I entered my new life standing up in a small caged box. All I could breathe was the stale, dusty air that surrounded my dark prison.
Metal grounded against metal; the cage jerked upwards slightly, while I crashed downwards to the floor in a sprawling mess. The weakened state of the light far below meant that my eyes were unable to adjust quick enough to see where I was. Feeling across the floor, I shuffled backwards until I felt something hard touch my fingertips. Tracing my fingers to the left slightly, I brushed the wall until I could feel a corner. Once found, I moved into the space and curled into a tight ball. It gave me little comfort, the tight ball, I just felt cold. Nevertheless, I could feel drops of sweat trickle down my face despite the cool air that rushed through the shaft.
Despite the poor light, I knew that I was alone. I wanted to cry. I wanted to be comforted. I just wanted answers. But, somehow, I knew that nothing like that would happen. Ever.
Red light flooded the room to which I had found myself trapped within, giving the first glimpses of what my new prison looked like. Around, I could see crates and crates piled on top of each other, towering over my small ball. With the red light, I was able to make out faint writing scrawled over the sides. Next to the mountain of crates, three, no four, chests sat side by side. They looked worn and weathered, as if they had done this trip thousands of times. I wanted to look inside them, there were no locks that kept them closed.
Sucking up some courage, I left my corner that I had found myself in. As soon as my hand left the wall, harsh sounds of chains and pulleys echoed throughout, bouncing the noise around the shaft, causing a small whine to be heard. The cage jolted; starting its descent upwards. The soft backwards and forwards swaying of the cage lifted nausea into my stomach; the smell of burnt oil didn't help the situation either.
Retreating back to my corner, I focused on other things that would suppress the feeling of throwing up. That was the troubling part. I couldn’t remember anything. No memories. No faces. No nothing. But, as if a light bulb flashed in my mind, I was able to recall something that did bring pleasure to this bleak situation.
My name is …Clarke, I thought. Clarke. I tested the name on my tongue, dragging on the e’s every time. I surprised myself. My voice was high, but not annoying high pitch high, just high. I laughed to myself.
“I know what I sound like.” I said to no one in particular.
Then, knowledge started to flood back into the empty space that I called a brain. Useful information about the world and how it ticked. I could picture a snowy wood-scene, where the cold burnt my lips and nose, turning my fingers cold; where snowflakes fell, coating everything white. A busy street, where there were too many people crowded on a pavement trying get past one another.
And yet, even though my name came back, and useful information, I had no recollection of where I actually came from, how I old I was and how I ended up standing here in the cage. Heck, I don’t even know my full name (if I had one in the first place). Images of people flashed across my eyes, faces that I must have known before but now was unable to identify them. I had no memory of anyone. Did I even have a family? Did they miss me?
Time past for what seemed like hours, the swaying motion becoming bearable over time. But, I should have known better, it wasn’t really hours that had gone by but only a few more minutes. I was able to calculate that I had spent about half an hour in this awful dark box. Half an hour in the darkness alone with nothing to remember.
Yet, with every second that past in the cage, I was able to calm myself down and steady my rapid breathing.
It’s okay, you’ll wake up soon with everything intact, I thought to myself, allowing the fear to dissolve out of my body. Deep down, I knew that I had to calm myself for reasons that I had yet to find out. Ignoring the fear, I allowed curiosity to take over me. Carefully, I stood up from where I sat and edged over to the crates that had once towered over me. In the dim red light that illuminated from far below, I was able to make out the faded writing printed across the sides of the crates. Property of WICKED was what it said. What on earth was WICKED?
Glancing around, I noticed that the walls, surrounding the cage, had disappeared, leaving an empty darkness that threatened to engulf me. With a groan and then a click, the cage haltered, giving a sharp sway that caused my body to crash to the hard ground. I banged my head hard as I fell, leaving me slightly dazed. I scrambled into a sitting position and shuffled back to my corner of refuge, waiting for the cage to stop swaying. Finally, it did and everything fell silent.
A minute passed. Then two. Nothing happened. I looked both ways to see if there was any hope for my escape. There was not. I was trapped in this small cage for a reason I did not know. Was I a prisoner? Had I done something so bad that I had ended up here? Letting fear flush over me, I let out a loud cry of help to anyone that was listening. There had to be someone listening.
I could feel my hands start to tremor, my heart beating in an irregular motion, my breath short and raspy. Deep breaths, Clarke. Come on, like we practised, my mind reassured me, relaying all the important information to try and reattach myself to the world. If I ever was attached in the first place?
The darkness driving me insane, I jumped up in frustration and pounded on the walls for the people that should be listening. I needed to get their attention, they needed to know that this was a mistake.
Defeated, I traced my steps back into my corner and curled into my tight ball. I started to shiver from the cold air, which allowed fear once again return. Icy chills shuddered down my body whilst my heart was bounding in my chest, threatening to burst out.
"Someone...please...help...me", I screamed once more; each word ripping my throat raw.
A large clank came from above me, startling the empty silence. I took in a sharp breath and looked up. I was greeted with small slit of light that crept along the ceiling of my cage. A heavy groaning sound revealed sliding doors being forced open. After so long in the darkness, the light burned my eyes. I quickly looked away covering my face with my hand.
Something flew over the side of the opening and lagged beside me. It was a green rope of some sort. Stretching out my hand, I went to grab the end of it, until it started to sway. I glanced up to see a figure climbing down the side of the wall, taking his steps expertly – he must do this quite a lot.
I jumped up from my corner and cried to the figure, “You have saved me!” I don’t think it was humanly possible for someone to jump as high as he did, but it happened, and with it he fell crashing to the floor like I had only a few minutes ago.
To my surprise, the figure turned out to be a boy. He looked like he was fifteen or so, tall and skinny. His nose was the size of a small fist and resembled a deformed potato. And the face he gave me clearly indicated that he was not expecting my arrival.
“A-a girl,” he stuttered, pointing a stumpy finger my way. “A girl.”
“Er, yes.” I replied, stunned at his reaction. Had he not seen a girl before?
“Gally, what the shuck is taking– what the heck?” spoke another figure that popped their head over the top of the opening. It was another boy.
A few more heads popped into the view of the opening, each one boys. Where have I ended up? I thought to myself as I retreated back to my corner. That’s when I noticed it, the sticky feeling in my hand that hadn’t bothered me until this moment. Bringing my hand into my eye line, I reeled in horror as saw that it was coated in a red liquid – in fact my whole arm, from the elbow to the tops of my fingers, were covered in blood. I glanced back at the boy who had now moved carefully my way, his arms up as if he was surrendering to me.
“Don’t do anything rash,” he muttered as he edged ever so closer my way. I backed up into my corner, allowing the boy to make a dive for the rope and scramble back up over the top.
I heard a few voices talk about the situation that they had down below – me.
“It’s a girl.”
“I got dibs.”
“Is she hot?”
“How old is she?”
“Some shuck go get Alby.”
I was unable to understand what the squabbles were about, but I guessed that they weren't happy about something, especially if a person called Alby had to be called. The words that they spoke were foreign and odd, confusing my already muddled mind.
I waited for a few seconds, then the boy’s head appeared once again. “Can you climb?” he asked.
“I think so,” I answered back. He then motioned for me to climb the rope in the way that he just did. I paused for a second, I couldn’t possibly do this; I might hurt myself.
“Look, we don’t have all day,” the boy said in an irritated tone. I nodded at him, and instead of taking hold of the rope, I climbed the crates because it seemed an easier way to escape. I grabbed hold of the top of the cage and pulled myself out, scraping my knee in the process. I stole a glance back into the cage and banished the memory forever. That was one thing that I was happy to forget about.
A pair of hands grabbed hold of my shoulders and I looked up to see the first face that I had seen. The boy had a sneering look across his face, his mouth twitching into a small smile. His teeth were disgusting which went with his deformed nose.
“Look what we got ‘ere lads, a little girl.” the boy said, letting go of me. “Did they send you up here to keep us entertained?”
My eyes widened in horror at what came out of that disgusting boy’s mouth.
“No matter, girlie,” the boy said with a wicked grin. “You’ll understand soon. Oh, and welcome to the Glade.”