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Story listed as: Fiction For Teens | Theme: Science Fiction | Subject: Life Changing Decisions/Events | Published here : 10/10/2017
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The Outside 
 
By McKenzie Dahlke
Born 2000, F, from Athens Alabama, United States
The Outside
Heart pounding, head throbbing, feet flying, I look into the darkness in front of me. Or is it behind me? Is It all around? The never ending darkness that seems to consume every ounce of light reflected from my eyes. Keep running, I tell myself as I push forward, the voice inside my head now even sounds like it’s gasping for air. Gasping for a breath, gasping for a light, gasping for a chance. The blood rushes to my head with an overflow like a sledge hammer in my brain, I feel my knees buckle under me, my calfs cramping. I feel the breath inside me struggle to not only get in but get out. The dirt under my feet is cold, moist, soft to the touch, as I imagine dirt to be after a rain. I search for the sun, beg for it, but I can’t even imagine it now. My body breathes like a heart itself, but it’s failing. My eyelids begin to feel heavy, my legs sinking, then my hands, and finally, I fall to the ground, the hard unforgiving ground that refuses to fall from under me, to hide me. I’ve been caught once again.

* * * *

I feel myself wake up in a daze, my breathing heavier than ever, my body even more so. I had it, I had the dream again. Again the darkness, again the running, again the failure. Unfortunately, the sweet sweet little detail this dream always seems to leave out is how I escaped. How I left these crisp white bed sheets in the past and found my way out of here into a future. How I escape these metallic confinements full of deceit and imprisonment. Of course, that little detail just has to wait. As I calm my self down I roll my eyes unamused. How can my mind possibility be my own enemy? The wall is the same as yesterday, and the day before that, and the day before that…. It’s a sickly light grey, almost white when you first glance at it, but I’ve stared at it enough to know the difference. They tell me it’s seventeen years, I’m seventeen years old. But I don't know how to believe that or if I shouldn’t. There’s so little I know. So little they allow me to know.

Slowly, I raise to an upright position in my bleach white sheets, my back making little pops as I rise. Sitting against the backboard of my whitely painted metal bed I wonder a lot. Sometimes I wonder if something, anything, could turn out different. If one little thing could change the course of everything. If just a single raindrop could set in motion an entire hurricane. If a single move could open one of those doors to outside. That’s one of the many things I don't know.

My eyes involuntarily look to the single digital clock embedded in the wall across from me, bright white letter barely standing out against the grey. There’s what I do know. I know they will come in in exactly eleven minutes, at 6:40. I know I’m going to put on another white T shirt and another pair of white pants, I know I’m going to put on a pair of white shoes, I know my hair is long and dark brown, I know my eyes are a mix of green and blue, and I know my skin is a light olive tan. That’s about all I know about myself, all that can’t be altered.

Finally, I convince myself to rise and get dressed. There’s no closet, no laundry basket, no desk, and no chair, just a single hanger on my door each morning holding my clothes, and a spot to leave my shoes each night. The only thing different is the stacks of books I have in the corner. My only door to the outside world. To how it feels, smells, looks. They give me books when I’ve done particularly well on a certain test or maze or experiment. To the left of my bed is a single white sliding door that leads to a bathroom with two towels, a hair brush, a tooth brush, and toilet. As I grab the single lone hanger of clothes and make my way to that door sometimes I imagine its a door to outside. And there will be grass and dirt, and maybe a flower or two, but no darkness, only the sun. However, every time I slide this door, I’m welcomed by the same white light that isn't the sun— just a thin lightbulb that never seems to run out. And not the delicate soft grass, but the cold hard tile of the bathroom floor.

The pants fit loosely on my long legs so that I have to pull and tie the strings twice in a perfect double knot, when it’s lopsided they get mad. Next is the white shirt, then brushing my hair, then brushing my perfect teeth— everything so white.

“Miss Genesis are you ready?” I heard a cold familiar voice speak from the main room door, calling me to attention, away from all my sweet daydreams.

“Yes, just a moment.” I reply in a perfect monotone voice, one small abnormality and they will run dozens of tests. I take one last look in my mirror, set the hairbrush down, and prepare myself for another day.

Once when I was little, but not too little, I asked if my name was really my name. I guess it was when I finally started to figure out what was going on. Where I was, who I am, an experiment. “Genesis is the name we gave you.” The doctor had said with a fake smile that I was too young to realize was insincere. “Because you are the beginning.”

Sullenly, I slide back the door to reveal a perfect smile to Miss Varian, or is it Mrs. Varian? They never did tell us anything about themselves. I see Miss Varian twice a week or so, she seems to be one of his favorite assistants. Her red hair is always slicked back into a perfect swirl of a bun, no freckles on her cold pale face or thin frame. I swear, you spend enough time here, and even the people begin to turn white. Miss Varian puts a hand through my hair, I’m forced to stay perfectly still.

“Today is a very special day.” Miss Varian says with her calming voice. The years have put small wrinkles around her mouth and green eyes. I wonder if she knows how I can feel what she’s feeling right now, anticipate everything she will do. But somehow I am still at the disadvantage?

“And why is that Miss Varian?” I ask with half interest as I gaze at the half open and half closed door behind her, not sure if I would rather stay in or go out.

“Today we will begin one of your final testing series, Genesis. Truly a remarkable day.” This time she really is smiling, a true smile that looks uncommon on her face. It’s frightening. Final? There’s an end? Finally Miss Varian turns to exit the door, her joy overshadowing my confusion. I follow, just like every morning, out into the hallway. Instantly I look to my right to find him. The long white hallway that circles the entire top half of the building. Once I thought about jumping off the rail 4 feet in front of me, plummeting to the bottom. But of course, the top half is covered from ceiling to rail in transparent firm glass. I see Miss Cecil outside the room to the right of me. Finally walking out just like Miss Varian did, Lucas trailing behind her. Lucas always stands out against the whole place. He has darker tan skin that’s never faded from the patronizing florescent lights. His dark hair standing out even more at a dark brown like mine, matching his dark brown eyes. Lucas is the only person near my age that I’ve ever met, but nevertheless, I like to think, that even if we had met a thousand other people, we would still have been each others best friend.

Once, I read about people like us in a book. People trapped, and I learned of a word called love. They loved each other, which, from what I gathered, meant that they always put the other first. That they would do anything for each other, and never leave each other. I can still remember what Lucas said when I shared this with him. “Oh no this is a big problem.” He said seriously. I remember how concerned I was. “What?” I asked. “I think I love you.” He replied with a sympathetic smile as I playfully hit him on the shoulder. That was a good day. I smile down at the ground before I look back up at him. Love. It had become the one secret we could have— even if we don't completely understand it. He looks back at me immediately, of course, he can sense when I’m looking at him. We can sense everything. I can sense the slight pick up in his heart rate based on his finger movement, as he can do the same with me. It’s how we’re designed.

Finally Miss Varian walks over to meet up with Miss Cecil. Allowing Lucas and I to walk together behind them.
“How’d you sleep last night?” He asked as he does every morning.
“Restlessly.” I reply honest.
“Yea prison will do that to you ya know.” He smiles down at me, forcing me to smile back. In the midst of all this misery, he can still find a way to make me laugh.
“So did Miss Cecil tell you all of this big day crap Doctor Freed fed them today?”
Miss Cecil and Miss Varian now walking a good ten yards ahead of us.
“Yes but Cecil seemed very melancholy about it.” He said slightly proud, and I knew exactly why.
“Wow new vocabulary, very nice.” I give him a slight nudge.
“You should know, you taught me like twenty new words last week.”
“Well excuse me for trying to keep you educated Lucas.”
“Educated? Gen we’re literally living super computers.”
I pondered this for a moment. That’s what doctor Freed would say. That he’s turning us into… what’s it called? Quantum computers?
“Yes. Educated in all of the wrong ways and none of the ways of life.” I finally return. Lucas pounds his chest humorously as if he’d been knocked back. I had won this argument.
“Well. It’s not much of a life here,” He paused to look around. Then grabbed my hand, another thing I read about. “But with you it’s not as bad as it could be.”

I smiled at the ground, sure he could feel my elevated pulse through my hand, but that doesn't matter. Where Lucas is concerned, I’m as transparent as that wall of confining glass. I felt the small circular scars on his wrist with my fingers, wishing I could heal them. Along with the matching faded scars we share on our temporal lobes. I remember this one book I read. No, it was a play by a man named Shakespeare, and all his characters did was kiss. A physical connection from passion and love. Once, on the extremely rare occasion when they let me and Lucas go, just for a couple hours, alone in a room with books and things, I told him about what I’d read. I told him about the death and the love and the competition… and about the kiss. But instead of kissing my lips like the characters, He kissed every single one of the scars they had given me. “I’m loving them away.” He had said.

We approach the big square white door on the other end of the balcony. The big room? Today must really be a special day. I squeeze Lucas’s hand tightly before letting it go. His confusion pairing up with mine. We both sense it. The electricity is way off. It’s overpowering everything else in the room. Miss Varian and Miss Cecil both look at only me and smile. Each of them taking one of the large metal rods to open the doors.

The set up is different this time. As Lucas and I walk in we look about us at the all too familiar room. White walls of course, but the only room with a black floor. The computers we usually do work on are gone, the boards where we work out equations are gone, the small animals that we tested our medicines on are gone, all that stands in the giant room is two single chairs facing a larger one, with Dr. Freed inhabiting it. I quickly analyze him. He reeks of ammonia and sulfur. His grey hair is unusually neat but his shoes naturally dirty. I can process a dozen chemical equations and provide solutions in three seconds, but this is a mystery I cannot solve off the top of my head. What is he doing? Lucas looks at me terrified. What will they do to us today?

As we walk closer I see a bucket of water in front of one of the chairs. No. And then I see the voltage control board in Dr. Freed’s lap, wires hanging — ready to go. Lucas and I now stand in front of him, the chairs behind us. Miss Cecil and Miss Varian looking like little minions on either side of him. Two wires are already in the bucket, neither Lucas nor I dare sit in the chair. My eyes dart to the slight abnormality in Dr. Freed’s lab coat pocket. Judging from height, width, and aboral shape— its a gun. Judging the weight differential in the coat, it’s loaded.

“Miss Genesis please sit in chair one.” He says blankly, his thin glasses looking down at the board in front of him, but then, he smiles? I do not return the smile. I see Lucas’s horror in his deep eyes. I sit in the chair with the bucket of water placed in front of it. Immediately Miss Cecil and Varian come with leather straps to put around my wrist in order to hold me. New ones too? Lucas reluctantly sits in the seat beside me, almost looking as if he would do something rash. As if this time was different, and it feels different. Usually its only a matter of how much pain, how much learning, how much time. But this time, it’s almost like its a matter of life and death. Like one of my books.

“Oh Miss Genesis,” Dr. Freed says almost so enthusiastically I feel sick. “We have come such a long way.”
“Aw are you getting sentimental on me Dr. Freed?” I say sarcastically, not letting my intimidation show. But... is he laughing? It’s ever so slight but its there… a laugh. I watch Lucas’s large hands turn white as he holds the chair tightly, I’m sure by now he’s recognized the gun in Freed’s lab coat. He’s angry. Dr. Freed slowly walks over to me, placing the electric dashboard in his chair.
“What I mean is, your brain, Genesis. It’s now working 87% faster than the average human brain. You did very well on your biochemical equations last week. I think we’re even going to use it in a new medication we are working on for reducing tumors. Are you ready for a quick test today?”
“Always.” I say, almost challenging him. What’s gotten into me?

He doesn’t delay, it’s almost like he wants this over with, to get to the main event.
“Why is the strong interaction blind to the third component of Isospin?” He demands.
“The ordinary spin couples to a magnetic field but not to the electric field. Therefore, the electric field cannot distinguish between spinless and spinful particles. Is there a similar reason here? Thanks for any help.” I reply instantly. He knows I know this? What game is he playing?
“Good.” He said and smiled another sickly smile. “I think eventually we will make you so smart, you might just cure cancer.”
Cancer, that a sickness they talk about a lot. I’ve never actually seen it on a person. But I know everything medically about it. They fried it into me.
“I have a question for you Dr. Freed.” I feel my anger bottle up. I feel every electric burn, every bruised cheek, every bloody hand, I feel it all in that question. I feel Lucas’s gaze on me, worried. I ask without Dr. Freed answering. “Do you ever worry…. That we might become even smarter than you?” I said it, and then I felt it. His old but strong hand across my face. Hard against my cheek, blasting my head to the side. I feel a slight trickle of blood in my right cheek, rippling to my tongue.
“No!” I hear Lucas shout, but I look at him through small strands of my hair, begging him to shut up. This one was my fault.
“Insulant.” Dr. Freed whispers as he fixes his glasses to the bridge of his nose. “Such a magnificent mind you have Genesis. Shame to waste it on stupid questions. Don’t put all my hard work to waste.”

I feel myself ache with disdain as Miss Varian attaches the small cold silver circles to my temporal lobes. Right over the newly healed scars. I see Lucas struggle to stay in his seat. Normally Dr. Freed has at least a dozen other scientists in here, they’ve come and gone over the years. Accompanied by two ape looking gentlemen— maybe that's why he needs the gun, it’s just us.

“You know I don't get sentimental.” He begins. “And you know why.” I watch him put the left hand he had just hit me with in his pocket, pulling out the mysterious gun. What’s your play? “Tell me what the key to survival is Miss Genesis.”
It was a comment he told me all the time. One I did not believe, but one that is logically right. “No emotion.” I answer defiantly but calm. My small hands shaking slightly under their restraints.
“Perfect.” He claims, though I still don't understand his point. “Now what do you think is limiting you from reaching your full brain functioning speed? Hm? Maybe a little too much hormone? Not enough logic?”

I dart my eyes to Lucas. God no. The start of the finish, the last test to make me the perfect brain. I always knew I was ahead of Lucas by a small margin. I would beat him every maze by .2 seconds, every chemical balance by maybe .4, but I guess .4 is enough. They’ve decided I am superior. Natural selection.

“Ah. Too much emotion.” He continues. I begin to fight my restrains. Ready to finally fight. Ready to throw my first punch in seventeen years. “You will never reach your full potential with all that emotion weighing down your logic!” He exclaims as I still resist. But now I see he is pointing the gun at Lucas. I stop. “It’s not your fault my girl. We planned it this way. It’s your genetic make up. We need you both to experience emotion. So that when one of you proved to be superior, you could get rid of the other and then fully function in a logical and realistic state.”

I only half hear his words. My eyes are fixed on the gun so heavily I could tell you every ingredient used to make such a weapon, and even the bullet inside of it. No.
“So let me tell you what I am going to do.” He continues, I feel heat rise in my eyes. “I’m going to let you out, and you are going to shoot Lucas. Do you understand?”
“NO!” Was all I could think to scream, but that was enough. Miss Cecil hit a switch on the board. Electricity running through my body. I feel the heat in my brain, in my blood, singing the tips of my fingers and toes. Finally it stops.
“He is the inferior Genesis!” He’s attempting to persuade. “I have taught you better than this! You see! This is the only way for you to open your mind to helping thousands! MILLIONS Genesis!”

I don’t care what he says. This isn’t right. This isn’t what I’m meant to do. He did not create me. Lucas. “I’ll go to hell first.” I replied, looking at Lucas as I hear Miss Cecil flip the switch. Lucas gets hazy as my head goes up and down vibrating in pain. But I see the torment in Lucas’s eyes still. Peering inside my over heating body. Finally it ceases, they've never kept it going for that long before. My body slumps in the chair, wrists sore from the struggle.

“Genesis, your life is worth so much more than all of this pain you are putting yourself through. You must choose between a life worth living without him, or death my child. There is only one logical answer. He is an experiment, expendable.”

“Death.” I reply. He turns to look at me with disbelief, only for half a moment, but that moment is all it takes for Lucas. He calculated the chances, he calculated the risk, the length to get out, but still he pounced. He took his right hand to Dr. Freed’s face and his left to the gun, throwing it across the room and pushing Freed’s face into the ground. I see small trickles of red. I force my body to maintain strength. To undo the electricity surging through it. I see Miss Cecil and Varian come at Lucas with needles, but their frail bodies don't stand a chance. He crushes the needles and then pushes them to the ground, making them stay.

“The gun Lucas.” I manage to whisper, struggling to sit up. I watch his long body race for the gun but he’s back in seconds, undoing my leather straps. Tears coming from his eyes, gun in his white waist strap.
“I wanted to…” He undoes one strap. “Gen I’m so sorry….” He undoes the other and I cup his face. Kissing it with as much effort as I can give.
“Lucas, you are extraordinary.”
He rests his head on me, but not for long. Somehow I find the strength to stand returning. Adrenaline maybe? I watch Dr. Freed struggle for consciousness on the floor. Pitiful. I feel my right foot kick the bucket of water at him, making him roll to another side. Taking the dots off my head I place them on his, walking over to the dash board with a confidence that frightened Miss Cecil and Varian to stay where they were. And I flipped every last switch.

Without looking back at his arching body we run, run out every door we see. Lucas shoots through one door, then two, then three, all made of transparent glass. Till finally we don't see white, we see black. I hear one last gunshot, one last glass shatter, and we’re out. Outside? There is an outside. It’s not fiction. Is this grass? I look beneath me, my feet still moving swiftly. Is this dirt? I feel the soft ground beneath me, and although it’s dark, there’s billions of stars lighting up the sky. There’s a breeze of air swishing about us. Outside. We’re outside.

So here I am. Heart pounding, head throbbing, feet flying, running into the darkness, but this time it’s not a dream. I have Lucas’s hand in mine. It’s not about mind over matter, it’s about life over death, about a life with love, over death. A life outside.
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