Hello fellow 100 lovers! I have had this idea kicking around for a while and would love to share it with all of you.
I am all about developing my voice as a writer so feedback would appreciated massively. I put my heart and soul into my work, so be sure I will work my hardest not to disappoint you. It tears me up to think someone was left unhappy with my writing.
So, in a nut shell, I hope you read this, I hope you like it, but overall I hope and pray that you...
Clarke clutched the results of her latest physical in her hands. She tried not to wrinkle it, tapped her fingers against the paper, bounced her knee, but somehow she always got back to thumbing away at the sheet as she waited, until the edges curled and a long crease ran right down the centre. She cursed under her breath, even considered leaving to go print out a fresh copy. She stood, and the dull red doors the receptionist sat just to left of swung open.
"Eager as ever!" a man in trim blue suit said, his face lighting up as he strode towards her.
"Y-Yeah." Clarke pulled a smile on so quickly her cheeks ached as she held out a hand to grasp the one the man offered her. "Cage Wallace, right?" She knew very well who the CEO of Mount Weather Entertainment was, just as she knew his father, Dante, was president of the much larger sister company, New Earth Incorporate.
"And you must be Clarke." Cage smiled as he threw an arm around her shoulders. It showed way too much teeth, like the clown's smile from It, and Clarke shuddered to think that her mother worked with this man.
He pulled her through the red doors and down a white wash hallway. The walls were empty of any awards or commendations like she'd seen the movies show in record producers hallways, aside from one photo hanging starkly at the beginning by the door. It showed Cage at, what Clarke could only guess, the company's start up celebration. Cutting a ribbon? Seriously? This was an Entertainment Company, not a Hospital or School.
Cage led her all the way towards the end of the hallway then took a sharp left through a large brown wood door. The white room (shocker) held a long black desk, the wall behind was lined with bookshelves. Instead of walking her to the chair in front of his desk, though, Cahe gestured to some brown leather chairs situated around a coffee table off to the side. Clarke sat down, bouncing slightly on the firm, unused leather, while he took the one opposite her. "I've heard a lot about you from the writers of the show."
"I bet you have." Her smile was now much more forced. She was surprised her mom talked about her at all, considering the last time they actually spoke face to face it had been a twenty minute screaming match over why art wasn't a real career choice and she'd be in the gutter within weeks, verses why medicine was a soul sucking vacuum that would eventually turn Clarke into an empty, heartless bitch like her... Needless to say it did not end well, and it sickened Clarke to think that, on the off chance the medical adviser for the show had talked about her, that it was the only reason she was here now, accepting her place as survival contestant number two.
But Cage seemed to know nothing of the altercation, his gleaming bleached teeth still threatening to blind Clarke if she looked directly at them, so maybe Clarke's mother hadn't spoken too much of her, since it never took her long to get to the med school dropout part. "Well, as you know, this new project requires us to know any physical issues you may have – considering the amount of exercise you'll surely be doing – so..."
The fact that he just glanced pointedly down towards the sheet of paper irritated Clarke even more than if he'd just snatched it. She handed it to him, staring at Cage as he read over the sheet. If he'd really talked with her mother, then he'd at least know all the med school stuff (before the heartbreaking disappointment part of the tale began), so he'd at least try and read the medical examination form. The moment his brows twisted towards the centre of his forehead, Clarke knew he had gotten to the bronchodilator part of the paper.
"I trust you'll supply me with the medication." She feigned sweetness as Cage squirmed under her medical eye. She already had the medicine, the inhaler snug in her purse next to some water and gum. But it was always fun to mess with snobs.
"Of course," Cage stammered, pushing aside any fluster and pulling the corners of his mouth back up. "Anyway, as the head show runner and producer, it is my responsibility to explain what the show is about and what you will be expected to do."
Clarke perked up. "Oh, that won't be necessary. I saw all the trailers before I applied and read through the terms and conditions document once I was signed on."
"The whole thing?" Cage gaped. "That was fifteen pages of health and safety, violations of the rules, punishments and penalties, points of probable danger, duration of the experience, perks and bonuses and the winners rewards. Why didn't you just click accept and move on to the rest like the other contestants?"
Clarke didn't shrink in her seat under the weight of Cage's scrutiny. Blame her for wanting to know just how to play the game, but she was going to win. Instead, she sat taller and stared Cage down. "I was interested in just what this experience was going to entail." She took a deep breath, forcing the rising bile of Cage's presence down. "Why don't you tell me?"
Idiots like Cage always just wanted to feel in charge and if she had to swallow her pride and let him, at least it would make all this go on faster.
"Well," Cage visibly let the waves of importance wash through him as he leant back into his chair. One leg crossed the other as his hands settled in his lap. "Obviously you'll be expected to do a lot of physical activity. If you don't, you'll be out pretty quickly." He chuckled at his own joke and Clarke forced a simpering giggle. Just keep feeding his ego, she told herself. "The premise is this: Twelve survivors of a devastating apocalyptic EMP blast have all stumbled upon little Arktown – one of the only stable areas left in the world." – Clarke wanted to know just why it was stable and who had protected it, but she doubted the writers of this show had thought that far ahead. It was reality TV after all – "They know nothing about each other, but they'll have to work together to survive the challenges the new world throws at them. The only thing they have in common? Surviving the flesh eating cannibals who were affected by the EMP. They're crazed, starving and are driven by the instinct to kill. No one knows what it did to them, all they know that the only thing that can stop the animals... is death."
Cage looked thoroughly pleased with his half assed zombie concocted show, but Clarke wasn't overly impressed. Basically, he'd hired a bunch of low budget actors to chase them around in cheap zombie make-up while they try to survive. If she'd known they were going to be doing an overrated version of the Hunger Games, she probably never would have applied. Well, that wasn't totally true, since the prize if she survived the longest was the choice between a scholarship to any college of her choosing, or the money it would have taken to fund it.
She met Cage's eye. "It sounds great," she said smoothly, trying to light her whole face with the enthusiasm of a dog looking at a tennis ball. Cage seemed to buy it as his face lit up as well. "When do we start?"
"You'll be shipped out to the location tomorrow. That is where you will meet the other contestants." Cage leaned forwards, a look of unease crossing his sharp features. "Now... I hope that you don't mind that the first meeting will be televised. We want everything to be as authentic as possible, and you can't fake a first impression."
By this point, Clarke was just nodding alone. "They are important," she agreed, trying not to sound too bored. She was on the show, they'd gotten past her agreeing to the terms and conditions, all she had to do now was sign the damn contract, and she could go get ready for tomorrow.
Folding her physical exam into his jacket pocket, Cage stood and walked to his desk. He opened a draw and pulled out a crisp white sheet and brought it back to her. As soon as he put it down, Clarke pulled it towards her and reached for the pen.
"Aren't you going to read it?" Cage asked, a smirking tilting his lip upwards.
"I'm good," Clarke mumbled as she signed the bottom line. If she'd been looking up, she would have seen the smirk widen on Cage's face, his eyes sinking as the lids reduced them to gleaming slits.
She looked up as she handed it back to him. For the first time, unease spiked in her at the look on his face, something akin to satisfaction, only more... sinister.
She put the contract down on the table and stood up. Cage didn't stand, just continued to smirk up at her as he linked his fingers in his lap. She stood awkwardly for a moment, then shifted towards the door. "Well... I'll see you in the morning."
"Until then, Miss Griffin."
Eight hours on a shuttle – really? A freaking shuttle for one person? – was not how Clarke wanted to spend her morning. It had arrived at five am and taken her and the one pack of supplies she was allowed to bring (pre-approved on a check list they'd all been given so that no one tried to sneak in any unauthorized weapons) to the destination. They'd left the city an hour into the drive, leaving Clarke with nothing but forests and the occasional mountain side that they steadily climbed to sketch in her book. Nothing in the rules said she couldn't bring the book, but the drive of the van, built like a line backer for the Indianapolis Packers, hadn't seemed to have gotten the memo as he ransacked the pages until he was sure she hadn't written any... what, zombie survival cheat codes?
Anyway, by the end of the ride she was cranky, stiff and not very happy when they loaded her off at the entrance to a small town then drove away. She stood beside an old faded green and white sign welcoming her to Arktown, nothing but one road and wilderness to her back. No map, no way of knowing where they would all be meeting.
"I guess the surviving starts here," Clarke grumbled, shouldering her pack.
The town was quaint, maybe cute, if it didn't remind her of that Forks town from Twilight so much. All the houses were a dull kind of grey with black tile roofs, shutters pulled all the way down unless the window was smashed for that ransacked survivalist look. They went the extra mile with some every now and then. She passed a couple houses that were missing entire walls, the wood splintered as living rooms or kitchens, entire sections of the houses, were left gaping open to the threatening rain fall, if the heavy overcast was any indication of what her and the others were going to have to sit through.
Her boots scuffed old candy bar wrappers and packets of chips, the tinkle of a soda can crushing underfoot just adding to the crow and creaky window ambiance. Who had lived here before Cage got his grimy hands all over this place? Had anyone at all, or had he built this entire set just for the show? Clarke stopped when her foot disappeared under a news paper, and she wondered which angle the camera would choose for when she picked it up so the shot could read the headline over her shoulder for effect. She didn't pick it up, just bent down to read the headline.
EMP Blasts Lay Waste To The United States!
E.M.P. Blasts Lay Waste To The United States!
Multiple blasts of Electro Magnetic Energy have been discharged across the United States. It is unknown if the effects are worldwide at this moment. Due to the blasts effects, all grids have been shut down across the country, leaving electricity obsolete, and nuclear reactors unstable. Detonations have already occurred, a reactor collapsed outside New York City within hours of the blasts.
Evacuations have begun. Sit tight, the Army will come for you.
Clarke rolled her eyes, but stuffed the news paper into her pack. If anything, they could use it as ignition for a fire later on. She couldn't help but wonder who the 'they' would be. She knew there were twelve contestants including her, all out for the same thing. She wondered how they'd all go about this. She bet there would be at least one super loner, like the kind who wore all black and dark eye shadow and talked about how life was fleeting. There was always one. And a preppy girl who had no idea what she was doing, too. What made her laugh, though, was that Cage actually expected them to work together. He was pitting twelve kids against one scholarship. Clarke heavily anticipated that this would go down in flames before it even began. But, until then, she was ready to meet her competition, spend the first night gathering supplies and scoping them out, then go find a place to hide and wait out the others.
The sun was starting to sink when Clarke finally got an idea of where she was going. Towards the centre of the town an orange glow lit up the dimming sky, smoke lazily inking out the stars above. Someone had managed to light a fire, a big one by the looks of it. Clarke realized that whoever had was not going to last very long in the game if they kept lighting up their location like a beacon drawing in moths. She moved cautiously towards the light, not wanting to get caught out like a bug with a zapper if it turned out that the person was actually a genius.
She passed more houses, and what looked like a gym. She peeked inside from a side door and saw that it expanded, connecting into a shopping centre from the front entrance. She passed by and kept moving. But as she moved further into the town, searching to find the origin of the light, she realized she was getting boxed in, becoming surrounded on all sides by more of the houses until the orange glow began to fade into the darkness and the outline of the woods became clearer. She stood at the end of the street and stared out, past the gaps between the end houses and into the forests, the road behind her looping back around in a cull-da-sack and disappearing back the way she came. The trees stood together like soldiers at war, the branches thick and strong armed as they intertwined with the limbs of their brothers. Flecks of light poked through the gaps between the branches and leaves, smattering the paved road in weakening daylight.
Nothing moved or made a sound, except for the occasional caw of distant crows taking shelter for the night. It was like that moment when you'd been watching a scary movie and were just waiting for something to jump out at you. Tension filled Clarke's body, rooting her to the spot as she continued to stare into the darkness. She didn't know what she expected. She couldn't be 'killed off' now, all the contestants had to be introduced, and it felt silly to believe something was watching her, it was a TV show, they were all being watched.
And yet... she felt like someone was there. Maybe in one of the houses. But her eyes stayed glued to the trees. A branch shifted and her eyes snapped to where the sound had come from. Heavy. Deliberate. Like something was there...
"You a player?"
Clarke's hand flew to her chest, an obscene curse leaping past her lips as she spun around. A girl was standing behind her. Her hip was cocked, a fist curled around the handle of a battery powered lantern propped against it that cast her in a neon yellow light. She wore a red jacket, puffy around her elbows, and her thick dark hair was pulled back into a slick pony tail.
"What?" Clarke asked.
The girl rolled her eyes. "I said, are you a player? You know, for the show?"
Clarke felt herself flush. Great first impression. Looked like she was going to be known as the easily startled one. "Yes."
The girl nodded and began walking over. "Cool. You missed the entrance, by the way. The guy we had watching for the last contestant saw you go by. Instead of being helpful and calling out though, the idiot came and got me." She rolled her eyes, muttering something Clarke couldn't hear as she stopped in front of her. "Raven Reyes."
Raven nodded, looked Clarke up and down – taking in the dark wash genes, speckled grey top and black jacket that was partially bathed in her florescent lantern – then turned and began walking back the way she had come. "We're camped in the mall. You can come for the night, but if you don't offer something to the group, you're out by morning."
"Why would you want a group at all?" Clarke asked as she jogged to catch up. Raven shot her a sideways look as she fell into pace beside her.
"Why not? Safety in numbers and all that crap," Raven said with a shrug. "Wasn't my idea anyway. There was a group of guys who all got dropped off at the same time and said someone met them here. He'd camped in the mall and said anyone who wanted in could come." Raven turned her head to look directly at her. "Why would you not want one?"
Clarke stared firmly back. If this girl wanted a group, that was fine, but Clarke wasn't giving her any reasons to start wasting the others in their sleep. Luckily that was against the rules, but accidents could easily happen.
"I didn't mean it like that," Clarke said.
"Then how did you mean it?" Raven pushed, not backing down.
Clarke was just stammering for an answer when a lanky guy with goggles pushed high up his forehead came running over to them. Clarke could just make out his whiskers in the glow, and realized that they were back at the side door entrance to the gym.
"You found her!" the boy exclaimed and smiled brightly at Clarke. His teeth glowed in the darkness like they'd been black lit. "I'm Jasper. Sorry about not calling out, but I didn't want to attract any... hungrier attention." He looked positively giddy at the thought though. Check off overly excited guy who plays video games.
"The game doesn't start until tomorrow, genius," Raven sighed, rolling her eyes. They lingered on Clarke for a moment, then she pushed past a sheepish looking Jasper and into the mall.
Clarke couldn't help but smile up at his red face as he watched Raven go by. "I got a little jumpy by the woods. It's easy to get caught up," she offered, and Jasper smiled a little at the words. She owed him that much, hi interruption had offered her time to think of an excuse to give to Raven, the next time the girl was sure to ask Clarke about her survival strategies.
They walked in together, Jasper leading slightly as they followed Raven through the gym and out into the main complex of the mall. From there, Clarke could easily tell where the fire glow was coming from. Where the majority of the benches, water fountains and food kiosks were usually placed, a huge open pentagon like middle marked out the very epicentre of the mall. It could be accessed from all sides, giant hallways leading to other parts of the building. At the very back were double escalators to access the second floors, where she could just make out the edges of the red and white table cloths and banners of the food court from where she was standing, and above that a huge sky light that stretched right across the ceiling, the glass shining amber, though cracked in some places.
Gathered around the fire, the wood most likely from one of the benches since Clarke counted four stretching around one side of the pentagon and three around the other, were maybe ten other kids. Their packs were strewn in a pile beside the fire, and a smaller boy had arranged them into a sort of chair that he lounged in, which made Clarke shuddered at how irresponsible this group already were. Jasper went straight to the boy sitting amongst the packs and threw himself into his lap, laughing as the other exclaimed to get off. The fight ended when Jasper got his goggles pinged against his forehead by another boy who's slick hair fell in front of his bulging eyes.
"Quit doing that, Murphy," Jasper moaned as he rubbed his forehead.
The Murphy boy laughed as he moved back to his spot by the fire, his face cast in shadows of the flames light. His eyes landed on Clarke as he turned, but he must of decided that she wasn't worth his time as he kept going, sitting beside a small cluster of two boys and a girl. Clarke watched as Raven made a conscious effort to move to the other side of the fire, away from Murphy, and next to another girl. She couldn't have been older than fifteen, maybe fourteen, and was considerably smaller than the rest of them.
Clarke moved to Raven and sat on her other side. The girl looked up at her, her hair braided back from her face in neat plats. The hoodie she wore practically engulfed her, making her look like a nomadic Inuit that had strayed way too far from the north.
"Aren't you a little young to be on this kind of show?" Clarke asked the girl.
Raven let a puff of hair leave in a quick laugh. "We've all asked her that."
The girl in question shook her head. "Nope." At the look of disbelief on Clarke's face, the girl rolled her eyes. "I don't have parents. They're dead, and foster care sucks. There's no adult figure to say I'm not sixteen, so they can't do shit." The girl must of seen Clarke's disbelief written across her face. "Cage never asked how old I was. I showed him a fake, he let it pass. Besides and with the money I could actually move out of the hospice."
"Charlotte's a badass," Raven summed up, and the girl grinned before hunkering back under her robes of jumper. Raven carried on, pointing out the rest of the people laying around the impromptu campsite that washed them in flickering shadows. "You already know the Einstein that is Jasper, and the boy he's draped across is Monty. Those two entered together, like their own group." Raven shot Clarke a look that had her sinking slightly before she carried on. "Over there is Murphy. He came on his own. The kids he's sat with are Roma, Miller and Atom. Miller, Atom, Murphy, Jasper and Monty were the ones who got here after the first guy." She then pointed over to the last unidentified kid, a blonde girl who was hovering a little awkwardly near Jasper and Monty. "All I got from her was her name. Harper."
Clarke did a quick count. "That's only ten people. Where are the last two?"
Raven shook her head as she shrugged. "They heard the shuttle pull up and went to see who it was. They'll be back any second."
As if on cue, a boy with long floppy hair jogged into the mall. Murphy was up and on his feet in seconds, but relaxed when he saw the boy and went back to sharing jabs with the other kids. Clarke wondered who he was waiting for and why?
Raven rose to meet the boy but when he stopped his eyes cast over her shoulder and landed on Clarke. She flushed when she saw his lips stretch into a smile, those brown eyes sparkling lightly in the fire glow. Raven didn't seem to notice, and when she nudged the boy, he broke his contact with Clarke to look down at her with the same lazy yet sincere smile.
"They weren't there, though I'm guessing that's because she's right there?" the boy said, nodding towards Clarke.
"Yeah, found her wandering near the forests," Raven said, her tone heavy and sarcastic as she looked at boy as if he'd hung the moon. Her tone was like she was pretending to be amused by a toddler putting a bucket on its head and Clarke flushed more at how she was coming across to this stranger. Raven turned and gestured to her. "Finn, meet Clarke Griffin. I think she's the last on-" she would have said more, if her eyes hadn't sharpened to something past Finn. "Jasper! That Butterfinger is not for you! That's my tactful candy bar!"
She charged towards the boys, leaving Finn and Clarke alone. Finn didn't give her a quick glance like Raven had. He smiled as he kept his gaze on her face, and Clarke found she would have preferred it if he'd simply cast her glances. He smiled easily, taking in the soft features of her face, and she could tell by his smile when he noticed the birthmark on her upper lip. He was looking at her like Raven looked at him.
"Finn Collins," he said, stepping over some bags that had been flung away from the pile in the fray as he came closer. "Raven left out my last name. She forgets not everyone knows me as well as her."
"Are you guys close?" Clarke asked, feeling her gut sink. She had to remind herself that she wasn't here to make friends. She was here to win a contest... even if Finn kept giving her that smile that made her breath stutter a little. It was the unfairly perfect balance of confident and genuine.
"Uh.." Finn's eyes darted at the question, then came back to hers. "Yeah. Friends since diapers. We grew up together. She's the one that suggested we do this contest."
"Are you not into the whole surviving a zombie infested world with eleven other people?" Clarke joked, then immediately wished she hadn't.
But Finn just kept on smiling, a chuckle escaping him. "I wasn't... but I'm starting to."
Clarke bit the inside of her cheek as her eyes locked with Finn's. Maybe making one friend wouldn't be so bad.
The moment was dashed when Raven came back over. Finn broke the eye contact to smile down at her as she leaned against his side. Clarke smiled at the friendly gesture, while Finn looked down right awkward as he adjusted his arm so Raven could fit easily against him. Add unfairly awkwardly cute to that concoction.
"Where's the other guy?" Raven asked.
"He told me to go ahead. He decided to check the other entrances to the mall," Finn said.
Clarke couldn't deny that that was smart. Even though the contest didn't start until tomorrow, if they intended to stay here they might as well fortify what they could.
Raven turned back to Clarke. "The other guy is the one who said we should come here with him. He's the one that suggested the group."
As if on cue, heavy steps filled the mall and the chatter fell silent. Murphy was up again, looking directly over Clarke's head. The sharpness of his eyes speared a prickle of apprehension down the hairs on the back of Clarke's neck. One by one the others followed Murphy's gaze. Just as she was turning around, Raven grabbed her arm.
"Hold on blondie, this guy can be a little..."
"Blunt," Finn grumbled for her. "It's all bullshit. He thinks he's in charge just cause he got here first."
Clarke rolled her eyes. "One good idea isn't going to make me bow to his every order." She kept talking as she turned to see the fearsome leader. "He probably just watched Dawn of the Dead before he came here. I bet he-"
"Cinderella's late to the ball. We can't get started until we're all here," a gruff voice muttered as he stepped into the firelight, silencing Clarke as she faced the man behind the voice.
Tanned skin and black curls washed in orange stood stark against the glow, but Clarke's gaze fixed on the pair of dark brown eyes just as soon as they snapped to hers, the weight of the stare hitting her in the gut and chest at the same time. He was bigger, and leaner, from when she'd last seen him. But the eyes, darker than chocolate, were still the same.
Tell me what you thought! I can't wait to hear it!