The Fear Trials

'Hello. My name is Shal. I’m ten years old, and I need to tell this before I either die, or curl up in a ball and never move again.'

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10. 10

 

I followed the woman down the hallways, heart racing. She led me through the hallways, not bothering to check to see whether or not I was following. Why wouldn’t I be? Where would I run?

We reached a room full of screens that were currently dark. It looked like a Trial room- right down to the chair in the center. The woman gestured for me to sit, and I did so nervously. Individual attention was never good. I had never been in this room before. I did not know where I was, or why I was here. As far as I knew, the game was up. But the woman didn’t look angry. Just thoughtful.

“Something has been strange with your Fear Trials, Shal,” said the woman, tapping her chin thoughtfully. She studied me with a strangely calculating expression.

“It has…?” I said hesitantly. This wasn’t going how I’d expected.

She nodded. “Yes. Not just your recent Trials either, Shal. No, this goes much further back. Since your very first Trials.”

The woman tapped one of the screens, and a graph popped up. It showed bars in fifteen different colors. Beside each bar was a small name. I stared at them, surprised. One for each of us. I saw the names of all of us- plus the five that had been… lost.

“Do you know what this represents, Shal?” she asked.

I shook my head, not trusting my voice to hold steady.

Fortunately, the woman seemed to have been expecting that answer. She turned back, looking thoughtfully at the graphs.

“This graph shows the heart rates of the fifteen subjects throughout the Fear Trials. There is a very simple way to go about this. You complete the Trial with a pre-set minimum, get out quickly, or use your mind well, you pass. Now, out of the subjects that currently remain, here is the highest.” She tapped a finger against a green line. I looked at the name. Zi. That was logical. She was always skittish, even out of the Trials.

“Her heartbeat registered at 200 beats a minute, three beats a second. This heart rate is, of course, an incredible number. But here is yours.” She tapped a red line, at the bottom of the graph.

To my surprise, my heart rate readings were lower than anybody else’s. Even Ala’s weren’t as low. The woman turned back to me, and there was a strange light in her eyes. Was that respect? Or wonder? It was hard to tell, but I didn’t like it.

“Shal, there is something extraordinary about your Fear Trials. Somehow, you have managed to keep your heart rate at record lows. It is obvious that your ability to withstand fear is much greater than the others. Which leads us to a simple question.” The woman’s cold grey eyes were boring into mine, as if she was attempting to read my mind. “What makes you so special, Shal?”

I wanted to reply, I’m not special. I’m just ten, and I’m actually scared out of my mind right now. I don’t know why my readings are lower, but that can’t be true, because I felt my pulse speeding up! Why are you taking such an interest in me?!

Another part of me, the paranoid suspicious part, wondered if this was all an act. To get me into a false comfort. So that I would be expecting it when-

No, that couldn’t be it. I reasoned that they simply wouldn’t kill me. Easy as that. There had to be another reason.

“So, Shal? What is your opinion on this?” she asked.

It took me a minute to register that she had asked me a question. I jumped slightly, then answered.

“I-I don’t know. I don’t understand, because I could feel my pulse speeding up.”

The woman didn’t seem angry, which was a relief. “You think there may have been some malfunctioning, perhaps?”

“Y-yes…” I stammered.

She nodded, considering it. “Perhaps. That would explain this then.” She tapped one spot on the screens.

I felt as if my heart had stopped. Which was exactly what the monitor said it had done.

“Right here,” the woman continued, “we lose all pulse reception. But then here,” she tapped another spot, “your pulse comes back, steady as ever. So either we lost reception, or…” her eyes met mine, and I shivered slightly, feeling a cold ball of fear in the pit of my stomach. “you should be dead.”  There was an extended silence. Then the woman spoke again. “The monitors should not have failed.”

I stared at it. The date was a couple days back. The day I had found Becca. I struggled to keep my eyes from widening as I stared at it.

“I don’t know,” I forced myself to say.

The woman simply shrugged. She didn’t seem to doubt me. “I would not expect you to know too  much about the workings of the Fear Trials of course, Shal. But I would like you to tell us if anything… odd happens in  your Fear Trials. It would be very important. If this is a failure in the equipment…” she looked at me again.

My mind screamed, she knows! She might have seen me looking at the sketchbook. I tried to stay calm, but my heart was racing.

“A failure in the equipment could be fatal for you or one of your friends, Shal. If the Trials collapsed while you were in them, your mind would be reduced to nothingness. You must understand, we are trying to do what is best for you and your friends.” I was motionless. “Will you tell us, Shal?”

I was started out of my shock-induced silence, and nodded.

The woman smiled. “Good girl, Shal. I’m glad I can trust you.” She gestured towards the door. “The main hallway is out there. Find your way back to your station.”

I nodded slowly, then stood up and left the room, moving slowly. My mind was still racing, but I was, for now, seemingly safe.

 
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