I stare out at the sky, feeling exhilaration surround me.
There is really nothing to be seen; the world is just painted in a blurry monochrome, Even the sky. Shadows flit across the land, but there’s no one to be seen. Of course, I’m used to this.
I wonder what it was all like long ago when the elders told us stories about it passed down for many generations- about those colors. Not the black, gray, and white that paints our world now, but real colors. Not the monotony- colors.
It’s already 6972, and I wonder after three thousand years, the world would ever change. Of course, that’s impossible. But I can’t let go of the hope. I know, I’m just damn naive.
I slip down from the roof and consider going back to bed. The latter would be to go out to trade.
We work at the farm, my mother and I. My father left us a long time ago. I’ve never considered the inner details important. To leave my mother and me in this state, I doubt that he is anything but a damned man.
I decide the more slightly safer option. I go back to bed. Trading is supposed to be illegal, but I do so because just relying on the farm will mean certain death for us this year. There is a drought going on, and I doubt that we can get much out of the farm, if anything at all.
I slip through the window, fall into my bed, and look up at the ceiling. I finally get up after a few moments as I realize that the sky is brightening.
“Ekaterina!” calls a voice- my mother. Who else would call me Ekaterina?
My full name is Ekaterina Sacremoto, but no one but my mother calls me Ekaterina. Everybody else calls me Katia; the people of the trade market, our neighbors and friends, mostly everybody in Section Eight, I suppose.
There are ten Sections, simply called Section One, Section Two, Section Three, et cetera. I belong in Section Eight, where we are the farmers. They say that ‘careless talk cost lives’ in the ancient times from the few books that we own in the library. In here, careless work cost lives. One mistake, and we will have almost no food for the entire year.
“Ekaterina!” calls my mother again, this time more urgently.
“Yes?” I call back.
“Come over!” There is a tremor in her voice.
I frown. Are the trading people here for something? But then, why would my mother be so frightened? Has something happened?
Questions flood my mind as I hurry downstairs. As I see the people on the front door, my mother trembling, I stare.
The Officials are here.
It makes no sense. Why would they be here, at this moment?
The Officials are the people who take care of us, who are the rule-makers and follow the orders of the High Officials. But there is no reason for them to be here now. I am not illegally trading, not like some others do. There is no reason for them to be here.
“Ekaterina Sacremoto?” asks the woman.
“Yes,” I say.
“Sixteen years old?”
“We have been given orders to take you into the Training.”
I gasp. “But it’s not-”
“No, it’s not the usual time.” The woman’s blue eyes pierce me, and for a moment I see- is that sympathy? “But we have our orders.”
“We’ve been given no warning,” my mother protests.
“We have our orders,” the woman repeats.
When all of us turn sixteen, we are forced to live in the wild for sixteen days, without anything special given; no jackets, no water, no food, no weapons, nothing.We have to do it all by themselves- whether we want it or not.
If we can’t supply themselves with any of these things, we will die. And our families, our friends- none of them can help us, and those who can are not allowed to. Those are the weaklings, fated to die. Only the strongest can survive here.
Before this, we are allowed to Train for three days. There are people who are experts on fishing, weapon-makers, camouflage experts, et cetera.
But it is at a certain date- April 21st. Right now, it's the middle of winter.
It makes no sense. Why now?