The New Millennials: Running the Gauntlet
Wayne Purdy
Six teens answer a casting call to star in a new reality television series produced by the ... Show More
Adventure, Sci Fi, Superhero, Thriller, Young Adult
serial fiction, serial, novel, the ink-stained wretch


     Elisabeth gasped when the door to the green room opened and Victoria limped in, supporting Wiggles around the shoulders. Both girls were badly wounded, Victoria seemed to have a puncture wound in her abdomen and used her free hand to staunch the bleeding. Wiggles had the more serious injury though. Her left eye was covered in blood and a flap of skin fluttered over the wound. A pair of medics rushed over guiding Wiggles onto a gurney.

     “We’ve got a laceration to the forehead,” One of the paramedics said into a radio. “She may have damage to her eye. The other subject has a knife wound. She can be treated here.” The medics wheeled Wiggles out the rear door. Elisabeth spotted the ambulance outside, its engine running and lights flashing.

     “Let’s get her into the hospital,” the other medic said. “Call ahead. She’ll need to go into the operating room right away, if that eye is going to be saved.”

      “Wiggles…,” Elisabeth whispered. “Is she going to be okay?”

     The medic came back into the green room after the ambulance peeled away. She looked at Victoria, first-aid kit in hand. “Let’s get you patched up,” she said. Victoria nodded and the medic smiled, snapping on a pair of latex gloves. Victoria lifted the spandex top, revealing the knife wound. It was deep and blood bubbled out like a geyser. The medic was unfazed and set about to suture the wound. Elisabeth could scarcely watch the surgery, the gore unsettled her.

     “Elisabeth?” Carter looked around trying to see some sign of her. “Where are you?”

     “I’m right here,” she replied. “Beside the ferns.” Carter spotted the potted plants and crossed the room towards her. “Stop. I’m right in front of you.”

     Carter stopped in his tracks, waving his arms into empty air. “I can’t see you,” he said. “I can’t even touch you. Can you turn solid?”

     “I don’t know,” she said. “I’ll try.” Elisabeth closed her eyes tightly, willing herself to become solid. Her head was fit to burst but she did feel different. “Did it work?”

     “A little bit,” Carter said. He could see her, but only just. She was ethereal and his hands still passed right through her. “You look like a cloud,” he said.

     “It’s the best I can do,” she muttered. She found that if she let her concentration lapse for even a moment, she’d disappear again. Great, Elisabeth thought, I was practically invisible before all this started and now I may as well be a ghost. The effort wasn’t easy. It left her with a migraine.

     “It’s good enough,” Carter responded. “At least I can see you. Are you okay?”

     She nodded her wispy head. “I wasn’t hurt. What about you?”

     Carter shrugged and smiled. “I’ll live.” Brock walked over to them. He was shirtless, and despite the bandages covering his wounds, Elisabeth marveled at his physicality. She had never seen real abs before, and she suddenly understood what the big deal was.

     “I was just talking to the medic,” Brock said. His hair was tousled and his eyes red and puffy. Has he been crying? Elisabeth wondered. It went against everything she thought she knew about him. He was a macho, Alpha male. Sensitivity just was not in his vocabulary. And yet… “Wiggles is going into surgery.” He paused and there was a catch in his voice. “She’s going to lose her eye.”

     “Oh no!” Elisabeth exclaimed. “Will she have to leave the show?” Elisabeth tried to hide her jealousy. Losing an eye seemed a fair price to getting back to her real life, if that was even possible anymore.

     “I don’t know,” Brock said. “I hope not. I’d hate for her to have to go out like that. Carter didn’t say anything. A pang of guilt ate at his conscience. He could have, he should have, taken Jeri out but chose to treat her with kid gloves. Now he could see the consequences of that choice. Wiggles was his friend and she was hurt because he held back.

     Victoria screamed, it was primal and fierce, and her arms flailed, knocking the medic to the ground. “Someone hold her!” She yelled, scrambling back to her feet. She held a needle in her hand. She’d been trying to stitch Victoria’s gash up but Victoria wasn’t having it. Manny and one of his clones each grabbed one of her arms.

     “I’ve got her!” He yelled, straining to hold her still.

     “Hurry up,” the other Manny said, “I don’t know how long we can hold her.” The medic rushed towards Victoria, but Victoria lashed out with seething fury. Brock broke into a run, and then jumped, clearing the room in a single bound. He grabbed her from behind and pinioned her hands to her sides.

     “Calm down, Victoria,” he said. His voice was calm and reassuring. “We’re trying to help. Let us help.” He held her tightly and she gradually stopped fighting as the bestial fury ebbed away. The medic saw an opportunity and reacted quickly as Victoria allowed herself to be stitched up. She winced as the needle bit into her flesh but after a few minutes, it was all done. Elisabeth watched with a mixture of curiosity and fear. She wasn’t the only one who had changed. Victoria seemed to be more animal than girl, like some sort of anthropomorphic panther, a werepanther, for lack of a better term. Victoria’s skin had become covered in a dark, soft fur. Her ears were pointed, her eyes yellow with diamond-shaped pupils, and her teeth sharp and menacing. Elisabeth wasn’t sure if Victoria was even human anymore, and that unnerved her.

     “I’m fine,” Victoria said in a soft voice. “I’m sorry. I don’t know what came over me. I’m in control now.”

     “Are you sure?” Brock asked her. Victoria nodded her head, and Brock released his hold on her.

     She rubbed the stitches is her stomach gently, assessing the damage done to her.

     “Don’t touch them,” the medic barked. “You’ll open the wound.”

     “Yeah,” Manny said, a smile stretching from cheek to cheek. “Otherwise they’ll make you wear one of those cones like at the vet.” Victoria glared at him, her lips curled into a snarl. Manny took a step back. “I’m just kidding,” he said, suddenly afraid of his friend.

     “Down kitty,” one of the other Mannys said.

     “Manny, maybe it would be better if there was just one of you,” Elisabeth suggested.

     “You’re probably right,” he murmured. “Which of us is the original?”

     “I don’t know,” said Elisabeth. “Can’t you tell?”

     “I am,” one of the clones said.

     “No, I am,” said another.

     “I’m the original,” said yet another.

     Elisabeth sighed. “Does it matter? You’re all the same, aren’t you? You’re all Manny, right?”

     “I guess so. What do we do?”

     Elisabeth took a headcount. There were six of them. “Maybe just concentrate? Think about being one.”

     The Mannys were all silent, seemingly focusing on the task at hand. Nothing happened. “I think we’re stuck like this,” Manny said.

     “Great. Six jerks,” Victoria muttered. The Mannys ignored her.

     “I’ve got an idea,” one of them said. He broke into a run, bearing down on the Manny nearest Victoria. They collided with a popping sound, as one was seemingly absorbed by the other.

     “It worked!” Manny said. “Okay boys. You know what to do.” All the Mannys ran towards each other. Pop, pop, pop, pop. Until there was only one left. Manny dropped to his knees.

     “Are you okay, Manny?” Brock asked him.

     Manny was rubbing his temples. “I’m fine,” he said. “That just left me a little dizzy. I wasn’t ready for it.”

     Carter extended his hand, helping Manny to his feet. “I hate to state the obvious,” Carter said, “but it looks like Dr. Pauer’s experiment worked. We’ve all got special abilities.”

     “I know,” Brock replied darkly. “That worries me. We barely survived G-Pop, and it’s not even the main event. How are we going to get through the Gauntlet?”

     Elisabeth looked around the room. Her friend’s expressions must have mirrored her own feelings. She didn’t want to keep going. She wanted to go home, but she also knew that that wasn’t an option. “There’s only one way,” she said. “Together.”
     Elisabeth woke up the next morning floating several inches from the top of her bed. Her body was still cloudy and lighter than air and was no closer to regaining her solid self despite her best efforts. She slept soundly through the night. The excitement from yesterday had taken its toll on her, not to mention the changes she’d physically gone through. It was no wonder she slept so long. She checked the clock on her nightstand. What time is it? She was surprised to see that it was nearly 11:00. She’d slept for over twelve hours!

     Her door was closed and she didn’t have the ability to even turn the knob. She held in her breath and walked through the door. It was a strange sensation, kinda tingly and numb, but also exhilarating. Brock and Carter were already in the lounge but within a few minutes, Manny joined them. He looked tired. His eyes were red and his hair was messy, as if he’d brushed it with a pillow. He clearly hadn’t slept.

     “Good morning,” Elisabeth said, greeting them all at once.

     Carter jumped up from his seat. “Morning Elisabeth,” he said, genuinely pleased to see her. “How did you sleep?”

     “Like a dream,” she replied. “It was weird. I can’t lie on my bed. I just kind of hover over it, but it was the best sleep I’ve had in forever. How about you?”

     “It was ok. It took me awhile to fall asleep though. I was worried about you…and the others.” Elisabeth didn’t respond. She’d noticed that Carter seemed to like her, and she thought that he was sweet, but her powers changed everything. She couldn’t touch him. They could never kiss. They couldn’t even hold hands. How could he still have any feelings for her? It was like falling in love with the steam in your shower.

     “Me too. I am afraid for all of us. Especially Wiggles. I tried to call Sinclair last night, get an update on her condition, but he didn’t return my call. She must be out of surgery by now,” Brock said. Worry lines criss-crossed his forehead.

     “What about you Manny?” Elisabeth asked.

     “What about me?”

     “How did you sleep?”

     “Not very well,” he confided. “I tried to use my power, and spawn some clones but…”

     “Didn’t it work?” Elisabeth asked. She was afraid that maybe there was some sort of problem with the procedure, that maybe the powers wouldn’t be permanent, maybe they would just fade away. What an odd thing to think, she thought to herself. I want to become solid again, don’t I?

     “No it worked,” he said, smiling nervously. “I ended up arguing with myself all night. I didn’t know that I was such a contrarian!”

     “Where are your clones now?” Carter asked.

     “We all got really tired after being out for so long. They had to go back. I guess we need to recharge after a while. Brock nodded his head.

     “I thought about that last night too,” Brock said. “We don’t know what our powers are. We should try to learn our limits. We need to get into the gym and have a good work out.”

     Elisabeth groaned. Working out wasn’t her thing, but she agreed with Brock. She wanted to know exactly what she was capable of.

     “Has anyone seen Victoria?” Manny asked. “I wanted to apologize to her. I think I got under her skin a little bit yesterday.”

     “I haven’t seen her. I tried knocking on her door, but there was no answer."

     “Maybe we should check again?” Carter said crossing the room towards the girl’s dormitory. The others followed suit. He knocked on the heavy mahogany door and was met with silence. He knocked again.

     “Go away,” Victoria’s voice growled from inside. “I want to be left alone.”

     “You can’t stay locked in there forever,” Brock said.

     “I can try!”

     Brock looked at the others. “I can break it down,” he whispered.

     “I can hear you,” Victoria roared. “Leave me alone!”

     “I’ll go,” Elisabeth said. Her stomach flipped. Victoria’s new form scared her. The change seemed to be more than outwards. She was different inside too, animalistic, unruly. She steadied her nerves and passed through the door. It was still a sensation that she wasn’t used to. “Oh,” Elisabeth gasped once she was through to the other side.

     Victoria’s room was a mess. The walls had been clawed, like a scratching post, wall paper hung in shreds. The furniture was destroyed, the bedding tattered. Victoria was naked, and Elisabeth could see the sinewy muscles rippling beneath her soft fur. The stitches on her stomach were gone, and there was no visible scar. It seemed impossible, but the wound had completely healed in less than a day. “I said I wanted to be alone,” Victoria snarled when she spotted Elisabeth’s ghostly form.

     “I’m sorry,” She said, “we were worried.” And with good reason, she thought but left the words unspoken.

     “I’m fine,” Victoria said.

     “But you room?” What happened in here?”

       Victoria shrugged her shoulders nonchalantly. “I couldn’t help myself,” she replied. “I just had an urge that I couldn’t control.” Elisabeth’s wide eyes surveyed the damage. It reminded her of the damage her mother’s pet cat, Ginger could do if left to its own devices. She remembered the torn blinds hanging in the living room window. She couldn’t help but wonder just how much cat Victoria had become.

     “That’s okay,” Elisabeth said. “We’re all still adjusting to our new abilities.”

     “I’m the only one that’s a monster,” Victoria said.

     “At least you’re not a wisp of smoke,” Elisabeth said angrily. “At least you can still touch people, still be touched. You can still get married and have a family someday. We’ve all got problems, but you’re the only one hiding from them. We’re going for brunch. Are you coming or not?”

     Victoria flinched as though she had been slapped. It was unlike Elisabeth to be so confrontational. She knew that it took a lot for the Filipina girl to screw up the courage to challenge her and she respected her for it. Grudgingly. “Fine,” Victoria replied in a low voice. “Let’s get some breakfast.” Victoria walked towards the door.

     “Uh, Victoria?”

     “What?” “Shouldn’t you put on some clothes?”

     Victoria looked down and seemed to just now realize that she wasn’t wearing anything. “I guess I probably should,” she agreed. “I’m way more comfortable without any.” She slipped on a pink tank top, cut-off shorts, and a pair of sandals before wending her way to the lounge. Elisabeth trailed along slowly behind like a cumulus cloud crossing the sky on a lazy summer day.
Log in to add a comment or review for this chapter Chapter updated on: 3/1/2016 1:23:20 AM
  • Andre Clemons commented on :
    3/1/2016 5:51:26 AM
    This somewhat reminds me of that scene in Fantastic Four #1 where their newfound abilities have developed and they're all adjusting and they're all frightened at first ... Show More