“You didn't have to stand up for me,” I mumble to Liam as the three of us are seated like troublesome kids in front of Samson's office. “I can take care of myself.”
“Oh really? Because having Derek controlling you is totally taking care of yourself,” he retorts, wiping his reddened eyes from his previous crying.
“I had it under control,” I insist.
“Whatever,” he responds, eyeing the two men watching us tensely. I recognise the red-haired one who touched me earlier. I’m willing to bet he was the one who made us cry. Our eyes meet and I shiver.
I shift my gaze to Louis who’s outspread on his chair.
“What's your gift Louis?” I ask after awhile of silence, curious.
“Oh so now you want to talk?” he mocks in slight irritation.
A pang of guilt hits me.
“I didn't mean to be so cold...”
I watch in awe as a cartoon cloud appears over Louis's head before a miniature lightning bolt shoots out and rain starts pouring on his head, drenching his clothes.
“Great! Are you serious?! You didn't mean to be so cold? Don't you see the irony?!” He scoffs.
I blink a couple times, rubbing my eyes. What in the world?! A puddle of water forms around him.
“No you're not dreaming,” Louis grumbles, pulling out an umbrella from his back pocket as if it happened every day. How did an umbrella fit in his pocket?!
“What is this?”
“Cartoon physics,” he responds once the little cloud floats away before disappearing with a POP, letters actually appearing into thin air. This is crazy!
“Cartoon physics?” I repeat, confused.
“I can apply cartoon properties to this world.” He sighs, noticing I still don't understand. “Just like a Looney Tune, I could get hit by a train, burnt to a crisp by dynamite or anything really and I wouldn't feel it because I'm immune to pain. I can dim the pull gravity has on me and I can bend any particle or atom to my will.”
“Whoa wait a sec. I sucked at physics and chemistry... what does that last part mean?”
“He can mostly be invisible and other things,” Liam supplies, still gazing at the two men dressed in white uniforms. “He's pretty much like a cartoon character. One who can be all of them at once.”
“So you can pretty much do anything?” I say in wonder, thinking of all the possibilities.
“Yeah. But there are rules: I can't kill anyone and I can only use my gift when the situation is considered ironic, funny or simply life threatening. Which really sucks. I'm useless most of the time.”
“I don't think it sucks. It's better than what I have. At least you're not lethal,” I retort, thinking about my grand-parents. About how I’d murdered them.
“I don't think it's that much better. You're not the one who'll watch everyone they love die.”
“Louis that's just another one of Strife's crazy theories,” Liam shakes his head, slouching on his chair. “You're not immortal. I'm pretty sure you'll end up dying like all of us one day or another.”
“Liam I haven't changed for the last year. At all. I've been measured, weighed, checked from the roots of my hair to the tip of my toes: I have not aged or changed since this cursed gift,” he spews angrily, his fingers tightening on the seat of his chair. “I'm never going to die. Never. How can I even fathom the thought of having my own family if I know I’ll end up burying them all?” he continues, pained.
“Louis stop over thinking. It's what Strife wants,” the brunette shakes his head, rubbing his friend's shoulders. “You can't let him get to you.”
The door of Samson's office open's, revealing the devil himself.
“You three, in my office,” he motions, beckoning us inside. My fists clench as I watch Louis and Liam stand up. “You too Miss Tudor,” he stares at me as I sit unmoving. No. “Ed. Tristan.”
Both men move from their statue-like position, approaching me.
“You don't even let me the chance to standing!” I spew angrily. The two men stop moving as Samson lifts two fingers.
“You weren't planning on standing until now,” he replies calmly before holding his hand out. “I can read your mind dear, don’t forget that.”
Grimacing, I shift my weight to my feet and walk myself into his office, feeling him right behind me. I take a seat at the chair beside Louis in front of Samson's desk.
“I’m very disappointed boys,” Strife sighs as he shuts the door behind him. I keep my eyes focused on him as he sits as his desk, knitting his fingers in front of him as he leans towards us. “Not more than thirty minutes after my departure and there’s a fight in the cafeteria. Started by you,” he continues, pointing Liam.
“Your son started it,” he replies hotly. “If he hadn’t been messing with Meridelle―”
“He wasn’t messing with her. I asked him to help her fit in―”
“By bloody controlling her?!” Liam protests heatedly, his hands igniting. “If removing her will is not controlling her than I bloody wonder what your definition of 'control' is!” My own fists clench.
“Liam calm down. I make the decisions here. Not you.” Samson retorts dryly.
“You’re making decisions that only benefit yourself!” He spews, his fist hitting the desk as he stands up. “You claim you’re doing this for us but you're really doing this for your own fucking benefit!”
“Liam!” Samson stands up, his look deadly. “Sit. Down.”
“Weird you haven’t called Tristan yet! Is because you’re trying to look nice to us around her? You’re scared she’ll find out that all you’re doing is using her like you’re using us?” Liam mocks, motioning me. “Well guess what? You aren’t fooling anyone!”
“Enough!” he booms.
The door opens in a flash and suddenly, Ed and Tristan jump on Liam. Immediately, the brunette starts crying, fat droplets of water escaping his eyes. In complete submissiveness, he drops to the floor, grimacing in pain.
“You're a fucking bastard,” Louis snarls angrily, watching as his friend gets carried away through the heavy metal door at the end of Samson's office. “He's right. So fucking right.”
“Would you like to join him then, Mr. Tomlinson?” he retorts coolly.
“Join him where?” I enquire.
“Discipline,” the man rectifies. “How am I supposed to help you if you don’t want to help yourselves?”
“Meridelle he’s lying, don’t listen to him! He’s using us for his own benefit! He doesn’t give a damn about us!” Louis stands, a bubble with a string of angry drawings and curse words appearing over the brunette’s head.
“Tomlinson you’re joining Liam.”
“Fine. See if I give a fuck!” He snaps, walking himself through the door where Liam had disappeared.
Samson shuts it behind them, locking it shut with a deep sigh. The man rubs his temples, sitting down at his desk.
“I’m so sorry Meridelle to have seemed so harsh; these boys have always been rowdy and they seem convinced that I’m the bad guy,” he exhales, arranging the papers on his desk. “Now as for you―”
The door behind him rattles, making me jump. I frown.
“What exactly are they doing back there?” I enquire.
“You don’t want to know.”
“I do want to know,” I shake my head, “that’s why I’m asking.”
He purses his lips, looking at me longly before answering.
“I drain them of their energy and―”
“So it really is torture,” I cut in.
“No,” he shakes his head. “We simply drain their supernatural essence and replace it with the normal human one. I’m doing them a favor.”
There’s Liam’s pained shout at the other side of the door, making goose bumps rise on the surface of my skin.
“Really? Doing them a favor?” I scoff, standing.
“I wouldn’t call it Discipline if it wasn’t painful,” he tries to reason, also standing. “It’s not even permanent. Their blood vessels, our blood vessels, fight the human ones. They get their gifts back within the next couple hours,” he elaborates. “We needed a form of punishment here or it’d be chaos. We can’t tolerate chaos in an atmosphere as fragile as ours.”
I wince as I hear another pained shout. He’s a sadist. Listening to those screams without flinching is sadistic.
“Can I go please?” I ask before he can reply to my thoughts.
He eyes me warily for mere seconds, and stands. Samson walks to the bookshelf, before pulling out a book. He hands it to me. Alice in Wonderland.
“Are you serious?” I frown, taking it.
“Very. I think it can be a step in your mental development.”
“Of course. Because reading a book about a crazy little girl can help me,” I roll my eyes.
“You never know. I’m very curious of how you’ll perceive this book,” he ends, sitting back down on his chair. More tortured screams fill my ears. “I’ll see you tomorrow Meridelle.”
“Whatever,” I sigh, leaving his office. As I walk back to my room, I eye the worn cover of the book. Clearly, this book had seen things, had some sort of history. Knitting my eyebrows, I skim the pages. Yellowed with spots of ink here and there, it seems to have been written, not printed. Curious.
Still bemused, I push on the door leading inside my room and enter. I stop dead in my tracks and drop the book when I notice there’s a boy carelessly lying on my bed.
“I’m Zayn,” he starts before I can urge him out.
“Well Zayn you’re in my room and I’m not in the mood to talk to anybody. So please, get out,” I state firmly. He cocks his eyebrow upwards.
He sighs deeply, passing a hand trough his dark hair.
“Fine then,” he exhales, standing up slowly from my bed. “I only wanted to let you know that I’m glad to have you here with us,” he trails on, approaching me. I tense as he comes too near. “Because I’ll finally be able to have some fun,” he chuckles in my ear.
“Why? What’s your gift?!” I enquire worriedly.
“Oh you’ll find out soon enough,” he smirks, walking away. “See ya Meri,” he finishes, giving me a short wave before exiting my room.
I stare at the door for a good minute before bending down to grab the book. A page falls out as I pick it up. Frowning, I look at it. One side is blank. The other has ten words written in neat script: Read Between The Lines And You Shall Find The Sign.
I gaze at the page longly, rereading the same ten words about twenty times. Just what might it mean?