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This is the first story I have tried to publish. I would really like some feedback.
A ragtag group of teenagers fighting to get back into the city. I used to laugh at them, I used to make fun of them - until I became one of them. Only days before joining their ranks I had gone to school for the last week. I had to score 80 percent or more in each required category: math, history, and language. I also had to score at least 90 percent in the occupational field that I chose, which was public administration. This job would include a lot of interaction with the government. I had only chosen this occupation because it provided a good salary, and even at eight years old, when I made the choice, money was a powerful incentive, given how hard it is to make a good living.
Since being put in the required program, I have studied at school almost non-stop; a few weeks for a nice break each year, but other than that, all school. In the few months before the end of our last year, I was put into a dorm to focus on studying. The dorms were supposed to help me concentrate. However, being away from my family made me more stressed. On the last day of school, the students and teachers put together an enormous celebration to wish us good luck on our exams and beyond. But there was still a stone in my stomach.
The day after the last exam, December Thirty First, early in the morning, I received a memo at my dorm requesting my attendance in the reception room at City Hall by 9am. When I got there, my family was there already there. Mom had her head on dad's shoulder and was shaking. My little sister, Madison, was tugging on Mom's faded dress. Dad looked up and nudged Mom. When she looked at me, her eyes were puffy and rimmed with red. My sister's lower lip wobbled; she ran into me, hugging me around the waist.
"Mommy told me you were leaving to live with Uncle," she said, her voice muffled in my shirt. "I don't want you to go. I won't see you until I finish school!"
A sob choked out of my mouth. I clutched Madison close and looked up at Mom. She ran over with Dad and hugged me.
"Don’t you give up, come back to us safe and sound," Dad said desperately. “You can make it back.”
The intercom rang with an announcement. "Ten minutes," was all it said.
The cloud of despair around my family had spread over me. It was simple, I had failed, and all the preparation and struggle of the past eight years had gone to waste, all of it for nothing. I looked around the room. A few other families were here. Our neighborhood generally performs better on the exams than most areas so there aren’t as many failures.
There are serious consequences for failing. You are thrown outside the city with only one of your belongings to keep with you. The government also provides a backpack with various supplies.. You have to find your way back to the city to prove that you are able to positively contribute to society, that is, if you want to go back to the city.
"We got all the things you might want or need," my little sister said.
“We love you,” Mom said, holding my arm back.
"Don’t you give up, come back to us safe and sound," Dad said desperately. “You can make it back.”
Another announcement blares out, "ten minutes are over." Mom let go. When the doors to the reception room opened, Mom and Dad give me one last hug and then walked quickly toward the door with Madison. Once they were out, they were quickly replaced by security officers. I felt as if I could see the news reporter switching the topic to the exams, happily exclaiming that there had only been a few failures in our neighborhood, and that included me, Alex Sil. There were generally more girls than boys that failed school, but I was still hot with shame and embarrassment.
My life is over I thought.
I was placed in front of a small pile of my things, including a necklace I was given at an awkward family get together, a picture book, and a few of my favorite stories. I immediately snatched up the picture book and held it close. As soon as I picked it up, the two security officers each took an arm and guided me toward the van. Teens from the other neighborhoods were already on. The van was labeled with a big B on the side and it had no windows. There was a total of six guards in the van, each equipped with a stun-gun.
While riding on the bus, I looked up to the front, through the windshield. The city gates were coming into view. An officer came into the back and closed the door, blocking my view. The officer came down the aisle, handing out vials from a white bag, instructing us to drink the contents immediately. I took one and looked at the contents. The liquid was dark and smelled horrible, the glass was a dark navy blue. This confused me, why would they spend money to dye the glass? I pour the liquid into my mouth; I gagged and accidentally spit some out. The guard didn’t notice and I wiped away the spill. I hoped there wouldn’t be any lesser effects.
I suddenly felt . . . very sleepy, probably the liquid. I fell asleep.
The next thing I knew I was waking up, still on the seat in the van. The van was significantly darker, the lights had been dimmed. There were only a few people left on the van. Across from me, another girl was snoring away. Obviously, the amount I had spit up had shortened the desired effect. The same officer that handed out the vials came down the walkway, groaned and hoisted a chubby boy over his shoulder. I quickly closed my eyes and pretended to be asleep,
“Come on! Hurry, it’s already dark out.” A female voice sounded from the front.
“Why don’t you try to get back here and lift this guy?” The man going back up the aisle said.
“ My gosh . . . this is the farthest south we’ve been. I want to get out of here!”
“ More incentive for you to help me out!” The van wobbled as the man’s weight left the van. He came stomping back a moment later.
“It can’t be that late out, let me see the time,” the man said. “ Damn! We’ve got to get a move on.”
A jolt and the van was moving. I bumped around the seat, the uncomfortable position was hard to keep up. A few minutes later we came to a halt. “We’ll put the last two together.”
I felt hands grab my arms and pull me up. I stayed limp and let the man bring me out of the van. He dumped me in some prickly grass and then dumped another person right next to me. I peeked open my eyes, the van was still beside us, and I saw two objects hurled toward me. I panicked, but stayed still as they hit my stomach and face. I tried not to move and watched as the lights of the van faded away. Long after they were gone I shoved the objects off of me and grabbed one. I opened the backpack and surveyed its contents. There was some bread, dried meat and fruit, a water canteen, a blanket, a knife, some rope, a roll of wire, and a small flashlight. Not too bad. The food would last a few days or a week at most.
I grabbed the other pack meant for the girl laying next to me. With her pack, I would have food for another week. I got up but hesitated to leave. Though the extra food and supplies would be extremely helpful, I tossed the other pack back to her and headed out of the clearing to find some proper shelter. The officers had talked about being south of the city. All I have to do is find out which way is North.
I found a big tree nearby. It’s branches were thick and sturdy, so I climbed up and sat on a branch. There was enough room that I could sleep pretty well, but my mind was still racing from all of the events of the day. I unpacked the blanket and wrapped it around myself. I finally closed my eyes and got some rest.
The morning brought stiffness and aches. Peeling my eyes open I got into a more comfortable position and got my bearings. I stretched and yawned. I looked down for the girl, she was gone, I hope she is okay. Maybe I should have stayed with her. She might have been helpful, but then again she could have made things a lot worse if she turned out to be a burden.
I quickly stuffed the blanket into the pack and swug it over my shoulder. Looking toward the rising sun, I determined that North was to my right. I jumped out of the tree and began walking in that direction. For the next several days, my routine was simple: wake up, start walking, eat, and at night, sleep in the branches of a tree. As the sky was darkening on the fourth day, I had to find a place to settle. Surely it couldn’t be this easy? I thought to myself, there weren’t any monsters or other animals out here as far as I could tell and all I was doing was walking.
I climbed up a tree near me and started to get out the blanket, as I did, I heard rustling from beneath me. I closed up the pack and hid in the leaves, a boy came out of the brush frantically looking about him. I held my breath as he passed under me, I didn’t want him to sense my presence just yet. I climbed down the tree and started to follow him. I kept a good distance between us, but he wasn’t hard to follow with him being so noisy and reckless. I followed him for a while but eventually lost him. I looked around and walked for a bit longer. A looming mass appeared above the treetops as I walk in the direction the boy had gone. I ran to it and there it was - the city wall.
I stood at the edge of the trees, and again thought This is way too easy! How come there haven’t been more people that made it back? I was suspicious. There wasn’t an entrance I could see, so I decided to wait until morning before approaching the wall. For what I hoped to be the last time, I climbed a sturdy tree and slept.
I awoke to a shout. I packed my things and swung the pack onto my back. I slid down the tree and looked around the open area bordering the wall. The shout had come from far down the wal. Staying within the trees, I headed toward the voice. Soon I could see a gate, which meant an entrance to the city. As I approached the gate, I saw the boy I had been following the previous night. He was next to it, one of the six entrances into the city from the outside.
“Let me in! I’ve got to get back in,” He said through sobs. I couldn’t stand to watch, but I let him plead and beg. I had no way of knowing how to get back in so I needed to know what to do. Watching this might help.
The gates opened and four officers walked out. The boy stopped sobbing and stood still, looking at the officers approaching. Two officers grabbed his arms, a third grabbed his hand and scanned his fingerprints. The third officer looked up, motioned to the fourth, and started to leave. The boy was silent and looked over at the last officer, who, without a word, took out his gun out from its holster and fired. I flinched and looked back at the boy. The shot went straight through his head. The officers dragged his body through the gates. The gates closed.
Resisting the urge to throw up, I ran back into the trees. I ran until I was sure that I was far away from the city, which was ironic, as I had spent nearly a week trying to get back. I walked until dark and collapsed between two exposed roots of a tree. I fell asleep immediately.
When I opened my eyes, dark brown eyes glared back at me. I yelped and pressed against the tree, except it wasn’t a tree. I was on a bed in a makeshift house of some sort. I glanced back at the person in front of me.
“Who-Who are you?” I asked with a hoarse voice. “Were you on the same van?”
It was another boy. He looked about my age so I assumed he was another failure from my year.
“No,” He said, “I got here last year.”
“Aren’t you supposed to be dead?” I asked confused.
“Do you want me dead?” He stood up and walked to the door.
“No! I mean, the reports on you guys from last year say that everyone that didn’t make it back into the city was found dead.”
“Yeah, they think we’re dead because they saw our heart rate stop. They monitor our health when we’re out here.” He poked his head out the door. “Dave! Go back home!”
“What? Why would they do that? We’re all supposed to die if we don’t get back so what’s the point? Also how? They don’t have cameras out here.”
“Simple. Trackers. We got yours out before you woke up. It was in your back by the way.” He said it matter of factly.
“Oh . . .” No duh. Trackers! I thought. Of course! I was sleeping in that van for who knows how long, why didn’t I think of that? I could have gotten it out.
“Hey, why don’t you step out and get some fresh air? You’ve been sleeping for a few days. We had to sorta knock you out to take out the tracker.”
I stood up, and I could feel the small bandage on my back with a twinge of pain. “I can’t go back can I?”
“No, most of us can’t. I didn’t really want to take my chances at the wall. You don’t know whether they’ll accept you or not.”
“What’s your name?”
“Nice to meet you. I’m Alex, and thanks.” I stepped out the door.
I gasped. There weren’t more trees; it seemed like we were in a city. A broken, small one, but still there were people milling about in the street in front of the door, and there were even a few children!
“What is all this?” I asked.
“This is where most people that get sent out end up, we’re far enough away from the main cities that they don’t find us. We call it the Forsaken City.”
“Yeah. Turns out the city that we’re from isn’t the only one. I’m still trying to fit my head around it as well. I found you on patrol.” He smiled.
I looked around in amazement. They were able to create a whole new society! My life isn’t over, it’s only just beginning.