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After that, everything is a mess. I unravel quite a few mysteries in my head, yes. But who my parents are and where Joan’s parents are hit me over and over again. I am so confused, but he suggests we move on. I agree because I am not one for tears.

“You know, Parker, they gave me a tragic memory in there. Well, it’s not real, but…” I trail off.

“I am aware of that. They showed you how you supposedly gave me over to them since I killed your sister. Besides, I also know of the many poetic words that came to your ears in my voice.” He laughs.

“Wait, I do have a sister, don’t I? Did I?” I ask, suddenly panicking.

“No, darling, you never did. It’s only the two of you.” He presses his lips together. I had so foolishly believed everything within the walls. I’d almost hated myself, like they wanted me to. The door is thrown open suddenly. Someone throws a gun at me, and I catch it in the last minute, and then at Joan, who grunts at the gun.

“Ciao, Jo!” The person cackles and walks away. I struggle to register his face.

“Ciao, the very dam annoying person I’ve ever known.” Joan mutters.

“Who was that?” I turn the gun over.

“Oh, that, that was Hilt. He’s someone you really need to avoid.” He raises his eyebrows in exasperation.

“He can’t be that bad.” I comment.

“You’re right, in a way. You should’ve seen yourself when you were younger. Your jokes are the best and the worst at the same time. You’re really sassy and sarcastic. Mercy me, I was stuck with you. And here I am again!” He exclaims, laughing. I punch him, playfully. Ok, that is it. Either my mind is going beyond sanity or Joan is someone I would want to be around. He clears his throat, growing serious in a matter of seconds.

“I will not be meeting you for a long time. Hilt will be your guide.” He says. “I’m going to take you to your training room now. You will train for as long as needed. That should be crystal clear. Believe me, if you ever try breaking out of here, you will be dead or captivated by Lifemax in no time. And you must not talk to anyone who I haven’t introduced you to without my permission.”

I remain silent.

“I’m going to take that as an affirmative sign. Now, before you go, I need you to have this.” Joan says. “At all times. Only ever open it when you are sure that the time is right.”

He tucks a folded note of expensive parchment paper into my back pocket. I bite the inside of my cheek as his hands find the thin knife and he pulls it out, tensing. He holds it in front of me.

“What is the meaning of this? Are you going to kill somebody?” He asks, and then pushes it into my hand.

“Parker.” I insist.

“No, if you must, you should kill. If you have no such intention, place the knife down.” He crosses his arms. A lump of hesitation crawls its way up my throat and pains me. Joan looks hopeful. I clench the knife in my hand and adjust it quite a few times, turning it over and over. He breaks into a laugh and I innocently stare at him.

“Darling, I know your brother really wants me dead, but you? You will never.” He shakes his head. In my head, my jaw is dropping and my heart is recognized to be thumping louder and louder with every second. Who was I?

I am lead by him to a huge meeting area with targets and sorts of equipment packed in an air-conditioned, tech-savvy room. It is labeled as the training room. Hilt is really someone we should avoid. I realize a little too late. In the first few minutes after Joan left, all he’s ever done is trip or say something really stupid. Ethan says he’s really humorous.

“Hilt, please.” Mike says for the hundredth time, which is not even an exaggeration.

“Mike, chill out. You usually goof around with me. What’s up?” Hilt chuckles. I am tempted to say the sky, the ceiling, a fan and some lights. But I don’t.

“This is not the time to play around. Joan is serious about this.” Mike sighs.

“Fine, how about we switch trainees? At least, Ethan laughs.” Hilt sticks his tongue at me. His ginger hair shaggily falls on his dirty eyes and he pauses to move them out of the way. Mike shrugs, suppressing a snicker, and walks over to me.

 “He’s really annoying.” I comment.

“Look who’s talking. You really don’t remember yourself, Arkgirl.” Mike blurts out.

“Arkgirl?” I look at him like he is an alien. He looks lost all of a sudden.

“That’s a little thing that was the result of our childhood.” He sighs. I look at him confused as he turns around and aims his gun at the target. He shoots.

“Bam, there goes the bullet.” He slaps the hilt of his gun onto his palm in exasperation. The bullet missed.  As I raise my gun, my hand shakes. I try to shoot and my miss is as terrible as any other.

 “You’re not having any beginner’s luck, are you?” Hilt yells from the other side. Hilt and Ethan shoot their target’s bulls eye alternatively. They do not miss. I sigh.

Maybe now is a right time to report him to Joan, but don’t mind him. Oh, and I can perfectly shoot, but I know you don’t like being bad at anything, so…Noah, all you need to do is concentrate.” Mike pep talks.

“Why are we doing this, anyway?”

“Because you need to be just fit to fight.” He ducks his head in acknowledgement and sincerity.

Submitted: November 19, 2015

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