"Maybe this is the right thing for you," the bamboo shoot said.
Evan hummed quietly in agreement, running his fingers slowly around the rim of the flowerpot. The scent of soil was thick in his nose, wet and cold and soothing. He looked up at the rows upon rows of empty seats in front of him. He had a feeling that the bus had once been used for school runs--well if the graffiti was anything to go by at least.
V 4 J
Mz F is a bitch
A collage of black marker, chipped paint and chicken scratch. Someone had written a phone number with a love heart next to it and Evan felt oddly tempted to call it.
Do they still have that number? He wondered to himself. Perhaps they'd graduated, got a job, a family. What would their reaction be to some random kid calling them? Would they find it funny? Cute?
No. They'd be freaked out. Besides, it wasn't as though he had a phone to call it with. One of the first things they'd done was take his phone.
"You'll be safer," the bamboo continued, knocking Evan back to reality. "Much safer."
From what? Evan asked silently, clearing his throat. "E-excuse me," he called to the bus driver. His voice shook and croaked as though it had not been used in a long time. In truth, it hadn't, he'd barely spoken all week. When the driver didn't answer he tried again. "E-Excuse me, sir. I-I was w-wondering I-if you could turn on the radio? I-I've heard some buses have radios and speakers a-and stuff and...uh."
"Sir, could you turn on the radio?"
The boys' hands tightened around the pot. "He's ignoring me," he murmured aloud, though he made sure to keep his voice low enough for only the bamboo to hear.
"He's probably not allowed to talk to you."
"Because you're cargo. Do you talk to your groceries when you take them home? No."
Evan scowled down at the plant. "But I'm not groceries, besides" his voice became a mumble "I'm talking to you, aren't I?"
The plant was quiet for a moment before chuckling. "Can't argue with that."
Evan pouted, watching the driver through his rear-view mirror. To anyone else the man would have seemed jolly; fat and pale and balding with a bushy moustache that made Evan think of the old Wild West Movies his dad had forced him to watch as a kid. He looked like a grandad, despite his military uniform, the sort of man that would make chocolate coins appear from behind his grandchildren's ears.
Evan, however, wasn't most people. He found the driver terrifying. He was too tall, too broad. His moustache was too big and bristling and reminded Evan of Stinky Pete from Toy Story. His uniform didn’t help calm Evan’s nerves either, nor did the holster on his hip. Evan could clearly imagine the man stopping the bus, taking out the gun, walking over to him, pulling the trigger. He could see it all happening plain as day and the thought of it made Christmas Roses dig into his arm. He knew the thought was stupid, but the feeling of unease that twisted his stomach and flushed his neck refused to go away, even for a moment.
Evan pulled his gaze from the driver and looked to graffiti again. Slowly, he reached out his left hand, his fingers shaking like leaves. He tried to focus, mentally tugging at the stems and flowers that poked out from under the sleeve of his hoodie. A thorny vine wriggled out from under the cloth, grazing his skin slightly as it moved across the back of his hand and wrapped around his index finger, a sharp thorn sticking outwards from his fingertip. He scratched the sharp point against the back seat, peeling away the paint in thin strips.
Evan, he wrote in shaky lettering before letting his hand fall back to his lap.
"Me too," the bamboo said, sounding almost impatient and Evan couldn't help but roll his eyes as he added:
The Ward was located in what had once been a small desert town in the middle of Arizona; the home of Patient Zero, the first person to develop powers. According to Evan’s mother, no one had quite believed the news that a boy had suddenly developed the ability to spit acid like some kind of snake.
“I was only six or seven at the time,” she’d told him. “I thought it was just one of the boys at school playing a prank, that there was no way in hell that kind of thing could actually happen, that, well,” she’d laughed. “God, it sounds so stupid saying it now, but it sounded like something out of a comic book.”
Evan had thought it sounded stupid, but that was because he was a Witness, part of a generation born after the discovery of Patients. He’d grown up with stories of people who had the capability to develop almost supernatural abilities as a result of trauma. He’d watched hundred upon hundreds of PSAs telling kids what to do if they found themselves adapting “unusual attributes” (find your nearest police officer or trusted adult and ask to be transferred), seen the news broadcasts of the riots in Time Square protesting The Ward; the hospital-turned-holding-pen for people with strange powers. He’d just never expected any of it to ever apply to him.
He looked out the window, watching the desert skyline roll past as the bus approached the fifty-foot-high walls surrounding what had once been Farnfoss General Hospital. There was a crowd of protesters yelling and screaming behind a chest-level barbed wire fence. A few of them turned to the bus, waving signs above their heads:
Give Us Back Our Children!
Humans aren't Property.
Kill the Freaks.
Obviously, the protest hadn't been planned, not very well at least. Evan busied himself counting the ratio of pro-Patient and anti-Patient protesters. Twelve-to-nine. That made Evan feel a little better.
The bus doors opened with a hiss and another man in uniform stepped on board, this one with a much larger gun. Evan knew nothing about weaponry but he knew enough to tell that the man was carrying an AK-47. The soldier talked to the driver for a moment, his voice so low that Evan could only barely make out what was being said over the raging blood thudding at his eardrums. His heart skipped a beat as the soldier turned to face him, his lip twisted into a sour expression. The two stared at each other for a moment until Evan looked down at his lap, gripping onto Lucky’s pot so hard that their leaves shook. He heard the thud of the soldier stepping off the bus, the hiss of the closing doors and the steady whirr of the gates to The Ward creaking open.
“Calm down,” Lucky told him.
“I...I can’t,” Evan whispered to them, his breathing becoming quick and shallow. “I’m scared. I-I want to go h-home. I shouldn't be here. I can’t do this. They’re g-gonna kill me.” Can’t breathe, can’t breathe, can’t breathe, can’t breathe. He could feel thorns digging into his left arm, the itch of flowers blooming under his shirt.
“Patient 467,” the low voice of the driver knocked Evan back to reality, his heart thudding hard in his chest.
“Y-yeah?” he squeaked, assuming the driver was referring to him.
“We’re here, ya’ need to get off now.”
“O-oh, right.” Evan got up shakily, his grip white-knuckle on Lucky’s pot. He dragged his feet to the front of the bus, looking up to find a group of men and women in scrubs waiting for him. His stomach twisted and he paused on the top step of the bus.
“Evan Hansen?” One of the scrubs, a woman with long black hair and a clipboard asked.
Evan nodded and didn’t move. “Y-yeah.”
The woman wrote something down. “Please step off the bus, Mr Hansen.” Evan still didn’t move and the woman sighed. “Mr Hansen, get off the bus. You’re perfectly safe here, I promise.” Her tone was flat and in no way matched the friendliness of her words. When Evan still didn’t budge she nodded to another scrub who stepped forward and grabbed Evan’s left arm, dragging him forward and onto the sidewalk. Evan flinched when they touched him, his breath catching in his throat. The scrub gave a loud shout, suddenly letting go of Evan with blood on his palm.
“What the fuck!?” they snapped, looking down at his hand. A small collection of prickles and thorns stuck out of his palm, thin dribbles of blood running over his skin. “Freak!” he growled as Evan shrank away.
“I-I’m sorry, I didn’t mean t-to. I...it happens when I--” Evan was cut off by a man in a lab coat bolting out of the hospital entrance, pushing his way through the crowd of people.
“I’ve told you a thousand times, Jacobi,” he snapped at the injured man, shoving him away from Evan, "Don't agitate the Patients--and Peet,” he turned to the woman with the clipboard. “I expected better from you, honestly. I said no crowds!”
The woman, Peet, rolled her eyes. “We have a protocol, Doctor, I have to follow orders.”
“You have to follow, my orders.” The doctor gave a loud sigh, running his fingers through his hair. “Look, I’ll take care of him. Just, go inside.”
Peet raised an eyebrow. “You want to take care of a Patient by yourself?”
He nodded. “Yes, I do.”
“He could hurt you.”
“With what? Thorns?” The man laughed dryly and shook his head. “Honestly, he’s a kid. I can handle a kid.”
Peet pursed her lips and hummed disapprovingly. “Very well.” She handed him the clipboard and turned away, stalking back into the hospital. The other scrubs soon followed, some more hesitant than others.
Once he and Evan were alone the man in the lab coat spoke up again. “I’m sorry about Peet, she means well I promise. We’ve just had a bit of difficulty with new arrivals recently and...well,” he shrugged, slanting his head slightly as he looked Evan up and down. “Are you okay, son? You look quite pale.”
Evan nodded. “I...I’m sorry I hurt that man,” he murmured, hugging the flower pot to his chest. “I...when I get scared...I...I get thorns a-and…”
“It’s perfectly okay, son.” The doctor smiled and held out his hand. He had a nice smile, a little crooked but with bright teeth and green eyes that seemed to spark behind his glasses. He looked a little young to be a doctor, early-to-mid-twenties at best with dark hair pulled back in a messy quiff. “I’m Dr Sherman, I’ll be your GP while you stay with us.”
“E-Evan." He didn't shake the doctor's hand, partly out of nerves, partly because he had to keep hold of Lucky.
“I know who you are. Patient 467, more commonly known as Evan Hansen.” Dr Sherman didn’t seem to mind when Evan didn’t return his handshake, slipping his hand coolly into the pocket of his lab coat. “Do you want to go inside? We can wait a little bit if you need to catch your breath.”
Evan hesitated before taking a small step forward. “I...we should go inside.”
“Okay, only if you’re sure.” Dr Sherman smiled softly before leading him through the double automatic doors and into The Ward. He continued talking to Evan as they walked, his tone casual and friendly. “Now, you’re fifteen, yes? Okay, so you’ll probably be put on the third floor. We have around ten or so other Patients around your age, great bunch, all really friendly.”
Evan hummed slightly, letting his eyes wander around the hallway. His gaze met those of the men and woman in scrubs and lab coats that crowded the place, along with the odd teenager or child. The adults didn’t seem to give Evan much thought, continuing on with what they'd been doing or turning away completely, it was the kids that stared and whispered.
Is he new?
Yeah, I’ve never seen him before.
What do you think he can do?
What do you think happened to him? Bet it was a car crash or something.
Why is he carrying a plant around?
Dr Sherman sighed again and pulled one of the kids aside. “Chris, you should be in class.”
“Nah-uh,” the kid, who looked no older than nine or ten, shook his head. “Nurses evacuated everyone off six floor. Classes are cancelled.”
Sherman raised a doubtful brow. “Are they now?”
“Yep!” The kid grinned and Evan felt his stomach drop as he spotted that his teeth were as sharp and pointy as a shark’s. “Cause someone put a tack on Connor Murphy’s seat.”
Dr Sherman’s expression darkened, his smile falling into a heavy frown. “God above,” he groaned. “Do they know who yet?”
“Nah, his class is in detention. My bet’s on Jared.”
Evan flinched as Lucky spoke up. “What’s a Connor Murphy?” they asked. “Evan, ask them what a Connor Murphy is.” Evan said nothing and looked down at his shoes.
Sherman noticed this and placed a hand on his shoulder. “It’s alright, things can get a little hectic here sometimes but it's really nothing to worry about.”
“He just said they had to evacuate the floor!” Lucky cried out and Evan bit his lip.
“W-why did they have to evacuate?” He echoed meekly.
“Cause they're gonna take Connor down to the basement,” Chris said matter-of-factory. Something about the way he said ‘basement’ made Evan think of it as capitalised. Basement.
“Now, now, don't go spreading rumours like that,” Sherman scolded. “It's rude. Now, hurry along, Evan and I are going to have a chat in my office, aren't we Evan?”
Why did he say that like it was a question? Evan wondered. It wasn't as though he could refuse the offer. “Y-yeah. We are.”
The doctor smiled and gave Evan’s shoulder a final pat, pulling him further down the hall.
Lucky spoke up again. “Ask my question!” they demanded, their voice ringing in Evan’s ears.
“U-Uh, Dr Sherman?”
“Who’s Connor Murphy?”
“Ah,” the doctor hesitated slightly. “You’ll probably meet him later. He’s one of our...special cases. Difficulties with his powers, poor boy.” He left it at that, walking over to one of the doors lining the hall and pulling it open. “We’ll discuss that later. Right now, Evan, let’s focus on you. Come in, come in.”
Dr Sherman’s office was just that, a doctor’s office; one with a desk, two chairs and an examination table. It even had those odd PSA posters outlining the symptoms of cancers and various mental illnesses.
“So,” Dr Sherman said as he took a seat behind his desk. “How are you doing?”
“H-huh?” Evan asked, still standing in the middle of the room.
“Mentally, how are you doing? And please, take a seat,” he gestured to the two chairs in front of him. “I know how hard the first week can be for new Patients.”
“U-uh…” Evan promptly sat down, placing Lucky’s pot on the other chair. “I’m...okay…”
“Are you sure? You’ve been through a lot of trauma.” Dr Sherman chuckled, “that’s kinda the point.”
Yeah, Evan agreed silently. That is kind of the point. “N-not really,” he said instead, fiddling with the hem of his shirt. “I-I mean, falling o-out of a tree isn’t really t-traumatic is it? N-not when compared to other p-people.”
“It was enough for your powers to activate,” Dr Sherman pointed out. “Besides, other people’s experiences don’t negate your own. Believe me.” He started typing on his computer and Evan leaned over to try and look at the screen, but it was just out of view. “Now, your file states that you’re Chlorokinetic with a mild healing factor, do you mind elaborating on that?”
“D-doesn’t my file e-explain it?” Evan asked, curling his shirt with his fingers.
“It does, but I’d like to hear it from you. Patients are often the best at explaining their powers.”
He sighed and unzipped his hoodie, pulling it off. His left forearm was covered by bunches of Christmas Roses, Sweetpea, Citron flowers and brambles. Thick thorny vines wrapped around his wrists, digging hard into his skin. “I-I grow flowers out of m-my...uh..arm… that reflect my mood a-and I can...uh...t-talk to plants...well, everyone c-can talk to plants b-but they c-can talk back to me. O-or I can hear them...I guess, they c-can still talk to other people--”
“Evan, deep breaths,” Dr Sherman interrupted. “Take your time, you don’t have to rush.” Evan nodded and drew in a deep breath as instructed as Dr Sherman peered at his arm. “You’re very nervous aren’t you…” he frowned. “Why are you sad?”
Evan’s eyes widened and he felt himself relax slightly. “Y-you know the language o-of the flowers?” he asked curiously, signally the doctor to give a small laugh.
“Ah, no.” He tapped his temple. “I’m in the same place as you, I’m an empath. Heh,” he grinned. “That’s most of the reason I became a psychologist.”
“I-I thought all Patients worked for t-the government?” Evan asked before mentally slapping himself. “I-I mean, you do work for the government b-but I thought t-they were a-all...uh…”
Evan looked down sheepishly. “Yeah.”
“Not all superheroes wear capes,” Dr Sherman smiled and gave a small chuckle. “Or more accurately, not all powers are suitable for superheroes.”
“A healing factor is a perfect power for superheroes to have!” Sherman argued. “Speaking of, why don’t you go into that?” he prompted.
“Uh,” Evan was a little taken aback. “W-well, I can h-heal myself if I-I get hurt. L-like, flowers b-bloom over the injury and i-it just...kinda...goes away.”
“Very interesting.” Sherman typed something again. “Now,” he showed Evan his computer screen revealing the black, white and purple image a brain scan. He gestured to an arc-shaped lobe with his finger. “Your limbic lobe is much more active than a non-Patient, we can assume that that is where your powers originate.”
“The part of your brain that controls your emotions.”
“A-ah. Uh. Why a-are you showing me this?”
“I find it’s easier to control your powers when you understand the source of it,” Sherman explained. “At least in my own experience.” He turned the screen back. “We also picked up a very sharp chemical imbalance.”
Evan furrowed his brow. “B-because of my powers.”
“Because of your trauma, or possibly predating it. It’s common for Patients to develop some form of mental illness, depression, anxiety or even PTSD in some cases.”
Evan felt his shoulders hunch. “Oh…” Just another thing that was wrong with him.
“It’s nothing to worry about, son. Like I said, it’s common enough. We’ve been ordered to put you on Zoloft, you’ll be given it with your breakfast. Is that okay?”
Why wouldn’t it be? “Yeah. I...I guess.”
“Great!” Sherman beamed. “Now, one more thing.” He got to his feet. “I’m going to have to take your vitals.”
Evan’s cheeks paled and he swallowed a lump in his throat. He’d had to have his vitals taken every day in the week since he’d developed his powers and he still hated it.
He didn’t like being forced to stand against a wall and have his height taken, nor looking at how little he weighed, nor the harsh grip of the blood pressure monitor, or the coldness of the stethoscope being pressed against his chest. However, he managed to get through most of the examination without freaking out. That was until Sherman announced that he was going to take a blood sample.
“W-why?” Evan asked sharply. “T-they already took a-a bunch b-before.” He felt as though someone was pushing down on his shoulders, a flush of warmth rising up the back of his neck.
Dr Sherman sighed, holding a syringe he’d seemed to have summoned from nowhere, or more likely Evan hadn’t noticed him fetch it. “It’s protocol, son. I’m sorry.”
Evan tried his best to breathe deeply as Lucky started speaking again. “Relax, Evan. It’s hardly the worst thing that could happen to you.”
But it is, Evan thought, closing his eyes tightly, tensing as the doctor wiped his arm with a cotton swab.
“It won’t hurt, don’t worry,” Dr Sherman assured him.
“T-they told m-me that before,” Evan mumbled, not opening his eyes.
“And did it?”
“Y-yes--Ow!” Evan gave a sharp cry as Sherman stuck him with the needle.
“Sorry, sorry,” Dr Sherman said quickly. “Almost done, there.” He withdrew the needle. “Was that so bad?”
Evan nodded and opened one eye to watch as a small sprig of sage grew over the pin prick in his arm, the pain subsiding.
“Very interesting,” Dr Sherman said, touching the leaves with the end of his finger.
“D-don't pick it,” Evan snapped, pulling away. He felt a slight tickle run up his forearm as a collection of Begonias sprouted on his arm, the brambles withering slightly and falling away to make room. As they hit the floor the plants blacked before disintegrating into nothingness.
“I wasn't planning on it,” Sherman said, withdrawing his hand. His lip was twisted slightly, as though Evan’s words had physically hurt him and he watched the flowers shifting on Evan’s skin. “I've made you uncomfortable, haven't I?”
Evan shook his head. “I-I just...I'm fine.”
“I can tell that you're nervous,” Dr Sherman told him, cocking his head to the side. “It's perfectly okay for you to feel that way, you do know that right?”
Evan looked down at his arm, fiddling with hem of his polo shirt. He said nothing but managed to steady his breathing somewhat as Dr Sherman stored the vial of his blood away for whatever The Ward was planning to use it for.
“I think we should skip the formalities for now,” Dr Sherman said as he started digging through drawers in his desk. “The tour and whatnot. I'll arrange for you to be shown round tomorrow, is that okay with you?”
Evan’s shoulders relaxed slightly and he nodded. All he wanted to do was climb into bed and hide under the covers. “Y-Yes please.”
“O-Kay,” Sherman gave a sheepish grin, lingering on the “o”. He placed a plastic sleeve full of various scraps of paper and what looked like some kind of key-card. “This is your map and timetable along with your phone card. There are four phones on every from floor l but they can get a little busy, especially on weekends.”
Evan looked genuinely surprised, his eyes widening slightly. “A-a phone?”
“Yes. To call friends or family, that kind of thing.” Evan blinked dumbly and the doctor chuckled. “You didn't honestly think we’d just cut you off from your family did you?”
“N-no…I-I mean…” Evan sighed before giving a small nod. “Y-yeah. I kinda d-did.”
Dr Sherman laughed again, handing him the plastic folder. “Believe it or not, Evan, we’re not actually heartless.”
“Could have fooled me,” Lucky said dryly, earning themselves a swift glare from Evan.
“What did he say?” Sherman asked as watched Evan turn to face the bamboo shoot.
“N-nothing,” Evan mumbled. “J-just a bad joke. Uh…” he looked back to the doctor. “A-and they're not a-a boy.”
“Right,” Sherman gave a small nod. He pushed his glasses up his nose, examining Lucky for a moment. “I guess it makes sense for plants to not adhere to human gender. Interesting.”
“M-mm,” Evan looked down at the plastic slip. “Can I…?”
“Go? Yes, of course.” Dr Sherman stood, making his way over to the office door. “I'll have a nurse show you to your room. Dinner’s at six o’clock in the cafeteria and tonight is pizza so don't be late.” Evan still couldn't get over how casual the doctor was. “And Evan,” he said as Evan prepared to leave.
“It’s nice to meet you.”