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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6. 6

 

    I woke up lying on the floor of the Fear Trials room. I stared up at the ceiling, the light above me blinking like a giant eye. I dragged myself to my feet, and stumbled out the door. I made it back to my room, and collapsed onto my bed.

    It’s over… oh, it’s over… I’m safe. Safe…

    I sighed with relief.

    “Psst! Shal!”

    I looked over, and saw that Talia was next to me now.

    “You okay?”
    I nodded. “Passed.”

    “Good for you!”

    A buzzing sound interrupted us- the alarm for lights out. Talia shrugged apologetically, then lay down on her bed. I lay down on mine, and slowly drifted away into a deep sleep.

 

    I woke up from fitful dreams about Becca, still there, where I had left her. For once, I wanted to go back into the Fear Trials. So that I could see her again. Assuming I could even find her again…

    It was Kira’s Fear Trial in the morning that time. We ate breakfast, and waited for her to come back.

    And waited.

    And waited.

    Finally, Kira was brought back.

    I knew immediately that something was wrong. She was shaking all over, and sobbing really hard. Her eyes were clenched shut, and her arms were wrapped around herself. One of the officials was carrying her, and put her down in the cage, on the small bed. It was hardly gentle, and I could see on Mar’s face that she was about to start screaming. The officials there didn’t even seem to notice. They turned to go.

    “Wait!” I called.

    One of them turned on me, and I flinched back. “What do you want, girl.”

    I gestured frantically at Kira. “Can’t you see there’s something wrong?! Can’t you do anything to help?!”

    The man waved his hand dismissively. “She’ll be fine.” Then he turned and walked away. That was it. Mar let out a quiet little growl in her throat, but he didn’t seem to hear her. We watched him go, until we heard a door close behind him.

    Immediately, we all turned to Kira.

    “Kir!” Mar said, frantically trying to reach her best friend. They were next to each other, but the cages were just far enough apart that she couldn’t reach. That didn’t keep her from trying, straining with her arm until she could touch the bars of her friend’s cage. “What is it?! What happened?!”

    Kira was still sobbing, but now she finally spoke. “Y-you don’t g-get it!”

    “What?” Mar asked, her arm dropped slightly. Kira twitches, looking up at Mar with weak, desperate eyes.

    “We all th-think of the day when they will l-let us go, but… that day i-isn’t going to c-come!” she whimpered. She reached out to Mar too. Their fingers just met in the middle, and Kira’s breathing slowed, like Mar’s presence brought her calm. Poor Mar looked confused out of her mind, gripping Kira’s hand as best she could.

    “Mar, we… we’re all going to die,” Kira said softly, her eyes dropping. “A-all of us. I-it’s a test. T-to see… who’ll s-survive the l-longest. Th-the rest are g-going to die! Th-thats why they d-do this to us! Th-they keep going u-until we’re all d-dead!”

    Then she collapsed to the ground, sobbing even harder. Mar drew her hand back, and stared at her friend in silence, eyes full of heartbreak.

 

    Kira’s heart stopped the next day.

    The officials came to check on her, then took her away. Mar was screaming at them, but they didn’t listen to her. She woke all of us up, slamming herself against the bars of her cage like a lunatic. She didn’t stop screaming until they were out of sight. Then all of the energy went out of her, and she dropped onto her bed, head in hands.

    We all were silent for a while, watching her, unsure how to react.

    Finally, Mar exploded.

    “THIS IS ALL YOUR GUYS’ FAULT!”

    The person nearest to her was Zi. she’s a girl with a good heart, but she’s really skittish. She isn’t great at the Fear Trials- she’s usually my Trial partner. She’s twelve, but still built like an eleven year old, and has short-cut blonde hair, with dark green eyes. She’s good friends with Lilli, but she barely talks. She stared at Mar with wide, shocked eyes, and spoke in that quiet whisper voice of hers.

    “Mar! How can you say that?! What did we do?”

    Tears were streaming down Mar’s face, and she focused on Zi, who shrunk back. “You let them take her! You could have said something. Done something. Kira is one of us, guys! Doesn’t that mean anything to you? Are you really just willing to let her go like that?”

    We all continued to be silent. We knew that this explosion was because of Mar’s pain over her lost best friend, but we could do nothing to stop it. And nothing to help it either. What could we say that would calm her down?

    Ala spoke in a soft, firm voice. “Leave Zi alone, Mar. You can’t blame her for this.”

    Mar turned away from Zi, focusing on a new target. Normally, none of us question Ala. But Mar was furious, and completely beyond reason. “You said you would protect us! All of us! Where were you for the others who lost their lives in the Trials?  You could have said something and stopped them from taking her! You could have made them listen when we said something was wrong! Every time, you could have said something. But you just sat there. And watched them get taken away. Were you protecting them then, Ala?!”

    The look on Ala’s face was one of incredible pain. Most of us found somewhere else to look. Ala is incredibly strong. It made us all uncomfortable to see her upset. “Mar! You know that’s not true!” Tears were beginning to show in her own eyes now, which proved that Mar’s blows had hit where it hurt the most. It took a lot to get Ala to cry like that.

    Mar turned away from her, and rounded on Lili. “And you’re so smart, or at least you act it all the time! Isn’t there some way to save her? Couldn’t you have used your brain? Or did you not care enough?!”

    Lili’s eyes widened. “There was nothing I could do for her-”

    Mar was past reasoning. Her anger was driving her crazy She cut off Lili’s words with an angry glare. “Yeah, sure.” She focused on Star. “You never did get along well with Kira. How’s it feel now?”

    Star stared Mar down with fury in her eyes. “You’re being nuts, Mar. Get a grip on yourself.” There’s Star for you. No pity. Just anger. Judging by the amount of fury in her eyes, that was Star’s equivalent of sobbing outright.

    Mar shrunk before her furious glare, and turned on a new target. Talia.

    “You always act so strong, and hold it together all the time. Do you even care that she’s gone?! Does it even matter to you?”
    Talia flinched, then set her face. When she replied, her tone was soft, but angry nevertheless. “Mar, stop. You’re hurting all of us. Hurting yourself Kira wouldn’t want you to be set against us.”

    Mar flinched backwards. “Don’t talk about Kira to me! You don’t even care about her!”

    Talia stood, her voice becoming more and more angry. “I know what it’s like to lose somebody you love!” She took a deep breath before continuing. “Maybe you didn’t know this, but Ainsley was my sister.”

    Complete silence.

    None of us had known. Talia had never mentioned it. The two had been close, but no closer than the rest of us were to each other. Ainsley had been the second girl to die. She had been in her cage for two day, empty and lifeless before her body finally gave up. Talia had been forced to watch the entire time.

    Even Mar’s outburst was silenced.

    “The difference is, I didn’t go screaming at all my friends because of her death,” Talia continued. “It gave me a reason to fight.”

    Mar just shook her head. “Sh-she was my best friend,” she said softly. Her anger was gone, replaced by bleak, miserable acceptance. “She was the only one that really understood me…” For a minute she was silent. Then, almost resignedly, she added, “I can’t believe she’s gone.”

    “Neither can any of us,” Zi said, moving closer to Mar. Her big heart was overcoming her shyness, now that Mar was done screaming at us.

    Everything was silent for a long time. Finally, Mar spoke again.

    “I-I’m sorry guys. I shouldn’t have done that. Ala, I know you do your best. Lili, I shouldn’t say those things, you’re the smartest out of all of us. Star… you’re right. I am an idiot. And Talia… I really am sorry, I didn’t know she was your sister.”

    Each one of them nodded in turn as Mar apologized.

    “It’s okay, Mar-mar,” Ala said gently.

    That got a smile from Mar. She had always joked with Ala that nicknames were supposed to be shorter than the person’s actual name. She managed to hold the smile for a moment, but then it dropped from her face as she began to cry softly.

    For a while after that, we all were dead silent. I couldn’t believe it. Kira. Small, shy Kira, who never talked much. Mar’s best friend. The girl who shared all her secrets with Mar. She and Mar had looked after each other. And now… She was dead. Gone. Forever.

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