When we featured Fever by Lauren DeStefano earlier this year, we gave you guys a chance to write your own Chemical Garden Trilogy fan fiction. And not only are we offering up finished copies of Fever to three winners, thanks to Simon & Schuster, but Lauren herself chose the final winners! So congrats … the author is a fan of YOUR fan fiction!
Entry by Megan Raible
I am terrified. It’s the deep, blood chilling terror that shakes every bone in your body, and keeps your every thought, action, and feeling in its grip. Suddenly, I am more animal than human, knowing nothing but the need to survive.
There is a light smell in the air, a suffocating illusion of a spring that will never come. My feet pound the earth, splashing water up around my ankles. My eyes dart around, frantic, but there is no escape in the tangled shrubs that dot the river. I want nothing more than to be an animal, anything. Anything but a human girl.
My animal self tries for the hill, grassy and slick. There is a grunt from behind me. Against, my command my body freezes. Animal Girl turns around. I am no longer human, just a body unable to move. One thought overwhelms my every sense: No. I won’t go. Blood pounds in my ears, so loud it drowns out the rest of the world and I fear I may have gone deaf.
Then, an unmistakable metallic click echoes through the air. My vision falls away, and it’s all gray. Gray coat, gray van, gray world. And a dark, twisting, demonic grin. It’s the kind of grin that you would never expect to find on a human face. All I feel is a burst of unbelievable pain in my chest, and I’m falling backwards, as stiff as a board as I splash water everywhere. I am only aware of the blood because it blooms in little red clouds around my fingertips, drifting away with the trickling water. I know that I am nothing now. Nothing more than ashes waiting to be made. Even the sky is gray. And then, everything is black.
Gia screamed as cold hands grabbed her from behind. She kicked the air and tried to bite down on the hand covering her mouth. She had to let go when she felt the blow to her head. The blow made her world sway and nausea build in her throat. Her mouth was covered with duct tape and her hands were zip stripped together as she was shoved into the van. She fell onto the smelly carpet meeting the scared eyes of four other girls. “Gatherers” she cursed to herself as she struggled against her restraints. Her little sister would be terrified if she didn’t come home.
At thirteen, Gia had just reached the age when gatherers would be a problem. Despite her long dark hair, beautiful blue eyes and fully developed build, Gia had been naive enough not to worry, now as her nose buried in the scratchy fibers of the carpet she cursed her stupidity.
The van rumbled along at breakneck speed until it screeched to a halt. Gia wrenched herself up to a sitting position using the wall for support. She breathed deeply, trying not to panic as the door slid open with a screech. They were yanked out unceremoniously and were led into a massive mansion. Gia blinked as her eyes adjusted to the light inside the house. They were hustled into a massive room filled with men obviously used to the good life. Their clothes screamed money and their eyes, as cold and calculating as the gold leaf paneling adorning the walls, made Gia feel like merchandise.
Panic roared through her as they were paraded in front of the men, turned this way and that and even poked and prodded, as if checking for value. Vomit rose in her throat and she looked around as the men assembled pulled out programs and began to study the printed material closely, now ignoring the frightened gaggle of girls.
Gia looked frantically for a way out, as they were led one by one to the podium and auctioned off to the highest bidder. Gia fought against the rough hands that grabbed her, a need to get away, to get back to her old life so fierce that she could almost smell the lavender shampoo she used to give her little sister a bath, she could almost feel her boyfriends touch. She fought back and received a slap across the face for her trouble before she too was sold to the highest bidder.
A man with kind eyes came toward her and paid the auctioneer for his purchase. He smiled and jerked his head at the three women behind him. They formed a tight circle around her, resignation reflecting in their sad eyes; as one of the largest men she’d ever seen closed the circle, blocking her escape. Gia fought but lost, as the huge man dragged her down the hall. She screamed but no one paid any attention, it was like she didn’t exist.
The darkness surrounds me. Us. Because there is no me, really. There is only us. Me and the other girls in this van. We are no longer individual girls. We are one massive pile of bodies, lying beside each other and on top of each other, breathing together and crying together and whimpering together. We don’t know how long we’ve been in this van. We don’t know how long it’s been since the Gatherers brought our nightmares to life, snatching us right off the sidewalk or out of our homes. It could have been days, or hours, or minutes maybe. In this van, there is no concept of time. It stands still, but it also races forward.
The van rolls and rocks beneath us as we travel in the direction of whatever hell is in store for us. Some girls are sleeping, some are whispering back and forth to each other. We are curled up in little balls, our hipbones jamming into the side of the van whenever we hit a bump. We’re sure that our skin is bruised by now, but we could care less. Right now, all we want is to die.
When the van suddenly jackknifes, throwing all us to one side of the van, we think our wish is coming true. There are shrieks and screams, and we are attacked by stray elbows and knees as we are pushed against each other. The van skids to a halt, the engine cuts off. There is shouting and grunting and the sound of breaking glass, and we all hush up to listen.
We wait in tense silence for whatever is coming next. Someone next to us digs their nails into our forearms, and we feel shaky breath in our ears. The doors are thrown open, bathing us all in a pool of bright light. As our eyes adjust to the sunlight outside, we are able to make out the figures of several men. We gasp, because these men are not dressed in gray. They are dressed in worn-out clothes, their noses dripping blood and their faces haggard from lack of sleep.
“Who are you?” A girl asks bravely, though her voice trembles.
“We’re not Gatherers,” one of the men answers. He appears to be the “leader” of this group, even though he can’t be more than sixteen or seventeen years old. “We’re here to help.”
“How?” Another girl asks, her lip quivering.
“We’re going to bring you home,” the same boy says, and our eyes widen. We can hardly trust these strange men, not after what we’ve been through. But as the boys begin reaching out their arms to help us out of the van, we don’t fight them. One by one, we hop out of the van, into the arms of these mysterious heroes. As we steady ourselves on the ground, we look up at the boy who is the leader. Our lips part in surprise when we see his eyes. One blue, the other brown.