The story below is a winner from our Fiction Fantastic Young Writers Contest, open to all youth in Lane County. For more information on this contest, including how to enter, visit here. Support this program with a donation.
You can purchase this story in the 2023 Winners Anthology, Enter the Imaginarium here.
“Project Infinite” by Adrienne White, Gilham Elementary School
First Place, Elementary Level, 2023
Gilham Elementary School
Thirteen years ago, I was born. I was born thirteen days before my due date, and just thirteen minutes before LifeTime Tech was founded. I guess you could say I was lucky to be born thirteen minutes before the biggest technology corporation in the world was created, but you’d be wrong.
My dad wasn’t there when I was born. He was in New York City, signing a contract with his future business partner, William E. Branson. Today is the day that I have to start working with my dad at the LifeTime Headquarters. I may seem young, but in 2041, everyone starts working at thirteen. It’s not great, but there should be other kids working.
I stared at the LifeTime poster. My dad had signed it and shipped it to me for my fifth birthday. I wasn’t fascinated by numbers, nor words, but the success of my father’s company had always pushed me to follow my dreams. The only problem was that I didn’t know what my dreams were.
When my dad started his company, my mom and I had to move everywhere. By the time I turned six, my mom and dad made the deal that, while he was working, my mom would raise me. We finally settled down in what people now call “Time City,” New York, where the original LifeTime Headquarters still stands.
It was finally my thirteenth birthday, and my dad was flying in from New York City to give me a tour. The last time I saw my dad was Christmas seven years ago, so this was a big deal. I should have resented my dad for not being there for my childhood, but I understood that he was running the biggest technology corporation in the world; and, for that, I wasn’t that mad.
I ran out of my room and into the kitchen, but was startled by my mom, who was on the phone. She held up a finger to show me she was almost done.
After she finished, she stood reading a magazine while she cooked pancakes.
“Infinity, I have some news,” my mom murmured in a sing-songy way.
My mom may not have started the biggest tech company in the world, but she was the coolest mom anyone could ask for. Every year, we set off fireworks exactly one week before the Fourth of July. But not the cheap, tame ones. The big, illegal ones. Our neighbors hated us. Even her job was cool. She was a certified simulation tester for LifeTime. My mom was awesome.
She set my pancakes down and took out a small box, which she set down next to the pancakes.
“What is it?” I asked, cutting into my pancakes.
My mom pulled up a chair and stared into my eyes. It was a soft, kind stare, but I knew nothing good could come from it.
“Well, I know it’s your birthday, but I wanted to ask you if you’d be OK with something,” she said, grabbing a bite of my pancakes. I was worried, and sweated in my t-shirt.
“OK?” I mumbled, still shaking.
“Your dad can’t come,” she sighed.
I didn’t know what to say. Tears filled my eyes.“But,” she started.
I lifted my head.
“He said that he’s sent two of the best LifeTime employees in all of Time City to be your mentors. Isn’t that great?” She smiled. Then she saw my face. “You’ve got to get to work, so I’ll leave you to it. Happy birthday, kiddo,” she sighed. And with that, she left the room.
I grabbed my bag and ran out the door. As I ran down the street, I opened my LifeTrack and scanned for the nearest LifeCab.
Ten minutes ‘til work started.
I ran down Ember Avenue to the LifeCab station and sent out a signal. The tracker vibrated in my hand as the LifeCab came into view.
I opened the door and slid into the front seat. Once the cab dinged, it was time to put in the address.
The cab was self-driving, but it wouldn’t move until I paid for the ride. I put in my LifeCard and waited as the cab started to move.
If you hadn’t yet noticed, LifeTime owns a lot of things. The only people who don’t use LifeTime are old people who don’t approve of my dad’s company.
Originally, my mom resented my dad for everything, and refused to use LifeTime. But after she was fired from her old tech company, my dad offered her a job at LifeTime.
At first she declined, not realizing it would be hard to find a job. But after three long months of being unemployed, she accepted.
I stepped out of the cab and was immediately startled by how ugly Crimson Square was. It was more like a curvy rectangle lined with different LifeTime buildings. Right in the center was the largest building of them all, LifeTime Headquarters.
The building was massive, but the sleek black exterior wasn’t very inviting. I grabbed the gold door handles and pulled softly.
I don’t know what I was expecting, but whatever it was, it couldn’t compare to how incredible this office was.
The walls were black, the floors were black, and the only light in the whole building came from the large skylight that made the ceiling look nonexistent.
Spiral stairs climbed the walls and hundreds of computers surrounded me.
I walked forward, unaware of what was happening. Everybody was either crowding around a large screen, or running around frantically.
I opened my LifeGuide and scrolled to the “Workers Manual” section. “Your position in the office will be determined by Harley Drew – Office 5B,” was highlighted in blue.
I walked toward the front desk, which was a long walk. I took this as an opportunity to think about what I’d say. My destiny was about to be determined. This was insane.
My thoughts were interrupted by a seemingly annoyed worker.
“Can I help you?” they asked. They were hidden by the stack of laptops they were holding, but I could tell they weren’t in the mood to talk.
“Sorry, it’s my first day on the job. I’m looking for office 5B,” I murmured.
“Uh, that’s Harley and Drew. They’re up there,” they directed.
Still confused, I walked up the stairs to office 5B and knocked on the door.
“Yeah, come in.” somebody snapped.
As I pushed open the door, I was startled by the mess. Half the room was neat and pretty, and the other half looked as though it had been hit by a tornado.A girl around my age poked her head out of the mess.“Are you . . . Mr. Time’s kid?” she asked. I nodded.
A boy stood up and smiled.“Not what I was expecting.”
The girl laughed.
“Yeah? Well, why were you—kids that I don’t even know—assigned to teach me?” I snapped.
The girl stared at me, then got up and walked all the way down the stairs.
“I’m Drew, that’s Harley. Good, now you know us. Let’s go,” Drew said as he took off after her.
“G’morning, Harley. Hey, Drew.” The man I talked to before smiled.
“Sorry, Josh. I left some files in the Project Infinite office. Would you mind giving me access?” Harley smirked.
“Sure thing. You two seem pretty calm. New Year’s rush is making things pretty hectic around here,” he said.
“As soon as we release Project Infinite, everything will go back to normal. This is a big deal, you know,” Harley declared. She then walked over to one of the large screens and scanned her face, opening up a section in the screen.
“Wait, Project Infinite? As in Infinity?” I questioned.
“Yes. We’re under direct orders to watch you and show you the project, so listen up!” Harley snapped. She strapped me to a table and injected me with something. I wanted to push her away, but I started to become weak.
“Three years ago, we were assigned to Project Infinite. The task was to create a liquid that could be injected into the body and turn people into superhumans. He didn’t specify what ‘superhumans’ meant, so we decided on hemokinesis, which is basically the manipulation of blood. Pretty cool, right? We have tested it, so don’t be worried. Most common side effects include minor memory loss, so you might forget what we’re doing in here. But that’s it,” Drew explained.
Millions of questions filled my head. What did he mean by “the manipulation of blood”? Why me? Why couldn’t I move? Why was I starting to feel tired?
My eyes fluttered open. I felt less weak, but still weird. I rolled over so I could see what else was going on. The whole room was lit up with turquoise mismatched bulbs. Instead of computers, the room was covered in Post-it notes and vials filled with a strange red liquid. Harley and Drew were at a desk, staring into a jar with the same red liquid. I pulled at the straps that were holding me in place, but they wouldn’t loosen. I tried to sit up, but I had massive aches all over. What just happened? What did they do to me? By then, Harley looked up from the jar and ran over to me.
“Infinity! You’re finally up. Is everything OK? Any aches, or anything out of the ordinary?” she smiled, her tone softening.
“What did you guys do?” I murmured, my voice cracking.
“We told you everything we were going to do. If everything went well, you should be able to manipulate some small amount of blood. Like—” Suddenly, there was a loud knock on the door.
“Harley, Drew, is everything OK?” somebody asked.
“Yeah. We were just finishing up,” Harley reassured them.
“Are you sure? Because we all really need you,” a couple of other people said.
This time the knock was louder.
“Uh. One second,” Harley replied.
“No. Now,” someone else demanded. Louder. Harley started to remove the straps.
The section in the screen opened.
“Who is your friend, Harley? She doesn’t belong here.”
I looked up and was startled by everyone who was watching us. They stared at us with blank, almost threatening stares.
Harley grabbed my arm, trying to get me out the side door.
My blood started to boil. I gripped the table, struggling to breathe.
“Infinity! C’mon!” Harley yelled, almost out the door.
I couldn’t keep it in anymore. I closed my eyes and took a deep breath.
When I opened my eyes, pools of blue blood surrounded me. Dead people surrounded me. But they weren’t people; they were robots.
“Infinity! C’mon, we have to get out of here!” Harley screamed. This time, she didn’t wait. She grabbed my hand and pulled me out the door. I would have pulled away, but I didn’t know what to think. I just killed hundreds of people without even knowing.
I can’t say I recall much after Harley and Drew threw me in the back of a car and lugged me to New York City, because I was mostly sitting in shock, thinking about what I’d just done. It was almost like my brain had shut off completely. The fact that they weren’t even people never crossed my mind. I might have finally fallen asleep if it weren’t for Drew snapping me back to reality.
“Infinity, it’s OK. That’s what was supposed to—”
“What? I was supposed to kill everyone? What even were they? I can’t, I can’t do this anymore!” I cried.
“We’re gonna get everything sorted out soon,” Drew comforted. “We’re here in New York, to find your dad.”
This made me even angrier. For once, I didn’t want to see my dad. I just wanted to be back in my apartment, safe and sound. Without my people-exploding powers. But somewhere in the back of my mind, I knew that if anyone knew anything about this, it was my dad. After considering this, I reluctantly followed Harley and Drew up the marble stairs and through the gold doors.
Everyone stared at us as we walked in, but they weren’t the blank stares that the other LifeTime employees gave us. They looked curious, but everyone was too preoccupied with work to do anything. I realized that it was because we were three children, covered in blood, trying to talk to the richest man in the world. It made me want to leave. Make everyone explode again and leave. Harley defiantly walked up the stairs and towards my dad’s office.
There weren’t security guards protecting his office, so it looked as if we could just walk in. Harley stepped forward but immediately stepped back.
“There’s a force field,” she mumbled. Drew stuck his arm out, but it couldn’t reach the door. There really was an invisible force holding him back. At this point, I was unaware that Harley and Drew were gone. I heard Harley’s screams and I turned around. Drew and Harley were being dragged down the stairs by two men. I started to run after them, and my blood started to boil.
In seconds, the two men were dead. I had killed more people. This time, I didn’t stop. I ran down the spiral stairs and grabbed my friends.
“We have to get out of here!” I cried.
“No. We need this. You need this. Let’s just . . . go upstairs, OK?” Drew murmured.
Harley was already up the stairs. She opened a small device and pressed a button. She was then able to open the door. I wanted to ask how she did it, but I didn’t have the strength. I guess I just assumed my dad would have a better security system.
Harley walked right in as though it didn’t matter that we were sneaking into the office of the richest man in the world. Whereas I held onto the wall to make sure I wouldn’t collapse.
As soon as we walked in, we were hit with a breeze. It felt nice, but it startled me and my blood started to boil. As I calmed back down, I looked around and realized how weird his office was. The room was practically pitch black, but there wasn’t even a skylight to let in any light.
“Come back later, I’m busy!” somebody yelled. It was at this point I realized that even if my dad did recognize me, what was he going to do? If Harley and Drew couldn’t fix it, then he probably couldn’t.
This made my blood boil even more. What were Harley and Drew planning to do?
“Mr. Time, sir. We brought Infinity,” Drew declared. I wanted to scream. My dad knew I was coming. He knew all along. My blood boiled even more.
“Sorry kids. Bring her over here,” he said. Harley and Drew coaxed me towards my dad and into a chair. Blood boiling.
He stood up from his desk.“Hello, Infinity,” he smiled.
Seven years. Seven, long, painful years. That’s all he had to say. Blood boiling.
I don’t know what I would have done if Drew hadn’t tied me to a chair. I couldn’t scream, or move at all. Blood boiling.
“She hasn’t had any incidents, has she?” my dad whispered to Harley.
“She killed all of the test targets back at HQ, just like you asked,” Harley murmured.
“All right,” my dad said, loudly. “Enough teasing her. Grab the syringes and run some tests while I attempt to explain my secretive behavior,” he declared.
Harley and Drew left. Blood boiling.
“I know it’s been a while, but please just listen to what I have to say.” He paused as Harley stuck a syringe into my arm and pulled out a good amount of blood. The blood turned blue as she put it into a machine. Blood boiling.
“You’re very special,” my dad said, startling me. “That’s why I chose you. You have a gift. This project wouldn’t work for anyone else. Together, we will—”
I didn’t let him finish. In seconds, everyone disintegrated into pools of blue blood and robotic parts.
Then everything went black.
“Infinity? Infinity, wake up. You slept in. Grab your things and come downstairs. I have a surprise for you.” my mom smiled. I sat up. I was drenched in sweat.
I didn’t know what to think. It felt too real to be a dream. I shakily grabbed my bag and ran into the kitchen. My mom was gone. I grabbed a cup and filled it with ice water, my hands still shaking.
“Mom, where’d you—” I started. The cup shattered on the floor.
My dad stepped forward, smiling.
“Happy birthday!” he laughed. It couldn’t be. He was dead a minute ago.
I started to cry. After everything he put me through, I was so glad he was alive. I ran to him, jumping into his arms.
“I missed you,” he said. We stood there for a minute, smiling at each other.
“All right, you guys. I hate to break this up, but you two have to get to work.” Mom smiled as she blew her nose. My dad sighed, and we started to walk out the door. As we stepped onto the street, my dad’s seriousness vanished.
“OK, I know this sounds crazy, but I’m working on something really awesome. But the best part is, I’m gonna call it ‘Project Infinite.’ Isn’t that awesome?” he smiled. He kept walking, but I stopped. For a few seconds, I thought my blood started to boil. But it didn’t, and that’s when I knew that everything was going to be OK.