Seventeen-year-old Mitzi and Deuce can recall how many drops of water were on a leaf from a rainstorm five years ago and conversations from last week, month, or year. They have the ability to remember every second of everyday—since birth.
This gift has blessed Mitzi with a history of being sexually assaulted by researchers and abused by her own parents. She trusts no one. Likes no one. Deuce, however, is a high school standout. His gift has made him a superstar on the football field and his memory promises him endless opportunities.
When they both end up at an Alzheimer’s research facility under false proviso, they quickly realize this place isn’t what it seems to be. They endure crazy military-style tests, are forcefully drugged, and complete real-life simulations that haunt them.
Mitzi and Deuce have no idea what the researchers want to do with them or their memories. But one thing is clear: the researchers will go to any lengths to get what they want.
“Welcome to The Fifteen.” Mark held both hands out to his sides. “Don’t get excited; you aren’t really outside. This is a simulated environment.”
Deuce slumped. It looked so real. Air breezed across his face, ruffling his hair. The bright sun made him squint. He could smell the freshly cut grass. It was too realistic to be fake.
“The Fifteen consists of only one thing: an obstacle course.”
Deuce sat up straighter. An obstacle course, no matter if it was real or fake, was definitely something he was up for. Something he could dominate.
“What do we get if we get done first?” Ralph piped up. “Do we win?”
Mark smiled knowingly. “This isn’t a competition, Ralph. You’ll all be going through together. And you’ll all be finishing together.”
A loud groan came from Mitzi. Deuce grimaced. He didn’t mind teamwork; quite the opposite, really. But working with someone who didn’t do teamwork was going to get on his nerves. And Mitzi wasn’t the teamwork type. Maybe he could tape her mouth shut, strap her to the energizer bunny, Paisley, and get out of The Fifteen fast enough to have an early dinner. Now that was a plan.
“First run starts now.”
Seatbelt-type appendages lifted from the back of Deuce’s chair and folded across his chest and legs, locking him in place. The others had been locked down, too. Mitzi let out a yelp, and Deuce rolled his eyes. Their seats were thrust upward, like they’d been shot out of cannon. Deuce clenched his teeth, but kept his eyes wide. The ground whizzed by beneath him as an invisible force shot him up and over the horizon. The ground below was oddly shaped like a huge piece of pie. Wooden buildings, metal mazes, and patches of black littered the landscape below. His heart rate escalated with the knowledge he would soon get the athletic release he needed.
His breath whooshed out as his forward motion stopped abruptly and he plummeted toward a small lake below. He clutched the arms of his chair. A pop from behind him made him lurch forward. A bright red parachute exploded out of the back of his chair, fanning out to slow his trip back to earth.
With a splash, he landed near the shore of the still, blue water. He was still strapped to the heavy chair and before he could blink, he was pulled underwater. Staying calm, he fiddled with the straps around his chest, easily finding a buckle on both shoulders. His fingers remained steady as he found the buckle on his lap belt. Pumping his arms and legs, he crested the water, inhaling a breath of warm air.
What a freakin’ rush.
His eyes scanned the top of the water. Paisley, Ralph, and Mitzi landed several yards away. Ralph was the first the breach the water, laughing. Paisley came next, coughing and splashing like she couldn’t swim. Within seconds she’d calmed herself and bobbled while her eyes darted around.
After more than fifteen seconds, Mitzi still hadn’t surfaced.
About the Author:
J.A. Reynolds lives in the Midwest with a normal family, raising a normal daughter, with some abnormal pets. It’s extraordinarily ordinary.