I was ten years old the day I was kidnapped.
I was young and stupid when I asked my beautiful, perfect, and loving mother if I could please go look at the toy section of the store while she finished up getting together the groceries. It was something I’d done a thousand times over, and shouldn’t have been a problem, but this time, there was a man. I usually wouldn’t speak to strangers, but he told me that he knew where they were keeping the newest toy shipment, and I very stupidly followed him around the backside of an aisle where I found myself with his hands and a dirty old rag over my face. Everything went black and when I woke up I was in the dark with the muffled sounds of other girls crying just like me.
Eight years later and waking up here still freaking sucks.
Drighten Boarding School, home of the stolen girls. It sounds fancy and all, but it really isn’t. Drighten is nothing but a stone fortress nestled on the top of a grassy hill in the middle of nowhere some place in Ireland. I’m sure to onlookers, it’s beautiful, or it would be, if there were ever any onlookers to speak of. In eight years I’ve never seen another person who wasn’t either a prisoner here, or one of our keepers.
When I first arrived I was put into a room with the other newest girls. They gave us a few days to cry it out and to get used to the idea of our lives changing, and then they dropped the bomb.
The vampire bomb.
Apparently those vampires that we always thought were just stories made up to scare us, were not just stories, but real. Really real. Our keepers explained to us that a few weeks ago, the government was slowly being overpowered by the vampires who no longer wanted to exist only in the shadows, but in the real world. We get the speech every week now in our chapel meetings. Life as we knew it is over, the vampires have taken over, and we have been brought here for our protection and to preserve human lives. Our keepers love to remind us that we should be thankful to them for saving us because humans are now the minority, and all of our families are dead. They constantly nag about how we would be dead too if we hadn’t been saved. Somewhere, we’re told there is a school just like this one, but for boys.
All of the other girls love to sit around and gossip and daydream about the boy’s school and what it will be like to go there and find their true loves. I always smile and nod along with them.
“Rachel,” They’ll say. “Don’t you want to meet a boy and fall in love?” They ask me. “I bet it’s just like Romeo and Juliet.”
I find it completely amusing that that is the story that they choose to obsess over. I don’t have the heart to point out to them that they both died in the end. Plus, I don’t think finding true love is really in the cards for us anymore. Our duty now is to grow up, marry, and have babies so that the human race continues.
There are girls here of all ages and races. Every month they find and rescue new girls from the outside world and bring them here. Our groups that we came in with are the groups that we stay in during our entire stay at Drighten. When we turn eighteen, we will finally get to leave here and we will be merged into the mixed school with both boys and girls.
Today is my eighteenth birthday. The day that all of this monotony finally ends for me. I’m finally going to get out of this depressing and oppressive place. Eight years here sure has tried it’s hardest to drive me insane, but knowing I’m going to be leaving soon did give me a little homesick feeling. I looked around the room and smiled to myself, just a little, memorizing it.
I’ve had three rooms in my time here, but this one was by far the nicest. The room was long and narrow, with cobblestoned walls and floors, and bunk beds lining both sides. Really it’s no different from my other two rooms except that this one has windows and it’s on the third floor. The light in this room is what makes me like it so much. Even though it has a slight smell of mildew, the bright abundance of sunlight that dances in through the three big windows makes it a perfect place to sit and read. I was 16 when I got to move into this room and I used to sit in the window and imagine I saw a prince coming to rescue me in the distance. Standing in front of the window, looking out at the rolling green hills, I know now that it was a silly dream.
The bells chimed loudly and I quickly rushed to be sure that my bed and space were in good order. The keepers come around every morning and if our bunks don’t pass inspection, we don’t get any outside time.
All the other girls rushed into the room and we waited patiently as our main guard, Ms. Riess, stomped through with her clipboard. I could relax a little once she was passed me with no citations.
I expected her to leave when she’d finished, but she stopped in the middle of the room and tucked her clipboard underneath her bulky arm. “All girls under the mark of eighteen, please move on to breakfast and then morning classes.” She called and a handful of girls filed out of the room. “The rest of you, pack your things.”
I felt my heart skip a beat.
“We’re leaving now?” I blurted out. I knew I wasn’t supposed to speak out of turn, but I just couldn’t contain my excitement.
She rolled her eyes at me. “Right after breakfast.” She grumbled unenthusiastically, then stomped out of the room.
I didn’t even feel like eating I was so overcome with excited nerves. I threw my things together quickly, which didn’t take long since I pretty much owned nothing anyway. I seriously thought about skipping breakfast, but I knew it wasn’t an option. I don’t need to get into trouble on my last day. They take our meals very seriously. We eat three good meals a day, and all of our foods are grown in the gardens behind Drighten, or raised at the farm just down the hill. In addition to that they always force us to exercise regularly. We need to be our very healthiest to support the human race I reminded myself.
“Rachel!” My best friend, Greer, said excitedly when she skipped over to my bunk. “Can you believe this is really happening?” She gushed. “I’m so excited feel like my cheeks are going to split open from smiling so hard.”
Greer and I arrived here on the same day and we have been best friends ever since. I hugged her quickly and we giggled to ourselves as we jumped up and down. “I know, I’ve been waiting for this forever.”
Greer pushed her thick sandy hair behind her ears and her small brown eyes were practically glowing. “Do you think we will get to meet the boys on the first day,” She mused. “Or do you think they’ll make us settle in first?”
I shook my head at her. “I don’t know, Greer.” I told her. “Honestly, I don’t even care about the boys, I’m just happy to be leaving here.”
“You’re right.” She nodded. “That’s the really important part.” She said seriously, but then her face split around a giant smile again. “But I am still pretty freaking excited about the boys!” She giggled, hopping in a small circle.
“Rachel! Greer!” We jumped when we heard our names called. “Get to the dining hall!” Ms. Riess yelled when she stuck her head back into our room and saw we were the only ones left. “Your luggage will be taken to the bus.”
Greer and I exchange excited glances at the mention of busses and held off on our celebrations until we knew she was gone again. I hadn’t ridden in a car since the day I was brought here.
After breakfast the twenty five girls over eighteen were all led out to the front entrance of Drighten where a large bus was waiting for us. Everyone was silent but you could feel the heavy buzz of excitement in the air all around us.
The journey took a long time, but the scenery didn’t ever seem to change, confirming to me just how far out in the absolute middle of nowhere we really were. Before long, darkness had fallen and we still hadn’t made it to our new school. It took hours of utter boredom in the darkness of the bus before we could finally see lights on the horizon. We pulled into a deep valley and the tiny city became visible up ahead. The bus winded through the narrow streets, bumping around on the gravel, before if finally pulled to a stop at what seemed like the city center. Even though it must’ve been really late, there were hundreds of people standing around seemingly waiting for something.
The city was small, just a handful of stone buildings built into a semicircle that wrapped around the back side of a giant fountain. The people were all gathered out in front of the fountain, most of them with their backs to the bus. The other girl’s began to whisper quietly about how beautiful the water was as it sprayed high up into the sky, but I wasn’t that interested in that. I was more interested in why there were so many people. If this was the mixed school, shouldn’t there be more people who seemed our age? I only could see people who were older.
A man in a black uniform approached the bus with a few guards behind him. He stepped right inside and whispered something to our driver, before he turned to look down the rows of us. He nodded like he was pleased, then he cleared his throat and called us to attention.
“Stand and move toward the front in an orderly line please, girls.” He yelled and everyone hopped from their seats excitedly.
The closer I got to the front of the bus, the more nervous I got. Up ahead of me I could hear girls start to cry or screaming ‘no’. I instantly knew something wasn’t right. When I reached the door at the front of the bus I could finally see why.
The guards shackled my hands together and pushed me out to the crowd, forcing me to stand beside the other girls in a line on the edge of the fountain. I shivered in the brisk breeze that blew through my thick wavy hair, and I tried unsuccessfully to get it out of my mouth with my shackled hands. I had momentarily been distracted by the annoyance, but then, beyond my belief, people start yelling out numbers. I looked down to my shirt and stared at the painted red 476 that I’d worn since the day I arrived at Drighten. I heard my own number being shouted multiple times, and my heart quickened with every mention of it.
The man in the black uniform came to the front of the line and held a megaphone up to his mouth. “The auction will begin shortly, but first, we have a representative of the royal family here to pick girls for the competition.” He said and the crowd broke out in hoots and hollers.
A nicely dressed, tall, Hispanic man came to walk up and down the line of girls, looking at each of us carefully, before moving back down the line again. After making his rounds four times he went over to the man in the uniform and whispered something in his ear before giving him a charming smile and a nod of his chin. The men both chuckled together, glancing for a moment back my way, and then the Hispanic man disappeared back into the crowd.
My heart was pounding a mile a minute and I couldn’t take in everything that was going on in front of me as the crowd began screaming numbers again. I could hear the cries of the girls on either side of me, but I was too stunned by what the heck was going on to even show any type of actual emotion. I just stood there, frozen, until suddenly, I couldn’t see anything. Someone had come up behind me and thrown and black fabric bag over my head.
I could feel hands on the tops of my shoulders as a voice filled my ear.
“It is your lucky, you’ve been chosen.”