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Chapter 1

The arid dessert atmosphere was almost too much for her. She was suffocating. Why had they even decided to populate this world? It was going to be a disaster. That much she knew. They didn't know; they couldn't. Only she could know. Only she could see. When the time came they would see too. They would understand.

"The world Rayne was populated over 200 years ago in 3498 after the destruction of the world Dihain. The survivors, there were over 500,000, were too many to share a world, as they did not want to be separated. They thought their beliefs would be destroyed along with their world. The people of Dihain were lucky that there had been another world just opened in 3454 only six years after their home world was destroyed. I hope everyone is writing this down because their will be a test an it!" Mrs. Derax said to the class as most of them weren't paying very much attention.
Nobody responded to her threat so she cleared her throat loudly until every single kid in the class was watching her, "I take that back, their will be no test on the relocation of the Dihain people," the entire class cheered loudly, "No, instead I want each of you to write a poem," The class was silent.
"But Mrs. Derax," A kid in the front row said quietly as if not to hurt her feelings, "This is History, not English."
Mrs. Derax didn't look one bit ruffled, "Be that as it may, that is your assignment, the two worst and the two best poems will be read outloud to the class and possibly the entire school," there was a chorus of groans, "And remember class, the destruction of Dihain and other worlds was a tough time for everyone, I do hope you put at least a little bit of effort and research into this project!" Mrs. Derax said loudly a second before the bell rang.
I picked up my books along with the rest of the class and rushed out to find a good seat at the lunch table next to my friends, none af whom had had to take Mrs. Derax's Recent History class. I rushed through the halls, the sound of hundreds of students preparing for lunch echoed off the stone walls. The stone walls, the stone floors, the stone ceiling, the stone everything. Everything in this Goddamned place was made of stone. It was to "support the workers who harvest all the beautiful rock formations on A'Reen and to let them know that all of their hard work was being put to good use." Regardless it was one of the most annoying things about this world. Our homes, our schools, our grocery stores, and even our religious sanctuaries were all made of stone. You get tired of seeing and living in it after a while. Whenever I complained about it people would tell me I was just lucky to be born in one of the inner five worlds in our system and to shut it. I guess they were right. Everyone knew that the inner five worlds got better treatment: The best food, the best medicine the fastest, newer buildings and cities. They were also by far the prettiest. I guess that's why the original five guards chose these worlds as our homes. A'Reen had beautiful rock formations, huge rock formations, that would take millions of years to even put a dent in. And we were the only ones who got to see them. What I couldn't understand why the government would be so cruel.
My thoughts trailed off as I reached the cafeteria and saw my friends sitting at their usual table. There were seven of us. All besties and we didn't keep secretes inside our group, even if one of them liked another inside our group, everybody told everything.
"Slow poke! Get over hear and join us," Annalise, the talkative one yelled at me across the cafeteria when she saw my short posture and bright pink hair, "What took you so long?" She asked when I made my way over to the secluded table, nobody ever seemed to want to sit by us.
"I had Mrs. Derax's class," I rolled my eyes as I said it exasperatedly, even though Mrs. Derax was my favorite teacher and they all knew it, "She never lets us go to lunch early even though her classroom is farthest from the cafeteria."
"Mrs. Derax is senile," Jeremy said, shaking his blond head back and forth, all the while laughing at my bad luck.
"She is not!" I yelled at him, play-smacking his arm.
"She is pretty strange though, you have to admit," that was Rene, the brunette who was always shy around anyone else, but with us she went crazy, "The stuff she assigns her classes, it's almost as if she wants to get fired."
I thought about that, our poem on the destruction of Dihain was kind of strange, nobody really talked about the destruction of the three planets. It was too tragic, they said, too painful. And yet Mrs. Dorax specifically assigned a poem, of all things, about it. It did seem as if she wanted to be fired, so many kids asking about it, they wouldn't be happy.
"You won't believe our assignment," I stage whispered to them as I proceeded to describe the strange project Mrs. Dorax had assigned.
"I told you, senile!" Jeremy exclaimed when I'd finished.
"She is not!" Vanessa, replied, helping me out, "Though..." She paused and looked around, hesitantly, "Look, my grandmother says that Dihain and the other two worlds were not destroyed by the Links, of course she very well might ​be senile."
"Wait, wait, wait," I held up a hand as Vanessa went back to eating as if she hadn't said a word, "Why wouldn't the worlds have been destroyed by the portals? I mean we all know how unstable they can be."
Vanessa looked around as if she'd just yelled out that there was a bomb under the school as we all crowded around to hear her whispers, "Look, I don't know, mum forbids her to talk about it, she says it isn't appropriate conversation, but I think she's just scared. She gets this weird look on her face when grandmother grumbles about it happening soon."
I was very confused. What could have destroyed the worlds if it hadn't been the portals, the government had said that Dihain was lucky because they could get aircraft back and forth, not having to worry about using a faulty Link. It wasn't my place to question what the government said, but why had Mrs. Dorax assigned the poem?
"Rene are you coming over to study tonight?" Michael asked Rene, while the rest of us looked at each other, studying riiiight. Rene and Michael had been a thing for longer than I could remember, and we all assumed that when they got older they would marry and have kids.
"Psssh, you don't haveta use code words around us! We alll know what you two do!" Brandon, who was very open about his long love life, shouted the words across the cafeteria, multiple people laughed at his crastness.
"Brandon! Just because you're not shy does not mean you get to broadcast their love life to everyone! Only we get to know, us in our little group," I yelled at Brandon, standing up for Rene and Michael when I knew they wouldn't.
"Oh come on, Raia, our little group? We have the largest group on this planet, probably others. You and I both know, they always group in fives. That's the lucky number. We're just weird," And that was the end of the conversation as the bell to return to class sounded.
Brandon was right though, five was everything. There were five inner planets, five outer planets, five Links to each world, people just grouped in five. You had five classes each day, you went five days a week, and 10 months a year. There were 15 months in a year, and every 5 months was a solstice. Five was the lucky number. My little group was strange. There were seven of us. Two more than was "natural" and it brought unwanted attention. We had all been sent to counselors when we were in third grade. We were never allowed to have the same classes, and often times we could never go on fieldtrips together. In fact, our parents had been told to keep us away from each other. But we were best friends, inseperable. And because of us seven, our school got a lot of attention. It just so happens that every other school on the planet has 500 kids, ours has 502 kids.

​"What are you doing home so earrrrlly?" My mother yelled from the kitchen when she heard me slam the front door, not even trying to be subtle, "Don't you have practice," She yelled louder even though I was already in the kitchen.
​"No, mother, I already told you, I. do. not. have. drama. practice. after. school. anymore. I haven't for the past month!" I shoveled through the fridge trying to find something good to eat. Lunch had not been so appetizing after our little discussion about Vanessa's grandmother and my senile teacher.
​My mother slapped my hand away from the fridge when I reached for the cake that sat in the middle. My hand swerved to the cheese on the side door and I rushed out of the kitchen before my mother took that away from me too. I slumped on my bed and reached for my computer. I pulled up a search engine and typed in Rayne. All the fun government sites popped up first, but I scrolled past that. Those would be all the bland facts they teach us in school. I knew for a fact that if I wanted to get a good grade, and I would need to get a good grade to keep an A, I would need more than what the government said was true. I wouldn't say I was rebellious, and I certainly wouldn't say I was a terrorist or anything like that, but I did know that what the government told us was only partial truth, that was just how politics worked. You only tell the population what they want to hear, even if it is not exactly what they need to hear. What the government said was true, that was definitely something everybody knew, if anyone outwardly disagreed, they would disappear.
​After scrolling down through fifty or so sites, I found a page that did not seem to be government approved. Of course, the people had the free speech act working for them, but nobody outwardly disagreed with the government, and internet pages were some of the hardest to trace, and the hardest to get rid of. I opened the page, and what looked like the blue screen of death popped up on my screen, but it disappeared after a second. The background was a dark brown, almost black, and the words popped up blue. The title of the article read The Truth.
​I got super excited, but wary, most of the time these pages were lies worse than the governments. I started reading the first paragraph.
​You and I both know that what the government tells you is not always the truth, so I'm here to do it for you. Now there are a lot of thing they lie about: the school system, the guards, other planets, even your religion. But for my ​grand enterance into this fabulous world wide web, I'm going to talk about the biggest lie the government has ever told you: Rayne. Have you ever wondered why you're restricted to the governments religion, but Rayne apparently has their own beliefs? How you always hear about the destruction of Dihain, and how the population was so lucky to find Rayne, but we never hear about their jobs, what they give us, and what the government gives them? What exactly does Rayne make? I mean to say, A'reen gives us stone, other planets give us wood, food, metal, and even a place to put prisoners. But has anyone ever questioned what Rayne gives our society? I'm not saying that Rayne is a horrible place for not supporting us, all I'm saying is that none of us know what goes on there.

​I was about to read on when the blue screen of death appeared on the screen again and my computer shut down. Quickly I turned my computer back on, waited the minute or two it took to get to the login screen, and checked back on to the internet. I pulled up the search engine and searched once again for Rayne. I scrolled through 30 or so pages looking for The Truth but I couldn't find the link. Finally I decided to check my search history, the link had to be there. I clicked the pull down bar and found the page that listed all the websites I had been to in the last few days. I scrolled past the links for the thirty or so pages on the search engine I had just looked through, untill I came back to the approximate time I had clicked on the link. One link was the first time I was on the search engine today, about one hour ago, the next link was the first search engine link after my computer had shut down. The Truth link had been erased from my history! How could someone even do that if they weren't on my computer! Either the government or the guy who created The Truth were really good, nobody would ever know I'd ever been there, and I couldn't get to it again. ​Frustrated I slammed my laptop shut and threw it to the ground, not hard enough to kill it, though.
​"Dinner!" My mother yelled up the stairs, right on time.
​I made my way down the stairs, slowly, as to annoy my mother. "You know I really do not understand why you dyed your hair pink! It's so ugly! I mean you are always beautiful, but that color! I hate it, you should dye it back to your natural color," see what I mean?
Everything is always to annoy my mother. My dad died years ago, he harvested stone for one of the big companies, he made lots of money. My mom never had a job when he was around, she was just a trophy wife. But when he died, she went a little crazy. She never did find a job, until I convinced Vanessa's mom to hire her as a waitress. We still don't make very much money, but enough to get by. After the first couple of months my mother spent up all the cash my father had saved up, then she broke into my college fund and spent all of that money. Eventually we had to sell everything we bought, but it wasn't enough to cover debts and I was still a little angry with her. She could never be sensible! Everything to her was about love, beauty, and who's the most popular.
I sat down at the table and mother put the lasagna she had baked on the table, it was a small thing, only enough for the two of us. I put some on my plate, poured myself some milk and began to dig in,
"Raia!! You know we always pray before we eat!" My mother clasped my hands and spit out the simple prayer, and thanks to the gods that ruled our world, before she herself dug into the food on her plate. I rolled my eyes.

Mom was big on "following the rules" and she was the one who had insisted on putting me in therapy in the first place. Of all of our parents, she was the one to do whatever the government asked of her. She tried the hardest to keep us separate, to no end. I was pretty sure there was someone in the government, some Guard or something, that was causing this. Either he was paying her off, or he was having an affair with her. It was completely illegal, both of them, but a very good possibility.
​"Remember you have therapy tomorrow, don't be late, and make sure you bring dinner home. I am going out, so I won't be home till late, don't stay up, and don't go out anywhere," My mother ranted off I she began cleaning her plate. With the last words she walked out of the kitchen and up he stairs, without one look at me. I sighed and cleaned my dishes before going up to bed myself.

​"Raisa! Get up! You are going to be late for school, and you haven't even picked out an oufit yet, how sad. Now I'll get your stuff ready, you go take a shower and get ready," My mother practically screamed at me.
​I looked at the clock, I had half an hour, that was plenty time to get ready. I didn't even bother protesting, this ​was her routine. She couldn't wear crazy clothes, but she could certainly choose my crazy clothes, but I always kept a couple outfits at school, just in case. I hopped in the shower, blasting the hot water. I washed my face and shampooed and conditioned my hair. I stood under the hot water, letting the steam loosen my muscles. I looked up to the heavens, and let a few tears slip out from under my eyelids. For a few moments I allowed myself to pity my life, my fathers death, my mothers betrayal, the feeling of being out of the loop, of having lost part of myself. Two or three tears later I took in a deep breath, careful not to inhale any water and shut off the shower. I threw the mental walls I'd learned to put up a long time ago, and stepped back into the world.
​The walk to school was short, my mind racing through all the homework I did not do. I usually got out of detention, I was actually an extremely horrible student. The only class I actually tried to do all the homework and that I actually studied for was Mrs. Derax's, mostly because she was the only one willing to fail me if I didn't. Plus she was my favorite teacher, and I actually liked doing the homework she assigned, like this poem. I loved writing, I wanted to be a story teller when I got older, or a teacher. Both of those positions were worth aspiring too. Storytellers were amazing. Once every month our religious groups went to a place away from the cities, towns, schools, the population, somewhere in the mountains. We would start traveling in the morning around 10 or 11 O'clock and we would usually get to our spot sometime in late afternoon. Everyone would set up a camp, tents, sleeping bags, all the essentials for sleeping outside. Campers were not allowed, this was a tradition, a religious necessary. When it started getting dark someone would make a campfire in the middle of the camping spot, and everyone would gather around for good over-the-fire cooked food, and after a bit of socializing, the Storyetellers would begin. They would tell stories of our creation, of our triumph, and sometimes stories of another world, one not in our system, just one world, out stranded in the middle of nowhere. In this world they didn't have the technology we had, but they did have dangerous weapons. This story was my favorite. I just loved hearing about another world, someplace away from our system, where they didn't follow our rules, where the government systems had to be better, just someplace different. I didn't know if this story was true or not, but I always imagined that this world called Earth would be a wonderful place to live.
​My thoughts were once again dragged away from my fantasy and back into the real world when I walked into school. There was a whole lot more commotion than was usual. I carefully walked around the halls, eyeing all the passerby's carefully, trying to figure out what was wrong. People were huddled around each other's lockers, looking around eagerly, then putting their heads back together and talking, whispering more like. My locker was already surrounded by people, my friends. They had their heads together and like the others were talking in whispers. I slowly made my way towards them, not wanting to get bombarded by my definitely overexcited friends.
​"Raia!" Annalise finally saw me and dragged my into their circle, "Oh my Gods Raia! Did you hear?" Annalise was practically jumping up and down.
​"Hear what?" I asked suspiciously.
​"The government,"
​"New Kid!"
​"Hot guy!"
​"Switched families!"
​Four of them started talking at once, and I barely got the jist of what happened.
​"Whoa, Whoa, Whoa," I practically shouted to be heard, putting my hands up to try to slow them down, "Take a breath guys! Annalise, what's happened?"
​"The government switched families! Apparently they wanted this kid named Michael Bayer to live in one of the other inner worlds, like he apparently showed great apptitude for like medicine or something, so they switched his family with another family from NewHaven! It was a fair switch, of course, one boy for one boy, the families did pretty much the same thing in both worlds. Raia do you know what this means!? A new kid! We've never had new kids! People don't move worlds! The government has to be up to something! But nevermind that, this new kid is H O T! I mean apparently he like had a job in one of the medicine houses, and he worked with heavy stuff, so he's buff! And when I say buff, I mean buff!!! You will never believe it! You are going to love him Raia! And you're the only one I can gush too, I mean because Vanessa doesn't like guys, and Rene already has a boyfriend, she won't even look at other guys! Oh my goodness, you have to see him!!!"
​"Annalise, you're rambling...again," Annalise rolled her eyes and oppened her mouth to talk again, "Annnd, when I see him, I'll let you know what I think of him and then you can gush to me, but right now I have to go to class, can all of you please move!?" It was a question, but it was more of an order.
​The others grumbled at me as they walked away to class. Annalise of course would love any guy that looked even remotely handsome. She was beautiful, her long dark red hair that was braided back matched perfectly with her big, ​gray eyes. She wasn't short, like me, and was by far the prettiest girl in the entire school. She had guys drooling over her, and this new guy would certainly be her next victim. I kind of felt sorry for him, the new kid from NewHaven. Everybody here had grown up together, and over the years had formed their clicks. Now this kid would be expected to join the click of the kid who left, and be friends with them. He came from a world full of plants used for medicine, food, and fuel. He may be strong and buff, but this world full of stone would be something completely out of his league. I couldn't wait to see him, or meet him, it would definitely be interesting. Like Annalise said, nobody moved from their home planet until they graduated, and usually they stayed on their home planet, going through linking stations was a privilage only granted to few.
​I went through my classes not paying attention to the teachers, this stuff was remedial, math or science, I was not to good at math, and wasn't fond of it. Science I was amazing at, but the stuff we were going over in class was stuff I already knew, plus we never actually got to do anything, just read the book. English was okay, but the teacher was boring and never taught us anything interesting, I already knew how to write. It wasn't until I got to Mrs. Derax's class that I actually did anything useful, or just anything besides sleeping and drawing horrible cartoon characters.
​I walked into Mrs. Derax's class right before the bell, slipping into my seat in the front row while she glared at me. I was by far her favorite student, but she certainly did not like my study habits. I pulled out my history book as Mrs. Derax started lecturing.
​"Now, I expect all of you to be working on your poems, they will be do at the end of the semester, which is in about...three weeks. I am also expecting you to do all the research on your own, which means that what we read about Dihain, will be all I am giving you. Today we will be going onto a new subject, the history of the Linking Stations, now this should be interesting. Five thousand years ago," Mrs. Derax was cut off when the door to the room was opened and a boy walked in.
​This boy I had never seen before in my life. So, this was the new kid? I looked him up and down, having a good view of him from sitting in the front row. Annalise was right, though, he was buff, and extremely good looking. His blonde hair was a little spiky, but also had a natural kind of look to it, I doubted he had to do anything besides get out of bed in the morning. His bright blue eyes looked around the classroom taking in everything, the theater-like lecture hall, with stone seats and tables going up five rows.
​"Excuse me." Mrs. Derax looked at the boy expectantly.
​"Oh sorry," The boy said hurridly, taking a sheet of paper up to Mrs. Derax.
​She looked it over, then nodded. Pointing to a seat in the front row, a seat right next to me. He set down his books on the table and sat quickly, not wanting anymore attention. I turned in my seat and looked at him, leaning my arm against the back of my chair, smiling a little bit. I know what Annalise would be telling me, that this was my chance to get to know the new guy. But unlike her, I wasn't great at making new friends, though I certainly wasn't shy. He looked at me, smiled a cocky smile, then looked away. Mrs. Derax began her lecture again, and I reluctantly turned back to the front and began taking notes.
​Mrs. Derax wasn't wrong, the history of the Linking Stations was interesting, though it was a story we had been told thousands of time. The Linking Stations had been our greatest feat, it kind of defined us, and kids knew everything they could possibly know about them by the age of 5. Once again, that lucky number. Apparently to link to another world you had to begin by making connections between the two of them. There was this really funky device that would connect atoms from one world to the next. Eventually, with a lot of math and science involved, the two worlds would create kind of a tunnel between them, and one person could travel from one world to the next. Being thousands miles away from each world, this was amazing. The Linking Stations got better over the years, it wouldn't take as long to travel from one world to the next, it was less dangerous, and the government took control of them. They created five linking stations in one area, and then added five linking areas to each world. Apparently the Links from world to world were stronger if there were only so many links, which is what destroyed the three outter worlds, the links were unstable. This was what the textbook and government told us.
​When the bell rang we shuffled out of class, almost running through the halls, knowing we were going to be late. I tried to keep step with the new kid, for some reason just feeling as if I needed to talk to him. I rushed up to get in step with him, then looked at him thouroughly, well as well as you can when you're walking.
​"Hi, New Kid," I said trying to sound friendly.
​"New Kid? That's all I am?" He asked sardonically, looking sideways at me.
​"And that's all you'll ever be, nobody ever comes as early as you did," I said it kind of jokingly, but really it was true.
​For a second he looked sad, "I didn't want to come, nobody wants to leave," He trailed off, then looked at me again, "What's your name?"
​​"Hmmm...guess," I smiled at him, yep I was definitely flirting by now.
​He laughed, "I'm a really bad guesser, just fair warning," I shrugged, "Hmmm...How about...Anna?" I shook my head, "Maria, yes Maria suites your pink hair, no? Hmmm well what about,"​
​"Raia!" Jeremy came up to me and grabbed hold of my arm, "Hurry up, Annalise is practically bouncing waiting for you."
​"But!" He didn't even wait for me to finish my sentence before dragging me towards our table in the cafeteria.
​The New Kid laughed, "Bye, Raia," His voice was extremely seductive.
​We made our way through the crowd to our secluded table, and Jeremy was right, Annalise was bouncing up and down in her seat. I, almost reluctantly, sat down next to her. The next fifteen minutes were spent hearing Annalise talk about how cute the New Kid was, his spikey blonde hair, his buff muscles, and his laugh. Oh, Annalise loved his laugh, and I couldn't argue with her, his laugh was amazing. She hadn't seen me talking to him, and I didn't tell her, I could barely get a word in edgewise. Finally though, she quieted about the New Kid. Everyone was actually pretty quiete, I guess they got all of their talkativeness out this morning in front of my locker. My mind traveled elsewhere, away from the microwaved pizza that tasted like cardboard.
​Nobody wants to leave, that's what he'd said. He was wrong, though, I certainly wanted to leave. Everyone of my group wanted to leave. I wanted to visit the worlds, and never come back, I was already tired of this world, sick of the stone. It's not my home, the thought ran through my mind like a trickle of water, cold as ice. It shocked me. This wasn't my home? Of course it was, I may not stay here in the future, but this was certainly my home. Right?
​"Are you coming over tonight?" Rene asked me, breaking through my thoughts.
​"Of course!" I exclaimed, "All of use right? Tonight in the hills behind your house," I looked at everybody to make sure, they all nodded their heads, seriousness consuming their faces. The bell rang and we went off to our final classes, but my head was caught up in preparing for tonight.

​I snuck out of the house that night with a blanket and what was left of the cake in the fridge. Rene was the documentarist, so she was bringing the camera, Brandon was bringing the stuff for a fire, Annalise was bringing the music, Vanessa was bringing the alcohol, and Jere and Michael were bringing the real food. This was our tradition, while once a month the entire religious sanctuary went into the mountains, once a month my friends and I went into the hills and had our own campfire.
​I rolled up my blanket and carried the cake with one hand, using the other to brace myself on the rocks as I climbed higher and higher until I reached our campsite. Nobody else had ever been up there besides the seven of us, that was why we chose the place. It was difficult to get to, and people were just to lazy to take the time to travel to the top, where we had out little "meetings." ​By the time I reached the camp, the others were already there, and Brandon had started a fire.
​"Bout time," Rene said when she saw me.
​"Oh you know my mother, she takes forever to fall asleep!" I complained, and Michael just laughed at me.
​"You want a hot dog?" Jeremy asked me and I nodded, I was hungry, my mother hadn't made a very good dinner.
​I tossed the cake I was holding to the Michael, who was serving food, and sat down on a stone that made a perfect bench. When Michael had finished passing out the hot dogs we all sat around the fire, eating, and not saying a word. After about five minutes Rene looked around, set up her camera and began.
​"Ready?" Vanessa asked, and everyone nodded.
​Annalise began the music, while Vanessa passed out the drinks, this kind of thing always needed a little bit of alcohol. My braing whirred for a few minutes before deciding on a story.
​"Ten million years ago, there was a God. This God was brilliant, and handsome. He was faced with a universe, but in this universe there was nothing. And so the God created something out of nothing. He created worlds upon which there was beauty. And after he created these worlds, he decided he needed company. So he created a Goddess. This Goddess was so beautiful that her maker fell to his knees before her. But she was a compassionate Goddess as well as beautiful. She did not use his love for her to her advantage, she brought his to his feet and said 'You are our maker, we will follow you and love your. Forever and Always.' And with that he created more and more Gods and Godesses. They all bowed before their Maker and pledged their allegiance to him. He gave each of these God's and Goddesses a world upon which they lived. After thousands of years with his creations, this God decided to create something else, something fare more beautiful than the worlds he created, or the God's who followed him. Something who were given the choice to defy ​him, or to follow him. He created a mortal, a human, a girl. And the God fell in love with this girl and had many children. The other God's envied her, and they begged and groveled for a mortal all their own. The God gave into his creations cries, giving them a gift for their loyalty. Each God and Goddess was created a mortal, and each God and Goddess had many children. And their children had children, until each world was consumed with mortals, children of the Gods. But as each generation passed, the children has less and less of a connection with their parents, until finally they had all but forgotten,"
​The music got louder and louder, and my words were drowned out, but it didn't matter we had all fallen into a trance. I closed my eyes, and when I opened them, I was in another world. I looked around me, Brandon, Micheal, Rene, Annalise, Vanessa, and Jeremy were standing next to me. I looked up, the sky was black. It was night, so I mean it is supposed to be black, right? But that wasn't black. This was black, there were no stars, no light, there was nothing. It was completely dark and empty. Then, before our eyes, the sky lit up. There were flashes of red, blue, and white light everywhere. Light poured down upon us. It was absolutely beautiful. Below our feet, what used to be more nothingness, there became concrete, and around us walls were built. The ceiling, though, stayed open so anyone could see the beauty of the universe. There was one chair, it was at the far end of the room that had been created. This chair was made of gold, and it was shining bright. Upon it sat a man, so beautiful it hurt to look at. Ask me what he looked like, and I wouldn't be able to tell you, ah the beauty of Gods. Next to this God another chair formed, and in that chair sat a beautiful Goddess. Her beauty was overwhelming and my knees bent beneath me, against my will. The God that sat beside her did the same, but she pulled him to his feet.
Before me chairs, much like the God's and Goddess' but not as shiny, rose from the ground. Upon each chair sat a God or a Goddess, each of them beautiful beyond imagination. Each of them bowed before their maker. The scene skipped to a world, a world I had seen plenty of times in pictures. This world was called Avenga, and it was home to the courts, where the Guards spent their time deciding our fate. But this world was native, there were no buildings, just trees, no roads, just trails. There was a cry from above, and a young boy dropped from the trees, behind him were his brothers and sisters, and a woman so beautiful, she could match the Gods. The first mortal, the first human, and her children. The scene zoomed out, like a movie, and we were once again sitting in the throne room filled with the God's thrones. Above you could see the twelve worlds that were created for the Gods, and upon each world were thousands of lights, each representing a child of the Gods but as the lights grew sharper in the worlds, the light that shone from the thrones dimmed, until there was almost nothing left of them.
The lights grew brighter and brighter until I had to shield my eyes against them, and when I opened them back up, we were back at the campsite. The sun was shining brightly down on us, and the sounds of traffic drifted up to us from hundreds of feet below us.
Michael coughed before sitting up and pulling Rene into his arms, "Where'd you come up with that one, Raia?"
I stared past the others and into the mountains, "I don't know," I replied quietly. I never knew, they were gifts from our God, he whispered the words into my head, and I spoke them aloud.
"That was awesome!" Brandon replied, though it was more than awesome.
​"Bandon, please, that was more than awesome! That was...amazing...it was a snapshot into the Lord's work! Why the religious sanctuaries stopped using this ritual is beyond my comprehension! I mean to actually see the stories that are told, it's better than reading the books!" Annalise was once again practically bouncing where she sat, she always got excited after a ritual.
​"Anna, you know these aren't just stories, right?" Jeremy asked her cautiously.
​"Well..." Annalise looked undecided, "They could or could not be true, I mean for all we know there were multiple God's, and now there aren't, we might have destroyed them! All I know is that I pray to God every morning and every night, someday maybe I'll know the truth, but that is for God to decide, correct?" Everyone else nodded.
​"Raia?" Vanessa looked at me with a worried look, "Are you okay? You always seem out of it after a ritual. That's not surprising since you are the one who brings us into these...visions. But you look worse than usual. What's wrong?"
I looked at Vanessa, then all the others, "You've never heard the Lord's voice. I hear it every month, it gets...exhausting. Look, God gave us this ritual for a reason. We just have to learn what that reason is, I have a feeling we'll know soon," I stared off into the distance again, until Annalise coughed, "Right now, though, we just live our lives," I smiled at them, trying to be reassuring, "The Lord does what he wants, and we are only his followers," So who wants breakfast? I can cook at my house," Everyone laughed at that.
"Breakfast will be at my house," Jeremy conceded, and we all walked down the hills to Jeremy's house, but my mind wasn't entirely focused.
​The rest of the weekend went by quickly, and I was so focused on working on a poem that I didn't even think of the feelings and thoughts that had bombarded be after the ritual. I went to class in the morning and all my friends were once again surrounding my locker. All of them except for Michael and Rene.
​"Where are they?" I asked quickly.
​Everyone looked sad and depressed, and it was Vanessa who answered, "Nobody knows, they ran away last night. Raia...tomorrows the solstice," She looked at me expectantly.
​"The third solstice of the year? Already? Oh God, I completely forgot. How could we forget? Where do you think they're going to go? There are millions of places in this world that are dangerous, extremely dangerous. They could kill themselves anywhere!" I was going crazy.
Beginning about eight years ago, when we had been forced into counseling, both Michael and Rene had tried to kill themselves, on the third solstice of the year. Every year after that they attempted suicide on the third solstice of the year. Every time we had saved them in time, and afterwards we thought very little of it. They seemed perfectly fine, a little depressed maybe, but never suicidal. And we had forgotten the third solstice of the year this time. And they were gone.
The bell rang and I went off to class like a zombie. I didn't think about anything besides the fact that I had let Rene and Michael down. I should have remembered! Mrs. Dorax pulled me out of my reverie, though, the minute I walked into class.
"Thank you for joining us, Ms. Raia, please take a seat," I walked slowly over to my desk in the front row, and he was sitting in the desk right beside me, which was just a teensy bit surprising.
The New Kid smiled at me as Mrs. Dorax continued with her lecture, "I want you all to remember that tomorrow is the third solstice of the year, which means you will each get the day off from school to go to your religious sanctuaries, which is why you skipped your meeting this morning. Now I want you to also remember that tomorrow is the anniversay of the destruction of Dihain, Visage, and Asha. Of course I expect that little tid bit to be in your poem,"
​By the end of class I was practically asleep, Mrs. Dorax had gone over every little tid bit of the third solstice of the year, and you wouldn't honestly think there were that many things, but when Mrs. Dorax analyzed everything, it took the whole hour.
​I walked out of class not even thinking about the New Kid, but he fell in step with me this time.
​"So...Raia...what are you doing on the third solstice of the year?" He asked me.
​"I'm going to go looking in the mountains for my suicidal friends," I replied, not even trying to be subtle.
​He looked a little taken aback, "Oh...I...I'm sorry."
​"Look, New Kid, I know you're trying to be nice and all, probably, but let me give you some advice. My friends and I, we're not the kind of people you want to be seen with...we're...'unnatural'...people are afraid of us. There are a few who, mind me, want to sleep with us, and those who are brave enough to try dating us. But they have no reputation afterwards.If you want to make it in this place, I'm not the person you want to talk to," I was rambling, but it felt good, even though I was pushing an extremely cute guy away. Vanessa would not be happy.
​"Raia! Raia wait!" He tried to catch up as I stormed off, "Look, you don't know me, you don't even know my name! And you think I care about my reputation? Think I care what people here think of me? I never cared what anyone at home thought of me, and here is no different. Of course I know who you are. You are the talk of the town, well at least the counsel. I don't care what my parents said about you, what people here say about you, I kind of like you, and I want to talk to you. Now can you handle that?" This time he was rambling, but I liked his little speech.
​I stopped and looked him in the eyes. He was telling the truth, and that was strange. His brown eyes stared back at me, ringed with blue, which startled me. No one I knew, besides Vanessa, had eyes like that. I looked closer, there were specks of gold in the blue ring. His angular face quirked as I stepped closer to him, and his brown spiky hair was trembling.
​"You're eyes..." I murmured, and he looked a little confused so I backtracked, "So what is your name?"
​"Oh...well...I think I should make you guess...but I'm not that cruel. It's Caden, but you can just call me Cade."
​"Hi Cade! I'm Raia, nice to meet you," I stuck out my hand and he shook it, "Just one thing though. My friends...their my family. There are so many issues going on right now that I don't even know what to do about you. That may seem a little crass, but..." By this time Caden was laughing, and I smiled ruefully.
​"This entire universe is filled with so many issues, Raia. It's a good thing you have people who care about you," And with that he turned and walked away.


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