Chapter Three

Jason A. Valentine

A swarm of orange jumpsuits stampeded around her, knocking over lunch tables and metal chairs like wild animals released from a cage. They were fleeing--to where, she didn't know, as there was no place to go, and so they pressed their bodies against the walls, their eyes frantic, their skin pale with terror. Guards in black uniforms dispersed throughout the space, desperate to subdue the chaos at hand, but their efforts were futile. They were too late.

Eve stood in the center of the room, her feet rooted to the cement floor. As small as she was--probably the smallest, and certainly the youngest person there--she felt large and towering, as if all eyes were focused on her, which she knew was more than a paranoid assumption. Her body shook; she couldn't tell whether it was fear or power quaking within her, because she was too inexperienced and naïve to know the difference. All she could do was stare at the floor in horror.

She could feel him standing a few yards in front of her: a teenage boy, much bigger than her and nearly twice her age, though his once intimidating appearance was now feeble and weak.

"You did this." His voice trembled as he spoke. "You know that, right?"

He clutched something in his fist: a toothbrush, whittled at the end into a sharp point. A shiv covered in blood--the same blood that was spilled at Eve's feet, a pool of red that she couldn't tear her eyes from.

The blood spread slowly across the ground until it lapped at her shoes. Another boy was lying in the center of it, face down, limp, still. He had been no more than ten years old--upright, talking, smiling only minutes prior--and now, nothing but an endless sea of red. All she could see, all she could feel was the boy and the blood. So much blood. So much red.

"You did this." The teenager repeated. Eve had almost forgotten he was still there, staring at her, his gaze fearful. Petrified.

Eve's eyes flicked open, her entire being forced awake in an instant.

It was Saturday morning; Eve had survived her first week of school. The sun was shining through the sheer curtains, and she could tell that it was going to be a beautiful day. How unfortunate, then, that she would be spending her time in the study hall, burying her face in the digital pages of her scratchpad and catching up on her endless array of work.

She glanced at the other side of her room; Madison was already gone, her bed disheveled and her clothes strewn across her luggage like the debris from a pink tornado. Eve took a brief moment to bask in her coveted solitude before tearing herself from the comfort of her sheets and preparing for what was sure to be a dull day. She tossed a loose blouse over her head, pulled on a pair of denim shorts, and strolled out of her dorm, only to be abruptly stopped at her doorway.

"Eve! So glad I ran into you!"

Heather, the vivacious redhead from move-in day, was waiting just outside Eve's room, lightly tapping her perfectly manicured nails along the door.

Eve grumbled, "Well, you are standing in my doorway."

Heather flashed her trademark smile. "Where you off to?"

Eve struggled to squirm past, but Heather didn't step aside.

Eve sighed. "I'm going to the study hall."

"Not anymore!" Heather linked arms with Eve and yanked her toward the elevator. "You're coming with me to the Billington Medical Ward!"

"I am?"

"You know, community service looks stellar on resumes. I thought I'd get a head start and apply to do some volunteer work at the medical ward. They're holding a meet-and-greet today for anyone who may be interested."

"Well, that's nice and all, but I'm not interested." Eve looked around for someone, anyone to save her from Heather's grasp, but the halls were empty. "Does that mean I can just go to the study hall?"

"Eve, darling, don't you care about your future?"

"I do, I just don't care about the medical ward--"

"Eve!" Heather gasped. "There are sick people suffering over there. Don't you feel the slightest bit obligated to lend a hand?"

Eve felt the pressure of guilt creep through her. "Well... I guess--"

"I'm kidding," Heather giggled. "The truth is, the medical ward is such a great place to people-watch. If one of your classmates gets a bad case of mono, you're the first to know. If someone breaks their leg in a drunken stupor, you see it before everyone else! And best of all, we'll get to see all of the attack victims."

"Attack victims?"

"Oh come on, Eve, you must have heard about the Interloper abductions by now." Heather playfully squeezed Eve's hand. "I'm dying to know what's happening to them--the chimeras. It's exciting, don't you think?"

Eve scowled with disgust. "Thrilling."

"Wow. Didn't expect to see so many people here," Eve mumbled.

"Well, clearly other people care more about their future success than you do."

Eve scanned the room until her gaze landed on a huddle of doctors and nurses in a faraway corner. They whispered to one another, their brows and palms sweaty, their eyes darting across the crowded space.

She flinched as Heather slapped a piece of paper against her chest.

"A little jumpy, are we?" Heather teased. "Here, fill out this form while we wait in line for our blood tests."

Eve stopped, her body suddenly cold and numb.

"Blood test? Why do we need a blood test?"

"It's standard procedure, hon. We'll be working in a hospital. Naturally they have to make sure we're healthy."

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a sci-fi novel by Jenna Moreci