Home of The Brave [[ON HOLD]]

[STARRING YOU! YES YOU!]

You wake up to a world that is vastly different to the one that you fall asleep to. There are no 'adults' - everyone over the age of 25 has suddenly disappeared.

It's a teen-eat-teen world out there. Some people are creating new countries - new teen led clans. You and your friends become involved in a clan conflict, wanting to unite the new 'adults' and teenagers together. However, some mysteries have popped up around the globe.

Can you find out what's happened before they take you too? Time's ticking.

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2. the beginning: ii

You grab your bag off the dining chair, throwing the strap over your shoulder. The silence doesn't bother you anymore. Your father wakes up at unholy times in the early morning – if you had been awake, you would've heard that familiar sound of the water rushing and the surprisingly chirpy whistles of your dad in the shower. Strangely and to your surprise, you slept well – you might not have had your full eight hours but you felt like you had been sleeping for sixteen hours. Your dad would've been out of the house by now and your mother usually dropped him at the train station. She would be carrying her various lists and checking the boxes off as she wanders around every aisle and shop, looking for groceries.

You fill up the cat bowl with food and grab an apple out of the fruit bowl that your mother created in her pottery class. The ornate floral designs cover the lower part of the fruit bowl, allowing space for a design on the upper part. Your mother claims that she didn't have enough time for the upper design but you suspect that the real reason was that she didn't have any ideas for the design and the thought of asking for ideas never crossed her mind. Your mother was stubborn, a trait that was passed down to you. However, you knew when to ask for assistance if you knew that you couldn't figure out the problem on your own but help had to be forced upon your mother, if she would receive it.

As you walk out of the door, you shout "Bye!" to your empty house, a routine that you created when you were young. You tried to stop doing it, even though it was rare for somebody to be in the house but the word slips out anyway. For such a windy and rainy night, it sure is hot. You wonder how the weather can do a complete three-sixty turn. As you walk towards your friend's house, the heat bounces off the streets, creating a mirage of wavering images.

You fiddle around with the brass doorknocker, the same knocker that troubles you each time you try to knock on your friend's door. As per usual, you give up and use your hands, knocking three times. The door slowly opens and you catch a glimpse of a teal-coloured ponytail and one very cautious blue eye staring at you. You gasp as her wide grin replaces the pout and the door opens completely. A slightly curvy girl stands in front of you, her hands folded across her torso as she leans across the door. Her teal hair shimmers slightly in the sun, the ends of her hair appearing to be a lot lighter than usual. Her blue eyes are already staring at you.

"Oh, it's you. What can I do for you?" She asks, her eyebrows rose.

You stare at her for a while, dumbfounded. She's dressed in the usual school uniform, although you can't see her blazer anywhere. Her sleeves are rolled up and her hair is tied up into a ponytail. You notice that her usual school shoes have been swapped for black converses and her usual skirt has been swapped for black skinny jeans. Her school blouse looks as if it'd been tucked in a hurry, parts of it falling out of her jeans.

She watches your eyes glance over her, smirking at you. "Liking my new uniform? I thought I'd spice it up."

"There's a reason why teachers hate you."

She turns away, disappearing behind the door before reappearing again with her shoulder bag draped across her body.

"Don't worry, the feeling is mutual." She says without looking at you. Her keys jingle as she twists the key counter-clockwise, then clockwise, then counter-clockwise again. She pops the keys in a small compartment in the front of her bag and gestures for you to pass with an exaggerated bow. You stick your tongue out at her and laugh as she closes the gate behind her.

There's a slight skip in her step as you and Theo amble towards your school. Theo was not normally this upbeat when it came to school mornings. You wonder what, or who, has put her in this mood but you hesitate to ask her. If she wants to tell you, she will.

The bell rings as soon as you make it to the school doors. You've always hated that shrill sound, the way it echoed in your ears even after it was done. Theo pushes you forward and you both try to avoid the horde of teenagers as they attempt to pile into the single front door. It doesn't work. Somehow, you both make it to the middle of the horde with no option to exit. A backpack hits you in the face, a hand whacks you over the head and someone screams in your ear. You wonder if you're going to get trampled to death but once your feet cross the line between outside and prison, the crowd disperses. You quickly step to the side to avoid being swallowed by your peers, looking for any signs of Theo or your usual friendship group. Teal hair should be easy to spot, you think to yourself.

"Over here!"

You look around, trying to find the source of the voice. Heads and backpacks block your view as you weave in between talking friends and lost children, trying to avoid an incident with another backpack. Someone pulls you to the side, their grip tight on your arm.

"Don't give me that look, if it wasn't for me, you'd still be stuck there."

You frown. "If it wasn't for you, I'd be early and I wouldn't have been attacked by a kid's backpack."

"Po-ta-to, Po-tah-to. We could argue all day about whose fault it was, even though it was clearly yours, or we could get to lesson before Mr Richards verbally abuses us."

You nod. Mr Richards was one of the few teachers that absolutely terrified you. There was something cold about his entire presence that made you on edge. The way he spoke was cold and calculating as if he knew something about you and he could ruin your life in one instant. Everything about him was calculating – the way he moved, the way he handed out supplies, his tone. With one look, he could cause goosebumps to arise on your entire body.

He was neat; everything on his desk was aligned perfectly. His bottle of water was always on the top left corner on his desk, his papers were stacked perfectly – not a single sheet would be out of place and his briefcase was always on the right side of his desk. You and your friends were always curious to see what secrets the briefcase held. He never opened it so your imaginations were allowed to run free. Theo thought that there was probably an experimental torture device inside that he would one day use on his pupils. You wouldn't be surprised although, you've never really seen him angry. Or happy. You've never really seen with him with emotions. His mouth was always set into a tight lipped line. The only time that the corners of his mouth moved was if he was smirking. Smirking was usually followed by an insult that would haunt you for the rest of your day, if you allowed it to.

As you near his classroom, your heart rate increases. The world slowly turns to the side, the grey lockers slowly morph into one giant grey locker. You clutch your head and falter as you try to regain your eyesight. Theo places a hand on your shoulder to steady you.

"You okay?" She asks with concern.

You nod, afraid to open your mouth in case you throw up. The feeling of nausea slowly rises through your body until it suddenly disappears. Your vision returns to normal as you follow Theo into the classroom. You walk to your seat, stepping over the backpacks and books on the floor. You sit next to Theo, on your usual table, and place your bag on the floor.

"You know, we can legally leave if Mr Richardson doesn't turn up." Someone whispers.

He wasn't here? This had to be some sort of mistake, Mr Richardson was always here. He was never absent and he was certainly never late. Even through the Snowstorm of 2013, when all of your classes were closed, you still had to trudge through the storm to get to his lesson. You developed a cold for weeks and you were pretty sure you had hypothermia as you couldn't feel your toes for weeks. It wasn't worth it, Mr Richardson didn't actually teach anything worthwhile but you were sure that he just enjoyed seeing his students suffer.

"Are you kidding? The one day he's not here is the one day that I slave over his work!" Jax says in frustration.

"We always slave over his work." Theo fiddles with the pages of her notebook.

Jax sighs. "Yeah, but I slaved extra hard for this. I spent 3 hours trying to remember things for this morning's test."

"We had a test? Since when?" Someone shouts from the back of the room. You turn to see who it is, out of curiosity, but you can't tell.

You wonder whether it's necessary to take out your books out of your bag, seeing as most people had clear tables. You take them out anyway, not wanting to get on Mr Richardson's bad side on a Monday morning. 'Preparation is the key to success,' you remember him saying every morning as he stood in front of the whiteboard. For a minute, you would feel inspired as if you had the whole world at your fingertips but your world would crumble into ashes as he would add a snarky comment afterwards, "For you, it might a take a lot more than preparation." That was it. Every ounce of intelligence you felt you had was crushed in an instant and you would often leave the room, feeling worse than you did when you came in.

You let your thoughts wander for a while, wondering the whereabouts of your teacher. It isn't until you mistake the air for the table and you're suddenly brought back to reality. There's a sense of uneasiness and restlessness, mixed with a sense of excitement. This was the first time ever, from as far as you can remember, that you missed his lesson and it wasn't your fault.

"Maybe he's stuck in traffic?"

"Nah, he walks to school every morning."

"How do you even know that?"

"Can you imagine Mr Richardson in a little Ford hatchback?"

A stray giggle emerges from the corner as your class tries to picture him struggling to fit himself into the car. You imagine him finally getting into the car and struggling to start the car. The mental image clears the uneasiness in your stomach as you join in with the laughter.

"Shh, guys! Footsteps!"

The silence quickly falls upon your class and you wait, along with your friends, with hushed breaths. You swear you can hear the orchestra of rapidly beating hearts but it could just be yours. Nobody makes a move. The footsteps near closer and closer then suddenly stops. If your class could communicate telepathically, you swear you would be all thinking the same thing: "Oh shit."

The door handle rattles suddenly, a shock for Kayla and Maria, the two girls sitting beside the door, making them jump. The single blind covering the door's window flaps around as the struggle with the door handle continues. You share a glance with Theo, wondering if you should help them. The door flies open, banging against the adjoining wall. Your heart leaps out of your chest.

"Are your teachers' missing too?" A voice says casually.

The class lets out a collective sigh.

"Yeah, Mr Richardson isn't here yet." Jason says, picking up his bags. He hesitates before standing up, perhaps wondering if someone else was going to join him and tucks his chair behind him. He starts to head towards the door when the whispering starts.

"So, can we go?"

"But what if he comes back?"

"Jax, you coming?" Jason calls out to your table. A sea of eyes look at your table and you've never felt more on edge. Jax doesn't seem to notice and slowly packs his belongings into his Marvel shoulder-bag. Theo and Jax share a look, one that you can't decipher but Theo joins him in packing up. You guess that this is your cue to do the same. You're slightly hesitant, taking quick glances at the door in case Mr Richardson surprises you after all.

After you pack up your things, you follow Theo towards the door, trying to ignore the stares that pierce your back. You apologise to Elaina and Umaymah for tripping over their bags, you're not sure if they heard you as they're still talking amongst themselves but you feel better that you did anyway.

"Ruby!" Theo says excitedly, highfiving her. Ruby was one of those people you saw around but never really had a proper conversation with. At the most, you've probably exchanged small talk with her, commenting on horrible weather conditions or asking her how her day was or waiting out the awkward silence. You exchange a polite smile with her, perhaps a smile that says everything and nothing at all.

"Miss Haywood's not in so there's literally no one in lesson." Ruby explains, waving to some of the guys walking past.

Theo frowns, "Literally?"

Ruby shrugs, "Law's a big class. There are a few people sitting in there but it's mostly her favourites."

It had to be just a coincidence, right? Two teachers not in on the same day had to be just a coincidence. Mr Richardson was probably just ill - you tell yourself. It still doesn't sit well in your gut, something was going to go wrong today and you knew it. Since he wasn't in, and he was your only lesson, you were free to do whatever you wanted. You could go home, catch up on your sleep or finally watch that show that you've been hearing about.

Your stomach lets out a deep rumble, resembling something of a quiet earthquake. You look towards your friends, hoping that nobody heard that. Instead, they're involved an intense conversation - something you missed out of.

"What about some food first?" You hear Jason say.

You join in with the murmurs of agreement, hoping that your stomach's noised is hidden by the nois

Two teachers who were always in - not in on the same day? Just a coincidence - a rare coincidence that you didn't want to miss a chance on. Mr Richardson was your only lesson today and since he wasn't in, you have a free day! You could go home and re-establish your relationship with your loving bed.

You stomach grumbles, interrupting your thoughts. Food sounds good too.

"Is there any way we can go get some food first?" Jason says before you can even open your mouth.

Jason stands at 6'5, or so he claimed - you weren't particularly sure but you didn't want to argue. You wouldn't be able to look him in the eyes anyway, not past the shaggy hair that covered his face. There was a fresh purple-ish bruise on his right cheek but that didn't surprise you. Jason was the type to get into fights for simply hurting his pride.

"Sure! I could drive to go get some McDs." Theo pipes up, jingling her new car keys.

Wait, what?

"If you have a car, why do you walk to school every morning?" You pause, "More importantly, what's the point of making me knock for you?"

"It's a shorter distance from my house to school." She says simply, as if it's the only possible answer.

You sigh, lifting your hands in frustration. You end up with more questions than answers. How long did she have a car for? It was a forty-five minute walk to school, from her house anyway - nearly an hour for you, seeing as you only lived ten minutes away from her.

Ruby whispers to you, "Don't question it."

You give her a half-smile. Ruby seems to be better friends with Theo than you are, striking a bit of jealousy into your heart. You know you have nothing to worry about, but you still wonder what it would be like to understand somebody's motives as easily as Ruby can.

It's a shorter distance than you expected, perhaps because you're walking with more people. Loud chatter fills the streets but the only source comes from the people next to you – the streets seem quiet without it. A car zooms past, causing a piece of paper to fly and hit your shins. You struggle to kick it away, so you end up picking it up. The mismatched colours are the first thing that catches your eyes, bright oranges and pinks decorate the title 'Starlight Festival' in different swirls. The words 'ALL DAY / NO ALCOHOL SERVED FOR UNDER 21s' are written underneath a blurry photo of a DJ at a concert, it was clear that they'd picked the first picture out of Google images.

"Wait, is that THE Starlight Festival?" Theo peers over, the light freckles under her eyes becoming a lot clearer.

"Isn't that a BYOB?" Jax says, whipping his neck around.

"BYOB?" You ask, confused. Whenever you had to ask someone about the definition of certain type of slang, you felt sixty years older.

"Bring your own booze." Theo says, pausing to snatch the paper out of your hands, "It's going on today? We should go check it out!"

"After we get food right?" Jax asks before you can protest.

She nods in response.

Now that school was over, all you wanted to do was go back home, take off your shoes and wrap yourself up in your blankets, with your laptop in front of you. You wanted a lazy day, something that was rare in your life without your parents disturbing your binge-watching time.

Theo opens her front gate with ease, seeing as she left it half open. Her keys jingle among the low murmur of your friends as she opens the garage door. You see a seemingly unused pale blue Citroën, sitting lonely in their garage. The low murmurs gradually grows into excited chatter, as you all settle into Theo's car. You're seated in the front seat, watching Theo as she carefully rolls the windows down. You notice that she treats this car gently, lightly gripping the steering wheel, adjusting the mirrors slowly and carefully. No wonder it looks so unused, she takes care of it so well.

As she reverses out of the garage, the door slowly closes in front of you. You start to wonder how that even operates, your parents had to manually get out of the car and close the garage but then you notice that she pressed a small button attached to her keys. You sometimes forgot how wealthy Theo's parents are, mainly by the way that Theo acts around you. She was comfortable in her own skin, even though you knew that she had insecurities about her weight. You admired that about her, you wanted that ability to still look in the mirror and be happy with yourself, despite your flaws. She was humble too, humble about her home, humble about her talents and about her beauty.

"Where are we going? Can we go to McD's?"

"Drive-through or are we actually going to sit down to eat?" Ruby asks.

You shrugged. You're not particularly bothered how you eat, just as long as you eat something. McDonalds isn't your favourite place to eat, but your dislike isn't enough to force you to make a fuss about it. It takes you ten minutes to reach the mini-McDonalds situated near your school, and it's packed. Schoolchildren are streaming in and out the restaurants, and you can see people from your year sitting in their cars, messily attacking their food.

"What if we went to that sushi place? You know, the one in town?" Theo suggests, shaking her hair out of her eyes.

Ruby started to groan but stopped. "Wait, the one near the amazingly cheap sandwich shop?"

"Oooh! Is that the one that uses waffles instead of actual bread? McKeys? Or something like that?" Jax says excitedly, you didn't even have to turn around to see his mouth watering.

You look in the mirror to see Ruby and Jax high-five each other, while Jason rolls his eyes. He hadn't said a word since he got in the car but you don't see the point to question him. Jason kept to himself, most of the time anyway. The only times you heard of him was when he was rumored to be in a fight. You've never actually witnessed these fights for yourself so you just assume that they're rumors, but the aftermath suggests otherwise. You've seen him with bruised knuckles more than once, sometimes you could see the blood leaking onto his trouser leg. You noticed, but you never said anything in fear that it might provoke him. To do something, hit you, stomp away in anger, slam a locker shut, you didn't want to know or ever experience Jason's anger.

She turns on the radio to fill in for the gaps of silence, and overplayed songs fills the car. "To town!" Theo announces above the noise as she leaves the McDonalds car park.

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