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A woman, she walks along the old train tracks above the river. She spreads her arms out to the side to keep her balance. Her hair, black as coal, flows and shines in the afternoon sun. It shines bright bearing heavy heat, making her skin look even paler than she already is. She steps carefully to avoid tripping, and spilling her basket into the river far below.
A sound prickles her ear. She stops abruptly, and her green cat like eyes dart upward. She crouches down and touches the metal beneath her feet. She gasps and turns around, and just beyond the pine trees at the start of the bridge is a light.
Her heart drops, and for a moment she can’t think straight. Her mind snaps back into focus, she stand up and runs. She runs as fast as her fragile legs will carry her. Her stomach turns when she hears the sound of metal on metal. She runs faster, she can’t feel her legs anymore.
Almost there, I’m so close! She thinks. Only six feet from land, the toe of her flat shoe sticks, and wedges into the metal bar, dragging her down. Her head smashes into the metal, and her mind is scrambled. She turns back, seeing the metal beast only twenty feet from her. She kicks and flails rapidly trying to escape.
The train roars past her, and her scream blends into the trains.
“Mother!” I find myself screaming. I slap a hand to my mouth. Its only 6:17am by my watch, so my sector isn’t out of curfew yet, I will have to wait until 6:30am. All sectors have a curfew my sector-Tranquility-however is the earliest. We are to be in our houses by 8:00pm and in bed by 9:00pm. The officials say that the curfew is to ensure that we get enough sleep to be peaceful and happy. I don’t buy it.
I lay my head back down, play with my chain bracelet, and try to hold the image of my mother before she was crushed between metal. It’s been four years since she was killed.
Next week I will go to the officials building and receive a letter telling me the name my mother gave me at birth. Every minor is to receive their name at sixteen years of age; it’s supposed to represent a gift into adulthood. Until then the minors acquire a nickname. Then we get to choose which of the four sectors we will want to live in for the rest of our lives.
Tranquility, which grows and harvests all our food. Production, which produces our goods that we can buy. Education, which educates people to do more jobs. Or Progression, they control our electric, water, and heat that goes to our houses, and they supply our law enforcement.
I doubt I will be able to leave my sector and my father. We are the only ones left, me and him. My sister Eva left almost a year before my mother was killed. She left illegally; she was only fourteen when she ran away to her boyfriend’s sector, Production. We got her letter three years ago her name is Jullietta.
I still remember my sister; I remember how she was my best friend and how she mirrored my mother exactly. Her dark hair, her green eyes, even her voice, sometimes when my sister would call me I would assume it was my mother it was the same way when my mother called me. I remember not understanding why she would leave because she loved it here, she had a lot of friends and she had never said anything about her having a boyfriend. She always told me everything even though I was four years younger than her.
After my sister left my father was devastated but my mother and I helped him cope. But when my mother died he was completely lost and I haven’t been able to find my old father ever since.
I glance at my watch, 6:34am I can get up now. I don’t bother taking a shower, but instead I dress in jeans and a white shirt splattered with paint. I clip on my pin, everyone in any sector has to wear one with their sector color on it, and my sector however must have our name on it. Minors have their nicknames on theirs. Mine says Ivy Laker.
I open my door and start across the hall, expecting to have to get my dad out of bed. But as I open the door I see that his bed was empty-and unmade-which means he got up by himself. Now I’m excited he hasn’t gotten out of bed on his own in at least three months.
I almost fall down the stairs because I’m going so fast to see if he is semi-normal today. I turn into our little kitchen with red wall paper. My father is sitting at the little four person table, and staring at the chair across from him, which hasn’t been sat in four years.
“Good morning father” I say. He doesn’t look at me but gives a small smile. It soon disappears and he is back into his trance. I guess I was wrong and he won’t be at all normal today. I walk over to the cupboard under the stove that my mother built, and pull out a frying pan. “Do you want anything to eat?” I ask. He shakes his head. I will make him some anyway. I make eggs and toast, and put a plate in front of him. He just looks at it, and I set a fork down for him and a glass of orange juice.
I get my plate and start to eat. Before the food touches my mouth I glance up at him. “Eat… please? It’s good for you.” He nods and takes a bit. We eat in silence, until I notice the rolled up newspaper on the table, the bottom half is wet.
“Father you brought in the paper today?” he nods.
“Is it nice outside?” he nods.
I can’t believe him! “Father its 23 degrees outside! It’s snowing! And you are telling me its nice out!?” he doesn’t look at me. I shake him lightly. ”Father Look at me! Stop dwelling over mother and Eva!” he flinches at their names “I know you miss them, I do too, but it’s been year’s father! What about me? Do I even matter anymore? Do you honestly think this is how they would want you to act?” I yell.
He stands up. He opens his mouth with a sad look. I can see misery in his eyes and it makes me want to scream “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean it!” and hug him. But I don’t, because he deserves this. He deserves to hear the truth and he knows he does.
My Father shakes his head so slightly I wonder if I imagined it. He walks into the hall and up the stairs. I hear a small click that must be his bedroom door closing. Something tickles my cheek and I touch it. Apparently I had been crying because my fingers come away damp.
After standing in the kitchen for about ten minutes I clear the table. I scrap what’s left of my breakfast, which isn’t much, into the trash. Then I do the same to my Fathers plate. The only thing missing from his is a bite of toast and about three bites of eggs.
I walk into the hallway leading to the big wooden front door. I slip on my coat and wool boots, then grab my dark brown leather saddle bag I got for my birthday two years ago. I grab the handle of the door, but before I leave I notice my reflection in the mirror. I have purplish lines under my eyes from not being able to sleep. My dark blond hair is an uncommon feature in my family. So are my eyes, the only other one with blue eyes is my father. My freckles stand out so much it looks as if I drew them on. One of the only things I have in common with my mother is my pale skin. I notice I have become slightly skinnier due to worrying about my father’s health constantly, and sometimes forgetting about my own.
“I’m going out!” I yell upstairs. I doubt he cares though. He knows I can take care of myself. After all I have been doing it since I was twelve.
I stop with the door open letting the cold air hit my face. I step out onto the snow covered ground. As I walk my feet make crunchy sounds. I don’t know where I am planning to go, but I just keep walking. I walk in the middle of the street where in the summer the old yellow lines show on the worn down road. I’m not in any danger because only a few people have cars anymore. Only the high Officials and the rich-there’s not many of those either.
I have heard rumors that before our country came into power all most everyone had cars. We have to take a bus that is owned by the head officials. The bus only stops and delivers in the city so we walk all most everywhere else. I have never been in a car. I think it would be fun to learn to drive one. But that is impossible.
I end up at one of my sectors many parks. I walk over to the swing set; I haven’t been on one since I was at least eleven. I brush off the powdery snow and sit down. I think back to how my father told me to start.
“That’s it…now start to move your legs back and forth. Ok, now just keep doing that…ready?” He gave me a small push and let me go. ”Look mother look! Eva, look at me I’m flying!” I was doing it by myself and I was proud, my mother who sat with Eva on a blanket reading together clapped. “Great job honey, look at you!” She smiled so big that day. My sister glanced up from her book and gave me a small smile. My father sat down next to her and they looked at each other and smiled, like nothing could have ruined that moment.
I began to push my legs like my father told me. Soon I was as high as I could go. My stomach felt like it was lodged in my throat. I leaned back, letting my hair drag close to the ground, and closed my eyes. It was rejuvenating; all I wanted was to be free from babysitting my father, grieving my mother and Eva, all while trying to decide my future. It was nice to do something for me, something fun that I wanted. I was dizzy and disoriented… I loved it.
I don’t know how long it was until I finally stopped and caught my breath. Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to have a friend. I know a couple kids from my neighborhood but I have never gotten close to anyone. I had never needed anyone but Eva, but Eva is gone.
I lean my head on the metal rope suspending the swings. I’m about to leave when a sharp pain hits my arm, and I let out a small scream because its all I can manage. It soon spreads to my whole body, and I realize I can’t move. I can’t move! I will my feet to move, but they only twitch a little. Whatever hit me is making me weak. I need to move! Get up ivy! This is not happening! I feel paralyzed. I am paralyzed.
The last thing I remember is falling. Falling into a black nothingness, and I realize now I’m finally free.
My eyes flutter open, and shut almost immediately for two reasons. A.) because the white Florissant light is blinding and, B.) I hear muffled voices that seem to be coming closer.
“Either way I like her shoes” a girl says.
“Well if she never wakes up you can have them” a boy says.
I hear a thump and the same boy yells. “Ouch, come on Rey!”
“You deserved it. She will wake up give her time” the girl says.
“Avery stop looking at me, how was I supposed to know how little she was?” A new voice says... it’s a boy.
“I don’t get why we need her, we already have enough” a different girls says. I hear a door slam and Avery sighs.
“Well I can’t believe that the council chose her” the first boy says.
“Why not, what’s wrong with her?” Avery says.
“Nothing we just usually don’t get hot ones” he answers.
“Really Caleb, Is that all you ever think about?” Avery says.
Caleb mumbles something, and the other boy laughs.
“Honestly Ryan, as if you are any better” Avery says, and I almost laugh.
“Look she moved!” Avery yells and I freeze.
“Ivy? Can you hear me? Can you move?” Caleb asks
“What? Why wouldn’t she be able to move?” Ryan says.
“You tell me since you’re the one who shot her.” Caleb says and Ryan groans. “I already told you I didn’t mean to give her so much ok? She looked bigger from the tree.”
So they were hiding in the tree. No wonder I didn’t see them. I don’t move, maybe if I lay still long enough they will leave and I can sneak out, find an official and go home.
My dream is soon crushed. “Guys why don’t you give us a minute? I’ll meet you in the cafeteria for dinner ok? ” Avery asks. I hear footsteps and the door shuts softly.
Avery walks away quietly and I think I hear water running. I decide to try to actually fall asleep before I do something stupid. I try so hard but all I can think about is my father. How I yelled at him and now I left him. Maybe I was a bit harsh on him; maybe he was too unstable to hear the truth. Maybe I took the wrong approach and I should-.
Something extremely cold and wet hits my face. I spring up in a sitting position coughing and trying to wipe my face. “I knew it! I knew you were awake!” Avery practically screamed in my ear.
I sucked in a breath. I blew it. I am never going home. “What was that for?!” I yell back at her, and I am surprised to find that my voice is raspy and my throat hurts. I stand up off the bed and look around.
I am in some type of hospital I think. White beds neatly made on wheels line the white walls along with the white tiled floor. At one end of the room is a door and next to it sits a huge gray metal shelf that holds endless amounts of what I assume to be medicine. At the other end is a mirror, not a mirror that hangs on the wall like I have at home, this one is different it’s inside the wall. Next to the mysterious mirror is some sort of clear tube that goes through the floor and ceiling with and oval opening. I have never seen anything like it.
“’What was that for?’ Are you serious? I have been waiting for you to wake up for the past three days. Do you know how many trainings I have missed? And all I do is just sit here; do you know how boring that is?” Avery continued. She didn’t look like I expected her to be, she wore tightly fitting red jeans and a navy blue shirt that dipped into a V at the small of her back showing more skin than any of the sectors would ever allow. Where am I?
I touch my forehead and it stings. ”Ouch… three days?” I almost mumble. “Oh yeah when Ryan knocked you out you fell face first and smacked your head off the swing set” she says it casually, as if it didn’t matter and happened all the time. I look at myself in the mirror, I’m wearing the same clothes I put on when I left the house, my hair is tangled, I have darker purplish marks under my eyes, and I’m barefoot. I look around to try and locate my shoes… no luck.
I glance at the door. Avery is standing right in front of me, if I push her backwards and run for the door I might make it before she gets back up. Where I would go from there, I’m not sure but maybe if I found a window, I could break it with something.
A beeping noise makes me jump and Avery smiles. “You are a disaster” she says walking towards the clear tube. Her straight brown hair sways at her shoulder. If I am to do anything it has to be now.
I slowly grab the side of the bed and roll it side ways to block her path back to me. Her back is still turned to me. I dash towards the door. I feel light headed and dizzy again. I hear Avery gasp and start to run after me. I reach the door, just as I grab a hold of the handle and something flies past my shoulder, I feel a sharp pain and I notice the small slash just starting to bleed. I turn back towards the door as Avery pushes the bed out of the way. Just above the door handle a small knife with a shiny silver jagged blade is sunk into the dark wood. I suck in a quick breath, turn the knob and throw open the door.
I can hear my heart beat, the blood pounding through my veins. Outside the door is a beige hallway with a dark carpet going left and right. ”Hey! Ivy come back!” I don’t have time to think about which one to take, so I turn left. I sprint down the hall and turn down a different one, then another. I keep turning down different hallways trying to find a window. I pass endless amounts of closed wooden doors. Finally it sinks in.
I am lost.
I stop and peer around the corner and listen for the sound of footsteps. I hear nothing so I sink down against the wall. I run my fingers on the dark carpet, its maroon not brown like I originally thought. I need a plan, I can’t seem to find a window or stairs, and I definitely can’t ask someone for directions. Maybe one of the doors leads outside. I lay my head against the wall, or maybe I could just fall asleep. I’m so tired I just need to rest. I close my eyes and imagine I’m back home, when both my mother and Eva were still there.
I could sleep like this. I could just stay here…forever.
I’m all most asleep when I hear a door open. My eyes snap open and suddenly I find myself standing. I run, in what I think is the opposite direction of the opening door, trying to be as quite as possible. I turn down another hallway and look over my shoulder; no one seems to following me. I turn back and I only catch a glimpse of a boy with purple eyes before I smash into him.
I try to stop but I’m going too fast. I hear him gasp before we collide, and then we were both on the floor. He must have been carrying papers and lots of them because there is white everywhere, floating down, and on the floor. I flip onto my back and start to crawl away from him. He rubs his head then sees me, his deep violet eyes widen. He looks about my age.
He quickly stands up and brushes off his jeans and black tee-shirt. He looks at me, and takes a step closer. My back hits a wall and I shake my head too stunned to speak. I’m breathing hard, and I try to swallow but my mouth is dry. I start to stand up using the wall for support. He holds out his hand, and I’m confused. Why would he want to help me? I shake my head again.
He puts his hand down and smiles. He has a crooked smile. He runs his hand through his dark hair and laughs quietly.
“What are you doing here?” he asks. It clicks, I know his voice. His name is Ryan, he is friends with Avery. He is going to take me back, I am never going home.
He takes another step closer, and I shut my eyes tight and turn my head away from him. Maybe if I try hard enough he will disappear.
“Oh, please don’t cry… let me help you?” he says softly. I shake my head again and I’m so dizzy I sink down to the floor… again. Something touches my arm and I jump, I don’t move. His arms wrap around my back and my legs and before I know it, he is carrying me. I keep my eyes shut, I don’t care, and I’m tired of fighting all I want to do is rest.