Rite to Life

-THIS IS A DYSTOPIAN-
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

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4. Chapter Three - Nara

“Nara?” Tallulah asked, stepping into my room. “Oh, you’ve already packed.”

Maybe my mind was playing tricks on me, but I swear she had tears in her eyes. Did she actually care for me? Without second thought, she grabbed me and hugged me tightly.

“It will be ever so strange without you around, Nara,” she whispered, choking up. “I will miss you.”

Of course you will...

I could see straight through her lie. I bet she would be overjoyed to have a child free house. She could sell everything that was left in my room and redecorate it. If she could afford it, of course.

“Thank you for taking care of me,” I said, trying to sound appreciative. “You’ve been great carers, but I’m not going just yet.”

“Oh, I know but I just can’t bear the thought of you leaving!” she hugged me tighter and then wiped away her tears. We both stood, idly lying to each other. “I’ll let you have some time to yourself!”

Slowly she retreated to the door, looking back at me over her shoulder.

“It’s been a pleasure knowing you, Nara.”

Tallulah smiled and left the room.

Letting out a deep breath, I tried ringing Blaze again. I really needed to hear his voice, to know that he would be fine. It was the only way I could clear my head, ready for the Rite. It would break my heart if I had to leave without seeing him, hugging him one last time. The last time I’d see that radiant smile and the twinkle in his eyes. Even that would be a punch in the stomach.

I collapsed on the bed in a heap, shoving the boxes out of the way with my feet. Staring up at the ceiling, I noticed the paint chipping away. My carers hadn’t been able to afford to repaint it. They couldn’t afford much. The furniture had never been replaced; they had been here the whole sixteen years I’d lived here. In six days, I could be with my parents. The thought had been playing over and over again in my head. What would they be like? It’s crazy that it’s all I had been thinking about.

The sheets felt rough and itched against my skin; here in Faction Two, nothing had ever been of a good quality. Little time was spent manufacturing the products we spent money on, the money we all worked so hard to earn. Even if someone had the best education possible, they’d still find it incredibly difficult to get a decent job, and even then, you’d get minimum wage. Carers with more than one child to look after barely survived. It was a sad, pitiful story, and we all suffered. Nothing could change it, apart from the Rite. Its importance is so great that thoughts of it clogged my mind.

It is the only thing that can change your life forever, Nara, a small voice whispered inside my mind. That voice was right, of course. Just pass the Rite and everything you’ve ever wanted will be yours. The voice sure did give me a confidence boost.

I nearly jumped out my skin when my phone rang, shattering the silence of my bedroom.

“Hello?” I squeaked, heart hammering inside my chest.

“Um, hi,” Blaze muttered quietly. “Sorry about earlier.”

“I thought I’d never see you again,” I replied softly.

The other end rung in silence, Blaze wasn’t talking. Had he hung up? I checked the screen of my phone and noticed I was still connected.

“I see your phone is still working, then,” he mumbled. Blaze had done several shifts at the shop across town, and the owner had given him a small tip as thanks. He’d spent it all on a phone for me. It might not be some high-tech gadget that I saw on TV commercials which promoted Faction Three, but it still worked. It would have to be good enough for me.

“Thanks again by the way.”

“No problem,” Blaze sighed. “Nara...”

“Don’t say it, Blaze. Don’t try to get me to stay, there’s nothing that you can say that will convince me enough to not attend the Rite.”

“Nara, I...”

I hung up. And then felt really bad for it. It had not been a conversation I wanted to have with him. I didn’t want him to tell me that he wanted me to stay so he wouldn’t be alone. It was about time I did things for myself for once, and I would do everything I could to pass the Rite. Blaze was just going to have to deal with it himself. It had been his choice to not attend the Rite, not mine, so he should face the consequences. He couldn’t expect me to stick around just so that he wouldn’t be by himself.

I had been desperate to speak to him all day, and now that I had heard from him, I just wanted to be alone. Dumping the boxes onto the floor, I rummaged for my patchwork blanket and curled up in a ball on my bed with it wrapped around me. Comforted by its warmth, I sighed and tried to forget everything, if even for a few moments. Fatigue washed over me in a great wave and I plummeted into the depths of a slumber.

I dreamed of a beautiful place, a field, to be precise. Patches of daisies bloomed and sprouted from the ground. A small pond was situated near the centre of the field, with thousands of Frogpit plants sprinkled over the top. Several Water Soldiers sprang up through the water’s surface, resembling the head of pineapples. Day Lilies blossomed around the edge of the pond, petals a beautiful crimson colour.

The bright sun contrasted with the vibrant colour of the midday sky. Several clouds splayed across the heavens dreamily as they slowly floated by. A colony of seagulls flew overhead, their wings fluttered elegantly, creating a rhythmic beat in time with my heart. Staring up ahead, I admired them as they flew above the near trees and escaped from sight. I noticed the field sloped downhill slightly, and at the bottom, was a train track, and a small, old-fashioned steam train whizzed past, creating a wind that burst across the grass. The slight breeze felt pleasant against my cheeks. And in this moment of pure serenity, my cares and worries faded away, reality disappearing with it. Numbness filled my body, washing away the pain I felt in reality. Peace being the only emotion I felt. Only my fantasy existed here. The arms of the wind swayed me gently, caressing my skin, and the sweet tunes of the hummingbirds from the trees floated through the sky to my ears. I would stay here forever, if I could.

My eyes fluttered open and a distressing sigh escaped my mouth. If I could stay asleep forever, that is where I’d be. If only I could be at peace for ever. This was a war I no longer wanted to fight. But it was worth it, right? My parents would be so proud. So proud that I had past the Rite and reunited the family with their daughter.

The actual Rite itself had always been simple enough. Clear your mind and think of nothing, nothing at all. But when your mind had been going crazy, full of thoughts and emotions, it would be almost impossible to forget, to go blank. I guessed that’s why a lot of people decided to avoid attending the Rite; they didn’t have the inner strength to shut down their mind for a few minutes. They didn’t know how to forget everything, let alone want to. Blaze was in the category, he didn’t want to forget. Simply because of that, they are stuck in Faction Two forever, trapped within the wall, prisoners of the junkyard.

Faction Two had always been less important, unnoticed even. No one cared. Had they ever?

Grabbing my phone, I checked the time. 8.00PM. I’d slept through dinner. Scrambling off the bed, patchwork blanket still wrapped tightly around me, I made my way downstairs and into the family room.

“Is there any food left?” I asked. J

onathon nodded without taking his eyes off the TV that we had to slot money into to get it to run. He adored watched basketball. Tallulah nowhere to be seen, perhaps already retired to bed. She was a frail woman, and wasn’t getting any younger. She always looked a lot older than her actual age.

In the kitchen, I poured myself a glass of water and grabbed my dinner out of the fridge. I grimaced at the meatloaf.

“No way am I eating that,” I frowned and tipped it into the bin, not caring about wasting it. Nothing would ever make me eat meatloaf. I decided to make myself some pasta and added some tomato sauce from a jar that had sat untouched in a cupboard for a while longer than it should have. Stirring it in gently, I yawned and headed for the table in the corner.

With my knees to my chin, I munched on the pasta, revelling in its glorious taste - my second decent meal in a row. Suddenly, I found myself thinking of my relationship with Blaze. Have I ever had feelings for him, or vice versa? It was just something else for me to think about, leaving me with no chance of clearing my mind in time for the Rite. I’d never really thought of him as anything more than a friend. I had no reason to. He’d never showed any signs of adoration or love. But maybe I was too blind to realise, even if he had. But none of this would matter next week. I’d be in Faction Three, surrounded by perfection and he would be stuck here. I couldn’t stay here and give him what he wanted. I belonged elsewhere.

This had never been my home. And it never would be.

Mondays were always stressful, but today felt worse than it ever had been. The day had dragged by incredibly slowly making the inevitable seem so far away. Today had been tough, and I had a terrible gut feeling that I could only get worse. I shook my head, trying to free myself from the thoughts that consumed my mind, and scoffed down the rest of my dinner. Moaning, I remembered the stack of dirty dishes soaking in even dirtier water. Grimacing, I stuck my hand into the sink and rummaged around for the plug, Pulling it out, I let the water whirl down the pipe. These plates needed clean water.

Once the water drained away, I shoved the plug back into the hole and began to fill it with fresh water, squirting a bit of washing up liquid as the water plummeted into the sink. How would Jonathon and Tallulah manage to survive without me here, with no one to clear up after them? They would actually have to work. How else would they manage? If I failed the Rite, then I would be clearing up for them until I moved out. And we all knew that saving up for a house of our own would be virtually impossible, what with the little jobs around. We’d be lucky to get even a part-time job.

Scrubbing the dishes with the sponge, I tried to scrape off all the food that had dried and stuck to them. I left them to dry on the draining board. I’d dry them tomorrow. Future me’s problem.

I dragged myself back to bed and collapsed on top of the sheets. Still clutching the patchwork blanket around me, I curled up in ball like I did every time I scrambled onto this bed. Why did everything have to be so complicated? Why did the King have to do this, want so much power that he had to create the Rite? It made people insane. It tore them apart. It ruined friendships. It also brought people together. It was bittersweet.

Surrounded by the softness of my patchwork blanket, my eyelids began to feel heavy. Sleep had been my release lately. Dreaming of my beautiful, peaceful field had made everything else disappear for the duration of my sleep. It had been the only place where I could let go of everything and not have to care about a single thing. I supposed it had become my sanctuary. Silence fell heavily in the air, yet felt so loud. I began humming a tune I made up as I went along. It seemed to sooth me, and I continued to hum until I drifted into a sleep. I appeared in the field again, the sun beating down rays of light, its heat comforted me. That same slight breeze I had felt earlier, contrasted with the warmth. The medium length grass swayed gently in the wind, birds tweeting in the nearby trees. The whole atmosphere of my dream world relaxed me instantly. And then he appeared and the mood shifted completely. What was he doing here? Better yet, how the hell did he get here? He had invaded my sanctuary without my permission. This was my dream, not his.

Anger and irritation washed over me; I glared at him as he approached from the trees. His tall, slender legs carried him across the dancing grass, butterflies and bees whizzing around in a dance as he strolled towards me. His eyes glistening and sparkling as the sun beamed down on us, hair ruffled from the slight breeze that whirled around. I stood rooted to the ground, aggression bubbling inside me. Why had Blaze come to this place? Why had I dreamed of him?

“What are you doing here?” I hissed, hands on hips. Why did I have to bring him here? This had been the only place I could go to escape the nightmare I lived. And yet, he here was, in my dream.

“I don’t know,” he chuckled, lines of laughter appearing under his eyes and around his mouth. He looked beautiful when he laughed. “It’s your dream.”

“Well I don’t want you here. Go away.”

He shook his head whilst laughing and collapsed on the grass and spread his arms and legs to make an angel in the grass. He looked so happy and calm here. I’d never seen him like this. Maybe, because I had always wanted him to unwind and forget about everything, is why I imagined him this way.

“Join me, princess,” he winked, shredding a handful of grass and throwing it at me. However, the breeze caught it and the tiny shards of green flew in a different direction. The heat from the sun warmed and caressed my skin; I felt so at ease here, even if Blaze had intruded.

He grabbed me and pulled me down, catching me off guard. I fell on top of him, and we both started laughing uncontrollably. Grinning down at him, I ripped a load of grass out of the ground and threw it in his face. His laugh as contagious as it had always been.

“Revenge!” I giggled, waves of my brown hair tumbling around my face. In that moment, I forgot everything again. I began to relax around him. He pushed me off and pinned me to the ground, my arms unable to move, pinioned beneath his muscular forearms, his stomach resting on mine. His eyes bored into mine, blue on blue.

“Oh, please, two can play that game, princess.” We’d never been this close before, apart from the occasional hugs we had shared. Surprisingly, I felt extremely comfortable. I began to like him in my dream; I didn’t want him to fade away. I would replay this dream forever if I could, or simply never wake up.

“What are you doing here?” I asked again, quietly, my voice slightly uneven. I didn’t want to breathe, fearing the slightest sound I made would shatter this moment completely.

“You want me here.”

At first, I thought he was just joking around, but I saw the seriousness in his eyes. Did I really want him in my dream? It didn’t make sense. This field had been the only place I could escape to and relax, and yet, with him here, I felt even calmer. But nothing had to make sense here, anything could happen, and I didn’t have to worry about the consequences. I guess that’s why I read a lot. It was a form of breaking away.

I shoved him off me and laughed. Sitting up, I twiddled the longer strands of grass between my fingers. An unusual streak of shyness flooded through my body. What was happening to me? Where had these unfamiliar emotions come from? I’d never been shy around him before, but here, in my dream world, I didn’t have to maintain my facade of sarcasm and pretending that I didn’t care. I knew very well that I cared about him and everything else on my mind, a whole lot. It had been literally all I’d thought about lately.

“You know, you’ll always be my best friend, Nara,” he told me as he stared at his hands, twiddling his thumbs. “No matter where you are.”

A deep sigh escaped my lips, and tears stung my eyes. Why wasn’t he like this in reality, so understanding? I swallowed and forced myself to keep the tears from falling. I shouldn’t cry here, no tears would be shed here. I’d save that for reality. I blinked several times and beamed a smile at my best friend. He grinned back and threw his arms around me, pulling me tightly against his broad form.

“No matter where you are,” he repeated, his words pulling at the strings of my heart, stretching them until they almost snapped completely. My heart acted like a harp. The strings so delicate and soft, even the slightest thing could rip them apart, breaking it entirely. But I wouldn’t let that happen here. I wouldn’t let my heart break in a dream. That would be pathetic.

“Blaze,” I mumbled against his navy polo shirt. “Don’t ever forget me. When I’m in Faction Three, I will not be allowed to have communication with you. The King thinks that’s...unhygienic or something.”

“Never,” he soothed, stroking my hair, twiddling strands of it around his fingers. Why had I dreamt this? Why was he doing this, did I want it?

I screwed my eyes shut, holding back my tears, pretending my eyelids were steel doors, and nothing could break through them. I wrapped my arms around his neck and squeezed him tightly. I cherished every moment of the dream, pretending that the real Blaze had actually been here. But this felt like a heart-wrenching goodbye. Seconds later, I awoke. The gap between my curtains showed me a patch of blackness, several stars stitched to the sky. I resented the fact that I had woken up. I wanted to stay there, with him, forever. Everything had been so easy there and so simple. But like every dream, you always have to wake up.

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