Read The 17 Online

Authors: Mike Kilroy

The 17

BOOK: The 17
4.04Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

The 17

Mike Kilroy

 

The 17

Copyright © 2014 by Mike Kilroy

Publisher: Fishtail Publishing

=================

In accordance with the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, the copying, scanning, uploading, and electronic sharing of any part of this book (other than for review purposes) without permission is unlawful piracy and theft of the author’s intellectual property. All rights reserved. If you would like to use material from this book, prior written permission can be obtained by contacting the author at
[email protected]
or through the publisher at [email protected].

=================

The characters and events in this book are fictitious. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is coincidental and not intended by the author.

=================

Find out more about the author at mikekilroy.net or on Twitter @KilroyWasHere7.

 

Youth is easily deceived because it is quick to hope.

Aristotle

 

Part I

Prologue

His name was something no human could pronounce.

Perhaps the name that was the closest was George.

George, tall for his race—another word that no longer had a human equivalent—approached the cage with caution. He had no idea what a human in this evolutionary stage was capable of doing. Perhaps those of this thin, gangly adolescent’s race could punch their way through the field that separated captured from captor. Perhaps the boy in the prison could zap him with mental telepathy, or control his mind and make him do things he would not normally do.

George was not taking any chances.

The boy did not look dangerous as George peered at him through the field of white light that swirled like an aurora. The boy sat on the cot—a strange contraption humans used to sleep—with his knees pressed into his chest and his head buried in his arms. The boy heaved violently, which startled George, who jumped back with a fright.

Was that an attack?

“I believe that is what humans call crying.” George was startled again by those words. They fell from what passed as the lips of his friend, whose name was unpronounceable by humans.

Perhaps the name that was closest was Fred.

“Crying?” George asked. He had never heard of such a concept.

“It is what they do to cope.” Fred turned one of his five eyes to look at the boy. “Strange things they are.”

George was confused. That was rarely the case. Of all the species in all the corners of the galaxy he had seen, very few surprised him.

Humans surprised him.

So odd they were; so complex; so full of vast kindness; so full of treachery, too; so conflicted.

So fascinating.

“Why this creature?” George asked, staring at the boy who did a thing George now came to know as sobbing. “Is he the best the race has to offer?”

“Oh, no,” Fred answered, making a clicking, clacking noise that to their race meant a scoff. “He is really quite the dullard. He is really quite average—the perfect specimen. We cannot glean anything from the best a race has to offer, or the worst for that matter. No. Nothing can be cultivated from them. We can take so much from him.”

“Can he help us?”

“Perhaps not. His species add so little to the universe. They think they are alone. They think their lives weigh so much on the cosmos. They have no idea how little and insignificant they are, but they are part of the fabric and deserve study.”

“Seems like a waste of time.” George hated to waste time.

“Oh, no,” Fred clicked and clacked again. “I quite like this one. You know they simulate war … for fun … in video games. They also wage it fiercely all over their planet.”

War for fun?
George was appalled by that. George had seen war. There were many words in their ancient texts about war. There were many words in their current texts about war. George had lost so much to war.

“Savage species,” George said, turning his five-eyed gaze back to the boy. “He doesn’t seem like a warrior.”

“No,” Fred said. “He certainly is not.”

Fred turned and slithered away, leaving George alone with the boy. George was startled again as the adolescent lifted his head and seemingly peered at him through the field. George could have sworn the boy could see him. Of course, he could not. He had only two eyes—
how strange, how primitive
—that couldn’t possible connect with him. Yet George couldn’t help but think he had.

There was something about the boy. Feelings stirred in George he never knew he had. If his race had a heart, it would have certainly broken for him.

“I’m sorry, Homo sapien boy.” George meant it.

 

Part I

Chapter One

Can You Not

Zack Earnest had found himself in confined places before. Usually, it was in his locker at Mount Blue High in Farmington, Maine.

Bullies put him there. He was a popular target. It was his skinny arms and his mussed, coffee-colored hair, he figured. Or it was his lack of interest in Alpine and Nordic skiing, the sports of choice at the school. Or it was his aloofness toward the Cougars’ football and basketball squads.

Whatever it was, Zack disliked his lot in life then.

He particularly hated it now.

This cage was different. He had no idea how he found himself in such a situation. It was a small jail—
not as small as my locker, but still
. And it was generic. The walls were metallic and smooth, an almost steel color. The floor was just as drab and gray, made of some sort of stone. There was no place to pee, and this concerned him greatly, and no place to crap, which concerned him more still. The cot on which he sat was hard and uncomfortable. The fabric was coarse when he rubbed his trembling hands on it. It was also cold. Wisps of his breath tumbled from his thin lips when he exhaled.

And he was alone—not necessarily a bad thing. He liked solace, but not here, not now.

Now he wanted to see a face. Any face would do; even the face of his drunkard father; even the face of his distant mother; the face of his kidnappers, surely.

He could hear the scurrying of someone outside his jail, but couldn’t make out who it was. He listened to a disconcerting clicking noise, a sound he had never heard before.

“Hello!”

Might as well call out.

“Um. Hello!”

Zack heard nothing but the air wheezing through the vents of his jail.

“C’mon. What’s the deal?”

He had failed. With nothing more to do, he slid onto his side on the hard, coarse mattress, tucked his hands under his head and closed his eyes.

“Please,” he whispered to God—if there was one. “Please let me be okay.”

†††

Zack awoke in a completely different place than where he had fallen, finally, to sleep. This place was not a jail, but a shrine to all things seventeen-year-old boy.

The hard cot was replaced by a plush, rust-colored leather couch. On the coffee table sat a pair of Xbox controllers and a stack of video games. One of the myriad of
Call of Duty
titles was set aside. A Monster energy drink sat on a coaster next to the stack of games.

Zack looked up to see a giant sixty-inch plasma television fastened to the cream-colored wall. He pushed his legs out and rolled to a seated position. His bare feet came down onto the eggshell shag carpet. He dug his toes into it. That soothed him more than anything else in his surroundings.

And they were such nice surroundings.

There was a sunroof cut into the slanted ceiling above him and he could see the sky, azure blue with wisps of white, puffy, cotton-ball clouds drifting by. The walls were barren, but there were plush loveseats, tables and bureaus scattered about. He could see a kitchen off the spacious room to his left and another hallway that led to somewhere to his right.

It looked like a house, a nice, warm, comforting house.

He tried to keep a smile off his face, but that was futile. He didn’t want to show his jailors, who were obviously trying to placate him, that their plan was working. But who was he to fight?

It
was
working.

There were snacks, too. Not traditional snacks, but a bag of Olive Garden croutons sitting on the table next to him.

His captors knew him well.

Zack grabbed a controller, pressed down on the Xbox symbol and leaned back on the couch. It swaddled him in comfort. As the game fired up on the large television and the sounds of gunfire echoed throughout the room, he caught sight of a figure standing in the arch of the hallway.

It was a girl, and she said, “Um. Can you not!”

She was a pretty girl, a gorgeous girl, with coal black hair flowing down past her shoulders; thick, red, plump lips; and dark haunting eyes. She was wearing yoga pants—oh how Zack loved the girls who wore yoga pants—and a white tank top with the letters CHS across her ample chest.

She was perturbed. “I mean, really? You’re gonna play a video game at a time like this?”

Zack was at a loss for words. That wasn’t all that unusual when he was in the presence of a beautiful girl. But, of course, this situation was a tad different. He stood, dropped the controller to a soft landing on the couch, and stammered in his speech.

“Yeah. Sorry. Um. Hey.”

The girl sighed.

“You just got here, so I’ll let it slide. Okay. So, what’s your deal?”

“My deal?”

“Yeah. Your deal? We all have a deal.”

His deal was he didn’t really have a deal. He wasn’t all that special, really. He was different, sure, but not extraordinarily so. He thought deep thoughts. He pondered things he was sure the jocks and the prom queens and the cheerleaders with ribbons in their hair had never once dreamt.

Does that make me so special I would be kidnapped and placed here?

“I’m not that special.”

“I can see that.”

She didn’t have to be so rude.
“What’s your, um, deal?”

The girl sighed. “You all ask that.”

Zack was alarmed. “There are others?”

The girl nodded as she walked to the love seat and plopped down onto it. She draped her legs over the armrest. “With you, that makes seven of us.”

Zack’s heart pounded and he became panicked. He hated that feeling. He thought by now, and with as many times as he felt that particular sensation, he’d be used to it.

He wasn’t.

The girl pumped her legs over the edge in a rhythm that soothed Zack.

“I’ll give you a minute to process that,” she said.

A minute passed.

“Okay. Let’s start with an easy one. What’s your name?”

“Zack.”

“Nice name. I have a brother named Zack”

“What’s your name?”

“You’ll laugh.”

“No I won’t. How bad can it be?”

“It’s bad. Stupid parents.”

“C’mon.”

“Zill.”

Zack laughed.

“Told you! God! Why do you all laugh!”

“I’m sorry.” Zack really was.

“I know. I know. Zack and Zill. My parents thought it was cool.”

“I think it’s cool.”

Zill smiled. “Well, Zack. There’s a whole crap load of crap you need to know.”

Yes. There certainly was.
Zack was full of questions. The first on his mind was how he got here, to this place? He wasn’t ready to put a name to it yet.
Hell? Heaven? Kansas?

Zack could see in Zill’s eyes that she had the same queries, the same unknowns biting at her, nibbling on her like insects in the deep woods. He feared she hadn’t the answers either.

“Where are the others?” Zack asked.

Zill’s legs stopped pumping. Only calm. The expression on her face turned sullen and Zack feared the answer.

After a long pause, a pause that seemed like a millennium, Zill answered, “Hunting.”

BOOK: The 17
4.04Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Other books

Then No One Can Have Her by Caitlin Rother
Born of Woman by Wendy Perriam
Madly by M. Leighton
Heart & Seoul by Victoria Smith
Come See About Me by Martin, C. K. Kelly
Ha'penny by Walton, Jo