It was hard to change with headphones, but I managed. I didn’t want any chance of hearing my ‘keeper’s’ thoughts. The uniforms reminded me of prison. How fitting. “Ready?” McKey asked. I nodded. No, I wasn’t ready but did I have a choice?
The hall was dark and uninviting. The echoes of our footsteps penetrated the Linkin Park my ears were blessed to have. At least I didn’t have to hear what he was thinking of me, what sort of new freak I am. At the end of the hall, a door lingered. It was the only door with a sign, even of the sign was just a paper with two words written on it with pen: “Rec Room”. It seemed like some sort of comfort to see familiar words in an otherwise wordless place. “The other subjects relax in here for an hour a day”. Generous, I sarcastically thought. He opened the door and led me inside.
As soon as we entered, all activity stopped. I quickly looked around. There were seven kids. Two boys sat in front of the TV, one of them large, dark-skinned with angry eyes. The other was chubby with short blonde hair and a permanent surprised look on his round face. A girl and a boy were playing foosball. The girl was long and lanky with short brown hair and an intense stare. The boy looked Hispanic in features and skin color, however he had grey hair. But his smile gave him the needed youth to make me believe he was a child. At the table sat another girl and boy playing chess. The girl was obviously the youngest there. She was small with long dark blonde hair and large inquisitive eyes. A large smile sat on her face. The boy could have been my twin: well-built, shaggy black hair that covered the tip of his eyes. He looked squarer in the shoulders and the jaw than I did, and his eyes surrendered a tragic history. Then there was a girl, sitting in the corner alone reading a book. She had long purple-brown hair, a round face, and large eyes that looked black. What was so different about her was that she was the only one not staring at me?
“Attention!” McKey called out. They clearly gave their attention before, but he wanted to show his power. ‘We’re kids, not soldiers’, I heard with a sigh. I was taken aback. What sort of thought managed to slip through my music and into my ears? I looked at the seven-well, six staring faces. Who could it have been? “We have a new subject. And so you guys can get to know him better, we are giving you another hour for recreation time”. Instead of shouts of joy, high-fives, or even complaints, all seven of the children looked at their watch. They have them on such a tight schedule, they can’t be excited for extra free time? ‘We are excited, but we won’t show it until McKey is gone’. Now I was really afraid. Not only could I hear the voice, but they could hear me too? ‘Everything will be explained. Don’t look afraid’. It was now that I realized that the voice belonged to a girl. I looked at the three girls in the room, wondering. McKey snapped me back to reality when he slapped me on the back; “Good luck”. He left, closing the door behind him, leaving me with seven people with abilities unknown.
As soon as McKey’s footsteps were no longer heard, the six who were staring got up to greet me, all asking the same question: “What can you do?” I was terrified. My throat closed and refused to give any words. When I didn’t answer, the young girl stepped in front. “Don’t worry. We aren’t going to hurt you. We just want to get to know you”. She reached up and patted my shoulder. Then she grabbed my hand and led me to the rug, with the other five following. She sat me down. The others had formed a circle. I felt like I was in an intervention. “So”, the young girl said, “What’s your name?” My voice managed to cooperate and squeak out “Paul”. “That’s a good name. I’m Valencia”. The Hispanic boy next to her cheerfully said, “I’m Nicholas”. The lanky girl: “I’m Micah”. The chubby boy: “I’m Dave”. The dark-skinned boy: “King”. The boy who could be my twin: “Jordan”. They all looked to the girl reading. Valencia pointed to her; “That’s Abigail. She doesn’t like people that much”. I looked at her. Her black eyes looked so serious and so sad. I wondered what secrets laid behind them. ‘I don’t think that’s any of your business’. The voice. Abigail gave me a quick glance before returning to her book. The voice belonged to her! ‘Not in front of everyone. Please. I’ll explain eventually’. I decided to turn back around, but made a note to myself to hold her to that promise.
The boy named Dave leaned forward; “So, what’s your gift?” My throat tightened again. I didn’t know how to tell them; at the same time, I was scared of what gifts they had. Valencia noticed my angst and calmly said, “We don’t judge here. We are all different”. I still couldn’t get the words out, so she took initiative: “How about I go first? Then when you tell us what you can do, we will all tell you what we can do”. She smiled at me. I just nodded. She straightened herself up and stuck one hand out. Then she started to turn her hand. And turn and turn and turn. A small tornado formed! She pushed it my way so it hit my face. I flailed my arms around, not knowing what else to do. They all started to laugh at me. I put my arms back down and stared at Valencia. “I can control air and wind”, she simply said.
“Now it’s your turn”, she practically shouted, “What can you do?” I rubbed the back of my neck before speaking; “I can read minds”. I was so quiet I didn’t anyone would hear me. And if they didn’t, well, I’m sure they had no problem hearing Nicholas: “You can read minds?!” I nodded, intimidated. “That is so cool! What am I thinking right now?” He leaned forward, his brown eyes wide with anticipation. I slowly took off my headphones to listen to the chorus of voices. ‘There’s no way’. ‘Can he do it?’ ‘I guess it could be possible’. ‘Great. A mind reader’. ‘Why does he have music?’ ‘Is he doing it now?’ ‘I hope I don’t think anything embarrassing’. I tried to concentrate on what Nicholas’s voice sounded like so I can tell everyone’s thoughts apart. His was easy to find, though. ‘Pizza, chicken, mac and cheese, ice cream, hamburgers’. So I said what was on his mind out loud: “Pizza, chicken, mac and cheese, ice cream, hamburgers”. His face lit up; “That was amazing!” I quickly shoved my earbuds back in my ears so I didn’t have to listen to any more.
“Why do you have music?” Micah asked, “None of us are allowed to have music”. “It’s the only way I can block out the voices”. Dave cocked his head; “Do you hear everyone’s at the same time?” I nodded. The group got quiet. The youngest, once again, took charge. “Well”, Valencia said, “A deal’s a deal. Nicholas, it’s your turn”.
He blushed; “It’s not as cool as yours”. “Everything is cool”, I said. Something about Nicholas made me comfortable, like he knew something about me. “Um”, he started, “I can age things”. I felt my eyebrows furrow together. “What does that mean?” “I can make things older at a faster rate. Let me—“ He got up from the floor and headed toward the small refrigerator in the corner. He came back with a Ziploc bag of grapes. He put one in his hand; “Watch this”. I stared at the grape. Before my eyes, it started to shrivel and turn into a raisin. I felt my eyes grow in amazement. “Wow” was all I could say. Eating a grape, Nicholas nodded.
“King?” He didn’t say anything. He just sat there, invoking a staring contest with Valencia. I raised my eyebrows. This large boy could obviously crush any of us, especially Valencia. But she simply stared back, defiantly. What guts. King sighed and scooted in front of me. He looked at me with rock-hard dark eyes that seemed to pierce my soul. I felt myself start to tremble. He moved his fingers around before putting his hands on my face. My eyes grew wider than I’ve ever felt. “Stop shaking! I ain’t gon’ hurt you!” I tried my hardest to stop shaking and focus on what he was about to do, whatever it was. Suddenly I felt the hand on my right cheek get very hot and the hand on my left cheek get very cold. “Ah!” I muttered. He ripped his hands off and stared angrily at me. But as he scooted back to his original spot, I figured that his angry look was permanent and had nothing to do with me. I put my own hands on my face, the warm and cool still lingering. “What was that?” “I can control temperature wid my hands”. “Woah, that is so cool”; might as well suck up to him so he doesn’t kill me in my sleep.
“Jordan!” Valencia bounced as she said his name. He didn’t budge an inch. He just stared blankly at the floor, as if expecting something to come from the floor. I looked at the floor, thinking his gift had something to do with the carpet. As I did so, an invisible force pummeled me and knocked me to my side. King started laughing hysterically. The others chuckled at my bewildered face. “What was that?!” I demanded. “That was Jordan”, Valencia said between giggles. I looked at Jordan. Still in the same position. “Force field”, was all he said. I didn’t bug him any further. He was obviously not the talking type. But I thought about it. Force field? How awesome. ‘He’s not particularly proud. Don’t bring it up’, I heard Abigail’s voice. I looked toward her.
Valencia waved her arms at her; “Abigail! Show us one!” One? One what? Abigail shook her head. “Please!” Valencia begged, “Just one, then we’ll leave you alone”. Abigail sighed, closed her book, and slid between me and Jordan. She looked at me. With her black eyes. They looked like they were searching my face. Her pale skin added emphasis to the darkness of her eyes, making her more intimidating. She looked me over, stopping every now and again at my eyes. What message was hidden behind her eyes. “Pick a color”, was all she said, though.