Chapter Seven: Charisa
I wake up from a nightmare and find that in reality, it’s much, much worse.
Sucking in my breath, I (carefully) climb down from bed.
“What now?” I whisper as I comb my fingers through my hair. I destroy more nails than tangles, but I stubbornly continue. I will cling to whatever snatches of normalcy that remain for me.
“We wait,” Faith says suddenly from a corner.
I startle. “What are you doing over there?”
“I like corners,” she answers, her large eyes focusing on nothing in particular. “They keep me from being sucked into space.”
“Uh, okay...” I begin braiding my hair to the best of my abilities. “What exactly do we wait for?”
“We wait until they come.”
“What will they do when they come?”
Faith blinks and then goes back into her unfocused stare. “It depends. It’s best not to think about it. It’s best not to think at all.”
“Now what kind of reasoning is that?” I demand. “Bad reasoning, that’s what, because you’re not even using your thinking cap. Now, Faith, I don’t know what you’ve gone through here, but now that I’m here, I’m going to do my best to watch out for you.”
“One said the same thing,” Faith answers numbly. “But he couldn’t stop what they did to me.” She blinks rapidly before returning to her blank stare. “It doesn’t matter. Nothing matters.”
I lick my lips and look away. Then I whisper, “Two. Four. Six. Eight.”
“Three. Five. Seven. Nine,” Kyle answers in the distance. “Good morning.”
“Wish it were. Where are you? Are you still with One?”
“I’m in the same place they dumped me yesterday. And yes, I’m still with One. Where are you?”
“Also stuck where they stuck me. Faith is here too.”
Suddenly the door opens.
“Gotta go,” I whisper.
I ignore him and focus on Wanda, who stands in the entrance, flanked by two guards.
“Two, Four, follow me,” she orders.
Faith and I obey.
Wanda leads us past two doors to a third door.
“Leave your clothes in the basket to the left,” Wanda orders. “You’ll find fresh garments in the basket on the other side of the shower. You have ten minutes before I send someone in after you.” Then Wanda opens the door and pushes Faith and me into the room before slamming it behind us.
“What’s going on?” I ask, taking in the locker-room-like area complete with two sinks, two shower heads, and two baskets- one next to us and the other on the opposite side of the showers. There is also a table laden down with towels on the opposite side of the shower.
Faith walks over to the sinks, the counters of which containing four toothbrushes, a tube of toothpaste, a carton of floss, a comb, and a small assortment of shower supplies. “They need to keep us in pristine condition in order to properly use us,” she answers, picking up the second toothbrush to the left. “We’re the control group, after all. Yours will be the fourth toothbrush.”
Well, I do want to wash up. But why like this? Like we have no humanity or use beyond what they give us.
But better this than to be cruelly treated and deprived of much worse than my own bathroom.
Sighing, I join Faith at the sink.
Less than ten minutes later, Faith and I step back out of the shower room wearing fresh clothing identical to the clothing we left behind.
Wanda and the two guards are waiting for us.
Wanda gestures for us to follow, which we wordlessly do. I keep my face as emotionless as Faith’s, but my mind silently screams at Wanda and Jin and the world.
Wanda leads us to a room that reminds me of a jailhouse cafeteria (I thought I escaped that fate when Dad busted me out of jail). Several guards are eating. Several others are wandering around looking watchful.
Pointing to an un-inhabited table, Wanda orders, “Sit.”
Faith immediately does so. Biting my lip and trying not to feel like Dad’s dog Rylie, I do the same.
“Stay,” Wanda adds before marching away with her entourage.
I really don’t like that woman. But there’s nothing I can do about it now.
And, boy, am I hungry. I haven’t eaten since breakfast yesterday and it’s enough to make the unappetizing food on the guards’ plates look almost consumable.
Wanda finally returns. And I see Kyle behind her, dressed in identical clothing to Faith’s and mine, his hair slightly damp.
My heart leaps to see him. Then, behind him, I see another boy in the same clothes. A stranger. One?
One or not, this boy doesn’t appear to be much older than I, and has a laid-back aura that nearly- but not quite- masks the intelligence of his sharp, green eyes. His bright red hair, which doesn’t look like it’s been trimmed recently, seems to rebel against the colorlessness of its surroundings.
I like this boy already.
“Sit,” Wanda tells them.
Kyle sits down like that’s what he wants, not Wanda. The other boy sits down absently like he hadn’t even heard her.
“I’ll be right back with your food,” Wanda says. “Behave, or there will be serious consequences.” She leaves the room again.
Kyle turns to me. “Ch-”
“Chrissie,” I supply.
“Chrissie, this is my roommate One.” He gestures to the boy. “One, this is my girlfriend Chrissie.”
One smiles lazily, but his eyes seem pained.
I clear my throat and turn to Faith. “Faith, this is my boyfriend Kyle. Kyle, this is my roommate Faith.”
“A pleasure,” Kyle answers.
Faith just blinks at something beyond Kyle.
“Faith?” One says.
I nod. “I can’t have her going around as just a number, now can I? Speaking of which, we need to come up with something for you. Can you remember your name?”
One frowns slightly. “Sadly, no. I don’t remember anything about my life before this. All I remember is that when they were capturing me, the force of the gas bomb caused me to bang my head really, really hard. And I have a hard head, so it’s difficult to damage it, but this did. And before my super health or whatever you call it could kick in, the gas got me.”
He shrugs. “At least I think that’s how I went. Everything’s kind of hazy. For all I know, I could have been given my freakish abilities here, like F-Faith. Though, I don’t remember anything like that…” One smiles. “Of course, I don’t remember much of anything, so who knows?”
I imitate Faith and blink blankly. Then I ask, “Do you know how long you’ve been here?”
One shrugs and leans back in his chair. “Dunno. I used to keep track, but after a year, and after what they did to-” One glances at Faith briefly, his eyes brimming with sorrow and regret. Then he shrugs again. “I decided it wasn’t much use anymore. What happens, happens.”
Wanda appears with four trays of colorless food. She sets them in front of us. “You have fifteen minutes to eat.” She walks away again.
I avoid looking at my food as I take my first bite. The food is tasteless, but I’m hungry. After taking a few more bites, I say, “Well, since you don’t remember your name, Kyle and I will have to give you one. Faith can help too.”
Faith continues staring at nothing and robotically eating her food.
I frown. “Or not.”
Kyle studies One for a moment. Then he grins. “You know what? You look like a Rylie to me.”
“Really?” One asks lazily. “That sounds like a decent enough name.”
I roll my eyes. “Rylie is the name of my dog.”
One raises an eyebrow at Kyle.
Kyle grins. “Hey, it was worth a try. Wait, I got it! What about Theodore?”
One chuckles. “I don’t think that suits me. Too presidential.”
“How about Tim?” I ask. “I like Tim.”
“Nah,” Kyle answers. “You look more like a Bob.”
We both turn to One.
“I’m going to go with you, Chrissie,” he answers. “You didn’t try to name me after a dog.”
“Very well then,” Kyle says. “If you’re sure you don’t want the name Rylie-”
“Then I dub thee Tim.”
“And I second that,” I add.
I turn to Faith, but Faith continues to ignore us.
Tim looks away.
Wanda returns. “Time’s up. Follow me.”
“All four of us?” I ask. Then I glance at her entourage. It’s doubled.
Wanda doesn’t answer, so Tim, Faith, Kyle, and I follow her out of the cafeteria. We are led past five doors and into the track room. Jin Yin is waiting inside.
Kyle, Tim, and I all glare at him. Faith just stares at the wall beyond him.
Jin Yin clears his throat- it can’t be comfortable to be disliked by three superhumans. “I want to see how well superhumans can work together with their powers.”
“The four of us can show us how well we can simultaneously jump you,” Kyle offers.
Jin Yin clears his throat again. “I don’t think the guns with men- er, men with the guns would appreciate that. And I highly doubt little Two would do that to me.” Jin reaches to pat Faith on the head, but Tim blocks him.
“You have no right to touch her,” Tim hisses. “Especially after what you did to her.”
I gape at Tim. Laid-back or not, he definitely can use his emotions.
Jin Yin jerks back his hand. “She’s my daughter.”
I gape at Jin Yin.
“All you did was take her from an orphanage to this place,” Tim retorts. “That doesn’t make you her father in my book.”
Jin Yin clears his throat again. “Well, go do stuff on the track together. And don’t step out of line, cause, you know, them.” He nods to the guards and their guns.
Kyle and I share a Look. We will show Jin Yin exactly who he’s messing with. I glance at Tim, who’s still seething.
Faith, however, disappears into a corner.
Kyle, Tim, and I work together, helping each other do astonishing moves. If we were against an enemy, we would have won easily.
“Very good,” Jin Yin says at last. “But it’s time for you to return to your rooms.” He clears his throat. “Wanda, escort the girls.”
Wanda nods. “Two, Four, follow me.”
Faith obediently appears again, and Wanda, along with half of her entourage, leads us back to our room.
The moment Wanda locks the door behind us, Faith returns to her corner.
“Two. Four. Six. Eight,” I whisper.
“Three. Five. Seven. Nine,” Kyle answers.
“I’m in my room. Where are you?”
“Being led to my room.”
“Oh,” I say. “Contact me if anything new happens.”
“Will do. Over and out.”
I turn to Faith. “So, what now?”
She blinks at me. “We wait.”
That’s what I was afraid of.
Biting my lip for the millionth time today, I begin to pace.
Finally, after pacing around the room countless times, the cell door re-opens. Wanda steps in, carrying a tray and being flanked by two guards.
Faith pushes herself further into the corner and takes its form or turns invisible or whatever it is that she does.
I watch as Wanda puts the tray- which contains barely enough colorless food for one person- on the ground.
“Um, that’s only enough for one of us,” I point out.
“Yes,” Wanda agrees. “You. Two is going to be undergoing some medical procedures this afternoon.”
The corner whimpers.
Suddenly, a guard reaches into Faith’s corner and grabs a part of the wall.
Faith screams- a sound that tears at my heart and echoes in my mind- and the wall becomes Faith again.
“No!” she screams. “No more chemicals! No!” Her face is one of absolute terror- made all the more terrible by the fact that this is the first emotion I’ve seen her display.
Wanda, however, stands unaffected.
The guard yanks Faith out of her corner, and the other guard grabs onto her other arm.
“Please!” Faith begs. “Not again! Not again”
Wanda gestures for the guards to follow her out of the room.
“Wait!” I call.
“Take me instead,” I say. “Let her stay here. I’ll go. In her stead. Take me.”
Wanda smiles- a cold and scary thing. “Don’t worry- you’ll have your chance to test the Cure tomorrow. And today, you can learn this valuable lesson: you can’t save everyone.” Wanda turns away.
“No!” Faith screams again.
“No!” I echo, jumping up. Then I move to leap out of my room, but suddenly, my ankle explodes in electrifying pain that crawls up my body. I crumble and the cell door is slammed in my face.
The pain in my ankle immediately ceases, but it’s too late: Faith is gone. I couldn’t save her.
“Two. Four. Six. Eight,” Kyle calls.
I don’t answer him. I can’t. A racking sob convulses through me. Then another. And another.
“Charisa?” Kyle says. “Are you okay? Charisa?”
I take several deep breaths. “I-I’m fine. How’s Tim?”
“They took him.”
“Faith too. We have to get them out of here. We have to get us out of here.”
“Agreed. I can access a key card when we need it; that won’t be a problem. But we will need to figure out how to get out of this bunker. Once we find it, we’re out of here. Hear me, Chrissie? We’re going to get out of this. Together.”
“Together,” I agree. Then the events of the day hit me like a wall and I pass out cold.