Today's Reading

BOOK ONE

CHAPTER ONE

She shivered as she opened her eyes. Wherever she was, it was dark. Her skin was wet, clammy. As her hand brushed her body, she realized she was naked.

Wa...wha?

She tried to speak. Nothing. Not just no sound—words struggled to form in her mind. As if she'd forgotten the basics of language.

Wh...where?

She felt around. The floor was cold, hard, flat. Her hands found a wall. It had a dappled texture, thousands of tiny raised bumps, like textured paint. As they ascended, her fingertips reached a raised placard. Her fingers traced over ridges. Letters? Numbers? There wasn't enough light to read it. She traced the first letter. What was it? The letter D? B?

Is this...is that me? she wondered. Does my name begin with D or B?

Terrified, she realized she had no idea.

She was kneeling, her legs so numb they felt detached. She tried to stand but fell forward, body slamming into the wall before she slumped to the floor. When her head struck the ground, she grunted.

Gnh!

'That's her!' a voice cried out.

A light flashed, reflecting off walls. She was in a hallway, not a room.

She tried again to get to her feet, but the lower half of her body refused.

Am I paralyzed?

She struck her foot against the floor. There was a distant, tingling pain. Good. Not paralyzed. She wanted to call out, signal to those she heard, but a hand suddenly clamped over her mouth. Turning, she came face to face with a dark-haired young woman. Her face, glistening with sweat, was barely visible in a wash of dark green light.

'Quiet,' the woman warned. 'I'm Este. I'm not going to hurt you. But I can't speak for them.' She nodded down the hallway. 'Can you walk?'

She shook her head.

'Are you injured?' Este whispered.

She shook her head again, but she wasn't sure.

Este grasped the woman's wrist in her right hand, checking over her body with the left. The mute woman flinched and twitched under her touch. The flashing lights drew closer, accompanied by clattering footsteps.

'Nothing's broken,' Este said quickly, flashing the green light down the dark corridor. 'I'm going to lead them away. When you're up for it, there's a way out that way. Lotta stairs but go as fast as you can. Got it?'

The woman nodded. The green light blinked off. Este vanished down the hall.

Alone again, she fought against rising panic. She had no idea where she was. Was she in danger? Who was that woman? She didn't even know her own na—

Alice. That was it. Alice Helena Rhodes. Alix to some. Allie to none.

OK, that's a start.

The feeling was coming back to her aching legs now. She couldn't get to her feet of her own volition, but she could crawl.

'There!' someone yelled.

Alice whipped her head around, terrified by the anger in the voice. Before she could flatten herself against the floor, gunfire roared down the corridor. She tried to scream, but all that emerged was a squeak. She threw herself down as muzzle flash lit up the far end of the hall like a strobe light.
...

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