Chapter 7

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Sleep didn't come that easy that night. Matteo's words echoed deep within my head, bouncing off the walls, keeping me wide awake. Before sending everyone off to bed and turning off the light, Willow had told me to ignore what Matteo had said, but no matter how hard I pushed his words down, they stayed with me until sleep finally pulled me under into complete darkness.

"Wake up! Hurry!"

The lights overhead flicked on and off as someone played with the light switch.

"Get up, get up, get up!"

I groaned and opened my eyes against the harsh speed of the sudden bright and then dim light illuminating from the ceiling. I looked around and stared at everyone else in the room with a yawn. Many teens were too disoriented from just waking up to understand what the man by the door was saying. They all yawned and stretched out, blinking heavily against the light that was now just staying on.

"If I have to tell you guys to get out of bed one more time, I will start dropping bodies right here, right now."

With those words, reality on where we all were, flooded everyone's minds and hit us like a hard slap across our faces. We all scrambled to get out of bed and stood at the end of our cots, facing Ace for his next order.

"Good, I'm impressed once again." Ace smiled the same wide smile that he had done the day before, showing all of his crooked teeth. I looked away from his ugly face and down to the tight black shirt that stretched over his muscles and his dark pants. Although he wore different, cleaner clothes, he was still barefoot like the rest of us.

Ace stepped off to the side and made room for Austin and Marcus to enter. Both of them walked through the doorway, wheeling in two trolleys filled with cardboard boxes. They stopped just at the end of the first two cots and turned to Ace for his next order. Ace walked forward towards Marcus's trolley and picked up one of the boxes and turned to all of us.

"There are seventeen of you, and seventeen boxes." He gestured to the trolleys. "I want each of you, one at a time, to come up here and retrieve a box. But, before going back to your spot, you will state your name to me and anything else that you can remember from your past life."

"Past life?" A dark skinned boy asked while looking around the room in confusion. "What do you mean by that?"

Ace raised an eyebrow, his large smile going away. "Did I say you can talk right now?" Ace placed the box back into its place on the trolley and made his way slowly over to the boy. "I tell you when to speak. Do you understand?" He was now right in front of the terrified boy, towering over him. "Do you?"

From where I was on the other side of the room, I could see the boy gulp and nod his head multiple times quickly.

Ace smiled again and backed away from the boy. "Good. Technically I'm supposed to kill you for disrespecting me like that, but I'll let it slide this time." He took a pause. "...Well mainly because of the boy yesterday, and also because there aren't as many of you guys. Your group has been the smallest yet."

I had so many questions swirling deep inside my head. I wanted to ask him what happened to the other groups and where they all were now if they were even still alive. I wanted to know the purpose of all of this. I wanted to know why I was here, without my memories.

"Alright, let's get started." Ace held his hand out to Austin. Austin took a notepad and pen out of his jacket and handed them to Ace, which he took and turned back to all of us. Ace pointed to the far side of the room and at Matteo. "We'll start off with you. Come up here and retrieve your breakfast."

Matteo walked across the room, almost in a robotic manner. Once at the trolley next to Ace, Matteo picked up one of the boxes and looked up at the terrifying man.

"Name, please."

"Matteo, figlio di puttana."

Ace's jaw clenched. "What was that last bit?"

"Nothing."

"Is that so?" Ace raised an eyebrow and stared down at Matteo with a hint of a smile playing at the side of his lips. "Avrei giurato che mi avessi chiamato figlio di puttana."

From where I was, I couldn't see Matteo's face, but I could definitely feel the shock and fear emanating from his frozen figure.

"I would suggest you keep your insults to a minimum around me," Ace said while pointing a finger into Matteo's chest. "Otherwise you won't be here much longer. This is your first and last warning. Comprendere?"

Matteo nodded his head.

"Good." Ace looked down at his notepad and scribbled what I assume to be Matteo's name and then looked back at Matteo. "Now what do you remember?"

Matteo shrugged. "Nothing. I just remember my name, that's it."

The smile returned to Ace's lips as he wrote what Matteo said down on the tiny notepad. "Perfect." Ace gestured back to Matteo's cot. "You may return to your spot."

Matteo nodded and turned around. He made his way down the line with his head down until he returned back to where he was standing when he first got called. As soon as he stopped, the eyes of the teens left him and went back to the vacant, blue-eyed monster at the front of the room, all afraid of being Ace's next victim. 

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