Home > Firstlife (Everlife #1)(11)

Firstlife (Everlife #1)(11)
Gena Showalter

“I like your enthusiasm, Mr. Flynn. Perhaps Ms. Lockwood needs to spend quality time with you.” Vans makes a notation in his book. “Yes. I’m already sold on the idea. I’ll make the arrangements.”

I bite my tongue to stop a shout of negation. Of course Vans wants to pair me with a Myriad loyalist.

How would Killian, my parents or even Bow like it if I actively tried to convince them to join the world of the Unsigned?

I drum my fingers against my chin. “I think quality time with Mr. Flynn is exactly what I need...to finally push me in Troika’s direction.”

Killian snorts, as if he knows I’m bluffing.

Vans purses his lips but doesn’t reply directly. “All right, everyone. I’m here to listen to any problems you’ve been having. Talk to me. Help me help you make your stay here more enjoyable.”

More enjoyable for him. For us? More agonizing.

As different kids list their grievances—things I’ve heard a thousand times before—I distract myself with the childhood song that’s never far from my mind.

Ten tears fall, and I call...nine hundred trees, but only one is for me. Eight times eight times eight they fly, whatever you do, don’t stay dry.

“—don’t like that you’re still alive, Vanniekins.” Sloan runs a fingertip down each cheek, mimicking tears. “Let me remedy the problem?”

An-n-nd as usual, he moves on without chastising her.

Seven ladies dancing, ignore their sweet romancing. Six—

“—spiders in my room,” a girl bursts out, as if she can’t hold in the words a second longer. She shudders with revulsion.

Dr. Vans makes a notation.

Oh, honey. You have no idea what you’ve done. Next time she’s due for punishment, she’ll find thousands of hologram spiders in her room. Her mind will think they’re real, and she’ll willingly peel the skin from her body to remove the critters.

“You have to send someone to remove them,” she adds. “I can’t go another night—”

“Shut up,” I snap. Cruel to be kind. “Pretending to be afraid of spiders is—”

“I’m not pretending.”

Fool! She doesn’t get it.

Sooner rather than later, she will. She’ll remember this moment and cry.

Dr. Vans focuses on me, his dark eyes narrowing. “Miss Lockwood, you seem eager to speak. Do you have any complaints about your treatment?”

I pretend my middle finger is a tube of lipstick and apply a first and second coat. I’ll never willingly offer ammunition to be used against me. He knows this.

Still he says, “I’ll give you five seconds to voice your biggest complaint. Continue to remain silent, and I’ll be forced to penalize you.”

Finally. The sword I feel poised at my neck every second of every day will slash, and I’ll experience the next round of torture.

I become the sole focus of every person in the room, but I keep my eyes on Vans.

“One,” he says.

“I think I’m going to barf every time I look at your face.” How’s that?

“Only a legitimate complaint will be heeded, Miss Lockwood.”

“Excellent. I was completely serious.”

“Two. Three.”

“She would like the guards to keep their hands to themselves,” Killian says. To pull attention from me? “I know I would. I’m more than a piece of meat.”

I kind of admire his balls. Figuratively! Only figuratively!

“Miss Lockwood?” Vans prompts.

I raise my chin in a mimic of Sloan. Denying him is one of my favorite indulgences. My hope is that, at the end of his life, when he’s lying in his sickbed, choking on his own vomit—a girl can dream—he’ll look back and bemoan the fact that I’m his biggest failure.

“Four, five,” I say with a smirk.

Sloan shakes her head at me, all bless your stupid heart. Maybe I should’ve played along. All I had to do was complain about something I hate, or lie about something I hate, but the truth is too important to me. I hate lies almost as much as I hate Vans. The worst of the worst lie. I won’t emulate them, even to save myself from a boatload of grief.

A few inmates snicker. This enrages Vans, who leaps to his feet. He motions to Ben Dover and Colonel Anus with a tilt of his chin. “Take her.”

Killian jumps up and steps in front of me, shocking me. He frowns at me over his shoulder, as if he’s in shock, too, then he scowls at the guards. “She stays. I’m not done talking with her.”

He, a stranger, is...guarding me? And he’s doing it even after I refused to guard Bow. Way to rock my world.

I stand and give him a nudge into his chair. “Don’t worry about me,” I whisper. I don’t want him hurt on my behalf. “Worry about yourself.”

He glares but remains silent as Colonel Anus takes my left arm and Ben Dover takes my right. I’m hauled to my room. Bow is there already and she’s still in a drugged sleep, but now she’s on her bed, her wrists and ankles shackled to the posts with cuffs that glow more brightly than a lamp. Aka fetters.

Vans enters the room behind me. My stomach churns, as if it’s trying to make butter from bile, but I swallow back pleas for mercy. This man has none.

I’m held immobile as he paces in front of me. “Ten, Ten, Ten,” he says and sighs heavily. “Ever the troublesome child. Why do you force me to hurt you?”

“Your choice. Your actions. Don’t try casting blame on me.”

“This isn’t the way I like to treat my patients, but I’m willing to do whatever proves necessary to save you from the Realm of Many Ends...or an eternity as a Troikan slave.”

“You are Unsigned.” He must be. “I’ve heard you tell other kids you’ll do anything to save them from eternity as a Myriad drone, one of countless souls overpopulating a dying realm.”

He shrugs. “What’s right for one isn’t right for another.”

No. No! He has an answer for everything and though this one sounds good, I cringe as if he scraped his fingernails over a chalkboard. There has to be absolute right or there isn’t absolute wrong.

This place is wrong.

This man is wrong. He misleads and misdirects without regret, caring more about a monetary payoff than the long-term health of the kids under his “care.”

Troika would tell me to forgive him.

Myriad would probably tell me to attack without mercy.

That. I like that. Strike before he can strike at me.

With a roar, I lunge at him. The guards hold me in place, squeezing my shoulders so roughly the joints nearly pop out of place. Pain lances through me, and for a moment, I see stars. I don’t care. I struggle with all my might, desperate to reach my target.

“Did you get your degree at Discount Psychology?” I throw at him. “You only make half a difference and even then it’s a bad one.”

Direct hit! A muscle flexes in his jaw.

Two other guards enter the room. D-bag and Titball. How sad. No Comrade Douche today.

“Perfect timing,” Vans says, gloating now.

Both males carry a bucket of water and a rag. They stop in front of my blood-covered wall and dip the rags in the water—

Understanding dawns, and I gasp with horror. Not my calendar. Anything but my calendar. Those numbers have been the only constant in my life. My only friend. I can’t lose another friend.

Hot Novels
  • Grey: Fifty Shades of Grey as Told by Chris
  • Fifty Shades Freed (Fifty Shades #3)
  • Never Too Far (Too Far Trilogy #2)
  • Fifty Shades Darker (Fifty Shades #2)
  • Library of Souls (Miss Peregrine‚Äôs Peculi
  • Fifty Shades of Grey (Fifty Shades #1)
  • Fallen Too Far (Too Far Trilogy #1)
  • Forever Too Far (Too Far Trilogy #3)
  • Ugly Love
  • Allegiant (Divergent #3)
  • Hold on Tight (Sea Breeze #8)
  • Bared to You (Crossfire #1)
  • The Destiny of Violet & Luke (The Coinc
  • Captivated by You (Crossfire #4)
  • Uprooted