I stand there, watching in a stunned silence as Tristan, Nikki and Dylan are pushed into the room, followed by many other kids. I immediately recognize some of them as other kids who were on the island with us. But there are others; boys and girls who I don’t recognize at all.
Once everyone is shoved inside the room, the door closes, sealing us all inside the small, strange room. For a few speechless moments, everyone stares at each other with the same blank, tired looks on their faces. My eyes meet with Tristan’s from across the room and he gazes at me, those crystalline, blue eyes burning into mine.
My eyes then swivel to Dylan and Nikki, who are standing right next to each other. Dylan has his arm draped around her shoulder, pulling her close to his body. His dark eyes meet with mine.
Then finally, Dylan breaks the deafening silence.
“Well I never thought I’d see you guys again.”
Everyone stares at him, resuming the painful, awkward silence filled only by a continuous humming noise coming from the screens.
“Looks like there are some new faces too, am I right?” Dylan says, looking around the room.
The uncomfortable silence continues.
“Alright, well I tried to make this a little less awkward,” Dylan says, sighing.
The truth is, we are all too miserable to talk right now. It’s as if my voice box has been removed; I feel like I have lost the ability to utter a single word.
Suddenly, there is a loud crackling sound, followed by static. Everyone looks around frantically, trying to find the source of the noise.
Then, the static is replaced by a voice. A voice that sends shivers down my spine and makes the hairs on the back of my neck prickle up tensely.
“Welcome, welcome everyone. We are so pleased to have all twenty four of you together in one room,” Hal’s voice echoes.
I can’t tell where his voice is coming from; there doesn’t appear to be any speakers or intercoms in the room. The most chilling part is that it sounds like he is right inside this room.
“Fuck you,” I hear Dylan mutter angrily under his breath.
“Now remember, if you all cooperate, things will turn out much better for you. But if you don’t behave, we will have to do things...the hard way,” Hal says icily.
“You expect us to cooperate?!” Dylan shouts incredulously, throwing his hands up in the air.
“Dylan, shut up,” Nikki hisses.
There is a long silence, then finally Hal says,
“All we are asking you to do right now is sit back, relax and enjoy the show. And remember, this is all for the greater good.”
Instantly, all the lights click off, the only light coming from the screens on the wall. Then, all four screens turn black, leaving us in pitch blackness. There is a sense of panic as everyone stands in the darkness, breathing heavily and grabbing onto each other. I reach out and grab Ian’s hand, squeezing it in mine.
Suddenly the screens illuminate again, followed by blaring music. Music so excruciatingly loud that it feels as if my ears are going to bleed. I cover my ears and close my eyes, trying to muffle the deafening music.
“What the hell is going on?!” I scream at the top of my lungs, opening my eyes to look at everyone.
But when I open my eyes and see what is in front of me, my heart skips a beat.
Everyone is unblinkingly staring at the screens, appearing to be in some sort of hypnotized trance. Everyone, except for me.
Still covering my ears to block out the roaring music, I look to see what is on the screens. And when I do, my stomach drops.
Each of the four screens read in large, black, capital letters,
“THE BLAIR INSTITUTE IS HERE TO HELP YOU, NOT HARM YOU. WE ARE HERE TO SAVE YOU, AND BY SAVING YOU, WE ARE SAVING THE REST OF HUMAN RACE.”
Horrified, I look around. Everyone is still staring at the screen with a vacant, glazed-over look on their face.
“Ian!” I scream, trying to break him out of the trance.
But he doesn’t move a muscle. Instead he continues to stare the screen, standing as still as a statue.
“IAN!” I scream again, lowering my hands from my ears and shaking his arm repeatedly.
The blasting music hits my ears, literally vibrating my ear drum up and down. I continue to shake his arm, but he doesn’t budge.
He is completely hypnotized, just like everyone else.
Panic begins to rise inside of me, causing my heart to race and my throat to constrict. Then suddenly, I come to a terrifying realization that makes my blood turn to ice.
They are watching us right now through the cameras.
They can see that I am the only one who is not under a trance.
And they are probably going to do something about it.
Immediately, I stand up stock-still and force myself to stare at the screens. I try to make the expression on my face as blank and neutral as possible. And even though I think I may go deaf soon, I restrain myself from covering my ears.
The screen suddenly changes, displaying new words.
“WE ARE NOT EVIL. WE ARE A PRIVATE INSTITUTION DEDICATED TO SAVE THE HUMAN RACE. WITH YOUR HELP, YOU CAN HELP US STRIVE FOR THE GREATER GOOD.”
Imperceptibly, I look out of the corner of my eye around the room. Of course, everyone is still stuck in hypnosis, staring at the screens with wide eyes. And just when I think that I can’t take it anymore, the ear-splitting music stops. Instantly after, the screens all go black, leaving us in darkness again.
For a few moments, there is silence, filled only by the sound of my ears ringing. Then, the lights click on, blinding me temporarily. Once my eyes adjust, I look around.
To my relief, it appears that everyone is out of their trance. People are murmuring to each other and rubbing their eyes, confused and dazed looks on their faces.
“What the fuck just happened?” I hear Dylan mutter.
Ian turns to me, then asks,
“Why the hell do my ears hurt so much?”
Just when I am about to answer him, I stop myself. If I tell him what happened, they will know for sure that I wasn’t hypnotized. If I pretend to not know what happened, then maybe, just maybe, they won’t suspect me.
“I...I don’t know. Mine hurt too,” I say, rubbing my ears.
“It’s so weird, I can’t remember anything that just happened. My mind...it feels all foggy,” Ian says slowly, scratching his head.
“Same,” I lie.
All of a sudden the door opens. I whip around to see a man in a white laboratory coat step in the entrance. Just the sight of his lab coat and surgical mask covering his face repulses me.
Everyone turns around, staring at the man. In a muffled voice, he says,
“Thank you all for cooperating so far. Before we continue, there’s just one person Doctor Bennett needs to...speak to.”
My heart stops. The man opens his mouth to speak, but I know what he is going to say before the words roll off his tongue.
“Tessa, please come with me.”