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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2. The Train

“Wake up” my mum nudges me. I roll on to my side groaning, not ready to leave the warm embrace of my bed. Then I remember it’s the day of the trials. “Mum what time is it?” I ask sitting up. If I am late…. “Don’t worry dear,” my mum says pulling back my old curtains letting the light steam in. I blink once twice my eyes adjusting. “I woke you up early” she turns back smiling at me as I sigh in relief and lie back down on the bed.

“Your not that early” she says chuckles as I start too fall asleep.

I can fear footsteps walking towards me then a woos of cold air penetrating the warmth that only a moment ago surrounded me.  “Mum!” I say annoyed but I get up anyway, I do need to get going. "Hair?" she asks and I nod.

I walk over to my desk and sit down on the chair rocking back and forth with my hands underneath my bum. She places a gentle hand on my shoulder; "sit still". I comply. We don’t talk. We don’t need too; we already know what the other would say. After she leaves I get changed quickly not allowing the guilt over leaving my mother over come me. I have no idea how my brother managed to leave us. Didn’t he feel guilty? Maybe he didn’t care about us. I sigh and touch the familiar bumpy bedroom wall. I will never come back here again. Tears well up in my eyes but I push them down. Be strong Ember. I hurriedly brush my hair with my old comb and examine myself in the mirror as I tie up my long blonde hair. My freckles have come out in full force this summer I note with dismay. I hate my freckles, not that I am vain or anything but I always think they make me look ill. Like I have spots or something. I don’t usually care about my appearance, only my mother would notice if I made the effort to wear make-up, I preferred to be on my own at school so I never really made any friends. I was always too busy studying for the tests. The tests that said I am bright enough to take part in the trials. I feel a flutter in the pit of my stomach. I feel sick. I smile and the face in the mirror smiles back. Be brave Ember. I walk down the stairs, the loose floorboards creaking loudly, and into the kitchen where my mum stands waiting, giving me a nervous smile “Ember” she says pulling me into a hug “I can’t say how proud I am of you” She steps back and looks at me “My little girl”. I look down nervously, unused to being the center of attention. “So I guess this is goodbye?” I ask, my mother looking at me with sorrow in her eyes “I will miss you so much” she tells me giving me a watery smile. I smile back. “I will be back,” I promise her, although we both know I will never be able to keep my promise. “Here” she reaches into her apron pocket pulling out an envelope. “Who’s it from?” I ask curiously, not recognizing the neat hand writing “Your brother”

I glance up in shock, “Do you know where he is?”

“No” she sighs “I found it in his bedroom after he left. Oh… there was a note beside it as well” She hands me a small slip of paper.

“Read after the simulation room? What does that mean?”

She shrugs “I don’t know sweet heart, you will just have to wait to find out”

I sigh pushing it into my bag, “I love you mum so much.”

She smiles pulling me into a tight hug “I love you too sweetheart”

“I will come back” I promise her again.

“Go live your life” she tells me quietly as I walk out of the room-waving goodbye. Leaving my home forever. I look back at my block of flats as I walk out of the door, my dad will be working his shifts by now even if I wanted to say goodbye to him. Which I don't. The street is bustling as men go to work and children going to school. Life always starts early in sector 8. Soon I will be leaving it behind I realise with a jolt. I never realised how hard leaving would be. My eyes wander to the street urchins that roam the back alleys. Searching through dustbins for any left over food. We are told that we should despise them, they are the filth in society but I can’t help feel sorry for them. No one should have to live like that. No one should have to live like we do. I turn my eyes away from their hungry faces and grip my bags tighter. They could easily bee snatched from me. As I approach the center the streets become even busier and I find myself being jostled form side to side by the crowd. The stench of unwashed and sweaty bodies is overpowering, although I have become used to the smell by now. As I approach the station the amount of people decreases rapidly, most people who live in sector 8 don’t ever leave so only the wealthy council members ever use the trains, and of course eighteen year olds going to the trials. I once had a girl in my year at school that came from quite a wealthy family, her dad was a council member so moved to the district to work. They travelled a lot but she was such a snob we never worked up the courage to ask her what the other sectors were like in case she used are ignorance against us. Unsurprisingly she left sector 8 after only 2 months. I enter the building through the relatively clean sliding doors that open up to let us walk past. They have always fascinated me, how they know we are coming. A man is standing in the lobby and he waves me over “Hello?” he calls at us trying to get our attention “hello, are you Ember Williams?” I nod nervously, his pinched and dead looking face actually quite scary. “Ok then” he says searching through a file he rests on his knee “ah here you go” he shows me a blue plastic band, which he attaches around my hand. “This will only come off if the control center deactivates it so don’t try and remove it ok?” I nod to show I understand even though I have no idea what the band is for, or what the control center is. God, this is really happening. “You are the last one to arrive so we will leave now. Follow me.” I pause for a second, surprised by his short introduction but then realising he is not waiting for me I run to catch up. As we reach the small out door station I marvel at the metal beast that now lies before me. It streamline and for she reason I compare it to a dragon like in the stories my mum used to read to me when I was young. “Give me your bags” he says briskly and I obey, hesitantly handing over my violin. He leads me up onto the train,  and presses a green button that I think requires his fingerprint to work. The door to the carriage opens. “In” he says, I really don’t like him I think fighting down an angry retort. I walk in hesitantly, spinning around as the door closes behind me with a bang, locking me in. Slowly I turn away from the door. The carriage is long with black sofas lining either side. It is really fancy and I can’t help but marvel at the giant projector screen that sits at the end of the carriage. The other candidates are already here, staring intently at the screen, one girl and one boy. I perch awkwardly on the sofa unsure whether I should try and start a conversation. I look at the TV screen and try to act interested in the images that pass across it. I have never seen a TV before but as much as I am fascinated by it my nerves make it almost impossible to concentrate.

“Hey” I look away from the screen to find the source of the voice, it’s the boy.  I look at him blinking, I can’t remember the last time anyone apart from my mum has noticed me. I am good at being invisible.

“So you nervous?” he stares at me. I shrug. God I really am bad a socialising with people my own age.

“Okkkkk” he says, drawing out the ‘k’ lazily “Do you ever talk?”

“I talk when the conversation is worthy of me, at the moment it isn’t.” I retort. Best way to end an awkward conversation. Be rude. Not that I like it or anything, but this guy is really pissing me off.

“Ahhh so you do talk. I am Max by the way.” He says giving me a cheeky smile. I scowl back “I am Ember”

“Nice to meet you Ember. “

I turn away quickly. Whats wrong with me? He is only trying to be nice.

I turn back putting on my best smile "yeah nice to meet you too"

 

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