Chapter One

I was antsy as heck at two in the morning. I didn't know much-amnesia will do that to you-but I knew I wasn't supposed to be here. My name was Noah. I knew that much about myself. I needed to get out of here. But...there was one small problem with that.

Where was here?

My hair and eyes were a nut brown, as I concluded when I began my assessment of my appearance earlier this morning, when I had woken to find myself...here, wherever here was. By instinct, I guess, I got to school fairly early, and then ate a tangerine on the way to class.

But now, two am of the next morning, I was ready to snap. I began torturing myself with questions that I didn't know the answer to, that I didn't even know what the subject meant. Where has Subject Number 934 gone? He wouldn't just disappear, would he? Who is he? Subject Number 934-what am I talking about? But I couldn't pass it off as nonsense. I'd try to shrug it off as nothing, as an irrational fear, but somehow this only made terror come back even more quickly.

I heard a branch snap outside.

I have killer hearing, I just piped down about it during the day, because I'm pretty sure the people who called themselves my friends-even though I'd never seen them before even once in my life-didn't have the same heightened senses that I had, my sense of hearing being the most sensitive. I knew inwardly that there were others like me in this way, but I couldn't remember who they were, if I had even met them before.

But right now it seemed as if one of them was straight out my window.

You probably don't know this, but at two in the morning, everything is a pitch black, and it's like you're blind. So of course, when I looked out the window, I saw...nothing.

But I was quite confident that this "nothing" could see me.

I tried to make myself heard without waking anyone. "Who's there?" I whispered. But I didn't know if anyone can hear me through the window, even on this cold, silent night.

And then I heard someone whisper back, "Noah. It's me."

"Who?" I asked, though I felt my memory stirring at the sound of the voice.

"Me!" whoever it was whispered urgently. I decided it sounded female. "Jesse!"

"J-Jesse?" I asked. The name rang a bell, but I couldn't tell which bell it was. "Who's Jesse?"

I heard a dry sob. "Just...just come out," she coaxed. "Please."

I had my suspicions, but I slipped into some clothes and absolutely silently made my way out the door and onto the front lawn. "I...I can't see," I whispered to no one.

I heard an almost silent scoff and then someone else shushing it. I guess that should've been my first clue, but I was too relieved by the soft hand in mine, leading me along, guiding me to where I was supposed to be to notice.

I stopped once, demanding to know where we were going.

"Shhh," Jesse said, and I could picture her looking around suspiciously, even though I had no idea what she looked like. She gulped, but I heard it out here in the dark. "We're going to a safe place. The only safe place for people like you. And people like me. We're almost the same, you know. Now, come on, Noah. Let's go get your memory back."

The way she said it, in a quiet, gentle, coaxing tone made me think that there was no way she was evil. And then I thought to myself, Why do I care about whether or not she's evil. Seems kind of ridiculous, does it not? But I wouldn't let my guard down.

Was it instinct? Was it paranoia? Why was I closing myself off to this girl?

Why did I feel like I had to?

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We eventually got to an abandoned old house. It was nice, and it had four bedrooms, and eight sleeping bags rolled up in neat little areas of the house.

As soon as Jesse walked in, she called out, "Okay, guys, Noah's here!"

There was an instant scream as a large object came hurtling out of nowhere into me, with a hug so hard I swear I heard a rib crack.

A muffled girl's voice came out of my shoulder. "Omigawd, I thought I'd never see you again."

I had no idea who she was, but I hugged her back. She had long, chocolate brown hair, and her skin was soft as butter. She was very well muscled, and from what I could see of her, she had been in a few fights. She pulled back, and I finally got a look at her face. Her eyes were a glittering brown, as if hot chocolate had been poured into them. She had very thin lips, but the ends were turned up in a wide smile. She wore very little make up, but it was enough to enhance her beautiful french-toast complexion to perfection. Her eyes were brimming with tears, and I felt the extreme urge to wipe one away, hold her close and tell her not to cry. But I don't know her, so I can't.

And I also couldn't stop staring at the long, puckered, pink scar that went up the left side of her face. She noticed me staring and her face fell. "You...you don't remember?" she asked, her eyebrows knit.

I shook my head. No use lying to the people who could possibly help me.

The tears that have so far only been brimming are now flowing without shame, and I didn't think I exactly helped. She clearly knew me in the past, and we clearly had something, but now, it's much like my memory-gone.

"Aww, man!" a voice cried. "Noah's back? Do I still get the big bed?"

A mischievous looking boy strutted out of one of the rooms. He had a big grin on his alarmingly hollow face. He stopped and sniffed around. "That is not..." he began, but then he looked at Jesse. "Noah?" he asked in disbelief. "Is it really you?"

"I guess so," I said. "Who are you?"

Up close I saw his dirty blond hair is in need of a good scrub and his eyes are a striking blue. "You gotta remember me! It's Zack!"

"Zack?" Unlike the rest of the names there, I felt no pull in my memory toward a Zack. In fact, I feel instinct telling me to back away, to run, to hide, to grab something to use as a weapon, use it against everyone here, and run, that anywhere would be better than here. But I shut down the feeling, and just settled for a stiffening sensation in my legs.

"Felix Zack Downs," he said, patting me on the shoulder. "I prefer to go by my middle name."

But I'm pretty sure I know of no one with that name. Maybe the Felix Downs part was real, but I can tell Zack was never his middle name.

But what choice do I have?

A boy my age, clearly the leader, came in and said, "Bedtime, y'all. I'm glad Noah's back and all, but it's really late." He looked almost exactly like the girl who had crushed me earlier. "Get some sleep, all of you."

I didn't sleep all night.

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I told myself I would find out as much as I could about all these people, but after a full night of no sleep, I had a hard time processing Jesse's request for the cereal in the morning.

"Noah?" she asked when I just stared at her blankly. "Noah, are you okay?"

I broke out of my trance. "Huh?"

"The frosted flakes. Can I have them?"

"Huh?" I repeated. "Oh, uh, sure."

The girl who had crushed me-her name was Tricia-pushed the cereal towards me. I thanked her, and she nodded listlessly. Zack caught my eye, like, Can you believe her? What's her problem?

I shrugged. A girl named Jane scowled at us, with an audible, "Cauh!" Whatever that means.

I let it go, but Zack apparently was not that kind of person. "You have something to say, Frederick?"

She adopted a sicky-sweet mannerism as she replied. "The name's Jane. And I think it's fairly obvious."

"Well, then," Zack replied, waving his hand for her to elaborate.

"That's her decision, whether to tell you or not," Jane told him icily.

"Oh, you talkin' about that silly girly thing you do," Zack replied, just as cold. "What's it called? Crying?"

Jane's eyes narrowed. "Don't pretend you're too macho to know what it's called," she said, a little louder than necessary. "I've heard you in your sleep. Who's that person...?" she taunted.

"Don't you dare," he said, his face contorting into something very much like a snarl.

"What's her name?" Jane asked, clearly enjoying this.

"Enough," Tricia's brother, Max, said. "You two are so immature."

"Newsflash," said a girl who hadn't spoken since my arrival. I'd been told her name was Aura, and that she was Jane's sister. She caught my eyes and looked away. I had the feeling something was seriously wrong, but I had no way to prove it, so I shut down my instinct that told me to get out of here.

Because why would I do that?