Awake, page 13
"We are not here to hurt you. This is where you belong. We have brought you home. We are going to protect you, and you are you going to save us."
But it wasn't real. Their idea of how I would save them was all in their mind. I rubbed my hands over my face and shook my head. "That's not what will happen. How can you not see that?"
"Scarlett, you have only heard the version Jonathan and Marissa have told you. They took you and poisoned your mind. I ask that you open it and allow us to show you the truth."
"I have questions," I said.
"You may ask us anything," Donald said.
I didn't want to talk about the sacrifice right now. That could absolutely wait for a time when I wasn't wound so tight, angry, scared and heartbroken. I wanted them to acknowledge it but I sure as hell wasn't ready for it.
"Who is Evelyn?"
"They told you about her?"
"No." They tried to pass her off as a doll and then told me she was Jer's friend. "I remember her name and face."
Fiona straightened her legs, stretched and sat beside me. "Scarlett, Evelyn is your sister."
The air in the room thinned. "I have a sister?"
Donald leant forwards. "You do."
"Yes. Just you and Evelyn, you used to call her Evie."
Evie. Evie. I still couldn't remember her.
"Once the ceremony is over, and the sacrifice has been made, you will be reunited with her," Donald added.
Two things took my breath away; how casually and callously he spoke of killing me, and the fact that my sister was dead.
"When did she...?"
"Not long after you were taken," Fiona replied. "But please do not be sad. She is not lost forever."
Their youngest child died and they were talking about her like she was a bloody shoe.
They didn't seem that cut up over her death, and I wasn't sure if that was because they believed they would see her again or because they didn't believe she was the one that could save them. Either way, I knew they were selfish and didn't deserve to have children.
Noah had led me to think Evelyn was someone close to me. I didn't understand how he could lie so well for so long, drip-feeding me information in the sneakiest ways. He was so convincing. I believed he loved me. That hurt the most.
"They did tell me one thing," I said.
"Oh?" Fiona said.
"That you're all brainwashed lunatics who're going to murder me in cold blood that will end up with your sorry arses in prison. My parents will look, which means the police will look. Do you really think you're going to get away with it?"
I had no idea what'd come over me. I hated confrontation but here I was, completely out of character, telling things exactly how they were. As scared as I was, I also felt liberated. The Scarlett before I was betrayed too many times would let so many things go.
I wasn't weak. I could be strong. I wasn't going to take anything lightly anymore, and I was going to fight. One way or another, I was going to make sure they didn't take my life. My teeth clenched together, a burning fire inside me roared to life, spurring me on.
Fiona shook her head lightly, even when challenged she was calm and smiling. Evil cow. "We are not the brainwashed ones, Scarlett. We want love, peace and happiness. We do not live in a place where war, discrimination and hate occur. We live with nature; we do not rip it down. We do not eat once living creatures."
"Right, you only murder your offspring."
"You will see. I promise you that."
"I already see everything for what it is. Do you honestly think I believe life outside here is perfect? Grow up. I've watched the news. I know what evil shit is out there and I don't think it's right but I will never believe taking someone's life is okay. No matter what you think is going to happen after. You're monsters dressing up belief as something else to justify what you want to do."
"If you would rather not eat with the community tonight, Scarlett, you may eat in your room. Perhaps you may benefit from an early night," Donald said, totally changing the subject.
"I think I'd rather skip dinner and just sleep."
Fiona tilted her head as she looked at Donald. Getting his permission? Was he the one that led her to believe killing her child was a fabulous idea? I didn't understand what made them think I was anything other than just a girl. Who decided I was the one to save them all? Him. My guess was him.
Donald dipped his chin. "As you wish. Fiona, would you like to show our daughter to her room?"
"Of course," Fiona said, rising to her feet. She stared down at me, her blue eyes that matched mine glowing with happiness. I looked a lot like her but my hair was a lighter brown like Donald's. Seeing them made me realise how much I didn't look like my parents or brother. It was another hard kick to the stomach.
The thought of my family waiting for me to come home was like having a knife ripped through my heart. How would they react when they found out? I regretted ever being moody and angry with them. They were saving me from this. I never had so much love, respect and admiration for them as I did right now.
I followed Fiona through the short corridor to the room at the end. Everywhere was clad in a light wood, giving it a cabin feel. I didn't want to think it was pretty, but it was. She opened the door and there was my room. Cream painted wooden walls, a slightly darker painted built-in wardrobe with matching bed and bedside tables.
In the corner of the room was a mint green fabric chair and small bookcase. It looked like there was a lot of Eternal Light literature on there and I was undecided if I wanted to read it. Knowledge was power after all, and if I stood a chance of stopping the sacrifice or getting away, I had to know. On the wall above the bed was a photo of what looked like all of them. It was relatively recent; Noah didn't look much younger than he did now. I hated that he was in this room, even in photo form.
"There are clothes in the wardrobe. If you would like something to eat or drink, please come and let me know. Donald and I will be in the living room tonight."
I stared back at an older version of me and felt nothing. "I won't want anything." Besides them taking that picture down, which I didn't think they would. It looked like an everyone-has-one kind of thing.
"Very well," she said, closing the door behind her.
As soon as I heard her footsteps getting further away, I tried the window, shoving the glass to see if it would budge. It didn't, of course. Dropping my hands, I leant my forehead against the glass and tried to hold it together. I was close to crying. I hurt physically and emotionally. I missed my family and, damn it, I missed Noah. My heart ached for the person I thought he was, the one I loved and thought I had a future with.
Breathing deeply through my nose, I tried to compose myself to think of a plan. I refused to believe there wasn't a way. Appeal to the mother in Fiona? If she even had anything maternal inside her. Run for it and hope I found someone to help. Try to find a phone or computer to contact my parents and the police.
Knowledge is power.
Yes, that's it. I was going to learn about them, be one of them until I found a way out. They hadn't told me when the first ceremony was going to start but there would be seven days of rituals. I could do this. It was live or die, and I wasn't dying without one hell of a fight.
I grabbed the first manually bound book off the shelf and flicked it open. With a deep breath, I started to read, mumbling words aloud. "Nature regenerates, should live in harmony with what naturally grows on the earth, eat well, blah blah blah." I rolled my eyes until I came to a part about The Light. Me.
It was hard reading. "The Light will be born in human form, it will provide a link between this life and eternity." Closing the book, I closed my eyes. It spoke of me like I wasn't real. But I had to do this. I opened it back up and continued. Seven rituals must take place before the sacrificing of The Light.
Nope. Not now.
Slamming it shut, I shoved it back on the bookshelf. I wasn't rea
I WOKE UP to the two crazy people - who were my parents - watching over me. They looked perfectly normal, well dressed, and friendly. It was only when they opened their mouths that you realised how bat-shit crazy they were.
"Good morning, Scarlett," Donald said. "Did you sleep well?"
"You kidnapped me yesterday, didn't sleep too well, no."
"You are our daughter; we are not the ones who took you from where you belong. But that doesn't matter now because you are home," Fiona said.
"I'm not your daughter. You don't murder your daughter."
She shook her head. "No, Scarlett, you don't understand." Damn right, I don't. "You are The Light. You are going to lead us to a higher plain, a better existence. It is not death; it is eternal life in a much better place than this."
"But I'll be dead."
Donald covered Fiona's hand with his giant one. "Perhaps we should show our daughter around and explain properly."
I didn't want to go anywhere with them, but I did want to look around and try to find a way to escape. I also wanted to scream and shout at Noah. His betrayal stung deep. I felt sick whenever I thought about what he'd done. Not only had he brought me here to be killed but he made me love him first. He was evil.
"That is a good idea, love," Fiona said to Donald, returning his sickening smile. "We'll give you ten minutes to get dressed, Scarlett."
I watched them stand in sync and leave my prison cell of a room. They were my parents. They made me, and they wanted to kill me. The door closed and was locked. My room was nice, I'd give them that much. They gave me nice things to what, soften the blow for when they stuck a knife through my heart?
Ignoring the hysteria building, I got out of bed and opened the wardrobe. Everything in there was pretty. Lots of long dresses. I dressed in a floor-length white and yellow sundress and brushed my hair through. It felt pointless, but I had to keep it together.
If I had a chance at escaping I had to get out of this room as much as possible. Maybe I could pretend that I'd converted to whatever crap it was they believed. If they trusted me, I could get out. I'd glanced through the She Is The Light book last night but on page one where it basically referred to me as a door that needed opening - not a person - I threw it back on the bookshelf like the other one.
Taking a deep breath, I slipped on a pair of sandals, knocked on the door and waited. The lock clicked and then my mother was standing before me. I couldn't just go from telling them all to do one to converted Eternal Light member because they'd know it was fake, so I scowled.
"You look beautiful, Scarlett."
"Where're you taking me?" I asked coldly.
"We will meet your father outside and show you around."
"Will Noah be there?"
She looked at me out of the corner of her eye. "He is around, yes."
I wanted to refuse to go. He was the last person on the planet I wanted to see.
"Well, he can go to hell."
Wisely, she said nothing and just pursed her lips. In her eyes, he was a damn hero. To me, he was the enemy. He was the worst one, pretending to love me.
I followed her out of the cute, log cabin style house and stood on the deck. Every other house was the same, and I had a feeling they built them all themselves. A large meadow to the left of the settlement stretched on as far as the eye can see and to the right was thick forest. I had no idea where I was or where the nearest town was.
A sense of hopelessness knocked the air from my lungs, and I fought to stay positive. It wasn't over yet. I had to focus on that. I wasn't doomed yet.
Gulping, I took another step, following Fiona. I can do this. The forest was probably my best bet. If I ran across the meadow, they would see me straight away. But I wasn't sure when I'd be left alone long enough to make my escape. And I had no idea how big the forest was.
I was getting too ahead of myself. First I had to work out how I would escape and then I could worry about where I would escape to. For now, just fall in line.
"How many people live here?" I asked, emotionlessly. I wanted to sound bored for a while longer. I had to remain angry for another day or so before slowly starting to fit in. There was a danger that they'd see through it, but my options were limited to two: fight or die.
"Thirty-nine," she replied.
That was what I was dying for. So thirty-nine people could supposedly live for eternity in some magical world Donald and Fiona cooked up. Still, people had been killed for less.
"Wow, that's a lot of people you've brainwashed. Nice one."
She stopped and turned to me. I worried that I'd overstepped the mark. If she thought I believed they'd been completely brainwashed, then she wouldn't trust me when I started to listen. Had I gone too far?
"It is not brainwashing, Scarlett. From the age of four you have had your mind trapped within society's walls. Free it now, let me help you, and you will see the truth. You are The Light."
I wanted to laugh in her face. I was human. Who does she think she is? I wondered if she'd always been like that - crazy - or if someone made her believe the things she lived by. Eternal Light was older than me. They were going to kill me when I turned four, and you didn't just decide to do that five minutes after creating a cult or religion - or whatever they wanted to call it.
Half of me wanted to appeal to her as her biological daughter. I thought it was just engrained on you when you gave birth: protect child at all cost. That was how it was supposed to be. Parents were meant to die for their children, not be the ones hurting them.
"We'll see," I replied, walking off.
Three people stood on high alert. Spinning to face me, thinking I was going to run, ready to pounce. They didn't give me much credit if they thought I would run in broad daylight with everyone around.
Fiona held her hand up, and they immediately relaxed. "Do not be alarmed, I am just showing Scarlett around."
One of them, a plump lady wearing a long skirt and apron, nodded. She looked maternal. Surely she wouldn't stand by as someone drove a knife into me? Or however they were going to do it.
"Welcome, Scarlett, I am Judith," the plump lady said. "This is my husband Bill and son Terry. Oh, it is lovely to see you again. It has been so long, sweetheart."
She knew me before. When I was just a little child. My heart sank with the realisation that she wouldn't help, if she was willing to stand back and let a four-year-old be killed then she wouldn't help me at sixteen.
I gritted my teeth and stared. What's wrong with you?
"Ah, there are my two girls," Donald said, coming out of one of the houses.
"And there you are," Fiona replied. "Are you joining us on the tour?"
"I wish I could, but I have business to attend to. Will you be alright on your own?"
Fiona nodded. "Of course."
What did he think I was going to do? Could I even do anything? Could I hurt her to get away? I'd never even squished a spider, even though I was scared of them. What a stupid, irrational fear. I was scared of a small bug with eight legs when there were people like this lot in the world.
"Mother/daughter bonding time, huh," I muttered dryly. "Perhaps after the tour we could drown a litter of bunnies. Or do you only do that to your child?" I was now definitely going too far, but I couldn't hold back when my stomach tied in knots and I wanted to scream.
Everyone fell silent. Fiona and Donald watched me cautiously.
"I can explain everything, Scarlett, but please keep an open mind," Fiona said. Hilarious that she would tell me - repeatedly - to keep an open mind when hers was so closed.
"It's alright," Donald said when Judith and her family stood open mouthed. "Her mind has been closed off; we have discussed that. This is not a surprise, and we are here to help and not to judge, remember?"
I smiled sarcastically and turned to Fiona. "Can we go now?" Standing around listening to that garbage spout out of their mouths was just making me feel ill. I wouldn't see the 'light' or anything else so talking about it was pointless.
Fiona took me past the ten wooden houses and a field before the meadow that was home to different kinds of crops. No wonder Noah only ate 'real' and organic food, it was all he'd ever had.
No, don't think of him.
Ridiculously I still loved who I thought he was and every time I thought about what he'd done it sent sharp, stabbing pains through my heart. He could've just befriended me; he didn't have to make me fall for him first.
In the distance, I saw Bethan and Finn picking what looked like potatoes. I didn't know where Shaun or Noah were, and I didn't care.
Ahead of us was a larger wooden building and beside that a small lake that looked out of place for the location. "What's that?" I asked, lifting my chin to the place in front of us.
"That is our community hall, where we meet most nights. Where we will celebrate being reunited with you."
"Will you kill me in there, too?"
I wanted to say it as plainly and bluntly as I could in the hope that it would register something in her. She was killing her child. She had to understand that.
"I will show you where the rituals will take place and explain everything fully, so you don't still believe we are taking your life."
"You do know how death works, right? And what about the rituals?" I swallowed glass. What were they going to do to me?
"There are seven in total," she said as we reached the heavy, wooden double doors. "Please, come inside." I weighed up my options and took a look over my shoulder. There were too many people about for me to run. One against thirty-nine was not good odds. I couldn't be reckless.
With trembling hands, I stepped inside. Chairs were stacked along one side. It was bare, a few tables dotted around holding large jugs of fresh, wildflowers. Paintings of nature - the meadow, flowers, trees, water - hung on the walls. Glass lanterns hung from the vaulted ceiling.
Everything they'd done was beautifully simple. They were just insane.
by Natasha Preston / Romance / Thriller have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes