This novel is limited to 100 free copies due to its part in Inkitt’s Novel Contest.
I laced the ties of my black boots, making sure each bow was tight and symmetrical. The shoes squeaked on the gray hardwood floor, the metal walls of my room blending right in. My khakis were plain, neat and cuffed towards the end. I tucked in my black polo shirt. A Commander approved C emblem was stitched in the fabric across my heart. Anything else got me in trouble for dress code if it didn’t have the seal of approval.
I reached back into my closet, grabbing my gray jacket amongst the hundreds of black polos available, each woven with a red C emblem. I buttoned my jacket up to the top, making sure no buttons were missing in the cotton fabric. A single pocket was stitched in the jacket to use to hold a spare pencil. This pocket also bore the C.
’That should do it.’ I released a puff of air, relieved that was done.
Turning to my desk, I reached for an empty vial labeled ’Cure: Take nightly to decrease the brain’s rate of creating nonsense and exposure to radical ideas for up to ten hours.’ If it weren’t for the vial, my life would be uncertain. I doubt it’d be the same, let alone safe. They recycled the plastic containers for future uses after cleaning, so I grabbed the vial and exited my room, shutting the creaking door behind me.
The smell of porridge overtook the house. I ran down the stairs. A long hallway separated me from the kitchen, littered with laws encased in black frames.
“Calista? Is that you?” Mother called.
“Yeah, it’s me.”
“You better hurry, or you’re going to be late for class!” she called.
My eyes widened. “Alright, I’ll be right there.”
I threw my vial into the recycling can and sat down at our metal table. The circular shape let everyone sit at any angle around it. Clean plates were laid out for four people, and a fifth was messy, crumbs lying on his side of the table.
“I’m guessing Ambert left in a hurry again this morning?” I looked to my mother.
“Does that boy ever clean?” Gran growled, hobbling with her cane to her seat, her red sweater too large for her frail body.
“Let me help you, Gran,” I pulled out her chair and let her sit down.
“Thanks, Missy,” Gran smiled.
I returned to my seat, not saying a word. My fingers twiddled in my lap, waiting for Mother to set breakfast on the table.
“Missy, be careful. Twiddling your fingers is different. You don’t want the attention, do you?” Gran raised an eyebrow.
I stopped what I was doing and didn’t speak a word. Mother set the plates on the table and took her place beside me in her chair.
“Is something wrong, Calista?” Mother asked.
I nodded. “Just worried about graduation.” Mother smiled. “I know, Darling. I know. It was different when we grew up.”
“Really?” I asked.
Gran chuckled. “For one thing, we didn’t graduate at sixteen. We left high school at eighteen, and back then we had all kinds of classes: engineering, music, drama, creative writing, and so much more. We didn’t get something forced on us.”
’Music? What a strange word! Never heard of that before...’
“It sounds fun.” I smiled.
“It was. Your mother was quite the engineer. I used to knit more than those scarves you get every winter too,” Gran smiled.
The door to the kitchen slammed behind us. A moan initiated before a man grabbed a coffee from the counter and sat his place at the table.
“Father…” I said, bowing my head in respect.
“Hello, Calista,” he growled.
His stern gaze met my own, bags under his eyes showing how dedicated he was to his work; the misty gray color appeared haunted by the past lingering behind them. His hand ran through his salt and pepper hair, exposing some streaks of gray. A few wrinkles etched his face here and there, with the prominent ones on his forehead and a few near his eyes. His posture was rigid in his chair, not letting his back arch for a second.
Mother cleared her throat. “Hugo, we weren’t expecting you to be back.”
“The world’s unpredictable, Suzanne. I was able to easily apprehend the criminals this morning without any trouble,” Father drank a sip from his black coffee.
“What was it this time? A rival gang?” Gran asked.
Father chuckled. “Even worse. Artists. Scum of the earth if you ask me.”
“Artists?” I asked.
“Just more radicals breaking the anti-dreaming and creativity laws. You know how dangerous that stuff can be. One step in their direction and we’ll all be sick. The system will completely fall apart,” Father looked me in the eye.
“Of course, Father. I wouldn’t want them putting you out of work.” I said.
“That’s my girl,” Father smiled. “You know, I got to see your report card this morning.”
I raised an eyebrow. “But the school board isn’t giving those out until next week.”
“If you thought you could hide it from me, you were wrong. For the most part, I was pleased, but your gym grade is unacceptable! Sweetheart, you’ll never take a place in society next to me if you don’t try in gym class!” Father sighed, pinching his nose.
“I’m not supposed to be thinking about my future. That’s the government’s job,” I lowered my head to look at my food.
Mother smiled and rolled up her gray sleeves. “I still remember when school was a happy place. You could choose what you want and you could enjoy making friends, having fun…”
“It’s that kind of junk that poisoned the population. That’s why the government outlawed dreams, creativity, and ambitions in the first place: to do practical things the society needed rather than wasting it on worthless crap. Boys go to the army and those with useful skills like analyzing, intelligence, and problem solving continue their education. That’s better than that… dreaming stuff. It’s like a disease, and it always manifests itself in the weak.” Father got up from the table.
He placed his cup next to the sink and glanced into the recycling bin. A scowl formed on his face and he took a tablet from his black jacket, typing on the high tech screen.
“Hugo, what is it?” Gran asked, her eyes filled with worry.
Father clenched his teeth. “I’m gonna kill him.”
“Hugo, just say what’s wrong,” Mother placed her hand on Father’s shoulder.
“There’s only four Cures in here. You know how important it is to take one and it’s my duty to uphold the laws! There should be five in here, and there’s four. One of you didn’t take it last night!” Father growled.
“I put mine in there, Father. Honest,” I said.
Father smiled in my direction. “I know, Sweetheart. You know the rules,” he paused. “But whoever didn’t take it is in for a load of trouble. You know the penalty for not taking it is death, Suzanne!”
“Yes, I do. But it wasn’t your son. You know he gets up really early to go to work. You also know you marked his vial with an A. It’s right there,” Mother pointed into the bin.
Gran chuckled. “Hugo, don’t stress too much. Someone probably just forgot to throw theirs away. I’m old, for heaven’s sake! Do you think I’ll always remember to throw that stupid container away?”
“It’s okay, Father. I’m sure you’ll find it,” I smiled.
Father chuckled, attempting to ease his nerves. “That’s my girl, attempting to make me feel better. Now you better hurry up and get to class. I don’t want you to be late.”
I nodded and grabbed my red backpack. Father’s eyes widened and stopped me from heading out the front door.
“Don’t ever forget your scarf. If your clothes look different, they’ll report you in. I wouldn’t want to take you to The Executioner’s Graveyard,” Father tied a black, red, and gray yarn scarf around my neck, making sure the shorter part was in the front, and the longer half was in the back.
The way my parents talked about dreaming made me curious, unnaturally curious. What’s it like to dream? I read all the government policies I could on it, but there was no definition to what it really was. It was a fantasy in a far off land, unattainable.
The technology used before our government wasn’t quite different from the ones civilians could use. Technology had remained the same, allowing us to grasp what we had rather than develop new concepts that could backfire.
Walking to school, people whispered in corners to make certain no one overheard them and smiling vanished when a government car rolled down the avenue. No one had the nerve to make a sound on the streets, leaving them cold, bleak, silent. A single voice rang through speaker downtown, reminding citizens of the rules and the order put in place.
“Remember to obey the rules and regulations at all costs. Alert the nearest official of any suspicious figures. Follow to achieve and trust those who lead. Anyone who chooses to rebel and become a radical will be put to death.”
This voice would regularly remind citizens of the rules and the system put in place. Those who were caught breaking those regulations were put to death by executioners.
All, but one.
At school, we studied lessons on facts: calculation, undisputed science, universal grammar, and national policy classes. Books on cold, solid facts, and nothing more than that. Facts we read, absorbed into our brains, recited, and reworked until the time came for us to take our place in civilization.
We all walked in a single file line to our designated classes. We were not allowed to speak unless spoken to in the hallway or during class. Most lunches, even when not regulated by this rule, were silent as well.
I sat at the lunch table, setting my tray onto the cold metal in front of me. Just sitting in the chair caused a chill to run up my spine. Silence allowed for only the clanking of forks on plates. I gobbled down some spaghetti before having water dumped over my head. The water splattered on the table and drenched my clothes, causing them to become damp. My face grew hot, and I jumped in alarm before dropping my fork to the ground. Clank!
“Hey!” I screamed.
“It’s Calista isn’t it?” asked the boy over my head.
“It shouldn’t matter,” another smirked, “She’s still lame.”
“Doesn’t she have that dim-witted brother of hers? The one who didn’t want to drop out of school to join the army and got chosen to work in the Information Department?” a girl whispered from beside me.
“Yeah, don’t understand why he’s still alive. After all, the government chooses where you go and he refused,” whispered another girl across the table.
The boy above me chuckled. “Because Knight is a respected government name! Bet Ambert skirted the army because he’s a wimp. My brother should know; he beat him up after school on teacher’s orders several times.”
The girls continued their gossip. “The Mr. Knight? Isn’t he The Head Executioner for The Commander?”
“Uh-huh. Calista’s his shy freak of a daughter. Bet she kills too, and not just for good reasons. I don’t want her to assassinate me...” the girl’s voice whispered.
“Her? Assassinate you? Her brother, Ambert, was lame and so is she. They don’t give the Knight name any of the respect it should,” the boy above me chuckled.
“Stop this...” I mumbled.
“So what’chu gonna do?” another boy yelled.
“Besides, what are you gonna do when you graduate? Be the laughing stock? Refuse like your brother did?” the boy chuckled.
I cuddled into a ball and sank in my chair, shaking my head. Beads of sweat ran down my face. They always made fun of me because of my family. I hated it, but it was something out of my control. No matter what I said, no matter what I did, they would continue to push me around and pick on me. I would have to put up with the torture I had endured since I was ten.
“Leave her alone,” The command came from a different voice, one I didn’t recognize.
It was new, certainly not from one of the kids I knew at school. The deep, velvet sound was reassuring and mysterious.
“What did you say, Jacob?”
“Leave her alone,” the boy repeated.
His face as unrecognizable as his voice. His blonde hair bounced gently off of the light, and he had a strong jaw, like he could keep defending me all day. The water dumped on me dripped down my cheeks from the top of my head onto my gray jacket. My rescuer smiled at me.
“You can’t do anything about it,” one argued from the crowd of students.
“Still, you can’t judge her based on her family,” my rescuer returned.
Silence was once again ruler of the cafeteria. I shivered and turned back to my food. The boy nodded before taking his seat at an opposite table.
He was different than everyone else from the start. He spoke differently, with more intelligence and insight. He sat at his desk, looking ready to learn about the world around him. His eyes were lit up with excitement and he tapped his foot underneath his desk. The fact he also had the courage to stand up for me meant I wasn’t going to complain about his behavior.
My teacher gazed around before spotting my rescuer. She gazed a cold-hearted stare in his direction before asking, “Jacob Peterson, tell me: what was the main purpose of the Renaissance?”
“The purpose of the Renaissance, was for mankind to re-invent the definition of what science, math, and language is,” he answered, his voice robotic and monotonous.
“That’s correct. They were also inventors, and famously made many abominations. Music, art, drama, and they even invented new technology! What do we have to learn from this?” my teacher pried again, eyebrow raised in suspicion.
She must have been trying to see if he, as a new student, was on the same page with dreaming like the class was.
“Nothing. It’s pointless,” he answered, but I could tell a certain light was drained from his eyes.
Those eyes changed to a different shade of blue every time I looked. First, I thought they were sea blue, sky blue, and midnight blue. I settled with a royal blue, because that color could be trusted. My brother’s eyes were a similar hue, and he also stood up for me.
“Calista? Miss Knight, were you listening?” the teacher asked.
A few students snickered from the back of the classroom. My face got hot.
“Yes?” my voice croaked and I sank into my desk chair.
“Would you care to explain what the three main guidelines are?” my teacher impatiently tapped her foot.
“Um...well…” I knew the answer. I just didn’t want to say it out loud. I was already getting laughed at. What if I did something else wrong?
I gulped, attempting to answer again. “One, never get involved in something you don’t understand… like… um... dreaming. Two, if you see someone... doing suspicious activity, report them in immediately. Three… um… if someone is not conforming to the rules and… uh... openly participating in rebellion, no murder crimes will be charged against you for carrying out the law,” I muttered this, my voice barely above a whisper.
“For a Knight, you sure are timid. Much better than the last one I taught. Excellent work,” my teacher smiled.
I gave a nod back to my teacher.
“Now, Class, cite the slogan,” my teacher ordered like a general.
“Follow to achieve and trust those who lead,” the class recited.
“Good, very good,” the teacher smiled before opening her textbook.
Walking home from school wasn’t hard in my city. I could always find wherever I had to go since my parents had me memorize all the neighborhood names. As I walked out of the school grounds and onto Fort Avenue, I spotted Jacob walking ahead of me towards another section of town. I had to thank him for stopping the bullies in the cafeteria.
I don’t know what I would have done otherwise if he hadn’t stepped in. I didn’t have many friends. After all, who would want to be friends with Mr. Knight’s daughter? Maybe this time it would be different.
Yet as we walked, I could no longer recognize where I was. Jacob darted into a brick building with faded graffiti on the worn-down brick sides. It looked as if it had been abandoned for years, with wood blocking off most of the crevices the building had to offer, like windows and even the main door; it left only a small space for Jacob to crawl in and out of the building. The smoky odor of wood tinged the area. I looked around for the warmth of flames to find none except in a small chimney space. How strange. Why would Jacob go in there?
The wooing of a siren echoed around me.
“Oh no!” I mumbled to myself, eyes widened like a doe caught in a pair of headlights.
The only people who had hover cars in our city were government officials, which could only mean a few things: they were either here to give out vials of Cure, arrest someone, make announcements, or possibly drag someone away to be killed. What were they doing here? Quickly hiding in a thick bush with dying leaves, shallow breaths left my mouth. I was on the wrong side of town where everyone was dragged away to-- some even referred to it as The Executioner’s Graveyard.
It’s only made worse when your father was the one doing it.
Father’s car screeched to a stop and he swiftly got out of the little black vehicle; he was patrolling again-- as he always did. Teeth clenched, he hauled an old man out of the back seat before reaching into his back pocket.
At the first sight of the gun, I was gone.
The shot went off as I ran, a cracking bang piercing the silence. Streams of tears cloud my vision and dampen my face. My heart pounded, cold, quick air seeping into my lungs.
Despite not knowing the man, he somehow meant something to me, just like the mysterious Jacob Peterson. Maybe I had a shot at being his friend; I had rotten luck with making any of those thus far, but maybe he was different. Everyone at school thought I was a freak or I was like my father.
I ran from the area, and headed back to my house. Approaching the two-story metal building with caution, I stared into the rusting metal like it was out to get me. There, my mother was sitting outside on her rocking chair and my grandmother was knitting on the metal porch.
“Knitting scarves again, Gran?” I asked her, taking a look at the jumbled mess in her hands. The color red laced in the fabric; I didn’t want to be anywhere near that color after what I’d seen.
My eyes looked away from Grandmother’s scarf and into the snow below me. I had to not remember the gun, my father, or the blood. I took a deep breath in and produced a fake smile. Mother and Gran didn’t need to know about it. I didn’t want them to ask why I was there.
She smiled. “Only exactly as instructed. You know it is against the law to do it any differently.”
“Well, we wouldn’t want you to get in trouble, now would we?” Mother kissed my cheek.
I went inside the house and took off my scarf, coat, shoes, and sweater. Going upstairs to my room in the attic, I shivered in the darkness as a chill went up my spine.
It got colder and colder each winter, with ice, snow, and heavy winds coming more and more often. Still, Grandmother sat on the porch every day knitting the same scarf design, year after year.
‘Does the government have to restrict what we wear too?’ I sighed and pushed the feelings aside. I had to focus on what was important.
I finished my studies, gobbling down meatloaf at my birch desk. Ambert and Father were usually never home for dinner, so eating at a table was a foreign practice. Why sit with Mother and Gran when I had work to get done?
Before laying down on my bed, I slipped in some plain red pajamas with the black letter of approval. My mind was restless from the things that happened earlier. I tossed and turned, thinking of my father and the gun. It could have been Jacob or me. I didn’t think anyone lived out in that section of town, especially in an abandoned building. Who was Jacob anyway? I was determined to visit where I last saw him earlier when I got up the next morning.
Just as I was about to drift off into sleep, my mother knocked on the door and came into the room.
“You forgot to take this.” She held the dream suppressant vial.
I hesitated, and turned my head so I could drink it. I winced. It might have been a clear liquid, but it tasted like it could be vomit--putrid and unforgiving with its bitterness. It stung the lips with its touch, causing them to partially become numb from the cold sting.
“Your father is going to be late again. The Commander has ordered him to do some late night inspections,” my mother explained.
“You mean executions,” I mumbled, but she didn’t hear.
“Well, goodnight. It’s Free-Day tomorrow; enjoy your day off from school,” my mother said gently as she shut the door.
′The snow must be pretty bad tonight if they had to cancel classes…′
Wind howled and the shutters clamped next to me. I wrapped the satin sheets over my body even tighter, a fluffy blanket enveloping me in warmth.
Closing my eyes, I went to sleep hearing the computer on my headrest read my brainwaves were low.
genlynne2379: I read the other review of this book and I must say that I disagree with it wholeheartedly. I do not believe the author put the apostrophes in the names just to be unique, but because the characters are supposedly of a different race than humans. They are Anmah. They should have different names a...
Nymeria: Really can't get enough of this story. It flows well, it captivates the reader from page 1, and throws you into such a well-written, well conceptualized world that you'll believe it's real. Everything in the book is meshed together really well. From character backgrounds to plot twists, you can t...
ElusiveBadwolf: I loved this book so much! It's a shame that i already came to the end of this. I really enjoyed the story, and i liked it how everything became in the end. It was a great book and i can say that you are a great writer too. Keep it that way and i think you can make it in the writing business!
Alex Rushmer: This was not what I expected, but I enjoyed it a lot Malfoy was always one of the characters that I liked a lot, so I like that a lot of this happens between him and Colette. I read the first couple chapters, and I enjoyed your writing style and am excited to see where you take this story. My com...
Dru83: This is the second or third time I've read this one and I just love it. It has just about everything you could ever want packed into one scifi story. It still has some parts that are a little rough in terms of grammar, punctuation, and word usage, but it's still an awesome story. I love how detai...
Krupa Kataria: the detailing is really awesome ....the characters, ur plots jst too Awsm ,m waiting for the further chapters please do complete it ...like m really craving for those ones ...great job with words too ..please complete the further parts ...
PaulSenkel: A real page-turner. The main character takes getting used to which retrospectively is a good thing. Harry evolves quite a lot and the more you read the more you appreciate his intelligence.The setting is special to say the least. Imagine you have enough money so that everybody can have all they ...
Ding Fernando: very nice read.so realistic you can hardly put it down,i really like the character so human despite posessing immortality and eternal youth.though i would prefer a better ending..i still love this novel and i am recommending it to all sci fi fans to give it a try .you will love it too!!
spec4huff: Thank you for creating this world. I am a 6'3" veteran that thinks himself tough. But the piece of literature you have created made me misty eyed on a number of occasions. I want a love like this. Thank you again, I would totally buy this book and hopefully the sequels to this ever enchanting lov...
kwilliams: I am an avid reader, and I do mean AVID and few indie authors capture my attention the way you have. I absolutely fell in love with these characters and their story. I'm usually not a fan of the cliff hanger endings (be it a series or not), but this one made me download the Kindle app just so I c...