All Nonfiction Bullying Books Academic Author Interviews Celebrity interviews College Articles College Essays Educator of the Year Heroes Interviews Memoir Personal Experience Sports Travel & CultureAll Opinions Bullying Current Events / Politics Discrimination Drugs / Alcohol / Smoking Entertainment / Celebrities Environment Love / Relationships Movies / Music / TV Pop Culture / Trends School / College Social Issues / Civics Spirituality / Religion Sports / Hobbies
- Summer Guide
- College Guide
- Author Interviews
- Celebrity interviews
- College Articles
- College Essays
- Educator of the Year
- Personal Experience
- Travel & Culture
- Current Events / Politics
- Drugs / Alcohol / Smoking
- Entertainment / Celebrities
- Love / Relationships
- Movies / Music / TV
- Pop Culture / Trends
- School / College
- Social Issues / Civics
- Spirituality / Religion
- Sports / Hobbies
- Community Service
- Letters to the Editor
- Pride & Prejudice
- What Matters
“I’m just saying, I don’t understand why we send people to Earth to see if it’s livable, when we already have our lives here.”
“Amara,” Mother says sternly.
I sigh and roll my eyes. “Why are we even going to his dumb meeting? We already know what they’re going to say.”
Father steps into the kitchen with his PicPort in his hand. “You can’t predict the future, Mar…But you can look at the past. See this picture of you and your mother?” He shows me the holographic image emanating from the small, black, rectangular device. “You’re growing up so fast.” He pats my head of brown hair as if I’m his pet and returns to clicking through the pictures.
“We need to leave,” Mother announces, grabbing her bag. “We’re going to be late.” Even though she hates my comments and arguments about our government’s world choices, she seems solemn now. As if she knows what’s coming, too.
I follow her out the door, Father right behind me with his PicPort stuffed into his pocket. He gently places his hand on my shoulder. We’re all quiet. The reality of what’s most likely to happen stands overhead, putting us in a gloomy state of mind.
We make our way down to the public transportation train, where we were told our vehicle would be waiting for us. And there it is, people milling around the all-black car with the giant government seal plastered on the back window – an iron fist crushing a small figure.
Pushing through the crowds, a man holds the side door open. “Amara Jarix.”
I nod, but he still holds the facial identification screen up to my face. Once my information appears on the screen, he gestures for me to enter. He identifies my parents also. But then, even as the door closes, I still hear the hushed whispers of the citizens – “Poor girl,” “I’m praying for her,” “This may be the last time we see Seron’s first born.”
“I love you,” both my parents say simultaneously, clutching onto each other as we pull up to the many government headquarters.
I smile sadly. “I love you, too.”
We stagger out of our ride and a pair of black-clad officials march over to us. “Amara Jarix, and family, welcome. Thank you for joining us when your presence was expected. If you would, follow me,” the taller one instructs. He leads us through the opening gates, the shorter man taking up the backside of our little group.
“Don’t be intimidated,” the short man says quietly in my ear. “Meeting the President isn’t as scary as you may think.”
I look back and give him a small smile, unsure, and he returns it. Finally, we reach the doors and out walks a large man with a dark blue suit. “Welcome,” he says, and I first am taken aback by his booming voice, but realize he’s connected to a microphone. “Young Miss Jarix, it’s a delight to see you. Mr. and Mrs. Jarix, please enjoy the meal I have prepared for you just inside these doors while I speak to your daughter. My officials will show you the way.” He grins down at me. “Come along with me, Amara. Let’s take a walk,” he says, carefully walking down the steps, now disconnected from the microphone.
Mom quickly squeezes my shoulder before disappearing inside. I turn to the large man. “You’re President Syre,” I say.
He nods, folding his hands in front of his round belly. “And you’re the first born child on the planet of Seron.”
I nod to confirm, even though he already knows it’s the truth. “I know why I’m here,” I say quietly. “I don’t want to go.”
He sighs and c***s his head to the side thoughtfully. “Frankly, you don’t have a choice,” he tells me and his voice makes it sound too kind for me to be upset. “I figured you would discover why we brought you here. You’re smart. That’s why I chose you. I think you can survive.”
I look at him, maintaining a calm composure even as my heart beats wildly in my chest. “And what if I don’t survive?”
He stares up at the trees that now surround us on the dusty trail. “The answer is in the question, itself, my dear. You don’t survive.” He glances down and takes me to a small clearing between the tall trees. “Look up at the sky. Beyond the gray clouds and violet sky. Beyond all that you know…What do you see?”
I search for something, my eyes skimming across the sky. “I see what I’ve always seen.”
He nods. “Exactly. But when you do this, you will see and discover more things than you thought possible. It’s an incredible experience. A once in a lifetime chance.” That could possibly lead to my death.
I gaze into his eyes, looking for something unknown. “Why don’t you go, then?”
He smiles. “Now what kind of question is that?”
I sigh because it’s a stupid one. He’s our President. If he didn’t make it back, there would be chaos. No one else is fit to rule our world. “Then what will happen if I survive?” I ask.
He stares at me with a twinkle of hope in his eyes that is on the verge of becoming joy. “We will go back to our true home, Amara. We’ll go back to Earth.”
I stand in a small square room with nothing but a window and a chair to keep me company. That is, until they let my parents inside.
Mother has tears in her eyes that cover up the hope I had seen earlier. She crashes into me with a tight hug, already knowing what I’m going to say.
“I’m leaving tonight,” I say quietly into Mother’s shoulder and Father meets my eyes with a tear on his cheek.
“You can do it, Amara,” he says, holding tight onto his balled-up coat in his hands. “You’re strong. You can survive.”
I shake my head, carefully stepping away from my mother. “It’s not a matter of my own personal strength. It’s a matter of if what killed some of our species before is still there.”
“Then we better hope it’s long gone,” Mother announces, just as President Syre enters the room.
“I hope for the same, Mrs. Jarix,” he says. “Your daughter’s safety is as important to me as it is to you.” He smiles, even though we all have tears rolling down our cheeks. “And to think – the first born child who knows nothing about Earth could be our savior.”
“How?” I ask, wiping at my tears. “All I have to do is survive.”
He reaches out and gently catches one of my tears. “That’s not all, dear Amara. Surviving will be the easiest of your duties.”
They don’t give me a chance to go home before it’s time. All I’m given is a black suit and a backpack. I sit in the small room again with the bag placed on my lap, waiting to be called upon.
I stand up at the sound of my name. “Yes?”
“It’s time,” the short man from earlier tells me. He takes me to my parents, where I only receive a short goodbye.
“I love you so much, Amara,” Mother says, hugging me tightly.
“We’ll be with you soon. Don’t worry,” Father whispers, enclosing his arms around the both of us.
“Your time is up,” the man says sadly, and I know he feels sorry for us. I can tell.
I give my parents one last hug, we say our possibly-last “I love yous,” and then I’m being ushered out the door. It all happens so fast, I feel as if my mind doesn’t process what’s truly going on until I’m standing in front of the daunting spaceship.
President Syre takes me to the entrance and before I can even blink my eyes, it seems, I’m all buckled in and they’re counting down.
I can’t do this.
And then I’m going up, up, up into space, with no one else and no idea what I’m doing. I watch to my side out the window as I pass by stars and see planets off in the distance. They pass by so quickly, it’s hard to understand what I’m looking at.
“Twenty-five minutes until landing on the planet Earth,” the automated voice says loudly.
My eyes, feeling heavy, close. My mind whirls in every which direction, making it hard to sleep, but eventually, I do. But it only feels as if I’d just dozed off when the voice is announcing four minutes left until landing.
I brace myself. This is it. I clutch the sides of my stiff chair and wait for the impact. I don’t know what to expect. It’s not like I’ve landed in a compact spaceship before. I look out the window and gasp at the sight of the blue and green land below growing closer and closer. It’s now that I come to the realization that not only do I think I’m incapable of what I might have to do, but I’m absolutely terrified.
I count down in my head, trying to be prepared. But then the automated voice joins in with me. “Sixty…fifty-nine…fifty-eight…” I’m afraid. What will be on this planet? I don’t know about Earth. It’s been fifteen years since we left. Oh, please let me live… What if it’s so deadly that the second I walk out the door, I can’t breathe and—
The hard crash knocks my head against the back of my seat. I wince, reaching up to touch the knot that’s already forming. I jostle in my seat, fiddling with my buckles. I unlock myself and drop to the floor. I take various deep breaths before carefully standing up on my feet and making my way to the window. I don’t know what to expect, but I’m still surprised by the luscious green trees and plant-life, and the bright yellow sun shining down from a blue – not violet – sky.
I turn towards the door and hold my breath as I press the large gray button. The door drops open and I jump back. I notice I’m still holding my breath, and I close my eyes before letting it go. And not only do I seem alright, but it’s the clearest, deepest breath I’ve ever taken. A grin breaks out on my face as I step down onto the dewy ground, crunching under my feet. I cautiously step forward, taking in the world around me. I decide I don’t want to venture too far from my landing spot, but once I look to my right, I see that I don’t have to.
A row of fifteen ships identical to the one I came down in sit in a jagged line. I step up to the fourteenth, but’s it locked shut. I quietly walked past the thirteenth and twelfth because of their complete emptiness. I only find something interesting once I reach the ninth ship. It’s halfway open, with some sort of light source shining inside. I check my surroundings before walking up to it. It looks as if it’s a candle, flickering off the wall, and when I peek inside – sure enough, it is.
Suddenly, my heart begins to beat fast in my chest. Someone else is here. I look behind me, searching the trees for someone, even though I don’t know where they’d be. While looking, I hear a noise and without thinking, I race back to my ship. I hurry inside and scream as I see a body hunched over my pack, digging through it.
The figure jerks up and whirls around. “You. You just landed here?”
I nod, but say, “What are you doing here? Why were you going through my backpack?”
The boy stands up straight with his shoulders thrown back confidently. “My family needs supplies.
I stare at him in disbelief. “So you were going to steal from me.” I don’t phrase it as a question, because I can already tell it’s the truth.
He shrugs one shoulder sheepishly, the confidence fading away. “Maybe. Only if there were weapons, which, there isn’t.” He throws me my pack, and takes a large gulp of my water.
“So you survived,” I say. “How?”
“Not only did I survive, but I never left.”
I furrow my brows in confusion.
He sighs with a smile. “You’re new. It’s okay to be confused. Everyone is. Follow me, I’ll show you around.”
I’m not one-hundred-percent sure if I can trust this guy, but I am curious about the secrets this place holds. How am I supposed to lead everyone back to Earth if I don’t know if it’s safe or not? So, I follow him through the trees on a narrow, man-made path. We’re walking for no more than ten minutes when he stops and says, “Welcome to the only living humans on Earth.”
I flick my eyes over the hustle and bustle, a small community busy with work to do and construction in the works. Although I’m amazed, and want to learn more, I can’t help but stagger back in disbelief. Humans? “Y-you’re humans?”
He smiles and nods. “Well, some of us are, anyway. Aren’t you? You seem like it,” he says, going to move my hair aside to see if he can spot my Branding – the mark of the Urthians – the name that was given after they discovered Earth, and the mark that I never received.
I move out of his way, shaking my head, and he laughs. “I’m not human,” I say. “My parents aren’t human. Our President isn’t human. No one on Seron is human.” I’m completely in over my head now. What is this place? Why are there humans?
“Hey,” the boy says. “Don’t sweat it. No one ever gets the full story. But now you can discover yours.”
Earth’s one moon shines down now. I rested, had a glass of water, and napped. I came to terms. I’m here. There’s nothing I can do except what I came to do. But I already have, haven’t I? My job was to see if Earth was survivable, and clearly if they all have, it must be.
I crawl out of my tent, entering into the silent night. A few humans sit circled around a small fire, but none of them turn around or notice me. I snatch a flashlight from my pack and sneak away, following the path I’d walked along earlier.
“Hey,” a girl’s voice whispers. “Where are you going, you little wanna-be Urthian?” The tall, lean girl steps into pace beside me.
I sigh. “I was given false information. It’s not my fault.”
She grins in the dim light. “I just thinks it’s funny, I’m sorry. But how could you think you were an Urthian? You don’t have a Branding – and Urthian’s don’t need water to live.”
I look at her. “My parents drank it—”
“—so you wouldn’t be suspicious.” She takes a deep breath. “It’s okay, though…Anyways, where are you off to in the middle of the night?”
“On Seron it’s the middle of the day.”
“I know. We have a few Urthians among us. And we know what you’re here to do. It’s not going to work,” she tells me once we reach the landed spaceships.
I shake my head. “You don’t know what you’re saying. It has to work. Earth is livable – they need to know.” I enter my spaceship, and as I cast the light around the area, it passes over another warm body. It’s the boy from earlier. The one who was going to steal from me. “What are you doing here?” I ask, pushing past him.
He laughs. “I knew you’d come back. That’s why I’m here. I think you should learn a little bit about what happened.” He plops down onto the hard metal floor and urges the other girl and me to do so also.
“Story time?” the girl says, annoyed.
“Shut up, Clary. The girl needs to know about her home planet,” he says.
“It’s not my—” I start, but he cuts me off.
“It would have been,” he starts. “So, it was nearly sixteen years ago. Humans were happy – traipsing through fields and what not – when the aliens came. They wiped out more than half of us before realizing that there was something that caused them health problems. They couldn’t breathe. There was something around them that didn’t agree with their internal make-up. We still don’t know what that was – because it’s gone now. It could’ve been the intense pollution – who knows? But the Urthians here now, are fine. They are living long, happy lives right along with us.
“Anyway, so, they attacked, then left. But apparently, someone had an idea. Some Urthian thought it’d be a good idea to snatch some human girl for themselves, hm? ‘Oh, she’s so cute! How could we ever kill such a sweet thing?’ And that was you. Now, I don’t know this for sure, but how else would you get to another planet? But then, every year, they sent a ship down. The first two didn’t survive – died the second they breathed in. But the others, except for number Eight – who drowned last year – are living with us. They’re part of our families. They’ve interbred species.” The boy leans back on his elbow. “How’s that for a story? Also, I never got your name.”
Clary shakes her head as the boy sits back up. “Devon, leave the poor girl alone for a second. She just found out that her life has been a lie.”
I suddenly find it hard to breath. My vision grows fuzzy and I just want to hide away and cry. “Amara,” I blow out. I shake my head. “I don’t want any of this to be true,” I say, collapsing into a crying, heaping mess.
Devon places a hand on my back and Clary lies down next to me. She moves the hair out of my face and smiles lightly. “Don’t cry. Your back home now, Amara.”
This never was my home. It was always yours.
Three days later, I’m feeling okay. I spend my days in my spaceship, trying to find out how to contact Seron. I need my parents. I need to go home. They tell me I’m doing pointless work, and no one has ever been able to contact Seron. “Believe me. Dakk’s a techie and he tried for years. Eventually he just had to give up,” Clary had told me on my second day.
“Amara, lunch is ready,” Devon says, walking up the small slope to my ship. “It’s oranges and salad again.” He waits for me to follow, but I don’t. “Come on, you didn’t eat yesterday either. You’re going to have to step away from this ship sometime.”
I shake my head silently.
He sighs and softens his voice. “Amara, please come with me. You need to eat.” He holds out his hand for me to take and my stomach grumbles. He grins slightly. “Was that a whale?” he says, cupping his hand around his ear.
I c*** my head to the side, puzzled.
He laughs. “You’ve never heard of a whale?” I shake my head again and he smiles. “Well, if you come eat lunch with me, I’ll tell you all about them.”
I take a deep breath and grab his outstretched hand. He leads me back to the camp, where Clary sits with a few young children. “Amara!” she greets, and the children copy her. She laughs and stands up. “Before you eat, I’d really like you to meet my family.”
I nod and force a smile. “Alright.”
She claps her hands and links her elbow with mine. “I told my mom a little bit about you. I left out the bit that you’re human because I know she’d just hammer me with questions that I didn’t know the answer to. I figured I’d just tell her while you were there so you can answer them.” She looks back over her shoulder at Devon. “You can come along, you know how much my dad loves to talk to you about woodwork.”
Devon laughs and trails behind us. We reach Clary’s large tent. She moves aside the flap serving as door and ushers Devon and I inside. “Mom, Dad. Meet Amara. She’s a human!”
The tall, yet frail woman resembling Clary stands ever so slowly and meets my eyes. She steps forward, her hands out as if she wants to hug me. “Oh my,” she whispers, dropping her hands once she sees me staring at them. But then she raises them again and places them on my shoulders. “It’s you. I know it. It’s really you…Oh my,” she says again quietly, a tear trickling down from the corner of her eye. “Cassidy, you came back. You finally came back home.”
“Mom, what are you saying?” Clary asks accusingly.
I walk back, bumping into Devon. He looks down at me. “Amara, are you okay?”
I shake my head and turn to go, when Clary’s mother’s words freeze me.
“My sweet, sweet Cassidy. Please don’t leave just yet,” the woman says. “I just got you back.”
“Mom, are you saying that she’s—” Clary starts.
“Yes, she’s my daughter. She’s our little one that got away. Your father and I never told you because we couldn’t bare remembering it all. We’d lost one of our little angels,” she admits and I feel like I need to sleep and never wake up. “She’s your twin, Clary.”
Clary whips her head my way and then it’s as if a curtain is lifted – our noses, our dimples, our dark brown hair, blue eyes. We’re one of the same. “This can’t be happening,” I say quietly and I see the woman who claims to be my mother look at me sadly.
“I’ve missed you so much, dear Cassidy—”
“No, that’s not my name. My name is Amara,” I snap, hot, angry tears streaming down my red cheeks.
Her face softens. “I’m sorry. I didn’t know that they’d give you a new name.” She smiles sadly through her own tears. “Amara…I like it. It’s pretty.” She walks towards me, waiting for a hug, but I push her away even though I can see the hurt in her eyes.
“I’m sorry, I think you have the wrong girl,” I blurt out, even though Clary’s face is proof enough. I burst out of the tent in a rush, my mind spinning.
“Amara,” Devon says, leaving everyone else inside.
I let his arms hug me as I cry. How could a somewhat simple mission have gone so wrong? I was supposed to see if I could survive, kill any humans, tell them I was complete, and then we were supposed to live happily ever after. But I’m one of the humans…so what am I supposed to do now?
It’s been a full week now. I’ve made no progress in contacting anyone on Seron and I’ve made no move to be a part of Clary or her – my? – family’s life. The one who keeps me company is Devon, every now and then. He doesn’t speak much, but let’s me tell him what I’m thinking, which is something I need right now. I have so much to say, so much going on in my head. I’m afraid that if I don’t let some of it out, my head is going to explode.
I miss Seron. I miss my home. I miss my parents. I miss everything that’s familiar. My world – and planets, I guess – have completely changed. I just want everything to go back to the way it was, even though I know that’s not an option anymore.
“Amara,” Devon says one day. “Look!” He points to the sky and it takes me a minute to see the small, black thing zooming down to Earth. “We need to get out of here. It’s going in for a crash landing.” He starts running off, but I stand still. “Amara, come on. It’ll crush you! We need to leave!” He moves his hand, gesturing for me to follow.
I shake my head and stare up at the sky, waiting.
“Amara!” he yells. “Now!” When I don’t make a move, he grabs my arm and yanks me to him. “This isn’t time for playing games.” He drags me along behind him quickly. All I hear is my heart beating fast and our feet crushing leaves beneath us. “Why weren’t you moving?” he yells at me as we sprint through the trees.
I set my lips in a grim line. “Because, Devon, I don’t want to be here.”
He doesn’t have anything to say to that before we reach the camp. “Well, that’s stupid,” he says to me before turning to the whole group. “Everyone, get ready! Take cover! A larger ship is heading this way!”
Everyone hurries into their tents and for a second, it’s only Devon and I. “Well?” he says. “Aren’t you going to go to your family?”
“Are you going to yours?” I ask right back.
“Don’t have one.”
I sigh. “Neither do I.”
He grimaces and pulls me behind a tree. We crouch down in the tall plants with our hands over our heads. I hear the loud crash all the way from here. It shakes the trees around us and a small leaf floats down, landing on Devon’s head. I go to brush it off when he jumps up. “C’mon,” he says. “Let’s investigate.”
We head off running again, back to where we were originally. The spaceship is twice the size of my own and the fifteen others. The door is just opening as we arrive. Two figures step out, with tanks and tubes attached to their tight black suits. They come running at Devon and I and we take multiple, scared steps back.
“Amara!” the woman figure yells, muffled by her thick helmet. She takes off the helmet and my eyes widen. I crash into my mother and her welcoming arms. Father’s right behind her and were a bundle of hugs and tears and laughter. When we recover, I look back to meet Devon’s eyes, but he’s gone.
“What are you doing here?” I ask.
That’s when their smiles disappear. “President Syre found out that you’re human. And I’m assuming you did, too.”
I nod solemnly.
She shakes her head. “It’s nothing to be upset about, darling.” She goes to hug me again, but I move out of her reach.
“You lied to me. You both lied to me. You didn’t need to drink water, I did. You guys are aliens, I’m not,” I say angrily.
They both look utterly offended. “Amara, no. We’re not aliens. That’s what the humans call us—”
“I’m a human,” I shout, suddenly overcome with this hot anger and feeling of betrayal. How could they have lied like this to me? I wish so badly to pinch myself and wake up in my bed with Mother cooking in the kitchen and Father clicking through his PicPort. Why can’t this all just be a nightmare? I close my eyes for just the slightest second, but then open them at the sound of my mother’s scream and Father’s cries.
No no no no no. I collapse next to her body lying on the ground, a spear through her first heart – when one fails, the second one does too. When you stop loving with the first, you stop living with the second. “Mother,” I whisper. “No, stay with me. Please.” I know what I’m saying doesn’t help. It’s hopeless.
I look around, my eyes stinging with tears. “Who did this!?” I call out.
Clary steps out of the trees, another spear in her hand. “I’m sorry,” she says with her own tears running down her face. “I’m so, so sorry.”
It takes me too long to realize what she’s going to do with the second spear as she runs at my father. “Clary! No, stop!” I scream. I race towards her, but just as I tumble into her, she throws the second spear with her perfect aim. “I hate you!” I cry. “I hate you, I hate you, I hate you!” I roll off of her and stumble towards my parents’ failing bodies.
“Mother, Father,” I say quietly, my throat hoarse and eyes blurry.
Mother’s fingers graze my hand and she looks over at Father. I move her arm to touch Father’s hand and that’s it. They die like that – holding hands, with my tear drops on their faces mixed with their own.
Clary crawls over to me and grabs my hand. I try to pull away, but she doesn’t let go. “I’m sorry, Cassidy. I’m so sorry, Cassidy,” she cries.
I push her off. “I’m not Cassidy, and I’m not your sister.”
“Amara,” Devon says as I sit on the edge of the river. He takes a seat next to me. “Clary’s about to be sent away.”
I shrug and look down at the green grass.
“Your mother wants you to be there,” he says.
I reach down and put a finger in the water, creating a tiny block. “She’s not my mother.” I trace tiny circles in the cold water, then wipe it off in the grass.
“Well, then I want you to be there.”
I look at him hopelessly. “Don’t say that,” I tell him. I pick at a piece of grass methodically. He knows that I’ll go if he wants me there.
“But it’s true,” he says, hopping back up on his feet. He holds out a hand and I take it regretfully. We head back to the camp and I watch as Clary is stripped of her weapons, food, and water. She’s about to be taken away when I hear a buzzing noise off in the distance. I turn and look up in the sky.
Another, even larger, black and gray spaceship comes fast. Devon looks up to, and so does everyone else here to see Clary disappear from our lives. Devon grabs my hand again. “Here come the aliens,” he says.
“No,” I say quietly so only he can hear. “Here come the Urthians.”