Without further ado though, here is the unedited opening to End of Mercy:
I woke slowly, tightened my eyelids to block the sunlight streaming through my window, and listened for the sounds of the household coming alive as I snuggled deeper into my covers. I could hear my mother and father moving around upstairs, getting ready for another busy day of work. Before I opened my eyes though, I inhaled deeply, searching for the smell of my mother’s pancakes and sizzling aroma of bacon frying in a pan. I couldn’t seem to get a whiff of them, but I could almost taste the sticky syrup on my tongue as I turned over and slid into consciousness.
Confused, I blinked a few times when my eyes slid open, and I took in the gritty, gray concrete blocks that made up the wall in front of me. I pushed up on my elbow and looked around the room slowly. As my vision cleared, the reality of my situation came back to me. I wasn’t home. My parents weren’t here. The sounds, smells, and sunlight drifting in were coming from outside my small cell in The Heart of Mercy Research facility where I currently was locked in a basement cell.
I should be used to waking in strange places and even stranger situations by now, but every once in a while, I woke at home again--at least in my mind--and the disappointment was sharp when I realized that place and time was completely gone, would never be something I experienced again. Gone forever, along with the people I loved most in the world.
Metal clinked against metal as the door was unlocked from the outside. I didn’t have to look at who it was. For some time now, a month apparently, Ben Parsons had been the only person at my door.
Except for once. Once it had been someone…or something…else. It had been Zeke, or what was left of him.
Now that time, not so long ago, felt like a dream to me. Maybe it had been one, though it had seemed real enough. He’d stood there until armed guards had come and taken him away, his eerie ice-blue stare never breaking away from my gaze until he was completely out of sight. It had been him…but changed. Even now, I shivered at the memory.
I threw the covers back and pushed myself to a standing position. Never wanting to appear vulnerable, I was always ready when Ben walked through the door. Ready for what? I really didn’t know. They’d only drawn my blood once, three tubes of it when I first arrived, and hadn’t run any medical tests since. In the time I’d been here, I’d only seen a small portion of Mercy as I was dragged through the hallways by armed guards and brought here to this small hole in the ground. Well, hardly a hole since it had a small, but comfortable, bed and an attached bathroom, but considering I couldn’t come and go as I pleased, it was a prison cell just the same.
I was sure I hadn’t left the safety of the building. Yet, somehow I suspected whoever was in charge had control of everyone and everything. And that control was absolute. What they didn’t know about me was that I didn’t back down and I didn’t give up--not after what I’d been through in the community and fighting my way to Mercy. Now more than ever, I was determined I would survive. And so would my sister Star, as soon as I learned where they were keeping her. Until they let me see her, they weren’t going to get a cooperative prisoner.
But Ben didn’t appear.
“Step away from the door.” The voice was feminine, and I stood beside the bed, too shocked to tell her I wasn’t near the door. I hadn’t seen a female since my mother nearly a year ago. There had been no women or girls remaining in the community, and I didn’t dare tell them the truth about me. Until the end, they all thought I was just one of the boys. The only female allowed had been my sister. At the time, I didn’t know why there were no women; I just knew they were gone.
It was only later that I learned the truth—all the women and girls were sent into The Dead Forest with a few guards to either live or die because females attracted Draghoul. Or, at least, they believed that to be true.
On the way to Mercy, I’d encountered one woman, but I didn’t count the pitiful creature I’d found locked in the back room of an underground bunker. She was more Draghoul than human at that point. But this, this person was an actual human female.
She swung the door wide and stood solidly in the frame of the door. I couldn’t move or speak or anything. I just stared.Happy Reading and Writing!
C. C. Marks