Jason A. Valentine

Eve looked at Heather--at her adorable white sundress and despicable smile, at her cheeks that were once pale with fright but were now suddenly back to their usual rosy glow. With a heavy sigh and a resentful glare, Eve headed for the exit.

"Where are you going?"

"Away from here. Away from you."

"But the blood tests--"

"Screw the damn blood tests, Heather," Eve spat. "Screw the medical ward, and screw Billington."

"Well, you're awfully perturbed. Was it something I said?"

Eve stopped in front of the doorway and turned; she had a perfect view of the destruction--the overturned chairs, the blood-spattered linoleum floor, the frantic, tear-streaked faces--but this time, all she saw was the redheaded girl before her.

"Someone was just dissected, Heather. You may not give a shit, but I do."

And with that, Eve stormed out of the ward, pushing her way through the throng of bodies, pleading with herself to please, please remain calm. Don't look back. Patrolmen were scattered in front of the ward, cornering terrified volunteers. "You saw NOTHING," they ordered. "Do you understand?" Eve charged ahead, keeping her eyes forward, blinding herself to the surrounding chaos. She couldn't ignore it any longer: the attacks were real. Jason's butchered, dissected chest was real. As the initial shock slowly dissipated, reality soon set in: no chimera was safe at Billington--not even Eve.

The blue car resembled a piece of mangled tinfoil wrapped around the telephone pole. A thin trail of smoke oozed from the hood and crawled up the mutilated frame, disappearing beneath the colossal truck that sat atop the car's remains. Eve watched as the truck's driver fumbled for the door handle, and she realized that she had been here many, many times before--but for whatever reason, this time something was different. She looked down at her hands--they were smooth and mature, with long, slender fingers and a faded, pencil-thin scar heading straight across her right palm. She had gotten that scar during a fight in the seventh grade when one of her classmates had threatened her with a knife. "I'm gonna cut that gift right out of you, chime," he'd said to her through gritted teeth. Suddenly, she knew what was so strange about her dream; she touched her face and felt her sharp cheekbones and pointed nose. The accident was so real, so accurate, but for the first time in eleven years, the dream had changed: Eve was no longer a child. She was seeing the nightmare through the eyes of her nineteen-year-old self.

"Don't you tell anyone, little girl. Don't you tell a goddamn soul, y'hear me?"

Eve's heart raced as she resisted the urge to kill the man with her own two hands. What good would that do? After all, this was only a dream, and he was already dead. Still, she couldn't slow the heavy beating in her chest. After years of being haunted by this recurring vision, she had grown accustomed to it, desensitized even; and now that it had changed, she felt herself panicking once again.

She closed her eyes--Maybe I'll wake up, she thought to herself. When I open my eyes, everything will be back to normal. With one last moment of hesitation, she opened her eyes. The drunk driver was gone, and in his place stood Jason Valentine.

He looked exactly as he had on the hospital gurney: his chest was carved open, and his flesh and muscle hung limply at his sides. Eve stared in horror at his pulsing heart, at the blood that drizzled down his stomach, past his navel, and onto his jeans, while his eyes looked back at her with an empty, lifeless gaze.

"We're all going to die."

His voice was calm and unwavering. Eve's legs began to shake; she wanted to run, to wake up, to find a way to escape Jason's presence, but she couldn't stop herself from staring deep into his unblinking, expressionless eyes.

Eve lurched up in her seat, and a couple of nearby students giggled and whispered to one another as they watched her catch her breath. She was in the Rutherford study hall, trying to tackle her assignments from the day prior but failing miserably. Her eyes panned down to her scratchpad; her digital textbook read Page One, and she cursed under her breath. It was Heather's fault--her sleepless night, her tossing and turning, the new, horrible nightmares that tormented her. With a sigh, she admitted defeat, gathered her belongings, and headed for the door.

Eve hopped in the elevator and pressed the button for the first floor. It was nearly seven o'clock, and dinner would soon be available in the dining hall. The idea of eating there with the Billington elite, and even worse, with Madison and Hayden, made her cringe. She would much rather eat by herself--being alone was her comfort, her refuge, the only thing that felt familiar and safe--but it was a luxury Madison had ensured she would never enjoy again.

The elevator doors opened to reveal a sight Eve hadn't expected: the lobby was filled with students, all madly dashing in the same direction--straight to the rec room. Curious, Eve followed suit, peering over their heads and shoulders as they squeezed their way through the tight space. The room was crammed with Rutherfordians--many sat cross-legged on the floor, while others shared the scant chairs, and some even teetered atop the tables--but every last one of them had their sights set on the wall-sized HV screen.

The news was on. A sharply dressed anchorwoman's hologram paced the floor, walking through a few of the students who sat too close to the projection. She stopped and faced the room, her tone somber and urgent.

"In our top story of the day, controversy tears through Billington University. According to what we believe are reliable sources, Interlopers have invaded the esteemed college. Even more disturbing are reports that the Interlopers are not just occupying the campus--they are, in fact, abducting chimera students and performing live dissections on them."

The students surrounding Eve nervously murmured to one another, but she remained silent.

"An anonymous source within Billington has informed Channel 4 News that as many as nine chimera abductions have taken place at the university over the past several months, and that Billington officials have resorted to extreme measures in order to keep these attacks out of the headlines. The most recent abduction and dissection, occurring just yesterday, is certainly the most shocking of them all: Channel 4 has confirmed that Billington sophomore Jason Valentine, son of New York Senator Donald Valentine, is the latest attack victim."

A small photo of Jason appeared in the top corner of the screen. His smile was friendly and sincere, but Eve felt a chill run through her body.

A few students snickered to one another as they pointed at Jason's photo. For a brief moment, Eve thought that she heard one of them mutter, "Chime."

"This tragic discovery at Billington University marks a turning point that many have feared: the US Government has now officially declared the Interloper population a physical threat to chimeras."

"What are you doing?"

A sharp voice rang in Eve's ear, breaking her concentration. She jumped--then looked to her side and saw Hayden's grey, beady eyes staring back at her.

"God, Hayden, you can't just sneak up on people like that."

"Madison sent me to look for you. You're late for dinner."

"I'm late? Is she my roommate or my mother?"

"Less talking, more walking." Hayden scanned the room, her face vapid and expressionless. "Let's go."

Eve followed Hayden toward the dining hall, shoving her thoughts of the Interlopers to the back of her mind as best she could. As they made their way past the long rows of tables and chairs, she saw Jason's mangled body flash before her eyes, and she blinked furiously to rid herself of the images. With little time to calm herself, she finally found Madison's table and sat in front of her.

Madison trailed her fork through her salad, tossing bits of lettuce across her plate like a child playing with her food.

"Ugh," she moaned. "This salad is the worst. These cherry tomatoes taste like barf." She looked up at Eve and growled. "Where have you been?"

"I was in the rec room watching HV. Haven't you seen the news? They're talking about your beloved Jason."

Madison plopped her fork in the middle of her salad and grimaced. "Don't even remind me of Jason. So disappointing to hear he's a chimera. Gross."

Eve winced. "Gross?"

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a sci-fi novel by Jenna Moreci