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.