Note: if you find anything in here that seems similar to any books or stories that are out right now, i didnt get my ideas from them. This story is all me that i made up many years ago.


Chapter 1

The only thing I remember about my life is drowning. I don't know where, or when it happened. Or what came after. Even the place where I am now is a mystery. But one thing I know for sure, is that I did drown. I shouldn't be alive. Yet, I'm wide awake, sitting on a small white cot in a small white room, staring out a high window into the morning sun. Everything here is white. It's sort've like a lab, but more hospital like. Only, hospitals are homey, and nothing here seems homey or even welcoming. Okay, I change my mind - it's a prison. A small and white prison, keeping only me hostage. The window even had bars on it. The thought comforted me a little, having a building just for me - but maybe for negative purposes.

A flicker of movement caught my eye - the doorknob was turning. Very slowly, moving counter-clockwise and making a little squeaky noise. Getting too curious, I crossed the room in one stride and grabbed onto the handle to open it. Only...I couldn't move it. It was locked. But I thought...

Footsteps sounded down the hall, sounding like on tile, the same as in my room. They were going very fast, and seemed heavy, too. I pressed my ear to the door. It wasn't just one set, it was three.

There was the faint jingle of many keys, then the footsteps stopped outside of my door. Someone unlocked it, and I barely had enough time to jump out of the way so I wouldn't get hit by the large, white metal door when it opened. And I was right. There were three people, two men and one woman. They stepped quickly into my room and shut the door behind them.

The blonde woman beamed at me, holding a clipboard tightly to her chest. I didn't want to think much about the other two - they were very muscular and had those faces that seemed to always glare...like they were now. But they didn't shake like the petite girl in front of me. Is she scared? I'm not dangerous...

"Hello." Her small voice was strong, despite her shaking. "My name is Cathy. And this is David, and Aaron." She gestured to each one in turn. "Sorry I'm a bit late, we're a little behind schedule."

Late from what? I opened my mouth to speak, but she held up her hand to stop me.

"You cannot talk yet. Your body is still recovering." Recovering? "I'm going to ask you some questions, so just write your answers on her." She handed me the clipboard, a pen attached. Okaaay then...

I sat down on my bed and looked at her expectantly, still confused, my hand poised.

She took a deep breath before starting. "Do you remember anything from your past life?"

I hesitated, then nodded, and wrote down "drowning" next to the number one. That counts, right?

Cathy peeked at my answer and nodded to herself. What I wrote down was according to plan, or expected, I guess....Wait. Is this a bad thing?

"Have you had any strange dreams lately?" Was I supposed to? I wrote down "No".

She came over to me and started examining my left arm, holding it up to the light on the ceiling. Surprise flickered across her face, and she quickly controlled her expression again, letting my hand drop. Weird.

"Do you remember your name?" She was shaking more violently now, and it bled into her voice.

How could I forget my name? I wrote down "Crea".

She took my clipboard away from me for a moment, showing David and Aaron. They stiffened when they saw it, and she handed it back after a moment.

"Should we take her to the lab early?" Aaron asked.

David looked at me, adding, "Martin would like to hear it."

Cathy glared at both of them. "Martin would end up killing her, the way he's been. Besides, you know how mad Boss gets when we don't go along as we planned. We'll get dropped down."

Just then, a loud beeping sounded. I jumped, startled. Nobody else did.

Cathy calmly walked over to the wall and put her hand on a lighter square of paint. A few seconds passed, then the square disappeared and in its place came another square the same size, just with a bunch of buttons. She pressed one of them and called loudly, "Yes?"

Above me, a new voice said, "I want you to bring the girl down to room 72. You know what to do." I looked up to where the voice came from. Oh - my room has a loudspeaker.

"But, sir-" she started to protest.

"Now," it barked. There was another loud beep, and then the room was silent.

Aaron and David exchanged grins. Somehow, I like their glare better. They seem too serious for smiling. Their faces weren't made for happiness.

"Fine," Cathy muttered under her breath. "Crea, come with us, and still no talking." She took back the clipboard and went to the door.

I was shocked - hardly anyone got my name right. She had pronounced it "kree - uh", not the usual "kree", the way you're supposed to say it, or a non-attempt. I hurried after her out the door, and David closed it behind me.

When we were in the hallway, I didn't bother trying to run away. The two guys were...scary looking. With fitted t-shirts that made them look really muscular and scarier, too. They could probably take me down pretty easily. And the hallway wasn't very wide, either. I could barely walk through it without banging my hands on every doorknob we passed, which was about every ten feet. It went on forever, too. Even with Cathy in the lead, and my able to see over her head, I still couldn't see the end.

Finally, after a long time of walking, Cathy stopped at a door with a picture of this weird thing stapled on it that had a tail and pointed ears. From one of the many pockets of her pants, she took out a large, golden, medieval-looking key, and unlocked the door.

The next room was huge. Actually, I wouldn't even call it a room. It was the tallest cylinder-shaped building in the world with the inside of it cut out, except for along the sides. Each floor had a little walkway and a rail that wound around full circle, with doors every few feet again. They went all the way up to the ceiling, which was just a skylight. Unless there was no ceiling. And every inch of walking space available was already occupied. The place was that crowded. The only open spot I could see was in the middle, where a circular fountain was, the same figure with the tail that was on the door we just came in.

Cathy's voice in my ear snapped me out of my reverie. "Come on. We have to hurry and I can't leave you here to get lost."

I nodded, disappointed at not being to able to look at everything, and followed Cathy with Aaron and David at my sides. She made a nice path through the thick crowd, a lot of people staring at me, some more hostile than others.

She led us to a door on the opposite side, the number 72 next to it. Knocking an obvious but complicated pattern, I waited impatiently in the blaring noise. At last, there was a click, and she opened the door, letting me go in first.

Hesitantly I went inside, and when my body was out of range the door clicked behind me. They hadn't followed me inside. I looked around, feeling that the room was too small and quiet compared to the one just on the other side of the door. The floor was carpeted in a dull tan-gray color. There weren't any windows, and the only thing in the room was a large mahogany desk and a tall, black, leather swivel-chair. A man was sitting in it, looking at me thoughtfully with his hands folded under his chin.

We didn't say anything for a while.

Finally, when the silence was just starting to get awkward, he asked me, "Do you know how many hours you've been here?" He didn't say it like he knew the answer.

I shook my head.

"No? Then could you tell if you stayed here at least a day, or more?"

I nodded this time - the sun and the window were my only interesting forms of entertainment.

"So at least a day and night?"

Again I nodded, and motioned with my hands that it was longer.

"Longer than a full day?" He seemed surprised when he said this, me still nodding. "That can't do..." he continued on to himself.

He sighed, sounding like he was a little frustrated, too, and rubbed his hand all over his face.

When he looked up, he said, "Try speaking now. You should be able to."

I hesitated, thinking of what I should say.

The man noticed. "Just say 'My name is...'" he motioned with his hands for me to fill in the blank.

He sat back, waiting patiently for me to do his request. I took a deep breath, opened my mouth, and...nothing. The man didn't make a move. I tried again, this time my voice cracking a little on the first word, but I didn't want to start again, so I kept going, saying the whole phrase and my name.

The man smiled at me and said, "Hello Crea. You may not know me, but I am the head of this place. The only thing you may call me is 'Boss', not by my real name - which I won't give you - or any other silly nick-name you might want to give me." He tacked onto the end: "Welcome to the D.E.L."

I frowned, confused. The D.E.L.? What's that?

When Boss saw my expression, he laughed. "I'm sorry, but I can't tell you what it means," he said with a smile, "I can only tell you about what it is."

His smile left his face, and he looked at me very seriously. "This place is somewhere that gives people a second life, one much better than the first. The people here become stronger, learn new techniques, can live twice as long as one normally can. There's only one condition. We call it the Change. It's very difficult to describe, and you can only experience it yourself to know what it is. You can back out if you want to - in just a few more hours you'll be dead. That is only because we injected the juice of a newly discovered plant into your veins, extending your life for two days. If it weren't for us, you would be already dead by now, I'm guessing from a car accident? Or drowning? That's how most come from."

During his speech I had gasped several times, and I gasped again now. I'd always felt that I should be dead here, but it was something else hearing it out of my thoughts and from someone else.

He was looking at me like I was supposed to say something, so I told him, "I drowned." A little simple, but it worked. And I had the excuse of me "recovering" or whatever.

Nodding, he said, "And do you know what Mark you have?"

"What's a Mark?" Something in the way he said it suggested it meant something different than what people would normally think it was.

He looked surprised again. "You don't know about them yet?"

I shook my head.

Boss sighed. "A Mark is, well, a mark that you get anywhere on your body, usually your arm, when we inject the plant. There are only a certain number of Marks that you can get, and what kind you have determines what power you might have after the Change."

Power? I like that...

"So, what kind do I have?" I asked him, looking at my arms. To my astonishment, there was a small black mark on my upper left arm, sort of like a tattoo even, the way it formed a diamond shape with precise corners, and how the lines coming off of the diamond ended, fading into my skin. I'm surprised that I didn't notice it before, seeing how dark it was.

"Let me see," Boss said, coming over to me and taking my arm. He took only a brief moment before saying, "That's the Emerald Mark. Very rare. We haven't been able to research much about this type yet, so I'm not exactly sure what kind of power you will get yet. If you want to go on and do the change, it will help us a lot." His eyes looked in mine very intently.

I still wasn't sure. "What is...the Change exactly? How bad is it? And do I have to stay here?"

He let go of my arm, sighing. "As I told you before, we can't tell you what the Change is. But it isn't bad, and yes, after you will have to stay and live here. I guess the only way that I can describe the Change as is that it changes the way your body is for a short period of time, then after you change back, you will be able to live longer. We've only started this recently, so no one knows how long exactly you can live. Maybe you can indefinitely. There's only one way to find out, by experimenting."

"So, I'm...an experiment?"

Boss started to look appalled. "No, no! You yourself aren't the experiment. We are finding different ways to make people live longer, is all. The experiment is what we do during the Change. And everyone living here had or has the choice of going through it. Including you." He glanced at the clock on the wall above his desk. "Though you only have a few short hours do so. And the sooner we get going on the Change, the better, unless you wish to end your life today instead."

He made it seem like dying is a bad thing. But he was right - I did have to hurry. My brain moved quickly, trying to decide.

Now, if I didn't go with the Change and just die, I wouldn't be able to know what I missed and I would just waste a great opportunity and a second chance at my incomplete life. But if I did do the Change, then they might do things to torture me, and experiment on me. Because that's what he said, whatever he thinks it isn't, that we're all experiments, nothing more. He doesn't care. And if it got to the worst, I could just commit suicide, unless it really wasn't that bad and I get to live my life a lot better after the Change.

I weighed them out, and finally decided. "I'll go on with the Change," I practically whispered.

Boss looked excited and relieved. "Then let's go." I expected him to go right out the door, but first he went over to the black phone on his desk, dialed a number, and muttered something unintelligible into it. After he hung up, he smiled warmly at me and left me to follow him out the door.

I wasn't used to the cylinder room yet, so I was still caught off guard when he led me through it, trying to keep up with him but still trying to look at everything else, too.

The door that he brought me to wasn't as far away this time, just about six doors down. Letting me go in first, he closed it behind us, the door amazingly keeping out all of the talking and echoing.

In the next room, it looked like a kind of lobby. Almost everything was in a shade of burgundy or red except for the pale walls and the wooden desk along one of the shorter walls. On the longer walls were red, comfortable chairs, ones that haven't been used very often and were still puffed up to the extreme. The lady at the desk smiled at me. She looked really bored.

Boss came over to me and said, "Sit down if you like; it could be a while."

I did as he said, and he went over to talk quietly with the desk lady. Just a few minutes after I sat down, the door opened again. In came Cathy, hands empty this time, and a tall boy with dark, shaggy hair who looked a little older than me. Boss stopped talking when they came in.

"Hello again," he greeted them, then turned to me. "Crea, this is Evailen. He will be helping you after you go through the Change."

The boy named Evailen gave me a weak smile and a half-hearted wave. I waved back, giving a soft "hi".

Cathy looked exasperated, almost rolling her eyes, and went into a different room, leaving all of us there. Evailen sat down two chairs away from me, keeping a respectable distance but showing he was friendly and meant no harm. It's always awkward when you sit right next to a strange person you don't know. The silence got really heavy as time passed ever so slowly. A few times we both did a small cough, smiled awkwardly at each other, and all the time fidgeting tremendously and twiddling our thumbs. It got to be too much for me, so I said the first thing that came to mind.

"So, about the Change..." I started, looking over at Evailen. He focused politely on me. "Will it hurt at all, when it's happening?"

He thought for a while. "I guess it depends. If you're stronger in the mind, it'll hurt less, because it doesn't physically hurt you. What they will put in your body is what causes the Change, but as it's working, it sort've freezes out your body to change into something else. You'll know when it's almost done when the icy feeling starts to feel like a burn, and the burn is what seems to be hurting you."

I didn't know what to say to that. Evailen tried to hide a smile. "You don't have to look so scared. It's really not that bad, and the pain immediately goes away when it's done, which is just right after an hour."

That made me feel better, and I let out the breath I was holding. His smile widened.

"And how will you help me after?" I asked him.

He became just a tad bit more serious, but still with a smile. "I can't tell you that. It'll ruin the experience."

I was about to ask more when somebody in a large white lab coat came out of the room that Cathy went in. He went over to Boss, still talking to the desk lady, and whispered something to him, then disappeared back into the room.

Boss turned to us, looking excited again. He always looked strange when he was happy or excited. "They're ready for you now, Crea. Evailen, tell her what to do when she's inside. Everyone else will be too busy to give out instructions."

Evailen nodded, stood up, and motioned for me to follow him through the door. It was a plain white room again, a very obvious lab, with everything made of plastic, stone, or linoleum. A bunch of people in matching lab coats were crowding the room, moving around the tables and the extra equipment. I couldn't exactly tell what all of it was - just a lot of sciency stuff on the tables and carts that can roll around.

Evailen stopped next to a table in the middle of the room. "Lay down on your stomach here," he said, patting the surface. I obeyed quickly, flattening myself on the long, cold counter and propping myself up with my elbows. He continued to speak in my ear above the growing noise. "It's always easier if you close your eyes during the process, and if you could stay as still as possible. The more you move, the more likely it'll hurt a lot. When the Change is complete, don't open your eyes or do anything until we tell you to. Before we can leave, they'll have to make sure that everything is working properly, just a quick check-up on everything. Oh, and don't be too freaked out when you see yourself. After about two days, you'll be able to change back."

"What will I look like after?" My feet were starting to get a little cold.

"Just...different. Trust me." He moved away after that, leaving me to ponder about what he said. Why would I need to trust him about what I looked like after? Did he mean about me staying calm?

Just then, cold hands were touching my back, pushing me back down on the counter and moving my shirt up. "Hey!" I protested, twisting around to pull it back down. They were trying to pull it up just a little too far.

Evailen called across the room from where he sat on one of the far tables. "Relax, Crea. They need your back bare so they can inject the stuff for the Change."

I gave all of the people around me a glare before laying back down. They could've at least told me what they were doing.

This time they got my shirt scrunched all the way up and started whiping this cold stuff all over my back, in a bunch of different spots. There was a short pause, then wherever they swabbed the liquid, there were small pricks. I shivered not from the cold when I figured out they were needles. A lot of needles.

Immediately after they stuck all of them in, this cold fluid starting flowing through me in time with a pulse, like it had its own heart pumping it into me. I closed my eyes partially from an automatic response when I started shivering. But I wasn't actually cold. I knew that my temperature stayed the same, but...it felt like I should be cold, and getting colder still from the freezing stuff that were coming through the needles. It spread slowly across my back, down my limbs, into my head, making my whole body throb with each pulse. I couldn't tell if it was noticeable or not that I jerked a little from the throbbing.

For a while it was fine, and bearable, but just a little cold. Then it started getting colder, and it finally reached every part of my body, so now the pulsing was circulating the cold fluid. Though I couldn't imagine it as a liquid - it was too cold for that. It had to be a large block of ice going through my veins. It started to hurt like it was, too. The block was getting larger, stretching out my veins and everything around them so it could fit.

Suddenly, the pain and pulsing grew immensly larger, growing at an increasingly fast pace. My head throbbed, feeling like it was about to explode. My skin felt like it was being torn apart, so that whatever was stuck inside me could find a way out. I only noticed when there was someone talking softly to me when I couldn't hear it anymore. There was nothing else, just me and the pain.

Finally it came too much to bear, and I moved for the first time without it having to do with the steady throbbing. My hands curled like claws around the edge of the counter, giving me some way to let out the energy I held inside me and to get rid of some of the agony. But it didn't do much - the table felt too soft, molding easily around my hands. It was like I got stronger or something, that it feels differently.

Without my intention, my back arched above the counter and a scream built up inside me. Trying my best to keep it in, it only let loose quicker.

The sound of it startled me, the bloodcurling, miserable agony-induced cry. But I couldn't stop it. It seemed to ebb the pain away, if only a little. My hands gripped harder, and for a brief second I felt surprise in the back of my brain - crowded with the wild thoughts brought on by the now burning of my veins - that I could feel the wood and stone give way, my fingers slicing through it easily as if it were made of clay. It actually felt like clay, hard and cold, but smooth and soft. That brief moment I felt surprise, and when I could feel the clay moving, I heard my voice change.

I couldn't tell exactly what happened to it, or what it sounded like, but it first got all rough and scratchy, then formed into a howl. A kind of howl I've never heard before. It seemed for a moment similar to a wolf, but reminded me of a horse, in a way. The howl actually seemed more like a bugle. Though it was still rough and sounded like it was wounded. And I was wounded. The block of ice had turn to stone, a stone covered with flames that scorched my insides and started to burn the outside. It felt like I was on fire, but the fire was already out. Like getting a burn from hot water, or a stove. I was burning.

Right when I felt the burn, the howling stopped, my body dropped back down, and the freezing fire inside me cooled down, till it was just a soft, gentle pulse of my own heart, pumping warm blood through my veins. It was finally over.

There was still the loud bustling of the people in lab coats around me, and my eyes were still glued shut. The few conversations seemed louder than they should for how far away they were, but they were still unintelligable. Footsteps that were noticeably slower than the rest came in my direction, and stopped right next to me. There was the rustling of clothes, and a familiar voice in my ear: "Open your eyes now, Crea. But don't be alarmed."

Very slowly, I obeyed.