Con had snatched a kiss from Francis before he’d abandoned her in the Imagination Correction Facility and she replayed the memory as she waited in the check-in room, half watching a middle-aged woman setting out new clothes and books and toiletries for her.
That bloody arse. He should be getting his own damn daughter out of there, not leaving it for her to do. She shouldn’t have kissed him. It had only cemented something between them, some sort of bond. He’d probably manipulated her somehow – taken advantage of her stupid sentimentality. Except that she had initiated it. She had kissed him and that silly, confused half-smile on his face afterwards could only have come from an innocent man.
Bollocks to it. It was still his fault she was in there.
She collected her new belongings, listened to her ‘welcome’ in silence, and followed the woman down one of the clinical corridors to her room with a set jaw and a frown on her face. Then the woman handed her an itinerary and left, with the brief instruction that lunch was at one and to ask a member of staff – the ones in blue – if she needed anything.
Con dumped her stuff on the bed, vaguely aware that a thin mattress was better than no mattress, and went to look out of the window. Her room was on the second floor, overlooking a tennis court. Beyond the dome, the forest seemed impossible to reach.
So what now?
She inspected the room briefly –single bed, bedside table, wardrobe, desk – before going to the door and looking out into the corridor. She expected somebody to be watching her, waiting for her to make her move, but there was nobody around. At all. The place was bloody creepy.
And massive. It had looked huge from the outside. From inside, it was just as daunting. She walked down corridors which all looked the same, opened doors, walked into bathrooms, classrooms, a library, and had to stop one of the girls just to ask how to get outside.
How she was supposed to find anything of any importance…
I’m going to be stuck here a long time.
It was busier outside, despite it spitting with rain. Young women stood in rows on the lawn, participating in yoga or tai chi or whatever the hell it was. A round woman in a blue polo-shirt and white shorts gave commands in a clear voice.
Con eyed them all with suspicion as she passed and made her way straight to the wall of the dome. How did the rain get through? She craned her neck, peering upwards. The dome was unbroken, smooth, yet the rain passed through as if it wasn’t there.
Tentatively, she raised a hand and touched the wall before quickly pulling back.
She’d expected an electric shock, or sirens, or something but instead… She placed her palm against the wall again, frowning over the pins and needles in her hand.
“You must be new.”
Con turned at the voice. A young woman – late teens perhaps, dark skin, curly black hair which she flicked out of her eyes – stood behind her, hands on hips as if she owned the place.
“Yeah,” she continued. “All the newbies have to touch it. I’m Mia.”
“Constance,” Con said. “Call me Con though, Constance makes me sound like an old woman.”
Mia raised her chin, as if issuing a challenge and said, “So. What do you do?”
Con didn’t appreciate the girl’s tone but she forced a smile and feigned innocence as she replied, “For a living? I’m a… doctor.” Why the hell did I say doctor?! She hoped nobody would ever ask her to save a life.
“Your ability?” Mia said it as if Con was stupid.
“Oh.” She shrugged. “I can control the minds of animals.”
Con grinned. “Yeah. I think if I could do more than that they’d lock me up in solitary, don’t you? So, how about you. What can you do?”
Mia bent and picked up a stone from the ground. She held it out and suddenly, it was a gun in her hand and Con swore and stepped back. Mia laughed.
“Relax. It’s a stone.” She tossed it aside and, to Con’s surprise, it passed through the dome’s wall and landed outside.
“You change the shape of things?”
“I change how they’re perceived.” Mia took Con’s arm and moved her away from the wall. “People can’t pass through the dome,” she said. “Only things. Most of the staff, they live here, so not many people come and go either. If you’re thinking about getting out early, forget it. There’s no way.”
“Course you were, I saw it in your face.”
Con didn’t like the way Mia held her arm, in a faux-friendly but kind of threatening way. She was being walked back towards the building.
“Settle in,” Mia said. “Do your time. Try to learn to be normal and they’ll let you out. Me? I like it here. We don’t need the people out there.” She waved a hand in a general direction, indicating, Con supposed, the rest of the world.
Con stopped as Mia opened the door and headed back inside. The girl sounded brain-washed and the more she went on, the more determined she felt to get the hell out of there as soon as possible.
Mia smiled. “Are you coming in? It’s almost lunchtime. I’ll introduce you to my girl, Dora.”
Con followed Mia in, turning to see the yoga girls also making their way back inside. She was itching to ask about Francis’s daughter but something about Mia already rang faint alarm bells, so she decided to bide her time.
Settle in. She’d find a way out. Even if it did take a bloody long time.