I’m confused as I see the world has turned light-blue. After a few seconds, the dizziness goes away and I realise I am staring into Meissa’s eyes. I’m in the hospital, to which I’ve visited only once.
“Wasn’t it an error?” I ask quietly.
She nods to tell me it wasn’t and swallows hard. I notice her eyes are puffy.
I gather all of my courage and speak, “Okay then, let me go.” I get up from the pile of linens I’ve been lying in and wear my shoes. Surprisingly, Meissa does not stop me. In fact, she doesn’t even utter a word.
As I move forward, she grips my hand and speaks something I do not understand at first.
“What?” I ask.
“S-stay alive f-for the next s-seven years….okay?” She says and bursts into tears. I understand what she means now. Asking me to stay alive for the next seven years so we’d both unite. It seems like a good idea though. And for a milisecond, I consider it but I know I won’t stay alive until then, and she knows it too.
“Okay” “And you have to take care, f-for the next ….seven years.” I manage and she hugs me tightly. I’m dangerously at the verge of tears, I wonder why tears didn’t leave my eyes till now. “But at least, you’ll find your siblings” a voice says at the back of my head and I nod as if addressing to it.
“Goodbye, Meissa. See you…soon” I say,reluctant to leave the room, but I know better.
I leave the room as I hear Meissa’s sobs which makes my heart sink,but I still have the hope that talking to the organizers might help. Maybe they’ll pardon the mistake. I’m just in the corridor outside the hospital room and I realize I do not know where to go. A nurse is hurrying towards the hospital room and I prefer asking her.
“Er-D’you know where shall I go to..” my voice trails off. Somehow the nurse must have recognized me. She tells me to go to the Principal’s office and rushes inside.
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I notice a spider crawling the ceiling as I wait outside the office. It’s astonishing that I won’t visit this place, and never see Meissa’s charming smile ever again. Mr Wilson, our teacher is inside and I can barely catch their words. A few mentions of my name and other is just gibberish to me.
It’s been too long now so I have to knock. Mr Wilson opens the door, has a grim face and nods. Mr Cohen, the principal beckons me in and I sit on a chair opposite to him.
“So, Rigel, are you okay?” he asks.
“Your name been taken wasn’t a mistake, you see the twenty people who leave each year, have a goal to achieve in the outer world. You know yours, don’t you?”
My breath catches when he confirms I’m going out.
“Rigel?” ” Are you listening?” he asks.
I nod. There is silence for a couple of seconds which makes me realise I have to speak. “To find my seven siblings.” I say.
Mr Cohen nods in approval. “Alas, you need to go early because all seven of them are in danger.”
“Why me? Why so soon, why-” I begin to ask, now turning angry.
“Rigel!” he stops me.
“It is how the omens work. They say you are the brightest.” He says coldly.
“You’ll get to know about it, very soon” He adds quickly seeing the confusion on my face.
“Now you may leave for the dispatch room” he sighs.
I nod and leave his office, his words still intact in my mind-
“They say you are the brightest.”
What had he meant? Well, I decide to consider his answer. I’ll get to know, very soon since I’m leaving for the same reason.
In no time I reach the room titled ‘Dispatch’. I knock and one of the other dispatchers, Mallory Jones open the door. One glance on her, and I know the world outside is very,very dangerous. She’s wearing this big mask on her face and has a big bag containing something. She puts off her mask aside and when I see her, she’s laughing.
I must be having a scowl on my face, because she says, “Oh, don’t worry, we were just trying to put on these weird equipment.” She moves and I see there are other kinds of masks lined on a table, as if set for an exhibition. We have them every year but only fifteen year olds and older students participate.
“Oh, you just scared me!” I speak and enter inside. Mallory’s friends are looking at other stuff that’s lined on the table.
“You must go over there, she’ll tell you some very important things” Mallory says.
I’m glad she didn’t ask me how I’d be going outside, since I didn’t know it myself.
I move to where Mallory had pointed, a woman who’s sitting on a chair, with her brows raised, concentrating on a sheet of paper.
“Um- hello?” I say as if I were asking.
She looks towards me and asks me to sit on the nearby chair.
“So, is it true?” She says.
“What is true?” I ask, bewildered.
“That you,being only thirteen are going?” she asks, removing her cat-eyed spectacles.
“Yes” I say almost inaudibly. She puts her sheet of paper aside.
“Some important things you must know before you go out.” “Remember, outside, is nothing like here. You have to make your own food, your own livelihood. Nobody’s going to provide you with that”
“We’d be giving you some food beforehand, that might work out for a month or even more if you use it wisely.”
She stops to make sure I’m following and I nod.
" And, for the last thing, you have to take care of the omens and augury.”
I nod again. That is what Mr Wilson teaches everyday.
“You’d also receive prophecies to help you on your way and-”
“Prophecies?” I interrupt. “What prophecies?”
She sighs. ” I wonder why they’re letting you go. You are not even having the knowledge!”
I shrug, not knowing what else to do.
“See, prophecies will give you a hint on the future. Since your parents were special, you will get the prophecies to help you in what you have to do”
“Since your parents were special” gets me and I wonder what they were when they were alive.
“Do you understand?” The woman says.
“Yes, I do” I say.
She nods, as if in anger and goes back staring to the sheet.
“You may go and get something you think would save you out there.” She snorts, still looking at the sheet.
I move to the throng of twenty-year olds. They are average of 6 feet or a few inches lesser, and I’m only a 5 feet and 2 inches. I try to get through them and look at the exhibition for myself.
There are those weird masks, with tight-fitting facepiece and some valve along with a hood. There’s description at the bottom of each thing and this one says-
This equpment is used to protect you from the harmful air that exists In Aeston. It contains, a facepiece, exhalation valve and transparent eye pieces. You do not need to wear it all the time once you have reached Aeston, it is used when a storm, that usually takes place there. This is how you wear it
A set of instructions are followed after the text to which I try to understand.Bags of different sizes beside the table lie and I pick a medium sized one, as I couldnt handle bigger ones and smaller ones won’t take anything. I take up on of the masks, because their presence might be required outside. A lot of weird stuff is there, about which I do not know.A little information and how to use is there, which I try to capture in my head..As I move forward, there are water bottles and pick up a dozen until my bag seems too stuffed up of them. I’m not sure if I’d be even able to pick this bag up. The table ends and I turn around seeing everyone gossiping. We’ll never meet again, neither of us. We’ll all go on different paths, so them gossiping really isnt that complaining. Other option is to weep, if not for them, it is for me. I decide sitting on an empty chair and thinking of Meissa. Would she take care of herself? Would she even be able to live in sanity? My heart is aching to know and a hot string of water has glided to my chin and it falls off. I wipe it gently off my face and swallow the lump forming in my throat. I can’t wait to get out of here.
Soon, someone calls us all and we move towards the other room.