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I remember the day I appeared on the cobblestone streets of the town KZ in Germany. I was given the name Adalard Raimond and told that nobody stays in this place past the age of ten. No one knows where we come or go from, but ever since that moment, I’ve been determined to find out.
I met a girl about the same age who was given the name Geraldina Alard, and we’ve been best friends ever since. When we appeared in KZ we couldn’t remember anything, but we were each holding a piece of paper assigning our apartments.
Older kids helped us find our apartments and told us that school started at exactly nine A.M. in the National Education Center and the boxes in our rooms were not to be touched until the designated eating time. The rusted, steel boxes were about two feet long and three feet high, big enough for me to fit inside at the time, with a painted red rectangle on the side of the box. Inside the rectangle was a painted white circle and inside that was a black X with with legs that looked like they were bent at the knees. Every morning and night food would appear in the boxes for us to eat. We were told that the food would never run out if we only touched the box and ate all its contents at the designated times. Why did all the food have to be eaten at a certain time? Why did we have to eat the things we didn’t like? How there could possibly be enough food in the world for each child’s box to be refilled twice each day all the years until they turned ten?
Often I was confused about why everyone followed The Rules. Where did we come and go from? Why weren’t we allowed to access the library after hours? Why should we be taken away from our lives, and our friends at such a young age? I didn’t understand why we followed The Rules even though we didn’t know where they came from or what the consequences of breaking them might be.
One warm July afternoon, the aroma of fresh forest air filled my lungs like a mother hugging her child. Geraldina and I walked home from school to our apartments.
“I’m going to touch the box before the eating time,” I said.
“Don’t do that, you know The Rules!
As a group of kids passed, I said in a hushed voice, “We don’t even know who created The Rules or why we are supposed to follow them… All I’m saying is it’s worth finding out.”
Geraldina’s face hung down as her leather, buckled boots caused each step to creak as we walked up the apartment stairwell. We rummaged in our book bags for the chilly, copper keys.
“Uggg! Seriously… I can’t believe it, this—” Geraldina complained.
“I forgot my homework in the library. I’m so stupid. How could I … ”
“Let’s just go to the library—”
“No we can’t. You know The Rules.”
I had mastered the art of persuading Geraldina…
As I dragged open the heavy door to the library, Geraldina hastily glanced around for sight of others and rushed into the warm, wooden aroma. While I paced around the shelves admiring thousands of new books, Geraldina frantically scurried around searching for her misplaced homework.
“Adalard where are you? I found my homework! Let’s go,” she cried.
“Over here!” I called as my voice trailed off.
By the time Geraldina found me I was lounging across the carpet floor flipping through a journal titled The Unknown Beasts and The Afterlife. Above the tall, withered shelves read a sign ‘Forbidden Section.’ The stained glass windows cast the dim moonlight across the floor. There were antique shelves showing no sign of care that held old books chained together. In one corner shelves covered with hundreds of dusty glass bottles filled with strange ingredients.
With one glance at the journal, all of Geraldina’s fear and anxiety seemed to be instantly replaced by interest and enthusiasm. We spent hours reading and discussing the tales, memories, potions, and spells from children who were taken when they turned ten, just as Geraldina and I would be soon. Some of the potions we tested using ingredients from containers on the old shelves. We learned that many thought a camp located only a few miles away was were the ten year olds were taken, but people that tried to make the journey died. It was said that the camp was a tall, glass building guarded by adults.
While the dead of night clasped around us and the rest of the town slept, oblivious to the flaws of our society, we devised a plan to overcome The Rules of our society. We could actually fix the faults of our society. No more unanswered questions and faith in unjust ways, I thought. Finally, at the crack of dawn, we left a yellow, tarnished scroll with cursive writing in the town center that read:
“If you are reading this, please help! We, Adalard and Geraldina, intend to escape the circle of life of our society. As citizens of KZ, we have all put our trust into laws we don’t fully understand. We have no idea who wrote The Rules, why we follow them, where we come from, why we disappear at ten years, but we have a blind faith that our society is just. By breaking The Rules, we, as a team, have found that there is a controlling power who created The Rules and captures us when we turn ten. We also know that the power has a camp a few miles away from KZ, but the journey will be dangerous. In only a few days, some of us are turning ten so we must act quickly. We are planning to rescue the captives and improve our society. All we are asking is for you to prepare the town for its members to return and come to the edge of the North-West cliff midday in three days to assist us in completing our quest.”
As we set out on our quest we could see the dense forest many feet below spread across the land for miles like a giant, green blanket. Each little kink in the blanket was filled with a stream.
“ARE YOU READY?” I shouted over the massive winds.
“YES!” Geraldina shouted.
“OKAY. ONE… TWO… THREE… ”
As we ran into the air, our paragliders caught the wind and gave a feeling that made the impossible possible. We soared through the air like perfect paper planes. The trees were miniature child toys, the mountains, chess pieces, and the sun a magnificent feeling in between consciousness and dream.
Once our toes touched the ground, we walked a couple steps before dismounting from our paragliders in a small clearing. Hidden behind trees we neared the seven story glass building with steel bars inside the windows. A big sign on the building said “Konzentration Zelten” with small letters underneath that said “Concentration Camp.” Five guards pacing outside the building wore bands around their sleeves with the same symbol as the ones painted on our eating boxes. Two guards with rifles came running towards as we tiptoed across to the big metal doors. We threw a Repellent-Protection potion we made in the library at the guards, who disintegrated into black dirt like a handful of sand thrown into the air.
Inside the doors more guards had the same instinctive reaction to charge forward at us while loading their rifles. They disintegrated, leaving piles of dirt on the floor when we threw the mixture at them.
As we continued forward, there appeared hundreds of cement cells containing cabinets with jars of green liquids, bubbling black goo that sounded of shoes sloshing in mud, and test tubes that smelled of sewage and rotting flesh. Dozens of tables with steel handcuffs and chains lay scattered around the rooms. Huddled in corners were people of ages older than ten and few newborns fighting the urge to vomit. Many were disoriented, deformed, and stared at us frightened.
“It’s going to be okay,” I whispered, “We are taking you home.”
Two weeks later in KZ, the captives were regaining their strength. I knocked on Geraldina’s door. “Happy tenth birthday!” I shouted, “... Geraldina! … Geraldina where are you?”