~~Intelligence, obedience, fitness, health. Those are the 4 words that make up this society. Those are the words of survival in here. They tell you that family doesn’t matter, love is a weakness we need to repress and if we contribute to society we will be rewarded, if we don’t we’re punished. Here is the dome, the huge glass wall that protects us from the outside world, my prison. The only time you go beyond it is on the annual bus ride to show us that there is nothing out there. There’s nowhere to escape to apart from a barren land to toxic to live on. No man’s land.
I stand impatiently watching the scanner as it asks me to wait for my score to be processed. My eyes slide over the familiar metal walls of the booth I have to visit once a year to receive my score, the number that defines me in here. A high score means high prospects, that I’ve been doing what I’m supposed to, a perfect puppet of the dome. A low score means, well the opposite, that you’re rejecting the system and need to go to ‘rehab’ where they teach you how to be a better puppet. It all comes down to the same thing, we all have strings the dome pulls, some of us are just more resistant than others.
Normally when I wait here I’m fine, I know the number will be where it always is, mid to high 80’s, a good score. I know, that for the first time in my life, my score won’t be impressive, it won’t get me into the honour classes because recently I have not been a well behaved puppet, I haven’t put intelligence, obedience, fitness, or health first. No, for the past 2 months the only thing that’s run through me head is one cold, hard fact. Jason is dead.
My brother, the only person in this world who I could talk to and would really listen me. He brought me up before I got put into the education sector. Raised me when my parents were too busy climbing their career ladders. You put your society before family, you put society before everything. Jason didn’t, he always put me first, taught me how to keep a high score and stay out of rehab. As a child I never understood all of society’s rules and I was in danger of being a reject until he sat me down the summer before out 11+ exams and drummed obedience into me. Since then I’ve always kept my head down for him, I worked hard because he wanted me to. Now he’s gone and so has Lila who cared about the system. The system failed my brother, he was shot by a traitor, some kid from the reject sector I expect. Now my number means nothing so I stopped trying the day I received the news.
There’s a beeping noise and my score flashes onto the screen. 64.
I raise my eyebrows in surprise, it isn’t as bad as I thought it would be. The old Lila would have hated it. I surprise myself as a small wave of disappointment washes over me, not because I want it to be higher but because I want it to be lower. All those outbursts in lessons and late assignments still got me 64? I take my card out of the slot and step out of the booth.
“How’d it go?” Tate asks me and I shrug.
“Not bad,” I mutter and he raises his eyebrow at me.
“You still passed?” He sounds surprised and I nod at him.
“Sorry but you’re stuck with me for another year,” I tease and he looks relieved. As he steps into the booth to find out his own score I lean against the wall watching the others waiting in the line. I catch a few people’s eyes and have to stop myself sighing in annoyance. Since my brother’s death I’ve been the centre gossip amongst the other students. I’ve had all the pitying comments and nods of sympathy from people I’ve barely said a word to in my life. Now they’ve moved on to talk about the honour student who got straight A’s and now barely scrapes a D.
There’s suddenly a sound of protest and Luke Davis storms out his booth. “This is bullshit!” he shouts angrily waving his card in the air. The hall goes quiet as two men dressed in the black guard’s uniform march forward and grab his arms. “Get off me,” Luke protests as they drag him out of the hall. Nobody looks him in the eye as he struggles against the guards. He’s a reject which means his score is below 50. I watch the back of his head for a moment, we all knew he’d get rejected. 3 weeks ago he was caught giving the answers to a test to one of the younger pupils. I lower my head as I remember what Luke had told me about it. The kid was dyslexic and Luke had found him crying in the library and taken pity on him. That one moment of compassion has cost him his future, they say you can get out of rehab but it rarely happens. Once you become a reject you’ll always be a reject. I know that kid will be rejected as well.
Luke disappears out of the hall and people resume their conversation, pretending it didn’t happen. I look over at Jonny and Dave, Luke’s friends, and see them laughing at a video on Jonny’s phone. I shake my head in frustration, people here are like robots, deleting others from their memories as soon as they become irrelevant. That’s what happened to my brother, he’s been forgotten by everyone, everyone apart from me. As my eyes wonder back over to the door Luke was taken through I imagine for a moment that it was me who was rejected. Would I march out of here with my head held high? Or would they take me kicking and screaming?
I shudder a little at the thought and realise it was foolish of me to be annoyed that my score isn’t lower. Being a reject can never be a good thing. I know rehab isn’t a good place, it’s the dark place in the dome, the poorest place where the criminals go as well as the rebels. They say they separate the under 18’s to the others but we know that people in there are mostly left to run wild. You can’t improve your score because the schooling is awful, no decent teacher wants to work there. Jason was a guard in the rehab sector, it was where he was shot, and even though I asked him about it he never said much. He only told me it was a bad place and he hoped I never ended up there.
He isn’t here now though and even though I know it’s foolish, as I lay in bed last night I thought about the possibility of my score being below 50. I thought about going in there and finding the person who killed my brother and doing the same to him. I know that isn’t possible though because the dome had beaten me to it.
I remember the day they broke the news to me and my parents, bluntly and straight to the point.
“Good morning Mr and Mrs Daniels, take a seat, yes Miss you can stand just there. Now, you’ve been brought here to discuss the recent demise of your son, Jason Daniels,” just like that the man had brought my world crashing down, he didn’t even speak directly to me either, just my parents. He didn’t even try to soften the words or prepare us in any way.
As expected my parents were both perfectly composed about it, speaking about the arrangements for his funeral while I stood there, the room becoming a blur as tears stung my eyes and my heart seemed to fall out of my chest. To them Jason was just a name on a birth certificate, a disgrace to the Daniel line because he hadn’t managed to get into the 80+ range. I wanted to shout over the top of them and demand exactly what happened but the words got stuck in my throat as I whimpered behind my parents, still both perfectly calm which hurt me even more.
I always think that his death was a relief to them and it made me lose the little respect I held for them. The man did address me once, asking if I wanted a moment outside. I’d shaken my head and caught my mother rolling her eyes a little. “She’s always been a bit of a drama queen,” she’d muttered to the man just before we’d left. To call her my mother is a lose term, she doesn’t have a maternal bone in her body. “Rest assure though, the culprit for this devastating crime has been caught and dealt with.” My parents had thanked him and I’d nodded in fake gratitude. Yes, every thing’s ok now justice has been done. You fixed it, just like you fix everything.