My eyes shot open with a start only to find darkness. For a brief moment I wondered if I were blind before quickly dismissing that sort of thinking as something I'd deal with later. Stumbling to my feet, hands outstretched in search of anything that might keep me steady, I found a wall and quickly leant against it, trying to gain control over my mind which was spinning with a hazy, jumbled, disappearing swirl of confusing memories. I didn't try to reach for them. I let them fade into darkness. If they were going to leave, why not let them?
Pushing away the mess of my brain, I focused on the one thing I sensed I wouldn't forget: my name. Claire. Something about the name felt artificial and I found it hard to decide whether or not it was even my own name or somebody else's, but I had nothing else so it would have to do.
Suddenly the world of darkness spurred into action and, with a loud clank, I felt myself ascending into the unknown. Well I wasn't the one that was moving; it was whatever I was in. Slowly, keeping my hands on the wall to steady myself, I walked around the perimeter of the box that continued moving steadily upwards. I found nothing but crates and boxes as company. Frustrated with the lack of results, I reached up with my hands, expecting to find some sort of ceiling. I found none. It's probably just out of reach, I thought bitterly. Unable to think of anything else to do, I slid down the closest wall and let out a loud sigh. Surprisingly, my voice wasn't as croaky as it probably should have been. That was what brought down a sudden barrage of questions that had been waiting to attack my increasingly confused mind.
Where am I?, Why am I here?, How long have I been here?, How did I get here?, Where are all my memories?, Why can't I remember anything?, What's my last name?, Who are my parents?, Do I even have parents?, Why do I know what a cat is?, Have I ever even seen a cat?, I know what a cat looks like, so I must have seen one…why can't I remember?, Why the hell is this lift even moving?, Where is it taking me?, What will I find when I get there?, Oh God, I'm going to die, aren't I? After what felt like an eternity filled with unanswered questions and a never-ending throbbing in my head, I shoved all the questions and thoughts to the back of my mind, too afraid to deal with them. Unfortunately, the thoughts in my brain were too overwhelming and my head was beginning to feel unbearably hot.
Stumbling once again to my feet, I pounded at the walls to test their strength. They didn't even shudder. Panic began to set in as morbid thoughts swarmed my mind. Pressing my forehead against the cool metal, I let out a loud moan. "What am I supposed to DO?!" I yelled into the silence. The fact that there was no reply, not even an echo of my own voice, only fed my slowly building frustration. I was NOT going to die in some shitty box full of nothing but darkness and boxes. As if to emphasize this point, I kicked a nearby box. "What's even inside those boxes anyway?"
Before I could add to this new question in my mind, the box stopped with an unexpected jolt that made me fall over into a pile of small boxes. Cursing loudly, I attempted to gather myself and ended up crouching in one of the corners of the box. I found myself glaring at the ceiling, half expecting it to collapse for some unknown reason. For a long moment nothing happened and I began to wonder if the lift had broken and that I was actually going to die. Then, as if in response to that thought, searing light burst from the heavens and I let out a cry of pain. Shoving the palms of my hands into my eyes, I turned away from the light and shoved my head to the ground. After hours of darkness, I wasn't exactly prepared for such a sudden burst light. "At least I know I'm not blind," I wheezed, slowly splitting my fingers to allow my eyes to adjust.
After about half a minute, I dared to glance up at the ceiling…which had now been replaced by a bluish white that I assumed, and hoped, was the sky. After looking up, I noticed blurry black shapes surrounding the entrance to the box. Despite already squinting, I was somehow able to narrow my eyes in suspicion. Not good, I thought, definitely not good. All my morbid thoughts from within the darkness danced at the back of my mind and I felt fear setting in once more. For a moment I wished the box hadn't opened at all and the darkness seemed almost comforting compared to this world of unknown.
I lowered my head and looked at my surroundings. The box was smaller than I thought it had been and the metal was a dull grey colour. Boxes were littered messily around the floor, evidence of my stumbling about I assume. I glanced back up and noticed a sort of rope lower into the box. Confused, I stared at it stupidly. What on earth…? By this time my eyes were adjusted enough to realize those black blurry shapes had been the silhouettes of people. I wanted nothing to do with them and was seriously considering somehow hiding in the box and hoping the 'people' would go away, but my body moved on its own and before I knew it I was holding onto the rope-thing and was being pulled up and out of the box and into the world. Once out, I grabbed blindly at the floor with my hands. Grass. I definitely wasn't underground anymore. I sensed a large amount of people around me, another dramatic change to hours of being alone. I could hear their voices but couldn't make out what they were saying. I didn't really want to know. I wanted to go away, away from the people. There were too many of them and an overwhelming panic was taking over my mind, making the fear I had felt in the box look like a jolly picnic. I needed to get away. I had to run. Fast.
Staggering to my feet, I shoved my way out of the crowd and bolted through open space. I glanced about myself long enough to collect several details on my surroundings. First, I was in a large field. Second, there weren't many people in front of me. I assumed most of them had crowded around the lift I'd come from. Third, there were massive walls surrounding me. In a panic, I thought there would be no escape and that I was trapped once again, but then I noticed a gap in one of the walls. A way out. Freedom. Feeling a rush of adrenaline, I ran faster than I thought was possible, my legs propelling me forward at an almost alarming speed. I could hear voices yelling at me from behind but I ignored them and focused entirely on that gap. I was almost there now, a few more seconds and I'd be fre-
Pain exploded in my right side and I felt myself sailing through the air. A moment later I crashed to the ground. Letting out a yell of surprise and anger, I scrambled to my feet, eager to make another dash for the gap in the wall. But before I could take even one step, I was tackled by a large shape, presumably a person, and was quickly pinned to the ground. I felt my arms being pulled behind me and my face was shoved into the ground, a large weight on my back keeping me to the floor. I struggled with all my strength, but could sense an incredible gap in strength between myself and my captor. Deciding it was a useless waste of energy to struggle, I lay limp on the ground, breathing heavily.
"Good job, Gally!" Someone yelled behind us. I attempted to turn my head to see who had spoken, but was held in place by the person on top of me.
"Nothin' to it," the person, Gally, grunted. "She's got some good legs, though. Never would've made it in time if I hadn't been where I was. It's a good thing I decided not to join the meet 'n' greet Greenie time."
"Indeed," a third voice chimed in, this one softer than the other two, "she'd make a good runner."
"No she wouldn't," Gally muttered. "She hasn't got the brains for it. She wasn't even looking for danger, just running blindly for the doors."
"I wasn't being serious," the soft voice replied dejectedly, "I'm just saying she's fast."
"Shut up, the both of you!" This voice was the first one that had spoken to Gally; it held a level of authority that made me shudder. I heard the footsteps of a large amount of people coming in this direction and I felt panic renew in my head. I began struggling again, not wanting to be surrounded by such a large group of people. Well, I didn't really want to be around anyone at all but I could sense that I wasn't being given a choice on the matter.
Sensing my panic, the male voice, whom I assumed was the leader, turned and began yelling at the crowd of people, "Everyone get back to work! You know the drill; give the Greenie some space so she doesn't run off again! Newt, Bonnie, get over here!" I heard audible moans and groans in the distance and almost felt like laughing at their obvious dismay. I didn't feel any sympathy for them, I didn't particularly want anyone around and there was still a very real sense of panic floating around in my mind.
I heard two sets of footsteps approaching and shifted nervously below Gally. "You're not gonna run again, are you?" he grunted. Sensing he was expecting an answer, I shook my head slightly despite my face still being firmly set in dirt.
"Bloody hell, Gally, is that really necessary?" This was a male's voice I didn't recognize. I assume it was the 'Newt' guy that the leader asked for earlier.
Gally's grip on the back of my head loosened slightly. "I'm just taking precautions," he said in an almost bored tone. For some reason that tone annoyed me but I didn't say anything.
I heard a few footsteps and suddenly there was a boy crouched to the left of my head. It was the leader. "My name is Alby, I'm the leader of these shuck-Gladers. The guy on top of you is Gally. If he lets you up I can introduce you to some of my friends." Suddenly I was pulled off of the ground by Gally and set into a sitting position, my hands still held behind my back. To be honest, I wasn't as overly eager to escape anymore but I let Gally take his extra precautions anyway. I turned and looked at Alby, getting my first good look at him. He was surprisingly younger than I thought he'd be, about 15 by the looks of it. He was dark skinned and had short cropped hair, his face showing a sort of scowl that looked like it would never be removed. It was slightly intimidating, but I didn't let it show.
Alby pointed at a girl standing to my right, another dark skinned girl with hair cut almost to her scalp. "This is Harriet, she's-"
"I'm also the leader of these slintheads. Leader of the girls to be precise," she flashed me a smile and, judging by her voice, she was the girl I'd heard speak earlier, the one that had argued with Gally.
Before I could use that fact to judge her leadership skills, Alby coughed to grab my attention after Harriet's interruption. "Thank you, Harriet. Moving on, this guy here," he gestured to a tall, muscular, blonde boy standing next to Harriet, "is Newt. He's my second in command." Newt watched me carefully, as if trying to decide whether or not I'd bite if he tried to say hello.
"And this," Harriet said interrupted once again, "is Bonnie." She clasped the shoulders of a girl with dark brown hair standing on the other side of Harriet. "She's my second in command, my female Newt."
"I'm not your female Newt," she said quickly, shooting Harriet a glare.
Harriet raised her arms in surrender, "Alright, I accept defeat." Alby was glaring at them disapprovingly but I somehow found their casual attitude comforting and could feel my muscles relaxing and my breathing steady. Gally also seemed to notice my new-found calm and slowly let go of my arms and stepped back. I looked up at him, rubbing my wrists. He was tall and skinny with black hair and green eyes that watched me carefully, like he didn't quite trust me not to suddenly run off again. For some reason his nose reminded me of a potato and I had to hold back the urge to laugh at that thought.
"-your name?" I turned back to Alby, realizing he had asked me a question, and gave him a look which told him I hadn't been listening.
He rolled his eyes, clearly annoyed. "Your name, Greenie, do you remember your name?"
I blinked in surprise, I hadn't even thought about my name since I'd first woken up in the box. It was the only thing I could remember. I opened my mouth to tell them but for some reason the words wouldn't come out. I didn't trust these people. They seemed nice, but I didn't trust them. How could I? What reason had they given me to trust them? I wasn't going to give away my name. It was all I had and I had no intention of giving it away just yet.
In response to his question, I shook my head, attempting to act as though I couldn't remember. Alby gave me a long hard look, one that told me he knew I was withholding information. He didn't seem too bothered by it though. "Don't worry; not everyone remembers the moment they wake up. Sometimes it takes a day or two. You'll remember it eventually, though. It's the one thing they let us keep."
Alby's words confused me and my mind overwhelmed with questions, even more than there had been when I'd woken up in the box. I decided to start with the most obvious one. "Where am I?"
"This place is what we call the Glade," the girl called Harriet said calmly, looking slightly more serious now. "Hey, Bonnie, why don't you get Lorna and take our new Greenie on the tour? We'll do all the serious stuff while you're gone."
Bonnie looked relatively unhappy with this turn of events but turned and ran off to find whoever this Lorna person was.
"Serious stuff?" I asked, trying to hide my nervousness.
"Our rules," Gally spoke from behind, startling me, "our rules that you cannot break under any circumstances if you want what's best for you."
"Don't scare the girl, Gally," Newt said, still watching me, "she's not gonna go breaking rules every five seconds."
"She tried to break one the moment she stepped out of the Box," Gally retorted.
"She doesn't know the bloody rules yet, shuckface! That's why we're talking now."
"Can someone tell me what the freakin' rules are?" I snapped, annoyed.
"We have three of them," Harriet continued, her voice steady. "Rule One: Everyone does their part. We don't need any slackers in the Glade. Rule Two: Never hurt another Glader. That includes sexual harassment or assault of any kind, okay? We need to trust each other. Finally, Rule Three: Never go outside the Glade."
I glanced back at the gap in the walls with narrowed eyes. "Why aren't we allowed to leave?"
"Because it's dangerous, stupid Greenie," Gally growled. "What more reason do you need?"
Gally's attitude was seriously starting to tick me off. "Why is it dangerous?"
"You'll find out later," Alby interrupted, looking at something far off. "You'll learn the answers to all your annoying questions in time. For now, let Bonnie and Lorna give you a tour of the Glade." With that, he got to his feet and stomped off. After a short pause, Newt followed him. Gally had already disappeared.
Harriet let out a loud sigh to relieve the tension that had built up. "Boys are so serious aren't, they? It's a good thing there are girls around here, otherwise this place would be no fun at all." She glanced over her shoulder and smiled, "Here come your guides. I'll be off then, I have a lot of work to do, but you can trust these guys. Believe me when I tell you that. I have a feeling you're gonna be stuck with them for a while." She gave me a wink and walked off, humming a tune, leaving me confused and mildly concerned for my future.