The wires suffocated my wrists and I felt like I was being drawn back in time, back to the Home, back to my small room, back to where I felt like I belonged. I was one with the others. Everything fit, except for my name. Cher. Hah! At least I know my mother had a sense of humor before she decided to leave me on the doorstep. I smiled my smile – the one that only I could perfectly portray on my dirty, bashed up face. At last I finally get to leave this hell... One way or another.
I held my brother’s hand in a vice-like grip. Honestly, this whole procedure was scaring the hell out of me. I still couldn’t truly believe that my brother – my level-headed, logical brother had agreed to going through with this. Of course, I couldn’t be the one who stays behind. Stupid me and stupid pride. It always gets in the way.
Fuck. The wires hurt. The sorta cut into your skin. Painfully. I glanced back up at Albus, still holding his hand.
He squeezed my hand, “Lily, we’ll be okay. This is what we were meant to do.”
The only thing I regretted about the whole situation was dragging my sister into this. Lily may be part of the story, maybe even a crucial part, but it’s only a story. She’s trading her life for a story. I don’t have much to look forward to in my life. She’s the popular one in the family. She’s the talented one. She’s the one who would have given our last name some fame. Hah! Ironic, isn’t it? Now it’ll be both of us who are famous. Not the way she planned it though – this was a very different type of fame…
I stood silently by the window as they attached the machine to me. This might be the last time I saw Earth. My earth. Not some make belief, stupid Earth. Stupid. Stupid, stupid, stupid. Yet, those men – they knew exactly what to say. They knew exactly how to get me to agree to this stupid experiment. Money. Scholarship money for the athlete Hunter Green. If it all goes well, I’ll get to be on whichever basketball team I want, apparently. And even now, knowing how stupid this is, I can’t give up that scholarship. I guess my parents thought so too. They signed some form letting me do this. They let me go on a suicide mission – for money. At least Albus’ parents didn’t have much of a choice. This is their life’s work, after all. My parents had the full capacity to not let me do this.
My hands were shaking.
I’m going to view this all from a scientific perspective. Right. Observations. Those come first. The wires looked more uncomfortable from far away, than they were when attached to my wrists. That’s better. One observation down. Now for the next.
The kids looked calm enough. Although… Lily was grasping Albus’ hand. Not completely calm then. Then again, I suppose that’s right. No one should be calm in this situation. Not even the teacher. There. I don’t have to be calm.
You know, I could die today. I could die in approximately 10 minutes. What chemicals does a dead body produce again? Oxygen and Hydroxide? Damn nerves, can’t even remember the subject I’m teaching. Taught. Was teaching. Past tense.
You know, out of all the teachers, they chose me. Was I really the most unloved… the least missed? The one for whom it wouldn’t really matter whether they’ll live or they’ll die?
IT MATTERS! It matters to ME! Did they forget? I’m not dead yet!
Although, I have to admit, their planning was perfect. I may be a science teacher, but I never thought people would make me the experiment. No, in my daydreams of the future, I was always the observer. Yet, I agreed to this. They came to my room this morning with a couple of forms, explained the deal, and gave me a pen. I signed it. I didn’t even call anyone to talk it over. Not my mother, not my sister. I just gave them my life – then and there.
There must be some way they knew I would agree. After all, even some of the most desperate human beings alive wouldn’t have agreed to this. Yet, all it took was for them to explain the experiment and I was signing the papers. Simple as that.
What the fuck was I doing here?
See, everyone else in this room made sense. The homeless chick – she had nothing better to look forward to. Lily and her brother? They were apparently “destined” to do this. The athletic guy, he needed the scholarship and the money. Even McKinley fits into this little adventure spat. School was never for him – he really would be better off dead or on the other side of this experiment.
But me? What was I? I was Gavin. The class clown. I wasn’t some specially created specimen like Lily. I wasn’t a loner like McKinley or the chick. I didn’t need the money. Yet, here I am.
The funny thing is, I’m complaining about this like I didn’t have a choice. I signed the papers after all. My parents didn’t. You know, forgery was always a strong suit of mine. So, back to the big question of the day. Why did I go to all these lengths to sign the papers? Curiosity? The lack of common sense? The need for adventure? Hell with it. One thing’s for sure though – I sure as hell don’t regret it.
The scientists attaching the wires finally stepped away from the specimens. The machines started to whir faster and faster, the purring noise morphing into a loud clanking. Everyone was looking at the dials with an intense sort of stare, almost as if they were depending with their lives on what would happen next. It was the stare of the mafia playing Russian roulette. It was the stare of the accused when the jury was giving their verdict. It was acute, fully focused, determined. In the entire room only the girl’s hand was moving, as she tightly squeezed and then released her brother’s hand.
(The day before, outside of the chemistry classroom)
Mr. McKinley ushered out the five students whose names had been called out a few minutes before. As Lily exited the classroom, he gripped her shoulder, as if he was trying to convey all of his emotions… which were certainly confusing the five students surrounding him.
Finally, one of the business men broke the silence, “Mr. McKinley, maybe this conversation should be held somewhere more private. Mr. Staine, we won’t be needing you anymore.” It wasn’t a question.
The principal turned around and left.
Mr. McKinley nodded and muttered, “Yes, yes, of course. Of course not. Not at all.” The five students glanced at each other in question.
As they started walking to their new destination, the student named Gavin whispered to no one in particular, “Was the last chem test cheat sheet written by the mafia or something?”
The student name Lily snorted, “You know I don’t cheat...”
Gavin raised an eyebrow, “Oh really?”
Lily grinned, “Fine, fine! You got me!”
Mr. McKinley ignored the students. He seemed too stressed to care about the apparent chem test cheat sheet written by the mafia. He stopped at an empty storage room and glanced around, as if he was scoping out for potential eavesdroppers or FBI agents. Then again, the business men looked awfully similar to FBI agents. He opened the door.
“Come in. Quickly!”
Yes, the FBI agents seemed the most probable hypothesis at the moment. The students pushed through the opening simultaneously. The student named Albus was the last to squeeze into the storage room.
He looked uncomfortable. “There’s not a lot of room in here, is there?”
Mr. McKinley almost started apologizing.
One of the business men cut him off and abruptly started, “Lily Potter, Albus Potter – what do you know about your parent’s work?”
Lily glanced at Albus, “Not much, why?”
The business man seemed to expect this answer. He pulled out a stack of papers and handed them to Lily.
“There. Those are their signatures. Now we just need yours,” he paused and glanced around all students in the storage room, “Yours too. Then your parents.”
Mr. McKinley seemed to deem this explanation not quite good enough for the poor students and opened his mouth to start his version of the story.
“Mr. McKinley, we will explain everything ourselves.”
The mouth clicked shut.
“The Potter duo has dedicated their life to creating a machine that will allow people from the, quote in quote, “real world” to step into the worlds of their favorite authors. In particular, they focused on the Harry Potter series, as they thought it would be fitting to show their respect for the series by using it for their first big experiment,” the business man paused again, almost overstepping the line of dramatic artificial effect.
Lily rolled her eyes, “I knew that much. I mean, they named their children after the characters in the book, for god’s sake!”
Albus warningly nudged her, “We can’t talk about this.”
Suddenly he jerked forward.
“Why are they here, anyway!” he exclaimed, pointing at the other students, “They shouldn’t know any of this!”
Lily sighed dramatically, “Oh Albus, it’s not like our parents will succeed with their stupid machine, anyway!”
The business man perked up at this, “Actually…”
The other business man interrupted him, “This is why we came to talk to you today.”
Lily stopped moving and started at them in shock. So did Albus. The other students just looked confused.
Then, Gavin began, “If you’re saying there’s a machine that transports people into magical worlds--”
The man just continued talking, “So far, the machine has been tested on all sorts of animals – rats, squirrels, even monkeys. It’s time for it to be tested on humans.”
The student named Hunter seemed to finally understand what was going on.
“No way in HELL--”
“Now, now, you haven’t heard all of it--”
“I don’t need to hear all of it--”
“It’ll give you full scholarship to any college you want in that world! We’ll fully control your situation in life! You won’t have to worry about money!”
Hunter fell silent. Everyone fell silent. The tension was building.
Suddenly, the student named Cher almost whispered, “I’ll do it.”
All the other students turned to stare at her.
Then, Albus puffed out his chest and said, “I’ll do it too--”
“What?! Albus?!” Lily exclaimed, looking up at her brother. His face, set in stone, didn’t even twitch.
Lily sighed, “I suppose I’ll do it too.”
Gavin shrugged and took the papers from the business men. As he flipped through the documents, Hunter still stood there, silent. The business man was staring him down. Then, Hunter broke down.
“Fine. Hand them over. I suppose if this means I’ll get to…”
The business man gave Hunter his papers. He glanced around the dusty storage room and smiled for the first time in front of the students.
“We’ll see you all tomorrow.”
He twirled around and swiftly exited the storage room pulling his coworker with him.
Lily looked down at the documents.
On the first page, printed across the entire front side were the words:
“This May Be Fatal”.
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