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Author Topic: The Alpha Child Experiment (YA Dystopian)  (Read 2755 times)
jgolden268
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« on: March 30, 2017, 10:56:16 PM »

I appreciate any thoughts.

Chapter 1- The Black Bag

The black bag fills the room with its presence. I am small. Trouble simmers in my stomach, taking me back to when my mom called me by my first and middle name. I didn’t know what I’d done wrong, only that I was in trouble. That feeling. The simmering turns to churning, threatening to make me revisit what I had for lunch.

sh**. Please not me.

With my arms crossed, I chew on my bottom lip. This bag may be a ticket out of here, but outside these walls is what nightmares are made of and I want no part of it. It may be a miserable place with its sullen walls, but it’s all I’ve known for the past seven years and I don’t want to leave.

With a huff, I scan the room, debating what to do. My eyes catch Will who stands at the end of his own narrow bed. His tall, slim frame is taut as he hovers over his own black bag. The blonde-haired boy grabs his bag and sprints from the vast room, grinning. I, on the other hand, sit on the edge of my bed and sink into the thin mattress with the familiar squeak of the springs giving way. Leaning forward, I bury my face in my hands.

I scowl at the bag, refusing to open it, and refusing to report for my transportation. Instead, I slip under the covers and allow denial to come in the form of sleep.

A chill settles over me, creeping into my subconscious like a warning. As I fumble around for the covers, I pick up on breathing that’s unfamiliar. My ears survey the room for the soft snoring of my dorm mates, the rustle of sheets, and the faint buzz of the light from the hallway. But there’s another, one that doesn’t belong.

I open my eyes to the glow of the moon shining through the skylight. I roll towards the breathing and there, at the foot of my bed, is a tall, dark figure.

I lurch up, only to fall off the bed to the cold concrete. Scrambling up, my backside and pride stinging, I turn to the stranger. A man leers over me wearing all black. His eyes are cloaked in shadow and his body towers over my small stature. He’s here for me.

The man leans in, narrowing his eyes. “You failed to report for your assignment. Hurry, I don’t have any time to waste.”

I bite my lip and tug on the hem of my shirt. A simmering and churning in my stomach turns to a rolling boil. This is a repeat of seven years ago, when they yanked me from my home after my parents tested positive. This man is here to take me away. I swallow a bubble of panic.

I slip the bag’s strap over my head when what I would rather do is hide under my covers. He shakes his head. I tip mine to one side. “What?”

“Change first.” He nods to my bag. “Your uniform’s in there.”

I have someone staring at me, waiting and watching.

I expect him to tap his foot or snap his fingers, but he doesn’t. He stands quiet, waiting. I have no choice; I have to change. My life has been made up of one choiceless day after another. Today is no different.

Scowling, I pull the bag off and drop it on the bed. I turn my back to him, kick off my worn sneakers, pull off my threadbare socks, and rest my feet on the floor. Taking a deep, shaky breath, I retrieve a neat stack of clothes from the messenger bag.

Slipping off my red shirt it hits me, I’ll never wear red again. Red’s my favorite color: bold, warm, and free. Mary, the first woman to care for me at the orph, called me her little spitfire, especially when I wore my red clothes. I imagine that I looked like a flame to her. She said the red color made me feisty, and she liked it. ‘Nothing wrong with following your mind,' she’d say. I toss my shirt to the side, ignoring the sharp pain in my heart.

The cool air on my body brings me back from my thoughts of Mary, reminding me that I’m half-naked and need to cover myself. I slip the snug fitting black tank top over my head, aware of my soft, shapeless body. I may not need a bra now, but when I do, there won’t be one. Security clothes are only one style—male. Rumors have it that so few girls are selected that it isn’t worth the cost to make clothes designed for them. Boys get selected for Security every year, but not girl. Ever.

I finish, sliding on my pants with pockets, zippers, and snaps everywhere. These clothes may be made for boys, but I perk up when they fit me well. In fact, they fit better than any of my other clothes. They lend me confidence. I finish with the socks, boots, and jacket—all black. When I stand, my escort’s waiting with his back to me, my heart softens.

“Finished,” I say.

“Follow me.” He walks with measured strides and his back held straight.

I grab my bag, abandoning the trunk that contains everything I own. It may not have been much, but it was mine. Dwelling on it will only allow the sadness of leaving another home to consume me. Numbness fills the void in my brain, eager to remind me of what I’ve lost. Be strong.

Outside, for the first time in over seven years, it’s so dark that I can’t enjoy the scene around me. With my eyes closed, I take in a deep breath of fresh air. The sweet, damp air from a recent rain tickles my nose. That, with the aroma of wet musty earth, reminds me of the cellar at my childhood home: a muddle of vegetation, soil, and compost odors. There, the rich, complex smells of nature surrounded us. In the orphanage, we are kept like prisoners, denied the pleasures of being outside, kissed by the sun, or bitten by the wind. Happiness I haven’t had in ages bubbles up inside of me. It creeps onto my face.
At the front door on the cracked sidewalk, my escort turns to me. He holds a black gun as long as his arm. My smile fades. I’ve never been this close to a gun before.

“I’m Smith,” he says in a sober voice. “I’ll escort you to headquarters.”

My throat goes dry as the initial excitement of being outside is replaced by dread. My palms sweat and my heart pounds. I’m walking on the forbidden streets where infected stalk their prey.

“Stay close,” he says.

I slip my hands into my hip pockets to hide the trembling. Gravel being crushed underneath our boots and the occasional splash of water from puddles are the only sounds we make. The hairs on my neck stand up as a howl echoes in the distance, reminding me of wild dogs. I hate dogs. I close the gap between us.
Our journey continues down streets, through neighborhoods, and into a jungle of dark buildings broken from neglect—much like I am. We don’t encounter any infected. No boogiemen tonight, I guess. My mind stumbles over the memory of my parents. Are they alive? If they are, would I even recognize them as monsters?

We slow at the foot of a building that stretches like a giant into the night sky. Lights shine out from the upper floors. Under a bright street light, a sign above a steel door reads: “SECURITY - GP#1 AUTHORIZED PERSONNEL ONLY”.

“ID,” Smith says with his hand outstretched.

“Huh?”

“Your ID badge, check your bag.”

“Oh, yeah, okay.” I dig until the tips of my fingers locate a smooth, flat rectangular object. A picture of myself that I don’t remember being taken stares back at me. I haven't seen a photo of me since I was at the POD, and those were as an infant. The frizzy-haired girl with freckles brings a lump to my throat.

“Here.” My eyes stay fixed on the picture as I hand it to him. My trance breaks only when Smith takes it and holds it to a black box next to the door, eliciting a sharp click. He turns the doorknob, steps aside, and hands the ID back.

“Welcome home. You’ll live and train here,” he says as if reading a brochure. “Good night.” He turns on his heels to leave.

“Wait!” I grab his arm. He stops and faces me, neither angry nor impatient. “What do I do?”

“Go inside.”

“What about tomorrow?” I feel like I’m eight again, being dropped off at the orph ... being abandoned with strangers.

“Tomorrow will take care of itself. My job with you ends now. So, please, go inside,” he says—firm, yet pleading. “I must go.”

Reluctantly, I push the door further open, but keep eye contact with Smith. He doesn’t break it with me either. I sense he has something to tell me, but won’t. Or maybe he can’t.

In the hall, a flickering yellow bulb casts more shadows than light. I close the door and rise to my tippy toes to peek out. Smith bites the edge of his thumbnail as he stares at the door, oblivious that I’m watching him.

“Well, it’s about time!” A voice erupts from behind, causing me to spin around and nearly fall over my feet. Gasping, I gawk at the girl who's several years older than I am with blonde hair pulled up in a bun. Her hair appears like spun gold under the yellow light.

My mind stutters over the realization that I'm not the only female here. “Um, I was assigned to Security today. I’m Lena,” I say, reaching my hand out to shake hers.

She ignores my hand. “Whatever, you’re late, Lena.” The way she says my name it’s as if it’s a bitter taste in her mouth. The grouchy blonde spins and strides away, leaving me stunned by her prickly welcome. “Are you coming? I’ve already wasted hours waiting for you.” She calls out without looking back. I hustle to catch up and follow her through a series of doors and halls. Right, right, second door, another door, left. I’m lost. She stops in front of a door labeled BUNKROOM A.

“You sleep in here. Everyone is asleep, so don’t wake them up.” She straightens up. This girl is tall and is pretty——no, she is beautiful. Her pale, smooth skin, high cheekbones, perfect lips, and dazzling green eyes are perfectly matched. Even dressed in black, she’s striking with curves in all the right places. Looking at her makes my flaws——my messy dark hair, my freckles, and my square body——seem more obvious.

“What’s your name?” bursts out before I can stop it.

“Joan.” She gazes down at me. “It doesn’t matter. Today was my last day here.” She turns and walks away.

“Where are you going?” I call to her.

“Too many questions, little girl,” she answers over her shoulder as she disappears down the dark hall. “Too many questions.”

Alone, standing outside my new room, I’m afraid to go in, but afraid to stay out, too. My fingers wrap around the cold, brass doorknob. Twisting it slowly, the latch gives a soft click. As I ease the door open, the hinges groan like a bear being woken from a deep slumber.

The room is dim, but there’s enough light to make out rows and rows of bunk beds. I close the door with a soft thud and head for an empty bed.
I untie my boots, kick them off, and lie down. My worries slip away as I curl up on the softest mattress and pillow I’ve ever laid. My final thought before falling asleep is how profoundly alone I feel.

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