Home > Nameless (Broken City #1)

Nameless (Broken City #1)
Author: Jessica Sorensen

Chapter One

 

The Cell

 

I haven’t seen the sunlight in years, so long I’m not sure it ever existed to begin with. Maybe I only dreamt of the sunshine, the blue sky, the leafy trees, and the soft wind against my cheeks. Maybe the girl who laughed and smiled never existed, either. It’s hard to tell anymore what’s real and what’s not, where my life began.

I shut my eyes and picture a different world. I can almost feel the warmth of the sun, taste the clean air, hear the lull of a river flowing. The place in my mind has to be real. I was there once, outside, far away from the corruptness and the darkness of this cell. I had a mother and father. At least, I think I did. It’s so hard to remember sometimes—a lost life, a different world. But there has to be more. I can feel it. I just wish I knew if the other world was better. I wish I could find the hope to believe a better life is out there, waiting for me to find it.

Opening my eyes, I sit back against the wall and stretch my legs until my toes reach the edge of the iron circle. The small cell I live in consists of dark grey, moonstone walls, a single ceiling light, and a bucket in the corner. The constant dark atmosphere is dreary, and with hardly any ventilation, the muggy air is thick. But my lungs have grown accustomed to the humidity, just like my mind has accepted the consistent quietness. I prefer the silence and loneliness to noise, anyway. Noise usually means someone has paid for my time.

No one has entered my cell for a few days now, and I’m starting to get hungry and thirsty. I stare at the thick, steel door, longing for food and water, even if it means seeing one of the wardens who own me. I haven’t gotten up and walked around for a while. I’m usually allowed out of the circle once a week to stretch my legs. It’s been way longer than a week. I think it has, anyway. Keeping track of time is difficult when life always seems to drift slowly.

Restlessness eats me up the longer I sit. I fiddle with the shirt I’ve been wearing for months. The stained, coarse fabric feels disgusting against my skin, and the frayed hem barely covers the tops of my legs, making my exposed body always chilled. The magnetic current flowing between my cuffs forces my wrists together and restrains my ankles from moving apart.

Water drips from the vent and splatters against my forehead as I rest my head back. A few rays of light peek through the vent and spread across my cheeks. I’m unsure where the light is coming from, but I pretend it’s the sun sneaking in.

More hours stream by. Voices float from somewhere, and a small part of me relaxes. Voices are my only tie to reality and help me hang on to the fact that I’m not entirely alone. I’m not certain if that makes me twisted, but it doesn’t really matter. Twisted, broken, ruined, veering toward death is who I’ve become. I don’t even remember what I look like; I haven’t seen my own reflection since I came here. I imagine my appearance is as distorted as I feel, probably almost inhuman.

“What about this one?” a warden asks from outside my cell, his voice floating through the small viewing area at the top of the door.

I sit up, wondering if they’ve finally come to feed me.

“How old is she?” someone asks in a low tone.

A shudder ripples through me. If they’re asking those kinds of questions, they’re not here to give me food and water. A visitor has bought my time.

While I’m never certain what I’ll be forced to do, none of the tasks are good. Experiments, violence—I’ve seen and done a lot. There really is no rule when it comes to this life. If a visitor pays the price for a Nameless, they’re allowed to do whatever they want during the time they paid for.

Our time together always ends the same, though. The visitor places their hands against my chest, my body grows hot, and then I black out. I don’t know what they do to me or what the visitors are, but like the wardens, I don’t think their human, despite their human features.

There was one time after a torturous session with a visitor, when I managed to stay conscious after they put their hands to my chest. What I saw … It made me sick to my stomach … how they momentarily transformed into a shadow with no features, no eyes, nothing.

Vomit burns in my throat as I think about what could happen if this visitor purchases me.

“I think she’s eighteen,” the warden answers. “That’s just a guestimate. I’d have to check her records to know for sure. I know she’s pricey, but trust me, this one’s worth it.”

“Why?” The visitor’s voice is deep and male. “What’s so special about her?”

“I’m not sure of the specifics,” the warden answers. “But from what I’ve heard, she’s practically like drinking pure quercu.”

“I’ve never had pure quercu before.”

“It’s rare, so most of you haven’t. But it’s better than just about anything you’ve ever tasted. You’ll feel stronger and the effects last longer.”

“How much did you say she is?” Intrigue laces the visitor’s tone.

I shove down the vomit pushing up my throat. Please don’t buy me. Please don’t buy me.

“Five hundred,” the warden replies. “Like I said, she’s worth the price.”

I hold my breath, waiting for the visitor to respond, silently wishing that he won’t want me.

“All right, I’ll do it,” he tells the warden, and I feel a part of me wither and die. “But she better be as good as you say.”

“She is,” the warden assures him. “Let’s go get the transaction done, and then I’ll have you fill out the paperwork. Since you’re new to our section, it’ll take a few days to process your card and identification, so you might want to find some moonstone until then. We have chambers here if you need them.”

“Thanks, but I should be fine,” the visitor replies. “A friend of mine has a couple that I’m sure he’ll let me use.”

Panic flares within me, potent and scorching. He bought me. He’ll be back. I can’t do this again.

Their voices and footsteps fade as they leave. I only have a couple of days before they return. The desire to flee overcomes me, and I crawl forward toward the edge of the iron circle. In the back of my mind, a voice screams that trying to escape is useless. But I can’t do it anymore. I can’t just sit and wait. It goes against every instinct I possess.

The second I reach the brim of the circle, the magnetic stream surging between my cuffs catches the iron. My arms are jerked down, and the cuffs link to the circle. The metal digs deep into my flesh, and I whimper, trying to slide back. But my legs stretch too far, and the ankle cuffs connect to the iron, too.

I’m bound on the floor, flat on my stomach, with my arms and legs extended out. My skull pounds as the magnetic current pulsates, spreading from the cuffs to my body. My veins vibrate under my skin, like tiny flakes of iron begging to unite with a magnetic current. I only have a few seconds to get my cuffs unattached from the iron before the sensation overwhelms my nerves and I pass out.

Using my hips, I attempt to rotate onto my back, but my body is flipped right back over. Gritting my teeth, I use every ounce of strength to stretch out my arms. Inch by inch, I drag myself backward while arching my back. My skin is pulled tight, like seams on a shirt about to split open. But I keep going, knowing I’m running out of time before I pass out. When I wake up, I’ll be even weaker, and when the wardens find out, I’ll be punished.

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