18 - A R R I V A L

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I open my eyes and am bombarded with vibrant, white lights from the ceiling above me, so I squint while I look around

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I open my eyes and am bombarded with vibrant, white lights from the ceiling above me, so I squint while I look around. Brain aching, I lie flat on a table under what seems to be a surgical lamp and fight to remember how I got here. All I can recall are bright colors and random numbers. So many numbers...none of which make any sense.

Accompanying the colors and numbers are the dreams. Sometimes, I am talking to someone, but other times I'm screaming at the top of my lungs and pounding my fists against a wall. Was I drugged?

I shield my eyes with my hands so I'm not blinded, and slide off the table, keeping my head low to further block out the light. Unfortunately, even staring at the white tile floor is too much. When I tip my face up to the walls to search for an exit, I gasp and stare at a girl with radiating, fire-engine red hair. Every wall is a mirror, causing my reflection to multiply hundreds of times around me. There are no windows or doors, just mirrors surrounding me as if I've been locked inside a funhouse. I look up and down, searching for a hatch or trapdoor, but come across nothing. Every room has a door, but I can't find one. This place is sealed off, allowing no space for entrances or exits.

"Right you are."

I spin around, startled. Standing before me is a man dressed in solid white from head to toe with long, slicked back white hair. He's dressed in a white, form-fitting bodysuit which appears to be made from some hybrid material of spandex, leather, and metal. As he nears me, I notice his disturbing, translucent irises blending in with the whites of his eyes, giving way to his jarring black pupils.

The man strolls pompously in my direction, his head held high, taking one step at a time as I back into a corner. Before I can comprehend it, he has me pinned against a wall, unable to move. He leans forward, leaving mere inches between us, and places his arms on both sides of me to box me in. I watch him scrutinize my wimpy arms and shoulders—my laughable defense—as I catch my breath.

"Aurora Jane Mayfield," he says without flaw, before backing away. I want to demand how he knows my name, but I am too afraid to say anything. "Age eighteen, but soon to be nineteen as your birthday is the fifth of September."

I grimace at his knowledge.

Before continuing, his lips pull into a smirk as if he's got the best kept secret. "Let's get more specific, shall we?" He takes slow steps in front of me, his bony fingers at his chin. "Ah yes...you were found at your parents farmhouse on Aberdale Ln, where it seems you took shelter after the Scarlet Effect began." He stops to chuckle. "Did you think that would stop us?"

My eyes frantically search the floor to find solidarity, to find something, anything that will stabilize my frenzied mind.

"You had a couple friends with you." My teeth clench in frustration at the mention of Travis and Katie, the only people who kept me sane, who kept me on my feet after the outbreak. "It's too bad they had to die."

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