Rules, pt 16



“Did you leave me the flowers?”

“What flowers?”

“There were wildflowers in a jar on my desk the day I couldn’t go see my grandmother’s grave. I just thought maybe … you mentioned my grandmother earlier.”Read More »


Rules, pt 15

Niki stood in the heavy black space filling the cage of the elevator. It rumbled under her feet as she panted for air. Her mind twisted into incoherent chaos—the dark, the falling, the feeling of being alone—everything swirled together into panic.

Her chest tightened until she felt as though she were suffocating even though she could hear herself taking great, sucking breaths. Her fingers buzzed like she had her hands on an electric toothbrush. Lightness began to fill her head. It floated above her body like a parade float, tethered only by the narrow string of her neck. She stumbled back and felt her foot come down on something soft just as something else grabbed at her hand.Read More »

Rules, pt 14

“I … I was just …” Niki didn’t know how to finish her excuse, but it didn’t matter. Mrs. White wasn’t listening. She muttered and grumbled to herself as she pulled the girls roughly down the stairs. Niki’s heart pitter-pattered frantically as she lost her footing in the blackness. Only the relentless grip of Mrs. White’s hand on her arm kept her from tumbling to the bottom and breaking her neck.Read More »

Rules, pt 13

Mrs. White always fell asleep during movie night. The darkened room and the post-dinner calm lulled her into a stupor. Usually fear kept them paralyzed in front of the television screen as she snored … fear that she might wake up at any moment … fear of what she’d do if she found one of them missing when she did wake up. It was enough of a reprieve to have her watchful gaze removed for a few sweet minutes.Read More »

Rules, pt 12

Everett didn’t come down to breakfast the next morning.

Niki waited, hoping he had just been delayed, but he was still conspicuously absent when it was time to leave for school. Niki walked along with the other children, wondering whether she should go forward with the plan. Everett was supposed to be her partner. She didn’t know if she could do it alone. Rex and Todd inched their way over to her.Read More »

Rules, pt 11

Mrs. White kept Ada busy with household duties all evening, so Niki and Everett waited until after Mrs. White had locked up and turned out all the lights, retiring to her own suite of rooms. They crept slowly down the hall into Ada’s and Melissa’s room. Ada and Melissa were already arguing when they arrived.

“It won’t work,” Ada insisted. “It’s too dangerous.”

“And it’s not dangerous for those boys to go without food for three days straight?” Melissa snapped back.Read More »

Rules, pt 10

First, Niki took advantage of the chore schedule to talk with Melissa because she’d received the brunt of the punishments since Niki’s arrival. Mrs. White claimed to apply the punishments according to a careful set of rules and calculations, but Niki suspected that Mrs. White just didn’t like Melissa’s attitude. Despite the frequency and duration of her trips to the Pit, Melissa kept a fire in her eyes. She walked with vigor—not broken and scared like the little ones and not hard and brittle like Everett—just strong and confident, as though returning victorious from battle, whenever she returned from an absence.Read More »