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By: April Feng

Maya shuffled through the dark alleyway, scratching what seemed to be a bug bite on her right hand. The dim street light flickered as she walked up the stairs to her rickety old apartment. It was seven o’clock, almost sunset. The sky looked gloomy as always, as threatening dark clouds began to roll over to match the drab gray of the alleyway.

Maya struggled as she finally managed to open the old door. The lock was starting to stick. Maybe it had rusted and gotten old; after all, her apartment building had been standing for nearly five years already. That seemed ancient in a world where the elite would buy new houses every few weeks or so. At least it provided jobs for people like her, Maya thought. She was barely able to even pay rent in her second-rate apartment. Exhausted from another day of heavy labor and with no extra money to buy dinner, Maya could only flop into bed and go to sleep on an empty stomach. The last thing she felt was an invisible hand comforting her and lulling her to sleep. Her eyes shut, and everything went black.

A blinding flash of white light woke the girl. She sat up, startled from the sudden brightness. She had been lying down on a thin cotton mattress, with some sort of wire attached to her arm. A wave of nausea and pain hit her as she tried to stand up. Immediately, she realized all her limbs were shackled down. Struggling to get out of the shackles, an electric shock suddenly went through her body, and she felt herself flop back down onto the bed. Her last memory was seeing a horde of men in white lab coats walking towards her and feeling the prick of a sharp needle into her arm.

As she woke up again, she now found herself in a completely different environment. She seemed to be in a completely glass enclosure that spanned half the room, with the other half filled with weird mechanical contraptions that looked like they could kill. There were also what looked like scientists next to the contraptions. She opened her mouth to speak, but the only sound that came out was a muffled whimper. The scientists ignored her, and continued to discuss amongst themselves in hushed whispers.

After a couple of minutes, the scientists walked away, and the girl felt herself stand up automatically, walking over to the sink that had appeared on the far left wall of her glass enclosure. That hadn’t been there before, had it? she thought. She shrugged the thought off, and immediately got busy washing her face. The cool water made her more alert, as strange fragments of memories began to rush back at her. Suddenly feeling the urge to look down at her right hand, she saw a series of strange red marks that were in the shape of a perfect circle. Memories of a mysterious city and a rickety old apartment hit her in a wave as she gasped and stumbled back to the bed that just so happened to be placed at the corner of the room. After sitting for a couple minutes to mull things over, the girl surmised that this must have been just a dream. After all, according to the memories that had appeared in her head, her name was Maya, and she should have been out of bed and working at the construction site at this time. Shaking her head, she tried to push the jumbled up thoughts out of her mind. Maybe it would help to first examine her surroundings. Upon closer look, she discovered a small pamphlet that seemed to be hidden in a small notch in the wall behind the sink. It looked strangely out of place: a black leather booklet placed in a room filled with white metallic materials.

Her curiosity finally got the better of her, and Maya opened the booklet, but her hopes were shattered as she flipped through blank page after blank page. Sighing, she placed the booklet back under the sink, then turned on the spout to continue washing her face. Unexpectedly, the spout remained dry, but a pool of water began to gather under her feet. Maya jumped as the ice cold water touched her bare toes. Then she gasped, thinking of the booklet that was still stuck underneath the sink. She immediately closed the spout and groped around, finally feeling the soft grainy texture of the leather. Then, she reached her fingers around the booklet and snagged it out of the little compartment. Strangely enough, the leather covering didn’t appear to have a single droplet of water on it. Upon opening to check if the water did any damage to the pages, Maya saw ink blots and words beginning to take shape on the pages, right before her very eyes.

Day One…

The booklet read. It was what appeared next was shocking. As she read deeper and deeper into the booklet, she discovered more and more about this strange ordeal she had been put through. Her real name wasn’t Maya: it was experiment ME-466. And Maya, her previous identity, was just a virtual reality that had been created. ME-466 was an experimental test; a test to find a power that would change the human race forever.

To be continued...

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