Previously..

Even if he was it didn't matter because my mind had shut down completely, and I was hardly even thinking on a base level. Slow words passed the forefront of my conscious like a marquee:you need to get out of here.

"I need to go," I translated numbly, and it was true; one-fifteen, finally.

"Your mother must be waiting," Doctor Ryan said with a smile, and rose. I did too, breaking into a slightly unsteady traipse that led me out of the room. I was walking fast, I knew, but hell if I was going to stay nearer to him than I had to.

"Do you know your way out, or do I—" he began, and I cut him off.

"I got it," I snapped, making my way to the elevator. I mashed the button until the elevator sounded its arrival. It couldn't have come any sooner because I stumbled into it, almost falling, and pressed my back against the far wall. I didn't give a damn if anyone else decided to get in this car, because I was staying right here.

I looked back out into the lobby as the doors closed and—wonder of all wonders, by some horrible mis-chance, my eyes found silver irises and dark pupils and my vision shook, trembled, and I closed my eyes.

Home. I just wanted to go home, and have my mind to myself like I always should.

God.

I'm going to kill my mother. That's what I'm going to do. I'm going to wait until we get home, and I'm going to smother her, and that will be the end of that. No more appointments, no more cleaning my room…it will be glorious.

I had to be shaking as the elevator descended; my hands were trembling, and I had a deep-seated feeling of anxiety that I couldn't place. It wasn't like anything had happened, but…Just thinking about the way I'd felt when I met his eyes gave me the chills. But it's not like I could tell my mom that. She'd think I was crazy, and then she'd really want me to go to the psychologist.

My mom was in the lobby, sitting there like the good mother she was supposed to be. When she saw me exit the elevator she stood up, smiling, looking all excited. Damn fool.

"Bay! How was—"

I seized her by the arm as I reached her, dragging her with me out the door. "I never want to come here again. This place freaks the fuck out of me. I was planning on not telling you that, but I'm telling you now because I don't think that you'd understand subtle messages if I just tried to hint to you that I don't want to come back. Okay?"

"Bay!" My mother stopped—or tried to, rather, because I was still pulling her along—and gave me the what is wrong with you look. "What happened? It couldn't have been that bad…"

I let her go so she could open up the car door, and I took a moment to let the breeze flirt over my skin to think. I couldn't possibly tell her that I thought the psychologist was a psychic, or that he had the ability to—I don't even know, knock me out with his eyes or something. I couldn't tell her that, not when I didn't even know what had happened. Fuck.

Especially not since I'd stolen something from his office.

I sighed, jerked the door open, and slid inside. Mom gave me a sidelong glance, worried. "It's just…weird. I don't like feeling scrutinized," I said, bullshitting on the spot. I was good at that, always had been. "I don't want to go back."

"It'll get easier with time, Bay," Mom said soothingly, giving me a smile as she started up the car and left the parking lot. As we pulled out I caught a glimpse of the office I'd been in for the past God-knows-how-long, and hell if that wasn't Doctor Ryan in the window, cutting a statuesque figure in the light. My heart jumped and there was no way I could have made eye contact with him from here, there couldn't be, it had to be some residual feeling—

"Bay! Are you listening—are you okay?" Mom looked worried, still, and I shook myself back into consciousness.

"Yeah, I'm fine. Fine."


The first thing I did when I managed to get my shit together was get Mom to take me to Kyle's. It sounded cheesy, but Kyle was basically my happy place; he tolerated my shit, listened when I sounded crazy, and didn't ever look at me like I had flipped my shit completely. That's why I was coming to him now.

"Bay," Kyle greeted me, raising an eyebrow. I was twitching again, a ghost of a tremble gracing my hands, and I had to look like I'd just been scared half to death. Which, I mean, hell, I kind of had. "I'm assuming your session didn't go very well."

"Fucked up," I said, and Kyle just waited for me to clarify. "It was fucked up. It was—something fucking weird happened."

"Sit down. You want a sandwich?"

I opened my mouth to refuse and then realized—well, you know, I did want a sandwich—and nodded. Kyle went into the kitchen and came out with half of one, handing it to me.

"Alright. So, it was fucked up…what happened?" Kyle prompted patiently, peeling the crust off of his sandwich.

I sighed. "It was fucking weird. First, okay, the shrink can't be any older than I am! He looks like he should be fucking—in school or something, not trying to fucking open my head up. And he…every time I looked into his eyes it was like I was fucking…drowning, or something. Everything got slow and it was like I was starting to fall asleep…" I made a frustrated noise, gripping my hair in my hands. "And who the fuck has a file on themselves in their own damn office? Fucking weird."

Kyle's eyebrows were making best friends with the ceiling. "You looked at the files in his desk?"

I winced. "I don't think looked at exactly covers it.." I said, and slid the file out from under my shirt.

Kyle looked like a dying fish. "Bay! You stole his file? From his office? Do you even know what—what kind of trouble—Bay!"

He seemed to deflate a little bit in his seat, cradling his head in his hands. I waited—Kyle could be like a storm sometimes. You wait out the initial winds, you're thinking it's okay, and then bam, your house is torn down.

"Are you done?"

"Yeah," Kyle breathed, rolling his eyes heavenward. "Okay. Have you looked at it yet?"

"No."

"Why not?"

It was my turn to be surprised. Ever sensible Kyle, advocating me breaking the law? Wow.

"Well," Kyle shrugged, smiling weakly. "You've already stolen the file. I don't know as if anyone'd ever know if you read it."

"Yeah, but…shouldn't you be trying to persuade me not to read it?"

"I wanna live a little sometimes too," Kyle said, smile broadening, and I clapped him on the back.

"Good man," I said. "So let's—"

"Ooh, wait. Wait. If we open this up and Cam isn't here you know he'll throw a shit fit," Kyle pointed out, and I sighed. True, though; it would be more trouble than it was worth to go ahead and open this without Camaro.

"Well, he'd better come here. We're not leaving. I'd probably drop this shit or something if we took it to Cam's," I said, and Kyle laughed.

"You're getting paranoid, now?" He said, and I shrugged.

"Better safe than sorry."

Kyle got up from his chair. "I'll call him," he said, and reached for the house phone on the coffee table.

"Hurry up, hurry up, hurry up," I singsonged under my breath. Kyle shot me a look.

"Hey, Cam? Yeah, it's Kyle. Can you come over—yeah, like right now. Yes—yes, like this very instant. Yes. Let me tell you what—hey! If you don't get here ASAP you'll miss out on everything and I'll get Bay to pinch you again." A wide smile broke over his face. "Yeah, I'd do it. Get over here. Yes, Celia can come. Just hurry the fuck up."

Kyle sighed, sitting back into his chair. "So…what exactly was it like? You said he…it sounded like he drugged you, honestly."

I sat back in my chair. "It felt like he did, really. Like...I don't know. I would look into his eyes and then…"

Almost as vivid as if it were happening right now, the memory pulled me under. The silky smoky sheen of his eyes on mine, pinning me down like a butterfly on a board, the thick haze that fogged up my head both loomed dark in my mind like he was sitting here right now, staring at me. The artful splay of his fingers suddenly seemed clawlike, and the way he said my name rang like a heavy, cracked bell.

"Bay!"

Kyle's voice cut like a knife through my daze and suddenly I was seeing things again—the ceiling, more specifically. Kyle's hands were on my arms and I was kneeling on the floor, posture awful, and although I knew from the dry burn in my eyes that they'd been open for a while, this was the first time I'd seen anything. It felt like coming back into my body—like scrubbing out a dusty cup with soap and water. My hands were shaking again and my mouth was dry and he wasn't even here.

"What—Jesus, Bay. Is this what happened to you at the office?" Kyle's voice was panicked, and he looked unruffled. Seeing him looking so ruffled made me laugh—or, well, laugh as much as I could. It was a weak chuckle, really.

"No, I—well." I pushed myself back up into the chair, feeling lethargic more than anything. It wasn't as consuming as the weakness I'd felt in the office, but it still weighed on me uneasily. "I didn't fall out of my chair. This actually, believe it or not, wasn't as bad as what I felt when I was there. I don't know, it…it made me tired, like I was about to fall asleep or something but it felt—it felt bad. I can't really explain it well."

"It really does sound like you were drugged," Kyle said, looking anxious. "Did you drink anything? Smell something weird? Christ, are you sure you weren't just tired?"

"Yeah, I was fine before I went in there," I said shortly, rolling my shoulders back. "Just…I was fine, just now, until I thought of him. I was okay in the office until I looked at him, and whenever I looked away it would go away and I'd be fine. Fucking weird. I couldn't tell my mom because—it sounds fucking crazy, doesn't it? Like I'm on fucking drugs or something. Jesus."

Loud knocks on the door drew Kyle's attention away, and he went to the door. I breathed in deep, trying to clear the cobwebs from my lungs, and tried not to think of…of him. Of Elliott. 'Doctor Ryan' just reminded me of the swamped-down feeling I had in that office.

"Shit, man, what happened to you?" Camaro flung himself into my chair and, consequently, onto me. I groaned, slapping at whatever I could reach of him. "You look half-asleep."

"Fuck you, Cam. I would tell you if you'd get the fuck off," I snapped, and Camaro rolled off obligingly. He loved stories.

"Okay. So…" I collected my thoughts and launched into a retelling of my story. Kyle sat attentively, like he was listening for something he'd missed the first time. Camaro sat at my feet and Celia was perched on the coffee table, the former looking like an excited child. Celia, on the other hand, looked a little skeptical.

"So it happened whenever you looked at him?" Celia asked, raising an eyebrow. I rolled my eyes. It's in her nature to be skeptical but God, is it annoying.

"Yeah. I'm not making this up, Celie. Ask Kyle."

She looked to him and Kyle nodded, saying, "I just saw it happen. And it was just a memory… he fell out of his chair, Celia. Looked like he'd just been broken. Fucking weird."

Cecelia sighed, looking reluctant to accept anything I'd just said. But Kyle was the be-all-end-all of credibility and she trusted him explicitly, and I could tell she was thinking that before she nodded. "What are you going to do about it?"

"What can I do about it?" I sighed, pulling my legs up into the chair. "I…can't tell my mom, she won't believe me. I can't ask him about it, because I don't even know what the fuck will happen… I don't know what to do."

My eyes fell on the manila folder on the coffee table. If I could find something in there, then…maybe I could at least figure out how he was making me feel like this, or why, or even who the hell he really was. I couldn't do anything about this—if it even was anything—if I didn't know anything about him.

So, Elliott…let's see who you are.

I grabbed the folder off the coffee table. Kyle shifted to the end of his chair and Camaro and Celia crowded around me to see. It was a little nervewracking, I won't lie—my hands were still shaking, but now I wasn't sure if it was from anticipation or from the leftover whatever that had come with thoughts of Elliott.

I flipped the folder open.

The page was blue, faint and sparkling a little, like a smudge of eyeshadow on your skin in the light. Across the top is Elliott Ryan, Subject One, in big black letters, imposing, and beneath are rows of letters that seem to shine gold when I tilted my head.

"Elliott Ryan," I read aloud. "November eighteenth."

"Five-eleven, dark hair, gray eyes…ooh." Celia's eyes fell on the picture of him included in the packet, clipped to the manila backing, the picture that makes my vision swim a little. "He's pretty."

"Eh," I said, averting my eyes. "This...doesn't make sense. Why would you have a file on yourself in your own office?"

"It doesn't look like he made it, either," Kyle said. "It doesn't look like it's intended for him to read, either…look."

He flips the page past the physical preliminaries. The next page is much simpler, still blue and shimmering.

"Psychologist. Talent still unknown, shows proclivities towards mental powers…" Psychic. I shuddered and kept reading. "Treating Subject Two...see next folder?" I looked at Kyle. "Who's Subject Two?"

Kyle shrugged. I kept reading, confused.

Subject Two and Subject Three, mentioned next, were both under Elliott's care—I realized that had to be me and…a flash, rows of manila folders: Olivia Fox. Which was which, though...

"Subject Two is considered a danger to the environment because of the infection. Subject One will begin sessions to remove the infection. Subject Two will be closely monitored to ensure that the infection does not affect outside persons. Subject Three is under mental restraint by outside forces to keep talents under control; however, the mental restraints are negatively affecting Subject Three's talents. Subject One will begin sessions to remove the mental restraints in a way that will allow for controlled release of Subject Three's talent…" Everything was written out like a fucking lab experiment, and I was more confused now than I had been earlier. I wished I'd stolen the other two files—at least then I'd know who was who.

"So you're either Subject Two or Subject Three," Kyle said, and I nodded, my pulse ticking nervously under my skin. "This doesn't look good, Bay. This shit looks official."

"Assuming that it is," Camaro said, in what had to be a rare moment of clarity, "then that office isn't just his. Who would leave someone else's file in a place they knew they weren't coming back to?"

"He's right," Celia agreed, thumbing the page. She flipped it to the forefront. "November eighteenth… you two've got the same birthday, Bay. Same eyes, too. That's weird."

I sighed, still refusing to look at the picture. I remembered all too clearly, but only for a second: eyes gray like an oncoming hurricane, silver like a knife blade, dangerous as anything I'd seen but at the same time gentle. Fucking weird. "I know. It's…freaking me out, I think."

"You think?" Camaro laughs, flipping the pages again. "Oh, what—Bay, there's a picture of you in here! Look!"

What the fuck—I snatched the folder back into my lap, smoothing out the page. It was a picture of me, and…

"I look like my hair is on fire," I remarked, wincing. My hair, which, admittedly, is red—made me look like a fucking cardinal or something. And my eyes looked the same as Elliott's. "Where the hell did they get this?"

"It looks like you're in front of your house," Kyle said, squinting. It did, now that he mentioned it—the same flowers that my mom had in front of the house, the ones I'd weeded for hours over the summer, the living room window with the chip in the brickwork from when I'd smashed it with a ball.

My stomach dropped. Heat rose into my chest and made me sick, and I had to lean back and breathe for a second. "What the fuck is this?"

"I don't know," Kyle said. "I don't know, but Camaro had a point, Bay. If someone else uses that office and looks in there, and they see that file is gone—someone's going to be in deep shit. And I bet you that since your first appointment was today, they're going to want to check up on those files."

"Shit," I breathed, letting my head fall on the back of the couch. It hurt, and it helped me focus. "So what you're getting at is that we need to get those files back in his office. Soon."

Kyle looked up at the ceiling, around the room, considering. "Yeah. Basically."

"By five, probably," I said, remembering what Elliott had said to me when he came back into the office. "He has an appointment at four. That might be his last of the day, and after that.."

"So!" Camaro clapped his hands, looking excited. "Anyone up for a little breaking and entering?"

"Fuck," Kyle groaned, and I grinned. Being the possible unwilling endangered subject of some fucked-up, mysterious government experiment unnerved me. But this? This I could handle.


"This is a horrible idea," Kyle reminded us. Celia attempted to agree around a mouthful of sandwich.

"I think it's great," Camaro said, and I smiled, chewing on my straw.

We were seated in a café across from the office I'd been in a scant hour and a half ago. Surveillance is what I called what we'd been doing; Kyle called it being fucking out of our minds. I hadn't seen anything very out of the ordinary, but then again this was Infinity City. Not like anything here was very normal. But nothing that I'd noticed was very odd; the same mixture of people coming and going. All quiet on the western front.

"Really, guys, we could be in big trouble," Celia said. "If you get caught you're screwed, you know that? It's not worth it for some big…crazy conspiracy theory idea."

"I can't believe you still don't believe me," I said, shaking my head. I pointed at her, raising my eyebrows. "You're supposed to believe me, Celie."

"I do, I do! But…this is a little crazy. This is big time stuff, Bay," she said apologetically, shrugging. "I don't want you guys to get in trouble."

"We won't," Camaro said. "We can do this pretty easily, I figure."

"And how are you planning on doing that?" Kyle barked, frustrated. Camaro looked relaxed as ever. I figured it helped to have one crazy friend.

"Look," I said. "We all go in. It's simple, Kyle, I swear. Celia sits in the main lobby, watches the entrance and stairways. You come up with Cam and I in the elevator—and you stay there, okay? Just ride the thing. If anyone asks you're examining the butterflies." Kyle looked confused, and I waved my hand. "You'll see. Cam will wait in the reception room for Elliott's office and distract him. I'll tell him I left something in there, a watch or something, and I'll go in. Cam will distract him in the reception room while I'm in his office. Wham, bam, thank you ma'am."

Kyle shook his head. "It sounds fucking crazy. It sounds like a death wish."

Camaro and I leaned in expectantly. Oh, Kyle. I've known him for so long that I didn't even really need to try and persuade him any more.

"Hell, I said I needed excitement, didn't I," he muttered, and Camaro crowed and we slapped him on the back.

"Good man!" I said, grinning into my cup. This would be easy, I could practically feel it—like running away from a mermaid. But we had to do it soon. Actually…I checked my watch. Four-oh-six, and we need to get a move on.

"Let's go," I said, standing up and patting Camaro and Kyle on the back. "Celia, you're waiting to schedule an appointment with the chiropractor, you've got the wrong office. Make a fuss if you see anything weird." We get up, and I led the way out of the café. Celia stays at the table to finish her drink. "Kyle, wait until Cam and I get up into the office—maybe three minutes. Cam, you take the elevator, I'll take the stairs. Get him busy before I get there."

Kyle sighed and jogged across the street, inspecting a bush. Probably gearing up for his eco-nerd role; smart kid. If Kyle made up his mind to do this thing, he wouldn't get caught.

Cam and I stood in the entrance to the café. "You ready?" I said. Camaro just grinned like a maniac.

"I don't get enough of this shit," he said, and crossed the street. For his part, he didn't look at Kyle; he just blew into the building like he belonged there and disappeared behind the shine of dark glass. Kyle untangled himself from the bush—there were leaves in his hair—and looked about indecisively. I took a seat at one of the tables outside with my drink and waited out the minutes.

We made a good team, the four of us. We'd done this before; I didn't have a bad reputation for no reason. We were perfect, though. Kyle was always the outsider, the one who played the part of someone you wouldn't suspect. Celia was our eyes, calling out alarms and watching for unexpected happenings, so pretty that she looked innocent so of course nothing would look out of place. Camaro, of course, was the distraction. He may as well be a hurricane, because nobody paid any attention to anything else when he was around. Which left me: the one who actually got their hands dirty. Of course I'd do it, because I could usually slip out of whatever trouble we'd rarely land in, and in turn it kept everyone else out of trouble. Kids aren't memorable, not at all, and that worked in our favor.

Hopefully it would today, because I had no idea what the fuck is going on today. This shit is a little out of hand…first being mind-drugged, then finding all the weird shit in that file—it was almost surreal. And the question nagging at the back of my head: was I Subject Two, or Subject Three? Was I a subject at all? And did I even want to know?

Cecelia brushed past me, not sparing me a look, and breezed across the street. I took a bracing breath because—well, hell—even if I wasn't really ready for it…it was time.

I waited until Celia entered the office, watching Kyle brush dirt from his arms, and crossed the street.


Okay! I think this went pretty well, and I hope I'm still capturing the feeling from the early chapters. I'm really excited for this story because it's more fantasy and I miss writing that, so even if it crashes and burns and everyone hates it I'll still probably write it.

Reviews are like words to languages.