Chapter One - Juniper
I am normal… Sorry, I was normal. When I was about five is when my world turned upside down. I realized that I wasn’t normal, I was a hybrid. But that was years ago, and in the present day, I’m in prison. My name’s Juniper, or #119. I haven’t been called my name in years. Sometimes, I forget about it temporarily. It never truly leaves. You’re probably wondering what’s so bad about being a hybrid… well, I’ll tell you.
Hybrids are humans crossed between one or more animals. Most commonly it's one or two… I, however, am mixed with four. I have giant rams horns, fish gills, bird wings, and snake eyes. All these things just make me more of a freak. Hybrids also usually possess one of the four elements. I however, don’t possess any supernatural powers. People used to cringe on the street when I wasn’t old enough to be moved to the holding house. The holding house is the place where you go before being moved to the prison. Your roughly 10 when you’re moved, and you’re 13 when you go to the real jail. I’m currently 18, and I have been imprisoned for almost five years. Every day I’m not sure if I’ll make it, but I try nevertheless. If I’ve made it this far, another day is just a hop, skip, and a jump away. Only certain people can survive hours of tourture a day. Most people only make it a week, maybe even two at most. Before they kill themselves or are killed. There’s my past. Now, let’s talk about the present.
I hear banging of prison doors and screams. I hear screams all day, from young children or adults. The prison probably doesn't sound that bad from the description I gave you, but it’s hell on earth. In just a couple years of staying here I have become extremely malnourished and weak. My hair is long and in big knots. I’m pretty sure one of these days I’ll just drop dead. That’s what most people do anyway, but I’m obviously not like most people. This prison is made for hybrids, but a couple really bad humans have come here. One of them was my roommate for a couple weeks. He was a cool guy to talk to, but was shot on sight after he attempted to beat up one of the guards. That happens sometimes, most of the time they’ll shoot you privately. I woke up early and stared at the stone ceiling. I don’t know what time it is, but my hours of torture are early in the morning. Sometimes I force myself to stay awake, hoping that I’ll pass out and be asleep for torture. It never usually works, but what other choice do I have? I heard the banging on the door close to an hour later. “Wake up maggot it’s torture time.” I rolled my eyes, “I know, I know, I’m coming.” The guard puts chains on me and leads me down the hallway. Most of the other hybrids are still asleep. Sometimes you’ll see one attempting suicide any way they can in there room. The guards don’t really pay attention to that, if someone dies, they die. You clean up the body and someone new moves into your cell.
One time I was hired to clean up the body of a little girl, she just moved in the day before. She killed herself by banging her head against the concrete wall. Her head was full of bruises and huge bumps leaking out puss. I won’t say I’ve never contemplated suicide, because I have. I’ve never gone through with it though. Usually it was because my cell is so barren that there really isn’t an efficient way where you wouldn’t suffer. The guard leads me down the stairs and into the small room with the stone sliding door. I entered and the guard unchains me. “Have fun,” he whispered. I just rolled my eyes and ignored him. Never give attention to anyone if you don’t want attention from them. I noticed the chair in the center of the room surrounded by machines and a bucket of water. I know what he’s going to do today.The doctor that usually does the torture knows how to hurt, but not to kill. Most of the time I wish the torture would just kill me so I could be done with this life. I noticed the doctors head looking at me from around the corner. “I can see you.” He came around the corner to reveal his slim figure and lab coat. “Doesn't matter if you can see me or not… It only matters what happens next.”
I rolled my eyes and looked down at my feet. The doctor gestured to the chair. “I’m sure you know what we’re doing today.” I gave a confident yet intimidating grin, “Of course.” I’d been in this place for about five years, I know every method of torture created. Today, were doing torture with electricity. I sit in the chair and the doctor casually chains my hands and feet to the electric chair. He takes the small piece of rough fabric used for a blindfold and ties it around my head. The doctor takes the bucket of water and dumps it over my head. The freezing water makes me flinch. I hear the doctor press a few buttons and then the chair roars to life. The chair is full of rust, and if you come with any open wounds just expect them to get infected. There was a guy who once lived in the cell right next to me. He was about 20 and had been found selling drugs to make money. He was a hybrid, I’m not sure what he was mixed with because I never saw his face. He cut himself on a knife. Sometimes if a hybrid is being too much of a handful they’ll purposely give them weapons. The temptation of killing yourself is enough to drive you mad. Our cells have a heavy, key operated door. If anything comes into your cell it will most likely never come out. One form of torture is to put highly venomous snakes in your cell and give you an hour to survive. They give you the anti venom after an hour. Like I said before, if you die, you die. Survival of the fittest. Anyway, the guy cut himself and then has electricity torture the next day. He groaned all night for days. One day he fell off his bed and bam! It was lights out for him. The guards found him the next day with a major concussion and widely spread blood poisoning. I wasn’t very sad when he died… he had a couple days at most left anyway. I heard the electric chair buzz to life and I felt a wave of electricity run through me, the water just makes it worse. I flinch, but I don’t scream anymore, it’s not worth the energy anyway. I grit my teeth and clench my hands into fists. It finishes as quickly as it started. It repeats a couple of times more, each one a little less painful than the other. I finish and proceed to head out the door. The guard is waiting for me outside of the door. “Have fun?” He mumbled. I give him a happy smile. “Absolutely… I could do this all day.” He nodded and led me back to my cell.
The door loudly slid open and I entered. “Your next session is in five hours.” I don’t respond and sat down on my bed. I lay my head on the extremely uncomfortable pillow and stared at the ceiling. Sometimes I’ll find new cracks in the ceiling that I didn’t notice before. Usually that makes a day exciting. I touch the ceiling and run my hands along the cracks. The beds they give you are usually elevated to the point where you can touch the ceiling. I was pretty tired and figured it wouldn’t hurt to try to sleep. I hoped that when I came here that they at least gave you a blanket. I rolled onto my side and stared at the wall. If you look close enough you can see scratch marks. People go crazy in here, they claw at the wall, and then their nails are bloody. I wonder how many people scratched that wall, how many people banged there head against that wall. The wall has probably seen more than a World War Two Survivor. I was dozing off when I heard a scream. I sit up, almost hitting my head on the ceiling. It was a girl across the hall from me, I could see her through the small window in the door. She began to rip out her black, knotted hair. “GET ME OUT OF HERE PLEASE, I DON’T WANT TO BE HERE ANYMORE,” Her hair soon became patches and her face became wet with her tears. She banged her head against the door. I couldn’t hear much of what she was saying, but that was mostly because I chose not to listen. Soon, guards came and took her away. I looked out the window once more, she was thrashing and kicking. “TAKE ME AWAY… YES! THIS IS WHAT I WANT KILL ME PLEASE!” Her hands were free enough to claw at her eyes. They began to bleed. I saw her legs under the black leggings. They were the legs of a goat. I don't know where they were going to take her, but I had a hunch I wouldn’t be seeing her any time soon. I laid on my opposite side and tried to not think about what just happened. I eventually was able to sleep. I had a horrible dream, where I lose my sanity. I ripped out my hair and scratched at my gills. They bled, and I banged my head against the wall. Except no guards came, I just kept destroying myself. I clawed at my eyes and tried to rip out my horns. My scalp, neck, and eyes bled. I bruised up my body. I could barely see anything through the blood leaking from my eyes. I assumed I looked normal, that's what I wanted, right? My body started to grow boils, that burned, and leaked with puss. I screamed, and I began to die on the floor, in a pool of puss and blood. I laughed maniacally as I became weak, and eventually I fell “asleep.” I woke up in a cold sweat. No, I never want to be normal. Yes, this life is hard, but being normal is worse.
I touched my head to find my horns were still there. I touched my neck, where my gills were. They were perfectly normal, and I smiled to myself. I was fine, yes I was hurt on the outside, but at least I had my sanity. I rolled out of my bed and stretched. I received my lunch a few minutes later, and ate in silence. The food was the same, some disgusting soup, and a glass of water. I expected to see the guard soon, and when he did show up, I gave him a half smile. He chained me up, and I felt like he was tense. I ignored it and followed him down the hall. I was surprised when we walked right past the staircase that led to the torture room. I looked down the staircase and saw the doctor outside the door. He also looked extremely nervous. I gave him a confused look, and he shook his head as a response. They’re going to kill me, aren’t they? There going to take me to one of those private rooms and shoot me. I was led to a part of the prison I had never seen. The walls were painted white, and all the rooms had different doors. The guard quietly unchained me and left me in the room. “Wait here #119.” He stared at his shoes and left the room with a worried expression. He closed the door behind him. I’ve rarely been addressed as #119. Usually it’s “maggot”, or “dirty animal”. I turned around and began to take a closer look at the room. It had padded walls and a padded ground. The door wasn’t one of those big sliding doors, but looked like a door you would find at a hospital. It was simply a plain, white door. I tried to turn the knob. Locked… of course…. why did I even try? The more I looked at this room, the more paranoid I became. They put crazy people in here. I’m not crazy though, am I? I seem more sane than anyone I’ve encountered in this prison. I began to hyperventilate, and I cried. I don’t want to die here, I just want to be free. I want to be outside. I want to feel the grass and smell the fresh air. I want to be home. I don’t remember home very well, but I’m sure it was amazing. I attempted to calm myself. It is what it is… If they kill me there’s nothing I can do about it.
I waited for hours. I stared at the ceiling, which wasn’t padded. It was bright white, not dark like the usual cells. Finally, a guard came and opened the door. “What’s going on?” I ask. The guard smiled, “You’re just being moved to a new cell… on the top floor.” I nodded and smiled back. I enjoy the guard that moves me from place to place. I’ve seen some guards that whip you just for asking a question. He leads me to the back of the corridor, to a small winding staircase. The guard leads me up about four flights until we reach the top. He gestured to the small room to the left of the staircase. “Your new outfit is in there.” I nodded and went through the door. The room was small, it had lockers and benches. The room was black concrete, just like every other cell and corridor in this prison. I noticed a white long-sleeved shirt and long pants. The color of your uniform depends on what floor your located. I was previously in the basement, which means I wore a black uniform. If you’re on the ground level you wear orange, and the top floor wears white. I picked up the shirt and noticed the sloppily sewn number. The number was on the sleeves of the shirt, and over your heart. I quickly changed and dumped my old clothes on the floor. The white uniform felt nice. I love the feeling of wearing freshly washed clothes. Unfortunately, I don’t experience that feeling very often. I looked down at my bare feet. The pants practically cover my feet. I knew this white outfit would get dirty in little time at all. Maybe that means they’ll wash it more. I rolled up my pant legs to be a little above my ankles. I happily sighed, “A change of scenery is always nice.” I walked out of the room wearing my new uniform. The guard stared at me, “Dashing.” He muttered. I nodded, “Extremely.” I said sarcastically. The top floor was definitely brighter than the basement, for obvious reasons. I was led to my new cell after a short walk down the corridor. The new cell wasn’t any different from the old one, but it felt nice to be somewhere different. Plus, I got out of torture for the day. You can never tell what time it is in this prison, but I was tired. I climbed up to my bed, and began to fall asleep. I didn’t die. Oh, come on Juniper, this place is bad… but they don’t just shoot random hybrids. I took a big sigh of relief and closed my eyes.
The next day I woke up feeling refreshed, which usually doesn't happen. I swung my feet over the side of the bed and stretched. I sighed happily, and sat down on the floor. I heard a deep voice through the wall of the cell. “You new here kid?” The walls must be thinner on the top floor because usually I would be able to hear almost nothing through the walls. “No… I just was moved from the basement.” I heard a few footsteps in front of my door. “Look out ya window.” The voice was extremely deep and I assumed it was a man. I used my wings to fly up to the window. I looked through and saw a guard standing on the opposite side. “Oh… hello officer how are you today?” The officer broke through the window with his bare hands and grabbed my neck. I couldn’t breathe. I kicked the door as if that would do anything. Black dots clouded my vision. I noticed that my hands began to turn purple. I’m going to die here… He’s going to strangle me to death. I became mad. I didn’t want this to happen. I didn’t choose this life… This life is a curse. My hands started to become hot. I thought terrible things before all I could see was fire. The guard shrieked and dropped me on the ground. I landed and the broken glass cut my knees and my brand new outfit. I took deep breaths and tried to calm myself down. I looked outside the window and saw the guards body engulfed in flames. His skin was melting off of him like hot wax. I looked away and sat down in front of the door. My hands were hot. Eventually more guards came. They asked me what happened and I told them the whole story. “Killing an officer results in death.” An officer said. I didn’t kill him though, did I? I don’t possess any supernatural powers. Even if I did, hybrid powers are usually weak. They can light a small fire at their strongest. I got mad, “NO! YOU CAN’T KEEP KILLING THE INNOCENT YOU MURDERERS!” My hands began to feel hot again. I crumbled to the floor. I’m dead for sure now. The guards left my cell without saying another word. Dead. There definitely going to kill me now after what I said. Outbursts like that aren’t taken lightly. I laid in my bed. If I was going to be killed at least I should sleep. Hopefully it’ll come sooner. Then, I can be done. I closed my eyes and after hours, I fell asleep.
I woke up the next day in an upright position. When I opened my eyes, all I saw was black. I tried to move my limbs but they were stuck. Is this what death feels like? So, they did kill me. I tried to break free from whatever indestructible force was holding me down. “Stop… You’ll hurt yourself.” I froze… whose voice was that? “Hello?” I ask. Someone from behind took off whatever was on my face. I could see that I definitely wasn’t in the prison anymore. Instead I was in a meeting room. The room had a long table with chairs on each side. I also wasn’t in my prison outfit anymore. Instead I was in sweatpants, a black tank top, and hiking boots. My hands and legs were tied to a wheelchair. Standing on the other end was a middle aged man on the other side of the table, smoking a cigarette. “You finally woke up…”
I didn’t respond to him. Behind him was a boy who looked about my age. He was wearing a sweatshirt with a hood, and was staring at his feet. His dirty blond hair was draped over his eyes. “Where am I? Who are you?” The man laughed. I could smell his tobacco breath from across the room. “We’re part of a highly secret detective business that handles secret missions.” “Why are you here than… don’t you have a secret mission to finish.” The man puffed his cigarette and dropped it into an ashtray. “You’re the mission.” I flinched, and my jaw dropped. I’m the mission? Why would anyone want me to do anything? “Why do you want me? Don’t you want some professional spy?” The boy behind the man chimed into the conversation. “Because you have something no soldier has.” I rolled my eyes, “What is that?” He laughed under his breath. “You really have no idea what you did?” I scrunch my face. “No, what did I do?” He gestured to someone behind me. I heard the sound of rolling. I looked behind me to see a machine with a huge screen and a lot of wires. What the heck is this thing? The boy walked over to the machine and touched it’s top. This little machine tells us the level of danger in hybrids. “You needed a machine to tell you that?!” I exclaimed. The boy raised one eyebrow. “Of course… how else would we know who to kill and who to keep alive?” The man at the other end of the table smiled slyly. “Casper, would you like to show her how it works?” I shook my head disapprovingly. “You people are crazy… I’m not dangerous.” The boy, who was supposedly named Casper, shook his head. “I’m sure that’s what the guard who tried to strangle you thought too.” Casper attached a wire with a velcro strap to my hand. “It’s going to shock you a little but I’m sure you won’t mind.” He pressed a couple buttons, and the machine screen lit up.
I felt a shock run up and down my arm. I flinched, but it was nothing compared to what I have experienced. The shock ended and the machine began to beep uncontrollably. “Wow…,” The man began, “We did this to you when you were asleep. But it's even higher now when your awake.” I scrunch my face, “Would someone please explain to me what your talking about.” The man pulled another pack of cigarettes out of his pocket, and lit one. “You see… your special.” I rolled my eyes, “And what does that have to do with this?” He puffed his cigarette and coughed. “Most hybrids can harm people with their elemental powers, but no hybrid has ever been lethal. Well, until today. You killed someone with your powers, but you have the potential to do so much more. You can burn, drown, demolish, or blow cities away. Maybe even do more if you tried.” I raise one eyebrow, “Why would I want to do that?” Casper leaned over the table. “Why wouldn’t you want to get revenge on the people who made your life awful?” I ignored him and stared straight into the man's eyes. His black eyes were bloodshot around the corners. His hair was a mess and he was extremely fat. “So, what do you want me to do?” I asked.
Chapter Two - Casper
I never realized that I would be where I am now. If you asked me 15 years ago where I would be now, I wouldn’t say working for my dad. I never wanted to work for my dad, he only cares about money. He hated my mother more than anyone in the world. He found out she was pregnant when they were dating. My dad acted like he cared, but after she had the baby, he ran away with me. Neither me or my dad have seen her since that incident. He started TICOSAH (The International Cooperation of Spies and Hybrids), about five years prior. TICOSAH (pronounced tick-oh-shaw), was a horrible corporation that was supposed to help hybrids by giving them jobs as spies. The flaw, was that the government had input on what he did with the company. It mainly means that after the hybrids were done with their spy mission, they went to the prison to die. His business was a failure, but hybrids still went to him for jobs. I think it’s because hybrids would rather die having done something for someone. But I can’t talk about something I don’t understand.
You’d be surprised how many homeless hybrids live on the streets. The prison really captured any of the hybrids. The majority of them just run around the street. Regular people still outnumber the population of hybrids 5-1, and that’s just in America. But once people realized that these mutations were happening, the president built a wall around America. He also shut down all the planes and jets. No one has gone in or out of America in decades. We’re facing a major population problem. People are depressed and scared of having kids if there’s a risk they might be a freak. Nobody tells the hybrids this… but after a hybrid is moved to the holding house… their parents are killed. This is supposed to help the gene pool. A hundred years ago the population was roughly 360 million. Then there was a crisis, and then there was the hybrid problem. The population is roughly 30 million currently. Unless this stops soon the population will reach close to zero in about fifty years. The sooner we find this mutation in the gene pool, the better it will be for everyone. Hybrids are amazing “creatures” but they need to go away for this world to be at peace. I recall kids at my old school saying that there was a strange bump on their head or neck. The teacher would look concerned, and then they would be gone. I prayed for years that something like that wouldn’t happen to me. I never wanted to be looked at differently than anybody else. I just wanted to be normal.
When I heard that I had a mission with my dad, I almost vomited. I try to avoid my dad on a day to day basis. I can’t stand him, and won’t hang around him for any longer than necessary. This mission was created to recruit a “special” hybrid. I don’t exactly know what comes next, but I heard something about murder. I was dragged into this mission by my dad. He is always trying to make me interested in his job. I hate what he’s doing, and I wish I lived with another family. I want a mom and a loving dad. But I guess I can’t really complain. Things can always get worse, for both hybrids and humans. And at least I have a dad, Juniper probably doesn't know this… but her parents are dead. That would be a hard burden to bear for your whole life. You would have to live with the burden of innocent people dying all because you were different. But there’s enough about the past… Let’s talk about the present.
I arrived at the prison, with no high hopes about this “top secret” mission. My dad rambles on and on about how exciting it will be to actually meet a special hybrid. And not “one of those ones that just roam around the street and do as they please.” I was the one that had to get the little “pest” from her cell and drag her down into the interrogation room. I used a strong sedative that is used by secret agents. My dad didn’t want her awake. After the whole story went around about her melting off the skin of an officer, he wanted to be safe. I retrieved her from her room, and both me and my dad ran a couple tests to see her capabilities. Her vitals were through the roof. She could easily destroy a city with this power. “Woah, that’s a strong beast right there I’ll tell ya that much.” My dad told me. The hybrid girl wasn’t scary, except for her piercingly green snake eyes. They never blink, just like a snake. We had to blindfold her because even my dad was starting to become nervous. When we were done we sat her in the wheelchair, chained her down, and waited. It was a long and painful hour, and my dad went through almost two packs of cigarettes. He better stop that habit soon, or he’ll end up with dead lungs by 50. My dad’s extremely suicidal. He does anything he can to end his life early. I mean, it’s not his fault he got drunk, and had a pregnant girlfriend at 18. He’s only 36 now, and death is constantly looking at him from around the corner. I’m only 18, and I didn't even get to finish my second year of highschool. I love school, and wanted to do something important with my life. Not help my dad in his useless business. The crisis in America has affected everyone, and I want to be a part of putting it to an end. But without a GED, I have no chance of even getting a decent job.
I sat in the corner, and waited for my dad to tell me he needed me. I watched the girl as she woke up, and ask questions. She had something intimidating about her that I just couldn’t explain. Hybrids are usually extremely short, she was no more than five foot. But there was something in her voice that made me want to stay far away from her. Then again, she did just kill someone. When the time came for me to take her vitals, I was shaking, but I did it quick. It’s really incredible the amount of force that came out of her. Power in this country is measured in letter grades. The average hybrid is an F or D. She was higher than an A, by fifty times. I hope this power was given to the right person. In the wrong hands it could kill a lot of people. Cities would quiver and evacuate at the sight of her if they knew what they were dealing with. The whole mission is to use her to override the FBI’s ( Federal Bureau of Investigation) “secret mission.” That’s all my dad told me. Something about how the FBI is going through a low point, and is performing some kind of illegal stunt. Her abilities are supposed to help us break in and eavesdrop.
“So, what do you want me to do?” She asked. My dad stared right into her eyes and gave her a half smile. “Just some secret stuff… nothin’ too big.” He mumbled. The girl rolled her eyes, “But what exactly do I have to do.” My dad got ready to respond, “Yo-.” I butted in, “It’s an FBI issue. They are supposedly up to something very dangerous, and very illegal. But no one has gotten the chance to do anything about it.” The girl turned to me and scrunched her face. “What do you want me to do about it?” I shrugged my shoulder, “You have all this power. You might as well use it.” I could tell she was still confused. She opened her mouth a few times to speak, but closed it immediately. “If you’re confused,” I began, “We’ll explain more in our headquarters.” The hybrid shot me an extremely confused look. The officers behind her blindfolded her, and covered her mouth. I listened to her muffled screams, as they rolled her away in the wheelchair. The door silently closed behind them, and I heard her scream down the hall. “It’s gonna be hard to recruit her.” I turned around and looked in my dad's eyes. “Why do you think that?” I ask. My dad opened a manila folder in front of him. Her file apparently states that she has been convicted of multiple crimes before the age of ten. She stole, mugged someone, and illegally trespassed. “That just makes her perfect for the job.” I commented. My dad shook his head. “Son, if there’s anything you should know about criminals… is that they are not easily persuaded.” He leaned back in his chair, “They fly solo.” He added. I sighed and stared at the floor. “I think she’s different.” My dad shrugged, “You can think whatever you want… It doesn't concern me.” I was treated like this my whole life. My dad always treated me like my opinion didn’t matter. My dad opened his mouth to say something, but I walked out the door before he could finish. I stuck my hands in my pockets, and felt my phone vibrate. I pulled out my phone, and answered the call on the holographic screen. I saw the driver of our van in front of me. “We’re ready to pick you up,” He said, “Meet us out front.” I nodded and hung up the phone. I didn’t feel like talking to anyone.
I met the driver in front and sat in the back of the van with the hybrid. The van started up, and drove out of the parking lot of the prison. The girls teeth were clenched, and her hands were in fists. “Don’t look so tense.” Her head abruptly cocked to one side. Even though I couldn’t see her eyes through the blindfold, I felt them staring. “That’s easy for you to say, Casper.” She said my name in disgust, but I’m not bothered, she has reasons to hate me. “Well being tense won’t help this situation.” She didn’t acknowledge me. I took a longer look at her to realize that she wasn’t tense, she was scared. That was probably why the whole van didn’t explode in flames. Tears sprung from her eyes and soaked the blindfold. Her breathing was raspy, and she was constantly swallowing. I closed the sliding door that separates the driver's seat from the trunk. I went back to my chair in the corner and took the blindfold of the girl. She shook her head and stared at me straight in the eyes. Her breathing slowed and she began to be calm. “First things first… what’s your name?” I asked. She shook her head softly, “You don’t need to know that.” I shrugged my shoulders and rolled my eyes. “Well, we’re going to be hanging out for quite a while… I might as well have a name to call you.” “Juniper… That’s my name if you really want it.” I nodded and gave half smile. “Because you already know my name, let's talk about something else.” Juniper was shaking and I saw tears in her eyes. “What’s wrong?” I ask. The girl slowly lifted her head up and stared right into my eyes with rage. “You sedated me, made me question who I am, and trapped me in a van,” Her voice was surprisingly calm, “And you really have the nerve to ask me what’s wrong?” She threw her head back and laughed maniacally. I tried to smack her in the face to get her to calm down, but her skin was burning hot. I quickly pulled my hand back “Stop! You’re going to make this whole van go up in flames!”
Juniper slowly stopped and leaned back in her wheelchair. “ What’s wrong with me?” She asked fearfully. I shrugged, “If I knew what caused this I would tell you.” She shook her head and began to cry. “Where are you taking me? I need to know!” I nodded, “Calm down, you’re coming to our headquarters. There, you’ll be instructed on what we need you to do.” She swallowed and nodded her head shyly. “Being a hybrid is messed up…” I tilted my head, “In what way?” Juniper started at the ceiling contently. “People make fun of hybrids. The next day they find out their pregnant. A few months after they have their child. They continue to make fun of hybrids until they realize their child is one. Then they live their whole life knowing they made a monster, and that shuts them up forever… It’s a messed up concept.” I nodded, even though she didn’t know that those parents die. You should tell her. “Yeah,” I said, “That’s really messed up.” Juniper shrugged, “Life’s not fair to anyone, regardless of what they are.” She said. After that we spent the rest of the van ride in complete silence. You should have told her about her parents. But I decided not too, she’s been through enough already. We arrived at our headquarters shortly after the end of our conversation. I put the blindfold back on her face and tell her not to panic. She’d get it off again soon, than I unloaded her from the truck. The small abandoned hospital worked perfectly as a headquarters. No one thinks to look here, and ignores any sounds being released due to a childish fear of clowns.
I rolled her up the ramp and into the creaking doors of the hospital. The tan paint was chipping off, and most of the tools were rusty. The only room we really focused on remodeling was the holding cell. There was a small bed with sturdy straps designed to hold down anyone. There are many machines in the room, most of them I don’t even know their use. The walls are padded, and the many cabinets contain old tools. There are lights similar to the one a dentist uses, and syringes loaded with sedatives on a small rolling table. Every room of the hospital is cold, and smells like rubbing alcohol. I rolled the wheelchair into one of the first rooms available. My dad was already sitting at the other end of a long table with many chairs. I took her blindfold off, and sat by my dad at the other end of the table. Juniper was obviously calmer than before, and she sat in her wheelchair contently. “So,” my dad began while lighting a cigarette, “It’s time to tell you exactly what you need to do.” Juniper nodded and took a deep breath. “We have had some reports saying that the FBI is up to some “sketchy stuff.” We want you to train the powers you have in a special room prepared for you. In a few days we will give you special armor, and drop you in front of the FBI headquarters. You’ll break in and attempt to steal or get information whatever they are planning.” Juniper gave a confused face. “Shouldn’t this be more of a secret… Why am I breaking in so publically? Shouldn’t I act like a real spy and have our mission be a secret?” My dad shrugged, “You’ll do what we tell you to do… no questions asked.”
Juniper shook her head vigorously, “You hire me for this job, and you tell me to do something that makes no logical sense!” She was about to say something else, but was cut off by my dad. “You won’t ask any questions… Are we clear?” Juniper took a deep breath to calm herself down, and nodded her head. My dad gestured for me to take her to the “special room.” I put the blindfold back on her, and rolled her down the hall. I took a right turn and stopped at the door at the end of the hallway. I opened it with a keycard and lead her inside. I untied her and took off her blindfold. The rooms walls were covered in metal resistant to almost any form of weaponry or temperature. I hope this is enough to contain her. I untie her and take off her blindfold. “You can stand up now.” Juniper stood up and stretched. “Is this where I’m going to be living?” I nodded my head, “Yes.” I replied. The room was small, with padded floors. There was a pillow in the corner, with the padded floors acting like a mattress. “There’s no blanket, but if you need one I can probably get you one.” Juniper shook her head, “I’m okay.” She looked around the room with content. “This is infinitely better than my old room.” This room is horrible. It smells like rotting flesh. “Oh… good,” I say, “Well tomorrow we’ll start training. Good night.” Juniper didn’t respond, and I turned around to walk out the door. “You too.” She responded. I walked out of the small room and closed the door behind me. My hands ran down the door, and I locked it from the outside. I stared at the door of her room, my chin touching my chest. I took a deep breath, and swiveled around on my feet. I left the wheelchair sitting by her door, one of the guards would retrieve it for me. I stayed silent as I slowly walked down the hall.
I entered my dad’s bedroom after about 10 minutes of walking. He was wearing a silk robe. He had a cup of tea in one hand, and a cigarette in the other. My dad made sure that the room he was sleeping in was just as good as his old room. He replaced the hospital bed with his king sized bed. The walls were repainted red and his sheets also became red. The floor was replaced with wood, and added a corridor to the bathroom. The hospital is so old, that at certain times is was close to falling apart during the renovations. He sat on a small velvet chair in the corner, and was reading a book in his lap. His head darted up to me the second I entered his room. “You didn’t knock.” He said. “I’m sorry, but I’ve been thinking about the plan…” My dad interrupted me, “You can’t change my opinion Casper we have to do what we have to do.” I shrugged, “I know, but I was thinking that maybe we could… I don’t know... change the final step?” My dad shook his head vigorously, and almost spilled his tea on him. “The final step is what is going to get us the money! And you are going to be part of it!” I stared at the floor, and fidgeted with my hands. “I’m starting to have second thoughts… She’s more than what we think she is… I just don’t think she deserves it.” My dad looked at me extremely disappointed.
“You have too, there’s no questions about it. Now leave me in peace, please.” I stared at the floor, not wanting to anger him any more, but I just couldn’t do what he wanted me to do. “I can’t.” I murmur. My dad clenched his fists, and I could see all the veins inside his neck. “You will and that’s final Casper! I’ve sacrificed too much for you to give up on this mission! She’s a hybrid! SHE’S JUST AN ANIMAL!” His voice was so loud, and I thought Juniper was going to be able to hear him. “Stop dad! You don’t know what you’re talking about!” “WELL I DEFINITELY KNOW MORE THAN YOU! SO JUST BE QUIET AND DO WHAT YOU’RE SUPPOSED TO!” I wanted to argue with my dad… but I didn’t. It would be a long time until I had to do what he wanted me to do. Instead I exited the room silently, staring at my feet, not wanting to anger my dad any further. Walking down the empty hallways to my room was excruciating. Thinking about what had just happened hurt me. I couldn’t do it… well… maybe my dad is right. Don’t be stupid you saw how she talked to you… she’s more than just an animal.
She talked to me like I didn’t just kidnap her in a van. Okay… so she was a little hesitant at first. But she told me the information I wanted to know about her, and eventually she warmed up to me. She’s one of the only people that I know other than relatives. I have very few relatives. I never knew anyone on my moms side. My dad’s side is either dead, or hybrids that are locked away someplace. After my aunt became a hybrid, my grandma and grandpa were killed. She found out she was a hybrid later in life, around twenty years old. My grandparents did everything they could to keep her, and them from dying. They took my aunt and my dad out of school. They locked her away in her room, only letting her out when absolutely necessary. They told everyone that my sister died from a severe brain hematoma, but my dad knew very well that wasn’t true. He almost spoke up about it when he and his mom were at the grocery store. My grandma was talking to her friend about the tragedy, and the upcoming funeral. My dad almost spoke up, and said that she was still alive. My grandma had to cut the conversation short, and drag my dad out of the store. She yelled at him a lot during the car ride home. My dad and his sister we’re fifteen years apart, and he didn’t know any better.
He came home from school one day to find his sister gone, and his parents shot. The large bullets were protruding from the side of their heads, a pool of blood was collecting under them. My dad went to go live with a friend of his mom’s about a week after the tragedy. My dad didn’t know any better… he stayed in the house with the rotting bodies for a week. The blood was getting into the cracks of the hardwood floor, and the smell was horrible. I knew these stories so well because my father told me when I was only five years old. I was young, and my brain absorbed everything everyone told me. He taught me to be scared of hybrids, and to realize that they corrupt your life.
The hallway of the hospitals were really long, and my feet became heavy. I felt sad, and fell to my knees. I became tired, I fell to the floor, and I began to shake. Half of my body began to shake uncontrollably. I felt vomit coming from my throat, and it rose to my mouth. I turned over to my back and stared at the bright lights on the ceiling. It’s okay Casper, you’re just having a seizure. Your epilepsy is just showing symptoms. I took the side of my body that wasn’t shaking, and grabbed the calling device from my pocket. Then it hit me. I left the other device in Juniper’s room, it’s not with my dad. Juniper won’t know what to do, she can’t save me. The vomit came to my mouth, and I couldn’t breathe. I choked on my vomit, and tried to call for help. The device was buzzing, but I knew very well that no one was coming. I’d choke and gag in the hallways until I died slowly. Maybe this will be a good thing. Maybe I can finally be free from my dad. I had epilepsy after all, my dad knew this was coming. He got me a small device to call him if I needed help, but he did nothing more. He didn’t love me, he never did. I felt woozy and lightheaded. Then, I blacked out… The whole world became black, and still.
Chapter Three - Juniper
I was about to fall asleep on the surprisingly comfy cot. Then, a small device on a table in the corner of the room began to ring. There was a lady’s voice saying words like, “Seizure! Seizure! Help!” I didn’t think it was any of my concern, so I ignored it. Then, thirty seconds later, it rang again, but this time louder. “Seizure! Seizure! Seizure!” There was definitely something wrong, I felt it. I have to help. I didn’t know what was wrong, or what a seizure was, but I knew I had to help. I examined the sliding door of my room. There’s no way I can get out of here through the door. The door was firm steel, and there were at least 4 different locks. The device was getting louder, “SEIZURE! SEIZURE!” I panicked and looked around the room for any sort of escape route. I saw the vent on the top of the ceiling. Alright wings, it’s time to fly. I tore holes in my shirt, and spread my wings out through them. My wings were bigger than I had remembered. They were sky blue, and touched the ground when I stood. This room is too small for me to fly. I attempted to use my wings as extra support, and I was able to touch the vent. How am I supposed to open this? You could conjure up fire before, why can’t you do it now? I have to get mad. I tried to think of things that made me mad. My family being taken away, being tortured, but it all just made me sad. The machine was buzzing and screaming in the background of my thoughts. “SEIZURE! SEIZURE! SEIZURE!” I became frustrated. Frustrated that I couldn’t conjure my abilities when I needed them. Frustrated that I had been hiding my whole life, and just figured new things about me that day. Frustrated that I could never be normal, and my life would just be a mess of new things. I dropped to the floor, clutching my head. Then, I felt fire in my fingertips.
I opened my eyes, and tried to not let go of my feelings. I propped myself up with my wings, and held onto the bars of the vent. I felt the iron melt from my clutches. I was able to break through after breaking a few bars. I squeezed through a hole I made in the vent, my wings scraping against the ragged iron. I crawled through the vent, and dropped down right outside of my door. Through the halls I heard a soft choking noise. I followed it down the halls, praying that whoever was making the noise was okay. I ran up the stairs, and down several hallways. I turned a corner to see Casper, choking on vomit, and laying down on his back. His face was purple, and his eyes were bulging out of their sockets. His fingers seemed to be reaching for a device similar to the one in my room, yet he wasn’t moving. Oh no, I hope I’m not too late. I ran over to him and crouched down on my knees. I wanted to tell him something, but I figured he probably couldn’t hear me. He didn’t look alive. I tried to turn him on his side, and shake him. Maybe this will get the vomit out of his throat. Nothing happened at first. Then, I turned him on his stomach, and kept his head a few inches from the floor. Vomit poured out, it looked like a bathtub full of vomit just came out of his body.
He took a deep breath, and began to regain the color in his face. “Casper, let me go get your dad.” Casper didn’t answer. I moved him out of the pool of vomit, and sat him upright against the wall. His eyes were closed, and he still had vomit hanging down from his mouth. I wiped it away with my sleeve. I didn’t want to leave him again, incase he had another seizure. I assumed that’s what it was called. I ran down almost every hall screaming for help. I eventually saw a silhouette of a man at the end of the hall. Is that a man? No, the longer I looked at it the more I thought it might have been a woman. The figure was wearing a long, black cloak. I couldn’t see it’s face. “Excuse me! Can you help me?” I ran toward the figure, I started to get an uneasy feeling in my stomach. Something’s not right. I slowed to a walk, and turned around. “Where do you think you’re going?” The figure said. It’s voice was low and raspy. “I - I - I’m going to get help.” “Why leave so quick? We’re just getting started.” I begin to slowly back away from the figure. I felt a cold hand around my throat, I couldn’t breathe. Black spots clouded my vision, I gagged. This is the end, isn’t it? I never thought this would be the way I would die. I closed my eyes. Maybe if I accept it it’ll be less painful. My head was pounding, I felt lightheaded. I couldn’t get my thoughts straight. It’s ending, it’ll all be over soon. I felt tired, the figure dropped me. I fell to my knees and gasped for breath. I looked up, and the figure was kneeling down in front of me. I rubbed my neck, I felt bruises lining my neck. I saw part of the figures face through the opening in the cloak. The figure threw back its hood, and I saw it’s face. The figure had horns, gills, and snake eyes. It’s face was filled with cuts and bruises. The face looked familiar. It’s me… The figure staring at me is me.
I opened my mouth to speak, but no sound came from my mouth. How? How is this possible? “Surprised?” The figure laughed maniacally. This person definitely was me, it just had cuts all over its face. Pieces of skin were peeling off, and they were left hanging. Only one of its eyes were open due to a large black bruise forming under its left eye. The scars almost look as if an animal's claws tore open its flesh. I was paralyzed, I couldn’t move, and I was shaking vigorously. I just covered my eyes with my hands and hoped this was all just a bad dream. I waited for a couple minutes. I uncovered my face, and there was no one standing in front of me. I looked behind me, saw nothing, and sprinted down the halls to get back to my room. I just hoped Casper would be okay, I didn't have the courage to go look for help. I found where the vent opened, and climbed into the shaft. I closed the vent cover after I was in the shaft. I army crawled back to my room, and squeezed through the small hole I made with my fire. I laid down on the small cot, and tried to fall asleep. I felt like I was back in the prison. I had too many sleepless nights that eventually I couldn’t count all of them. I wonder how long it’s been since I got a good night's sleep. I closed my eyes, just to see the figure with peeling skin and bruises. It was all just an illusion, there was nothing there. I felt sick. It could have been the drifting smell of vomit through the air, or it could be the fact that I just looked into my own eyes. I sat up, not wanting to vomit in my room. When I sat up, I noticed a small square cut in the wall. Odd… How did I not notice that before? I stood up, walked to the wall, and ran my fingers along the square. I pushed it, and it opened to reveal a small medicine cabinet. I rummaged through the various bottles. I couldn’t read most of them, but I noticed one that had similar letters to something I’d seen in the prison. I knew letters, but I can barely read. I stared at the bottle for a little, then put it back in the cabinet. I closed it, went back to my bed, and thought about what I just read. I had definitely seen those collection of letters before. I tried to close my eyes and think about it. But instead of an answer, I got sleep.
I woke up the next day, and took a look at the bottle in the medicine cabinet again. I also noticed a couple syringes, but I ignored them. I’m sure every medicine cabinet has at least a few syringes. I have a fairly big vocabulary. I shared a cell with an English professor for about half a year. He found out he was a hybrid at the end of his fifteenth year teaching. He taught me vital words I should know when being in the prison. Names of poisons, weapons, really anything that I might need to know. I heard a knock on my door and quickly put the medicine away, and closed the cabinet. Casper slid the door open and walked into my room. He looked fine, no scrapes, bruises, or cuts. His face looked completely fine, no sign of what happened. “You ready?” He asked. I nodded, and followed him down the long and winding hallways. Casper was definitely not okay. He was staring at his feet, not saying anything to me. His eyes seemed hollow, empty, and sad. The blue in his eyes had turned gray, and his lips were pale. Casper used a key card to open a room down many winding hallways. The room had bright lights. It looked like a gym, but with different equipment. There were platforms with springs, target boards, and a running track. I couldn’t identify most of the equipment. There was a gym in the prison. No one used it, but it was still there if you needed it. Casper turned around and clapped his hands. “Okay, so the first step in the process is to conjure your fire. I want you to close your eyes and imagine it going into your hands. You’ll feel it when it comes, don’t worry.” I raised my eyes, and met his. “What about my other elements?” “When you find one, you’ll find the others.” I nodded, and closed my eyes. I held my hands out, and imagined fire in my hands. Casper could’ve easily stabbed me if he wanted. What an easy way to get rid of me. I waited a couple seconds, and opened my eyes. I shrugged at him. “Were you really focusing? Not thinking of anything else?” No. “Yes.” I lied.
Casper rolled his eyes, “I know I’m the last person you want to trust. But you really don’t have a choice. If you aren’t trained properly by me, then federal law requires you to marry a human to be free. So unless you want a ring on your finger, you have to trust me.” I nodded. I closed my eyes again. This time, I let myself stay focused on my main task. I felt tingling in my fingers, and up both my arms, and on my back. “Hold on,” Casper said, “I have to get a mirror.” His voice distracted me, but I was able to regain my focus. I heard Casper scurrying across the tile floor, and rolling something in front of me. I opened my eyes and saw bright flames of fire up my arms, and on my back. I tripped and stumbled backwards. The fire ceased, and I lifted my hand to my mouth. It was the first time I truly got a look at myself. I looked absolutely awful. I was severely underweight. The fire melted my sleeves, revealing bruises, scratches, and burns all up my arms. My face was bony, and I had dark circles under my eyes. My hair was in knots, that would probably take days to brush. I was extremely pale, my eyes were sunken. My mom always told me I was a beautiful child, from what little I remember of her. I wonder what she would say if she saw me. I looked bad, really bad. “You surprised? It’s easy if you get the hang of it.” I nodded, as a tear rolled down my cheek. “You okay?” Don’t lie. “Yes.” I could barely get the words out through my tears. “No, you’re not fine… I’m not stupid Juniper.”
“I look awful.” I had yellow teeth, and my gums were almost white. “Do you want to see a doctor? We have one here.” I shook my head vigorously, “No, they’re gonna hurt me.” Casper shook his head. “No, these aren’t like the ones at the prison. They won’t hurt you.” Yeah right. “Okay.” Casper nodded. “I’m not supposed to treat you well, but it looks like you need it.” Casper looked up into the corner of the room. “Okay, first lesson.” He gestured to a camera in the top corner of the room. “Shoot that. Imagine the fire leaving your hands, and traveling to the camera” He said. I nodded. I closed my eyes and focused. I felt the tingling sensation. I raised my hand, and imagined the fire leaving my fingers. I heard a sound similar to the one of a heavy wind. I heard a smash, and I opened my eyes. I saw pieces of the camera melt, and hit the ground. The room smelt like smoke. Casper nodded, “Alright, let’s go.” He led me to a small room in the corner of the training center. He used his keycard to open the door, and led me through. There was one very short corridor, with a door at the end. There was a small pad built into the wall by the door. Casper touched his hand to it, it made a noise, and then the door opened. There was a small room that looked exactly like the hospitals in the prison, only cleaner. Casper gestured to the examination table. “Sit here, I’m going to grab the doctor.” I lifted myself onto the table. I watched Casper leave the room from a door across the room from me. The door slid closed behind him. I might die in here. They could gas me easily. I thought about it… but I realized I trusted Casper more than I’d like to admit.
I waited for a couple more minutes. I examined the tools on the walls. I didn’t know what most of them were. I stared off into space, thinking about life. I wanted to be a free person. I wanted it more than anything. I was in the middle of a thought, when the door was opened by a taller man, followed by Casper. He appeared nice, he had a smile on his face, wore glasses, and was tall. His eyes had a very calming look in them. “Hello Juniper… How are you today?” I attempted a smile, and nodded. “I’m good.” He nodded, “Awesome! I’m Dr. Joe Kanken.” He reached out and grabbed a tool from a magnetic wall. “I’m going to shine this light in your eyes. I want to see if they look healthy.” I opened my eyes, and he shone the light in them. I flinched a little bit. “Well your eyes look healthy. Open your mouth I want to see how your throat looks.” I opened my mouth wide, and felt his gloved fingers poking me. “You’re pretty malnourished, so I’m going to put you on a couple pills. Make sure you’re eating vitamins.” I nodded, and his fingers came out of my mouth. I closed it and looked at him. “If you don’t mind, could you please lift up your shirt. I need to take your heartbeat and and check your breathing.” What? I looked at Casper, hoping he would say something in my defense. He just nodded, “It’s okay Juniper, he’s not going to hurt you.”
I wanted to believe him fully, I really did. My mind told me not too, but my arms lifted my shirt. I saw my ribs, and all the cuts and bruises people had given me. My whole stomach was almost lined with scrapes and bruises. Some of them were even still bleeding. “This is by far worse than anything I was expecting to see.” The doctor said. I had no fat on my body, none at all. The prison uniform they gave me was very loose, so I never really paid attention to my weight. I’ve heard that most people want to be skinny. But I took one look at myself, and realized this is not what anyone wanted. I saw the doctors face, and even Casper’s face light up in surprise. “I need to disinfect these… They could get infected if I don’t. Please lay down.” I laid down on my back. The doctor reached into a cabinet and pulled out a vial with clear liquid. He poured it on my stomach, making every cut sear with pain. They are hurting me. The doctor grabbed bandages and covered my stomach with them. I wanted to move, scream, kick, whatever it took to get him to stop. But I remained still. This doctor wasn’t like the ones in the prison. The ones that would yell at you, and tell you you weren’t good enough. I saw a hint of skepticism in the doctor's eyes when he first saw me, but who could blame him? Anyone, no matter how good of a person they are, would be skeptical when they saw me. “There… I hope that helps.” I sat up and pulled down my shirt. “I’m going to do some blood work.” He pulled out a syringe from the pocket of his jacket. “This won’t hurt, I promise.” I saw the needle enter my skin, and I flinched. I ran and slammed my body against the wall. What are you doing? I wasn’t scared of the needle, but my heart still raced. I began to breathe heavily, and I felt a tingling sensation.
Casper leaped up from his chair, “Juniper… You have to calm down.” Casper put his hands out, the doctor jumped back in horror. I felt scared, and the tingling sensation went away. Casper began to approach me slowly. “Are you okay? What happened?” I fell to the floor, but Casper caught me. He gave me a hug as I cried. “It’s over now.” Casper said. He lifted me back on the examination table. The doctor tried to stay composed, “I got the blood work while you were crying. I’ll send it to the lab and wait for the results. I hate to say this but you need about eight years of vaccinations.” I nodded, “I don’t know what happened to me. If I need to vaccines please give them to me.” The doctor nodded slowly and pulled out a basket from under the table. He gave me multiple injections which he referred to as “boosters”. The injections weren’t bad at all. I was scared for the first couple of shots, but my fear didn’t last. The pain wasn’t bad. “All right… so I’m done with shots. I’ll see you in about a week for your blood results. In the meantime I want you eating foods with high amounts of fat, vitamins, and fibers. I want you taking the pills I give you, one at night, until you reach one hundred pounds. I want you to gain twenty more pounds by yourself. These twenty pounds can also be muscle weight.” Casper nodded his head and slapped his legs. “Well! I think we’re all done here. Come on Juniper.” I hopped down from the table and followed Casper out of the room. “See you later doctor!” Casper yelled back at him. The doctor nodded at him, and caught my eye. I nodded back at him while giving a smile.
Casper led me back to the training room. “Alright, so we’re going to continue your training for a couple minutes. Except now, I’m teaching you how to fight.” Casper lifted up his hand and gave me a nod. “Punch me.” My face was plagued with confusion. “Punch you? Why would I do that!” I didn’t want to punch him. “Juniper, you need to be able to put up a fight. Your powers aren’t always going to be enough to save you from disaster.” I punched his hand lightly. “Harder.” I punched his hand a little harder. “Harder!” I punched pretty hard. “ AS HARD AS YOU CAN JUNIPER.” I pulled my fist behind my head. I threw it forward, but before it hit Caper’s hand, I felt a tingling sensation. I tried to stop myself, but I was already halfway through the motion. My fist struck Casper’s hand, and a giant fiery explosion came out of it. “Casper!” I yelled his name, but it was too late. The explosion sent Casper hurtling backwards. I rolled backwards too, but Casper definitely got the harder blow. His head smacked into the wall, hard. Casper flew through the air, and rolled until his head smacked against the wall. I heard a small crack from his skull. I stood up, and ran over to where he lay with a broken body.
Fluid was draining from his nose, and blood was coming out of his left ear. I kneeled down, and lifted up his head. “Casper? Can you hear me?” Casper nodded. “Get help please.” His voice sounded like a whisper. Casper tried to lift himself. “Don’t let me fall asleep Juniper.” I nodded at him