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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3. Chapter Two- Nara

 

Waking from a slumber, I stretched tiredly whilst sucking in a deep breath. Slowly and silently, I scrambled out of bed and moved to the window and yanked the curtains open, hooking them back. The pink fingers of the dawn languorously flexed across the sky, the sun glowing gloriously as she rose from her sleep, shadows stretching across the landscape.

Sighing, I turned and headed for the bathroom. The mirror above the basin showed me my reflection, tangled hair and sleepy eyes. I turned my back on my reflection and climbed into the shower, letting the warm beads of water wash away my cares. And in that moment of total serenity I didn’t have to worry about my future.

Afterwards, I wrapped myself with the towel, comforted by its warmth. Grabbing my foundation off the side, I smeared it across my face, covering the blank canvas beneath. Mascara wand in hand, I painted my eyelashes. I thought most girls wore makeup as a shield, to hide their vulnerable sides. I sure did. Running the brush through my tangled, matted hair, I thought of the day that loomed ahead of me, another day closer to the Rite. So much pressure was weighted on my shoulders. If I failed, then I was literally doomed.

Downstairs, I rummaged around for something to eat. Last night, we had had the privilege of having our first decent meal in months. Opening the fridge, I stared inside, the shelves bare, the light bulb not working. I pulled out a tub of value junk butter and grabbed the plastic knife off the side and began to spread a thin layer onto the bread. Tallulah would be angry if I used too much.

Shovelling the bread into my mouth, I threw the knife into the sink. This piece of bread would have to keep me going until lunch time, when school prepared free meals. I reckon that providing food had been the King’s only investment into Faction Two. He did not care much at all for the condition of the island so a new lick of paint was out of the question.

“Nara, don’t waste the butter.” Tallulah said nonchalantly. She normally hid behind her facade, pretended to love me and care for me, when in fact, she couldn’t wait to get rid of me. I could see it in her eyes.  “Make the most of your last week in Faction Two, Nara,” she said simply. “You’ll never be coming back after your Rite.”

Her words sent chills down my spine. They were cynically true. And though I tried to block them out, I knew she was right. I’d spent my whole life here, and I could be moving away from here soon. That was like leaving behind a massive chunk of my life, no matter how sadly pathetic it had been. But the end of Faction Two would bring me new beginnings in Faction Three. I could really start to live my life and not have to worry whether or not we had enough food.

She left without another word, leaving me in silence, although my thoughts echoed in my mind, loud as anything. The sink, full of dirty cracked dishes and leftover food, chunks of bread from last night’s dinner, begged me to clean out its contents. Kitchen sides covered in crumbs and sauce stains. Jonathon never cleaned; he was a lazy sod and expected everything to be done for him, and Tallulah had always more or less been the same. She had told me that if her and her husband were to provide me with food and shelter, then I had to clear up after them.

I quickly scrubbed down the sides and swept away the crumbs. I would wash the dishes when I got back from school, but for now, they would have to wait. Slinging my bag over my shoulder, I headed for the door. School: a place of education, yes, but also a place to relax and unwind. Blaze always made me feel serene. He washed away my worries and cares with his smile. Our friendship represented stone - unbreakable.

The majority of Faction Two’s population didn’t own cars, and not even a bike if they were severely poor. I liked to think that I had been lucky to be situated in the better part of this Faction. Further north; people lived in cramped, one room homes, and even ghettoes. I’m rather lucky to be somewhere safer, with more jobs and educational opportunities. There had never been any reason for me to complain. I was better off.

Although Tallulah could afford a second hand, slightly rusted bike, she had refused to buy me it. I had never learned to ride a bike. It had been one of the things I would do when I reached Faction Three. With no other transportation, students like me, were faced to walk to school. The school was a good two and a half miles away. That meant I had to walk for about forty-five minutes twice a day five times a week. I’m not complaining, obviously, how else would I exercise? Like I said, the King never thought twice about putting some money into Faction Two. You’d think a King would want to make his land the best quality it could be, but Aldwyn had never been that kind of man. He only ever focussed on his perfect project.

Outside the black rusting gates that squeaked at the hinges, were a set of benches. Sitting down, I watched the birds flutter their wings in the sky, chirping lightly. Pink streaks of clouds still lined the heavens, although faded now. The winter chill nipped at my skin, sharp like blades, ears burned from the iciness. A smile spread across my face as Blaze approached me with that swagger I loved. He grinned at me, his eyes twinkling.

“Well, hello princess,” he laughed, slouching down beside me. “Was your weekend full of fun-filled adventures?”

“It was...decent,” I muttered. “Could have been better.”

“Were your carers acting up again?” Blaze sympathised, patting my knee. “Don’t worry, bud, you got me.”

I shook my head, trying to stop myself from laughing at him. But that wasn’t the only thing on my mind.

“Blaze, I’m worried,” I said truthfully, looking him in the eyes.

“About the Rite?” he laughed. Blaze had never been too interested in the Rite. “I’m not too fussed. I don’t want to become brainwashed like the rest of them.”

He’d said it. It really annoyed me that he could think of it in that way. The Rite could be the best thing to happen to us and he thought of it as a curse. His black, sleek hair glimmered under the sunlight, and eyes an icy blue, sparkled. Ripped jeans clung to his broad frame and a plain red shirt hugged his shoulders. Lately, he’d been telling me how much he disagreed with the Rite, how those who past, lost control of themselves, they became controlled by the Third Eye. He said that in Faction Three, everything is peaceful and happy because you’re programmed to think that way. I never really understood his view; I’d always believed that the Third Eye made you better. It improved your understanding and knowledge, heightened your senses, it perfected you.

“Stay with me,” he said suddenly, turning around to fully face me. Hope and anticipation glimmered in his eyes. “Stay in Faction Two with me.”

Eyes wide, unsure what to say, I stared at him. Every time I began to speak, my words were lost. The longer I sat in silence, the more disappointed he became.

Blaze looked away.

“I’m sorry,” I whispered, grabbing his face to turn it to me. “You’re my best friend, Blaze. And it’s been hard to accept that, but it’s true. But my family, my parents. I might have older siblings I don’t know about. I need to pass the Rite. I need to see them. I need to be...”

“What?” he snapped with hurt in his eyes, pulling my hand off of him. He stood quickly, stared at the sky and took a deep breath. “What is it that you need to be, Nara? Perfect?”

“Blaze,” I whispered. I could feel knots in my throat. He was right. “You don’t understand.”

“Don’t you get it, Nara?” Blaze fumed, hands clenching at his sides. “That’s what he wants! That’s what the King loves! He needs control. He invented the Rite so that he could have total control over his Factions. I’m not bowing down to him, Nara, and if it means that I’ll be stuck in this dump for the rest of my life, then so be it.”

 “Blaze!” I said, wounded, shocked and couldn’t think of anything else to say.

He looked at me, with disbelief in his eyes, as if I’d just betrayed him, and walked into school.

Leaning back against the bench, I watched the clouds float around. Some of them looked like animals. Imagination was a crazy thing. I wondered what it would be like to live in the Other Kingdoms, was it anything like the Factions? Were they ruled by royalty? It had been rumoured that whatever lay behind the Other Kingdoms, were wild lands and animals and forests of trees. Civilisation didn’t exist there. Maybe Blaze would like living in the wilderness though, he was always going on about freedom. If he lived his life with a load of trees and unknown animals, he’d never be found. He could do whatever he wanted. He’d be free. Isn’t that what he wanted?

I grabbed my bag and headed for class, the bitter chill of the breeze felt too harsh against my face. I took one more look at the fading pink clouds in the sky, and smiled. Dawn was a beautiful thing, especially with the sweet tune of birds humming in the distance.

Walking towards the old school building, with peeling paint, I thought of my parents. Again. I’d been doing a lot of that lately. I couldn’t help but wonder.

                                                          *

“Okay class,” Mrs Bevan, called harmoniously across the room. “You’ll be spending an hour this morning with me in preparation for your Rite. I will help you relax your minds through meditation.”

Blaze slouched at the back of the room, behind a desk that looked as if it was about to collapse. He picked at his nails, occasionally ripping pieces off with his teeth.  Further in front, I sat next to Beth, a quiet girl who rarely spoke to anyone. Her entire aura reflected innocence, her hair pulled into two lose ponytails either side of her face.

“Can you please push the tables aside and form a circle,” Mrs Bevan ordered, sweetly. She was tall slim woman, with golden hair pulled into a lose bun at the back of her head, several strands tumbled free. A small pair of reading glasses perched at the bridge of her nose; frames an indigo colour with blue spirals along the length. She wore a black knee length skirt, a cream coloured camisole and a floral patterned cardigan. Okay, so her taste in fashion evidently wasn’t very good, but she was still a lovely teacher, who would persist to help us with the Rite, and ultimately, a better life. I’d always be grateful for that.

The students helped push the tables aside and we all sat on the floor, forming a circle. Blaze stayed firmly sat at the back of the room. I glared at him and he shrugged me off.

“Blaze, care to join?” the teacher asked.

“I’m okay here thank you,” Blaze said snidely.

“Blaze,” I snapped at him. He needed to try. It was compulsory. “At least try. For me.”

“I don’t want what you want, Nara,” he muttered, pain in his eyes. “Not even for you.”

And just like that, he got up and left the room. The class members stared at me silently. Was I imagining it, or could I see sympathy in their eyes? They knew how this ended. The Rite would separate us, destroy our friendship. But I had to see my parents. I had to meet them.

“Stop staring at the poor girl,” Mrs Bevan said softly, smiling at me. “I’m here if you need to talk, Nara.”

I smiled with appreciation, unable to speak due to the tears that stung my eyes, and the knots forming in my throat. I swallowed repeatedly, trying to break the knots, although they refused to go. Blaze might as well have punched me in the stomach. I’d known him from a very young age, and he’d always been there for me, no matter how hard I tried to think otherwise. Realisation hit me hard. When I moved to Faction Three, he’d be out of my life forever. I’d never see him again.

“Close your eyes and imagine your mind going blank. You’ll need to do the same when you experience the Rite. You need to imagine your mind being a piece of fresh paper, or an unpainted canvas.”

I closed my eyes and tried to imagine, but all I could think of was Blaze. His betrayal twisted and pulled the strings of my heart. My only friend had turned his back on me.

Shaking my head, I rose from the floor, said my apologies, and left the room, my mind too jumbled with thoughts and questions filtered through my brain rapidly. I had to sort figure it out and quickly. I couldn’t go into the Rite with mixed emotions and too much on my mind.

Outside the classroom, I glanced down the corridor, in hope of spotting Blaze before he left, but he had already gone. I didn’t know what I would have said to him. Goodbye, maybe. Thanks for slamming the door shut on our friendship. But I knew that would only make it worse. Nonetheless, I had to see him. We couldn’t depart on a bad note. He had forever been my best friend, and I would do the right thing. I would tell him I accepted his choice.

The rest of the school day past by in a hazy blur, I was unable to concentrate fully because of the many distractions that clouded my brain. Blaze, the Rite, my parents. Shakily, I grabbed my phone from my pocket and rang Blaze. I didn’t expect him to answer. I didn’t bother leaving him a message.

On the way home, I thought continually of Blaze. Where was he? What’s he doing? I had to go home and pack. I knew for a fact he wouldn’t be doing the same. He made it perfectly clear how he felt about my decision. He was prepared to throw away our friendship just to keep his pride. The more I thought about it, the angrier I felt.

As soon as I got in through the front door, I climbed the stairs, grabbed the ladder and opened the hatch to the attic. In the attic, I saw loads of cardboard boxes full of photos of me when I was a child, pictures I had drawn with crumbling crayons. These were things that my birth parents should have, not my carers.

After long moments of rootling around, I found two spare boxes, not enough to contain all my things. I would have to leave behind some of my possessions. Maybe some hand-me-down clothes from neighbours which were too small or too baggy. Ancient china dolls I didn’t want any more. Children’s books I didn’t read any more.

In my bedroom, I placed the boxes on top of my bed and thought to myself. Where do I start? There’s so much that I wanted to take with me, and with so little space. Instinctively, I grabbed my patchwork blanket and wrapped it around the photo of my parents, gently placing it in one of my boxes. I then grabbed all of my best clothes and slung them in the box.

Now stood in front of my ceiling high book shelf, I had to think carefully about which books I wanted to take. I’d already read them all before, but I guaranteed that they would be read again. Which ones did I enjoy the most? I grabbed my entire collection of romance novels and slung them into the other box. Although it was possible to buy any books I wanted in Faction Three, it somehow felt like it wouldn’t be the same. Even though I hated this place far too much to stay, I needed something that would remind me of Faction Two. The books weren’t in good quality; nothing bought here was ever in good quality, but it felt like I had to do it.

After packing, I let out a soft sigh, staring at my bedroom. I wasn’t exactly sad to leave, but I had spent my childhood here. It deserved a place in my heart.

I tried to contact Blaze and it hadn’t been a surprise to me when he didn’t answer. I began to worry.

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