Chapter One: The Picking

The sun bleakly shined on the compact portals that stacked on top of each other, especially the black ones. They stood, staring mindlessly at me. But of course, the others saw it as home, as my mom would say.

My dad silently sets the plates of my favorite foods on the table as we start to quietly pick them up onto our own plates. Often I would devour them, but I could only find myself picking them off with my fork.

My younger brother, Alex, was no better. He peeked at me once in while, contemplating. I knew what questions he was asking himself. But I didn’t know the answers. Covering my face with my straight long hair, I swallowed the piece of pancake, but it felt like I was choking down a boulder.

After we set our plates in the sink, we grabbed our bags and headed out the door towards the public bus stop. Our country couldn’t afford school buses or cars, I think that’s what my grandparents called it. The roads were too narrow and small, and too many people needed places to get to. Ever since gasoline still existed, the air became unbearable to handle. New diseases came and lungs started failing from the replaced air. So our ancestors had to move to another land, here, were the pollution was less. It didn’t help that the population was getting bigger, despite the many deaths that occurred because of the pollution.

That’s how the Moon and Sun Organization system started. At age seventeen you were either chosen to live during the Night time or Day time. But only a handful of kids got Picked to Night, mostly because no one wanted to live in it, they’d rather be living in the light. But rarely anyone from the Night was welcomed back to the Light. Only one seventeen year old per year was allowed. Rumor has it, that those who lived at Night ceased to be…human. But whenever I saw the Night kids, they seemed to look fine, only that they squinted a lot.  The catch? You can only visit your family once a year. No exceptions. Doesn’t matter how rich you are.

The bus stopped at a school sign with title names on it. Me, Alex, and many other kids rushed to the door, before it even opened, making me lose Alex. I was left with no choice but to follow the crowd and hope to find him without getting stampede. I squeezed myself through the narrow door and followed the group of kids. I looked at the bobbing of head and found Alex’s favorite cap hat ahead. I pushed the kids aside, until I reached Alex. My grandma used to complain how rude people were now-a-days, but I shrugged it off. Everyone did it. If you wanted to get somewhere quick, you pushed people. They understood how annoying the crowds were.

The different ages of students split off to different schools, thankfully leaving more room to breath and less body heat. We were just ways away from the school doors, and there the guards waited. To pick up all seventeen year olds. To pick me up. It was no biggy. Out of the many people, I wasn’t going to be Picked.

“Rumor says they’re going to set the Visiting Time to once every two years.” No matter how quiet Alex was, you could always hear him over the noise.

“Are you trying to make it worse for me?” I glare at him.

He shyly shrugs away, something I don’t often see. “No, I’m just saying to make conversation. I honestly don’t think you’re going to get Picked.” He hesitates. “I know you’re not going to get Picked.”

I didn’t say anything. We picked a random line that were in front of guards, at least two of them at each door. My brother sets his hand on the identity scanner. Then a badge popped out and clipped it on him: Alexander Clifton, School Year 16, Male. He passed the guard and stood a ways, watching me. After scanning my hand, the guards typed in a few things and handed my own badge: Della Clifton, School Year 17, Female. Then he wrapped a plastic blue bracelet, that said, “Good Luck!” But I knew better than to think it was meant to welcome. It was a tracking device, to tell the other guards if I passed the Escape Line. It was supposed to be top secret, but somehow word got out.

“Follow the fences, please.” He pointed at what looked like to be a hallway of wired fenced bars with a set of guards on each side at the entrance. The scanning guard’s partner put his hand on my back, guiding me to the fence like all the other seventeen year olds.

I look back at Alex, who waved then cupped his hands over his mouth. “I’ll see you at dinner!”

I give my best smile and waved. I looked back and entered the fenced hallway. I suddenly hear a cry of outrage. I look back and see a boy fighting off a set of guards, dragging him into the gate. Everyone made way, afraid to get hit by his flailing feet and fists. However, I didn’t move fast enough, suddenly seeing black and red spots and a bleeding nose. I held my nose closed, both spooked and embarrassed. One of the guards in the trapped fences gave me a tissue while some of my class mates help me up from the ground–since I couldn’t seem to find any of my friends–and walked me down the trail

After a flight of stairs down, the ground’s walls were high enough that no one could go over, finally leading to a tunnel. Guards were no longer visible, and kids kept moving. Though, the screams of the boy still echoed down the tunnels, visibly unnerving a couple of kids.

The trail seemed to go on forever, and my feet started to ache until I finally saw an opening to a room. I enter a vast underground stadium that looked more like an opera’s auditorium. Students from every school district sat in cushion chairs, chatting away. Some looked excited, some were quiet, and others bit their nails and tapped pencils. The only people that weren’t fazed were the guards, who guided people in their seats.

“Della!” A voice shouted. I whip my head around search for the source of the voice. My friend Bianca rushed towards me, giving me a bear hug. I tried an easy laugh, but it sounded tight. She released me at arms length as more of my friends came rushing after her. Mark and Delia.

“Can you believe it? We’re at age seventeen! Soon we’ll be off on our own.” She clasped her hands, her sign of anxiety. I kind of envied her. Her grades were perfect, and always on top of things. Names were supposed to be at random, but most of the time they Picked people who were too average. I was basically a B student; never really liked much attention, but did what I needed to do.

“And maybe finally get myself a BB gun, and shoot the stupid squirrels that are always making a mess out of the trash.” It was my friend Mark who spoke. It was illegal for all ages under seventeen to have any type of gun. Well, until you graduated from your seventeenth year of school.

Bianca slapped him withthe back of her hand. “You know it’s illegal to shoot animals.” I subconsciously nod. They were almost extinct from the over population of humans.

“Everyone, please take a seat.” An amplified voice spoke in the microphone. A woman, in a tight bun,  stood at the stage,  looking inspectingly at everyone. When everyone was seated she continued, “It is an honor to see you all together, starting a new life…” She went on for at least twenty minutes, saying that we need not worry and out new lives will be our greatest journey.

“Now, I present you Emperor Gadia.”

Suddenly a hologram of a forty year old man with an appealing dress appeared on stage. He smiled warmly at everyone. “Thank you for coming, it’s a pleasure to see a new generation begin their journey, new discoveries…” He went on about how the Moon and Sun Organization  came. People started hunting each other, to bring the population down. But an intelligent man invented the Moon and Sun Organization system, his–many generations–grandfather. At age Seventeen we had a choice whether if we wanted to live during the night or day. But since the population grew,  too many people wanted to live at Day, so those who they thought were appealing enough were Picked. We had a right if we wanted to join the people of the Night, but cannot replace others. The Nights should be honored and the people will forever respect the Nights. We should be grateful of what we are given. Many countries still have challenges that lead to death, hunting people who were viewed as “unnecessary”.

“Now, it’s time for the Choosing.” A giant glass bowl rose from the stage, a stand holding the timid weight. A woman stood on the other side of the bowl opening the side door. Then the naming began. Kids walked up the stage one by one. Most of them were average kids. Some looked excited about their Picking. I wondered what my parents and brother were doing as they watched the Generation Choosing on TV. Bianca set her hand on my thigh. I look at her.

“You’re wiggling too much,” she whispered, then looked at me close in the eyes. She smiled. “You’ll be fine.” A guard shushed her, and she continued to stare straight at the woman.

The boy who resisted was called. He must have known. Sometimes word got out of who was going to be chosen. Mainly from bargains with corrupted politicians.

“That is all. Thank you.” The woman spoke, her voice impossibly still strong from all the naming. I realize my muscles are tense and relax them in my seat. “We thank and honor the ones who were Picked–”

A man in a business suit quickly rushes to whisper in her ear and pointed at the ball. Everyone became quiet, ears straining. He jog off the stage, footprints awkwardly echoing.

“It appears I have missed the last name in the ball.” She says with the slip of paper in her hand.

“Della Clifton.”

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As You Wait

As a child you would wait, and watch from far away. You hope she would come again. Then something finally, and impossibly, glittered in the dim light. An unmistakeable, distinguishable glitter. And it was either going to be your best hope or your worst nightmare.

Twelve year old Raven stared, frozen in place, wondering if he saw right. If it wasn’t really her, he didn’t want to get his hopes up. The bluish light glittered again, and this time he could make out the figure.

He jumped off his stool and ran out the door, not bothering to put on his boots. He heard his temporary guardian call out in surprise. The woman wasn’t bad at her job, but she wasn’t good either. For a full year, he had to deal with her and her husband. He wasn’t sure how his aunt found friends like them, she was nothing like them. More like on the gentle side, but a tough cookie.

The figure was no longer the size of a pea, but a full image he was able to make out. Aunt Bianca. He couldn’t keep in the tears of joy, whether if the news would be bad or good or whatever the doctor may say. He missed her so much. The sight of Bianca was more beautiful and painful than any other picture he had seen, despite her torn up dress, dirty face, filthy hair that hadn’t been washed in a week, and worn out shoes with various holes. Her bright blue eyes brightened, if even possible, against her favorite blue gem necklace.

She dropped her basket of low supplied bread, and as he got closer he could smell the rotting cheese. There was another smell he would have thought unbearable. But he didn’t care. She held out  her arms, ready to embrace him. When he did, he only felt rough stone. Confused, he looked at Bianca.

But he only saw a tombstone with a blue gem.

Genius Hour Project

So far, the baby hats that I have been crocheting are doing great! I finally understand how to do the double crochet style and how to use it on a baby hat. So far I have made simple baby hats from a video–my first step–then accelerated to make patterns. I made multiple actually, and one of them was a happy accident. The first hat was one of the happy accidents and tried to figure out how to do it again. The second hat was a bit confusing since I was using thin string,  unlike my first hat that was thick, so it was hard to find the right holes to insert my hook into. As soon as that was controlled, I started researching how to make pom poms. However, people aren’t exactly getting to the point of how to create pom poms. That part became, and still is, frustrating. I found one that might get me there, but I will have to wait 45 minutes to pass the information that I already know. I’m planning to wait it out and finally get the information on how to do it, then I’ll make more pom pom baby hats, and maybe older hats for the orphanage.  Just need to keep practicing and I sure will be able to make pom pom hats.

Genius Hour Goals

My genius hour goal will be to learn how to crochet baby hats and donate them to baby orphans, future mothers, etc. As soon as I got the crocheting down, I’ll probably excel the object goal, like make a little fancier hat, make a small, simple sweater–not make it too fancy, as I’m afraid to mess it up if I do. Once I got it down then I might make it fancier. But the objects must be in good condition and at least make the baby orphans or children feel like they’re loved. People often think about giving to the poor–which is a good thing, don’t get me wrong–but the orphans also need some attention. Children who might get low self esteem, need acknowledgement that they’re loved, even to a strange;. It doesn’t have to be a parent or family member. People forget that children also matter. We often think that they’re silly and immature–that they’ll get over their despairs as they grow. Children don’t work like the way adults do. How we let them grow is what they will most likely become. A child who is not often thought about will think no one cares and they got the world on their shoulders. They at least need guidance, guidance that there’s such a thing as love from random people, and they don’t have to act the way they think people expect them to be.

New Beginnings

Jumping off the airplane and let the rushing wind blow on my face as I fall closer to the ground. A man gives me a smile and a thumbs up, as we make whatever moves people make in the sky. We pull the strings from our backpacks that release parachutes, gliding us through the soft winds, until we land on flat land.

Or I possibly want to dive in water with a heavy metal oxygen tank sinking me under the bright blue, Caribbean water. I stretch my hand out grazing the spotted fish with my rough glove as it quickly swims away from danger. Small octopi spray ink in my face as I get closer to them. The black fog clears and I see a barnacled arch of purple, blue, and yellow colors stained on the rock. I swim under it and tell the other scuba diver to take a picture.

Maybe somewhere a little less hot. I walk off the plane and approach a man in a British accent and fancy clothing, saying, Welcome to Dublin, miss. I smile in a nod and walk passed until I reach the front doors, clinging onto my suitcase as it wheels behind me. My hoodie protects me from the chilly air, though glowed in the bright sun. There in front of me is my taxi. Where to miss? my taxi driver will ask. And I’ll smile requesting, show me the beautiful city, sir.

Magical Technology

I knew the moment I opened the door, I wasn’t staying. I could tell the door was forced opened, and the apartment was in ruins. The couch cushions were thrown off and torn, fluff everywhere, the kitchen cabinets cleared out, broken plates and canned foods littering the floor. Fishing my phone in my pocket, I rushed out of apartment and dialed a taxi number. How did they find me? I made false tracks, could they have already found that out? It wasn’t supposed to be so obvious, not yet at least. Did someone bail on me? Who though? I wasn’t close to anyone, and even the ones that I were, I didn’t tell them where I was.

“Hello, this is the taxi department, how can I help you?” A pleasant male voice intro-ducted. Driving my own car would cause suspicions. They probably already got my license plate number from the street cameras.

I told the employee when and where I needed the taxi and hung up. I walked well away from the apartment building, far from there. If they wanted to find me, it wasn’t going to be near where they would suspect me to be.

I probably walked more than an hour to get to a long distance park. There I waited for the taxi. I looked at my watch. It should be here any minute.

Two minutes passed and the yellow car parked in front of me. I stepped inside the cab, getting all my things in place, at least the stuff that I had.

“Where to, Miss?” the driver asked in a New York accent.

“Portland airport, please,” I requested. He turned on his blinker on and drove off. I watched the world blur behind the window, like how I wished my past would. Ripping my gaze from the window, I looked at my left hand instead. I allowed the outer layer of my hand to open. The sight was terrifying and fascinating at the same time. The skin was in fact not skin, but a disguised to cover my true self. The blue veins of magic–real magic–surged through my metal arm and hand, also surging through my techno eye and small part of my brain. Technology beyond human’s understanding, and beyond good hands.

I didn’t understand the technology myself; I wasn’t the creator. I shivered and refused to allow my thoughts to dwell there. I hated the metal on me. I hated what I was. I was once human, but not anymore.

“Sir, you passed the freeway,” I told the driver.

“Yep.” He still kept driving straight.

“Aren’t you going to turn back?”

I heard a low rumble that sounded like a chuckle. “Darlin’, I don’t take orders from a cyborg.”

Annoyance and anger boiled inside me and was about to protest until I realized what he said. No one knew what I was, except–

I look at the rear view mirror and gasped. The dull hazel eyes taunted back at me with a smile of victory hidden behind it. His black hair that was underneath his hat and New York accent was so obvious now. Stupid me. I should have never used that phone. I imagined the original taxi driver’s body in the trunk. I grabbed the handle but it wouldn’t budge. The locks stayed put too. I pounded on the windows which were probably hiding me in black glass from the other side.

He chuckled again, “Fell for it again. You’re ours now.”

The Hunt

“This.” He sighed, sweeping his arm through the air. “This is what ignorance does.”

The girl folds her arms. “It’s not like I’m killing anyone.”

“You blew our cover!” He throws his hands in the air. “Now how are we supposed to get the boy?”

Kelsey nudges one of the pieces of glass on the floor that were littered all over the ground. Lamp kicked to its side, feathers exploded out of the pillow, drawers pulled out, door butchered through…honestly, he was over exaggerating.

“I could still convince him.”

Bill snorts. “Good one. We’ll just invite him over for tea and apologize we almost killed him.”

“Hey, I can always convince him that I had mistaken him for some one else,” she puffed. “He seems like a guy to believe something like that.”