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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15. 15

 

To my surprise, it was Mar that ended up confronting me. The door to my cage/room opened, and Mar came storming in, her hair flying around her head in a messy kind of halo.

“Shal, are you crazy?!” she demanded.

“What?” I asked, confused.

Mar’s glance flashed to the speaker mounted on the wall, hesitating for a second before sitting down at the table provided for visits.

“What’s wrong, Mar?” I asked, once it seemed like she’d calmed down.

Obviously she hadn’t. Her fists clenched, and she was breathing hard as she reached out and grabbed my wrist, pulling me across the table and closer to her.  “This plan of yours. Are you trying to get us all killed? Have you ever considered how dangerous this crazy little scheme is? And you won’t even take the responsibility yourself, you had to put Lilli in danger!”

“Whoa, whoa, whoa!” I held my hands up quickly. “Mar calm down.

She was only just beginning. “Did you ever think that maybe we wanted to be rid of that thing? And this is all basing off the fact that you think the Fear Trials are real just because you were hallucinating and saw Becca-“

“I saw Becca! I know she’s alive! There’s no other possibility!”

“Maybe you’re hallucinating, like I said. Or it was just part of the Trial. Or you made it up to give us hope, and now we’re following that insane idea of yours, thinking that there’s actually a way out of here… do you realize how insane that sounds?!”

I sighed. “First off. It was Lilli’s idea. She was the one that begged me to do this, and eventually I agreed because she was so dedicated to it. Mar, you have to admit that it’s a possibility!”

“No!” Mari snapped. “Shal, what if we were taken away from the world for a reason? What if the world is terrible? Did you ever consider that?”

I hadn’t. I hesitated, squirming and glancing down.

“Mar…” I changed the topic. “Did you get the thing to Lilli.”

“Yes.” Her response was clipped, still sharp with anger.

“Good.”

I looked back up and met her eyes. They were full of worry. “Are you sure this is… I don’t know, sane? Safe? Possible?”

“Maybe not sane or safe. But definitely possible,” I shrugged. I lowered my voice even more, leaning forwards. “Mar, we can’t keep living like this. It’ll drive us all mad. We have to get out of here.”

“But not like this,” Mar said hesitantly. “Shal, this life could be worse. We shouldn’t… shouldn’t try to run. They don’t really mistreat us. Even the Fear Trials aren’t that bad. It’s not like they torture us. For all we know, the world outside could be totally destroyed. Decimated.”

I frowned, leaning back. Something was wrong. This didn’t sound like Mar. She spoke simply, straight and to the point. If she thought something was stupid, she’d say that. And out of all of us, Mar hated this place. I knew that. Why would Mar, of all people, be saying that they weren’t mistreated? She had seen Kira die. She’d exploded with anger on all of us, after all.

These words didn’t sound like Mar’s. They sounded like somebody else’s.

“Who’s telling you to say this, Mar?” I whispered.

Mar’s eyes widened in shock. I knew I was right instantly.

“Someone scripted this out for you,” I guessed. “Someone told you what to say.” I hesitated, as the reality of that began to hit me. Someone had been instructing her. Which meant that someone had known about our plan. Which meant…

“It wasn’t them, was it?” I whispered. “The ones who run the Trials. Mar, tell me it wasn’t them.”

Mar looked away from me with hesitation. “No one… no one is telling me what to do. Shal, it’s stupid.”

“Yes they are,” I insisted. “Mar, you can tell me anything.”

Mar leaned forwards, shaking her head. “You life’s on the line. So’s mine. And Lilli’s. Call her off. Do you know what they’re going to do to her?!”

“No,” I admitted, starting to panic. “What is it?”

Mar shuddered. “They’re going to rig up a core cube. When she steals it, it’ll blow up in her face. They’ll kill her, Shal. I don’t want to see another of my friends die. I’d rather be here for the rest of my life than see all of you killed!”

I hesitated. “They’ll kill Lilli?”

“Lilli, you, me, Ala… anyone they suspect might be hart of the plan. You know she’ll be the first. Then Ala, who’s our leader. Then who knows. Maybe all of us. Maybe they’ll kill each and every one of us!

I reached out, and gripped her wrists, pinning her arms to the table.

“Then we have to do it now.”

“Do what now?”

“Run,” I replied. “Give it all we’ve got and get out of here.

“They’ll be expecting that!”

“No they won’t,” I corrected. “Mar, you know no one has tried a breakout. Ever. If anyone can plan it, Lilli and Ala can. We have Lilli rig something up with that core cube she’s got, and we get out of here. That’s all we need to do.”

Mar’s eyes flickered up towards the speaker, and suddenly I hesitated.

“Mar…?”

“Yes?”

“Does that speaker go both ways.”

Mar hung her head. “Not the speakers. They have cameras in each of our rooms. They’re monitoring us. They heard your little conversation with Lilli. They heard everything. They know, Shal. They’re giving us a chance to back down, why not take it?”

“Why haven’t they killed us yet?”

Mar sighed. “They’re giving us a chance and you want to know why? Does it matter?”

“Fine. One more question,” I sighed, preparing myself. “Why did they have you ask me?”

Mar looked away. “You’re the instigator. And the youngest. You didn’t think they were going to punish you too?”

I hesitated. She was right.

“Mar… tell… tell Lilli…” I hesitated. “Tell her it’s time.”

Mar hesitated, looking at me in disbelief. “We’re not ready,” she whispered. “We’ll be killed.”

“We’ll die here waiting,” I whispered back. Then I looked away. “It’s over,” I said calmly, hoping that was all the camera could hear. Now that I'd said our plan aloud, we probably didn't have any hope.

But that didn't mean we weren't going to try.

 
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