Small white lights dotted the dark sky. Stars in Mars were brighter than on Earth, but that was relatively to their proximity. I woke up and I saw a band of white in the sky. It was probably the band of asteroids separating Mars from Jupiter. It looked like someone hung a string of pearls on the sky.
I stretched my muscles, I had slept a good portion of the afternoon into the evening already and I felt strangely refreshed. Then flashbacks of the battle besieged me and the idea that I had killed someone made me shudder, not because of the act of killing but because I had find it justifiable to kill Tyson. I was aiming to survive. Was this how everyone justified their killing?
I shook my head and slid off the tree. My clothes were caked with dry blood and I could feel bruises on my neck where Tyson had held me. The courtyard and the halls were empty; apparently everybody kept to themselves in their own areas. I made my way toward my living quarters.
I opened the door marked with a 34 on it and stepped inside. There were six teenagers, including Sapphire, all staring daggers at me.
“If I was you, I’ll thank Dess for ranking us up again,” Sapphire told me, to which a girl to her right smiled smugly at me.
“I don’t care about the ranking,” I replied. “Honestly, I don’t care about any of you or your impulsive drive to win. Everybody is going to die sooner or later.” I stomped to my room and slammed the door. I locked it. I wouldn’t let it pass me that Sapphire wouldn’t want to do something to me since I knocked off the precious lead 34 had in ranking.
“A locked door won’t stop Sapphire. One of her superpowers includes developing talon-like nails that can rip through anything. That is how she won her battle.”
I spun around bewildered that I hadn’t felt Xander’s presence in the room. I opened my mind and felt the six foul tastes from the living room, but couldn’t place Xander’s taste anywhere.
“How come I can’t feel you?” I asked to the empty room, which consisted of a bed, a desk, a small night table, a shelf, and a window overlooking nothing at all.
Xander’s face and body slowly materialized before me. “Ta-da, invisibility.”
His taste became clear. It was of salty ocean breeze. “Ah.”
He was sitting on the desk, his serene eyes regarding me deeply. I didn’t blush though, I had plenty of experience having men stare at me from behind a glass wall, picking brides for themselves, but not in the quizzical way Xander was doing it. I shrugged it off and lay on bed.
“Aren’t you going to change? I promise not to look.” Xander mused.
“I’ll do it once you’re out of my room.”
“I won’t leave. Consider me your night guard, if anyone opens that door I will be onto them.”
“Don’t you hate me like everyone else?”
“Well, when I told you to put a good show I didn’t mean that you should attempt an escape. It was foolish of you; luckily you had that phasing ability that protected you from the electric waves. People can’t escape.”
They can, I thought, there is a whole underground network below us. I saw it.
“What did Sapphire meant when she said that she waited her whole life for this opportunity? Are you one of them?” I hoped he would answer no.
“No, I didn’t want this at all. My family watches this event with exhilaration. They were proud when my brother died in battle. They said he was brave for volunteering to take the serum and fight. I was angry at them and they expected me to follow into his steps. They made me train and injected the serum when I was asleep. The next day, I was trapped here with no escape.”
I was mortified. “I’m sorry to hear that.”
“Sapphire wants this. That girl is crazy enough to kill her enemies on the spot. However, the dome has rules to that. No killing an opponent outside the arena.”
“But surely somebody must be against this… someone who attempted an escape.”
“What can they do, Lorrie? This corporation practically runs Mars what with economically supporting the entire planet. We’re just guinea pigs waiting to die.”
That was the end of the conversation.
“By the way, you’re schedule for check up tomorrow.” Xander moved to the door and slept in front of it. “Now sleep, I’ll be sleeping here tonight.”
The next day I was making my way down the corridors for my medical check-up. Xander said the general check up for 34 was tomorrow. Maybe it was a glitch with the system since I was just recently transferred from 50 to 34. I wondered about who the people from 50 were, when it hit me, the undistinguishable taste of wind mixed with sunset. My head snapped up, searching for the people these tastes belonged to. And I saw him, at the end of the corridor, a guy with metallic silver hair and orange eyes. He looked different but his taste was undeniable. It was Apex and he was staring back.
Next to him, the guy with the breathing fire was also staring at me curiously, and I blushed. I saw his features clearly. I walked to them and their taste grew stronger to the point I felt dizzy.
“Hey, are you okay?” the wind guy asked.
“Hey.” Apex said and I sense a hint of shyness, of not knowing what to do.
“I never thought I’ll ever see anyone from the slums again.” I said.
“Well, surprise surprise. It also applied to you; I thought you were on Earth after your parents sold you.”
“They didn’t sell me. I was kidnapped and taken to Earth to be sold to a rich family. I came back to look for them.”
“Lorrie,” Apex’s voice was softer, kinder and I knew what was coming and I dreaded it. He hadn’t said it yet but I felt his words would knock me off my feet. I fancied I knew Apex good enough and he would be honest, even though it might hurt. “Lorrie, listen to me, your parents are dead. It was the flu, there was not enough medicine or money and…”
This pain was worse than the near-death experience I had felt in the arena. I desperately increased the range of my powers, sifting through my memories to locate their scent. There it was, hidden and faint but still latent with love. I took that scent and put it next to my heart so that I'd never forget. I memorized the scent and tracked them. I looked everywhere for their taste, everywhere: the slums, the markets, the junk yard. The tendrils of my mind touched every surface of Mars that I could cover, every corner, every soul. It was too much mental stress, too much area to cover but I continued indefatigable. My head was spinning, my body was shaking; I couldn’t find them, which only confirmed Apex’s words.
“I’m sorry Lorrie I tried to…”
“Did they suffer? Did they die peacefully on each other’s arms like they promised?” I remembered cold winter nights when the three of us would cuddle in a bed together to benefit from each other’s body heat. I remembered promises of dying on each other’s arms and of never letting go, of loving each other with every inch of our soul. I could feel the tears welling in my eyes, the sobs begging to be released from my tormented heart and soul.
I had not been there. I had not held their hands.
“They were found three days by their neighbour. I was told that they were holding each other hands.” Apex tried to take my hand, to console me, but I didn’t let him.
“I’m okay.” I said, blinking back tears. After a moment of awkward silence in which I tried to gather the sliver of composure I had left, I asked, “Whatever happened to your appearance?”
“I’d say the comment to you. You look prettier, not like the little tomboy who would always follow me around.” Apex smiled and I appreciated his tactfulness. “By the way, this is Visp, Visp this is Lorrie, the girl from the fight yesterday.”
“Nice to meet you Lorrie,” Visp said and I almost swooned. He was very good looking and his taste, oh gosh, his taste was delightful. I almost wanted to tell him that I had been emotionally feeding on it, but didn’t dare, especially not in front of Apex who would surely laugh. Luckily, Apex was called into the office and I was left with Visp.
“How long have you known him?” Visp asked.
“We’re from the slum, that’s where I met him. The bullies would always pick on little kids and he’d defend them. Of course, he was often beaten.”
“So you followed him around, why?”
I considered my answer and couldn’t come up with one. “Well, he never told me to go away.”
Visp nodded. “Area 34 huh?”
“Yeah, maybe it was the greatest mistake ever, to let this girl from 34, Sapphire, to let her have me transferred.”
“You could do that? What area were you previously from?”