Evelynn grabs my wrist and begins examining my flashing Numbers. Panic rises inside my chest. I feel my head swim, they are trying to find me. I thought that I was safe. I was wrong. She starts telling me I need to remove my Numbers. I look down at her large scar on her arm and true sorrow really overcomes me.
I won’t be a member of society anymore. There is no going back from this. After a few minutes of thought I tell Evelynn no. I will not take away any chance for me to see my mom again. I touch my wrist where my Numbers lie underneath my flesh flashing. I don’t know what else to do. Lost in thought I faintly hear the door open. Aaron walks in his mouth is set and his eyes determined.
“ I have an idea Evelynn.”
“What would that be Aaron?” I notice Willow has followed Aaron into the room. She looks around annoyed.
“Why do we have to help her? We can just give her to the society. Maybe they will let some of us off the hook.” Evelynn looks at her daughter in shock.
“Willow! Do not ever speak of giving up one of our own again. That is not how I raised you, and certainly not how our entity works. Aaron what is your idea?” She looks at her daughter with complete disappointment.
“I think I can figure out a way to disable the tracking software in her chip. It will be difficult, but that means that if this all gets sorted out she can live in society again. It also means that we can use her on the outside since some of us can’t go outside anymore.”
Aaron explains that he can hook me up to their computer and override the tracking software that is built into the Numbers chip. I will be able to live a normal life again. If this nightmare ever ends. Willow rolls her eyes. She must really not like me. I don’t know why I have barely said a word to her. She seemed like she was trying to be a friend when she walked me up to introduced myself.
Soon I am sat in a room with a giant computer and a bunch of sterile tools. My stomach rumbles with hunger and anxiety as I wait for Evelynn and Aaron to join me. After what seems like an eternity they walk in with blank faces. Evelynn washes her hands at the sink on the wall by me, while Aaron boots up the computer. After washing her hands she walks over to me and picks up a scalpel. “I’m sorry we don’t have anything to take the pain away.” She looks at me with pain in her eyes as she cut a slit into my arm right above where my Numbers show.
Pain screams through my arm as she cuts into me. Tears well up in my eyes and spill down my cheeks. I have never experienced pain like this. The society almost completely rid the country of sickness, and it really takes a lot to hurt yourself now. Evelynn then picks up a needle with a long power cord attached to it. She tells me that she’s sorry and this will hurt worse, but I can’t make out the words. Everything is blurred under the pain. When I think it can’t get any worse she inserts the needle and begins to dig around for the connection port for my chip. My throat is raw from screaming, when the electricity begins to shoot through my body. My chip and whatever Aaron is doing is electrocuting me from the inside. My vision swims and all my muscles contract. This is what it feels like to die. I dive in and out of consciousness but my screams continue.
Finally the pain ends, and I am left with a buzzing inside my head. I look over to Evelynn who also has tears in her eyes. I then look down at my wrist where many tiny little stitches bind my skin together. My Numbers shine brightly underneath them, they are now at zero. I look up to Aaron whose mouth is set in a line. He looks upset, I hope he didn’t mess up.
“It was success. I disabled the tracking software, and I set your Numbers to zero. Everyone will think you’ve met your match.” He pauses and looks down. Pain flashes across his eyes. He hated hurting me.
“Thank you both for helping me. Though I am very tired. Can someone help me to my room?” Aaron stands up fast and walks over to me. He offers to take me then helps me out of my chair. Slowly we walk back up to my room my feet dragging behind me. We reach my room and Aaron opens the door for me. I flop down on my bed the weight of the procedure falling down on me. Aaron follows me in and helps me take my shoes off. He helps me lay in bed and then covers me up.
Soon I drift off into a black world behind my eyelids. I dream of my mom. The way she smiled at me when I was doing something I loved. The way she frowned when I did something stupid. She had always been my rock. She was beautiful and strong, made me do anything I had set my mind to. The dream started out with a memory. One where she and I went to the lake and played in the water and sand all day.
I was little five or six and my mom had to have been around 26. She was beautiful with her long golden hair and her brightly colored bathing suit. She sat and watched me with the biggest smile across her face. She was so happy that I was there. I was her saving grace.
We played until the sun when down. I ran around and splashed in the water. It was an amazing day. Just when the sun is almost gone several men approach us. All of them are dressed in black with bullet proof vests on and have large guns strapped to their backs. This part of the memory I don’t remember. One of the men approach my mom and she pushes me behind her.
I can hear her begging to leave me alone, that I am little and haven’t done anything wrong. She starts to cry. This I remember as if it were happening all over again now. I remember that it was one of the only times I have seen my mom cry. But why don’t I remember the men. As the dream goes on I hold on to my mom’s hand as she bargains with the men. Finally they come to an agreement. One of the men in the back turn and walk toward me. He has a weird look of disgust as he walks toward me. He then pulls out a syringe and shoves it into my arm and pushes the liquid inside of me.
I wake up in bed sweat covering me sticking my hair to my face. Pain shoots through my arms threatening to make me pass out. I sit up looking around. Was that really a memory or just a weird pain induced nightmare? I slowly go to stand up, testing my legs not trusting them at the moment. I make my way to my bathroom when I notice my door is open a crack.
Willow stands just outside my door speaking to someone on the phone in a hushed voice. “She is asleep right now… I thought you would be able to find her faster… My mom was able to turn off the transmitter because you weren’t fast enough… Now you have to come up with a new plan, and you better not get me caught…” She presses the end button and I rush into the bathroom and shut the door.
I turn on the sink and wash my face. What did she mean by that? Was she with The Society? Couldn’t she just tell them where I am? I step out of the bathroom and she is in my room on my bed. “Hey how are you feeling? Can I get you anything?” She smiles at me and sounds sincere. Moving over she makes room for me to lie down on my bed. I walk over and sit by her. “I am okay. I had a nightmare so I just went to wash my face. I was sweating bad.” She frowns and then stands up. I glance at her wrist looking for her Numbers. She doesn’t have any sign of ever having one.
“Did you grow up in here Willow?” I ask her trying to not seem to nosy.
“Yeah I did. I have never left the mountain. My mom left The Society when she was 16. She was pregnant with me. Her and my dad had gotten together against The Society’s rules. She found this place and had me. Back then there was an older man that was fronting the Entity. He helped raise me and my mom. He was like my grandpa.” She looks down at her wrist and I see what might be longing. After a minute she walks out of my room and closes the door.
I sit on my bed and think about everything that had just happened. She was talking to someone on the phone about a plan. She had never left the mountain. And there was someone running the Entity before Evelynn. There was something weird about the way Willow looked at her wrist too. It looked like she was sad that she wasn’t a part of The Society. My arm starts to throb making my head spin so I lay down trying to get a little more rest.
I sleep for what feels like days and when I wake up Evelynn is sitting in the chair across from my bed. I roll over and sit up to look at her. She smiles and greets me. She wanted to come check to see how I have been healing and to change my bandage. I then find out that I had only been asleep for a few hours since Willow had checked on me. She then walks over and puts her hand out for me to give her my arm.
She moves and examines the wound before slowly pulling off the dirty bandage and replacing it with a fresh one. The second my arm hits the air pain zips through my arm down my back. Who knew such a small thing could hurt so bad. It subsides as soon as the new bandage is placed, but it doesn’t stop the memory of the pain. Evelynn then tells me that I need to rest for a bit longer but in an hour she will have Aaron bring up a meal for me. I didn’t get to eat dinner but I hadn’t even thought about it since my Numbers went haywire.
My stomach starts to rumble so I ask if I can have my meal sent up now. Evelynn complies and within minutes Aaron knocks on my door twice and enters the room. He walks over eyes glued to the ground and he sets the food on the bed next to me. I thank him expecting him to leave but he stands there with a twisted guilt-ridden face.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t know it would hurt you that bad. If I had known I wouldn’t have done the procedure.” He looks at me and all I see in his face is pure disappointment in himself. I move the tray to the table by me and gesture him to come sit on the bed with me.
“I am okay. Aaron, I’m glad you did it. I don’t want The Society to be able to follow my every move. Yes it hurt but it was worth it.” I look down at his Numbers and I slowly lift my hand to touch the skin that covers his chip. Goosebumps ripple up his arm and his breath catches. “Where is your SoulMate?” I whisper.
His eyes burn a hole in my hand. I can feel his heartbeat underneath his skin. “I don’t have one. That’s why I am here. I was born with a zeroed out Number.” My heart drops but speeds up at the same time. We are equals. We are both mistakes. He raises his opposite hand and covers mine. This time it’s my turn to get goosebumps. My heart does flips as he raises his head and looks straight into my eyes. His face just inches away from mine. The pain in his eye melt away and I see a beautiful vulnerability.
He closes the space and our noses touch. I can feel the intensity in his touch on my hand. I push closer to him and our foreheads press together. We sit there like that hand on hand, nose to nose, forehead to forehead. Both of us not wanting to go further, both of us wanting much much more. I’m the one to break contact first. I sit back looking down. Shaking my head I tell him sorry. His eyes show me that I have broken a wall inside of him. “I’m not sorry. I could tell from the second I saw you at the gas station that I wanted to kiss you.”
Stunned I sit and look at him. “I don’t know you. I don’t know why this just happened, but it shouldn’t have. We haven’t even taken the time to build a connection.” I know in my words that it’s wrong as I say it. I too have known that I felt an instant attraction to this boy that met me at the gas station. I am just too afraid to love outside of The Society’s rule. Aaron gets up to leave, but before he does he leans down and presses a hand to my shoulder. My arm tingles with his touch. He leaves and I go over to eat my long awaited dinner.
A few days have passed since my procedure and I am finally starting to adjust to life inside the mountain. Aaron tries to hang around as much as he can when he isn’t working. I have learned so much about him in the past few days. When he was born The Society took him just like they do with all newborns, but when he returned he was given back with his Numbers already zeroed out. His parents fought for an answer but nobody would give them any answers.
When he was about 7 his parents were trying to get answers once again when The Society’s army came into his house and shot his parents right in front of him. He ran and ran until he ran into Evelynn. She had been on her way to his house to speak with his parents when she found him. She took him into the mountain and showed him the way of the Entity.
Every time Aaron told me a piece of his story my heart broke for him. I understand the pain in his eyes now and a part of me wishes I didn’t. I don’t complain when he hangs around me anymore. With each moment that passes between us the feeling in pit of my stomach grows. I have never been in love but I think I might be getting there.