The Archetypes

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Science Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic


Comic books were one thing, but reality wasn't quite so romantic. If you had powers, you hid them, and you prayed no one ever found out. I didn't know why until they got me. The Academy was what
they called it. The whole place reeked of deceit and suffering. They hurt us. They used us. They left us broken. We have to get out, before it's too late.

Submitted: July 25, 2018

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Submitted: July 25, 2018

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I’m not a violent person, I never have been. I never wanted to be. Sometimes though, you have to do bad things for good reasons. Of course if I’d known what would happen, I wouldn’t have done it, or maybe I would have, who knows. I guess I was kind of playing the white knight there, trying to save the nice girl from her jerk of a boyfriend, but let’s just say it didn’t exactly go according to plan.

It was around middle school when I realized I wasn’t quite like the other kids. They didn’t shock everyone they touched, lights didn’t flicker when they walked into a room, and outlets didn’t catch fire when they walked by. It only got worse as I got older, more powerful, and more obvious. I learned though, not how to control it necessarily, but how to hide it, and how to redirect it. I think maybe I felt like I was a different species entirely somehow, like I didn’t deserve to be called a human.

It went on like that for years, up until last Tuesday at least; I thought I was going to be fine just hiding forever. There was this girl, Ashleigh; I didn’t know her too well, but everyone knew she was a saint among men. We’d all noticed when the bruises started showing up. It was when she showed up with a broken collar bone that it all went south. I snapped. Her boyfriend, ex now, was hospitalized. His parents tried to sue, but this agency found out. They gave my parents what I now know to be a well-rehearsed sob story, told them everything they wanted to hear, that it wasn’t my fault, that my powers weren’t the end of the world, that I could learn how to control them, do great things, help people. They carted me off to a place they called “The Academy”, so now I’m here, just a freak stuck in a building full of other freaks that kind of smells like old socks. Needless to say, the situation is not exactly ideal.

 

I sat up, slamming my head into the poorly placed shelf above my bed for the umpteenth time that week and slumped back down, groaning. It was around this time that the small garbage bag that had been sitting on the carpet by the door flew across the room without warning. I ducked to avoid the projectile, but was unable to dodge the aftermath of its impact as the contents of the bag exploded all over my bed. “Oli!” I called angrily, standing up to brush the many tissues and wrappers off of myself.

“What?” my roommate shouted back, irritable as always.

“Quit it with the poltergeists man! You’re friend just dumped trash all over my bed, which you’re cleaning up by the way.”

The boy lifted his nose out of his book. He was no more than fourteen, and man was he a brat sometimes. He hadn’t had a roommate since arriving at the Academy and needless to say, his people skills were a little rusty. “I’ve told you over and over Nick, I can’t control them, only call them.” He snapped back, brushing a few wayward strands of dark hair out of his eyes. “If you want it gone so bad, grab the salt and start looking, I’m busy.”

“You’re such a pain in the neck.” I grumbled, falling back onto my bed, rising immediately after as I realized there was still garbage everywhere.

“I’m a pain in everyone’s neck.” Came the muffled voice of my almost-friend as he spoke into his book.

This particular day was the first where I’d be allowed to eat a meal in the cafeteria and I was more than terrified. The lamp by my bed had been sparking all afternoon and Oliver’s “friend” wasn’t helping at all. For the past few days since I’d arrived I’d been cooped up in my dorm. They’d showed me around and then that was it; I was shoved away like calculus homework. Tomorrow would be my first day of “lessons” as they put it, though I was still a little uncertain as to what that meant.

“Dude calm down, even the ghosts can sense your anxiety’s all out of whack, it’s messing with them.”

“Well what do you expect, I haven’t spoken to anyone besides you in days, and I’m about to go down to a room full of people with crazy powers who could probably kill me if they wanted to!” I exclaimed, gesturing wildly with my hands, nearly smacking Oliver in the face. The small boy grabbed me by the arms and shook my whole body with a force I was surprised the scrawny looking kid had in him.

“Stop being an idiot.” He stated simply.

“Gee, thanks Oli.” I grumbled, yanking my arms back and proceeding to pout on his bunk, as mine was still covered in our trash.

“Look,” he sighed. “what I’m saying is: everyone down there is just like you. They’ve all got families and friends; they all had lives before they came here, and they’re all here for the same reason you are. It’s sort of rude how little you think of them. They aren’t savages you know. You say they could kill you at any minute, well, hate to break it to you Nick, but that applies to you as well. In fact, you’re probably one of the most dangerous.” Oliver shrugged, grabbing his sweatshirt of the chair. “Come on you dweeb, we’re going.”

Alright, I was a little offended that, at nineteen, a fourteen year old who’d barely hit five feet was talking down to me and calling me a dweeb, but I did feel a little bad about what I’d been saying.

Oliver led the way out of our room and down the hall, thankfully. I would have gotten lost beyond words if it weren’t for his presence. The corridors were long and dark, flickering lights overhead and that same musty smell that seemed to fill the whole building surrounded us. The hall seemed to go on forever, or rather, it seemed to repeat itself, every door the same. At last we turned a corner and were met with a winding staircase. As we began our descent, I could hear voices from behind us growing closer. Upon reaching ground level, we exited the building and I paused for a moment, breathing in fresh air for the first time in days. The sunlight had me temporarily blinded, thus causing me to fumble after my roommate quite comically as we crossed the yard and headed towards the mess hall.

The mess hall was one of the newer buildings on campus, or so I’d been informed during my brief tour. The structure itself was as old as all the others, but unlike them, it had been renovated, primarily because it was the one building where everyone would be in one room at the same time. It was a pretty safe bet to assume something would happen, so they’d reinforced the building.

Upon entering my fears were both realized and diminished. For the most part, everyone looked pretty normal, aside from the wild array of dyed hair, but at the same time, it was like stepping back into my old high school. Not fun. Nope, not at all. Oliver and I made our way through the line, workers piling somewhat questionable substances onto our trays. As we neared the end, approaching the cooler where drinks were kept, I noticed what almost looked like water bottles, only they were filled with an almost glowing green substance. Scratch that, it was glowing. Okay, yeah, they definitely didn’t have that at my high school.

“Hey, Oli, what’s that?” I whispered, nudging the boy with my elbow.

“Oh that? It’s just juice.”

“Uh, I don’t know what kind of juice you all drink here, but I’ve never seen that before.”

Oliver snorted at my comment, biting back a laugh. “It’s not for drinking. Some of the people here, they uh, they run tests on them sometimes, and, uh, things don’t always work out how they’re supposed to. Sometimes they have to repair and replace parts of the subjects.”

“Wait, you mean they just experiment on kids and screw it up sometimes?”

“Well, yeah. It’s happened to so many of us that they just keep the power supply for the mechanisms out here.”

The conversation ended there. I think both of us knew it was heading to morbid territory, but still, as we headed towards a table, I noticed Oliver was right. A lot of the kids around us had tubes poking out of their skin, that same green liquid flowing through them. I fought the urge to shiver as we sat down.

“Hey, you’re roommate finally made it!” a girl exclaimed as we sat down.

“Yeah, they had him cooped up for a lot longer than usual.”

“Aw man, that sucks.” She nodded, leaning back slightly. “Well, you’re out now, so that’s good. I’m Kaya by the way.” She said, sticking her hand out. I tentatively reached forward to shake it.

“I’m Nick.” Her grip was strong, stronger than what I would have expected from a girl as thin as she was. Maybe she had abnormal strength?

“I can almost fly.” Kaya grinned, flipping her pale green fringe from her eyes. The girl to the right of her scoffed.

“What she means is that she can jump really high.” Piped up a small girl-even smaller than Oliver-who sat to my left.

“Yeah but that doesn’t sound as cool! And plus, it takes so long to explain the whole thing, people get bored.”

“Shut up Kaya, this is an introduction, not a biography.” Oliver rolled his eyes, to which the green haired girl let out a long groan. Next spoke the same girl who’d given the watered down version of Kaya’s powers.

“I’m Adelaide.” She said, smiling warmly. She, like Kaya, had wildly colored hair. Hers was a stark white, contrasting brilliantly with her dark skin, pale pink curls resting among the snowy strands that framed her young face. Another young girl with startlingly similar features poked her head out from the other side of Adelaide.

“I’m Cecelia.” She spoke in a monotone. Her features were very similar to those of the previous speaker, though somehow opposite. Both looked to be about the same height and build, though Cecelia had fair skin, as opposed to the chocolate color of the other. There were other differences as well. Cecelia’s hair was jet black and straight, blue streaks sticking out and grabbing attention.

“We can combine into one person with super-human abilities.” Adelaide grinned, to which Cecelia nodded and turned back to her food, if you could call it that.

“Yeah, I know, the food sucks, never eat the hot dogs by the way.” Piped up the boy who sat to Kaya’s left. I stared in disbelief.

“Oh, right, sorry. Name’s Bronx, I can read minds.”

“Nice to meet you.” I said warily.

“Hey, don’t worry man, we won’t bite, well, most of us won’t.” he laughed with a lopsided grin. Lastly I turned to the girl who’d scoffed at Kaya’s explanation a few minutes earlier.

“Hey, I’m Nick.”

“I know.” She grumbled, pushing a wayward pea around with her fork. Was she a mind reader too? Oh God, that was going to get confusing.

“Nah, she can’t read you man, only I get that privilege. You already told us your name.” Bronx laughed. “This is Jericho, she’s been here the longest out of all of us. She’s a little moody, but you’ll get used to it.”

“I can open doorways to another dimension.” The girl spoke suddenly.

“Oh, uh, that’s pretty cool.” My words came out tentative, voice wavering under the harsh look she was shooting me from beneath her teal fringe.

“So, what about you, Nick, what landed you here?” asked Kaya, leaning over the table slightly.

“Oh, I, uh, I can control electricity, sort of.”

“Sick man.” She nodded, and with that, everyone just kind of went back to eating. As I was eating, I took a moment to glance around. Aside from the odd looking people, the room was bare. Sterile white walls, ceilings, and curtains surrounded us. Men in lab-coats could be seen meandering, while some other men in dark uniforms stood by the doorway and all the windows. From where I was sitting I could clearly make out guns resting in their belts. It was at that moment I found myself missing home.

“We’ve got an hour or so of free time after dinner before we’ll have to go back to our dorms. I usually head up anyways, but we can stay and socialize if you want.” Oliver grumbled, gritting out the last sentence like it physically pained him.

“I’d kind of like to stay if that’s alright.” Trying to subtly get the point across that I had no friends besides my oddball roommate who liked to summon ghosts and not tell me about it.

“Sweet.” Kaya grinned, smacking my shoulder from across the table. It was quite a feat, but somehow she managed without spilling food everywhere. “It looks like they’re opening up the common area now, you guys want to head out?”

“Sounds good to me.” Bronx nodded, standing. The whole group rose with him, gathering our trays and dumping them in the trash on the way out. The common area was basically just one big open room with a single television playing reruns of 90s cartoons, a few chairs, and a bookcase. “They used to have pool tables and stuff, but they decided it was too dangerous after someone tried to use it as a weapon.” The blonde spoke casually, glancing over to Jericho, who followed behind us in silence. The whole group settled in a dim corner, circling up as Kaya pulled an mp3 player and speaker from the pocket of her cargo pants. She hooked the two up and hit play, the warm, comforting sound of an old school punk song filling my ears. I let out a breath as the familiarity of the sound eased my nerves, if only slightly.

I took the time to observe my new companions. They were strange, all of them, though I suppose I couldn’t be talking, I mean, I had overlarge holes in my earlobes and hair that kind of looked like a hipster’s galaxy print lock screen. Kaya was definitely an odd one, bearing her straightened green hair and faded purple beanie proudly. I couldn’t quite explain why her odd choice of clothes seemed to work, but maybe it was just her. Cecelia and Adelaide were quite different from her though, both donning frilly dresses and doll-like appearances. Bronx sort of looked like he’d just woken up, ratty T-shirt and jeans hanging in a slightly crumpled fashion, as though he’d just grabbed something off the floor of his room that morning, which, knowing my own habits, he probably had. Jericho, much like Oliver, was clad in all black, knit dress falling to her mid-thigh. The darkness of her wardrobe and general demeanor was, however, clashed with fading blue pigtails. I’d had the odd experience of getting used to Oliver’s fashion statements a while back, though he never ceased to surprise me. The boy was about as goth as it got, jet black hair, sheet white skin, all black clothes, and a planchet dangling from a chain around his neck. I suppose it kind of went hand in hand with his power, hard to be normal when you can see, speak to, and summon the dead. I kind of felt for the little guy, I doubt I could handle it.

Coming back from my brief break from reality I noticed Kaya and Bronx seemed to be leading the conversation, though it was definitely an odd one. Kaya spoke normally, though she was nearly shouting most of the time, and seemed to make whale-like noises relatively often. Bronx on the other hand would respond to nothing and sometimes snicker when nothing funny was said. Cecelia and Adelaide had kind of started to creep me out, as the two shared odd looks a lot, as though they could communicate by eye-contact alone, and had a rather terrifying habit of speaking in unison. Oliver sat with his arms crossed, refusing to make conversation with anyone as he pouted in his own little world of gloom. Then came Jericho, who just sort of sat there picking at her nails. She had a dreary expression on her face, which hadn’t changed since I’d been introduced to her a few hours ago. It was somewhere between melancholy and boredom, as though she was a worn out soul who didn’t really feel like participating in life at all. Dark circles rested beneath the eyes of all the kids surrounding me. They were tired, worn out, and almost sad looking. It was then, at the sight of a guard gripping a baton, that I remembered where we were. They had a right to be sad. They were being used, tested on, and held prisoner. I could recall being told that Jericho had been there the longest out of them and that revelation gave me a bit of understanding in regards to her gloomy expression.

“It used to be worse.” Bronx mumbled from beside me. I jerked my head to face him. “I wasn’t here for it, but I’ve heard stories. They used to treat our kind like circus animals, poking us until we snapped and using it as an excuse to do whatever they wanted. It’s not great now, but it’s better.” He muttered, not looking at me. No, he was glancing across the circle and keeping steady eye contact with the blue-haired queen of being antisocial. For a moment, his eyes softened, only to be met with her glare as she snapped her head away.

“We don’t talk about the old days.”

The hostility in her tone was clear. Something had happened. Something had most definitely happened to this girl, and it had to be a lot worse than getting a few tubes shoved into her. Silence fell around us. Adelaide and Cecelia were holding steady eye contact with one another, Kaya glancing back and forth nervously, Oliver looking slightly more alert, and Bronx looking more than a little overwhelmed with the flood of thoughts that was surely invading his brain at that moment.

“Let’s just, forget I said anything.” He mumbled, breaking eye contact with Jericho. She nodded curtly, resuming her position of staring at her nails. From there the conversation picked up again, albeit slowly. It wasn’t quite the same, almost as though everyone was walking on eggshells, desperately trying not to bring up any sensitive topics.

A few moments after that little scare, an alarm went off, blaring violently into my skull as a light shattered. Before any of us even knew what was happening we were being shoved out of the room and dragged back to our dorms. It took me a few moments to catch back up, my mind still back in the common area. “What just happened?”

“It might have been a security breach.” Oliver shrugged, looking just about as perplexed as I felt. “I’ve only seen this happen once before and that was when Jericho tried to escape using a cue stick.”

“Wait, that was Jericho?”

“Yeah, the whole place was on lockdown all night. They’d drained her pretty bad the day before, she was basically neutralized, but that didn’t stop them.” He shuddered. It was the first time I’d seen my roommate, the one who literally communicates with the dead on a daily basis, shaken. “We didn’t see her again for almost a month. They drained her so bad she was in a coma. She was never quite the same after that.” The boy spoke slowly, eyes wide and shaking. “I can understand why, I mean, I can’t imagine how painful that was. She’s never disobeyed since, not even a little. We all used to sneak out a night a meet up in the basement of the mess hall, but she stopped coming.” I didn’t know what to say. I couldn’t even speak. What had they done to her to cause a coma? That wasn’t something that could be glossed over. Just what had they done to that poor girl who probably just wanted to go home? This wasn’t right.

“Oliver,” I asked suddenly, as the conversation had stopped for a moment. “what do you mean by ‘drain’?” He heaved a sigh, a tired, heavy, weighted breath, far too deep for someone his age.

“You’ll get the whole speech tomorrow, but I can try to explain a bit. They’ve already given you that whole sob story about how you need to learn to control your power and use it for good right?” I nodded. “Yeah, that’s not really what they care about, like, at all.” That’s what I’d been afraid of. “See, wat they do first is observe. They’ll determine if your power is useful. If it is, they’ll train you and use you. Some get shipped off to the military, others are kept as secret weapons. If they can’t use your power, or if you refuse to let them, like Jericho, they drain you. They sap you of so much energy that your body can’t sustain the abnormality. They drain your life force like sucking venom out of a snake bite. It doesn’t work too well, generally the subjects are left with weakened powers, or well, you know.” He kind of gestured to the Ouija board with his head and I understood. “Yeah, so, that’s why most of us just go along with it. We don’t want to die, you know?” I did know, and I didn’t want to die either, but I didn’t want to live like this. I couldn’t. “I can let you in on a little secret though, if you’re interested? You have to swear to keep it secret though, and I’ll know if you don’t.”

“Yeah, sure man. Shoot.” I shrugged. After all, how much worse could the situation possibly get? Actually, that’s probably not something I should be asking myself.

“A long time ago, back when Jericho first came, a girl escaped.” He’d lowered his voice considerably now, as though someone might be listening. “No one knows what happened to her, but they never caught her, and I can tell you she’s still alive.” I guess that whole talking to the dead thing came in handy more than I thought it could. “Anyways, if she made it out, there has to be a way. Those secret basement meetings I mentioned? That’s what they’re about. We’re going to get out of here.”

“You really think there’s a way?” I questioned, dumbfounded.

“If I’ve learned one thing from my ability, it’s that nothing, and I mean nothing, is indestructible. There is a way, and we’re going to find it. After your lesson tomorrow you can join us down there, if you’d like. Something tells me you’re not one to be cooped up though, so think about it.” And with that Oliver retreated back to his bunk, flopping down as though nothing had happened.

The next morning came far sooner than I’d have liked. After what I’d learned the previous day I wasn’t so excited to start whatever it was they were going to do to me. I mean sure, the glowing tubes looked pretty cool, and learning to control my power sounded pretty great to, but I wasn’t too keen on actually having tubes and wires stuck inside my skin, then there was the issue of my alliances. I didn’t want to help these people, not at all, but I didn’t want to lose my powers either. Obviously it’d be great to be normal and just get to go home, but even the thought of it felt like I’d lost a piece of myself.

I’d been expecting Oliver to show me to my “examination room” as he put it, but alas, I was not known for being fortunate. That morning I’d had four security guards knock on my door and lead me wordlessly to my current location. They’d surrounded me the entire trip, blocking any possible escape. As we walked I scanned the two in front of me, clearly armed to the nines and doing a pretty poor job of hiding it. I was volatile and they knew it.

At last we reached a large building a good ways from the dorms. It looked old and worn out from the outside, tall brick walls being overtaken by various varieties of plant life. The inside was vastly different though. Amidst the high stone walls and concrete ceilings there were all sorts of modern looking machines and control panels. We passed several closed doors, all of which appeared to be reinforced with some sort of metal and about a foot thick. That was a little concerning.

We rounded two more corners before I was led into one of these rooms. From the inside it almost resembled a recording studio, though the open space behind the glass was much larger. I could feel my whole body begin to tremble as they forcefully removed all clothing but my underwear, leaving me standing wide open and defenseless for them to analyze. Each of the men in the room, scientists, it appeared, scribbled notes furiously, marking down everything they could about my physical traits, the scars, the birthmarks, the tattoos, the stretched ears, even the color of my hair dye. Every detail they could find had to be made note of. It felt almost as though I’d been violated somehow, though they had yet to even touch me. It was like they were picking me apart and opening me up with their eyes, observing and analyzing absolutely everything.

After what felt like an eternity of having my metaphorical skin peeled away, they began. Like Oliver had said, it appeared to be more of an observation than anything else. I was given a lamp, a lightbulb, and a multimeter, all of which I was able to destroy pretty easily, though I feel quite confident that wasn’t the goal, nor was it my intent. This went on for quite some time until they finally decided I’d had enough pieces of glass imbedded into my skin from the numerous lightbulbs that had exploded. A man in a lab coat came in and handed me a rag to wipe some of the blood away, holding a completely monotone expression the entire time he was there.

“Okay, we’re not going to give you anything this time, just see what you can do on your own.” He instructed, nodding curtly before swiping the rag back and leaving. The door was bolted shut once more. I was locked in. They knew what I could do, and clearly they weren’t going to take any chances. I could feel their eyes watching me, hardly blinking it seemed. I took a breath, somewhat feeling as though I was signing my own death certificate, and let go. Electricity ripped through my body, stinging my skin and bouncing off the walls. I’d found out long ago that though my body didn’t react to electricity as severely as a normal person’s, it still wasn’t a good idea to let it course through me for too long uncontained. Even being as careful as I’d been there were long ropes of twisting burn scars and discolored skin running down my arms.

It was a while after I’d stopped that the Electric currents finally fizzled out, leaving only minor sparks here and there. “Alright, that’s enough Nicolas.” I nodded in response, watching as the man scribbled the last of his notes.

That day was a long one, even though I was released before lunch. The others all said the first day was the most boring, though they all agreed on one thing: they’d all gladly take boring over what they were forced to go through. That scared me. I was drained and worn out. My skin tingled with aftershocks and my arms burned. I couldn’t keep using my powers like this, they’d tear me apart.

Weeks went by. Too many weeks.

I was weak, and my skin burned like I’d taken a razor to a sunburn. This was going to kill me. They were going to kill me. One of the other charges had scrawled “abandon all hope, ye who enter here” into the sidewalk outside the main entrance. I saw them carry him off, and I haven’t seen him since.

“It’s getting worse.” Oliver exclaimed. The basement was cold, clammy. There was a subtle sound of water dripping from some other corner of the room, but we weren’t concerned with that at the moment. “We have to do something before they do! They’re gonna kill us all!”

“Easy kid,” Bronx hummed, sounding drained. “we’ve barely got half a plan as is, and without help, we’re screwed.”

So far, we’d come to the decision that whatever was going to be done had to happen in the cafeteria. It was crowded and there was plenty of room for distractions. We were banking on the hope that the others would jump in once they saw what was happening. Even then, we’d have to take down at least some of the guards to set the whole thing off, and probably more in order to get out. I could take out the power supply and knock out the locking mechanisms, but I’d have to get to a control panel. In short, our plan had a lot of holes.

“If we knock out the power then the travel warding will be taken out too. That means Jericho will be able to use her powers again and she can get us all out! We won’t even have to deal with most of the guards!”

“You know she’s not going to help us!” Oliver snapped at Kaya’s suggestion. “She’s too scared to!”

“Shut the hell up Oli.” Bronx broke in, voice even, but stern. “You don’t have a clue what she’s seen or what they’ve done to her. You’d be no better if you did.”

 

The lights in our room kept flickering. Oliver was pissed and it was effecting whatever spirit had joined us this evening. “I don’t understand how she can just give up like that.” The silence had been broken at last. “Bronx used to tell these stories of how cool Jericho was, the things she did, how brave she’d been, but it’s all gone. She’s lost herself completely. They broke her.”

 

The cafeteria had grown quiet in the recent days. Most ate in silence. There’d been a few new arrivals a week before, a girl and a boy. The boy was pretty muscular with this gnarled looking arm. The girl though, she was thin, didn’t look like she could do much damage, but she’d been carted in with a mob of guards, warding cuffs, and shackles. They ate together against the wall, away from the rest of the beaten down crowd.

Oliver snapped at anyone and anything these days. He’d always been irritable, but now he acted like a starved animal, lashing out at anything near him. Jericho bore the brunt of his verbal abuse. She usually just sat through it, staring straight ahead while he went on.

The common room had been closed off, and they’d stuffed us all into these uniforms that looked like something out of an asylum. They were taking away our humanity, anything that made us who we were. It was all dripping down the drain, and with it, so went our minds.

Jericho and I were both scheduled for “lessons” that day, and found ourselves walking to the lab together. That was the worst of it, you had to walk yourself there, knowing good and well that you weren’t being forced, but knowing that if you resisted, you would be. It was like holding a gun to your head and being told to shoot, knowing there was someone behind you holding a knife, and they weren’t planning on leaving you alive.

“I wish I could just turn around and go back to my room.” I grumbled, looking up to the sky like some god was supposed to answer.

“Don’t.” Jericho didn’t talk much, especially not to me. This was a rare occasion.

“What’ll they do?” It wasn’t a taunt, it was a genuine question. I knew Jericho was well aware of what they did to those who resisted, and I needed to know.

“They’ll drain you.” I arched an eyebrow, making it clear that wasn’t good enough. “They have a few ways of doing it. The cleanest is to keep drawing blood until your body has to shut down some of its functions to keep you alive. That’s how they get rid of your powers, and that’s what all the bionics are for.” She said, gesturing to her leg, where I could see a green tube glowing through the white uniform pants. “Sometimes they screw up more than just your powers and have to do damage control.”

We undressed in the same room. There was no privacy here. There was always someone watching and it our own exposure didn’t even matter anymore. Jericho was beat up. She always was. There was tubing on her lungs, her leg, and a pretty big mechanism on her back. I didn’t know what all bodily systems she’d lost, but it didn’t look good.

The tests had gotten worse. They’d started a series of trials in an attempt to see how my body handled the electrocution. They raised the voltage every day. I knew I couldn’t take much more, it was getting dangerous.

I bit down on the leather strap as the waves of unimaginable pain ran through my body. I couldn’t move, couldn’t think. Somewhere in a distant corner of my mind I was aware of myself begging them to stop every time the electricity was cut. They never did.

And at the end of all that, I had to march myself right back to my room and do the same thing again the next day.

The basement was an eerie part of the building, left over from the original, but it had become a safe haven in the weeks I’d been at the Academy. They couldn’t get us there.

I kicked a pebble as I made my way down the short concrete staircase. Most everyone else had already sat themselves in a circle when I arrived.

“You look like hell.” Kaya stated, eyeing me up and down in concern.

“I feel like hell.”

“Okay, let’s get as much as we can done today guys. Gotta stay focused.” Bronx clapped, calling us to attention. “We’ve got a basic idea of how to get this started. The next problem is going to be getting to a circuit board. The only one between the caf and the main entrance is down a dead-end side hallway. Getting Nick down there isn’t the problem. Getting him back might be. We could try to barricade the hallway, but I’m not sure how long we’d-“ Bronx stopped abruptly as the door swung open. We all braced ourselves, fight or flight instincts bursting into action. A lone figure walked through the door and made her way down the stairs, sitting herself beside me in the circle.

“Well don’t just stare, get on with it.” Jericho waved, leaning back, the corner of her lips twitching into a smirk. The whole of the group gazed on in shock.

 

Something was different today. There were hushed whispers floating about the cafeteria as opposed to the stark silence that had filled the place for so long. We had to be careful what we said; there were eyes and ears everywhere. It was dangerous.

“God, if I missed a good tour when I get out of here I’m gonna be so pissed.” Kaya whined. Her grievances were always the most ridiculous and seemingly unimportant things, but it kept the mood light. “There’s gonna be so much to catch up on, you know? Like, how many new shows came out? How many knew albums dropped? Don’t even get me started on movies! We’re all having a marathon of pop-culture catch up the day we blow this place!”

“Kaya, I feel like your family might have a problem with that. Shouldn’t you spend a little time with them first?” Bronx laughed.

“Nah, first we party, then we have all that sappy reunion jazz.” She declared. We all knew she was joking, hell, most of us probably believed we’d die before getting out, but the hope kept us alive another day at the least.

“I used to be so good in school, I’m going to have so much to catch up on.” Cecelia mumbled, rubbing her face with her hands. Adelaide patted her on the back.

“I’ll just be glad whenever I can stop telling the ghosts to go away because they don’t seem to understand that I can’t help them very well from in here.” Oliver grumbled, gesturing around the room. It was true, spirits came to him often requesting his help, but there was little he could do.

“What about you?” Bronx asked, turning to Jericho, who’d stayed quiet through the whole of the conversation. She stopped eating for a moment, looking up quizzically.

“I think I’ll take a walk.” she decided.

The alarm went off.

Then the lights.

The room was bathed in blackness while the sound shook our skulls.

A chill swept through the air, and Jericho froze.

A dark figure stood in the middle of the room, one that had not been there before.

 

“Elise.”

 

The figure turned, revealing a wicked grin painted onto her face in black.

 

“What have you done?”

“I told you I’d come back.” The girl said, a gravelly edge to her otherwise sweet voice. She slowly drifted towards us.

“That was years ago!” Jericho snapped, standing. “And this? Elise what the hell is this?”

“I did what I had to do.”

The ground split open, shaking the building’s foundation. Long, gnarled, fingers of bone reached up from the crevice. The cafeteria erupted into chaos as the creatures hauled themselves from the depths. Elise stood still in the midst of the panic. We ran towards the door, the guards long gone, some having jumped into the swarming, others having fled. The halls were dark. Elise had taken out the power completely. Bronx seemed to have heard that thought cross my mind, his eyes going wide.

“The warding!” that was all he had to say for it to hit the others. Any powers that could be stopped had been stopped. Bronx was lucky to have an internalized one, he was unaffected. The rest of us weren’t so lucky. Cecelia and Adelaide jumped first, directly into each other. In a swirl of light and color, a single being emerged. She was tall, taller than could ever be natural for a woman, her skin a mottled mix of chocolate brown and a pinky white. Jericho was next to act, a dark hole ripping through reality as she disappeared through it, reemerging with what would have been a comically large gun under different circumstances.

The scrabbling of bone on linoleum echoed behind us. The thing was skeletal, like a human that had been twisted into a new shape. It ran on all fours, jaw dangling open. Jericho took a few shots at it, the sound ringing in my ears. The bone splintered where the bullet made contact, but the thing didn’t stop. Kaya pushed forward, throwing her hand down onto the tile. The hallway went up in a wave, the walls shaking around us. The thing was slammed backwards. “We have to go!” Oliver screamed, yanking on my arm. That broke us out of our stupor, reminding us that yes, we definitely needed to go. There were a few seconds where it was just our footsteps in the hallway, and then the scrabbling of bone came back.

“How do we kill that thing?” I yelled.

“We don’t.” Bronx was the one to answer. “I saw it in her memories. The only way to get rid of them is for her to call them off or-“

“For her to die.” Jericho was the one to finish.

The sound was getting closer and closer behind us. We rounded a corner and darted into an open room. We waited for the thing to pass before slumping down on the floor.

“Nice of you to drop by.” Came a biting voice from the corner of the room. I snapped my head around, facing the source. There were two figures seated in the dark. Both eased themselves to their feet, stepping into the light. Long dark hair was the first thing to emerge, the girl coming into the light. She was followed by a taller form, the boy with the gnarled arm.

We’d huddled on the floor, throwing together a game plan before we all got killed. So far, the girl, Anne, would be used as a distraction, a plan I wasn’t too keen on, Eric, the boy, would stay back to make sure she was alright. According to her, her powers made her pretty difficult to kill, but they were fickle, so she needed a companion to watch over her. The rest of us were to keep running. With the monsters distracted we hoped for a clear shot to the exit.

“Alright, as soon as this gets going, you all need to get the hell out of here.” said Anne, beginning to unzip her jumpsuit. “No telling who could get caught up in the fight.” Kaya sent another sonic wave through the floor, the sound drawing the attention of any nearby enemies, we hoped. Anne dropped her jumpsuit to the floor, followed by her undergarments. She stepped out into the hall, the scrabbling of bone drawing rapidly closer. The skin on her body rippled, shifting from the smooth texture to an angry wasteland of scar tissue. Her whole body was wrapped in countless ridges and twisting chunks of wicked pink flesh. A long, forked tongue darted from her mouth, swiping across her lips.

“Go!” Eric demanded, shoving me forward. I was snapped back to my senses and began the sprint down the hallway, the sounds of animalistic combat ensuing behind me. My friends, shame I finally had some when it looked like we all might die, followed me, Adelaide and Cecelia, or whatever the combined version of them was called, quickly made it to the front of the group. The corridor grew cold. The skidding of feet from behind me forced me to stop. I turned to see Jericho facing the opposite end of the hall. A lone figure stood, tatters of a black dress moving as though there were some sort of wind. The painted smile and deep eye sockets made for a ghostly sight as Elise stepped forward.

“Leaving me so soon, old friend?”

“Let us go Elise, this has gone too far.” Jericho said slowly, as though dealing with a dangerous animal.

“It was too far from the very beginning!” Elise snapped. “Don’t you remember what they did to us? Don’t you remember the screams? They never cared how many limbs or lives were lost! They deserve this! They deserve to be torn apart just like we were!” she shrieked, the inexplicable wind picking up. That’s when it hit me. Elise was the girl who’d escaped. Bronx had said that Jericho had been here for a long time. They knew each other. They were friends.

“Not like this though! Look at what you’ve become Elise, you’re no better than they are, god, you’ve sold yourself to a demon!”

“I did what I had to do!”

“The only thing I ever asked of you was that you come save us when you escaped.” Jericho’s tone had lowered, her voice softening. “And I waited for you. I waited for three years.” Elise looked at her, some semblance of humanity crossing her expression for the first time since I’d seen her. “But now that you’re here, I think I wish you’d died.” Jericho took aim, and shot, clipping Elise’s shoulder. The woman was enraged, hurricane force gusts swirling in the hallway, shoving all of us off our feet. Icy pillars shot up from the tile, their jagged edges promising to hold our skewered bodies. Cecelia-Adelaide was the first to act, running forward at an inhuman speed and attempting to fight her enemy up close. This would prove to fail spectacularly as she was thrown against a wall and battered around by a series of wind and hail. She kept up for a while, though Elise made it clear she wanted to keep her at a distance. She broke out of the hold, landing a solid punch across Elise’s face before being thrown backwards again and splitting apart. Both Adelaide and Cecelia fell to the ground in crumpled heaps. Oliver quickly moved them out of the way of the brawling.

“She can’t fight up close.” Bronx muttered. Kaya nodded and dove in. She herself was more of a distance fighter, but even a few blows from her should have been enough. Elise raised shields of ice around herself, all of which Kaya broke through with no problem at all, the ice shattering and scattering across the corridor. I’d begun drawing currents from the air, hoping to get enough power to do some damage. Hopefully the damage wouldn’t be to my friends. Jericho was still out of commission, Oliver and Bronx couldn’t really do much in combat like this. We were out of luck. Kaya’s knee collided with Elise’s side, a sickening crack reverberating through the hall. Elise barely flinched, grabbing Kaya’s leg and twisting as the ground split open and another creature emerged, throwing itself at Kaya. She was tossed around for a moment before the thing’s jaws clamped around her leg and she started putting up a fight again. Adelaide and Cecelia were up before any of us even saw them open their eyes, merging and chasing after Kaya’s screams.

“If anyone’s here, please, we need help.” Oliver’s voice plead, his eyes squeezed shut. Bronx looked on, helpless. I felt much the same. I wasn’t at my full strength and I didn’t know what would happen if I tried to land a big hit. The electrical currents weren’t precise. It was possible I could hurt my friends more than my enemy. There was a scuffling sound from behind me. I turned in time to see Jericho rise to her feet, shaky at first, but she steadied herself quickly.

“If you can keep her still, I’ll take her out.” she said, voice low and dark. Her jumpsuit was torn, revealing an array of green tubing I never knew she had. “It has to be me.” Her words cracked, gravel laced into them.

“She’s over confident, that much I can tell. She’s certain she can’t be stopped.” Bronx supplied, squinting in Elise’s direction. Her perfect white teeth had formed a twisted grin inside the painted one. Jericho nodded, looking in her direction. A shadow fell across her face, sorrow tainting her features. The faint sounds of our friends’ shrieks steeled her expression. She readied her gun, looking first to Oliver, then to me before nodding. Bronx glanced between us all before speaking again, quietly. “We need to catch her by surprise. Oli-“

“On it.” Oliver closed his eyes, his dark hair floating as though there were a soft breeze within the building. Elise halted suddenly, jerking her arms, to no avail. The air around her seemed warped and strange, surrounding her body and cementing it in its place. Her grin slipped into an enraged expression, the freezing winds in the hall picking up, ice beginning to crawl across the walls and ceiling.

I bent down, touching my fingertips to the floor. The electricity flowed through my body, spiraling down my arms and spreading out through the tips of my fingers and into the floor. I ground my teeth against the pain the shook through me at the exertion. The bolts shot out, racing up the walls and towards their target. Every fiber of my being was focused solely on making contact. There was no other way this could work. Through the haze of electricity and supernatural energy, Jericho forced herself forward.

“You can’t kill me,” Elise ground out, the challenge clear in her words “you don’t have the balls.”

Jericho raised the gun to her forehead.

“It’s been a long three years.”

The bang shook the building.

Elise crumpled.

Ungodly screeches filled the air before total silence fell.

Kaya, Adelaide, and Cecelia dragged themselves towards us, beat up, but alive.

Jericho stared down into the vacant eyes of the mysterious woman who’d so quickly obliterated our world. A black ooze dripped from Elise’s mouth. Her skin began to flake and dissolve into a foul smelling ash. We all looked on in horror as her remains soaked into the linoleum. The building shook again.

“We’ve got to go!” Kaya shouted. We took off once more, getting closer and closer to the exit.

“We’re not going to make it” Bronx said hollowly, watching as the ceiling began to fall behind us. He was right. We weren’t going to get out. We were going to die in this building. We’d never see our families again. We’d never eat real food again, we’d never have that movie marathon. They were going to find our twisted bodies crushed in the rubble of this god forsaken prison.

Jericho skidded to a stop, the rest of us following suit. Bronx made eye contact with her for a moment before his eyebrows shot up. “Jericho you can’t-“

“Yes I can.” Bronx opened his mouth like he was going to try to stop her, but she seemed to implode on herself a bit. An energy flowed through her, surging through the air. Gaping black holes opened before each of us. The others didn’t hesitate for a moment, Kaya shooting a grateful nod back to her friend.

“Jericho you have to go!” I yelled to her. She shook her head sadly.

“I can’t keep it open much longer, not with this many, you need to go.”

“Not without you.”

“Nick, I’m not letting you die here.”

“And I’m not letting you either.” I grabbed her by the arm, yanking as hard as I could. The portal shook as we both fell into it.

There was a moment of total blackness, a feeling akin to death it seemed. There was no heat, but no cold, nothing touching me at all, just a vast emptiness, before I was slammed into a concrete floor, Jericho landing on top of me with a grunt. We breathed for a moment before Jericho got to her feet, letting me up. I looked around. We were in a mausoleum. Jericho took in the scene.

“No one would ever find us here.” She said softly. We were a mess, rags of our jumpsuits hanging off us, hair wild and tangled, bodies bloody and bruised. All at once Jericho threw herself at me, wrapping her arms around my neck. I felt warm tears drip onto my shoulder as she shook. “We made it.”

“Yeah, we did.”

 

 

Epilogue:

 

Re-assimilating into society had been hard. I hadn’t been gone too long, but others, like Jericho, hadn’t seen the outside world in years. Jericho in particular had spent nearly a third of her life in that place.

Miraculously, almost everyone made it out alive, though the incident left almost everyone injured. The silver lining was that The Academy was exposed for what it really was. There were currently discussions of a new school being made, a real one, for people with powers. After that day, we’d been a part of the crew searching the rubble for casualties. Quite a few of the workers had met violent ends, though I couldn’t find it in myself to pity them much. Only three kids had died, all strangers to me, two mauled and one caught in the building’s collapse. Despite the physical state of the survivors, almost everyone attended the funeral. There were even rumors of a monument being erected, though I didn’t really know how I felt about that.

We’d all been subjected to pretty intensive questioning and psychiatric examinations. I’d heard there were a lot of PTSD cases, Jericho among them, but we’d made it through. In the end, we’d pulled through. We’d done more than that actually; we’d turned the world upside down. A new age had begun. An age of heroes.

 

Calico, the super human, an advocate for third world countries, and a favorite among children.

Ouija Boy, the kid with armies of spirits on his side, a hero for the dead and living alike.

Sonica, the girl who could almost fly, a wild hero full of life and youth, another favorite.

Syndrome, the sideline strategist and interrogation expert; lesser known but loved all the same.

Recall, the cavalry, the black hole, the girl who could be anywhere and had an armory at her fingertips.

Tesla, the lightning storm, a little flashy, but it’s unavoidable.

 

We’d seen hell, we’d seen what could come out of it, and we were prepared to spend our lives making sure no one else ever had to experience what we had. We were anything but diplomats, operating a little outside the law and maybe bending it a smidge, but in the end, I was okay with that. It was hard to leave each other at first. We’d come from all over, Adelaide and Cecelia from California, Jericho from Jersey, myself from Ohio, Bronx from Detroit, Kaya from Charlotte, and Oliver from Connecticut. We were bound, through thick and thin, and we couldn’t let that go. The nightmares of needles and white walls and ice were too much for any of us to bear alone. My parents hadn’t been happy to say goodbye again, but I had to do it. I packed a suitcase and drove to Pennsylvania , where we crammed seven people into an apartment and went on with our lives as best we could.

“Ugh, Nick, you knocked the power out again.” Kaya groaned, flicking the kitchen light switch excessively for effect.

“Sorry, do we have any cereal? You don’t need the stove for that.”

“Yeah yeah, I’ll be fine.” She rolled her eyes, beginning to rummage through a cabinet for the box.

“Seriously dude?” Oliver was the next to emerge, running a hand through his wild black hair. “Can you like, wear rubber gloves to sleep in or something? This is getting old.” Kaya poured herself a bowl, passing the box to Oliver.

“There’s no way that’ll work.”

“Well,” Kaya began “it kinda makes sense actually. You should try it.”

“Oh my god I’m not sleeping in rubber gloves.”

“Well some of us are tired of dry cereal Nick.” Oliver grumbled, hopping up on the counter and angrily thrusting a plastic spoon into his bowl.

“Yo, Nick, we’re going out.” Jericho declared, stepping out of the bedroom. Her hair was freshly dyed, ears stained a little blue. “Get yourself ready.” She grabbed her sweatshirt off the wall hanger, slipping it on. I nodded, grateful for any opportunity to eat anything other than dry cornflakes.

“How come he gets to go, but we don’t?” Cecelia and Adelaide said together. It was still creepy as hell, but we’d gotten relatively used to it.

“Because I said so.” A black hole opened in front of Jericho. “You ready?”

“Yeah, I’m coming.”

 

And that was our life. We were screwed up. We’d always be screwed up, but we were screwed up together, and we’d made a family. We were happy.


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