Once, a very long time ago, I had a great grandmother. She believed in things that would cause concern and make people talk. The things she said and the way she went on acting in public, was all to prove a point. "Our world isn't going to last in peace, and rules can't change that." Then one day she said the wrong thing to the wrong guard, and got shot. What most people don’t know is that was her intention. She died doing and saying what she believed, and that’s the way she thought it should be. This is the woman I aspire to be; everyone tells me I’m crazy and maybe I am.
My brother and I are twins. I’m Lyra Lane and my bother is Lathan Lane. We both have brown hair and fair skin. I have a narrow body, but Lathan has lots of muscle to him. The only major difference between us is my left eye is blue and the right eye is green. Lathan’s is the exact opposite.
I've always felt out of place when people stare at me and my brother, no one else is like us. Sometimes I wonder if we're safe, but is anyone really safe? Doctors often study our genes and how we think. At times, I catch guards following me, keeping a close eye on me. I think that maybe one day they would be too interested in me, and I'll end up just like the ones who are killed or disappear.
Lathan and I are nothing alike. My brother is very intelligent. He's always in his room reading books, or at lunch and any other time he can. He’s not the type of person to read novels. He likes the educational books, like war and medicine, and our government; anything that he could learn something from.
He got straight A's in school, unlike me who managed to pass with All B's. I never really tried though. My brother was always in his room studying, He'd be up all night and be wide awake in the morning. I've never known how he manages to do that. He works so hard and is so smart; he also loves to invent things. I wouldn't be surprised if he became a scientist or engineer, that is if they were controlled by different people.
But it's impossible, because all of our jobs are controlled by the government. They have a floor where they keep all the cameras so they can watch other people at their jobs, making sure everything is going the way it should be. They also have cameras in every hallway. They don't want any conspiracy or rebellions. Peace is maintained around every corner you turn, and if it's not that's when the government steps in.
I know a lot about the government because of my father; he was a government worker. He died when my brother and I were thirteen. He was very close and very fond of my brother. They were always having debates and were always in his room talking about things that I was never a part of.
My father must have known he was going to die, because before he left for work he turned to Lathan and said, "Remember what I said, 'take care of your sister’.” He walked out without saying anything to me and a cold ache pinched my chest. That day I came back from school and I saw my mother, holding her stomach and almost falling to her knees. The two officers in our room held her up and cooed her. My mothers face was all red, and her eyes were puffy and bloodshot. They ached with pain and it took me seconds to realize that she was crying. As one of the officers took her to government headquarters the other sauntered towards me and told me that my father had died.
I instantly burst in to tears, the only thought going through my head was, he didn't even say goodbye to me. I wondered if he had ever cared; it seemed to me that he couldn't have, because all of his free time was spent with my brother. Then I remembered what he had said to my brother before he had left, "Remember what I said, take care of your sister." I observed my brother that night, and he didn't look upset at all. He had shed no tears, he just held our mother and stared at a wall. It seemed to me that he knew our father was going to die, or that he just didn't care.
But how could he not care? They had spent all of their time together. I like to believe that my brother did know, it just makes more sense and then I'm not asking myself all of these questions.
My personality is much different from Lathan's. I'm more careless than him, I never think before I do something or say something. One day that will get me in trouble, but I never think about it like that.
My mom says I have my grandma's actions and she also says that's not a good thing. I'm very stubborn and hard headed, just like my grandmother. I'm always told I need to control myself but I find it really hard to do that. Often times I tell myself to try harder, and when I try I land right back to where I started, spitting harsh comments about our government and sneaking around.
Curiosity gets to me. I'm always wanting to know why things happen. When I was little I remember the adults were talking behind closed doors, I had walked into the room, but then was told quickly to get out. They were talking about "adult stuff." So I apologized and backed quietly out of the room, then as I waited for the buzz of their voices to start up I ran back to the door and stood behind it. They were talking about a man that had died and that they didn't think it was going to be the last. After hearing that, I ran back up to my room and played with my dolls just like a little girl was supposed to do. I didn't want to hear about people dying. Of course I was only a kid, but I'm not anymore.
My mom always talks about adult stuff with Lathan, she says when I start acting like an adult I will be included in on the conversations, but to do that I need to follow rules, and I'm not the best on that. There are so many things that I want to know, but Lathan says that I'm best off not knowing some things, because not everything is something I want to hear.
My mothers says one day I'll learn, because eventually I'll have to, because sooner or later it will cost me if I don't. But this is the way I am, and I'm perfectly satisfied of how things are. I don't even care that they monitor our brains, they see my brother's intelligence and they see my curiosity and ignorance.
But what's that going to change?
My mother says when I'm older they might see me as a threat and have me killed. But I'm not afraid of death, because if I was I would've listened to what my mother said, "Rules are rules, Lyra, and if you can't behave yourself they'll make you."
So here I am today, still not following rules and about to take my Potency Test. But I've made it this far and I believe I can go much farther.
I get up in the morning and get dressed, putting the same grey tunic and slacks on that everyone has to wear. Everyone has the same colored clothes, so I've never been that type of person to worry about what I'll look like.
After I get dressed I go into the kitchen. My brother Lathan is making breakfast; eggs. Yuck. To me they taste like rubber, but my brother and mother love them, so I put up with them.
My brother looks up at me, "Ready for the big day?" He asks, sliding the white yolk onto a grey, metal plate.
I am not ready; I'm scared that something will go wrong. But I'm not the type of person to talk about my feelings, so I decide to lie.
"Yes," I state as confidently as I can. "How about you?"
"I feel pretty good," he says, walking across the linoleum to the dinning table in the middle of the circular room, he places the metal plate on the table with a clatter, then he heads back to the stove to make his plate of eggs. Of course he feels confident. He is the smartest, most intelligent person I have ever met. There is no reason for him to be afraid. He can probably master whatever comes at him.
"That's good," I say slowly, turning to the cabinet to grab a small breakfast treat. I hope the he didn't catch the jealousy in my voice. I hate thinking about how much harder the test could be for me, but then I remember that I don't know what the test is going to be like, all I know is what it's for.
I sit at the table, watching my brother make the rest of the eggs. I look at him and even though he seems all nerdy, the truth is he is a very handsome man and he has lots of muscle, whereas to me I have no muscle at all.
My mom comes in and kisses me on the head. She sits in front of the plate Lathan laid out for her and starts to eat. She seems very tense, slowly putting the eggs in her mouth and her eyes darting about. Of course she is, though wouldn't every mother be?
"How are you feeling Lyra?" She asks as she finishes her eggs.
"Fine," I lie again.
"Lathan," she calls behind her. "What about you?
"I feel pretty good."
"Well," my mom states blandly, "I remember my Test." I expect her to go on, but she looks like she's got lost in her thoughts. Her eyes staring off at the pale wall in front of her.
"How did it go?" My brother asks, trying to break her trance.
My mom snaps out of it, slowly looking at my brother who is now standing with a plate of eggs above her head. She hesitates as if debating whether to tell us or not.
"That's not important," she says quickly, shaking her head.
If I wasn't nervous before, I'm definitely nervous now.
My mother rubs her hands together nervously. I wish I could say something to reassure her everything is going to be all right, but even I don't know if it is.
My brother comes around the table and sits. For a moment everyone just looks at each other. I look at my mom, pale and thin with dark circles under her eyes from working too hard and not getting enough sleep. Then I look at my brother, he’s rigid and looks straight ahead. We’re all nervous, today is a big day.
I slowly bite into the breakfast treat t I took from the cabinet, I'm halfway through eating when I look up at my mom. She hasn't said anything since her outburst. I think of her response when Lathan asked her how her test went. Something must have gone wrong. But what?
I know she won't tell me, so there's no point in pushing the matter. I finish the rest of my breakfast and go to my room. I lay on my bed for a while just thinking, long and hard until my brother walks into my room. He sits on my bed and stares at a poster on my wall. "It's okay to be afraid," he says calmly. "Truth is, I'm terrified. I've never felt my heart pound like this before. And my stomach is all in a knot. I'm not used to these feelings."
"I'm nervous too," I confess, happy to know I'm not the only one scared out of my wits.
"That's all right," he averts his eyes to look at me. They're full of warmth. "Its good to feel these things."
"I don't like feeling these things," I say truthfully.
"Me neither, but it's what makes us human. Everything will be all right though, just trust me." There's so much intelligence in his voice, it calms me. He's right, everything will be okay.
"What's up with mom?" I ask, some of my fear lifted from my chest.
He gets tense when I ask and says, "I don't know. I've never seen her like that. I'm just guessing that something went wrong with her test and it's hard for her to talk about it."
"Yeah" I agree, but don't quite believe him.
We sit in silence for a while longer. My brother is just staring out the window and I'm thinking of ways to calm my nerves. So I decide to think about what was just said. My brother is nervous too. I would have never thought my brother of all people would be nervous. To me he just doesn't seem like that type, he always seems so prepared at school. But that's at school you can always be prepared there. This is a test that no one gets to prepare for. It all clicks pretty soon. My brother could always prepare himself and study at school. When he did that he had confidence and knew what was going to happen and what was going to be on the test. This test is different he has no clue what's going to happen and what's going on, he must feel so lost.
And then I feel bad for him. My brother works so hard but in the end this is what happens. None of our school work matters. I heard that a long time ago, school determined your life, and some people went to school until they were thirty. But here school doesn't matter as much as it did before, and that makes me think all my brothers work was for nothing.
It's a sad thing, that someone could work so hard and get nothing out of it.
It almost makes me glad that I didn't work that hard because all of it would be a waste. But that doesn't change the thoughts or feelings I have for my brother.
After our test we will go on deciding what jobs we will want and spend a year learning how the job works. If we don't like it, we get to pick one more but we have to stick with that one afterwards. So, we are told to choose wisely.
But what will I pick? I don't know what I'm good at.
My brother doesn't want a job. Not if he has to work for the government. He despises them but knows how to keep it to himself, unlike me. I already know what my brother would be, a scientist. He is fascinated by them. Making medicine and technology, and whatever else scientist do that I wouldn't know of. But what about me, what am I good at?
My brother snaps his fingers in front of my face, breaking my deep thoughts. "Its time to go," he says.
I can already tell there is fear in my eyes. I feel it in my whole body. This is it, I think. My brother helps me get up. I take his hand, he squeezes it little, I guess to reassure me everything is going to be okay.
I walk out to the kitchen. My mother is standing at the sink, hands placed firmly on the edges of the dark metal. It looks like she has been crying. "Ready to go?" she asks, spinning around and smiling wide. I know she is trying to keep her voice steady. Why is she so nervous? What happened to her during her test? Or better yet, what does she know about ours?
"Yes," I reply, but that's a lie. I'm not ready and I don't think I'll ever be. The more I think the more I worry. Its best just to clear my mind.
We walk out of the "house" and head towards the floor right above the government floors. This is where our tests will be taking place. Our room is quite big, but that's because people that work for the government, their immediate family gets bigger rooms. It has a bathroom and a small kitchen, and three sections of small bedrooms, because that's how many people live in this room.
We walk in silence toward the place were our test will take place. It's the place above the government floors; this is where the test is taken. Sometimes they have tests every day of the week. It just depends when the birthdays are.
Once we reach the floor my mom walks us out towards the room, and stops outside the door. My mother grabs my arm, she looks up at me and then turns to my brother and says, "Remember what your father said, take care of her." She looks as if she is ready to cry. What is going on? Does my brother know something that I don't know?
I look at my brother, he nods at my mother and says, "I understand."
There's something they're not telling me. I know it.
"I love you, Lyra" She says, turning towards me, tears threatening to spill out of her eyes.
"Mom, what's going on?" I ask, eyes wide with confusion.
She looks at me and says again, "I love you."
She says it almost as if she won't see me again.
“Mom, am I coming home?" I can't help but wonder. She is acting like I will ever see her again. What is going on?
"Come on Lyra, lets go on in," my brother says, prying our mother's hands off me.
"No, I'm not leaving until I get an answer."
"Lyra this is not the place to do this," he spits. He's pushing me now.
"Why is it always that you know everything and I know nothing! What is going on?" I yell, anger and fear coiling inside me. My mother starts walking away, shaking with tears. I start to go after her but my brother yanks me back towards the door.
"Mom," I scream. "Answer me!" The tears start rolling down my face. I don't understand anything, because nothing seems to make sense. I feel as if something bad might happen. I'm scared, and I'm not usually the type of person to get scared like this.
I watch my mom leave. "Mom," I whisper, but she can't hear me; I can barely hear myself. I fall to the ground and watch my mom become a blur.
My brother bends down and says, "It will be all right, lets get you up."
I get up and look at him. "What are you keeping from me?" I say through clenched teeth, and I know I must look like a wreck—tear streaked face and my hair a mess.
"Nothing," he says.
"Yes you are!" I yell. "My whole life you've been keeping things from me. I want answers, and I want them now!"
"I can't tell you."
"Why? Because dad told you not too? What does he even mean, 'Take care of your sister?' What is going on?" I demand.
"Walk in the room, Lyra." His voice is tense. The tone is telling me "don't get testy". I've taken it too far; I shouldn't push this matter any further.
I walk into the room with my brother on my heels. The room is huge inside. There are couches in a corner, wooden tables, and the counters are all marble. The walls are glass with curtains for privacy. When I look around I notice that some of the walls are computers. People moving things off the computers and onto tablets. I've never seen things like this before. There's hallways that lead to other areas around some of the corners.
My brother walks in front of me and says, "Sit down. I'll go tell them that we're here. I'll be right back." I watch him walk to a lady transferring something from a computer on the wall. He doesn't look like the type of person to lie or to keep something from someone, but right now I feel like I don't even know him. I know he's keeping something from me. And that hurts. Something bad is going to happen, I know it, and that scares me, but what scares me even more is deep down I know I won't be coming home and I won't see my mother for a very long time; or maybe even never again.
The only thought I have as I look at my brother is what are you keeping from me? I have a feeling if he doesn't tell me, I'll find out eventually, and by eventually I mean today.