Episode One: Run
Cory knew he had to keep running even if his lungs imploded.
If his pursuers caught him he’d spend time in that lab again. He didn’t want that. All he wanted was to be normal again. His legs were burning and getting heavy and his heart was now booming in his ears. They’d been chasing him a good while. Full speed. All for what. Cory had no control over what was happening to him. Not even a little.
It happened to normal, everyday people, of all ages. The Sixth.
All of them had different experiences, except for a few staples. Different outcomes. For Cory, it started two and a half years ago. He had turned twenty, three months before it affected him. The sixth – short for the sixth sense. Scientists and officials didn’t know what to call it. Why not that. Only, it didn’t happen like people thought the sixth sense should.
Few of the abilities of the affected were the same across the board. The differences were always – interesting.
Most all of the Sixth could communicate with people through telepathy. Some deep to the empathic levels. When the Sixth communicated it wasn’t audible. Not the usual sounds people use to talk to one another. More like an intuitive murmuring. But they understood what was being communicated. Knew who was communicating with them. It was no different than speaking on the phone or looking at a note and knowing exactly who wrote it. Great distances affected some of them. But the empathic could communicate with one another clear across the globe.
Cory was deeply empathic.
Telekinesis varied. But, to some degree every Sixth had telekinetic abilities. There were other shared abilities in there. The elements affected the Sixth in various ways, too. The Sixth affected the elements as well. Not something that’s easy to explain. Cory was learning all about the elements, one by one.
Then there were other abilities that ranged amongst the Sixth. Tons of them.
They were always different. Fires. Hyper-empathy. Telepathy. Telekinesis. You name it, it was happening. Different ways to different people. People were getting weirder by the day. Cory didn’t know about it until it started happening to him. Not till the shrink turned him in anyway.
Cory started feeling tingly at different times, on different parts of his body when he was twenty. He started becoming sensitive to things. To some people. Maybe all. Hearing Voices.
It was the voices that did him in. Cory complained to mom about them. She convinced him to go to the doctor. A head-doctor named, Dr. Edna Tompkins, if he remembered right. Short kindly looking woman. Shoulder length brown hair, peppered with gray. Plump. And a serious disposition with squared spectacles to prove it.
The meds Dr. Tompkins prescribed, after the long, exhaustive research and testing didn’t do much. Seroquel. Cory wasn’t schizophrenic like they thought. But the voices didn’t go away so they upped the dosages of the stuff.
Two times he tried and failed to get the new prescription down his throat. The third time they were in Dr. Tompkins’ office. Her and mom wanted to know why he kept vomiting up the scrip. The bottle exploded in the doctor’s hands when she tried to check them. Cory would swear to this day it was just a reaction.
Dr. Tompkins stood frozen in the office that day. Not a word for a minute. She just kept staring at the loose pills on the ground. Then she stared at Cory for another minute. Cory hated those damned pills and what they did to him. The vomiting. The headaches. The nausea. Hated it.
But Dr. Tompkins wasn’t sure what caused the bottle to pop like it did. She did find out when she tentatively bent at the knees to retrieve one of the pills. When she picked it up she was looking straight at Cory. His brown irises twinkled. His lips twisted in disgust at the thought of swallowing one of those disgusting things. Then it happened.
By then, Dr. Tompkins was in horror. She’d seen the shimmer that momentarily gave his dark brown irises a slight orange glow. They were glowing still. Brighter. Brighter as she touched the pill on the ground. Brighter when she raised it off the ground in between her thumb and index finger.
The room was still. Dr. Tompkins wasn’t even breathing. But she shrieked loud enough to nearly cause Cory’s mother to smash through the door when the pill disintegrated in between her thumb and index. The tips of her fingers were singed. Cory’s eyes were near red.
Cory hadn’t seen mom since that day. Dr. Tompkins made some calls while they were in the office. Said she couldn’t help them but she knew who could. Not knowing what else to do, Cory’s mom agreed. The voices had to be stopped. Whatever he did to poor Dr. Tompkins had to be dealt with.
Men in business suits showed up an hour later. They had men in black tactical gear with huge rifles with them. They took Cory with them. Wired him to devices while they transported him in that armored truck they whisked him away in. Wired him inside that building they rushed him into. Wired him while they explained what they thought was happening. Mom had been kept up to date with spoon-fed stories and doctored pictures, he’d learn later.
That went on six months. Cory still had no idea who the mysterious people were, to this day. He hadn’t been stationary long enough to ask anyone questions. Just passing faces here and there.
They had seen others spring up just like Cory. Some with glowing eyes, too. Some hearing voices – Cory would learn the truth about the voices. Even what they called supernatural occurrences. They thought Cory was one of these. But they didn’t get into specifics. They just wanted to help him. Study him to see if they could understand what was happening to him.
Cory cut left at an old building that looked like a fire had gutted it. His breath felt like the fire that had caused the damage. His heart thrummed like it was on fire too. When he turned there was another building. The windows were boarded up. So was the door. It used to be a small single family home. Most of the buildings in this abandoned part of town were like that. People had been forced out. Most homes here were waiting to be demolished.
There would be a mall with shopping centers and parks coming soon. Signs overlaying some of the boards on the windows and doors said so. They would be completed by twenty-twenty four. The leaves on the few remaining trees had already been withered by the touch of fall. No one had bothered to clean them off the cracked streets, sidewalks or vacated yards. Only the homeless and a few strays slept this side of town. They weren’t around this evening.
If he kept running half a block he would run into Albion Street. It used to be the life of town with its stores and galleries and things that grownups loved to do. Directly to his left was Benedict Street. It had seen better days. It was littered as far as Cory could see, with trash from the new tenants who slept in the condemned homes and sidewalks and yards. Dead center was a small, sheltered alley.
Cory chose Benedict and ran into the second yard on the right. It had a four-foot rustproof fence with attached gates, left open. He left the gate open like he saw it. Headed straight for the left side of the dilapidated house. He heard the plotting of boots on broken ground, on his heels. Felt the vibration as he inhaled and exhaled through his open mouth, forcing his breaths to leave and come back slowly and silently. What to do?
Not far. Dogs were barking and snarling. The soldiers would search and not find him if he was careful. Cory knew how to make that happen. How to mask himself from people. The dogs were another matter. The soldiers were all normal. Those who weren’t wouldn’t risk revealing themselves because they knew what would happen. The probings. Blood being drawn. Lights in the eyes. Never seeing daylight. The light stuff. No one wanted what happened during the real tests.
Cory backed deeper into the yard when the running stopped. Backed into where a tall tree nearly blended his sweat-covered, brown skin into the shadows of the evening. Sour air assaulted his nostrils. There were dank boards all about the place. Pieces of paper scattered in between. On the rear fence was a broken out storage shed to the extreme left.
There were two men coming toward him now, too. They marched side by side. One man remained in back of them pointing his assault rifle in the direction the other two men stalked. Cory sighted them. Guns raised to their eyes. Heads against their rifles. One eye in the sight. Target, Cory. Their steps were light and cautious. They must remember how strong he was. But they were Commandos. Best of the best, he’d learned a while back.
A calming breath followed by another did the trick. He had to relax if he was going to make it out of this. They were on him. Cory kept backing until he was under the shade of the tree and breathed. His mind cleared. And then he saw through their eyes. He saw what they were seeing. Then, slowly, Cory altered what they were seeing. Showed them the tree. The yard. The broken shack. Not one thing was missing. They just never saw Cory.
They panned left. Right. Up. Their rifle barrels pointed straight at the tree. At Cory. The third soldier kept the rifle aimed straight between the men. Cory remained calm. He remained in control while they checked out the shed.
“Clear!” The men shouted and backed out of the yard, sweeping their rifles as if they were trying to keep enemies at bay. The third man only backed out after they had been clear of the yard.
Cory wasn’t finished. Three breaths. The direction of the wind altered slightly. Strength of it picked up just enough to not be noticed. It churned the scent of decay from all around, along with the scent of every human being alive and dead, where the wind touched. Cory felt the scent receptors of the animals then, three of them.
Then he searched their minds and removed any memories of what they had been given to hunt. Gave them a new memory. A new scent. A homeless man named sprocket. The dogs began barking and rushing, one after the other. A stray bullet to the head had killed poor Sprocket a day ago, during a gang-fight over territory.
At least, if the soldiers were here they could alert the police, since no one else would.
Cory didn’t relax until they’d gone two whole minutes. They wouldn’t move too far, he knew. He could hear the dogs and shouting about a mile away. Noise carried, silent as the place was. With all the soldiers pouring in, the homeless would do their best to look as meek as possible, if they were in fact still around. The gangs would do their utmost to appear homeless, too.
Still, he had to get out of the yard before they figured out what he’d done. So Cory armed his mind with calming breaths. He found the location of all the posted guards. Two by the gate of the yard he was in. Two at every damned house they could afford. How many of them were there?
Cory moved. Slowly at first. Inched his way from under the large maple. He could see now that the house was beige, in the waning sun. It was nearly five PM on a crisp Wednesday evening in October. Twenty, twenty-two (October, 2022).
Parents were buying costumes for Halloween and candy for kids. That was nearly two weeks away. Cory was already living the nightmare of a lifetime.
If only he could rise like Simone. She was the reason he’d broken out of the lab. She buzzed him one night after they had finished testing his strength. She had felt his pain. She had to rescue him. She’d been moving objects by the time she was three. At fifteen she could levitate and outright soar. She said there were older people. Older Sixths.
Cory hadn’t met them yet. He would have to get out of this alive for that to happen. He would have to escape these people if he were to expect any help from Simone or her people. Say that three times. Fifteen years old and had people. It was starting to become a strange life.
His tentative steps took him closer to the front of the building. Cory kept his mind aimed at the soldiers within reach. One missed thought and he would be pounded into the dirt by men weighing ten times his hundred and seventy pounds. And even his five foot eleven inches paled to some of the giants he saw. One of the guys at the gate was just up there somewhere.
Cory stilled their minds as he moved to the gate. They’d closed it behind them. If he opened it, even with his manipulation of their minds they would hear it. Clever bastards. He was trapped. Calming breathes needed. Cory looked around.
There were two cinder blocks by the side of the house. One of which he positioned by the side of the fence he was on. End of the yard. Away from the soldiers. The other, Cory reached over and put on the ground. Then he gingerly wormed his way over the fence, cinder block to cinder block, not even glancing the fence to make it move. Stepped easily on the broken sidewalk after.
Cory’s head snapped toward the gate. Fought the initial panic he felt from the eyes on the cinder block. The two soldiers in front of the gate had their rifles clutched and aimed toward it. Another two appeared at the beginning of the street staring at the blocks – one block inside the yard against the fence, the other on the sidewalk against the fence.
“We have breech of containment!” One of the soldiers at the gate had his radio to his lips.
Crap! Cory did his best to stay calm. They hadn’t seen him yet. He hoped.
A squawk. Please confirm.
“We have breech. Seven Benedict. Confirmed.”
“Look for moving shadows” Came the reply on the radio.
Cory froze. He hadn’t thought of shadows. He quickly scanned their brains. Nothing. Hid his shadow from their view and backed slowly from the cinder block. Not up the street but across to another house that still had a roof and windows. He would stay by the fence this time, not in the yard. But he needed an escape. He could feel the drain his use of mental power was having on him.
The calming sense of euphoria was quickly becoming a buzzing in the back of his mind, like he wasn’t the only one living in his head.
“Keep containment!” The same voice repeated over the radio. Then. “All units. Converge on Seven Benedict. Keep your eyes peeled. Team two you have the lead. Keep your heads clear. He might be hiding in sight with that mind trick of his.”
Cory didn’t know they knew about that. From the house across the street his steps were quick, back to the beginning of Benedict and Stratford. Down the Alley he’d seen earlier. Left halfway down and into Vader territory. They did not like or respect anything. Cops included. They had a Sixth of their own stronger than Cory.
At the end of the extended yard his mind fizzed when he saw the next obstacle. He heard boots behind him. “There!” Someone shouted from the alley entrance. Cory swung back and saw someone taking aim into the dark alley at him. Tranquilizer. It had to be. They wanted him alive. Fingers squeezed down on the trigger.
There was no way to go. Cory was strong, but twelve feet of solid concrete wouldn’t be moved so easily. But his legs compressed at the knees on instinct, when the pellet left the muzzle of the rifle. Muscles tightened. His body exploded off the ground. It felt like flying. Cory was in the air rising up and then over the wall, a good twenty feet or so off the ground. Shocked and hyped. All he could hear was the wind in his ears and feel it on his face, as he shot up, up… and then down.
Cory crashed hard to the ground. Rolled on his sides and had the wind knocked from him. He was disoriented and groggy. But he heard the men on the other side regrouping. He had to move. His arms and legs worked groggily until he was clawing at the dirt. Then he staggered to his feet. Then he was running. Then he was running strong again.
But how in the hell had he made it over the wall in one leap? Why did he even try when he knew he couldn’t do it? Questions swirled as Cory ran. But he had to keep running. The small engines buzzing overhead somewhere told him he needed to.
The sound of the voices on the other side of the wall and their clomping feet said so too. They would be back on the motorbikes and vehicles and on his heels soon.