Chapter Twenty-Six: Emily
When I get up and get dressed, I don’t put my new beret on, but I do put it in my pocket.
At breakfast, the first words I hear for the day are from Donald and they are, “Why aren’t you wearing your beret?”
Both he and Destiny are wearing theirs, so I put mine on.
Violet rolls her eyes at us.
“You joined that new club?” Mickey asks. “I’ve been thinking about joining too. I’ve been in lots of clubs in the past. There was-”
The intercom interrupts, announces, “Tomorrow will be a campus-wide test. The best scoring percentage will be transferred to Harvard, Massachusetts, US. for two weeks of studying in the Yin Program based there. Thank you.”
I feel the color drain from my face at the thought of a test. I see the color drain from Mickey’s face. Everyone else, however, looks perfectly suave.
Christopher glances at me with concern. When the others get involved
With Violet on my way to art class, I notice that kids seem to go out of their way to stay out of our way.
“They must be really scared of you, Violet,” I say.
“Not me,” she answers. “You’re the one wearing the beret.”
I don’t think anyone has ever feared me except Chase after he pulled his first (and last) prank on me.
At art class, Senorita Hernández has us do landscapes. As we sketch and paint, she studies our work and routinely compliments us. I can’t help but notice that she mostly compliments beret wearers (including me- but not, surprisingly, Violet).
At least we’re all treated as equals in the swimming class. Except for one guy who tried to wear his beret swimming. He gets laughed at as it floats away from his head before drinking in too much water and sinking to the bottom.
But in science class, I raise my hand just as a non-beret wearer raises his hand. Professor N. calls on me.
I frown. What on earth is going on here?
Suddenly Professor N. throws his papers on the floor, startling me, and then scans the room with an intense, half-mad look in his eyes.
Swallowing hard, I twitch in my seat. The tension in here just got ten times worse.
“Today’s lesson,” Dr. N. begins, stepping over his notes, “is about conscientious problems with certain scientific methods. For instance, what do you think about testing on humans?”
I stare at him in silence.
“That’s horrible!” someone cries.
“Well, it’s better than testing on animals...”
“If they volunteered…”
Dr. N. narrows his eyes at us all. “Against their will.”
Just like that, everyone is silent- there are still some things common decency cannot overlook.
“Well,” Destiny begins, “if it’s for the good of society...”
“Would the people get, like, superpowers?” Donald asks. “Because if that’s the case, I’d totally be willing.”
Professor N.’s eyes glint. “What if that person were you? Or a loved one? Whenever you face a decision like that, always- always- put a face on the victim, no matter how nameless. Or else you will become a victim of your own dark mind.”
The bell rings and Professor N. suddenly looks very resigned. “Well, good-bye class.”
Something about his tone makes it sound permanent. Something about it sends chills down my spine.
I walk to the cafeteria in a blur.
Mickey starts speaking before sitting down at our table. “Yep; I think I’ll join the Club DM. How ’bout you, Christopher?”
He glances at me. “If Emily wants me to.” His eyes seem to add, ‘Until our ride gets here.’
“I’m not,” Violet says.
Donald whirls around to face her. “Why not?”
“Because it seems too pretentious.”
“Uh-huh.” Donald proceeds to ignore her for the rest of the lunch.
Dr. Earnestine isn’t in his office when Christopher and I walk over to it for my appointment.
Christopher frowns. “Is he not meeting you today?”
I check my watch. “I’m pretty sure he is.” I try the door. It opens.
My eyes fall on the files on his desk. “Maybe this is the opportunity I need for a little investigating like the superhumans said.”
His frown deepens. “Emily, I don’t think that’s such a good idea-”
“Go down the hallway and keep watch. If he comes, you just come around first. I’ll see it from here and take my seat.”
I take his hands in mine and look pleadingly up at him. “Please?”
He sighs. “Fine. But this had better not end badly.”
Christopher gives me a look that says he isn’t so certain, but he moves down the hallway.
And I quickly go into the room and hurry to behind his desk.
Pushing back thoughts of trespassing, I glance at the glass door to make sure no one is the hallway yet. Then I start leafing through the papers on the desk. A calendar of appointments. A list of names. A receipt for a coffee shop.
With another glance at the door, I return my gaze back to the list of names. Two columns of names on each list, some spots blank; some names check-marked, and some not. My eyes find my name between a check-mark and Violet’s name.
What in the-?
I search for Christopher’s name and find it next to Donald’s.
Breathing heavily, I step back. Why on earth does a therapist have a list of roommates?
“That’s the wrong side of the desk, my dear.”
My eyes whip up to Dr. Earnestine who is on the wrong side of the door, too close to me and without Christopher in sight.
I swallow a scream and stumble backwards, being careful to keep the desk between us. “What are you doing here?”
“Doing my job. Now take a seat, Rogers, so you don’t hurt yourself.”
“Hurt myself?” I glance around for something to defend myself from however he plans to hurt me. All my flags and shackles are up. “Where’s Christopher?”
“For some reason the boy decided to take a nap in the middle of the hallway. How irrational.” Dr. Earnestine frowns down at me. “I said, sit down.”
For some reason, my legs obey him, taking me to the chair, and then my whole body slumps down.
It’s not just my legs. It’s like I have an invisible hand on my brain. “What are you doing?”
His face remains as expressionless as ever, and his voice is even. “I’m doing nothing. And you’re being a good girl.”
As he speaks, my hand reaches for a pen on his desk. What in the world?
“That’s right. Write yourself another little note.”
I look down as my fingers begin to etch ink into my arm. I pull my two limbs apart and look up at him as a bead of sweat trails down my back. “What are you doing?!”
He frowns. “You’re fighting. How are you fighting? Did you mentally prepare yourself somehow?” He leafs through a few of the papers on his desk as though they will somehow give him some kind of answer.
I slowly push myself up. I just need to make it to the door. Then I can run to Christopher. Or to help for both of us.
And most definitely away from Dr. Earnestine.
“I guess you’ve been immunized against conscious subliminal messaging,” he mutters. “Very well. I prefer subconscious better anyway. Your night terrors make you especially susceptible.”
I make a bolt for the door, but then his hand grips my hair and jerks me back and whirls me around to face his fist.
The force of it throws me back into the door I tried so hard to reach and I slump down as stars circle my vision. And darkness. Stars in space…
“Sleep tight, Rogers.”
A silent prayer of help rises from my soul as I do what he says against my will.
I wake up with a jerk and find myself sitting on my bed in the darkness. Was it all just a bad dream?
Check. You need to check.
Trembling like I do from my worst night terrors, I stumble into the bathroom and turn on the light.
And see the black eye spreading across my face.
If possible, I shake all the more as so many things come to mind.
Dr. Earnestine hit me.
Christopher hit me.
He was drunk.
He’ll deny it.
My head feels like it will split open, and I grasp the sink to keep from being sick. God, help me.
I wrote on my arm. In my dream, I wrote on my arm.
Turning my arm, I see a slash of ink across it. Then words. I Love You.
Tears are streaming down my face as I lift my other arm and find words there too. Same as last time.
Barely breathing, I take hold of the bathroom drawer and open it.
A note is there.
You. Are. Mine.
Gasping a scream, I stumble backwards. But there’s something about the way that E and that Y is shaped…
I rush out of my room to my satchel, leaving the door wide open so that the light makes Violet moan.
But I ignore her, grab my journal out of my satchel, and take it back into the bathroom.
Flipping the pages, I turn to one of my first pictures, when I used to sign my name in all caps.
I glance between the journal and the note.
The handwriting is mine.
It always has been.
My gaze raises to the mirror and I see the silent terror there.
A mental list of things monsters see when they look in the mirror:
(1). Pure ugliness, if they’re zombies;
(2). A lot of hair, if they’re werewolves;
(3). Nothing, if they’re vampires;
(4). Nothing again, if they’re the Invisible Man (not that there could be any such thing as an invisible person, of course);
(5). A statue, if they’re a gorgon;
(6). An Emily Rogers, if you’re me- but at least I’m not as ugly as the monster that is Dr. Earnestine.
Trembling all over, I reach for my phone and dial Christopher’s number.
He picks up first ring, but his voice is groggy. “Emily? What happened?”
“Grab what you absolutely need and meet me outside the ladies’ dormitory. We leave tonight.”