“Breathe. Stay quiet. Don’t move too much, that’ll cause them to hear you.”
Three simple pieces of advice to survive.
“Follow these and you’ll be safe.”
Okay. Just follow these three tips.
I am currently breathing heavily in one of the turning points of an unknown hallway in a labyrinth, while I hear as it seems a million tweens, of all my age, 12, screaming for help and monstrous screeches engulfing those poor kids’ cries. Something is coming. It’s running down the hallway; getting closer and closer. Sweat trickles down my forehead, tickling me. I quickly wipe it, only for its brother to slide down, back on my head.
I’m dead, I think, and my heart suddenly stops and all sound in this horror filled place shuts up. I start to sweat more, only to find out that the person in the hallway, who is about to see me in that turning point is another scared kid. His eyes are filled with wet tears, and he quickly looks at me and continues running. My heart continues its rhythmic beat. Suddenly I hear a scuttling noise nearby and a dead man’s song.
I stand up faster than ever before, and start to softly run down the turning point into another hallway. I find a room, and I grab the doorknob and yank the door open. Taking two quick steps into the room, I find myself immersed in darkness, blindly groping for a wall to lean or sit on. The door’s window is the only source of light I can see.
Click, screeeeech. Click, screeeeeeeech.
Everything grows quiet, at least for me, and I see a dark shadow in the door window. I close my eyes as it slowly opens the door. Light slowly appears in the small opening, and my heart beats fast like an engine. I try to hide myself in the corner of the dark room, hoping that the creature coming in won’t see me, won’t kill me…
Breathe. Chill. Let me tell you how it all started.
Part One: The Beginning Of It All
Grass. And hills. An endless expanse of green, topped with trees and the small town not far from where I live. Or, as to be accurate with current times, where I used to live. It was all peace and quiet, with the wind just twisting and turning elegantly like a dragon, and how when you stepped on the grass, it would feel like standing on a pillow.
The air is clean here. And I love it. This was all perfect, and my family and I could stay for years till the world’s end to come. Too perfect.
This was all until they came.
. . .
The sun had sunken, and the moon was beginning to rise, glowing brightly. Shadows started to form under the hills, cascading down, until the bottom. My family and I were starting dinner; beef stew with potatoes and carrots. The smell was undeniably making me hungry, and I was excited to dive in. After praying we began to eat. Oh, by the way, I’m Hillburn, a twelve year old kid who lives with his parents in the countryside. School is nearby, in the town called CliffRock where we get our food supplies. No one can match my dad’s cooking, that’s for sure. Anyway, the normal family chatter began as we ate our delicious meal.
“Did you hear about the children being taken away by ‘so-called FBI agents’?”
asked my dad, talking to Ma.
“Those poor children. Where are the kidnappers taking them too?” replied my Ma.
“A so-called private facility for kids with… ‘abilities,’ as mentioned by the fake agents in a letter to the real FBI,” said Dad in a slightly stern voice.
“Whatever happens, we can’t let our child get taken,” said Ma in a nervous voice, and they both looked at me worriedly.
The rest of supper ended in silence.
. . .
The moon was now fully glowing in the dark blue sky, and the stars were small yellow dots piercing the darkness. For the first time, a strange wind crept its way up through the window and into my room, and in summer at that. It chilled me, and I snuggled into my sheets and blanket more. I was just feeling the heavy weight on my eyelids, about to close my tired eyes when suddenly, wind blew open my windows and a blinding light filled my eyes.
“Arrrgh!” I grunted and tossed in my bed, closing my eyes, trying to clear out this light, and in all that fuss I felt a hard whack on my back. I opened my eyes slightly to see a tall figure standing over me, and before I knew it, he knocked me out.
. . .
I felt a cold compress on my neck, suddenly waking me up. I woke up to see a man in a S.W.A.T-like outfit, with all that heavy armor and all, looking at me.
“So you’re finally awake,” he grunted in a gruff, low voice. “You better be worth it; your parents caused my friends,” he pointed to a slouched man with several bruises on his face, “a ton of trouble.”
I was so surprised, I had no clue what was going on.
“Where am I? Who are you? Why did you kidnap-”
He silenced me with his weapon by his belt; a grey pistol. I shut up, only for him to laugh at my scared expression. I soon heard the quick woosh woosh of a familiar propeller and realized that I was in a helicopter, high in the sky. It was just after dawn, and the sun was still rising in the sky. Below us was the countryside entering the suburban area, and there was a nearby lake. The glow of the sun cast off the water, creating a gold-like glow that caught my attention. Even though the helicopter was flying at top speed, I was still mesmerized by the lake’s beauty. Until the gruffy man spoke again.
“Listen up, ya little vermin! You were chosen for a special reason. You will be arriving at our destination, The Special Institute For The Chosen. You will be trained, educated, and be put through a test to fully prove what you have learned through this program. After the test you will be freed and given back to your families.”
He addressed this as if it was directed towards a group, and only did I realize then that there were two other kids, about the same age as me in the back of the helicopter. They both looked grimy, and their eyes were wide open with shock. They looked tired.
“As for who I and the crew flying this helicopter are,” he began again, “we will not mention names but we are agents of the Order Society. Our job is to make sure you are well informed of anything that you have questions about, and that you are well disciplined and respect your teachers.”
It was all a blur, but eventually the other two and I understood.
“Ah,” said the gruffy agent, “we’re here.”
. . .
The helicopter suddenly started to lower down, and down, and below was a huge power plant sized-no, double power plant sized apartment complex. In front of it was a huge airport-like area, with a huge field full of helicopters. Like the school bus yard, I thought but with helicopters. We slowly lowered down on a vacant spot on the field, and two other agents met us and grabbed us kids. We were forced into a line of other children, entering the airport area, each of us the same age. After a while, we were up front, near the entrance to the airport. A woman sitting in a stall met me and smiled.
“Hello Mister! What is your name?”
“Okay, Sunblight, age?”
She typed the data on her computer, fingers dashing like small mice, clicking like a thousand pens.
I was about to answer when I realized that I was giving her personal data.
“Why are you asking me these questions?” I asked.
“You wouldn’t want to ask that, dear,” answered the woman and for a few seconds her smile looked forced and she clenched her fist. I was about to ask something else until I saw one of the agents near the entrance look at me seriously and a little annoyingly. I quickly went back to answering the woman.
“January 26th, 2008.”
“Well then, Mr. Sunblight, please step inside and follow the other kids into the small stall labeled ‘Photo.’ They’ll tell you what to do next. Thank you for your patience and respect.”
I then entered the huge area, and I was surprised about how big it was even from the inside. There was a high ceiling, and there were kids everywhere, sitting in tables; some talking amongst themselves and some choosing to stay quiet and keep to themselves. Tables were everywhere, and to the far left was a buffet. A huge one at that, too. Kids swarmed that area, forming an orderly line. But that was for later. I followed the line to the booth labeled “Photo.” There, I was motioned to stand in front of a paper white wall, smile, and click. The people at the photo studio then told me to go to the buffet area, where I walked over. I shivered slightly, in the huge area was a large air conditioner. It was starting to feel like being in a refrigerator. Eventually, after a long time of waiting, I got to the food area. All the various delicacies looked delicious, and their smell wafted through the air. I picked a burger with fries and was sent to table A7. After wandering through the children and tables, I found my designated table, A7. A few kids were talking, and as I sat down to eat, I heard some of their chatter.
“What do you think they’ll do to us?” asked one kid, looking nervous.
“I think they’ll say that we’re special and chosen for a greater purpose than all the other kids in the whole wide world. We were chosen for better things by destiny,” replied another kid, raising his fist in the air and with a heroic look on his face.
“I don’t think it’ll be that great. Why just us,” asked another kid, with a grim face.
“I like to think about the brighter side, Mr. Negative,” replied the heroic kid again, looking triumphant and smug.
Deciding not to hear their theories and suspicions, I turned away and focused on my meal. Only for my mind to focus on another thing. Sitting beside me, calmly eating a ham and cheese sandwich, was one of the two kids in the same helicopter as me. She was a dark brown haired girl, with a light brown complexion. She looked calm, but her breathing was loud, and her eyes were slightly closed but still filled with the same shock as before. Not to complain, but she ate loudly. She ate quickly and went to the nearest trash can and put her tray on the table beside it. I then saw her walk to the exit of the huge area, facing the apartment area. She fell in line with a few other kids, and waited.
I finished my meal and put my tray away on the nearest tray table, then walked to exit. I was motioned to go into a line and wait. After what it seemed like ten minutes, a voice suddenly filled the entire room.
“Please finish up your meals, children, and line up at the far exit facing the apartments. Our staff will guide you to the Auditorium. From then on you will know the rest of your journey here and why you were taken. Thank you.” There was a high ding and the lines formed started to move. We exited the huge cafeteria outside, where it was now daytime and the sun was shining bright and pretty warmly. Sweat started to form on my brow, and I wiped it off only for another to drip down. As we were walking the red stone path to the auditorium, the others and I gazed at the magnificent buildings. They were each at least ten stories high, and each was painted in different colors: grey, neon pink, red, and so on and so on. After walking a great distance around the buildings, we reached yet another large area, known as the Auditorium. We started to walk in the great green doors, and were ready for what was to come.
The inside of the auditorium was huge; round and high roofed. Other than small lights leading to rows of seats, we were engulfed in darkness. My line was seated in row A, and the air surrounding us was tense. We were all curious as to what was going to happen. Suddenly, a light flashed on the stage of the auditorium. A middle aged man in a black suit walked up on stage with a top hat and he was mustachioed. He crossed his hands and cleared his throat. After that he began to speak in a clear, slightly British voice.
“I am Sir. Tomhall Williams, and I will be explaining the past few events that have occurred. Number One,” and he started to walk around the stage, “the kidnapping, or The Receiving, as we call it, was when we went to fetch you young men and women. You are special, as put by your Receiving Agents briefing you in the helicopters, and you are chosen to be educated by the finest teachers around the world. We will teach you about many subjects, even ones that don’t seem to be important in your daily lives.”
The other kids around the room began to oooooooh and ahhhhhhhhh at his remarks. But he was not finished.
“You will be disciplined as well. I know that not all of you respect your elders and teachers, so we will do what it takes to make you behave.”
He then motioned to a door on his right; a very large one at that, built with iron and painted gray.
“Number Two, when you are fully taught what you need, you will be put in groups and sent through that door. It will lead to the Test of Survival, where even simple arithmetic may save your life.”
Children then muttered throughout the auditorium; small talk and whispers.
“Number Three,” and then the man went on and on until number ten, where he said, “thank you and good night.”
We were then exited out of the auditorium and into the buildings. They seemed to be where we would be living, and they each had a large letter pasted on the side.
“Go to the building that matches your table letter from before in the cafeteria!” was what an Agent was saying. I quickly looked for letter A, and soon I found it. Rich purple, I thought as I entered the building. It was the same old first floor, but there were couches on both sides entering the apartment complex.
“Please go to the floor on which your number is from the cafeteria,” rang the little voice from the cafeteria area. I then walked more into the building, found an elevator and went right in. A7, so floor seven. I clicked seven and the doors closed. Classy piano played while I listened to the hum of the elevator, and eventually I reached floor seven. As soon as the doors opened, I walked out and a dozen others scrambled to find a room to rest. I found one, and immediately slouched to the nearest bed I could find. There were two bunk beds, equaling four actual beds. I found the bottom bed on the right, slid to it and immediately fell asleep.
. . .
“Tweet. Tweet,” rang a digital alarm, waking me up, and making me realize that I was not the only one in this room. Someone was snoring still, and the two others were silent. I slowly crept out of the room, the others still asleep, not woken up by that annoying alarm. I decided to explore and went into an elevator. I was about to close it when another person rushed in. It turned out, by coincidence and weirdness to be the same girl in the helicopter. She looked down, and I blushed, embarrassed and wanting to disappear. Yet again, it was silent between the two of us. As we reached floor one, she quickly walked out while I took my time, taking in the suspiciously warm hospitality. There were others awake, and they sat doing their own business, talking on the couches. Suddenly, the same electronic voice boomed.
“Please make your way to the Auditorium. The Sir. will meet you there to inform you of your daytime activities. All remaining students asleep will be given a solitary lunch warning. You will have ten minutes to get ready and head to the designated meetup point.” Ding dong.
After that, the elevators seemed to open right on cue, and almost a dozen children bursted from each one.
“C’mon, let’s go!” shouted one kid amongst all the others. We all seemed to move as one body; a rushing river flooding the sidewalk. The other kids from B, C, and so forth were walking in an orderly fashion and gawking at our crazy movements. We soon reached the entrance to the auditorium, and there were two Agents that met us there. They rushed over and struggled to contain us and settle us down.
“Hey, get into lines! We don’t want the Sir. to see you rowdy,” said one Agent.
After a while, A Group was in line, and ready to go inside. From there we were seated, and Sir. Tophall Williams was already standing on the stage, this time in a shiny blue suit and coat which shined pretty brightly.
“Good morning, and today I will be briefing you on your classes and activities for this day. Follow me.” And to this he walked off stage and sauntered to the front of the huge auditorium. We all turned to see him in the light, and his blue coat seemed to shine ever so brightly than any other coat that you’ll ever see.
“Well, what are you waiting for? Those chairs aren’t made with wheels, so you better come with me the old way. Walking.” We all got out of our seats and formed many lines behind him, with Agents going further down line to keep the kids in the back in line. After all was in order, and all kids were lined up, the “Sir.” began to walk. He led us to the right of the Auditorium, where another huge, domed area was. From afar it looked like a turtle shell, only made out of glass. The sun shone brightly on the dome, and the light mirrored from the dome and a part of it hit our eyes, temporarily blinding us. We stopped for a second, and then continued.
“This is Education Block A, where students from Residential Building A will learn their studies. Like your living quarters, there are a few more Education Blocks assigned with each letter. He gestured behind us, where there was another Education Block farther down the sidewalk. Walking towards Education Block A, there was a long street leading to many other domes.
“Come now, everybody. Step inside.” He waved his hand to come forth, and we stepped inside the huge dome. It was almost like a miniature mall. Even though the dome was made with glass, there was an internal structure made of strong metal. There were three floors, and in the middle was a “Recreational Area,” as stated by Mr. Tomhall. It was huge and painted bright red and yellow. There were swings and a slide. It was the full set. On each side of the dome were escalators, leading up to the second floor. Mr. Tomhall, ignoring the kids motioning to the escalators, walked forward, past the playground, to the first two rooms in the back.
“These are your Literacy and Arithmetic Rooms. You will meet your teachers on the first day of learning.” Mr. Tomhall then walked to the left escalator and said, “These are not for your enjoyment. You will ride these only for traveling purposes. I am sure I can trust you on this. If not, you lot are all simply babies in young adult skin.”
He then rode the escalator, and we followed suite.
“These are your more advanced classes: Science, Gym, and,” he sighed and muttered, “for the sake of humanity, this is for babies, not young adults.” He then said in his louder voice, “Art.”
The kids were on the brink of bursting with excitement but with the glare from the Agents and Mr. Tomhall’s annoyed look, they only whispered a tiny “Yay!”
Mr. Tomhall then pointed upwards, then said, “The top floor is for rest. Between two classes, every day there is a twenty minute break. Bathrooms and the snack and drink area are up there. This is the same for every other Education Block. Let’s head back, shall we?”
Walking back to the Auditorium, Mr. Tomhall stopped in front of the huge dome.
“Finally, I can tell that you have no meaning of hygiene. There are toothbrushes in your bedrooms, found below your bed cushion. Brush your teeth, children. Oh, and there should be a set of new clothes for each of you on your beds. You are dismissed.”
. . .
After getting ready and brushing teeth, I went back down to the first floor and walked out to head to the cafeteria. The electronic voice had said that breakfast would be served soon, and that we should head to the cafeteria at once. Walking down the sidewalk to my destination, I looked in awe at how tall each residential area was. Until I accidentally walked into someone else.
“Oof!” He grunted as he hit the floor softly. “Darn, there goes my new set of clothes. And I was just getting used to them.”
I was about to say sorry when he stood right up quickly, and dashed inside the cafeteria. Strange guy, I thought. Then I walked right in myself.
. . .
The smells were alluring as always, and I almost floated to the food, like in cartoons. Instead I walked quickly towards where the other kids were, and lined up. My stomach grumbled like a bear, and I couldn’t wait until it was my turn to eat. This time, instead of a cheeseburger I decided to eat a bacon egg and cheese. I was told to sit down at the same table, A7, and I knew that I would be seeing that girl again. Coincidences, coincidences. Everyone seemed to be chipper, and excited to start living here.
“Have you heard? The snack area in Education Block C has the best stuff! I heard it from two Agents walking around the Residential Areas.”
“I can’t wait to start learning here!”
“Sheesh, not an enthusiastic student. I wish there was more free time.”
“My bed’s the comfiest!”
Listening to the others chattering about, I turned my attention towards my food. One bite and my grumbly stomach went away. The crisp bacon, the melting cheese, the crunchy bread, ahhhh. But yet I missed the comfort of being in my home; eating and talking with my parents, and feeling safe.
Crunch. Gulp. Crunch.
I turned to see the same boy, who I bumped into, eating quite loudly. He was munching on something unknown; maybe an eggroll or something. The boy had black hair and a slightly darker complexion than me; darker brown. He seemed to be into his meal, and I continued to work on mine.
“Wanna try some? It’s good!” He turned to me and offered an eggroll.
“Uhh… no thanks, I’ll pass,” I replied with a slightly surprised expression.
“Really? I saw you eyeing my food, bud. By the way, I’m Andre.” To this he held his hand out to me. I took it, and he smiled. “You must be in the same Block as me, A. And we should probably be living on the same floor as you, too!”
“Ah, Hillburn. How did your parents deal with the ‘Receivers’?”
“I never knew how they dealt with it. I was taken by force, or taken by being knocked out. My Receiver told me that my parents and the parents of the two other kids I was riding with gave them a struggle. One of the other Agents with us was even beat up.”
“So that’s what happened to you! My parents were ready to fight, but once my Receiver pointed his gun at them, my Ma cried and told me to go with the Receiver.”
There was a minute of silence, then he told me he had to go to use the restroom. As he left, my attention was driven towards who was sitting next to Andre. It was the same girl, and for a second I saw her eye looking at me. She must’ve been listening to our conversation, I thought. When I looked at her again, her eyes were focused on her food.
“Hey, I’m back!” yelled Andre as he walked energetically back to table A7. He was about to say something when the electronic voice boomed.
“All children must exit the cafeteria and head outside. Please walk to each of your respective Educational Blocks. From there on you may roam as you wish, but please do not exit the area. The Gymnasium is nearby. You may walk there as well, but do not enter the other Blocks. Thank you.”
“Oh boy, a gymnasium? Let’s go!” Andre then started to run for the exit, like all the other energetic ones, and leaving the lesser group behind. The slower ones took their time, and started to walk towards the exit. I put away my tray, then started to walk out the cafeteria. While walking down the sidewalk to the Blocks, I noticed two Agents standing in the shade of Residential Block A.
“I kinda feel bad for em’,” muttered one.
“Yeah, they’re just getting excited for nothing. They’ll all be-” replied the other when someone pulled me away from them without creating a scene.
“Hey, why’d you-”
“Shut up. Why do you keep following me? I was listening up on their conversation, completely hidden until you arrived.” It was yet again, the same girl in a hushed voice. Her blue gray eyes startled me, before I quietly replied annoyed.
“Follow you? And I wasn’t even aware that you were there too. Geez, I’m not some stalker or weirdo. I’m not that type of guy.”
“I don’t believe you.”
“Let’s deal with this somewhere else, okay?”
I ran ahead, while she stayed and walked behind. Suspense hung around my thoughts like smoke. If only she hadn’t pulled me away, I would’ve learned something secret. I bet that Agent would’ve said ‘dead’. I swear it seemed like he was gonna say that. But why would we all be dead? Questions popped up here and there in my head, and, with great difficulty, I pushed them away.
. . .
I met Andre at the Gymnasium; he was playing with a couple other boys in the center area. There were others playing near the far back, on the obstacle course.
“Oh hey, Hillburn! This is Stef, Skipper, Blake, and Skates.”
The others held their hands out, each smiling energetically, and immediately after greetings, asked, “Do you wanna play Running Bases with us? We need another player.” He also softly muttered, “And I’m getting sick of being ‘it’ all the time.”
“Sure,” I replied, remembering those days at the yard in my old school, playing this classic game.
“Yes!” Exclaimed Skipper, Blake, and Skates.
“Ok, let’s start!” Yelled Andre enthusiastically.
And so the game began. First the leader, Stef chose the tagger or ‘it.’ In a quick deciding match of “Dicky Dicky Diamond,” Skates was chosen to be it.
“Been a while,” chuckled Blake.
“I’m not old, and I can still tag people pretty quickly,” said Skates with a grin that just yelled, “Don’t underestimate me!”
And so began the game. Skates was in the center of the playing field, and shouted tauntingly, “Come at me ya chickens!”
Blake ran first, Skates dashed right after him. Blake faked a right run, which Skates fell for.
“C’mon guys, this is our chance to go!” And with no further-a-do, Stef ran. Andre, Skipper, and I followed action. Skates was falling hard for the fakes that Blake did, and Blake’s taunts only further aggravated him.
“You fell for that one! And that one! You’re just too easy, man, too easy.”
“Say more and karma’ll hit you like a boomerang.”
True to this, Blake faked another right and Skates got closer. Blake tried to fake a left, and spin, but quite hilariously he tripped on his feet and fell. He then tried to roll away and stand up, but before he could do so Skates was over him in an instant. He tapped him and chuckled, saying with a satisfied voice, “You’re it.”
The rest of the game was played in intense silence, and the only sounds heard from our group were just sneaker squeaking and “Urgh” and “Darn, this is gonna be a hard one.” Eventually the winner was Skipper, and the rest of the day was spent in pleasure, excitement and fun.
. . .
As we were exiting the gymnasium to go to the cafeteria, I felt a slight tap on my back behind me. I was about to turn around and ask them what their problem was, but then I remembered that I had unfinished business with that girl.
“I forgot something back at the gymnasium guys, but see ya later!” I waved bye to my newfound friends, and turned around. As expected, the girl was behind me, and led me to a shady spot near Residential Block A. She had a stern expression on her face, and she started to ask me some questions.
“So, what’s your story? How did you get taken away?”
“Well, I’m Hillburn Sunblight, not really that much else except that I live in the countryside. I’m twelve, and I got taken by brute force. You? And to be clear, I’m not a creep.”
“Autumn Falls. Like you, I was taken by brute force. My parents tried beating the Receivers, but they stopped fighting when one of the Receivers pointed his gun at them. I’m also twelve. And I still think you’re a creep.”
I felt a pang of annoyance, and was about to scowl at her when I just decided to walk away. “If we’re just getting to know each other, then goodbye to you.” I then proceeded to walk to the cafeteria, concluding one strange talk.
. . .
“Where were you?” Asked Andre with a hint of curiosity.
“Just found what I was looking for back at the gymnasium. Nothing much.” I sat down next to him with a plain old bowl of mac ‘n’ cheese. One bite and yet again I was shocked at how great the taste was.
“Have you seen that girl? With the grey eyes?” Asked Andre.
“Yeah. Spooky, am I right?”
Andre then jokingly imitated her glare. I was about to laugh when I noticed her, two kids away from us on the opposite side of the table, staring at him, and me, with a glare that practically threw daggers at us. I then lowered my laugh to a little chuckle, and continued to eat.
“Do you miss your parents and home?” It was the only question that came to my mind. Andre stopped eating his chicken soup with potatoes. He fell silent for a moment, then answered. “Sorta. We weren’t doing so well with money; Ma lost her job and Dad’s not getting paid well. But we had a good life, and it was peaceful in the city. Until I was taken. Thing is-” and his voice started to crack, “I was like a burden. I was the one who they were forced to take care of, I was an extra mouth to feed, and I-” Tears started to fully form and drip down his face, “wonder if they’re glad that I’m gone or if they still miss me.” He started to cry, his eyes filled with tears that cascaded down his cheeks and wetted his clothes. I started to try and calm him, soothe him, and tried to calm him by patting his back and saying, “Of course they miss you. You were a blessing to them.”
He sniffled a couple times, and while he did I looked for a napkin or box of tissues to help wipe his tears. I eventually just gave him my napkin.
The rest of dinner was spent in peace, and Andre and I started the friendship of a lifetime.
. . .
Today was the day we started class. I woke up to the annoying alarm, then got ready for the day. While brushing teeth at the seventh floor bathroom, some other kids came out of their rooms and started to brush their teeth too. While they were brushing teeth, some were chatting amongst themselves.
“Am I the only one who’s nervous?” asked one.
“You’re not alone. Also, why’re we learning normal subjects here? I would at least expect something advanced, for us. This is just like normal school. What’s the point of kidnapping us if we’re just going to learn normal stuff?”
Curiosity began to form in the air, buzzing around like a swarm of bugs and covering over every student in the Residential Area. After everyone woke up, got ready, and headed to the cafeteria for food. Curiosity had now mixed with excitement and nervousness, and this time it covered every single student like a dark blanket. Even the heroic kid who was raising his fist in the air was sweating, and his head seemed to redden so much that it would explode. All this was even further escalated when the electronic voice boomed.
“All students must arrive at the Auditorium. The Sir will then explain what to come during the day. Thank you.”
All the students started to shuffle and get up, then exit the cafeteria. But before they exited they were met with Agents.
“Line up in an orderly fashion, you don’t want to enter the Auditorium in a mess! The Sir will want to see that you are matured and ready.”
We all began to line up, then started to head to the Auditorium.
. . .
Like always, it was dark inside the huge Auditorium. Mr. Tomhall was the only source of light in this huge room, and he looked very calm and collected. After we all sat down in each of our rows, he began to speak.
“As you all know today, you will be having your first day of learning. However, there is a schedule that I must explain to you.” He then pointed to the screen behind him. “Each week has a peculiar order to classes. As you see here,” he then pointed to the screen, “Mondays are in this order.” The screen showed a page titled “MONDAY CLASSES: Literacy, Science, Math, Lunch Break, Art, and Gym. That will be all. Please head to your classes now.”
Everyone started to murmur, and I wondered why we would be learning such simple subjects. I would at least expect there to be more advanced things like “Hacking” or “Stealth Training.” These thoughts led to me thinking that we would be trained as spies. Silly me, it’s something non-cheesy. Finally, Group A arrived at the Education Block. I went to the left classroom in the back and so did the others. Stepping inside, I was surprised at how large it was. Figures, the whole group A will be taught at the same time. It was about 20 kids each row, and there was a slight incline to each row. There was a pale woman with black hair standing at the bottom center of the room, and she smiled calmly.
“Hello students. I am Ms. Halbin. Please take a seat where your Residential Floor number is.” I looked for number seven, which was found near the top of the rows.
“Hey, we’re next to each other!” Andre smiled. I gave him a happy smile. Then I turned next to me, and Autumn happened to be on my right. She was staring at Ms. Halbin, with one of her famous glares. After everyone had settled, Ms. Halbin began to speak again.
“In each of your desks there should be a book titled, ‘Memorable Book Quotes.’ Please flip to page 40.” Flipping through the book, there were many quotes that looked familiar and some that looked strange. On one page there was a quote with the word ‘Murder,’ or ‘Murdor.’ There were many quotes, and finally, after flipping a ton of pages I reached page 40. Ms. Halbin then began to talk again.
“Okay. Kid in the sixth row, one with the black hair, um… Mr…”
The kid blushed slightly, then answered. “Stevens.”
“Mr. Stevens. Please read quote 120 on page 40.”
“Umm.., ‘I’ll be back,’ Terminator 2, Judgement Day?”
“Very well done, Mr. Stevens. Umm, the kid in third row, Ms…”
“Read the next quote, please.”
“‘It’s A Trap!’ Admiral Ackbar, Star Wars.”
We were all perplexed. Why would we be learning movie quotes? This was definitely not what we’d expect to learn in Literacy, or the Language Arts. A girl with glasses in the fifth row raised her hand and asked a question.
“This is unlike any of my other classes. If the classroom is titled, ‘Literacy,’ then why are we learning about movie quotes? This is not related to any of what I have learned before, and-”
Ms. Halbin cut the girl off and replied, “Well, one part of Literacy is reading, and well, we’re reading right now! Okay, let’s continue reading.”
The glasses girl had a frustrated and annoyed look on her face. We then continued to read various other quotes until the bell rang.
. . .
“That was a weird first class,” Andre said, confused.
“Yeah, tell me about it.” I headed to the next class, Math. “Let’s just hope that this isn’t another strange class.”
Math was definitely a strange class. The room was like Literacy, only bigger, and there was a small maze below where the teacher was. She was a skinny, tall woman with an even paler complexion than Ms. Halbin. She had her hair in a bun, and she eyed each and every one of us like we had a disease. After we sat down in our seats, she began to speak in a slick, British accent.
“Hello students, I am Ms. Waterpine. I will be teaching you various skills, such as how long your food supplies can last, or the distance you can cover from one place to another. This may all seem confusing, but you will learn.”
Andre whispered to me. “This is even weirder than the last one. ‘Distance you can cover from x to y?’ I’m confused.”
“Ah. The kid over there, in the seventh row.” Ms. Waterpine pointed at Andre.
Andre looked shocked, and his face blushed with embarrassment. He then proceeded to go down to the center below.
“Please go in the maze.”
Andre walked like a robot to the maze, then asked, “The very back?”
“Yes. Then I will come in to get you. You must hide from me. Once you get out, you win. Questions?”
Andre nodded his head to the side. “No.” He then began to walk into the small maze. After five minutes he hollered, “I’ve reached the end. What now?”
Ms. Waterpine then walked into the maze, and replied, “Run.”
Us seventh row kids could make out the top of Andre’s head. He started to run, and his footsteps were pretty loud, and at this, Ms. Waterpine headed towards the sounds. We could only see Ms. Waterpine’s head as well. Andre began to silently slow down, and then he made a right, and there he started to run again. Before he turned again, Ms. Waterpine appeared, and we heard Andre scream with shock. Some of the other students chuckled or giggled at this, while others just stayed silent. A few moments later, Ms. Waterpine appeared with Andre. Andre looked as if he had seen the scariest ghost ever.
“As you can see children, I got Andre before he could escape. This is because he just ran, and his footsteps were also quite loud. This made it easy to calculate what he was doing. See, these are not your regular classes. These are more like… survival skills in each subject. Ah, time has definitely gone by quickly. You are dismissed.”
The bell rang, and we were all puzzled and confused. Survival skills? Mathematical? Huh? We then headed for Science, and then lunch. The rest of the day was spent in confusion.
. . .
“I didn’t understand anything they taught,” said Andre. He looked puzzled, and several others in group A shared the same look. Science was normal. In Science we learned about what we would normally learn about in old school, like food webs and ecosystems. The only strange thing about that was that it was our only normal class. After that, everything else was unlike anything we have learned. In Art we learned to make a human dummy, and finally, in Gym, we learned the quickest way to outrun something in an enclosed space.
“Tell me about it.” The word ‘survival skills’ was still going through my head. It seemed to connect to something said by Mr. Tomhall, and then Autumn was there to help me link the pieces together. She and I spoke during dinner, and Andre chirped a bit as well.
“It’s all linked to the ‘Test,’” she said.
“How?” asked Andre and I in unison.
“The Test has something to do with survival or something dangerous. I have a feeling that this is a prison, and the Test is something that we have to pass in order for us to be freed. But why would it have to do something with survival? I don’t understand it.”
Both Andre and I were shocked at Autumn’s answer. She must’ve observed everything and thought really hard to come up with this conclusion. She then noticed us staring at her, and asked, “What is it? You two look like you’ve seen a ghost.”
Andre was about to say something, but stopped. I did the same and just replied with “Nothing.” We all then began to eat our dinners.
. . .
Later, at night, as I was about to finish getting ready for sleep and head to my bedroom, someone tapped me, and I turned to see Andre and Autumn. There were also a couple other kids behind them too.
“We’re sneaking out to the Board Meeting. I heard that it was in the Auditorium by one of the passing Agents talking amongst themselves,” whispered Autumn.
“Wanna come? There’s no guarantee that we won’t be caught though,” asked Andre.
I just nodded and followed them. We started down the stairs, “I didn’t know there were stairs!” exclaimed Andre, and then we exited the Residential Area through the back. Autumn was leading, and she motioned us to follow her to the front of Residential Area B. There were some large bushes there, and we decided to hide in them. There were five or six of us, all trying our best to stay out of sight and be quiet. Autumn then whispered to us, “I heard from another Agent that there’s another way we can go into the Auditorium.” At this, a kid muttered something like, “Some Agent, these guys aren’t good at keeping secrets.” Autumn then continued. “Just follow me.” She began to crawl-run in the shadow of Residential Block B, then crossed the sidewalk to the Auditorium leading one. There was a wall in front of us, long, going for the whole Auditorium sidewalk area and made of smooth stone. There were trees inside this area, and the wall wasn’t that tall but not very short, either.
“You guys can climb, right?” asked Autumn quietly. We all nodded our heads, some not as assuring as others. Autumn, the leader, climbed up first, then came a boy, and at this I realized that he was the brave, heroic guy who talked about greatness. Then came a girl, and so forth. After all of us climbed the wall (some had needed a little help), we began to further sneak to the other entrance. This was the perfect place to stay hidden; there were tall, green trees, and the grass silenced our footsteps. Suddenly, Autumn dashed like a cat to a nearby clump of bushes. She frantically waved to us. We hid under the bushes just in time before two Agents walked to where we were and started to talk.
“No time to listen, we have to keep moving,” whispered Autumn. She spoke so softly that it was almost unhearable. We then continued to crawl our way, out of the bushes and into the shade of the trees, where we started to crawl a little faster. Autumn then whispered, “We’re close.” She then crawled a little further and reached a wall. It seemed to be part of the Auditorium. She then started to walk to the right of it, and then she opened a door. She opened it slowly to not attract further attention, and in we went. To the left was a stairway, and straight ahead was a hallway with another door.
“Stairs.” Autumn then led us to the stairway and started to climb. After at least two or three flights of stairs we finally reached our destination. Autumn opened the door quietly, checked if anyone was around, then entered the other side of the door.
We didn’t know that we would be up at the top of the Auditorium. We arrived at a ledge at the top of the place, and gazing down below there were the Board Members and the Agents sitting around a table.. They looked like small ants, and we all gulped, knowing that we would die if we fell from this height. We all began to listen to the conversation below.
The teachers were talking about various topics, like the learning curriculum to the behavior of some students. It was a while before they started to talk about things that attracted our attention.
“How are the children with their learning?” That was Mr. Tomhall.
Ms. Halbin replied back, “They all seemed confused that we’re teaching them things that seem to not relate to the subject.”
Ms. Waterpine agreed. “I told them that these were not their regular classes. They seemed confused at this, and when I told them that these were more like survival skills, they seemed to be even more confused.”
Some of the other teachers told their stories from the first day of teaching. Finally, after this, Mr. Tomhall decided to change the subject. “Agents, are you done with the cleanup of the Labyrinth? And are your ‘Hunters’ ready?” A familiar voice replied back, “Our Agents are ready, but our scientists have found something that will do better at hunting.”
One of the kids, a red haired girl muttered quietly at this. “Hunters? Labyrinth?” Another kid, a brown haired boy motioned to her to be quiet.
The Agent that replied had sounded so familiar. And then it struck me that it was the same gruff man who had captured us. Mr. Tomhall seemed to be intrigued at the new discovery by the scientists. “And what would be better than your Hunters?”
The gruff man tapped the table and a hologram appeared. It was hard to see because we were so high up, but the gruff man (his name was revealed to be Hinfeld) started to describe it. “After taking DNA from various animals, and combining them with a living subject, we have created the Screechers. They are the ultimate hunting life form, and will never stop at finding its prey.”
Mr. Tomhall exclaimed at this. “Horrible! You dare show me something hideous. I will not allow it. Where will you find ‘living subjects’? And you will be inflicting pain on them, as so to speak. I will not allow it.”
Mr. Hinfeld began to explain. “You see, we are looking for old, or dying animals, and we will be reviving them by turning them into these new creatures. Even some of my Agents are willing to become Screechers.”
Mr. Tomhall stayed silent for a while, contemplating about these new things, then answered. “You have this one chance. If they succeed in wiping out the students, we may use them. Do not fail me.” To this Mr. Hinfeld got up, and exited the auditorium. Mr. Tomhall then began to speak amongst the teachers. “I always feel pity for the children, but this is for the balance of humanity and all other living beings.”
The teachers stayed quiet. Then Ms. Halbin spoke. “Do we really have to do this? Do we have to snuff out all these lives?”
Mr. Tomhall then replied grimly. “We must. Humanity needs to be reduced. Or else we will overtake all other living things; devouring all the meat, fish, and plants. Our planet will fall into ruin, and we will all die due to not enough food to go around. Eventually we will have to fight for ourselves. This cannot be avoided. Everyone is dismissed. Meeting end.”
The teachers started to get up and walk, and then Mr. Tomhall began to work on something. We started to go down the stairwell, and some of the others looked shocked. I was still processing everything when we got back to the Residential Area, and then it hit me. This was no ordinary test. The teachers were teaching us important skills. For survival. Survival. Hunters. Labyrinth. I would need to focus more in class. Survival. Hunters. Labyrinth. Survival Skills.
I understood what the Board meant. They were making an impossible test. A test where we would need to survive. They were trying to kill us. They had deceived us into thinking that we were “special.” We were just subjects of a great purge. The others had no idea. The ones that did know about this, though, would have to prepare. But there was one problem. We needed time. But time was running out.
To be Continued…