Rite to Life

In a future, yet illusive world, society is divided into three factions. No one ever speaks of Faction One since the feud between people and the king. Nara is from Faction Two. She has survived sixteen years under the care of volunteers. Sixteen years of living in Faction Two is like living in eighteenth century London, although that place doesn’t exist any more. Nara has dreamed of life in Faction Three, a safe, prosperous haven, a sanctuary, where her birth parents wait for her. Only the Rite separates them. Every citizen at aged sixteen must undergo the Rite to gain access into Faction Three, the land of the perfect beings. The Rite corrects all imperfections and flaws, gives people the Third Eye. A higher level of consciousness. When she finally gets to Faction Three, cracks begin to show. Secrets are soon revealed to Nara and she must do everything in her power to expose them to the population. Faction Three is not what it seems. It is a dark, cryptic place


2. Chapter One - Nara


“Pass the bread rolls, would you, love?” Jonathon asked, revealing a mouth full of half chewed food, as he patted his corpulent stomach.

Jonathon, and his wife Tallulah, were my carers. They treated me relatively well, of course, as the state decreed. Well; they didn’t have much of a choice, did they? They were failures, so this is what they had to do. Their experience of the Rite had carved their destiny into the government databases. Their carers had abandoned them, however inadequate their skills and resources, they were forced to find a way to survive. And so, like two lost souls, they found each other, like many others at the time. And it came to pass; somehow, that they were given a child to care for.

But every time I looked at them, even with bread crumbs stuck to their lips, I could see the envy that burned in their eyes like wildfire, such bitterness that stirred within them. They'd seen my potential, what my future might hold, and saw only disappointment in themselves. It was something they’d never admitted, not even to each other.

In Faction Two, it was mandatory to live a simple life, and those who were registered as volunteers had no way to escape such a plain lifestyle. More often than not, advertisements televised the luxurious standard of living in Faction Three, perhaps to motivate those approaching the Rite. If you failed, well, you had no chance.

“Stop staring, Nara. And what have I told you about eating with your mouth open?” the high pitch of Tallulah’s voice, jerked me out of my daydream. “It’s impolite.”

Like usual, we were huddled around the small wooden table with a delicately embroidered tablecloth, in the corner of the kitchen. Tallulah swiftly took the bowl of bread and handed it to her husband. His mouth watered, saliva might as well have been dribbling like a starving dog, at the sight of the freshly cooked rolls. Savagely, he ripped the thing a part and dunked it into the warm tomato soup. As he lifted the chunk of bread soaked in tomato, to his mouth, I noticed the tiny herbs clinging to the bread. I saw the hunger and the greed in his eyes as he engulfed the bread with his mouth, his lips curling over his fingers, sucking the crumbs and drops of soup off.  I thought it quite ironic actually, that I would be scolded often for staring, whilst this buffoon could sit in front of his family and eat like there was no tomorrow. I knew I shouldn’t hate and blame him because of the Rite. But it didn’t stop me any the less.

To cause a stir, I slurped my soup loudly. Jonathon didn’t take any notice as he continued to rip huge mouthfuls out of his roll. He was a balding, ghastly looking man and I never understood what Tallulah saw in him. Maybe he had been a handsome man, back in the day. That was hard to imagine. But then, I guess she had no choice in the matter, just like the rest of us.

“Nara!” Tallulah gasped. Her eyes shot a warning look across the table. “Where are your manners, girl?”

 Jonathon rolled his eyes exasperatedly and huffed out a loud sigh which fluttered the edges of his napkin. A small, barely audible giggle escaped my lips.

In all honesty, I had always been grateful for their care, but come on; they only provided their hospitality because the state said so. They had told me that if I failed the Rite in a week, I was welcome to stay put until I could afford a place of my own. But in a place like Faction Two, jobs didn’t come easy. People around here worked hard for the little money they earned. King Aldwyn didn’t care much about our island. All of his interest and money had gone into making Faction Three a work of art, a home of many wonders, a land of opportunity.

Someone had scrawled almost unreadable swear words across the crumbling brick walls of our Faction and the King had never sent out security to patrol the streets. We were unwanted, and we did not exist in the King's eyes. The Rite was the only chance of escape. Okay, life isn’t all that bad in Faction Two, there are decent facilities, schools, public places, but the quality of these things somewhat lacked. If I had it my way, the schools would have a fresh lick of paint, a new climbing frame for the lower years. Places for teenagers to escape to, football pitches, youth clubs. If we’re supposed to live our childhood and the majority of our adolescence in this place, it should at least entertain us.

After dinner, I crept upstairs in the hopes I could avoid family time. Normally, after dinner, we’d all sit on the sofa with a bowl of popcorn and watch a film as if nothing wrong with us. As if we were normal human beings. But we all knew what hid around the corner. The Rite loomed ahead and in a week’s time, my fate would be decided.

Pushing the thought away, I climbed onto my bed and kicked the covers back. The patchwork blanket, folded neatly at the foot of my bed, was screaming at me, begging me to wrap it around me, and fall asleep in its soft cocoon. After eyeballing it for a few seconds, I grabbed the thing and hid myself underneath the thick layer of patterns.

My birth parents gave it to me before I was taken to the custody of Faction Two. Most babies were given several items from their birth parents before being shipped off to this dismal dump. I hadn’t spent much time thinking about what they would be like. The only shred of knowledge I had about them laid within the photo. Their crystal blue eyes smiling back at me.

The small framed photo of them perched, untouched, on my bureau. A thin layer of dust sat undisturbed on the top of the frame. They were well dressed, obviously. In Faction Three, you were treated like celebrities. Technology was above and beyond what it used to be. Homes were modern and spacious. TV advertisements had shown me a lot.

I glanced out the open window, the sky a rainbow of colours. As the sun set, the horizon glimmered a warm gold, casting shadows across the land, trees and buildings, silhouettes in the distance. Further up, the clouds were soaked in a soft rosebud pink, majestically dancing across the heavens. A dark night sky formed, stars appearing and twinkling alongside the silver sliver of light - the moon, a waning crescent.

Turning on the lamp on my old bureau, I snuggled up with my romance novel and began to escape into the world of imagination, where anything could happen, where things didn’t have to make sense. Along the wall opposite me, was a ceiling high bookshelf that covered the expanse of the wall. Shelves were full of books I had read over and over again. From romances, to mystery, a few Sci-Fi’s here and there. And a whole load of Young Adult books. The books were the only luxury that I ever received, and how privileged I had been to receive even that. Quite often, I would come to my room, surround myself with the silence and dive into a hardback. Reading the words on the page, I began to lose myself in that world, a world so much better than mine.                            

Tallulah knocked on my door quietly before poking her head around. She sighed as she entered the room. Elegantly, she strode across the cream carpet and yanked my window shut and pulled my thin patterned curtains across the rail with her boney hands. She was a slight woman, her clothes hung loosely from her frame.  Dull blonde hair had been tugged back in a tight ponytail at the nape of her neck, eyes a lifeless grey, full of remorse. She obviously hated the life she led, and somehow, I pitied her.

“It’s freezing, Nara!” She scolded. “We can’t afford to have the heating on if you have the window open all the time!”

I rolled my eyes, wedged the bookmarker into my romance novel and slammed it onto my bureau.

“Don’t have that attitude with me, young lady, or I’ll take away all your books.”

Okay, so it’s stupid to have the window open in this cold weather, but I liked the breeze that fluttered through. The iciness reminded me that I could feel; that I wasn’t completely numb. More often than not, I felt emotionless, my carers didn’t show me any parental affection, so why should I show them any sign of obedience?

Tallulah treaded heavily across the room. With slight aggression, she grabbed my novel off the bureau.

“You need to rest,” she said. “Your Rite is a week away and you can’t go into it half asleep. You can have your book back afterwards. I know what you’re like, Nara; you’ll be up late every night reading it.”

She didn’t wait for me to reply; she switched the lamp off and marched out of the room. Left surrounded by the darkness, I felt incredibly alone, like every night. Tomorrow was Monday, a school day, and I would see my friend Blaze, the kind of person who always managed to find the good in someone, and make the best of a bad situation. He acted as if he didn’t have a care in the world. Blaze truly was an amazing friend, but I can’t help but drive a wedge in our friendship. It has never been normal for me to be close to someone. I have never wanted to rely on someone who could stab me in the back at any moment. Trust doesn’t come easy for me. Yet he persevered, insisting that he would always be my ‘rock’, as he had put it. We’ll let fate decide that.

I clutched the pillow tightly whilst staring at the photo of my parents. I looked like them.

A warm feeling fluttered through my stomach, knowing that this time next week, I could be with them, finally having the life I deserved; a life full of adventure and possibilities. With a higher level of consciousness, I would be able to do and see so much more than those who are not as fortunate. I’d be with Blaze too; he’d be my exploring buddy. We’d travel around the streets of Faction Three, gaze upon bright lights and magnificent buildings. We’d gaze upon extraordinary skyscrapers and if we were lucky, even see the casinos and clubs. I could see it all mapped out in my head.  Passing the Rite is the best thing that could ever happen to me.

Soon, my fate would have been decided.

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