A sharp pain ran up the side of my neck as I woke up. I groaned as I rubbed my sore muscles. My mouth was dry, and I ran my hand across my cracked lips to feel something wet run down my chin. There was a chuckle.
“Are you done drooling on me?” Ben asked.
My eyes flew open and I sat straight. I rubbed my neck with one hand and rubbed my eyes with my other. Ben was in the seat next to me. A book was spread out across his lap. I could see the wet mark on his shirt. He reached beside him and pulled out the pair of sunglasses. I slid them onto my face. At least the dark lenses stopped me from staring at that embarrassing pool of drool.
“How long was I asleep for?” I asked.
“Almost seven hours,” he said. “You were out cold.”
“Well, sorry I was drugged.”
I looked around the plane to see Oliver sitting on the seat stretched along the side of the plane. He had his laptop on the table in front of him and was typing. I curled up on my seat and rested my head against the window.
“We’re landing soon, kids,” Oliver said. He must have heard us talking.
Ben continued to read his novel and I stared out the window at the clouds. A few minutes passed, and the pilot’s voice came over the intercom telling us we were about to land. I fastened the seatbelt across my lap and rolled my eyes when Ben double-checked it.
When the plane landed, Oliver told me to stay by Ben’s side again. Oliver lead the way out of the plane, and Ben wrapped his arm around my waist. The warm humid air felt heavenly against my skin. Ben must be sweating having to hide under a leather jacket and scarf.
A man showed Oliver his way to a boat. The plane had landed in an area that looked like where the plane left from Canada. The only difference was that the buildings were surrounded by tall thin trees. We walked down a short wooden dock and stepped into a boat. The three of us squeezed into the seat. Oliver put his hand on the back of my neck and forced my head down.
“I told you not to look up,” he said. “And don’t say anything until I say so.”
I nodded my head. Oliver kept his hand on my neck for a few extra seconds, like a harsh warning.
The boat took off, and I kept my gaze on my knees. The cool mist from the boat cutting through the waves fell on my hair and bare legs. My glasses were coated in a layer of mist.
I struggled to keep my head down. Between wanting to look at the new surroundings and the pain creeping up into my neck, I wanted to raise my chin. A smile crept onto my lips when I felt the boat slow down.
“Ben, help Diana get up,” Oliver said.
He used our real names? He must not be afraid of people figuring out who we are. Unless they already know. If they work for Dr. Alexander they must know what is happening to us and just don’t care.
Ben grabbed my hand and pulled me onto my feet. He helped me onto the dock. I glanced up to see a Jeep nearby before my head was pushed back down. A woman with dark skin and a large smile planted across her face was waiting in front. I watched Oliver’s feet walk by us.
“Good afternoon, Dr. Sweeney,” the woman said, her voice was thickly laced with a beautiful accent.
“Nice to see you, Leta,” Oliver said.
“Dr. Alexander has been having a bad day,” she said. “He is resting for a bit. He’ll meet you at the home.”
“Thank you very much.”
Ben opened up the door and slid across the seat. The three of us were pressed in the backseat again. A man was sitting in the passenger seat. My heart pounded when I saw the large assault rifle he was holding. Leta got into the driver’s seat and started the Jeep.
She drove down the dirt road. Oliver kept his hand on the back of my head and forced me to stare down at my lap so that my eyes were not exposed to the sun. I peeked to see tall skinny trees with lush leaves surrounding us. The drive only lasted a few minutes until we pulled up to a large mansion. The driveway was formed around a stone fountain. A large staircase leads up to the front door.
Oliver put his arm around me this time instead of Ben. He pulled me out of the car. I stumbled as I struggled to keep up with his pace as he pulled me up the stairs. For once, I was happy to be looking down because it helped me stay on my feet.
Two men opened up the door. The entrance was something I had seen in many different movies. A crystal chandelier hung from the dome ceiling. A staircase split into two as the steps went down the marble floor. Paintings with gold frames covered the walls.
A man was standing at the bottom of the staircase. He shuffled forwards as Oliver and I entered. The man had on a tan pair of slacks and a white dress shirt. He was leaning forward and had a blank expression on his face. He seemed to be in his early sixties.
“Oliver, I am glad you came early,” the man said with a British accent.
“Thank you for having us,” he said.
He was standing across from me now, and he came into focus. The muscles in his arms were twitching, and he was rolling his fingers together.
“This must be the young Diana,” he said.
“Yes, sir,” Oliver said. “Diana, this is Dr. Alexander.”
Oliver pulled the sunglasses off of my face. I blinked a few times to adjust to the bright lights. Gregory grabbed my chin. The tremors in his arms made it hard for me to keep my head straight. A small smile appeared on his lips.
“Quite remarkable,” Gregory said. “I am looking forward to getting a closer look.”
“Of course, sir,” Oliver said.
He let go of my chin and looked over my shoulder.
“Nice to see you, Benjamin,” he said. “How have you been?”
“Good, sir,” Ben said with his usual fake smile. “It is nice to be back.”
“Leta will show you to your rooms,” Gregory said. “Ben, you can show Diana around while I speak to Dr. Sweeney.”
“Thank you, sir.”
Leta’s sandals clicked across the floor as she came up behind us.
“Come, follow me,” she said. “Malik will bring your luggage to your room.”
I nodded and followed behind Leta. Ben stayed close to my side. Leta went down a hallway that was tucked in beside the staircase. It was a plain white hallway with nothing hanging on the wall, and no doors. The hall ended in a mental wall, and Leta punched a few numbers into a keypad. The door slid open, and we stepped in.
The ceiling was a glass dome. The sunlight was pouring in, and reflecting off of the hardwood floor. Doors lined both sides of the hall. Leta showed us to two doors in the middle.
“Here you are,” Leta said. “Benjamin, you’re in number ten. Diana, you’re in number twelve.”
“How ironic,” I mumbled.
Ben nudged my side with his elbow.
“Dinner will be available in an hour,” Leta said. “Do you remember how to get to the dining room, Ben?”
“Yes, I do,” he said.
“Good.” Leta’s lips quivered for a moment before she smiled at us again. “I hope you enjoy your stay. Dr. Sweeney will be informed of your room numbers, and Malik will have your bags here in a few moments.”
“Thank you,” Ben said.
Leta turned and hurried down the hall. She entered in a code before the metal door slid open again.
“Come on,” Ben said.
He was pulling the blinds up on his windows, and the dark room filled with sunlight. There was a large bed with a pile of pillows and a wicker headboard. A dresser was against the far wall. A nightstand was on each side of the bed. Each had a lamp that was covered in seashells. It seemed tacky and out of place with the rest of the mansion. I sat on the foot of the bed.
“I always forget how hot it is here,” Ben said as he ripped the scarf off from around his neck. He took off his jacket, and sweat was staining his shirt. He pulled it off over his head and tossed it on the bed.
“What’s wrong with Dr. Alexander?” I asked.
“Gregory has Parkinson’s,” he said. “He can’t do surgeries anymore himself. That’s why he buys subjects from other doctors now.”
Ben ran his fingers through his hair. There was a knock on the door. The man who had the rifle in the car was standing with our luggage. He set Ben’s bag down before going to my room. Ben threw his suitcase on the bed and searched through it. He pulled out a tank top and slipped it on.
He walked around the bed to a door that was next to the closet. He turned the lock on the door.
“Unlock this door in your room,” he said. “This connects our rooms. You can go to your room and change. I’ll wait for you.”
“Okay,” I said.
I went over to my room. It looked identical to Ben’s. It even had the same ugly lamps. I searched through my suitcase until I found a yellow sundress. I ran a brush through my tangled hair. I tied my hair back, and I could already feel the sweat on my neck.
I unlocked the door on my wall before leaving my room. Ben was leaning against the door across from my room. He unfolded his arms.
“Are you ready to go meet the others?” he asked.
“I guess so,” I said. “I’m hungry. I’m more excited for the food.”
“Don’t act compliant around them,” he said. “They’ll eat you alive. You need your spunk.”
I let out a deep breath. “Finally. I’m getting tired of being so submissive.”
“Yeah, but you’ll have to act like I taught you whenever a doctor is around.”
“I’ll try my best.”
Ben threw his arm over my shoulders and we walked down to the dining room.