New Year’s Day 2042
“What were you thinking, Brit? You don’t know what that stuff’s gonna do to you!”
“What I was thinking is: I wanna have a special ability; like everyone else.”
Griffin’s temper rose so high, he could feel his nostrils flare. “Everyone? Not me.” His words came out with a growl, and Brittany flinched like he’d cut her with a knife. Tears sprang to her eyes and he softened his tone. “You know how I feel about that drug. It’s not right to mess with nature.”
She shook her head. “I’ve heard what you think and I believe you’re wrong. People that took M ten years ago are fine, and their kids have been born with an ability. I want to pass that on to my own, our kids—”
He lifted a hand, cutting her off. “There can never be an our again. You just sealed that fate. I refuse to be with someone who’s been tampered with. Remember, those people who took the original version of M, the one that was tested and run through a million clinical trials, paid through the nose for it. You’ve taken some street copy that’s not FDA approved and costs a hundred bucks. There’s no telling what it’ll do to you long term.” She looked down then lifted her eyes to meet his. How he loved looking into those green jewels trimmed by long, thick lashes. His throat constricted with the thought it would never happen again.
“I know you don’t think M2 is safe, but let me show you something.” She lifted a hand and ran it through his hair before passing him a gold disk. “Now, look in the mirror.”
Staring at his reflection, he felt his jaw fall open and snapped it shut. “Put. It. Back.”
Again, she ran a hand through his hair.
His voice shaky, he passed the mirror back to her after a thorough inspection. “Don’t ever touch me again.”
“What’s wrong with you? It’s just a little color change.” She stuck the mirror back in her bag.
Before she could turn around, he was gone. His feet pounded the pavement and sent shock-waves through his body, up to his heart. It was necessary to run from her, because he couldn’t stand to break her heart while looking her in the face. Stopping for a breather, he touched his watch. “New text message, Brittany Rose, I’m sorry about the way this happened but you knew what you were doing when you did it, period, you knew how I felt, period, it was your decision, period. Send.” He heard the whoosh indicating the message had been sent and touched his watch again. “Phone off.” A ping indicated it was powering down. He sighed and turned toward home.
As he walked, he admired the city. Since the induction of the Phaedrons, over ten years ago, there was very little trash on the streets and virtually no homeless. What happened to them was a mystery. Clearion was the first city to be cleaned up, and everyone living on the streets seemed to disappear overnight. People had conspiracy theories, sure; but no one had facts to base any of it on. Some said the homeless were taken to serve the government, others alluded that the Phaedrons killed the poor people and dumped their bodies in a landfill. Griffin shook his head at the lunacy and bent down to pick up an errant flier blowing by. In huge display text, it read: M2 Party at the Hot Spot 6-9 p.m. Friday, January 3. Come get your mutant on! Anger that had begun to recede from the endorphins released by his run rushed back to the surface, and he ripped the offensive page into confetti before putting it in a nearby garbage bin.
When he breezed through the door, over an hour later, his mother had her angry face on. He asked, “What did I do?”
“What did you do? You didn’t answer my calls or texts! I thought you were dead!” Mom’s face turned red. “Plus, I got a call from Brittany, who was in tears, saying the two of you had broken up and she was worried about you.”
“Yeah, we broke up. I turned my phone off so she couldn’t call me. I can’t believe she called you.”
“Well? What caused all this? You two have been going out for over a year and you seemed happy.” Mom threw her hands in the air and slumped.
“She took M2. Ruined us. You know how I feel about it; you feel the same way. So don’t start telling me I made a rash decision.”
“She did what?”
“You heard right. No, I don’t wanna talk about it.” Griffin stormed off to his room. He felt bad about snapping at his mother, but it was silly that she seemed to think she could fix it when she didn’t know why it was broken. Well, she found out. He fell on the bed and sighed, wishing he could cry.
Sleep was a torturous monster, consuming his mind and giving him nightmares. After running from a three-headed, mutated Brittany and waking for the third time in a cold sweat, he gave up and went to the kitchen for a cup of coffee. As the steamy liquid issued forth, he took a peek at the time over the insta-oven: 4:32 a.m. He leaned his head against the cabinet and drew in a deep breath. At least there was no school for another week or so. That meant a respite from Brittany and her gaggle of girly goons. When the coffeemaker pinged, he snagged the cup and headed back to his room to get his virtual reality glasses and gloves. They were a birthday gift from his grandmother last year. He smiled when he thought about Grandma and her fiery temper. She was the one who’d convinced him how much of a temple his body was, and told him mother nature wasn’t a creature to be toyed with. Smart lady.
Sucking down his coffee, he threw on a pair of ripped jeans and a tee shirt before grabbing his VR glasses from their place on the shelf and heading for the door. Just before he turned the knob, he snapped his fingers and turned around to leave his mom a note: Gone to VR, be back later. Love you. He stuck it to the front of the coffeemaker, knowing it would be the first thing she touched when she got up, and left.
Once outside, things looked up. It seemed the day in the building was going to be clear and warm, perfect for a game of Military Training Nineteen, his VR game of choice. He strapped on the glasses, tightening the band so they wouldn’t fall off, stuck his hands into the gloves, and pressed the button on his right wrist to start the game.
Blinking lights invaded his sight: New Game?
“Yes,” he said aloud.
They changed to read: Game Loading… Scanning location… Start!
At once, his empty hands were holding a virtual pistol; which he loaded and held to his chest before beginning to creep up the alley near his house. It was nice living in a suburban high-rise because there was rarely anyone out before seven or eight, and he could play without the worry he’d be bumping into people. Up the alley he went, then down to the lower levels and smaller housing lots via the moving sidewalk.
“This is weird. No bad guys. I wonder—” His words were cut short when a group of men, wearing black masks and a red symbol that looked like an upside down number three in a circle with a bar up the middle, burst out of a nearby doorway and pointed guns at his head. “Gotcha.” His game-face was on and he rolled behind a tree before taking all of them out in six shots. “Ha. One for each of you! Die, scum!”
As he was about to check them for ammo, his VR glasses went green and gave a ring. Pressing the button to answer, he said, “Hello?”
Mom’s voice came back at him. “Honey, do you think it’s a good idea to be out at this time of the morning playing your stupid war game?”
He took a deep breath to avoid losing his temper. “Yes, I do. I need some time for myself and—” The screen went red. “Great, thanks. You just got me killed. I’ll be home later. Don’t call me on my game anymore!”
“Okay, I’m sorry. I’m just worried. I love you.”
“I love you, too. I’ll be home in a little while.” He pressed the button to end the call and read the lights blinking: Fatal shot. You are dead. New Game? “Yes,” he said, and gave a sigh. When the game indicated it was live, he reloaded and took off again, this time even lower in the building to the singles’ lots. They had a lot of scrubby brush there he could hide behind.
Game play was fast and furious once he got warmed up and he took out no less than two-hundred bad guys over the next two hours. He’d had to stab one dude who thought he was gonna jump out and attack from behind. Sissy. Dude didn’t even have a gun. Griffin pulled off the glasses and hung them around his neck before pressing the off button and turning toward home. When he realized how far up the building he’d ventured, he took a moment to walk to the plexi railing and look out over the ‘burbs.
People were just beginning to start their day and the moving sidewalks were in high gear. If he looked straight across, he could see Brittany’s house winking back at him from the upper levels. Mansions, all of ‘em. One level down was where his family resided; the backbone of the ‘burbs, the real people, blue collar workers that fueled the city and kept it running. Under their level was the smaller lots, and under that was the singles’ houses. Those were mostly occupied by teens who’d just graduated high-school and were in college. No one there was married. It wasn’t allowed. According to the decree, married people must both be employed unless one of the two gross over two-hundred thousand dollars a year. Limits on children were based on income. His own parents had hit theirs when his sister was born five years prior. Mom had been sterilized, so had Dad. Griffin huffed. It was just one more way the government found to control the masses.
At that moment, a group of Phaedrons flew by on their aerial gliders. Griffin shrank back and made himself as small as possible. That was trouble he didn’t need. After they’d passed, he made his way down to his house, stopping to admire the evergreens in the front yard.
Mom poked her head out. “Hi, honey! Did you have a good time?”
Griffin curled a lip and gave her a half smile. “Yeah, until you got me whacked.”
“I’m sorry. You’re right, you did leave me a note and I shouldn’t have bothered you.”
“Just kidding. Gee, you’re touchy today, huh?”
She shrugged and gave him mom eyes. He loved when she looked at him like that. It was like nothing in the world could go wrong as long as she was nearby. Stepping up to the door, he shoved it open the rest of the way and grabbed her in a bear hug. Mom hugged him back and patted his shoulder.
“I love you, do you know that?” Her eyes sparkled and he could feel pride radiating from her being.
“Yeah, I do. I love you, too. Hey, where’s Nikki? I’m thinking I’d like to take her to the park today.”
“She’s in her room playing. Wanna hear something weird?”
“She got up asking about you this morning.”
“Did she? Well, I’ll have to treat her extra nice today.” He grinned and headed to collect his little sister.
When he poked his head in the door, she looked up and smiled, showing every tooth in her head.
“Hi, Bubs!” She leapt from her seat on the floor and flew into his arms. “You gonna take me outside today?”
He smiled back, knelt, and stuck her on his knee. “I sure am. But you need your big coat because we’re leaving the building, okay?”
Her eyes got wide. “Oooooh, we’re going to the big park? Outside?”
“Uh hu, we sure are. So go get your coat, hat, and boots. I’ll be waiting in the living room.”
She clapped her chubby hands and hopped off his knee, racing for her closet.
His heart warmed at the sight of her so excited and ready to go. When he stood up and turned around, he found his mother standing in the hall. Her eyes were wet.
“You’re such a good big brother.”
A smile he couldn’t stop spread across his face and it grew warm. He knew he was blushing. “Moooom, come on…”
She turned and walked away, but he swore her step was a little lighter.
He put his VR glasses away and donned his own cold-weather clothing before heading to the living room and sitting down to wait.
When Nikki came out, she had her coat on inside-out and her boots on the wrong feet. Chuckling, he beckoned her over and helped her get straight before leading her to the door. “Bye, Mom! We’ll be back later!”
I'm already thinking about the cover. Whaddya think about the story thus far? Of course, I didn't give you the whole chapter, that would've been rude. You gotta have something to keep you wondering!
Well, that's all for today, folks! Until next time, WRITE ON!