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My fingers groped at the sheets beside me. They were empty, they always were. Even now, in my own room, I could hear the voices. They were all around me. I tried to tune them out, let people have their privacy, but sometimes it was truly impossible. I spent many sleepless nights listening to other people's dreams.
I sat up and threw my legs over the side of the bed and shivered at the cold tile on my warm feet. I stood and walked to the sink and began brushing my teeth. The water and minty flavor felt good in my mouth. I glanced over at my closet to inspect what color of outfit they had chosen for me today.
I dressed quickly in the sky blue uniform. I had to make it to breakfast on time. If anyone failed to come in at exactly eight they were severely punished. They would never tell us exactly how. Our leader, named 'The One', controlled everything in our world. He gave orders, and everyone was expected to follow. He was never seen by anyone, and to get an appointment you had to be important.
As soon as I made it out the door, the voices became increasingly louder. The closer I got to a person, the louder their thoughts. I could hear two girls walking to the breakfast hall ahead of me, gossiping. A young boy to my right was thinking about a dream he had last night. The breakfast hall was deafening, I knew it was about twice as loud to me as it was to any other person here. I had just gotten my tray and made my way to my assigned seat, when I heard my name in someone's thoughts.
'Victoria Mills?' A young man spoke my name as he approached my table.
'Yes?' I asked, but I knew what he was here for, what he was about to say. I started to panic.
'The One has requested a visit with you. Please follow me.' He waited.
'Sure.' I said standing and tossing my tray into the nearest waste basket. I knew I was walking into a trap but I had no choice but to follow. We walked to an unfamiliar gray building behind all the others. He led me down a long hallway, and knocked on the last door.
On the other side of the door, I heard a deep, gruff voice say "Come in."
'Sir, I have Victoria Mills.' Announced the young man.
'Thank you Liam, you may exit the room.' said a man I knew was 'The One.' I could hear it in Liam's thoughts. He turned and made his way down the long hallway. The room was large, and contained a huge oak desk with two leather chairs in front of it. The man who sat behind the desk had broad shoulders and was tall from what I could tell. He had midnight black hair, and eyes that were so pale and blue that I shivered when I looked into them. Though he smiled, there was nothing about his presence that was comforting.
'Victoria ,' He smiled at me. I automatically knew it was fake, a mask to make me like him, to make me feel comfortable. 'Sit please.' I moved to the nearest chair and sat down.
'So, tell me, how are you?' He asked. I knew he didn't care. I knew he knew about my power. That was the only reason I was here.
'I'm good.' I replied, waiting.
'Tell me about your friends.' He said, attempting small talk.
'I don't have any. I don't know why, but people tend to avoid me.' I stated truthfully.
'Oh, come on, you must have some friends. Don't lie to me.' He said a bit more harshly.
'I'm not lying. I have nothing to hide.' I said, looking him straight in the eyes. I could deny my power, maybe I could fool him.
'Nothing?' He asked, raising one eyebrow.
'Look, I'm going to cut to the chase. I know about your power. You've been hiding it for much too long.'
I looked at him like I was hopelessly confused. 'I don't know what you're talking about.'
'I said, don't lie to me!' He said these last words coldly, almost yelling them.
'I'm not.' I simply said. He stared at me with pale, blue eyes. I shivered at the intensity behind them.
'Okay, look, I want to make a little deal with you.' He said, sighing. I was not going to make any deals. This man was evil. I could hear it in every thought. He wanted to bring pain and suffering to all around him.
'No, I'm not interested in making any deals with you.' He would have to force me before I was willing to surrender.
'Your not?' He said in a patronizing tone. 'Why not?'
'You're evil.' I said. He laughed.
'Why do you say that? You just met me not ten minutes ago.'
'You forget I've been hearing every thought that appears in your mind since I entered this room.' I looked into his eyes.
'So you admit that you can hear people's thoughts.' He smiled evilly.
'Yes, I do.' I wasn't going to try to hide it anymore, he already knew.
'Victoria , I know you're special. Just think about it, together we'd make an unstoppable team.' He sighed contently at the thought.
'I'm not going to team up with you!'
'Very well, you won't do it willingly, but after a while without food you'll come around.' He pushed a button on his desk. Two men came through the wide door. 'Men, take Victoria into captivity, I trust you will keep this one alive. I rather need her.'
They both pulled me up from the chair and started pulling me toward the door.
'NO! No you can't do this! I want to be normal!' He only looked at me.
'Yeah, well your not. I'll come check on you later Victoria.' He dismissed me with this, and the two men led me to a cell in the back part of the building. They dragged me, screaming the whole way. They threw me into the first cell and quickly shut the door. Through my tears, I screamed at them to return. They disappeared without a word. I knew it was hopeless. I sat crying, wondering what I was going to do.
I thought about my pathetic life, if you could call it a life at all. I had spent my entire life alone. I often cried myself to sleep. I had always known I was different, a freak as many called me. People avoided me. It wasn't that I didn't try to make friends, I did, but people just naturally hated me. I would often sit and observe friends that were together. I envied their closeness to one another.
I had never been close to anyone so I didn't know what it felt like to have someone to talk to, to cheer you up, and to make you feel good about yourself. I had never had that, and I knew I never would. The thought made me sob harder. I sat for hours thinking about my regrets. I would change so many things if I'd simply had another chance.
Finally, I heard a door slam. I stood and pressed my hands against the cold bars that held me in this cell. It looked almost like a jail, only keeping innocent people locked up instead of criminals. I looked up and saw the person I hated most in this horrible life.
'Victoria,' 'The One' approached my cell and sighed. 'Are you ready to help me now or would you prefer to stay locked in here? I won't be coming back for a few days this time, so I suggest you choose wisely.'
'No, I'm ready to help.' I couldn't win, I never would. What was the point of fighting? Where would that get me?
'Good, I knew you would come around.' He smiled. He reached forward with the keys in his hand and unlocked the cell door, moving aside so I could walk out.
He waved his hand in a gesture for me to follow. "Come with me." He led me down the same hallway and into a room to the right of his office. It was painted a light blue. It contained a small bed and a dresser. On the far wall there was one small window.
'This will be your room. You are to stay in here always, you may not leave. If, however, you need to use the restroom you may push this button on the wall.' He pointed to a red button that hung on the wall. 'You will be timed three minutes and if you're late, you will miss the next meal. Do you understand?' He asked.
'Yes!' I said, the tears still cold on my face.
'Great! When I need you I will send some men to escort you to my office.' With this he simply left and locked the door. I was alone again. And who knew how long this time? It could be days or even weeks. I knew I had to escape. There must be something outside of our town. I had to get out of here. I couldn't let him keep me captive, like an animal. What kind of life would that be? After hours of thought, I had a plan. I prayed it was good enough to work. I would have to be sneaky and outsmart 'The One'. I would have to work fast and efficiently. I wouldn't help 'The One' I wouldn't be merely a tool, something for his convenience. I would put my plan into action tonight.
At sun set, I ate the dinner 'The One' had delivered to my room. I didn't know when my next meal would be, or if there would even be one. As the night sky grew darker, I became more nervous by the minute. If 'The One' caught me what would he do? Would he lock me up again, or have me murdered in front of the entire town? I couldn't think of that now. I pressed the small red button on the wall. I tried the door to find it unlocked and walked quickly down the hallway past 'The One's' office. As I passed his office I glanced in and saw him watching me. I quickly hurried on, hoping that would be the last time I had to stare into those cold, evil eyes.
I went to the back door and took off running, praying 'The One' didn't hear the door open and close. Running in the warm summer air, I could hear all the thoughts of people in their dormitories. Tears burned behind my eyes when I thought of how I used to be one of them, normal. I pushed on, my legs quickly grew tired. I wasn't used to long distances, exercise wasn't allowed here. I just had to keep running, no matter what I couldn't stop until I was safe.
My lungs burned, and my legs ached. I continued until I collapsed from exhaustion. I lay in the grass, taking in as much air as my lungs could hold. I
Observed my surroundings, and realized I had made it to the wooded area about a half-mile outside our town. I stood and steadied myself on a tree, then ran deeper into the woods. I found a bush and hid as best I could until I could regain my strength. The hours passed and the sun eventually rose. I almost fell asleep, but I was worried. Where were they? I prayed they wouldn't find me.
Around sunrise the searches began. I could hear 'The One's' soldiers searching for me. I found my power useful for once. I knew what they were planning. I knew every move before they made it, and easily avoided them. I could tell 'The One' had told them not to think about where they were going next, or to talk amongst themselves.
They tried, but I could still hear their thoughts. I spent many days hidden in the woods. Exhausted and starving, I survived on only about two hours of sleep per night and ate berries I found in the bushes. I learned which berries were edible and which were not. Eventually the searches died down, or so I thought.
I decided to travel beyond the woods. I had to take my chances. Gathering as many berries as I could hold, I walked during the night and hid in a bush or whatever I could find during the day. I traveled as quickly as I could manage and finally came upon another town. I was so happy I ran to it, grateful that I would soon have someone, anyone to talk to.
I came upon a small gas station and could already hear a man's thoughts. I was so grateful I could have cried. I hesitated, what if this man was an enemy? What if 'The One' had contacted him? No, I was being paranoid now. No one in our town knew this village existed. I entered the store and approached the counter.
'Please sir! I need help!' I begged of him. 'I've just escaped from a town about two miles from here!' His thoughts were confused.
'What are you talking about?' He asked. 'You're not making any sense.'
He looked at me as if I had just grown another head.
'I have just escaped from a neighboring town! Our leader, 'The One' captured me and was forcing me to serve him.' I decided not to tell him just yet about my ability to read minds, it might freak him out.
''The One'? Miss, please forgive me but I have no idea what you're talking about. You escaped?'
'Yes, our leader took me captive.'
'Oh my goodness, are you okay?' He asked with a look of concern on his face.
'Yes, I just need help. I've traveled so far to get here. If they find me I don't know what they'll do!'
'Certainly, Come with me.' He led me to the back room. It was dark until he reached over and flipped the light switch. I glanced around the room. It was fairly large, with boxes lined up against the back wall.
'You're welcome to stay here. Oh, and by the way, my name is Carl.' He smiled.
'I'm Victoria. I want to thank you. You don't know how much this means to me.'
'No problem. You stay as long as you need.' He smiled at me, then turned and begins making his way to the front of the store.
I turned a looked at the room. Even though the light was on, it looked dark and gloomy. I sighed, and begin thinking of my room back home. It was the quietest place I had ever known, an escape from the voices that surrounded me. It did not completely shut out the noise, but it was as close to quiet as I had ever gotten. This room, dark and unfamiliar, was uncomfortable.
I would have to look at the bright side; it was all I had now. This was my temporary home. I was thankful for it, I would have to be. This man was doing his best to show me some hospitality. I stepped over the threshold and into the dark room.
'Here,' The man had returned with what looked like a sleeping bag in one hand and a bag of chips in the other. 'I brought you a sleeping bag and some chips, in case you're hungry.' He waved the small bag.
'Thanks.' I said. He handed it to me, and threw the sleeping bag on the floor. That night was quiet, much quieter than I was used to. The gas station closed at midnight, and the man left. There were no thoughts to be heard. It was strange. It was too quiet to sleep. Is this what being normal was like?
I lay awake for many hours, thinking about what move to make next. Was 'The One' still following me? How long had he been following me? And, more importantly, what if he finds me? I was nervous, jumping at every small sound. Suddenly, I heard something that sounded like a jingling of keys. I sat up, suddenly aware of everything around me, and harsh voices broke the silence. It was undoubtedly 'The One' who had come to collect me. Oh no, I thought, what was I going to do? There was nowhere to run or hide. I was frozen with fear. I heard footsteps growing closer, and closer to my door. My heart pounded frantically inside my chest. Suddenly the door swung open so forcefully I thought it might break off its hinges.
'Thank you, kind sir; you did the right thing in contacting me. You will be rewarded handsomely. This is my Victoria.' 'The One' said to the store clerk. He snapped his fingers and two of his men walked over and pulled me up from my bed on the floor.
'NO!' I screamed, bursting into tears. I knew from past experience screaming would get me nowhere. So why, I asked myself did I continue to scream as the men dragged me out of the store and into the street?
She looked at me eagerly. 'And then what happens?'
'And then I wake up, every time. I don't know why I keep having this dream. It's starting to scare me. I've had it every night for the last month.' I looked into Cassandra's eyes and wondered why I was even bothering to tell her this. She was my best friend, but it wasn't something I could explain.
'Well, maybe you should see someone?' She asked and reached up to take a glass out of a cabinet in my kitchen.
'Yeah, I don't know if that would help.'
She poured orange juice into her glass. 'Why wouldn't it?'
'I don't know.'
'So' this man, 'The One', he's using you because you can read minds?' She asked.
'I know that sounds crazy, but yeah. In the dream I can read minds and the whole time I'm trying to escape from him...'
'Look you're probably just over tired, graduations in a week and you're stressed. You need to relax.'
'Yeah, I'll try.'
"You'll be fine. Relax, have some fun." She said as she made her way toward the living room, back to the party. I stepped forward, hesitating then quickly followed. The music was so loud it almost hurt my ears. I followed regardless, into the mass of people. But before I had a chance to join them, I noticed a slight movement in the corner of my eye and glanced to the right. I gasped, my breath caught in my throat. No! This couldn't be happening, not to me. I stopped dead in my tracks, staring at this impossibility. I blinked once, twice. No, he wasn't going away.
'The One' stood in front of me, as clear as day. I stood there, mouth open, eyes wide. He looked exactly as he had in my dream. I was still in shock as he stepped closer to me and spoke, 'Hi Victoria, I've been looking for you.' Everyone stopped and turned to look at me as my screams echoed off the walls.