Pearl finds herself trapped in a world of gems and strict rules.
Light blue eyes slowly opened to a dim room. The fuzzy outlines gradually sharpened as a few moments passed. The petite figure gingerly sat up, one hand pressed to the side of her head. Fingers tenderly searched through short strawberry blonde hair for the source of unfamiliar pain. A soft “ow” escaped her thin lips as the fingers found the wound. The hand was brought down and light blue eyes widened at the sight of dark red flecks sprinkled across three of the finger tips accompanied by the smell of dried blood. She wrapped her lanky arms around her midsection as she took a second look around the room.
The only source of light for the room came from the pale yellow light seeping under the thin crack between the bottom of the door and the hard concrete floor. The only furniture in the room was the simple bed she was sitting on. Bed was a generous term. It was a steel frame holding up a mattress with a thin sheet and mattress cover on it. The color didn’t stand out; she assumed that the sheets were probably a dull grey just like the rest of the room. As she turned her head to look at the closed door, an unfamiliar weight shifted around her neck. A hand timidly went to her neck to pick up and inspect what felt like a metal necklace. Where a normal chain would be, thick chain links were instead, about ¼ inches in diameter. The chain met in the middle just a couple of inches below her throat, joined together by a metal bar 2 inches long, ¾ inches wide, and ¼ inches thick. On the flat piece of metal she could barely make out the engraved letters,
She quickly spun the strange necklace around trying to find a clasp to take it off. However, no matter how many times she turned it around she couldn’t find a clasp, not even a single link that looked like it had been fastened differently than the others. The light eyed young woman tried to then pull the necklace over her head, but it didn’t matter what angle she tried, it couldn’t come off due to its size relative to her head. After a few minutes of trying, she eventually gave up and decided to study it. The necklace was light despite the bulk, and shone in the darkness. It was aluminum; that she was certain of, but how it got on her neck was beyond her.
Her heart rate slowly began to pick up the pace as her mind began to put all of the pieces together. The head injury, strange room, and odd, new piece of jewelry. She glanced down at herself to only screech out in shock. Different clothes were on her body. The thin young woman jumped to her feet and patted herself down. Everything was different, from the black slacks and form fitting simple blue long sleeved shirt, to the black flats and black socks, to the underwear that now resided next to her skin. She looked frantically around the small room for a sign of anything she had in her possession. Her wallet, her clothes, her cell phone, anything.
Several minutes passed, even though she searched the barren room multiple times over, nothing was there. Her narrow back hit one of the concrete walls with a soft thud; then slid down until she was sitting on the cold floor curled into a tiny ball. Tears pricked at the side of her eyes as she gave into the reality. She had been kidnapped, taken, stolen, and then made into something new. What they, whoever “they” were, were going to do to her, she could only sit there and wait. A whimper escaped her lips as the tears made their way out of her eyes and into the fabric of her pants.
It wasn’t too long before the sound of metal scraping against metal alerted her to the presence of someone making their way into the room. The door opened and the pale yellow light poured into the room like water gushing from a broken dam. A figure stood in the doorway, the thin woman tried to curl even tighter into a ball and disappear from sight. Maybe, just maybe, they wouldn’t notice her. A disgusted scoff came from the figure in the doorway. A click was heard and harsh white light snapped on in the room.
“There you are,” their nasally voice grumbled.
The figure was a female, no taller than 5 feet 4 inches, small build, square glasses, short blonde hair, green eyes, and a scowl on her face. She wore a simple pair of black slacks and shoes, with a green button up shirt. One hand was placed on the wall outside of the room, while the other held a medium-sized tablet close to her side. She appeared to be not much older, if not the same age as the lean figure curled into a ball. Light blue eyes caught a similar style of necklace on the intruder’s neck, though it was of a different color.
“Stand up,” she ordered as they walked over.
The thin young woman slowly stood up, rubbing the last of her tears out of her eyes.
“What is your name?”
A hand struck her across the cheek. The taller of the two brought a hand up to her now red cheek, confused as to why she was hit.
“What is your name?” the shorter demanded, arm raised and ready to strike her again.
The pale young woman opened her mouth, but closed as she tried to think of what she should say. Light blue eyes wandered back down to the necklace.
“Pearl,” she slowly answered.
“Pearl….” The green eyed woman motioned for her to continue.
“Good, it would do you well to never forget that, you are a pearl and you are tracked by your gem and number combination. This is the only time you’ll get a warning,” she stated as she looked Pearl over. “You’re already a mess, been crying no doubt.”
The sharp slap echoed through the room. Pearl recoiled from the smaller woman.
“Don’t speak unless spoken to, stand up straight, and never question an order. You will be given your assignment soon, as a pearl you will most likely be a personal assistant to another of a higher ranking. Running errands, delivering messages, and performing any requested tasks. If you behave and don’t give us any trouble, we will have fewer reasons to hurt or dispose of you, understand?”
“Y-yes,” Pearl stuttered.
The other raised an eyebrow at her.
“I mean, yes ma’am,” she quickly corrected as her hands snapped to her sides and she straightened her posture.
“Good, always address those higher up respectfully, otherwise you’ll face the consequences.” The short haired blonde glanced down at her wrist watch.
“My name is Peridot 00231, I am in charge of making sure you make it to your assignment in one piece. If at any time I feel that you are going to be more trouble than you’re worth I will have you terminated. Do you understand?”
The shorter woman turned and began to walk out of the room. “Follow me.”
They walked out into a narrow concrete hallway with a series of doors on one side with an eight foot ceiling. Pale yellow and white lights lit up the bare place. Pearl followed behind Peridot 00231 as they weaved through a series of hallways; the only changes in scenery were colors of paint for different hallways or doors. At times the small hallway they were in opened up to a much larger one that usually had wider sets of doors and areas by it, but also connected to and branched off into many smaller ones. The ceiling height would change as well, the most common being around ten feet tall. Pearl caught the scent of food as they passed a series of double doors; the smell was much like that of cafeteria food she had smelled all throughout her elementary, middle, and high school years. A few turns later led to a long stretch of walls that had large glass windows. The windows allowed for one to look in and see all sorts training equipment, from boxing/mma rings and mats, to weights, to gymnastic set ups. People were scattered all throughout the well furnished training center in all stages of exercise. A strong wave of chlorine hit Pearl’s nose indicating the location of an indoor pool.
As they continued their silent march, her gut became more and more uneasy. Nothing was labeled. There were no exit signs, no windows to the outside world, just the eerie off-white color that lit up the endless concrete corridors. What time was it? Was it day or night? What day was it? Her hands came forward and clenched her stomach through the blue shirt. Her even breathing slowly began to pick up pace as panic began to race through her veins yet again. With each step it became harder and harder to move. Peridot 00231 kept on walking forward with her steady pace as Pearl found herself rooted to the floor, unable to coax her legs to move. Cold sweat trickled down her back, short gasps for air came from her mouth as her stomach attempted to reject whatever might be still in there. Several people passed her, some glancing briefly at her, others paying her no mind. Peridot 00231 was almost out of sight, if she lost her there was no telling what would happen.
Pearl’s practical brain screamed at her protesting limbs, forcing them to move. She took off in a sprint, ripping her long feet from the ground and weaving gracefully through the steady passing of people. Once she had caught up with Peridot 00231, she resumed matching the shorter woman’s pace; her breaths were now even and deep. The steadying effects of the adrenaline slowly eased through her body. Pearl steeled her nerves, she couldn’t mess up, she needed to survive whatever they were going to do to her.
The pair came to a stop at a particular metal door that was painted dark blue. Peridot 00231 opened the door and walked in. Pearl glanced around the room. It was a small area that came up to a counter. Behind the counter was a vast area lined with rows and rows of shelves. One lonely figure sat behind the counter. The stocky man stopped the drumming of his fingers as Peridot 00231 and Pearl walked over to him. He had short, curly, dark brown hair that was slightly longer on the top and a slowly growing, well managed, goatee framed his mouth. The type of shirt he wore was a light blue with the sleeves pushed up to the elbows. Around his neck was the same type of necklace Pearl had seen on everyone there.
“Larimar 00746,” Peridot greeted the man and handed him a sheet of paper. “I need the standard issue for a pearl in these sizes.”
“Peridot 00231,” he nodded in greeting towards her. “Eh? Pearl equipment? Alright, give me one sec.” He stood up and began walking down the rows. “What color of pearl?”
Peridot 00231 grumbled. Pearl could only assume it was Larimar’s lack of formality that was causing this. The man came back with a small, blue duffle bag.
“Alright, seven outfits, scheduler, toiletries, underwear, pajamas, socks, extra pair of shoes, watch, tags, laundry bag, notebook, pens, and of course a bag.” Larimar glanced behind Peridot 00231 to take a look at Pearl. “She looks young, this one is fresh? Not some trade pearl?”
“Yes a fresh pearl, she will require more training, but at least the number of bad habits should be minimal,” Peridot conversed. “Pearl 01079, come pick up the bag, these are your belongings now. Don’t lose them, as they will not be replaced without a price.”
Pearl walked up to the counter.
“Write your name on this,” Larimar instructed has he handed her a pen and gestured to the name tag on the duffle bag.
She almost wrote down her real name, but stopped just in time to write down who she was now. In one fluid movement she slung the pack over her shoulder.
“Thank you, sir,” Pearl slightly bowed towards him.
“So polite,” he chuckled. “She hasn’t figured out the ranking yet has she?” Larimar directed towards Peridot 00231.
“Enjoy it while you can Larimar,” Peridot growled 00231. “Let’s go.”
Once back in the concrete hallways Peridot began to speak as she walked to their unknown destination.
“You will be given a schedule, you cannot change it, if you miss a designated meal time you don’t eat, if you miss your time slot for personal hygiene you don’t get to clean up. Any changes to your schedule will be updated to your device, it will give you one alert, if you don’t notice then that’s your fault. This is where you will sleep and store your belongings.” Peridot opened a blue door in a large grey hallway.
They walked into a large room with three rows of bunk beds. Dozens of other women of varying skin tones and relatively similar body composition were in the room mingling about and getting ready for bed. As far as Pearl could tell there were at least twenty bunk beds in each row. A number of the women stopped their conversations to turn and look at the two walking down the left-hand isle. Peridot stopped at a bottom bed with blue sheets in middle row towards the back of the room.
“This is your bed, store your belongings underneath.”
“Thank you ma’am.” Pearl nodded.
“Where is Pearl 00251?” she shouted into the room.
“I’m right here Peridot 00231.”
A lanky woman about Pearl’s height walked up to the two of them. Her auburn hair was pulled back into a low bun. Arms were crossed over the light pink shirt she wore.
“Right, make sure the new pearl knows the rules and procedures of the living quarters. Answer as many of her questions as you want.” Peridot turned to Pearl once again. “Tomorrow I will meet with you after breakfast to take you to your assignment. Do you understand?”
Peridot 00231 turned and then left. Pearl glanced around, she was now surrounded by at least a dozen other women. After stealing glances at several of the necklaces worn by those nearby, she concluded that they all were pearls, just like her.
“Is everyone in here a pearl?” she couldn’t help but ask.
The answer was a swift slap by Pearl 00251. Pearl’s tender cheek flared back up with pain.
“Don’t speak unless spoken to; especially for you newbie,” the older woman narrowed her eyes. “Yes, we all are pearls here, but you will soon learn that even amongst the lowest we have a hierarchy. I am the pearl in charge of this segment and this is because I have been the most successful and have been here the longest of all of the pearls in here. On the left wall is an opening that leads to the bathroom stalls, showers, and sinks. Every week you will put your dirty laundry bag in your designated bin. Once a month you will be required to strip your bed and have your sheets washed. Lights go out exactly at 21:30 hours and turn on at 05:00 hours. Your scheduler will have your time slots for eating and personal hygiene. Any issues you have such as missing items or replacements for toiletries will be processed through me. I am the line of communication between all of the pearls here and the overseeing aquamarine.”
Pearl 00251 raised an eyebrow at her. “I didn’t ask you if you understood or not,” she stated, her voice dangerously low.
Pearl raised her arms to block the anticipated strike. It never came. Instead Pearl 00251 took a closer step to her, their eyes level.
“Rule number one: Do not speak unless you are asked a direct question. Rule number two: You are to obey all orders given to you by either the one in charge of you, or any gem ranked higher, without hesitation. If there is a conflict in commands, you must obey the higher ranked gem. Rule number three: Any unnecessary movements such as flinching, fidgeting, jerking, pacing, etc are forbidden. You are to stand straight and tall and as still as possible unless you are in the middle of a task. Failure to obey these rules will result in punishment. From the looks of it, you have trouble keeping quiet,” she stated as her eyes flickered briefly to Pearl’s cheek.
Pearl 00251 took a step back and gave one last look over the fresh pearl.
“All of you get back to your business, lights will be off soon.”
The gathering of pearls dispersed and the noise level in the room returned to the level it was when Pearl first walked in. Pearl glanced around before walking over and setting her bag on her bed. A few whispers reached her ears as she took out the items and looked them over.
“And very skinny.”
“Doesn’t look very strong either.”
“How long do you think she will last?”
“Two weeks, she doesn’t look like she could last here, she’s too frail.”
“Yeah no backbone, did you see how she flinched?”
“Probably lived a cushy life before ending up here.”
Pearl tried to ignore their words as she put on the digital wrist watch. It displayed the time, the date, and the day of the week. A sigh of relief escaped her lips. Now she knew what day it was and the time. It had only been one day; maybe her family would be able to find her before too long. They had to be searching for her. A small smile formed on her lips at the hope blossoming in her chest. Yes, they would come and she would be taken away from this awful place. Pearl picked up the scheduler, it was a smart phone that had been stripped of all functionality except for the ability to access a few apps, such as the calculator, note pad, and the schedule. She opened up her calendar to see what she had planned for the coming day.
“05:00- 05:30: Shower and preparation for the day: Grey Blue 20083.”
“05:45-06:15: Breakfast: Blue Light Blue 00054.”
“06:30-12:00: Assist Carnelian 000023: Grey Red 01537”
“12:15-12:45: Lunch: Blue Light Blue 00054.”
“13:00-18:00: Assist Carnelian 000023: Grey Red 01537”
“18:15-18:45: Dinner: Blue Light Blue 00054.”
“19:00-20:30: Assist Carnelian 000023: Grey Red 01537”
“20:30-21:00: Personal time: Grey Blue 20083”
“21:00-21:30: Shower and preparation for bed: Grey Blue 20083.”
“21:30: Bed time: Grey Blue 20083”
Thin lips were pressed into a line as she looked it over and began committing it to memory. There wasn’t a minute of her day that wasn’t blocked out. What was with all of the colors and numbers? Worry began to eat away at her hope. Her family would come and get her right? She’d make it out of here before too long right? Pearl glanced around at the dozens of other pearls in the room. How many of them were kidnapped just like she was? How many of them have tried to escape, but have yet to succeed? Maybe they all are still here because the police had yet to succeed in finding them.
The large room was doused in darkness as all the lights suddenly snapped off. Pearl visibly jumped, but quickly regained her composure. A few snickers drifted into her ears. She pulled out her scheduler and used its light so she could pack her items back into her bag and change into her pajamas. She wished she could have taken a shower, but she would just have to do it tomorrow. With her belongings now stashed away under her bed, Pearl crawled into her bed and pulled the blanket tightly around her. They would find her, right? Her family wouldn’t just leave her in a place like this, right? The weight of her necklace shifted as she turned onto her side. Who was YD 0001? A soft sob escaped her lips as salty tears began to run down her face. It was pointless to try and stop, the tears just kept on coming.
“Yeah. She won’t last past two weeks.”