December 10, 2013
By , cupertino, CA
I’m leaving today. The week went by so quickly. This will probably be the last time I see my own room. My mind races as I nervously stroke my fingers through my shoulder length, black hair. Today, I wore a pair of loose blue jeans and a yellow jacket over a gray t-shirt. I hope it’s not too flashy. It’s best for someone like me to be inconspicuous. I’m so nervous even though I prepared for this months ago. Long before all the preparations, papers, and classes and all the surveys, tests, and seminars I knew I would choose this. Today, I leave for camp. It’s probably not as daunting as I think it is but it just seems a lot easier to get hurt at Camp rather than the Information Course. A loud honk of a bus interrupts my train of thought.
“Julie, it’s time to go,” my father yells across the house. I take my first step out the doorway. Each step I take is a step away from everything I’ve ever known and all the comfort of my normal life. I can’t be afraid. I won’t be afraid. As I get in the bus, I wave goodbye to my parents, who are standing outside the door of my house.
After what seemed like hours, the bus finally arrives at Camp. There is a large sign that marks the entrance. Camp looks like it’s in the center of a forest. Thick trees stand in the way of everything except the thin dirt paths. There are a few buildings off in the distance that look like large log cabins. Off to the side of the entrance, there’s circle of logs where people probably start campfires. In the middle of the circle, there was a huge tree stump with a speaker sitting on top of it. Suddenly, a loud voice rings out of it.
“Welcome to Camp everyone,” it said. “I’m Instructor Stephen. Please head to the assembly room. There’s a camp directory next to the entrance. Don’t make me wait.” Just then, a short girl comes running out of the bus. She trips over the last step and lands flat on her stomach. I help her off the ground and introduce myself.

“Thanks. Name’s Lisa,” she says as she pulls her long blonde hair out of her face. She dusts off her gray sweats and black long sleeve shirt. Standing next to her, I realize that I’m a full foot taller. “Did you hear anything he said? I fell asleep on the bus and I woke up just as he finished talking.”
As I explained the situation, we walked over to the camp directory and found the location of the assembly room. By now, everyone had left and we were the only ones on the path. We were half way there when I heard a shot. I felt a sharp pain in my leg. I looked down at it and saw an orange splat on my pants. My ears filled with the sound of shots and some of them hit Lisa. We’re being shot by paintball guns. Lisa hurried down the path and I followed after her. She was really fast and I struggled to keep up. When we got to the assembly room, we were covered in paint.

“I told you not to make me wait,” a man who could have only been Instructor Stephen, barked.

“You’ve got something on your shirt,” sneered a voice near the front of the room.
Great. I hadn’t even been here for an hour and now I was completely embarrassed.

“Now that you’re all here,” started Instructor Stephen. “I’ll go over a few things. First, a little review. When an individual reaches the age of 18, they decide their career path. You can take the Information Course, which will make you eligible for a government job, filing job, etcetera or you can go to Camp, which will prepare you for jobs like the Police or National Security. If you drop out of Camp or the Information Course, it is considerably more difficult to get a desirable job. Tomorrow, you’ll be tested to see what jobs you’re qualified for. Tonight, you will be sleeping in cabins. Cabin assignments are displayed to the right of the assembly room. That’s all for now. Be prepared for tomorrow.”
We’re leaving tomorrow? That’s so soon. I thought I’d be staying here a lot longer.
“Hey Julie! We’re in the same cabin!” Lisa yelled.
I follow Lisa to the building she said was most likely our cabin. Inside, there are four bunk beds labeled with our names and a clean set of pajamas on each one. I changed into them and wondered what to do with my clothes. They’re covered in paint and I didn’t bring another outfit. We were instructed to bring nothing but ourselves.
“We should probably wash our clothes,” I suggested to Lisa. “They’re covered in paint.”
“Good idea,” she replied.
We scrubbed off the paint and let our clothes dry outside. Camp is so serene. If you listen closely, you can hear frogs croaking and crickets chirping. By now, it was pitch black and no lights lit up the paths. The rest of our cabinmates finally arrived and I recognized one of them was the guy who sneered at us in the assembly room. He took a seat at the bed labeled Edward.
“Oh, look. It’s the paintball girls,” he snickered
“Hello. I’m Lisa and this is Julie. I didn’t think you’d recognize us.” Lisa said in a sarcastic tone. Edward gave us a “why bother with them” look and turned away.
“What’s his problem?” grumbled Lisa. “So Julie, I’m curious as to why you chose Camp.”
“I wanted to go into National Security. It seemed like a fun and exciting job. I’m not sure if I’m cut out for it though.”
“Camp hasn’t been very encouraging so far. If Camp is like this for the whole time I’m here, I don’t know if I’ll make it.”
“Don’t be discouraged so easily. Confidence is most of it. It can’t be that hard.”
I try to steer the conversation off me.”Why did you join Camp?”
“I come from a long line of famous police officers. I’ve always wanted to join the police and be recognized. I’m so excited to be here! I’ve waited for this opportunity since I was little.”
“Wow. I didn’t know what I wanted to do until a couple months ago.”
“Have you heard anything about the test tomorrow?” she asked. I could tell she knew I hadn’t heard anything, and she wanted to tell me about it.
“No,” I replied. “Have you?”
“My parents have told me a little about it. The test is different every year and they spare no expense on it. You need to be ready for anything.”
“That sounds difficult.”
“Difficult? That sounds exciting to me.”
Lisa and I talk for a little while and then go to sleep. I’m dreading tomorrow. We’re woken by a blaring alarm followed by a message from Instructor Stephen.
“I hope you’re ready for the test today. Head to the assembly room. Sorry for those of you who’re hungry but there will be no complimentary breakfast.”
Judging by the tone in his voice, he was anything but sorry for us. I change quickly and rush to the assembly room. There are arrows directing us to the test. They lead us up a ladder and into a large plane. When just about everyone is on the plane, the door slams shut. Instructor Stephen gives us a final piece of advice.
“I can’t say too much but I’ll give you a few tips. Be very observant. Question everything you see. Follow your instincts. There are requirements you must meet to finish the test. I can’t tell you what they are. You’ll fail if you don’t meet them. You’ll know when you pass. We’ll be monitoring everything to make sure you’re safe. Good luck.”
The plane doors slide open and blinding light flushes into the plane. I peer over the edge and see a lake beneath us. The plane is still at least twenty feet off the ground. Around the lake there are series of walls. In some parts, there are trees and shrubs around the walls. Not all of them are the same kind. The walls look about fifty feet tall. Then, it occurs to me. It’s a maze. The test is a huge maze. How would this maze test us? I only get a couple second to look at it all before Instructor Stephen pushes me out of the plane. My stomach flips and I’m too scared to scream. I land in the middle of the lake and hear others land next to me. Everyone swims to shore. I frantically search for Lisa and find her struggling to swim ashore. She grabs my arm and pulls herself up. I’m flustered and confused. I can’t think straight. Why did I do this? What did I get myself into?
“What do we do? How do we pass? What could they possibly learn from this? Are they crazy?” I frantically ask.
“Calm down Julie,” she says. “Are you hungry? We should get something to eat. Let’s focus on the little things first. We don’t know what to do yet but we’ll find out somehow. Breathe.”
She’s right. I’m too nervous to think rationally right now. I need to calm down. I’m amazed she’s able to keep calm in this situation. Maybe I’m just not cut out for this.
“There are trees around here, right? Maybe we can find something in those,” suggests Lisa.
We search for some fruit trees. All the trees around the lake were birch or fir. We take a right down a path in the maze. This area is filled with large jungle trees.
“Look!” Lisa exclaimed. “There’s a banana tree over there!”
Lisa runs off and disappears into the shadow of the other trees. She is too fast and I can’t keep up. I run for as long as I can before I have to take a break. I’m still nowhere near the banana tree when I hear Lisa scream. I run as fast as I can and I find Lisa on the ground next to the tree.
“There’s a bunch of bananas up there. I tried climbing and I fell from the tree. My ankle doesn’t feel too great,” Lisa groans.
I start climbing the tree and I see another person come up to it. It’s Edward. I speed up my pace. Edward is a fast climber and he catches up in no time. I need to get those bananas. Edward reaches for the bananas but his arm is too short. My arms are just long enough to reach them and I knock the bunch down. I see Lisa catch them down below. When I get back down, Lisa throws me the remainder of the bunch. Edward starts walking away with a miserable look on his face.
“Hey, Edward,” I say and I toss him a banana. He catches it and holds it at his chest. “I think you’ve got something on your shirt,” I say jokingly.
“How does that work? And I said it better,” he chuckles and runs off.
“How’s your ankle?” I ask.
“It’s ok. I think I can walk on it for now,” replies Lisa.
“What do you think we should do?”
“Maybe we should explore the maze a little.”
Lisa and I start walking around the maze but we seem to be getting nowhere. I try to keep track of which paths we take but I can’t keep track of them all. We get deeper and deeper into the maze. Suddenly, Lisa stops.
“What is it?” I ask.
“There’s something odd about that flower over there. It doesn’t look right.”
There is something odd about that flower. You wouldn’t see it if you were casually walking by. It’s woven among several other flowers and has a slightly different color. Lisa walks over to it, inspects it for a while, then her eyes widen and she picks it up. Lisa hands it to me. It feels like it’s made of paper. There’s a loose corner on the bottom of it. I tug on it and the flower unfolds. The paper has a diagram on it of the maze. Different sections on it are labeled with their climate. Our current position is marked. At the opposite end of the maze there is something labeled timed agility test.
“Lisa, come look at this. It’s a map,” I say. Suddenly, an announcement plays.
“Agility map found.”
“Agility map?” Lisa asks.
“There must be more of them. They must give hints of where to go.”
Lisa and I start heading to the agility test. We saved a couple of bananas from earlier and we eat them along the way. Finally, we get there. The timed agility test is a maze of rock and boulders that sort of blends into its environment.
“I guess this is it,” Lisa sighs.
“Where’s the start and the end?” I ask.
“I’m guessing the first rock to the last one.”
Lisa and I start meandering our way through the rocks.We have to climb over and crawl under some. I’m making my way through the course quickly but Lisa has some difficulties. I’m just about to reach the finish but Lisa trips. It must be her ankle. If she can make it over this one last rock, she’ll pass.
“Lisa!” I yelp
“Just finish the course. I’m almost there. It’ll take awhile for you to help me up.”

Lisa is short and her ankle is damaged. If I help her up, I could fail but I try anyway. What could I do without her anyway? I’m useless on my own. Lisa pushes my hands away and I stumble across the finish. The floor beneath me lowers me into a compartment beneath the maze.

“Have confidence Julie. I know you can do it,” I manage to hear her say.

“Wait!” I scream but the top closes and Instructor Stephen greets me at the bottom.
“Congratulations Julie. You’ve passed,” he says

“What about Lisa?”

“She hasn’t met all the requirements yet. You’re free to pick a career of your choice now. In a few days, you’ll start training for it.”
I couldn’t believe it. I’m going to work at my dream job and I’m not worried about Lisa. I know she’ll pass. I met all the requirements without her. That has to count for something. Now, I have to have confidence in myself. Now, I have to choose.

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