MS Word is telling me this was created in October 2010. Which is a bit dodgy because that's when I thought I wrote the story, so I must have written the story BEFORE that.
I was part of a writing group in Shepherds Bush, and at the time I'd thought this story was going to be My Chance (to get published, that is - I laugh at the thought now) so I wrote this oneshot for the lady who ran the group to give me feedback. It focusses on The Coordinator, who is my favourite character in the story and I don't really do her justice. But then I never get to the part of the story when she can really shine. Anywhoo. ENOUGH RAMBLING.
She woke in the half-darkness, enveloping her like a sea of shadows. Her head throbbed with pain. Dark shapes swam into view. This wasn’t home. The last thing she remembered was being in the safe warmth of her home, making final preparations for New Years Day in the living room, rich aromas bombarding her senses and the buzz of excitement as her family waited for the fireworks to be set.
The bed she now lay on was hard and cold. Elevated. A bunk bed.
She whimpered, gingerly lifting her head. It felt like a boulder. Her eyes adjusted to the gloom; shapes – people, bunk beds, rows and rows of them across the eerie, grey-painted room. A dormitory? The smell was musty and stale, it crawled up her nose and choked her. Something like fear hung in the air. In the beds around her were other teenage girls about her age, some still unconscious, some stirring awake, some fully awake and crying with wild panic. With a sharp intake of breath, she saw a face she was sure she recognised in the near-dark. Her heart pounded as she slid off the bed to grope her way over, as if she was afraid of the floor opening up and swallowing her whole.
She was halfway there when she realised what was wrong. Her hand went up to the back of her neck and it was bare. All that was left of her long, glossy-brown hair was bristles, like a brush. She was so shocked that her chest heaved, she gulped in air, shuddering, tears sprang to her eyes – this had to be some sort of nightmare. She sprinted to her friend’s bed and shook her shoulders violently.
“Raven! Raven, come on! Wake up!”
Raven’s eyes snapped open. They were glassy and blank. She said nothing.
“Come on, Raven! It’s Stephany, what’s wrong with you?”
I'm being watched.
She let go of Raven and whipped around, panting, but she couldn't see anybody looking at her. She didn't have to squint through the gloom so much now. Light trickled in through the gap in the curtains and she rushed to it, peering underneath them. Directly ahead lay small grey structure that resembled a concrete hut, with windows parallel to the set she peered out of. It only made logical sense that it was a dorm similar to this one, and when she tilted her head to an angle she could make out two more concrete-huts. A boy’s face was staring out of the window, then suddenly he caught sight of her and his mouth opened with shock. There was more? More kids like her, abducted? A search light not too far away swung around and the glare hit her full in the face, momentarily blinding her. She stumbled backwards, rubbing the stars out of her eyes.
This was like a prison camp.
A girl curled up on a nearby bed chanted in a low voice; all Stephany could catch of it was, “… get out of here… have to get out…” That girl took a deep breath and with a sudden energy, sprinted to the door – this was when Stephany first noticed the figures in green, guarding the door with blank expressions, long guns in their hands, one standing either side of the door. They were so still and solitary, that as the crazed girl reached the door it looked for a moment like they would let her through – until one stepped forward and smashed the barrel of his gun right across the girl’s face – CRACK – her body almost suspended in the air before it crumpled to the ground, and remained their, still. All the girls became quiet at once as what they had just witnessed began to sink in. The guards’ expressions didn’t change. The silence hinged, like a roller coaster about to take the big plunge –
Then all at once, the quiet burst into terrified screams as all the girls ran to the opposite wall, furthest from the door, shrieking, yelling, crying, wailing. The door banged open, as loud as a gunshot. All the girls jumped and the noise fell for a moment. Stephany huddled with them, her eyes glued to the open doorway and the woman that stood there, bathed in moonlight.
“Quiet.” came a voice, and there was quiet, maybe so they could clearly hear the quality of her voice, soft and musical like a song that could lure someone to death. The woman was dressed in ivory-white from head to toe; a suit-coat, pencil skirt and court shoes that tapped out its rhythm on the floor as she approached them. Her hay-coloured hair was wrapped into a tight bun. An angel would be one way to describe her. The girls were mesmerised by her. The only thing that wasn’t white was her black sunglasses that stole any expression from her face, and her blood red lipstick, that broke the angelic illusion. Something about her reminded Stephany of honey, but her cold scarlet smile laced it with poison.
Six guards entered the room directly after her formed a line behind her, holding their guns at exactly the same angle. They were identical; something about that was terrifying. They all wore sunglasses. The girls cowered again at the sight of more guards, clutching at each other. Stephany could feel someone pressing their face into her back, hiding and crying.
“I hope you had a good sleep ladies.” the woman smiled. “I know you must be alarmed. Scared, even. I understand, and for that I apologise. I promise that everything will be clear. Please don't be scared by the men standing behind me. They are not here to frighten you, they're here to protect you.
“You must be wondering who I am! I am the Coordinator of a training program that you are now a part of. This is not a terrorist organisation. This program is run by your government, who have nominated you to save your nation.”
Nobody spoke. There was a deathly chill, from the air or the silence, Stephany couldn't tell.
“I’m going to do my best to answer any questions you may have, and then it’s all down to you to follow the rules.” As she spoke, she was still. She didn’t pace, she didn't ramble, she always smiled. Stephany’s heart beat so loudly that she was sure everybody else could hear it.
“But all of the information on that will come later. It’s important that first and foremost, you are fed and rested. How inconvenient to wake up in the middle of the night and be so panicked, all of you. Never mind.”
The woman gestured at their beds. “The bags you carried with you have been confiscated. All the clothes and equipment you need will be under your bed, and the only contact you will have here is with myself, the guards, and the other soldiers. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Your belongings will be returned to you once you have completed the program. One last thing. Please come outside.”
She turned and left the hut but nobody moved. “Follow me, ladies!” Her voice carried in the night breeze like a dream. Stephany, found herself being the first to follow, mainly because she was afraid of what would happen if she didn’t. When she walked by the guards she thought she might throw up, but suddenly she was past them and outside, standing on a concrete path that linked this concrete hut to the other three. But beyond, in the distance, was white sand and a crystal sea that sparkled in the moon, with stars dotted overhead. It was so jolting to walk outside of s stone room and face an island beauty that for a long while there was no movement and no sound, just wide-eyed stares.
“Beautiful…” Stephany whispered, hearing the others murmur behind her as well. Her mind was in so many places that she couldn’t make sense of her thoughts. Why be abducted to be taken to a beautiful island?
The Coordinator smiled at their stunned reactions. “Yes, it’s quite a picture.”
“Did you take us here to get us away from the... monsters?” Stephany stammered, and the Coordinator gave her a long look, then removed her sunglasses and stared at Stephany with shimmering blue eyes.
“Yes, smart girl.” she smiled again. “That’s why we get to teach you, of all the young people in the world, everything you need to know to fight the monsters – combat, weaponry, endurance, strength, agility and awareness, health and injury, geography, the list goes on. And you are the ones chosen, so count yourself lucky. We couldn’t choose everyone. Some people out there are prey to the monsters, right now. You are free from that.”
Her smile faltered. “But we are afraid, that some of you might not want to stay. I understand. You’ll miss your families, and sometimes this program can be tough. But now that we are charged with your safety, we must lay down ground rules. I don’t want to make this unpleasant for you, but you see, the Captain...”
At that moment, a glaring man strode to the Coordinator’s side, wearing black, shiny boots, a green tank top and combats, complete with a cap and sunglasses, wielding a gun even more powerful than the guards; a shotgun or something. Stephany eyed it carefully, slowly edging away like the other girls. The Captain covered in hard muscle and he had a thick neck. He grinned like a mad dog. In other words, he was the most terrifying man Stephany had ever seen.
“…he is not very empathetic.”
“You’re damn fuckin’ right.” the Captain said. “This can be your home or a prison – up to you. You can try to escape but you won’t get far, and I sure as hell won’t hesitate to have you killed and replaced.”
Stephany could feel the girls to her left and right trembling. She herself couldn't make sense of whether she was really in danger or not. Tiredness wasn't allowing her to make sense of anything. She could only rely on her gut feeling, and it wasn’t good.
The Coordinator watched their faces closely, and after a moment put her sunglasses back on. Why do they all wear sunglasses in the dead of night? To scare us? Stephany thought, frowning. The sound of the sea breeze punctuated the silence in the night air.
“Please. I implore that you get back to bed. You must be up from five o'clock tomorrow morning, so I’d suggest sleep. Tomorrow, I answer all of your questions.” She paused. “And then you will begin your training.”