By: Ryann Kerekes

I lie still on the table and wait for something to happen. Now that I’ve grown used to it, I’m only faintly aware of the humming buzz vibrating inside my head. My neck is tense, but aside from feeling mild annoyance, I’m not sure what’s happening. Has she started yet?

I focus my breathing and clear my mind. I can feel the table underneath me. I focus on the sensations. I can feel the gown, stiff and scratchy across my skin. I can sense the woman sitting beside me. I hear her steady breaths. In and out. She shifts in her seat, and I peek open one eye to see her hunched over the data terminal, concentrating on the screen.

“Is that it?”

She startles at my voice and hits a button on the side of the machine. She stands and looks down at me. I prop myself up on one elbow and wait for her to answer.

“Wait here.” She heads for the door and steps into the hall, closing it softly behind her.

I wait for a few minutes, again wondering what would happen if I tried to leave, but before I have time to really consider it, the woman returns. There is a man with her. He does not look pleased.

“What’s happening?” I ask when they approach the table. She presses my shoulder down so I’m lying flat again.

“Be still. You need to focus this time,” she says like it’s a warning.

For the first time, I notice the syringe the man is holding and watch uneasily as he flicks the vial of cloudy liquid it contains. He uncaps the needle and pushes up on the syringe until a bead of liquid appears at the tip. I swear I see a smirk on his lips as he brings the needle to my arm. My heart hammers unevenly in my chest, and I feel the needle bite into my skin. I begin to feel its effects and drift into forced relaxation.

The woman ensures the electrodes are still secure and goes to the machine. I turn my head and watch as she turns the dial to its highest setting. A jolt whips through me, chattering my teeth together. I bite down and taste blood, warm and salty on my tongue. I quickly swallow it down.

This time there’s a buzzing pain that builds behind my eyes. I smell something burning, and when I finally close my eyes, visions of swirling dark storm clouds bounce around inside my head, which now feels empty. Guard your mind. It seems important to remember that, although I’m not sure why. I repeat the words over and over in a small part of my brain, the only part I still seem to have control of, before I slip away completely.

Chapter 2

The machine clicks off, its buzz fading into the background, as I slowly gain consciousness. I am dizzy and nauseous from the drug, but can feel the hazy effect wearing off. My body is numb, and my eyelids are heavy. I remain perfectly still on the table, the bright lights overhead warming me. I can hear talking in the room, and though I know it’s likely about me, I can’t bring myself to focus on what’s being said.

I lie still with my eyes closed, drawing shallow breaths. A man’s voice barks an order, and footsteps retreat into the distance.

I hear voices again, only this time it sounds like there are many more. I realize if they think I’m still asleep, they’ll talk freely in front of me. I keep my eyes closed and force myself to concentrate on the voices until they come into focus.

“She failed the mindscan.”

I wonder what it means to fail the mindscan. I had never heard it put that way before. Did it mean I was a Reject?

“Do it again,” an unfamiliar male voice says.

“We did sir, on the highest setting.” The woman speaks this time.

“Her brain activity never dropped. Her heart rate and breaths per minute increased only slightly, and even then, she was able to get them under control,” the man who stuck me with the needle says nervously.

Their eyes prick my skin. I remain perfectly still, afraid to do the wrong thing, afraid I somehow already have.

“She’s Britta Sterling’s daughter.” The words hang in the air. What does my mom have to do with this? Papers rustle, and I imagine it’s my file changing hands.

No one answers. My knees begin to shake, and my mouth goes completely dry. I feel a needle at my arm again, and I gasp when the rush of cool liquid hits my blood stream. If the first injection was to put me to sleep, this one is clearly designed to wake me up. My eyes blink open slowly against the light that seems to have grown brighter above me.

“Eve, can you hear me?” the woman asks.

I turn my head toward her voice and try to focus. Spots dance in front of my eyes. I try to speak, the word yes forming in my throat, but when I open my mouth, only a small moan escapes my lips. I feel like I’ve been out much longer than the few minutes it seemed.

My eyes adjust, and I scan the bodies standing over me. There are five people in the room now. The original woman and man who administered the scan are now joined by an older man in a crisp military uniform, a plump woman in a gray smock dress and a guy only a couple of years older than me, wearing camouflage pants tucked into boots and a T-shirt stretched tightly across his frame. I am being watched. The effect is daunting.