Author: Raymond Lamar Gilstrap PM
SEQUEL TO APATHY! Liam and Charlotte find themselves slaves to Project Lightning. Tortured by the dreaded Catalyst and forced to fight in deadly duels, they find solace in inciting a rebellion and in each other. But as the two of them grow closer, the past threatens to tear them apart with tragic consequences. Please R&R and I'll return the favor!Rated: Fiction T - English - Romance/Sci-Fi - Chapters: 3 - Words: 8,356 - Reviews: 11 - Favs: 8 - Follows: 19 - Updated: 05-20-13 - Published: 12-28-12 - id: 3086816
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Author's Note: I hope you all enjoyed the preview of Empathy and some of you already have formed theories about the Harbinger! So sorry it's taken me nearly a month to finally upload the first chapter of Empathy. I recently entered Apathy into the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest, so I've been revising it heavily over the past few weeks. So please wish me luck in this contest and hopefully Apathy can do well! For those of you who have read Apathy, I've changed Black Death from cancer to a disease that causes body organs to work double time during my edits because it didn't make sense for it to be a mutated cancer when cancer is a mutation of cells itself. I just wanted to clear up some confusion that may occur when you read this chapter. So without further ado, here's the first chapter . . . .
The pain always returns in full force whenever I awaken.
For the past week, I have endured agony on many levels. There's physical pain—constant explosions of discomfort that prickles my skin or compels my muscle to throb insanely. There's also mental pain—annoying reminders of the fact that I haven't inhale a single whiff of the Purge in over seven days now. And there's emotional pain—the memory of my last moment spent with Charlotte haunts me every time I open my eyes. There's a yearning deep inside of me that longs to see her one more time, even if it's only a solitary glance.
I wake up to nothing but white. The novelty of my new home has yet to wear off. In fact, there was never a novelty to begin with. I miss my penthouse above the Paradise Grand Hotel. I miss my warm and cozy bed. I miss my shower with hot water settings tuned to my liking. I miss my computer and how it would talk to me in that cool, female voice, providing company whenever I was alone. I miss my weapons' case and my exercise bike. Heck, I even miss the portrait of the Chancellor I had hanging on my wall, even though I see the same painting about six times a day here. It's true what people used to say. You don't realize how much you miss something until it's gone.
Not taking the Purge anymore has transformed me into a mess of a person. I would have never missed anything before but now I do tremendously. I'm also in a tremendous amount of pain.
Pain. Charlotte. Nostalgic mind wanderings. More pain. More wanderings. Charlotte. And more Charlotte.
I see her now, standing next to my bed and staring at me. Her eyes. I miss her eyes so much that it hurts. No. That's just the pain, the constant pain that's driving me crazy. But I do miss her and her eyes. I miss everything about her.
I glance at the digital clock blinking green numerals at me on the opposite wall. A week ago, I would be preparing myself to step outside with every other decent citizen of Paradise for the morning dosage of the Purge. Every morning at sunrise, gigantic trucks unleash the pink gas upon the entire island. Inhaling the Purge makes people impassive, blocking whatever psychological and physiological emitters of emotions. The Purge operates through pain, compelling the mind to prevent the body from actively expressing emotions. Breaking free from the Purge also involves pain.
Withdrawal. Like with other heavy drugs, discontinuing the Purge causes adverse symptoms. Headaches aspirin can't cure. Itching everywhere that you can't scratch. Chills not associated with flu symptoms. A depression bordering the lines of suicidal. For a week now, I have battled all of these symptoms in some shape, form, or fashion. Sometimes the symptoms are bearable at best but most of the time, like right now, they are excruciating.
I force myself to sit up although it hurts like hell. The nightstand next to the bed is where I find the pills. They provide two of the round tablets, pink like the Purge, every morning to help alleviate the pain. But the pills might as well be sugar tablets because they don't even begin to scratch the surface of what it means to be an analgesic. Nevertheless, I take them anyway, throwing them back and swallowing without a chaser.
Still, the pain persists.
I try to clear my head and allow my old White Agent training to help me through this. With each passing day, it becomes more and more difficult to remember my training. I'm no longer the person I used to be. I'm no longer an emotionless sword of the law. I am chock full of emotions now and the law doesn't matter here. I am now a human being.
The Purge doesn't control me any longer and after learning some of the terrible things happening across the island, I'm grateful that I've escape the influence of the gas. My mother uncovered the truth about Paradise and Charlotte viewed the video message my mother left behind. I don't know everything that Charlotte knows. I never got the chance to see the vid myself but I've heard enough to know that something sinister is going on in Paradise and I wish I had the opportunity to stop it. But I can't. I'm trapped here now. This is my home. There's no escape. I don't know where they're keeping Charlotte. The Hippocampus was probably seized and Charlotte's backup was probably destroyed. There's no way I will be able to view my mother's last message either.
I fight back the sudden onslaught of tears as I think about my mother. Dr. Emilia Cato was a brilliant scientist and doctor who cared for patients at the local hospital as well as performed medical research at BioLife, a facility specializing in genetics. She perfected the Purge and made it the potent gas it is today. She was avidly trying to find a cure to Black Death, a disease that causes organs to work double time, which leads to further bodily complications and ultimately death. The disease is rightly named after the plague of the Middle Ages because that's what it is essentially—a plague that's decimating our population. The Core is doing nothing about it. My mother was one of the few who tried to cure the ravaging disease. But now, she's behind bars all because of me.
I feel terrible for what I've done to her. I was deceived because of the shadow work of Lilly Hendricks, a former friend of Charlotte's who drowned last week, but I still regret arresting my mother. She always cared about me, even though we were on opposite sides of the law after she made a conscious decision to abandon the Purge. She even loved me. That's what hurt the most, knowing that she loved me.
I don't understand love and I will probably never understand the concept. Before, it seemed silly to me like a bad joke. I used to believe that love didn't exist. But now, I know it's real. I've seen love at work as of late. I've witnessed how Charlotte could continue to love her father even after he experimented on her and implanted her with a neuro music player. I've witnessed Charlotte risking her neck to save her family because of love. I've also witnessed my mother's love for Noah Emerson, a politician who was trying to make a difference her before he was assassinated. I still don't know how I feel about that but I'm not as bitter about it as I was a week ago.
I slowly climb out of my white bed and glance down at the rags I'm wearing. My clothes are supposed to be white as well but they have long since faded to a stale gray the color of wet cement. A patch sewn into the left breast of my shirt displays the numbers 659689. The walls of my room are white of course and so are the clock and the digital screen reminding me of my daily schedule as if I haven't memorized it by now. The only source of color is the green numerals of the clock.
I'm a little unsteady on my feet as I make my way towards the door, which is also white in hue. I stop several times to lean against the closest wall. I wish my room had a window so that I could look out onto a beautiful morning. I need a change from the horrible reality I endure in addition to the agonizing pain on a day to day basis. And to think, I have it easier than most of the kids here. I shouldn't complain or seek a temporary escape. I have a room to myself instead of sharing a dirty stone prison cell with two or three other boys of various ages. I receive better food than most of the children. I also work less hours. All of these special privileges result from the fact that I used to be a White Agent. I'm treated better simply because I have the skills already to make a decent Amber Army soldier. I just need to strange electricity based power now.
But I have yet to face the Catalyst or fight in the arena. So far, I've been lucky. But I know that my luck will run out soon.
So, like I said, I have no reason to complain. But I've seen humanity at its worse here. The people who run this facility are mad. They torture and bully these children because negative emotions are supposed to help spark abilities faster. I have no religion but I'm starting to believe that this place is hell. More and more children pour into place every week. I've been listening to what some of the guards have been saying and apparently, the number of children here has increased a lot within the last year. The Core, where our government leaders reside, are bulking up the Amber Army rather rapidly all of a sudden. They're building a large army and I'm certain that whatever the reason is not a good one.
My eyes flicker to my daily schedule and I read over it because I'm suddenly bored as I bounce back and forth between emotions:
0700 – 1145 Work
1200 – 1245 Lunch
1300 – 1500 Rehabilitation Event
1515 – 1745 Classes 1 and 2
1800 – 1900 Dinner
1915 – 2145 Classes 3 and 4
2230 Lights Out
Every day, I follow this same monotonous routine. But there is one day out of the week that the schedule changes and that day is Saturday. The arena replaces classes after dinner on Saturday nights. Entertainment for the guards and those who are in charge here and a source of intense fear for the prisoners, the arena features over two hours of one-on-one fight to the death bouts between kids selected at random. Age has no bearing on the chosen opponents so sometimes a tiny nine year old might square off against a robust sixteen year old in a completely mismatched battle. The use of crude weapons, such as swords and maces, are encouraged. There's a fifteen minute time limit for each fight, resulting in ten possible battles every week between twenty contestants. The fight only ends when time is up, someone dies, or someone becomes an Empath, the term that describes a person who uses emotions to activate the invisible electrical field that surrounds the human body.
I've only witnessed one arena day so far and I've already seen one death. The arena is the absolute worst part of everything that happens here, although I've heard that the Catalyst is equally as terrible.
The Catalyst used to be only a device that provided electrical power for the Grid, the state of the art electricity system of Paradise. But that was before my father and his team of researchers figured out that the Catalyst could also activate the dormant electrical fields of children, transforming them into a new breed of humans with super powers. My father is responsible for this. He's the reason why I'm here today. And I hate him for it. If he was still alive, I don't know what I would do if I ever saw him again. Fortunately, he's dead, killed by the Black Death.
I hear movement suddenly outside my room. At the same time, the alarm on my clock sounds right as it displays 6:00. The alarm only lasts for a half a minute but it's enough to make my head throb. Then, there comes the usual thunderous knocking at my door.
"Rise and shine, 659689," a guard's voice calls from the hallway with the typical jeer associated with those who feel they're above us here. Funny enough, a kid with powers can crush any of these stupid guards with a jolt of electricity but yet the guards walk around as if they owned the place.
The footsteps retreat from my door and move on to the next one. I continue forward, wanting to hurry down to breakfast now because I'm suddenly starving.
All the while, I'm thinking about those numbers—659689. Those six digits identify me now. My name William Cato has been stripped from me. My past identity gone, except for the fact that I was a White Agent, the one who helped Charlotte Tatum. But I have been redeemed if you can call it that. Instead of imprisoned and branded a traitor. I have been sent here. One day soon, I will face the Catalyst. I don't know how many times I will have to endure it until my electrical field is activated but whenever it occurs I will become another soldier for the Amber Army.
I open my bedroom door and emerge into the hallway to join a small queue of others who are as fortunate as me. Most of these kids are the offspring of business owners. A few have government officials as parents and another couple of them are former White Agents like me. My old partner, Sophia Bailey, should be here with us; however, she has bravely chosen to live down below with the others. Sometimes, I tempted to join them because I don't consider myself to be above anyone. But there are benefits to being as privilege as one can be here. I have obtained more information in a week than I would have ever been able to obtain otherwise. The more information I receive, the more I can plan my eventual escape from this wretched place.
Welcome to Project Lightning.