Chapter Thirty-Eight

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I was sitting in a closed off room with just a sofa and a white board. There wasn't much else to it. It was quite small. I assumed this was where Grayson and anyone else in charge discussed any important matters.

After people realized what was in my drink, the table had gone silent. Grayson had simply stood up, grabbed my arm, and dragged me away to this back room. Then, he'd left without another word. I wasn't sure what that meant.

A couple minutes later, I heard footsteps and the door opened. Grayson walked inside and immediately sat down on the sofa across from me.

"Do you feel light headed?" he asked.

"No?" I responded skeptically.

"Are you going to vomit?"

"I hope not."

"Do you in any way feel like you're about to drop dead?"

"Okay, why exactly did you bring me back here?"

He let out a sigh, and stood up again. "I was making sure you hadn't already been poisoned by something else. You saw that one pill. Who's to say there wasn't anything before that?"

My stomach started to churn, and I became paranoid. Had I already been poisoned? If so, how much time did I have left? God, I really hoped this wasn't how I was going to die – sitting on a sofa in a random dilapidated apartment in New York because I drank tea.

"All right...so I'm good?" I raised my eyebrows at him.

"You're fine, yes." He shoved his hands in his pockets.

"Why am I back here then?"

He paused and walked towards the table in the middle of the room. A pen and paper lay on it. I couldn't see what had been written down. "I'm afraid I don't really trust your friends. I want to know if you have an idea of who this was."

"I really don't." I realized then that he didn't know that this was the second time it'd happened. He probably assumed the attempt was because of his presence, not because of me. "But I know it had nothing to do with your group. It's happened before."

He whipped his head around and raised his eyebrows. "It happened before, and you just let it go?"

"Yeah, I mean..."

"Shit, I didn't realize how bad your leadership had gotten," he commented. I frowned. I felt a need to defend Mace despite how he'd treated me at times.

"How do you know anything about our leadership?"

Grayson just smiled at my question. He knew things I didn't. It bothered me that he had that element of surprise over me. "January and Mace aren't the most honest people in the world. I know them well enough."

I was a little wary. "What are you talking about?"

"Well, what do you know?"

"That you and they got into a fight after surviving together for a little bit. You ran off and never talked to them again."

He didn't react for a moment. "At least they got the part of us splitting up right."

I didn't know what to say. I really wanted to trust January and Mace – I'd known them for a little while and they'd been nice enough. They'd given me a home when I hadn't had one. Even so, I knew they were keeping things from me. They refused to talk much about Grayson...and if Grayson was willing to talk about them, maybe I'd understand why.

"Then...what actually happened?"

He leaned against the table and looked off into the distance. I could tell he was deep in thought. And then, he began to talk.

"Six months ago, I was living here, in New York City. Unlike other places in the world, the flooding here had been horrid. We were locked up in our houses for longer than any other place. You know what happened next. The snow came. Everyone panicked – a lot of people escaped their apartments early. At the time, I stayed inside, I didn't want to see what was going on. I don't remember much of what happened during that period when everything fell into anarchy.

"But when the crowds faded away, that's when I finally came out. I knew something was very wrong. The city had millions and millions of people, and I expected there to still be tons of survivors. Something had happened to most of them. I wasn't sure what, and I'm still not sure now. Mostly, it was the fact that the only remaining people tended to be in their teens. It was such an odd phenomenon. Most of them didn't want to get out of their apartments, but I managed to convince a few to join me. I built a small society with the help of others so that we could mutually benefit from it. We'd worked together to find food and we shared a shelter. Back then it was only about six to eight people. January and Mace were in that group."

He stopped there for a minute. If that was true, then January and Mace had left out some key information. They'd never mentioned starting in New York City.

"We thought we could continue surviving like that. We were wrong. It only took about two weeks before we were noticed, and captured by a local group of people, led by the few remaining adults. That was the first experience I'd had with a gang. See, they were different than the gangs before the apocalypse. All they wanted was to survive, and it just so happened that they found enough other people desperate enough to survive that they'd do anything – even capture teens and force them to work as their slaves. I didn't realize how widespread of a problem it'd become since the snow started. I just knew I had to get us out of that situation."

"So, I did what was logical: I convinced them that I was on their side. Don't ask how they believed me. But I made a deal that I could find them more free-roaming survivors if they allowed me a place on their team. It worked. I worked my way up the ranks, all the while getting more people from their gang on my side. I slowly made it to the point where overthrowing the few adults who had power was easy. At that point, I simply freed all the slaves, and banished those who refused to cooperate."

He went silent. It was so much information I was finding it difficult to wrap my head around. "Wait...so what you're telling me...is that you're a gang? Like this group? How does that prove Mace and January wrong?"

"One: technically, yes, but do we conform to the current definition of one? No. Not at all. And I was just getting there."

"Okay, sorry. Continue." I leaned back on the sofa, and waited. I was interested in hearing more.

"What happened next...well, it's complicated. Our group kept getting larger. We welcomed nearly anyone in and it became a controversy. Mace, January, and I were a part of this council of people in charge. A lot of people trusted us...at least I thought they trusted me. I was wrong. Mace approached me one day, claiming that we were taking in too many people, and we couldn't trust all of them. He feared that they'd turn on us. I disagreed. I didn't think it was fair to kick some people out just because they didn't come across as trustworthy enough.

"That's how we ended up splitting up. I didn't know how many people had been on his and January's side, but it'd been a lot more than I'd accounted for. Without a word, they left with thirty people. The rest of our tiny council was in shock. I was the only one who knew why."

He was done talking. I didn't know what to say.

After another pause, I finally spoke. "Why did you tell me all of this?"

"Because I needed somebody to know the truth. And seeing as someone's trying to kill you...well I assumed you were the newbie." With that, he winked and left the room, leaving me sitting unsatisfied on the couch.

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