Blythe, twisting her head around to examine the heart of The Orion Boarding School, stood clutching the straps of her bag that pressed into her shoulders, with her mouth open in awe, and her eyes wide, appearing porcelain white as the blinding sunlight concealed her bright blue irises.
‘This place is extraordinary!’ she thought to herself, not for a second questioning why she was standing on a man-sized conveyer belt, along with another 2000 students, all in a single-file line.
The conveyer belt led to a colossal pair of titanium doors, standing 10 meters in height, still looking minuscule compared to the coliseum of a school surrounding them. The layers of snow had compiled into a perfectly flat surface, glistening as the sun shone onto each snowflake, creating a blinding shine, much like its own, but more powerful. Each snowflake fell and gently swung from side to side before landing on Blythe’s thick Bordeaux coat, on her long, black eyelashes, but not on the conveyer belt, strangely. Blythe shivered, and her teeth chattered while waiting for something to happen. For there to be a moment of sound and not a lifetime of silence, for her to move at least an inch, to get out of the cold, to go inside.
A sound of whirring and stirring began from what seemed miles away, just seconds before the metal doors clanged open and the conveyer belt set off in a jerk, slightly jolting the students forward.
‘Finally.’ Her mind released as if it was holding its breath.
The conveyer belt ushered everyone inside with impeccable speed. It’d felt strange. The entire ride. But nothing could’ve been stranger than what was held inside that one, circular room. The building had trapped the campus in a circle, only to never become complete due to the front gates keeping them apart, for eternity. There were no lights, but only an indigo aura igniting the solid white walls, providing dark, exaggerated shadows at each curve of her face and at each corner of the room. Grand staircases held women marching with pride, dressed in all white, their hair all tied up in perfect buns, without a strand out of place, perfectly clear skin, that looked as soft and plump as a baby’s cheek. Lips that appeared to have never seen a day of being chapped, and teeth so naturally white not a single speck of enamel had worn away. They looked unreal. Like dolls.
Wandering about and staring at the strange objects and images on the walls, Blythe realised that they showed pictures of past students and academics that were idolised by people like her parents, her family, and what seemed like everyone around her. An announcement echoed throughout the entire building, calling for Blythe Graham to come to ‘The Eye’ immediately. She removed her stare from one certain image and headed off to somewhere, anywhere, hoping that that would be ‘The Eye’.
Along the way, she saw signs, illuminated with a pink glow, that guided her to the mystery room. Holding her coat close to her, and letting her shoulders give in to the weight of her rucksack, she looked alien amongst her surroundings. She didn’t belong there.
The eye was on the other side of the building, discrete and silent, away from all things human, apart from the ones who were stationed there. There was a long corridor, pitch black but a light at the end of it was visible. It felt like a lifetime had gone by when she reached another set of doors, this time locked by something. Something metallic. Just a block of metal placed a metre away from the clear blue glass doors. There was no one around. She came closer to the block of metal. It had a familiar feel to it. But her hand repelled away from it. She could not place her hand directly on it. It had a vibration, a familiar one, one that reminded her of the warm touch of a loved one or snuggling by a cosy fireplace. It was strange. She wanted to let go. But she couldn’t. She couldn’t move a muscle. It had paralyzed her. Caught her. Her hand was glued on to that vibration. It hurt her. It began to sting and burn. She was caught.
A man’s voice blared through the speakers, announcing more and more people to come to the eye. Her mind began to swirl and panic and shake and sweat. She wanted to scream aloud, screamed till she couldn’t bear to anymore. Scream until it was over. Scream until she wouldn’t feel it anymore. But she couldn’t move. She was trapped.
After a few minutes, almost the entire school had lined up at the other end of the tunnel. Sweat dripped slowly from her forehead as her arm began to ache and the room seemed to become even warmer with each passing second. She heard footsteps approaching rapidly, almost running. She tried to pull away again and again, ready to scream at the top of her lungs, ready to let go but to no avail. She froze. Stunned. Someone had entered. Someone saw. Someone stared at her hand above the block. It let go. She let out a long, breathy sound, recovering from the pain. Someone drew out a glass card. It was crystal clear; all the wires were visible through it. Someone placed it on the metal block, and retrieved it hurriedly, as if they had somewhere to be, somewhere to go.
‘Follow.’ The voice didn’t sound womanly or manly at all. It was just a voice. Neutral and calm, but with a rushed tongue. Blythe followed. They walked further down an all-white, narrow corridor for minutes, until they came about a door.
The door was white also, and so was the interior. But in the room, a large, muscular man sat at a glass table, drinking something that smelled foul. Sitting down on the opposite side of the table, the man not once made eye contact with her, until she sat completely still.
‘Do you know who you are?’ said the man who had a deep, rustic voice, and looked up at her to reveal a man with a strange face.
‘I-I’m Blythe Graham, Sir.’
‘Good, do you know who your SKINS are?’ he asked while tilting his head slightly to the left, remaining in full control of his neck, not letting it roll back at its own will.
‘Yes, James and Beatrice Graham, Sir’
'Then you must know where to go. Shouldn't you?'
'My dormitory, sir?'
'No,' he said with a tone of impatience. He stood up and leant against the chair and glared deep into Blythe's bright blue eyes.
'Call him in' he ordered to the mysterious 'someone' standing by the door. They nodded. Blythe began to worry once more, not knowing what was to happen. She waited a while, along with the man in the room, neither of them making a single sound the entire time. Someone else entered. Her father. Dressed in uniform, hair sleeked backwards, holding his hat. He sat down calmly, but visibly nervous, his leg shaking, struggling to look into Blythe's eyes.
'I'm sorry, girl.' he announced softly in his American accent.
'Sorry about what, James?'
'I-I can't tell you, Blythe. Listen to what they tell you.' he said with his voice shaking, and eyes tearing up. 'I'm sorry, girl. It's what needs to happen, to keep you safe,' he began to get up and head for the door, avoiding Blythe. He was hurting. He was sorry.
'James, what do yo-' Blythe managed to force out of her mouth before James darted out of the room, leaving her with many questions that were never going to get any answers.
She closed her eyes for a few seconds to try and calm her thoughts and emotions, but she fell asleep suddenly, despite not really feeling tired. She had fallen into a deep sleep, and when she woke, she found herself sat on a chair in a pitch-black room. It wasn't the same one as earlier. This room had a strange smell. An inexplicable one. It didn’t have a clear aroma that was familiar in any way to Blythe. No windows. No light. Just black.
Blythe began to hear mumbling voices behind the metal door, hiding in plain sight, but revealing itself to Blythe by enduring the clanging of keys against the lock. There was a very deep voice and a very soft one. Blythe understood that they were her SKINS after a short while of them arguing.
* * *
‘Beatrice, I don’t want to do this! 200 kids at once? This isn’t what we planned. It’s not how it was meant to happen!’
‘Don’t fight it. What’s done is done. Both we and the whole team at the lab agreed on this. It is what’s best for her and everyone here. We can’t let them suffer in the world of our mistakes; it’s our fault and they deserve a chance, all of them. Blythe will be fine. Everyone will be just fine.’
‘No, Beatrice, this is too much. I know we agreed upon it but not at the levels I saw in the chem lab. We’ll end up killing them.’
‘What’s the difference, James? We’ve played around with too many games here. They’d end up dead either way. Besides, I’ve checked the stats, they’re fine. It’s just a mild shower.’
‘Beatrice, I will never forgive you, if anything happens to any one of these kids. God forbid one of them has too much.’
A man approached the two of them, Lieutenant Prescott, hat with an army symbol tucked away between his elbow and forearm, a stern look on his face.
‘Beatrice, James, we’re ready whenever you are, but have you looked at the chemical balances, they seem fairly high.’
‘Yes, they’re at just the levels they need to be, thank you. We’ll be at the lab in a minute.’ Said Beatrice, hiding her sorrowful and angry expression behind a soft smile.
‘No problem,’ Lieutenant Prescott saluted and swiftly turned around, before heading back towards the lab, hat now placed on top of his balding, grey head.
‘James, trust me, no one will get hurt. This was the point of the organisation: to help them.’
‘I hardly think this is helping them, Beatrice!’ James ran after Beatrice’s fast feet, voice full of breath and worry.
They’d gotten to the lab after a few short minutes, both feeling their guts churning, Beatrice forced out ‘Go.’
‘Beatrice…’ James softly pressed out of his mouth, eyes tearing up while looking at the screens of kids falling fast asleep rapidly. One by one. Out like a light. He saw their breathing begin to slow and their limbs become limper.
‘Stop this, NOW!’ James screamed at Beatrice, his eyes overflowing with tears.
‘We can’t, James. What’s done is done. They’re all fine’
‘I can hardly call that fine, they’re dying, Beatrice! You must be going blind if you can’t see what’s going on, I know you can stop this.’
‘No, James. Just wait.’
Looking at the screens all over again, he noticed that only 5 were resisting. Aidan, Opal, Ophelia, Malcolm and Blythe.
‘They’re the ones, clear their rooms.’ Beatrice demanded.
‘What about the rest of them?’ James asked with a lump in his throat.
‘Like I said, they deserve a second chance, James.’
‘No…Beatrice, I hope you don’t mean what I think you do.’
‘I do. What’s done is done, they’ll be taken care of separately.’
James stormed off. Blood boiling in his veins, burning him inside out. He knew what he’d agreed upon. But it was too much to handle. He didn’t agree to the dosages or to the amounts of children. It was all going wrong.
* * *
‘What just happened, James? What was all that about? Is everyone okay?’
‘Just hush, Blythe.’ He pulled her aside, in the long tunnel, grabbing her arm by the wrist.
‘Did your hand get stuck onto that metal block, near the doors?’
‘Yes, it trapped my hand without me even touching it.’
‘Oh, no. No, no, no, no, no! Come with me, now, all of you!’ James trapped her hand tightly between his, Blythe could feel the blood draining out of her hand, but she kept hold and kept running, and kept looking back at the other 4 until they stopped at the front entrance, back near the conveyer belt. They had come to a rapid halt. Organisation officials surrounded the entire campus, 50 of them crowding the titanium doors, guns at hand and ready to shoot.
‘Outlanders, step away from your SKIN, he’s doing you more harm than good. We know what powers you possess. Come with us, before anyone gets hurt.’
‘No, trust me, I’m your SKIN, your parents gave you up to me and Beatrice to prepare you, I know what you can do, you are all why I am risking my life right now. Don’t follow them, please.’ James whispered to all of them.
They were torn.
Aidan, Ophelia, and Opal chose James.
Malcolm and Blythe chose the officials. But how could they have known what they would become, when all they knew was how to survive a practice run at human extermination?
Author Notes: Hi, I have also published this story on Wattpad, where I have added a cover to it. Hope you enjoy reading it!