The next day, I was still speculating over what Leah had meant. It was pounding in my brain, like a huge headache that just wouldn't go away. What had spurred her to think this way? Had it been a person? An incident? Leah could get into huge trouble over the things she was saying. But of course she was the one running her mouth. I never did. I had always been the one who took less chances, the one who followed the rules religiously. That's because I was scared of disobeying. I had truly grown up at the age of seven, when I realized what kind of world we lived in, and that I had to protect Leah. I couldn't let her get in trouble. Because the penalty for all crimes is death.
After making my toast that I had for breakfast, I buttered it. I ate the toast, and Leah came downstairs just then as she prepared her cereal. I took one of the pills out of my specific pouch. We all had pouches to carry our own pills around in. We took one as soon as the clock struck 6 AM. Five... Four... Three... Two...
The clock chimed six times, and I took my pill. It was small, and able to be swallowed without chewing. The pill was meant to enhance your thoughts, which made us smarter.
Leah watched me as I drank my water after swallowing the pill. She pulled her pill out of her pouch and placed it in her hand, staring at it for a minute as she turned it over in her fingers. "You have to take it," I reminded her gently.
Leah wrinkled her nose. "Why do we have to?"
"Because it's the rule!" I was puzzled. What was going on with Leah? Why was she asking so many dangerous questions?
Without waiting to hear her response, I went out of the house and started heading to school. I had to get there an hour early to get to my flute practice. Playing the flute was my favorite thing to do. It had to be. It was the mandatory activity I had been given once I turned thirteen. Your mandatory activity, or simply what you excel in, is usually set to be your career for life. Someday, it was in my destiny to be either a famous flutist or a math teacher... If I remained in good standing with The Empire.
Stories had been told of people who disobeyed The Empire. These people refused to take their pills and broke laws. Those people had always been taken away to go to a mental facility that was hidden from the general public. And if someone in your family disobeyed The Empire, everyone would avoid you like you had the plague. It was as if unruly behavior was a disease, and people stayed away from those who had came in contact for fear of catching it.
I arrived at school quickly, and saw my best friend, Drew. He was slouched against a tree, reading a book. His red glasses were perched on his nose, and his moonbeam blonde hair looked luminescent as the sun hit it.
I walked over to Drew after I saw him. "Hello, Drew," I said, using the standard greeting. I was careful not to hug him, or show too much emotion. Hugging immediately sent a red flag up that you were a Rebel sympathizer.
"Hello, Juliet," Drew returned the greeting as he stood up, closing his book.
"What are you reading?" I pointed to the large tan volume he had tucked under his arm.
He held it up for me to read the title. How The Empire Saved Us All. "It's for my Advanced Government class," he explained. "I'm doing a report on the woman who founded The Empire, Amaryllis Freed. I thought I'd brush up on my knowledge of her by reading this."
My mandatory activity was playing the flute. Drew's mandatory activity was the government. It was his job to learn about The Empire so he could help run it someday. Government official was currently set to be Drew's future job. He was one of the smartest students in our class, so naturally, at age 13, he was one of the select few to have studying the government field as his mandatory activity. "Well, good luck on your report. I need head to my flute lessons," I replied.
"Have a nice day," Drew responded, already back to being engrossed in his novel.
I walked into the school building and headed down to the music room. I was the only one in there. I got my flute case out of the cubby that all people who played a musical instrument had. I sat down on a chair and opened my case, starting to put my flute together. Once I did that, I sat on the chair for a moment, waiting for someone else to enter the room. Suddenly, someone did... but not in the manner I'd expect.
A strange boy, one I'd never seen before but looked about my age, came sprinting into the room. His shaggy brown hair flopped as he ran, and his clothes were the standard black t-shirt and beaten up jeans. The boy hurriedly stuck his hand in the French Horn that the music teacher kept out for show, and pulled out... a folded slip of paper... a note. He still didn't know I was there.
When he turned around, he locked eyes with me, looking afraid as he processed that I had seen him. His eyes were a piercing emerald that burned into my soul, giving me a tangled set of emotions I could not identify. I opened my mouth to say something, but he cut me off, putting a finger to his lips. "Don't tell," he whispered. Then, he ran out of the room as quickly as he had came.
I was rattled, but more than that, I was nervous. Had he been... a Rebel?
Just then, the music teacher came in. "Hello, Juliet," he said, smiling. "Are you ready to begin your lesson?"
My throat dry, I nodded, coughing a little. "Um... Yes. Yes, I am."
My thoughts wandered. Who was he? What was he doing?
And more importantly, why didn't I tell someone what I had seen?