I wake up and look at Saey staring down at me smiling sympathetically.
“Hey, you’re finally awake!” she stares down at me affectionately. “I’m sorry for shoving you so hard. I mean you hit your head pretty bad, but you totally provoked me!”
“Since when can you control water like that? I thought that you were well, you know, weak,” my voice trails off slightly, ashamed at my words.
“Please missy, hear you aren’t the only person who knows how to use their ability and in fact you probably don’t know how to use it to its full extent. Here they teach us to fully control our powers and develop them so we are ready to receive the rest of ourselves without jeopardising ourselves or compromising our abilities. Assuming you want too, you know … be whole,” her voice is confident, but still shaking from being rushed. She knows her words are true, but she doesn’t want to dwell.
“Yeah, I do. So when do classes start? And can I see Copper again, she’s cool.”
“Are you sure you’re up for it? Our training is just well training,” she says nervously.
“Like two hours per session, four sessions a day. Four types of training: combat, ability, weapons, mental. If you want to make I for today’s sessions you better eat fast,” she says grinning.
A pile of food is shoved in front of my face and my eyes widen hungrily. I gobble it up without tasting it and get up groggily.
“Here, put these on,” says Saey shoving some clothes in my direction and pointing to a room that I guess is the washroom.
I walk in and after finishing my washroom stuff, get dressed in a black tank top, black shorts and a pair of well-fitting steal toe boots. I tie my hair back carefully in a neat high ponytail that leaves a few stray hairs in my face and walk out of the washroom.
“Hey, you ready to go?” asks Saey.
“Totally,” I smirk.
We walk off out the door and in the direction of the large building that looks like a training area. I think.
“Oh yeah I almost forgot, they told me to give you this back when you wake up,” she hands me my knife, carefully wrapped in a small blanket.
I pull it out of the blanket and look for somewhere to put it.
“Hey do you have a belt?” I ask curiously.
“Yeah, but we usually save those for other weapons, knives go in the shoes.”
“Oh right,” I say feeling like an idiot.
“C’mon, I’ll race you!”
We both run to the entrance of the building and burst through the doors nearly colliding with several wide eyes fellow students. I guess we are students, maybe apprentices or protégées?
“You’re late!” spits the teacher all over us. “We’ve been waiting twenty minutes for you! 10 LAP NOW! THAT GOES FOR ALL OF YOU!”
After the general ‘thank yous’ and ‘good jobs’ we all head out and start running 500m laps.
“Shit Saey, we have to run 5km! Right away!”
“Yeah Lacey, in under 10 minutes, sorry to leave you in the dust, but we have to pick up the pace.”
5km in 10 minutes! That’s one lap a minute! I can’t do this! I can’t do this! Wait a minute, how is everyone else doing this? They’re all lapping me! What the hell! No way, I never learned how to run so fast. Okay you can do this, you can do this, you can do this.
What happens next totally messes me up. I lap everyone and I’m left at the beginning of my eighth lap completely drained and exhausted.
Okay, eight minutes left to run one km. Is that impossible? No, not in my condition. I decide to keep moving though and I hear the buzzer go off signaling time up, but I don’t stop. I know people are watching me now. But I’m determined to keep moving and finish. One and a half laps left.
“Hey! Time up, come back!” the instructor starts running after me, but I’m determined to finish and I run as fast as I can, a new surge of adrenaline pushing me to the last lap.
One lap left.
“HEY COME BACK NOW!” screams the instructor, but as tired as I am, I’m somehow outrunning her and I feel good about it.
Half a lap left.
I don’t think I’ll make it, my legs are giving up on me, I’m raked with sweat and the instructors gaining on me. Also, the group is watching me and I know I must look like some crazy, sweaty freak who came out of the woods and is now ruining their training, but whatever. I have friends already and I didn’t come here to meet boys. Definitely not to meet boys.
About 100 metres remaining, but my muscles are so sore. My left leg gives out and I fall forward putting out my hands to break my fall. I try to pick myself back up, but I think my bones are filled with cracks. It feels like I had my blood switched out with lead. My limbs are so heavy, I think this run is giving me a gain in weight. I can barely breathe my lungs are so abused.
Come on Lacey, you can do this. Sprint to the end, come on 100 metres! She’s only about 10 metres behind me, I can beat her. Keep going, keep going, keep going, KEEP GOING.
Just 10 more metres me, keep on pushing. Nine metres Lacey feel the stinking burn. Eight metres if you can’t run this how are you supposed to fight anyone? How do you want to ever avenge your mom? I want to avenge my mom. I never realised it, but I am full of revenge. I want to hunt down and kill whoever is to blame for my mom’s death. Seven more metres, six metres, oh just five more! Please just four more, three more, two more stinking metres!
I jump that last metre and she tackles me from behind just as I cross so that we both land just past the line. She crosses standing straight on her feet, but me, I’m unbalanced and stuck on the dirt on my hands and knees.
“Get up new girl. Did you not hear the instructions?” she screams down at me. “You stop when I tell you to! But, I have to be honest, I’m impressed. These guys all cheated from day one, but you, I think you might just have a chance to survive here and elsewhere,” shouts the coach to the rest of the crowd.
I hear the general whispers of confusion and fear. People sound suddenly nervous about the instructors knowledge.
“That’s right, from now on, anyone who doesn’t finish the 10 laps has to run 20 more,” says the instructor happily, smirking at the wide eyed crowd of onlookers.
I get to my feet and join the crowd of people awaiting further instruction. I find Saey and stand beside her, avoiding the eyes of the grimacing trainees. Now everyone hates me. At least they will get stronger and faster and build up more endurance, because of me. I don’t even know if any of them know about what is coming, but I know.
“Now that everyone is warmed up,” the instructor’s eyes linger on me with her lip curved slightly upwards in a minuscule grin. No grin is the wrong word, a smirk. Yeah that’s what she has. A tiny smirk. “Let’s start combat training. Everyone start moving back inside. We are going to practice our fighting technique one on one today. You know the rules: No abilities, no weapons and nothing mental. There are other times when you can practice during the sessions designated for that. Right now just fight with the partner you are assigned to until one of you hits the floor. NOW MOVE!”
We all jog after her into the building and run towards a series of fighting rings.
I’m scared about who I’ll be paired up with, someone stronger, someone weaker, someone defenseless, someone on offense. I don’t know what to expect and I fear what I don’t know. Worst part is that either I lose by choice or I become even more hated by my fellow students.
“Olivia with Carla. Janie with Cindy. Matt with Lyle. Kevin with Day.” I stop listening after that. All I can suddenly think about is having my body drained and being unable to move, unable to fight, unable to think.
The name suddenly jolts me back to my senses but just as the thought I can feel his presence and a cold sensation lingers over my body, leaving chills at my fingertips.
I think he heard me …
“Lacey and Carter.”
Carter? He’s here, how and why?
“Hey Lacey, come on we’re over here,” I stare at Carter in disbelief, up until now I haven’t thought of him at all.
“Hi,” I say. My voice even flatter than I expected. “How are you here,” I blurt out ending all chances for normal small talk.
“Yeah, I figured you’d be asking that sooner or later it’s kind of hard to explain. The school is being taken over. The bad people, you know those evil idiots,” I laugh at that. “They are forcing us to go bad or to die. The lucky ones fled to places like here or to die
“My aunt, what happened to her? Where is she?” Suddenly the reality hits me.
“You were smart to get yourself and Karly out of there-“
“WHAT HAPPENED TO MY AUNT?” I scream and other pairs stare at me.
“She is dead,” he stares at me solemnly. I fall to my knees even though the fight hasn’t started. Karly, I left her and now there is no one to get her back. She is all I have left, all I have left …
“She went down fighting, they wanted to know where you had run, they searched the whole school-“
I stare up at him with my eyes wide, mouth open.
“So it is my fault she died? I am the reason my aunt, my only guardian is dead! I need to see my father now. I am leaving tomorrow,” my voice is flat, dead set and I am determined.
“Okay Lacey, okay.”
After that I just lie on the floor in a ball until the instructor comes and yells at me to get up and start fighting. But I don’t want to, I want to lie here on the floor forever, but I force myself to my feet.
“You’ll never get anywhere if you don’t learn to go on offense and defense. It’s not one or the other or else you will never win a fight!” the instructor tells me annoyed.
Carter starts slowly, hesitantly. I think he is afraid that I am so fragile right now that one wrong move will make me cry. But, he can’t hurt me, none of these people can.
I throw the first punch, to the side of his face. It pushes his the side and I aim a kick directly at his groin. He bends forward in pain.
I turn around just in time to brace her kick in my side rather than my back. My ribs take most of the blow and I think she has broken one.
Angrily I retaliate right away kicking her to the side of the face.
Another person attacks me with a jab at my neck, I hit the floor to dodge it, nearly losing my balance, but extend my arms at the last suddenly and push myself back up.
I see their kick coming and I duck under it and jump up with a kick to the nose.
There are more people coming now joining the fight against me.
I notice that behind me there is a long bar where things are hung under.
I do the thing that comes to mind first. I lift my hands over my head, grab hold of the bar and kick to attackers squarely in the chest and do a fall back walkover onto the bar.
I survey the crowd of attackers. My hand itches to grab my knife. I can’t. Combat training with no weapons. Also, these people aren’t my enemies, they just want to see what I can do.
I don’t want to hurt anyone else, but to get to the door I would have to defend myself well. Well the best defense is a good offense or is it the best offense is a good defense. I don’t know, whatever.
For the sake of showing off, I flip off the bar and kick to more people in the face.
I duck under several blows to my head and just as I think I’m going to make it, someone sweeps my foot and I fall forward, half my body out the door.
“Better than I expected newbie,” is all the instructor replies to my accusing stare.
I walk out of the room irritated and feeling stupid. Defense is important! Bull shit. Not against these guys, the stronger person or the better fighter is the one who goes on offense, not the other way around.
“Get up Lacey we have to go to ability training. You will like it I promise.” Saey hauls me to my feet and drags me off into a different building.
There are two instructors this time. One boy and one girl.
“Element abilities with me, if any of you aren’t element based please tell me now and you will train with Jillian separately,” says the man.
I raise my hand and look around. I’m the only one.
“Okay, with me newbie!” calls Jillian walking away, waving her hand behind her. She looks mid 30s, medium build, short.
I follow her into a large room and under her instruction I close the door.
I turn around and blast of electricity hits me squarely in the chest. I fall backwards and hit a wall, slamming my head against the hard drywall.
“What the hell is that about? What are you doing?” I scream at her. “You are supposed to train me not violently assault me with high voltage!”
“Defend yourself, use your abilities!” she screams back preparing a second wave of electricity.
Suddenly the heat is rushing through my body and fair is burning up around us.
“Stop this now, or I will burn you,” I spit.
“Oh come on I’m still freezing, where is the fight I’ve heard so much about. You don’t have to light up the room to get me to stop just disarm me!”
I send her hand up in flames and it’s she can do not to scream. Her face is wide in horror and pain and her hand is a blaze of smoke and ash.
“Training is over!” I quickly exit the room feeling apologetic.
I stand uncomfortably waiting for the session to end. This day sucks.
I can’t believe I burned my instructor. I don’t know how to heal. It isn’t in my system, I can heal myself but not others. I am built to be solitary, self-reliant, independent.
I study my surroundings silently and pray that the burns I inflicted upon my instructor weren’t too severe.
I see flicker of hair from behind the corner. Carefully and quietly, I get up and go check it out.
“Miss me?” and my eyes widen just as his fist collides with my face.
I don’t remember falling asleep so I must have been knocked out. I don’t remember where I am, so I must have been kidnapped. I don’t remember who attacked me, so I must have been knocked out fast.
Miss me? The voice sounded so familiar, but so different. It echoes around in my head. I know it was a guy, but I don’t know who.
Will people search for me? Do they even know I’m missing? I was there less than a day and already I’m in trouble. I must be a bad luck charm.
Why is it so dark? I can’t see anything. This is SO confusing. My eyes aren’t open are they. But my eyes are so heavy. Ugh.
I blink a few times and finally open my eyes. They take a minute to adjust to the room and to the face staring down at me.
“Mom? Why are you here? How are you here? What did you do to me?” I ask staring at my pale, tired, undead mother.
“Shhh Lacey they’re coming back soon,” says my mom.
Her hair isn’t quite right it is darker at the roots where it should be getting white with age. It isn’t right.
“Who is coming back?” I ask scared. I don’t understand.
“The guy, the one that hit you. They knocked you out and tied you up. They will be coming back soon, you have to be careful!”
“Who are you?”
“Lacey, you need to figure out a way out!”
“Who are you?”
“I am your mother Lacey, who else would I be?”
“GET OUT OF MY HEAD!”
The room changes, and I look around and am sitting in a chair in a room surrounded by several other still unconscious people.
“You’re mental walls are strong enough. You would be easy to control in case of emergency. You let your memories be accessed easily. Your defense isn’t good enough for someone of your skills. But you managed to push us out of your head which is still something. But you managed to push us out of your head which is still something. Go head to your next training session,” says the instructor.
Slowly, the other people start waking up, under the instructors’ instruction.
Saey skips up to me curiously.
“I’m starving! It’s already like two p.m. What happened to lunch?”
“We don’t eat lunch Lacey, just a morning meal and an evening feast. We don’t have enough for three or four meals a day, sorry.” She frowns at me sympathetically, I rely on food to keep me going.
“One more training session?”
“Yeah weapons, but we can ditch. You don’t look so good, you keep dropping out in the middle of classes. You’re also looking kind of pale, but also kind of green. We can go somewhere outside to talk,” she smiles kindly and takes my hand leading me outside.
We leave the building and walk towards a grass trail.
“These clothes are so sweaty, I wish I had a change!” I explain sadly. Trying to justify my frown without any luck.
“I have a change in the bushes. Dress or skirt?” she asks, totally ruining my reason to be sad.
In the bushes there is a short, tied at the neck pink dress, with frills that catches at my ribs. Saey puts on a blue mini skirt and a strapless, indigo crop top.
I give her an accusatory smirk. Since when does she dress like this? Where did she even get these clothes?
“Come on,” smiles Saey while grabbing my wrist.
We slow run or speed walk toward a path and a … porta potty?
“We have washrooms out here for long nights out here. You can change in there, they’re not as dirty as you’d think,” promises Saey.
I step in and I have to admit it is clean for a porta potty. I quickly strip to my underwear and pull on the dress and untie my hair.
Hurriedly, I exit the bathroom and look around for Saey, her clothes and boots are on the floor, so I guess she changed in the open. There is no one around anyway.
“Saey!” I call out worried. I can’t see her anywhere and I don’t know this place.
“Saey wherever you are, I need to tell you something, I’m leaving tomorrow, maybe even tonight to visit my father. I need to talk to him about something and if you don’t come out right now you are definitely not coming with me!” I yell out into the middle of the woods.
“You’re not going anywhere.”
Black is all I can see. This time I know my eyes are open. I just can’t see anything.
I was only at the place less than 24 hours and I’ve been attacked for the third time now by these people. No I think this is different, this isn’t a test or training this is real.
It isn’t fair that I didn’t get to train for this right now. It’s not fair that I am being attacked the first day of training. But, some things just aren’t fair.
“Who is there? I can’t see you, why can’t I see you?” I demand to the voice.
“Shut up. Did you actually think that you’d make it to your dad? And did you actually think he could help you? How could he help you? No, he is too scared. He is already on our side. But, imagine you did make it, I’m curious to know, what was your plan?”
“How did you find me? And what did you do to my eyes?”
“It’s a surprise. You like surprise parties right? Happy birthday.”