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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18. 18

 

Now, aside from 16, there now was a new danger- the entire warehouse had grated to life. And this time, if the machines caught us it would be over. We would die.

“Where do we go?!” Mar called.

Lilli was the one that ended up answering. “This way!” she veered to the right, avoiding one of the machines. We followed. My heart was racing. We were going to die. We were going to die. This was impossible. What we were doing was suicide.

There was an earsplitting scream behind us, and I spun in time to see Jess, whose leg had been caught in one of the machines, almost like a bear trap. She tried desperately to pull it free, but the jaws dug into her leg. It must have hurt horribly, but Jess was struggling wildly as the trap cut deeply into her leg.

“JESS!” Sim was gone, turning to run back towards her friend. Before any of us could stop her she was at Jess’s side, pulling frantically at the trap. The claws scraped at her hands but she ignored it, tugging frantically. She was blind to what the rest of us saw. The trap was in too deep- dug into Jess’s bones. Sim was just hurting herself. Machines were surging in the darkness, lurching forwards. They would catch both of them if Sim didn’t run.

Talia moved before anybody could. Her hand was on the back of Sim’s jacket suddenly, jerking her backwards. Sim screamed, kicking and clawing like a feral animal.

“No no no no NO! TALIA LET ME GO I HAVE TO SAVE HER!!” she yelled, still fighting. “She’s my best friend! I can’t let her die- let me go!”

“No Sim!” Talia insisted, tears running down her face. “It’s too late. We have to leave her.”

“No!”

“GO!” Jess screamed suddenly. “SIM GO!”

“But-“

“You’re my best friend and I love you- just go!”

“No I can’t leave you!”

“GO!” Desperation tore through her voice.

Sim gritted her teeth, and suddenly punched Talia. Startled, the older girl let go, and Sim bolted forwards. She dropped to her knees next to Jess, and grabbed her face in her hands. Time seemed to slow down as all of us froze, watching them.

“I can’t leave you,” she repeated.

“You have to,” Jess replied. “Live a good, long life and remember me.”

Sim stared at her for a moment. “I…” she took a deep breath. “I love you.” She pulled Jess’s face forwards, and for a moment, ignoring the world around them, kissed her. She broke away, and a little smile crossed Jess’s face.

“I love you too,” she whispered. “Now go.”

Talia grabbed Sim’s arms and yanked her backwards. Sim, still sobbing, allowed herself to be pulled away from Jess as the machines grew closer. I gave one look back, and saw that Jess had stopped struggling. She was smiling, and slowly lay back, closing her eyes as the machines drew closer to her. We kept running. Tears fell down my face now. I’d seen death before- almost on a daily basis. But this wasn’t the Trials- this was real, and very very painful.

“There!” Lilli yelled, her voice choking on strong emotion. A huge door- one that I’d never seen before- barred our way. We ran for it, only to have 16 drop from another place, catching us off guard.

“Not so fast,” she leveled her gun.

Sim wasn’t really in the mood for any of her games at the moment. “You can shut  your mouth, 16. Or I’ll shut it for you. Permanently.”

“Calm down,” she said quietly. “This is not my fault. Your friend Lilli was the one that activated the security systems. If she had not, your friend would have made it with the rest of you.”

“You could have saved her,” Sim snarled. “You know this place, don’t you? You could have done something. You will do something, or so help me I will kill you!”

16 turned to look at where Jess lay- still alive for now. She turned to look at her. “I can help her.” She lifted the gun and fired. From here, I could see the bullet pierce Jess’s skull. She let out a cry, and fell to the ground.

Sim stared at her in shock. “You… Jess… what…” she couldn’t even form a coherent sentence.

“I gave her a quick, merciful death rather than letting the machines tear her apart. I was ordered to bring you back alive, but that one could not be saved. Now. You will come back. Or you’re all going to go the same way.” She cocked her gun.

“Be quiet,” Ala snapped, stepping forwards. Her eyes were wet as well. “Haven’t you done enough?” She clutched her shoulder, holding Star close as best she could.

16’s eyes went to her. They were cold and empty. She leveled the gun on Ala’s head. Undisturbed, Ala kept going.

“If you have any mercy in your heart, you’ll let us pass,” Ala continued. “Whether you believe it or not, you’re one of us. We should be standing together, not fighting each other. If you help us, we can all get to freedom. You could come too. Away from the training. Out into the real world. You could do whatever you wanted to do. You could turn your back and walk away, and not care about what happens to us. It’s your choice.”

16 hesitated, and for a second she looked like she was going to cry. Misery flickered behind those gold eyes of hers, and her hands shook for just a moment. She glanced away to the fallen body of Jess, and then back to us, her knuckles white on the gun. “No,” she whispered. “No. I can’t. The world is dead. And if you go out there, you will be too.”

Then the gun rose, and I heard it fire.

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