Read Chapter 1
There was a certain deafness to work. As if my body simply vanished, and my limbs were working, but my brain was at the center of my being.
It was focus, a psychological flow – The world fades and all I see is the blood, the biology of what flows through us, keeps us alive.
But, the occasional hiccup from the labs AC unit bring me, reluctantly, back to my senses – it sputters slightly whenever the June heat challenges it more than usual. Other than the hum of the refrigerators that lined the wall and the “click” of the dial of my microscope, the lab was a cold yet peaceful place. It knew me and I knew it.
“Walker? You’re in early,” Rayvn said, a smile in her voice. I looked up, and was met with her putting her unruly ebony hair back into an bandana embellished with a lavender and daisy pattern. Her lab coat was open (breaking the rules as usual), showing a purple tank top with dozens of necklaces around her neck of all shapes and sizes. Her skin was deep, like the depths of the earth, and her lips were the same color as her tank top, and her amber eyes always sparkled.
“Couldn’t sleep – figured I’d just come work,” I said, lending my sight back to my microscope.
“The blood speak to you yet?” Rayvn walked over and peaked at my slide as I adjusted it. She smelled of summer sunshine after a quiet rainstorm – the scent of happiness and sadness, a sort of melancholy.
“No. I don’t recall blood having the ability to talk,”
“Get a sense of humor, will you? You may need it when they visit,” I looked up again, stiffness developing in my neck.
“One of those fancy, government Ardent Elite looking to poke us again for more information on how emotion runs in the blood – but I know for a damn fact emotion runs in the spirit,” Rayvn bit her lip, a coldness flashing behind her once warm eyes. She was liberal with her expression, most were in safe enclosed spaces – it was harder for them to find you, smell you.
The lab temperature seemed to drop with the coldness of Ravyn’s tone and I found myself pulling my coat closer to my body. I looked up at the florescent lights. It never needed a bulb to be changed. It never flickered or asked for anything, but to exist and work. Was that someone’s sadness up there? Or joy?
“Blood circulates and nourishes us – just like emotion – but it can also spread disease, which reflects emotion once again. Blood is a lot simpler than your spirit theory,” I said while calculating my thoughts.
“They want reasons. They want science. They always have, and if you steal part of someones spirit, of course their body will change along with it, it just makes sense,” Ravyn sipped a cup of coffee to warm herself up, and pulled up a high top chair to sit next to me. Both of us appeared as complete opposites – her laid back, splashes of color and spirits circled alongside my perfectly pressed lab coat, my snowy skin, and hair tucked into a bun. I avoided wearing too much color, as it reminded me of my mother – I stuck to grays, blacks and whites.
“But is your spirit theory science? Or just a figment of imagination to appease to people’s sense of purpose? What are the Elites really expecting to find?” I whispered, unblinking. Ravyn rolled her eyes at me, as she always did when I pondered out loud.
A seed of fear began to grow in the pit of my stomach. These people had threatened (although they thought it was a gift) to bring me into their medical team once but I refused. All because I discovered molecular changes in blood cells of those who have been stripped of certain emotions – these changes could be the key to explaining why feeling manifests the purest form of energy known to man. Why it is intoxicating, dangerous, and pure ecstasy all at once. I tried to hide my findings, but it wasn’t enough – they are in my veins wherever I go.
“But we know too that emotion manifests in the form of vapor that comes from the mouth when harvested, but the vapor has no chemical properties aside from traces of blood and water…” I stopped myself. If the energy of emotion is in the blood, then blood may in fact be the key to…creating the energy itself.
“Please do continue, Dr. Walker, now it would just brighten up my whole darn day if you did!” The slight scent of gasoline and smoke mixed with what may as well have been Summer Countryside air freshener wafted through the lab. Just by the smell, I knew an Elite was here.
Suzanna Baker. Born and raised in the deep south of Louisiana – much too far away from the mountain ranges of Colorado that she’s sunk her fangs into now. Her perfect golden hair was tied back into a high ponytail and her cheeks were the same rosey color as her lips. She wore a plaid suit jacket, showing you she meant business, but still wanted you to know she was a country girl. And then there was a button on her suit – callously placed smack dab in the front with bright colors you couldn’t miss.
A happy face – except it had two sides, one side was bright yellow, and the other was an angry red, the face turning to a deep frown with furrowed eyebrows. Usually you find out the prominent emotion set an Elite has taken on a little later in the game…but Ms. Suzanna Baker wants everyone in the room to know that she’s the happiest, most vicious woman alive.
“Ah I see you looking at my handy dandy button here, ain’t it helpful?” She smiled, adjusting it accordingly. Her tone was still cheery, but underneath, I could sense a heat brewing. She wanted her answers and to be on her merry way.
“Is there something I could assist you with, Ms. Baker?” I said in the flattest tone I could muster.
“Or that I can?” Rayvn added quickly, sweat dripping from her brow.
“We need you to analyze some more samples for us Doc,” Baker said, pulling a biohazard bag out of her bright yellow purse.
“And if I refuse?” I responded, not thinking. The words met my lips before I could even process that I had said them. Suzanna considered my words, and looked at me, her eyes suddenly piercing me, as if there were bullets flying into my chest. I could feel the heat coming off her as she abruptly dropped her purse to the floor, and jammed her hand into the biohazard bag.
She pulled out a vial of blood, her eyes not breaking from mine and effortlessly crushed it in her hand. Trails of red painted her arm and splattered on the floor – shards of glass made haphazard ticking sounds as they hit the ground. Using one high-heeled foot, she spread the blood without breaking eye contact and then waltzed right up to me. I tried to keep my composure, but I couldn’t help but wince when she wiped her bloody hand across my coat and above my chest. In a short glance, I could see the glass pieces stuck in her hand already being pushed out, her skin re-graphing itself in a matter of seconds.
She grabbed my coat and brought me close to her face – veins popped out of her forehead and sweat formed above her pink lips. The scent of gasoline was stronger now and filled my nostrils with a sour acidic sensation. She was so close, I could feel the warmth of her breath on my face…she was a smoker.
“Ain’t you just a peach? We’ve got a mighty fine stain remover up in the big house, why don’t I bring you there and we’ll wash that blood right out – unless, you’d like to focus on the samples I have here for ya?” She snarled with a smile.
I could see over Baker’s shoulder that Ravyn was already cleaning up the blood on the floor, her lips tight, eyes panicked.
“…I’ll…I’ll get to it,” I stuttered, my voice hardly a whisper. With that, Baker abruptly let me go. Her anger seemed to vanish and her eyes shown bright once more – it was as if the air had been let back into the room after she politely wiped the rest of the blood from her hand on my coat.
“You’ll be changing lives, Dr. Walker, many of them – don’t let it go to waste,” Suzanna sang and walked back to her purse, careless stepping over the spot Ravyn was still cleaning up. She dropped the rest of the blood samples on one of the lab tables, collected her purse, and headed toward the exit. “Oh, and you have two weeks to come up with something. We’ll be back,” the metal clank of the door sent violent chills up my legs and I immediately collapsed back in my chair. Jesus.
“She’s fuckin’ nuts,” Ravyn looked up at me, almost as shaken as I was.
“Are you okay?” I asked her, even though I was really asking the question to myself. No. I’m not okay.
“Y-yeah – but what are you going to do?” She said while throwing away the last pieces of glass from the floor.
“…Give them something to endlessly chase,”