Carter had many personal rules which he held over himself. One of the most important of them was to never deny a dying man, or woman their wish. It was something his father had told him at his grandfather's funeral. Carter had never thought he would find himself in a situation where such a rule need be applied, but on that night fourteen years ago he did.
Why Carter, an accountant, was at the research lab that night was a memory lost to the ages. Not that the reason mattered, he assumed he had probably been attending a meeting, or had been picking up some files for his boss. None the less, he was there. It was raining, Carter remembered, because his rain boots had been cutting into the back of his heel, and he remembered wishing he had simply worn shoes instead.
He had always hated the lab compared to the corporate office where he usually worked. It felt like a prison, its harsh lighting, its long white unforgiving halls. All of the brightness hurt Carter's eyes as if he were staring directly into the lights which ran down the ceiling. After wandering for a time, Carter realized he was lost in the maze of halls. He made an attempt to find a security guard or one of the lab workers to help him, but soon realized he was alone. Frustration grew into fear, amplified by the power cutting out. The powerful white lights were replaced by red emergency ones. He panicked, running blindly in the direction he assumed was away from the footsteps.
Carter came to a screeching halt, nearly bumping into a woman she rounded a corner into him. Her face was pale, her head shaven, and equally notable was her face, which was covered in scars. Her face had stayed with him, and being able to see it in that poorly lit hall surprised Carter to this day. The woman looked middle aged, albeit her eyes were more sunken than any forty to fifty year old's should, and much like the rest of her body her face was thin enough that he was sure her skin was hanging off her bones alone. She wore a blood covered hospital gown, with fresh blood pouring out from new wounds. The fact that she had managed to run to him surprised him, and it likely would have surprised Carter if she hadn't been wounded. It took a few moments for him to realize, but she had a child in her arms, it was hard to tell at the time but he now knew the child to have been four years of age. Somehow it was asleep, managing to slumber through the chaos its mother had been through.
"Please, take her" the woman's voice was desperate. Carter looked at her in shock, "Please!" Carter could hear more footsteps now, and so could the woman as she peeked over her shoulder. "Please, they'll be here soon, just take her and get out of here!"
Carter looked beyond the woman and began to make out the figures approaching in the hall. They were the security guards, wearing more armour and carrying considerably heavier weaponry than Carter was accustomed to, and the amount of them in the same place led him to believe that what ever this woman had done, it had angered the wrong people.
"You there, with the glasses!" One of them shouted. Dumbfounded, Carter pointed at himself, "Do you see anyone else here wearing glasses? Of course I mean you. Hand us the kid and we'll take over from here."
The woman pleaded again, "Please take her and get out of here. I don't want her to live the same pitiful existence I did!"
"Ignore the woman. This is official business." the same guard shouted again.
"They did this to me, and they do it to her too. Please, just take her away from here!" The woman was crying now and occasionally coughing up blood. Carter wasn't sure if should would survive much longer.
"I'm not going to ask you again! Back away from the woman now!" One of the guards was beginning to slowly move forward, making sure not to alert the woman and escalate the situation. The guard's plan failed as a light above him blew, sending a rain of glass down upon him. While it may have otherwise not been dangerous, it cut though the man's body as easily as it had cut through the air, reducing him to a gut-strewn paste.
"I don't have much longer," the woman said, collapsing to her knees, "Please do as I say, it's my final request." The words brought Carter back to that moment almost two decades ago.
"I'm sorry, but..." Carter couldn't find the right words to explain what he planned to do. He took the child, walked around the woman and handed the girl to the guards.
The leader of the guards sighed and gave Carter a pat on the shoulder. "Good work, bud." The woman shrieked, caught in a fury of anger, regret and sadness. She gave no resistance as two armour clad men charged her. Her cries died away to the sound of the smack of metal against her face. "Don't worry, she will be fine. You head home, get some sleep. I imagine you'll need some after all of that."
"Yeah, just show me to the exit."
Fourteen Years Later, Westhaven, BC
Carter looked at his daughter across from him in the car, now an eighteen year old who lived a relatively average life. As he looked back on things, he could not help but feel disgusted with himself. He had certainly given himself a more sparkling review in the version of the account he had told the girl. The fact that she called him "father" ashamed him almost every time she said it.
"Stop looking at me like that dad, it's creepy... like, twelve different levels of creepy." Laurence said, looking out the window. It was raining that Tuesday morning, a crisp, steady rain that seemed to chill everything it touched. She was a confident teen, considering how girls like her usually are. She dressed fairly conservatively for a girl her age, and did so without his harassment. Carter was not sure this was because of simple modesty or because of the scar on the left side of her face and the bullying that came with it leaving her uncomfortable with her looks. How Laurence avoided running into walls with bangs covering her left eye amazed Carter.
"You ready?" Carter asked as he stopped the car in front of one of the school's side entrances. The school was an older building; it looked more like an 1800's mansion than a school, barring the graffiti littered portables that could be seen behind it.
Laurence sighed, "As ready as I can be."
Carter laughed, "Oh, school, the horror! Eight hours of learning in a warm and dry building." Laurence rolled her eyes, "Hey, you're almost done. You have less than three months now."
Laurence opened the door of the car and exited cautiously into the rain, she quickly picked up her bag and flipped it over her head as a makeshift umbrella. "Don't remind me." Carter cracked a nostalgic smile.
"One day you're going to look back at this time of your life and wish you could come back to now."
Laurence had very mixed opinions about school. She was naturally a good student. She enjoyed learning, soaked up information easily and could retain and recall information in a way that few of her classmates could. Not that she abused this advantage by coasting through school. She worked hard, and enjoyed the academic side of school.
Outside of that she hated it.
Laurence was an outcast. Not that she didn't have friends, she had her small group, but she often found it hard to talk with them. She was fairly sure they only kept her around as protection from the rougher crowds in the school and for help on tests. Outside of that group she was either hated or anonymous. Hated for her constant need to correct mistakes others made in class or unknown because of her lack of interest in extra-circulars at school. She was happy she would be graduating a semester early; the grind was starting to wear Laurence down.
When she entered homeroom that day, the regular conversations about that show she didn't watch, that celebrity that she had never heard of and that game she never played filled the room. She managed to tune into one conversation though that interested her.
"Have you seen Marissa lately?"
" No, now that I think of it..."
"Oh Marissa? I heard she died!"
"Haha, right. Yeah, a piano fell on her."
"That, or aliens."
Laurence tuned out when the conversation devolved into a list of comic ways to die. But the question remained on her mind; iwhere was she?/iNot that Marissa had ever stood out to Laurence, and Laurence was fairly sure she was anonymous to Marissa, but it was strange. She had seen her sister at school today for that matter, so why wasn't Marissa coming as well?
The class was continuing presentations that day, ones that Laurence was fortunate enough to have finished. She spent the class continuing the list of comic ways to die she had heard earlier. On occasion her concentration was broken by presentations, but it was never long until she was continuing her morbid list.
Glass, think of all the fun I could have with glass.
It was at the end of the last presentation for the class when Laurence's train of thought was broken again. "And that's why we believe that Ralph was the good guy in William Golding's Lord of the Flies." The line was followed by the same bored and uninspired clap that followed every mediocre presentation.
"That's not true!" the enthusiastic reaction which brought Laurence to her feet was instantaneous, happening as quickly as she regretted it.
"That's not true?" Keith McFarren was the presenter, someone Laurence knew only in name. He was on some sports team, she remembered, as they had mentioned it once in the school newspaper.
"Yes, what do you mean by that?" the teacher reiterated, safe behind her desk. She was clearly interested in the turn of events and in no way was trying to stop the development. Laurence was sure she was happy to see a break in the mundane chain of presentations which had dominated the class for the last week.
Laurence, for reasons she couldn't understand, decided to push forward, ignoring the sirens wailing in her head to shut up and sit down. "In your presentation you ignore the widely accepted belief that Simon was the hero, or the 'good guy' as you called Ralph." Laurence inhaled deeply and exhaled slowly, trying desperately to calm herself down. "Did you do any research at all?"
"It's a presentation on my thoughts on the book, why would I do that?" Keith replied, the class agreed with nods and whispered 'yeahs'.
Laurence pushed further, "You are missing my point. Ralph's vision of the society on the island is closer to what 'we' would call good, but is it really? We never have the opportunity to see things from Jack's point of view, certainly not when he begins to present an alternative to Ralph's society." Laurence could see her teacher nodding, she pushed forward with renewed confidence, "And we never get to see how Simon's society may have progressed. Considering Simon was the only one who truly understood the nature of the fear pervading Ralph's society. I would say..."
Keith interrupted Laurence before should could continue, "We know that Golding fought in WW2 and Jack was supposed to show how fear led to countries like Russia and Germany having crazy evil governments."
"Does the authors intended message really matter? Is Hitler's Mein Kampf true because Hitler was the author?"
"What?" Keith in all of his life had never heard of Mein Kampf and failed to understand what it had to do with anything.
"Never mind," Laurence replied fighting to hold a smirk of gratification off her face, "Either way, fear is used to control. I would argue that in Simon's society, where what the boys fear is understood, the boys would have true freedom. In Ralph's society, fear keeps the boys following his orders, just as much as it does in Jack's. I believe the only reason we see one as good and the other evil is based on our own notions of good and evil, just as much as Golding wrote the book with similar beliefs. Not to mention, we don't actually know is Jack was right, the book ends before we have the opportunity to find out." Laurence had to pause to breathe, "Never once did you think for yourself in that entire presentation, you just restated what was said in class."
"Whatever." Keith replied starting towards his desk.
"No, Laurence is right." Laurence in unison with the rest of the class turned towards the teacher in surprise. "Aside from a few of you, there were no interesting or unique ideas brought forward. Most of those presentations were putting me to sleep, as well as much of the class. You are all too ready to have an answer brought to you by me, and in an English class that can't be the case. You're supposed to be thinking critically here... and..." she paused, thinking carefully about her next few words, "You know, I'm going to dock all those who didn't think critically 50%. Originally I was going to ignore that section on the rubric, but Laurence," Laurence's faced burned a deep red, clearly marking her embarrassment, and the teacher wasn't helping her deal with the terrible guilt, "You made me realize how much of a problem this is with most classes these days."
The bell rang, and Laurence ran out of the classroom, ignoring the insults thrown her way as she went as quickly as she could to her next class.
She ate lunch alone that day, trying to hide in the massive cafeteria. With all of the schools 1300 students crammed into a single room with rows of student filled picnic tables throughout, Laurence was sure she would go unnoticed. She focused on math, trying block out the dangerously self-deprecating thoughts which had gripped her every minute since English. Three more months was becoming a longer and longer period of time.
"Hey, cyclops." Laurence made sure her bangs were fully covering the left side of her face as she turned to face the person who had intruded on her solitude. An apple flew by, missing Laurence's face by inches and exploding on the wall behind her. Keith had come with at least a half dozen friends. He sat down beside her while his friends blocked routes of escape. "Don't worry, I just want to talk."
"I'm sorry," Laurence replied meekly, turning back to her math. Keith ripped it from in front of her and threw it away. Laurence didn't move. "You know, you should really look at people when they talk. No wonder you have no friends, Cyclops." Laurence turned to look at Keith, but was knocked off her chair after he struck her across the face. She laid on the ground in shock, trying to assess whether or not any damage was done. Keith continued as he stood up and began to walk away, "Don't cry, Cyclops. You deserved it, you know? In fact..."
"Crying?" Laurence laughed, picking herself up from the floor. Kieth's eyes widened as Laurence's pencil lifted itself up off the table and launched towards him. Keith cried out in pain as the wooden shaft of the pencil punctured deep into his shoulder.
"You..." Laurence blocked the punch, catching her attacker's fist mid swing. Keith attempted to pull away, but soon realized he was at the enraged girls mercy. Slowly, Laurence began to curl back Keith's fist. "Hey, stop, I'm sorry!" Laurence laughed sadistically, only twisting back faster.
"Yo, stop!" One of Keith's friends converged. Laurence simply raised her free hand, effortlessly forcing him into a group of unsuspecting students as easily as she had done with the pencil. They were all knocked over by the force of the throw. Immediately, Keith's friends retreated, as well as many of the students at the surrounding tables.
Laurence continued to push, taking great pleasure in watching tears run down her victim's face. He was on his knees, now trying desperately to contort his body in such a way that the pain stopped. Laurence was unaware of the massive crowd gathering around to watch. She was enthralled in the moment, brought back to her childhood when she used to catch squirrels and torture them until they died. Laurence hadn't done it since her father had found out and forced her to stop, but she was quickly remembering the pleasure it brought her. The taste of blood from her nose hitting her tongue reminded Laurence of the pencil lodged in Keith's shoulder. With her free hand she began to grind it in further, tearing through tough muscle. A pool of blood began to collect on Keith's shirt around the wound. Throwing all self-respect aside, Keith began to sob, begging Laurence to stop. She did when an audible crack marked that the boys wrist was broken. The sobs became shrieks, "Oh shut up, I'm not even done yet." Laurence stood up, eyeing the room for a weapon.
Glass, think of all the fun I could have with glass.
With the flick of her wrist, a glass iced tea bottle from one of the abandoned tables broke into a few large shards, which Laurence carefully beckoned towards her. She took one of the larger pieces with her right hand and tested it with her left. Easily drawing blood she smiled and carefully aimed the knife at Keith's neck as she sat on her haunches, "Now to see how much blood comes out when..."
"Laurence Gail!" as if a switch had gone off, Laurence dropped her makeshift knife and stood up.
When had the principal come with the two police officers?
Laurence had never been in the principal's office before, but she was becoming quite accustomed to it. She was locked in the cramped room for hours following the incident, as two police officers guarded the door. It was a small room for the authority Laurence felt the principal carried. The amount of items within the room only reduced its size more. The desk that divided the room in half was clearly too big, and the massive bookshelf beside it on the side of the principals chair and the window was far too large. The small window and its oppressive, dated blinds only furthered the feeling of claustrophobia. In her isolation, Laurence's mind went from suicide to potential escape options in the eternity that passed before they opened the door and the principal entered with her father. The balding, overweight man motioned for Carter to sit beside Laurence as he came around and sat at his desk across the room from them.
"Carter, let me be honest." The principal said with a sigh, "You as well as I know that Laurence can't come here anymore." Laurence didn't dare look up to her father, but she knew he had nodded in agreement, "Now, because you made me aware of Laurence's special circumstance when she first came here around four years ago, and the fact that Keith struck first, I managed to convince his family to drop the charges, so long as you pay for the psychologist they are now going to need to get for that kid."
"That sounds completely fair to me." Carter replied.
"The police said they would not hold any investigation so long as you seek help for Laurence. As I said, I know her circumstance is special. Their aren't a lot of..." The principal paused at the word.
"You can say it, there is nothing wrong with the word." Carter said, looking at Laurence who sat to his right.
"Well, Hybrids. Laurence is a smart girl, and I think if she can gain stronger social skills she will really do some good. But for now, it's probably best she finishes the rest of her secondary education at home where she is safe. I hope you can understand." Laurence smirked.
A place where I am safe, or a place where everyone else is?
"I understand completely," Carter replied with a sigh.
"Do you have anything to say, Laurence?" the principal asked, attempting to be as consoling as possible, "I don't think you've even batted an eye since we came in."
"I'm sorry," Laurence said, even more meekly than she had said it to Keith before then entire predicament had occurred.
"Don't apologize to me; you'll need to say that to Keith. And it's probably best you don't do that for a while."
Laurence hadn't realized it was night, perhaps the unyielding glow of the city and the light pollution it created had barred her from realizing the time. The rain was falling as it had all day, and Laurence shivered when she stepped into it. Carter wrapped Laurence's jacket around her as they made their way to his car. He fumbled with the keys for a few moments, clearly lost in his thoughts, before he finally unlocked the door for the two of them. He sat in silence with his adopted daughter, the sound of rain overshadowed by the all-encompassing silence. He turned to Laurence, and seeing that she still looked down at her feet ashamedly, struggled to find the right words. Retreating, he pulled out of the parking lot and began to drive home.
After a few minutes of painful silence, Carter spoke, trying his best to remain calm, "Are you okay?"
"Sure," Laurence replied. At first, Carter was happy to hear that, before remembering that Laurence was not as open about her feelings as his son Marcus was. He took a deep breath, trying to find a way to dig away at Laurence's shell with a spoon, not a shovel.
"I'm not mad, eh? Well, not very mad... frustrated would be a better word..." he took a deep breath, "Well, not with you, but with me. I should have..."
"It's not your fault," Laurence replied, staring at her hand which was feeling irritated from using her abilities. Running electricity through a generator in her right arm and into her hand had burned her skin. "It's just..."
"I know..." Carter interrupted, trying to stop the conversation from going to where he was fairly sure it would.
"You don't!" Laurence shouted, now glaring at her father, "You don't know how hard it is, how hard it has been not to do that every day I've ever lived." She rubbed her eyes fighting back tears, "I wouldn't have stopped. I didn't want to stop... I wanted to do it, to see what would happen..."
"No you didn't," Carter shot back, stopping the car on the side of the road, "And Laurence, I wouldn't have let you live in the same house as my son and I if I didn't believe you could control yourself." Carter smiled and wiped a few tears off his distraught daughters face, "And I'm not going anywhere."