I hate the cellar. That's where They put me when I disagree with Them. So I'm there pretty much all the time. The walls are tight and the fumes smell like sulfur. The food comes through a small slot in the bottom of the cellar door. The food is never good. Imagine wet tater tots dipped in hair and wire and bathed in the sulphurous smell of the cellar. Whatever you're imagining is ten times better. The worst part is when I have a visitor. There is only one cellar, multiple cells, but only one cellar. This means the visitor goes with me. You're probably wondering what I did to get this kind of treatment. Well, so am I.
The cellar is kind of a horrible version of solitary confinement. I’ve been in the cellar for a long time, four hundred and one days, sixteen hours and forty one minutes. It seems like a long time, I know, but it feels like a lot longer.
The day “The Plague” struck its first victim, was a average day. Just like the day the plague struck its second victim, and the third, and the fourth. The fifth victim mattered to me though. I was twelve when it happened. When the doctors couldn’t figure out how to cure the flu much less “The Plague”. There was thirty four victims after me. Before society started to crumble, the first victim developed abilities. So did the second. And the third. And the fourth. And the fifth. Every ability different but a little weaker than the one before. At least that’s what They call them. Abilities. More like curses. One, two, three, and four are all dead. The fifth victim was me.
I had a visitor today, if that's what you’d call it. It was a young girl about three years younger than me. No visible curse that I could tell. She wasn't shaking around me, but she never said a word to me. She was only in for one day. I made one more tally mark on the wall. My calendar. It went all around me, up and down every wall. One tally mark for every day I’d been here. Four hundred and two tally marks.
I was thinking about the visitor I got yesterday. She reminded me of my little sister. I wonder how my family is doing, or if they miss me at all. My parents were the ones that sent me here anyways. The girl must not have done anything very bad to be here for only one day. I'm in the cellar for a few reasons. Number one being trying to escape, number two being my curse. The escape attempt didn’t go so well, hence the reason I’m still here and one, two, three and four are dead.
I dreamed I was twelve and the soldiers came to get me. I remember they walked up our short driveway, slow and confident. One of them was holding a rifle. They had handguns on their belts. The soldiers knocked on our door. My little sister Rose opened the door. They shouldered their way right past her and started walking up the stairs. They passed three rooms before tearing mine open and leveling the rifle at me. I remember the next ten minutes in horrible detail. The soldier without the gun held up a piece of paper issued from the government and started talking to my turned back. I turned around so that I could hear the man better. As soon as his eyes met mine the paper dropped to the floor, light as a feather. Then both men started shaking. The man with the rifle loosened his grip. Then they opened their mouths in silent screams of terror and the man with the rifle opened fire.
I woke with a start. My heartbeat matched the pounding of the rifle in my dream. “Dun dun dun dun”. I looked across from me and leaped to my feet with a cry. The inmate from yesterday was sitting on my small cot. She looked at me, curious. Curious but not afraid. She looked at me inquisitively. Was she really not afraid of me? I didn’t say anything. I was afraid she would shiver or faint. That was my curse. Fear. Incredible, blinding, freezing cold, fear; inflicted on everyone that was near me. I could turn it down or up, just never stop it. Bullets didn’t hurt me as the owners of the gun always missed. They couldn’t stop the fear. And neither could I.
“You’re Five?” she practically whimpered. Was she trying to talk to me?
“Um yeah” I told her. She was brave, that’s for sure. But nobody was brave enough to resist that kind of fear for long. I wondered why she cared that I was Five.
“I’m thirty four,” she said. Louder this time. More defined. Like she was trying to prove that she could resist the fear.
“Ok,” I answered.
“You look like someone I knew.” Another bad attempt at conversation. I went for the bait. ”So do you.”
She asked “What’s your name?”
“Liam.” I answered simply.
She sucked in a breath. “How old are you?”
“I don’t know,” I answered truthfully.
“My name’s Rose,” she held out her hand.
I looked at her hand. Her name was Rose. That was the name of my sister. She was far enough done the line of plague victims that she could have become cursed after I was taken. What if she just held out her hand so she could read my mind. Only one way to know for sure. I gripped her hand and shook. I turned the fear up, all the way, escalating like a scene from a horror movie. She opened her mouth, gaping like a fish. Her eyes darted around the room in panic, she wiped her forehead and started to shake. Black spots danced in front of my eyes but I ground my teeth in determination. I pushed all the fear from me until her dilated brown eyes rolled back in her head and she fainted. I slowly lowered her to the floor. I rolled up the left sleeve of her black jumpsuit. My eyes scanned her arm, stopping when they saw a small black patch of ink on the skin just above her elbow. The ink writing, a description of the person, was on the elbow of every inmate here. I read the words slowly.
Name: Rose Elizabeth Smyth
Ability: Strong Telekinetics
Family: Liam Alexander Smith, Jerry Fuaner Smyth, Orna Ellie Smyth
I sucked in my breath. That confirmed it, she was my sister. I rocked back on my heels, in awe, I wasn’t sure if this was incredibly lucky or unlucky. I decided on lucky. I studied her for a while before it even crossed my mind that this could be a trap. What if They had sent someone that looked like my sister in here and put the ink patch on her. I looked at her closely. I grabbed both her wrists and leaned her against my cot. I wrapped my hand against one of the chains holding up the bed and wrenched it out of the wall. That should have been impossible for a normal person, but the first ten to be inflicted with The Plague have “ enhanced physical abilities” as They, would say. That's the reason the cellar is silver lined with Kevlar instead of bricks like the outside cells. I wrapped the chain around her wrists and tied the other around her ankles. I knew if she lied about her abilities this might be useless.
I sucked in a deep breath as she stirred in her sleep. There was no security cameras in the cellar. They didn’t care what we did to each other here. Her eyes fluttered and she jumped up off the cot and flopped onto the ground. She rolled over onto her back and looked up at me.
“You’re my brother,” she said, breathless but victorious. I wasn’t convinced.
“When you were six what did you do to Billy for ten days straight,” I asked calmly. Billy was the name of my dog when I was nine.
“ um... put him in a baby carriage? She answered correctly.
“ When did I break my left arm?”
“ Ninth Birthday.” Right again.
“What did uncle Jack get you when you were ten.” Last question.
“We don’t have an uncle Jack.” She answered triumphantly.
I smiled for the first time in a while.
After I took off the chains and after she stopped shaking, I asked her,
“how long have I been gone?” I wasn’t sure if I even wanted to know.
“Almost two years.” She answered hesitantly. As if the words were a rock and I was a fragile window.
“Oh,” I knew I was gone for long, just not that long.
“How do you plan out getting out?”
I almost laughed. “You don’t “get out”, there is no way out.” I told her.
She quivered a little bit and then responded with, “uh huh, just because nobody’s ever tried doesn’t mean it’s not possible.”
I laughed darkly. “It has been tried. How do you think one, two, three, and four, died.”
She shrunk against the wall.
“Oh... well we can at least try.”
“No, no we can’t.”
“YES we can.” She said forcefully.
“YES.” Now I’m mad.
“WHY DO YOU THINK I’M IN HERE FOR SO DARN LONG! I TRIED, IT DOESN'T WORK! YOU CAN’T ESCAPE!” I screamed in frustration. Her pupils dilated and she slunk against the wall
“W-w-we c-could.” She practically whispers.
“Fine,” I growl in frustration, “you plan for nine hours about how to get us past the fifty armed guards, and you figure out how to get everyone out of their cells before the guards figure out that bullets work on some of us!”
I let out a sigh and lay on my cot in frustration. My eyelids felt like lead.
“I’m going to sleep through the planning.” I told her bitterly. But I never heard the response as sleep overtook my tired mind.
“Wake up! Wake up!”
“Wh-wh-wha-what.” I said sleepily.
“I’ve got a plan.” Rose answered ecstatically .
“Ok, let's hear it,” I sigh.
“When the guard slips the food into the little slot thingy, I'll use my telekinetic ability stuff to grab his keys, and than-”
“You won’t be able to levitate his keys.” I interrupt
“Huh, why not?”
“They’re made of silver. The curses don't work on silver. I can get hit by silver bullets, and you can't lift silver keys” I explain patiently.
“Oh okay… hmmm.” Her eyes lit up like little fireflies, “then I'll bend the food tray to grab them!”
“Ok .” That actually might work, I thought.
“Next I'll open the cell from the outside. Than we just walk out.” her eyes sparkle mischievously.
“Just “ walk out.” I chuckle
“Yeah. They can’t hit you and I can stop the bullets.” she smiles. “How’d they catch you anyway if you’re immune to guns?”
“Mom and dad and you weren't .” I answer darkly.
I feel her shrink at the words.
“Oh,” she answers quietly.
Then I hear it. The sound of a metal food tray being slid through a small opening and footsteps walking away. I look at Rose and she smiles at me.
“Get ready”, she mouths. She goes tense for a second and then the food tray slides into the cell. I look at it bleekly. It must be made of silver. It’s not bent at all. I look over at Rose. She's smirking happily.
“It’s in the gloop”, she mouths silently. Then the stringy food joins together in a long tendril and pulls the key out of the slimy mass.
“Yes!” Announces Rose happily. I watch in awe as the key is moved by the food outside the cell and listen carefully for the click that should follow. “Click.” And then the door swings open.
“Told you it would work.” Rose says smugly. I’m too excited to argue that technically she didn’t follow the plan . We walk slowly down the massive hallways of the prison checking around every corner. I can see light coming out of the door at the end of the hall. We’re so close. I grab the handle and pull. I hold the door for Rose and then two strong uniformed arms reach out and grab her.
I turn around suddenly to punch the guard but before I can I notice the twelve other uniformed guards standing behind him. Every one of them has silver revolvers on their belts and a silver rifle in their hands.
The man in the front wraps his meaty hand around Rose’s mouth and points his revolver towards me. He’s shaking, and sweat is pouring down his face like a waterfall. The hand holding the revolver is shaking vigorously.
“Let her go.” I growl. The man blinks and loosens his grip on Rose. He shudders and then pulls the trigger on the revolver. I jump out of the way and the bullet wizzes past my ear. I roll as another bullet goes straight over my head. Stone shrapnel flies out of the wall and cuts my cheek. Blood flows out of the wound. I jump towards the man angrily covering about twelve feet. I grab the wrist holding the gun and slam it against the wall. The gun drops into my outstretched palm. I push the revolver against the man's chest.
“Let her go.” I repeat angrily. The man slumps against the wall, shaking. I look and see all the other soldiers pulled towards the floor, struggling to get up as Rose holds them to the ground. I wrench the man's hand off her mouth.
“Let's go.” Rose says to me panting. “I pulled the brass shells off of the bullets, bent them into a rope and tied them to the ground with it.”
“Good job.” I answer smiling. The cut on my cheek has healed already. We run up the stairs, throw open the door, and walk into the unknown.