his prodigy. We can help hide you," she promises.

I pull my head back in and turn to face the girl. "Woah, slow down there. I'm really grateful and all for your help, but I don't even know your name and I definetly don't trust fighters or their prodigies," I telll her before looking out into the ally outside the building again.

"Why don't you trust fighters?" she asks stubbornly.

I have to laugh at this. "Fighters are greedy, they'll hurt anyone to get money and always have more than the rest of us."

"That's not true," she tells me. "My brother isn't like that."

I sigh and turn towards her. I don't want to admit it but I do need help, badly. "Alright, kid. I'm going to trust you. Now where is this brother of yours."

She gives me something between a smirk and a smile and says, "He's practicing at the Ring. And you know I have a name, right?"

I can feel the tension between us slowly slip away. "Wait, your name isn't kid?"

She rolls her eyes at me like we're old friends and replies, "No, my name is Simoran."

"I'm Indie," I tell her with a smile.

"It's good to finally know what the girl passed out on my couch's name is,"she says with a slight laugh and I feel a laugh rising in my chest, but I'm in too much emotional and physical pain to laugh.

"How exactly do you plan on hiding me?" I ask nervously when Simoran is done laughing. I'm afraid that they're going to kill Simoran if, more like when, they find me, but I really need some help right now.

She shrugs. "I haven't figured that out yet, but my brother, Grey, will no what to do."

I decide not to comment on the part where she doesn't know how to hide me and instead ask, "Does your brother even know I'm here?"

"Well... Grey knows you're here, but when I found you in the ally he told me to leave you. Said that we shouldn't get involved with a zero, but I made him help me bring you up here," she tells me awkwardly/

"And you think he'll be willing to help me?" I ask uncertain.

"Probaly not right away, but I think I can convince him," she says.

"Well, that's reassuring," I mumble under my breath.

Simoran hears me and replies, "I'm not going to let anything happen to you."

"You sound like my sister," I say without really meaning to, thinking about Adrian hurts and talking about her is hell.

 "Where is she?" she asks because she doesn't  know what happened and I don't plan on telling her.

"She is gone, but she's going to be okay. I know she is," I say more to convince myself than tell Simoran any  information, though; as selfish as it seems, I would rather Adrian be alive and with the Monitors than dead.

Simoran's brow crinkles. "What do you mean gone? Does she live in the free world?"

"You could say that," I reply because maybe death has more freedom than Manhattan does. Tears pool in my eyes, but I don't let them fall out. I can't cry yet.

"I wish I lived in the free world still. I remember every detail of my old home. Do you remember what your old house was like?" she asks whistfully.

I think about my old home for a moment. It had been a really nice home just outside of Mexico City, one of the most prosperouys cities in the Dynasty, but all of the details are blurry and my most prominent memory there was the day I died. "I don't remember much," I tell her. "I was eight when I came here."

"Oh, so you've been here for a while," she says.

"Nine years," I whisper almost to myself. I've spent most of my life in Manhattan and I know I'll spend the short remainder of it here too.

I hear the punding of feet on the steps outside the apartment and immediatley jump to my feet ready for flight not fight. I expect Simoran to be on her feet to ready to get out of here, but instead she smiles and walks towards the door.

"What are you doing?" I hiss and grab her arm.

"That's my brother," she explains still smiling.

"You don't know that," I insist, but she ignores me and pull her arm out of my hand.

She turns the lock as I bounce on my toes getting ready to dive out the open window if I have to. The door creaks open and in walks a boy about my age in the standard white of the Numbers, not a Monitor. His brown hair sticks to his face with sweat, his knuckles are wrapped in a blood stained cloth, and lean muscle ripples under his skin. He's definitely a fighter.

The boy completely ignores me and turns to his sister acting like I'm not even here. "This is the zero?"

Simoran seems caught in the middle. "Grey, this is Indie."

The boy looks at me with cold, gray eyes and simply says, "Indie, you better not get us killed."

He pushes past me into the only bedroom in the apartment. I just stand there feeling terrified, the person who is supposed to help me might just hate me as much as the Monitors do.

Simoran looks like she has no idea what to do and ends up following her brother into the bedroom. She may not know what to do, but I do. It's clear that I'm putting Simoran in danger by being around, especially since I suspect her brother will most likely rat on me. I know I told Simoran I'd stay here, but I don't know her or her brother very well and I definitely don't trust him. I need to find someone I trust, probably Maura. She'll know what to do.

I hear bickering in the bedrrom and know this is the best time for me to leave. Without making a sound I open the front door and slip out into the mid-afternoon, not the best time to travel, but I need to get away from Grey before he snitches.

Maura will have aupply of clothes, food, and water I can take from. But, until I get fresh clothes I need to stay hidden, blood stained clothes will alert the Monitors even if they don't immediatley recognize me.

Every Monitor in the city will be looking for me; they'll sweep the streets and wait for me to go back to my apartment. I need a way to stay off the streets. My eyes wander to the rooftops, each is only a few feet apart from eachother in this part of Manhattan. If I'm carful and my injury doesn't slow me down to much, I should be able to cover most of the distance on the roofs.

Each step I take creates a dragging sound across the ground as I do my best to walk normally. The movement in my arm and leg burns, yet it's more tolerable than it was yesterday. My foot prints stay in the dirt of the street, some of them are clean and crisp, while others are strangely elongated from my limp.

A firescape towers over me, it's rusted metal appears to be burning in the noon day sun. Rust falls through the air as I grab the ladder from above my head. It clanks against the ground sending more rust and soot into the air making me cough. One filthy, once white tenis shoe presses into the first wrung and pulls it's partner behind it. Gravity pulls at my dangling leg and the effort of pulling myself up tugs on my arm. I just have to make it up four flights to reach the last platform.

Push, drag, push, drag, until I reach the top platform. I just have to pull myself onto the roof, but now I'm regretting my decision to travel by rooftop. Doing my best with just one arm and leg, I pull myself up and collapse on the rooftop. I pull my pant leg and sleeve up to make sure I didn't rip the stitches. They're still in tact.

I limp to the edge of the first and orient myself with where I am. Most of the buildings in Manhattan look almost exactly the same and I have no idea what direction I went in yesterday, this is going to be difficult. The crumbling buildings spread in every direction and the ocean lays beyond them, which means New York is behind me. I'm heading in the right direction.

The gap between this building and the next is only fourish feet, but in my condition it might as well be a canyon. I take a few steps back and break into a run. The edge of the roof comes up quickly and then disappears as I push myself off the roof. Pushing off the roof didn't really hurt my leg, but the landing isn't so soft and I'm afraid I'm going to rip the stitches. I'll have to run to diffuse the impact from the landing next time.

Rooftop after rooftop flies by as I jump and run from one to another. It only takes a thirty minutes for me to reach the section of Manhattan filled with abandoned factories and warehouses. It's easy to pick out the one where we operate from at this height. The buildings are too far apart to jump to anymore, so I go down the same way I came up, by firescape.

I pull open the grate and slip in as quietly as I can, I know Maura will be here since this is also where she loves, but I don't want to alert any Monitors who may be nearby.

It's strange seeing the room so silent when it's usually full of life. Blueprints still lay on the table from our last mission, but nothing else is out of place, not that Maura has much.

I don't even bother looking for Maura, she's not here since all the Numbers have to work today. The chair squeaks as I pull it out from under the table and plop down on it. I study the blueprints thinking about how just two days ago I wasn't the most wanted Number and my sister was still alive. My sister is dead and it's my fault. I couldn't cry earlier, but now the emotions hit me like a tsunami, overwhelming and drowning me in its power and depth.

Tears stream down my cheeks and each breath I take sounds like death itself. I got Adrian killed because I was impulsive and scared. I let my fear of what would happen when the dust settled control me and I acted without thinking. My rashness is the cause of her death.

I press my palms to my eyes as the tears flow down my face, a steady stream. Why am I the one who's here? Adrian was probably cool and calculated, she probably knew exactly how to get us put of there, but she has an idiot for an older sister.

My fist slams down on the table and I scream in frustration before the sobs infest my body again consuming me all together. It feels like I'm drowning in salty tears for days, but Maura hasn't come back yet, so it must still be early.

I press my forehead to my arm blocking out any light coming from the grate and just let myself slip away as the ever present tears fall from my chin onto the blueprints.

When I wake up my head is throbbing and my face is sticky with tears. I stumble to my feet and make my way to the large room where we keep our stash of stolen goods. Basic Number clothes, food, and water, but it keeps us from going hungry and dehydrated.

I shuffle through the boxes until I find a large jug of water and start chugging it. The cool water takes the edge off of my headache and I go to look for clothes not covered in blood.

The loose fabric slips over my head and feels like heaven compared to the dirt and blood stained shirt I had on earlier. I change my pants and find some food us Numbers call "mush", it's a weird grain that you just add water to and eat. I grab the remainder of the jug of water and a bowl then head back into the main room.

The mush tastes like nothing and goes down my throat like mud, but it fills my stomach.

Now that all of my needs are taken care of all I have to do is wait for Maura and think about my sister.

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