The man from the district had lied.
The tests did hurt—and there was more than one of them.
Of course, Denise had gone through most of the tests before when she went to the doctor: Nurses drew her blood, tested her eyes, and even sent her through a machine that
scanned her brain. Vee had gone through these tests many times as the district
tried to keep track of how his power was growing, and Denise had joked about
him: “They can’t scan for your brain because you don’t have a brain.” But this
time it was no joke.
Denise had patiently cooperated with
every test, but she couldn’t wait to go back to school or even go home. But a
doctor with a thick black mustache and a shaven head came into the waiting room
and told Denise there was one more test she had to go through: He wanted to see
if she could predict what was going to happen.
Denise held her father’s hand as
they followed the doctor down a long, windowless hallway. The parts of the
District Center she had seen so far resembled and ordinary hospital or doctor’s
office, but this hallway seemed to go on forever, and Denise got very scared as
she passed underneath a row of old-fashioned circular light fixtures that lit
the hallway. The metal discs surrounding each light resembled a witches
cauldron, and she thought of the story of Hansel and Gretel being tricked into
going into a witch’s house so the witch could eat them. She held her father’s hand tighter.
The doctor led them into a room
which had a large booth in the middle. It resembled one of those booths used by
the family doctor to test Denise’s hearing every year. She began to relax when she saw it, thinking
this test wouldn’t be so bad. The doctor
made her sit in a chair in the center of the booth and attached wires to her
arms and forehead. Denise felt like a lab animal in one of her mother’s
The doctor then turned and whispered
something to Denise’s father. He nodded slowly and started to leave the chamber.
“Where are you going?” she asked,
her voice suddenly nervous.
Gerard Evans turned to face his
daughter with an expression that seemed almost sorrowful. “They can’t test you
with me in the room, Neesy. It’s going to be all right. I’m just going down the
hall to call your mother and tell her how things are going.”
For some reason, Denise hadn't even thought to ask her father if he had told her mother that he was going to take her back to the district to be
tested. But he must have told her. Of course, he had. Suddenly, the idea that
Denise’s mother and brother may not even know where she was and that she might
not ever see them again entered her mind, and she began to squirm and try to
pull the wires off her arms and forehead.
“I want to go home!” she cried.
The doctor kneeled at her side and
began carefully reattaching the wires. Despite his tough appearance, he had a gentle
touch and a soothing voice. “It’s going to be all right,” he said in strong,
even voice. “I know this is scary for you, Denise, but it won’t take long and
we really do need your help. If your
vision was correct, all those people could be in danger.”
Denise, in spite of herself, began
to calm down a little. “Then just make them leave the building! Shut the building down!” she argued.
“We can’t do that, Denise,” the
doctor said with a reassuring smile. “We
need to know if your vision was real first.”
Denise glanced at her father, but
Gerard Evans stood in the doorway of the booth, his face drooping and his eyes
looking sad and scared. Denise had never seen her father look so helpless
“Okay, Denise,” the doctor’s voice
boomed over the intercom. He had moved
to a small room to the side of the booth and watched Denise through a glass
window. “A series of images will flash
on the screen in front of you. I want
you to tell me what they are going to be before you see them, okay?”
Denise wanted to call for her father
again. Instead, she nodded once.
“Here’s the first one,” the doctor
Denise concentrated, and an image popped
into her mind. “A cat.”
The image of a baseball appeared on
Denise let out a breath she didn’t
realize she’d been holding.
“Here’s the second one.”
Denise pretended to concentrate. A new image appeared in her mind. “It’s . . . a balloon.”
The image of a horse appeared.
This is easy, she thought. All she had to do was let her imagination
wander and say whatever popped into her head.
Whatever it was, she was bound to be wrong.
“Here’s the third one,” said the
There was a pause. “What kind of
The question threw her.
“I don’t know . . . the old kind,
with a propeller.”
The image of a kitten appeared.
“It was a lucky guess,” her father
argued with the doctor.
“Maybe,” the doctor replied in a
soft voice, as if he were trying too hard to be polite, “but she did get the
kind of airplane right, even though it was the sixth image, not the third.”
Denise sat in a cold, metal chair by
the doctor’s desk while he talked to her father. She understood more than she let on. For instance, when the doctor said she had
been right forty percent of the time, she knew that was a good sign. In school, forty percent would be
failing. For the first time in her life,
Denise wanted a grade of F.
The doctor sat back in his chair. “So, the tests were inconclusive. I’d like you to bring Denise back for further
testing next week. If she does have an
emerging power, it will show up in comparative brain scans. Meanwhile, if she has any further visions,
report them to the district police immediately.”
Her father’s expression
dropped. “But suppose it was just a
false alarm. The burning building—”
“Mr. Evans,” the doctor interrupted,
“I’m sure I don’t need to remind you that failing to report a super-power is a
crime. It can get you and your family in
a lot of trouble.” He then glanced at
Denise and looked sorry, as if he had forgotten she was in the room.
Denise glared at the doctor’s
feet. She had never been so angry
before. The doctor was going to get her
dad arrested if he didn’t turn Denise in again!
Well, there was one way to solve
that problem. Denise simply wouldn’t
tell her dad or anyone else if she had any more visions.
“It was a false alarm,” she told
Sheila Torvald on the bus the next day.
Of course, word had gotten around that the district taken Denise to be
Billy Underwood leaned over the back
of Denise’s seat and stared at her.
“What are you doing?” she asked.
“Checking to see if you have a
mole,” he answered.
Suddenly, the kids in front of
Denise were on their knees and leaning over the backs of their seats, staring
her in the face. The kids across the
aisle were leaning into the aisle as if their faces were magnetically attracted
“Get away from me!” she yelled.
“Denise has a power!” someone
whispered. Someone else said it louder,
and then everyone chanted it.
“Pipe down back there!” Marge, the
bus driver, sounded like a tank. No one
ever got out of line on Marge’s bus.
Denise was usually afraid of the large, heavy-set woman, but, for once,
she was glad to be on Marge’s bus. It
immediately grew quiet, and the other kids turned around and faced forward.
The bus stopped at the border
checkpoint, as usual, and a policeman boarded to check for kids with powers.
“You better hide!” Sheila whispered
“Where?” Denise whispered back and
immediately wished she hadn’t. After
all, why would she have to hide?
The policeman boarded the bus and
did his usual inspection. He paused when
he reached Denise’s seat and watched her.
She felt very nervous, though she
didn’t know why. She wanted to look away
but found her attention being drawn toward him, almost as if she were being
compelled to look against her will.
then she was somewhere else.
Everything was dark, and there was a
terrible smell around her. She tried to
breathe in and gagged. Smoke.
no! No! No! She
had been here before. In one of her
“visions”. No, it’s just a dream. It’s not
real. She tried to make herself wake
up, but she couldn’t. The smoke was
everywhere, and someone nearby screamed.
She found herself running even
though she didn’t want to run. She was
taking strides her young legs couldn’t possibly take. She found herself running through a room—it
looked like an office with desks and computers. Denise’s hand—no, the woman’s—reached out. Her fingernails had butterflies on them. The woman’s hand touched a door—it was very
—“Hey, Denise! Wake up!”
Denise blinked. Sheila was sitting next to her on the bus,
“What happened?” Denise asked.
“You zoned out. We’re at school now.”
Denise looked out the window just in
time to see the school parking lot roll into view.
“What about the policeman? What did he do?”
Sheila looked confused by the
question. “He just stared at you and left. I guess that proves you don’t have a power