Everything falls away around me and my heart thuds loudly in my ears. “What do you mean if I don’t have a talent I won’t be here very long?”
“Anyone without a talent is taken away,” Lyssa explains. “Usually after about a week.”
“Where do they go?”
“Like I would know.”
Great, just another unexplained thing. Lyssa turns around and heads out of the kitchen. Tamara and I follow. We zigzag back through the maze of couches.
“Do you think,” I pause to swallow, “they are, you know,” I lower my voice to a whisper, “killed?”
Lyssa shoves her hands in her pockets. “I don’t think so. We think they’re taken to the other place.”
I grab her arm. “Wait, what?”
She pulls her arm free. “There’s, like, another place, that kid I was telling you about, Pax, saw the plans before he was taken away.”
I cross my arms, my brow furrowing. “What would they be doing with people there?”
Lyssa throws her hands up. “Okay, are you, like, just talking out loud now because you know I don’t have any answers, right?”
I narrow my eyes at her. “I figured that.”
“Besides, I’m sure we can find something you’re good at, there are heaps of options here. Let me show you.” She starts walking again, leading us back to the elevator.
“There are basically no rules,” she tells us. “There’s meal times and lights out, but that’s it. The rest of the time we spend doing what we love. I’m a singer.”
“So there’s somewhere for me to dance?” Tamara asks.
“Sure is.” The elevator doors open and we hop inside. “There is no TV or internet here, so we have to entertain ourselves. The actors put on plays every day, the writers write books, the bands and the dancers put on concerts. It’s actually never boring here.”
“Then why are there all those screens in the living room?” I ask.
“We can record stuff and play it on the screens,” she explains.
She looks me up and down. “It’s been a while since we had a Talentless – that’s what we call people without talent.”
I glare at her. “I figured that.”
She looks at the panel screen. “Okay, so on each of the above levels is a floor dedicated to a talent.” She points to level 6. “This is the writers’ floor. Level 7 is the artists. Level 8 is the actors. Level 9 is the musos and 10 is the dancers’ floor.”
“What about sports?” I ask.
“Nope, just the arts,” she tells me. “You sporty?”
“Right.” She turns to Tamara. “You want to go straight to the dancers’ floor?”
“Tenth floor,” Lyssa says, and the elevator zips upwards.
Tamara’s mouth falls open when we step out into the dance hall. There are mirrors along each side of the walls with a barre in front of them. At the end of the hall is a large stage.
“There’s other rooms in the back,” Lyssa says. “For jazz and ballroom and all other types of dancing.”
Tamara drifts toward the centre of the hall. A group of ballerina’s surround her, babbling with excitement.
I turn to Lyssa. “When’s lunch?”
She smiles at me. “Given up on your hunger strike already?”
She shakes her head. “12.30.”
That means the kitchen will be locked at 11.30. Good, that’s only 20 minutes away.
-Computer, activate 9009’s tracking device.
–9009’s tracking device activated.
-Computer, have guard AIRGU0012 watch 9009’s movements closely.
–Sending orders to guard AIRGU0012.
“This is all overwhelming, I think I need to go and lie down,” I tell Lyssa.
“Sure, I’ll walk you back.”
“No, that’s okay, stay with Tamara.”
I jog toward the elevator before she can argue. I tell it to take me to the fifth floor. I notice that above the dancers’ level is a level labelled The Garden and a level labelled The Lake. I’ll go up to The Lake soon, check it out and see if there is a way to get to the roof.
The elevator doors open and I slip into the kitchen and squeeze myself inside one of the cupboards. The door slides shut and I put my finger down to stop it closing all the way. I’m going to see just who it is holding us all captive.
My heart races as I wait.
I hear footsteps and then the cupboard door opens and I’m being dragged to my feet by a white humanoid robot. This must be Botcop.
I try to yank my arm free. “Hey, let me go.” I smack it on its hand and hold back a cry, my fingers stinging.
The robot drags me back to my room. We stop outside it and a message runs across its eyes.
:You will be unable to leave your room until further notice:
It pushes me inside, the door closing faster than I can blink, blowing my hair back. It disappears.
I bang on the wall, shouting to be let out, but it’s useless. My stomach grumbles loudly and I wish I had eaten after all. I sulk over to my bed and throw myself down. Maybe if I pretend to behave they will let me out sooner. I have no chance of escaping unless I’m out there. I’ll just have to be smarter, because one way or another, I’m going to figure out how to get out of here.
©Rochelle Sharpe 2014