I am Essence Morton, and I am the Prophet’s child. I was born in a hovel behind the warehouse district of Bottom Lake, Michigan, seventeen years ago. My mother was a junkie who sold me to my parents for a thousand dollars. She took the money and bought herself an overdose. My father was a pimp and a pusher, born and raised in Bottom Lake. They called him the Prophet because of his eloquent speech, and because he always knew everyone’s next move. Some say rival dealers ran him out of town. Others say he’s at the bottom of the lake with a boulder tied to his feet. Still others claim he’s still around, but hiding in plain sight. I think he’s an urban legend: something to talk about while you drink beer and smoke blunts on the corner, but not important enough for anyone to actually seek the truth.
Anyway, my adopted parents raised me in Mortonville, where all the rich families of Bottom Lake raise their kids. My dad’s cool, I guess, for a guy whose grandfather handed him a whole town on a platter. My mom, on the other hand, was born with a stick of dynamite right up her- well, never mind. Her voice is like a ten-inch skewer piercing my eardrums and shredding my brain. She never lets me forget how “grateful” I should be to carry the Morton name. Once, I told her that she should be grateful, too. She slapped me across the face and grounded me for two weeks. So, that’s Richard and Anna Morton, the most elite power couple in Bottom Lake. Then there’s me, the poor little orphan girl lucky enough to receive salvation from the heir to a manufacturing empire and his bitter, barren old hag of a wife.
I’m sure you can imagine the indulgences of growing up in Mortonville. The busy days filled with ballet lessons and horseback riding, overpriced tutors, and a parade of nannies spent my time, but offered little fulfillment in return. Summering every year at tropical resorts or rustic ranches. Dad overcompensated for his absenteeism by obliging my every whim. For my eighth birthday, I asked for ten ponies, just to test my theory. Sure enough that morning I woke up with ten pink-bowed Shetlands outside my window. The ponies made it to my party, but he didn’t. Attached to the black one was a note from him, written out by the nanny. Of course, good old Mom found a reason good enough to declare me a wicked, ungrateful child who didn’t deserve anything for my birthday. She donated them all to a game farm a few towns away. Thus, the never-ending cycle of dysfunction as my reward for growing up Morton.
All of that changed a year ago when I joined the Clubhouse. My high school guidance counselor referred me one day after I told my chemistry teacher I wasn’t sure if the rotten eggs I smelled was her, or the sulfur. At first, I hesitated, but I finally went a couple of weeks later, after yet another fight with “Mom.” There were a bunch of kids from everywhere across Bottom Lake. Some of them even lived in Mortonville and went to my school! Among them, there was Anyn Rothschild, the sullen genius with long scruffy curls and piercing, black eyes. She rarely spoke, but when she did, she usually said something so profound it ended the conversation. The fair-haired Schickmann twins, Jordi and Phen, were ten-year-old forces of nature. They pranked you until you begged for mercy but then gave you their last meal. There was Samira, who sang better than angels, and Billy, the jock from South Bottoms with good looks and a bad attitude. They all had different stories to tell, but they all had the same origins. We all lost parents during the “Overdoses”.
Okay, let me back up a bit. It all started when Morgan Inc. acquired a cleaning product startup back in 1999. Bohler Brands, I think. Some chemistry whizzes apparently created some new nontoxic, all-purpose, miracle-cleansing compound. My dad’s company snatched it up and, after all the environmental rallies and protests, built a new factory in the warehouse district within two years. That’s when everything went haywire. Somebody discovered that potent hallucinogens in the compound’s byproducts. They called it 3IJ (third eye juice) and people went crazy for it. A string of drug-induced suicides and homicidal rages stoked a decade long public relations nightmare for Morgan Inc. Even the animals lost it. I promise you that raccoons with glowing blue eyes had the whole town on lockdown! Okay, maybe their eyes weren’t glowing, but they did have us all on edge.
Those raccoons stories are as common as weather-talk in Bottom Lake. If you don’t have a coon story, you aren’t from Bottom Lake. But no one talks about the real secrets of the Overdoses. The whispers in closed bedrooms and the rumors uttered at office parties. We are not only united by the tragedies of our parents, but also of their transgressions. All 12 of us mutated at the cellular level because of 3IJ. No one believed the addict’s claims of levitating babies and telekinetic toddlers. Over time, all of the original parents either met a tragic end or mysteriously vanished. Officials packaged all of the fatal crashes and drowning incidents and missing person reports and the slayings into a neat little box labeled the Overdoses. I was the last of the Overdose babies to join the Clubhouse. So, yes, we all have… “abilities,” but I’ll get back to that.
When I first arrived, I received a nametag (which I threw away immediately) and a welcome packet with all the rules of the club and descriptions of the available resources. A thin, birdish-looking woman with oily brown hair gave me a tour. Her name was Alice, or Angie, something like that. We had two rec rooms, a huge library, a computer lab, a basketball court that doubled as a gym room, and even a pool. We even had a small dormitory in case anyone needed a place to cool off for a few days. We never questioned who was paying for all this or why, except for Anyn. She had enough cynicism for everyone. The rest of us just enjoyed the ride. The kids spending the most time at the Clubhouse received rewards. The staff encouraged as many interactions and bonding activities as possible.
About six months in, I started noticing oddities that raised my suspicions. Staff members showed up at my house if I skipped attendance. They bumped into me at the strangest places, as if they were stalkers. The others felt it too. Anyn finally revealed the reason for her reservations. The staff members were the only people immune to her telepathy. I can’t read them and I want to know why- she told us one night at the lake. Oh, yes! The Lake! I forgot to mention that! We usually met at the lake away from prying eyes to match Overdose stories and discover each other’s abilities. Samira could control any animal with her singing. Jordi manipulated fire and Phen, water. Billy was an invincible god of brute force. Adrenaline fueled his strength, and serotonin managed it. We had so many different abilities, including regeneration, morphism, electricity and sound wave generation, and manipulation, etc. Telekinesis occurred most of all. Now, I guess you want to know what I can do. We’ll get to that.
Last week everything blew up like a megaton bomb. We all agreed to act normal and meet at the clubhouse to investigate. Jordi and Phen searched the dormitory, and the rest of us picked an area to investigate. A kid named Harlan used his superior hearing to eavesdrop on a conversation in the staff quarters. None of us about the prohibited area before, but with all the creepiness it was “all bets off.”
Harlan came running back into the room, out of breath, mumbling something about 3IJ and time to start the testing now that I was settled. Alice came in and ordered the compound locked. A couple of more staff members rounded up the rest of the kids and we sat in the gym for hours wondering why we couldn’t use our abilities. The younger kids cried for their guardians, while us older ones screamed obscenities in vain. Eventually, a screen dropped from the ceiling and played a film. Words can never express the horror, the betrayal, the rage at seeing our “loved ones” appear on the screen telling us all to keep calm, don’t worry, cooperate. Finally, my dad, Richard Morton himself, came into the room, prepared to “explain everything!”
As it turns out, he knew about my special differences before I was born! He swore it wasn’t the reason he bought me. LIAR! He knew of us all from the beginning, so did our caregivers! The extra doctor visits, the testing, and the “vitamins” to make sure we didn’t inherit damaging effects from 3IJ! Suddenly I couldn’t hear anything except the sobs of the little ones. The walls went wavy and the floor rocked beneath me. My dad- and I use the term loosely- took a couple of steps forward, mouthing what I assume to be my name. Everything kicked into high gear when Angie…Alice held him back and about twenty armed men decked in gray suits ran into the gym. They looked like some strange army of militarized motorcycle racers.
Billy grabbed my shoulders and then, instinctively the others flocked around us by linking hands or grabbing shoulders. I still couldn’t hear anything, but I saw a guard smack a power switch in a far corner and the lights went out for a split second. I don’t remember what happened next. Billy told me I lit up so bright that everyone except the kids dropped to the floor and hid their eyes. The twins can go on for hours about how the light kept changing colors but it was “super bright.” Billy also said I let out a scream that cracked the walls. He’s not sure how their eardrums didn’t burst, but he suspects it had something to do with our physical connection. When the walls cracked, all the doors flew open and the alarms went off. We made our way out of the Clubhouse and didn’t stand outside long enough to see if it actually fell. One of the electros (the ones that create and manipulate electricity) hotwired a van and we took off towards the interstate.
Now you know the story of the Prophet’s child and her “merry band of misfits.” Today, we are twelve kids running for our lives (or delinquent fugitives if you watch the news) on our way to Peru. I’ll tell you why we chose Peru another time. For now, all you need to know is, we came from society’s castaways, but now we are the most wanted people on earth. We didn’t choose these abilities, but today we choose our own destinies. For once, I don’t feel like I should be at the bottom of the lake with my father or behind the dumpster with my mother. I am not just alive. I am life.