Two men had grabbed my arms waking me from my slumber and roughly dragged me through the house and out the door into the night. I was still half asleep and was only aware that something wasn't right. Seconds later, I was shaken out of my drowsy state and realized I was practically being kidnapped. My kicking and struggling only had so much affect against the two well-built men as they dragged my body against the hard concrete. I could feel my skin break and a warm liquid ran down my leg. I let them pull me as I froze then forced my entire body down to the ground where the force of my weight made the men falter.
I heard someone yell out and looked up to see the men with their back turned looking at something. They still had a grip on my arms but it loosened each second. I took my chance and broke free of their grip and ran as fast as I could only to be tackled to the ground. A third man came up to me and held a rag to my mouth. A strange smell filled my mouth and nostrils before everything went black.
I woke up with a startling jolt and sat there breathing hard. Flashes of my dream flitted through my head while I just sat there in confusion. It felt so real. The fear and the pain, it was all there. I was almost positive that the event had never happened to me but the feeling inside was still stirring.
My thoughts were interrupted by a knock at my door and the voice of my mother.
"Scarlett, are you up yet? Breakfast's ready." she said.
I had to find my voice before I replied with a simple "Yes." With my reply her footsteps sounded through the door and eventually faded. I did my regular routine and slipped on my vest before heading downstairs. I had no siblings because each family was assigned only one child for reasons unknown but no one was to pry into another's business, especially if it's the council's choice.
I walked down the hall and into the kitchen where three plates of eggs, bacon, and toast sat on the table. In sync, my parents and I sat down at the table and gave thanks to our council before eating. We give thanks because they're the ones who provide us with this food and they need to be appreciated, it's a law.
I was the first to finish my breakfast but didn't ask to be excused. Another law, all must wait before each family member's completed their meal before leaving the table. The last to finish was my dad and in sync, again, we all stood up from the table and pushed our chairs in. My mom waved my dad and me off as he went to work at the medical center and I went to school.
At birth, we are named and given a job that we will begin to study at the age of seven and end our studies at the age 18, that's when we begin our job professionally. My dad was chosen to be a doctor, while my mom was chosen to be a housewife. I was picked to be an entertainer, in music specifically.
As I walked to school I observed my surroundings more than needed. Rows of buildings shielded me as if it were keeping me from knowing something I shouldn't. One by one, shops were opened and more and more people filled the streets running errands or heading for school or work. I was one block away from school when I glanced up into the sky. It was only a glance, but something caught my eye and made me look up again. There in the sky, a graph covered our society. It was barely noticeable, almost transparent. Immediately, I thought of asking my teacher about this but a feeling in my stomach made me thing twice. I felt like this shouldn't be discussed, like it was a secret never to be told or else something bad would happen.
I made my way into my school and as I sat down at my desk I decided not to tell about the graph I saw, thinking it was just a fragment of my imagination. There was only a few minutes until the bell rang and my teacher was nowhere in sight.
Me, being antisocial sat in the farthest corner in the room away from everyone else. One advantage of sitting here was that I had a clear view of the entire room. The laughs of my schoolmates rang in my ears and reminded me even more of my lonesome self. Never in my eight years of school had I made a friend, everyone thought I was too quiet and unapproachable.
Today was strange though, sitting across the room were a group of about six or seven people and every now and then they would take glances at me. I recognized one of them being Max who continually stared at me the whole time. It made me feel uncomfortable having so many pair of eyes on me so I just gazed out the window at the trees and tried to forget. The bell rang and everyone took a seat. Throughout class, my eyes stared at the chalkboard far ahead of me but I could still feel the eyes watching me.
It took me a few seconds to leave my confused state and realize class was over. The entire lesson was a blank spot in my mind. I couldn't focus knowing I was being watched, it was uncomfortable and a little creepy. What did Max want with me? We never talked, let alone looked at each other.
I was the last to clear the room, besides the teacher who looked at me expectantly. I just nodded my head in acknowledgment and left. I walked out the school doors, with my head bowed, and onto the sidewalk. The uncomfortable feeling fell upon me once again and I lifted my head to see Max standing in front of me.
Before my mind could register what was happening he grabbed my arm and started pulling me through the streets and into an alley. I came to my senses and ripped my arm out of his grasp, an irritated look on my face.
"What do you want?" I spit the words out in a fiery tone. He had a surprised look on his face but it turned into a solemn look quickly.
"There's something you need to know, now." He said in a dead serious voice.
"What could be so important to make you suddenly start talking to me? And why now? I have to get home." I only took a few steps before I was yanked back by my arm.
"Look, this is a situation that you have to know about. It concerns you considering you saw the graph this morning." He said in a matter-of-fact voice.
"How do you know about that?" I asked curiously. How did he know about the graph?
"Because I can see it too," he looked around us before saying, "We should talk about this somewhere more, private." I just nodded in agreement deciding he wasn't going to let me go.
Max gestured me to follow him and we started walking. The only thing that could be heard was the sound of our footsteps. He abruptly came to a stop and turned to face the brick wall.
He took a step forward before turning to see me frozen as if my feet were stuck to the ground.
"Come on, let's go." He said. I could tell his patience was wearing thin and a ghost of a smile made its way to my lips seeing him annoyed.
"Umm, that's a brick wall. You're just going to run into it if you take another step." I said noticing how close he was.
He just looked at me with a smirk before grabbing my arm and dragging me through the wall. We came out on the other side into a small empty room with small lights lining the walls. After getting over my shock that we were able to step through what was supposed to be a solid wall I looked up to Max in confusion. He gave me a look that said 'Just wait.' He walked into the middle of the room and reached up to touch the ceiling. With his hand, he grabbed a nonexistent rope and pulled on it. A creaking noise echoed around the room until a rectangular hole appeared in the ceiling and a rope ladder dropped down.
"Come one." Max said in an amused voice. I'm guessing it was because of the look of shock and disbelief on my face.
We climbed the rope ladder only to enter another room. Except this time, it was bigger, filled with candles for light, and had a round table where the group from school was sitting. Max dragged me over to the table and gestured for me to sit down in the seat next to his. Hesitantly, I did so and looked around the table. I knew none of them, the only reason I knew Max's name was because he made me curious and I asked a classmate. Of course, they gave me a strange look as they told me but before they could say anything else I went back to my corner. I looked to Max as he started speaking, his bright blue eyes and dark hair glowed a light gold from the candlelight.
"I brought Scarlett here because of one reason; she saw what we all did." I knew instantly he was talking about the graph that appeared in the sky. A few gasps sounded from all around but none were too surprised. "I hope everyone brought what was needed." Now I'm back to being confused.
Everyone besides me, including Max, reached into their bags and brought out a folder. Except, one person had two folders. Max reached an arm out to them and they handed him a folder, then Max passed it to me. I stared in confusion and looked up to see everyone had already opened theirs and were looking at what was inside. Max was doing the same and when he saw my confused face he just smiled and nodded his head implying for me to read it.
I opened the folder and opened my mouth in shock. The first paper had a picture of me on it. Underneath it read:
Original Name: Jessica Wolf
Given Name: Scarlett Mare
Date of Birth: October 13, 1997
Date Collected: April 3, 2011
Confirmation: Memories extracted, new memories given
Memories extracted? What was this? I didn't bother looking through the rest. I needed to know what was going on, now. I closed the folder and placed it on the table, waiting for everyone else to finish theirs. Usually, I would be panicking and frantically asking questions but right now I felt calm like I knew what to do.
Max took a glance at me and nudged my shoulder. Looking over, he opened his folder wider so I was able to see the information it contained. What I read made me wonder.
Original Name: Zack Wolf
Given Name: Max Connors
Date of Birth: October 13, 1997
Date Collected: April 3, 2011
Confirmation: Memories extracted, new memories given.
Sending him a questioning glance, Max cleared his throat and everyone lifted their heads and placed their eyes on him.
"There's much to be explained but right now how about everyone introduces themselves to our newest addition," he said obviously meaning me when he said "newest addition."
"Adam." Each took turns around the table to state their names.
"As I mentioned earlier, this is Scarlett," Max gestured with his hand.
"Now for an explanation," he paused for a slight second and glanced in my direction before continuing, "The information we have uncovered so far is that we are not who we really are. This place we live in isn't real, just a mirage to the outside. The members of the council replaced our previous memories to fit those of this society. The folders we collected tell of our real identity. One thing none of you know is that I went and did some scouring for information alone and found out that the council members made this society by kidnapping people from the outside world. The buildings and walls are to keep us inside and from never escaping, but I have a plan," a devious smirk made its way to his face.
The news caused chatter to erupt from the table but soon quieted down as they looked to Max with curious faces. He seemed to be able to make just about anyone curious.
"Tomorrow is when we make our escape," he concluded when the noise died out. It was silent, everyone was registering the plan that Max came up with. One by one a smile, no matter how big, appeared on everyone's faces and they murmured in agreement. It was obvious Max was the apparent "leader" of the group.
"Tomorrow night, after you family's asleep, come and meet in this room. I'll wait until 1:00 AM but after that we need to make an escape before they notice we're gone. And try not to get caught by the night patrol, they'll surely release you. Everyone's dismissed, except for you Scarlett." Max said and he caught my eye. I nodded slowly before staying put. Questions needed to be answered so I didn't argue when I had to stay behind.
"A lot of our information is the same, why?" A question blurted out of my mouth after the room was empty.
"Because I think in our real lives we were twins, or are twins." Max corrected his mistake. "I feel like I know you, past all my memories they planted in my head."
Exactly how I felt. He seemed familiar in some way I can't explain. I tried to remember, pushing away all the fake memories looking for the real ones but all I could think of was blank. No matter how hard, nothing came to mind. All I had to say in response was "Me too."
We stood in silence for what seemed like forever until Max broke my thoughts and suggested I get home. Nodding my head, I walked to the opening in the floor and dropped my foot down onto the sturdy rope. One by one, I slowly climbed down a few more footholds while grabbing onto the thick, scratchy rope. Just as my head was about to disappear from sight I heard Max, or Zack, call out to me. I lifted my head locking eyes with his deep blue ones. "Be here tomorrow night?" He asked like he didn't know.
"Of course," it came out in a whisper.
"Good," he smiled in relief, "Night, Jessica." He called me by my first name.
"Night, Zack." I replied, smiling at the comfort of my real name and how it felt right.
I ran down the alley and out onto the street. It wasn't that late yet, the sun was just about to set. Running all the way home, I stopped on the front steps of my door to catch my breath before walking inside. I set my bag down on the floor with a light thump and went into the kitchen where my mom was. She heard my footsteps and turned to look at me.
"How was school? Where were you?" She hugged me while asking these questions.
"School was normal and I was hanging out with some new friends," I told her, quickly making up a lie to cover the real reason of my absence. She looked surprised for a second but shook it off and feigned happiness that I had made friends.
I was told dinner would be ready in about an hour so I went upstairs to my bedroom. Opening my closet and taking out a small backpack, I began to pack for tomorrow night's escape. Half was filled with clothes and the money I had while I left the rest for food and water, who knows how long the journey's going to be.
Throughout dinner I sat quietly stuck in my thoughts. It was as if realization hit me and now I'm thinking twice of my decision. To leave this perfect place to venture out into the unknown, it was a big change. The only way to figure out the outcome was to pick to stay or to go. After I was excused I made my way back into my room and lay in bed.
Tomorrow I'll be leaving this place forever. I just hope we don't get caught. Just like Max said, they'll surely release you. Right now, life felt unreal, like a dream, except this time wouldn't be able to wake up. Unknowingly and unwillingly, my thoughts subsided and I drifted off to sleep.
The next day began the same as yesterday; waking up, eating breakfast, walking to school. I still saw the graph though, which made me lift the corners of my mouth up ever so slightly. It felt like an inside joke, something no one else knows about except a few others.
I sat in the same seat I always do in the back corner. As I waited for class to start I saw Zack get up from his seat and make his way over to me. He greeted me with a smile and just as the bell rang he sat in the seat next me mine. Throughout class neither one of us talked but a smile stuck to my face like glue. Not only did I make a few new friends, I found a long lost brother.
Again, class passed by in a blur and I found myself standing outside the school with the group.
"Tonight, we escape." Zack said in a low, almost inaudible, whisper reminding us of the plan. We nodded our heads before dispersing and scattering in different directions.
I walked in the door and immediately went up to my room. I didn't feel like facing my "parents" knowing that they were just assigned to me and they were basically brainwashed to live this life, just like I was. When dinner came around I just sat in silence once again looking down at my plate avoiding eye contact. Nothing could change my decision now, I was leaving. Everyone was excused and I rushed up to my room not bothering to look back.
Earlier today, Zack told the whole group that he was leaving a note in the teacher's desk explaining everything. He even typed it so no one could trace the handwriting. I didn't notice how lost in my thoughts I was until I glance at the clock and saw it read 11:00 PM. Silently, I grabbed my backpack and swung it over my shoulder then slowly turned my door knob. It seemed like forever until a light click echoed through my head. I swung the door open and tip toed down the hallway, stopping at my "parent's" door and pressing my ear against it to make sure they were asleep. I heard a light snoring which confirmed my unasked question and left down the hallway and to the stairs.
Once I got out the door I ran from one corner of a house to another, making sure there were no patrol guards in sight. It was empty when I peeked my head out from the corner of the wall and the moon's silver ray lit up my dark hair when I stepped out into the open. I only took a few steps before I heard another pair of feet heading my direction. I froze in panic, unsure what to do then finally running back to my hiding spot with my back pressed flat against the wall.
My heart beat sped up to what I was sure of an inhuman pace as the footsteps got louder and louder each second. Fear coursed through my veins and my palms felt sweaty and warm. I heard the guard turn a corner and came closer and closer, only a few feet away. I could feel his presence and hear his light breathing right over my shoulder. As if he appeared out of thin air, the guard came around the corner still walking straight. I held my breath as he passed next to me. I could see him clearly, which meant if he turned around he could see me. Before I even gave him the option, I slid my back against the wall and around the corner running into the alley disappearing from sight.
Running my hand against the brick wall, I stumbled for a moment when my hand and half my arm fell through the solid concrete. Forcing my whole body through, I ended up back in the small room. I did what Zack did when he first brought me here and felt for the string. When I found it and gave a small tug the ladder slid down with a crash that echoed around the room to make it seem louder than it really was.
I climbed the ladder and once I got into the room every head turned to face me. I felt a warm sensation creep up on my neck and I tried to fight it down before it rose to my cheeks. Zack rushed towards me embracing me in a light hug before pulling back and opening his mouth to speak.
"We were worried you weren't going to show." Relieved, his tense muscles loosened and became relaxed.
"Actually, you were worried she wasn't going to show." Hikari butted in with an amused tone. Zack turned to her and before I could it disappeared I could see some sort of emotion flicker in his eyes.
"Well, everyone's here so let's head out." Zack took over and motioned for everyone to leave.
Bouncing off the walls in every direction were the pitter patter of uneven footsteps as we ran through the alley, stopping every corner to make sure no guards were in sight. No one dared to talk as we ran through the streets closing the space between us and the open air. It was only at the last block that everything fell apart.
In front of us, the beam of a flashlight lit up the road ahead. Everyone stopped to turn around and a bright light blinded our eyes. I hovered my hand in front of my face to block out the brightness. At first I was a little dazed, but quickly came to my senses to see the guards collected in front of us.
"Run!" I heard Zack shout from somewhere behind me. I didn't hesitate for a second and turned around running for my life.
Chaos surrounded my ears. With the wind blowing, helpless shouts left behind, others urging us forward, I could barely hear myself think. My head was about to explode from all the pressure that was rising. Up ahead was clear open space leading out into a forest. My goal up ahead made my legs push me further until I was neck and neck with Zack. The entire group raced into the forest, dodging trees and leaving a trail of blown up leaves. Eventually we slowed to a stop and rested to catch out breathes.
It was all at once when everyone hunched over in pain. Memories flowed into my head like a raging river. The dream I had only days ago, was my memory of being kidnapped to live in this society. As more and more thoughts came to my head, the more pain I felt. It was like my head was being over stuffed and it would explode if any more was forced into it. My eyelids drooped and my vision became blurry before I was encased in a black abyss.
When I first came to my senses I could feel the numbing pain being drained away from my head and the nerves abiding access to move my limbs. I sat up to find myself in a seemingly familiar room. The bed I lay on was pushed against the far corner while the door was diagonal on the opposing wall. A dresser sat at the foot of the bed and a sliding glass door led out to a balcony next to the bed.
Slowly, but surely I slid out of bed and when I was able to stabilize my feet on the ground I put one foot in front of the other and shakily started walking towards the door. A cold blast of air blew into my face when I opened the door refreshing my sense of touch. At one end of the hallway was a set of stairs and faint voices could be heard down below.
I lightly laid my hand on the smooth wood railing and silence took over as every pair of eyes turned to me. I looked down at everyone and frowned to see that Katie, Jack, and Zack were missing. Tears made their way to the corner of my eyes but I wouldn't let them out in front of everyone here. They must've seen the look on my face because instantly the mood in the room dropped. Hikari looked at me with empathy before turning her head in a different direction. I followed her gaze to see Zack appear from the living room. I smiled because it felt as if a heavy weight had been lifted from my shoulders to see that he had made it.
All the memories I had with him flashed in my mind and made me even happier. He was my twin brother; we went through everything together, including the escape to freedom.
Finding my strength, I ran down the stairs into the arms of my brother. He lifted my feet off the ground and whispered the two words I thought I would never hear into my ear.