Jason A. Valentine

"...I'm not taking a blood test."

"And why not?" Heather stared back at Eve, her green eyes wide with intrigue. "Is there a problem? You don't have anything to hide, do you?"

Eve looked at Heather--at her steadfast gaze and phony smile--and she could've sworn she saw the vulture Madison had so vehemently warned her about.

"Of course not. I just don't like needles."

"Oh, Eve," Heather squealed, "you're adorable, do you know that?"

They parked themselves in line, and Heather immediately began tackling her form. Eve kept her paper by her side and stared blankly at the bustling crowd, her mind racing into a state of panic. She knew exactly what the tests would disclose: negative to all infectious diseases, viruses, and bacteria. Her results would implicate her as the healthiest person in the building--too healthy, at least for a normal human being, but not too healthy for a chimera. She couldn't take that blood test. The thought of revealing her identity--of proving without a doubt that she wasn't human--was utterly unbearable.

Eve looked over her shoulder at the injection lab; she was only third in line and would need to figure something out quickly. She could excuse herself to use the restroom, maybe feign a sudden illness, but neither option seemed believable. She could simply faint, pretending to be scared of the sight of blood, though such an act of weakness seemed so demeaning.

Suddenly, an alarm sounded through the overhead speakers, and the ward stirred into action. Volunteers nervously glanced about the lobby while the staff's faces filled with fear. The small group of doctors and nurses in the back of the room dashed toward the doorway, shouldering their way through the mass of students and ushering aside all those who blocked the entrance.

"What's going on?" Eve asked. "Should we leave?"

"Not a chance," Heather insisted. "We're next in line."

Eve looked back at the injection site. A lab technician flagged her over, patting an open seat, his friendly smile appearing ominous in her eyes. It was too late for her to turn away now; each step she took felt like one step closer to her worst fears being realized.

"MOVE! OUT OF THE WAY!"

A patrolman burst through the lobby doors, his hands wrapped around a massive firearm. Eve turned toward the commotion--five, seven, ten more patrolmen barged into the lobby, clearing an aisle down the main hallway toward the ICU. Eve scampered out of the injection lab toward Heather, who was peering past a patrolman at the scene in front of them.

"Stand back, ladies," the man ordered. "Don't come any closer."

"What's happening?" Heather asked, straining her neck over his shoulder.

"Medical emergency. We're bringing in an attack victim."

Heather's eyes brightened. "A chimera?"

"Don't come any closer," he repeated.

The front doors swung open. Countless paramedics spilled into the lobby, their navy scrubs covered in sweat and blood. The scene unfolded in slow motion as doctors cried for assistance and patrolmen barked orders over the chaos. More paramedics, their eyes filled with terror, pushed a rattling metal gurney through the entryway. Eve could see a young man with messy brown hair and tattered jeans lying on the stretcher; she instantly recognized him as Jason Valentine, the boy from her first day of classes and the supposed owner of Madison's heart. His face was ghostly pale, his eyes wide with shock; he panted for air, his breaths short and shallow. Eve scanned his filthy body when she saw it, an image she knew would haunt her for the rest of her life: Jason's chest had been split open, his flesh and muscle torn down the center and savagely spread apart like the pages of a book. The incision was clean and precise, as if executed with meticulous exactness, with time and care, by someone or something so evil, so heinous that the thought alone sent a wave of nausea through Eve's body. She could clearly make out the sheen of his ribs and the mess enclosed within: his crimson heart quaked within its cavity, and his pink lungs throbbed rapidly and violently.

Jason's eyes rolled to the back of his head as he drifted in and out of consciousness. A doctor shined a small flashlight in his face as they raced through the corridor.

"Jason! Can you hear me, Jason?"

Jason blinked, then glanced around in a daze until his gaze finally made its way to his chest--his open, bloody chest and the internal organs now fully exposed in front of him. Panic set in; his eyes widened, his hands trembled, and his lungs surged as he helplessly gasped for air. Then, with a sudden swell of energy, he clutched at the rails of his gurney and let out a deafening, horrified scream.

Eve jumped--his scream sent her own heart pounding in her chest, and though she prayed to God it wouldn't occur, the unthinkable happened before her eyes. A nurse running alongside the stretcher suddenly flew into the air, her body torn from the ground and tossed across the hallway like a limp rag doll. Immediately after, a doctor was jerked from the floor by some invisible force--some power that pulled her off her feet and sent her body colliding into the wall. One by one, bodies were thrown about the room like leaves being scattered by a turbulent breeze. Another nurse was flung across the hallway, and then another, his body landing in a heap upon a row of chairs. Eve watched in complete shock at the mayhem before her; it was all so surreal, and yet so familiar to her.

One last doctor was hurled into the air, his limbs flailing erratically as he quickly plummeted back down--right toward Heather McLeod, who stood paralyzed in his path. Without a second to think, Eve bolted forward and grabbed Heather's shoulders, spun her around, and slammed her against the wall just as the doctor fell to the floor.

"EVE!" Heather yelped, her body still pressed into the wall. "What just happened?"

Eve released her, backing away from the girl as she watched the ICU doors slam shut behind Jason's speeding gurney.

"He just developed his gift," she answered almost unconsciously. "He can't control it."

"Have you ever seen anything like that before?"

Eve's mind wandered to the death of her parents--to the terrible wreck, the pain in her skull, the truck that flew into the sky.

"No."

The lobby was a mess. Eve stood in the center of it, shocked and nonplussed, oblivious to Heather's unwavering stare as she hovered closely behind her.

"That was unbelievable."

"I know," Eve said. "His chest... all that blood--"

"No, I meant you," Heather corrected. "How you caught me. How you moved me away right in the nick of time." She folded her arms, suddenly calm and collected. "You're so fast, Eve. It's almost like you're... I don't know, super. Like you're not even human."

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a sci-fi novel by Jenna Moreci