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Lyra has always felt out of place when standing next to her twin brother. Lathan was always trying hard to fit in and Lyra always seemed to make a ruckus everywhere she went. But when the government gets involved with Lyra and Lathan's differences she realizes nothing is what it seems to be. With courage and the help of others, secrets unravel and things take a turn for the...



Five hundred years ago, a catastrophe took the souls of millions. They tell us in our history classes that the nuclear war was horrible; fires, radiation, air you could suffocate on, buildings always falling into a heap of dust. Almost everything was destroyed, millions of lives were lost, and the population decreased by sixty percent. The air is now full of radiation and is no longer safe to breath, so we live in a towering building that goes by Rica, to suit all of our needs. They tell us we should be happy we found light through all the darkness. We should be happy that we’ve come so far. But have we?

    They say the fights, killings and the struggle to survive was horrendous, people running around in the ruins, scrounging for food and taking each others lives to survive, but one day the fighting suddenly stopped. The world stood still, until the government finally decided that they had enough, so every country laid down their weapons, listened to the officials and moved into hiding. The representatives or presidents met in the middle and discussed the matters. They decided that to live in peace and to prevent another catastrophe that we were going to live a certain lifestyle. So they thought of ways to ensure peace in our communities.

    Soon it was said that to keep everyone healthy and safe from the     chemicals in the air they would move us into a special building they had been working on. It is big enough to support all of our needs. They sorted the men, women and children by name. If your last name started with an A, then you were on floor A. Same with the rest of the letters of the alphabet. Most letters had more than four floors. Then there were the hospital floors, the school floors and the floors that leisure time was spent on. At the very bottom are the government floors. No one is allowed there unless you work for the government or are sent there for some reason. No one has ever stepped in, no one has ever stepped out. That’s the way it has been and will always be. The building protrudes miles above the decaying Earth.

    Another rule was that once a week we would get rations of food and money. Everybody would get an equal amount. If someone broke the rules everybody in that section(floor) would lose the rations for that upcoming week. We live in the same rooms and wear the same clothes. That way, no one feels like someone else is getting something better. There is a room for farming. The farmers say it feels just like your outside and that there's mechanical sunlight for the crops and animals. These rooms are on the farming floor. If you pick a framing job, you are one of those floors.

    Another rule is that when you are born you get two monitors in you. One in your brain, to process how your brain is working and to see how you think during certain situations and how you react; they try to track any mutation. Every situation you have, all that data that your monitor is picking up goes into the governments file. They print everyone’s off at the end of the day. The next day all the government leaders go scan the files to see if there is anything unusual. They do this to see if there is anyone that can come in harm to the government, and the last of the population.

    The second monitor is in your neck. It tracks when you get sick, how you get sick, and what the illness is. This device was made so the scientist can help us find new cures.

    The last thing is the test. Every seventeen-year-old is supposed to take it. It goes by the "Potency Test". It's a test to see your abilities, strengths and weaknesses, how you react in certain situations and to see if there is an abnormality in your brain. The main thing it tests for is agility, emotional responses, and determination. They also take interest in genes and how your brain works. If there is anything unusual they notice they take you and you belong to the government until they're through with you.

    But everyone that has been taken has never come back or they are notified as dead. What really happens in the government rooms may always remain a mystery. We have come a long way when not focusing on the disappearances or deaths, but we all know have an idea on why it happens. Probably because those people are not capable of keeping peace. They’re disturbing are peace, They’re afraid of society collapsing, along with everyone being afraid of another war.

    So if we have all these rules to keep peace, then why is everyone so afraid? Well, the truth is deep down we know some of us aren't safe. And with rules or no rules, the monitors in our heads and the tests are enough to give us away, and beyond that, secrets do have a way of getting out.

    And after that, destruction. 


Chapter 1

Once, a very long time ago, I had a great grandmother. She believed in things that would cause concern and make people talk. The things she said and the way she went on acting in public, was all to prove a point. "Our world isn't going to last in peace, and rules can't change that." Then one day she said the wrong thing to the wrong guard, and got shot. What most people don’t know is that was her intention. She died doing and saying what she believed, and that’s the way she thought it should be. This is the woman I aspire to be; everyone tells me I’m crazy and maybe I am.

My brother and I are twins.  I’m Lyra Lane and my bother is  Lathan Lane. We both have brown hair and fair skin. I have a narrow body, but Lathan has lots of muscle to him. The only major difference between us is my left eye is blue and the right eye is green. Lathan’s is the exact opposite.

I've always felt out of place when people stare at me and my brother, no one else is like us. Sometimes I wonder if we're safe, but is anyone really safe? Doctors often study our genes and how we think. At times, I catch guards following me, keeping a close eye on me. I think that maybe one day they would be too interested in me, and I'll end up just like the ones who are killed or disappear.

Lathan and I are nothing alike. My brother is very intelligent. He's always in his room reading books, or at lunch and any other time he can. He’s not the type of person to read novels. He likes the educational books, like war and medicine, and our government; anything that he could learn something from. 

He got straight A's in school, unlike me who managed to pass with All B's. I never really tried though. My brother was always in his room studying, He'd be up all night and be wide awake in the morning. I've never known how he manages to do that. He works so hard and is so smart; he also loves to invent things. I wouldn't be surprised if he became a scientist or engineer, that is if they were controlled by different people.

But it's impossible, because all of our jobs are controlled by the government. They have a floor where they keep all the cameras so they can watch other people at their jobs, making sure everything is going the way it should be. They also have cameras in every hallway.  They don't want any conspiracy or rebellions. Peace is maintained around every corner you turn, and if it's not that's when the government steps in.

I know a lot about the government because of my father; he was a government worker. He died when my brother and I were thirteen. He was very close and very fond of my brother. They were always having debates and were always in his room talking about things that I was never a part of.

My father must have known  he was going to die, because before he left for work he turned to Lathan and said, "Remember what I said, 'take care of your sister’.” He walked out without saying anything to me and a cold ache pinched my chest. That day I came back from school and I saw my mother, holding her stomach and almost falling to her knees. The two officers in our room held her up and cooed her. My mothers face was all red, and her eyes were puffy and bloodshot. They ached with pain and it took me seconds to realize  that she was crying. As one of the officers took her to government headquarters the other sauntered towards me and told me that my father had died.

I instantly burst in to tears, the only thought going through my head was, he didn't even say goodbye to me. I wondered if he had ever cared; it seemed to me that he couldn't have, because all of his free time was spent with my brother. Then I remembered what he had said to my brother before he had left, "Remember what I said, take care of your sister." I observed my brother that night, and he didn't look upset at all. He had shed no tears, he just held our mother and stared at a wall. It seemed to me that he knew our father was going to die, or that he just didn't care.

But how could he not care? They had spent all of their time together. I like to believe that my brother did know, it just makes more sense and then I'm not asking myself all of these questions.

My personality is much different from Lathan's. I'm more careless than him, I never think before I do something or say something. One day that will get me in trouble, but I never think about it like that.

My mom says I have my grandma's actions and she also says that's not a good thing. I'm very stubborn and hard headed, just like my grandmother. I'm always told I need to control myself but I find it really hard to do that. Often times I tell myself to try harder, and when I try I land right back to where I started, spitting harsh comments about our government and sneaking around.

Curiosity gets to me. I'm always wanting to know why things happen. When I was little I remember the adults were talking behind closed doors, I had walked into the room, but then was told quickly to get out. They were talking about "adult stuff." So I apologized and backed quietly out of the room, then as I waited for the buzz of their voices to start up I ran back to the door and stood behind it. They were talking about a man that had died and that they didn't think it was going to be the last. After hearing that, I ran back up to my room and played with my dolls just like a little girl was supposed to do. I didn't want to hear about people dying. Of course I was only a kid, but I'm not anymore.

My mom always talks about adult stuff with Lathan, she says when I start acting like an adult I will be included in on the conversations, but to do that I need to follow rules, and I'm not the best on that. There are so many things that I want to know, but Lathan says that I'm best off not knowing some things, because not everything is something I want to hear.

My mothers says one day I'll learn, because eventually I'll have to, because sooner or later it will cost me if I don't. But this is the way I am, and I'm perfectly satisfied of how things are. I don't even care that they monitor our brains, they see my brother's intelligence and they see my curiosity and ignorance.

But what's that going to change?

Absolutely nothing.

My mother says when I'm older they might see me as a threat and have me killed. But I'm not afraid of death, because if I was I would've listened to what my mother said, "Rules are rules, Lyra, and if you can't behave yourself they'll make you."

So here I am today, still not following rules and about to take my Potency Test. But I've made it this far and I believe I can go much farther.



I get up in the morning and get dressed, putting the same grey tunic and slacks on that everyone has to wear. Everyone has the same colored clothes, so I've never been that type of person to worry about what I'll look like. 

After I get dressed I go into the kitchen. My brother Lathan is making breakfast; eggs. Yuck. To me they taste like rubber, but my brother and mother love them, so I put up with them.

My brother looks up at me, "Ready for the big day?" He asks, sliding the white yolk onto a grey, metal plate.

I am not ready; I'm scared that something will go wrong. But I'm not the type of person to talk about my feelings, so I decide to lie.

"Yes," I state as confidently as I can. "How about you?"

"I feel pretty good," he says, walking across the linoleum to the dinning table in the middle of the circular room, he places the metal plate on the table with a clatter, then he heads back to the stove to make his plate of eggs. Of course he feels confident. He is the smartest, most intelligent person I have ever met. There is no reason for him to be afraid. He can probably master whatever comes at him.

"That's good," I say slowly, turning to the cabinet to grab a small breakfast treat. I hope the he didn't catch the jealousy in my voice. I hate thinking about how much harder the test could be for me, but then I remember that I don't know what the test is going to be like, all I know is what it's for.

I sit at the table, watching my brother make the rest of the eggs. I look at him and even though he seems all nerdy, the truth is he is a very handsome man and he has lots of muscle, whereas to me I have no muscle at all.

My mom comes in and kisses me on the head. She sits in front of the plate Lathan laid out for her and starts to eat. She seems very tense, slowly putting the eggs in her mouth and her eyes darting about. Of course she is, though wouldn't every mother be?

"How are you feeling Lyra?" She asks as she finishes her eggs.

"Fine," I lie again.

"Lathan," she calls behind her. "What about you?

"I feel pretty good."

"Well," my mom states blandly, "I remember my Test." I expect her to go on, but she looks like she's got lost in her thoughts. Her eyes staring off at the pale wall in front of her.

"How did it go?" My brother asks, trying to break her trance.

My mom snaps out of it, slowly looking at my brother who is now standing with a plate of eggs above her head. She hesitates as if debating whether to tell us or not.

"That's not important," she says quickly, shaking her head.

If I wasn't nervous before, I'm definitely nervous now.

My mother rubs her hands together nervously. I wish I could say something to reassure her everything is going to be all right, but even I don't know if it is.

My brother comes around the table and sits. For a moment everyone just looks at each other. I look at my mom, pale and thin with dark circles under her eyes from working too hard and not getting enough sleep. Then I look at my brother, he’s rigid and looks straight ahead. We’re all nervous, today is a big day.

I slowly bite into the breakfast treat t I took from the cabinet, I'm halfway through eating when I look up at my mom. She hasn't said anything since her outburst. I think of her response when Lathan asked her how her test went. Something must have gone wrong. But what?

I know she won't tell me, so there's no point in pushing the matter. I finish the rest of my breakfast and go to my room. I lay on my bed for a while just thinking, long and hard until my brother walks into my room. He sits on my bed and stares at a poster on my wall. "It's okay to be afraid," he says calmly. "Truth is, I'm terrified. I've never felt my heart pound like this before. And my stomach is all in a knot. I'm not used to these feelings."

"I'm nervous too," I confess, happy to know I'm not the only one scared out of my wits.

"That's all right," he averts his eyes to look at me.  They're full of warmth. "Its good to feel these things."

"I don't like feeling these things," I say truthfully.

"Me neither, but it's what makes us human. Everything will be all right though, just trust me." There's so much intelligence in his voice, it calms me. He's right, everything will be okay.

"What's up with mom?" I ask, some of my fear lifted from my chest.

He gets tense when I ask and says, "I don't know. I've never seen her like that. I'm just guessing that something went wrong with her test and it's hard for her to talk about it."

"Yeah" I agree, but don't quite believe him.

We sit in silence for a while longer. My brother is just staring out the window and I'm thinking of ways to calm my nerves. So I decide to think about what was just said. My brother is nervous too. I would have never thought my brother of all people would be nervous. To me he just doesn't seem like that type, he always seems so prepared at school. But that's at school you can always be prepared there. This is a test that no one gets to prepare for. It all clicks pretty soon. My brother could always prepare himself and study at school. When he did that he had confidence and knew what was going to happen and what was going to be on the test. This test is different he has no clue what's going to happen and what's going on, he must feel so lost.

And then I feel bad for him. My brother works so hard but in the end this is what happens. None of our school work matters. I heard that a long time ago, school determined your life, and some people went to school until they were thirty. But here school doesn't matter as much as it did before, and that makes me think all my brothers work was for nothing.

It's a sad thing, that someone could work so hard and get nothing out of it.

It almost makes me glad that I didn't work that hard because all of it would be a waste. But that doesn't change the thoughts or feelings I have for my brother.

After our test we will go on deciding what jobs we will want and spend a year learning how the job works. If we don't like it, we get to pick one more but we have to stick with that one afterwards. So, we are told to choose wisely.

But what will I pick? I don't know what I'm good at.

My brother doesn't want a job. Not if he has to work for the government. He despises them but knows how to keep it to himself, unlike me. I already know what my brother would be, a scientist. He is fascinated by them. Making medicine and technology, and whatever else scientist do that I wouldn't know of. But what about me, what am I good at?

My brother snaps his fingers in front of my face, breaking my deep thoughts. "Its time to go," he says.

I can already tell there is fear in my eyes. I feel it in my whole body. This is it, I think. My brother helps me get up. I take his hand, he squeezes it little, I guess to reassure me everything is going to be okay.

    I walk out to the kitchen. My mother is standing at the sink, hands placed firmly on the edges of the dark metal. It looks like she has been crying. "Ready to go?" she asks, spinning around and smiling wide. I know she is trying to keep her voice steady. Why is she so nervous? What happened to her during her test? Or better yet, what does she know about ours?

"Yes," I reply, but that's a lie. I'm not ready and I don't think I'll ever be. The more I think the more I worry. Its best just to clear my mind.

We walk out of the "house" and head towards the floor right above the government floors. This is where our tests will be taking place. Our room is quite big, but that's because people that work for the government, their immediate family gets bigger rooms. It has a bathroom and a small kitchen, and three sections of small bedrooms, because that's how many people live in this room.

We walk in silence toward the place were our test will take place. It's the place above the government floors; this is where the test is taken.  Sometimes they have tests every day of the week. It just depends when the birthdays are.

Once we reach the floor my mom walks us out towards the room, and stops outside the door. My mother grabs my arm, she looks up at me and then turns to my brother and says, "Remember what your father said, take care of her." She looks as if she is ready to cry. What is going on? Does my brother know something that I don't know?

I look at my brother, he nods at my mother and says, "I understand."

There's something they're not telling me. I know it.

"I love you, Lyra" She says, turning towards me, tears threatening to spill out of her eyes.

"Mom, what's going on?" I ask, eyes wide with confusion.

She looks at me and says again, "I love you."

She says it almost as if she won't see me again.

“Mom, am I coming home?" I can't help but wonder. She is acting like I will  ever see her again. What is going on?

"Come on Lyra, lets go on in," my brother says, prying our mother's hands off me.

"No, I'm not leaving until I get an answer."

"Lyra this is not the place to do this," he spits. He's pushing me now.

"Why is it always that you know everything and I know nothing! What is going on?" I yell, anger and fear coiling inside me. My mother starts walking away, shaking with tears. I start to go after her but my brother yanks me back towards the door.

"Mom," I scream. "Answer me!" The tears start rolling down my face. I don't understand anything, because nothing seems to make sense. I feel as if something bad might happen. I'm scared, and I'm not usually the type of person to get scared like this.

I watch my mom leave. "Mom," I whisper, but she can't hear me; I can barely hear myself. I fall to the ground and watch my mom become a blur.

My brother bends down and says, "It will be all right, lets get you up."

I get up and look at him. "What are you keeping from me?" I say through clenched teeth, and I know I must look like a wreck—tear streaked face and my hair a mess.

"Nothing," he says.

"Yes you are!" I yell. "My whole life you've been keeping things from me. I want answers, and I want them now!"

"I can't tell you."

"Why? Because dad told you not too? What does he even mean, 'Take care of your sister?' What is going on?" I demand.

"Walk in the room, Lyra." His voice is tense. The tone is telling me "don't get testy". I've taken it too far; I shouldn't push this matter any further.

I walk into the room with my brother on my heels. The room is huge inside.  There are couches in a corner, wooden tables, and the counters are all marble. The walls are glass with curtains for privacy. When I look around I notice that some of the walls are computers. People moving things off the computers and onto tablets. I've never seen things like this before. There's hallways that lead to other areas around some of the corners.

My brother walks in front of me and says, "Sit down. I'll go tell them that we're here. I'll be right back." I watch him walk to a lady transferring something from a computer on the wall. He doesn't look like the type of person to lie or to keep something from someone, but right now I feel like I don't even know him. I know he's keeping something from me. And that hurts.  Something bad is going to happen, I know it, and that scares me, but what scares me even more is deep down I know I won't be coming home and I won't see my mother for a very long time; or maybe even never again.

The only thought I have as I look at my brother is what are you keeping from me? I have a feeling if he doesn't tell me, I'll find out eventually, and by eventually I mean today.









Chapter 2

After my brother admits us we are taken to the waiting room for people who are taking the test. In there I see Aurora Sheeran, a girl in my class and two other girls who look familiar, but I don't know their names. Everyone around us looks nervous. One of the girls I don't know is pacing back and forth, softly mumbling to herself and chewing her grey fingernails.

    Since my brother and I are siblings we will go at the same time, but in different rooms. We go according to alphabetical order. We might not get the test done at the same time, so we will be sent back to the waiting room. That is, if nothing goes wrong.

    I sit down and my brother sits next to me. For a while it stays silent between us. I’m not sure what I should say to him. I feel embarrassed after my outburst. But then Aurora Sheeran, a rude and irritating girl, comes over with a gin on her face and breaks the silence.         

    "Hey, Lathan, hey Lyra," She says confidently, stopping just inches from us. "Ready for the big day?"

    Lathan replies first, "I would like to sit in silence right now. I have some things to think about.”  

    "Like telling me what the heck is going on," I spit viciously, crossing my arms over my chest.

    "Lyra," his voice is strict. "I told you this is not the place to do this."

    "Well, where is!" I yell. "Apparently I'm not going home and I have no clue what’s going on, because you don't tell me anything. I trust you with everything!" I'm frantic now, anger fueling me.

    "Lyra," he hisses. "Lower your voice."

    But I don't, I keep on going.

    "I don't understand you! This is my life, I have a right to know. You're going to tell me or I'm leaving this place!” I scream louder hearing the anger in my voice.

    Then Aurora speaks, "Brother and sister rivalry, I love it." I almost forgot she was here but the comment was unnecessary and it makes my anger fly through the roof.

    "Get away!" I scream, my fists slamming down on my chair.

    "Lyra, listen to me. You ca—," My brother gets cut off.

    "Lyra and Lathan Lane, its time for your test, says a male scientist. Lathan and I both turn to see a man with short cropped hair and beady eyes standing in a doorway.

    My brother gets up, but I stay seated.

    "Come on," Lathan says, exhaustion in his voice.

    It must be the stubbornness in me, because I say, "No, not until you tell me what's going on."

    "Lyra, trust me you don't want to do this."

    "Is there a problem?" The man is holding the door open with his back, but he leans off it to assess the argument.

    "Yes, there is," I say calmly, looking right into my brothers eyes. "Your whole ideas of living in peace is ridiculous. This test, what's it supposed to prove? Nothing. And not everybody can mange to keep the peace, take my brother for example, because if he really gave a damn about keeping the peace he would tell me what the hell is going on." As the last sentence rolled off my tongue I looked right at the man, he's staring at me, dumbfounded. There went my carelessness; I finally burst. This is the stuff my mom warned me about and told me I needed to control. Maybe this is all made up in my head. Maybe there's nothing they're keeping from me. Maybe I was just assuming.

    "Lyra," my brother says. "Just come and take the test before you push yourself even further." I realize he's right, I don't want to push this matter any further. I get up and follow my brother and the scientist; his name tag reads Marcus. We go though a series of hallways in silence with my thoughts running around in my mind.

    As we walk down a hallway a lady passes by. I recognize her, she's the head of our government, Marlene. She has blonde hair, cold gray eyes, and a bit of an accent. She plays on the projector all over the floors to announce important messages. My mom says you don't want to be on her bad side, because she is so powerful that she could have you dead in seconds."Hello Marcus,” she says. Her voice  cold and icy, it makes me shiver. 

    "Hello Marlene," Marcus replies, bowing his head in respect.

    We start to walk again but I make eye contact with Marlene, and she notices my eyes. I try to look away but she stops us and walks over to me She looks at me, and then my brother. She's interested in our eyes, I think. I look down but she puts an icy finger under my chin and tilts my head up toward her eyes. "Interesting," she coos, eyes flicking back and forth in mine. "What are their names?"

    "Lyra and Lathan Lane," replies Marcus, head still bowed. She talks as if we aren't there.

    She looks at Lathan and asks, "Is your father Cale Lane?"

    "Yes, ma'am," He says kindly. She examines me. I can't tell what she's looking for.

    "Are you and your sister taking your test today?” she ask Lathan, still examining me.

    "Yes," Lathan replies.

    She turns to Marcus and says, "Bring them to my office after they're both done with their tests. I need to speak with them."

    "Will do," says Marcus. She walks away and something about that was odd, and makes me feel uneasy. I can't help but wonder if this is going to lead to me finding out what's going on between Lathan and our mother. I hope it does, but part of me regrets hoping it. Like my brother said, 'some things hurt to hear'. We walk on and Marcus leads us to another hallway that is much wider. The walls are a dark glass that I can see though but couldn’t see out of if I was on the other side. 

    Marcus stops so we stop inches from him. "Lyra, you'll go to the room on the right and Lathan, you go into the one on the left. You'll meet someone in there to get you prepared for the test. Now, no one gets the same test. They test you based on how your mind works and acts on three categories, and well, everyone has a different mind and thinks differently. You will know  no one, everyone in your test will be made up by our computers.

    "You will be tested to see your strengths, abilities, and your emotional response. You then will be tested on your agility and lastly, determination. You will be given certain situations that will show how you react. If there is anything unusual you will belong to the government until they decide to release you. Once you're done with the test you will come out here and will be sent up to Marlene's room." He pauses and then with a flourish of his lap coat says, "Good luck."

    I walk to the door and turn around to my brother, he looks up at me and nods. I walk in and the room is all black. Black walls, ceiling and carpet.

    I walk up to the person standing in the middle of the room. "Hello," she says. "Sit here."I sit down in the chair that is slightly laid back.

    "Take this." She hands me a purplish liquid that swishes around in a little medicine cup. We are already getting started, and for some reason that startles me. I drink the liquid. She injects a device in my head "This will allow the people in the observing room to see what going on in your brain through the computers. It will dissolve after the test is over with.  The medicine will take effect in one minute; its best to just close your eyes and relax." That is the last thing I hear, because everything soon disappears around me.



    I keep my eyes closed while things appear around me in my mind. I try to open my eyes but I can't, they feel glued shut. I look around at my surroundings to know that my mind has formed what the Potency Test has wanted me to see. Everything that happens from here on out will be looked at. This is my test.

    Trees create a canopy above my head and leaves crunch under my feet as I walk. I’m know enough from pictures to understand that I’m in the woods. I walk around and soon hear others in the distance.

    "We're going to have to split up to find her," says a man with a deep, raspy voice. Her? Are they talking about me? I place my feet carefully in front of me and move closer to the voices.
     "Did you hear that? Someone is moving out there," the same man spits out.

    "It must be her. She is the only one out there," says another voice. It's gruffly and hard, it makes me feel uneasy.

    I can tell they are moving closer to me and my head start to pound. Thats a sign to tell me I might pass out. I hold my breath, afraid my breathing may give me away. I can't let these men find me. Somethings telling me that it won't be good if they do. I look at the ground, counting the rocks and pebbles trying to calm myself from what's going on. After a couple minutes I decide that it's not helping me.

    When I look up I am face to face with a man. He is in his early twenties, and is all ratty. His clothes are baggy and white. His face twists into a smile that sends a chill through me. "Got ya," he says darkly.

    When he talks I can smell bitter alcohol. I do the first thing that pops into my mind; run. It doesn’t take long to realize that this is the agility part of the test. I sprint off into the woods, running as far and as fast as I can. Branches claw at my face, threatening to cut me to shreds as I lunge through the underbrush. My lungs soon hurt from not getting enough oxygen and I try to tell myself to breath. 

    I look over and see the two men running behind me. They are too close, I need to make it harder for them to get to me. I try going through bushes and shrubs, but it just makes me slower and cuts my face and arms up more. My foot catches on a hollowed out log and I go flying forward, my face slamming into leaves and twigs.


    I scramble to my feet and keep running, pushing my legs to the limit, my lungs burning. I turn every which way I can, but they still follow me.

    Then a smell catches my attention. It smells familiar, but, I can't quite identify at first. Soon but it hits me, something is burning, as I run closer to the smell I see smoke.

    I'm running towards a forest fire. I turn the other way and run, but the fire is all around.  It's getting closer to me and there’s no way to go but through. The smoke soon start to choke me and I realize my time will soon be up if I just stand there.

    The fire cackles around me, the heat penetrating my face and bare arms, smoke spills into my lungs. I cough up storm and tell myself it’s no or never. 

    I remember the stop drop and roll thing I was taught when I was little. Maybe I could run through the fire and then roll on the ground. I look behind me, the men are closer. They're stunned by the fire, just as I am.

    Do it now, I tell myself. I run towards the fire and leap towards the other side. The flames burn my face and body, they lick at my arms and face, my feet threaten to burn through their shoes. I've never felt pain like this before. I feel sharp stings on my neck, it makes me cringe. I let out a scream as I fall down on the ground. I roll back and forth until the flames disappear. My body aches all over. A heat like no other pulses through me. My clothes are burnt and hanging off me. I need to find a body of water.

    When I get up I look around and to my surprise I see the men standing there. It doesn't make any sense, they were on the other side before. How did they get over here? They don't look burnt or anything. They just look as if they had on the other side of the fire. They're all smiles, while walking slowly towards me.

    I look at them and watch them come closer,  wondering if there is any use in running. Will they just appear again? I decide to back away and run. I run away from the fire but they are right behind me, I'm still worn out and I’m not sure how much longer can I keep this up? They're getting closer, so I run faster. I'm running so fast that I don't see a ledge. I tumble down the hill and they come plunging down after me.

    I feel aches and pains in my body as I roll down the hill. Sticks and pine cones pinch at my skin. I takes a moment for me to stop but, once I do it doesn't take long for them to stop. I start to run again, but this time slower. I almost give up hope, but I as i run farther I see a ledge. Jump, I think. I look down below there is a lake underneath. They won't follow me, or will they. 

    I push aside my fear, bend my legs and jump without hesitation. I'm weightless for a moment, cool air curling around my beaten and burnt body, and then my feet break the surface of the water. Water fills my lungs. It's all salty. I hurts the burns on my body, I scream underwater flinging all around, wishing the pain would just stop. Soon the stinging stops and I open my eyes. The water is deeper then what I had expected. It takes a couple moments to push myself up to the surface. But when I look around I'm not in a lake, I'm in an ocean.

    What part of the test is this, I wonder?

    I look around and I don't see land anywhere. I see a small abandoned boat a few feet away from me. I think if I can climb in it I could take it towards land. I swim towards the boat, heave myself into into it and sit down. I take a minute relax, and  breath. I'm worn out.     I haven't worked that hard my whole entire life. Then, just as I'm calming down, something catches my attention; a pair of legs.
 I slide on the seat carefully and see a man laying in the boat. He is an older guy, probably in his seventies. He looks like he is sleeping. I nudge him with my foot. He stays still. I nudge him harder again, and this time he grunts and wakes up.

    He looks at me. "What are you doing? Get out of my boat!" Anger flares in his eyes.

    "I just need help,” I say desperately.  “I need to find my way back to shore."

    "I can't help you,” he says turning away and sitting down.

    I walk over to him and beg some more. ”Please just take me back to shore. Thats all I'm asking of you."

    "I can't help you,” he says again.

    "Please, I'm begging you. I need your help.” I look at him, my eyes pleading hoping that he’ll help me. He can’t send me back out there.

    "I said I cant help you, now get out of my boat!” he says with a look of determination in his eyes.

    "Please," I beg, tears forming in my eyes. “Please.” The last bit comes out as a whisper.

    "Get out of my boat!" He grabs me and tries to push me overboard. My head is being held in the water. I scream but only salt water fills my lungs. I try to get out of his grasp. This man is trying to drown me! I use all the force I have and push him with my legs. My head is lifted from the water and air fills my lungs. I need to catch my breath but there is no time. There must be something I can do. If I keep this up one of us will fall out, and it can't be me or him. I think of another way, and then it hits me. This part of the test is the determination part. Just scare him into thinking you'll push him over, then he'll have to do something, but what is this man scared of, he tried to drown me. 

    I have to show him my determination.

    I grab him by the shirt and say, "You are going to listen to me or I'm going to push you overboard. Now take me back to shore!" I scream. I try to sound harsh, but I know my voice sounds desperate.

    "Alright," he says. "But this is all I'm doing for you. It's only because I have a family to get home to, and I don't doubt you'll push me overboard." I would've never done that and it makes me feel bad for my hostility and the thought that he would think that makes my stomach turn. I’m not the type of person to hurt someone. I feel bad for having to use force, but I need to get back to shore, and that is something I'm determined to do.

    I sit in silence just looking out at sea. It's beautiful out here. All turquoise blue, and calm. I wonder if this is how it was before the war. The thoughts get quickly pushed away when I notice that we reach shore. 

    I get out of the boat. "Thank you," I say.

    "Don't ask for anything else from me again," I hear him say. I won't need to, he has done enough. The shore is soft, with sand that sinks into my burnt tennis shoes and towering black rocks give an eerie display, and in the distance a tiny ramshackle town is a mere walk away. I walk into the closest building I find. It's  a small little beach shack, but when I walk in the whole building transforms into one of the government rooms.

    I look around. No one is here. I just stand there wondering what I'm supposed to do, until I hear a scream. I run towards the scream to find that my brother, Lathan, is being held at gun point. A man stands across from him, a 9mm pistol aimed at his head. No one else is in this room besides my brother, the shooter, and the man that brought me to shore. 

    This part is emotional. I'm not ready to see what happens.

    "Hey, what are you doing, get away from my brother!" I demand, fear and terror rising in my gut.

    "Lyra, stop if you know what's good for you," my brother warns.

My leg flies out in front of me, roundhouse kicking the man in the head. His neck snaps back and he crumples to the floor, the gun clattering on the linoleum. My brother reaches to help. I try to grab the gun but the man trips me. He gets up and then presses my arms down. I fight to get up but he is stronger then me and he has my whole body pinned down. I use all of my force to get him off and set myself free but I'm not strong enough. 

    I look at the man that rowed me to shore. He's just sitting there watching me struggle.

    "Help," I wheeze.

    He looks at me and says, "Remember what I said, don't ask for anything from me. I did you one favor I won't do you another."

    "No, please help me." The man from shore gets up and leaves the room.

    Then the man pinning me down says, "Stupid girl. You should've listened to your brother. Now both of you will be dead."

    I can't let that happen."Lathan," I say. "Help." He just looks at me.

    "I don't know what to do. It's too late. Its over, Lyra." His voice is the definition of defeat. "You might as well give up. It'll all be over after words."

    "No," I grunt. "I'm not giving up."

    "I'm doing you a favor, Lyra, give up."

    "What do you mean it will all be over?” I ask fighting the mans hold on me.

    "I mean you won't have to fight anymore. You're tired and I am too. Give up, so we can both be done." I understand what he means. I know if I quit we will both be done with the test. Thats all I can hope for. I look at my brother. "It will be okay," he says. "Trust me."

    I can't help but wonder how he got into my test. Our minds must be connected in some way. Is this why my brother and mother were so tense this morning? Is there something wrong with us? How does my brother know my test was tiring? He must've had the same test. I know I'll find out when I wake up.

    I fight the man a little longer but then my body gives up. My brother was right, I've worked hard enough and I'm worn out. I know this means we will die but I finally understand him.

    "I give up," I say.

    "I'll protect you when you wake up," my brother promises.

"    So weak," the man teases. I'm not scared I know my brother will protect me for what comes after this. Even when I know it won't be good, I'm ready to wake up and see what happens next. I can’t help but wonder what will happen when we get to Marlene’s because We haven’t finished the emotional yet. We gave up so my test won't be finished.

    I close my  eyes and it doesn't take long until I hear the first gunshot go off and hear a body collapse. I open my eyes to turn to look and my brothers body. He's lying in a heap on the floor, blood creating a halo around his body. It's me next. I look at the man, he smiles and put the gun to my head. "Goodbye," he says. 

    I close my eyes as he presses the trigger and the gun goes off, "It's just a test," I think. I don't feel any pain because right before the bullet enters, everything goes black.




    When I wake up I don't feel any pain. And the burns on my body are gone. It was just a test, but it felt so real.

    I get up out of the chair and look at the lady. "You're gonna have to come with me," she says. She grabs my arm and takes me out the door. She seems urgent. I have a feeling I know what is going to happen next.

    When we get out of the room I see my brother, he is being taken by patrol guards. I feel like fighting them but I look at my brother, and I know he knew what I was thinking. It must be the look on my face or that he just knows me too well, because he says, "Lyra, now is not the time to do anything stupid.”

    The patrol guards take ahold of me and put my arms behind my back. "You are part of the government now. I wouldn't fight us, it'll just make it harder for you. You will be taken up to Marlene's room and then after she is through you will be taken to another part of this facility."

    They push us ahead and even though they aren’t walking in front of us we are being lead. They push us whatever way they want us to go. I look at my brother. For the first time he looks scared. This is what my mother was so afraid of. She must have known this was going to happen. But how? What does it mean?

    We are taken into an elevator. They press floor number 1. That must be where Marlene's office is. There are some other buttons below the one with weird symbols on them. I have no clue what they mean,

    As we’re walking everything is finally sinking in. I belong to the government now. For some crazy reason I have a desire to be in the test. I know it was complicated but this will be much more complicated.

    We reach the floor and then we are lead down another series of hallways. My heart is pounding in my chest, ramming against skin and clothes, threatening to beat itself out of its rib cage.

    We reach a door and the Officers knock.
     "Come in," says a woman voice.

    A slight click sounds from the door and one of the Officers reaches forward and curls his massive hand around the silver knob. As soon as the door opens my mouth drops. The room is circular. White fuzzy carpet overlays the whole pristine room, all but the center where birch wood creates a circle, in the middle of the bright wood is a glass desk, two plush chairs, a bulbous chandelier and Marlene, standing behind the desk with superiority.

    "Sit," Marlene says sternly, motioning in front of her.

    The guards lead us to the middle of the room, each step I take across the plush carpet sending a shockwave up my spine, finally I reach the birch and the Officers grab my arms gently and help me into the chair. As if I need help. The idea that they would think that is infuriating and makes me snap, "I can't sit down by myself."

    "Lyra," my brother warns. "Don't."

    "You should listen to your brother if he is going to protect from what happens on from here." Marlene spits, sliding softly into her chair.

    "You've seen the test?" I say stupidly.

    "Yes," she says. Her voice is icy. It sends chills through my bones. "I've never seen anything like that before, which is why you're here. You guys are going to help me fulfill some tests."

    “No.” I say defiantly .

    "You might want to watch your mouth, that's what got your father killed." Marlene smiles coldly, "He told Lathan what we were going to do with you two. He thought one of you should know, and better not tell you, with your harsh comments and stupidity.. He thought is was safe to tell Lathan”

    "Liar," my anger is starting to boil over.

    "Ask your brother,” she says nodding her head towards Lathan.

    I turn toward my brother, who is looking down at the soft wood. "Is it true?" I ask. I get no response.

    "Your father hacked into the government files and stole and erased our information that we had of you two." Marlene pulls my attention away from my guilty brother, "He suspected something. He seemed to know something like this was going to happen. He thought he could save you, but when we found out he ran home and talked to Lathan. He also told your mother. We had thought about killing her too but she promised not to tell. And of course we would know because we monitor everything. Lathan we knew, was no threat and of course we weren't going to kill him because we needed both of you. Luckily we managed to recover the information and now you guys are here."

    "What information did  you have that was so important?" I ask through clenched teeth.

    "We had all the information about the way your minds work. You guys are very similar. Your minds work as one, you think the same things. Even in school you thought the same things. Although you, Lyra, second guessed yourself, which makes me think that you guys don't always do everything the same. Though that doesn't explain your test.

    “You guys both had the same test and did the exact same things. You also both chose running from the men instead of facing them during the agility test, you also decided to jump across the fire. You even used force and aggression to get what you want with the man in the boat. Which was determination and at the end Lathan and you met in the test. Another peculiar thing was Lathan seemed to know that he was in the test, but you, Lyra, didn't seem to realize it until your brother had mentioned it, even though you were thinking of what part of the test you were in. And then your brother told you to give up and you realized it would all be over if you just quit. All of this is impossible, but somehow you managed to do it. But whats even more impossible is that you guys both didn’t finish the emotional part of your test. 

    "This is why I'm so interested in you. You play a main part in our world. You might be a threat and we have to test for that. We can't let society collapse because of you guys. That would make us look like fools." She laughs slightly, like this is all some big joke to her.

    "So how are tests gonna help us help you?" I ask, rolling my eyes. I feel my brothers eyes pierce into me. I know he doesn’t approve of my attitude, but I’m enraged and irritated, and can’t control myself.

    "We're going to figure out what makes you so much different and prevent it from happening again. You guys could be  a threat, you could change things and that is something I won't allow."

    "What if I just tell everybody?" I say, looking her dead in the eye. I’m challenging her and I know it's not a good idea, but I can't help it.

    "You won't be able to, you're going to be cut off from the rest of the world until we are through with you."

    "What happens once your through with us?" My challenge is ruined, I sit back, and take a big breath.

    "Your memory will be erased and then we will set you free." She says it so causally like it means nothing to her. The thought makes me nervous. I don't want to forget my mother or my father or everything I've always known.

    "NO!" I yell.

    "You have no choice. There are patrol guards at every corner. I had a feeling we would have a problem with you, but if you don't follow our rules there will be consequences. Is that understood." I makes me think about what my mom said, "If you can't be have yourself, they'll make you."

    "Sure," I say sarcastically."Your government is going to collapse no matter what. With me there or not, they'll eventually find out about all of this" 

    "No one will ever know and you won't be there to tell them. All those people that belong to the government will never get out.” This woman is insane. I can't describe how much I hate her.

    "Well, I think we're done here,"  Marlene says. “Separate them. You'll be back here tomorrow for your first test. We will start off emotionally.  Your test needs to be finished."

    Officers grab me under my arms, I'm leaving my brother. We're being separated. My eyes land on my brother. I can tell he feels guilt by the way he can't even make eye contact with me. 

    "Lathan, I—.” I don't get to finish, they're already taking him away. I try to go after him but the Officers tighten their hold.

My brother turns around, "It will be okay, Lyra!" Heart ache sucks my breath away as the door closes behind him.

    They take us our separate ways, but as I walk  further and further away I feel like I'm stepping into another world. A world that I’m not familiar with. I feel that so many things are going to change. And I can’t tell whether it will be the good kind or something I’ll later on hate. 

    As my mind rushes around I feel a sharp sting in my leg and when I look down I realize that they have shot me with something. It doesn’t take long until I feel dizzy and I don't know where I’m going. Everything feels like it's dissolving around me. The last thing I remember is someone helping me lay down and the bang of a door. Then everything goes black.










Chapter 3

“You have to kill her,” Marlene says, her face twist into a deadly smile. I look at my mother. I could never kill my mother. I look into her eyes that seem dead even though right now I know she's very alive. She looks broken. Like she’s been destroyed. 

    "No," I protest, squeezing my eyes shut, as if that'll block out the impossible situation in front of me. "You can't control me like that.” Defying Marlene is probably not a good idea, but I need my mother and she can’t take her away from me.

    "Kill her!" Marlene demands.

    "NO," I scream, trying to sound determined, but instead I sound weak and vulnerable. "No," I try again, my voice is still silent and weak.

    "Lyra, it will be alright. I'll protect you," my brother says, just as he had in the test. Will he protect me? Is it possible after all that’s happened?

    "You lied to me. How can I trust you?" I ask, looking Lathan right in his eyes.

    "Kill her," Marlene spits getting more impatient.

    "No... No ... No," I scream, losing all control. For some reason I can't seem to process why this is happening. "Stop! You can't do this. Let me out of here." My fists bang on the glass that divides Marlene and I. Lathan is on the other side and I'm left with my mother.

    I turn to my mother and look at her. Cuts define the shape of her face. She stares at me and says, "I'll forgive you," with tears rolling down her bruised face. "I'll forgive you."

    "No," my insides turn to coils, ready to leap out my throat. "You can't let them do this to you. They're controlling you. They're controlling me," I whisper.

    "Don't you get it, I deceived you all along. This is the way it's supposed to go. Give up and give in." She smiles warmly at me and hugs me. It sends chills up through my body. "I'll forgive you," she says again, pulling me back to hold me an arm's length away.

    "What do you mean you deceived me?" I ask examining her, tears spilling out of my eyes. The end is coming for her, I know it. I try to think of a way I can stop it, but my mind is blank. I look at her and she doesn't seem scared at all. She seems ready to die. She seems to now that it's coming. And for that she's brave.

    "SHE'S NOT YOUR MOTHER!" Marlene screams. "NOW KILL HER!". I've waited too long and now Marlene has had enough. But I can't stop now. I have too many questions.

    "Who is my mother?" I ask urgently, knowing we don't have much time left. "I thought you were my mother."

    "Don't you dare tell her," Marlene spits at my mother. Her eyes tell my mother not to challenge her.

    "You'll find out," is all my mother says, backing away from me. She's a few feet away, but she seems miles away.

    "I'm giving you thirty seconds to kill her or else—" Marlene starts.

    She doesn't have time to finish. A bullet goes off and plunges into my mother, who falls backwards a pool of blood cascading around her head like a crimson halo.

    "MOM!" I scream, falling to my knees. "Mom, no!"

    I get up and bang on the glass. Lathan drops the revolver in his hand. "It had to be done," he says blankly.

    "What did you do?" I scream. "Who are you? "I have no clue why he did that. I'm not sure I'll forgive him. I bang on the glass some more, furious at my brother. How could he?

    Marlene gets up to the glass. I bore my eyes into her. She smiles and says, "Next time that will be you. Next time you'll be killing her. After all she's not your mother."




    "Wake up, its time for your test," someone says shaking me furiously. I groan and roll over, trying to get back to sleep. I wonder how long I've been out. If its time for my test, then it's already been a day. "Wake up," I hear again, I can now identify the voice as a man's.

    The dream I had felt so real, but I'm glad it wasn't. I hope to never experience something like that in my life, but for some reason I feel that it's just a round the corner, waiting for me.

    I prop myself up on my elbow and look at the man. A guard dressed in black, usual government uniform, stands over me with a flashlight. Wondering what time it is I get up and follow him out of my room that has gray concrete walls and a small bathroom in the corner.     The hallways are dimly lit, just like my room.  None of it looks like it would be a happy place to be.     After a while of passing a whole bunch of rooms identical to mine, we finally make it to a staircase where two guards are waiting for me. They grab my arms and put them behind me, guiding me just as they had before. We don't speak we just walk towards where ever they're taking me. A couple guards soon start to follow, walking with us. I can't help but wonder if they think I'm a lot of trouble.

    We walk up three flights of stairs and I soon have a feeling that where I was sleeping was underground. More guards soon follow us and, then I start to think that maybe I am a danger. Why do I need all these guards if I'm safe to be around? My question soon gets answered when I turn around. My brother Lathan walks behind me with guards in between us. He nods at me, probably to reassure me that everything is going to be okay. I nod back in recognition.

    We finally reach a heavy set of doors and stop. An officer standing by the door, speaks into a device saying, "Marlene, we're right outside the doors. Tell us when your ready."

    We stand there for a few seconds and then the same cold voice I despise responds back, "Whenever you're ready."

    We walk through the doors and doctors seem like they've been awaiting our arrival. They stand there mainly eyeing me and taking notes on something. Probably writing down something about me or my brother.

    The room is all white with rooms down long narrow hallways. Behind the counter are people on the phone talking and writing things down. Its very chaotic, with people rushing around, trying to get things done.

    Marlene stands nearest, hands in front of her, staring coldly at us. "Follow me."

    She leads us down a hall and into a big room with a computer, wires all over the place and two slightly reclined chairs. The room is the same color as the other room I took my test in. All black. The only thing that shines brightly is the computer screen showing our faces.

    "You guys have two minutes to reconcile with each other and then we will start the test," she says. "Go on."

    I run up to Lathan and hug him.

    "Don't move, I have something to tell you," he whispers urgently into my ear.

    "Go on," I say a little too loudly. The doctors look at me and I cough to cover up what I said and then to make it even more believable I say, "Lathan, I'm so glad to see you again."

    "Okay, now listen up," he says pausing to make sure I'm the only one listening. "The government is afraid of you," he continues. "They're afraid of you changing the way things are. So they're going to keep a close eye on you. You can't do anything that would make them notice you anymore."

    "They think I'll start a rebellion?" I ask liking the idea of shutting this place down. I look up and see doctors and scientist running around to get ready and Marlene is talking into some device, nodding her head every so often. "Maybe we should," I think out loud. Why should there be so much chaos going on for just two teenagers?

    "Lyra, don't think that. They're monitoring you. If they think you're going to cause trouble they'll kill you. I'm serious, don't joke around."

    "Fine... fine," I mumble, disappointed by Lathan's constant need to do what's right. "How are you finding out about this stuff, though?"

    "I snuck around a little, early this morning before they grabbed me for the test. And besides that dad had warned me."

    The thought of my father and my family lying to me makes me back away from Lathan. I instantly think of what my mother said to me in my dream, "Don't you get it, I deceived you all along."

What does she mean by that? I guess I’ll find out eventually. Just like everything else.

    "Your times up," Marlene says, motioning for us to sit down in the chairs provided for us. "You'll say goodbye when the test is over."

    The same lady that tested me the day before helps me sit in the chair. With Marlene eyeing my every move, I stay obedient. But not because I'm scared of her but because my brother needs me too.

    The lady puts the syringe into my forehead and I feel the device enter my brain. Then she gives me a same purplish liquid in a medicine cup.

    I drain the liquid down and feel every doctor's eyes on me.

    "Just to remind you, the monitor allows people to see your test. It will dissolve after the test is over with. Relax and close your eyes. You know the routine. Good luck."

    I turn to my brother who is laying in the chair on the other side, eyes already closed. Soon my eyelids feel heavy and I can't hold them open any longer. Before I close my eyes I see Marlene looking at the computer to observe our test, occasionally looking at me every few seconds. Soon every thing goes black.


    When my mind makes the surroundings, my brain feels weird and groggy. I look around and I'm outside in the same woods I was in during my last test. Not wanting to stand there, I walk around, realizing the emotional part has to come at any moment.  After I walk around for awhile I decide to sit on a rock and wait. I look around waiting for something to happen. Anything. But I'm left with the soft sound of birds chirping and the rushing of wind.

     When I've been sitting there for a while I start to think that something went wrong with the test and nothing's going to happen. I get up to walk around again, bored with my rock. But something in the distance catches my attention.

    A rumbling sound like a large truck engine fills my ear drums. I turn towards it and see massive cars coming towards me. My only guess is that those cars belong to the government. Even though we have no use for them, it just makes sense. I get behind a big shrub and watch the cars go by.

    "Lyra?" I hear a voice ask. "Is that you?"

    I turn around to find my brother coming out from behind a large spruce looking worried.

    "Lathan," I say relief washing over me. "What's going on?"

    "I don't know," he says with his brows furrowed in confusion. 

    He crouches next to me, watching the government cars come to a halt. My heart pounds heavily in my chest. For a moment I'm afraid the government will hear my heart pounding and find me.

    "They must be looking for us. I mean it seems to make the most sense." There he goes using that logic trying to figure out everything in the world.

    I nod in agreement and watch the men get out of the cars. Marlene steps out of a vehicle and looks around, turning her nose up to this place.

    "They're somewhere around here. Find them," She orders sternly. I can't help but think this won't end good. Men start marching in ever direction holding large machine guns, trying to find us.

    "We better go," Lathan says getting up slowly, still keeping an eye on the government. I get up and follow him, backing away slowly, having no clue where we are going, but I keep on focusing forward.

    We head down a hill walking at an easy pace, taking in everything around us. We pass trees with all different colors of leaves. Birds fly above us and a few deer scamper away at the sight of us. We walk around for about twenty minutes when a thought crosses my mind.

    "Lathan, I'm starting to think that maybe we have to go to them." I quiver at the thought of heading to Marlene. She's scary enough in real life, imagine what she be like in the test.

    "No, they have to come to us," he states confidently. "I'm pretty sure of it." 

    Of course he is.

    We tread along a gurgling creek heading towards a big rock. The wind blows my hair in my face, but I don't push it away. It feels nice.

    "I think right here will be okay to take a break," Lathan says examining the massive rock.

    "Already?" I ask.

    "Well, I think we've gone far enough." Not wanting to argue I nod silently and prop myself up on the rock. I remember my dream and can't help, but wonder if Lathan had the same one. After a couple silent minutes of me building the courage to ask Lathan I finally blurt it out.

    "Did you have a weird dream last night?" I ask Lathan, lifting my eyes to meet his.

    His eyes narrow and meet with mine, "Yeah, about mom?"

    "Yeah, and you killed her?" I ask quickly looking away. This isn't exactly the conversation I want to have with my brother, but my curiosity is getting in the way. 

    "Yeah, I know what you're talking about," he says looking straight ahead.

    "You would never kill her, right?"

    "Never," he says his voice shaking. I'm not sure if I believe him. The only person he loves more than mom is me. He would do anything to protect me. After all, that's what he was doing in the dream. I remember what he said after lying the gun down, "It had to be done."

    "Do you know anything about what Marlene meant when she said she's not my mother? And what about when she said that I would have to kill her next? What does she mean?"

    "Lyra, Lyra," he sighs shaking his head, "you don't always need to know the meaning to everything. Sometimes its best if we find out later. It will make it easier on both of us."

    "I need to know."

    "No, you need to just go with it."

    "Do you think the—"

    "Why so many questions, Lyra? Just live your life now and stop wondering. Remember what I said to you, you don't always want to know everything because something's hurt to hear. Someday you'll learn."

    I close my mouth more questions threatening to come out, but I hold them in. We sit in silence for a while longer, with questions pondering in my mind. I listen to the birds chirp and the soft sound of the wind, until another sound catches my attention.

    A sound of feet crunching under leaves awakes me from my thought process. I listen closely and I hear them again. As they get closer I shake Lathan and say, "Hey, listen, someone is out there."

    "Shhh," he whispers, listening in. After a moment of him listening he says, "We need to move."

    We get up and Lathan goes around the rock, telling me to stay where I'm at. I watch him go around when a look of fear crosses his face and Lathan instantly plunges to the ground unexpectedly.

    "Lathan!" I scream, forgetting I'm in the test. My mind seems to have erased the thought. I bend down to help Lathan noticing a pair of black pointy heels on top of Lathan's back. I look up and see Marlene. 

    "They're over here," she says eyeing me, daring me to leave.

    "Go Lyra, go," I hear my brother mumble. I stand there staring at him. Guards start approaching us armed and dangerous. "GO!" he screams.

    I whirl around, crashing through the creek, the moment feeling vaguely familiar, but I can't identify how. Footsteps pound behind me matching the beat to my heart. I run the other way hoping to find another way out of this mess. Why does this always happen to me? I'm left running for my life. I start to think that maybe it's to prepare me for later on in life. But I don't understand how. 

    My brother's words scream in my head over and over, 'GO!' I run wishing for a lake to jump in so I can get away from this mess. For some odd reason it gets dark and I hear thunder.  A bolt of lighting crashes a mile away from me. It doesn't take long for the rain to start. Realizing how much trouble I'm in by being near all these tall trees, I try to calm myself by counting my footsteps while I run to focus on something else.

    I hear shouting in the distance and realize my brother needs me. He never would have left me so I'm not going to either.

    I can't let him do this without me. I need to get back to him. I quickly find a tree and climb it as fast as I can, knowing I don't have much time. My hand slips on the wet bark and I do my best to keep my grip. 

    When I get dizzy enough by looking at the bottom, I take a minute to rest on one of the strongest branches, watching the guards run to where ever they think I've gone.

    Once they're out of sight I face my fear of heights by jumping down from the branch a good twenty feet. I walk on looking around, trying to calm myself because my brother could be dead now or anytime soon. "I'm going to save my brother," I say out loud trying to believe it. I say it over and over, soon convincing myself. Knowing my time is limited, I start picking up the pace, walking swiftly in the woods towards my brother.

    The thunder and lighting crashes above me. I'm soaked to the bone and I can't help but scream out of frustration. My heart rate has gone down some and I can finally catch my breath.

    It seems like it takes forever until I finally reach the rock I left my brother at. I crouch behind a tree and watch silently, trying to think of a plan.

    "Kill her," I watch Marlene whisper softly in Lathan's ear. I notice my mom being held captive, tears spilling out of her eyes. "Do it or I'll have these men hunt down Lyra and kill her."

    "Why are you doing this? Lathan cries.

    "She's not your mother. You should feel no guilt for killing a woman that deceived you your entire life!" Marlene shrieks.

    "THEN WHO IS MY MOTHER?" Lathan screams. A guard steps forward, smacking Lathan across the face for yelling. A red hand print welts on Lathan's face and pretty soon tears come rolling down his face from the pain. I try to think of a plan to save my brother and mother but no thoughts come to mind. I'll just have to jump in when things get rough.

    Lathan looks at my mother and says, "I'm sorry, mom. I really am, but it has to be done."

    A guard hands Lathan a gun, realizing he has decided to obey Marlene and backs away to watch.

    "Go on," says Marlene slowly, eyeing him very carefully.     Lathan aims the gun at my mother, tears making his face red.He stops and looks at our mother. He hesitates and then says, “NO! I can't do this!" Lathan cries, dropping the gun to his thigh. All guards immediately aim their guns at Lathan. I can't watch this anymore I step out from behind the tree, waiting for someone to notice me.

    "STOP!" I yell.

    Marlene looks up at me giving me a cold, deadly smile saying, "If you know what's good for you, you'll back away."

    "No, you can't control us any longer."

    "Lyra," my mother says, smiling through her tears, "it will be alright. Let him shoot me. He's done it once before so what makes this time any different?" She pauses to think and then grabs the gun from Lathan and aims it at her head.

    Marlene takes a breath and watches to see what happens next. All eyes are on my mom, watching her to see what she does. My mom turns to Lathan and says, "I love you. And Lathan remember what you father said, 'Take care of your sister.' I'm so sorry I lied. I want to make everything better and this is the only way."

    "No," I say to her. "Mom there's another way. There has to be."

    She shakes her head, tears making her eyes shine like a blue sea. Her finger presses the trigger and blood and brains explodes to the left of her, making the rock crimson. Her lifeless body falls to the forest in a heap.

    "MOM!" I scream, falling to my knees, pain squeezing my heart. "I'm so sorry."

    I crouch down next to her limp body and lay her head on my lap. Her eyes are open slightly, starting to look glassy. I stroke her hair, which is slightly matted with blood; tears pour out of my eyes. I start shaking her, 

    "Wake up. Wake up," I say. "Please don't leave me. I need you." I wait for my mother's eyes to show that she's still here; to show life, to show that she would never leave me, but nothing happens. She lays in my arms, no longer breathing, no longer stroking my hair when I had a bad dream, no longer kissing me goodnight, no longer here.

    "Wake up! Don't leave me!" I scream Marlene backs away talking to one go the guards. "MOM!"

    "Lyra it will be okay," My brother says. I turn to look at him tremor. He grabs me in his arms and we hold each other, shaking with tears. "It will be okay," he whispers.

    "Who wants to go next?" asks Marlene appearing to be more like the devil every time she speaks.

    "What to do you mean? I ask confused.

    "Lathan get up here," she says handing a gun to me and dragging Lathan next to her. I watch Lathan shake with tears. I can't shoot him. I will never hurt him just like he wouldn't hurt me. "Now Lyra you have thirty-seconds to shoot or we’ll do it for you—go."

    I look at Lathan with fear penetrating though me. I shake my head at him and he looks at me. "Its just a test," he says.

    "What?" I ask forgetting that we were in a test.

    "It's just a test. The emotional parts over with. We're done."

    He's right. Its over with. I sigh in relief. We're done. Its all over nothing more to worry about. Everything soon starts to disappear, one by one and I'm left in a black space. And before I know it I'm opening my eyes to a room full of doctors and scientist staring at my brother and I. Marlene looks up from the computer and stares at me.

    "Say goodbye to your brother, after that I'll speak with both of you individually," she says gently.

    I stand up from the chair and run to my brother, hugging him, glad it was just a test. I look up and notice Marlene smiling slightly at the sight of Lathan and I hugging. I have no clue why, but she nods at me, still smiling and for a moment I think catch I glimpse solicitude in her eyes.

    But I ignore it, feeling that it was all made up in my head. Marlene is not a nice person. She hates my brother and I. It seems impossible for her to show that, but I remember what my mom had once said to me, "Don't judge people by the first couple interactions with them. Wait and get to know their other side because believe or not there always is one.People have a way of hiding things.”

    And so I guess that’s what I will do, I think as I follow Marlene out the door. I turn around to look at my brother who nods at me once again, as he always does, reassuring me everything will be okay. He seems to do that a lot.
















Chapter 4

I follow Marlene down the hall. Guards follow us, but they no longer grab ahold of me. I’m thankful for that. I know I don’t need to be pushed around and they should know that too. Though I understand why they would think that, I’m stubborn and horrible at following rules.         

    We climb another flight of stairs and with a swipe of a card and a satisfied click we are in the same hallway as Marlene’s office. Its all white and clean. Too clean, it smells like a hospital. 

    I remember going to the hospital when my father needed stitches after tripping, and hitting his head on the edge of a glass table. The sight of the blood made me feel uneasy so one of the nurses assisted me out of the room and we waited until they were done. 

    They seemed so nice then, but now everything seems as if it were a big joke. I don’t know who to trust or who really cares about me anymore. I had thought my mother did, but it doesn’t seems to make sense because she lied to me the whole time. And what about my brother? We used to tell each other everything.  Now it seems that I know nothing about him. 

    My mind is swarming with questions and things to say, but I’m not sure what’s left to talk about. Everything seemed to go the same way with the test as it had before. But I don’t say anything, afraid I’ll enrage her.           

    We head to the room and I wait at the door as Marlene struggles with the key. For a moment I think we’ll be stranded out here and I’ll be yelled at in front of the few people who’ll wander by.    

The thought discomforts me. I don’t want anyone to know I’m different. But my eyes probably give away the reason why I’m here with Marlene anyway. I look down at the cold linoleum after the thought crosses my mind, embarrassed, cheeks ablaze.

    My mom would tell me not to be worried about what other people thought of  me. She would want me to be myself. But right now my mother’s not here to coax me or coddle me. She not here to tell me how great I am.  I quickly get the thought out of my mind. It’s depressing me. 

    Marlene swipes her card fast, and with a few slights clicks and finally a satisfied clunk her big steel door opens. She stands in the frame and holds out her right arm, motioning me to walk through first. I sit down in a chair and wait to be scolded or told that my test went wrong. But when Marlene sits down she just examines me. The feeling of her eyes piercing through me makes me feel uneasy. 

    “So,” I say, breaking the tension.“Did everything go okay? You know… with my test?”

    “Yes,” she states blankly. She’s seem like she’s trying to keep her voice steady, but I don’t understand why. 

    We sit there in silence for a while longer. I look at her and watch her. She just sit there and stares at me. Tears seem to threaten to fall from her eyes. For a moment I feel like comforting her. But why should I? What has she done for me?

    The answer is: Nothing. She’s done absolutely nothing. She’s taken me away from my mother and put me in a place where I have no contact with the rest of society. But the tears in her eyes make me feel sympathy for her and I have to fight the urge to ask if she is okay. I cannot allow myself to be weak. Especially in front of Marlene.

    “There are so many things that you don’t understand,” she starts. “And I’m afraid that eventually you’ll find out.” She hesitates.  I can’t tell what she’s looking for. But I don’t want to know either. “You will find out,” she continues. “I know you will. I can’t make you understand how, but it will happen. Sooner than you think.”

    “What do you mean?” I ask confused.

    She ignores my question. 

    That’s more like her.

    “I’ve been such an awful person.” 

    A tear slides down her cheek. And then another. Her tone of voice has changed. She’s no longer stern. Her voice is kind and shaky. Sad, even.

    “But it’s for you own good. I’m protecting you and our society. Keeping you away from society  for as long as I can is the only way. Even if  it’s just for a little while. The truth will unravel itself in the end.” She takes a breath and smiles, something I thought I’d never see. “It’s amazing how people will try to hold on to something that other people see as lost.”

    “Once they find out the truth, our world will collapse and everything will be gone. There will be no government, no society, nothing we have to keep us together  We did it for a reason though,” 

    Did what? I wonder.  She just keeps rambling nonsense. She gives a little laugh, but it doesn’t have much energy. It almost seems lifeless. 

    “The government, right after the war, decided it for a reason,” she continues. “Although, I can’t tell you what, you will find out eventually, it is safe to tell you that it was to prevent another war from happening again. You will never know the extremes people went to five hundred years ago. We were afraid and you must now understand that people act strange in the midst of fear. 

    I look at her, she’s crying slightly, but every once in a while she smiles. I look at her. She can’t be the bad person I thought she was. But if she wasn’t she would let me go back home; wherever that is, I’m not quite sure anymore. But she won’t. I know it. So I just sit there and listen to her ramble on, trying to feel nothing. Another tear rolls down her cheek, slow and shimmering in the dim florescent lights.

    “You help our future…” She sucks in a shaky breath and wipes her eyes. “You are our future, even if thats not what the government wants. But it’s basically been written in stone; it cannot be changed. I want you to know after this; that whatever happens in the next week, and what I do, is all because I still have faith in saving us, even if no one else does.” I have no clue what she means “saving us”, but I don’t ask. “I don’t want you to see me as that awful, frightful person even if that’s how I truly am— for the moment at least.”

    “A long time ago I used to be happy, giddy, bubbly— I was beaming with positive energy. Then one day something happened and that changed, and now I’m like this- cold hearted, hateful, menacing. I’m not really that conniving person every one of you thinks I am.” She laughs again, but its still the same lifeless laugh that she had before. It’s halfhearted and sad.

    It hurts to see a person this sad. Especially Marlene. It almost makes me wish for her other side; cruel and inhuman. I’m used to that. This is not what I was expecting. I thought I would be told my test went wrong again. But instead I’m listening to Marlene tell me something that I have yet to understand.

    “Your life will change in a week or so. And there’s not much I can do about it. But listen to me and pay close attention.” She leans in close and I can smell a flowered scent emanating from her. She positions herself to where here and I are looking each other right in the eye. “No matter what, you have to keep the knowledge you gain a secret. It will tear us apart if you tell anyone.” 

    She looks at me and I can tell she barely has any faith that I could manage to do that.

    “Why?” I ask, slightly offended. “So you can save us? I thought even if you tried you would fail.” That will cost me, I think. 

    It doesn’t.

    And then another tear comes out of her eye and she shakes her head.

    “Are you okay?” I ask. I can’t help it any longer. I had to ask. I blame it on my curiosity. I refuse to admit that I feel sorry for her.

    “Nothing is as it seems. Our world, Rica, is all we’ve ever known. We’ve made it work here.”

    “Is it something to do with Rica?” I shouldn’t ask her. I should let it go. But she’s told me enough to make me want to know.

    She shakes her head. “I think its time for you to go. You don’t want to miss breakfast. I’ll have the guards take you back.” 

    She rises from her seat, slightly shaking and I look at her throughly for the first time. She seems different. I notice the circles under her eyes, just as my mom had, and slight wrinkles forming near the corner of them even though she’s young. I don’t feel like I know her anymore. I’ve seen a side to her that not many people have. I don’t know why she decided to open up to me. She stares back and I have to look away, but a question is pondering in my mind. 

    “Is Lathan coming with me?” The question is stupid. We’re not allowed to see each other. But she surprises me again.

    “Yeah.” The guard starts to object, but Marlene puts her hand up to him. “There’s no use. It's going to happen no matter what. Why not be wise and get it over with sooner.” The guard steps back, astounded, and Marlene walks over to open the door. 

    I stand there looking at her. “Whatever is going on doesn’t matter. I’m still going to despise you whatever happens. So if I’m not going to change, I suggest you don’t either.” Before I walk away I see the look on her face; defeat. 

    I turn away crying, knowing that Marlene is watching. But it doesn’t stop me. I’m terrified. What she says makes no sense. I’m not ready for even more change. This change I have right now is enough. Being cut away from society is all I need. I don’t need what ever else is coming next. I’m not ready.                                                                      

    I hear Marlene a couple feet behind me.“Go, she’s your sister, she needs you.” 

    I hear pounding feet behind me and turn around. Two guards and my brother are behind me. They must have run because I was nowhere near. I look at Lathan, wondering if he knows what’s coming. He knew some of it; it makes sense that he would know the rest.

    “Lyra, wait up.” I hear him say. 

    “What,” I snap. I didn’t mean for it to come out that way and he should know that, but he doesn’t.

    “What’s wrong?” he asks, looking hurt.

    “What’s going on?” I demand. 

    “What do you mean?” He looks at me, eyes wide with confusion. I want to tell him that I meant nothing  and everything is fine, but I’m not even sure about that. 

    “Marlene tells me there’s no way to stop it. That society will collapse.”

    My brother purses his lips together and says, “I don’t know.”

    Liar, I think snidely. 

    “I’m serious, I don’t know,” he says after examining the look on my face.

    I stare at him, waiting for him to give in. But nothing happens, he looks at me with a hard gaze, challenging me.

    The look disappears and he turns to me smiling. “I know what will make you happy.”

    “Sure you do.” 

    “Try me,” he says his eyes glistening. He has a mischievous look on his face. I had always thought he would never be able to achieve that.

    “What,” I say waiting to be disappointed.

    “Let’s visit mom tonight.” A slight smiles forms on his face and thats when I notice how his eyes shine from the lighting above us.

    “Is that even possible?” It can’t be. There are guards all over the place.

    “They’re going to make you change out of those clothes, keep them under your bed and change into them tonight. I’ll meet you outside your door.”

    “Wait, are you being serious?” I ask surprised.

    “Yes,” he grins.

    “How will we find our way?” This is too unbelievable. Its impossible.

    “I have a map. Dad gave it to me.” 

    It takes a moment for him to catch what he said, but he soon realizes it.

    “I’m sorry,” he says quickly.

    The thought of dad makes my stomach turn. Dad told Lathan everything, but all I ever got was a hug goodnight. It then makes me think of how Lathan lied to me. My whole family did. I try not to feel hatred, but I’m not the forgiving type. Though I believe somehow there is way to forgive him. I’ll have to try. 

    “That sounds great,” I say. He smiles at me and we walk to the cafeteria, guards a few feet behind us. The silence of the knowledge is killing me. I have a desire to know, but like Marlene said, “Although, I can’t tell you what, you will find out eventually, it is safe to tell you that it was to prevent another war from happening again.”  I think about the meaning of what she had said. The only conclusion I come to is that  its bad enough to change our world and bring our society to an end. Moments before I would’ve been glad about it, but now I feel that my feelings have changed.