Chapter 18:


Pyro's Grand Demise

“I don’t think I’ll make it,” Justin says, his expression as brooding as ever. “It’s just too much, and even your love can’t fix me.”

“You don’t know that,” Eve exclaims and grabs him by the shoulders. “Because we were meant for each other.”

Just as she pulls him in for a kiss, I throw a book at the television. “Die,” I say in monotone.

I’m not in a great mood. During my time spent in isolation, Dusk stopped airing on my television to make room for this new show called Morning, Eve. It’s a soapy teen flick that I hold little interest for. The acting is terrible and I hope it gets canceled.

Now I’ll never find out what happened to my favorite characters. All I have left are books, and even those can grow tiring. Sometimes I just want to become a mindless zombie and stare at the television. Reading requires brain power.

I groan and turn off the TV. I’ll have to find something else to watch, but my options are limited. They don’t exactly give us a large selection of channels in prison. Maybe I’ll be able to ask for extra books this week.

The speaker in my room buzzes followed by the metal door sliding open. I stand and pop a crick out of my back. Time for dinner.

I step into the flow of traffic and trudge toward the cafeteria. There’s an excited buzz in the air so I turn up my auditory sensors.

“Did you hear about the CEO visiting?”

“I think she’s doing an inspection.”

“Yeah, Micah overheard the guards earlier.”

If I recall correctly, Micah is an orange-type around sixteen-years-old. Not that it matters, but I still like putting a name to the face. I’m surprised I remember who he is.

This is old news for me, so I’m decidedly unexcited. I’m here for the sole purpose of getting food, so I move quickly through the line before sitting down at my usual spot. It appears the blues are leaving me alone due to the excitement today. I unfortunately can’t help but overhear their conversation at their own lunch table though.

Zachariah and Christine are currently bragging about their ‘good deeds’ which will ultimately lead them to being recognized by the CEO. If only they knew what exactly that’d entail, I’m sure they’d be more hesitant to draw it.

I myself am unsure if I’m blessed or cursed. The procedure of becoming a purple-type, or at least a mash-up between blue and purple, is incredibly risky. The CEO said the chances are thirty percent, but more like fifty for me because of whatever reasoning she had. What was it? Willpower? Sounds like a bunch of mumbo-jumbo to me.

The way I see it, I still have a thirty percent chance. Do I want to die? No. But do I want to live the rest of my life like this? Definitely not.

I already gave the lady her answer, so the procedure will be happening tomorrow. She told me she wouldn’t be leaving until after I was in recovery, as if that were an assurance. At least I know there will be someone around who knows what they’re doing. Even if it’s someone I despise.

Speaking of people I despise, I nearly drop my spoonful of corn as two of them walk into the cafeteria. The CEO and her bastard of a son walk casually, despite being practically surrounded by bodyguards. My stomach automatically clenches at the sight of them, especially Joe. He looks too good in his pressed suit and combed hair, and I hate him for it.

I hate him for a lot of reasons, but the fact that he looks like he just walked out of a fashion magazine really grinds my gears. His dark pants make his legs look longer and his hair looks darker, slicked back as it is. I want to throw my tray of vegetable mash at him and stain his expensive clothes.

His gaze lands on the table full of blue and green-types, and I think I see Christine actually wink at him. I’d feel bad for Zachariah if he wasn’t a douchebag. Joe’s gaze only sweeps over them, though, as if he’s in search of someone.

Oh, God.

If the ground could swallow me right now, I urge it to do so. Instead, I fully ignore Joe and stare down at my plate. I’m very aware of my faded-blue jumpsuit and tangled hair in this moment. In comparison to the sleek, polished appearance of Joe, I look like shit. And it’s really fucking embarrassing.

At least he can see what he’s done to me and feel guilt. I just don’t want his pity. The mere thought of him pitying me causes me to shiver as if a spider had crawled across my foot.

I don’t look up even as the CEO clears her throat and says, “People of this facility. I thank you for your continued efforts in testing GravityTech technology. Realize that what you are doing is paving the way for generations to come. Your efforts are what will guide us into a new era of advancement, and I hope you realize your individual importance.

“Due to your continued assistance, I am here to give each of you a gift. Starting tomorrow there will be a new library of books available to you, along with hundreds of new channels for your leisurely viewing. I will also be upgrading your meal plans, as it is apparent they’re in need of improvement.” She eyes a tray with obvious distaste.

“So long as you continue offering results, these rewards will continue to be provided. However, realize these gifts can be taken away just as easily as they are given. Keep this in mind as you enjoy your new favorite television show or novel. If these don’t convince you, I’m sure the chicken parmesan with fresh garlic bread tomorrow will. There will also be dessert, of course. Lava cake if I am not mistaken.”

She looks to a goon at her side and he shrugs.

“Well, anyway,” the CEO continues. “I have said my piece, but I will reiterate it. Thank you for your hard work. I will ensure it never goes unnoticed.”

Just as her speech finishes, I find the willpower to look up. Just as I envisioned, Joe has been staring at me, but his expression is dark. I can only wonder if his gaze lingered throughout the entirety of his mother’s rambling.

I practically jog to my room, desperate to be away from prying eyes. I don’t think I can control the emotions on my face, and trying to do so has rendered me exhausted. All I want to do is throw myself into bed and sleep with my face smushed into a cool pillow until morning.

I burst into my room and nearly trip over my own feet. I back up, but the metal door already sensed me entering the room and closes shut. I’m locked in.

Joe sits on the edge of my bed, and for some reason the image is funny. He looks horribly out of place, what with wearing a suit which probably costs more than my old apartment’s rent. My blankets look shabby beneath him.

How he’d hidden this natural glow to him, I have no idea. When I’d first met him he’d been smudged with engine grease and smelling of his workshop. Now all I can smell is expensive cologne. I grimace despite it smelling incredibly pleasant.

“Did your mommy buy you that suit?” I ask as I saunter over to the wooden chair and sit. I keep the corners of my mouth pulled downward.

His scowl takes me off guard. It’s not my comment which annoys him, which is what’s frightening.

“You accepted my mother’s offer?” He demands, his voice carefully level.

Surprise tingles in my gut and I cross a leg over the other. “I did. But I hardly see what that has to do with you.”

At this, something flashes in his eyes. The caramel color almost returns before shuttering again. “I understand your situation is less than ideal, but it’s no reason for you to throw your life away.”

My temper flares, but I manage to reign it in. “Less than ideal?” I repeat. “Is that what you think this is? Running out of sugar while baking a cake would be less than ideal. Having to buy plane tickets for the seats closest to the bathroom is less than ideal. My life here? This is nowhere in the fucking ballpark of ideal!”

I’d stood and advanced on him so I now look down at him. He’s forced to crane his neck, although not by much due to my short stature. “I’m sorry,” he says, and truly seems to mean it. Most of the anger in him has seemed to melt, although not all of it. “You have no idea how much I regret sending you into that house. I think about how it could have ended differently. Every day. Sometimes I can’t sleep because my mind keeps churning in circles, examining everything I did wrong.”

I scowl and turn away, staring at anything but him. “The first thing I did wrong was seek you out for help. I should have just ran away when I had the chance. Who cares if people think I’m dead. I should have just lived on the run, always looking over my shoulder.”

His silence weighs the room down in our own little orb of gravity. I finally turn to look at him. “None of this would have happened if you didn’t have that thumb drive.”

Steward McOy