It all started so long ago. I can barely remember how my story began. There were bright lights and needles on the floor. A man came in to scold me, and I can recall feeling extreme fear laced with underlying guilt. Then, a flash, and my body fell upon the linoleum floor, "You must learn to obey!" I shuddered at the sound of his voice. The whip came down again and again, and I could hear cries coming from across the room. They seemed to scream my name," Rhia, Rhia!" but no one was there to comfort me. I choked back the tears that threatened to give me away, "You're weak!" they almost seemed to say, "Who are you to pretend to be strong?" Yet I carried on, or else I would not be here today. Wounds may seem to heal on the outside, but those who have experienced true pain and betrayal will never forget. And I, I have never forgotten.
When you've lived as long as I have, more and more troubles of this world seem trivial, small. The sufferings of those who have harmed you become less and less important until you begin to wish them dead, if only to silence them. Even my foster parents became annoying to me. They withheld my freedoms and were over-protective, much to my distaste. The wigs they made me wear, the cities they moved me to, all unimportant. He would find me someday no matter what they did. A wrong turn or a misstep would lead to almost instant disaster and they would be dead. I suppose I should start at the beginning, if I haven't confused you already. There is much to explain, and more that you can't begin to try to understand. But there is so much for you to learn….
A man loved my mother, but she was betrothed to someone else. He became enraged and disguised himself as her fiancé. In the darkest hour, on the night after the engagement party, he went into my mother's room and gave her a sedative. She was unconscious in minutes, and that was when he began his experiment, me. He took a gamete and went back to his office. That's when he started his newest creation. He made me in a dish. I don't exactly know what he did, but I can remember him saying over and over that something must have gone wrong. I wasn't as powerful as he'd expected me to be, I was a disappointment.
When I had aged a few moons I was able to walk. This surprised the man, and he took more interest in me than before. I was "developing quickly", though I had no idea what that meant, I enjoyed the praise I was receiving. Once I was old enough to talk, a woman was assigned to my every need. She taught me how to read and write, and she became almost like a mother to me. When I had inquired about her name, she had told me that I was not yet ready to learn, "You must learn to respect the creatures of the earth before you learn their names," she had told me, "for a name is powerful. You are not yet ready to learn my name."
I clung to her every waking moment. I even began to stay up some nights, just to watch her sleep. She had been kind to me, and she made me able to see past the white walls and cold floors to a world beyond my room, one with fish and birds. Something called a tree and that which destroys it, fire. And I became more and more eager to impress her. The Man would come into my room and ask me questions, but before I would answer I looked to her for guidance. He noticed my reliance on her, and she became frightened, "Rhia, you must never speak my name to anyone here. Do you promise?" I had given her my word and she whispered her name in my ear. Just then, two of the guards had her taken away from me. If only I had realized what was happening, I could have stopped them. Her screams reached my ears, and I could hear a sound that would become more and more familiar to me in the coming years… the sound of a whip. It cracked in the air, over and over, until her cries had ceased. I had clung to the hope that she had retaliated, maybe even escaped, and that was why her voice was silenced. But as the days grew longer, and the nights grew warmer, my hopes had crumbled. She was dead. How I had missed her, "Marie…."
At the beginning of my seventh moon, I began to teach myself about the creatures Marie had showed me. The Man had yet to discover her books, and so I hid them under the floor boards. Only when the guards began to sleep would I sneak a look into her mind. For that is how I saw them, a window into the mind of the only one I had loved. When my strength had seemed to fail, I would remember her and recite what she had taught me: digits of pi, the alphabet, anything to keep my mind off of the pain being inflicted upon me.
I began to acquire an internal clock, like the animals in the books. At the same time every few suns, the man would have someone take me to a sound chamber. A noise would be played, sometimes loud and sometimes soft. Others would be placed in the room with me, but none of them could hear as well as I. On one occasion, a girl around my age was hiding in the corner when I arrived. As soon as they placed me in the room, she shuddered and turned her head, "What are you?" she managed to squeak out. I was puzzled, and my prolonged silence seemed to aggravate her, "Can you even speak? I asked you a question!" I was happy to see her encouraged to speak up, "I don't understand your question. I am a girl, as are you. I've been coming in here at the same time every few days, but I have never seen you here before. Are you a new experiment?"
"Experiment? I thought so. You're working for him aren't you?!? No wonder you smell so strange. I was right Coral! She's nothing but a traitor," Someone else was there, though she sat so still and silent I hadn't noticed her. As I studied them both I could see why they thought I was strange. Although they seemed like me, they had smaller ears and were lacking tails. I wanted desperately to know more about them, but a siren began to blare. My ears adjusted to the sound and I turned to see how the others were faring. It saddened me to see that the girl who had first spoken up began to cry. She covered her ears with her hands and tried desperately to block out the noise. The other one, Coral, had her ears covered as well but she wasn't crying. In fact, she seemed to have no emotions at all. Interesting….
The sirens dimmed and gradually the girls lowered their arms, "How can you stand that noise?" the girl inquired, but I had no time to answer. The guards had come in to take me back to my room and two women were standing by the door. Probably their nannies…. I thought to myself. They must not be as old as I thought. For it turned out that all of the children here had their nannies taken away when they turned a certain age. Though not as violently as mine was.
The guards hadn't taken me to my room, instead they turned down an unknown corridor, and I became wary. The walls went from a stark white to a chipped gray. The floor was sticky and smelled of alchohol, instead of the clean waxed tile near my room. Before Marie had left, she taught me never to trust what I didn't know. Her advice had proved true, for I was led to the beginning of the torturous years of my life, "You are now nine years old. It is time for you to learn to fight. You will do as your instructor tells you to, or you will be punished." The man I loathed with all my heart stood directly in front of me and, because of him, I would learn to become free.