“Earth to Red, can you hear me, Super Bug here.”
I can feel my heart beating wildly as I blink, seeps of light penetrating my vison with splashes of sparkles. “My head,” I mumble as my vision tries to right itself. My eyes open, and it takes a moment to register what I’m seeing. What I see sucks the air clean out of my chest. Sounds explode all around me, overwhelming me.
I can’t speak as I am shoulder checked by some man, then a woman. Alarms are ringing in my head. There’re people everywhere, where am I?! “Flix,” I hiss, looking around. I feel like I am in downtown Tokyo but way into the future.
I’m in some sort of highly advanced world, in a massive shopping mall? Everything is blinding white with flashing lights of advertisements; virtual reality is mastered here. “Flix,” I hiss again.
"I’m here, ooooh wise one.”
I grab my head in shock. “You just talked in my mind.”
“I’m the Super Bug on your shoulder,” he says, “don’t smash me, please.”
I glance at my shoulder and see a small, metallic flying bug. “That’s you?!”
“Uh, yea. Not just any bug, Super Bug.”
“Right. What is this place?” I breathe, dodging weird futuristic clothed people on hovering boards.
“This is the Sky Mall, known for their holographic peripherals. Flying projectors are able to display virtual objects, humans, ads, or anything they want. They are intractable, being controlled by a super source.”
“Wild, I can’t believe this is real,” I say, seeing computerize people walking around with little round projectors on top. They ask people if they need help or say things about the stores around me.
“Nerd in the streets, freak in the sheets,” he sings
“I did not need to hear that in my head,” I say and start walking.
“Omg, you’re a secret prude.”
“Not a prude,” I snort, “You’re just a little bug with a very tiny voice who seems overly happy.”
“Bugs are happy, I can’t help it.”
“Where am I going?”
My senses are on hyperdrive, my skin feels tingly and almost electric. Something is different about me, I can feel it, almost as if I have a sixth sense. “I feel very weird, not going to lie. Is there something wrong with me that I should be worried about?”
“Uh, other than your attitude?”
“I’m being serious, bug boy,” I say under my breath.
“It’s probably you being a Spirit Valkyrie. You wield a very rare power, so you should feel different than before.”
“Oh, I forgot,” I say in awe, looking at my hands, wondering what I’m able to do. This is very strange. But that did not change my plans, I’m still getting out of here as soon as I can. I mean, it’s so cool here that I almost would not mind relocating, but the cost of that is MARRIAGE. Hell no. No place is cool enough for that. I smirk as I look down, my shoes feel like I am walking on clouds, the electric blue lighting up the ground
Maybe when I get back, I will invent these on Earth.
Stuff one in my purse.
“Okay, listen up. These games happen every three years, and how they pick their elite players is similar to the Bowl of Destiny. We are heading to the main courtyard where hundreds of computers will scan your hand for abnormal blood. Remember I told you it’s like the x-men, it’s very rare to have abilities. There are ten billion people on this planet. And it takes them months to find enough players. Everyone by law has to scan their hands or be forced,” his tiny voice intones.
I’m anxious. This place so foreign and different I feel like I am on a movie set. I used to run track in high school, and I remember getting so nervous before a race that I would panic. This is very similar to that feeling.
I take a deep breath.
I can do this.
It’s only for a little while, just hang in there.
“Do I just follow everyone?”
“Yes, we are going the right way, you will know when you see it,” he says.
I made eye contact with some random guy with a white mohawk and as he passes me, I heard him say crude things.
“Hey baby,” I hear another say.
“Damn!” I hear with whistles.
“What’s with the hair, honey?!” I hear a woman yell.
It then I notice something, everything is very muted, color-wise. White, black, grays, save for the flashing lights and projectors. The people here either have white hair or some shade of brown or black. Their clothing is similar.
No one is wearing color.
No wonder Pierce wanted my red hair, saying it’s perfect. My cheeks redden as I see stares everywhere. For the first time in my life...I feel self-conscious. “Flix,” I ask.
“Sexy bug here.”
“Why is there no color.”
“Because that how the elven race is, everyone wants to impress them and to wear color, it’s kind of like a form of dishonor.”
“You have to be shitting me,” I hiss, not making eye contact with anyone. “Why did you tell me that?”
“Pierce would not let me.”
“What!” I say, then lower my voice. “Why the hell not?”
“Because he thought it might make you stand out.”
I curse under my breath. “This is going to be a nightmare.” I round a corner and see a massive open area with tons of hand scanners computers, each one having a clear tube running to the five-story ceiling. The tubes flickers lights and the I.D of the person scanning. I felt like I was in line for the airport. There were tons of people, hundreds.
“The first five people to scan positive are competitors of Thunia. Some people don’t even get to scan. Depends on which district is called.”
“Where is Lila? Isn’t she in this nation?”
I hear a man yelling with a large machine gun looking like a Star Wars trooper. He is telling everyone to get in line and to have I.D’s ready. “I’Ds?” I ask, starting to sweat.
I pull out my I.D and cringe. The first time I am ashamed of my name, not used to this feeling. “Red Roayn? That’s my name? Not only do I stick out like a sore thumb, but my name is Red?!”
I am losing my shit.
“Big Red Baby.”
I grit my teeth, hating that name now.
I fight back some emotions and carry on, raising my chin. I am Big Red. I do not cower or care what anyone thinks. I repeat this as I feel my confidence slip.
I tense and keep walking.
The man with the ugly gun, I feel him looking at me and my RED hair.
Why am I acting like this? I feel scared and small, never once have I felt like that. It’s almost my turn, and I can see other guards point at me. I want to hide and scream. This computer is going to go off when I place my hands on it. Shit. I am already creating a scene with my fucking hair! That no told me about. F everyone.
Don’t get emotional.
Be a bitch.
“Big red, I can feel you trembling, girl. Keep It together, these guards are not nice. Don’t draw attention.”
“Shut your little bug face,” I hiss, feeling my eyes cramp. I sniff, breathing hard, wanting out of here.
“Deep breathing, Red. It will be okay, it’s your turn.”
“What do you mean you can’t?! You have to!”
I have never experienced a real, full-blown panic attack, but they are real people. I felt like someone heavy is sitting on my chest, intense pressure, my heart beating too fast, cold sweats, blurred vision, I’m going to die! I can’t do this, I want to go home!
“Red, what’s happening, where are you running too!”
Am I running?!
PAIN. I feel arms on me, hurting me, pinning me to the ground. Dear goodness, they have tackled me, a large crowd surrounds us.
I am mortified.
I don’t want to be here. I feel my eyes cramp as tears I have not shed in ages fall down my perfect face. A face that I am beginning to hate. I feel anger.
I feel lots of anger, so much.
They manhandle me, forcing my hand onto the scanner, nearly breaking my wrist. I barely registered the flashing lights, the shocked faces, the pointing. I feel warm blood trickle out of my nose, and I don’t care as they take me away. They grab my head like I am scum, pulling my hair painfully.
They take me away.