“With a pressure of about 2 Gigapascals - or about 20,000 atmospheres, which is the same pressure you get under 20 kilometres of ice or water - you can produce ice at normal room temperature. Explain this phenomenon.
“Oh my God! Who the hell cares?” I mumble angrily, staring at the chemistry homework with mounting anger. Sighing loudly, I lean back on my chair, rubbing my eyes tiredly.
Taking a sip of my iced-coffee, I stare outside, momentarily distracted by Seattle’s autumn colors. I watch as the cars roll down the streets, noise dimmed by the windows of the coffee shop. The trees are filled with fiery colors, red, orange and brown mingling together like flames.
I grimace, the season disgusting me. I didn’t like autumn. The leaves everywhere, the unstable weather, and the muddy patches here and there... that wasn’t for me. I was more of a winter person, absolutely loving the shimmering white snow covering everything, wearing hoodies all day and sitting with a book and hot cocoa near a window. And ice skating. Boy I loved ice skating.
A little bell rings, announcing yet another customer. I shake out of my reverie and start shuffling through my manual for the answer before jotting it down on the sheet.
Under very high pressure, water turns into other solid states denser than both ice and liquid water, just as carbon transforms into diamond under extreme pressures.
I move on to the next question.
“What two elements form ammonia?”
I don’t know, nor do I care. I skip to the next question.
“What is the state of matter of fire or flame? Is it a liquid, solid, or gas?”
I scowl, shutting my books loudly.
“I’m done. That’s it, I don’t care what he’ll say,” I huff to myself, standing up from my seat and packing up my stuff. Once all is packed, I sling my bag over my shoulder, finish my drink and throw the cup in the garbage. I glance at my watch as I walk out.
8 o’clock. School starts in an hour. Perfect timing.
“Meridelle Tudor, why is your homework incomplete?” Mr. Rothberg enquires, eyeing my half-answered sheet over his glasses. He glares at me, his dark eyes practically gazing into my soul.
“Well you see I didn’t see the purpose of knowing that kind of stuff and―”
“I don’t want to hear it. I need to talk to you after class,” he declares, huffing before giving me back my sheet.
I look around to see all my classmates gazing at me, annoyance clear on their features. I can practically feel the disgust emanating from them. I shrug and continue doodling in my notebook as the teacher continues verifying the homework.
I shut my mind as Mr. Rothberg starts teaching, not caring about all the nonsense coming out of his mouth. I wanted to learn something useful. Something that’d help me later on in life. Not some stupid formulas on pressure, temperature and volume.
When the bell rings, I don’t move right away, waiting for everyone to file out.
“Come here Meridelle.”
I huff, standing from my seat and walking all the way to the front to my teacher’s desk.
“What’s going on Meridelle?”
I look at him like he’s stupid.
“What do you mean?” I answer slowly.
“That’s the fifth time in two weeks you haven’t completed your assignments!”
“Look I know it’s been hard. But we’ve given you more than enough time to grieve your older sister. You are purposefully screwing your year.” He exhales noisily, his thumb and forefinger rubbing his temples. “I know losing someone you love hurts alright? But I doubt she’d want you to screw the rest of your life because of her. You need to take a hold of yourself Meridelle. It’s been a year already.”
“You don’t know anything,” I respond dryly.
“You should try to make some friends and talk―”
“Make friends?!” I scoff. “Nobody likes me here. I’m the black sheep. I’m the girl who practically killed her little sister.”
“Meridelle if you’d only be a little nicer―”
“I don’t need friends,” I snap, tossing my blonde hair out of my face.
There’s a short moment of silence when all he does is stare at me, before he shuts his eyes and sighs.
“Meridelle you are 17 years old. Life is far from being over. I just don’t want you to completely ruin your chances of a successful future by messing up your last year in high school. Can you do that for me? Can you at least make an effort?”
“I am trying.”
“Not hard enough. I know you can do much better than what you are doing right now. You just need the power to push your life back into the right track.”
“Can I go now please?” I respond. “My parents are probably waiting for me.” Lies.
“Do you promise to try? I know you can pull this off.”
“Yes, I promise,” I grumble, tapping my foot.
“Then you can go,” he nods, motioning the door.
I grab my books and head out. Ignoring the glares as I step outside the school, I rapidly walk to my grand-parents’ house. See I could’ve gone to my parents’ house, but the problem is that I know I’m no longer welcome after the incident. I like to believe they don’t hate me, that they don’t want me around because I remind them of Joy, my older sister, and it saddens them but deep down I know I’m lying to myself. They don’t even want to hear my name, no matter how hard my grandmother tries to reason with my mother. I don’t blame them either. After all, I did let my older sister burn alive. Accidentally. So that’s how I ended up under my grandparents’ custody, my grandmother more willing to keep me than my grandfather. We could say Joy was Grandpa’s little girl.
I storm right up to the guest room as soon as I’m ‛home’, grabbing a cupcake from the table before locking myself up in the bedroom and opening a book.
“So how was school?” Grandma asks during supper, passing the salad bowl to her husband.
“It was okay,” I shrug. “Nothing interesting.”
My grand-parents look at each other briefly.
“The principal called,” Grandpa states, taking a bite out of a piece of bread. “Something about another unfinished homework.”
I exhale loudly, digging my fork into a piece of chicken.
“I tried doing it. But I couldn’t. Look I hate chemistry. It’s not even important,” I state, munching on my food slowly.
“But it is dear,” Grandma chuckles, smiling to herself.
“We talked about this young lady. Either you get your grades up or we have to start imposing study hours. You won’t be able to nestle in a corner with a book all the time,” Grandpa continues, looking at me pointedly.
“Why not? These books are way more interesting than reality,” I mutter, fingers drumming on the table.
“But they are not reality Meri... You have to know the difference.”
“Whatever,” I grumble.
Silence follows as we resume our meal and my mind starts drifting. I reminisce the accident that sent my whole life crashing, shuddering in unease as the sound my sister’s screams comes back to me. Anger and frustration bubble up inside me as I recall the horror on my parents face. The disgust. The raw revulsion of everybody at school.
My fingers reflexively clench around the glass of water I’m holding.
“Honey are you alright?” Grandma asks worriedly.
“Are you sure? You know you can talk to us about anything...”
“I’m perfectly fine,” I retort, annoyed.
“Don’t talk to your grandmother like that young lady,” my grandfather reprimands brusquely, his utensils dropping with a small clink. “You should be more respectful.”
“It’s no problem Joseph―”
“But it is. We took her into our own home and paid for her food,” he continues, getting carried on. “The least she could do is be a little more respectful towards us and be successful at school in order to get her diploma and get an appropriate job,” he declares.
“At least Joy wouldn’t have messed up her life like you do. She had a future.”
“JOSEPH.” Grandma exclaims.
I stand up angrily. “Well I’m not Joy, and I never will be! So deal with it!” I shout, shooting him a dark look before stomping up the stairs and to my room, slamming the door so hard my arm actually ached. Filled with rage and hurt, I lose the control I had managed to keep for so long. I start screaming and sobbing all at once, pulling every single book I had off its shelf and throwing them to the floor.
“Meridelle―” I know Grandma means well, but I don’t want to talk. At all. That’s just what I do. I isolate myself from the world.
“Go away!” I yell, completely broken. I push everything that’s on the desk off, books, pencils and sheets of paper flying everywhere.
“Let me in―”
“No!” I hit the door hard, my hand flat on its surface before my forehead leans on the wood. “Please,” I cry, turning around and letting my knees give out under my weight. “I just want to be alone!” I sob, head leaning against the door as tears fill my eyes. “Please...”
I’m answered with silence. Digging my face into my knees, I shut my eyes and let the pain envelop me once more. I hear my sister’s pleading voice in my mind.
“No!” I protest loudly.
A shiver rakes my whole body. My fingers clench around my jeans but I release them when a sudden rush of cold fills the atmosphere. I open my eyes, and am momentarily blinded by the whiteness of my surroundings. Placing my hand over my eyes, I gasp in shock as I finally see the blanket of snow and ice covering the bedroom like a winter wonderland. Small snowflakes are falling from the ceiling. I blink rapidly, not believing my eyes. I move to stand up, my hand slipping as it slid across the iced floor. I catch myself and manage to get back on my feet. I stare around confused, my bare feet on the ice. Why aren’t I cold?
“Grandma?” I enquire, voice still shaky from the tears. My hand wraps around the doorknob and I try twisting it but its frozen solid. “Grandma?!” I repeat, worried. I rattle the doorknob. “Grandma! Grandpa!” I yell, tapping loudly on the door. I shake the doorknob again and this time it falls off, shattering in my fingers.
Fear builds inside me as I push the door open. My heart stops. The whole house is frozen, layers of snow and ice covering everything. As I exhale in shock, a small cloud of vapour escapes my lips. I push the door open even wider, but stop moving when I hear a loud thump. Wincing, I peer over the wooden door. My breath catches in my throat and I faint.
My head lolls heavily sideways, making me cringe.
“Subject 013 is showing signs of awakening.” A voice echoes in the room.
I grimace, blinking a couple times. My head hurts. What the hell happened? There was snow everywhere...I shift to stretch but the rattling of chains startles me. Quicker than I would have thought possible, I’m suddenly fully alert, looking at my surroundings. I’m not in my grandparents’ home. I’m in a white room, with a single door mocking me a couple feet away from me. I try to move forwards but metal shackles restrain my movements. I begin fighting against the bindings.
“Whatever sick joke this is, it’s not funny!” I yell angrily, looking everywhere. “Let me go!” I continue, trying to pull my hands out of the metal shackles. I stand up, tugging towards me with all my strength but to no avail.
“Subject 013 is fully awake and kicking.”
“Subject 013 has a name fucktard!” I shout to the speaker irritably. “And I am not a subject! I’m a person! Let me out!” I say heatedly. I pull on the restraints once more. The metal cuts into my skin but I don’t care. I just keep pulling, desperately trying to be released from their hold.
“Subject 013 is showing signs of self-harm.”
“Fuck you!” I shout.
The door opens suddenly, revealing a man who appears to be in his mid-thirties. Everything about him screams impeccable, from his gelled hair to his shiny black leather shoes. He shuts the door before looking down at me. Who the fuck is he?!
“I am Samson Strife, director of the operations here at R.I.S.G,” he provides, his Australian accent strong. He holds out his hand for me to shake but I only sit and look at him intently.
And what the fuck is that.
“The Research Institution for the Supernaturally Gifted.”
I’m shocked and confused. I didn’t utter a single word yet he answered both my questions.
“Yes it’s called mind-reading,” he supplies. “Anyways, you must be wondering what you are doing here? If you’re willing to cooperate, we can have a chat over some coffee. Maybe then things will be a little clearer.”
“I don’t like coffee,” I respond, frowning as I look him up and down.
“Iced-coffee then? That’d be better wouldn’t it?” He proposes, snapping his fingers. To my surprise, the shackles automatically fall off. I stare at him some more. Nothing about him is encouraging me to listen to him.
“I can promise you no harm will be done to you if you do as we ask.”
I stay unmoving.
“Now I’m being polite here, but I do not have all day, and neither do you. So either you move by yourself, or I’m fetching Derek,” he states, looking at his watch.
I glare at him challengingly. Go fetch him then.
He gazes at me in disbelief, cocking his eyebrow upwards. I do not flinch.
“Fine then. I thought this could be done willingly but I guess you just need a little... persuasion.”
I watch as he opens the door and beckons somebody inside. I almost start laughing when I see the fifteen year-old boy enter. He isn’t threatening. At all. In fact, he’s like a puppy.
“Hey,” he says softly, looking at me. His hand grabs mine. “I want you to go with him,” he continues, his deep blue eyes staring into mine. “I need you to go with him.”
My mind is drowsy. I find myself getting slightly dizzy, his words going over and over in my head. I mull over his order. It seems like a good idea. The best one ever. I have to listen to Derek. He needs it.
“I’ll follow you,” I tell Samson, the words forming easily on my lips.
“Thank you Derek. You can head back now.”
I watch, almost saddened as the dark-haired boy leaves. I push the thought away as Samson leads me out of the room, then through a couple corridors.
“In here,” the man says, opening an oak door. I walk inside, frowning.
“What did you do?” I ask, pissed. “I didn’t want to follow you!”
Why did I listen to Derek?
“My son has the powers of persuasion, dear. Now take a seat, we have a lot to talk about, especially about your newly permanent residency at the R.I.S.G.”