As she sat down on the bus, she knew she was going to have a problem. She was absolutely exhausted and long car rides had a tendency to help her drift off to sleep. She twisted a leg uncomfortably into the seat next to her to complete the dual purposes of keeping her awake and making sure no one sat next to her. If someone sat next to her, he or she might touch her. She didn’t want to touch anyone.
She pressed her forehead to the glass, which was refreshingly hot next to the over-air-conditioned bus interior. She hated what had happened. Her mother’s face and the blood exploding was forever imprinted in her mind. Whenever she closed her eyes, she could see her poor, frightened mother’s eyes as they were destroyed. It made her sick to her stomach.
She thought back to her father. He had always told her to put the unchangeable past behind and look to the future, where she could change things. Her mother, her father, many of her friends, and two unfortunate girls were dead. It was her fault, although she didn’t mean to. She couldn’t do anything about it. She could go to Brighton Bridges, however, and put an end to it. That is, assuming her father’s vague clue was pointing to Brighton Bridges and it was about who she was.
She now realized what a humongous assumption that was. It was an Internet search based on most popular searches starting with bright- that had put her in that direction. Suppose her father didn’t mean Brighton Bridges, or even if he did, it was just to tell her she was adopted or something, what then?
She didn’t know, and as Las Vegas pulled away, she was beginning to realize how lost she was. However, Brighton Bridges was a direction, and that was all she needed at the moment. Whatever happened, she would just have to face it. Perhaps she should’ve attempted to contact the FBI instead of embarking on her own. Perhaps. They would probably also lock her away forever when they realized what she could do by touching people. It would probably confirm their suspicions that she was responsible for everything. They might just give her the death penalty, but maybe they could also figure out why she could dream people dead and change their emotions.
It would be her plan B, if nothing came of her trip to Brighton Bridges.
An hour passed and her eyelids began to droop. She bit her lip, hoping the pain would keep her awake. It was not too long later when her chin dropped to her chest again. Slipping her right foot out of its shoe, she drove a fingernail into the cut at the bottom of it. She almost yelled out at the oncoming pain, which bit like a knife through her entire leg. It was still very sensitive. It would probably get infected too, sitting in a shoe no doubt lined with bacteria from months if not years of use, judging by the wear on the soles.
She found she hardly cared. Thinking weeks ahead seemed inane and silly when so much depended on what would happen within the next few hours after she arrived in Utah. Death could come within seconds, her mother had shown her. To plan for an infection was downright asinine in the face of everything.
She was falling asleep again, so she placed her nail back into her cut. It hurt very bad, but it shocked her awake. She was going to have to be very careful, or else she would end up asleep, and someone would die. She needed caffeine badly, but stuck on a bus without money didn’t exactly lend itself to the purchase of a cup of coffee.
“You look tired, dearie,” an old woman said from across the aisle.
“I am,” Therese admitted, lowering her voice as low as she dared, hoping she didn’t sound fake or comical. “I’ve been traveling, and I don’t want jet lag.” She found herself avoiding outright lies. Of course jet lag wasn’t her main concern, but it would be unfortunate.
“Are you heading to Salt Lake? Why are you traveling by yourself?” she asked, leaning over towards Therese.
“My father--my mother and I haven’t seen him in almost six years--wanted to tell me something.” Therese saw her father keeled over her desk. What was he trying to tell her? Had he known what she was the entire time? Her mother obviously hadn’t. Had he tried to hide it? It only happened after he was gone.
The woman nodded. “Family is important. It’s the only thing you can depend on.”
Therese’s family was dead. The only person left was herself. She guessed it was true that she could only really depend on herself now. She smiled politely at the woman but turned away to remove herself from the conversation.
The hours of road between her and Brighton Bridges seemed an insurmountable challenge, as she plunged her nail into her foot for the umpteenth time. The cold air helped keep her awake and shivering, but it was not enough so that she forced her nail into her foot again and again. The only thing she could see was visions of death: her parents’, her friends’, and the girls’. She felt dirty. She felt like screaming, or running, or anything but sitting trapped in a steel canister for hours on end. She felt like sleeping forever without waking, never dreaming.
Brighton Bridges kept her going. It gave her a small spot of light in the dark. It gave her hope. Hope was a powerful thing.
As the people loaded the bus after a stop at a gas station, the elderly woman Therese talked to before handed her a coffee with a soft smile. “Chin up, son. Whatever your father wants to tell you, I’m sure it’s about making up lost time. It’s always darkest before dawn.”
“Thank you,” Therese said softly. The hot liquid warmed her fingers through the Styrofoam cup. The cliche saying seemed trite, but it was something. It was that intangible, irreplaceable hope. The hot flush of warm that passed down her chest after drinking the coffee let her know how incredibly hungry she actually was. Therese ignored it however; there was much she still had to do. She had no money and no time. She would deal with it later.
Hours passed, the sun went down, and Therese found herself staring at the suburbia of Utah transform into tall, commercial buildings. Her foot hurt a lot as the bus screeched to a halt, but all was forgotten as she readied herself for the drama of whatever would come. She pulled her hat down to cover her face more and left the bus quickly, walking on the heel of her injured foot.
She alternated running and walking when her heel hurt too much as the map of the area she had looked up guided her through streets thankfully named numerically and sequentially, which made the quest much easier. Her heart was buzzing as her body burned with adrenalin and exhaustion. Night turned shadows into monsters of her imagination and her past, but she could only keep running. In some way, she didn’t want to reach Brighton Bridges. She didn’t want to disappoint herself if it turned out not to be what she was looking for, destroying all hope, but she had to do it. She just had to, for all those lives destroyed by her.
Several miles later, she was breathing hard but she had come face to face with the abandoned building. Boards covered a few windows, and the letters of Brighton Bridges, which had been bolted to the front of the building, had fallen off with age. The brick edifice still stood strong, and Therese could picture her father walking through the broad double doors many years ago. He must have worked here, as an architect. Why would he keep it hidden? And what was he hiding here?
Still gasping from her run, she checked over both shoulders to see if any of the cars zooming on the street behind her had taken noticed. She hobbled forward and checked the front doors. They were locked, dead-bolted, and secured with chains and thick-looking key lock. She almost had to laugh at herself for coming this far and not taking into account that the building had probably been locked. She had never picked a lock in her life and thus had little chance of getting in via the front door.
She backed up slightly, examining the structure. There were no ground floor windows, but all seemed raised to slightly lower than second floor setting, as if the inside was a warehouse or something. One of the windows had one of the boards that had been covering it balanced loosely on the ledge, as if it had fallen off and been caught there.
Therese approached the wall, noting that the grout between the bricks was extremely eroded. She slipped off Jason’s shoes and noted that she could fit her fingertips and her toes within the gaps. She looked behind her again, as if expecting police or the evil guys to jump out behind trash cans, but no one was there. She pressed her fingers as deeply into the cracks as she could, and then her feet. She took a higher grip and as she went to push off from her toe hold, her right food exploded with pain as the cut stretched. She tumbled down into a heap on the ground and grabbed her aching foot.
From a thousand miles away, she could hear her father’s voice, “Tears don’t help anything, Therese. You must be strong. Now tell me, where did you go wrong?” She was not going to let this stop her when she was so ineffably close. She closed her eyes tightly, then looked back up. She gathered herself and attacked the wall again, this time letting her right foot dangle. Brick by precarious brick, she inched herself forward, keeping her body close to the wall. It was ages until her fingertips reached the ledge.
Laboriously, she pulled herself upwards realizing how tired she was. Adrenalin could only do so much. She had to keep going, she had to see this through, and then she could rest and eat and pay Jason back.
Sitting on the ledge, she realized the inside of Brighton Bridges was dark and unlighted, as one might expect of an abandoned warehouse. She had not brought a flashlight or anything smart like that. She had not thought this far as she did not know what to expect from Brighton Bridges. As her eyes adjusted, she was beginning to get the vague sense of a large room by the moonlight filtering through the boarded up windows. She saw a pile of wooden crates below the ledge on which she sat. She could at least get down and poke around in the near darkness. She had come so far, she couldn’t back out over something like a flashlight.
She lowered herself down, feeling the space below her feverishly with her feet. Her left foot glanced something wooden, and she let go. The crates, apparently delicately balanced, collapsed beneath her as she tumbled down in a thunderous avalanche.
She lied on the floor, breath slowly returning to her chest and pain issuing from her left ankle. She had probably twisted in her fall and was now all but crippled now that she could barely stand on either leg. She did not want to move, and the overwhelming urge to dreamlessly sleep and never wake up overwhelmed her. No. She could not just lie there. Her father was trying to tell her something. She had to figure out. She pulled herself to a wall and inched herself up so she balanced on her right heel, gasping at the effort.
She did not see it or hear it, but something bit into her stomach and sent her body into a spasm. She collapsed again, as her already dark vision grew darker. She blinked her eyes open not too much later, most of her muscles still in spasm. Someone was dragging her with extreme effort along the cold cement floor. A door shut behind her and locked, and a light clicked on.
An old man, attached to an oxygen tank and several IVs, was staring at her hungrily. She pushed herself up quickly to a sitting position, and the old man gestured with what she now recognized as a tazer. “Don’t move, Yvette.”
He had her father’s voice, weathered by time, but the resemblance was unmistakable. He was the man whose voice who ran throughout her dreams. He was the one who called the girls to their deaths. But it wasn’t her father. The man was much older than what her father should’ve been if he had lived the last five years, and he had different nose, higher cheekbones, and darker eyes. It was someone different, but someone similar.
“My name is not Yvette,” her voice was tight as he threatened again with a tazer, but to find the man behind it all suddenly in front of her she found it imperative to speak. “It is Therese Evans. You made me kill my friends. You are the cause of my parents’ death.”
He laughed. It was a dry, hacking thing that seemed hardly to convey mirth but the perceived superiority of its origin. “Danny didn’t tell you a thing, did he? Just brought you up like a normal little girl, not the freak you are? I’ve bet you’ve been so confused, just wracked with guilt. ‘Why is everyone dying? What’s wrong with me? Woe is me!’” He mocked her in a high-pitched, garish voice and laughed in the same grating way.
Therese chest twisted at the words. She looked up into the man’s aged eyes and saw only bitter truth. “You think Yvette is a name?” He laughed again. “Yvette is what you are. E-V-E-T. Experiment-Vast Extrasensory Transmission. E-VET. You were a lab experiment. And your precious little daddy who you love so dearly? He was a chief experimenter. He made you the freak you are.”
His eyes were so truthful, full of supremacy over her ignorance. But it couldn’t be true. Her father loved her. He had spent so much time with her. He had taught her to be strong. He had been everything.
“You lie,” she accused.
He laughed again. He was so gleeful that she was here.“You know I don’t. I can see it in your eyes. Everything is making sense now, hmm? Your father said it wasn’t important to make friends so he could isolate you. He taught you to avoid contact so you wouldn’t use your ability that we gave you to influence people. He told you not to feel emotions so that I couldn’t find you. He lied to you at every turn. He made you think you were normal, not the freak you are.
“You were a military experiment that was decommissioned after someone with a some expanded sense of self-righteousness decided it was immoral. We were so far, we couldn’t stop. My idiot son, you father, eventually saw the project’s potential. He offered his company as a front, and he found himself drawn into the research.
“Ah, but then he got cold feet, decided he didn’t want us to use you. He stole you from me and gave you to his half-crazed wife. Billions of dollars had been invested in you, but that didn’t matter to him. The creditors came after me and the company. My employees ran and my investors almost killed me. They told me to find you or die. I was consumed with the search. I found a way to track the large electromagnetic emissions associated with the strong emotions of an E-VET. I found a way to tap into them, to alter them.
“Your father kept you hidden however, taught you to keep silent. I had to have him killed. I found you when you were at your most vulnerable, when you were asleep, but it was an ephemeral thing. I could never touch your thoughts to affect you, only those you were thinking about at the moment, the ones you connected with. The first girl, what was her name? Ah, Tessie, was an accident. However, as time went on I realized if I hurt enough of those close to you, you would be curious about why it was happening. And your curiosity would lead you where it had first began; it would lead you to me.
“I must admit, it took you much longer than I thought it would. You ignored the deaths of some of your closest friends, and it took my investors on your tail to force you into action. It doesn’t matter now, though, now you are here,” he was smiling broadly, a smile of broken teeth and thin, reptilian lips. He had been waiting and planning a long time, and he relished the moment he could reveal his brilliance.Therese was repulsed; she wanted for it not to be true, but everything seemed to fit. His expression was one of a victor of a marathon, vainglorious in his win.
She could not stay here. She had to get away. Nothing else mattered.
She threw herself forward to tackle the man, but was stopped in the motion by his tazer into her chest. Before she fell, she managed to get a handle on the weapon, pulling it away from the man and throwing it into the air. She collapsed for several seconds as her muscles spasmed, and the tazer rebounded off a corner.
“You don’t know when to quit, do you? You may have succeeded on dumb luck before, but now you have lost. You are mine, E-VET, and you will do as I tell you to,” he hissed, his voice bitter. She began to sit herself up again and found a gun trained on her. The man was glowering down the sight.
“Stand up,” he ordered. She slowly inched herself up the wall, but an idea was growing in her head. He was the man who had caused her to kill all of her friends. He, her father’s father, was the source of it all. He was going to sell her to his “investors” to kill people, no doubt, if she did not get away. He was threatening her with death, if she did not cooperate. What he didn’t realize, however, was that her death hardly mattered now. It would be the death of a murderer, and it would let her sleep, dreamlessly, ever after.
She was not afraid.
She hobbled towards him, slowly but decisively. “Stop,” he ordered, undoing the safety of his gun. She could see the fear growing in his eyes, revealing himself to be nothing but a sick, old man. “Stop, damn you.”
She reached forward to grab his gun, and he, knocking off her hat, latched a gnarled fist on her hair, jerking it backwards. He jabbed the gun into her upper chest as she wrestled him for control. He was surprisingly strong and she was surprisingly tired, her muscles barely responding to her brain, even the onslaught of adrenalin unable to relieve the heavy cloak of exhaustion.
She could feel his beating heart behind her, and as her finger passed by the trigger of the gun, she knew what she had to do. She could not think, but just press her finger down. She closed her eyes.
The explosion rocked her backward, her ears ringing with the blast. The world was numb and something warm was pooling on her upper chest around her shoulder. It took her a moment to realize she was lying on something. It took her a bit longer to realize it was her attacker, her grandfather.
Her body was leaden, but she slowly pulled it to her feet. The old man had a large, deep red stain in his chest, slightly to to the left of his sternum. He oxygen tank lay on tumbled across the room and his IV pole was tangled in his feet. His eyes were open but glazed. She had killed him.
She had done it.
Several long moments she stared before she noticed the dripping blood, her inability to move her left arm, and her growing light-headedness. She couldn’t breathe, she realized distractedly. Each breath seemed to leave her all the more unable to get a second, as if she she was sliding into a lake. She looked down at her upper left chest and she noticed the bullet wound. He wouldn’t be the only one that died soon.
She didn’t want to die.
She was surprised at the notion, but she knew she must move in order to save herself. She went to step, and she tripped. She fell onto her arms, than instantly collapsed to her chest. She could not feel pain, although she knew it should be there. Pain seemed so distant. She began to crawl, inching forward with her bad arm dragging on the floor.
She heard something, a slight scratching on the floor. She turned around to see her grandfather’s wrinkled hand slowly scrambling towards the gun like an injured spider. It gripped the handle, but he did not attempt to aim it at Therese. Instead he methodically aimed it at the oxygen cylinder and pulled the trigger.
The sudden outburst of pressurized gas slammed Therese to the floor. It took her several tried to get to her hands and knees again and several seconds after that to place the smell of smoke. It had started a fire.
She crawled forward, beginning to feel warmth from behind her as the dry, unvarnished wooden floor ignited. Her hand landed in a sticky puddle of blood she knew had to be her own, but she kept moving. She was so tired that even with the fire behind her, all she wanted to do was to stop, fall asleep for awhile.
However, there was that small but powerful flame in her chest that let her know she did not want to die. When she could think of nothing else, she could hold onto that. It was hard to think of anything else, with her mind so fuzzy now. Smoke was building, and she coughed often although she couldn’t breathe anyway.
She crawled on and reached the door of the room. She pulled herself up by the handle with her good arm. She leaned on it heavily to unlatch it. She fell roughly onto the floor as it opened outward. The world seemed so far away now. Maybe should could just rest for a second.
She did not want to die.
That was it. She had to keep going. She pulled her right arm from underneath her, using it to pull her forward in a type of modified army crawl. She had to get to the front door. She had to get out. She did not want to die.
The fire was faster than her, and she could hear it crackle and feel its heat as it caught the large warehouse room ablaze. The smoke was everywhere, and whatever air she managed to force into her lungs seemed less air than concentrated smoke. She wanted to stop, but she did not want to die.
The world was darkening, but lightening. White was closing in on her vision, reaching around the shadows to bring a brilliant light. Was she dying? She slowly moved through a hall, finding the front door in front of her. She reached her hand up to the handle. She could barely see above the light now, but found it by touch. She attempted to pull herself up. She slipped. She tried again.
Her hand caught. She couldn’t really see anything now. Her body was light. The world began to disappear. She couldn’t smell smoke. Her chest didn’t bother to move. She shoved her feet beneath her. The door was vaguely in the direction of her shoulder. Her finger ran across the door blindly. They were trying to do something. Something important. Their impact with something metal reminded them of their purpose. It was very hard to think. She was floating away.
They pushed the metal thing, and then another. The door retched forward, but only so much. Her arm fell through. Her body couldn’t fit. But she couldn’t care. She was far away in a world of white.