Chapter 1


It's all that exists, all the girl can see, and it's the only thought that invades her head. The small world of her room is completely leached of color, devoid of originality, so dull the girl reached for the door behind the bed instinctively. She was greeted by a long hallway, and not white walls, but gray ones. Across from her door stood an identical one, an electronic pixelated sign proclaiming "BRYN" above the metal trim. Dubiously, she turned to inspect her own door only to find a name staring back at her. My name her mind whispered. Clover.

The paleness of her hands caught her eye almost immediately; they were small but seemed capable; as she clenched them together she knew they were that and more. She touched the baggy material that covered her body: It was white and painfully plain, but felt soft against her skin. Tennis shoes covered her feet, laced up and tied into a neat bow. She wondered how she got into these clothes.

Questions begged at the corners of her brain, waiting to be heard, even when their answers will only induce panic within her calm head.

But she hated panic more than she hated not knowing things, so she forcibly quieted her demanding thoughts and turned towards the stairwell at the end of the hall. Like everything else in the building, it followed a monochromatic color scheme, the gray tones bleeding into one another like jail cells in the old movies Clover was sure she must have seen, but can't bring to the forefront of her memory. The stair's edges were covered in an unforgiving metal that would leave beautifully awful bruises if one were to fall, she thought, and it was just slightly too morbid for her to consider at the moment, so she busied herself with inspecting the floors. She walked up two flights of stairs until she reached a metal door with a rectangular window in the center of it. It seemed to resemble a cafeteria, but without the cheerful kids happy to have a break. The next door that she came to was another two flights up. The room, she noted once she stepped inside, was covered in blankets, pillows, couches, and tables; she wasn't quite sure what she was supposed to do with the multitude of blankets and other various items strewn across the floor. The last floor was probably the least furnished, she observed, now standing in the wide, empty room. It had only three white platforms on the left side of the room, and against the right wall laid ten rows of neatly stacked chairs. She counted fifty of them in all, five in each stack.

"Wow," said a distinctly male voice. "I thought I was fast, but look at you. How long have you been up here?"

She turned around in an instant, spotting a young man with shaggy hair walking towards her. He looks about my age she thought to herself, noticing that he wasn't the height that a full grown man should be.

"I don't understand," she said, shaking her head back and forth slightly. "How did we get here?"

"Don't you think that we should find out where here is before trying to decipher how we arrived?" he asked, coming closer to her.

She thought for a moment. Perhaps he had a point, but she couldn't even imagine where a place like this would be and why someone would bring them here. She wondered if she had done something wrong, somehow made someone of importance angry, but nothing would uncover itself from the darkness clouding her mind.

"Who are you? What's your name?" she asked, ignoring his previous question.

"I guess I'm Topher," he said, shrugging his shoulders.

"Clover," she smiled, sticking her hands in her pockets. "What do you suppose this room is?"

He opened his mouth, about to answer, when Clover heard a squeak from the doorway. She looked over to see the face of a newcomer; a pale, smudgy, and timid girl, dark eyes peeking out from her curtain of dark hair. Well, somebody's gotta handle the introductions she thought, plastering a friendly grin onto her face.

"Hello, I'm Clover," she said, waving the girl over. "This is Topher. What's your name?"

"I don't know," the girl said quietly, a ragged breath escaping her lips. Her chin quivered and Clover gently raised her eyebrows.

"You didn't see your name on your doorway?" Clover asked hesitantly. The girl shook her head.

"Well, do us a favor," Topher began, "and go check it for us."

The girl nodded her head and turned back towards the doorway, but three more people crowded the opening, blocking her. They attacked Clover and Topher with a barrage of questions immediately, the most valid being "what the hell is going on?"

How Clover was supposed to answer these questions was a mystery to her, but the look of trust in everybody's eyes made her want to find out. She soothed that small group, asking the kids to sit on the chairs against the wall; she felt that asking gave them a small amount of power over their situation, power to choose who they would listen to, power that they all deserved in a place that had so quickly made them feel powerless.

They didn't hesitate to listen to her, though.

As more kids strolled in Clover naturally assumed the position of leader, calming people down and asking them to relax until everyone arrived; they were an obedient lot thus far, and Clover silently wondered if this was indicative of a follower nature. She felt herself wanting to cling to some system of order in this orderless place, and wondered if they just wanted to cling to somebody else's rules in a place where none yet existed. Perhaps, she thought, that is why we're all together.

Somewhere in the midst of the names-just-learned and faces-just-seen came the first girl, but now she had something by which to be called: Samantha.

"How will you know when everyone is here?" Topher inquired politely, after directing another kid to the chairs along the wall; the boy sat next to Samantha, and Clover was pleased. Topher was smiling faintly at the assembly, and leaning into her.

"There's fifty chairs. I'm guessing that that means fifty of us."

"Well, aren't you just too smart?" he asked teasingly, but she was distracted by a girl with bright red hair that caught her eye. She looks sweet, Clover thought, but obviously spooked, like a mare that had just been bitten by a horsefly. The girl stopped, staring at Clover with a panicked look on her face. She let out a harsh breath, and then another one, and then they were coming out fast and loud, like a car engine fighting to turn over before sputtering and giving out. She fell to the ground, the breaths still leaving her body in a panicked fashion.

"Somebody help her!"