Bethany. That was the first thought in my head when I awoke. When I opened my eyes, I knew something was wrong. The sunlight was painful to my eyes, and to my skin. It shined down from the sky with an almost angry and hateful intensity. I sat up and glanced around. To my right was a paved road, to my left, a field of wheat that seemed to stretch for miles. How did I get here? I tried to remember, but my mind went blank. That’s when the fear started to hit me. Where was I from? Where was my family? Did I even have a family? Where was I now? And most importantly, who was I?
I stood up stiffly, fighting a wave of dizziness. I felt weak and nauseous, like I just spent hours running in the heat. I scanned the road but it was empty. The occasional tumbleweed blew across the pavement, but that was it. I was alone.
I must’ve been walking for an hour before an old dusty jeep pulled to a stop behind me. An elderly man stepped out. His hair shined white under an ancient baseball cap, and his face was covered in friendly wrinkles.
“Where you off to, little lady?” he inquired. I just squinted back at him. “You need a ride? It’s not healthy for anyone to be out in this heat. Besides, the closest town is miles from here.”
“Okay,” my voice sounded a little hoarse, like it hadn’t been used in a long time. I followed the man back to the jeep and stepped inside, moving almost mechanically to pull the seat belt on.
“I’m Walter. And you are?” He pulled back into the road, rolling over a tumbleweed as he did it.
“Um. Bethany. I think,” I responded. Walter glanced at me, frowning.
“Okay then. Why were you walking in the middle of nowhere, anyway?” he asked. My mind reeled and I blinked a few times to keep from passing out.
“Why? Why... I don’t know. Perhaps I’m going insane. Is it normal for you humans to forget where you’re from? Who you are? What you’re doing?” I answered. There was an awkward pause as I realized what I just said. You humans. As if I wasn’t one.
Walter must’ve chose to ignore it because all he said was, “Forget? Well, not that I know of. Maybe I should drop you off at the hospital. It’s possible they can sort out this amnesiac problem of yours.” He said it with humor, but neither of us laughed. In fact, we stayed silent for the next ten minutes, which was perfect for me.
By the time we started to enter civilization, my entire body was tense and on edge. Something wasn’t right. I wasn’t supposed to be here. I didn’t belong here. Then Walter’s voice jolted me back to reality.
“So, Bethany, what’ll it be. The hospital? Somewhere else?” he asked.
“The hospital is fine, thanks,” I replied. To be honest, I wasn’t even sure what the purpose of a hospital was. Then all of a sudden the answer came to me, almost like a voice had whispered it in the back of my mind. “I’m not sick, though,” I said. “A hospital is for sick people.”
“Well, true, but if you’re not kidding about not remembering anything, they might be able to help you.” I stayed quiet after that. Walter must’ve took this as an okay because he pulled into a parking lot with a sign that read “St. Vincent Williamsport Hospital.”
“Alright, kiddo, here we are. Someone here will know what to do with you,” Walter said and I slid out of the jeep. “Oh and good luck, Bethany.” I gave him a small smile and headed toward the giant foreboding building in front of me. I didn’t even look back as Walter pulled away from the hospital.
I heard the crunch of metal and the spraying of glass on asphalt before I saw it. Tires screeched and brakes whined and then I was flying through the air at fifty miles per hour. I landed painfully and slid on pavement for several feet before everything was still and for a moment, dead silent. My body felt like it was on fire. It hurt to breathe or move. I looked up at the sky and imagined I could see faces in it. Judgmental, detesting faces that frowned from above. Then they vanished and were replaced by real faces. People in white, rushing to get me on a stretcher. Everything was a blur, until my eyes locked onto an old dusty jeep. Or rather, what used to be an old dusty jeep. The metal was crumpled and the glass was shattered. The entire left side of the car had been completely melted away. A few yards away was the truck that hit it, and me. It was giant, with only a ruined bumper and a few scratches. Anger clawed at my throat.
“The man. The man that was in that jeep. Is he okay?” I asked, though I already knew the answer.
“Shh, Miss. Save your breath. Everything’s going to be okay,” a nurse replied.
“Tell me! Is Walter okay?” I didn’t know why I cared so much. I mean, I had only just met the guy, but for some reason I couldn’t stand the thought of his death. He had been so kind to me, and I sort of felt like he had been the first in a long time to treat me like that.
“We don’t know anything yet. Please, just relax,” the same nurse answered. Then another face entered my field of vision. Young, maybe my age (whatever that was), with fiery red hair and the beginnings of a beard on his chin.
“Emmett, go finish your homework, please. You can’t be here,” the nurse said.
“But who is this? Is she going to be okay?” the boy asked. He seemed vaguely familiar.
“Go, Emmett. It’ll be fine,” the nurse ordered sternly. The boy looked like he wanted to protest, but left with a dejected look on his face. That’s when things started to go wrong. A machine I was hooked up to started going haywire, and my limbs went numb.
“She’s going into shock!” someone yelled from beyond my field of vision. Then someone injected me with something and the world started to slow down. My eyes closed and the darkness welcomed me.
When I came to, I was in a blindingly white room, in a blindingly white bed. The light hurt, sort of like a vague, annoying burn in the back of my mind.
“Hello?” I called. I glanced down at myself. I seemed fine. That’s when I noticed the boy from earlier sitting in the corner, writing something.
“You’re awake,” he said.
“Emmett, right?” I asked. He nodded.
“So what’s your story?” He inquired.
“My story? I don’t have one. That man...in the jeep...” I trailed off. Emmett just shook his head. I sighed and laid my head back on the soft (and annoyingly white) pillow. “I can’t remember anything before this morning,” I found myself saying. “Everything before that is blank. I’m confused. A-and scared.” I didn’t know why I was telling a stranger this stuff, but I felt like I could trust him.
“No way. You can’t remember anything before this morning? I can’t remember anything before two weeks ago. There are a few random details, like a big palace maybe? Music...fire. But nothing else. I woke up on the side of a road and came here and was thrown into the orphanage system. Dr. Myers, the nurse you met after you got hit, she works part time at the orphanage and takes kids sometimes for a day so they get to see the outside world. Today’s my day. But that’s crazy, right? Why would we both have amnesia?” I blinked. This kid talked fast.
“Um. Yeah. Crazy. Do you know--”
“Ah, you’re awake, excellent. I’m Dr. Myers. How are you feeling?” the nurse from earlier walked into the room, smiling at me. She had blonde hair that was pulled back in a ponytail, and a stunningly beautiful face, with clear blue eyes and a winning smile. I was reminded of sunflowers and sunshine when I looked at her.
“Fine,” I said and tried to stand.
“No, no, none of that. Stay where you are. You took quite a hit. To be quite honest, I wasn’t sure you’d make it, but here you are, fine as ever. Emmett says he saw the whole thing and that you were hit by the truck going at least forty. If that’s the case, how are you still alive?” Dr. Myers asked. Wow, these people sure like to talk.
“I don’t know. But can I go now?”
“Certainly not. We need your parents to sign a release form first. Are they here?”
“My parents? I--”
“She’s like me, Dr. Myers. She doesn’t remember anything before this morning,” Emmett said. I shot him a glare before turning my attention back to Dr. Myers. Her eyebrows were furrowed.
“Is this true?” she asked. I nodded slowly. Dr. Myers sighed.
“Okay. Look, my shift’s over in an hour. Then I’ll figure out what to do with you,” she said and pulled out her phone, typing something into it. “Stay here.” And that was that. Dr. Myers left, leaving me alone with Emmett.
An hour passed and Dr. Myers still hadn’t returned. Emmett had gone back to doing something called homework, so I was left alone to think. I stared at the white-washed walls in silence. Then the walls seemed to spin into a vortex until I was looking at blackness and I heard a voice.
“Is it finished?” the voice was female. She sounded vaguely familiar.
“Yes, my love. All nine of them have reached the earth with no memory of who they are. Our plan is complete...” the second voice, clearly male, trailed off into silence. “One of them is listening.”
“How is that possible?” the woman spoke.
“I don’t know. It’s one of the ancient ones. Perhaps...” but I never got to hear what he was going to say next because Dr. Myers walked back in and the darkness receded, replaced by the horrible white walls.
“Okay dears. Sorry I’m a bit late. Had an emergency down at the ER. Heh. Get it? An emergency in the Emergency Room? Never mind. Ready to roll?”
“To roll?” I asked hesitantly.
“She means leave,” Emmett spoke up, his head peaking up from behind a book on metallurgy.
“But, where to?”
“Why, the orphanage of course. Where else? You’ve got no memory of a family or a home, so you can stay with Emmett and the other seven that are just like you until your families find you,” she unplugged me from machines as she talked and then I stood on shaky legs, following Emmett and Dr. Myers outside to the parking lot.
There was still glass everywhere, but the vehicles had been removed from the scene.
“There are seven more of us?” I asked as I stepped into the car.
“Yep. Eleanor was the first. You’ll meet her when we get there. Then there was Evan, then Jacob, and Jonathan, and Theo, Aurora, me, Alice, and now you. That’s nine in total,” Emmet explained. I swallowed.
“Wow. That’s...insane. And no one knows why? We all just showed up?”
“At the side of the road fifteen minutes south of Williamsport,” Dr. Myers cut in. I shook my head.
“That doesn’t make any sense,” I said.
“You’re tellin’ me,” Emmett sighed. The rest of the car ride was silent. I couldn’t stop thinking about that vision I had in the hospital room. Who were those people talking? I decided not to mention it to anyone until I knew for sure that I could trust the other eight people who mysteriously showed up in this town. For now, I would keep to myself. I was pretty sure that’s what I did best.
When we arrived at the orphanage, it wasn’t at all what I was expecting. The gates at the entrance looked almost friendly and welcoming. We drove along a winding driveway with perfectly trimmed hedges on either side. Everything was so bright and...happy. But something was off. I could feel it. I had been feeling it since I woke up at the side of the road that morning.
Dr. Myers guided her car safely to the front of the building and walked Emmett and me up the stairs. She slipped a key into the lock and the heavy wooden door swung inwards with a creak. I followed Emmett across the threshold and Dr. Myers turned to me with a disgustingly bright smile.
“Welcome to your new home!” she exclaimed and the door slammed shut behind her with finality.