X-ray and his friends escape from the sterile confines of a research facility and into the surrounding wilderness, experiencing the outside world and its people for the first time in their lives. X-ray is a young boy who has been genetically modified so that his skin is very sensitive to light. He and his friends are used to life at the research facility where they are given check-ups and pills to eat on a daily basis. It isn't until some of his close friends start disappearing after getting "lumps" on their bodies that he starts to worry that maybe his life is about to change. Most of the kids in the facility suffer from some illness that make them weak. In particular, X-ray's close friend Cough Cough has weak lungs and is prone to coughing fits at all hours of the day. Cough Cough seems particularly knowledgeable about what the doctors and nurses are doing to them and the more he tells the other kids his conspiracy theories, the more they become disturbed and restless. Cough Cough predicts that the doctors and nurses will slowly be taking away all their freedoms like their TV and other media.
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As the days pass, the doctors give X-ray enzyme and vitamin pills because they notice he is losing weight even though he feels perfectly fine. One day, Cough Cough begins to act strange. He can't tell a spoon from a fork. Soon after, he collapses, yellow tears coming out his eyes. The doctors and nurses rush in to take him away. X-ray and his other friend, Chicken Angel, are worried that Cough Cough may not return. The next day, Cough Cough returns but now, he's blind. The doctors announce that they are taking away their TV and books because they are contributing to their retinal degeneration. Cough Cough becomes depressed and X-ray tries to comfort him.
X-ray begins thinking about how Cough Cough lost his eye sight and he suspects that it has nothing to do with reading or watching TV because Cough Cough hasn't been doing very much reading. He wonders if the retinal degeneration is a fate that all the kids will have. A few days later, X-ray notices that he's going bald. He is called in for a check-up with the doctor who tells him he notices a “nebulization” in one of his eyes and must operate or else something bad will happen. X-ray is so afraid of surgery that he pukes on the doctor and his surgery is postponed. After talking to Cough Cough, he learns that the doctors may be experimenting on them and pretending that their surgeries are for their own good. He tells X ray to escape as soon as he can.
The doctor does another check up on X-ray and tells X-ray that his eyes are actually okay but they may have to take one of his eyes and transplan tit into Cough Cough, who suffers from premature macula degeneration. X-ray tells Cough Cough that he's willing to do this surgery if it means his friend is able to see, again but Cough Cough is adamant that X-ray focus on trying to escape. He thinks the doctors are just making up stories so that X-ray will be compliant for the surgery.
One night, Cough Cough provides them with a distraction so that they can escape. He goes into a horrible coughing fit and a nurse rushes in. This was supposed to be X-ray's opportunity to tranquilize the nurse with their stolen needle but he doesn't. A few days later, Cough Cough has a severe fit and the doctors tell the kids that he died. The next few weeks, X-ray, Chicken Angel and the other kids mourn the loss of Cough Cough. Later on, X-ray finds out that Cough Cough took all his stash of pills at once and probably killed himself that way. He and the other kids plan on going "Outside" and finding the mythical "Sky Boat". Cough Cough used to tell them stories about the "Sky Boat" and how it takes people to heaven. X-ray wants to take this "Sky Boat" to heaven so that he can find Cough Cough.
One day, X-ray and Chicken Angel subdue their nurse with the tranquilizer needle and escape. They run off into the nearby woods and meet a bunch of other kids named Natalie and Nail who think they are freaks but take them in because they pity them. Natalie has a kind heart but Nail is tough and sharp like his namesake. Nail doesn't want to be involved in whatever is going on in the research facility but Natalie appeals to his soft-side and his humanity. In the end, Nail and Natalie take the kids in their van and go into the woods to hide.
The doctor and the police pursue the kids and Natalie and Nail drive the kids across a bridge which, strangely, the genetically modified dogs won't cross for fear of the water rushing beneath. For a few days, everyone thinks they are safe and they try to scavenge for food to survive. Natalie and Nail take care of the kids for a while but one day, they wake to find the kids have run off. They find the kids on a boat attempting to cross the lake. Nail dives into the lake to try to retrieve them before they kill themselves with their naivety. Unfortunately, a bunch of police men are watching the lake. After Nail gets everyone back on shore, they hop back into the van to get away from the policemen.
The kids live in the forests for a few more days. X-ray and Chicken Angel start seeing lumps appearing on their skin and they know this as a sign that they will probably die, soon. One day, they go back to the lake and pretend they are taking a Sky Boat to heaven. The story ends with Natalie and Nail discovering them together, having passed away peacefully on the boat.
Best part of story, including ending:
The story is written in a very odd style - especially when it was being told from the perspective of X-ray who hasn't been explicitly taught the proper names for things and how things work. The doctors and nurses didn't bother teaching the kids, likely because they thought the kids would die anyway so it made sense that X-ray has to come up with his own explanation for things that happen to him. Sometimes, though, it was hard to figure out what X-ray was thinking about because he has his own names for everyday objects and experiences.
Best scene in story:
My favorite scene was when Nail dives into the lake to rescue X-ray and Chicken Angel. Up until that point, Nail was not interested in being responsible for the kids and was trying to act like a tough guy in front of them. His true compassionate nature is revealed when he risks his own life to rescue the kids.
Opinion about the main character:
I like that X-ray is creative and comes up with interesting explanations for the "strange" phenomena he encounters. I also like how big-hearted he was as, even though he is really afraid of the surgery, he was willing to go through with it if it means his friend Cough Cough would be able to see again.