The Academy

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c o n t a i n e d

The smell of chemicals and smoke pushes sleep from my body as I slowly open my eyes and fight to look around. The memories struggle to surface and my thoughts jumble together until it’s a mess in my head. I try lifting my hands to rub the sleep from my eyes, but they get halfway up and get pulled back by the thick rope around my wrists.

Fear bubbles from the top of my head to the tips of my feet and my heart slams against the ribs surrounding it. My eyes blink furiously as they try to make out familiar objects or things to mark my location, but they lose their focus quickly and everything turns blurry. I let my hands dangle next to the chair after completely giving up. Heavy boots thud around me, and as the lights flicker out, I fall into a deep abyss of darkness. Loud laughter erupts, and I flinch as voices seem to breathe down my neck and the hairs stand to attention. I try my hardest to wipe the fear off of my face and focus on the words floating around me, but after a few bits of conversations reach my ears I conclude the people are not American.

I wait for them to leave or walk past, but their words hang in the air as they stand there for a few moments. My neck begins to cramp as my head hangs to the side. I know my acting skills won’t last much longer as a cover, but there is still a sliver of hope that I look somewhat believable and ultimately they’ll end up leaving as I’m not much entertainment. My blood goes cold as that thought drifts back into my head. What if that is what my job is? Entertainment for those who captured me. I was taken for a reason, but for what, I can't seem to figure out. I can feel the pulse in my neck rise against my skin faster at the realization that I might die pushes deeper into my consciousness. Both lungs begin to lift my chest faster as my breathing gets heavier.

I struggle to focus on the incomprehensible conversations of the men around me, but my ears can only hear the sound of my heart thudding in my ears. Eventually, I block out the noise of my own body and try listening closely to the sounds around me, but there is nothing. I peer through a crack in my eyes and see nothing but pitch black. It appears as if the men are no standing longer nearby. That fact sends hysteria coursing through my veins, but it also allows my lungs a break from panicking into shallow breaths and blowing my cover. I fully open my eyes and hear a faint chuckle to my left and I fight the urge to turn my head and look into the eyes of the man who dared to laugh at me.

“Well look who is up, our dear guest,” a sick chilling voice rumbles from behind me. My stomach drops at the sound of his words and tone. The word guest makes my skin crawl in disgust and I manage to stay calm. His footsteps circle me and suddenly a bright stage light floods overhead. I’m put on center stage for everyone around to see. The adrenaline begins wearing off and the edges of a headache arise. A pulsing starts pounding against my temple at a slow rhythm. The light seems to blaze brighter and I watch confused as a group of men file into the room. My eyes strain to lock onto their faces to gauge their emotions, but no one gives a single look towards me. It's as if my presence doesn't mean anything like it is not strange.

I follow along with the group as they walk to a table and grab tall glasses of brown liquids. Instantly, the emotions raging inside sink to the ground like a puddle at the sight of their composure. My presence is normal, yet it seems as if a few of them don’t know what to think of me. I look one of the younger men in the group up and down, but his eyes catch mine. I observe their cold pools of pearly blue that wash a sense of peace through my body. Somehow, my gut tells me that he is not like the rest of the men in the room. His gray orbs flick away quickly as a man who looks as if he holds a lot of power marches in through a side door. Immediately everyone’s eyes turn towards the man and I watch as he walks to the center of the room and the lights dim around the room leaving me with the spotlight. His words boom off the concrete walls as he speaks to the group standing before him.

“Welcome gentlemen, are we ready to get started,” he asks the men around him as a smile slowly spreads across his face. His features look as if they were chiseled out of stone. His face looks young, but it's evident that he has aged well over the years. His jaw is lined with silver facial hair and his tailored suit looks expensive just like the others in the room.

The group nods their heads and he walks away glass in hand and gestures around the room. “This is our private auction house, but I’m sure some of you have already been here, and others multiple times.”

My brain starts racing around and trying to piece a collective thought together. I am tied up in an auction house and not the first thing he’s sold. The contents of my stomach threaten to spew out, but I take a deep gulp and try to relax. I look up at the ceiling and start counting the tiles to regain my control.

His gravelly voice sends a startling sweat that makes my skin drip with moisture. “We have a few beauties to go through first, so take a seat and I’ll have my boys bring ’em out for us.”

I look over and realize that there has been a stage set up this whole time. The guys take their seats and the stage is lit with flickering lights that struggle to stay on. Tears stream down my cheeks at the sight of the first girl. She looks like she is younger than me and her body is lined with bruises and blood. Two heavy men drag her onto the stage and into the light. The men seated before her whistle and some growl in inhumane ways.

“I present to you our stunning sixteen-year-old named Jenifer. She came from the Bronx and will be leaving with one of you lucky guys tonight. So lads, what will she be?”

I urge her to look up at me, just one glimpse up. I can see her pain without even knowing the story behind her appearance and that alone is enough to make me want to wretch whatever is inside of my stomach again. Her eyes finally look up into mine and I see her sorrow. I mouth to her that I’m sorry and she nods her head ever so slightly and the tears slip down her face and shine in the light. I look away and see that the gray-eyed man from earlier is watching me. I force my tears to stop falling down my cheeks and try pulling against my restraints, but the rope cuts into my skin and I bite my lip at the dull pain.

The men next to him start whispering and numbers begin to erupt across the small crowd. The men grow louder and finally, a loud bang silences the room and my heart patters to a stop. I frantically search to see if the glint of a gun in the air, but the disgusting man stands behind a podium with a hammer in his hand and smacks it three more times. The girl is sold and shipped away and another one enters the room.

They come and go. I lost count after the fifth one. She was a sight that made my stomach churn. After she walked out I had kept my eyes closed and my head tilted up towards the ceiling. Every time I was submerged in the endless announcements that the man screamed I would wince and pull my wrists harder against the straps. The pain would increase for a second and take me away for a single moment. That moment was enough for me. Eventually, I could feel the slow trickle of blood run down my fingers and I was beyond caring.

The wait felt like hours until finally, the man’s voice stopped echoing across the empty room. The footsteps woke me from my trance, but I didn’t bother opening my eyes. I knew I was next and a part of me was prepared and ready to be sold to a creepy guy with intentions that were to scar me. I sat there in my chair with the lights raining down on me and waited for the man to say my name and for the group to react, but it never came and the lights died out. I opened my eyes to look around and saw nothing but blank darkness. I was alone, and that was when I allowed myself to cry out loud.

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