Ordinary anything but se.., p.6
Ordinary (Anything But Series Book 1), page 6
“That’s been the plan all along.”
“I want to see Christian.”
“You may. Later.”
“How do I know you’re telling the truth?”
“You don’t.” He leaned against the wall. “But I’ll tell you this: if I’d meant you harm, I could have easily done something at any point Thursday, yesterday, and now. I haven’t.” Nealon’s eyes went up and down the length of her. “You need a shower. You’re filthy and you stink.”
She couldn’t even get offended by that. It was true. She longed for a shower. She felt disgusting, smelled worse, and her mouth tasted like mothballs. Honor got to her feet. Her shoes were stiff with dried mud. It was caked on her legs and shorts. Her shirt was torn in a few spots.
She crossed her arms, unable to give in that easily. She just wasn’t programmed that way. “Not until you tell me what’s going on. What is this place and what is being done to people here?”
Nealon’s eyes flashed and his features tightened. It was the most emotion he’d shown so far. It wasn’t much for an average person, but Honor knew it was profound for him. “You don’t give the orders around here. You would be wise to remember that.”
She looked down, fighting an overpowering sense of helplessness. She needed to cooperate, Honor knew that. That knowledge sucked.
She met his gaze. “I’m sorry,” she choked out.
Agent Nealon straightened. “I doubt that.” He walked to the door and waited with his back to her. There was an unspoken request in his actions. After a brief moment, he left.
Honor stared at the open door. Nealon was gone from the room, but she knew he was in the hallway, waiting for her, waiting for her to cooperate. Honor got a bad taste in her mouth, worse than the mothball taste, as she resigned herself to what she was about to do. It was what she had to do, whether she wanted to or not. Honor didn’t have a choice, although Nealon pretended she did.
She took a hesitant step toward the door, and another, until she passed through it.
He didn’t look back at her. He started walking like he knew she was behind him. She followed him into the open room she’d been escorted through the night before and down a narrow white hallway like the one from last night, but this one had no doors along the walls. A chill went down her back. Where was he taking her?
“Where are we going?” she asked quietly. Nealon ignored her. No surprise there. The man clearly didn’t like to talk.
A large metal door was at the end of the hall. An older woman with short blond hair and glasses stood there, like she was guarding it. From what? She wore tan pants and a red shirt. Her face was rigid. The woman’s cold blue eyes flickered to her and back to Nealon. They said nothing to each other, all communication necessary done with that one look. Nealon barely glanced at her as he walked past. But in that moment their eyes met, she caught the warning in his.
“Move it, Rochester,” the woman said in a gruff voice.
Honor hurriedly entered the room, steam and the smell of soap hitting her. It reminded her of a gym locker room, minus the lockers. There were benches in the middle of the room and shower stalls on either side of those. A doorway could be seen and she wondered if bathroom stalls were beyond that.
The walls were painted white and the room was empty aside from Honor and her jailer. The more she saw of the inside of the old church, the more she was sure it had been gutted and renovated. Nothing was the way she remembered it. Wasn’t that some form of religious defilement or something? Everything was new in the building, but also had an archaic feel to it. The place reminded Honor of a dungeon, a prison. She wasn’t exactly sure it wasn’t.
“Bathrooms are that way.” She jumped at the sound of the woman’s voice and turned to look at her. “Soap and towels are in that closet. You got ten minutes.”
“Where are the bathrooms again?”
She pointed to the doorway. “Hurry up.”
“Am I…” Honor’s voice trailed off. She swallowed, gathered her courage, and asked, “Am I a prisoner here?”
The woman’s lips thinned, but she said nothing, soon leaving the room.
Honor sank onto a bench and stared at the door of the closet until her vision blurred, covering her face with her hands. She felt so helpless. She didn’t know what to do. Not that she had any choice or freedom. What were they doing there? An image of Christian’s strained face flashed in her head. What were they doing to Christian? Honor straightened and wiped tears from her eyes. Stop crying. Crying doesn’t help, it doesn’t save anyone.
Nealon said none of her questions were being answered because of her conduct, but she’d asked questions while being obedient, and they still hadn’t answered her. Honor had the grim thought that that was how it would be all of the time. It didn’t matter if she was docile or not, whether she behaved or not. If they didn’t want to answer a question, they wouldn’t. They had all the power, whoever they were, and she had none. It was a humbling discovery and she hated it.
Remembering the ten minute time limit, she quickly used the bathroom and opened the closet door. Shelves full of bars of soap, combs, deodorant, toothbrushes, toothpaste, and towels and washcloths were inside. A pile of white garments sat on the floor and she searched through the tee shirts and cotton pants until she found a size small. Bras and underwear still tagged were next to the clothes.
Honor grabbed what she needed, undressed, and showered away the dirt and grime from the day before, turning the temperature as hot as she could stand. The water pounded her skin and scalp, cleansing her body and mind. She wondered if there were cameras watching her and was sickened by the thought. She worried someone would barge into the room and attack her, which had her hurrying to wash up. Wrapped in a towel, she quickly ran a comb through the snarls of her hair, wincing as her hair fought the comb.
The door opened and she went still.
“It’s time to go.”
When the woman didn’t turn away or leave to give her some privacy, Honor said, “I need to get dressed first.”
Her face hardened. “No. You don’t. You were given ten minutes. You used it unwisely. Let’s go.” She reached for her arm and Honor jerked away, one hand tightly gripping the towel to her body.
“You’re not serious.”
“Tell me if I look serious.”
Honor stared at the woman’s uncaring face. She tried to find a glimpse of compassion or kindness in the woman’s tough exterior and found none. The woman was indifferent to her, didn’t care what happened to her one way or the other. When she continued to coolly gaze back, Honor realized she would not relent. She grabbed the clothes she’d picked out and clutched them to her chest.
Straightening her shoulders, she raised her chin and marched out the door and down the hallway. Her skin pebbled as cool air hit it. She stopped at the end of the hallway. It led into the room that used to hold worship and now had metal benches in it instead. A handful of people, young people, sat on the benches, looking around, talking. One thing that stood out among them was their clothing. They all wore white garbs the same as Honor had in her arms. The thing that stood out the most was their behavior. They didn’t seem afraid. If anything, they looked eager.
She frowned, wondering what was wrong with them to be okay with where they were and what was happening around them. Were they delusional, drugged, brainwashed, what?
Jabbed none too gently between her shoulder blades, Honor glared over her shoulder at the woman.
“Move,” she commanded harshly.
She began to walk, aware of the attention she was drawing to herself. Half a dozen sets of eyes went to her and locked on her. Honor’s face burned, but she refused to look down or away. She stared straight ahead as she walked in nothing but a towel and bare feet on the cold floor. Conversations halted, then picked up, more excited than before. Someone laughed. Honor gritted her teeth and crossed the room, glad when she got to the hallway that led to the room she’d slept in the night before.
Nealon’s face remained blank, but fire flashed in his eyes. He turned to the woman and demanded, “What are you doing?”
She drew herself up, trying to look important and looking like she was trying too hard to be important instead. “I gave her ten minutes. She neglected them.”
“Maybe she’ll listen next time,” Burns said, not taking his gaze from her.
Honor wanted to hide herself from him, to cover herself up in layers and layers of clothing, anything to get the feeling that he was imagining what her body looked like under the towel out of her head.
Nealon locked eyes with her, never once glancing down. She respected him for that. “Go to your room. Get dressed. I will come for you momentarily.”
Honor never thought she would be thankful for Nealon, that she’d ever have any reason to be grateful to him, but right then, at that moment, she was. She nodded and strode away from them, so disoriented with her surroundings it took her a moment to find the room. It was the only one with the door open. Honor wondered how many people were in the other rooms behind the closed doors. She shivered and it wasn’t just from the lack of clothing she had on.
She walked inside and turned to the door, closing it. There was no lock, not on her side of it. Anyone could walk in; anyone could lock her in from the outside.
There was a small rectangular window in the door, covered like the other windowed doors she’d seen in the church. Someone could slide it open and watch her at any time they pleased. The idea of someone observing her sleeping, while she was completely helpless, was actually scarier than the thought of someone watching her undress, although both thoughts were reprehensible. Honor felt sick thinking about it all.
She hurriedly dressed, only then noticing that the food Ryder had kicked over was cleaned up and a new tray, with fresh food, was sitting on the bed. Honor stared at it, her mouth salivating. It was plain oatmeal, dry toast, and watered down orange juice; same as before, but at the moment it looked and smelled like the best meal ever to her.
Her hands shook as she moved for it, stopping when the toast was within reach. It could be poisoned. She closed her eyes, wishing she wasn’t so suspicious of everything. She wanted to be able to eat and drink the meal without thinking of all the possible outcomes her digestion of it would bring forth. Nealon found her like that, hovering over the food.
“It won’t bite.”
“Will it poison?”
He paused. “I am not your enemy. You need to realize that. Now eat.”
“It kind of seems like you are.”
“It kind of seems like you’re a brat too.”
Honor took in his expressionless face and almost laughed. Her lips twitched and she looked away. Did he actually have a sense of humor? Her stomach grumbled loudly and with a sigh she dug into the food. She was starving, it would go to waste otherwise, and…she was starving. Honor tried to pace herself, but it wasn’t easy. The only thing that kept her from shoving it all into her mouth at once was the chance of choking.
She looked down at the empty tray in misery. It was gone and she was still hungry. “Did you bring me more food? After…after I threw my tray?”
The lie had an unpleasant taste to it and Honor had a hard time swallowing. She would never do something so childish. Honor might try to beat someone up, break someone’s nose even, but she wouldn’t revert to throwing food like a baby. It chafed that Ryder had said such a thing to others about her.
Nealon lifted his eyebrows. “I didn’t, no. Just like you threw your tray. Follow me, please.”
He briskly walked from the room, leaving a confused Honor behind him. Did he just admit he had brought her more food and that he knew she hadn’t thrown it in the first place? She wasn’t sure. Maybe Nealon wasn’t so bad, but that was probably stretching it.
“What is this place?” Honor asked in a hushed tone as they walked down a set of stairs and into an open room with windows along the walls and a door next to each window. They looked like rooms.
The walls of the open area were white cement, the floors gray cement, like the upper level of the building. It was cold down there and the fluorescent light bulbs stung Honor’s sensitive eyes. Every time she glanced up, she saw spots. The generic black flip flops she’d been given slapped against the floor with each step she took. In the dark corners shadows shifted and shapes took forms. They were people, guarding whatever was in the rooms. She caught a flash of something shiny and knew they wore guns. Honor saw at least four cameras monitoring them and the surroundings, but she was sure there were more. It filled her with apprehension. What was so dangerous in those rooms that guards with guns were necessary?
Nealon stared through a window to the left of her. “I could tell you everything, but it’s better to show you.” He glanced at her. “You’re not one for taking someone’s word for it, I’ve deduced.”
Honor fidgeted. There was no point in denying that observation. It was true.
“That’s a good thing,” he added. She glanced up. “In these circumstances, people like you tend to live longer.”
Honor did not like those words. They made her think of her father. He hadn’t lived long enough. Jeremy Rochester had not been a naive man, but maybe he had trusted more than he should have. Still, that had nothing to do with why he’d died. Since his death she’d come to accept that every time she or her mother or her sister went somewhere, there was a chance it would be the last time they saw each other. She fisted her hands. Honor hadn’t ever wanted to be the one to cause them grief and inadvertently she had with her recent disappearance.
She blinked. “Wait. In these circumstances? What do you mean by that?”
“Come take a look.” He motioned her forward.
Honor slowly walked over to the window he was closest to. It was the one he’d been staring at when they’d first arrived. She inhaled sharply at the sight that met her eyes. She pressed closer, her hands against the cool glass. It was Christian. The glare of lights was striking on him with his white clothes. He seemed to glow, to flicker with the gray fuzzies she saw when she stared too long at a light or the sun.
Christian’s hair was damp and his head was turned away. Even with the distance between them she saw his body trembling. She wanted to go to him, to comfort him somehow. The urge was strong, dizzying. He was all alone. He had no one to let him know he wasn’t completely by himself. He lay on a metal table bolted to the floor, only a light cushion under him. There was nothing in the room, nothing at all besides the table and thin mattress he was on. At least he was no longer tied down. It was a positive out of a million negatives.
“Why are you doing this to him?” she whispered, aching for the boy unconscious and in pain.
“There is no choice in the matter. He must be kept like this.”
She turned to Nealon. “Why?”
He didn’t answer. Instead he turned to the window. “See the grayness around his form?”
“Yeah. It’s from the lights. They’re too bright.”
He glanced at her. “Look through another window.”
Honor frowned at him, but moved down the hallway. A girl sat on the bed, staring at the floor. Her hair was blond and long. She had her arms wrapped around herself as she rocked forward and backward. There was a layer of gray outlining her whole being, deeper and more substantial than what had been around Christian. It looked thick, tangible. No amount of light could trick the eye like that.
“What is it?”
The girl’s head shot up. Her eyes were strange, shifting from blue to a shimmery gray. The look on her face pierced Honor with fear. It was vengeful, hateful. She stumbled back and bumped into Nealon, who righted her.
“Her turning is almost finished,” he said into he
He nodded to another window. On it went. Each figure was lying or sitting or standing, all turning. Into what, Honor didn’t know and was scared to ask. Different shades of gray surrounded them, like an aura, some denser and darker than others. Most of them wouldn’t look at her, but the ones who did, she wished hadn’t. Their eyes were creepy, gray but almost shiny silver—unnatural eyes.
Nealon waited for her in the middle of the room, not speaking. Honor went to him, feeling sick and confused. She didn’t understand. What was wrong with all of them and why were they keeping them locked up? They were all young, around her age. Some had looked tortured, some had been unconscious, others angry, a few simply resigned.
“There’s something wrong with your lights,” she announced, though the words rang hollow. Honor didn’t even believe them, not after seeing what she just saw.
He inclined his head. “Follow me.”
She hesitated, not wanting to leave Christian. She paused by the window to his room. His head slowly turned, the gray aura darkening with each passing minute. Christian looked directly at her with his shimmery eyes and she flinched under his intense gaze. There was pain in his eyes, but also strength. Defiance. She told him with her eyes how terrible she felt for him. His look cooled and he turned his head away, back to facing the wall.
Honor swallowed, feeling stricken. He blamed her. They all did. She’d seen it in all of their peculiar eyes. They viewed her as the enemy, just as she’d viewed Nealon not that long ago. She wasn’t sure what to think of him now.
She followed him up the stairs. The stairway was dim and cold as she hurried her steps, the sound of their shoes echoing on the cement floor. She had no idea what was happening to the people down below, but Honor understood enough to know what she’d seen was life-altering, creepy, and abnormal. She was chilled on the inside, dazed even. Stuff like that wasn’t supposed to happen, except in movies and books. It wasn’t real. Only it was.
by Lindy Zart have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes