The Saints

Page 26

“Here, use the joysticks,” Will said.

Gates sat down in front of the control panel, and Will showed him how to trigger the water from the multi-hosed water sprayer on the ceiling of the white room, beyond the window. As soon as Gates got the hang of it, some people did come walking into the white room and he was able to nail two of them with the water jet. He scared the other one by making all eight of the contraption’s mechanical arms come to life all at once. Will thought it was all hilarious and was laughing so hard that he collapsed onto the control board. Will accidentally ended up pressing a bunch of buttons.

Inside the white room, there was a large, square metal door in the wall that Gates and the others had never managed to get opened. But now, it crept up like an automated garage door. Beyond the door, inside a small room with bare concrete walls, was some sort of clear cube on wheels. Gates felt his first spark of real excitement since the parents had caved to his demands.

Gates whacked Will on the arm to get his attention and pointed at the clear cube. “Hey, guy who knows everything about this place, what the piss is that?”

Will stared in awe.

“No way,” Will said. “I heard about this thing. The soldiers used it when the graduation machine was broken. I wonder if it needs keys.”

Gates grinned. “I know how to hot-wire shit.”

Gates had never driven a clear box before. Just the pure novelty of being inside a transparent cube as it rolled through the halls of McKinley was beginning to lift his spirits. He barely even noticed the sting of his eye.

People were starting to gather in the halls. He and Will had become quite the spectacle. Shocked and psyched faces came popping out of classrooms to ogle the rolling box. Kids started running after them, wanting to hitch a ride. He and Will drank beers as they did a wide loop through the school. Will was driving at the moment and sitting in the only seat inside the cube. It was about the size of a golf cart on wide all-terrain tires. The walls and ceiling were made of half-foot thick slabs of clear plastic. He could see the clear epoxy they had used to seal it together, and the excess had squeezed out of the borders between the slabs and hardened. The only door was in the back, also clear, but the door frame, lock, and knob were all metal. Empty beer bottles rolled around on the diamond cut metal sheeting floor. The electric engine produced a continuous buzzing sound. Gates crouched beside Will, fiddling with the rubber glove that extended into the cube from the outside, so people could evidently test themselves. Gates had turned it inside out, and he was using it to reach out the front of the cube and high-five people they passed.

Will hadn’t lied, the school loved him. Everyone seemed to know his name. When they saw him, they got really excited. They’d call out to him. Sometimes they shouted requests for the next drop. But most of the time they just shouted his name, or started applauding as he passed.

While Will drove, Gates took camera phone photos of the five Skater girls who rode on the top of the cube, their butts pressed into the clear plastic over their heads. The Skater girls were hitching a ride to Geek territory. When Gates started showing Will the pics he’d taken, the cube drifted too close to the wall and hit a few locker handles, jostling the whole thing. The girls squealed above and banged on the plastic.

“Watch the road!” one of the girls shouted.

“Sor-ry!” Will said, and both Will and Gates started laughing.

“You know what, this is good times, man,” Gates said.

“I know. I didn’t even get to see this thing last year. Never thought I’d be inside it!”

“Lemme try driving.”


Will pulled over, and they switched places. Gates jammed his foot on the tiny gas pedal, while Will eased back to look up at the girls.

“This is what life’s about,” Will said.

“Oh, yeah?” Gates said, keeping his eyes on the hall.

“I think so. Life should always be riding inside a future car with cute girls on top.”

“Ha-ha! Hard to argue with that.”

Gates started weaving the cube from side to side down the hallway. The Skater girls shouted at him and began to hop off.

“Aw, come on, I was just weaving a little!” Gates shouted, as the last of the Skater girls lowered herself off the edge and dropped to the floor.

“Bye, girls,” Will said, wistfully.

“Easy come, easy go.”


They passed through a hallway intersection.

“My old gang used to live in a stairwell down that direction,” Will said. “David would have loved taking a joy ride in the cube.”

“Did he like to have a good time? Sounds like my kind of dude.”

“Well … not really. He more liked to worry all the time.”

Gates glanced at Will and saw that his mood had gone somber.

“Sounds like my brother, Colton.”

Will sat up. “Really?”

Gates nodded. “He was always worrying about me, trying to keep me out of trouble.”

Will nodded like he knew what that was like, then cleared his throat. “Uh … Fowler told me what happened to Colton. I’m so sorry, man. That’s awful.”

Gates tugged on the steering wheel, suddenly annoyed at how slow the cube was.

“There must be another gear or something,” Gates said.

“Do you miss him?”

They were crawling along. Gates needed more speed. He felt all around the base of the steering wheel and around the boxy dashboard that must have once held virus-testing equipment. His fingers found a little plastic pull handle in a recessed nook on the underside of the dash. He pulled it.

There was a dull thunk, and the cube sped forward.

“Ho ho! E-brake! We’ve been riding with the brakes on the whole time!” Gates said.

“Oh shit,” Will said. He gave the clear wall an excited double slap. “How fast does it go?”

The wobbly cube accelerated. The hallway began to race by.

“This thing can move!” Will said.

“We’ve got to see what she can do!” Gates said.

Will started laughing. Lockers and doorways whipped past. A group of Geeks had to dive to get out of the way when they saw a giant ice cube zipping toward them.

“Whoa! You almost hit them,” Will said.

“She’s still got more in her! She’s still going.”

The hallway ended at the open double doors to the basement, and they were fast approaching. The motor buzzed at a higher pitch.

“You gotta hit the brakes, hit the brakes,” Will said.

“We gotta wait. We’ll jump at the last possible moment!”

“What? Why?”

“It’ll be intense!”

“We’ll die. You’ll break the cube!”

“Once-in-a-lifetime chance, dude!”

“Ah!” Will screamed. “All right! Go! Shit, this is crazy!”

Will was laughing as he kicked open the thick back door to the cube. Ten feet from the top of the stairs, Will jumped. Gates turned halfway around, getting ready to jump, but still holding the steering wheel steady with one hand. He watched the slanting ceiling of the stairwell rush toward him, and for a moment he didn’t want to jump. A small part of him wanted to stay put, and hope the crash destroyed him. As the front tires were rolling over the top step, he jumped instead.

The sound of his torso slapping down to the floor was nothing compared to the cacophony of the cube crashing down the stairs. Will went running past Gates, to the top of the stairs. He pulled himself to his feet and rushed over to Will’s side. At the bottom of the stairs, by the closed doors of the basement, the thick plastic walls of the tube had broken apart from each other, and now were piled with the black plastic trash bags at the basement doors. The motorized base was bent and missing a wheel.

Gates turned to Will, who still stared down at the wreckage of the cube. This was a moment Gates was familiar with. Usually at this point, when he’d taken things this far, whoever he was hanging out with would politely excuse themselves and then avoid ever hanging out alone with him again, or would start yelling and screaming at him about how stupid a thing to do that was.

Will looked up at him and grinned. “We got to get something faster,” he said.

Oh shit, Gates thought to himself. He might just have a new best friend.


THERE WERE FOURTEEN CHOCOLATE HO-HOS on a paper plate on the floor. That was what the Saints had been giving Sam to eat. Junk. As worthless to him as eating stacks of Post-it notes. If his father had taught him anything, it was that his body was holy. This pile of shit cakes was an insult. Fourteen cream-filled slaps in the face, one for every day since the Saints claimed his father had delivered on Gates’s threat. But Sam refused to fall for that crock of shit. They were trying to mess with his head.

All the stuff he’d seen those Saint kids carry past his clear cell door, they must have somehow brought it in from the outside, before they’d gotten locked in here. It was all a show for Sam’s benefit. They wanted him to crumble and do whatever they said. They needed him to be a blubbering baby in front of his dad so that he would break down and stop starving them out, which was really the truth of what was happening. But his father would never give in. In all his life, Sam had never once seen his dad back down from a fight. So, neither would Sam. They’d stand against this together.

Sam sat on his cot, his hands behind his back, the only part of him still bound with packing tape. He was out of breath and sweating from his morning calisthenics. His body was getting weaker. It scared him a little, if he was being honest. He could feel his mind getting cloudier, and his eyeballs plumping out of their sockets. Starvation would do that to a person, but he’d been there before. He’d drink from the small sink to his right, by his toilet, awkwardly turning the faucet on with his cheek. Water was the only meal he’d had. He wasn’t going to bend to the Saints’ will in any way, he wasn’t going to put those processed, sugar clumps they called food in his body.

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