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.'


17. 17


“Who are you?” Ala demanded.

The girl raised her head slightly, cocking one of her eyebrows. She definitely wasn’t Becca. I’d never even seen this girl before. She had dark skin, and wavy black hair that curled down to her shoulders. Her eyes, framed by deep black eyebrows that almost vanished into her skin, glimmered gold. She shook her head slightly, and her gold eyes glimmered like broken glass. For a moment, she simply stared at Ala, and not a word was passed between them. Then she stood, shaking off the ropes and I realized they’d never really been tied. She pulled a gun from a holster at her waist, and leveled it at Ala’s head.

“You have no business being here,” she murmured. Her voice was as dark as her skin. “Get back where you belong.”

“We belong out in the real world, away from this place,” Ala replied, her voice careful and controlled. “And you haven’t answered my question. Who are you?”

“Depends on what you mean by that. Who am I, or what am I.”

“Your name,” Ala said firmly. Pretty impressive, for someone with a gun held to her head.

“0016,” the girl replied. “But I am usually called just 16.”

“Oh-oh-sixteen,” Sim sounded out with a little frown. “What kind of a name is that?”

“That’s the only name I was ever told,” the girl replied. “Are your names not numbers too?” She actually sounded confused.

“No, actually they’re not,” Sim replied. “I’m Sim. She’s Ala.” She went to continued with her introductions, but the girl cocked the gun, cutting off all conversation.

“Quiet. Give up trying to escape. You don’t know what it’s like out there. Everything that’s happening here is for one of the most noble reasons that could possibly exist. Get back now. Or I’ll have to stop you.”

“There are more of us,” Sim pointed out.

In retrospect, that probably wasn’t the smartest thing to say. She lifted her gun, and almost in slow motion, pulled the trigger.


I screamed, expecting one of us to fall. But nobody did. There was smoke, and then I felt a hand grabbing for my arm, and we were running- running away as fast as we could.

There were gunshots behind us, but none of them hit. We reached a jet black door that I’d never seen before, and Lilli punched in a security code. We ran through it, into the warehouse landscape of the Fear Trials. The gunshots faded, then stopped. Then the area was silent.

That was when I noticed Ala wincing, clutching her shoulder where blood was already spreading. We all surrounded her urgently.

“She hit you?” Talia asked urgently, reaching up to touch her shoulder. Ala slapped her hand away.

“It’s fine. It doesn’t really hurt. She missed anything important. We have more important matters to deal with.”

We stopped to take stock of where we were. The warehouse was dark and empty. I let out a soft breath. Maybe, just maybe, we could still go.

Almost like this place was responding to my thoughts, there was a thud as 0016 landed in front of us, gun trained on Ala’s head yet again. We all froze as she faced us, solid fury showing in her awful, gold eyes.

“There’s a secret tunnel system through here,” she said quietly. “And I’ve got the entire thing memorized. Face it. You’re never getting out of here. You’re lucky I’m giving you a second chance.”

Before anyone could say anything that would get us shot, I pushed past Ala, coming to stand in front, and trying to ignore the gun that was instantly trained on me. She wouldn’t shoot to kill- right?

“Before you kill us- can you at least tell us who you are?”

“I told you. 16.” She studied me with a scornful eye.

“Why haven’t we seen you before?”

Her response was surprising, and very very confusing. “Because you were being trained to be heroes. I’m being trained to be an assassin.”

“An assassin?”

“You have no idea,” she whispered. For a moment the light in her eyes changed, showing a flicker of emotion. “Years of training. Years of harsh, horrible training. I’ve learned how to kill. I’ve learned more about killing than anyone should ever have to in their lives. But I know how to do it, and I know how to do it without pity or mercy. Now get back where you belong.”

All of a sudden, she had turned and was pointing her gun at Lilli, who had begun to edge away from the group.

“Where are you going.”

“Nowhere,” Lilli put her hands in the air quickly.

“Get back here,” 16 hissed. Her eyes narrowed. “You’re the one that hacked the security systems. They know about you, and they’re not happy. Now go.”

“Just one more thing,” Lilli said quietly.


“Duck.” Lilli threw herself to the ground. The rest of us followed suit, just as a conveyor belt whipped to life. While she was distracted, we turned, running away from her as quickly as we could.

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