The explosion would have been heard miles away, if the laboratory facility wasn’t hidden in remote woods somewhere in this earth. Trees burned bright as the metal-enforced concrete shattered extending beyond the dark forest to the mountains surrounding the laboratory. Ashes filled the night sky as we rushed out of our cells. Might have been thousands of us in that vast pale-yellow building, but I only saw few of us run outward. The rush of the escape left us no time to look for our mates nor count how many of us survived the explosion. I ran fast, forgetting that I can teleport. And as more and more of us escaped we joined in a group. We don’t know our birth dates but Four was our leader at the moment. He was pointing us to a safe cave miles from the explosion. We had been running for 10 miles, at least, but I didn’t feel tired at all. I wanted to keep running. Four grabbed my thin left arm firmly and pushed me inside the cave.
“We must rest and gather our thoughts.” he said.
“But they might come after us!” I yelled jerking my arm away.
“Where’s 21, your mate?” Four asked me.
I looked around at the dark cave, only few of us made it here few identical uniforms. Pale-yellow loose pants and baggy shirts, some uniforms were stained with blood, others stained with a mixture of black and red. Making the numbers on their backs impossible to read. I finally said:
“I don’t know. He… he wasn’t in his cell tonight.”
“Let’s rest, take a head count. OK?” He said as he looked down to me.
He was, maybe 6 feet and 3 inches tall. That is a foot taller than I am. Also he was a much stronger man, physically, than anyone I have ever met. I nodded agreeing with his remark. I walked among the pale yellow uniforms, trying to find my mate, 21. But he was nowhere to be found. The darkness of the cave didn’t help my search, but I already knew he wasn’t there. The magnetic pull I feel when he’s around is no more. He must be very far away, extremely far. I thought.
I sat in a corner of the cave holding my knees to my forehead, trying to silence the chaos around me, trying to connect with 21. If 9 was here, she’d help me find him. She’s a stronger telepath than any of us but I see no odds, only even numbers are here. I make out 4, 8, 10 and me, 22. All others seem to blend together, injured or bruised. 8 sat next to me and whispered: “Did you notice that you’re the only one without a cut or a bruise?” he paused expecting an answer. I picked up my head that was resting on my knees and said nothing.
“People will start to talk.” 8 added.
“I don’t care, go away.” I replied with a muffled voice as I rested my head on my knees.
“I don’t mind cutting you, if you’re into that?” said 8 flirtatiously.
I didn’t move my head to acknowledge his stupid suggestion. Then 4 approached us, standing tall he said: “There are far fewer of us than I thought.”
I said: “All evens, right?”
He looked at me with shock “yes, you’re right. All evens.”
“well, the odds house sucks anyways. Who needs them?” 8 said.
“our mates are odds. All of us need our mates.” I said.
“I don’t! I haven’t seen 7 since they…” said 8 as he was interrupted by 4.
“8 we don’t need your life story right now.”
“I’m just saying, I’m single and now free. And little 22 finds herself single finally.”
I yelled “I’m not single, my mate is on the other side of the freaking mountain. I will find him!”
I got up and dusted off my pants angrily. I walked out of the cave looking down on the tops of pine trees as the sun started to rise, slowly. I took a deep breath and smiled. I am free, I realized. Sure, 21 is not here and most of my friends aren’t either but at least 4 was there. I can always count on 4, I thought. Then I was startled by 4 putting his hand on my shoulder. I looked up and patted the earth next to me motioning him to sit down. He sat next to me and rested his head on mine “what are we going to do now?” he said. I put my hand on his knee and smiled “We’ll live! Do things people do.” “We’re not meant for living, 22. We’re meant for…” I interrupted turning my body to face his, biting my lips I said: “No one can tell us what we are made to do anymore! No one but us. So don’t justify our existence based on what experiments we were meant to be.” I leaned over and hugged him, and he hugged me back. The sunrise added warmth to our embrace. I fell asleep in his arms and he dared not move, so he watched the rays of the sun multiplying through the tops of the trees until we were consumed by light.
We were all more exhausted than we thought, as the adrenaline wore off we all fell asleep soaked by day light.