I duck down, clamping my hands over my ears and squeezing my eyes shut. With my heart thumping in my chest, I brace myself for imminent death. I wait for the acrid smell of fire and for the submarine to begin capsizing with water.
But nothing happens.
There is only silence.
After a few moments, I finally open my eyes, and when I see what is in front of me, my jaw drops.
There is no damage.
There is no destruction.
Instead, there are thousands of tiny pieces of confetti fluttering down through the air.
“I can’t believe it. It was a prank bomb,” Tristan murmurs, breaking the silence.
Slowly, all the others return from the entrance hallway, some with their hands still covering their ears. Once they see the confetti and are 100% confirmed that the submarine is not going to blow up do they slowly lower their hands, breathing sighs of relief.
Before anyone can say anything, there is a loud crackle; the sound of a speaker intercom turning on. Then, the scathing voice of the person I despise the most announces,
“Congratulations, you all survived.”
Everyone jumps. Even though Hal’s voice is coming through a speaker, it sounds as if he is standing right there in the room with us. The hairs on the back of my neck prick up as he continues to talk.
“I’d like to personally welcome you aboard The Alexandria. We have just embarked on our two week journey, so this will be your ‘home’ for the next for weeks. We all would like you to be as comfortable as possible, so if you will, please proceed through these doors, which I will open in a moment. In the hallway, you will find the bedrooms. There are two people per bedroom, so accommodate yourselves as you wish.”
“Is it just me, or does Hal sound nicer than usual?” Nikki whispers into my ear.
“It’s all fake. He’s being a total phony,” I murmur under my breath, anger boiling up inside me.
I know he is. There is no way in hell that a man who kidnapped twenty four kids and forced them on a submarine could be remotely “nice.”
All of a sudden there is a soft click. Then, one of the doors built into the wall soundlessly slides open, revealing a long, dimly-lit hallway. Everyone stares into the entrance with apprehension, no one making a move.
“Don’t be shy, come on in,” Hal’s voice says enticingly, reverberating off the walls.
Still, no one moves.
“Do you want to do things the easy way or the hard way?” Hal asks.
His voice sends shivers down my spine.
“Guys, we should probably just go. Staying here isn’t going to help us,” Tristan says nervously.
He’s right. We have no choice. We are utterly helpless.
Tristan walks through the doorway, disappearing into the hallway. I walk forward, following him. Even without looking, I can feel Ian’s eyes on me.
Once I arrive in the hallway, everyone else slowly and reluctantly follows. Murky water drips down from the ceiling, splashing onto our heads.
“Um, is it just me or is anyone else concerned by the amount of water leaking from the ceiling?” Ian asks.
He is right; why is there so much water dripping from the ceiling?
Completely exhausted, I open one of the doors and walk inside to a bedroom. When I see what is inside, I nearly burst out laughing at the fact that Hal could even call this a “bedroom.” It is honestly the saddest excuse for a bedroom that I’ve ever seen.
The only piece of furniture in the small, grimy “bedroom” is a rusty, metal bunk-bed. And upon closer inspection, I see just how sad the beds are. All that they have are lumpy-looking mattresses and ratted, torn blankets that look like they could rip your skin if you rubbed them against it.
A huge lump forms in the back of my throat. It takes all of my willpower to stop myself from bursting into tears.
“Hey, do you mind if I room with you?”
I jump, whipping around to see Tristan standing in the doorway. His crystalline blue eyes meet mine, seeming to be illuminated in the dim light.
“Of course not,” I say, forcing a smile onto my face.
He smiles back, then walks inside. My heart skips a beat when I see Ian in the hallway, staring into our room. Even in the dimness, I can see jealousy and fury burning in his coal-black eyes. But this time, I don’t have the energy to care. For now, I am done with him and his jealousy. I just can’t put up with it anymore.
Tristan turns around, looking at Ian. Ian’s eyes divert from me to Tristan, and the rage in his eyes seems to multiply exponentially. Before Ian can say anything, Tristan reaches out and closes the door to our room.
“I hope you don’t mind that I just closed the door on his face,” Tristan says, turning back around.
“No, it’s okay. I can’t deal with him and his drama right now,” I say, sighing.
Tristan gives me a small smile and I can’t help but return it.
“It’s good to see you smile,” Tristan says, walking closer towards me.
My lips continue to curl into an even bigger smile. There’s something about Tristan that makes me feel calmer. Safer.
“So, which bed do you want? Top or bottom?” Tristan asks, glancing at the bunkbed.
“Ooo, so hard to choose. They’re both so amazing,” I say sarcastically, grinning at him.
Tristan laughs. It’s a sound I haven’t heard in a long time.
“I’ll take the bottom, if you don’t mind. I tend to toss and turn a lot in my sleep, and I don’t think it would be pleasant if I rolled off the bed in the middle of the night.” Tristan says, laughing slightly.
“Of course. I’ll go on top,” I reply.
I turn around and climb up the rickety, rusty ladder onto the lumpy, stiff mattress.
“How’s the mattress feel?” Tristan asks, looking up at me.
“Like shit,” I mutter.
As I sit down onto the sad excuse of a bed, I hear a crinkling sound. I lift up the blanket to find an old, crinkled newspaper underneath. It’s pages are torn and yellowed, but the print is still legible.
“What is it?” Tristan asks.
“It’s some sort of newspaper,” I say, picking it up.
“Let me see it,” Tristan says.
Holding it my hand, I climb back down and hand it to him. He flips it open, skimming through its pages.
“What’s in it?” I ask, looking up at him.
“Nothing, it just seems to be...”
He stops mid-sentence, his eyes widening.
“Oh my god...” he murmurs under his breath.
“What is it?” I ask, my voice rising with panic.
But he doesn’t respond. I take a step forwards, trying to grab the paper out of his hands, but he takes a step backwards, his eyes still glued to the paper. His face is as pale as a sheet of paper.
“What is it?!” I shout again, this time much more urgently.
Finally, he reaches a trembling hand out, passing me the newspaper. I grab it from him, immediately looking at the page. There is a full-page article, with the title, “PRIVATE LABORATORY BEGINS GOVERNMENT-FUNDED RESEARCH PROJECT”, followed by a lengthy article.
At the end of the article is a picture.
And when I see the picture, my heart stops.
Although grainy, I can clearly recognize the two people in it.
The first of them is Hal, dressed in a white laboratory coat with his arm around the other person.
And although the second person is much younger, I can clearly tell that it is me.
A wave a nausea passes over me when I read the photo’s caption.
“Doctor Harold Bennett with his eleven-year old daughter, Tessa Bennett.”