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I open my eyes for the first time, wondering, feeling. I feel like I’m underwater, floating, and I have a plastic device feeding me air
through my mouth. I simply breath, and look, and float. The color most prominent around me is pink. I think it’s the color of the
liquid surrounding me. I can feel it soaking through my skin. Then I see blurred movement, just outside the round glass container
that I’m in.
A hand, pressing against the glass. I reach up my own hand and place it on the inside in the same place. How do I know these
words in my head? How do I know things, anything? Am I correct in assuming that this object is called a hand? Or was I just so
anxious to call it something that I made up this name in my head?
The hand moves. ’Hello,’ it says in sign language. ’Hello,’ I say back, ’what am I doing here? Why do I exist? Who are you? Can I
live outside this enclosure?’ ’Wait,’ the hand says, ’just wait.’ And I do. For long periods of time nothing happens. Then, days later,
I can feel a change in the liquid substance. A movement.
Soon I lay on my back against bare glass, gulping in air with my first unassisted breaths.
"C’mon. C’mon, c’mon, c’mon!" a girl’s voice says, "oh,gosh, it looks like Jazmine." A hand, different from the one I know so well,
reaches down into my container.
"Leave it! It doesn’t count as a human anyway, it’s one of theirs," another voice says, this one male.
"No!" The first voice says, "if she’s not human, than neither are we for leaving her behind. Even if it’s like saving a puppy."
I’m pulled out of my tube in a mad scramble, leaving behind the only world I’d ever known. The two people run, the first, a girl,
drags me behind by the hand. I fumble with my steps, falling as they turn around corners. They meet up with others as they run,
all of them wearing the same scrubs.
I look down at myself. I’m naked, but I’m smooth, no navel, no toenails, and my skin seems waxy. I’m scared. This isn’t human. I
know it the way I know everything else. They keep running. I keep running. It doesn’t count as human, the boy’d said. I don’t count
as human. I’m grievous for a second, then I decide to embrace this. Being human probably isn’t that wonderful anyways.
I look around at the stark white walls, the black, shiny floor, and the flickering lights above us, all so different from the pink I was
used to. Then, we broke out. Thegrassthetreestheskythewaterthecloudsthecarthespeedthevoicesthepeople. I couldn’t take it all in.
I just numbly stand in the large bus that had been waiting for them. Their getaway car. There are Lots of people loaded into this
bus. None of them like me. Some of them stare at me, standing in the aisle. Others clear me a seat by abandoning a whole
bench. I sit and look out the window, listening.
"Man, Penny, why’d you save one of them? It’s not even finished yet," I hear a boy say quietly.
"It’s because it’s not even finished yet. That’s why I saved it. Can’t you see? It’s like a baby." The first girl I’d ever heard said.
"It’s creepy, Penny. Not cute. And it looks like Jazmine. You would think that would remind you what it takes to make one of those
things. And did you forget how many of us one of those could take out?" Yet another voice says, a girl’s.
They keep talking, but I look out the window and don’t listen. Later, the bus stops. I look around. We’re in the middle of nowhere.
I stand and everyone lets me get out first. Then they all unload. I stand to the side. Every single one of them is either a child, or
They set up a meager camp site. They don’t have many supplies, only the blankets and pillows that a few kids were carrying, but
they manage to start a campfire and as it starts to rain they all grab their things and rush back inside. I don’t. I stay out and enjoy
the rain. I spin, raising my arms so that they catch more of the beautiful, cold drops.
Then I see the bus. They’re watching me. I stop abruptly and look down at the ground.
"Hey, you shouldn’t stop enjoying life just because they’re used to it," someone says. I turn to see a kid, a little girl, still sitting by
the smoldering fire. I sit with her.
"Hi. I’m Bethany," she says, holding out her hand. I shake it.
"You haven’t talked yet. Can you?" Bethany asks.
I don’t know. Can I? My tongue is smooth and slippery in my mouth. It doesn’t have any taste buds. I shrug.
"What are you thinking?," She asks me after awhile. It continues to rain, and we’re soaked.
’I’m thinking, ’why are you being nice to me? I’m not human,’ ’ I sign. Maybe we aren’t made to talk because I don’t seem to have
the knowledge of it. Bethany’s confused. "I don’t know sign language. I’m sorry," she says.
We sit, silent for awhile. "L-lets go ins-s-side," she says, "now it’s freezing." We go to the bus. Bethany knocks on the door and
we’re let in. She sits beside me on the empty bench.
"Bethany, leave it alone," the boy who was there when I was freed says.
"Her. It’s a her, Maxwell," Bethany says.
"Bethany, Maxwell’s right," the girl called Penny says, â??have you noticed that it hasn’t talked yet?"
"But Penny, you saved her," Bethany protests.
"I saved her because we wanted to leave The Company with nothing, and she was the only one completed enough to walk and
look somewhat human," Penny says.
Bethany frowns. I wonder if they think I can’t understand them?
"Penny, give her a chance. She was talking in sign language, does anyone here know sign language?" Bethany says, directing
the last question at the whole bus.
"I do, but I doubt it has anything to say," a boy in the back says, coming up in between the benches to see me.
’Hello,’ I sign. He translates. ’I am not an it. Do not call me it,’ I sign. Bethany shoots a look at Penny and Maxwell. "What’s your
name?" she asks me. I blink lashless eyes. ’I do not know. Do I get a name? I am not human. Humans have names,’ I sign. Penny
gets up and sits in the bench next to mine. "You can have a name if you want," she says. My forehead creases. ’Then... I guess
my name should be rose. After the first color I saw,’ I sign. They leave me alone after a few more meaningless questions.
I don’t sleep that night. I haven’t slept since I woke up. I don’t think I need to. So I sit, thinking. They still don’t like me, but at least
they don’t think I’m mindlessly subhuman. Just subhuman. Apparently, I’m a clone of someone they knew named Jazmine.
I store this information for later. I seem to do that often. Store things instead of remember them. Again, I know that this isn’t what
the others are doing in their minds. Somehow. I don’t know how I know what humans would normally think, but I do. In fact, I can
almost predict what they’re going to do next.
I’m not going to pretend that I didn’t hear what they said about me earlier. ’What it costs to make one of those things’. I cost a
life. I’m not naive enough to be able to ignore that. ’And did you forget how many of us one of those things could take out?’
I am a killer. That’s what I’m made for. Am I strong enough to break past my genetic makeup? No. I am hopeless. As they sleep
I’m alone with my thoughts. I go over what I know.
I know everything about humans. I also know about the cultures of many, many different countries. I can kill a human in 153
different ways, varying from decapitation to forced starvation. I also know how to heal humans of 372 ailments. I am not capable of
compassion, love, or humor.
My genes are those of juvenile female #45B, known amongst her peers as Jazmine Persephone White, who was sixteen years
old. Making my proportions those of a sixteen year old girl, although I am really only a year and a half old.
Apparently they ’downloaded’ information into me while I was awake, because I surely didn’t know this when I woke up. I went
over my thoughts then too. Someone rolls over and grunts, shaking me out of my thoughts. I blink, surprised to find morning in full
Then I see the car. It’s at the edge of the clearing, a black car. Running, but almost silently. I shake Bethany awake and point.
"??Oh shoot, WAKE UP!" She yells, causing almost instant chaos. The bus is up and running in seconds, and were racing away,
the car chasing almost as quickly. This bothers me. Something here isn’t right. Why didn’t they come get us while we were
sleeping? They were sitting there for awhile...
Oh. Oh no. I scramble over to Penny, frantically gesturing, but she pushes me aside. I fall into the aisle among everyone’s feet. I
crawl to the back of the bus. I would have to stop this myself.
As I crawl I grab a fire extinguisher from under the seats. The back of the bus is significantly more empty and I stand. I throw the
heavy, metal, device out the window. The smashing of the glass draws the attention of everyone on the bus, excluding the driver,
who is really quite incredible.
The fire extinguisher rolls under the car and a tire bursts causing the car to swerve to the side of the road. There’s momentary
silence, then they cheer. No! I shake my head vigorously. I try to catch the eye of the boy who’s been translating. He looks, then,
seeing what I say, his eyes widen.
"??EVERYBODY DOW-" he says, before a breathtaking explosion rocks the ground. Everyone falls limp except for me, but I’m not
able to get to the front of the bus in time to stop it from running into the guardrail, then pushing through with a grinding crunch into the ditch.
I have time to grab Penny, Maxwell, Bethany, and the translator and carry them behind a bush by the side of the road before
several other cars surround the bus and they start loading kids into them. I stand and walk towards them. I don’t want to say what happens next.
I saved the kids, but the men who were stealing them from me are all dead. At first they didn’t notice me, so I was able to twist
several necks before they started to fight back. Fighting back didn’t help them any.
I don’t know how they thought they were going to fit all of the children into those cars, but we only have one driver so that doesn’t
help us. I check the cars over and find several dozen MREs and thirteen gallon jugs of water. These men were prepared.
Soon the children start to wake up. When everyone is gathered around I explain. ’It was a numbing bomb, made only to stun, not
kill. They had a crew waiting to steal you while you were knocked out. I guess they thought you’d have killed me, because I was
They stare at me in awe while this is translated. Penny and Maxwell look downright scared. Bethany is sitting beside me, looking
up. "??Rose...what do you know?" she asks. I jerk back, standing and turning away from the group. This was an unexpected
question. I don’t want to answer it. I have a strong urge to keep what I know secret.
Is this a true reaction, or was I programmed not to lose information? Maybe I don’t want to know what they’ll think of me if they
know. If they know that even if I’ve never spoken to them, I’ve learned through their body language how to personally torture each
and every one of them.
"Rose..?" the translator says. I turn around. They’re all staring at me. I look to the ground. Now they want an explanation. ’I know
many things. Not things meant for children’s ears,’ I sign. They groan. "C’mon, we’ve seen dead people now! That’s, like, a really
big step to not being kids," someone yells.
Silence. No one knows what to say. It’s true. They’d seen the men I’d killed, and it was also true that that certainly ’counted’ as a
gruesome thing. I still don’t want to tell them what was in my head. So I don’t.
’We need to walk,’ I sign, and led the group farther into the woods.
"Wait, don’t we want to follow the road?" Maxwell asks. I look behind me. He hasn’t gotten up, and sits there with his arms
"No. They’ll search the road," Penny says, "although we won’t exactly find any convenience stores out here...the MREs are
maybe enough for one more meal for all of us."
’I’ll take care of you. They’ll come back soon. We have to move,’ I sign over my head as I walk away. This time, they all follow.
We walk for hours. I can tell that the youngest humans are growing fatigued, but I can see a shallow valley ahead of us and hope
to reach there by nightfall. There will be water there, and with water, food. An hour later we’re standing at the edge and can see a
creek and lush vegetation at the bottom.
’We stop here,’ I sign, and suddenly they have energy anew. The younger ones run down the hill and jump in the water,
splashing and yelling and laughing. I gather up a group of older children including Penny, Maxwell, and the driver to look for food.
We lay out a blanket and tell everyone that anything they find that they think could be useful should be put there to be inspected
before it’s used or eaten. I sit and look through everything. Someone found a blackberry patch and it took several people to empty
it of ripe berries.
Then one child dropped a handful of berries that I almost said were wild grapes. Then my heart almost stopped.
’Wait! Where did you find this?’ I sign before she collapses. Oh, gosh, no, she ate some. I carry her quickly to the river and wash
her mouth out, then I see the berry bush and grab a handfull of leaves and shove them in my mouth. I chew them, then stuff the
paste down her throat.
She swallows! She’s not dead yet! I lay her gently on a blanket, then sit panting by the river. Penny sits beside me.
"You...you saved her?" she says, as though struggling to believe it. I nod.
’Don’t eat things you don’t recognize,’ I sign, and soon it’s relayed strongly to everyone in the group.
Later that evening everyone has half an MRE and a large handful of blackberries. Midway through the meal the girl wakes up.
She sits up and screams, clutching at her throat, then lays back down just as suddenly.
’The poison is a hallucinogen. She’ll recover in a few days. The leaves simply kept her from dying,’ I sign. There are nods.
Sleep comes quickly to the younger children, but the older ones sit in the dark, talking. I sit just outside the ring, listening. My
translator fell asleep, so I can’t exactly converse.
"Where do we go from here guys? I mean, when we get somewhere they won’t exactly let us live on our own," said the driver, or,
not anymore I suppose. "Well, we can’t exactly live normal lives. They’ll come after us. We could build a house or something,"
"No. We can’t just stay here in the woods. We need to...to fight back. Maybe we can get to Washington. Talk to the president.
We have proof. It’s sitting right over there," Maxwell says. They all look at me. I sink slightly.
"Let’s sleep. In the morning SHE will show us where we’ll go next," the driver says.
"It," Maxwell says under his breath as everyone lays down and tries to get comfortable on the forest floor.
It’s another lonely night. I sit and think, turning towards the sounds the forest makes.
A late summer breeze turns up some leaves and I wonder if we’ll make it to our destination before Autumn sets in. It’s quite a
way to Washington. Morning comes slowly, but I see a beautiful sunrise. I stand and walk away from camp, stalking the trail of a
When I get back with the carcass, several people are awake.
"Eww," a girl says as I set it down with a thud. Then I proceed to start a fire. Soon Bethany is sitting beside me.
"Can I help?" she asks, looking warily at the dead deer.
I gesture to the fire and the pile of sticks, then to the woods.
"I can do that," she smiles, walking off into the trees. I wake up my translator, asking for a knife. He relays the message to those
in the group who have woken up.
"??I’ve got one, but I’m not letting IT use it," a boy says, holding up a pocket knife. My translator grabs it from him and hands it to
’What is your name?’ I ask him, opening the knife and gutting the deer.
"Timothy. Or #52-" he says, grimacing when blood pours out.
’#521, I know. I know all of your numbers, but your names aren’t on record,’ I finish for him. Bethany brings lots of sticks and I pick
a few for cooking meat on.
Kids line up and I hand them skewered chunks of meat to cook over the fire. Soon they’re mostly full and we still have the MREs
to eat for supper. We start walking again, northeast, and continue to do so without complaint for an hour and a half.
"I’m tired of walking. My legs ache," a girl who’s maybe twelve says.
’We can’t stop,’ I sign, ’Washington DC is days from here.’ There are groans from the group.