The Trials

{{NaNoWriMo '14}} [cover by @crspencer] Ember lives in the last human city on earth, Haven. Divided into sections the last of humanity struggles to rebuild their once great world. The brightest and best are sent to the trials to be trained to be the next world leaders but as secrets come to light and her old life comes to haunt her Ember realises that her life is all a lie and she is more important than she could ever imagined.

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3. New Friends and New Enemies

The smell of disinfectant and fresh flowers reaches my nose; so overpowering my nose feels like it’s burning. It hurts to breath, a punch in my ribs as the air flows in. I feel the soft bed beneath me, feeling every fiber of the material, every string in the duvet covers intricate web. I try to move my arms but they refuse to respond, my legs as well. I can hear the soft humming of machines and a mechanical beeping noise that fuels my pounding headache. A fire is raging though my body and I fear that all my bones have turned too dust, consumed by a ball of fire that races throughout my body. I try to scream but my mouth stays shut, what feels like a teeth clamp holding my teeth together. My eyes flutter open and a bright light burns them causing me to squint, my eyes blurry with tears. “She’s awake!” I hear someone shout, “get the teraphophlian”. I register vaguely they must be talking about me. I feel a slight pinch in my left arm and a cooling sensation starts to spread throughout my body, destroying the fire and restoring my bones. “That’s better isn’t it” a soft voice whispers in my ear as the darkness engulfs me.

I jolt awake my head ponding. At first I can’t remember where I am, thinking that I am still in the dream. I start to panic my arms flailing around trying to fend of my imaginary attackers.

 “Calm down” a soft voice to my left tells me. I sit back on the cool leather, breathing heavily. “Bad dream?” the voice next to me asks and I nod

“Could say that." I look to the left and find the girl I saw reading earlier staring back at me.

The girl smiles sympathetically and sighs “yeah I hate those” 

“I am Lucy but the way”

“Ember” I tell her, staring to recover. The fear and adrenalin leaving my system.

“Yeah I know.”

I give her a questioning look

“I heard your conversation with Max yesterday." she explains she looks around her voice turning into a whisper ”I am not sure if I like him"

“Yeah neither am I. Where is he?” I say looking around the empty carriage

“In one of the sleeping pods. Threw that door.” She points out a small door at is disguised to blend in with the wall. I can’t believe I haven’t spotted it until now.

“Do you know how long we have left?” I ask

“Well the guy who took us to the train told me it would take a day to get there so we have a few hours left. I think.” I sigh, this is going to be a long train journey.

“Do you want to watch a film?" she asks hesitantly "I found a whole stash of them in a box over there. Turns out now we are candidates we can watch films.”

I smile at her. She seems sweet. “Sure. You pick”

She walks over casually to the crate under the big screen.

“ummmm” she says rummaging through the box “you got any preferences?”

“Well I have never seen a film before so no. Just nothing too girly” I reply excited. My first film, god I wish my brother was here. He loved technology. The thought of him dampens my mood a little. Why do I always have to think about him?

“Ok got one” Lucy says as she takes the disk out and pushes into the machine. “That should work" she mutters to herself and I can’t help feel that I am actually going to like her

“So what is it?” I ask

“Not sure, but it sounded quite cool. Is that ok?”

"well I don't know as I don't know what it is but t should be fine."

“Playing disc dive” a loud booming voice echoes form the screen making me and Lucy jump. I laugh as I realize that it must just be coming from the TV and Lucy joins in with me. “God I didn’t know I was so nervy” I laugh as I smile at Lucy. Maybe the trials won’t be so bad after all.

 

The train has stopped. I can feel it. I look out the window. Yes, we have arrived. The station is so clean and I marvel at the clear glass that lets light flood down onto the tracks below. “Are we here?” Lucy asks running out of the door that leads to the sleeping bunks, kneeling next to me on the sofa. "wow" she whispers, “This is incredible.”

I nod it is amazing. The station is gleaming white, a marble platform with gold decorations and statues and a massive clear glass roof letting light shine down from above. I guess we will get used to the luxury soon but for now I drink it all in with awe. “You two should see yourselves. Staring out the glass like fish looking out of a fishbowl,” Max chuckles. I glare at him and I am about to reply when the door to the carriage opens and we turn around quickly. It’s the man from before stand solemn faced, waiting for us. “Follow me” he tells us. Lucy gives me a nervous look as we hesitantly start to walk out of the carriage. I look back one last time, for some reason the carriage feels like my last connection to home and by leaving it I am saying goodbye to my mum forever. God I am way to sentimental. “Grab your bags” he says pointing to the pile and we obey. I pick up my violin and bag and then walk out onto the platform. This is it, the trials… and I can’t help but feel nervous.

 

“Welcome” a tall man with glasses perched on his nose approaches us his arms held wide. “Welcome to the trials” he smiles at us but it does feel genuine and I shiver. “Now soon you will meet the other candidates but first I will give you a tour. If you would follow me” he says walking away. We move to follow him but then he suddenly turns back around, pausing as if to think, “actually you should probably give  give the drones your luggage first”. I look at Lucy confused then I see three ladies walking towards us, completely in synch same hair cuts and dressed in red so they look identical. “Thank you” I say as I had over my luggage to the nearest one. The man giving us the tour looks at us confused then smiles slowly “Oh right I forgot. Your from sector 8 aren’t you?” he says, we all nod “Well, this is your warning drones are basically servants, so don’t speak to them or you will be punished. They can’t reply anyway, they have no tongues so I wouldn’t bother” He gives me a pointed look as he starts walking again expecting us to follow him. I look to Lucy for support but she looks really pale and is already staring to walk after him. I turn and take one last glance at the retreating red figures before I turn and follow the group. What is this place?

 

“This is the common area” the man says taking us into a huge room with sofas lining every corner and massive screens “It’s where you can spend your leisure time. We have gaming consoles, TV’s, video players, football tables, ping-pong tables and lots of other cool stuff. Of course you won’t spent much time in here since you will be studying but it is still cool right?” we stare at him blankly; I don’t know what half the stuff is. He huffs muttering “sector 8” under his breath. He leads us out of the room and into another corridor, this place is a maze. “Ok this is the pool and gym” he says pointing out two doors opposite each other. “You can’t go in now as it is locked after lesson times.” He walks on and we follow him like sheep, left right left right, the corridors and turns go on forever and I wonder how on earth am I ever going to find my way around this place “This is the lesson corridor, where all your lessons take place” I roll my eyes, he must think we are really thick, “This is the music corridor where all your music lesson take place” He points out another corridor. Max pulls a weird face be hide the mans back and although it is childish I only just manage to stifle back a laugh “Ok well we have covered nearly everywhere you still haven’t seen the library or study rooms but you will be shown them tomorrow so follow me” I sigh, I just want to go somewhere private and get some rest. “The rest of the candidates from the sectors are already at the dining hall so you will have dinner as soon as you get there. The older years are kept in a separate facility to yours so you won’t see them around, if you pass the trials than you will graduate to the same place as them. Your rooms should…”

“What do you mean if we pass the trials?” I ask confused “We got in didn’t we? I thought it was like an academy”

He looks irritated at being interrupted but then his face turns cheery again. False happiness. “Well, you probably weren’t told this but only the best of the best get into the academy. The trials aren’t the academy. They are just the way to get there.”

“What happens if we don’t get in” Lucy asks nervously from behind me.

The man just smiles “You will be told tomorrow in the introduction speech. Don’t worry.”

 

The dinning room is crowded. Children stand around talking, clearly all sticking to their different sectors. They all stare at us as we walk in and I can’t help but feel underdressed in my loose fitting top and baggy trousers as I stare at their fancy dresses and smarts suits. I sit down with Lucy at the furthest table away from everyone else and we give each other nervous looks “I never knew we had to pass another test to get into the academy” Lucy says looking terrified

“Don’t worry” I say smiling at her although I am really nervous too “We got this far it’s just another test. We can pass it”

She gives me a faint smile “I guess, its just we are going against people from other sectors. It was a surprise that I got in, my family never thought I would be bright enough to make it.”

“I am sure you are. They government wouldn’t have made a mistake” I try and reassure her although I don’t think I am doing a good job. I have never been much of a people person. Lucy starts to speak again but a lady in a white suit walks in and the whole room immediately falls silent. It’s Dr Whitehall, the founder and president of the academy. Even I know that. We all stand up as she makes her way up to the stage at the far end of the dining room. “Hello and welcome” she says in a sickly sweet voice “You have made it” she smiles and some of the candidates who I believe are sector 1 smile back nervously “You are now officially part of the trials. Congratulations. However, there is still one test you need to pass to enter the academy” I look around seeing nervous glances passing among the candidates “From this point on you will be monitored, tested on your learning speed and the skills you currently posses. Those of you that posses the necessary skills will go to the academy. Those that don’t will be… relocated. Don't worry, just try your best. That's all you can do.” I frown hearing the threat in her words. “Now, after you have finished you will be taken to your rooms. I will see you tomorrow.” She turns and leaves with her entourage as gradually the chatter returns.

I sigh “well that was enlighting”

Lucy stare nervously at me “what did they mean by relocated?”

“It means they will kill you” Max says smirking.

“Do you really have to say that? Don’t be such and idiot” I turn to Lucy who looks like she is hyperventilating,

“hey he was just kidding” I try to reassure her although I'm not entirely certain myself.

“Was I?” 

I give Max my best death stare, which admittedly isn’t very good but does manage to silence him.

“Don’t worry.” I tell Lucy “Everything will be ok”

She smiles at me, although I can tell she doesn’t me. I don’t believe myself. “Come on. Let’s get some food.” I say stopping the conversation, “I am hungry"

 

 

“Attention” a loud voice booms from the front of the room, “All girl candidates are to follow Miss Huskin” A tall female figure waves from the stage “All boy candidates are to follow Mr Johnson” A young athletic looking man waves from the opposite side of the stage. “You will be taken to your rooms”

I let out a shaky breath clenching my hands into fists. It’s suddenly starting to feel real. I look at Lucy and she gives me a nervous smile. At least I have one friend.

“Do you think we will be together?” she whispers, her head still turned up to the stage.

“I hope so” I reply and I really mean it.

“Well I guess this is goodbye then” Max says twitching, his eyes darting from us to the line of boys that’s forming by the exit door.

“Yeah, well we will see you tomorrow” I say.

“You already looking forward to it?” he says giving me his now familiar smirk

“I bet she can’t wait” Lucy speaks for me and I smile.

“Come on” I say standing up, noticing everyone else is lining up in two lines. Boy, girl lines. Lucy stands up as well and we join the line on the left. There are only about 10 girls. I spot Max in the other line so I smile at him. He doesn’t notice. All ready annoying the guy in front of him who is rolling his eyes. The line starts to move and we walk single file down the maze of corridors. “This is the girls corridor” Miss Husking shouts, “I will call out your name and your room number so listen up.  Once you have them, go to your room. Ok, in room 1 Violet Hensling and Lucy Scott” Lucy glances at me hesitantly stepping out of the line her moth set into a grim line. I guess we won’t be together. “Room 2…” My mind drifts off as the list of unknown names is called out. What will my mum being doing now. Probably cooking dner or mendind dad’s clothes. God I already miss her.  “Room five Ember Walker and Jemma Michells” I blink my mind returning to the present as I hear my name. This is it. I push down the rising panic that is filling my mind and walk towards the door that leads to the rooms. Our number isn’t hard to find, there aren’t that many rooms, not many people get into the trials. Violet sticks the key into the door and opens, our new home I think grimly to myself as we walk inside. The room is plain and white, not that I am surprised, and it’s actually quite big. Each side of the room has a desk and a bed with a small desk and reading light. It is actually quite nice. My bag and violin sit at the foot of the bed on the right so I assume that’s were I am sleeping, I quickly rummage through my bag pulling out my diary and notebook and stashing them under the pillow. Then I flop on to the bed my eyes closed; I didn’t realize how tired I was until now. My heart flutters thinking about what we might face tomorrow and I have to clench my hands into fists to stop them from shaking. Why am I so sacred? I should be happy. I sigh standing up. I need to unpack. I grab the small amount of clothes in the bag and stuff them into one of the draws under the bed, not bothering to put them away neatly. I can do that later if I really want. I turn back to the bag taking out the pens and other stationary that litter the bottom, and pour them out onto the desk. I want to try and make it as much like home as possible. Home, I glance at the sterile room longing it to return to my bedroom at home. When nothing happens I sigh and look back into the bag to check nothing is left, my brother’s letter is still there. I turn around to make sure that Violet isn’t looking and then quickly stuff it in my pillowcase to keep it safe. “Lights out in 5 minutes” a loud booming voice erupts in the room and I look for the source. There, I spot it, a speaker just above the window in the middle of the back wall. I hurriedly pull on my black pj’s and set out to discover the toilets. I walk out of the room closing the door quietly so I don’t disturb Violet who looks like she is asleep and cross the hallway to the toilet door, which has a sign above it. I open the door hesitantly hearing giggling voice behind it. Four girls are standing in front of the mirror laughing, which immediately makes me uncomfortable especially when they all turn to stare at me, glaring at me as if I have interrupted something important. I mutter an apology, even though I don’t need to and move through the actions as quickly as possible. When I leave the bathroom I can still hear them laughing, and my face turns red. I run back into my room and close the door. “You ok?” Violet asks more annoyed that concerned

“Yeah” I mumble at her as she groans and pulls her pillow over her face.

I sigh as I crawl back into bed closing my eyes. I don’t understand how I can survive my father and then get terrified by a bunch of giggling girls it doesn’t make sense. I have no real experience of girls my own age. Always kept myself to myself. To busy studying for the trials was the excuse I gave. It’s kind of ironic how the Trials, my excuse for not socializing, is now forcing me to socialize. I smile slightly. God, I am hopeless. “Lights out” the voice from earlier calls and the room immediately goes pitch black. I sigh as I sink into the warm covers and let the darkness of sleep engulf me. Ready to face another day.

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