When she wakes up, her eyelids are heavy, and she cannot open them. Instead, she tries to slow down her frantically beating heart, like a hummingbird trapped in the cage of her lungs, determined to escape.
When she is able to lift her eyelids a fraction of a centimeter, the bright light hit her eyes like camera flashes, like supernovas, like all the things both terrible and awesome in the world. She waits, letting the light trickle through her closed eyes, staining them an insane red. When she opens them again, the light is not as harsh, and she stares blankly at the ceiling. She cannot feel anything below her neck. She tries to move her arms, her legs, but they seem paralyzed.
She can't remember anything.
No. That's not right.
She can remember hysteria, flowing over her like champagne sloshing down a crystalline glass. Words she spoke in a colorful fever that swirled around her, tightening around her neck and strangling her. She remembers building a world with her mind, voices talking (one a slow drawl, too slow to make sense of, one a jabbering bout of drivel) as time slowed and perched at the pinnacle of the universe and jumped to its death. She remembers drowning in her tears and getting sick from her happiness and touching the black and the explosion of brilliant hues that infected her mind. She remembers losing her balance and falling down a dark, dark hole (and did she ever come out?)
Vaguely, she catches two words fluttering in the air in front of her. Talia Crockett.
It’s her name. She can tell because when they wrap around her mind and spill out of her lips, they feel like an old friend embracing her.
That’s all she thinks about before she predictably loses her consciousness.
The second time she arises, she’s pleased to acknowledge the fact that her head isn’t pounding unrelentlessly as before, and the world around her isn’t blurred and distorted.
She’s slightly less pleased to notice an obscenely cheerful blond nurse filling up a massive syringe, tapping it to get the bubbles out and humming an idle tune. The nurse turns and Talia notices her eyes a rich, deep bistre color, with flecks of gold that catch the light.
“Oh!” The nurse exclaims, immediately fluttering towards her in a skittish manner. “I didn’t realize you were awake. How are you feeling?”
“Well,” Talia paused, immediately growing wary of the stranger and gaining slight irritation at the nurse’s cheerfulness, “I’m not really sure how to answer that. It feels like I’ve been knocked out by a shit-ton of bricks.”
The nurse pauses.
Talia groans and shuts her eyes. “Please tell me that’s not what happened.”
“No,” the nurse replies. “I’m Avadne, by the way.” The fact that she neglects to tell Talia what happened does not fly under the radar. Talia discreetly stores this information away for later.
“So, Avadne,” Talia says, her tone slightly caustic in a way that is familiar. “Where am I? A hospital? What happened to me? Do I have a concussion? Do my parents--” Talia chokes on the word--does she even have parents? The fact she does not know the answer makes her fingertips tremble. She stills them, balancing them lightly on top of her robe-clad thighs. She notices suddenly that she’s clothed in nothing but a thin, white robe. Perfect. She fights back a groan.
Avadne mulls over Talia’s rapid round of questions and Talia can see her struggle for the right words. “You’re at Detriblier Academy. You don’t have a concussion, but-” Avadne quickly stabs the syringe into her upper arm and Talia gives a startled yelp but watches in curious submission as the substance is flushed into her arm. “Sorry,” Avadne shrugs, still smiling, and Talia feels a little miffed. “Works best if you’re caught off guard and not tensed. And no, you don’t have a concussion, but this solution will take away any lasting pain.” Avadne walks over to the sink and dumps the syringe in unceremoniously.
“You didn’t answer my other questions,” Talia says flatly, eyes narrowing.
Avadne looks at her with a pained expression, a slight grimace tugging at the corners of her lips. “I know. I’m sorry, but I can’t. The answers will come in time. Wait here a moment.” She swishes out of the small room.
Talia gives an irate sigh and slumsback against her bed. “Not much else I could do,” she rolls her eyes. The desire to know answers claws at her mind.
Avadne returns in a couple of minutes with a soft grey shirt and a pair of black leggings. Talia raises her eyebrow in a quirk. Avadne shrugs. “You’ll get your school uniform soon, I expect.” The girl strides over to the nurse, taking her first steps and feeling a kind of odd pleasure well up in her when she sees that her movements aren’t shaky.
“Fantastic,” Talia snorts, grabbing the offered articles from Avadne’s delicate hands and quickly changing into them, not paying any attention to they way she bares herself to the nurse--she honestly doesn’t care at this point. The shirt is thin, but it makes her feel like she was drowning, and the sleeves trail past her fingertips. The leggings fit like a glove, molding to the shape of her slender legs. Talia frowns. She can’t see her face--she still doesn’t know what she looks like. All she can see is her body--a lean, slight thing.
“Do you have a mirror?” Talia asks, still frowning slightly. Avadne chews on her lip, brown eyes darting over the girl’s face. The blonde woman sighs, her bangs puffing up from the sudden release of air.
“I guess I can show you to one,” Avadne clucks uncertainly, wringing her hands. “I don’t believe it’s against the Tabula Rasa.”
“What’s that?” Talia asks, eyebrows furrowing. She knew those words. From somewhere, sometime...it all seemed so far away now.
Avadne smiles, but it doesn’t quite reach her eyes. “It’s Detriblier Academy’s rules. The Council will tell you about it. Now, come along, you have to be there soon.” She turns on her heel and walks swiftly towards the door, beckoning for Talia to follow her.
Talia trips slightly at the abrupt movement but quickly catches her balance. She trails after Avadne, lost in thought, until Avadne leads her to a small room. It seems to be a waiting area, with a few simplistic couches and chairs placed tastefully around, made out of a dark, sturdy wood with pale cushions and pillows. A delicate carpet is spread across the ground, and there is a low table on top of the carpet, with a bouquet of flowers placed on top of the table. At a closer glance, Talia recognizes them to be white poppies. The atmosphere of the room bothers her. It is sickening, causing her flesh to crawl. She bites back a shudder as she stands in the middle of all the white blankness.
Talia feels a hand press softly against her shoulder blade and turns to see Avadne pointing silently at a full length mirror resting in the corner. Talia closes her eyes and takes a deep breath before walking towards it. When she opens them she is right in front of the piece of glass.
Her eyes narrow as she sweeps them along her body. The first thing she notices is her hair. It is dark and is swept like a raven’s wing into a messy ponytail, trailing down to the small of her back like a veil. It stands out against her skin, a coffee colour that did not come from hours spent in the sun but rather from a land where the air smells of sea breeze and olives. Her eyes drag down her thin nose and slightly pursed lips to travel down the rest of her body. She is lithe, but skinny to the point where she could be considered petit. Talia blinks at the lack of muscle and fat on her body--dear God, hasshe been starved? The last thing she looks at are her eyes. They are almond shaped, with thick, heavy lashes, and are a startling blue--the type of icy blue that pierces into you, the type of blue that makes you catch your breath. They are outlined by thick, black eyeliner, slightly smudged and definitely more than most people would wear.
“You’re very pretty,” Avadne ys quietly from behind Talia and the thin girl starts, ripping her eyes away from her newfound appearance. Strange...she didn’t imagine herself looking quite like this.
“Thanks,” Talia murmurs, her voice slightly ragged. She bites down on her lip.
“It’s time to go,” Avadne tells her, taking her arm and leading her to another door. How big is this place?
“Time to go where?” Talia asks, frustration biting at the edges of her tone. Avadne doesn’t smile and instead opens the door, taking the girl with her into a chamber.
“Time to meet the Council.”
“Talia Crockett,” a reedy voice drawls out, and the girl’s eyes snap towards the man addressing her. Her eyes flit around the room, and she notices the five people sitting regally in front of her are all studying her. There is a total of three men and two women. The one talking to her is all sharp angles, with a sturdy, set jaw and cold eyes. On his left is a woman with spiked black hair and too many piercings, and next to her is a young man with bright red hair curling along his forehead and the nape of his neck, paired with golden eyes and freckles. To the sharply-angled man’s right, there is a man with hollow cheeks, soulless black eyes and ashen hair, tinging on grey, and beside him a woman with wavy auburn hair lounges, idly twisting a lock around her finger. All are wearing flowing black robes.
The woman with spiked hair speaks. “You have been accepted to Detriblier Academy. Congratulations.”
Talia stared at them calmly, though her heart was pounding spasmodically in her chest. “Congratulations?” It’s not a question. They all understand that.
The woman who was previously twisting her hair eyes her. “It is an honor,” she says, her voice raspy and harsh, “to be chosen. It means that you are special. It means you can do things most people cannot.”
Talia can feel the burning anger well up in her throat. She doesn’t know who she is, dammit, and these people are already feeding her crap about herself? She doesn’t speak.
“You’re being remarkably calm,” the man with the ashen hair says, his words staining the air like spilt ink.
“Calm?” Talia says, her voice quiet--controlled. “I’m infuriated. I have no idea where or who I am, no clue how I got here, and you’re praising me for being calm?” Her voice rises an octave and she can feel her cheeks flushing with emotion.
“You know who you are. You are Talia Crockett,” the spiky haired woman speaks again, her voice a sharp lilt speckled with the clanging of metal from the numerous hoops in her lips.
“That’s a name,” Talia grinds out.
“Well, what would you like to know?” the golden-eyed man asks.
“Where am I? Who are you? Why did you take me? Do my parents know? What is your purpose with me?” Talia demands.
“You are at Detriblier Academy. The location is undisclosed for many reasons. We are the Council. You could think of us as the principals of this school. Your parents gave consent to us bringing you here. Our purpose,” the sharply-angled man paused, “Our purpose is to help you. You have no idea how much raw energy--how much potential you have. Our goal is to help you hone these skills.”
“What skills?” she hisses.
“Skills that will be shown in due time,” the man with soulless eyes chides.
“I’m tired of waiting. I want answers, now! How can I even trust you people? You took everything I know away,” Talia almost chokes.
“You have no reason to trust us,” the golden-eyed man says. “But do you have any other choice?”
“Yeah,” Thalia says firmly. “I do.”
“Oh?” the auburn-haired woman smirks cruelly. “And what is that?”
Talia smiles crookedly. “I can run.”
And she does.
Everything moves in slow motion, like beetles trapped in aspic, caused by the heavy flow of adrenaline into her veins. Immediately the man with bright red hair is there, and her eyes widen for a fraction of a second and her breath is lost at the pure speed of him. But a second later he goes stumbling back because Talia swept a low kick under his legs, knocking his center off balance. She straightens up, eyes wide--how did she even do that? The kick was familiar, like a learned reflex.
Out of her peripheral vision she sees a fist hurtling towards her face but bent back and kept bending holy shit into a backflip, twisting out of the way of the auburn-haired woman’s grasp. Her legs buckle slightly but as soon as Talia touches the ground, she’s off and running. Her sleeve dammit gets caught on the door and she can’t help but feel like she’s a deer caught in headlights. She manages to get it free and slams the door shut just as there are a storm of tiny thwacks against the door. Talia’s eyes widen and she sees tiny, sharp points coming through the heavy wood but she stumbles her way through the sickening white room, through the nurse’s quarters, and into a hallway.
Immediately every eye is on her. She looks at the people around her. They’re all between ages ranging the teenage years. Many are frozen in place, some are whispering, she sees surprise written over all of their faces, eyes wide, eyebrows raised, mouths agape.
A loud, klaxon-like sound blasts out, and it reverberates in her skull. It rings twice before the entire campus falls silent again, and her vision is swimming and her ears are ringing--what did the alarm do?
“We’ve got a runner,” someone states dryly, the fact devoid of emotion, but the words are dripping onto the floor.
“Hasn’t been one since Braydon,” another one says, the phrase twisting and knotting before her eyes.
Talia turns, trying to find an escape, strings of half-formed strategies racing through her mind. She sees figures clad in black pour out from all sides, all coming towards her and she swears violently--God help her if she’s captured again.
She runs. Again. And suddenly she realizes why she’s so damn skinny--it’s because she was made for this--to constantly move, to run, to be light on her feet. She’s made to escape capture--for what reasons, she doesn’t know. All she can do now is run and hope no one catches her.
She can hear blood rushing in her ears and her breathing is shallow. Her entire body is heating up and sparks fly into the air, but whether in real life or a wild hallucination she doesn’t know. Talia trips suddenly and stumbles right into a hard body--she can hear the slight release of breath as the startled person falls backwards. Her eyes close as she feels a stab in her lower calf. One of the black-clad people got her, and panic rises as she realizes they’re going to stop her from running.
When she opens her eyes again, she sees a boy narrowing dark green his eyes at her and she tries to stay afloat in their stormy deaths. He reaches a hand towards her but stops halfway, and his fingers blur together.
Then his pupils grow in size, obscuring over his face, and the black strangles her.
Her last thought is hoping blacking out won’t become a habit.