It reminds you of Grandma's basement.
How cold and baize the walls that surround you are, how you have to walk down stairs to get to it. There's a bed in the corner but it looks like something you've seen in the hospital when you have appointments.
Daddy's hand is on your shoulder as you stand there with your little suitcase, but it doesn't feel very comforting and you can't shake the feeling that you're being punished for what happened last week in Ohio. You're not really sure where you are now, there was no ticket for the plane ride, and anytime you asked someone where you were going no one answered.
You don't like it here. You want to go home, but when you say so to daddy he just squeezes your shoulder softly and tells you that this is home now. That really makes you nervous because your other room was pink, with blue striped wallpaper, and your bed had a canopy thingy that'd you'd try to jump and hit your head with. This room, well, it's just a box.
Grandma would come in and wake you up, make you cinnamon toast in the mornings before school, and sing while doing so. Daddy doesn't seem like a singer and you don't know if he can cook or not. Grandma who never talked about her first house and what happened; something tells you it's going to be a big deal now because daddy's already mentioned it twice and you've only been here for twenty minutes.
You don't want to stay but daddy says it's not an option and he nudges you toward the bed. It's hard, the sheets smell funny, and the pillowcase almost feels like paper. Daddy says he has work to do but he will be back to check in on you later.
Oh, one more thing, he says and pulls out a large framed picture. You don't know how he got it, and you don't ask, because it puts such a big smile on your face you don't even care.
The unicorn standing on a hill with a rainbow arching over its head. You remember when Grandma gave it to you. You remember when she let you pick the spot on the wall where it would go. You remember staring at it for hours wishing you could live in the place where they existed.
You stare at it for hours when Daddy leaves you alone.
You snap your fingers and it's such a pretty color.
They wouldn't stop when you wanted them to. They didn't care that you cried because it hurt too much to keep going. Their stupid stinky-heads all looking down on you when you fold your arms, pout, and refuse.
It's funny to you at first. The way the tall one's eyes roll backward when he gets too close, when you open your hand toward him, out jumps the blue. And when the short one screams it makes no difference because they were hurting you first. So the third tried to run, didn't get very far before you made it happen again. They all lie on the floor groaning, writhing, and you fold your arms again, breathing heavy, starting to shiver, and scrunch up your face at the mirror on the wall. The magic one you know people are standing behind.
More men in white suits burst through the door and you feel your eyes go wide because they look so scary serious and you're backing away as quick as you can.
You wiggle and thrash and scream every dirty curse word you ever overheard from the guards.
Daddy, you cry, where's daddy?
No answers. Why doesn't anyone ever answer your questions?
You try the spark again but they've got your hands covered with big black gloves. All you can see is the bright lights on the ceiling and you count them, one, two, three.
It's number thirty-eight when you hear a door open and all of a sudden the world is right side up again. They put you in a chair and before you can even think of running they've got both arms strapped in, and you're back to trying to wriggle free.
Daddy walks in and he does not look happy. You try your best to explain but he puts his hand up, and you go silent.
"I am very disappointed in you Elle," he says in the firm voice he uses all the time.
The shame goes straight to your stomach and you hang your head muttering a half-sincere apology. Daddy doesn't say anything after that, only nods to one of the people who put you in the chair, and ow nobody said you were getting a shot.
The needle doesn't go away, and the odd tingling sensation you feel creeping up your arm makes your head feel funny and fall back.
Through bleary eyes you watch daddy pull up a stool and sit next to you, places a hand on yours, and hums happy birthday.
They say you've committed a crime you can't even spell the name of and oh, they are very serious this time with the reprimands and the consequences of your actions and all the dumb little things they've already told you a million times over.
You shock people all the time. It's fun to see their faces twist and to make them jump and flinch. It's fun when they get that look like it's the last thing they ever expected you to do even though it's obvious they know you can do it.
So what if this man fell to the ground and didn't get up this time? He shouldn't have been trying so hard to understand just how you get the spark focus on your fingertips. It's just something you do, something you've always done. So what if his breath smelled like sour cream and onion chips and scowled at you when asked if he ever brushed his teeth. So what if he asked over and over again to try and aim the energy and the first thing you did was point it at his chest.
What the heck does cardiac arrest mean anyway?
So what if all you did was stand there when he didn't get up again. So what if you kind of smiled a little when you realized just how scared the people who came in to collect the body were when they saw the look on your face.
So what if you didn't react when they said he was dead. TV says people die all the time, and when a mommy and a daddy love each very much, the world can just make more.
So what if daddy didn't yell this time because all he could was look at you in surprise.
So what if more doctors ask more questions now that they realize you just don't care.
So what, so what, so what?
Daddy stops buying you dolls because you only have them for a few days before the smell comes wafting out of your room. Before plastic skin burns black and fake hair curls in a way the accessory kit never intended.
"This is the last time," he says. "No more."
What? You shout back. He wants you to practice all the time, and when you do there's a problem? They're your dolls and you can do whatever you want with them. Besides, it's not like he can't go and make more gold out of the kitchenware for money.
"It's not about money Elle," he says. "It's about respect for…"
You tune him out after that because he's got that look, one of many, he keeps talking and it really doesn't interest you. So you roll your eyes and go back to playing with little miss toaster face.
You get to fly on a plane for the first time since you moved to the compound because daddy reluctantly agreed to take you on one of his business trips. You study the destination on the ticket, Texas, and you know you've seen it on a map before. Daddy hasn't told you exactly where you're going but you're so excited it really doesn't matter.
When waiting in line you notice some old lady next to you leaves her purse on the ground and there is gum resting at the bottom. She's busy reading her book and no one else seems to be looking, so you slip your hand inside and take it.
You ask a thousand questions on the plane, daddy seems to be really uninterested in answering them, and makes little noises in the back of his throat while trying to concentrate on paperwork. A few times you snatch a page away just to get his attention and giggle at his furious face. It's not like he can threaten to turn the plane around.
When you land there's a car waiting, you stare out the window asking more questions, and daddy looks like he's at his wits end. The car pulls up to a paper factory and you finally shut up because you just can't believe this is where you were going the whole time.
Following daddy through hallways that look exactly like the one's at home have you folding your arms and pouting like there's no tomorrow. Daddy makes you shake hands with the guy who runs the place, and in your head you call him iceman because his features are so cold, even though he says his name is Noah.
They have a lot of work to do and daddy suggests to the iceman that, perhaps, it's best if she were taken to his house. Maybe a little playtime with his daughter will be a better use of her day.
"Claire is only four," the iceman says. "I don't see what she and a twelve year old could possibly do together."
You say fine. You didn't want to play with a stupid baby anyway.
Being taught responsibility is about as boring as it sounds, especially when daddy loves to emphasize just how important it is when he tells you that you're to file anything he gives you. You're to answer phones when you're not in the testing facility. You're to take guests food and medication.
What for? You ask.
"Because I want you to," he says in a way that tells you the conversation is over.
Fine, he wants you to be the obedient little girl; you can play along for a little while. Doing house chores and paperwork and giving people, who think it's the strangest thing that a little girl is the one delivering, their food.
One day you dress up as nicely as you can and walk to the front desk to answer the phone. When daddy strolls by and sees you this way he has the strangest look on his face, one you don't recognize.
When you ask what? He almost smiles.
You've learned that you can manipulate anything with an electrical current, that all you have to do is place your hand on whatever it is you want to mess with and concentrate. Unfortunately half the time you don't have the patience, and mostly short things out or blow them up.
Tonight there's something different in the air, you can tell as you lie on your bed staring out the tiny window, listening to the small pitter patter of rain collecting on the ledge. You've never liked water, the science of why obvious, and even shower as fast as you possibly can. Still you wonder, as you move to stand and rest your chin on the windowsill, if something out there wants you.
Walking out of your room is still only a short earned freedom, daddy's little reward for not killing anyone or stealing anything for two months. There's no guard posted at the door or at the end of the hallway, but the camera watches your every move. You look at it perched up there, tilt your head and wave to whoever might be watching, and think that you want it to shut off.
The spark snaps bright white on top of the camera, and you mutter a curse under your breath, but the end result is what you wanted. An alarm on the door is easily unplugged so you don't bother with the new trick. Once outside it's cold and windy, and the rain immediately makes the hair start to cling to the sides of your face.
It's only water, you think, but it makes you itch in a way that is not comfortable.
You don't know what is making you want to do this.
There's a flash in the sky, you look upward, and flinch at the thunder that follows. The air smells funny, you're not supposed to be here, but when the flash goes off again you're captivated.
You don't flinch at the thunder this time; feel the blue building on its own crawling up and down your skin, making you jump as the shock turns on you.
A bolt shoots straight from the clouds, right to where you're standing, and lifts you from your feet.
The weightlessness is amazing, slow motion rain drops fluttering around, as you fly backward through the air.
You think you're going to die, yet have never felt more alive.
Sometimes daddy confuses the hell out of you.
There are moments when he seems so sick and tired of the how you act around other people, the way you behave, the way you do what you please.
And there are times like this, where he brings you into a room that causes the hairs on the back of your neck to raise, a cold chill shooting down your spine, and somewhere in your mind you feel like you've been in one before.
There's a man strapped to a table with some kind of gag in his mouth. You automatically reach out your hand to touch him, his skin is so cold.
You thought he was done bringing you dolls.
He rolls his eyes at the memory, then looks to the side at one of those magic mirrors, and nods his head. They're expecting you to do something that much is obvious, but daddy is being strangely cryptic.
Circling the table, the man tries to follow you with wide eyes, you tickle and pinch him all you want, and for once daddy doesn't object.
"Elle," he says finally. "What do you know about electro shock therapy?"
For a second you just stand there, because a part of you doubts he's suggesting just what you think he is. You can feel the phantom sparks just waiting to explode from your hands and it takes all you have not to snap them right then and there.
He explains what he means, tells you what he and his colleagues would like you to try. How this man is a bit of a loose end, a troublemaker, and perhaps some reprogramming is necessary.
You're so amazed you even get to do it you're disbelief is rampant.
Does he mean it?
The smile on your face feels so wide as you rush over to him, throw your arms around his waist.
Thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you.
It feels like he truly understands you in moments like this.
You put your hands on the man's head, and when daddy nods, you feel the freedom of the spark.
Check your mirrors, ten and two, use your signals.
You know he regrets his decision the second your foot hits the gas pedal.
When the car you've finally convinced him to teach you how to drive squeals across the parking lot, your eyes lighting up at the excitement of it all. And oh how fun it is to see daddy clutching at the door and arm rest, shifting nervously in his seat, eyes wide with panic.
"The brake Elle," he says voice tight and clipped. "Use the brake!"
So you do, slam the sucker down and wrench hard on the wheel, bursting with laughter at daddy flailing around. Ironically you one-eighty the car almost perfectly into one of the parking stalls, so you turn and grin. He's too scared to be angry, breathing heavy, sweat coming off his bald head.
See? You're a good driver.
You throw it back into gear before he can protest.
You get sent to Japan because you're supposed to learn Japanese, daddy keeping the company grooming process going because you've slowly been learning everything since you were thirteen.
Mostly you end up blowing off the tutor and spending all your time in the arcades that seem to be everywhere, using your trick to get free games, so many flashing lights and sounds, washing you in an electrostatic bath of heaven.
You meet a boy named Yojiro, who doesn't seem to mind that you're completely hands on from the start, and he shows you every single electronic gadget and gizmo he can find.
It's almost a week before he starts to look at you strangely. The communication is off because his English is pretty basic and your Japanese flat out sucks. You think maybe it's because you haven't exactly been careful with what you can do despite daddy's continuous warning about people's reactions.
It's a wonder how you've spent so much time with him and he hasn't quite picked up on just how you've gotten so many free games, or you think that maybe he didn't care because hey, free games.
One day as you're revolutionizing the dance, dance world, he suddenly kisses you in the middle of a level. First kiss not how you pictured it, but it's sweet because he's your friend, and he's been so nice.
He jumps back when the spark snaps between your lips, instantly putting his hand to his mouth. You don't like the way he's looking at you now, realizing that only minutes ago the gaze you thought you recognized had nothing to do with free games. He had no idea what you were doing, because now, now he's scared.
Your first friend in, well, ever, and this is how he reacts?
He backs away, muttering something you wish you could understand.
You step closer, he steps back. You try again and get the same result.
You tell him to stop it. Stop looking at you like that.
He can't help it. He moves quicker now, and you think that he's going to start running any second.
A single tear slips down your cheek and you're quick to wipe it away.
He looks around panicked when all the games suddenly go dead.
And when you show him the blue, his screams echo throughout the empty arcade.
Once it's over, you destroy every game in the place, and walk away without looking back.
Pretty, English, just shy of four-hundred years old.
For the longest time daddy kept you away from him, didn't want you going anywhere near his cell, and the day you're allowed to bring him food you can see why. The first thing you say to him is how young he looks for a caveman, and he's quick to point out that he's not quite as old as you think he is. Putting on your best smile you make him guess how old you are, walk right over to his bed, and zap him on the nose. You giggle when he yelps and falls backward, cursing at you, making a big show of it.
He sits up quickly to show you the damage, and you're curious, reaching out a hand to touch it, but the second before you make contact the skin suddenly heals itself.
Oh hello, you think, your mind going over the many possibilities of how much fun this will be.
You start to wear clothes that grab his attention more, keep your back to him, but always follow through with what you think is a sexy look back. It's a basic seduction you tell yourself. Something you've seen on TV countless times, and why oh why wouldn't it work for you?
He definitely looks.
And why wouldn't he? You're completely hot and are well aware of this fact. Never mind the other fact that he's been locked in this room longer than you've been alive. A little attention like this is a welcome difference from all the deer in headlights kind you get from every other guy in this place. The one that keeps them from getting anywhere near you for fear of what daddy will do, or what they know you'll do should your mood steer that way.
Adam isn't afraid of you.
Yes he's got the healing thing working for him, but you have to think even with it he'd get tired of you constantly shocking him. Burning that creamy skin, or singing the hair almost as blonde as your own.
One day you're wearing a skirt that daddy simply would not approve of, and you walk in with lunch consisting of soup and sandwich, and do the whole back turned thing. Then he's there pressing into your back, wrapping his arms around your waist, those hands teasing across your stomach.
You spin around in his arms, stand on your tip toes, and crush your mouth into his.
Blue sparks jumping off your lips, your fingers, Adam may seem to know what he's doing but this is your show.
You push him back toward the bed, tear his shirt off and run a finger down his chest snap, snap, snapping all the way down.
When he gaps, you gasp. When he cries out, you moan sweetly into his ear.
When he screams, yes, yes, yes.
You're reevaluated after eleven years of doctors asking you stupid questions, making you take stupid tests, wondering how anything and everything makes you feel, they only come up with a diagnosis that you've already heard before.
This particular doctor scoffs at the fact that you were diagnosed with Antisocial Personality Disorder at such an early age.
When you stare blankly:
"A sociopath," she says. "At eight years old, my goodness what were they thinking."
You laugh, snap a few sparks in your hand, because you've heard this, and still think it's because of all the death threats you've given the psychiatrists since you were a kid. Because they knew you were serious with every one of them, because you didn't care. They're all out to get you that much is clear. All these boring normal people that haven't seen what you've seen, know what you know, feel what real power is coming from your hand.
They label you as someone crazy because they simple can't wrap their minds, PhD decorating the wall or not, around the fact that you're a strong willed, powerful young woman who takes nothing but sheer delight in all that she does.
"A proper diagnosis of such a disorder can't be made until you're at least eighteen," she goes on, poring over your file, mumbling softly to herself.
You hear something about having a conduct disorder, or just conduct disorder, and the thing about paranoid delusions. It suddenly makes you angry, these presumptions, these years of blank stares expecting you to pour your heart out and when you do, bang! You're crazy town.
The blue crawls up your forearm, bows at your wrist, and leaps from your fingertips setting the file on you aflame.
She jumps back, and you giggle and smile sweetly.
You're not paranoid because you think they're all out to get you.
It's just true, that's all.
The doctors, the others with abilities, the world in general.
They're all just out to get you.
It's technically not an assignment. Well, not you're assignment anyway. You're simply along for the ride, paired up with an agent for the first time.
Daddy is testing you.
He wants to see how much you've learned, how trustworthy you can be when something of importance is at stake.
The agent's name is James, though it's never made clear whether it's his first or last, and he never acknowledges anything else you think to call him, so it's no fun right from the start.
The mission itself is simple recon. The company wants an update on some fire starter they all assumed had died, in a fire of all the ridiculous things, ten years ago.
Her picture stares up at you from the file in your lap. She's pretty, you think, with her blue eyes and blonde hair. Almost like the countless made up faces of your own mother. You run your finger across her face, pop a spark, and quickly close the file.
James idly taps his thumb against the steering wheel, sweat beading down his forehead, disappearing behind his sunglasses. Maybe this is daddy's real test, being stuck on duty in the sweltering Mexican sun, melting against sticky leather seats with the human drum machine next to you.
This is so unfair, you think. Ten years of busting your hump around the compound, of being daddy's little go to girl, just to end up in the passenger seat for five hours staring a house that's only a slight upgrade from a shack.
You wonder if miss thirty-something pyrotechnic cold take you if it came to a throw down. You smirk and think it would be a hell of a lightshow, glance at James again, and almost wish it would happen.
Suddenly he's getting out of the car, his weapon drawn, because Meredith Gordon or whatever alias listed in her file she went by, is walking out her front door.
Simple recon my ass, you think, and follow suit getting out the car, feeling the energy surge in your hands. Meredith isn't the innocent little victim her file made her out to be because she's got James engulfed in the flames the second she sees him and his gun. You're so amped up you fire a shot back before you can even focus and end up sending the bolt nowhere near her.
She's a quick little thing, making a mad dash for your car and already halfway there before you even realize. She hops in and speeds off before you have the chance to get a second shot off and now you're stuck staring at the tail end heading down the dirt road.
Oh crap, you think.
This was daddy's test.
You walk over to James' burnt out husk and casually nudge it with your toe.
Crap, crap, crap.
You sneak off to a bar for your first legal drink, which turns into your first ten.
You don't really remember too much after that.
There's someone interesting in cell seven, or so the gossip goes. Chatter you've overhead as you were getting coffee in the kitchen. Two guards talking about the person as if they'd never seen what kind of people get put in here.
You have to admit it gets the gears turning inside your mind, because when someone has been in this place as long as you have, surprises are few and far between.
Coffee in hand, you walk down the hallway ignoring the rest of the prisoners taking notice. They all know you, fear you in a way, and it makes you smirk with pride to grab their attention every time you walk by.
At first you don't see anything. The lights are off and the bed is tucked away in the far corner, you feel a little ripped off, like going to the zoo strictly for the tigers and finding them all asleep when you get there.
You tap on the glass and nothing happens.
This is really starting to get annoying.
Taking a sip of coffee you flick the light on, immediately drop your cup, never hear the porcelain shatter against the floor.
There's a little girl in the middle of the cell, curled up into a ball, crying. Her blonde hair is matted against the side of her face, fresh tear tracks running down her cheeks, desperately clinging to a teddy bear.
It's you, you realize. You're that little girl trapped in a box, crying because the pain is too much.
There's laughter coming from somewhere.
You slam your hand on the glass, tears suddenly springing in your own eyes.
This isn't funny, you think.
You slam harder.
This isn't funny!
Laughter echoing throughout the hall, you scream and bangs yours fists, and when you open your eyes the little girl is gone, and you're face to face with a cruelly smiling brunette.
"It is to me," she says.
Your scream is ferocious.
They have to tranquilize and drag you away before you kill her.
You dislike Eden McCain the second you're forced to shake hands with her because, like always, you shock her. She flinches and jumps back and tells you to apologize. You do it without even thinking, and that just makes you not like her more.
Noah's new golden girl, full fledged agent in a matter of weeks, compared to your years in trade, and have yet to be sent on assignment alone.
Daddy and Noah go to his office to talk out the details of his latest recruitment's usefulness to the company, and you're left standing awkwardly with her while the Haitian remains ever statuesque in the background.
You tell her you're not sorry.
She knows, but it's still polite to say it anyway.
You look her up and down, wearing such tight pants, having her hair so short, looking as if she'd rather be anywhere else than sharing the same breathing air as you. You hate every little thing you notice.
She's also taller than you. You hate that too.
The blue sparks dance across your fingers and she doesn't even flinch, merely raises an eyebrow as her voice drops a few octaves, tells you don't and you listen.
You turn and walk away before she can tell you to do anything else.
Everyone is out to get you.
You think of doctors, paranoid delusions, and laugh bitterly because they have never been right about anything. In this god awful year you've been;
Tackled into a car: West.
Shot: Noah, again.
Benched: Daddy, again.
Told the truth: Noah, yet again.
Lied to: Daddy, yet again.
Failed: Yourself. (Maybe daddy one more time.)
Saved people's lives: New, yes. Different, yes. Cool? Clearly.
There have been more emotional twists than you ever even thought you had the emotion for, and damn if you aren't sick of it. Sick of all of it. Daddy, the company, the people around said company, sometimes even your own power though you'd never admit that.
Sixteen years of this, and maybe you're getting a little tired. Maybe you want out. Maybe you want your own life, or maybe you want someone else's. You watch as Dr. Broken Nose takes his little girl and their friend out of the lab and away from you. Yeah, you're the big hero but you're still left all alone.
You don't know what to do, what you want.
What you do know is that the next sixteen years are not going to be wasted like the last.