The Sphinx Project

Not many people can say their entire existence has been one big lab experiment: poked and prodded by scientists, genetically modified to be the best and endure the worst, subjected to daily tests and trials that would kill a normal human. All Michaela wants is her own life, to be able to go to school, flirt with boys, maybe eat ice cream now and then. So when the chance to escape finally comes, Michaela and her sister grab it, taking their friends with them. But they weren’t the only ones to find their way out of those labs. Following close behind are another breed of creature, one that doesn’t know the difference between right and wrong, who exist only to feed their own hunger. The appearance of a strange boy who seems too much like them to be a coincidence makes things even more confusing. But as the world begins to literally fall apart around them, Michaela must accept his help, especially when she could lose the very thing she holds dearest: her sister.


37. Chapter Thirty-Six

Mouse and I settled into a pattern, taking turns at the wheel, changing every hour. By the time we reached the outskirts of Columbia, South Carolina it was almost noon on Sunday. We stopped at a superstore to find some food.


“I think we need a disguise,” Mouse said. “They know what we look like. Surely we can make it harder for them to find us. We should get you a wig; your hair is rather distinctive.” My blond hair reached to my waist, she had a point.


“Yours is hardly less recognizable.” I turned an apple over in my hands and placed it back on the shelf. “How expensive would a wig be? I can dye it instead. These places have those boxes of dye that you can do yourself. That’ll probably be cheaper.” Mom had begun going gray in her twenties and we’d always watched her apply the strange-smelling goop to her hair. She’d told us about her shopping trips, describing every little thing she saw.


Mouse nodded. “I think I’ll do the same.”


We filled our basket with food and wandered through the aisles until we found the hair and beauty section. There were hundreds of little boxes, with colors ranging from the most shadowed blacks to platinum blond and even purple. I gazed at the methodically arranged packages, lining the shelves in perfect order, completely bamboozled.


I browsed the shelf for some time, eventually resorting to eenie-meenie-miney-mo to choose a deep shade of mahogany. Mouse was drawn to a bright amber color, which promised to give her hair ‘visible shimmering tones.’


We paid for our purchases and, after asking for directions, found ourselves in the large bathrooms at the intercity bus terminal. There weren’t many buses due on Sundays and the place was quiet.


Mouse followed the instructions on the box to mix the dye. I crouched by one of the sinks that lined the wall, hesitant to kneel when the entire room reeked of urine, and she applied the foul-smelling paste to my roots.


I peered into the little container. “There’s really not much of it, is there?”


Once it was empty, she rubbed the dye through my hair, but it didn’t seem to stretch far enough. It was spread as far as it would go but more than half my hair wasn’t covered. Mouse worked it in a bit longer but it still didn’t quite reach.


“Maybe the water will make it stretch?” Mouse volunteered. She peered at the girl on the front of her box. “You know, I think I might cut my hair. I like the way she’s wearing hers.” Mouse’s hair was perfectly straight, falling in a smooth sheet of light brown to her hips. The girl on the box had a short bob, sleek and smooth.


“I can do that if you want?” It really couldn’t be that difficult. With the scissors from the first aid kit, I lopped off her pony tail before making sure the ends were all the same length. It wasn't exactly like the girl on the box, but it was close enough.


We followed the same procedure again, applying the smelly mix to Mouse’s head. It coated her hair completely with a little left over at the end.


When enough time had passed, I held my head under the faucet and rinsed the dye from my hair. I watched the water running down the drain change to a murky reddish-brown, eventually fading to almost clear. It took so long that, by the time I was done, Mouse’s was ready.


I tipped my head forward and scrubbed at it with a towel until it was barely damp. As I flicked the hair back over my head I saw her mouth fall open, and not in a good way.


“What?” I wasn’t sure I wanted to hear the answer.


“I don’t think it worked.”

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