A/N: Keep in mind I wrote this when I was sixteen, it's rough around the edges and I'd appreciate any feedback on plot consistency and typos.
When a war erupted between several of the world's largest countries, countless men were conscripted to go, but they never returned. Instead, the war destroyed much of their home and left families torn with the belief that their fathers, brothers, sons and husbands had all died. In the wake of the war, the government implemented a new system, further shutting away the people of its country. Curfew's were put in place, literature banned, V-sceens installed and soon it was discovered that many of the men who had gone were still alive, only they were unresponsive to humans. These men are called the Watchers, soldiers with no free will, emotions or memories who are used as pawns by the government.
Alice Duvont is eighteen. Born during this era, she has no memory of her family and her childhood past, she knows only the rules of the government. One night she meets two people who will open up her hazy past and define what the future means for her.
Darkly lit streets bounced shadows around the city. The Watchers were out tonight and nothing would be overlooked due to last week's riot. They were as paranoid as ever. The V-Screens were flashing warnings and news, images of rebels and criminals met my eyes with burning brightness. Usually they dimmed the screens at night, but they were particularly annoyed about the last riot and wanted to rub their deaths in our faces. The sooner I get home, the better. I kept thinking this as my legs pushed me forward, it was too late out to even be outside. I clutched the paper package to my chest, my arms wrapped around my waist. I must have looked cold, but I was far from it. A hint of fear swirled in me at every corner, as I imagined the cold silver steel of the Watchers standing there. I could see their blank faces, tall empty imitations of people, but inside they were heartless; incapable of emotions. The streets were either dry dirt or grown over pavement, leaving almost no trace of footprints, and no trail to follow.
"Announcement! It is ten minutes to curfew. Anyone out past this time will be caught and prosecuted at their own cost."
I looked up to a tall flashing wall, translucent in the night. The V-screens now showed a giant clock, almost like a timer. Every night it went off like this, reminding us that anyone who was found outside past midnight would be killed, citizen or rebel. Innocent or not. I had ten minutes, and though the curfew is nothing to be careless with, I kept my casual pace. It was now completely silent outside as the V-screens had stopped their broadcast, I could hear my solemn footsteps on the fine dirt. Looking around me, the old rotting buildings of downtown Platts stood ominously silent over me before a gray night sky. It was always gray, night or morning, for some reason unknown to me. I probably hadn't seen a sunset since I was two, and I can't even fathom what it would have looked like. Bright, probably. I almost wanted to laugh at that thought.
I saw my reflection in the dull and dirty window of a building. I looked strange from where I was, a lone figure rushing to nowhere, surrounded by the V-screens and dark alleys. I looked behind me, reading the time on the bright red screen, it's 11:52. I could see my house just ahead, and I could swear I'd started to walk faster, though not of my own accord. The night air was refreshingly cool. I inhaled deeply, looking up at the sky, imagining stars and a dark blue sky. Imagining pictures I'd seen in black market books and stolen, illegal literature. In the pictures, it looked like anything but a blurry orb of light from behind a million particles of dust and smoke. I had been glancing up, and didn't notice the movement to my left, not until I hard a footstep. Before I could turn I felt a hand grab for my arms. Panic surged through me like an oncoming wave.
I jumped and tried to twist away from them, but they had a firm grasp of my arm, trying to pry the paper wrapped package out of my hands. My voice was weak and quiet, my mind torn between worsening the situation and just getting home safely. Nobody wants to help a troublemaker, and a troublemaker is anyone who ruins the quiet and order, robbery or not.
"Get away from me! Stop! Somebody help!"
What's the use? This close to curfew, no one would even dream of going near their door. No one would listen, if anyone was even there. Yelling, I looked desperately at the dark, empty windows. If anyone was there, they wouldn't dare help me. I smelled his breath, strong of cigarettes and alcohol and I desperately tried to pull myself free again. My mind ran through a hundred possibilities. My body reacted with my mind, fighting stronger, then almost wanting to give up. I should just leave it and run, better safe than sorry, right?
I hastily released my hands, letting the package fall with a thick clunk to the ground. I realized with cold fear that he still had a grip on my arm. No! I twisted my arm every which way, trying to break his grip. I was too scared to realize the stillness in the air, the calm before the storm. There was a loud noise almost like an explosion, and the man stopped, frozen. I felt the ground shake, I could even feel the energy hitting me through the air. Like I had been hit with an oxygen tidal wave. The bass vibration of sound and force was barely discernible from my own heartbeat. I froze. Then my mind started working again, and I kicked the man hard in the shin and ran as if I would die. I left the papers behind, there was no point in them. I didn't hear any following steps behind me, but the adrenaline fueled me a good way down the block. Then I was at the front of my house. The V-screen across the street said 11:58. I fumbled with my key, and my body started to shake from the attack. I opened the door and walked in, just standing there. I could feel my heart rate go down, feel the fear leave me, even though my pulse was screaming obscenities.
I looked out the window at the dark streets for any sign of that man, but there was nothing. He had probably ran away in case the Watchers were doing their rounds tonight. I saw, almost at the same time, the clock striking another minute and two figures running down the street. One was slightly taller than the other, wearing a long dark coat. I noticed he clutched at his left arm, stumbling as he went. The other one stopped him, I couldn't see what he looked like through his hooded sweater. They stopped and stood there in the middle of the street. I could hear his yelling from the other side of my window.
"Is anyone there? Can you help us? Hello!…."
The hooded figure looked almost frantically around him, I quickly ducked below the window. For a moment I sat there, attempting to think, biting my lip. Could I let them die? I jumped up and ran out the door. I stood on my porch, holding open my door and waving them in.
"Hurry up! Get in here!"
The younger boy pulled up the other and they hurriedly made their way over. It wasn't until they were walking through the door that I'd realized what I'd done. I'd lost the confidence my adrenaline had given me, and I stood at the door momentarily frozen. Then I hurriedly checked if anyone had seen me through their windows and ran back in.
"Thanks, thank you so much." They were panting, as if they'd run a race.
It wasn't until he spoke that I realized that I still hadn't thought this through. Trying to keep my face as calm as I could, I smiled at them.
I tried to look innocently naïve, as if this happened to me often. When I turned back to them, I glanced at the dark splotch on the man's arm, and was scared to see the red all over his hands. The sight of blood was rare, partly because Watchers never left any evidence and because it almost always meant trouble. The Watchers were talented at erasing people, leaving no visible trace of existence, just the stench of death and an empty feeling. It was so hard to feel anything other than fear these days, but I had had enough of it today. I had already thought of what I could do, I had knives in the kitchen. If worse came to worse, I could run out the backdoor, hide in some abandoned store for the night. I shuddered to think of what else was staying overnight out there. Besides, they don't look armed, one's even hurt.
" Do you happen to have any bandages for my friend? My name's Tom by the way, short for Thomas,"
He smiled at me for the smallest moment, I wasn't even sure I saw it. He had pulled down his hood, revealing dark brown hair that looked slightly overgrown. His friend sat on my couch, looking exhausted. He kept closing his eyes for longer than normal, and seemed to have trouble breathing at a regular pace. No, they're not dangerous.
" Uh, I'm Alice,"
I offered a weak smile, having used up my convincing one to hide my fear and doubt. Then I rushed over to my cupboards and pulled out a roll of bandages and antiseptic. I never used these. I grabbed some paper towels on my way back. My house consisted of only four rooms, bedroom, bathroom, kitchen and main room. I could still see them from the kitchen as I grabbed the things. I handed them to Tom, noting that they really didn't seem too suspicious. Aside from injuries and resembling a couple of stray dogs, slightly unkempt and messy. Potentially rabid dogs?
"I don't really know how to use this stuff... Sorry, could you do it?" I looked at him strangely for a moment, before taking it back and unfurling the bandages. Keeping the tone of casual conversation I spoke again.
"What's your friends name?"
"Vincent," Tom glanced over at Vincent, who was silent and had his head in one of his hands. The other arm sat weakly, leaning on his knee. He took off his coat carefully, as one of the arms were soaked in blood. I handed him the roll of paper towels while I placed his coat on the kitchen counter, bloodied coat arm in the sink. The metallic smell of blood made me want to open a window, or hurl.
When I got back Vincent was holding a wad of paper towels to his arm, and I was almost scared to see the wound. Tom looked away, a nauseous look on his face that was part disgust, part exhaustion. I handed him the antiseptic but he just put it down on the table and took the paper towels off his arm. I grimaced at the wound, unsure of what to do. There was a wide horizontal cut around the side of his arm, but it was so deep and severe that I felt sick. I froze once again, what had they done to get this injury?
"It's okay, just bandage it. It'll be fine." Vincent's voice was strained with pain, I sincerely doubted him.
"Are you sure? I think you need stitches, this is-"
"It's fine. Just bandage it." His voice was clipped, and I didn't want to argue.
I quickly did so, feeling sick and nervous. I held my breath through much of it. I carefully pinned it, pretending I hadn't noticed his stiff posture and gritted teeth. Vincent briefly glanced at Tom, nodding at him. Tom reached into his pocket for something. I panicked, but didn't pulled out a small clear tube which had a dial on the cap, pointing at different colored divisions. He turned the dial to white and sprayed it over the bandaged arm. It had the quality of dust, but I knew it was liquid from what I saw in the tube.
"There we go," Tom sighed and sat back on the floor, looking relieved.
"Wh-what did you just do?"
Vincent said, "Regenerative artificial cells. It creates white blood cells and platelets, helps clot blood to stop the bleeding. They disappear in about 12 hours, but it's what I need so it can heal quickly, "
"It's called Spect-R, a temporary immune-enhancement drug. Do you think we could stay the night? Sorry for the intrusion, we just cant go back out there..." Tom glanced outside at the deserted street.
Of course. It was past curfew, the cameras were set and the Watchers were on duty. Vincent gave Tom a look, and Tom countered. I was contemplating my options when Tom finally spoke again.
"It'd be appreciated if you didn't let us die out there, we'll leave as soon as possible. I promise."
They both looked at me with what seemed to be sincerity, their lives balanced on my decision. They were completely serious. They're already here, what am I going to do? I signed up for this when I let them in. I have no choice.
"Alright, fine." I was tired and probably in some sort of shock. I just wanted to sleep.
Tom sighed with relief, smiling gratefully. I need to know who they are, and what they've done. I can't just let them sleep here. What if they're criminals? Wanted members of the Underground?What if I'm harboring criminal who'll murder me in my sleep?
"So... what happened to you guys, anyways?"
Vincent seemed to speak in one long breath."We ran away from East London Hospital tonight, we were supposed to be executed fifteen minutes ago, at midnight. We almost had it, but a Watcher caught us and that's how I got this. We're not with the Underground, and we're not criminals."
Tom turned on him, shocked. "Vince, what the hell?"
"We have to start somewhere. Look, we can trust her, she's not with the CC and she's not undercover."
He looked at me, "At the hospital, the CC caught Dr. Liam Worth and had him killed for experimenting on people, trying to create his own army of Watchers. We were his test subjects, but there was an explosion at the hospital, so we ran. We've been there for a very long time, first as patients, then his guinea pigs."
I choked through my shock. They're kidding, right?
"Please take us seriously, this isn't a joke. When Dr. Worth tried to enhance us, it didn't work. He had been creating these compounds for years, but when he finally tested them out on us, we still had conscious control of our actions. He couldn't replicate what the government scientists had done with their Supersoldiers to gain complete control over people. And after I while, we started noticing things. I could understand Dr. Worth's formulas, and what he was attempting to do. I started having the exact same nightmares as Tom, but only when he had them. I knew things I shouldn't have known, like the Doctors treason."
"What do you mean?"
"You see, he messed around with our DNA, but it did absolutely nothing. He just kept feeding us all this medicine, trying to stop us from independent thinking. He wanted to make us something that he could control, he wanted people to fight his war for him. Instead, I know things I shouldn't, I can hear and see things that aren't really happening, but they're thoughts. Other people's thoughts. I know you thought we were dangerous, and you planned on using the knives in your kitchen, the ones in the third drawer from the left. They're hidden under some baking supplies. And you wanted to run away, through the back door in your room, the one you never use that's blocked by your wardrobe. Why do you have so many hiding places, anyways?"
"I-uh, I don't have to answer that." I was scared at how much he knew. Have they been watching me?
Vincent pulled out a glass vial of pills and took one, they were ruby red. Then he stretched himself out on the couch, careful with his arm. He continued talking.
"I'm sure you've got your own secrets, so I won't bother you anymore. I know you'll let us stay the night, anyways, so thanks. Let's just go about our own business. We'll be gone tomorrow, I swear."
I stood there, baffled. Tom yawned, looking around for a place to sleep. He grabbed some pillows off the couch, and I forced my legs to move and get a couple of blankets. I handed each of them a blanket, Tom uttered a cheery thanks and they fell asleep almost immediately. I walked to my bedroom, trying to convince myself that this was honestly all just a dream. Shutting the door, I found that I was exhausted, collapsing onto the bed. I thought briefly that I could hear the footsteps of the Watchers wandering outside, before the darkness enveloped me.
I was in an apartment, it looked clean and I thought it must be from a long time ago. I watched from a hallway, a small window of space into the passing hall. There was a staircase, and two young boys standing by the railing. Their voices yelled "Ready...Set... Go!" and they bolted off of the banister. They began running, sprinting out of view. They ran by the stairwell a second time just as a lady was coming up with groceries. She had silvery hair tied up in a bun and was dressed in a gray skirt and white blouse. She gave them a reproachful look as they disappeared down the hall.
"Careful, don't run in the halls, boys." She went through a door marked room 204 and disappeared.
There was a moment of silence before the two pairs of running feet approached again, gaining in volume. They reappeared from the other side of the hallway and ran by once again. This time, there was no silent pause, but instead a loud, ear-splitting sound. It was a deep boom that shook the walls. No, the walls weren't shaking; they were breaking apart, being pushed outward. From some direction, I wasn't sure where. The sound was suffocating, I could see things falling, walls breaking.
Then I couldn't see anything and I awoke in an ambulance, laying flat on my back. The blinding white lights hit me with surprise. The hospital appeared around me and the ambulance disappeared. Dr. Worth was there, like I'd always remembered, but there was someone else, too. Behind him was a girl I couldn't quite recognize. She had brown hair and looked deeply confused; her clothes were dirty and plain, very unusual. Wait, there was something familiar...
I awoke with a start, unsure whether I'd gasped aloud or in the dream. My breathing was uneven, in contrast to Tom's measured inhale and exhaling. I looked on the floor where he was still sleeping soundly. I took the blanket off of me, and went to the kitchen for a drink. My coat was still there, though the blood had dried. I started to run the tap over it and the water came off pink. My heart was pounding, the memory of the explosion and those two little boys still fresh in my mind. Something hadn't been right, and I glanced around the room for more hiding places.
My eyes snapped open; I lay still in my bed. I noticed with sinking realization that last night was not a dream. Fresh images sat on my mind. I could still feel the fear, could still hear the beeping of the hospital monitor. For a brief moment, I felt despair, but it was just a dream. What was the big deal? It was just a dream, wasn't it? There were sounds in the kitchen, and my heart sank with fear before I realized what it was. The clock on the dresser said 9:52 am; I'd overslept. I made my way to the kitchen, where Vincent was cooking something by the stove, and Tom was eating a plate of eggs. I felt like a stranger in my own house. Tom sent a bizarre, almost interrogating look my way, and then I noticed the papers in his hand. They were ink sketches. My ink sketches.
"What are these?" He held them up a few inches higher.
"Drawings, what do you think?" I took them from his hand a little angrily. They had been here a whole night and already... in my own house!
"There's something wrong with these pictures. Do you know what?" Tom's voice had a curious quality about it. He was questioning me. Like I was the one who couldn't be trusted.
"It's nothing, I made them up. What's wrong with drawing in my own home?"
"Then where do you get these ideas?"
"I don't know! I see things in my sleep sometimes, they're called dreams!" I felt on edge at their tone, and my annoyance grew the more they became suspicious.
At the same time, Tom and Vincent gave each other a look, as if they knew something that I didn't.
" Oh, what is it?" Their silence made me angry and impatient. Why can't you just tell me?
"You've had dreams about the Watchers, and their experiments. You've had dreams about the Underground and what the Doctor was doing." Vincent said.
"What do you mean? What are you talking about?"
Tom picked up a drawing, and pointed at the middle-aged character, holding a test tube in front of his eyes. I could still see it as I had in my dream, the man's furrowed brow, his frustration.
"That's Liam Worth. That's him and some of the injections he gave us. You know that, don't you?" He gave me a puzzled look. I gave him one right back.
"No…I didn't know that."
"You were in my dream, you were wandering. That was us you saw,"
" What? Why you were at East London Hospital?" Why did this make sense?
Vincent said carefully, "There's something you're not telling us…. I thought you knew you were a Dreamer."
"She doesn't know, Vince. I didn't know either, at first."
There was no way they were serious. The dream, their appearance... what does this have to do with me?I went over everything that had happened before I let them in last night. Had I been followed?
Vincent put a hand to his temple, slouching against the counter top a little, but I didn't notice until he spoke.
I looked up suddenly, shocked to see him wincing.
"What is it?"
"That hurt." Apparently he had been holding his breath because he inhaled deeply as he stood straight again.
"What? I didn't even do anything!"
"Not what you did, what you know." Tom said, putting down his fork. He turned to Vincent who had lowered his hand. "What was it? That's never happened before."
"I don't know. I've had low exposure, I've only ever known yours and Dr. Worth's thoughts. Too much at once, I guess."
"If you would just explain this to me, I wouldn't have to do that!" I felt sorry, but there was no way to help a natural process. I couldn't just stop thinking.
"Alright, just listen. I can wander in my dreams, I can see things that are about to happen. Do you get it? I dream about the future."
"You have the same thing, don't you? You can see people, what they're doing. You can travel into other people's minds, in the present." said Vincent.
I dropped into a chair, and stared at the tabletop because I was too afraid to look them in the eyes.