Find the book on Amazon and Kindle
Join my website to get the latest : ma
My world is expanding, and it’s terrifying.
Dozens of kids cheer for me, excited by who they believe I am. I’m bringing hope to a mass of children that need it more than anything. They have been here all this time, hiding in the dark, with the faith that someone out there would save them.
And that someone could be me.
With his hand on my back, Shakes directs me toward the entrance we came through. Tango stands in the room with a wild grin, “We’re actually gonna get out of here, aren’t we?” he asks me.
Shakes interrupts, “That’s never been a question. Are the Powers here?”
“Yep,” Tango falters with a batch of keys, dropping them, looking at me, snatching them up again, and searching for a specific key. “I have a mom and dad out there. Three years I’ve been waiting.” Tango stuffs a key into the door lock. “Got a younger sister too.”
Shakes slaps him on the back, “Tell everyone to go to bed. We got an early day tomorrow. Ember,” Shakes pauses, “I guess I should start calling you Jennifer.”
I shake my head, “No, um…just not used to it.”
I’m supposed to be Jennifer, the girl that was sent by Memory. And though I’d love to take up that role, I’m scared. I’m not a good person. I’m not someone that can save anyone. In fact, I think I’ve proven how I can’t.
Shakes shrugs and moves on, “Want you to meet some people.”
I glance behind me toward the crowd that we left behind.
Why weren’t these people with them?
Stepping into the room, it’s an eight by eight office with a two way mirror on one side and another painting of an oak tree on the other. Already waiting inside are five kids, sitting in a semi-circle on chairs. Tara is the first one I lay my eyes on.
Tara is Tobias’ girlfriend or partner. She is loyal to a monster and in love with a murderer. Tara and I have never gotten along because I loathe everything she is, and for some reason, she hates everything I am.
Tara smirks at me, wiggling her fingers.
“Okay, Ember, meet the members of the board. Brick.”
Brick has the symbol of Boundary spread on his thick forearm with its brick layers in the shape of the letter ‘B’. His fire-colored hair has been shaved, leaving an orange scalp in its wake. His brows are the same color but his eyes are light green, like the color of grass. He is heavy set, built like a gorilla.
“You know, Tara.”
Tara leans back, linking her hands into her braided black hair, stretching seductively, pushing out her breasts through her pale white blouse. She knew about the rebellion this whole time and never once indicated I was a part of it. Instead, she was unnecessarily cruel. If I was any more bitter, I’d tip over her chair.
“Vapor is from Rain.”
Where Brick is thick, Vapor is thin, with barely any fat over his muscle. And where Brick is fire, Vapor is coal with short black curls on his head. Brick’s light skin bounces off Vapor’s dark black skin. They sit like twins, legs spread, arms crossed.
“Ink is from Coal,” the two almost men beside him dwarf Ink’s timid size. He’s the youngest, not yet past puberty. A fire tattoo rolls up his right arm to the elbow; sadly, his other arm is gone. He gives me a friendly, sympathetic smile.
“Jam-Jam is from Spread.”
Standing in the corner, blending in with the shadows is Jam-Jam. When our eyes meet, my heart races, remembering every occasion I bumped into him. He’s Zack’s bodyguard and dangerous. So dangerous Zack refers to him as a ‘Special’: a soldier in an army that shouldn’t exist. His back is straight, his body tight and tense. He is so ashen white it is to the point of angelic.
“And Star is from Sky.”
Star is a deathly thin, dark-skinned girl with a huge star tattoo on her forehead. Her hair is naturally puffy, and she’s shaved the sides leaving it in a short mohawk. Star doesn’t look up from picking at her dull nails with a knife. She wears tight black leggings and a black sports bra, revealing the impression of her ribs through her skin. And the numerous scars.
Shakes stands in front of them, the leader of this group of rejected kids. “These are the Powers. They are like my generals. They do the things I don’t want to do,” he chuckles with admiration. “Plus, they can show their face. I can’t.”
“It’s a long story. But I’m supposed to be dead.”
Shakes points to a chair, and I nervously sit, feeling out of place. He pulls up another one beside me, turning it to sit with the back against his chest, his shaking hands resting over the edge.
The circle is finished. I’m joining a rebellion I don’t quite understand. They all expect me to have something to give, and I have nothing. I’m not even that great of a fighter.
Shakes studies each of his members individually, taking them in slowly, catching their eyes. A minute goes by before he decides the words he wants to say. “I’m sorry to call you back so soon. I know it’s hard enough to get away. Two times in the same week. Thank you.”
“You summon, we show.” Tara grins, “You’re king now.”
There is a quiet despair that spreads through the room. It’s because of the Grounding and the loss of Memory. I want to know more about it if only to feel a part of this movement.
“Let’s get to business.”
Tara stops him, “Should she be here for this?”
I scowl at her, and she winks.
“Think of Ember as a–”
“Ember?” Tara mocks. “What happened to Scream?”
“Tara,” Shakes warningly murmurs. “Do we got to talk?”
The reprimand in his voice, defending me from her maliciousness, creates a swell of pride in my chest. A smile twitches on my lips. With my big brother Shakes, I’m invincible.
Tara rolls her eyes and crosses her arms over her chest but otherwise says nothing.
“Ember will be treated like a Power. We’ve been looking out for her for a while, but now it’s imperative. She’s the key.”
I bow my head, and shame dumps on me like a garbage heap. He is investing so much in me. I feel like a fraud.
“Don’t worry,” Shakes taps my elbow, “We’re gonna get your memory back.”
He shrugs, glancing to Star then to Jam-Jam, “We got a few ideas.” Shakes claps his hands, changing the subject, “Alright, business. Ink, go ahead.”
Ink stands up. He wears the typical clothes of a coal member, a black polo shirt with nice Levi jeans and white Adidas shoes. “Shipment comes on Saturday. A ton of little kids this time. I feel like they keep getting younger and younger. There’s a six-year-old boy. I think we should grab him before Zack can. But that’s not our biggest problem. An order went out to the Snatchers. The teachers want to auction off twenty kids by Friday.”
Brick states, “Auction has always been on Reaping week which isn’t for another two weeks.”
“I’m telling you, they’re getting rid of us. Last Auction was the biggest sale of kids to date.”
The only thing I ever knew about Auction was that Tobias was saving me from it. He loved to brag that he was the only thing keeping me from being sold. But sold to who? To do what? I wasn’t allowed to ask.
Vapor puts the thought into the atmosphere, “Myers has to know. He doesn’t know how but he knows Anarchy’s coming.”
Shakes doesn’t miss a beat, “Of course, he knows. He wants us too because it’s entertaining. During the last uprising, he had a boost in sales. Greed makes people stupid.”
“What do you plan to do?” Brick asks.
Shakes purses his lips. “It’s harder now that they got rid of our own Snatchers. It helped keeping members of Anarchy out of the Auction block.”
Star clenches the knife she plays with, “We need to figure out an escape before we are all killed. The teachers have been targeting us one by one. The only reason we’re still here is because of Carbon. They want some of us to know what happened at the Grounding as a warning, so we won’t do it again.”
“That’s what we’re doing, Star,” Shakes explains softly. “I need your patience. They don’t know about the tunnels. They don’t know what we know. You’re right. The Grounding destroyed half of our forces. We lost Memory, Tobias, and Carbon, and now Hail...but Memory is out there telling--”
Star growls, “Why are we still talking about Memory?”
There’s a depressing silence, and everyone stares at the floor. Memory was their leader, and now she’s gone. How did she make it out without anyone else? I’d be bitter if someone got to leave here and go home with me.
It’s why Shakes needs me to remember. Not only to tell him the message she gave me but to help those that stopped believing in Memory.
I hate that I think of him, even now. I want to distance myself from the kid that tried to destroy me, but he’s become a shadow, impossible to shake.
Shakes keeps his faith strong. “We know Memory is doing her part.” His green eyes rest on me. I give him a reassuring smile, hoping he can’t notice the doubt in me.
Star stabs her knife into the seat between her legs. “We’ve lost too much time waiting on Memory. It’s been nearly a year, and we can’t even get to Carbon. Everything we do has repercussions on him. When Chad stood up in Nancy’s classroom and flaunted Memory in her face, screaming was heard from the Coal compound that fucking night. We have to move faster.”
Silence follows. I try to recall Chad because I know I had been there in that classroom, but I am greeted with haziness. I can’t remember the boy’s face or what had been said. I only see the blood splashing on the desks, and how, as Tobias dragged his body out, red streak marks were left behind. I stared at them the entire class period.
Finally, Shakes takes a deep breath, “Look. I can’t keep fighting you, Star. We’ve spoken about this a bunch of times. We agreed to keep moving forward with the plans. No matter what. We have to move on. We have to start the plans again. We do it one by one. We are farther than we were a year ago even with the Grounding setback. We are smarter. We are better than we were. And we know something even better. We know about the exit in Coal,” he smiles at this. “That’s where we’re gonna start.”
“Start what?” Tara pursues.
“We have to begin to weaken Coal. So let’s kill some of their Snatchers.”
Star has criticism on her thin lips, “How do you plan on killing them? They live in the Coal Compound, and they have automatic rifles at their disposal. Most of them are strong fighters that even I can’t beat.”
Shakes doesn’t have an answer, but Vapor does, “Let’s bomb it.”
There is panic in her face. “Carbon is trapped in there,” she jumps to her feet, her chair falling back and slamming on the ground, “He sacrificed himself for you, and you all just want to kill him.” She hurries from the room, slamming the door on her way out.
Ink stands up to go after her but stalls, whispering, “Try to be a bit more sensitive, huh?” There isn’t much strength behind his words; he is too soft-spoken to be a leader. He sits down, eyes on the floor.
Shakes doesn’t let her departure bother him. “Bombing would kill more than just the Snatchers. How many kids? Ten, Twenty? And the repercussions might be more than we can handle. That’s why I’ve decided, we will take the Snatchers out one by one.”
Vapor snaps to his feet, “Let them take me.”
Shakes smiles but disagrees. “I know you are a good fighter but I can’t risk losing you. Finding a replacement for Hail has been hard enough. You are my last tie with Rain that I trust.”
“You have others. Light.”
My eyes flip to Vapor in surprise. Light has been a friend and a boy I have a silly little crush on. Would I be seeing him here? I’m still wearing the sweatpants he gave me. They’re dirty after a couple days, and I foolishly look around for something nicer to put on. I adjust my hair, looking toward the mirror, but instead of my reflection, I see Tango picking his nose through the two-way mirror.
Vapor explains, “Light is moving up quickly. He’s become Drop’s second-in-command. And now, with Cloud dead, any associates of his have gone quiet. It’s only a matter of time before the clan joins us again.”
“Light’s too much like her.” Shakes explains, and I know he’s talking about Drop, the leader, but I’m surprised he says it with animosity.
Drop is a captivating sixteen-year-old girl I envy. She has everything I want: control. She has the power to keep people from hurting her and though I’d be in her clan if I could, Drop hates me. Her boyfriend died trying to protect me and I doubt I’ll ever get her forgiveness.
“Light’s a pacifist. He’s always been that way. He missed his chance to kill Cloud and Jam-Jam had to intervene.”
Jam-Jam’s white shoes blink like a beacon, a light in the fog, and memory attacks me.
After Charles was killed, I was mentally broken and stopped caring about myself. Cloud found me. I can see him now, standing above me, undoing his belt. But then the next thing I see in the shadows are the white of Jam-Jam’s shoes.
I thought it was a nightmare.
I observe Jam-Jam’s face as he stares at the floor. Cloud is dead, and though I’m relieved to know an enemy of mine is gone, I wonder if I’m staring at his murderer.
Or my savior.
“Let’s move on. I’m not sacrificing you while Drop and I are in disagreement. We’ll figure something else out.”
“I will do it then.”
Jam-Jam speaks, his lips moving, upsetting the skin on his stiff face. His voice is deep, and it reverberates in my chest like the boom of a drum. Jam-Jam keeps his head down. He’s a statue, and I’m surprised he can speak at all.
An attractive statue.
Jam-Jam’s dark brown eyes flip up and connect to mine. I hide my head as heat overloads my cheeks.
Did he read my thoughts?
Shakes dismisses the idea. “You risk enough. We’ll leave this to Team Black. Brick, how far along are the tunnels?”
Even though the attention moved away from Jam-Jam, I still find myself daring to look at him. He lowers his eyes to the floor, thankfully disregarding the weight of my obvious stare. There’s so many questions I have about this place and Zack’s clan has been a darkness I’ve been afraid to find out about. I’ve only witnessed a hint of the maliciousness Zack buries deep behind a friendly smile. What has Jam-Jam seen?
“The first route to the left got backed up yesterday. A slight cave-in, but we didn’t lose anyone. The second route is moving much faster. Kyle and Wind are the fastest diggers I’ve seen. We can’t construct beams fast enough for them. Not with the supplies we have.” Brick rests his elbows on his knees, “We need more.”
“We take what we can from the Rat buildings, but it’s starting to become noticeable.”
I spent much of my time in the Rat buildings. They always seem to be falling apart, with half-finished rooms and destroyed floors. Now I know the reason: a rebellion was tearing them apart for their war.
I’m amazed. They’re really trying.
“Who else can we take from?”
“Boundary has too many cameras. Rain, Coal, and Spread aren’t allies.”
Tara interrupts, “Respect has supplies in the basement. A bunch of furniture that can be chopped up.”
Flashes of the basement spring up in my mind. I was trapped in that basement with that furniture numerous times. I grabbed a broken piece of a chair to fight off Tobias. It hadn’t done me much good, but I did hit him in the back a few times.
“Tobias will want something for it, though.”
I snort, unsurprised.
Her dark eyes land on me with contempt, “You better watch yourself, girl–”
“Tara,” Shakes interrupts.
“Tobias goes out of his way–”
“Tara!” he snaps, shutting her down.
She folds her arms, looking away like a little brat.
“That’s the last time,” he warns her.
To be defended is like magic to me. I’m in awe of Shakes. Charles was the only one to stick up for me, but that had never done much good. Not many people are scared of angry little kittens.
And though I want to stay quiet and let it be, I have a terrible personality trait, and that’s not being able to shut my mouth.
“He does shit for no one but himself. You’re so far up his ass, you can’t tell the difference.”
Shakes hangs his head, peaking over at me from between his bangs, and I know he isn’t happy about my response.
I sink into the chair with a bowed head. Stupid, stupid, stupid. I’m gonna get kicked out before I even know what’s going on.
Brick breaks into a laugh, leaning on Vapor who is grinning, “Okay, viper. Got a mouth on her! Better be careful, Tara.”
A smile threatens my lips.
Did you enjoy my story? Please let me know what you think by leaving a review! Thanks, Marissa RiveraWrite a Review