One year ago…
Jordan’s espresso brown eyes disobediently peered out from her stuffed laundry bag at the swaying heads rocking side to side from the creaky bus’ motion.
Some passengers maintained their focus on the inside of their bags as instructed by Control. Some were too tired to keep their heads up, and fought to stay awake. Others struggled to clasp onto their belongings as the bus lurched forward over abrupt speed bumps.
Not a single word was spoken. No music was played on the radio. Just the rumbling hum of the heavy machinery.
Jordan reminded herself that she volunteered for this.
Stay alert. Stay alive.
The female who was squished beside her giggled.
What the hell is so funny?
“Sorry,” the female whispered seeing Jordan’s disturbed expression. “I just realized something.”
Jordan looked out her window at the passing woods, remembering the no-talking policy.
Don’t become a target. Not even to the bus driver.
“I packed my harmonica in my bag,” the female blurted.
“Why would you do that?” Jordan whispered, curious by this girl’s stupid, risky behavior.
The female shrugged her shoulders, her big ocean blue eyes rolling back. “It was meant to be, I guess.”
“You better not get caught,” Jordan warned.
Just then, the bus pulled into the large black iron gates surrounding the arena. Tall forest trees engulfed the building and what seemed to be for miles.
Butterflies filled Jordan’s belly. Her palms grew sweaty as she prepared to rise and rush out of the bus.
Always think about the next move, she reminded herself.
“Alex,” the female said breaking the long pause, holding out her hand.
I guess I should make friends if I want to live.
“Jordan,” she said shaking Alex’s hand firmly.
“Nice to meet yuh,” Alex said.
“Get the HELL off my bus!” yelled the Control, a tall dark-skinned male in a light brown uniform and hat, suddenly breaking the calm.
Everyone frantically filed out, carrying their lives in bags.
“20! 19! 18! -” the Control counted down.
Half of the bus was still shuffling to exit.
“GO GO GO!” Jordan shouted.
“16! 15! 14!-”
Oh god, we’re not getting out.
“4! 3! 2!-”
The Control shoved the person in front of Jordan off of the bus, and stood in the small space of the door, blocking her.
“STOOOOOOP!” he hollered in her face, backing her up into Alex.
“Oh no,” Alex moaned.
Everyone stood dead still and silent. Jordan’s heart pounded in her eardrums.
“Oh, so you want to take your doggone time?” he said to the remaining half. “Alright. Don’t worry ’bout it…. we’ll fix this.”
Every person stumbled their way out of the bus, body to body, into the arena as ordered.
Torn boots and old tennis shoes scuffed the dirt off the floor as each individual made their way inside the dark, freezing building. Jordan immediately saw a stage in the center of the arena with bright lights highlighting the muddy surface.
Several more Controls ambushed the line, screaming in their ears, as they wrapped around the outside of the ring.
“GET IN THE BOX!” ordered the head Control.
They climbed over the ropes surrounding the ring and clustered in the center. Jordan made her way next to Alex who looked just as dazed and confused as she did.
“What do you think they’re going to do to us?” asked Alex.
Jordan looked around and felt her throat close up at the sight of ropes and knives in two of the Controls’ hands. She saw three others approach the ring gripping long wooden staffs. In her peripheral, she caught at least two more roll their sleeves up and crack their knuckles.
“I think they want us to fight.”
To be continued…