The Chosen Six – Chapter 2, Conditioning

I wake up with my head in a fog. I’ve never felt like this before, but I can only assume it’s some kind of drug clogging my body and senses. My eyes are closed. I can’t seem to control my movements enough to open them. There isn’t anything on top of me but my limbs feel heavy, weighted down, so I can’t push myself into a seated position. I’m lying on my stomach, face down on a rough, carpeted floor. I can feel the coarse rug against my skin, letting me know that the only clothing on my body is a pair of bikini style underwear.

Within moments, my head gradually begins to clear. Not enough for me to move, but I’m beginning to feel something familiar about this position. Like I’ve been here before but I’m not really sure. It’s like a déjà vu type of recognition but I can’t think of where I’ve seen, or felt, like this before. It’s as if my own memories have been bogged down and taken from me with the drugs that refuse to let me move my body. Not just a few memories, but all of them. I can’t recall any part of my life before this moment. Not my name, how I got here, or why I’m almost completely naked and lying face down on the floor. Still, the feeling of familiarity doesn’t go away, so I can only assume I’ve been here before.

Several minutes pass while I wait for the drugs to pass through my system. I can’t move yet, but I am able to make great effort in opening my eyes. The carpet against the right side of my face, I can see a few others lying on the floor with me. Each one in the same position that I am, facing the left wall. There are males and females alike, not any particular size, race, or gender. A myriad of differences between each specimen – no pattern indicating why each of us are drugged and lying on the scratchy carpet unable to move. Whoever laid us down wasn’t very gentle, either. My breasts are lumped in an extremely uncomfortable position for someone who is unable to move her body, and the guy to my left doesn’t look much better off.

I’m about to try and reach out to the guy next to me when I hear footsteps coming from somewhere behind me. Well, near my feet. I can’t turn my head enough to see how many people there are or what they look like, but by the footsteps it sounds like four different individuals have joined us. They stop several feet away. A woman who sounds in her early 20s speaks to all of us lying on the ground. Her voice rings low and clear, demanding attention.

“Adherents,” she announces, making her presence known. Her speech cuts through all the fog, making it easier to listen to her and a little bit easier to move my fingers. “Assimilation assignments. Leo.”

She calls out the first name, and the guy to my left twitches. His response is automatic, almost as if he doesn’t have control over his own actions.

“Yes, ma’am,” his voice sounds around the room. It gives me a better sense of how small the room actually is. The way his baritone bounces off the walls lets me know that we are in a tiny trailer home, but I can’t tell how many people are present.

“Brandon’s Battlefield,” the woman announced, authoritatively.

“Thank you, ma’am,” the man next to me answers. I can’t figure out why he’s so willing to go along with this. Why is she giving us orders? Where the hell are we? What kind of assignments are we being given?

“Virgo,” her low voice chimes again. It’s got a strange sultriness to it that makes me a bit uncomfortable.

“Yes, ma’am,” an older woman says somewhere off to my right. I still can’t turn my head, so I’m not sure exactly where she is. I’m able to completely move my fingers and wrists now, thanks to the girl giving out assignments. Her voice continues to help the fog drain from my head and help me think a bit more clearly with every word she speaks.

“Disposable,” the sultry voice declares.

The woman named Virgo barely has time to respond to her assignment before two people march over to her from back by the woman in charge, pick her up, and escort her into another room. It’s strange hearing her feet drag on the carpet behind her. What’s worse is that the drugs continue to mute my emotions. I have no feelings one way or the other about what might happen to that woman.

“Raven,” the woman in charge calls.

Why does that sound familiar? Is that me? Panic seeps into my blood with the drugs now because I can’t even remember what my name is. None of the others lying on the ground answer her roll call, so I take the chance and respond.

“Uh, yes,” I say tentatively. “Yes, ma’am.”

“Andre’s river arena,” she administers, suspicion thick in her tone.

“River arena,” I mumble, my foggy head making it difficult to understand what she’s telling me.

I feel like I should know what she’s talking about, but I can’t picture who Andre is or what the hell the river arena is. I don’t have time to say more. The woman stomps up to me and hits my back about my shoulders with a thin, sanded stick. I cry out, hearing my own moan bounce off the walls of the small room. No one reacts or moves. There’s only me and the woman giving out orders.

“What is your assignment?” She demands, hovering over me. She’s standing to my left so I can see her black, knee-high boots, but can’t see much else from where I’m lying.

“I…I’m sorry,” I mutter, groggily. “I don’t know. I can’t remember…”

Without warning, she hits me again. Over and over, and doesn’t stop for minutes without end. It isn’t long before I start to feel blood dripping down my body to stain the carpet. After several whacks she stops, walking away from the group and to the back of the trailer. She must have handed the stick to one of her drones, because someone else resumes whipping me with the cylindrical stick, not missing a single tender spot.

I stop myself from giving them the satisfaction of hearing me scream. Instead, I internalize the pain and frustration building with each smack of the stick against my skin, turning it into rage. Even still, the person hits me so hard that I can’t help but let out a low grunt every so often. The more my anger builds, the clearer my mind becomes. I’m not exactly sure what snaps me out of it, but suddenly the fuzziness in my head is gone. I still can’t remember what my name is or how I got here, but I’ve regained the ability to move of my own accord.

Unable to tolerate any more abuse, I immediately stand and grab the stick from the stunned drone. Not even taking the time to really look at the person in front of me, I slap the drone hard across the face. It distracts her long enough for me to turn and march in the direction the leader had gone. From my peripherals, I can see that there are at least 10 others lying on the floor still waiting for their ‘assimilation assignments’ in the front room of the trailer home. It shocks me that I feel nothing for their predicaments. I quickly make my way through this room, through a small kitchen and dining area, and down a narrow hallway. The black, knee-high boots let me know I’ve found the person I had been looking for.

Looking at her now, she’s surprisingly short. I’m about 5’4”, but she’s a good three inches shorter than me. Her long, blond hair tumbles about her shoulders in waves, and her blue eyes are fierce and piercing. I can even feel the confidence radiating off her. She turns to face me as I approach her, completely unsurprised by my presence. In fact, her expression is challenging and excited when she spots me. Her smug face is too much. I draw back and whip her as hard as I can on the arm with the stick.

“You’re going to be tough to break,” she giggles.

She doesn’t even flinch or cry out when I hit her. Her comment makes me put more strength behind my whips. I connect with her arms, face, and neck, but she doesn’t seem to even feel my strikes.

“Go on,” she antagonizes me. “Hit me. Break my skin. Hit me as hard as you can. You cannot hurt me.”

At first, her comment makes me hit her harder, rage fueling my need to return the pain she inflicted on me. However, it only takes seconds for me to notice that some of the cuts I had given her are gone. I stop my attack on her, stepping back. I focus on a cut on her left bicep. The blood has almost reached her wrist, but as I look at it, the blood seems to be absorbed into her skin and back into her body. Even the cut has healed perfectly, not even a scar or blemish to mark up her smooth skin.

“What…” I whisper under my breath. What the holy hell?

“I literally can’t feel pain,” she begins to explain. “But don’t you worry. You’re almost as unique as I am.”

I don’t give her the chance to say any more. Whatever she can do, it’s unnatural. If I have some sort of skill like that, I don’t want to know about it. The drugs almost completely worn off and the anger receding, all that’s left is panic. I don’t know who I am, but I don’t want to be anything like her. I don’t want to be stuck in this place. I don’t want to be just another drone laying out on the front room floor. Whoever I am, that won’t be me. It can’t be.

“No,” I exhale. Her face twitches in confusion momentarily before her expression turns to amusement. As if she thinks it’s cute I think I’m going to be free of wherever I am.

Wasting no more time, I pivot and run back to the front room. I’m looking for an exit – a way out of this trailer. As soon as my foot hits carpet, I see a door on the right hand wall. With no drones in sight, I dash for it. It slows me down a bit, but I slam the door shut behind me in the hopes it slows down any pursuers. I don’t hear any footsteps, but that doesn’t mean anything now that I’m outside. A light breeze brings a lost memory to mind: the last memory. The park and the three people targeting that man. What happened that day?

The small porch doesn’t hold me back. I jump down the four steps and into an inch of white powder. I have no memory of ever seeing it, but I know that it’s snow. I’m grateful that there are enough drugs left in my system to keep me from feeling a chill from it, as well as the air which must be frigid for there to be snow. I turn right to start running but notice a playground with a few parents and kids playing. Not wanting to expose them to my semi-nude form, I sprint to the left instead. Not fast enough, I’m afraid. In my peripherals, I catch a larger woman glance in my direction with a shocked expression.

Dashing down the street, I follow a sidewalk through the trailer park. I hope that the woman doesn’t call the police, but I doubt that’s a logical assumption. I’m not even lucky enough to pass unnoticed. Every so often, there’s someone standing outside their house staring at me as I pass. I even saw one of them pick up a phone from their pocket and speak into it while glaring at me. I need to get out of sight and fast. The only way to do that, is to get myself off the beaten path and stop following the sidewalk.

Although the rest of my memory doesn’t return, the last of the drugs burn out. Pain shoots up my foot with every step, my breasts are bouncing all over the place and turning red and sore from the cold, and there’s a stitch in my side from running. I don’t stop. I can’t.

I take a right between houses, trying to hide my route. I have no idea where I’m going, but it doesn’t matter as long as I’m away from that trailer and crazy woman. Now I’m running through back yards and jumping over fences to get as far away as possible. Time for a change of scenery, I go around a house to the front, cross the street, and run to the back. Seeing someone out of their home wouldn’t normally stop me, but there’s a man standing in his yard that freezes me in my tracks after a sliding stop.

With him are two men that I feel I know, but don’t remember how. One is completely unrecognizable, but the other terrifies me. It’s the same man that started the chaos at the park the day of my last memory. He’s part of this. He’s the reason I was in that trailer. They found me. It doesn’t take long to feel the pressure of his presence on my body. Whatever he did the day at the park to keep me from moving and shoving me onto the ground, he’s trying to do it again. I don’t know how he doesn’t it and I don’t want to stick around long enough to figure it out. Before I can jet off, a voice keeps me in place.

“There you are, Raven,” the unrecognizable one says. His tone is soothing, charismatic, as if he’s talking to a scared child. I’m frightened, but I’m no child.

The look of this man would definitely scare a child, though. He’s tall and thin, with short, dark brown hair. He’s got an almost permanent frown on his face, which contrasts mysteriously with is charisma. If I had to guess, I would say he’s in his early 30s. His very demeanor makes me avoid his gaze. Something about his overly comforting tone tugs at my gut telling me that looking into his eyes will be a trap. Instead, I keep my eyes at his feet.

“We’ve been worried sick about you,” he continues. The longer he talks, the smoother his tone gets. It dares me to look into his eyes.

“You have to come with us,” the man from the park insists. His voice is higher than the other man’s, and slightly grating. I prefer it, as helps to ease the hypnotic sound of his colleague’s voice. “It’s okay.”

I don’t want to look at him either. The only memory that my mind can bring up only makes me panic more. What did he do to me that day?

Needing a distraction, I glance at the third man. I don’t recognize him whatsoever, so it’s safe to say that I have never seen him before. He looks concerned. Like I’ve escaped from a mental ward or something, and he’s worried I’m going to make trouble in the neighborhood. I grimace, growling in frustration. They must have told him some made up story so that he doesn’t know that they kidnapped and drugged me.

“Raven?” The tall man calls to me. His voice is like the drug, clouding my head and my judgement. His tone draws my gaze to his eyes, but I keep control. I refuse. Still, he keeps talking to me in that soothing voice to get me to trust him. “Raven, there is nothing for you to worry about. You are exactly where you’re supposed to be. We’re not angry with you, so please let’s return to the facility.”

I keep my gaze low, but I can see that his hand extends towards me. Frozen to the core from the chilly air, I want so badly to take his hand and follow him back to the trailer. Let his voice numb me. It would be so easy to just let go. But my instincts won’t let me. I have to get away from them.

I don’t let his mesmerizing voice distract me any longer. Lunging for the grassing hill behind the innocent bystander, I roll down it to get away from the other men as they shout after me. The instant I hit the bottom, I’m up on my feet again and running further away from them and their tricks. Looking back, I see the tall one running down the hill after me, but the other one is gone. He better not have a vehicle somewhere or I’m not going to get very far. Thankfully there’s a forest up ahead that I can get lost in.

Breathing heavily, the stitch in my side getting worse, I run into the woods without thinking twice. I can hear the tall one shouting after me. He’s made it into the woods with me, and he has the advantage of not running the past half hour. Fear on my side, adrenaline kicks in and I pick up speed. After a few moments, I don’t even hear anyone calling for me now, but I’m not getting my hopes up. It could just mean he stopped giving away his location to me.

Not even taking the chance to look back, I forge ahead. I can see the trees dispersing up ahead, so I must be near the edge of the woods. Distracted by the possibility of freedom or a getaway, I stumble on an upturned tree root and smash into the ground. Pain shoots up my left knee, but the rest of my body seems relatively unharmed by the impact. I only let it stop me for a second before I’m up on my feet and running out of the forest again. I can’t let a little pain allow me to be caught again. Thankfully, the only new pain chipping away at my body is from my left knee, so I know I haven’t done any major damage. Running isn’t a problem. I can still make it out of the woods before the tall man gets to me.

As soon as I’m out of the dense trees, I look down as I run. There’s a deep gash just below my knee cap that’s gushing a trail of blood behind me. Shit. Before I fall again, I look where I’m going. I’m surprised to see an open field with an abandoned looking house and large stables not too far ahead of me. I need to hide until they stop looking for me. It’s amazing that this peaceful place is so close to a residential area.

Within 10 long minutes, I reach the stables and run inside. I pass empty stall after empty stall, looking for a good place to hide. Not hearing footsteps behind me, I take a moment to look for something to bind my wound. It won’t matter where I try to hide if I don’t patch it up enough to stop it from gushing everywhere. Nothing in sight clean enough, I’m resigned to taking off the only clothing I have on: my underwear. Quickly, I rip it so that I can tie it tightly around my knee without it falling. The blood turns them red in seconds, but it stops the blood from making a puddle on the ground.

I dash out of the stables and go for a barn only a few feet away. It’s just as big as the stable, so there has to be somewhere good to hide where my blood hasn’t gotten to. I stop in front of the door and open it just enough for me to squeeze through, shutting it quietly behind me. I glance around for the best place to hide. There are two separate lofts in the barn: a large and small one. I rush for the small one at the opposite end of the barn as I hear a car pulling up to the house. God damnit…

It’s more difficult to get up to the small loft than I originally thought. There’s no ladder or stairs, so I have to climb on top of a nearby tractor and jump over to it. The wood creaks under my weight, and I wince, hoping I didn’t give away my location. Splinters in my feet, I lower myself down so that I’m lying face down on the loft facing the only door. There isn’t anything to hide behind, so I focus on steadying my breathing and trying to blend in with the wood.

It only takes a few minutes before the barn door opens with a groan. I hold my breath seeing the tall one walking inside. How the hell did he find me?

His steps are slow but deliberate. He makes it halfway into the barn before he stops, looking around the room. He looks pissed off. He stands there too long, though, and I have to take a breath. I release the one I was holding excruciatingly slow, and take a deep breath to replace it. I didn’t think breathing would give away my hiding spot, but it does. The boards creak subtly underneath me, and the tall one’s head turns to look right at me, a pleased smile stretching across his lips. He doesn’t call out to his partner. He simply steps towards the small loft, hands deep in his suit pants pockets. I focus on his grin, though, so that I don’t look into his alarmingly sky blue eyes and get lost in them.

Right below the lip of the small loft, the man stops next to a rope that’s attached to the front of it. He pulls on it hard, and the boards fall out from underneath me like a ramp, sending me down to the ground again. I land on my back first, hitting my head on the dirt, before rolling away from the tall one a bit and landing on my belly facing away from the door. He’s sitting on the middle of my back before I have a chance to react, pinning me to the dirt. His left hand is on the back of my neck, restraining me while his right hand attempts to gather both of mine.

Kicking and screaming, I flail around trying to get free. This isn’t how this situation is supposed to end. The tall one curses at me and growls in rage. More footsteps approach the barn, and I know right away it’s the man from the park. There’s no one else that would have come here with the tall man. I kick harder to get free but it’s no use – I can feel his presence closing in on me and putting more pressure on me than the man sitting on me trying to keep me pinned. The pressure makes it difficult for me to move, though, so it’s easier for the tall one to grab both my hands and tie them behind me with dirty rope.

The footsteps stop on my right, next to my hip. I don’t know what it is about him, but the pressure of him is overwhelming. I can no longer move my limbs. I continue to cry and scream, but even that becomes difficult the longer the man stands next to me. Trying to push it back, I fail completely. The pressure overwhelms and overcomes me, causing my vision to fade to black like it had in the park. My mind fades along with it, and in seconds I’m passed out – completely at their mercy again.

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