Dare to Endure
Parallel World Book Two
A PARALLEL WORLD WHERE IT’S ILLEGAL TO BE OVERWEIGHT
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Trapped in a parallel universe where it is illegal to be overweight, Morgan Campbell is dragged out of her house and locked up in a Federally Assisted Thinning (F.A.T.) Center. Bullied by the Enforcers who run the place, and treated like a prisoner, all she can think about is breaking out so she can get back to her world. With her whereabouts constantly monitored by the chip injected in her arm, and not having any access to the outside world, she fears she won’t be able to escape and that she will be stuck in this world forever.
Dare to Endure was originally titled Imprisoned.
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I felt bruises forming on my upper arms as the Enforcers squeezed my flesh and dragged me into the building. Maybe they were irritated that I had tried to escape and had nearly gotten away. Hansen, the one I’d kneed in the groin, squeezed particularly hard. Complaining wouldn’t do any good, plus I didn’t want them to get the satisfaction of knowing I was in pain, so I kept quiet.
But that wasn’t the only reason. My lip was swollen from when I’d been body slammed to the ground and I knew my words would be unintelligible, which would make me the object of ridicule. My face ached where it had skidded across the ground. Even though I’d been on grass at the time, it had felt like crashing into concrete when Dimples had taken me down. I didn’t know his real name and hoped I wouldn’t be around long enough to find out.
My plan had been—and still was—to get back to the tunnel that had brought me to this awful world. Picturing the hut where I’d spent the night when I’d run away, I desperately wished that when I’d turned around to go home I’d kept going despite the darkness. Even though I’d been lost in the woods by then, it would have been far better for me to wander around in the snowstorm looking for my house than to end up in this insane world where it was illegal to be overweight.
I still couldn’t believe that I was a prisoner at a Federally Assisted Thinning Center—also known as a F.A.T. Center. The name made it sound like they were just interested in helping me, but I’d never asked for their help and I didn’t want it. No. I’d been tasered into submission before being hauled out of my house. My crime? Being a few pounds overweight. Oh yeah, and I’d “distributed” cookies to my friends at school. You’d think the cookies were laced with drugs for how seriously this crime was being taken.
And it was mostly thanks to Lori, my recent nemesis. It’s true that I’d never been great at making friends, but in less than two weeks I’d met Lori and she had become my enemy. All over a boy—a boy I was certain I would never see again.
But it was more than that. I’d defied her and her attempts to bully me into submission. That’s what she really hated.
Holding back a sigh, I plodded down the hallway with an Enforcer on either side of me. I felt sorry for myself, but more than that, I was scared. I didn’t know what was going to happen next and I didn’t know how I was going to get out of there in time to make my way back to the tunnel that I fervently hoped would take me home. To my real home. The one where people could eat what they wanted. And if they were overweight, they could choose to stay that way or choose to lose weight. No one was dragged out of their home, locked up like a criminal, and forced to lose weight.
We entered a small room where a woman sat behind a desk.
“Can we leave her with you, Tammy?” Dimples asked.
Tammy smiled at him. “Sure.” She glanced at me, then back at Dimples. “What’s with her face?”
“She’s a runner.”
She shook her head at me, then focused her attention back on Dimples. “You know what to do, then.”
The pair of Enforcers led me to a chair near Tammy’s desk and sat me down. Knowing it would be futile, I didn’t resist. Hansen knelt and chained my right ankle to the chair which was bolted to the floor, then his eyes met mine and he glared at me. I had a feeling that if the two of us had been alone he would have enjoyed hitting me. Hard.
I hoped I wouldn’t see him again after this.
He stood. “Thanks, Tammy.”
She smiled at him. “See ya, hon.”
The Enforcers left and I looked at Tammy. Maybe she would be nice to me. That pathetic hope was immediately dashed when she frowned at me. “Name?”
“Morgan.” Overwhelmed by what was happening, not to mention my swollen mouth, I barely managed to utter the word.
I cleared my throat and repeated my name.
The woman typed on her keyboard. “Last name?”
“Date of birth?”
I told her and watched as she typed it in. She asked for my address and the name of my parents.
Did that mean someone would notify Mom that I’d been taken?
She stopped asking questions but kept typing, ignoring me. After a few minutes, I gathered the courage to speak. “What’s going to happen to me?”
She stopped typing and looked at me, her forehead creased in annoyance that I had disturbed her. “Right now you need to sit there and be quiet. Someone will be here in a while to finish processing you.”
I felt so helpless and alone. “Can I call my mom?”
She frowned. “No phone calls allowed.”
“I thought when someone was arrested they got to make one phone call.”
“Since when?” She seemed sincere in her question.
Obviously the rules in this world were different. “Never mind,” I muttered.
“I have work to do, so I’d appreciate it if you wouldn’t interrupt me.” Without waiting for me to respond, she focused back on her computer screen.
Thoughts tumbled around in my head as I imagined what would happen next. Fear coursed through me at the unknown and I began to shiver. With my hands bound behind my back and my ankle shackled to the chair, there was nothing I could do but endure. I slowed my breathing, not wanting to hyperventilate like I had in the back of the Enforcers’ car, and forced myself to calm down.
Trying to distract myself from my situation, my gaze wandered around the room. A large poster was tacked to the wall, and when I read the boldly written words—A healthy me is a healthy world—I squeezed my eyes closed, trying to shut out the reality of where I was and what had happened.
Ten minutes later the door to the room opened. By then I had settled down, but when I saw a new Enforcer walk in, adrenaline surged through me. He glanced at the chain around my ankle then smirked at Tammy. “A runner, huh?”
“So I hear.” She sounded bored as she stood and handed him a plastic card.
“Thanks.” He slipped the card into his shirt pocket, then knelt next to my chair and undid the chain. He gripped my arm and forced me to stand. “Come with me.”
As if I had a choice.
He led me through the door and back into the hall. We turned the corner and went into a room that looked like an exam room. He freed my wrists and I massaged them, enjoying the illusion of freedom.
He pointed to a gown folded neatly on the examination table. “Put that on. The doctor will be here pretty soon.”
I glanced at the gown, then back at him.
“I’ll be outside.” He left, and I heard a key turn in the lock. I was trapped.
I frantically looked around the small room for some means of escape. There were no windows and the only way out was through the door. There was nowhere for me to go.
My eyes went to the gown. I had no intention of putting it on. Instead, I walked over to a cabinet, hoping there might be something I could use as a weapon. It was locked. So were all the drawers.
This must be the room where they take the runners. Now I wished I hadn’t tried to escape. All it had gotten me was a fat lip and fewer opportunities to get away, now that they were watching me more closely. Of course I had no basis for comparison. They probably watched all of their prisoners closely.
When I heard the lock disengaging, my attention snapped to the door. I hurried over to the exam table and stood next to it, my gaze riveted on the door. A moment later, it opened. The Enforcer who had brought me in held it open for a petite woman with caring eyes. As soon as she entered he closed the door behind her, leaving the two of us alone.
“I’m Dr. Bradley.” She smiled at me. “And you’re Morgan, correct?”
She stepped to a slim monitor and waved a plastic card in front of a reader, then placed it in her pocket. Was that the card Tammy had given the Enforcer? She studied the screen—I couldn’t see what it said from where I stood—then she turned back to me, her gaze briefly going to the gown before resting on me.
“I…I didn’t want to put it on.”
“I see that.” She smiled. “That’s okay. You’ll want to take your shoes off though. Every little bit helps, as everyone says.”
Her words reminded me of Mom, who had said the same thing to me before I’d weighed myself right after arriving in this world.
I took my shoes off, then stood there.
“Please step on the scale.” She motioned to a scale in the corner of the room.
It was different than the one we had at home—this one didn’t have an eye scanner. Even so, I hated the scale and the way it always loudly proclaimed my weight. It was much more interested in those numbers than I was. Maybe I should have cared more. Maybe then I wouldn’t be here now. I stepped on the scale, but it remained silent.
Dr. Bradley looked at the numbers. “You can step off now.”
I did as I was told and watched as she went back to her computer and typed something.
“How long am I going to be here?” Uncertainty filled my voice.
“Please have a seat, Morgan.” She motioned to the exam table.
I sat on the white paper, my feet dangling.
Dr. Bradley stepped toward me, her face thoughtful. “You need to lose twenty pounds before we can release you.”
Twenty pounds? I’d never lost that much weight before. Why would I when I thought my weight was just fine? Yeah, I wasn’t as slender as some girls, but I’d never cared all that much. Now though, I was worried. How would I possibly lose that much weight? And I would have to if I wanted to get out of there. “How long will that take?”
“We want you to do it in a healthy way. This isn’t about punishment, it’s about learning a healthy lifestyle.”
“From my experience, I’d estimate ten weeks.”
Ten weeks? That would put me past the time I needed to get to the tunnel. When I’d left my world it had been November tenth, but in this world it was mid-September. I wasn’t exactly sure how moving from my world to this one had worked, but my best guess told me that I needed to get to the tunnel on the same date I had come through—November tenth. If I didn’t, I would miss my chance to get home. “What if I work extra hard and lose it faster?”
She stared at me. “That’s not ideal. If you try to starve yourself to lose it faster, then when you go back to your normal eating habits you’ll gain it all back and find yourself back here again.”
Wanna bet? I thought, picturing the tunnel that would take me home.
She must have seen something in my face because she placed her hand on my knee and her voice softened. “But Morgan, you must know that you’re not leaving in ten weeks.”
Panic shot through me. “What? Why not?”
“Your file says you were distributing high calorie food to minors on school property. You know that’s an automatic six months.”
The blood drained from my face. “What about a trial? What about being innocent until proven guilty?”
She smiled with indulgence. “Wouldn’t that be nice?” She paused as she looked at me. “Now, let’s take care of that lip.”
In a daze, I sat on the exam table as she cleaned the blood from my mouth and made sure I didn’t need stitches before placing a cold pack against my lips. “Hold that there, Morgan.”
I did as she asked, my mind jumping frantically from one thought to another.
She turned away and got something out of a drawer, then gently grabbed the arm that wasn’t holding the compress. I was so absorbed in my thoughts that I wasn’t paying attention to what she was doing. Something sharp jabbed into my upper arm. “Ouch!”
“All done.” She placed a Band-Aid over the spot on my arm where she’d poked me.
“What was that?”
“Your chip. Everyone who stays here has to have one.”
“What does it do?” I asked with trepidation.
“Tracks your heart rate, measures your body fat, keeps track of your location.”
The first two didn’t sound so bad, but the idea that they would be tracking me sent a ripple of alarm coursing through my body. How could I escape if they kept track of my every move?
“Let’s check to see if it’s working, shall we?”
She sounded happy and bright, like this was completely normal. She went to her computer and typed something, then clicked on the screen. Staring at the monitor, she nodded. “All systems go.”
I rubbed my arm where she’d inserted the chip and felt a tiny bump.
Was there a way I could remove the chip without them knowing?
* * *
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