The Secret Academy

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I awake suddenly. I look around but I can’t see anything; its pitch black. I can only feel the cold wet cement floor. I can’t remember how I got here, it’s all a blur. I can only remember walking to my car, and then, nothing! It’s like my last 24 hours have been completely erased. I start to panic. I just keep thinking this is just like one of those horror movies, but something is off . . . It feels like I’m wearing my dance clothes. Then, all of a sudden the light comes on, and a low dark voice says, “You have one minute to prove you are one the best dancers. Begin.” Soft ballet music begins to play and I do what he said. I danced with the music and tried to prove myself to this stranger I didn’t even know. As the music is playing, I realize it’s the white swan variation, and, as quickly as I can I start to dance it. I’m turning doing the final eight count when the music stops . . .The voice says to me, “Thank you. That’s all for now.” The lights shut off and a weird gas pumps into the room. The last thing I remember is being extremely tired.

I’m awakened by the sound of laughter. I realize that this time I’m in a bed. The room is warm and has color to it. I look at the clock and notice that I can’t recall anything that I did for over a week. I get up and find a mirror. I notice I don’t look like myself. They changed me; I’m thinner, taller, and they made my complexion flawless. It was like looking at a model. My door swings open; a tall older lady stands there. She has gray hair but looks exactly like me in every other sense. She tells me “It’s time to get dressed. All your clothes are in the top drawer. Bring your practice tutu with you. You have ten minutes to report downstairs dressed and ready to go.” She just leaves. Nothing else is said. I do as she says. I get dressed and do my hair as fast as I can. I find my dance bag in the corner and my tutu on the hanger. I run downstairs. As I reach the bottom of the steps, I see nine other girls who look exactly like me. It’s almost like looking in a mirror. A younger man says “Well now that everyone is here and ready to go, let’s get moving.”

We follow in a line, down the street into the subway station and take train E. When we reach our stop, we all file off and walk to a warehouse of some sort. He pulls open the door, and it is the most amazing dance studio I have ever seen. The man tells us, “This is where you will be training for the next two weeks. You have all been selected by the most elite director to compete in a battle to become the next prima ballerina at his company. You have all been transformed to look identical. The only thing different about you are your brains and how you feel about dancing. Everyday a girl will be dismissed until there are only two left. They will stay and compete, doing a variation for the director for the right to become the next prima ballerina. Any question?”

Of course I had questions . . .millions of them. Before I could speak the teacher came in and spoke in an intense voice. “Class will start in two minutes.” All the other girls began to put their shoes on, and I followed. It was a normal class with bar, center, and stretches after. We were then taught the first few eight counts of the variation the final two contestants would compete with. We were released from class around seven at night. Then we were escorted home by the same young man who brought us here. We weren’t allowed to speak to one another and all our rooms were on different levels. Dinner was served at 8:00 and it was a small salad with no dressing. We had a small shower area in our rooms. I took a shower and laid down in bed hoping to get a few hours of sleep not knowing when they would awake us tomorrow.

We were all awakened by an intercom telling us to report downstairs in half an hour. I tried to have a normal morning like I did back home. Eat breakfast, put makeup on, get dressed, do my hair, pack a snack, and then walk downstairs. I noticed that two floors had been closed off. I didn’t understand why until I came to the door and saw there were only eight of us left. Two girls had been dismissed. “Sent home” is what they said, but I don’t think they were really sent home. We went through the same routine as yesterday. The combinations in class were extremely difficult today, and I felt as though I could be one of the ones dismissed.

I wasn’t, luckily, and I still haven’t been. It has been four days, and I have been chosen to be one of the last two girls. I figured out the other girl’s name is Isabella. She is a breathtaking dancer. I don’t understand why I was chosen to go up against her, but all I know is I’m going to give it my all. Every class I took seriously, made sure my turn out was perfect, my extensions were getting better, my turns were improving. We started to join the company at night and practice the variation with the soon to be ex prima ballerina. We still aren’t allowed to speak to each other. It’s weird not having someone else to talk to. My routine has gotten so boring. I could use a real conversation. The night before the competition we speak one thing to each other as we head upstairs. All we say is, “Good luck.”

Finally, it’s the day we perform the variation for the director. I haven’t meet him yet. We have only been told that he will be watching and will not speak to us until he picks a winner. The other girl was chosen to go first. I watch the way she moves so peacefully and flawlessly. As I watch, my heart feels like it can explode! I’m so nervous. She dances the piece as gracefully as ever. When she is done, the teacher simple says, “Next”, and the music begins. My body just takes over. It knows exactly what is supposed to be happening. I smile and make each extension and turn as beautiful as I can. When I’m done, I can barely breathe. They bring the other girl on stage. The director comes on stage. He is old and uses a walker. He simply points, just points, at ME! A large man comes out and escorts the other girl out the exit. The director comes to me, shakes my hand, and says, “Welcome to my company, Mrs. Austen. You have been chosen to be the new prima ballerina for La Playa Ballet.” My heart just dropped. I could not believe it. Then his last few words made me wish I hadn’t been chosen. He said, “You will live to dance with me for five years, and then you will be sent home.” Even after winning the competition I will still be killed. I didn’t understand why I had even been to compete. I had to figure a way to escape. I just didn’t know how . . . .





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