It is too windy for a party, Emma decides, but it does not make her inclined to return to the stuffy confines of the room where all sorts of bottom-feeders are socializing and chatting on about everything frivolous and nothing of importance. She stays outside, fine with solitude, for she has always possessed a rather melancholy temperament. Now, if she could just get out of this hellish place, she would be entirely perfect. She glances back at the open door, through which the lights from the party were filtering. The only way of escape is right back into the room filled with wannabes, and she has no desire to slay that particular dragon.
She sighs, tapping her artificial nails dully against the side of the crystalline wineglass she held. They scratch against what the hostess boasted to be only the finest Venetian crystal, obviously, yah? Like totally imported. Of course, she was underage--practically everyone was--but per usual, no one cares enough to look twice. Emma grimaces, her lips twisting, as she surveys the groups of people huffing toxic fumes down each others’ necks in an attempt to impress. A blond woman throws back her head in sickly saccharine laughter, her perfectly coiffed hair tumbling down her back. The gaudy diamond earrings the woman wears leave flashes trailing all over her trachea and pulse point. A group of young men in tailored suits leer at each other as they knock back glass after glass of alcohol, grins tight and eyes hungry.
Emma downs her entire glass of wine before chucking the cup off of the balcony. It makes a loud, musical crash once it reaches the cement below, but none of the others seem to have noticed, or cared. Emma snorts, before making her way inside. Her updo is beginning to come out, and her creamy dress pooling and flowing around her ankles makes it hard to walk, but she still looks stunning, because that’s all this is, right? Flawless, be flawless, make sure you don’t blot at your lipstick with a napkin, don’t slouch, pop your collar bones out and why did this matter in the first place? She stumbles into a man, her head still swimming; it was partly from the wine, partly from all the noise and frivolity.
“Excuse me,” Emma mutters, but it catches in her throat when she looks the man up and down. His teal, textured hair gelled upwards, and piercings dot his nose and lips. His clothing is dark, almost sensuous. Her brows crinkle; he is not supposed to be here; he is a glitch and does not belong.
He grabs her roughly by the elbow and dumps his entire wineglass down her dress, crimson seeping into the fabric and flowering all over her ribcage.
“Wha-” Emma starts to stay indignantly, but her exclamation is cut off by a sharp elbow to the nose. Immediately, she feels hot blood spurt out of her nostrils and drip down her throat. She makes a wet choking noise and coughs violently. Blood splatters all over the man’s face, but he does not flinch.
Blood trails in rivulets, painting down her throat and pooling in her collarbones. Emma just coughs and hacks and tries not to drown in it.
“Jesus,” someone breathes, and there are a few startled cries.
“What a scandal,” one woman whispers out of the corner of her mouth.
“New trend, honey?” a drunken man hoots, amid peals of laughter.
The man who had caused the injury faced the crowd, shoulders tense but body language loose. “I do apologize, everyone. My charge is quite drunk and she must have tripped. I’ll take care of her; please return to your conversations.” A stagnant silence permeated the room for a few moments before the swell of chatter undulates again.
The man grips Emma tightly by her shoulder and marches her out of the room, down the winding stairs and out the double doors. A butler tips his hat at them, his stoic face conveying a small wisp of surprise as he takes in Emma’s appearance.
The wind cuts through both of them as soon as the duo steps out, and Emma’s light, curled hair tumbles free, whipping around her shoulders and dragging through the blood.
“Alright, now that we’re away from all those people, what the hell do you think you are doing?” Emma demands, as a fresh batch of blood sluices over her mouth. She must look demented, she thinks, yelling at a strange man while wearing an evening gown and covered in her own blood, but she can’t seem to care.
The man shrugs, eyes glinting. They are the types of eyes that hold a secret, all hooded with shadows stretching across, and Emma feels herself attracted to the air the man is giving off like a magnetic force. Instead of answering the question, he poses a different one, but his sculpted lips do not move; his eyes bore intensely into hers. You hate it there, right? You want to get away--all you want is to leave and not ever look back, because there’s no need to--don’t you? You can feel something itching, all up your spine and under your nails and strangled tight against your neck. I know.
Emma had begun to move away but she stands, back facing the man so he can see her heavy breath rippling across her shoulder blades. She turns around halfway, so he can see the silhouette of her face, against the dull streetlamps, can see the sharp outlines that complement feline, glassy eyes that glare like smoldering topaz. He suddenly comes to the realization of why storms are named after people, so achingly beautiful.
“Of course I want to,” she hisses, anger crawling up her body. “Who the hell wouldn’t? I want to know why my drinks always always smell like licorice and my senses dull, even if it’s just water. I want to know why anytime I bring up something serious, people shut down--their eyes, just dead, like you’re drowning in a frigid ocean--like the glitch, like there is an error in their programming. I want to know why on December sixteenth, five years ago, something changed, and why I haven’t.”
Good, the man replies, crookedly smiling. Emma fleetingly wonders how he is doing that, invading her mind and permeating it like the sickly perfume slicked over her wrists. He hands her a tiny syringe, full of some type of black, viscous substance, the needle like an excited hummingbird’s beak, waiting for just the right moment to impale her. She notices he has a marking on his wrist, a small triangle, right where his veins cross.
Emma rolls the syringe in between her finger, tapping to break the bubbles that rise to the top. She notices “ESCAPE” written in small print down the side, flashing silver in the dim light, and her mouth stretches, not quite a frown, or a smile. Somewhere in between--like she is now, living, but somehow not quite.
I could die, she thinks, after tying a ribbon from her hair around her arm, lowering the needle into the crook of her elbow where a vivid blue vein pops out. I could die.
She pauses. Or I could keep living, stay here, never find out.
Emma pushes the syringe in, flooding her bloodstream with the contents. Immediately, a gasp escapes her lips, and her eyes dilate. She can feel ice trickling through her body, but her head is burning, like a star exploded in her mind and the shards pierced her brain. Her smile drips down her face and flows smoothly over her chest and she watches the colors shoot into her body and oh-
Five years ago, on December sixteenth, the world went up in flames and it hasn’t stopped burning.
They went too far, they pushed too hard into the boundaries and they gave way and bent and snapped. What they were left with was the fractured pieces of the human population, minds too far gone, insanity the only thing left.
And eventually they froze the world until everyone was sluggish, slow, their breath stolen, minds stuck in place on rewind, rewind, rewind.
But then there was a spark as a person opened their frost-sealed eyes and began an incineration, shrieking, infuriated.
“It’s time for a change. It’s time for a revolution. It’s time to open your eyes...to open your mind.”
Six months later
Are you ready? he asks, but Emma has her fingers twitching as they trace patterns over the triangle on her wrist, eyes swirling madly. She smiles, razor-sharp, and drags her nails down the length of her arm, which is littered with track marks and bruised needle holes.
Do you even need to ask? she responds, tilting her head to the right as they ascend the staircase. They are like shadows on the wall, slipping through empty conversation and hollow gestures until the peel themselves off and fling the balcony doors open.
A girl turns around, startled. Her dark hair flows around her shoulders like she is underwater. She’s standing on the balcony railing, and the hem of her dress whips around her ankles. A storm is drawing closer; the telltale dark clouds are approaching, and lightning streaks down to the Earth.
She stares silently at them. “Who are you?”
The answer, Emma replies, eyes narrowing as she smiles again. If the girl is perturbed by the mania in Emma’s motions, she makes no indication, but her silvery eyes are almost hypnotic in the light.
The girl has a wreath of diamonds around her neck and all Emma wants to do is pull them tight, tight, tight against the taut flesh and watch as those pretty, deep bruises form and smirk as the girl’s lips go pale. She bites down hard on her lip, and a drop of blood rolls down her chin.
“The answer to what?” the girl demands again, raising her arms from her sides like she’s prepared to take flight.
Your question, Emma tells her, and a flash of realization ghosts over the girl’s face. She hesitates, steps down off of the balcony, and saunters over to the duo. Her eyes are incendiary, molten, deadly.
She takes the syringe Emma hands her with less protest than Emma made her first time. She hears her companion take in sharp breath, and knows they are thinking the same thing. There is something in this girls face. She is alert, aware, she is ready. Perhaps she does not even need the cure, perhaps there will be a time when people can come to the realization on their own, break free of the cocktail of chemicals without having another pumped into their body.
The girl slams the plunger down, letting her eyes slip closed.
She breathes out.
Her eyes are swirling with madness when she opens them again, and she lets the syringe drop to the ground. It cracks before shattering, glass strewn all over the floor of the balcony.
“Welcome back,” Emma says, letting out a burning breath she didn’t know she was holding in.
i. the tattoos that emma and the guy have are delta--a greek letter symbolizing change.
ii. the backstory, in case you didn’t get it, was that humans decided the next step of evolution was contained in the mind. humans were experimented on and a block was obliterated in their minds, allowing telepathy, among other things. however, this induced insanity, and basically the entire world went to shit, prompting a major meltdown on december sixteenth. the solution was voted on by major powers of the world, and that was to drug the entire human population and suppress major parts of their brains, in order to eliminate the insanity, and other mental abilities, while simultaneously quashing out any important thoughts and leaving only vapid, shallow beings. a group has started the rebellion, and has created a cure that allows the drugs affecting the entire human population to be stopped (although it needs to keep being taken). this group needs recruits, which requires them to break people out of their drug induced haze. once they are clean/have joined the rebellion, they receive tattoos to remind them what they are fighting for. their goal is to break all humans free of the drug so they can heal their broken minds organically, not chemically. so the question remains: is the government curing humans, or is the rebellion?