“Alice, we’re going to have to vaccinate you soon.”
I quickly look up from my book on medicine to find Miss Florence looking down at me.
“Sweetie, with the way you look right now, you’ll stick out like a beacon out there. We can’t send you above ground looking the way you do.”
Sighing, I push myself out of the chair and wander over to one of the mirrors.
My skin’s taken on a sort of bruised colour. A light, but close to dark yellow and green that makes me look ugly. The same goes with my eyes. The blue’s starting to mix with a sort of yellow colour, making it look disgusting. My hair’s about the only thing that seems close to normal, only even I can see it’s turning to a lighter shade of brown at the roots.
Florence is right. If I step one foot above ground looking like this, I’ll be noticed for sure.
“I’m not sure what to do,” I admit allowed as Florence comes up behind me, laying a comforting hand on my back.
“It’s a hard decision. It took me years to decide really.”
“I want to help the camp above ground, but I want to look different. There’s no way I can have both, is there?”
“I’m afraid not. Talk it over with Rose or Toby. Either way, you’ll have to make your mind up soon so they can get you a proper position in either area.”
“I know. Thank you.”
After work at the hospital, I’m picking my way through the tents when a sharp whistle ripples through the air. Not thinking about it, I quickly shoot my hand up in the air and look around, searching for Eliza.
Turns out, someone stole our idea.
“Afternoon, madam,” Toby bows when he reaches me and holds out his hand for me to take. “How was your day?”
I’m still getting used to the whole girlfriend boyfriend thing. My parents never showed a lot of physical affection like kisses and hugs when I was around so each one Toby gives me is a bit of a shock. Taking hold of his hand gingerly, he brings it to his lips and presses a firm kiss to the back of my hand.
“How did you know I would be around here?” I ignore his question.
“I didn’t,” he straightens with a grin, wrapping his fingers around mine. “I saw you walking through from a mile off. You don’t look the same anymore, you know.”
“Why did you whistle?”
“Old habits die hard,” he shrugs. “I guess it was a test to see if it really was you. We have heaps of people going through transitions at the moment.”
He’s right. I’ve seen bruised looking people wandering around, too.
“Talking about tests, Collin’s called me to his tent,” he starts to walk around me, tugging my hand so I come with.
“Oh really? Why?”
“He’s ready to test the snitches,” he grins. “I volunteered myself to be the guinea-pig.”
“What’s a gu-“
“Never mind that. I also volunteered you without really thinking so you have to come with.”
Rolling my eyes, I follow closely behind him.
“Unlike the other snitches, this one might hurt quite a bit,” Collin warns as he sterilises needles over a stove. “It shouldn’t be that bad though.”
“I can take some pain,” Toby looks offended from where he sits on his crate across from mine.
“Hopefully I won’t slap you,” I add and Collin starts to laugh.
“Oh, slap me if you wish. I wouldn’t mind.”
Collin’s tent is way bigger than the average rebel’s. There’s only one of him, yet the tent could fit a good ten people if you really packed it in.
I can understand why though. Almost immediately as I stepped in, I was surrounded by piles and piles of books, silver objects, computers and anything else a scientist could dream of. I guess when you’re the only scientist at the camp; you have your work cut out for you.
There’s no bed either. I have to wonder where he sleeps. Part of me wonders if he sleeps at all.
The water containing the needles begins to boil and Collin quickly takes the pot off of the stove, turning it off as he does. Out the corner of my eye, I see Toby cross his fingers together before uncrossing them, looking around the tent anxiously. I’d call him nervous, but I’ve never once seen him look scared.
He feels my eyes on him because he quickly looks up with a weak smile.
“Believe it or not, I have a phobia of needles.”
I feel the bottom of my mouth hit the floor.
“He’s telling the truth,” Collin declares smugly as he takes a seat in the middle of us, plucking the needles out with tweezer like objects. “He screamed when I gave him his first snitch and that one barely hurt.”
“That is funny,” I try not to laugh. “Especially since you have more snitches than the rest of us.”
“My thoughts exactly,” Toby smiles back. “If I keep taking the needles, maybe one day I won’t be scared of them.”
Toby has good logic.
Feeling sentimental, I ask to have the first needle to prove I’m not scared of them myself. Toby watches one warily as Collin fills the syringe with a blue liquid and holds it up to the torch light hanging off the ceiling.
“See the snitch?” he asks and I lean forward, squinting at the liquid.
It takes some time, but eventually my eyes catch a flash of metal, a tiny speck that rolls smoothly around.
“This one looks really small,” I lean back again so Toby can inspect it.
“That’s the idea,” Collin nods. “The smaller it is, the more likely it won’t be discovered by officials.”
“Wait, what? How can they detect our snitches?”
“They have metal detectors,” Toby tells me as he finishes inspecting it himself. “They’re everywhere, even in stores.”
“We’ve been going into them,” I point out warily.
“That’s because I was able to trick the metal into thinking it wasn’t metal,” Collin states proudly. “This one, however, proved to be to tough so I had to make it smaller. Now, ready?”
I obediently hold out my arm, elbow to the table. I stare at the ceiling since I don’t want to see myself stabbed, but see Toby watching me from the corner of his eye.
I smile at him reassuringly, it isn’t that bad.
But than the icy stab of pain shoots up my arm.
On reflex, I try to wrench free, but Collin keeps me in firm place.
“Alice, I need you to hold still,” he says around gritted teeth and slowly presses down on the plunger.
My free hand clutches the table as the substance is inserted into my blood stream, feeling almost like an acid poison. While it originally felt like ice, it now feels like fire, travelling up my arm and slowly, slowly, spreading through my whole body with each thump of the heart.
“Are you okay?” Toby captures my free hand in his and I only realise now that I’m close to crying. It feels awful, painful to the point where I want to beg Collin to take it back. Something tells me, as he quickly pulls the needle out of my arm, that there’s no taking it back.
“Do not volunteer me for experiments again,” I say around gritted teeth. “This is not cool, dude.”
“Sorry, dude,” he mimics my tone of voice and if I could, I would punch him.
However, my arm feels dead to the world and even my finger won’t twitch on demand.
“I can’t feel my arm,” I say slowly, trying not the panic. Collin rushes to reassure me.
“Oh that’s meant to happen, don’t worry. The pain should stop soon as the snitch takes effect. You’ll get movement back in your arm as soon as that happens.”
Toby doesn’t look too impressed as he holds out his own arm, ready for his turn. His eyes look petrified as Collin readies the needle and I try to distract him.
“We can watch The Notebook later if you like. I still haven’t seen that one and you promised me we could.”
“Love,” he rolls his eyes and my heart thuds at the nickname, “I don’t think Eliza would want you in my tent. Alone. At night.”
“Screw Eliza,” I poke my tongue at him. “A promise is a promise.”
He’s beginning to smile when Collin quickly stabs him.
The look of pain in his eyes as he too tries to wrench free makes me feel sad.
“It’s starting to die down,” I declare loudly as reassurance to him. “It’s only for a few minutes, Toby.”
He doesn’t cry out or anything, but closes his eyes and leans his head back.
As soon as he’s done, Collin quickly discards of the empty syringes and jogs over to a computer which he taps away on quickly.
“Alice, the snitch should take affect in another minute or so. Toby, you have about three to go.”
“Great,” he mutters.
Neither any of us says anything, but instead focuses on their own task. My heartbeat, which was almost painful before, is starting to soften back into normal as the fire starts to loose it’s burn. I’m not sure how many times the liquid has circled my blood stream yet, but when I try to move my finger, it offers up a twitch.
That’s when my eyes start to go weird, blurry and dry.
“Umm, Collin?” I call out blindly. “I think I’m doing blind. Everything’s blurry.”
“What?” I can hear the panic in Toby’s voice.
“Don’t worry,” Collin calls to me. “That’s the snitch working on your eyes. You know how you see the red pulsing lights? Well, this is kind of the same. Don’t worry.”
I hope he’s right and usually he is so I close my eyes to stop myself from getting sick and take deep breaths.
I’m pretty much starting to doze off when Toby calls out,
“My eyes are going weird now, too. What do I do?”
I snap open my eyes, expecting the same blurry mess from before, only, it’s gone now.
“Oh, hey!” I let out a relieved laugh as I inspect my hand. “I can see again.”
“Yes!” Collin yells and I quickly look up to smile at him.
The red lights and words that appear when I stare at him nearly make me scream since it’s exactly normal. What I see is like a profile- name, date of birth plus more letters that spell out gibberish.
I start to laugh.
“What?” Collin hobbles over and I keep my eyes on him, giggling at his so called name.
“I think you’ll need to work on the naming thing,” I laugh. “According to this new snitch, you’re name is Marly Merl.”
Collin looks both astonished and embarrassed.
“Of course it did,” Toby scoffs from his side of the table and I quickly fix my eyes on him.
“Toby, is there something you’re not telling me?” I try to sound angry as I take in the new information. “I had no idea you were a three year old girl named Lacy. How could you lie to me like that?”
He opens his eyes to look at me and I see shock register on his face, too.
“I’m guessing you can see it now, too,” Collin starts to bounce in place.
“I sure can,” Toby says in awe. “However, according to this, you, Collin am not a Marly Merl. You’re really a Pluto Nando.”
I cover my mouth as I laugh, trying not to sound so hysterical.
“What am I?” I manage to ask around my laughter as he scans the air around my face, reading the information he can see.
“You’re a Johanna Berrel. Lovely name, but you’re ninety years old. Why are you such a cougar?”
Collin is beside himself, jumping around the tent cheering as he goes, stopping every now and then to tap away at his computer.
“It worked, it worked, it worked!”
Toby rolls his eyes.
“He does this every time. You’d think by now he’d know he’s a genius, but no. Each time he gets overly excited.”
“It is a great achievement.”
“I think I know what the problem is,” Collin practically skips over and takes his seat again, grin on his face. “I’ll have every one come see me with their information so I can register the snitches, something I probably should have done first. For example, Toby, I would hack your first snitch, the one that allows you to see the rebels, and add a name, date of birth and other information to it meaning that whenever someone sees you with this snitch, they’ll know what they need to know.”
“Dude, you are amazing,” I pat him on the arm. “Good work, Marly!”
“You mean Pluto,” Toby corrects.
“Shut up, Lacy. You’re only three.”
“I’m breaking up with you, Johanna,” he sighs. “I’m only three and you’re ninety. What would our parents say?”
We spend the rest of the afternoon laughing at one another.