The Fallen

Imagine a world where anything you do wrong – from detonating a dirty bomb in a kindergarten, to murder, to theft, all the way to running a red-light or returning a library book late – will result instant, merciless death. In the world of the Fallen, the death penalty has spiraled massively out of control, claiming hundreds of thousands of lives every year. Fallon McKenna, the adopted daughter of two rich government politicians, was raised in a sheltered life, protected from the fear and pain that surrounded her.
But all that changes when she meets Viper. He’s alluring and charismatic. And he’s dangerous. Viper knows the real truth behind the system that has the world split in half, and he’s fighting to bring it down. Now Fallon must make a choice. Will she bend before the fear that overwhelms her, or stand with Viper and fight… and fall.

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2. Sold

I lose track of the twists and turns we take across the city. All I know is that we’ve left the richer districts behind; we’re in the slums now. The buildings are all falling in, creating new hiding places for the street rats and homeless to hide. And the criminals as well, of course.

Finally, after hours of walking, we reach our destination. From the outside, it looks like just another abandoned, condemned building left to fall on its own time. In the new light of the rising down, it looks just like any other building we have passed for hours. In fact, I’m vaguely certain that we did pass this building earlier, but I could be wrong.

The inside is anything but normal. It’s clean and well kept – the walls whole, rooms divided. And it’s full of men in black. They all turn to stare at us as we enter, and the leader breaks away from us and enters a doorway in the left side while Ti pushes me to the right. He throws me into a room, then shuts the door.

There’s a little light, so I look around me. I’m sitting on the ground in a small, dank room. Something tells me that this used to be a closet, but was redesigned for its new purposes. In the tiny space, another girl is sitting placidly on a stool. I can’t see her face, but she has the thin body and tight skin of a youth. The rest of the room is empty, except for a mirror, desk, and small chest. A tiny window set high in the wall lets in a tiny trickle of light.

I ignore the girl in the room and throw myself at the door. It’s heavy and thick and locked. I know I have no real chance at escape, and I don’t really want to run anyways. These men might very well be the ones who took Bay. I owe it to her to stay here and make their lives miserable. When I hit the door, I can hear laughter start up outside. They are laughing at me, I realize.

“Don’t fight them, it will just make it worse for you. Tiger isn’t so bad, you know. He’s rough and hard and likes to hurt you, but if you cry and beg he gets bored. So just lay low.” The girl’s voice is a low monotone. She’s been beaten down completely, I realize. She doesn’t even have the will to run anymore. Or to fight, either. In fact, she’d probably turn on me, just to avoid Tiger’s wrath.

I ignore the girl and hit the door again. It still does nothing, and the laughing intensifies. I’m glad that they can’t see me, because my face is on fire. Why am I blushing? Why do I care that they laugh at me? We’ll see who’s laughing when I get out and kill them all in their sleep.

The girl just keeps talking at me, like I’m a wild animal or something. Like I need tamed. “Just come and sit down. I’m supposed to make you pretty for them. Tiger’s going to let the others bid first, to get a price. Then he’s going to train you, and if you get him a good price, he might even reward you. I’m Wendi, by the way. Come on, sit over here. I’m going to make you look real good. I promise.”

I reluctantly retreat from the door. The men still laugh, in fact, harder now that I’ve given up and they know it. That makes me angry. I slam my body against it again, harder than before. I’m sure I’m going to have a bruise soon. “Do what you want, you bastards! You can’t break me!” If anything, they just laugh more.

Suddenly, it’s all I can do to make it to the chair before I collapse. When I’m sitting, the other girl – Wendi – starts working on me. She uses bottles of paints and creams and smells all over my face and body. I don’t look in the mirror as she works. I just don’t care what I look like anymore.

Instead I analyze Wendi. She’s older than I originally thought; at least a few years older than I am. She used to be pretty too, but it looks like that was all beaten out of her. Her nose was clearly broken at least once, and healed crooked. Her eyes are squinted and watery, her hair dull and thin. But even now I can see the remnants of beauty. It’s in the way she holds herself, as if she’s used to being looked at. Under her thin clothing, I can see that she is well shaped, round and soft. Her stomach is bulging slightly.

“How long?” Even I don’t know exactly what I’m asking. I want to know about everything – how long until Tiger comes for me, how long she’s been here, how long until she delivers. The girl doesn’t answer me, but from her smile, she doesn’t hate being pregnant. That surprises me. If someone beat you that much, shouldn’t you hate them and everything about them? Shouldn’t you want their children out of you?

Finally she pulls me up and over to the chest. Digging through the contents, she emerges with a thin lacy garment. I think it’s supposed to be a dress. Shrugging, I pull it over my head. I don’t care what I wear. Anyways, my jeans are frayed and dirty, so it’s a relief to remove them. When I’m dressed in the dress – the narrow skirt barely reaches to mid-thigh and the strapless top shows way too much of my skin – I look in the mirror. At first I don’t even recognize myself.

My eyes – usually dull and grey – look bluer than I’ve ever seen them. My lashes are longer and darker. My face practically glows. My hair is shining and loose, giving my bare shoulders at least some cover. I look like a porcelain doll. Fragile. Breakable. I raise my hand to my cheek, and the other me does as well. My skin even feels softer than usual.

I turn to look at Wendi with tears in my eyes. Even now, ready to die, I’m still glad that I’m pretty. This way I will be remembered. But Wendi’s scowling. “Needs something still…” She trails off and wanders back to the chest. After a few moments of rummaging, she pulls out a locket. Its silver, with a dark blue gem set into the center, shaped like a cracked heart.

Neither Wendi nor I talk as we wait. After about an hour – I can only tell because I’m starting to get hungry – the door bangs open. I squint because my eyes aren’t used to the sudden bright light. In the doorway is the silhouette of a man with broad shoulders and thick arms. So not the lanky leader then. Probably Tiger, but I can’t see well enough to know for sure. Of course, because I’d only seen Tiger with his mask, this man could be him. I’m not really sure. However, as soon as I can see without the light blinding me, I am sure it’s Tiger. The man has black stripes slanting across his face, faintly reminiscent of knife scars.

The man doesn’t talk, instead just grabbing my arm and pulling me out of the room. I follow immediately, but he keeps hold of me anyways. The room outside my little cell is now empty and I can see how run-down it is. What I originally thought was nicely preserved is in fact on the verge of total collapse. One wall already leans precariously toward the center of the room, but no one seems to notice.

            I am deposited in the center of a large room, just beside a raised platform. Hundreds of men sit in dilapidated bleachers around the room, openly ogling the women lining up on the platform. But then, they are here to buy sex slaves, so why not look? There are about a dozen other girls here with me, all dolled up and nervous.

            The girl in front of me is pulled up onto the stage, and immediately the bidding begins. I watch with disinterested curiosity as the men hold up more and more money. She’s pretty, true, but there’s something off about her. The men aren’t close enough to see it, but I notice the slight shaking of her hand that isn’t caused by nerves. She’s an addict.

            Regardless, the girl is sold, but instead of going to her new owner, she’s led off back the way I came. Must be some sort of holding area for the girls, then. And now it’s my turn. I resist the urge to cover myself, instead proudly flaunting my near-nudity. My beauty is my shield.

            A boy – young, probably around twenty, with green eyes and dark hair is staring at me intently. “Two thousand,” he says quietly. The bid actually surprises me, if only for its randomness. The bidding had been at only seven-hundred. The entire room goes silent, staring at him in shock. I’m sure I’m staring just like the rest of them. I mean, I’m flattered if he thinks I’m pretty enough to spend that much on, but it’s a wasted investment.

            The bidding goes faster after that. A few men try to outbid the boy, but he doesn’t budge. In the end, I watch in shocked horror as I’m sold for two thousand, five hundred and fifty dollars. Then I’m led back into the darkness of my little room with Wendi. She’s practically beaming at me.

            “I knew you could do it!” She’s shrieking in my ear, but I can hardly hear her over the pounding roar of my racing heart. I push her away and lean over the sink just in time to puke into it.

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