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Ordinary anything but se.., p.13

Ordinary (Anything But Series Book 1), page 13


Ordinary (Anything But Series Book 1)

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  “Christian! Hurry up,” his brother whined.

  He braced his hands against the counter and stared at his image in the fogged-up mirror above the sink. His face was pale, drawn. What is wrong with me? When Corbin hollered again it was like knives piercing his eardrums. Christian slapped his hands to his ears and squeezed his eyes shut, trying to stay upright when the wave of dizziness hit him. It quickly passed, but left him shaken.

  Towel around his hips, he whipped the door open and glared at the gangly, pimply younger version of him. Corbin opened his mouth, and then snapped it shut after looking at his face. He remained quiet as Christian walked past him toward his room. That was a first.

  He dressed in his messy room, throwing on the first clothes that looked reasonably clean, and went in search of his mom and sister. It wasn’t hard to find them. The house was tiny. At least they all had their own bedrooms. He loved his brother, but he would kill Corbin if he had to share a room with him.

  His mother was washing dishes in the blue-walled kitchen and his nine-year-old sister, Annie, ate a bowl of cereal at the table. Tonya Turner didn’t work outside of the house; Christian was well aware how hard it was to keep the house clean, the clothes laundered, and the meals cooked. His mom had an extremely hard job. He would argue with anyone who hinted otherwise.

  Jim Turner had his own business as the only plumber in Anderson Junction, and as such, was a busy guy. He was usually gone by seven in the morning and didn’t get home until close to seven at night. Again, Christian knew how hard he worked. His dad hoped he would go into the family business after school, but he had other plans. He was going to go to college to be a journalist, or something similar that dealt with writing.

  “Want some coffee, Chris?” his mom asked, blinking as she took in his outfit.

  He had on jeans, a tee shirt, and a long-sleeved tee shirt over that, finished off with a hooded sweatshirt. Still he was freezing.

  “No thanks.” The thought of any food or drink made his stomach cramp up.

  “Why are you dressed like that?” his ever curious sister asked. She had dark brown hair like Christian and blue eyes like their father. Her hair was in pigtails and she had a red sleeveless dress on.

  Pain stabbed Christian’s temples when he glanced at the bright color. He quickly looked away. “I’m cold.”

  A dish slipped from his mother’s hands and landed in the soapy water, splashing her pink top and jeans with suds. She turned completely around, wiped her hands on a green towel, and walked toward Christian, apparently not noticing her top and bottoms were wet.

  His mom was looking at him strangely.

  “You okay, Mom?”

  “It’s almost seventy degrees out. How can you be cold?”

  “I think I’m getting sick.”

  Tonya put a hand to his forehead and snatched it back. Something swept over her features and was gone. Her gray eyes flashed and dimmed so quickly he was sure he imagined it.

  “Maybe you should stay home and get some rest.” She swallowed, putting her hands to her lips.

  “Can’t. I have to finish my article for the paper. I’ll be fine, Mom.”

  Her lips trembled and tears wet her eyes. “Right. Okay.” She began to walk away, toward the sink.

  Something was off with his mom. “Mom, what is it? What’s wrong?”

  His mother spun around and pulled him into a tight hug, her body quivering. She smelled like roses, a scent he usually liked. Today it was too heavy, cloying. It made him nauseous.

  “I love you, Christian.”

  He awkwardly patted her back. “Me too. Can I go now? I’m going to be late for school.”

  She nodded, but it took another minute or so for her to release her hold on him. “Have a good day.” She looked like she wanted to say more, but she didn’t.

  His mom walked over to Annie and leaned down to press a kiss to the crown of her head. Christian stared at her, wondering why she was being so weird. His mom was naturally affectionate, but today it was overkill.

  “Right. You too. See you after school.” He thought he heard her inhale sharply, but when he turned around with a frown on his face, she was quietly talking to his sister.

  Christian noticed kids staring at him as soon as he entered school grounds. Everyone else had on short-sleeved shirts and shorts or jeans. He removed the sweatshirt and long-sleeved shirt, shoving them into his locker, and his body immediately shivered. The hallway stunk like sweat and body odor. Bad.

  He slammed the locker door shut. It dented in where his hand had held it. Christian lifted a trembling hand and fisted it, quickly opening it when needles of pain went through it and up his arm. The buzzer sounded and Christian gritted his teeth at the shrill sound.

  Natasha Becwar stood near the doorway to Art class, staring at him. Christian never talked to her unless it was absolutely necessary. The girl was a spaz. She had on some gothic punk outfit he didn’t understand.

  “You feeling okay, Christian?” she asked when he walked by.


  “Because you look a little pale, kind of like you’re in pain. Maybe you should go home.”

  The room was filling with loud students. The sounds of their voices were too much and made his head throb.

  “I’m…fine,” he said with difficulty. The smell of paint and clay roiled his stomach. He’d never felt so terrible in all his life. His whole body ached.

  “You sound like it.”

  He glared at her. “Don’t worry about me.”

  Natasha’s eyes narrowed as her head tilted to the side. She didn’t say any more, just sauntered to her seat in the back of the classroom.

  By lunchtime Christian’s whole body was visibly shaking. He was so cold he felt hot. It was like millions upon millions of ice picks were stabbing into his flesh, his brain, his eyeballs, and veins, like his blood was turning to ice inside him. He hurried to the English room, relieved to find it empty.

  He sat down at a desk and rested his head on it. The desk vibrated from shoes and boots walking outside the door. Christian lifted his head, frowning at the door. How was that possible? He could hear voices talking, lowered into whispers, the sound of running water, a toilet flushing. The bathrooms were on the other side of the school.

  Christian shot to his feet, swaying at the sudden movement, completely freaked out.

  As the day progressed it got worse. His body was stiff and Christian had to struggle to move his limbs. His heartbeat was slower than usual. He felt sluggish and it was beginning to scare him a little. What kind of illness did he have?

  He noticed two people watching him throughout the day: Natasha Becwar and Ryder Delagrave.

  Ryder was another one Christian didn’t care too much for. The guy thought extremely highly of himself. He was rich, good-looking, and smooth. Everything he wasn’t. He was in doorways and against walls, hovering, watching. The guy had barely spoken two words to Christian since he’d moved to Anderson Junction his sophomore year. What could he possibly find so interesting about Christian now?

  He took his seat in History class, glad the day was almost over. He was sweating, and yet he was freezing. Christian was nauseous. He hadn’t been able to eat or drink anything all day. He felt weak, disoriented. Everything hurt. On top of it all, he hadn’t had a chance to finish his article. He couldn’t concentrate enough to.

  He felt eyes on his back. He turned his head and his gaze collided with Honor Rochester’s. She quickly looked away, her face reddening.

  Honor was pretty with her black hair and blue eyes. Her skin was pale and smooth. She was a nice girl. He’d seen her stick up for countless kids throughout the years, and even him a time or two when he wasn’t bigger than all the other kids like he was now. Christian had never gotten that about her, her need to stand up for those who couldn’t. Why did she care about others so much? He admired that about her. Not that he would ever talk to her. She was out of his league in all ways. Besides, Ryder had a thing for
her. He couldn’t compete with him. One more reason Christian didn’t like him.

  The pain attacked him without warning; intense, fiery agony that was like an electric shock through his whole body. Christian went still, hoping it would pass. It didn’t. It grew. Waves of it hit him, starting at his temples and rolling all the way down his body, to his toes, and back up again. His hair was damp with sweat, his body taut. A jolt of icy anguish stabbed his chest and he shot from his chair, a hand to his heart. He staggered from the room, not caring about the attention he was drawing to himself. He had to get of there, fast.

  Christian stiffly made his way down the empty hallway, pulling his shirt over his nose to mute the terrible smell. How had he never noticed how bad the school stunk before? His ears rang from sounds all around him and none around him at all. He lurched forward as dizzying pain debilitated him, catching himself with a hand against the cool glass doors that led outside. Even the doors were warmer than him.

  He heard his name called across the hallway, far enough away that he shouldn’t have been able to hear it. It was Honor. Why was she looking for him? Christian couldn’t stop, couldn’t go back. He had to get out of the school and to home. Had his mom known something was wrong with him? Was that why she’d acted so oddly? Maybe he had some kind of hereditary disease and he’d been showing symptoms that morning, but she hadn’t wanted him to worry so she never said anything. She’d looked at him like she’d known he was about to die or something.

  Warm air blasted him as he pushed the doors open, but it wasn’t warm enough. He was so weak Christian was surprised when it opened for him. He stumbled down the steps, squinting his eyes against the too-bright day. He turned toward the direction of his home and his steps faltered. In the parking lot was a silver SUV with two men standing beside it, watching him. One was short and burly with a bald head. The other was taller, younger, not quite so mean-looking, although he didn’t exactly look friendly. They were there for him. He didn’t know how he knew that, but he did.

  They started for him.

  Christian tried to move, to run, but his legs wouldn’t listen. He stood there, helpless, as they strode his way. He swayed on his feet, fighting to keep his eyes open. He had no energy. He wanted to let his body collapse to the hard ground, to succumb to the pull of unconsciousness.

  “You need to cooperate and come with us, Christian Turner,” the bald one said. He had a scar that ran vertically across his face, giving him a menacing look.

  “Screw…you…” he rasped out. His mouth was dry, his throat too. He tried to swallow and couldn’t. The ground was starting to creep up on him.

  “I don’t think so,” the ugly man said, reaching for him.

  Christian’s brain told his arms and hands and legs to move, to do something, but they wouldn’t listen. Why were the men with guns there? What did they want with him? He tried to pull away at the same time icicles stabbed his body. Christian’s body contorted and he didn’t even care when the taller brown-haired man grabbed his other arm. He would have fallen on his face if he hadn’t.

  They began to drag him toward the vehicle.

  He felt her behind him, watching. Honor would try to save him if she could. He couldn’t let her do that. Christian had to get away on his own, before she did something dumb, something heroic. He didn’t trust her to be smart enough to run, to not draw attention to herself.

  Honor had a hero complex: she thought she was one. They angled his body toward the vehicle. It was now or never. Christian made one last attempt to get away. It was laughable. The pain became excruciating and Christian finally gave in to it, losing consciousness, welcoming the black.

  In his hazy world of pain, there were varying kinds of agony, but they all hurt. Christian didn’t know if he was awake or asleep. He didn’t know if he was dead or alive. He almost wanted to be dead. It was endless. Christian thought he might even go crazy from it. Maybe then he wouldn’t care so much. He was so cold; he never thought he could be so cold. There were lucid times when he thought of his parents and his siblings, times when he wondered what they were thinking, if they were okay, but they didn’t last long. The pain always took them away. It was taking everything away.

  Christian couldn’t move. He was paralyzed. One time he thought he heard the girl from school’s voice. Honor. One time he thought he felt her tender touch. The pain had eased for just a moment, but then had been unleashed harsher than ever. He had imagined her presence. That was the only explanation.

  He was alone, all alone with his never-ending torture. People poked him, stuck him with sharp instruments. He heard them talk, heard them discuss him like he wasn’t a person, like he was a thing. Something was drawn from his body. He would have thought it was blood, but it wasn’t warm. It was cold. Something was placed in his neck.

  The despair took over. Christian let it. He wanted it over with; that was all he wanted. Christian wanted the pain gone.

  Christian felt her again and it soothed him a little. He thought he could even smell her skin and it smelled like sunshine and warm air, things he’d taken for granted and now longed for. He wanted to say something, to let Honor know he was aware she was there. Her sorrow was stronger than all the pain he’d endured. It washed it away, made it into something bittersweet. Where his heart should have been, it ached, but in a different, less painful way.

  She was the only one that cared in the hell he was in. Honor kept him from losing all hope and from giving up. If she was there, he wanted to be too. He had to fight; he couldn’t let whatever was happening to him take over him completely. The blackness wanted to consume him, wanted to make him something inhuman. Christian wouldn’t let it. If Honor hadn’t given up on him, he couldn’t either.

  He slowly, painfully turned his head, and saw her. A jolt of awareness went through him. Her blue eyes were wide and full of sorrow, for him. Christian had always thought her pretty, but now, he saw her even clearer. Her eyebrows were arched and slim, her lips wide and full. Everything about her was brighter, more enhanced than he remembered. It didn’t do any good for her to feel bad for him. There was nothing she could do.

  Christian turned his head, away from her woeful face. Cold tears leaked from the corners of his eyes, letting him know he still lived, in some way. But it wasn’t him. He was different. What had been done to him? What had happened to him?

  His body felt like ice ran through his veins. He was cold, but not as cold as before, like his body had adapted, had changed to keep him alive, if that was what he was. His body didn’t hurt so much anymore. He was healing, getting stronger. He could hear things again for longer periods of time, not just bits and pieces of words, but full conversations. Christian heard all kinds of things, most of which he wished he hadn’t.

  They kept him locked up like a dog. They were wary of him, but brave with the barrier between him and them. They watched him from their safe little corners with their guns, eyes darting in the dark. He could see them and he could smell their fear. Christian heard their whispers. The other UDs watched them as well, and him. Some were adapting well; others were not. The tortured, insane cries he heard from the cells of those who were not adapting well were something Christian never wanted to hear again, but knew would haunt him. It was maddening, listening to them day and night.

  Christian knew what he was. He’d heard it all from the UDKs’ lips. He’d heard what they thought of him and of everyone like him.

  His heart beat slowly, only twenty beats per minute. Christian had counted. He had all kinds of time to do insignificant things as he sat in his white-walled cage with the window. He’d died, yet he somehow lived. He was a freak, something that shouldn’t be. He thought of his mother and father and wondered which one had passed the virus to him. Something in him told him it was his mother. The way she’d acted that day…how long ago had that been? Why hadn’t she told him? What of his brother and sister? Were they at risk too?

  He thought of his goals and dreams. Christian was going to go to s
chool, became a successful writer, eventually get married, and maybe have a kid or two a long way in the future. Now…that was all done. He stared at his right hand and arm, watched the veins and muscles tighten and flex. His muscles were more defined, bulkier. He did hundreds of sit-ups and push-ups during the night, but he never got tired out. He had endless energy and being cooped up like he was; it was getting to be too much. If he didn’t get out of there soon, he was going to go mad. Two meals a day were sent through a slot in the door, but even that was too much. He could go hours and hours, maybe days, without eating or drinking. Christian felt strong, invincible, like a machine. It was scary and exciting at the same time.

  “Hey, UD, having fun here?”

  It was the bald man that kidnapped him from school the last day Christian was a normal teenage boy. His scar distorted his face even more than it already was as he grinned, showing yellow teeth. Christian could smell him through the wall between them. It was an onion-garlic-tobacco scent that almost gagged him. He’d been there before, taunting the other UDs, watching the girls in a way that turned Christian’s stomach. Burns was his name.

  He stood in the middle of his empty room and stared at him, not moving, not speaking. He told him with his eyes what he thought of the agent who was nothing more than a weasel. He was the animal, the dog, the one that should be locked up. Christian didn’t have to see his soul to know it was tainted black with corruption.

  Burns swallowed. “You don’t scare me with your witchy eyes.”

  He tilted his head, wondering what he meant. Witchy eyes?

  “You’ll get what you deserve. Some day. I only hope I’m the one that gets to give it to you,” the agent said before sauntering off, toward another UD’s cell.

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