A long queue of students.
It was something Asia expected for the first day of her sophomore college life. Despite the inconvenience, she was thrilled and breathless at the same time. After passing the rigorous process of acceptance in the prestigious University and surviving her freshman year, the thousands of people in line had very little effect on her already soaring mood.
"Asia!" she heard a friend calling her name.
The friend's name is Aya. She was Asia's classmate since high school. She was punctual and a very dedicated student even then. She was wearing a button down top and a black denim shorts. To complete the ensemble, she sported a gray sneakers and her signature hat.
Compared to Aya's signature style, Asia was wearing an ordinary blue metal neck embellishment as a top and a white medium length skirt with an ordinary sandals. A very simple style that mirrored her personality and her lifestyle.
"As usual, you are early again." Asia commented.
"And you are late as usual." Aya interjected referring to the fact that it was already the second day of registration.
Aya paused, looked around and whispered to Asia's ear, "It's best if you don't register today. There are strange people at the front line."
Asia cocked her head at Aya and smiled. There is no way she would ever leave her line. She already waited for hours.
"Come on, Asia. Come with me and leave this line." she insisted.
But Asia only shook her head and rejected Aya's offer. Asia smiled at her friend. Aya was really pushing her to leave the line. Aya's assertiveness was reaching a whole new level and Asia did her best to sooth her.
In the end, Aya understood and sighed, "If that is what you wish. But maybe Zane already vouched for you?"
"What do you mean?" she asked as Aya referred to her close friend, Zane.
Zane is her friend since elementary from the time he transferred into their school. During the first few days, he was being bullied because of his lanky built and his effeminate qualities. When he finally fought back, it was to help Asia. Since then, they have been inseparable.
"He didn't? He didn't tell you? I'm really sorry." Aya blurted. She firmly held on to Asia's hand and let it go almost instantly when something caught her eye. Aya turned her back and hurriedly left the place.
Asia was about to catch her but she was too fast. Instead, she heaved a sigh and wished that it was nothing to be worried about.
As line goes on and the day was almost over, Asia started to get nervous. She noticed the fear in some of the students in front of the line. But who wouldn't be? Guarding the lines were huge men holding an equally monstrous weapons. To whom were they planning to use those weapons? To students cutting in line? Or to thieves who wanted to take the opportunity to steal the tuition fee payment of the students? To whoever it was designed for, it was going a little overboard.
Asia noticed as some of the students were ushered from the registration to a trailer room adjacent to it. Incidentally, the trailer room was more heavily guarded than the lines of students. Most of the students ushered into the room never came back and some students who did emerge from the trailer truck had a lost expression on their faces.
Asia also noticed when some of the students at the back started to disperse. Some successfully left the line while a lot more was taken forcibly by the guards. However, there were very few moronic students who volunteered to enter the trailer room in exchange for cutting in the line.
Asia started to get worried. She looked around for Zane but he was nowhere to be found. She wished with all her heart that he overslept again. It was just like him to sleep through the whole ordeal. Maybe after all this was done she would narrate to him what happened and they would laugh it off like usual.
Asia's attention turned back to the trailer room and she shivered at all the possible things that was being conducted inside the room. She looked around and heard as students started to whisper behind her.
"They said it was a gang of rebels."
"Seriously? Where are the police?"
"They are a powerful gang. That is why none of the government officials can touch them. They would probably turn a blind eye."
"But is it true? One of my friend said that her colleague entered that room and never came back."
"So we can do nothing but hope that we are not chosen to enter that room?"
"I heard from the upperclassmen that if you are an officer in your organization, you can vouch for one person to never be included in the Selection."
"How I wished I befriended someone like that."
If Zane was here, Asia was certain that he would definitely vouch for her. There was no other way. Even if he already had a girlfriend, Asia knew Zane treasured her more than his current girlfriend. They have been friends all her life.
Then Asia saw as another guy casually left the line and went in front. Like everyone else, he wanted to check what's beyond the gate, the administration and the trailer truck.
His name is Angus, the top student from the previous year. An overconfident but very smart classmate of hers. He had dark brown skin, black hair with a tinge of brown, deep set eyes and hatred for Asia. She could clearly remember how he would smirk and glare at her every chance he gets. She returned it by ignoring him and escaping him every chance she gets. Asia never wanted to have any connection with him.
Asia watched him as he strode confidently to the front and she thought how much of a fool he was. Yet brave at the same time. If it was her, she would leave the line unnoticed by anyone especially by the guards. But even escaping the line was too much of a hurdle for her very frail heart. She was afraid to turn the attention of the guards towards her.
Asia kept an eye on Angus as he almost left the gate. But he stopped and stared beyond the gates. A moment later, he was taken by the guards and was forced to enter the trailer room. He never came out again.
Whatever he saw, it was enough to paralyze a man like Angus. Asia found herself thinking that thankfully she never left her line. She would be too afraid and even faint if she saw whatever Angus saw beyond that gate. She was even sure that no help would come to free them from going into the trailer room. The other student might be correct in believing that the guards were from the government or at least a secret government organization.
The line painfully moved on as she watched only a handful of students come out of the trailer room but they look dispirited and out of this world. Going into that trailer room might have changed them in ways she did not even want to imagine.
When Asia was almost at the front of the line, she was relieved when she saw her closest girl friend at the front table, Ellis. It was the table for those vouched and saved from going into the trailer. She remembered that Ellis' sister, Frieda, was one of the officers in her Sorority.
Asia may be a coward but seeing someone she cared for safe and unharmed, relieved and took some of the burden in her heart. Ellis saw her and smiled automatically to tell Asia she was fine.
Just thirty more students and Asia would soon learn whether she would enter the trailer or not. A man who walked in a distinguished manner went out from the trailer and started to look at each of the student in the line. He was wearing a black top hat worn by men during the 19th century. In his hands was a black walking cane which was evidently used only for fashion. He seemed to be scrutinizing each student for something she was unsure and terrified of.
Another handful of students went inside the trailer and the line became shorter. Then she saw Zane at the front table, his lanky figure sitting rigidly on the chair, his cute, youthful face staring at the hands enveloped in his. Beside him was his current girlfriend and the hand he was staring at was hers. The girl whose name Asia didn't even know. Her shoulders dropped as she stared at the two of them safely behind the table.
Zane was the youngest officer in the student organization he's in and that gives him the right to choose who to save. Asia had been too confident of her place in Zane's list of most important person. He met her eyes and she stared back at him. His eyes apologizing or was it her imagination? Just like her delusions of being the most important person in his life because he is in hers, and even more.
Being an orphan, Zane was her first friend. The first person who took notice of her and never grew tired of her. Back then, she cared too much of what people will say to her. She stuttered every time someone was kind enough to converse with her. She was shy and insecure of how she looked. She hated her plain, brownish hair. She hated her skin and always made an effort to hide it away. She especially hated her hazel eyes, the feature that is unmistakably her mother's. In summary, she hated everything she got from her mother who left them when they needed her most. Maybe she got her cowardice from her mother too.
But Zane laugh it all off with her. Because of him, she met Ellis as well as all her other friends. Asia met his parents who became her guardians when her father died of a disease. He opened the opportunity for her to be connected with other people. And she thought for the longest time, that the two of them were the most connected humans there ever lived. Such fantasy.
"This." a deep voice said with his hand on her shoulders."..is some wonderful quality."
Asia faintly heard the deep voice. But she was frozen by both the ruined trust and her fear. Not until powerful arms took her and lifted her up that she realized she was selected. She flailed helplessly on air. In front of her was the man wearing a top hat staring at her. But she was looking beyond him, to the most important person in her life, to Zane, the man she believed she was in love with.
Asia was carried into the trailer but her eyes never left Zane's and his to hers. Their eyes never wavered from each other but his was that of apology and hers was the look of betrayal.
Asia was thrown into the floor of the trailer and as the door shut in her face, she could vaguely see the black cane used by the man who chose her.