I wake up in a dark room and for one brief moment, I can’t remember what happened to me. Sitting up slowly, I moan at a throbbing in my head and lift a hand to touch it as it all comes flooding back.
I remember Eliza getting smacked in the face with a shovel and I remember when she fell, smacking her head on the pavement. Kneeling beside her, I remember looking up at the guy who muttered, “I’m sorry” before knocking me out, too.
“Eliza?” I whisper into the darkness. “Are you there?”
“No,” a match strikes up, revealing our attacker, “but I’m here.”
Scrambling backwards, I hit my already aching head on the stone walls of wherever we are.
“It’s okay,” he says as the match goes out. “I won’t hurt you.”
“Ha,” I snort. “Coming from the person who hit my best friend and me with a shovel, I find that hard to believe.”
“You don’t have to believe me.”
A light switches on and I cover my face with my hands to hide myself from the glare. I stay like this for a few seconds before lowering my hands and looking around.
We’re still in the tunnel; well at least, I think we are. The room’s small and cramped, with me sitting on the cot and my attacker sitting on the table that takes up most of the room.
Gazing over his bar code number, I confirm my suspicions. He must know what I’m doing because his lips perk a little.
He looks just like every other male in the city, with his sky blue eyes, dark skin and cropped hair, but there’s something else I can’t put my finger on. Maybe it’s the smugness radiating off of him.
“Can you tell me your name?” he asks and leans forward with a smile. I get the urge to punch him.
“Like hell I will.”
“Well that’s quite alright considering I already know it.”
“How?” I feel my mouth drop open.
“I knew it a few months ago, actually, but my suspicions were confirmed when your friend called you by name outside the tunnel entrance.”
“How did you discover my name? Beforehand? You don’t even know me.”
We both look up at the footsteps coming our way and I feel myself starting to hyperventilate. Scenes of torture and mutilation start whirling around my head and I clutch the tunnel wall for support.
I don’t realise the guy’s moved closer to me until I feel his breath in my ear. I open my eyes slowly, bracing myself to punch him in case he starts touching me or something.
“You’re not the only one who can memorise a bar code,” he whispers.
I jerk upright, but he’s already moving away.
When he gets to the door, he turns around, offering a smile.
“Don’t worry about your friend. She didn’t hit her head to hard so she should be okay.”
I open my mouth to say something, but he’s already disappearing as the new people enter the room.
Trying to stretch out my hands, I stumble forwards as I’m led through the tunnel. They introduced themselves to me, not like I care or anything.
The leader, the old man from before, is named Shane and he’s joined by the older women, Carmen and another person I never saw named Jackson. That was all they told me before handcuffing me and pulling me from the room.
No one says anything as we walk along for which I’m glad. Gazing around the dark tunnel only lit by the torch Shane carries, I search for an exit so as soon as I get to Eliza, we can get out of here. Unfortunately, there only seems to be one exit and that’s the one Eliza and I climbed through to get here.
When we come to a stop, I stumble and Jackson, a man in his late thirties, grabs my arm before I can fall over.
“Watch your step,” he says gruffly before releasing me.
“Sorry,” I mumble.
A door is unlocked with an old key. I’ve only ever seen a few since keys are no longer needed anymore. Usually, we just walk in and out wherever we want. However, for the high tech places, they use alarm systems, but they never involve keys.
Shane must see me watching with a fascination as the key’s slid into place because he offers me a smile.
The door’s thrown open and it takes me a while to see what’s inside.
It’s almost exactly the same as my cell, only bigger. When I see the figure on the cot, I go to run forward, but am yanked backwards by the hair.
“Do not move,” Carmen hisses in my ear and yanks harshly at my hair. “We’ll kill you both if you do not follow direct orders. Is that understood?”
“Yes,” I wince and she releases me.
The guy’s in the room, too of course. He sits on a crate in the corner, chomping on an apple. He looks up only briefly as we enter the room before glancing away.
My soul aches to run to Eliza. She looks worse than I feel with blood dried under her nose and blood trickling from her forehead. She isn’t awake and her chest rises and falls in short, erratic breaths.
I glare out our attacker, even though he’s not looking at me.
“You said she was okay,” I hiss as I’m shoved into a chair.
“She is,” he stands up and sits down next to me.
I flinch away, but he doesn’t bat an eyelash.
The room fills up with even more people and I start feeling claustrophobic at all the bodies. Some have to stand which freaks me out even more and I dig my nails into my hand to stop from freaking out. If they kill me, I hope it’s going to be quick.
“Does everyone know why we’re here?” Shane asks in his deep, booming voice.
“Not in this room exactly,” a woman who looks to be in her early twenties speaks up at the other end of the room, “but I guess so.”
“Well to settle your poor heart, Amelia, we’re in this room to keep an eye on her.”
I turn to where Shane’s pointing and flinch away. If they start torturing Eliza, I’ll kill them.
“Wait,” I clear my throat and the room goes quiet. “Eliza isn’t to blame for any of this. I led her here and if it weren’t for me, she wouldn’t even know about this place. If you want to hurt someone, hurt me, but please, let her go.”
“We won’t be torturing anyone,” Shane looks repulsed. “You must have taken my words the wrong way. Since what we have to discuss is for everyone to hear, I can’t have people left out and as much as I would like to gather us in a place not so cramped, I can’t leave this woman here alone in case she wakes up at any second.”
I throw another glance at Eliza’s sleeping form as Carmen speaks up.
“So first and foremost, we should ask why the hell you were here in the first place.”
It takes me a moment to realise she’s talking to me and I suck in a deep breath.
“We followed him,” I nod my head to shovel man.
Carmen looks at him, eyes wide.
“Is this the girl, Toby?”
Toby. At least I have something to call him now.
“It sure is,” he traces patterns on the table. “Alice Seeder. My personal stalker.”
I feel my cheeks go hot and glare down at the table. Forget torture, let’s worry about humility.
“Is there anyone reason you have taken to following my son around each afternoon?” Carmen smiles pleasantly at me.
“Well forgive me for wondering why someone would stand in the middle of a pathway for three hours before running off,” I snap at her and her eyes narrow.
“I did warn you,” Jackson sighs from across the table. “We need to figure some other way to-“
“Not here,” Shane cuts in quickly.
“What did you hear?”
I turn around to the voice behind me. A man who looks to be my father’s age leans against the wall with something twirling around his fingers. I narrow my eyes for closer inspection and nearly choke when I work out it’s a gun.
So they are threatening me.
“Not a lot,” I say meekly.
“Answer the stupid question,” Toby rolls his eyes. “We don’t have all day.”
If my hands weren’t tied, I would hit him right now.
Sucking in a deep breath, I figure it would be better to just tell the truth and launch into the story.
“Eliza and I followed Toby to the entrance, only she said she didn’t want to come in. I left her there, thinking she would just go home and followed my sense of direction to where you were gathered. I didn’t really understand the first part, something about a girl having an abortion? All I really took in was what you said about the girls going in and not coming out.”
I nod in Carmen’s direction at the last part and she sneers at me.
“Do you promise that’s all you heard?” Shane leans towards me.
“I heard whatever you were saying from five o’clock until six o’clock,” I look him in the eye so he can see I’m not lying. “I checked my watch.”
Trying to hold up my arm to show the watch, I forget that my hands are handcuffed.
Everyone starts murmuring amongst themselves so Toby turns to me.
“You really should try to be more conspicuous when stalking people.”
“No need to get feisty. I’m trying to help you out here. Do you know what told me it was you every day?”
“The bar code?”
“Hardly,” he snorts. “You made the mistake of obviously checking out my bar code before walking the lap, sitting at the coffee bar and watching me for the rest of the afternoon.”
“How did you know it was me? Everyone looks the same.”
“No, you’re wrong. There’s always at least one thing different in the way a person acts.”
“What’s my difference?”
He smirks at me.
“You made the point of walking slowly past me before speeding up. You can see how I find that a little obvious.”
Gritting my teeth, I turn away just as Shane hushes the room.
“Someone’s waking up,” he points.
Eliza’s eyes slowly flutter open.