Since the beginning of man, humans have loathed those different from themselves, simply by having a different set of genetics. Whether it is skin, hair, or eye color, or a mental ability or disability, someone has always hated another person. The case remains four hundred years into the future. Following decades of poverty, disease, and war, the Earth in the year 2446 is ruled by three powerful monarchs, and the world is therefore split into three territories. Democracy is a lost word. Free speech is forgotten. Trepidation of a rare but powerful mutant gene creates terror in even the most sophisticated human soul. This is a small fragment of a future that will not necessarily become, but one that very well could.
The eyes of Ashe Randall flashed open, awaking to another overcast day. He scanned the room quickly, just to see the myriad of twin-sized beds and their teenage occupants, all boys between the ages of thirteen and sixteen. Yes, just another morning in the austere M-4 boardinghouse of Westpoint in the Torak Region. And there he was: a portrait of William Torak himself, sitting next to the door. His truculent eyes were locked in artistic anger, watching over the sleeping teens. A world powerful tyrant acting a twisted guardian angel. Ashe disregarded the painting and worked his way through the maze of bunks that had been his home for four years. In M-5, I’ll finally get a full-sized bed, Ashe thought, noticing the incompatibility between the small beds and his own height.
After traveling two stories to the ground floor, known as the Recreation Area, Ashe grabbed a bagel and watched one of the five television channels, The World Report. Thankfully, no one else was awake yet, so Ashe watched a bored looking reporter in peace. Apparently, some seditious rebels had burned down a small government office in the Empliss region, but of course, they were immediately killed on site.
“One of the free thinking and dangerous men was a Zaliph,” the TV reporter said vapidly.
Those words threw Ashe into a depression instantly. Zaliph was the name given to a human born with an extremely rare mutant gene that grants the host superhuman speed, strength, and intelligence, as well as complete manipulative abilities over electricity. About one in five –hundred-thousand people are born with this gene, and once the government finds who a Zaliph is, they slaughter them. Simple as that. Though only a handful of cases exist of a Zaliph rebelling against society, every one of the three world governments feels threatened, and a constant and tenacious public paranoia was developed.
Why would a law-abiding sixteen year-old honor student care about the death of a human monstrosity? The answer is quite simple. From his birth, Ashe Randall has been a Zaliph, and has been living with a surreptitious ability all his life. Like Ashe, most Zaliphs live among normal humans for their whole lives, as long as they never expose their powers.
Ashe chewed his bagel, thinking about his existence. No one can know the truth. Not even Silva. Silva was Ashe’s girlfriend who lived right across the street in boardinghouse F-4. They were in the same class in school, and had known each other since the age of seven. It was just last year that they decided they loved each other, and had been “dating” ever since.
A low, electronic wake up bell signaled six o’clock, and Ashe heard the stirring of his many roommates on all three floors. Not wanting to get trapped in the anarchic breakfast surge, Ashe signed himself out of the boardinghouse and walked onto the street. The paved road sat beneath a forever overcast sky, a memento of the past nuclear battles. Behind Ashe was his square sleeping quarters, and the other male boardinghouses sat juxtaposed, facing the female inns across the street. And directly across the road, at the entrance of the F-4 house, was a sixteen year-old girl with long, jet black hair, ironically named Silva. She smiled softly as Ashe trotted across the empty street and embraced her.
“I missed you,” she whispered into the ear of the one she loved.
“Just since yesterday?” Ashe rhetorically asked, smiling and facing her, but not letting go. Silva leaned forward and kissed him on the mouth.
“Shut up. Let’s get to school, okay?” Silva slipped her hand into Ashe’s, and they started down the street towards the public district. Oh, Silva… Ashe thought dolefully to himself. I want to tell you the truth, but I can’t know your reaction… or what you might think or do.
And so an average day started. The ugly brick building in the center of Westpoint housed a library, hospital, and a school for those wishing an education separate from military training. The subjects available to sixteen year-olds were arithmetic, language arts, and world history, where one learned of times around the turn of the century, around the year 2000. This class interested Ashe the most, as they portrayed a world ruled by many countries, with elected leaders and something they called “religion”. It sounded ideal, far much better than the world he lived in, though he would never admit that out loud, for fear of his own well being. However, today’s lesson ended with a distressing note. At least, to any Zaliphs that happened to be listening.
“Today”, the usually lofty Mr. Rossetti drawled, “we will be visited by a special government agent. This man is originally from the Rozen region, but now he works for the Torak. Now I want no one to be alarmed, but this man is a Zaliph”.
As soon as the words passed his lips, the class erupted in panicky clamor. Ashe tried to remain his best from turning pale. From across the room, Silva wasn’t talking, but she looked worried. “Quiet down!!” the teacher yelled. “This man is from the government! He is to be trusted and respected. Otherwise, he could probably kill you,” he ended frankly. This time no one spoke.
A boy that had remained phlegmatic during the educator’s speech raised his hand. “Why is he coming here? What has he been assigned?”
Mr. Rossetti smiled. “They say, from interviews, that a Zaliph knows one of its’ kind simply by looking into their eyes. The mutated eye has a small difference from the human eye. When a Zaliph looks into a human eye, he simply sees whatever color we see it as. However, when he gazes into another Zaliph eye, it appears as a humanly impossible color, such as yellow, red, or purple. We cannot see this, but they can.” Ashe felt his heartbeat rise to its apex. This was true.
“The job of Agent Hasigawa is to detect a Zaliph, apprehend them, and kill it.” Now all the students fell silent, but everyone looked relieved, including, Ashe observed with dismay, Silva.
“He will wander our town for a few days to confirm that all the residents of Westpoint are not Zaliphs. If you come across him, treat him with respect, and make sure he can see your eyes. Class dismissed!”
“That was kind of frightening, huh?” Silva commented to Ashe on the journey home from school. “Do you think anyone we know could actually be a Zaliph?? And what if… hey Ashe! Are you okay? You look sick.”
Dammit! Ashe thought angrily. I’m letting myself appear afraid! “Yeah, I’ve got a little headache. I’m okay,” Ashe lied.
“Oh well,” Silva said, stopping at the entrance of F-4. “I’ll see you tomorrow?” She fell into Ashe’s arms and kissed him for a few seconds.
I hope, Ashe thought.
“Yeah, definitely! Enjoy your dinner,” Ashe replied, hiding his emotions. Silva waved as she disappeared into the boardinghouse. Ashe sighed as she left his vision. Now, with words that sent a chill down his spine, a new voice spoke.
“That really is unfortunate… now I’ll have that on my conscious for a week!” A tall man of old Japanese decent dressed in a business suit stood not more than thirty yards away. But Ashe didn’t notice what the man was wearing… he was looking at his eyes. His cruel, violet eyes.
Without waiting for his body to become numb, Ashe sprung into the air and climbed the boardinghouse windows to the top of the F-4 roof. His eyes jumped from one corner to the other, searching for any possible weapon. Before he could complete his search, the man talked again, this time mere feet away from where Ashe crouched.
“Search: complete. Though you may already know, my name is Hasigawa. I do not care what yours is; it’ll simply be a memory in a few moments anyway. I hope you weren’t too close to that girl downstairs,” he said. A strong wind arose and blew his black bangs off his face. The air also changed… and the clouds got darker. I may actually be in luck, Ashe thought hopefully.
“Such a handsome boy, too,” Hasigawa smirked, pulling a dagger from the inside of his jacket. “Maybe blood will add to your physical attributes.” A roll of thunder, and Hasigawa was flying at Ashe, dagger poised in hand. As fast as he could, Ashe jumped off the ground and dodged, but not without a minor slash wound on his arm.
His arm was leaking blood, but that wasn’t the only source of liquid. Light drizzle covered Ashe’s bare arms, and his hopes were confirmed. A storm had arrived. Despite his lack of electrical abilities, Ashe called upon his mutant abilities. I need to be accurate… I only have a single chance… Ashe thought feverishly. He felt a slight surge from his own body, but a larger one from the lightning bolt the pierced the sky and was guided into the torso of Mr. Hasigawa. He never even had a chance to scream.
Ashe looked down at the charred corpse, fear growing within him. They’ll know a Zaliph lives around here… its impossible no one saw me climb this damn building. His arm stung as the pain augmented, and blood merged with the raindrops. Westpoint is no longer safe for me… I’d be endangering me and Silva… a single tear fell on the cold concrete ground, only to be engulfed by the now driving rain. Ashe stood up straight and turned towards the town line.
“Goodbye, Silva,” he said aloud. Seconds later, he was dashing and jumping from rooftop to rooftop of the prisons the people called “boardinghouses”. As the rain pounded against the flesh of Ashe Randall, he thought of where he would go, who he would encounter, and what he would do in the new life he had to create.