Fourteen

Alex is living in a world where once you turn fourteen you must leave your family and join The Project which is the result of The Rule. From the day a child turns fourteen to the day they turn eighteen they must go through a number of tests which will eventually bring them to the final one. The test which will determine their role. The role which will be theirs for the rest of their lives. There are no decisions. No choices. Just the final test which will lead them to their destinies.

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2. Chapter Two

Chapter Two

'Alexia! We're here!' The woman in the grey suit said brightly to me.

I looked out of the car window at the tallest and widest building I had ever seen. It was a dull grey colour with windows covering the top half of the building but nothing but grey bricks on the bottom half. There was just one door at the bottom of the building only distinguishable by it's slightly darker shade of grey. I looked out of the other window to see a seemingly everlasting field stretching out into the distance. Well this place didn't look promising at all. What am I going to be doing for four years exactly?

'Are you ready to go inside, Alexia?' She looked at me expectantly. Do people get excited about this usually? Am I missing something here?

'I guess...' I said getting out of the car.

She took my suitcases out of the car and helped me take them to the door. She opened the door and I followed her down a long corridor with black doors leading to more rooms all the way down. The walks were painted white and the floor was a dark wood. At least it wasn't grey. Everything was so plain and simple though.

As she led me along the right hallway of the same design but with less doors we came to a red door at the end. She knocked on the door and another woman in an identical uniform appeared. The only difference was that her carefully tied hair was brown instead of my drivers blond locks.

'Thank you, Amanda. You may be dismissed.' The new woman addressed the one beside me.

'Carol' she nodded before walking back down the hallway.

'Hello, Alexia. You must be very excited that your time has come. Well, here you are. As it is Saturday today there are no compulsory classes for you to take but these will commence on Monday. If you would like to meet some of the current students you may go to some of the weekend events. I have prepared for a student to take you around later and then you can sleep in your room. Do you have any questions?' Carol said staring at me blankly. It looked as if all cheerfulness evaporated inside this building.

'Why is your door red?' I asked. Why did I ask that exactly? Curiosity, maybe. But probably just for a lack of another question.

'Because this is the red room' she replied simply.

'The red room?'

'Yes'

'What is the red room?'

'Now, Alexia there is no need for your curiosity regarding this room. If you are to find out it's contents then you will have reached an unpleasant fate. Yes, I reside in this room but for a student to be present along with me they must have done some extremity of wrongdoing. It is in your best interest that you do not think one more thought about it. Follow the rules and you will never get a glimpse. You don't want to be subject to the punishment. Do you?' She said staring at me with a fierce look in her eyes. This was starting to get scary.

'No, Miss.' I replied looking down at the floor.

'Miss Reiner?' A short, slim blonde girl walked up to us. She was dressed in black jeans and a deep purple knit jumper and on her feet were a pair of old green converse.

'Courtney! Where have you been? Alexia arrived awhile ago!' The woman who must be called Carol Reiner or Miss Reiner boomed at the small girl.

'Im sorry, Miss Reiner! I was at dance practice and-'

'No, girl don't apologise. If you were taking a weekend class then you are not to blame. It just shows that you have appreciation for the test. You understand you must explore your options and practice. Well done. But I must get back to work now do if you could get to work on your new student orientation I would very much appreciate that.' Miss Reiner said handing Courtney a big grey file.

'Yes, Miss Reiner.' She said as she watched her walk back into the red room.

'Well, she's intense isn't she?' I said to Courtney as we walked back down the hall.

'Yes. But you won't see her often.' She said, walking ahead of me.

'She's not a teacher?'

'No.'

'The principle, then?'

'No. She's the projects manager. She makes sure all of the students are following the rules of the tests.'

'So, what's in the red room?'

'I don't know. I take Saturday classes. I'm a good student.'

'Okay.'

'So, I guess I should give you a tour.'

'You don't seem very into this...'

'I'm sorry. It's just that I've just had a three hour long dance class. I'm really into performing arts. I'm on my third year here and the classes I have left are dance, drama, music, creative writing and sport. You don't get just your main classes though so I've been given languages, medicine and leadership as well. They just want to make sure they don't miss any secondary purpose you may have. I have no interest in medicine, it's quite cool learning languages but it's not my life's goal. This is my leadership thing.'

'You don't want to pass then?'

'It doesn't really matter if I do as it is my first test so if I pass I still have two more before it gets considered to be a main class but I can't be bothered with it, you know? It's fun trying everything out in first year and second year isn't so bad either. But now that I'm in third I feel like I should be really focusing on my mains.'

'I suppose'

'You won't understand until you're about half way through your second year. When I came here I thought it was great! I got to have fun all day trying out all these classes with the ones I didn't like or weren't good at being dropped. When I was fifteen and I was just starting second year I was taking this art class and I fell asleep. I didn't get told off I just never got the class again. It was pretty cool actually.'

'So you never end up doing things you don't like?'

'No, you do. But they usually only last for about a month or so. They don't want to waste time getting you to do something you have no purpose for.'

'I guess that makes sense.'

'Well, I think I will give you this tour. It's not your fault that you didn't get signed to a real future leader.'

I laughed thinking about how strange this whole thing was.

'What's so funny?' Courtney looked at me like I was crazy.

'I think I get it now.'

'What?'

'Why everything is so plain.'

'To save money?'

'No. They think that by creating such a plain and simple design we won't think and we won't ask questions. If it all seems so black and white or grey and empty then maybe they can get us to believe that the rule exists to give us a simple life. They don't care about our happiness. They care about our usefulness and if we don't question their motives and our test results we will start to believe we are happy. We will think that life really is the result of a test. That if we do not live to serve our purpose then we can never fulfil our resulting dreams.'

'We can't, Alexia. You really do need to empty your mind of these foolish thoughts that you possess. The test is all that matters. It doesn't matter what you believe because it is the deciding factor for every one of us.'

Courtney will be like my father. Completely conformed to the result of the test. There is no room for curiosity or questioning in the minds of the ones who fully conform. These are the ones that people like Miss Reiner wishes we could all be like. Courtney will become some kind of famous actress, dancer or singer and she will think she is happy. I suppose it will be enough for her.

The first room she showed me was The Hall. The hall was a large room with nothing in it at all except for a dim lightbulb in the middle of the high white ceiling. The walls were also white and the floor was a shiny grey laminate. All students are to report there on a Monday morning to collect any changed timetables which will be announced among any other announcements of the morning. Students will stand in complete silence and wait to be dismissed. This begins at seven in the morning and finishes between half past seven and eight.

She then showed me The Canteen. The Canteen opens for breakfast at half past seven every morning and closes at half past eight. It then opens from twelve until one in the afternoon for lunch and six until seven for dinner. The Canteen is three times as large and a The Hall. But instead of having one single dull lightbulb is has three long and bright lights that are used to light the room so that it looks bright and everything is visible. There are about fifty rows of long tables with long bench seats lining them on either side. There are also twelve food serving hutches scattered around to make sure everyone has eaten within the hour. Six serve a hot choice of meal and six serve a cold. All serve plastic cups of water. The walls in here are brown, the floor is a sticky dull yellow and the ceiling is the same dull grey as the tables and benches.

She showed me the gym. The gym actually looked quite how you would expect a regular high school gym to look. Red walls brick walls, basket ball patterned floor with a basket ball hoop at each end. There was a black door on one side of the room that Courtney told me was the gyms storage room. It is apparently really big and is filled with balls, mats, a trampoline and other sports equipment.

Then she showed me the dance studio where she had been this morning. We weren't allowed inside as there was a group of final year girls training inside but I could see through the doors window that the whole room was a wall of mirrors with bars lining half of the walls and a shiny light brown laminate floor.

She told me that as it was the weekend most of the other classrooms were locked and un-accessible but showed me four floors of different subject areas to give me an idea of where I might have to go on Monday.

She took me up twelve floors of stairs and told me that I was lucky that it wasn't any higher as her bedroom is on the twentieth floor and there are no lifts in the building. To me that seemed a scary thought in the case of a fire but Courtney said there never would be one. No one would be so irresponsible.

My room number was 1202 - the second room on the twelfth floor. Bedrooms started at floor eight and ended at floor thirty-two with each floor catering for one hundred people. That means that up to three thousand people can live here at one time! No wonder the building is so big! Courtney left me in my room and told me to get ready for dinner.

The room was small. The walls were a really light yellow colour and the floor had an old caramel coloured carpet. On the wall facing the bed was white clock with black hands and numbers. A single lightbulb - dull like the one in The Hall lit the small room. There was a single bed in the middle of the room held up by for grey legs, topped with an old yellowing mattress, a thin grey blanket and pillow to match. There was a piece of paper in the middle of the bed. I picked it up and read,

Welcome to The Project Alexia, it with great pleasure to congratulate you on reaching your fourteenth birthday and becoming apart of The Rule. We are sure that at the end of these four years and on the date of your eighteenth birthday you will have accomplished enough to be a valued and needed member of society.

You will have just had a tour from one of our potential leaders so all questions should have been answered during your time with said student.

You will notice the light in your room is on. This light will go out at precisely ten at night every night as this is the time by which we expect all students to be asleep and it is therefore not necessary to waste our energy sources. Bathroom lights and hall lights will also be gone at this time so that gives you three hours to prepare for bed after dinner - the last compulsory activity of the day. Showers last for three minutes exactly as water should not be wasted either. Sink taps stay on for twenty seconds. This is enough time to wash hands and ones toothbrush after brushing. New toothpaste, shower gel, shampoo and conditioner will be left outside your room every three weeks after dinner with your clothes on a Sunday. You will find your first supply with your clothes which I will inform you about now.

The final thing that I will mention in this note is that in the corner of the room by the door you will find three grey shirts, two pairs of grey trousers, a pair of grey shoes and five sets of grey underwear and socks. Your sizes will be correct to our database advancements. Every Friday just before dinner at half past five to quarter to six a laundry basket will be left at the end of the hall. Please fill this with all your provided grey clothing and underwear items. Your grey attire must be worn from the time you leave your room on weekdays until five in the evening when all of your compulsory classes have ended. You may then wear your own clothes with you have brought with you to dinner and other free time including weekends with a monthly opportunity for these to be cleaned. At these times you will notice there is a blue basket along with the grey. These clothes will be brought back in the basket for you to find yourself whereas the grey garments will be placed outside your door after dinner on Sunday. If you are to take a weekend class your teacher will voice her opinion on the uniform she expects you to wear. If you are given sports or dance class you will be provided with a set of grey shorts and a grey tank top at this later date. Thank you for your co-operation.

I put the letter down and found the clothes and shower supplies in the corner of my room. Simple and dull clothes to match the building, I guess. And the shampoo, shower gel and conditioner were all in clear, small bottles and of a yellowish colour and completely odourless. The toothpaste was white and faintly mint smelling. I sighed and sat on the bed. This place was seeming more like a prison by the second. How was I ever going to find my future role in this place?

I looked up at the clock and saw that it was quarter to six. I better make my way to the dining hall. I was wearing a pair of blue skinny jeans, a white tank top, a black cardigan and pink converse. Nothing grey. That's good. I left my room only just realising that I didn't have a key. But then I suppose all I did have was two suitcases filled with clothes and the card from my brother. Nothing anybody would want to steal. The locket was tied safely around my neck.

After walking down twelve flights of stairs I just wanted to go to bed. I was standing at the back of a long que to the canteen. There was a tall girl with long blonde hair in front of me. She was wearing a baby blue summer dress and was twirling her hair around her finger.

'Britney babes!' A girl in a short, tight black dress with dark brown hair bounced up to her in the que.

'Miranda darling!' She screeched as they did the fake cheek kiss thing and she squeezed in front of me.

'You don't mind if my bestie cuts, right?' Britney drawled in an overly put on concerned tone and she fluttered her fake eyelashes at me.

I just stared at her.

'Hey! Your a newbie!' Miranda said looking at me like prey.

'Yeah...' I said, looking down.

'She looks scared. Don't scare her Mirie!' Britney said fake hitting her friend. You don't even understand how much I can't stand girls like this. They are just so fake and annoying that I want to pull their hair out! I'm sorry. That made me sound like a crazy psychopath. I'm just really tired. Tired and hungry.

The girls continued to squeal at me telling me they were both fifteen and in second year. Their birthdays are a week apart and they've known each other and been best friends since they were five years old. They are both total drama queens and they both have drama at the top of their main classes. They both want to be actresses Britney on the stage and Miranda on tv. I could see them both getting this role right now. But what if they matured in two years and stopped being squeely drama queens? Yeah, right. That wasn't going to happen. But what if they get their dream drama role and the excitement of it fades off when their about thirty? When they're no longer young, shiny and bright. What if when the girls aren't attached they don't function the same? Some girls are like that, you know.

A loud bell rang. One of those big old silver ones. If I had been standing next to it I was sure I would have become at least temporarily deaf. A bald headed man dressed in another grey suit walked down the line seemingly inspecting us all. He stopped in front of me, looked me up and down and then moved on down the line. I shivered. I had never felt more uncomfortable than I do in this place. And it was only my first day.

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