By Cassie Creek All Rights Reserved ©

Romance / Drama


Set in futuristic North America, after nuclear destruction leaves most of the world uninhabitable. The Selection Period: when people from the impoverished municipality of Faragus are allowed to apply for citizenship in the technologically advanced city of Vernandia. But are there things that Vernandian citizens aren't telling those in Faragus?


Two days have past, I think. Most of that time has been spent in a high-ceiling cubicle with solid walls and a heavy metal door. They haven’t brought me any food—just water on occasion.

They took me out a few times to ask me questions and drill me about whatever they thought was relevant, but each time I gave them the same answers that I had on day one. If they’re looking for information, they’re asking the wrong person. Not that I even know who the right person would be, but I’m not going to speculate that either.

At this point, I’m not even sure how I feel. My options are growing slimmer with each passing day. My only consoling thought is that Anna and Sabine are safe outside of Faragus. They have to be. If I found out anything different…I’m not sure what I would do.

The sound of clanging metal from outside my cell door brings me away from my contemplations.

I quickly stand up from where I had been reclining on the mat. My vision tunnels briefly as the blood rushes to my head.

The door swings open and my usual guard steps in towards me. So it’s happening again… I bite the inside of my lip as I realize this charade isn’t going to end any time soon. Perhaps I should start making up information to satisfy them. That would be all well and good until they start investigating and realize I’m still not giving them what they want.

The guard jerks his head, indicating I should come out. I do so, and start to turn left as we have done the last several times, but he intervenes and instead guides me to the right.

I glance up at him in question. The look he gives me is not good and I feel my heart rate increase instantly.

At the end of the hall, he scans his card and a large door buzzes, then opens, and we step through. He roughly grabs my injured shoulder and shoves me towards the center of the room where a chain hangs from the ceiling with a large curved hook on the end.

I barely notice the pain radiating down my arm, as I realize they are switching interrogation tactics on me.

Without hesitation, the guard grabs my cuffed wrists and pulls my arms up over my head, securing the hanging hook to the bar on my restraints. Small black spots appear in my vision as I fight the urge to succumb from the screaming pain in my shoulder. I’m fairly certain a few of the stitches just tore from my skin.

“Miss Menke,” a voice says from the darkness in front of me, and my blood runs cold. They knew.

The only light in the room is one that hangs directly above me. I’m unable to make sense of anything except for shapes of what I’m assuming are guards, looming around the perimeter, shrouded in the shadows.

A man steps closer to the lighted area and I squint, trying to focus on him instead of the spots dancing in my eyesight. It’s not Officer Dax, Lieutenant Foster or any one of the other men who have questioned me so far. In fact, this man is quite different than all of them. He’s older, with gray hair and a meticulously trimmed beard. He doesn’t wear a military uniform, but rather a suit, and he’s very tall, with a stick-like figure.

But it’s not any of those things that catch my eye. It’s his face. I realize quickly, with a feeling of dread that my slim chances of survival have been cut in half again. This man is by far the most terrifying man I have ever seen. His eyes are set wide on his face. They’re squinted, with very pale blue irises. His eyebrows are nearly non-existent, as they form delves along the bottom edge of his forehead. His nose is large, with wrinkles that extend down towards the corners of his lips, but disappear in the small hairs of his mustache. His lips are set long and thin.

I feel a sense of terror when he glowers at me—stepping further into the light.

The fact he hasn’t said anything besides my name is only making things worse. He’s biding his time—waiting to see if I’ll cave and make his job easier. Or, judging from his look, he wants me to make things difficult. He probably can’t wait to show me how much power he can wield if I don’t give him the answers he wants. I had known men like him in Faragus, but in this moment, I can’t recall any that I would have this much fear for.

I shut my eyes tightly as he disappears behind me. I can feel him moving slowly, close to my back. Then I feel his breath on my skin.

“Do you know who I am?” he whispers against my neck, eliciting feelings akin to small spiders crawling beneath my skin. I want to squirm, but I violently fight the urge and it takes every single ounce of willpower that I possess.

“No,” I slowly grind out, not particularly enjoying where this conversation is headed.

I hear him shuffle behind me, then something cold touches my neck, and I flinch. He presses it sharply into the skin below my ear.

“Now,” he says, his voice slithering and cold. “I’m not going to cut you here…” he presses the point deeper into my neck and I feel the sting as it cuts through the skin, but in an instant it’s gone. I hold my breath, realizing that not knowing where it will touch next is almost worse than knowing.

“Nor here.”

I feel the cool pinch on my right arm, below my suspended wrist, but it doesn’t break the skin this time. It moves down in a slow line against my jacket sleeves, ending above my good shoulder.

I’m breathing again, but it’s erratic and I feel waves of panic surge through me.

I feel pressure and the sound of my jacket ripping. In a few quick slashes, it falls off of me, landing in a fringed mess on the ground, revealing the simple tank top that I wear underneath. I am going to die at the hands of a terrifying man with a knife. I had thought Alpheus was scary, but he paled in comparison to this man.

The cold knife point makes slow curved lines between my shoulder blades, ending near my injury where I had been shot. I feel a warm liquid ooze down my side and realize that I had torn some of the stitches. I was probably about to lose the rest of them.

The man skims the knife in a circle around my wound, bringing my attention to the throbs that still emit from its center.

“I think this is a good place to start,” he says, drawing the words out in slow detail.

I bite down on the inside of my lip in anticipation, and it’s not a moment too soon. A blinding pain, unlike anything I had experienced in my life, erupts with fervor from my shoulder. In fact, it’s so far reaching, I can’t even decipher the exact location that’s it’s coming from, but I know exactly what he just did.

I hear someone screaming and after a few seconds, I realize that it’s me. My knees buckle and for a moment I’m suspended, my vision is blurry and a haze begins wrapping around me like a blanket.

A split second later, a sharp cold washes over me and I’m brought back from the rescuing attempts of a blackout.

I’m dripping in water.

“That’s enough,” the man says to a guard in front of me with a bucket. The guard backs away slowly.

The man stands slightly offset in front of me, a silver knife in his hands drips in blood—my blood. “Thought you could pass out?” he gives a sadistic laugh. “The only way you escape from here, is to give us the answers we need, or we dump you in the border with the rest of the Faragus scum.”

I fight with every ounce of strength I possess, to keep my chin up, my eyes directed at him in a glare. Even as I do so, I feel the haze start to come over me again.

In an act of defiance against my own succumbing, I jerk my injured shoulder and as the pain radiates in hammer-like fashion through me, the haze disappears and I clench my teeth.

“What do you want from me!” I yell, my voice breaking from my labored breaths. “I’ve told you everything I know!”

“Then how come this Alpheus character is nowhere to be found?” the man asks.

“Because he’s smart,” I hiss. “He has everyone in Faragus practically at his command. If he wants to disappear, he will disappear.”

“And what is to keep us from suspecting that you are not still working with him?” He steps closer, running the knife blade against my clavicle.

I lean closer to him, ignoring how the blade cuts into my skin. “I never worked with Alpheus. I was forced to work for him!”

“Tell us about the two girls that escaped,” he murmurs, his voice poison, sliding down over my skin, and I shiver.

“I—I don’t know,” I say. Through all the questioning, I had managed to keep the focus on Alpheus and his men instead of Anna and Sabine. Two girls escaping was nothing compared to half a dozen armed men who killed some of a Vernandian regiment. At least, that’s what I thought.

I had known that they would bring up Anna and Sabine again, but I had hoped it wouldn’t be for a while. Not until I was positive that they were safe.

“I have nothing else to say to you,” I say, the quiet in my voice not hiding its edge.

He smiles then, a cold lifeless smile and I realize whatever I might still have in this life, is far greater than what he has. I have something to live for. I will survive.

He takes a step towards me.

He’s within arms distance now and I don’t hesitate. In a flash of excruciating pain, I suspend all my weight on the hook above me. Unfortunately, my injured shoulder takes a large brunt of it. I swing my legs out in front of me, catching the man’s hand with the knife. It clatters to the ground, but I don’t have a chance to bask in my small victory, because immediately several guards flank me, securing my legs so I can’t move, and then the man’s fists are flying directly towards my face.

Surprisingly, I don’t black out. He hits me over a dozen times—head, face, and chest. I know he’s furious. Part of my face is going numb, while the other part is radiating in intense pain. I had tasted blood within the first two strikes. It’s only grown worse since then.

I barely register the sound of buzzing and then the door opening, but I do notice that the beating stops. There’s a roaring in my ears, and I hear the faint sound of something that appears to be muffled voices. I try to open my eyes, but they’re too swollen. Only slits of light make their way in between my lids.

My cuffed wrists are suddenly released from the hanging hook, and then I’m being picked up and carried.

“Wha—“ I try to speak, but it comes out as more of a moan.

“Fuck!” a man’s voice says. I think for a moment that it’s Officer Dax, but then darkness overcomes me and I’m sucked into the sweet relief of a dark abyss.

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