18. Betrayals a Bitch
~~I rise from the fog of sleep and slowly open my heavy eyes. It’s still dark in the room and I can hear people snoring loudly as they sleep. I try to go back to sleep but I can’t so I sit up and look around my eyes stopping when they reach Ethan. He’s asleep, his breathing heavy and his face relaxed and softer than usual. I notice something lying on his chest, my sketch book! I realise and crawl forward to see what page he’s on. I squint at it, trying to see it in the dark and when I see what page it is my face burns with embarrassment. He’s looking at the page where I drew from the dream I had, when I didn’t even know him. I blush in the darkness as I think of him flicking through the pages. I put the sketchbook by the bed and walk over to the bathroom. I quickly splash water on my face and watch myself in the cracked mirror. My eyes are green today and huge black bags hang underneath them, my skin is pale and I see a small pink spot has appeared on my chin, which I scowl at. I try my best to finger comb through my hair but it still looks tangled and messy when I’m done. I sigh; unable to look at my face any longer and make my way back to the hall hoping people will start waking up soon.
My wish sort of comes true because about 10 minutes later the door opens and the stern woman calls out “We’re leaving in 15 minutes” Then she slams the door shut behind her, she really does have a bad habit of doing that. I watch as people groggily begin to stir and smile as I watch Ethan let out a low moan and roll over. I give him a nudge “Wake up sleepy head” I say then when he doesn’t respond I yank his pillow from under his head and he yelps then sits up “That’s not fair!” He exclaims and I shrug at him “Life isn’t fair, anyway didn’t you hear the lady it’s time to rise and shine” I say smiling at him then chuck the pillow back onto his bed. He moans a little but slowly stands up and grabs his rucksack.
I got changed while everyone was still asleep so I sit patiently in the frumpy skirt and wrinkled blouse. The tie is hung around my neck but I’ll tie it later when we’re setting off. Eventually everyone is up and wearing the ‘uniform’ and waiting anxiously for the lady to come and get us. I notice people giving my anxious glances as we wait and I try to reassure them with a smile but I don’t fool anyone. They know I’m just as scared as they are.
My stomach suddenly starts rumbling and Marcus wonders over and offers me a sandwich. I take it; desperate times call for desperate measures, and quickly chomp it down trying not to taste the sawdust like substance inside. I suddenly remember my sketchbook and scoop it off the floor and shove it in my bag just as the door swings open. Ethan gives me a small smile and I try my best to return it “Follow me” The lady barks and we all quickly walk over to the door and one by one leave the hall without looking back.
The lady leads us to a bus that looks brand new and is defiantly in better condition than the shabby wreck of a bus we had in Zone 3. I walk over to the back and slide into the soft leather seat then lean my head against the window. Ethan looks over at me from the front of the bus and I shake my head at him. He nods in understanding; I need space from everyone, to think and prepare myself for what’s to come.
The bus glides forward and we set off towards Zone 1. Everyone is chattering nervously preferring that to sitting in silence. After about half an hour the strict lady stands up at the front of the bus “We are almost there, when we arrive you are to refer to me as Ms Baxter. I’m going to pass you each a name badge; they are the explosives you will use. All you need to do is remove the pin and they will explode in 30 seconds. They’re undetectable by the security they have so you can smuggle them in without them being detected” Her words are sharp and to the point, she pauses then purses her lips “Good luck, you’ll have to make your own way back to FREAM though because I’m not waiting around to be caught” She adds then pulls a box of white tags into her arms and starts calling names out then handing them to people. We all look around at each other uncertainly as she does this, when she reaches me I hold my hand out and she places on into it. The tag reads ‘Verity Dasher, group 4’ I carefully pin it to my shirt staring nervously at the pin. “You are to call each other these names so it would make sense for you to learn the peoples your likely to need” She explains when everyone has a tag.
People start muttering to each other and swapping seats so they can talk to different people. Marcus turns around to me and looks at my tag “Hi Verity I’m Todd Baker” He says sarcastically and I crack a small smile reading his tag and noticing it says group 4 as well. Ethan walks over and I nod at him when he gestures to the seat next to me “William Hunter at your service” He says
“Verity Dasher at yours” I reply giving him a small nudge. I realise that everyone in team 2 is in group 4 and everyone from team one is in group 3. I feel a fist clench in my stomach as the situation suddenly becomes real.
The chatter fades away when we reach the gateway to zone 1 and we all look out the window at the dazzling lights and sky high buildings. The gate slides open and we glide past a road... in the sky. My eyes widen as cars zoom pass us, I never thought they’d let cars fly. I suppose they wouldn’t let people from Zone 3 have privileges like that. Flashing signs advertise swanky clothes and huge metal structures stand amongst the grand houses.
The bus starts to land and I watch the buildings become bigger and bigger as we get closer. “It’s so beautiful” I whisper and look at Ethan who’s staring blankly at the scene outside. The bus smoothly comes to a stop outside a huge white building with large metal doors. I start taking deep breaths as I feel the nerves burning through my skin. “We’ll be fine” Ethan says rubbing my arm. I nod and give him a small smile then we both stand up and pull our rucksacks down. I look round and know I’m not the only anxious one. We all start to shuffle off the bus and gather round a tall man in a white coat outside the metal door. “Hello Eastwick School, welcome to the labs. We’re going to put you through security then you can make your way to the gathering hall.” The man explains when we’re all off the bus. We follow him through the metal doors and walk over to some white posts. “Walk past them one at a time then just wait on the other side” The man continues. I force myself not to look down at my tag as I wait in the line. I suddenly remember the gun in my bag and my legs stop working. Ethan walks into me and I look up at him with panic in my eyes. “The gun” I hiss at him. He shakes his head a little “I told you, it won’t come up on the detector” I reassures me calmly and lightly pushes me forward a little. I’m going to screw this up before we’ve even had a chance.
“Can we keep the line moving forward” The man calls over to us and I take a step towards the scanner. “Don’t worry it doesn’t hurt” The man comforts thinking I’m just nervous about walking past it. “Go” Ethan murmurs over my shoulder and I quickly take a step past it waiting for the beepers to start wailing. Nothing happens and I keep going and I sigh in relief.
We walk into a hall full of other Schools and the man shows us to a set of benches and tells us to sit down. He then walks towards a stage where 4 other people stand; who’re also dressed in white coats. One of them, a man with grey hair and baggy wrinkles all over his face steps forward to speak to us “Welcome to the labs” He says in a croaky voice and silence falls over the room. I look round at the other School pupils here and I know just by looking at them that they’re all here to learn. They eat up the words that the man in the lab coat starts saying. “You’re all here because if you pass your tests you could be one of the honoured people who work here.” His voice sounds flat and it’s obvious he’s made this speech hundreds of times before. “We’re going to give you a small taste of what we offer here and show you what we do. You’ve all chosen what part of the lab you want to see if you could make your way to your group number pinned on the wall.” He nods then steps back.
The hall erupts into excited chatter and our group look around at each other. I hear people start to whisper good luck to each other as we stand up. I look over at Harry and James and they smile grimly at me as they walk with team 1 to the group 3 spot. I make my over to the group 4 sign and wait near the back of the group with Ethan, Marcus, Finn and Cody. A small woman with light blonde hair scraped tightly back into a bun clicks over in shiny black stilettos. “I’m Maygen and I’ll be showing you round the main parts of the labs I need to take a quick register first, say yes when I call out your name” She orders then looks down at a clipboard she’s carrying and starts calling out names. I almost forget my new name and there’s a small silence when she says Verity Dasher but Ethan gives me a nudge and I blurt out a “Yes”
As soon as she’s said the last name she turns quickly and starts striding forward so our group quickly follow her. I turn and catch Harry’s eyes, he nods at me and I do the same. I’m sure it won’t be the last time I see them again; I reassure myself as we turn the corner and leave the other groups behind. I make sure to stay close to Ethan finding a small amount of comfort from feeling his shoulder brushing against mine however it doesn’t stop the name badge on my shirt feeling like a lead weight hanging from me.
Maygen leads us down pristine corridors with floors that squeak as we shuffle along behind her. I try to take note of the way back knowing that we aren’t going to be pointed in the right direction by anybody, not after we’ve blown up their life’s work. “The first part of this tour is the cloak room, you’ll need to put some white lab coats on” Maygen explains and shoves a white door open and gestures for us to walk through. “Hang your stuff up on the pegs provided, you don’t need to carry it around with you” She continues as we slide past her into the cloak room. I walk over to the first one I see and slide my bag over my shoulder and hang it on the peg provided, annoyed that I put the gun in it instead of wearing it on the belt. “Isn’t this exciting?” A small girl with curly brown hair and freckles says as she does the same. I nod and look at her name badge ‘Tessa Garth’ how great it must be for her to be here without a real worry’s in the world. “Yes” I reply dryly but add a smile, feeling a little guilty; it’s not her fault that any of this is happening.
Another man in a lab coat enters the room and starts handing out one for each of us. “I look like a right twat in this” Jilly mumbles and I roll my eyes at her; I think we have more important things to worry about. I take one from the man and pull it on ignoring the scratchy material and walk over to the door with the rest of the group.
“Our next stop is the labs; you have to keep your mouths shut and make sure you don’t distract the workers, they need to concentrate on their work.” The group nod their heads like sheep so I do the same. We continue to follow her as she leads us down more corridors and along more shiny floors. I start to bite my lips as my patience starts to run out and the nerves start building up inside me.
Maygen finally turns around and puts a finger to her lips putting a stop to any quiet conversation in the group. She then pushes the door open and we follow her inside. My eyes widen as they take in what’s happening around me. Huge metal machines stand towering over hundreds of workers in white coats and safety goggles. What catches my breath is the tubes full cloudy liquid coming out of the machines then being shoved into boxes labelled ‘Dream Dust’ I clench my fists and try to keep my expression blank like the others, not quite managing the excited look that the real students have on. “This is the packing area, we’re just passing through to go to the labs” Maygen explains and we all follow her as she snakes us around the machines and tables covered in flat cardboard boxes. The workers keep their heads down as we shuffle past them; none of them want to make eye contact. Are they ashamed of their job? I think to myself as I notice their miserable faces. Nobody else seems to notice this though. Most of the group is looking around the room, their eyes full of wonder and it makes me feel a little sick.
I reassure myself by remembering that the other group will be blowing this place up soon hopefully they won’t harm too many of the workers. Most of them are here so they can earn a living, they don’t necessarily agree in what they’re doing.
We quickly reach the other end of the room and Maygen pulls open a heavy looking metal door “This is where it gets interesting” She says and a tight smile crosses her lips for a second and I instantly hate her. She thinks addicting people to other people’s dreams is interesting.
We walk through the door way onto a balcony overlooking the labs and the people who are here for real let out sounds of amazement. I stare wide eyed at my surroundings.
Workers sit at desks staring with immense concentration at the test tubes in front of them full of yellow liquid and placing glass slides under microscopes. “This section is where the dreams are checked for purity, if impurities are found then they’re disposed of. We can’t have people experiencing nightmares can we?” Maygen explains then leads us down the steps and we’re greeted by a man holding a microscope. “Would you like a look?” He asks then hands the microscope to a boy from our group who’s standing next to him. The boy leans over the microscope eagerly and smiles then makes notes on his clipboard.
The group take it in turns to pass the microscope to each other. Tessa passes me the microscope and I gulp before taking a quick look.
I gasp as a picture of a girl with golden hair and huge blue eyes stares back at me. I take a step away from the microscope trying to figure out whether I really just saw that. “Are you alright?” Tessa asks me and I nod at her and try my best to smile “Just a lot to take in” I lie and she smiles.
“It’s amazing isn’t it? My parents only made it into the packing department; they hope that I can make it to the conversion part.” She leans a little closer to me “I secretly hope to make it to the place where they actually do experiments, pressing buttons will get boring after a while” She whispers and I nod at her, trying to figure out what she means. Conversion department?
When everyone has finished looking at the microscope Maygen leads us to the next section where the workers are mixing other liquids in with the yellow liquids making them into the cloudy stuff we saw earlier then placing finished sets onto a long rubber platform that moves them into the packing room. “The dreams need to be diluted otherwise the persons experience will be to strong...” I stop listening to the lies falling out her mouth.
Ethan walks up behind be “We need to go” He hisses and I nod then look around the room to try and see if there’s anywhere we can slip away. I look around the group and catch the eyes of some of the others and nod at them. They all start to slow down as they try to spot a way to get away like I’m doing. I notice a cupboard labelled ‘cleaning supplies’ and I nudge Ethan and point at it. He nods then shows Cody, Finn and Marcus what we’re doing. “We’ll slip away in a minute” Marcus whispers as we come closer to the cupboard.
Maygen pulls another door open and the group starts to walk through, I reach out to the handle of the cupboard but we hear a huge bang from the other room and the room shakes a little.
Panic follows as the workers all look from their work and start staring at each other with a look of confusion and terror. An alarm starts wailing and a robotic voice starts saying ‘All workers and visitors exit by the emergency doors. All workers and visitors exit by the emergency doors’ it keeps repeating it and someone in our group screams. Maygen starts shoving the group towards a door with a green sign above it. I use this distraction to yank the cupboard door open and slide inside. Ethan follows then Marcus Finn and Cody slide in after him, deciding not to wait for another chance to come along. I hope the others have found a way to slip away from the group otherwise they won’t be able to get away. We stand there breathing heavily looking at each other and nervous butterflies flutter in my stomach, this is it.
The heavy footsteps outside stop and we listen carefully for voices but can’t hear any so Marcus slowly pushes the door open and we step outside. The labs are empty and I breathe a sigh of relief. “So what do we blow up first?” Finn asks and I laugh a little. I look around; we’ll probably need to shut the machine down that’s bringing the test tubes with the undiluted dreams into the room. “We can start with that machine” I say pointing to it and the others nod.
“Who wants to do the honers?” Cody asks
“I’ll do it” Ethan says unclipping his badge holding the pin carefully.”Everyone ready he asks and I brace myself to run. Ethan’s about to pull the pin out but Harry charges into the room followed by a few members of his group. “Stop!” He shouts. “If you let that go you’ll all go with it”