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The Subliminal Hierarchy

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A school for only the most talented. An amnesiac prisoner. An isolated genius. A secret killer. A forgotten family member. A cripled artist. And the secrets that could kill them all. In the distant future, a mysterious group of people found the Auroran Learning Institute (ALI), a home they give to the twenty percent most talented young people.  Rowan Atreus, an imprisoned girl with amnesia, finds herself placed here and is renamed Lacey Gorse.  Those around her tell her to put aside her past and embrace her life at ALI, where she’s free to become who she wants.  Yet as she searches for clues to her past, she uncovers dark truths that make her question how free ALI really is, who she is, and everything she thinks she knows.

Scifi / Thriller
Eirianwen Conan
Age Rating:

Chapter 1

Rowan Atreus wishes her heart would stop beating. Not to die. No, she’s clawed her way through too much to give up now. Though with each treacherous thump, the larcenous substance courses through her veins, making her wish it would just. Stop.

But her heart won’t stop, or even hesitate for a breath. How could it, in a moment like this, when the power of the truth is in Rowan’s head but is about to be snuffed out? When she’s strapped down to a metal table, ominous machinery and lab equipment looming on all sides?

She thrashes against her restraints, making her heart hammer like a bird desperately throwing itself against the walls of its cage. There’s no use. The serum is doing its work; the darkness is coming.

Rowan fights back despair as she begins to accept the inevitable. She’s going to forget. She’s going to lose her entire identity so they can mold her into what they want. Black specks dance in her vision, telling her there’s little time left. As her consciousness slips away, she clings to the truth with all the feeble strength she has left.

Then the darkness takes over.

Cold.That’s the first sensation she feels.When she blinks, her eyelashes brush the hard steel floor. She sees grey, grey and a tendril of something sandy colored. Only when she pushes herself up does she realize the sandy tendril is hair, her hair. Although she feels as if water sloshes around in her head, she forces herself to look around.

She’s surrounded by nothing but steel. Four steel walls, a steel floor, and a steel ceiling. Prison, she realizes through her daze. She’s in prison. The girl slumps against one of the steel walls, wondering why, why she would be in prison. Blinking the fog out of her vision, she gives the room another languid glance, taking in the lights in the ceiling, a toilet pail in the corner, and a disposal chute.

Letting out a lethargic groan, she allows her head to drop to her chest, matted sandy hair dropping to obscure her vision on all sides. Something bothers her, something that she can’t name. It feels like having an itch in an unknown place, like losing a possession she can’t remember… she can’t remember… Her eyes pop open as her body snaps to attention.

She has no idea who she is. For a moment, she stares at the menacing steel wall in front of her, rapid shallow breaths racking her body. A hand—her hand—grips the front of her loose grey shirt as she hopes for something to flick on a light in her brain, replacing the murky darkness she encounters when she tries to recall anything. Then she realizes. This isn’t a trick. This isn’t something that will fade. Her memories are gone.

The agonizing awareness pulls a ragged cry from her throat as she makes a frantic move to face the wall. Endless questions dance about the empty eclipse of her mind. Who is she? Where is she from? Why is she here? The girl rubs the steel surface of the wall with all her might, hoping to get a clearer reflection or anything that might spark a memory.

Though through all her attempts, the inexorable wall yields only an obscure shadow, nothing that brings the slightest hint of a memory. The girl hits her fist against the wall and puts her head down with a sob, wondering if there is more to life than oblivion and exile, or if there ever will be. She has neither a memory nor a friend to tell her otherwise.

Leaning her back to the wall, she lets out an anguished scream. But no one hears, and no one ever will. She can scream and bleed and beg for help, but she may as well throw rocks at the sky. No one will know, no one will heed her, no one would care. She is entirely alone, all of her torment locked inside of her. This torturous truth causes her to collapse inside of herself, welcoming darkness’s cold embrace.

It’s Day Three now. Day three and she still knows nothing. Or she assumes it’s been three days. She can only count days by the lights. Every night the light in her cell flickers out, and the girl sleeps on her cot. Every morning the lights come back and she wakes up, though she’s never truly sure why.

There are three bland meals a day that come in and out the same chute, and there’s a separate chute for her toilet pail. At one point, her imprisoners even sent her a new set of loosely fitted grey clothing. She’s thought about starving herself, or rejecting the clothes. Yet she doesn’t.

Instead she goes through all the motions of living. Sleeping. Waking. Eating. Wondering. Yet, she always feels like part of her is sleeping, and even with plenty of food, she never feels full. With all her wondering, she’s never found a single answer. She knows nothing of the family, friends, or fiends of her past. She doesn’t know who put her here. She doesn’t know who she is.

She wonders if perhaps she’s done something awful, something so awful that she deserves this fate. Some instinct tells her she isn’t that sort of a person, but sometimes this voice can’t be heard over the screeching silence that only solitude can produce.

The girl doesn’t know who would bother to take such good care of a former criminal. She only knows that if she spends much more time here, she’ll go insane. She can’t remember anything, no matter how hard she tries. If she ever needs people, it is now. But she’s hopelessly alone, without any contact or help. If she ever needs memories, it is now.

So she waits. Listless, more dead than alive, and almost without hope, she waits. Whether it is for change, truth, insanity, or death she doesn’t know.

The thing she waits for comes on Day Five. She’s lying in a puddle of misery when without warning, one of the seemingly impenetrable walls parts, allowing room for a woman in a grey suit to walk in. The stranger has her dark hair pulled into a tight, impeccable bun which accentuates the severity of her cold, beautiful face. “Up,” she orders brusquely.

The girl lifts her head and uncurls from her fetal position. Was this a dream? Instinctively, her eyes hone in on the label on the woman’s shirt. Auroran, it reads. No, not a dream. She wouldn’t be able to read that if it was. The girl doesn’t know how she knows this.

“Up!” The grey woman repeats, impatience seeping into her voice this time. “And come with me.”

“Come? I’m leaving?” she croaks with her unused voice.

“Would I waste my breath asking you to come if I didn’t mean it?” The woman gives her a critical stare as she types a few notes on her board.

“Are you my imprisoner or my liberator?” the girls asks with caution.

The Auroran, as the girl comes to think of her, looks up from her keyboard and throws her a smile which holds about as much warmth as an ice storm. “Both.” Then she turns on her heels with a sharp click, starting down a long grey hallway.

Who is she? Can the girl trust her? Probably not, but this may be her only chance out of prison. Peeling herself from the floor, she follows after the Auroran. Her eyes dart around the halls, which only differs slightly from her prison cell. Glinting steel still surrounds her on all sides. “Where are we going?”

“Save your questions for later,” is the curt response.

When they reach a set of metal double doors, the Auroran makes a sharp turn to face the girl. “I’m going to explain everything to you in a condensed, brief manner, so it would serve you well not to interrupt. Your name is Lacey Gorse.”

“No.” The response slips out before she can bite back her tongue. After all of the hours she spent trying to recall her name, she never produced any results, but some instinct tells her Lacey is not it.

The Auroran’s eyes narrows as she makes a discreet mark on her board, then she continues her speech with clipped, calculated words. “I told you not to interrupt.Your name is Lacey Gorse. I don’t suggest you question me on that.”

She paused for the girl… Lacey to give a nod. But every cell in her body screamed in rebellion as she did so.

“Your past was bleak with a grey future, so when the Aurorans offered you a chance to take the Evaluation, you readily accepted,” the Auroran continues. “Since you scored among the top twenty percent, you earned yourself a place at the Auroran Learning Institute, commonly known as ALI. Your results are here.”

She pauses to pass Lacey a formal piece of paper. Lacey makes a ravenous grab for the information in hopes of discovering something of herself, but finds her mind whirls too quickly for her to process the writing. She’s learned more about herself in the last five minutes than she has in the last five days, yet… if the Auroran lied about her name, what else could she be lying about? “What’s the Evaluation?” Lacey asks, trying to fill one of her hundreds of holes of knowledge.

“An accurate measure of beauty, intelligence, personality, creativity, and strength.”

“You can measure all of those accurately?”

“With the most perfect precision possible.” The Auroran casts Lacey a look that sent a shiver down her spine.

“And I took this test?”

“You just completed the final part.”

Bits and pieces begin to fall together in Lacey’s brain. “The prison… and the memory loss was part of a test? Does that mean I can have my memories back now?”

The Auroran keeps her eyes trained on the door. “The prison was a test of emotional strength, yes. The memory loss I’m afraid was an unfortunate side effect.”

“Why… how did it happen?”

“I’m afraid I don’t have time to explain.” The Auroran checks her board. “When that door opens in thirty seconds, you will begin your life at ALI.”

“What do I do there?”

“You learn. You live. You prepare for leadership. You’re liberated.” The door opens to a stage with a crowd of young people around it. “Come now.The assembly is waiting.”

Lacey slowly creeps through the doorway, lingering behind as the Auroran steps to the front of the stage. “Students of ALI,” she begins, not at all phased by the masses. “Today Lacey Gorse will be joining you.”

A wave of whispers passes over the crowd, making Lacey want to slink behind and crawl back into her prison cell. No, she decides. Nowhere could be worse than there. She needs to be here, where there are people. Where someone might know something. She holds her head up, pretending that the crowds’ eyes aren’t turning her stomach into knots.

“Now we know you thought no one else would be joining, but these are unusual circumstances,” the Auroran continues, silencing the crowd. “You also need to know that Lacey has unfortunately experienced amnesia, which may cause some trouble to her adjustment, but we’re sure we can leave her in your care from this point on.”

Without another word, the Auroran walks off the stage and through the door, which closes behind her with a soft click.

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DCase81: I loved this story. Even though she had her doubts, she pushed forward. I can't wait for the 2nd Book. I read it in 1 day 😬 I just thoroughly enjoyed it. Thank you!

gamer281: Ich bin eine mega große Leseratte und es ist daher nicht leicht mich für neue Geschichten zu begeistern, aber diese Story hat es mir echt angetan. Vielen lieben Dank, mach weiter so.

Bambi: Mir gefällt nur eines nicht- DAS ES NICHT WEITERGEHT! Bin total gespannt!

Amy Codling: So happy the little Clover is reunited with her mother!!! Ethan needs to PAY!!

eotero945: Rara, pero excitante!!!

jodiedigg: Love it, it gets better with every reread. Can't wait for the next update. I've been following this and other of your stories for years.

Ninni Holz: Fesselnde Story ,spannend geschrieben.Bin echt gespannt;wie lange Novalie das noch durchhält.Ansonsten spielen ja kaum andere Personen eine Rolle,außer ab und zu die Polizei:😋

cjlsnyder: Such an invigorating and thrilling adventure. Hard to put down. Dotted with erotica in all the right places. Love it!

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