Nicole loved spiders. She loved them since she was very young, and when she managed to shoot a thread of spider silk from her wrist like a certain comic book hero at the age of six, she was overjoyed. Her older brother, Matthew, gained the ability to stick to walls the same day. That night, Matthew overheard their parents arguing about what they were going to do about their new abilities. Their father was adamant that they should be taken to the government facility that he worked at. Their mother argued against it, but eventually gave in. The next day, their father told them to pack their stuff, and once they had everything; they joined him in the car and were driven to a facility on the edge of a dense forest, nowhere near civilization.
That was over a year ago. Nicole and Matthew haven’t left the facility since. Matthew doesn’t trust anyone there, but Nicole became fast friends with her roommate, Eliza, who is only two years older than her. Eliza was able to change her own gravity, and used it whenever she could. Matthew plays with Nicole and Eliza often, though they mainly play tag after they decided that using their powers would keep Matthew from having to much of advantage. They happened to be playing tag when Nicole’s life changed.
Nicole was chasing her friend Eliza, who was running along the ceiling laughing, her ginger hair flowing behind her. Nicole was breathing heavily as she aimed her palm at her friend. She managed to shoot some spider silk just before she tripped over the foot of one of the boys in the facility. “Sorry!” the boy yelled out as the foot continued on its way with the boy hobbling after it.
“Nicole! You okay?” Eliza asked, and when Nicole looked up she noticed that Eliza had turned around and is now in front of her, still on the ceiling, with the spider silk in her hair.
“Yeah…I’m…fine…” Nicole panted, not getting up quite yet. Eliza gained a concerned look, and then flipped to the floor. Once she landed, she knelt in front of Nicole.
“Do you want me to get your brother?” she asked, but Nicole quickly shook her head. They stayed like that for a couple minutes, waving away helpful hands from some of the other kids in the facility. When Nicole got her breathing under control, she stood up, followed by Eliza. “I still think we should talk to one of our dad’s about this,” Eliza stated, a hand resting on Nicole’s back.
“No, I’m good, see,” Nicole says, ending with a large smile that forces her to close her eyes. Eliza giggles and nods, slowly removing her hand from Nicole’s back. Suddenly a bell rings, and the hall was filled with kids ranging from five to seventeen years old. Nicole and Eliza followed the crowd to the outdoor lunchroom. In the lunch area, the crowd began splitting up into the different lunch lanes.
Nicole and Eliza stayed together as the older kids went into the other lanes. After they got their trays of food, they sat at a table at the far left of the dining area. As Eliza was saying grace, Nicole’s older brother, Matthew, joined them with a smile and a nod to Nicole. Once Eliza finished, all three of them began eating. After a couple moments of silence, Matthew spoke, “I’m next for the Process”. Nicole’s hands froze as she turned her gaze to her older brother, tears welling in her eyes.
“B-but no one comes back from the Process,” she stammered, “You said that no one survives it”.
“You know Matthew doesn’t have a choice, Nicole,” Eliza cuts in, sympathy in her eyes as she gazes at the siblings. Nicole began to sob at that point, gaining the attention of kids from some of the other tables, who simply gazed at them in pity before going back to what they were originally doing. Matthew moved to sit next to his sister and pulled her into a side hug. Nicole spent the rest of the lunch crying on her brother’s shoulder as he tried to calm her down.
A bell rang and everyone stood from their tables as they began rolling into the compound walls. Nicole quickly let go of Matthew and started wiping away the tears that had yet to stop flowing. Everyone turned towards to the ledge above the doors of the facility. A middle-aged man with shaggy black hair and a lab coat. “We have gained one new special power today. The first one this month” the man yelled, trying to be heard over the large area. Many of kids looked at each other in worry.
“His name is Edward. Please treat him as you do everyone else” he continued, “But, to the regular announcement. Today’s participant in the ‘Process’ is Matthew Dohlan” he finished. Everyone turned to Matthew, their eyes full of pity. A couple guards came up behind him and began guiding him into the facility. Everyone watched as he was lead, and right before the doors closed, Matthew gave Nicole a small smile.
“That is all for today,” the man shouted as he left the ledge. Everyone remained quiet and standing, not wanting to get to close to the Process room too soon. After a couple moments, a bell rang, signaling that they are taking too long. Everyone began walking through the doors as one, all of them looking to at the ground. Nicole and Eliza were the last to get inside, but instead of playing a game like they usually did around that time, they headed straight to their room. They spent the rest of the day wallowing in their room.
When dinner time came, they went back to the outdoor cafeteria area, and went back to the table in the far left of the area. Everyone ate in a tense silence, wanting to know if the Process was successful for once, but they didn’t eat any faster, for fear the result was the same as the last time. When the bell rang to signal the end of dinner, everyone slowly got up and looked to the ledge above the doors. When the man showed up alone, most of the older kids knew what it meant and sent Nicole sympathetic looks.
“Matthew Dohlan did not survive the Process, but his sacrifice shall help to improve it so others may live,” the man shouted, showing no signs of empathy for what had happened. Nicole lowered her gaze, trying to hide her tears as Eliza rubbed her back in comfort. The man left after a couple more words, and the bell rang not long after. But when Nicole went to follow, a hand stopped her. Nicole looked at the man the hand belonged to, and threw her arms around him before sobbing. Eliza patted her back before heading to their room.
“He’s gone, he’s gone and he’s not coming back,” Nicole sobbed into her father’s chest. He rubbed her back as he tried calming her down.
“He wouldn’t want you to cry over him,” he whispered into her hair before kissing her forehead. “But it’s time for you to head to bed, I have to work on the Process so this doesn’t happen again,” he said before motioning her to the doors with a small smile on his face. Nicole nodded and quickly walked towards her and Eliza’s room. When she got their she collapsed on her bed.
“My dad doesn’t love me anymore,” she mumbled into her pillow. After a couple moments of silence, she lifted her head to look at Eliza on her bed.
“I think we need to escape,” Eliza blurted out, looking anywhere but at Nicole.
“What?” Nicole asked, clearly startled. She sat up on her bed to better face her friend. “Are you crazy? We wouldn’t be able to get past the guards on our own, and who knows what else is out past the walls,” she said in a stage whisper.
“Your brother thought he could do it,” Eliza stated, finally looking at Nicole with a determined glint in her eye. “If you hadn’t talked him out of it, he might still be alive,” she stated, hoping that guilt-tripping her friend won’t affect their friendship too much. Nicole looked down at the ground, playing the words over in her head. After a couple of silent minutes, the lights in the room went out. Eliza dropped her gaze and laid down in bed, thinking that Nicole would use the distraction to get out of the uncomfortable discussion.
“Alright,” Nicole finally said, barely above a whisper.
“Really?” Eliza asked, shooting up to look at her friend with a hopeful look in her eyes. Nicole nodded before laying her head on her pillow.
“But we need to get everyone out, not just us,” Nicole stated, narrowing her eyes at Eliza, daring her to say otherwise. “No one deserves to die for something they didn’t want in the first place.”
Eliza nodded, a big smile on her face, knowing that their thinking along the same path. They spent the rest of the night talking about ways they can talk others into escaping with them before falling asleep.
When the bell rang for breakfast, they set their plan into action. When they got their food, they sat at different tables talking to the other kids, trying to get them to join them. Most were scared of what lay beyond the walls, some were afraid of the guard, and the rest viewed their life at the facility was better than a life outside it. When breakfast ended, and the two friends were about to meet up inside, they were stopped by guards and two scientists. “We overheard the discussions you were having with the other powers,” one of the scientists said. Nicole and Eliza shot each other panicked looks as guards grabbed them by their shoulders and started maneuvering them into the facility.
When they passed other kids, they quickly looked away, too afraid of the repercussions of showing any sympathy to “traitors”. Eventually they made it to a cell like room somewhere in the middle of the facility. “Wait here while we get your parents,” one of guards said as the girls were slightly pushed into the room before the door was locked shut.
They shared a panicked look as they waited in a corner. They waited until the bell rang for lunch for the door to open, but it wasn’t for either of their parents, but the man that made the lunch and dinner announcements. “Your parents are very ashamed of what you two attempted to do,” he began, fully entering the room. The girls remained quiet, too afraid and ashamed to speak. “Your parents were so ashamed in fact, that they left your punishments up to me,” he continued, a small, unsettling smirk gracing his lips as he gazed at the cowering girls.
“You two will be next to go through the Process,” he stated, staring straight into Eliza’s eyes as Nicole burst into tears at the news. “Elizabeth Graham, you will go through it today. Nicole Dohlan, you will go through it tomorrow,” he continued as he turned back towards the door. “Enjoy your last couple of hours together,” he said as he left the room.
Eliza turned to the crying Nicole, “I need you to get out of here,” she stated.
“What? I c-can’t leave you,” Nicole stammered as new tears came bursting forth.
“We wouldn’t be able to leave the facility within the next couple minutes,” Eliza stated harshly. “But you can get out during night time,” she continued. Nicole started shaking her head, “I know you can do it,” she pressed.
“No I can’t,” Nicole blubbered, covering her face with her hands.
“At least try. If not for you, than for me and Matthew,” Eliza stated, moving Nicole’s hands to look pleadingly into her eyes. Nicole didn’t say anything for a few moments, but eventually gave in.
“Okay,” she whispered, not daring to look back into Eliza’s eyes for fear of breaking down again. The door opened as Eliza opened her mouth to say something else. She was quickly pulled out of the room with barely enough time for Eliza to shoot Nicole a rueful smile.
Nicole spent the rest of the day trying to figure out how to get out and getting some sleep for that night. When the lights went off in the room for bedtime, she set her plan into motion. She quickly and quietly went over to the in room toilet and quickly shoved all the remaining toilet paper into the toilet. Once that was done, she flushed it a couple times to make sure that it was clogged. When it started overflowing, she ran to the door and started banging on it.
“What do you want?” one of the guards outside the door asked, clearly annoyed for one reason or another.
“The toilet’s flooded,” she shouted, trying to be heard through the thick door. She heard an aggravated sigh.
“Not again,” the guard muttered as he started unlocking the door, “Get on the bed while I unclog it”. As soon as the door opened, she shot her spider silk at the guard’s eyes. He cursed as he tried to clear his vision. Nicole quickly ran out the door, narrowly missing the second guard as he came to check what had happened.
“Stopped the spider girl,” the first guard shouted at the second guard once he realized what happened. The second guard quickly began running after her, but by the time he started, she had already dashed down a different hall.
As Nicole ran, she tried to remember what way the entrance to the parking lot was. She hadn’t been close to that door since her father brought her and her brother to the facility a little over a year ago. However, thanks to her almost perfect memory, she soon found an oddly familiar hallway. That was a little after the lock-down alarms came on.
Nicole started hearing shouting behind her as she finally found the exit she was looking for, which was right behind an employee only door that a scientist, her own father, was rushing through to get inside the facility. Nicole was having a hard time breathing at this point, but started pushing herself to go faster as she aimed her palm at the quickly closing door.
Her father was shocked to see her running towards him with her arm raised. “Wait” he cried, covering his head as he ducked and got out of her way. Nicole shot her spider silk onto the door hinges to, hopefully, keep them from closing before she could get out.
The silk lasted just long enough for her to get through. She passed the lobby quickly, as well as the parking lot and into the forest. She didn’t slow down, to scared to. But eventually she tripped over a rock and she fell onto the ground. She didn’t know how long she had been running, nor how far. All Nicole knew was that she felt like she wasn’t getting enough oxygen.
After a couple moments of trying to catch her breath, and listening for signs of pursuit, she realized she was safe. She was surrounded by an unfamiliar forest filled with dangerous animals, but she was the safest she has ever been in her entire life.