I remember the scene like it was yesterday. The argument with my father in front of our little hut. He always did say I was way too angry for an eight-year-old. I suppose he was right.
Suddenly the raiders appeared. We didn't even notice for the sounds of our own yelling. They rode through our home, the collection of small and frail shelters we affectionately called a 'town,' slaughtering everything that was in their way, like children killing bugs.
When my father finally noticed something was wrong, he turned back to me and yelled, "Get your mother and sister and hide in the basement! RUN!"
I tried to sprint inside, but the first raider was already upon us. I spun around at the door just in time to see my father get cut down with a sword, and my body froze. I wanted to run, but nothing happened no matter what I tried. A raider slowly walked up to me, with a savage grin and drew his sword with a dramatic flourish that told me I was going to die next. He raised it above his head and made to swing down; when suddenly, another of the raiders blocked the strike.
Still paralyzed with fear, I could only listen to the two raiders argue over whether I was the right age to be taken or not. Eventually, they agreed on taking me alive on the grounds that, if I didn't get the approval from 'The Doctor,' they could just kill me later. The first raider seemed to be blindingly fast when he spun around and bashed the hilt of his sword into my temple, which caused me to crumple to the ground. The only thing I could do was curse my own weakness before passing out, long before I hit the ground.
For what felt like months, I was dragged behind those raiders. Every village they came to meant more boys and girls around my age and younger to be collected. Finally, we came to what looked like a huge prison and stopped marching. As a group, we were herded into a giant atrium, and, eventually, a man came out and introduced himself as "The Doctor."
He explained to what had to be the hundreds of us that we were all 'lucky' to have been selected for his experiments. That our time there would consist of 'two different trials.' The first was that, once a week, we would be getting injections to help him with his research on creating the next level of human evolution, as he called it. The second trial consisted of how 'willing' we were to survive.
Apparently, there were currently 200 captives under his 'care.' Once every morning, 200 portions of food would be left out for us. A 'portion' being the bare minimum amount of nutrients the average child in our age group would need for the day. He went on to say that the food would all be gathered in one spot and would be available on a 'first-come-first-serve' basis. So, if someone took ten portions for themselves, then nine others would go hungry that day.
He stayed silent after that to let everything sink in. We were at each other's mercy, precisely two hundred children struggling not to die, all the while being experimented on.
We were then forced down a hallway in a single file, each of us to meet with the Doctor and receive our first injection. Then, we were each to get a number tattooed on our left ankles. This number would replace our names. When my turn came, the Doctor asked me my name. My only reply was the burning hatred in my eyes, knowing his question was a trick and my old name didn't matter. He only raised an eyebrow as he injected something into my arm. It didn't hurt at first; but, all of a sudden, I felt a ravenous hunger. A sudden pain in my ankle distracted me from the feeling for a moment, as I looked down to see that I was now number '200'. Confusing, as I was sure I wasn't last in line.
However, I was snapped out of my thoughts when the Doctor asked me if I knew what was going on. I still refused to answer, and a nearby guard punched me in the stomach, causing me to drop to the floor and retch up bile, struggling and unable to catch my breath.
The Doctor kicked me over onto my back and stood over me, "Now, 200, you seem like a smart one. Tell me what it is we are doing here."
Through clenched teeth and rough gasps, I responded, "The first injection was only designed to make us hungry. Once the weak have been culled, you'll probably start the real testing on whoever's left."
The Doctor seemed somewhat impressed by my correct assumption. As he walked away towards the door, I thought I heard him say, "My next level of human evolution will help protect us from the ....." Demons?
After that, I was ordered back to the atrium, my new 'home.'
Once all 200 of us had been marked and injected, the Doctor reappeared at his podium to finish addressing us for the day. "Congratulations. You have all done such a marvelous job, that it is now time for food."
At this point, a group of his raiders carrying dozens of large boxes, dumped what I concluded to be two hundred small loaves of bread onto the dirty floor in front of us.
Everyone paused for a moment, waiting to see what the others would do. Then the hunger took over, and everyone dove for the food. Punches were thrown. People were trampled, shoved, and bitten, but somehow I was able to make it to the pile of bread. I snatched two for myself and made it out of the melee with only a bloody nose, which I figured was comparatively lucky.
I ran to a far corner of the atrium and was about to devour my bread, when I saw a tiny girl at the back of the pile of struggling, starving bodies. She was too scared to attempt to try and grab food, only hovering at the edge of the mass, hoping for mercy or to catch something cast off by the group.
I was starving and angry, trying to block everything else out and eat in silence. Unfortunately, there was no denying that she looked just like my sister, and that drew me to her even though my instinct was to survive. I knew that it wasn't my sister, that it couldn't be her, but, at this point, I was desperate for anything to have some semblance of normalcy. I walked up behind her, careful not to get anyone else's attention, and grabbed her arm. She jumped and gave a meek yelp. I held up the two loaves of bread and started back to my corner, effectively ordering her to follow me. She did this almost immediately and without question. Once we were far enough away, I held out one of the two loaves to her, simply saying, "Eat."
She paused for a second, I assume out of fear. I didn't have to tell her what to do with the bread; her hunger was already too much. She snatched it out of my hands and ate almost without chewing. When she was done, she tried to introduce herself to me, but I stopped her, not wanting to get attached, and pointed to her leg.
She got the message and said, "13."
"200," was my detached reply.
The first week was the exact same experience every day, with two hundred loaves of bread all but thrown at us, followed by a mad dash of starving children. Sometimes, 13 and I would get lucky, and I would be able to grab three or four loaves for us to share. But once, I only managed to grab one loaf of bread, and we had to split it. Either way, this was just a short-term fix, and I would go to bed knowing that if I kept trying to save 13, then we both would eventually starve.
(Hey everyone. This is my first time attempting to write a real story. I hope you enjoy it! If you do like it, feel free to like each chapter and drop a follow! Thank you all for the support. And special thanks to unlokkkuop for making the cover. -Chuck210.)