Two Sides of the Same Picture

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Testing, Testing, 123

The corridor was completely dark. Taking a few steps in, I called out to see if anyone was there. Confused, I turned back to ask Lina if I could take my flashlight with me, when the doors slammed close. Shaking with nervousness, I took a tentative step forward.

“H-hello? I-is anyone down there?” I managed to call out, hating how scared I was. Hoping my birthstone would somehow help me like it was supposed to, I rubbed its surface. As I rubbed, I felt it warming up underneath my fingers. Glancing down, I gasped as the topaz glowed orange. As I kept rubbing, the glow grew and grew. When I stopped, the glow stayed bright.

Feeling slightly more confident, I walked down the long hallway. As I walked, I thought about what Kane and Drake said earlier. Doing my best to shake off my fear that was growing, I kept my eyes peeled for anything, but nothing appeared. Squinting down, I tried to see the end of the corridor, but it seemed to go on forever.

How can this go on forever? The building isn’t this long, I wondered as I walked. Then it hit me: magic! One of the Test takers must have the power to conjure illusions. It must not be that long, but the illusion would really make it seem like it. Conjuring illusions is a super rare power and really, really powerful. It would be awesome if I had it.

Just when I was about to yell out again for anything, I saw another light, faint, but there. Hopeful, I sprinted down the hallway, desperate for any sign of humans, magical or regular.

Finally at the light, I bent down and panted, tired from my sprint. Looking up into the emotionless eyes of a man, I straightened up, unsure what I should say to the stranger.

“Erica Oracle of the Outer Circle, youngest in the Oracle family?” the stranger asked. He had a mess of blond hair and was a few inches taller than me.

“Uhh… Yes,” I said. “That’s me. Are you a Tester?”

Saying nothing, the stranger turned around and walked down the hallway. Not wanting to be left alone again, I followed the person into a large, circular room. Like the outside of the building, the room was colored dark. On the far side of the room there was a tall, semicircle table with five elderly people, whom I assumed were the Test takers, sitting down behind it. The stranger who guided me to the room walked around the room to the other end and disappeared through a doorway I didn’t notice before.

Unsure of what to do, I turned and faced the Testers. All of a sudden, I was surrounded by gems. Figuring one of the Testers was a magical with telekinesis, I studied each of them, looking for any sign of who was magical and who wasn’t.

One of the elders in the middle called out and said, “The stones will tell us what kind of person you are. Dig deep inside of you and you will find a pull towards a stone. For some, they feel the pull instantly. For others, they must dig deeper.”

Studying each stone, I found a pull instantly. Walking towards one stone, I felt a growing pull towards the one next to it. Confused, I kept walking… and ended up in between two stones. Confused, I focused on finding a stronger pull. Unable to do that, I studied the stones I stood in between. The one to my right looked like an amethyst with light edge that gradually became darker as it reached the center. The other one was a diamond that seemed to create its own light, giving it a rainbow in its center.

“Is this supposed to happen? What do the stones mean?” I asked, looking up at the seemingly puzzled elders. They all stared at me until I felt self-conscious, then started whispering amongst themselves. As they talked, I caught them stealing glances my way.

Finally, they stopped talking and looked at me. “The amethyst shows that you are a very powerful person. The diamond reflects the balance of your soul, telling us that you connect with things easily,” one of the Testers said.

“What does that mean? Am I magical? Why am I standing in between two stones when you said I would only go to one?” I demanded.

“Er… There is one more Test to take,” another Tester said, glancing around at her fellow Testers. “We will begin the last one… Now.”

Everything disappeared the moment she said ‘now.’ I was falling, falling into an abyss of nothingness. Maybe I failed the Test by going in between two stones. I’d be the first in the history of Runes to fail the Test. As I was wondering what was happening, I suddenly found myself on my feet on a track. Looking ahead, I saw a giant obstacle course that looked impossible to complete. Surely I wasn’t supposed to go through it… right?

BANG! A lot gunshot fired in the air and scared me. Turning around, I found a pack of wild wolves chasing after me. Spurred into action, I ran at the obstacle course. Jump over the hurdles, climb the wall, sprint to the tunnel, crawl through the tunnel, dodge flames licking at me, run into a maze, turn, turn, turn… Dead end. I cursed. Everything disappeared once I passed it, causing the wolves to maintain their speed and slowly catch up to me. There was no way I could backtrack and find the right way. It could take a really long time, especially if I get lost again.

Desperately looking around for something to help me, I turned to the high walls. Studying them, I began to climb. A bark from behind let me know the wolves were close. Panicking, I scaled the wall faster and faster until I reached the top, then looked down at the wolves. Except the wolves had transformed into birds that were soaring up to me. Since when could wolves turn into birds?!

Turning around, I ran across the top of the maze, not thinking about falling off. Seeing the end, I sprinted faster, sweating hard. The next obstacle was a pool. Guessing the birds would turn into sharks, I dived in and swam as fast as I could, only caring about getting out of this stupid obstacle course and back into the room with the Testers.

Hearing a screech as I went up to take a breath, I saw the birds turn into sharks. I was right, but that wasn’t exactly a comforting thought. Racing to the end of the pool, I climbed out and continued the obstacle course, only wanting to get away from the creepy wolf-bird-shark monster.

As I ran, my mind went blank. All I saw were the obstacles in front of me and I all cared about was getting past them. Finally, finally, I saw the finish line, a big blue banner that said “Congratulations! You’re done with your Test!” and thought, “after all that, you’re giving me this cursed piece of paper?” Running harder, I was about to reach it when I noticed a giant, gaping chasm with no way across. Great. Of course the Testers wouldn’t just let it be so easy right?

Glancing back, I noticed for the first time how much of a lead I had against the monsters. Walking back a few paces, I steeled myself, turned, and ran straight at the chasm. At the last second, I planted my foot and jumped off it. It didn’t work. I lost momentum and fell halfway there.

I screamed as I fell, my life flashing before my eyes. I desperately looked around for anything, flapping my arms and legs out in an attempt to slow my fall. Twisting around, I looked up at the opening, thinking it was the last thing I would ever see. Closing my eyes, I waited for the inevitable.

“Come now, Erica. That part of the Test is done. You will need to proceed to the next stage,” a voice said.

Slowly opening my eyes, I found myself in the room with the Testers. Realizing that was all an illusion, I grew angry. Glaring at them, I started yelling.

“I almost died. Died. As in not living anymore. You call that a Test?! How the heck does that determine anything?” I started rambling on and on, not listening to the Testers’ attempts to calm me down.

“ENOUGH!” One of the Testers yelled. I immediately shut up, still feeling angry, but also guilty. “I understand why you are angry. The physical Test was to measure your ability. When magicals are pushed to the limit like that, their powers emerge for the first time. If they are regular, they fall through the chasm like you did.”

My heart sank. “So then… I’m regular?” I asked, dejected. I guess I wanted to be magical more than I thought.

“That is not true. The first two Tests indicate that you are magical, but we have yet to discover your ability. This does happen sometimes. Go into the next room and we will find your power,” the Tester said.

Nodding, I looked around, puzzled to where the next room was. Suddenly, the tunnel stranger appeared in the wall and motioned me over. Trudging over, I noticed the wall was actually a door. Taking a breath like I did at the front doors, I pushed the door open and walked in, determined to find my magical ability.

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