Word Count To Date: 16,330
I've hit NaNo Fatigue. Here's what I've done instead of typing:
Made my bed, took down Halloween decorations, put up new non-seasonal ones, refilled my candy jar, folded my laundry, tidied the room, made and drank tea, washed out the mug, rearranged my iTunes library, homework (le gasp!), sang along loudly to the rearranged songs, took out the trash, and updated this community. All in the space of about an hour and a half or so. I have ideas...I just don't want to write them. It's a trial, now, but I must...keep...typing. Must...keep...typing.
Once outside in the hallway, she realized that she didn’t know how to get back to her room. She dithered for a moment, trying to work up the courage to knock on Ms. Grace’s door and ask for directions. She couldn’t. Nothing about Ms. Grace’s demeanour suggested she’d be easy to approach. Trying to remember the way she came, she set off slowly down the hall, creeping like a mouse through the empty, deserted corridors.
She wasn’t surprised to find herself hopelessly lost. One hallway looked much the same as another; all the doors were locked, all the rooms were dark, and not one of them looked like an office where she might ask directions from some strange doctor she wasn’t half-afraid of. She peered around a corner and saw that it dead-ended into a door. Well, she couldn’t be more lost than she already was. She tip-toed over to the door and swiped her card.
The sensor turned red and beeped loudly. Very loudly. She shied away, looking around frantically, hoping no one had heard. That was silly; if anyone had been around to hear, she wouldn’t be lost anymore. So, it seemed her card wouldn’t let her through every door. I wonder what’s behind here? she mused, backing out into the main hallway and trotting down. So many locked doors. Are they laboratories, or living quarters? What do they all hold? Why would a building need so many rooms?
She could hardly believe her luck when a door down the hallway in front of her opened and out came...Daisy, her hair hanging wet and heavy down her back, as though she had just stepped out of the shower. Deuce raised a gloved hand in greeting.
“Daisy! Thank goodness; I am lost.” Daisy smiled wanly.
“Hello, Deuce. I’m going back to my room, so I guess we’ll go together.” Upon closer examination, Daisy was wet all over, clothes sticking to skin beaded with water droplets, pooling on the linoleum underneath her feet.
“Why are you all wet?” she asked curiously. Daisy ducked her head.
“Oh, it’s nothing. They test me every evening.”
“Yes.” Daisy sounded near tears. Mindful of what Ms. Grace said, Deuce let it drop and didn’t inquire further.
“I...suppose they’ll test me, too,” she said quietly.
“They test everybody. That’s why you’re here,” Daisy replied dully. They walked in silence for a bit.
“Does it...hurt?” Daisy swallowed hard but didn’t reply. Deuce took this to be a very ominous “yes”. To distract herself from the terrible mental images, she cast around for another question, any question at all. “How old are you?” she blurted out.
“Er...sixteen.” Another pause. “And...how about you?”
“Fifteen.” Daisy nodded and this time, the hush lasted them until they reached the residential wing.
“Good night,” said Daisy shortly, waving her card at the door handle.
“Good night,” Deuce echoed, but found herself talking to the blank door shut in her face. She sighed and trudged down the hall towards her room.
“Hey! Hey, Deuce! Deuce!” a whispered voice hailed her. She looked around and saw Callie poking her head out of the door that used to bear the Che Guevara poster before Ms. Grace got her hands on it. “Hey! Come here!” Deuce looked around uncertainly, but the hall was never bustling at the best of times, and it remained quite deserted. Callie opened the door a little wider and Deuce reluctantly stepped inside.
Callie’s room felt like stepping into an emo acid trip in a box. Her sheets were maroon and black on a carelessly unkempt bed with bright pink pillows strewn about the room. Posters wallpapered the place, posters for indie bands, jellyfish, natural photography, election campaigns and yes, South American revolutionaries. Over all this, garishly shiny garlands draped and festooned, creating an eye-jerking combination. Her poor little desk was buried underneath a staggering mountain of papers, books, and binders.
“Uh...nice room,” she said lamely, still stunned by the sensory overload assaulting her from all sides.
“Thanks,” said Callie with a grin, sitting on her bed and bouncing a bit. “The pricks that run this place took half my stuff, though.”
“Oh, you too?”
“Yeah! They took my stereo, and it was a good stereo, too, and expensive; they better give it back, or else. Not to mention my Dreamcast and all the games, my T.V., my coffee maker, half my books...lots of stuff. And they keep taking my posters.”
“Yeah, me too. What do you need? It’s just that I need to get to bed early and—”
“Chill out, it’s barely eight o’clock. Sheesh, what are you, eighty? I mean, your bedtime can’t be earlier than midnight, anyway.” Deuce, who was accustomed to going to bed at 10:30 on week nights, made no reply. “I just wanted to talk, honestly, because I haven’t spoken to anyone under forty in a very long time, and all these doctors aren’t really chatty, you know, especially when they’re poking and prodding you all the time. I’m chatty even with all that, so I try to talk to them and they don’t respond and it drives me nuts.” Deuce blinked at this sudden verbal onslaught.
“You mean...while they’re running tests?”
“Certainly. Their bedside manner blows, you’ll see.”
“What sort of tests?” pressed Deuce. Her chatty companion’s face flickered. “Okay, sorry. One question: do they use water?” Callie’s brow furrowed in surprise.
“What? Water? No, never! Where did you get that idea?” Deuce shrugged uneasily.
“I’m just a little nervous about it, that’s all.” Callie nodded and changed the subject with lightning speed.
“I have to ask: why the gloves? Just for decoration, or...?”
“Oh, no, it’s...it covers a burn.” She tugged the glove off her burned hand and held it up for Callie’s inspection.
“Ooo, can I—?”
“Don’t touch it!” said Deuce a little too quickly. Callie hastily withdrew her hand.
“Sorry, I’m sorry! Does it still hurt, then?”
“Yes,” she lied, pulling the glove back on.
“And the other hand, is it—?”
“No, it’s not, I wear it because I—well, I just think wearing only one glove looks silly, that’s all.”
“It worked for Michael Jackson.”
“All right, I don’t blame you. How did you burn your hand, anyway? I think a burn is a really terrible injury. I’ve had a few, myself. Did it hurt a lot?”
“I don’t really remember much of it, honestly; you’ll never believe me: I was struck by lightning.” Callie’s eyes grew wide.
“Wait, really? You were struck by lightning? That’s weird! I’ve never met someone who was struck by lightning! That’s amazing! Whoa. I mean...whoa. Sorry. It’s just—when I was twelve, I was nearly blown up, but your story is so much better.” Deuce did a double-take.
“Speaking of stories: blown up? How did that happen?” she asked, alarmed. Callie fidgeted a bit, looking as though she regretted letting it burst out of her, swinging her legs back and forth, scratching behind her ear.
“Well, it wasn’t fun,” she said shortly. “I went to this nice private school. My parents wanted me to get a good education, college, blah blah blah, what did I care? Well, their education could use some re-tooling, because they turned out this one grade A whack job. He came to school with some guns one day.” Deuce gave an involuntary gasp. “Yeah. Don’t ask me about it. By the time the police finally got there, I was hiding by myself in the girls’ bathroom on the second floor. A man from the SWAT team came in and said that this guy’d lit dynamite nearby and I needed to make a run for it. He put his vest on me, the bullet-proof one, and all but threw me out the door. I ran.
“I almost didn’t make it. That vest saved my life, along with some strategically placed bushes. The dynamite went off and threw me clean out a window, but I don’t remember it. All I know is that I woke up on the ground surrounded by paramedics.” Deuce digested all of this in quiet horror.
“Oh my God, Callie. That’s...”
“Horrific?” she suggested, half-way to her former bubbly fashion but sounding somewhat forced about it. “I know. Horrific is the word I chose. But here I am: thirteen, thanks to that SWAT man. I owe him a lot.”
“Did you ever find him again?”
“No, but they told me he survived just fine. I sent him a letter to say thank you. He never wrote me back.” Callie gave a bittersweet smile and Deuce sensed that this visit was at an end and headed for the door.
“I think it’s time I went and got ready for bed. Good night, Callie.”
“Good night, Deuce. Thanks for talking. I mean it.”
“Any time,” replied Deuce, and she meant it, too.
The schedule handed to her by Ms. Grace said that her first class of the day, English, started at 9:30, so her alarm went off at 8:30 the next morning. At 8:35, a knock sounded on her door. Blinking blearily, she opened it to reveal a disgustingly awake and cheerful Callie, dressed in an orange sweater vest, blue denim skirt, and black leggings, her short-cropped hair gathered into two comically short pigtails on top of her head, secured by small neon green scrunchies.
“Good morning!” she chirped. “I have math in ten minutes, but I wanted to wish you luck on your first day! When’s your first class?”
“9:30,” Deuce yawned in response.
“Oh, that’s nice. So, uh...when do...you know, get tested?”
“Uh...let me check.” She squinted at the paper taped to the other side of her door. “Says 1:30 on here.”
“At the beginning of break? Man, that sucks!”
“I suppose. When do you get tested, then?”
“Right after math, which I better head off to now, or I’ll be late. Good luck! Have a nice day!”
“Thanks...” The word died on her lips as Callie turned to go. The sweater vest exposed part of her back that a T-shirt did not, and it was covered in a tapestry of bruises and viciously deep cuts. How could she have incurred those? There was no way they could have been accidental.
Was someone beating Callie?
This uncomfortable notion carried her to her English class, which she managed to find on her own by discovering the pattern to the room numbers and which section matched which letter preceding the number itself. The class contained Daisy and two boys around her age, not to mention yet another lab coat clad man who she assumed was the teacher. Daisy, though yawning and tired, looked a bit cheerier than last night. The two boys merely looked sullen, scowling as they sat with as great a distance between them and everyone else as they could manage in the tiny room, outfitted with only a few desks and a white board mounted on an equally white wall. Deuce took this all in, then plopped herself down right next to Daisy.
“Miss Stanley,” said the teacher, who didn’t bother to introduce himself, “we require at least one chair in between each student, so there can be no question of academic dishonesty.” Cheeks burning, Deuce moved one seat over. “Thank you. We will continue yesterday’s lesson concerning indirect objects in sentence clauses...”
The material covered was basic, and Deuce knew most of it. The other classes were comparable: she followed Daisy and the two boys (who she only knew as “Mr. Ogba” and “Mr. Grant”) to math, then to history, where the teacher droned at them to the point of stupor about royal family trees.
At 1:15, they all left history yawning. Deuce frowned at her schedule, examining it a bit more carefully.
“Hey,” she said to no one in particular, though Daisy shuffled to a halt and Ogba looked over his shoulder. “Do we have a science class at all?” Grant kept walking with nary a pause; he showed no signs that he’d heard her speak at all, but the other two shrugged uneasily.
“No,” said Ogba, his voice a deep, warm bass accented with the flavour of
“Do the older kids have any? Or the younger?” They shrugged mutely.
“You some kind of science person, then?” asked Ogba finally.
“Uh, no, actually; not really. I never did too well on it back home.”
“Then where’s the problem?” Deuce sighed.
“It’s just weird, isn’t it? We’re essentially lab rats in this huge place with tons of doctors and workers and there isn’t a single person who can teach us science?” A muscle twitched in Ogba’s jaw. He shouldered his way in between herself and Daisy and stalked off down the hall, going the way of Grant.
"Wake up, new girl," he sneered. "What they do here ain't science."