One blink awake. Then two. All around is thick nothingness, so black it seems blue. With every second that passes, my panic spreads. Why am I lying down? Why does my body hurt? I feel as though I’ve been dragged over rocks to get here.
Sweat. Blood. Medicine. Earth. Urine. I choke on the vile smells stealing their way down my throat and up my nose. Yet the stench is better than the memories which jam into my mind. The needle, my Debtbook status, Coral’s father. I pretend for a second I’m still in the kitchen, that Dad will be here any minute to save me. Even as I grab the soil beneath me I wish for it to be true.
There’s a gasping sound now, like a saw chewing through wood, again and again. It’s coming from me. Hot tears sting my eyes, burning and desperate to escape, but I blink them away. Won’t cry, won’t cry, won’t cry.
Slowly, I push myself up so that I’m sitting. My arm throbs in protest, telling me that’s where Mr Winters stabbed me with the needle. Through the dark, I make out three walls. Bars cover the last side, as if I’m in an over-sized crate.
There’s movement next to me. I jerk away, but my elbow collides with something warm and soft. No, not something. Someone.
I’m not alone.
I pause, struggling to breathe. I feel like I’ve been caught at lying. My stomach is hollow, and I’m just waiting, waiting for my brain to find a solution that I know isn’t coming. Although I wish they wouldn’t, my eyes adjust to the shade. More bodies. Every speck of soil is covered in mangled shapes. Hugging my arms around my knees, I make myself as small as possible. Maybe if I’m tiny enough, I can disappear and no one will notice me ever again. Not Coral, not Dylan, not the Shepherds.
Coral. There aren’t enough horrible words to describe her right now. Did she send me here? To this prison which smells worse than a corpse? I need to find out what will happen to us, but my head is still foggy, and I have too many pains and aches to think straight.
The girl next to me shudders once again, and like that, she’s awake and freaking out. I want to grab her and tell her to be quiet—instinct tells me we should keep the fact that we’ve woken a secret—but other groans stop me. Really, really slowly, I run my eyes over the room.
The mass of bodies begin to writhe and pulse. Everyone is waking, like some sort of mass resurrection. I cling to myself tighter. I know I’m watching something horrid unfold, like when I see something balanced on an edge, but I’m too far away to stop it from toppling over.
And after the fall, there’s always a smash.
Rosanne Rivers lives in Birmingham, UK and considers it one of her favourite cities, second only to Rome. She delights in writing for children and young adults and hopes to bring readers to an unfamiliar yet alluring setting. Rosanne was inspired to write when she read the Harry Potter books, and at age fourteen, she wrote romance fanfiction on just about every pairing you could dream up from the HP series. She currently lives with her partner and two bunny rabbits and is working on a post-apocalyptic adventure book for middle grade readers.