Chapter Forty-Two

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The world was a blur of black and white.

Soft sounds echoed around me as I tried to concentrate on them. I tried to pull pieces of conversation from them. They were too quiet...like everything was being heard from behind a glass wall...

My eyes flew open.

More black and white. A white tiled ceiling hovered over me. Black lines separated each white square in a pattern. It drew my eyes down to the similarly painted walls. Finally, I became aware of the bed I was in.

Everything was so bright. I shut my eyes again as I felt the start of a headache. Pressure built behind my eyes as I opened them once more.

I was wearing a different outfit. Somebody had decided to change my clothes while I'd been asleep. My pants were a deep black and my shirt, dove white. The fabric was simple and familiar. The clothes and the entire room smelled fresh and warm. It was nothing like the disgusting ruins of houses gang slaves were forced to stay in.

And that's where I assumed I was being taken. I'd been hit by a tranquilizer...and the only logical thing people like them would need people like us for would be to sell us. So why didn't it seem like I'd been sold...?

I sat up in the bed, the soft sheets sliding off my worn body. I felt out of place. Even though they had changed my clothes, they hadn't done anything about the dirt stuck to my skin.

I was in a room with two metal doors on the right wall. They also had odd designs on them. As I stood up on the cool tiled ground, I began to see more signs of the pattern from the ceiling. Black lines that took sharp turns at random points decorated the walls, and continued onto the doors. It reminded me of robotic vines, stretching out over the room to consume everything.

My heart was beating fast in my chest, just as it had before Mace and I had acted out our plan to escape our captors. But it had failed that time, and now I could just hope whatever was going on wouldn't end in disappointment.

I had to get out. I didn't trust this in the slightest. It's deceivingly nice look did nothing to calm my nerves.

I ran towards the door and with shaking hands, began pulling on the handle. I was expecting it to be locked.

Surprisingly, the door opened.

More sounds leaked through the opening.

People were talking on the other side...and beyond that was the sound of...cars?

That was impossible. I had to be hearing it wrong. But as I moved even closer to the open door, I could've sworn I heard the unmistakable sounds of a city. It was so quiet that it was hard to tell, but I couldn't deny the fact that it existed.

I pushed the door all the way open. Beyond it was a hallway with doors branching off, each looking identical to the one to my room.

I took a few tentative steps into the hallway. My fingers brushed against the wall. It was just as cold as the floor. It reminded me of a dream, some place I'd created in my mind to hide away from the real world. But I knew this was real. My senses were too alert for it to be made up.

The first door on my right held a design slightly different than the design on my door. Now that I could look around, I noticed how the black lines seemed to have order. Each door had a different pattern of black lines, like the artist couldn't get it right the first time and had to keep trying.

The door I was focusing on was beautiful. I moved closer to try to see it better, and the more I looked, the more confusing it got. The lines...they weren't moving, but the design made it seem like they were. It was the same everywhere. Whatever this place was, somebody had obviously spent a lot of money making it awe-inspiring.

And then my hand was pressed against the wall on the left side of the door. I hadn't expected that to mean anything.

Immediately every single pattern, every tile and color, disappeared. My mind took a moment to adjust to the sudden change, and then another moment to realize what had replaced the wall.

The tiles had become transparent, revealing a room behind the wall. The room looked exactly as mine had. Black and white walls along with a bed...and a person.

Asten was lying on the bed, eyes completely shut.

This wasn't right. Asten was here...meaning everyone else had to be in these same rooms. I grabbed the handle to Asten's room and tried to pull it.

It wouldn't budge.

I could feel my panic rising. Was it possible that I'd only been lucky with my door? And why wasn't he awake in the first place like I was? What were they planning on doing to us?

Without thinking it through, I pounded on the door with my fists. Loud bangs rang up and down the corridor, as I continued to bang my fists against the door. There was no point now. There never had been. Even if my door had been unlocked, it wasn't like I could escape anyway. I couldn't leave these people behind.

"HEY!" I screamed, knowing somewhere they were watching. "LET US OUT!"

A hand grabbed my arm. I slammed my elbow into its source and a woman cursed.

"Calm down! Okay...calm down...you're safe! We just want to help you okay...calm..." The voice was soothing, but I couldn't stop now. I didn't believe her and didn't want to.

"Listen to me! Calestia...you're safe, all right? We're here to help."

I paused for a moment, finally absorbing some of her words. How could they be trying to help us? "What...?" I murmured.

"We aren't trying to lock you up. We're just trying to help you. So many of you are hurt..." Finally, I turned around to look at her, allowing my guard to drop slightly. I stared at the motherly lady wearing a doctor's coat. She had dark skin and a halo of dark hair about her head. She was concerned.

She shook her head suddenly. "You're not ready...we thought you were," she said with disappointment, and before I could even move against her she pulled out a syringe and shoved it into my neck.

I kicked her in the shin reflexively. The syringe reminded me all too well of being stuck in the basement with Claudia and John, seconds away from being drugged. And now I was in the same situation again, but nobody left over from the Snow Society was going to come barging in to help me now.

As I fell to the tiled floor, I could see the lady kneeling in front of me. Only now did I notice her bright blue eyes. They reminded me of the ocean. An ocean I hadn't seen in so long. I couldn't even remember how long it'd been...

As the familiar darkness began to flood over me again, I heard faint words escape out of the woman's lips.

"You're at the Equator now, Calestia. Welcome to the Equator."

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