I couldn’t move. As soon as we’d neared Benning Ridge, one of the Guards had zapped me with that paralytic wand they carried at their waist. I’d watched muddy soil pass beneath us as they carried me into the gated camp. Pale, bony feet passed through my line of vision, but never any faces. I could smell rot and decay, and my heart skipped a beat every time I heard someone scream. Though the sun was out now, an impenetrable gloom hung over the place, and as much as I wanted to run away, to search for Zion and leave, it was all I could do to keep breathing.
We passed through a set of large metal doors, and then descended three flights of steps into the depths of what I assumed to be some sort of headquarters. The floor was slate gray, as were the walls. Rivets held the sheeting together, and thick metal doors hid any number of things from prying eyes. I pictured rooms full of bodies, torture chambers, labs, and arsenals. I wanted to scream, but my throat had all but dried up.
I heard the jingling of keys, and then one of the doors swung open. I was deposited onto a thick concrete slab, my nose and cheek pressed against the icy stone. This paralytic was stronger than the one used on me when I’d been with Andrew; I couldn’t move my lips or blink my eyes. The effort it took to draw in a breath was excruciating, and my chest felt like a balloon about ready to burst. My eyes itched and burned, and I was desperate to blink them. I could’ve cried, but somehow even that bodily function was on hold. I was literally a wet rag. A ragdoll.
I was helpless.
The door slammed behind me, and the overhead light clicked off, shrouding me in darkness. Cool air caressed my body, and my skin tingled. I sensed goosebumps spread across my arms, but I had no way to warm myself. I lay there in misery, a prisoner trapped inside my own mind. Was it possible Zion was in one of these cells? Was he even at Benning Ridge? Who else had lain on this slab, wondering how much longer they had to live? How much longer did I have?
I wasn’t sure how long I lay there. It could’ve been an hour; it could’ve been ten. Blood slowly pumped back into my extremities, and after a while I was able to push myself into a sitting position. I couldn’t see an inch in front of my face, and the thought that someone or something else lurked in the room crossed my mind a fair amount. I tried to steel myself for whatever was coming next, but when the door swung open and the lights switched on, I was thrown off guard. The fluorescents were blinding, and I squinted against the all-consuming white. My eyes wouldn’t adjust fast enough, and a hand gripped either of my arms, lifting me off my seat and dragging me into the hallway. My feet clumsily trailed after, and my fingers danced at my sides, but at least out here, in the dimly lit hallway, I could see.