Updated: Dec 5, 2018
By Niall Power
Mara-Lee and Savannah have been at it for just over two days. The girls have traveled over four hundred miles using mass transportation and have been spotted for only a few seconds at a time, exiting trains at stations between Atlanta and Raleigh. There have been no sightings of them entering or on the actual trains. At this point it remains unclear how they are able to travel undetected. So far they have claimed four lives and injured seven others. They are said to be armed and extremely dangerous. President @TheRealHonestPlatform has issued a statement that under no circumstance should anyone try to apprehend the two children, and that if they are spotted to flee to safe grounds immediately
I get the top studio because I'm the eldest. I'm actually the eldest ever, which feels strange. Unlike the previous eldests, I don't feel like the younger ones look up to me. Not like I did to Niall, or even Byron, who wasn't an eldest, but was someone we all looked up to. We all... There are only nineteen of us now, and that's probably it. Martina, the youngest at fourteen, is probably the last ever, which sucks because she's a punk and has no respect. I'll be thirty in less than two months. The average age to go here is twenty seven. I turn off the TV. The news makes me sick. They're just babies for Christ's sake
The top studio is alone while all the other floors have four to six studios. It sits atop this neat spiral staircase that extends from the tenth floor, where Foxanne lives. She's my closest friend here even though she rarely speaks to me. But she speaks to me more than anyone else does. Sometimes I dangle a small mirror from a string, out of my window, down in front of her studio window, and I watch her. She doesn't stop me by pulling the curtains closed unless she's spiking. If she's in middle-state she'll just see it and continue to watch TV. But if she's peaking, well, if she's peaking she might stand at the window and undress. She'll stand in her bra and panties and I’ll watch her. Then she’ll try and ruin it by making silly faces and doing silly dances. But it's fine, I’ll watch her dance. Her long red hair goes down past the back of her knees and its contrast with her bright white skin, that has literally never seen the sun, her being terrified of it, makes it seem like I'm watching an erotic cartoon of a vampire in technicolor. I've only met so many women, but Foxanne has the largest breasts of any of them by far. A few times, on what I imagine are heavier peaks than usual, she even takes off her bra, although she covers them up with her hair. Sometimes when she's spiking, she sits Indian style on the ground in front of the window and cries.
In my studio, I have it all: my own tv, two dark red leather couches, a black and white tile floor, and a little kitchen, and most importantly, the best view in Home. You climb to the top of the spiral steps and it opens into this magical little space, kitchen to your right, living room to your left and straight ahead, the ocean. The whole back wall is made of windows and the ocean is behind the whole thing. The first time I saw this room was when Niall had it.
My favorite thing to do when I’m peaking is to sit on the island in the kitchen. I can look out the window at the ocean, but can also look down through the spiral stairs into the tenth floor common room where the others play cards and hang out. I don't do that too much anymore, though. In the last six months or so I've developed a little gut. I don't know how. Nothing's different. It's not something you generally see on Opiadecs. We all are usually thin. The opiate doesn’t give us much of an appetite and we don't get old enough to see our metabolism slow. So now when I sit on the island the combination of my feet not touching the ground, and the gut, gives me this Humpty Dumpty-like look that I can see straight ahead in the window. It bothers me. On the rare occasion Foxanne walks out into the common area, I'd hate for her to see that.
Foxanne only started being nice to me after Niall died. It was like the Berlin Wall falling for me. I’m not sure what brought out the change in her. I assume it was that there was nobody really left. But I didn’t care why, she was the first girl who ever made the choice to be nice to me.
They just don’t like me. And I don’t just mean the girls, I mean everyone. It started early on. The Horrors I called them. The first real Horror I can remember was with the noodles. I guess I ate them differently. I can’t say how. But it was a girl named Alexus who noticed. It was in the common area dining hall. She took the noodles off my plate and dangled them in front of my face. Xavier joined in to help her. It was a whole scene and when it was broken up by the counselors, that only made it worse. They started harboring noodles. I found noodles in my cereal, under my pillow, in my shampoo. It was the noodle fiasco that lasted years. I was nine when it ended. Rebecca G caught me singing into the mirror and then the singing fiasco began. I went from one fiasco to another. After Byron told me he could help it stop, and failed, the director finally heard me, and kept me away from the others most of the time. Alexus, Xavier and Rebecca G are all gone now.
Mara-Lee is six years old. She is about forty inches tall and has blonde hair. Reports have it that she is not the shooter. We have not been able to obtain any comments from her parents at this time, but our sources tell us that she is carrying up to three IOS devices all which she is proficient in. Savannah is five. She is similar in size to Mara-Lee but has brown hair. It has been confirmed after this most recent shooting that she is the shooter. Again, for our viewers who are just now tuning in, there has been a second shooting. The death toll is currently at seven, with up to thirteen injured. This second shooting took place in ___ Virginia just thirty minutes west of Norfolk, Virginia.
I had the TV off for less than an hour. I only turn it back on because I’m peaking, and when I’m peaking I can handle the news. I even kind of like it. Most residents don’t have their own TV, but I get special privileges. I’m allowed items that can be seen as dangerous, like the mirror. I have a gas oven, I can even open my window as wide as I want. The Opiadec Housing Agency is terrified of suicide. But at my age, I don’t think they care if I go or not. Of course, they don’t say that. They say I have earned their trust. I don’t even have to go to group anymore if I don’t want to. There is a fear of us dying by anyway that isn’t a final climaxing. The director and all the other counselors make that very clear in group. They say it's owed to us.
I was there when Niall had his final climax, or “crapped out” as Byron would say. He was twenty eight, a real elder, not just in age, but in wisdom too. Maybe his wisdom had something to do with him coming here at almost ten years old, which is late to start living here. He’d seen things. As a kid he’d been partially drained by addicts, or “fiends”, as the director calls them. He sat me down after I almost left with Byron— before they showed us the tapes— and he explained that there is nothing out there for us, that the counselors here care about us. Yes, even the director. It’s crazy to think Niall died seven years ago. Seven years ago. Back then I was a gut-less twenty two year old. I hadn’t realized I enjoyed being flat stomached until I no longer was.
I had seen him peak before. He’d seen me peak. We all see each other peak and we all see each other spike, it’s unavoidable. The counselors and the director don’t peak, and when I’m peaking I pity them very much. When I am spiking though, not so much. So, when Niall began to peak that afternoon I thought nothing of it. A peak can come anytime after a spike— usually a half hour after, though not a definite half hour. Nothing’s definite. The only thing that is definite is that a spike follows a peak. Both peaks and spikes range in intensity, like they range in frequency, opiadec to opiadec. We are all different. For example, I usually peak four to six times a day, before I turned twenty five it was more like a consistent eight, and before I was eighteen it was a good ten to twelve. I don’t remember how much I peaked as a child. My parents were forced to bring me in when I was four— right when I started showing signs— an average age for finding out. Foxanne on the other hand, still peaks nearly fifteen times a day, and she always likes being alone for them. She came in two years after I did. She is three years younger than I am.
We were in my loft (at the time his loft) when Niall slid forward out of his lazy boy (now also mine) and did this strange twist at the waist. I sat across from him, feet dangling off the kitchen island. He kept his knees pointing at me while he twisted. He leaned his head against the glass, as if to watch the ocean, his breath fogging up the area of the window in front of his face. The condensation mimicked the in and out of the waves below. I called out to him but he said nothing. Peaks vary in intensity. This was the hardest I’d seen Niall peak. We are not like the users. Our peaks don’t fade as we age, and without the factor of dosage we don’t deal with tolerance like the users. An outside reaction to our blood’s high is similar to our peaks. The director says it’s why we are so valuable to them, the fiends.
Niall tossed his breath against the window. The steam from where he was kneeling lined up with the ocean breaking on the sand behind it. Peaks last about fifteen minutes, and Niall was known to be extra chatty during his peaks, but during this peak he was silent. (When I explained the whole ordeal to Foxanne she told me it was like a fart, silent but deadly, then she laughed and went into her room.) I just figured it must be an extra intense peak, so I let him be and just sat there trying not to show how bored I was. That’s tough to do when you are in fact very bored, so I ended up just kind of moving around like a worm whose feet couldn’t touch the ground for about ten minutes.
Then there were no more breath marks. I still sat there for a good while, maybe a few minutes, before I hopped down. Niall was still kneeling, twisted at the waist, his face pressed against the glass, but as I got closer I realized it wasn’t his forehead that was resting on the window, but his left cheek. One of his eyes was open. I didn’t touch him. I walked over to the phone near the spiral stairs and dialed 0 for the main office. It was 11:20 am on a Tuesday.
I realize I'm wasting my entire peak on the news. I grab my mirror and open the window and let it hang down outside of Foxanne’s window. She isn’t home. I look at the clock. It’s just after two. She’s probably at group. This is perfect. There is only one thing that I like to do more than watch her, and that’s smell her. But she’s not so cool about that. There is unique kind of concupiscent urge coupled with peaking that doesn't involve actual sex or masturbation. (For me, if anything, it would be the latter. Sex does happen here, it’s just never happened for me.) When I’m peaking nothing is better than mixing the euphoria with the Foxanne’s fragrance. I pull the mirror back up through my window and stash it under my couch. It sways as I pull it up. I take a few seconds to watch the ocean. It’s choppy. It’s a little grey out but the sun is still shining through the clouds. I walk through the kitchen. I’m barefoot and I enjoy the little adventure of my feet moving from the carpet to the tile kitchen floor to the metal stairs. I get down the spiral in only a few silent movements like a caped crusader. I let myself into Foxanne’s room. Doors don’t lock here. First I go for the socks, then I work my way up. I have to rush because I know my spike is coming soon. I’m angry I wasted so much of this peak, this peak where Foxanne’s room is unoccupied, watching the news. As I breath in her white shirt, the same one she wears only in her room, I’m thinking about the stupid news. Little girls? Shooting spree? I wish we got other channels. The director and the counselors explain most things well, but not why we only get the news. I’m old as fuck, I have maturity, but still just the news What on earth do we need to be informed for? Fuck. I’m spiking. I’ve been spiking since right after the socks.
I get through my spike. I like to be alone for it. There is nothing to say about it. Am I used to it? I guess.
Breaking developments in our top story this afternoon: We have learned that Mara-Lee and Savannah, the duo some are referring to as “The Baby Killers” have made their way through the Virginia border and are said to be in Maryland heading towards the coast. There is still no new information on how they have managed to elude police, but we do have some new information about the girls themselves. Our own Audrey Ramone reports to TNCN that the girls are believed to be from the CRSPR Reservation located 50 miles southwest of Atlanta. This explains their exceptional abilities and advanced prowess. Remember, inside a CRSPR Reservation gene modification is legal, and practiced. Since the controversial act was passed, there were a dozen reservations set up throughout the nation. All but three have been shut down. After the break we will have Audrey Ramone on via Satellite from Atlanta. Stay with us.
A commercial comes on with a man talking to his dog in his kitchen. The dog’s head tilts from side to side like it’s listening. Cut to a man taking a too big blue bag from the back of his pickup truck and walking with it towards his garage in slow motion, the dog running beside him. The commercial ends with the dog eating from a bowl on the floor, wagging its tail while the man stands over him smiling with his arms crossed. That animal is freer than I am. What is it thinking? I’m looking at the tv too hard and haven’t taken in any of the audio. I haven’t blinked since it started. I’m in middle-state and hungry. I decide I’ll go down to the second floor for lunch.
I move slowly down the spiral steps to the tenth floor. It’s clear my mechanics are changing. I slap the elevator button with my palm instead of pushing it with my finger.
The shared space on the second floor is where we eat meals. Off of the teal colored kitchen there are tables and couches. It doubles as a game room and some nights they pull down a giant projector screen and we have movie night. The shared space also looks out at the ocean, but the view is pits compared to my room. The staff circles, cleaning, and keeping a unobtrusive eye on us, except for those who sit with the younger kids. I see the director passing from the elevator to the big stairs that lead down to the main floor lobby. He’s all business. I watch him as he turns at the bottom of the stairs, facing the front doors, out of sight.
Outside those doors are the fields. Fields One through Five. Field One is the beach, and Fields Two through Four incorporate a series of playgrounds, a pool, a track, a basketball court, and an outdoor eating area with a pavilion over it which is also a gross teal color. Field Five, the largest field, is a hilly patch of grass made for roaming, for feeling free. There are many parts of Field Five where you can’t see from Home. At the edge of Field Five is the fence. Past that I only have an idea of the first mile or so.
The director makes his way back up the stairs like he never slowed down, like he had gone somewhere just to turn around and come back. This time he looks at me. He gives me a look that he wants me to interpret as friendship, but really means, "Jesus, Hopper. Enough of you already. Why are you still here?" That's how all the looks are these days, from both staff and fellow opiadecs. Looks are constantly evolving and devolving here. After I didn't leave with Byron the director really did look at me. I couldn’t tell if it was pride or anger .
The only thing that keeps the director away from being homely is his fancy clothes. Still, they hang off him and don't fit right. He is too heavy for his frame and leans into his walk. Since I can remember the director has made me feel nervous, like I am doing something wrong, even when I know I’m not. On the off chance you catch him standing in one place he'll stroke his tri-colored beard or pull at his hair while he talks. You’ll feel guilty for taking up his time. A consistent anxiety and impatience accompanies him. He keeps his anxiety at a distance. I didn't see his temperament as nerves until my early twenties. In retrospect it's difficult to interpret what it was I saw. When you can finally define something you've always seen, it's hard to put a name to what it was before.
Foxanne told me about his night time visits to her room. He'd take his hand and run it over the skin on her legs and arms, not touching her, but coming close enough to make the hairs up stand and graze against his palm. When she told me this I felt I should say something but I didn’t. I said nothing. She looked at me and I stared back telling myself to say something, but nothing came. I just looked at her. In bed that night as I peaked, all the perfect words passed through me. I forgot them all by the morning.
When I was twelve I asked the director about my parents. I’d been wanting to leave. Whatever fiasco was taking place had been especially brutal. He stood up and walked around his desk and sat on the edge, only inches away from me.
“Hopper, you are here because your parents love you. It’s not safe outside of Home. This is the only safe place for you.”
“Well, can’t they visit?” He scratched at his beard like he was trying to mix the red in with the black and white. “The people on the outside have to move on while we do our work here. It’s not safe to have people come in and out of Home. Not even parents.”
I went to ask another question but he stopped me. He was proud of his thirty seconds of understanding and I could tell that another question wouldn’t be received. I’d hit my quota.
“If you have any other feelings, any other issues you want to take up, that’s what group is for.” He went back behind his desk. He didn’t look back up at me.
I was sixteen when Byron left. Byron was seventeen. Byron used to put water in his hands and slick his hair straight back. They wouldn't let him have hair gel so ten minutes later it would be pointing in every direction, half dry, and he would go back to the sink and reapply. He wore his dad's leather jacket which was too small for him. He was tall, 6’4, one of the tallest people I've ever met. Byron was smart too—Niall said too smart for his own good. For months before he left he hung out in Field Five, kicking a soccer ball against the center of the fence that opens when the staff and food trucks come and go. He’d recruit other opiadecs to play, and sometimes even the guards on their breaks. Sometimes I’d even play with them. I don't go to Field Five anymore. It makes me nauseous.
When we snuck out of the lobby that night, Jack from security wasn't at his post. Jack was always at his post. I haven't seen Jack since that day. The rumors afterwards were that he let Byron do stuff to him. Byron did stuff to me one night about a year before he left. I asked him not to do it again. I had trouble falling asleep that night, and the night after. He did it while I was peaking or I would have stopped him. That spike was painful. Byron had sex with Foxanne four times, including the morning of the day he left.
When we got to the wall I was crouching behind Byron. A truck was approaching the gate— the food truck. It made me hungry. As the guards waved it through the two of us quickly ran against the opposite side of the truck and we were suddenly out. We were just out on a road, the entire fence behind us. There was so much nothing. Niall said all of Delaware is like that. Before we got out, as we crouched, I asked Byron where we were going to go. "Who knows. Anywhere! That's the beauty of it, Hops."
It felt like we walked for hours. It was flat to each side of us. He walked quickly, his heels barely touching the ground, his head jerking towards me and back in front of him as he spoke.
“We are the forgotten last people of an erased epidemic, Hopper. We are valuable.” This was the way he spoke about leaving Home, that day and in the weeks before. I had trouble following, but at that time, I just couldn’t take the teasing fiascos anymore. The director had told me that of course people were also teased on the outside, but the sheer numerical odds of me finding people who wouldn’t tease me out there seemed much better. Byron talked about a system of medication turned to mass death. He mumbled to me about the opiated state of mind meeting a healthy body, an accepting body. “They” could do that, just south of Atlanta. “A campaign of science”, he repeated. “A crusade towards perfection.” “The painless manifesto... Crisper crisper crisper..” my legs grew sore trying to keep up. “A manifest destiny towards bliss and comfort.” “The painless person.” “No peaks. No spikes.That’s where we’re going, Hopper” He put a negative emphasis only on my name. “All we need to do is make it just south of Atlanta without anyone knowing we are opiadecs.
The sound of the ocean was getting smaller. I felt an itching in my chest and I stopped walking. He got furious. There wasn't time he kept saying. I didn't want to leave anymore. His hair was all over the place. I was hungry. When I told him I was turning around, that all of this felt like a bad dream, he cursed at me and he pushed me. He pushed me so hard the second time I didn't stop moving in that direction, turned and started running back. I'll never forget the look on the guards face when I got back to the fence.
It was after this the director had me meet and talk with Niall regularly. Niall told me about his parents. He taught me about working towards my self worth, here at Home. “We all have purposes, you will miss yours chasing someone else's.” He told me what it feels like to be drained. It was hard to imagine draining, until I didn't have to imagine it any longer.
Sixty two days later the director called a mandatory meeting for all residents who were over twelve years old. We met on the second floor lobby. The movie screen was pulled down. The chairs were all lined up in rows facing the screen.
It was a mixture of photographs and short videos, no longer than four or five seconds. "It's important you all see this." The director said, trying to look regretful. He actually looked excited. The pictures took place in a basement; you could tell it was pitch black besides the light from the camera. He hung against a cement wall, each arm pinned up like a giant bird. There were tubes coming out of his wrists and his neck. At first I could only tell it was Byron by the hair. After a moment Foxanne jumped up and screamed. She turned to run and collapsed into Niall’s arms, who was standing on the side of the seating area with the staff. He and a counselor walked her out. Byron's skin hung off him, like it had been stretched then let go. His cheeks were caved in. He looked one thousand years old. I'm glad Foxanne left when she did because Byron's corpse twitched hard and gasped in the last seconds of the video. We all jumped. My legs felt heavy. The last few pictures were of plastic cartons of blood that the director explained had been seized by the police. Byron died shortly after being found.
I'm grateful I was in middle-state during the screening. In Field Two I overheard Teddy tell Alex he was peaking for it and that he thought Byron looked angelic, and how he yearned in that moment to see what Byron had seen in those two months.
I heard Summer was spiking during the screening. At least those were the rumors after she swam out and drowned off Field One four days later.
I see sand kick up before I hear the bang. Even from eleven stories up I know it’s Martina, the youngest opiatdec, by the group of other teenagers following her down on the Field One. Of the six or so other people, half of them run and half of them freeze, but it’s only seconds before each one drops. Bangs ring out after each drop. A delay from shot to body drop. There are two small figures, two children approaching them, shooting at them. They’re carrying all sorts of equipment on their shoulders. The children stand over each fallen resident doing something I can't make out. I wait for the alarms to sound but they don’t go off. I wait for the guards to rush the beach but nobody comes out. Nothing happens.
I turn my TV on. I hear the echo of the tv on the tenth floor lobby as well.
Breaking News. The Baby Killers, Mara Lee and Savannah have been reportedly spotted exiting a Amtrak train in South West New Jersey. Any residents in the area of SWNJ are being advised by @TheRealHonestPlatform at this time to stay inside and if one does come in contact with the girls, DO NOT try and intervene. @TheRealHonestPlatform released a statement moments ago urging people not to tweet the girls whereabouts if they see them, or call 911 from any kind of cell phone.
It’s difficult to tell how hard the waves are crashing from eleven stories up. Six dead residents form a constellation down on Field One. The one I know to be Martina, the one who was leading the pack, lays right where they water stops rising up the beach. I watch each wave nudge her enough to move her in place. It’s a bright but overcast afternoon. I sit in my chair and look around my loft. It’s perfect. My little kitchen, my two chairs and my TV. I’ve earned this room. I hear a pop, followed by another pop but I don’t stand up. I know the girls are in the building but I chose to also believe the news that they are in New Jersey. I chose to believe both, and why can’t I? I wish I had taken a pair of socks or underwear from Foxanne’s room earlier.
The pops come like contractions during labor—every few minutes and a little more intense each time. I hear distant screams. This gets me standing up. I stand at the edge of the spiral stairs and look down on two fellow opiatdecs. They are pressing the elevator button but it isn’t lighting up. The emergency stairwell door is locked. They are panicked. Foxanne’s door is shut. I grab my mirror tied to the string from under the cushion of my chair. Once I lower it to outside her room I see she’s already standing, looking out the window. She is wearing a pair of pink and white briefs and her bright red hair is covering her breasts. There is an even louder pop followed by more screams. I dangle the mirror and watch her. My gut is pressing against the lip of the window. Foxanne slides off her briefs and I see her orange triangle for the first time. It’s the first one I’ve ever seen. She holds the briefs in her hand as she moves the hair off her chest. It’s the first time I’m seeing nipples that aren't my own. I don’t get hard, not like I thought I would if this ever happened. I feel it more in my chest. She stands with her arms out to her sides, the way Byron did while he was being drained in the video. Her feet are together. Her head is back. She looks like an olympic diver waiting to dismount. I try to take it in the best I can as the wind moves the mirror making her image dance back and forth. The next two pops are not pops at all but loud bangs. They make my ears ring immediately. They come from the tenth floor lobby, right at the bottom of the spiral stairs, but I don’t move from the window, I continue to watch Foxanne who also doesn’t move. I hear suction, gasping and gurgling from below. It’s in those audible tings, watching her fully exposed body, the most beautiful girl I’ve ever seen, stand naked for me, I realize I am starting to peak. It feels so good it’s making my knees buckle but I hold on to the mirror and I fight off the weakness of ecstasy and stay standing.
Foxanne’s room is lit up only by the overcast afternoon so when the door from the lobby opens all the light from the hallway lights her up like an actor on a stage. She takes a few steps towards the window and opens it the small amount it will open. She doesn’t seem to be concerned with the two girls standing in the doorway behind her. I can see their little silhouettes standing back there and it gives me a chill that makes me almost drop the mirror. Foxanne wraps her briefs around the mirror and I can’t see anything else after that.
It’s a solo shot that takes her out. She doesn’t make a noise. I am smelling her as she dies.
I hear the girls coming up the spiral and it’s okay. In a way I still believe they are in New Jersey. Mara-Lee stands in my kitchen and doesn’t look at me. She is too busy looking down at her iphone. Savannah does look at me. Her shotgun resting on her tiny shoulder. They are beautiful, both of them. They don’t remind me at all of the young girls who come into the Opedaic Home. They are bigger and their eyes are brighter. I haven’t felt a peak like this since I was a kid. It’s so strong it makes it hard to believe they are even in the room with me. I lose the fight with my knees and I’m suddenly kneeling. My eyes are opening and closing against my will but I see Savannah move her brown hair out of her face and put the shotgun out in front of her. She takes a step forward before Mara-Lee grabs her arms and points to her phone. I keep my knees pointing at them and I turn toward the window, towards the ocean. I want to see it while I go. I know I’m going. I am able to pivot at the waist, even with my gut. It’s really not all that big anyway. I can’t see the ocean through my breath on the widow and that’s fine too. I lose the battle with my eyelids. There is a prick in my arm now. I can feel the heat from two girls who are standing next to me. One is holding my arm out, while the other is holding my head up. They are gentle. I don’t bother to look and see which one is working on me and which one is hugging me.
I never got to meet a dog in real life, those wild animals who chose to not be free. Niall told me it isn’t their choice, but also, they don’t want to be free, they want to live inside with the people. I believe him but have trouble understanding it. If I could do it all again, in a different home, I would have had a dog.
Niall's first collection of poetry and fiction, Fall Risk, was published earlier this year by Michelkin Publishing. He works as a freelance creative copywriter for companies like Nike and JUUL and has had a couple poems published in some literary magazines. He loves literature and art and is simply excited that Heliopause exists to churn out content for the creatives out there.