After my brother admits us we are taken to the waiting room for people who are taking the test. In there I see Aurora Sheeran, a girl in my class and two other girls who look familiar, but I don't know their names. Everyone around us looks nervous. One of the girls I don't know is pacing back and forth, softly mumbling to herself and chewing her grey fingernails.
Since my brother and I are siblings we will go at the same time, but in different rooms. We go according to alphabetical order. We might not get the test done at the same time, so we will be sent back to the waiting room. That is, if nothing goes wrong.
I sit down and my brother sits next to me. For a while it stays silent between us. I’m not sure what I should say to him. I feel embarrassed after my outburst. But then Aurora Sheeran, a rude and irritating girl, comes over with a gin on her face and breaks the silence.
"Hey, Lathan, hey Lyra," She says confidently, stopping just inches from us. "Ready for the big day?"
Lathan replies first, "I would like to sit in silence right now. I have some things to think about.”
"Like telling me what the heck is going on," I spit viciously, crossing my arms over my chest.
"Lyra," his voice is strict. "I told you this is not the place to do this."
"Well, where is!" I yell. "Apparently I'm not going home and I have no clue what’s going on, because you don't tell me anything. I trust you with everything!" I'm frantic now, anger fueling me.
"Lyra," he hisses. "Lower your voice."
But I don't, I keep on going.
"I don't understand you! This is my life, I have a right to know. You're going to tell me or I'm leaving this place!” I scream louder hearing the anger in my voice.
Then Aurora speaks, "Brother and sister rivalry, I love it." I almost forgot she was here but the comment was unnecessary and it makes my anger fly through the roof.
"Get away!" I scream, my fists slamming down on my chair.
"Lyra, listen to me. You ca—," My brother gets cut off.
"Lyra and Lathan Lane, its time for your test, says a male scientist. Lathan and I both turn to see a man with short cropped hair and beady eyes standing in a doorway.
My brother gets up, but I stay seated.
"Come on," Lathan says, exhaustion in his voice.
It must be the stubbornness in me, because I say, "No, not until you tell me what's going on."
"Lyra, trust me you don't want to do this."
"Is there a problem?" The man is holding the door open with his back, but he leans off it to assess the argument.
"Yes, there is," I say calmly, looking right into my brothers eyes. "Your whole ideas of living in peace is ridiculous. This test, what's it supposed to prove? Nothing. And not everybody can mange to keep the peace, take my brother for example, because if he really gave a damn about keeping the peace he would tell me what the hell is going on." As the last sentence rolled off my tongue I looked right at the man, he's staring at me, dumbfounded. There went my carelessness; I finally burst. This is the stuff my mom warned me about and told me I needed to control. Maybe this is all made up in my head. Maybe there's nothing they're keeping from me. Maybe I was just assuming.
"Lyra," my brother says. "Just come and take the test before you push yourself even further." I realize he's right, I don't want to push this matter any further. I get up and follow my brother and the scientist; his name tag reads Marcus. We go though a series of hallways in silence with my thoughts running around in my mind.
As we walk down a hallway a lady passes by. I recognize her, she's the head of our government, Marlene. She has blonde hair, cold gray eyes, and a bit of an accent. She plays on the projector all over the floors to announce important messages. My mom says you don't want to be on her bad side, because she is so powerful that she could have you dead in seconds."Hello Marcus,” she says. Her voice cold and icy, it makes me shiver.
"Hello Marlene," Marcus replies, bowing his head in respect.
We start to walk again but I make eye contact with Marlene, and she notices my eyes. I try to look away but she stops us and walks over to me She looks at me, and then my brother. She's interested in our eyes, I think. I look down but she puts an icy finger under my chin and tilts my head up toward her eyes. "Interesting," she coos, eyes flicking back and forth in mine. "What are their names?"
"Lyra and Lathan Lane," replies Marcus, head still bowed. She talks as if we aren't there.
She looks at Lathan and asks, "Is your father Cale Lane?"
"Yes, ma'am," He says kindly. She examines me. I can't tell what she's looking for.
"Are you and your sister taking your test today?” she ask Lathan, still examining me.
"Yes," Lathan replies.
She turns to Marcus and says, "Bring them to my office after they're both done with their tests. I need to speak with them."
"Will do," says Marcus. She walks away and something about that was odd, and makes me feel uneasy. I can't help but wonder if this is going to lead to me finding out what's going on between Lathan and our mother. I hope it does, but part of me regrets hoping it. Like my brother said, 'some things hurt to hear'. We walk on and Marcus leads us to another hallway that is much wider. The walls are a dark glass that I can see though but couldn’t see out of if I was on the other side.
Marcus stops so we stop inches from him. "Lyra, you'll go to the room on the right and Lathan, you go into the one on the left. You'll meet someone in there to get you prepared for the test. Now, no one gets the same test. They test you based on how your mind works and acts on three categories, and well, everyone has a different mind and thinks differently. You will know no one, everyone in your test will be made up by our computers.
"You will be tested to see your strengths, abilities, and your emotional response. You then will be tested on your agility and lastly, determination. You will be given certain situations that will show how you react. If there is anything unusual you will belong to the government until they decide to release you. Once you're done with the test you will come out here and will be sent up to Marlene's room." He pauses and then with a flourish of his lap coat says, "Good luck."
I walk to the door and turn around to my brother, he looks up at me and nods. I walk in and the room is all black. Black walls, ceiling and carpet.
I walk up to the person standing in the middle of the room. "Hello," she says. "Sit here."I sit down in the chair that is slightly laid back.
"Take this." She hands me a purplish liquid that swishes around in a little medicine cup. We are already getting started, and for some reason that startles me. I drink the liquid. She injects a device in my head "This will allow the people in the observing room to see what going on in your brain through the computers. It will dissolve after the test is over with. The medicine will take effect in one minute; its best to just close your eyes and relax." That is the last thing I hear, because everything soon disappears around me.
I keep my eyes closed while things appear around me in my mind. I try to open my eyes but I can't, they feel glued shut. I look around at my surroundings to know that my mind has formed what the Potency Test has wanted me to see. Everything that happens from here on out will be looked at. This is my test.
Trees create a canopy above my head and leaves crunch under my feet as I walk. I’m know enough from pictures to understand that I’m in the woods. I walk around and soon hear others in the distance.
"We're going to have to split up to find her," says a man with a deep, raspy voice. Her? Are they talking about me? I place my feet carefully in front of me and move closer to the voices.
"Did you hear that? Someone is moving out there," the same man spits out.
"It must be her. She is the only one out there," says another voice. It's gruffly and hard, it makes me feel uneasy.
I can tell they are moving closer to me and my head start to pound. Thats a sign to tell me I might pass out. I hold my breath, afraid my breathing may give me away. I can't let these men find me. Somethings telling me that it won't be good if they do. I look at the ground, counting the rocks and pebbles trying to calm myself from what's going on. After a couple minutes I decide that it's not helping me.
When I look up I am face to face with a man. He is in his early twenties, and is all ratty. His clothes are baggy and white. His face twists into a smile that sends a chill through me. "Got ya," he says darkly.
When he talks I can smell bitter alcohol. I do the first thing that pops into my mind; run. It doesn’t take long to realize that this is the agility part of the test. I sprint off into the woods, running as far and as fast as I can. Branches claw at my face, threatening to cut me to shreds as I lunge through the underbrush. My lungs soon hurt from not getting enough oxygen and I try to tell myself to breath.
I look over and see the two men running behind me. They are too close, I need to make it harder for them to get to me. I try going through bushes and shrubs, but it just makes me slower and cuts my face and arms up more. My foot catches on a hollowed out log and I go flying forward, my face slamming into leaves and twigs.
I scramble to my feet and keep running, pushing my legs to the limit, my lungs burning. I turn every which way I can, but they still follow me.
Then a smell catches my attention. It smells familiar, but, I can't quite identify at first. Soon but it hits me, something is burning, as I run closer to the smell I see smoke.
I'm running towards a forest fire. I turn the other way and run, but the fire is all around. It's getting closer to me and there’s no way to go but through. The smoke soon start to choke me and I realize my time will soon be up if I just stand there.
The fire cackles around me, the heat penetrating my face and bare arms, smoke spills into my lungs. I cough up storm and tell myself it’s no or never.
I remember the stop drop and roll thing I was taught when I was little. Maybe I could run through the fire and then roll on the ground. I look behind me, the men are closer. They're stunned by the fire, just as I am.
Do it now, I tell myself. I run towards the fire and leap towards the other side. The flames burn my face and body, they lick at my arms and face, my feet threaten to burn through their shoes. I've never felt pain like this before. I feel sharp stings on my neck, it makes me cringe. I let out a scream as I fall down on the ground. I roll back and forth until the flames disappear. My body aches all over. A heat like no other pulses through me. My clothes are burnt and hanging off me. I need to find a body of water.
When I get up I look around and to my surprise I see the men standing there. It doesn't make any sense, they were on the other side before. How did they get over here? They don't look burnt or anything. They just look as if they had on the other side of the fire. They're all smiles, while walking slowly towards me.
I look at them and watch them come closer, wondering if there is any use in running. Will they just appear again? I decide to back away and run. I run away from the fire but they are right behind me, I'm still worn out and I’m not sure how much longer can I keep this up? They're getting closer, so I run faster. I'm running so fast that I don't see a ledge. I tumble down the hill and they come plunging down after me.
I feel aches and pains in my body as I roll down the hill. Sticks and pine cones pinch at my skin. I takes a moment for me to stop but, once I do it doesn't take long for them to stop. I start to run again, but this time slower. I almost give up hope, but I as i run farther I see a ledge. Jump, I think. I look down below there is a lake underneath. They won't follow me, or will they.
I push aside my fear, bend my legs and jump without hesitation. I'm weightless for a moment, cool air curling around my beaten and burnt body, and then my feet break the surface of the water. Water fills my lungs. It's all salty. I hurts the burns on my body, I scream underwater flinging all around, wishing the pain would just stop. Soon the stinging stops and I open my eyes. The water is deeper then what I had expected. It takes a couple moments to push myself up to the surface. But when I look around I'm not in a lake, I'm in an ocean.
What part of the test is this, I wonder?
I look around and I don't see land anywhere. I see a small abandoned boat a few feet away from me. I think if I can climb in it I could take it towards land. I swim towards the boat, heave myself into into it and sit down. I take a minute relax, and breath. I'm worn out. I haven't worked that hard my whole entire life. Then, just as I'm calming down, something catches my attention; a pair of legs.
I slide on the seat carefully and see a man laying in the boat. He is an older guy, probably in his seventies. He looks like he is sleeping. I nudge him with my foot. He stays still. I nudge him harder again, and this time he grunts and wakes up.
He looks at me. "What are you doing? Get out of my boat!" Anger flares in his eyes.
"I just need help,” I say desperately. “I need to find my way back to shore."
"I can't help you,” he says turning away and sitting down.
I walk over to him and beg some more. ”Please just take me back to shore. Thats all I'm asking of you."
"I can't help you,” he says again.
"Please, I'm begging you. I need your help.” I look at him, my eyes pleading hoping that he’ll help me. He can’t send me back out there.
"I said I cant help you, now get out of my boat!” he says with a look of determination in his eyes.
"Please," I beg, tears forming in my eyes. “Please.” The last bit comes out as a whisper.
"Get out of my boat!" He grabs me and tries to push me overboard. My head is being held in the water. I scream but only salt water fills my lungs. I try to get out of his grasp. This man is trying to drown me! I use all the force I have and push him with my legs. My head is lifted from the water and air fills my lungs. I need to catch my breath but there is no time. There must be something I can do. If I keep this up one of us will fall out, and it can't be me or him. I think of another way, and then it hits me. This part of the test is the determination part. Just scare him into thinking you'll push him over, then he'll have to do something, but what is this man scared of, he tried to drown me.
I have to show him my determination.
I grab him by the shirt and say, "You are going to listen to me or I'm going to push you overboard. Now take me back to shore!" I scream. I try to sound harsh, but I know my voice sounds desperate.
"Alright," he says. "But this is all I'm doing for you. It's only because I have a family to get home to, and I don't doubt you'll push me overboard." I would've never done that and it makes me feel bad for my hostility and the thought that he would think that makes my stomach turn. I’m not the type of person to hurt someone. I feel bad for having to use force, but I need to get back to shore, and that is something I'm determined to do.
I sit in silence just looking out at sea. It's beautiful out here. All turquoise blue, and calm. I wonder if this is how it was before the war. The thoughts get quickly pushed away when I notice that we reach shore.
I get out of the boat. "Thank you," I say.
"Don't ask for anything else from me again," I hear him say. I won't need to, he has done enough. The shore is soft, with sand that sinks into my burnt tennis shoes and towering black rocks give an eerie display, and in the distance a tiny ramshackle town is a mere walk away. I walk into the closest building I find. It's a small little beach shack, but when I walk in the whole building transforms into one of the government rooms.
I look around. No one is here. I just stand there wondering what I'm supposed to do, until I hear a scream. I run towards the scream to find that my brother, Lathan, is being held at gun point. A man stands across from him, a 9mm pistol aimed at his head. No one else is in this room besides my brother, the shooter, and the man that brought me to shore.
This part is emotional. I'm not ready to see what happens.
"Hey, what are you doing, get away from my brother!" I demand, fear and terror rising in my gut.
"Lyra, stop if you know what's good for you," my brother warns.
My leg flies out in front of me, roundhouse kicking the man in the head. His neck snaps back and he crumples to the floor, the gun clattering on the linoleum. My brother reaches to help. I try to grab the gun but the man trips me. He gets up and then presses my arms down. I fight to get up but he is stronger then me and he has my whole body pinned down. I use all of my force to get him off and set myself free but I'm not strong enough.
I look at the man that rowed me to shore. He's just sitting there watching me struggle.
"Help," I wheeze.
He looks at me and says, "Remember what I said, don't ask for anything from me. I did you one favor I won't do you another."
"No, please help me." The man from shore gets up and leaves the room.
Then the man pinning me down says, "Stupid girl. You should've listened to your brother. Now both of you will be dead."
I can't let that happen."Lathan," I say. "Help." He just looks at me.
"I don't know what to do. It's too late. Its over, Lyra." His voice is the definition of defeat. "You might as well give up. It'll all be over after words."
"No," I grunt. "I'm not giving up."
"I'm doing you a favor, Lyra, give up."
"What do you mean it will all be over?” I ask fighting the mans hold on me.
"I mean you won't have to fight anymore. You're tired and I am too. Give up, so we can both be done." I understand what he means. I know if I quit we will both be done with the test. Thats all I can hope for. I look at my brother. "It will be okay," he says. "Trust me."
I can't help but wonder how he got into my test. Our minds must be connected in some way. Is this why my brother and mother were so tense this morning? Is there something wrong with us? How does my brother know my test was tiring? He must've had the same test. I know I'll find out when I wake up.
I fight the man a little longer but then my body gives up. My brother was right, I've worked hard enough and I'm worn out. I know this means we will die but I finally understand him.
"I give up," I say.
"I'll protect you when you wake up," my brother promises.
"So weak," the man teases. I'm not scared I know my brother will protect me for what comes after this. Even when I know it won't be good, I'm ready to wake up and see what happens next. I can’t help but wonder what will happen when we get to Marlene’s because We haven’t finished the emotional yet. We gave up so my test won't be finished.
I close my eyes and it doesn't take long until I hear the first gunshot go off and hear a body collapse. I open my eyes to turn to look and my brothers body. He's lying in a heap on the floor, blood creating a halo around his body. It's me next. I look at the man, he smiles and put the gun to my head. "Goodbye," he says.
I close my eyes as he presses the trigger and the gun goes off, "It's just a test," I think. I don't feel any pain because right before the bullet enters, everything goes black.
When I wake up I don't feel any pain. And the burns on my body are gone. It was just a test, but it felt so real.
I get up out of the chair and look at the lady. "You're gonna have to come with me," she says. She grabs my arm and takes me out the door. She seems urgent. I have a feeling I know what is going to happen next.
When we get out of the room I see my brother, he is being taken by patrol guards. I feel like fighting them but I look at my brother, and I know he knew what I was thinking. It must be the look on my face or that he just knows me too well, because he says, "Lyra, now is not the time to do anything stupid.”
The patrol guards take ahold of me and put my arms behind my back. "You are part of the government now. I wouldn't fight us, it'll just make it harder for you. You will be taken up to Marlene's room and then after she is through you will be taken to another part of this facility."
They push us ahead and even though they aren’t walking in front of us we are being lead. They push us whatever way they want us to go. I look at my brother. For the first time he looks scared. This is what my mother was so afraid of. She must have known this was going to happen. But how? What does it mean?
We are taken into an elevator. They press floor number 1. That must be where Marlene's office is. There are some other buttons below the one with weird symbols on them. I have no clue what they mean,
As we’re walking everything is finally sinking in. I belong to the government now. For some crazy reason I have a desire to be in the test. I know it was complicated but this will be much more complicated.
We reach the floor and then we are lead down another series of hallways. My heart is pounding in my chest, ramming against skin and clothes, threatening to beat itself out of its rib cage.
We reach a door and the Officers knock.
"Come in," says a woman voice.
A slight click sounds from the door and one of the Officers reaches forward and curls his massive hand around the silver knob. As soon as the door opens my mouth drops. The room is circular. White fuzzy carpet overlays the whole pristine room, all but the center where birch wood creates a circle, in the middle of the bright wood is a glass desk, two plush chairs, a bulbous chandelier and Marlene, standing behind the desk with superiority.
"Sit," Marlene says sternly, motioning in front of her.
The guards lead us to the middle of the room, each step I take across the plush carpet sending a shockwave up my spine, finally I reach the birch and the Officers grab my arms gently and help me into the chair. As if I need help. The idea that they would think that is infuriating and makes me snap, "I can't sit down by myself."
"Lyra," my brother warns. "Don't."
"You should listen to your brother if he is going to protect from what happens on from here." Marlene spits, sliding softly into her chair.
"You've seen the test?" I say stupidly.
"Yes," she says. Her voice is icy. It sends chills through my bones. "I've never seen anything like that before, which is why you're here. You guys are going to help me fulfill some tests."
“No.” I say defiantly .
"You might want to watch your mouth, that's what got your father killed." Marlene smiles coldly, "He told Lathan what we were going to do with you two. He thought one of you should know, and better not tell you, with your harsh comments and stupidity.. He thought is was safe to tell Lathan”
"Liar," my anger is starting to boil over.
"Ask your brother,” she says nodding her head towards Lathan.
I turn toward my brother, who is looking down at the soft wood. "Is it true?" I ask. I get no response.
"Your father hacked into the government files and stole and erased our information that we had of you two." Marlene pulls my attention away from my guilty brother, "He suspected something. He seemed to know something like this was going to happen. He thought he could save you, but when we found out he ran home and talked to Lathan. He also told your mother. We had thought about killing her too but she promised not to tell. And of course we would know because we monitor everything. Lathan we knew, was no threat and of course we weren't going to kill him because we needed both of you. Luckily we managed to recover the information and now you guys are here."
"What information did you have that was so important?" I ask through clenched teeth.
"We had all the information about the way your minds work. You guys are very similar. Your minds work as one, you think the same things. Even in school you thought the same things. Although you, Lyra, second guessed yourself, which makes me think that you guys don't always do everything the same. Though that doesn't explain your test.
“You guys both had the same test and did the exact same things. You also both chose running from the men instead of facing them during the agility test, you also decided to jump across the fire. You even used force and aggression to get what you want with the man in the boat. Which was determination and at the end Lathan and you met in the test. Another peculiar thing was Lathan seemed to know that he was in the test, but you, Lyra, didn't seem to realize it until your brother had mentioned it, even though you were thinking of what part of the test you were in. And then your brother told you to give up and you realized it would all be over if you just quit. All of this is impossible, but somehow you managed to do it. But whats even more impossible is that you guys both didn’t finish the emotional part of your test.
"This is why I'm so interested in you. You play a main part in our world. You might be a threat and we have to test for that. We can't let society collapse because of you guys. That would make us look like fools." She laughs slightly, like this is all some big joke to her.
"So how are tests gonna help us help you?" I ask, rolling my eyes. I feel my brothers eyes pierce into me. I know he doesn’t approve of my attitude, but I’m enraged and irritated, and can’t control myself.
"We're going to figure out what makes you so much different and prevent it from happening again. You guys could be a threat, you could change things and that is something I won't allow."
"What if I just tell everybody?" I say, looking her dead in the eye. I’m challenging her and I know it's not a good idea, but I can't help it.
"You won't be able to, you're going to be cut off from the rest of the world until we are through with you."
"What happens once your through with us?" My challenge is ruined, I sit back, and take a big breath.
"Your memory will be erased and then we will set you free." She says it so causally like it means nothing to her. The thought makes me nervous. I don't want to forget my mother or my father or everything I've always known.
"NO!" I yell.
"You have no choice. There are patrol guards at every corner. I had a feeling we would have a problem with you, but if you don't follow our rules there will be consequences. Is that understood." I makes me think about what my mom said, "If you can't be have yourself, they'll make you."
"Sure," I say sarcastically."Your government is going to collapse no matter what. With me there or not, they'll eventually find out about all of this"
"No one will ever know and you won't be there to tell them. All those people that belong to the government will never get out.” This woman is insane. I can't describe how much I hate her.
"Well, I think we're done here," Marlene says. “Separate them. You'll be back here tomorrow for your first test. We will start off emotionally. Your test needs to be finished."
Officers grab me under my arms, I'm leaving my brother. We're being separated. My eyes land on my brother. I can tell he feels guilt by the way he can't even make eye contact with me.
"Lathan, I—.” I don't get to finish, they're already taking him away. I try to go after him but the Officers tighten their hold.
My brother turns around, "It will be okay, Lyra!" Heart ache sucks my breath away as the door closes behind him.
They take us our separate ways, but as I walk further and further away I feel like I'm stepping into another world. A world that I’m not familiar with. I feel that so many things are going to change. And I can’t tell whether it will be the good kind or something I’ll later on hate.
As my mind rushes around I feel a sharp sting in my leg and when I look down I realize that they have shot me with something. It doesn’t take long until I feel dizzy and I don't know where I’m going. Everything feels like it's dissolving around me. The last thing I remember is someone helping me lay down and the bang of a door. Then everything goes black.