Down the Rabbit HoleI woke up to the annoying vibration of my phone. Sighing, I grabbed it and flipped it open, and frowned when I saw who was calling. Logan… what did he want on a Wednesday morning? “What is it?” I said, sounding whiny and sluggish.
“Can you come over? I need to discuss something with everyone.” He sounded alert and cheerful, as usual. It made me want to punch a kitten.
I untangled myself from my pink and white gingham sheets to get a good view of my Hello Kitty clock. “This
I quickly got dressed and left the house, saying hi to my mom and dad and snagging a banana for breakfast. I know I didn’t eat too much, but let’s face it- I was starving. I stepped out into the street and smiled. Spring mornings in Dynasty were always enough to put me out of my morning funk. The sun shone softly on my tan skin, and the temperature was perfect. I was actually glad I’d dropped out of school to fight for the cause I cared about- things were a lot easier for the most part. No homework, no drama queens spreading rumours about you, no nagging teachers or bedtimes. And luckily, my parents didn’t care for the most part- they hadn’t been too fond of “the system” either. How we supported ourselves was a mystery to me. With my dad being a freelance artist and my mother doing odd jobs when she could find them, I assumed I was just fortunate.
I had just arrived at Logan’s house, a few doors down from mine. There were a few cars parked in the driveway, a sign that everyone except me had arrived. I stepped into the house, not bothering to knock, and saw Logan’s light brown eyes drilling into my skull as soon as I looked up from the doorknob. “Always the late one,” he sneered.
“Yeah, yeah, whatever you say. What’s going on, anyway?” I hated when people got on me for being late. Being early wasn’t another one of my top priorities.
“I’ll tell you when you sit down,” he said through gritted teeth as he pointed to an ottoman with his bare foot. It was the only space left to sit besides the floor, which was full with the other twenty-six kids who met in Logan’s small living room every week. “Okay, now that everyone’s here,” Logan gave me a look, “I have a very important message to share with everyone. You might know about the random kids running around town at night, just like us. They look pretty normal, almost too normal, with no quirks or anything out of the ordinary going on with them. You know what I’m talking about? You know, your average Joe kind of guy. Uh, anyway, me ‘n’ Lance have traced down to where we think they’re coming from. Some place called Left Behind City, out west. We’re not sure exactly where it is, just… west.” Everyone groaned at Logan’s vague directions, something we should have been used to by now. “We want Annika and Rachel to go and search for it.”
Rachel shot up from amidst the kids sitting on the floor, her chest puffed out and hands on her hips. “Fair enough. We’ll set out at noon. Is that all you have to say?” I frowned. Who was she to make the choices so quickly?
“Yeah, that’s pretty much it. Dismissed.”
Everyone filed out of Logan’s house without another word, and after I had packed a few things- I told my folks I was sleeping over at Rachel’s- we hopped in her SUV and started driving to wherever “west” was.
I rolled my eyes and propped my feet up on the dashboard. “Why should we even care about these people? They’re just a bunch of people doing what we do: riding solo. Isn’t that good?”
Rachel sighed. “I don’t think Logan likes people stealing his spotlight. He’s kind of an egomaniac, if you hadn’t noticed. I think it’s a good thing too, to be honest, but for Logan, it’s either his way or the highway. It’s not like we’re going to exterminate them or anything. We’re just doing a little research.” Rachel shot me an unrecognisable expression and I nodded in agreement.
At about one ‘o clock, we had finally gotten out of the city and were in the forest that surrounded Dynasty.
“You think that it could be around here?” Rachel asked me, putting the car in park.
“I guess. It’s called Left Behind City, isn’t it? It couldn’t be too far out from Dynasty, considering there are kids coming and going nearly every night. And my guess it’d be somewhere secluded, but that’s just me.”
“Fair enough. You wanna get out and look around?” She opened the door and hopped out, not even bothering to wait for an answer as usual. I rolled my eyes and jumped out of the passenger’s side, meeting her at the back of the SUV.
We walked off the dirt path that had been put for the cars and bikes that passed through daily and into the wilderness, full of trees and poison ivy and logs I would probably end up tripping over, thanks to the slippery ground.
“This is dumb. ‘We’re not sure exactly where it is, just… west.’” Rachel imitated Logan, a hateful edge in her voice. “Yeah, like that’s supposed to help. I have more than half a mind to turn around and go home!”
“Hey, calm down. We’ll find it… Hey, what’s that?” I pointed to a huge, mossy rock with curly-looking carvings in it.
“No clue.” Rachel absentmindedly walked to it, her scrawny legs getting scratched by the twigs and spiked vines growing in the forest. I followed her, squinting at the rock. “Is it different languages? One looks kind of like Hebrew… or is it Thai? Huh. And this one looks a little like Greek. Where’s Spanish? Or Swedish? Something I can actually read?”
“Maybe it’s around here. Maybe Left Behind City is a mile from here or something!” I cried excitedly, hoping to get this over with as soon as possible.
“I hope you’re right,” she growled.
We began to walk around the rock, checking under piles of leaves and behind trees for another sign. A few minutes later, Rachel called me over to a large hole in the ground, camouflaged poorly with a few twigs and vines.
“Look, this hole is pretty big. I think one of us could fit through it,” she examined.
I wrinkled my nose at her. “That’s true, but what good would that do for us? I don’t think it’s a good- Oh, s***!” I had slipped on some mud and now my body was more than halfway into the hole. I was barely holding on to the sides, my grip slowly loosening, my hands shaking like we were in the middle of an earthquake. My hands always shook, the reason I never used guns or knives like everyone else I knew, but this was insane. “Rachel, pull me up. Pull me up, pull me up, pull me up. There’s no footing. I can’t get back up by myself.”
I watched with horror as Rachel’s lips slowly curled into a malicious grin. “Honestly, I think this is a good opportunity for discovery! It’d be a waste for me not to let you out of this one.”
“What?! You feel like coming with instead of letting me fall into this pit by myself? I thought we were friends,” I spat, panting nervously.
“We are, don’t worry. But really, Annika, how slow can you be? All of the Freedom Fighters have been planning this whole scheme you’ve never really been part of, hon. I’m shocked you didn’t catch on. I know it’s sudden, but we need to get rid of you for a while if we need this plan to work.” She sat down on the ground and stared straight into my eyes, like she was telling a story to a small child. “We’re running out of money, you see. Without dough, we can’t buy bullets or new guns or gas for our cars… You know how expensive it gets, and we know you’re too good to let us actually steal any green, so we need to get rid of you.”
“Great story,” I replied sarcastically. “But isn’t there an easier way? One that doesn’t involve me potentially falling to my death? Don’t you think it’d be much simpler to just kick me out of the gang?”
“Eh, we could have just disbanded you, but where’s the fun in that, right? You’d probably end up forming another gang against us or something, and you against us is worse than you not existing at all. Adieu, Annika!” That was the last thing I heard before she shoved the pointy heel of her boot to my face. I think I screamed, and I know I tasted blood. And then I tumbled down, down, down, my world turning from green and blue to brown to black.