The International Writers Magazine: Extract from The Heaviness
Rian remembered Genie’s advice as he headed to the bathroom. Pee before interview. He was tense, still worried about this bus business. Why hadn’t they written to him with the information? Was he being rejected already? Wouldn’t put that past them. No way his grades were as good as Vincent’s. In fact his coding skills sucked, truth be told. Not really App minded.
He decided that he should find out for himself. Get it verified in person. If they’d already made their choices he wanted to know now, not go through a whole lot of stupid tests to discover he was never in the running anyway.
He washed his hands, adjusted his jacket, feeling uncomfortable in ‘interview’ clothes and smart shoes his mother had insisted he wear. He’d ditched the tie. No way was he going to wear a tie.
The elevator was out of order. Typical. He had about five minutes before he was supposed to be on the bus according to Vincent and the same amount of time to be at the interview on the fifth floor. He ran up the stairs, slowing only when he got to the fifth to catch his breath and control his breathing.
The sign said Yaletown University Business School. Check
There was no one on reception when he walked in. Odd. The hairs on the back of his head began to bristle. Something wasn’t right.
He walked along a corridor filled with photos of successful alumni – almost exclusively Asian he noted. Meant the competition was going to be tough.
He pushed open a door to an office. It was unoccupied, but the computer was on and there was a cup of coffee still steaming on a table.
‘Hello?’ He called again, wary now, ready to bolt.
Nothing. No one. Perhaps they were probably all down at the bus checking prospective students off. He should have believed Vincent.
He pushed open another door. There was a red-faced woman lying prostrate on the floor, her mouth taped over, her eyes bulging. She was strapped to a chair. She’d been beaten hard.
Rian frowned. Had he stumbled into a robbery? He crouched, anxiously looked around the door and saw three more staff, taped and strapped to chairs. No one else around.
He quickly freed the woman.
‘What happened?’ He asked her as he pulled the masking tape off her face. She let out an involuntary scream of pain, spitting out blood, gasping for air.
‘Call 911. Call 911. They’re kidnapping our students.’
Rian picked up a phone, but it was dead.
‘Use your cell. Call 911,’ a second person urgently instructed him as he removed the tape from his face. Rian accidentally ripped off part of a moustache with it, the man swore with pain as his eyes watered. Rian quickly untied the ropes binding him.
‘Got no phone. Haven’t you got one?’
‘They took all our cells. Go down the next floor. Tell them to call the police. They’ve got our kids. You have to stop the bus.’
‘Bus?’ Crap, Rian was thinking. Vincent was about to get on the bus. He ran back to the window and looked down. Sure enough a whole bunch of kids in interview suits were being herded onto a yellow school bus. He had to stop them.
‘They’re getting on the bus, sir. Can you release the rest? I’ve got to stop them.’
‘Yes. Go. What’s your name, son?’
Rian paused a moment, he had to think. Which name had he used? ‘Rian Tulane.’
The man remembered the name. ‘The boy who doesn’t have email. Go. Call the cops.’
Rian ran. He passed reception again and saw there was someone lying unconscious behind the desk.
He ran down to the next floor. It was locked. Same thing all the way down to the coffee shop. Every door was shut. He had to crash the fire escape doors and heard alarms going off. He emerged onto the street, right by the bus.
‘You for YUBS?’ A smiling Asian girl was asking with a list of names on an iPad.
Before Rian could back away he felt something hard and cold in his back.
‘Get on the bus, Henry. You’re late.’
Rian turned and with a sinking heart recognised the lab technician from Cobble Hill Academy. Kim somebody. Refugee from North Korea. Always so helpful. He'd remember him as Henry.
‘You can’t do this, Kim.’
‘We did already. Move it. Get on the bus.’
Rian didn’t know if he’d shoot. This was Vancouver, damnit. People didn’t shoot kids in broad daylight, right? He broke free, ran two steps before he felt something sharp jab into his arm. The smiling Asian girl had just stabbed him with a hypodermic needle.
His head began to swim. Two people grabbed him by the arms and he was being dragged towards the bus. He couldn’t move a muscle. No one came to his aide. No one seemed to see anything – even though the alarm was still screaming.
He saw a sea of young faces as he got on board, seemed to him that he knew a lot of them. All of the team that had worked with Cary were there.
He was dropped into a seat next to Vincent.
Vincent seemed relieved. ‘I told them to wait for you. I got your bag,’ he said. ‘Competition is going to be murder, Henry. Only the brightest kids on this bus.’
The doors closed and the bus was moving. Rian couldn’t control anything. His head was fixed in one position and his legs and arms wouldn’t respond to his control. His temperature was rising and he began to sweat. What the hell had they given him?
‘Welcome to YUBS,’ a staff member called out, smiling. Clearly none of the other kids realised they had been kidnapped. ‘This is going to be the toughest 40 hours of your lives people. The students who make the cut will be joining the world’s finest University course in Digital Futures. The ones who don’t will live in shame forever.’
Some kids sniggered. Clearly they thought they’d make the cut.
Kim Song, ex-lab technician at Cobble Hill was sitting unseen at the back of the bus, hiding behind dark Ray Bans. He was contemplating what he had to do here. He had less than two days to get these little ‘geniuses’ to produce a breakthrough, a workable idea he could use. He knew that at least one of the sixteen, or was it seventeen, had already developed a possible original project and the team that worked on anti-gravity were all on the bus, except the boy who went through the window. It was a crazy throw of the dice – madness itself, but he had to do it. Put them all under extreme pressure. All he needed was proof of a success and he could work with that. He had been the leading graduate from his university in micro-electronics and all they let him be in Canada was a classroom assistant. He; whose father was a General. Did they think he wouldn’t take his revenge?
For now, he must succeed. The Glorious Leader would need to be tempted and impressed. If not – his father would die.
Rian began to lose focus. He was going out of business. He wondered about the real staff at YUBS up on the fifth floor. They would be expecting the police. They wouldn’t be coming. They’d blame him for that. Either way he was screwed.
His last thoughts were of Genie’s tears at the floatplane dock in Spurlake. He had a very bad feeling that he was never going to see Genie again.
© Sam Hawksmoor October 2014
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