Iron Heart | TeenInk

Iron Heart

November 30, 2016
By MysteriousErudite SILVER, Beaverton, Oregon
MysteriousErudite SILVER, Beaverton, Oregon
8 articles 0 photos 6 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Welcome to my humble abode." -Pride and Prejudice


Everybody contemplates suicide at one point, even though we're all smart enough not to actually do it. My doctor said it was a common symptom of growing up into adulthood, just like mood swings, voracious appetites, and sprouting hair in unwelcome areas.

What a load of crap that is.
To be honest, suicide is the result of the competitive pressure they force into kids these days. And it's sad because one moment somebody can be your best friend and at the next he's your worst enemy. All because you got that perfect score and he didn't. We all were trained to expect perfection.
What they don't know is how much it's affecting us from this inside. What they created was a diehard generation of arrogant little shuts who think they rule the world.
The testing procedures are genius, actually. Back in the day they used an archaic procedure where you colored in bubbles to represent your answers. But that system was full of flaws. What if people saw the test first? What if you filled in a bubble wrong? Now we use a different process, one far more accurate and up-to-date than before. When you take the test, you are drugged into a WILD, or a Wake Induced Lucid Dreaming...
I waited uneasily as I eyed the black coil wrap itself around me.
It was a poisonous, black snake, dexterously slithering its way around me to find its way to my brain. 
It was today. I was taking the intelligence test. I sat up straight, rigid, as the cold piece of machinery gleefully found its treasure, analyzing not only my brain, but my mind and soul.
Every thought and desire was sought after, captured and dragged away for interrogation. I hoped that my years of dedication and fervor were enough to let me pass. My heart raced through different scenarios of what might happen. I continued to listen warily to the distant humming of the Pseudechis, until it abruptly halted.
I watched the piece of machinery receded into the testing room, tentatively pulling back its tools. I watched it methodically roll around me, as a tiger does before he strikes.
The next thing I knew, I was injected with a noxious concoction, and I slumped on my chair, trying to fight the drug. The lull of the drug eventually won over, however, as my averse screams of agony were quietly muffled under the overpowering temptation of ecstasy.
***
I was teleported into a realm of blank vastness. A pure aura of nothingness was around me, causing me to almost feel desolate.
Suddenly, various images flashed before me—a leaf, a white bone, a human body. It was demanding a certain psychological response in each image, which I knew was being measured by the tube on my head out in the real world.
A leaf.
Instantly my mind, through years of practice, instantly thought: Needlelike leaves… Green… Possibly a member of the coniferous family… need more color… How does the image quality work?
The process continued for some time and before I knew it, I was being whisked away again, taking myself away thinking that the test went by too fast.
Too Uunusually fast.
I didn’t even know what my test scores were.
***
I was thrown out of the door, ousted into the glorious world that I knew from childhood. Large, elongated towers loomed carefully before me, showing me the splendor of the town I had befriended. After slowly recomposing myself, I stood and watched the beautiful, grandiose buildings— sanctuaries that offered shelter and business. At exactly twelve o’clock, I knew that the familiar building windows would tinge a shade of white. I knew I would hear a familiar, digital knell, ringing exactly twelve times. Then, either a live face of the governor would flash on the screen, or the lyrics to the country’s manifesto would appear. It would proclaim the words, “Excellence quickly, destroy the vermin.” I can imagine us lined outside, reciting our love, our compassion, and our gratitude through this manifesto.
This was my home. This was where I belonged, I’m pretty sure. These towers watched me grow up.
But I can’t stay.
The man had told me I was an Imbecile— the filthiest, vilest creatures on the planet who didn’t deserve to live.
And I was one of them.
I was one of them.
I couldn’t believe it.
Before I knew it, I was besieged by friends, desperate to know my results. “How did you do?” they demanded eagerly. “What was your score?”
And I showed them. I slowly parted my hair to reveal the disgusting “I” that had been seared onto my face after the test. I watched their shocked faces stare into the gruesome “I”.
“I am an imbecile,” my voiced cracked.
Then I watched their shocked transmogrify into glinting eyes, their mouths curl upwards into a sinister smirk.
They all smiled widely, apparent strains of stifling laughter so present on their faces.
“Then what the heck are you doing here?” my old friend sneered, right before he swung at my mouth. "Stupid boy." The collision was instantaneous.
I tasted it en masse, a heavy, bitter shade of maroon. A caustic bitterness. Blood.
“You know, if I had a choice between being you and killing myself, I would kill myself,” another former friend of mine said, before he too swung at me.
“Idiots don’t belong here.”
“Get away from here, dunce.”
There they were: the four of them, readying for a full onslaught. As I turned around me, I saw that I was surrounded and hopeless. It was obvious titillation to my friends and any possible onlookers, watching me spit blood and get stabbed and stoned.
I think they used their pencils to scratch and stab into my back. The liquid that flowed out of my wounds was a mildly lukewarm temperature, causing me to feel nauseous.
I could do nothing, debilitated, as I watched the spilt blood void into the collecting puddle. Interminable amounts of punches of pure hatred flew at me. It was the purest form of vile loath.
I didn't belong here.
I heard the crowd roar at my agony. Every time I glanced up at any onlooker, they would either wince, as if they were receiving some exotic disease or boldly display a vulgar gesture done with one finger. I was stupid, and they knew it.
I felt the blood spray out, energy and morale draining at every attempt. Torrents and billows of genuine blood. All because I was an imbecile.
Please. Let me live. I won’t ever affront you again. Just let me live.
And just like that, my heart was closed off and was forged into iron. I hated this stupid world. I hated life. I hated myself.

Chapter One
Execution


One of the first things I learned from then on was that life is a vice. It is a voluptuous rose, yet it is covered in thorns and immersed in poison. It is a hellish void that commandeers your life and sops up your blood. And it is a wild dog, gnawing onto your bones, devouring your entire soul.
I am hated in this world. Hated because I do not know, and because I am not worth living. And I guess that's fine. If I cannot contribute to this world, I cannot live. I shouldn't live because I impede society, and because I am an imbecile.
Yet, I exist. We exist, all of us, and somehow we survive.
When I was somehow released, I bolted. I ran as fast as I could to anywhere, anywhere without people. I wanted to escape somewhere far, far away. And eventually, I stopped at in the midst of dense trees. I had managed to escape into a forest, away from the horrible, horrible city.
More than anything, I was ashamed of myself. Where was the need to live? Why did I even exist? I knew I was being tracked down by the second because I was a disgrace to the world. I didn't need to live. Why not end this here?
And I brought up my knife to my throat. Trembling, I pushed it deep into my flesh. Death seemed so pleasing, the end to anything I needed.
I hated this wicked world. Why did I need to live?
I cried. Why did the world have to hate me? Because I was a moron, a dolt. I was an idiotic mistake, the pain of society.
I pushed the knife deeper into my throat. The pure pleasure of the rush of warm blood was instigated. This world meant nothing to me, and I meant nothing to them.
I wanted to die.
I remembered the discrimination and the treatment of the imbeciles. The whips, the scourging, the hate.
Let me die.
I thought of the loathsome attitude the people I once called friends possessed.
Go.
I pushed it deeper, twisting the stupid blade into my stupid soul. I choked on the impact, spewing dark red liquid. I felt immense pain shoot up my neck. The effect was gratifying.
I thought of the trite obscenities and vulgarism purposely directed to people like me every day. I guess I deserved that. There was no need to live anymore. Let me die.
A black hole opened up in on my eyes, and I began to slip away from the world... deeper into the unknown. Deeper. And deeper.
But there had to be a stupid hamper, impeding my stupid actions. There was a sharp whisper wending into my ear, telling me to stop.
I ignored it, rebelliously shutting out the world and its inhabitants. Why did I even live?
Then it came again, a shrill screaming desperately telling me to stop. I opened my eyes to see a lean girl about my age, wrestling the knife away from me.
So I fought her with the best of my pierced energy. I kicked her away from me, and she went flying away from me. And for a brief second I saw her hair part and her massive, disgusting “I”, drilled onto her forehead.
She rushed back at me, wrenching the knife from my hands, making sure I halted my suicide attempt. The strange girl victoriously ripped the knife out of my hands and threw it away in the forest. I saw it fly in the air and land, far, far away.
I desperately clambered after it, but I was tackled with surprising force. She pulled my bloodied face up close to her mouth and screamed into my ear, "Nothing is worse than death! There is nothing ever in the world that you should kill yourself for!" And I slowly closed my eyes, fainting after hearing her last words, “Stupid, stupid. You're so stupid…"

Chapter Two
Exile


I woke up to the acrid smell of smoke. My neck throbbed, and I felt thick bandages caked with a dried layer of blood. I was in a small, pungent tent, set up with a large red cross on the sides.
The flap then opened and that girl’s  familiar face came inside. She had a genuine face of worry and, when she saw me awake, she sighed out loud through relief. She was worried for me.
The girl had smooth, brown hair and a very commanding attitude. She never ceased to appear in control, but never in a bossy way, as I noticed. When she turned, her hair flipped around perfectly, although unwashed and brush neglected.
“Are you okay?” she whispered in a hoarse voice, tinged with uncertainty. “I mean…”
“Oh… yeah,” I said, in a stupor.
And I saw her relax, releasing her stiffened muscles into a more casual state. “That’s good.”
But then I saw her stiffen again. Now from what seemed like hurt and worry, the girl had a face of twisted annoyance. “You’re such an idiot!” she exclaimed, slapping me back into more episodes of deep sleep.
I fell back onto to the bed, clinging onto one thought, “Whoever she is, she is beautiful”
I had a dream. I dreamed I was inside my room, stocked with miscellaneous bricht a bract and winning trophies. I dreamed that I saw my rows and rows of trophies commemorating my knowledge, being the best in the class and winning competitions. I remembered the gentle glint of the rows as they reflected the rays of natural sunlight from my tinted windows.
But none of them mattered anymore, did it?
Nobody in the world cared for how many awards I got. Not one paid me any attention to how well I was doing after that one test.
The trophies didn’t matter anymore.
Life didn’t matter anymore.
Out of the air, a hammer was placed into my hands. I was fueled by the hatred and sorrow of the world. Breathing heavily, I lashed out and shattered all of the trophies. I watched all of them crash against the floor and I would scoop them up only to send the ricocheting across the walls once more. I screamed in the pain and prejudice of the world.
And even in my dream, I would be enveloped in a sense of pain, guilt, and sorrow because I was an imbecile.
The only thing that was worse was facing reality when I awoke.
Over time, I learned that the girl’s name was Pink. Pink like the ancient invention of bubblegum. As with everybody else in the camp, she was deemed an imbecile. Pink was still pretty mad at me for my suicide attempt, but didn’t stop visiting me during my recuperation.
I learned that this camp was tucked away safely in the protection of the forest. They all, still to this day, were being hunted down by the police for execution, because they were all imbeciles. Just like me.
Every day I continued to mourn over myself in an onslaught of self-pity. My heart grieved for home, and would regularly cry out for the place I once called home. I repented over how I could never be smart enough like the others. I had to give up my long earned reputation I worked for in thirteen years, only because I was that much slower to understand. I was a dolt. What I couldn’t comprehend was something I worked so hard for could be lost within moments over a stupid test.
And as with how every day comes with new sunshine, every night came with more dreams.


I started noticing that my usual nights of bland, dreamless rests became vivid, nightmarish dreams that taunted and laughed at me.


There was one night I remember, when I had the most coldhearted dream of them all.


I was back in my room, and it was such a tranquil nighttime that you would believe that pain wasn’t possible.


But the only item in my room was a small, rickety bed, and standing next to me was Pink.


I think in the dream she moaned once or twice and she threw herself upon the bed.


And I was conscious of my actions in my dream. I could have stopped myself. Fornication was something considered scandalous beyond belief, and here I was actually considering.


But I didn’t care.


What did the world do for me? What did I care about the world anymore?


I hated the world. And I hated myself.


And with the hatred I threw myself upon her, feasting my eyes and senses in the only voluptuous pleasure I had in years.


I think this is the way I can get happiness in the world. Anything else in life was not worth living for.


What a stupid, hateful world.


I constantly knew I should have been terribly guilty for what I have done.


But frankly, I didn’t give a damn.

Chapter Three
Utopia


By the time I healed completely, I had learned that Pink escaped first and dedicated her life in building a sanctuary for the others. I was completely amazed on the work she completed by herself to rescue all of us. She was passionate for all of us, defying the corrupt government and law. She did it all by herself.
Today Pink, just as she promised, would lead me outside the tent and see the whole campsite. And that’s what she did. She eased me out of my makeshift bed, opened the covers and led me outside into the world. And I was shocked about what I saw.
I saw a whole village, almost a hundred people living in these quarters. I saw the more hapless, the mentally disabled, lazily situated in the campsite. One was sitting on a log before a campfire, uselessly hanging there, watching the fire crackle and shake.
He had bent glasses, a stained shirt, and old pants. I also saw the memorable imbecile “I” that was carelessly smeared on his face. There were others talking to them, talking about the day while the disabled helplessly drooled while listening.
And I saw children, running around, playing a game of some sort. Some were bathing in a nearby river, drinking from it, splashing in it, or… throwing up in it. Others, like a group to my right, were returning from a newly killed animal, in a boisterous, merrymaking mood.
Everybody there was in extreme poverty, obviously barely managing to survive. And they all had an “I” stamped on their forehead. They all were imbeciles.
But they all were happy, one way or another. Not one person within the premises was preoccupied nor did anybody carry an aura of sadness or burden. They were the antithesis. They seemed jovial, almost… free.
In spite of all this, I was incredulous. How could they ever be happy when they are hated? How could they find joy in being completely stupid? How could they ever be content?
Pink stepped up from behind, reading my thoughts. “We have all learned to live on,” she muttered. “Life is hard, but we have come to accept it.”
But I still couldn’t believe such a ludicrous statement. “How could you accept this,” I screamed. “When you are considered to be the vilest creatures on the planet? How can you accept life when you are hated across this country? Don’t you see how disgustingly stupid we all are? Should we really accept this?”
Pink simply looked at me sadly, and said, “There is more to life than intelligence, you know. It helps a big deal, but life is still beautiful whenever. We continue to live because we have been given the gift of life. Life is all we’ve got, and it is the greatest thing in the world. I hope you’ll understand that.”
And there she left me, occupied and drowned in a wave of self-pity.
I was so, so nonplussed.

Chapter Three
Amends


I quickly learned that there was never anything to do in camp. You were expected to continually expand the camp, spending toilsome days laboring and rummaging for survival. Doing nothing was almost considered felony, because everybody else never stopped working.
The jobs here were varying. Some did the hunting, some did the tool-making, some did the cooking. Even the oldest and the youngest found chores such as cleaning the tents.
You also had to work the toilsome jobs with a freed spirit. Like the concept of laziness, it was a sort of camp superstition that if you weren’t a roisterer, the “bad vibes” would come and infect others. I found the ideologies somewhat satisfying, as there was a purpose to it, and the intentions were in good morals.
Not that anybody actually believed in spirits and whatnot, except for the younger ones. It was kind of cool, really, seeing how people could work and still be happy.
“Where did the camp get most of the materials?” I found myself wondering aloud. With some luck, some nearby eavesdropper would answer, but the reply was always ambiguous. Nobody knew for sure.
Sometimes people would use tools made from raw materials, but other times, I also saw city-made goods, such as a professional butcher knife or a pair of glasses. The village lived in poverty, but not excessively. I never saw articles of ripped clothing, nor did I see extremely sick people.
How odd.
“The spirits come every day,” the most recent guy said half-jokingly, half-sincerely. “If I see my clothes starting to wear out, the next day, I see another shirt outside my door.
“There was one time during the winter when our hunters and our gatherers came back with no food. Yet, every morning, I saw the stockpile with just enough food for us to survive, from bread to fruit. It was a very mysterious time. We have all learned to accept the part of this kind miracle into our lives and not to question it.”
When all work is finished, the afternoon is spent in tending to one’s business. People play, rest, or clean. Cooks happily prepare the evening meals. I heard that on some occasions there was soap, and they split up those amounts to last for the rest of the year.
However, after dinnertime, everybody is rested and Pink and I patrol the village. I liked this time best, because the nighttime tranquility becomes almost overwhelming, an appealing mix of darkness and mystery. I like to observe the sky sprinkled with light touches of stars, inferior to the alpha moon. Sometimes, Pink and I come to the clearing, lie on the cool, crisp grass, and watch the stars. Her eyes always sparkled during the night amidst the stars, in the light brown shade or hers. And her hair would always billow in a graceful way whenever a breeze passed by. By appearance, she seemed sculpted delicately to pluperfection, as if there could have been a brighter future for Pink, if only if she hadn’t failed miserably.
I felt sorry for her, knowing she could have been so much more.
She would laugh and smile at my words, and she would look at me with an intense fervor that I never experienced before. I loved the gorgeous way she would laugh, a light whipping of cream that cushioned any impact.
And I loved the way she timidly held my hand. Bold and callused, the pair of hands also had another side. Her hands were a hypocorism, a nom de plume that completely masked her gregarious habit.
She was the light in the darkness; the water to my stains.
In every possible way, she was absolutely beautiful.
And, as time progressed, Pink began to accept me more. I used to see her avoid me nervously until I trapped and affronted her. Now she was open to my acts of kindness, holding my hand more and talking to me more often. I was still very sad over myself, but it wasn’t as deep a gash as before. I had found a way to overlook it, to forget the nightmare, and to try to live on. I was still a dolt, but I simply hoped to get more out of my life. Besides, my life right now was composed of Pink. She was something I looked forward to every day.
I still wanted to live, even though I had no right.
I would usually start off the night by announce what a fine night it was, watching the twinkling stars laid back against the clear sky.
And Pink would answer, “Ditto.”
And then I would ramble on the about the constellations and the scientific discoveries about stars. Such was the habit I have grown used to since childhood.
Pink would then give me a funny look and ask if I was sure if I was supposed to be an imbecile.
And I would painfully reveal my “I” to show her.
Then we both would lie back and observe the stars once more.
This night, Pink interrupted my thoughts with the answer to a nagging question that has pestered me ever since my departure from society.
“Thorn, do you believe in God?”
“Yeah.”
Pink hesitated. “Don’t you ever think about why nothing ever gets better, even when we are taught that it should? Like He was just testing you all along?”
I thought for a minute. “Yeah.”
Pink sighed. “I had the same question too when I turned eighteen and took my intelligence test. Even the poor and the worst were given a chance right?”
She was right.
“Thorn,” Pink said, voice dripping with agony. “Don’t you ever wonder why not us? Why doesn’t our life get better? Don’t you ever wonder when our life will start to improve?”
I did.
“I eventually found an answer, after months of thinking. You know why God doesn’t give us the favors all the successful guys in the city have? It’s because we’re stupid. God doesn’t favor stupid people like us. God favors people with potential— like the smarter people. We’re nobody. We’re imbeciles. And there’s no way on earth God will ever love us.
“You have to be chosen.” Pink said with a disappointed tone, going on. “Sometimes, people like us are born, and we just need to die off. We contaminate the minds of society. We deserve to die.
Pink took in a steady breath, tears collecting at her eyes. “So I guess our only purpose in this world is to die. The world hates us. God abandoned us. We don’t need to live.”
I sat there, speechless at what Pink said. Pink turns away, embarrassed.
It seemed so true, as every time I wanted help, I was ignored. He was always somewhere else, forgetting about us, forgetting that we existed. We all were denigrated.
We’ll just live, and die. We’ll just die off eventually; we are an overpopulating species in dire need of reducing. We will live and die, without making a difference to the world. We’re just things made to cast away like old toys.
And Pink and I stayed there, sharing a bitter silence.
Thanks, God.

Chapter Four
Misnomer
When I dreamt that night, I was called upon another horrifying image. I was back in the middle of the circle the four of my friends formed. All of them were preparing to attack, and I saw one swing his arm at me.
Only this time, I dodged. And materializing in my hands was a small gun, fully loaded. And once again I saw their loath and hatred for people like me. And I hated them too, with all of my iron heart.
Kindled by my rage, I fired at them with a blind fury, dispatching them one by one. I saw them fall, their eyes closing slowly, and their madness deliberately fading. I then saw their desperation, and their apprehension increasing at an alarming rate.
I c***ed my gun and shot all of them. And I smiled when they died.
I never knew there was a sort of pure satisfaction of knowing that you got your revenge. How suddenly satisfying it was to reduce the ones who impaired you so egregiously. Gauche as it seemed, I felt considerably better, despite the fact that my feet were dipped in their pool of warm blood. I felt a deep sense of  satisfaction.
Finally, I had subjugated them.
I win. I thought defiantly
Afterwards, my dream changed as my friends sank into the ground, out of my sight. The dream constructed myself to make me come to my senses. And then I suddenly felt a sense of guilt for destroying a person’s life, now devoid of any before vindictive attitude. Also, I felt angry.
And I looked up at the sky and yelled, “This is all your fault, God! Look what you made happen!”
I possessed a triad of mixed anger, guilt, and confusion.
Nobody answered my call, except the gusts of wind tearing at my hair. The world remained silent, quietly mocking my yells.
“And I hate your guts too!” I screamed, just before the ground opened up below me. The abyss stretched out its mouth, ready to swallow me.
God hated me. I was hated. He hated me.
And I fell, falling further and further down. The world hated me, and they were doing all they could to get rid of me.
I fell, depressed and sad. I fell farther and farther down without caring what happened next.
I can never win in this world.
Hate. That’s all I felt. It was a pure, ebony obsidian blade that crushed my heart. It was a poison that drugged your mind.
Hate. Hated. Hate.
A strong word. A word that described the world. A world full of animosity and iniquitous people. I hated this world. I hated God. I hated myself. I just wanted to die. There was so much hurt in the world…
The morning called out to me. Yawning, I forced myself out my flimsy, portable tent.
I had soaked up the information Pink had told me yesterday night. Admittedly, I was extremely disappointed. I was wishing somebody would acknowledge me, even the Being I was taught to be God. But I was hated.
I guess I have to accept that.
The whole morning, I couldn’t help but feel abandoned and completely lost. I bit my lip to prevent too much disappointment from leaking through. I plastered on an artificial smile for the whole day. There was nothing good about life anymore. I still couldn’t understand why Pink would desire life over death.
Life was horrible. The more I lived, the more I was stabbed in my heart— the more I felt excruciating pain. Why the heck did I need to live?
***
That night, I met up with Pink again. I had dipped my head whenever I saw her, completely guilty that I had found umbrage in the fact that even God wouldn’t accept me.
As always, she noticed. She always noticed everything. “Did I upset you?”
“It’s not your fault,” I murmured. “It’s my fault I’m stupid isn’t it? If anything, it’s my fault that nobody cares for me.”
Pink timidly placed her hand on my shoulder. How she could be comforting, the leader, and shy at the same time was inexplicable to me. “It’s not your fault.”
That did it. “It’s not my fault, isn’t it?” I screamed. “It’s not my fault that I failed the test, or that it’s not my fault that I am hated, is it? It’s not my fault that I am stupid? If you don’t see that, I can easily see why you’re an imbecile!”
She looked like she had been slapped in the face.
I’m sorry, Pink. But it’s true. I stubbornly thought.
I watched Pink regain her composure, and fix me with her steely eyes. “Follow me.”
I obeyed.
Pink lead me through deep undergrowth into a small shelter hidden by the trees. If Pink didn’t enter the building, I would have found it negligible. It was camouflaged and half-buried in the rich soil. The tiny shanty sloped downward, obviously forgotten by whatever inhabitant for a long time.
The small hovel had little inside it, save for the corners taken over by a soft patch of moss. The walls were cracked and worn, surprising me with its foundation strength. It had been better quality than any building I saw so far. I didn’t see much inside further than that, because the rest was dark.
I expected Pink to light a candle or something to flood the room with more light. Instead, she closed the door, trapping us both inside this small building. But before I could panic, Pink flicked a switch and the whole building sprang to life.
And in the middle of the room was the article I dreaded the most. I was hoping I wouldn’t ever see the horrible piece of machinery anymore, yet it was there right before. The testing machine. My heart raced, and I almost broke into tears again, remembering the memory I was fighting to forget. Why, Pink?
“Sit,” she said.
“Why, Pink?” I whispered.
Pink didn’t answer, but instead shoved me closer to the machine. Instinctively, I resisted. This was the machine that caused my sorrow and guilt. I hated this device and I hated the man who invented this machine. I fought her again like the suicide attempt before, but this time, trying to protect my life.
I kicked her in the stomach, in a state of frenzy to repudiate the traitor. But why was she doing this? I trusted her with my life; I was attached to her the whole time. Why would she do something cruel like this? I thought she was my friend. I trusted her.
At the change of events, Pink noticed my faltering actions and utilized that by thrusting me into the testing chair. The automatic controls instantly curled around me around the neck, waist, hands, and legs. She betrayed me.
My voice broke, heavy from experiencing her betrayal. “How could you?”
And for the first time today she looked at me with pain and guilt in her eyes. “I’m sorry.”
And I hated her for it. There was not one person left in the world to live for. I sat there, silently, as the tube lowered onto my head to interrogate me once more. I couldn’t trust anybody in this world. Not even God; not even Pink.
“I am alone.” I thought miserably, as I forced my eyelids shut, drowning out the noise. If only I could die here, right now. If only. What an impossible word that is. I surrendered to the indefatigable temptation of sleep.
I remember how I was pushed since I was six years old. My teachers would whip me, reopening the gashes that were chastised the day before. If I didn’t know the answer to the square root of 879, my teacher would kick me, whip me until I fainted. If I didn’t meet the standards to the test, I was confined in a corner with wild dogs, allowing them to bite and gnaw my bones. I remembered that until I completed the test, they wouldn’t let me out.
I remember the stench of other student’s dried blood intermix with mine as I let myself get scourged, sometimes get impaled on the shoulder. I would be immobilized for months, being the laughingstock of the class. Some more extreme forms of punishment would include a needle being pushed into your skin every second until you could finish calculating the tangent to the given problem, when you were eight. These all happened to me. All because I was stupid.
When I woke up, I saw the interface screen blinking, announcing its completion. And I saw Pink in the corner, weeping. The chair, sensing my awakening, steady released the cuffs and allowed my tension to release in my body. I hesitantly stood up.
“What’s wrong?” I asked.
Pink jolted, as if she forgot my presence.
“Yes. I’m here.” I added sarcastically.
Pink sighed, obviously trying to hold back her downpour. It didn’t work, I noticed, watching her wet shirt and the miserable state she was in.
I stood there awkwardly, until she finished. When she did, I took a step towards her, but she recoiled, as if hating who I was.
“Get away from me,” she sobbed.
Confused, I shuffled back until there was enough space for her to get up and talk. Sniffing, I saw her force herself up and bolt to the door.
She had amazing speed, but I was built to be faster. I grabbed her by the shoulders, and yelled into her ears, twisting her around so that I knew she heard me. “Tell me. What the heck is going on?”
And Pink, some tears still in her eyes, screamed back at me, “What the heck is going on with you?”
I clenched my teeth and stared at her. “I’m sorry. I don’t understand what you mean.”
Pink cried again and shakily pointed to the testing machine. “You don’t belong here.”
“Yes I do. I’m an imbecile.”
“No you don’t.”
“I’m positive.” I showed her my “I” on my forehead. “I’m an imbecile.”
“Liar,” Pink pushed away from me. “You’re not an imbecile. You got a perfect score.”
And my eyes narrowed. You have got to be kidding me. The only person I loved and trusted with my life had betrayed me. She was still trying to do that. My anger compelled me to go further.
My hands released on her shoulders, but instantly honed in on her neck. I squeezed her until her face turned pale and her voice was hardly a whisper. My only person I loved. The only one I ever trusted. She betrayed me. I am completely alone.
She started breathing heavily, choking and gasping for another breath of air.
Pink needed air. My subconscious blared into my senses, trying to get ahold of me. She needed air. She was going to die.
Never. I would never let her. I hated this world. I hated her, most of all. She was a thieving, distressed sycophant who was camouflaged by the light of beauty. She tricked me.
Nevertheless, Pink tried to speak. “Check," she wheezed, turning a lighter shade of blue.
I turned towards the computer and at the same moment it chimed in, “Congratulations. You have passed your final intelligence test with a perfect score of 1800. You have been rated to be the top 1% of the population today.”
I stopped dead. It was true. Pink was telling the truth. And my head turned back in awe. I stared back and forth at the computer to Pink. My hands shook. And I dropped Pink.
She collapsed on the ground, breathing heavily to catch her breath.
“I’m sorry Pink,” I whispered.
Pink looked at me painfully. “You tried to kill me.”
I looked at her again, seeing the ingenuity of her tone. I was so used to being denigrated. Did Pink really betray me?
“Pink...”
I sobbed and I felt warm tears collect in my eyes. The dumb cowardly ways of mine let it pass. I felt the blockade of shame wash over me. The water was a healing essence to me. It purified my soul and my mind. What did that mean? I wasn’t an imbecile after all.
Pink stared at me and said, “Glitch.”

Chapter Five
Devour
“What?” I asked, confused.
“You’re a glitch. The government deliberately made you an imbecile for some reason. The planted that “I” on you for some reason.”
“Um… probably.”
Pink cried out in alarm. “God, it’s true. You don’t deserve to be here. You were tracking me all along weren’t you? You're here to hunt us down and to turn us into the police!”
That was a lie.
“That's not why I am here!” I said. “Why would I ever do that?”
And we stood there, carefully regarding each other with looks of foreignness. Pink was somebody I thought I knew, like my old friends, like my family, like God. She was nobody. She was a traitor.
And I was so, so sick of it all.
Then Pink sniffed the air and her eyes widened in alarm. She looked at me with pained, grieving eyes that had once belonged to a caring, beautiful girl I once knew. She hated me. 
I remember the last words she said to me. I can still remember them with enough clarity to recall it.
Pink then looked angry. Horrifyingly livid. “I once believed that life was worth living for. What childish play that is!” she had screamed. “You walked into my life, captured my heart, only to stab it with your knife of yours. You captured the whole town’s heart and love, and with it, you destroy it! You horrible beast! We just want to live! We are people too! Why can’t you and your stupid government let us do that?”
I watched her slam open the door and run.
“Damn you, Thorn!” she screamed behind her, words like bullets at my face.
This time I didn’t stop her from running. She hated me. She would kill me. I deserved to be dead.
So I watched her run out. Into an ignited forest fire. The fire, an insatiable monster consuming anything in its path preyed on the trees, the grass, the village. I heard the screams fill the air as I observed Pink nimbly leap over one ember flaking log to another.
“Go, Pink.” I whispered under my breath. “Survive if you can.”
I wouldn’t dare to save her, nor did I know would she let me. All I could do was watch as and celebrate after she survived the forest. I would watch her survive and live on without me, being satisfied that at the very least she lived. At least she lived.
Pink had retreated into the darkness, away from my sight until I heard the pop of a gun. It was a quick, energizing burst of energy, a packed with a storm within the bullet. The gun had a shatter that broke not only Pink but my heart.
I heard her familiar voice scream in agony before she died. Tears leapt to my eyes as I wordlessly heard the play of events. My heart caught in my throat as I listened for a sign of her life. In accordance to the sounds, I imagined them taking a knife –possibly my knife she threw away months ago—and brutally slicing her throat. I envisioned  her blood dripping out from the draw of the knife. Inside my head, I heard the sound of the sweeping slash that cut deep into her throat, the tears landing softly into the ground, and the piercing scream echoing into the night air.
I heard her pain, crying out for someone to save her. Her tears of terror, and her last moments of her life were completely ruined by a cold policeman who hated her life and her existence.
And I did nothing.
I then saw the village nearby in flames along with the innocent people, screaming in agony as the flame burned themselves and their children.
“Do something,” I desperately thought to myself. “Do something!”
But my fear and dread kept me frozen, and my guilt piled on top of my adversity.
I thought of the mentally disadvantaged people, helpless and unable to escape. I thought of the others, hopelessly trying to drag them off, only to result in both of their lives being devoured by the monster. I thought of the kids being singed and burnt by the flames, retreating to the forest, where a collapsing tree would kill them. I thought of their burning skin, roasting in the living hell, lives slipping away.
And I thought of Pink. I remembered how she hated me, retreating into the forest. I thought her dying from the dreaded gunshot.
And I did nothing. I did nothing to save any one of them. I deserved to be hated.
Then I heard the government police approach dangerously close to me. I observed him from close by, making note of his purpose, not looking anxiously around for somebody. He headed towards Pink's hovel, having full knowledge of who was there. He knew where I was.
The man in the black uniform, shielded by the mask of darkness, hurled a pouch that landed at my side. I stifled a horrified scream when I saw the object fly.
“Take it, Thorn,” the man spoke. “You’ll need it.”
I refused to reply. His voice was icy, like needles stabbing into your heart. Instead, I carefully watched him tread away. How did he know what my name was?
Finally, I heard the police retreating away, muttering about the finished case. They sounded arrogant, victorious bragging about their successes. They arranged champagne for the night in compensation for their work. Shortly following that was an eerie silence, a sudden stillness when nothing was in aural comprehension. The wind didn’t dare to blow, nor did the usual chatter of the birds wend resurgently. All life had ceased in a solemn silence.
I heard my head hit the floor as I cried. I didn’t care if the police heard me again that point. I wanted to die, to join the rest of the village. To join Pink. I wanted to apologize and beg her to love me again, the way she used to. I wanted to die, to repudiate my horror and to be devoid of life forever.
I pounded my head against the floor out of regret and sorrow, all the while sobbing inexorably. I pounded myself recurrently, ignoring the pain, and focusing on my sorrow. I cried and cried, pounding myself even more. I hit myself until I bled, and even then I didn’t want to stop.
Stupid, stupid.
My life was a notorious façade that disguised itself to be desirable. I fell into its trap and I suffered a hemorrhage of my life. Everything that was worth to me was extirpated to the point where I wanted to completely give up on life.
I cried loudly, not caring if anybody heard me. I wailed and cried out to nothing in particular. The world hates us. And the dead village, my only family, probably hates me.
I didn’t cry out to the heavens nor did I cry out to my grief for Pink. Everything in the world hated me; I was nothing to them. I was worth nothing.
Even when I am smart, I am nothing.

Chapter Six
Aftermath
I grimly picked my way among the ruins of the camp. Shredded canvas blew with the wind,clinging to the remains of metal frames. I saw the dead, burned carcasses lying there, in a creepy serenity. In my mind, I smelled the acrid smell of burning flesh, dehydrating, wrinkling, and catching fire.
I looked around at the carnage of the bodies all around the camp, in dire attempt to reach safety. I knew I could’ve helped them.
I was a complete coward.
Finally, towards noon, I picked my way among the rubbish towards my shelter again, pausing to make a detour en route to see Pink. When I summoned all my courage to look beyond the tree, my heart caught in my throat. Pink was there, but her soul was gone. All her life and love was blown away, everything there was about her was lost.
Pink was there, situated in an awkward position, arms bent in an unnatural angle. I saw her thin shirt, where the police had shot her, sticky with the red juice. Pink’s hair was the same nest and her neck displayed many welts the police had created. Stroking her hair, I tried to avoid the overwhelming sorrow from seeping through. Her brand that she worked hard to hide, the symbol of shame and stupidity. Worst of all, her eyes were wide open, staring into the vast world above, neither comprehending anything nor seeing anything.
She was an empty shell, a person nobody would know or care about. There would be no happily ever after for her, nor would there be an encomium.Not one eulogy dedicated to Pink.
Oh, Pink.
I started crying again, burying my face into my hands. Why did they have to treat us this way? Why did they hate us?
We wanted to live, but we are tortured and killed if we try. We wanted a second chance, but we are turned away and stabbed in the neck. All I needed was a second chance to retake the test. All Pink needed was a second chance to show what she was really made up. Why can’t they let us live?
Why didn’t they give any of us a second chance? And why would they lie about me, above all? What did I do to become a pawn, something to be toyed with and to be ruled?
What had I done wrong?
When I finally returned to the shelter Pink had set up, I stumbled inside and faced my fears.. Trembling, I loosened the strings in the brown sack the police had given me and dumped out its contents. I grimaced, half expecting it to explode on impact.
Instead, a small, rainbow colored block fell out. It was a message cube. About the size of one’s palm, holographic technology was built into this cube to display a video and to support audio formats with it. What was useful with this was that the device completely erased all its memory put in inside the message cube after playing it. It could also be set to open at a certain date.
I had no idea what the date was.
I lived a life of complete solitude. I waited for days, months, waiting for a sign. I was depressed as hell and my heart ached over Pink. There was no motivation in life, but I dragged on my life, living another day, every day. I did that because Pink told me life was more valuable than that.
Oh, Pink. What was I to do?
Life was a chest full of hopeless lies and the shattering of dreams. It was a disgusting wreck cloaked in a coat of shame. I tried to embrace the anthology of broken promises and the abysmal bits of betrayal, but it never worked.
I didn’t even bother to bury the bodies; there were too many, and I was that squeamish, cowardly person who would never do that. The campsite was the only connection I had left to Pink and the only family I knew. Why would I ever want to obliterate something so lucid to my memory? My memory was all that I had left.
On one night somewhere in the winter, I came back to my shelter to find that the cube was blinking rapidly on and off. The message had arrived. I hurriedly took off my jacket that I had managed to salvage some time during the wreckage and threw it in a heap. My hands shook, partly from cold and partly from trepidation, as one of my fingers activated the cube.
It sprang to life. The cube turned vertically up and spun, generating enough electricity to project my message. I saw my ceiling burst into an array of colors for a split second, until finally settling into its first image. There, I saw a face I yearned to see most. It was somebody I longed for this whole time.
Pink.
I stared at ceiling, and the rainbow cube projecting the colors. I waited for a moment, and then the face moved. It turned to life as I watched Pink talk to me once more.
“Thorn, if you’re receiving this, I’m guessing I’m dead right now, and you’re the only one alive. I’m guessing the police had come to take me away and probably the whole village too. I knew they would eventually get us. But they’d spare you of course. I know they would spare you. You’re too smart to kill.” Pink smiled brightly the way she did.
“I knew you were never an imbecile all along,” she continued. “How?”
Pink laughed with the high pitch I fell in love with, an asset I almost forgot completely about her. “How would I not know if you never ceased to talk about philosophy and history? You’re a genius, Thorn!
“And to prove it to you, I was able to steal one of those testing machines (yes, that was me stealing items from the city to give to my village.) I’m going to be testing you tomorrow, and laughing at your shocked expression. I also managed to steal one of those cubes, which is how I’m talking to you now.
“Anyways, I set this date for you to be Christmas Eve. I wish you a Merry Christmas, and I hope you never forget how much there is in life. It’s something beautiful you’ll never be able to undo when you’re dead. You are worth so much to some people.
Pink paused. “I would never have met you if you killed yourself. I love you, Thorn. Even if you hate me, you will always be in the back of my mind. Whatever I do, I would never stop thinking about you, the snide attitude, the hint of sadness you always bore, and your stupid reactions pretending that there is nothing bugging you. I love you so much because you are you.
And then Pink’s voice faltered. Her tone became serious. “And Thorn, when you do get your perfect score, and when the police hunt me down, do not mourn for me. Don’t call out for me in the open darkness. Go to the city, get a job, have kids. Don’t remember us. No, forget about us. We’re nothing. You’re actually worth something in this world. Don’t lose it that chance.
“The only thing I want this Christmas is to see you truly happy. Go to the city, become famous. Become someone worth looking up to. Erase the imbecile mark on your forehead. You don’t belong here. Go! Before your life gets wasted over a stupid camp that never was supposed to exist. Go, Thorn! You have a purpose in this life. Use it!”
And then, the light flickered off, and the block fell to the floor dead and consumed. I didn’t care. I was crying again, thinking about how utterly wrong Pink was.
No, Pink. I thought desperately, wiping the tears away. You’re wrong. This is my home.
I’ll never forget you, no matter what. This is my home; this is where I found out I truly belonged somewhere.
And just like that, I found that life was bearable. Pink’s words were like a candle, a soft, subtle heat melting my iron heart. Someone cared for me, and she probably would even after what I did. I was wanted in this world. Life was still a nightmare, even though better. Life was a being too that was cursed with sadness, forcing the inhabitant to be filled with sorrow at times. But life was also a sunrise, filled with part hope and joy.


I found that I loved living. And I found that my iron heart was gone.



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