KYMIERA: RISE OF THE MONSTER (ch. 6)A Dystopian/Superhero coming-of-age tale of a girl who's turning into a monster, literally.
Back to school with Chloe - later that first afternoon ... things are starting to get weird.
Half the lights in the corridor leading to the school atrium were out. There was enough to see by and you got used to it. The passageway was straight and wide. The school had been built to accommodate perhaps two thousand kids before the plagues; there were only five hundred, give or take.
Chloe knew her history: The SID plague had taken a lot of people, no one really knew how many because records had been lost. When enough people died in a business that depended on computers, the passwords were gone and no one could get in. That was another reason the second plague could not be stopped.
The riots, panicking and social disorder that followed the worst of the SID plague had been bad but not killed many others. But in a society run on computers that no longer worked everything had shut down. That had brought society to a state of destitution within a few months. Ordinary diseases and malnutrition had killed off the weakest of the remainder.
It was only Purity that held off complete collapse.
But still things broke and could not be mended because the industry was not there. Most resources were engaged in ensuring the SID plague did not spread again. It had not been wiped out, just controlled.
The front of the school was all window which allowed daylight to illuminate the space. She climbed the wooden stairs that curved round to the mezzanine floor. The steps were clean but stained with years of use. Her back still twinged every few moments at the stress of climbing. She was angry at herself. Normally she would have run up them two at a time, now she was like an old woman.
She paused and looked round as a rhythmic whooshing started up in her ears, accompanied by a low throb that sounded like a heartbeat. She turned her head trying to see where the noise was coming from, but the sound moved with her. She pressed a finger in the right ear. The sounds changed in quality but didn’t diminish. She shook her head trying to clear whatever had blocked up her ears. The sound faded.
She sighed, she could not be getting an ear infection as well. That would be too much. She continued to plod up the stairs.
The school lockers were ranged across the walls of the mezzanine floor. Here and there were clumps of other students, mostly older ones who had free periods, she headed for her locker where she could see Ashley and Kavi. A murmur of words floated her way. A boy from a nearer group looked her way with a frown on his face.
“…shouldn’t be allowed in the school.”
Chloe stopped and touched her ear. He had turned back to his friends but she heard his whispered words distinctly as if she had been standing beside him.
“My dad says all the families should be put in quarantine for years.”
“That would cost too much.”
“Just kill them then, like they used to. Easiest all round.”
Chloe shook her head. Must be a trick of the acoustics, she was a good fifteen metres from them. She strode on.
“I don’t get that one,” said the first voice. “Her dad’s in the watch, but she’s friends with them.”
Chloe allowed herself a smile and continued towards her locker. People like that couldn’t possibly understand. They were the sort that would riot given half the chance, follow the crowd and not think for themselves.
“I still don’t get that she likes Kepple.” That was Ashley.
“She wants to get into Purity.” She heard Kavi say. “Anyway, you used to like Kepple.”
“Well, she used to like me, until … you know.”
“But if she wants to get into Purity, why is Chloe friends with us?”
“Maybe because she’s a good person.”
They went quiet as Chloe approached.
“Hey,” said Chloe.
The others nodded.
“Apart from the usual?” said Ashley. “Everything’s rainbows and teddy bears. Just waiting for the day they find out my teddy bear has three legs and scales instead of fur.”
The school intercom played a jolly tune. They all looked up even though there was no point. The sound of the school secretary’s voice pierced the overwhelming quiet that seemed to pervade the place.
“Ashley Crook report to classroom 3B. Chloe Dark to classroom 15A. Kavi Moorthy report to the School Office. Immediately.”
Chloe realised she had blocked out the thumping sound but now she heard two sets of racing heartbeats, her hands snaked out to grab both Kavi and Ashley by their wrists. Neither of them spoke but there was panic just beneath the surface.
“No,” breathed Kavi. “I can’t, not again.” She pulled ineffectively at Chloe’s grip.
Chloe could hear the voices of the students behind her. She knew they were looking and making judgements.
“It can’t be anything to do with your families,” said Chloe. “It would be one or the other of you, and not me.”
Kavi wasn’t listening but Ashley got the point. “Kepple must have talked. Must be about the fight this morning.”
“She wouldn’t,” said Chloe but suddenly unsure. “Look we have to go. I’ll take Kavi to 3B, it’s on my way—”
“Sort of,” said Ashley.
“—yeah well, I’ll be late.”
She was about five minutes late but she had sneaked a peak into the school office, and seen Kavi’s parents. Whatever it was, it wasn’t about S.I.D infections. And when she arrived at 15A she was not surprised to see her parents sitting by the wall.
There was a man standing at the main window across the room, looking out. She recognised him immediately as DI Mitchell, he was famous, which meant the other man was DS Lacelle. She was very confused, what could she have to do with the best freak killers on the Manchester force?
“It’s all right, dear—”
“Please, Mrs Dark,” said Lacelle. “We require your presence to interview your daughter. But she is sixteen and can answer for herself.”
Her mother sat back, her eyes filled with worry. Chloe gave her a smile.
“Miss Dark,” said Lacelle. “Please take a seat.”
He indicated a chair in the middle of the room, the rest of the classroom had been cleared with furniture stacked along the walls. If anything looked right for an inquisition, this was it. The room itself was used for Purity lessons and there were S.I.D information posters on the walls, like the ones in the infirmary.
Chloe sat. The chair was for younger students and a little small.
“We just want to ask you a few questions, Miss Dark—can I call you Chloe?”
She nodded and he smiled. It was the smile of a TV presenter.
“So, Chloe, you know Melinda Vogler?”
“Yes, I know her.”
“And when was the last time you saw her?”
Chloe frowned at the curious question. He knew exactly when she had last seen Melinda. The truth hit her like a brick and she gasped. “She’s disappeared, hasn’t she? Like the others.”
There was a movement from the man by the window but he didn’t turn. “What makes you say that?”
“You’re DI Mitchell.”
He turned. Chloe could see he was in his fifties at least, he had been a policeman before the plagues. Lacelle stood up. “No photographs, and no autographs.”
Chloe did not miss the look that flashed from Mitchell to Lacelle, but she got the strong impression Lacelle did not care.
“What makes you think she’s disappeared, Miss Dark?” repeated Mitchell.
“Because you know the last time I saw Melinda. It’s in the riffy records.”
“RFID archive,” said Lacelle.
“But if you’re asking then you don’t know where she is right now and the only way that can be true is if she’s no longer broadcasting.” Chloe’s breath caught in her throat. “She’s not dead is she?”
Her mother gasped and, in the corner of her eye, she saw her father put his arm round her.
Lacelle glanced at Mitchell, who paused for a moment as if deciding which version of the truth would be right in the circumstances. “Not as far as we know.”
Chloe breathed out and looked Mitchell in the eye. “You want to know if she was acting strange or different?”
“I take it she was.”
Chloe hesitated, gathering her thoughts. “She was sort of withdrawn, I suppose. She said she was going to the doctor. I knew there was something, I should’ve talked to her.”
“When you say ‘withdrawn’ can you be a little more precise?”
“She wasn’t talking so much. Didn’t take part at all, really. Like when you’ve done something really bad and you’re scared you’re going to get found out.”
“And what do you think she might have done?”
Chloe sighed and when she replied she was almost talking to herself. “I don’t know. I should have asked her. I should have talked to her, I might have stopped it.” She looked up and stared at Mitchell again. “You have to find her.”
He shrugged. “It’s not my case.”
“But you’re the best.”
The stern face of Mitchell cracked into a smile. “Tell that to my superior.” He turned back to look out the window at the school car park and a distant line of trees.
Lacelle got up from his chair. “That’s all for now, Mr and Mrs Dark, Chloe.”
He ushered them out into the corridor then turned to Chloe. “Ever thought of joining the police force, Miss Dark?”
“No, I’m joining Purity,” she said.
Lacelle’s face fell. “Seriously?”
Chloe frowned. “Yes, DS Lacelle, seriously. Someone has to protect the world.”
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~#scifi #dystopia #superhero #saturdayscenes