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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12. 12

 

My eyes opened.

I was in a simple, blank room with a single door and no monitors.  Zi was there as well, on the ground sobbing. My heart was pounding and my face was still wet, but I knelt next to her, wrapping my arms around her until her sobs faded away to soft gasps.

“Thanks for giving me time,” I whispered to her.

She nodded. “I wanted you to finish…” Her voice was soft and breathless. I ran my hands through her silky black hair, which seemed to calm her.

“Thanks Zi.”

Inside I felt a small pang of jealousy. I was younger. Shouldn’t Zi be comforting me? Why did I have to be the strong one? But those thoughts weren’t fair to either of us. I shook off those thoughts quickly, holding Zi until her shaking began to slow. I began to rub her shoulders, and found the action not only comforted her, but also me.

Just as I was about to stop, one of my fingers caught in her shirt. I frowned, and felt carefully. Our uniforms were unbroken, and usually unstained. But… right there, right between her shoulder blades was a small hole.

My heart leapt into my throat. Carefully, I looked at the back of her shirt. It was a long, jagged tear. Like a tear… made by a hook. The back of her white shirt was stained with a small line of red where the cut had bled.

My heart nearly stopped. When we come out of the Fear Trials, we’re always the way we went in- unmarked. Nothing changes. I could pass up the tears on my face. That was different. I could cry while I was in the Trials, right? But this… this little rip on Zi’s shirt… it was identical to where the hook had caught her.

“Shal?” she asked, confused. “What is it?”

I couldn’t answer. My mind was reeling. There was something wrong here. There was something terribly, horribly wrong. I didn’t understand it yet, but I had the feeling that a few things that made sense in my world were about to come crashing horribly down.

I didn’t say anything to Zi. I waited in silence until one of the officials came to get us, and we returned to the others.

It was lunchtime, so we joined the other girls in the lunchroom. The meal was quiet. Ala was there, but there were dark rings under her eyes, and she looked exhausted. She picked at her food, eating mechanically.

We were halfway through, when one of the officials walked in. “Get up,” she ordered. I recognized her as the grey-eyed woman that I had spoken to before my Fear Trial.

We all stood hesitantly. Ala grabbed my arm, and pulled me closer to her. We all bunched around her, subconsciously seeking protection.

“I understand you are all in shock at the tragedy of your two companions,” she said softly. “But you must be informed that the one who… passed on…  removed an item from an important location.” No sympathy or sadness in her tone anymore. She sounded angry.  “We did not locate it in her sleeping quarters, and we are operating on the assumption that one of you has it. If one of you does have it, I recommend you turn it in before we are forced to take more measures to find it.”

Everybody was frozen, stunned. Nobody had any idea what she was talking about. At least… I had no idea.

When none of us answered, the woman started to get angry, taking a threatening step forwards.

“Wait,” Ala said in her calm, Ala tone, stepping forwards. The woman’s furious glare turned on her and she put her hands up quickly. “We don’t know what or where this object is, I promise. But if anyone has it, they’ll tell me. I promise, it will be returned.”

While the woman was looking at her, I saw something out of the corner of my eye. Mar’s face had gone pale, and her fingers were twitching. She looked away, eyes darting towards our rooms. She was definitely frightened. More so… than she should have been. Unless she was the one hiding this item… Mar was stubborn. She wasn’t one to talk. And if it was something that Kira stole she might try to hide it… So they would find it, and Mar would be punished.

I began to shake slightly. I didn’t want another of my friends to die!

By the time the woman had looked back over us, Mar had rearranged her face, deflecting attention away from her.

Safe

But then again, are we?

What are they going to do, since they couldn’t find it?

This could be putting all of us at risk.

But that doesn’t mean I’ll turn in one of my friends.

The woman nodded. “That’s what I thought.” Her voice was cold as she glared at all of us, shooting an especially pointed look at Ala. She left the room, but not before adding, “Lunch is over. Back to your quarters.”

 
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