Before I know it, we have left the city and are heading to this HQ place. I'm still having trouble wrapping my head around everything, but Rory is being very nice about it all, making conversation. Mostly, he only talks to Armando, who is quite the humorist. They joke and talk, while Graham is silent for the majority of the ride. I wonder if it's because of my ability, that he doesn't trust me because of it.
HQ is far from the city. When Rory says we're almost there after nearly two hours of driving, it's like I'm pulled back into reality for the first time since leaving the restaurant. I look out the window and notice we are surrounded by cornfields. After a few minutes, the fields give way to a tiny town, and we pull into the town's hotel. The first floor windows are boarded up and I think that this can't be the right place. But Armando goes around to the back entrance, and Rory and Graham exit the cab, so I do the same.
"Doesn't look like much, does it?" Rory asks. I shake my head. He laughs. "Yeah, you'd be surprised."
I follow them up to the door where a huge padlock has been put in place to lock it. Graham pulls a key out of his pocket and unlocks it.
The back entrance must have been the faculty entrance at one point because we enter into a short hallway that leads past the laundry room and into the kitchen.
"You guys aren't bringing me here to kill me or anything, right?"
Rory laughs. "If we wanted you dead, you'd know it."
At this, I glance over at Graham, but when he glances at me back, and we make eye contact, I quickly look away. There was something in his eyes that resembled contempt.
The kitchen is deserted, and the dimming light outside doesn't reach in here because of the boarded window. But when we walk through it toward the old lobby, I can hear voices.
There are people in the lobby. Maybe only ten or fifteen, but they're gathered around in a circle, the only light coming from candles spread out on the floor. It sounds like they're just talking, and when we enter a couple of them laugh. Then, one girl looks up and greets us.
"Hey, Rory, Graham, where's Armando?"
"Parking the cab," Rory answers. "Justine, this is Sarah, the one you said would be at the train station."
Justine stands, smiling in welcome. This must be the person Rory mentioned who has the premonitions of people like us. "Hi," she says.
"I suppose you'd be the one I should thank for these two coming to my rescue tonight."
"Yep, that I would." After my first impression of Justine, I like her right away. She's short, with long dark hair. "I've got a room set up for you and everything."
"Graham," Rory says, "why don't you show Sarah where her room is?"
I look over at Graham, who quickly tries to hide the fact that he has just shot Rory the death glare by turning away. "Fine," he grumbles before heading over to a small table set up in the corner which is cluttered with flashlights. He picks up two of them, checks that they work, then turns back to Justine.
"It's room 242," Justine says, answering Graham's unasked question. He nods, then goes to the stairs. I reluctantly follow him, not liking the fact that I will be alone with this guy who obviously hates me in a small, dark hallway. This should be interesting.
As we go up the stairs, Graham takes the lead, shining his flashlight ahead of us and illuminating the narrow hallway with the tiny circle of bluish-white light. "Is there no electricity in this place?" I wonder out loud.
"We have to keep up the pretense that the place is deserted," Graham answers, a touch of annoyance in his voice. "And most people are in their rooms anyway."
"Oh, right. We're in hiding now. This is gonna be so fun."
"Do you think we chose this life?" Graham wheels around and shines his light in my face. "Do you think we like being in this shithole?"
"I'm sorry," I say, taken aback at his retaliation. "I didn't mean to offend you or anything." He shakes his head, then continues past the top of the stairs onto the second floor corridor.
"You shouldn't take it personally. These days, it doesn't take much…" He suddenly stops and turns back. "Well, your room is right there. The doors are rigged so they don't need keys to get in anymore."
Awesome, I think. That's reassuring. Graham heads down the hall the way we came, leaving me alone with my flashlight. I find the door labeled 242 and go in, not knowing what to expect on the other side of the door.
I am pleasantly surprised. Despite the fact that this place looks crappy and inhabitable on the outside, my room is clean and the bed has been freshly made. I find some candles and matches to light up the place a bit better and sit on the bed, unable to start thinking about going to sleep. I think about everything that happened tonight and wonder if it would be better if I just fell asleep, and maybe when I wake up it would all have been a dream.