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Another World's Time: In The Crowd

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The Others wake us up at a time that they call morning. It doesn't feel like morning, though. My body isn't use to the numbness my legs carry with them, or the heaviness I feel when we're not lock away in our one-way mirrored enclosures. There is no sun here, only black sky. There is no way to tell day from night.

Syris and I stay up talking all night. It's been two weeks since the Others came and took us here, to another planet. We stay in a bubble, isolated from everyone and everything else.

Until we hear the knock. It's loud, echoing, bouncing off the cold glass. That's our Que. We stand, and Syris drops his cigarette, stomps it out quick and quiet. We see an Other. This one has blond hair, a willowy figure, graceful in her movement. She's beautiful. She looks just like us, just like a human. Fair skinned, slender, gorgeous hair. She could have been a model on planet earth.

"Breakfast," she tells us, and smiles. Her smile is breathtaking, her teeth straight and bleached a perfect white. But her smile holds no emotion, no reason or feeling. Just fake reassurance.

In the Cafeteria, it's crowded but I can't hear anything except the occasional whisper. Everyone is stunned into silence. Guards are stationed around the perimeter, both men and women with fair looks and blank expressions.

Syris and I sit at our assigned table next to another pair named Hunter and Tyvan. Our food is already placed in front of us: raw almonds, mixed fruit, and whole grain toast. The Others only fed us the healthiest of foods.

"Hey," Hunter says when our blonde escort has left.

I look up to her sharp blue eyes. It's hard to stare at them for too long; they're so intense. "Hi," I answer to my plate.

"So, do we get fed good or what?" I can hear the forced lightness in her voice, hear her plea for normalcy.

I try to laugh at her words. "Yeah, nothing like raw protein and bland carbs."

"Did you at least get some sleep?" Hunter asks.

"Some," I say. I told her last week I hadn't been sleeping well. My time in the bubble mostly consisted of talking with Syris, or trying to count the stars that weren't there.

"It's hard when there's no sheep to count," Tyvan adds, as if to read my mind.

We both turn to him, see his grin, and smile back. It's hard not to smile back at Tyvan.

"So, aren't you going to ask what happened to my hair?" Hunter says.

"Hmm?"

"My hair."

I look up. "It's red," I say.

"Took you long enough to notice," Hunter laughs, combing her fingers through her auburn locks. I stare at her hair, remembering it's length and deep set color. It use to be long, sleek and brown. Now it's thick, coarse waves of deep red that hang around her ears.

"When did you dye it?" I ask, because I honestly have no idea. How could I have missed such a change?

"A guard slipped me some Ruplex powder. It works just as good as a permanent dye," she says. "And Tyvan is the one who chopped off all my hair. I braid it at night to give it the waves."

"Wow. Didn't know we could do that. I mean, I would think scissors are like illegal or something here."

"It's all about who you know," Hunter tells me. "Me and Tyvan? We've made a few friends with the Others."

I nod, trying to think. Who could my allies be?

"I can do your hair," Hunter says. "I like your natural blond, but maybe we can bleach it. Make it lighter. You can totally reinvent yourself here."

"Platinum blond? No, thank you. I'm not a Barbie, Hunt." I think back to the blond who brought us to breakfast today. No, I most definitely did not want to look like her.

"Well, you look beautiful just the way you are," Syris tells me abruptly.

We all stare at him, and he quickly turns away. His face is red. I can't help my smile.

"Just eat," he mumbles at me, looking down at his plate.

Hunter and Tyvan nod in agreement.

"You'll need your strength," Hunter tells me, "For whatever's coming next."



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