Chapter Ten: Charisa
I wake up to the sound of the door squeaking open. Sitting up, I blink as Wanda pushes Faith into the room.
The door slides shut and Faith, shaking ever so slightly, crawls into her bed.
Pushing myself to the edge despite the whole height thing, I try to catch sight of her. “Are you okay?”
Faith doesn’t answer.
“I’ll take that as a yes then,” I say, crawling back into bed to see if I can find a more restful sleep.
Again, I wake up to the sound of the door squeaking open.
Wanda, with her usual entourage, stands on the other side. “Come.”
I climb out of bed and Faith melts back out of her corner. Together, we follow Wanda down the hallway to the shower room.
Numbly, I follow Faith inside, clean up, and then walk back out. Then Wanda leads us to the cafeteria, where Faith and I quietly take our seats.
Several minutes later, Kyle and Tim join us.
“Are you okay, Chrissie?” Kyle asks.
I numbly nod. I feel like I cried out all my emotion last night.
Tim turns with concern to my roommate. “And you, Faith?”
Sighing, Tim leans back into his chair. “Good to know.”
Wanda gives us our meals and we begin eating without another word.
Finally, Tim breaks the silence. “So, Chrissie, Kyle, you said you were a couple?”
“As a matter of fact,” Kyle says, narrowing his eyes at Tim, “we are.”
“Oh.” Tim looks slightly disappointed.
“He gave me this bracelet-” I stop when I remember that my bracelet is in Kyle’s car.
But my whistle wasn’t.
I touch my bare neck and gasp. “My whistle! They have my whistle!” Immediately, all numbness melts away.
Kyle gently touches my shoulder. “Don’t worry; I’ll get it back for you.”
Like that’s even a possibility- even for him. But it’s sweet of him to say it anyway. “Thanks.”
“I have a necklace,” Faith says suddenly.
Startling at her voice, I turn to her.
Faith blinks and then pulls a simple leather cord out from underneath her shirt.
Tim leans forward, looking even more surprised than Kyle and me. “You still have that?”
“It’s precious to me,” Faith answers, still staring past us. “Thank you again.”
Tim nods, a trace of a smile appearing on his face.
I turn to him. “You gave that to her?”
Tim nods again. “I found it and thought she’d like it.”
“I did.” Faith tucks the necklace back under her shirt and goes silent again.
Wanda returns. “Two, Four, follow me.”
Faith and I obediently do so. Wanda leads us back to our cell and seals us back in.
Then I pace. Back and forth. Tick tock. Second by second my life seems to be slipping away in this slavery with no hope of reclaiming them...
The door squeals open. Seriously, if someone doesn’t oil that thing soon, I’m going to go as mad as Faith.
Wanda stares in at us with two guards flanking her. “Follow me.”
Faith blinks, but does so. As do I.
Wanda leads us down the hallway past closed door after closed door after closed door. With each doorway we pass, Faith gets more fidgety.
I lick my lips, my heart beginning to race with each of Faith’s nervous tics.
Finally, Wanda unlocks the eighteenth door and pushes us in. I catch myself, but Faith collapses on the ground.
“Not again,” she whispers. “You never do it two days in a row. You can’t do this to me again!”
Wanda stares down at her like one would look at an ant. “Sorry. But the deadline approaches.” Then she leaves.
I scan the room. It’s an even larger lab than the last one I was in, and about half a dozen guards are stationed around the room. Like all the other guards, they seem to be completely oblivious to our existence. But I don’t feel confident enough to test this theory.
I touch Faith’s shoulder instead. “Hey, it’s okay.”
She stares straight ahead. “No, it’s not. Nothing is. They’re doing it again. They’re not supposed to do it twice in a row- they’re breaking the pattern...”
Wanda returns with Tim. He looks confused.
Okay, so this is really out of the ordinary then. What are they going to do to us?
Suddenly, a metal door opens up and Jin Yin steps out of it. Fear and anger race through me alike- but I force myself to see beyond him to the room he’s stepped out of.
It’s an elevator.
The door slides close, but I mentally rehearse and memorize our route to this place.
Jin approaches us. Stopping awkwardly a few feet away, he clears his throat. “Have a seat.”
I turn around and see three seats.
Tim helps Faith to her feet. Then they both go to the chairs and take a seat.
I, however, stay standing. “You can’t do this to us. We’re human beings. You have no right.”
Jin clears his throat. “It’s for the future. The means justify the ends. I’m sorry, but I have to do this.”
“That’s not the truth and you know it.”
“There is no truth,” Jin Yin says rather sadly, his eyes mournful.
“Then you’ve deceived yourself. Because there is truth, and it will always come out.”
A guard grabs me by my shoulders and pushes me down on the chair meant for me. I don’t fight them- that’s not a battle I can win. But there is one that there is still hope for.
As the guards man-handle me, I keep my eyes locked on Jin’s.
Jin Yin looks away first.
And Wanda holds up a syringe and injects it into Tim’s arm. He doesn’t cry out; just stares stoically ahead.
Walking past him, Wanda injects a different syringe into Faith’s arm.
Then Wanda is beside me with a third syringe.
I look up at her. “I’m only going to say this once. Please don’t.”
Her eyes glint with something. Power? “And what if I don’t listen?”
“Then I will make you wish you had. Maybe not today. Maybe not tomorrow. But someday- and then for the rest of your life.”
“I never cared for Casablanca.” With that, she drives the needle into my arm.
I bite my lip to keep from crying out at the roughness of it. I’ve been through worse, and my regenerative health will help me overcome this…
Wanda seems to be walking sideways away from me. I blink, and the room spins around her again. What in the-? “Your Cure has quite an anomaly.”
“That’s not my Cure,” Jin answers. “That was the liquid form of the chemical that weakens you. When you’re on the same page as an average human, I’ll, uh, give you the Cure.”
Now shadows are sliding into the swirling room. I’m going to be sick… “Two shots in the same day?” I slur. “Great. Just great.”
Then blackness closes in completely and my mind goes dark.
Light filters through my eyelids and I open my eyes before blinking rapidly.
“Almost exactly two hours,” a tall man in a lab coat says. “Beautiful precision.”
“Huh?” My tongue feels so large and dry in my mouth. “What happened?”
I turn my head, and almost pass out again. Gritting my teeth, I cling to consciousness and find two other teenagers blinking painfully to my left.
“Now that you’re all awake...” The man in the lab coat turns to a woman also wearing a lab coat.
The woman nods and injects a syringe into the teenage boy. Then she injects another into the girl and I have dejá vu. When the woman approaches me, the man announces, “This, Four, is my Cure.”
That’s when the truth hits me and I remember everything. “It’s not a Cure, it’s a curse!”
“It is a Cure,” Jin Yin insists. “And this-” He gestures to the lab and then to me. “Is a necessary sacrifice to develop it.”
I jerk backwards with the last of my energy. “Don’t you dare lecture me about sacrifices!”
Wanda grabs my arm all too easily and injects the Cure into it.
Then she steps back and stands next to Jin Yin to watch us teenagers patiently.
I blink and stare at them foggily as they come in and out of my vision.
Until my vision clears and I see them vividly, every facial mole and wrinkle.
And my head clears. It’s like my regenerative health is back.
But it’s not.
Which scares me. “What’s happening?”
“See,” Jin Yin says, “it is a cure.”
I glare at him and he staggers back a bit. “Wanda, begin the truths- I mean the tests.”
I turn to Tim.
He mouths, ’just go with it.”
Faith just shivers.
Then Wanda brings us a platter of every food imaginable.
I stare down at it. “What-?”
But Tim and Faith are already eating.
“They’re testing for allergic reactions,” Tim says between a muffin and a handful of strawberries.
I blanch at that. I never had allergies before- not counting my kryptonite.
But the cafeteria food around here is horrible.
Grabbing the chocolates, I join in. And do my best to ignore the way Jin Yin is scribbling everything on his clipboard.
Focus, Charisa. Focus on the yummy, salty chips while you still can. Too bad Kyle isn’t here- “Ouch!”
Wanda pulls away with another needle and Jin Yin scribbles something new on his clipboard.
I glance between them. “What was that?! Why are there so many needles?”
“Just more tests allergies,” Jin Yin assures. “Er, allergies tests. Make sure no one dies from the Cure somehow..”
My eyes narrow. “I really don’t like you.”
But I also don’t feel any different than just a normal day with regenerative health.
Not that I’m going to tell them that or anything.
Tapping his chin, Jin Yin glances down at the clipboard. “So far, no harmful side effect. Commence with the electricity test.”
“No-” Tim begins.
Before I can add any protests of my own, my ankle explodes in electrifying pain. Sparks shoot throughout my nervous system and up and down my spine. I need to escape this pain. I need to go-
But there is no escape from your own body. My body that’s burning, the smell of burnt flesh attacking my nose-
And then it’s not. My body stops convulsing and the smell is gone.
Gasping, I turn to find Tim and Faith also breathing heavily and as soaked in sweat as I am. Tim looks ready to pass out.
“Same results as last time,” Jin Yin mutters to himself, scribbling some more on his clipboard.
“Is it time to test the anomaly?” Wanda asks.
He doesn’t even glance up. “How long since they’ve been injected with the chemical?”
“Eleven and a half hours.”
He nods. “In half an hour their superpowers will return, and their regenerating health will rid their bodies of the Cure. We never had the anomaly tested so far from their recovery point before, but we did adjust the Cure slightly since yesterday, so the anomaly might be obsolete.” He glances at me and then clears his throat. “I guess it’s about time for the ‘truth’ to come out.”
Wanda nods and leaves the room. She returns holding a wicked-looking gun that I can’t name (and I can name most guns). She aims the gun at us super humans.
I jump up. “Whoa, whoa, whoa! Shooting people is an anomaly that can only be fixed by the person pulling the trigger!”
“Relax,” Wanda orders. “This isn’t a normal gun.”
“How reassuring,” I mutter.
“I created it myself,” Jin Yin adds.
“It doesn’t shoot bullets,” Tim explains. “It shoots frequencies. They used it to find a frequency so high-pitched that it could only be created artificially.” Tim takes Faith’s hand with one of his and then takes one of mine with his other, pulling me back down into my seat. “Brace yourself.”
Wanda pulls the trigger, and I brace myself.
And nothing happens. At least nothing I can hear. Of course I’m without my super hearing-
“Ow!” My whole body is erupting in a terrible ache-like pain. Not through my nerves like the electrocution, thank goodness, but now every bone of my body feels so sore and leaden.
Wanda smirks. “See? Truth- despite your doubts.”
Faith collapses out of her chair, and Tim leans down to help her, but he ends up on the floor with her.
Suddenly, several guards descend upon us, pluck them up, and place them on their seats.
I stare at them helplessly as they fasten us all down with strange bands securing our arms to the arms of our chairs, the cold metal actually something of a relief on my forearms.
Jin Yin hurries to a monitor on the wall. “Hmm, it’s the same as last time. Apparently the adjustments were in vain. Their bodies are still shutting down.”
Jerking toward him, I’m almost sick. “My body is what?!”
He frowns. “I don’t know what causes the anomaly. It must have been one of the chemicals I added to the leaf’s juice. Or maybe it’s the way I artificially reproduce the Cure...” He shakes his head. “Surely there’s a way to amend the anomaly, but how? Surely I didn’t do all this work only to be undone by a single anomaly....” He shakes his head again. “Perhaps Professor N. will have an idea.”
“Don’t worry,” I manage to say through gritted teeth. I should be feeling anger, but I can’t past the pain. “The truth will reveal itself in time.”
If looks could kill, then my body shutting itself down would be the least of my problems.
My vision begins to blur as Wanda forces more food down my mouth. Gagging, I try to force it down. Why this torture?
A needle gets injected into my arm and I toss my head back and forth against the chair, but find no relief. Why aren’t they healing us?
Suddenly, a bolt of electricity jolts through my body.
I bend over and am sick all over the floor. On the side Tim isn’t sitting. I think. I hope. I don’t really care-
Come on, Charisa. Think beyond this. Think- I hate pain. But death doesn’t scare me. I’ve faced it before. It’s dying here and no one knowing the truth of the matter that scares me.
“Two. Four. Six. Eight,” I whisper.
Tim gives me a strange look, as if to say ‘you’re just as crazy as my roommate,’ but the others don’t seem to notice. Neither, apparently, does Kyle, because he doesn’t answer.
Or he does, and I just can’t hear him. I can’t hear his voice one last time.
A tear runs down my face. And just like that the pain is gone. “Okay, what happened?”
“Your superpowers came back,” Jin Yin answers. “Your regenerating health healed you.”
Tim nods wearily, but Faith continues to groan.
“What about her?” I demand.
“Her regenerating health is slower than yours,” Jin Yin answers sadly. “Regretful, I know.”
“So she’s still dying?!”
“Just give her a few minutes.”
I jerk at my binds, and they moan. “She doesn’t have a few minutes! Do something!”
“Calm down, Chrissie,” Tim says, rubbing Faith’s hand. “She doesn’t like fighting; she’ll get better eventually. And if she doesn’t.” He looks up at Jin Yin and coolly adds, “I will kill you myself.”
Jin Yin gulps.
Thankfully for us all, Faith does recover after several impossibly long minutes.
“There,” Jin Yin says, tugging at his shirt collar, “it all worked out in the end. Wanda, return them to their rooms.”
Faith and I are un-strapped and led to our rooms. We stumble in, both shaking as badly as Faith had been yesterday. Somehow, I climb into my bed.
“Two. Four,” I stutter. “Six-”
I fall asleep before I can say the last word.