“You have to kill her,” Marlene says, her face twist into a deadly smile. I look at my mother. I could never kill my mother. I look into her eyes that seem dead even though right now I know she's very alive. She looks broken. Like she’s been destroyed.
"No," I protest, squeezing my eyes shut, as if that'll block out the impossible situation in front of me. "You can't control me like that.” Defying Marlene is probably not a good idea, but I need my mother and she can’t take her away from me.
"Kill her!" Marlene demands.
"NO," I scream, trying to sound determined, but instead I sound weak and vulnerable. "No," I try again, my voice is still silent and weak.
"Lyra, it will be alright. I'll protect you," my brother says, just as he had in the test. Will he protect me? Is it possible after all that’s happened?
"You lied to me. How can I trust you?" I ask, looking Lathan right in his eyes.
"Kill her," Marlene spits getting more impatient.
"No... No ... No," I scream, losing all control. For some reason I can't seem to process why this is happening. "Stop! You can't do this. Let me out of here." My fists bang on the glass that divides Marlene and I. Lathan is on the other side and I'm left with my mother.
I turn to my mother and look at her. Cuts define the shape of her face. She stares at me and says, "I'll forgive you," with tears rolling down her bruised face. "I'll forgive you."
"No," my insides turn to coils, ready to leap out my throat. "You can't let them do this to you. They're controlling you. They're controlling me," I whisper.
"Don't you get it, I deceived you all along. This is the way it's supposed to go. Give up and give in." She smiles warmly at me and hugs me. It sends chills up through my body. "I'll forgive you," she says again, pulling me back to hold me an arm's length away.
"What do you mean you deceived me?" I ask examining her, tears spilling out of my eyes. The end is coming for her, I know it. I try to think of a way I can stop it, but my mind is blank. I look at her and she doesn't seem scared at all. She seems ready to die. She seems to now that it's coming. And for that she's brave.
"SHE'S NOT YOUR MOTHER!" Marlene screams. "NOW KILL HER!". I've waited too long and now Marlene has had enough. But I can't stop now. I have too many questions.
"Who is my mother?" I ask urgently, knowing we don't have much time left. "I thought you were my mother."
"Don't you dare tell her," Marlene spits at my mother. Her eyes tell my mother not to challenge her.
"You'll find out," is all my mother says, backing away from me. She's a few feet away, but she seems miles away.
"I'm giving you thirty seconds to kill her or else—" Marlene starts.
She doesn't have time to finish. A bullet goes off and plunges into my mother, who falls backwards a pool of blood cascading around her head like a crimson halo.
"MOM!" I scream, falling to my knees. "Mom, no!"
I get up and bang on the glass. Lathan drops the revolver in his hand. "It had to be done," he says blankly.
"What did you do?" I scream. "Who are you? "I have no clue why he did that. I'm not sure I'll forgive him. I bang on the glass some more, furious at my brother. How could he?
Marlene gets up to the glass. I bore my eyes into her. She smiles and says, "Next time that will be you. Next time you'll be killing her. After all she's not your mother."
"Wake up, its time for your test," someone says shaking me furiously. I groan and roll over, trying to get back to sleep. I wonder how long I've been out. If its time for my test, then it's already been a day. "Wake up," I hear again, I can now identify the voice as a man's.
The dream I had felt so real, but I'm glad it wasn't. I hope to never experience something like that in my life, but for some reason I feel that it's just a round the corner, waiting for me.
I prop myself up on my elbow and look at the man. A guard dressed in black, usual government uniform, stands over me with a flashlight. Wondering what time it is I get up and follow him out of my room that has gray concrete walls and a small bathroom in the corner. The hallways are dimly lit, just like my room. None of it looks like it would be a happy place to be. After a while of passing a whole bunch of rooms identical to mine, we finally make it to a staircase where two guards are waiting for me. They grab my arms and put them behind me, guiding me just as they had before. We don't speak we just walk towards where ever they're taking me. A couple guards soon start to follow, walking with us. I can't help but wonder if they think I'm a lot of trouble.
We walk up three flights of stairs and I soon have a feeling that where I was sleeping was underground. More guards soon follow us and, then I start to think that maybe I am a danger. Why do I need all these guards if I'm safe to be around? My question soon gets answered when I turn around. My brother Lathan walks behind me with guards in between us. He nods at me, probably to reassure me that everything is going to be okay. I nod back in recognition.
We finally reach a heavy set of doors and stop. An officer standing by the door, speaks into a device saying, "Marlene, we're right outside the doors. Tell us when your ready."
We stand there for a few seconds and then the same cold voice I despise responds back, "Whenever you're ready."
We walk through the doors and doctors seem like they've been awaiting our arrival. They stand there mainly eyeing me and taking notes on something. Probably writing down something about me or my brother.
The room is all white with rooms down long narrow hallways. Behind the counter are people on the phone talking and writing things down. Its very chaotic, with people rushing around, trying to get things done.
Marlene stands nearest, hands in front of her, staring coldly at us. "Follow me."
She leads us down a hall and into a big room with a computer, wires all over the place and two slightly reclined chairs. The room is the same color as the other room I took my test in. All black. The only thing that shines brightly is the computer screen showing our faces.
"You guys have two minutes to reconcile with each other and then we will start the test," she says. "Go on."
I run up to Lathan and hug him.
"Don't move, I have something to tell you," he whispers urgently into my ear.
"Go on," I say a little too loudly. The doctors look at me and I cough to cover up what I said and then to make it even more believable I say, "Lathan, I'm so glad to see you again."
"Okay, now listen up," he says pausing to make sure I'm the only one listening. "The government is afraid of you," he continues. "They're afraid of you changing the way things are. So they're going to keep a close eye on you. You can't do anything that would make them notice you anymore."
"They think I'll start a rebellion?" I ask liking the idea of shutting this place down. I look up and see doctors and scientist running around to get ready and Marlene is talking into some device, nodding her head every so often. "Maybe we should," I think out loud. Why should there be so much chaos going on for just two teenagers?
"Lyra, don't think that. They're monitoring you. If they think you're going to cause trouble they'll kill you. I'm serious, don't joke around."
"Fine... fine," I mumble, disappointed by Lathan's constant need to do what's right. "How are you finding out about this stuff, though?"
"I snuck around a little, early this morning before they grabbed me for the test. And besides that dad had warned me."
The thought of my father and my family lying to me makes me back away from Lathan. I instantly think of what my mother said to me in my dream, "Don't you get it, I deceived you all along."
What does she mean by that? I guess I’ll find out eventually. Just like everything else.
"Your times up," Marlene says, motioning for us to sit down in the chairs provided for us. "You'll say goodbye when the test is over."
The same lady that tested me the day before helps me sit in the chair. With Marlene eyeing my every move, I stay obedient. But not because I'm scared of her but because my brother needs me too.
The lady puts the syringe into my forehead and I feel the device enter my brain. Then she gives me a same purplish liquid in a medicine cup.
I drain the liquid down and feel every doctor's eyes on me.
"Just to remind you, the monitor allows people to see your test. It will dissolve after the test is over with. Relax and close your eyes. You know the routine. Good luck."
I turn to my brother who is laying in the chair on the other side, eyes already closed. Soon my eyelids feel heavy and I can't hold them open any longer. Before I close my eyes I see Marlene looking at the computer to observe our test, occasionally looking at me every few seconds. Soon every thing goes black.
When my mind makes the surroundings, my brain feels weird and groggy. I look around and I'm outside in the same woods I was in during my last test. Not wanting to stand there, I walk around, realizing the emotional part has to come at any moment. After I walk around for awhile I decide to sit on a rock and wait. I look around waiting for something to happen. Anything. But I'm left with the soft sound of birds chirping and the rushing of wind.
When I've been sitting there for a while I start to think that something went wrong with the test and nothing's going to happen. I get up to walk around again, bored with my rock. But something in the distance catches my attention.
A rumbling sound like a large truck engine fills my ear drums. I turn towards it and see massive cars coming towards me. My only guess is that those cars belong to the government. Even though we have no use for them, it just makes sense. I get behind a big shrub and watch the cars go by.
"Lyra?" I hear a voice ask. "Is that you?"
I turn around to find my brother coming out from behind a large spruce looking worried.
"Lathan," I say relief washing over me. "What's going on?"
"I don't know," he says with his brows furrowed in confusion.
He crouches next to me, watching the government cars come to a halt. My heart pounds heavily in my chest. For a moment I'm afraid the government will hear my heart pounding and find me.
"They must be looking for us. I mean it seems to make the most sense." There he goes using that logic trying to figure out everything in the world.
I nod in agreement and watch the men get out of the cars. Marlene steps out of a vehicle and looks around, turning her nose up to this place.
"They're somewhere around here. Find them," She orders sternly. I can't help but think this won't end good. Men start marching in ever direction holding large machine guns, trying to find us.
"We better go," Lathan says getting up slowly, still keeping an eye on the government. I get up and follow him, backing away slowly, having no clue where we are going, but I keep on focusing forward.
We head down a hill walking at an easy pace, taking in everything around us. We pass trees with all different colors of leaves. Birds fly above us and a few deer scamper away at the sight of us. We walk around for about twenty minutes when a thought crosses my mind.
"Lathan, I'm starting to think that maybe we have to go to them." I quiver at the thought of heading to Marlene. She's scary enough in real life, imagine what she be like in the test.
"No, they have to come to us," he states confidently. "I'm pretty sure of it."
Of course he is.
We tread along a gurgling creek heading towards a big rock. The wind blows my hair in my face, but I don't push it away. It feels nice.
"I think right here will be okay to take a break," Lathan says examining the massive rock.
"Already?" I ask.
"Well, I think we've gone far enough." Not wanting to argue I nod silently and prop myself up on the rock. I remember my dream and can't help, but wonder if Lathan had the same one. After a couple silent minutes of me building the courage to ask Lathan I finally blurt it out.
"Did you have a weird dream last night?" I ask Lathan, lifting my eyes to meet his.
His eyes narrow and meet with mine, "Yeah, about mom?"
"Yeah, and you killed her?" I ask quickly looking away. This isn't exactly the conversation I want to have with my brother, but my curiosity is getting in the way.
"Yeah, I know what you're talking about," he says looking straight ahead.
"You would never kill her, right?"
"Never," he says his voice shaking. I'm not sure if I believe him. The only person he loves more than mom is me. He would do anything to protect me. After all, that's what he was doing in the dream. I remember what he said after lying the gun down, "It had to be done."
"Do you know anything about what Marlene meant when she said she's not my mother? And what about when she said that I would have to kill her next? What does she mean?"
"Lyra, Lyra," he sighs shaking his head, "you don't always need to know the meaning to everything. Sometimes its best if we find out later. It will make it easier on both of us."
"I need to know."
"No, you need to just go with it."
"Do you think the—"
"Why so many questions, Lyra? Just live your life now and stop wondering. Remember what I said to you, you don't always want to know everything because something's hurt to hear. Someday you'll learn."
I close my mouth more questions threatening to come out, but I hold them in. We sit in silence for a while longer, with questions pondering in my mind. I listen to the birds chirp and the soft sound of the wind, until another sound catches my attention.
A sound of feet crunching under leaves awakes me from my thought process. I listen closely and I hear them again. As they get closer I shake Lathan and say, "Hey, listen, someone is out there."
"Shhh," he whispers, listening in. After a moment of him listening he says, "We need to move."
We get up and Lathan goes around the rock, telling me to stay where I'm at. I watch him go around when a look of fear crosses his face and Lathan instantly plunges to the ground unexpectedly.
"Lathan!" I scream, forgetting I'm in the test. My mind seems to have erased the thought. I bend down to help Lathan noticing a pair of black pointy heels on top of Lathan's back. I look up and see Marlene.
"They're over here," she says eyeing me, daring me to leave.
"Go Lyra, go," I hear my brother mumble. I stand there staring at him. Guards start approaching us armed and dangerous. "GO!" he screams.
I whirl around, crashing through the creek, the moment feeling vaguely familiar, but I can't identify how. Footsteps pound behind me matching the beat to my heart. I run the other way hoping to find another way out of this mess. Why does this always happen to me? I'm left running for my life. I start to think that maybe it's to prepare me for later on in life. But I don't understand how.
My brother's words scream in my head over and over, 'GO!' I run wishing for a lake to jump in so I can get away from this mess. For some odd reason it gets dark and I hear thunder. A bolt of lighting crashes a mile away from me. It doesn't take long for the rain to start. Realizing how much trouble I'm in by being near all these tall trees, I try to calm myself by counting my footsteps while I run to focus on something else.
I hear shouting in the distance and realize my brother needs me. He never would have left me so I'm not going to either.
I can't let him do this without me. I need to get back to him. I quickly find a tree and climb it as fast as I can, knowing I don't have much time. My hand slips on the wet bark and I do my best to keep my grip.
When I get dizzy enough by looking at the bottom, I take a minute to rest on one of the strongest branches, watching the guards run to where ever they think I've gone.
Once they're out of sight I face my fear of heights by jumping down from the branch a good twenty feet. I walk on looking around, trying to calm myself because my brother could be dead now or anytime soon. "I'm going to save my brother," I say out loud trying to believe it. I say it over and over, soon convincing myself. Knowing my time is limited, I start picking up the pace, walking swiftly in the woods towards my brother.
The thunder and lighting crashes above me. I'm soaked to the bone and I can't help but scream out of frustration. My heart rate has gone down some and I can finally catch my breath.
It seems like it takes forever until I finally reach the rock I left my brother at. I crouch behind a tree and watch silently, trying to think of a plan.
"Kill her," I watch Marlene whisper softly in Lathan's ear. I notice my mom being held captive, tears spilling out of her eyes. "Do it or I'll have these men hunt down Lyra and kill her."
"Why are you doing this? Lathan cries.
"She's not your mother. You should feel no guilt for killing a woman that deceived you your entire life!" Marlene shrieks.
"THEN WHO IS MY MOTHER?" Lathan screams. A guard steps forward, smacking Lathan across the face for yelling. A red hand print welts on Lathan's face and pretty soon tears come rolling down his face from the pain. I try to think of a plan to save my brother and mother but no thoughts come to mind. I'll just have to jump in when things get rough.
Lathan looks at my mother and says, "I'm sorry, mom. I really am, but it has to be done."
A guard hands Lathan a gun, realizing he has decided to obey Marlene and backs away to watch.
"Go on," says Marlene slowly, eyeing him very carefully. Lathan aims the gun at my mother, tears making his face red.He stops and looks at our mother. He hesitates and then says, “NO! I can't do this!" Lathan cries, dropping the gun to his thigh. All guards immediately aim their guns at Lathan. I can't watch this anymore I step out from behind the tree, waiting for someone to notice me.
"STOP!" I yell.
Marlene looks up at me giving me a cold, deadly smile saying, "If you know what's good for you, you'll back away."
"No, you can't control us any longer."
"Lyra," my mother says, smiling through her tears, "it will be alright. Let him shoot me. He's done it once before so what makes this time any different?" She pauses to think and then grabs the gun from Lathan and aims it at her head.
Marlene takes a breath and watches to see what happens next. All eyes are on my mom, watching her to see what she does. My mom turns to Lathan and says, "I love you. And Lathan remember what you father said, 'Take care of your sister.' I'm so sorry I lied. I want to make everything better and this is the only way."
"No," I say to her. "Mom there's another way. There has to be."
She shakes her head, tears making her eyes shine like a blue sea. Her finger presses the trigger and blood and brains explodes to the left of her, making the rock crimson. Her lifeless body falls to the forest in a heap.
"MOM!" I scream, falling to my knees, pain squeezing my heart. "I'm so sorry."
I crouch down next to her limp body and lay her head on my lap. Her eyes are open slightly, starting to look glassy. I stroke her hair, which is slightly matted with blood; tears pour out of my eyes. I start shaking her,
"Wake up. Wake up," I say. "Please don't leave me. I need you." I wait for my mother's eyes to show that she's still here; to show life, to show that she would never leave me, but nothing happens. She lays in my arms, no longer breathing, no longer stroking my hair when I had a bad dream, no longer kissing me goodnight, no longer here.
"Wake up! Don't leave me!" I scream Marlene backs away talking to one go the guards. "MOM!"
"Lyra it will be okay," My brother says. I turn to look at him tremor. He grabs me in his arms and we hold each other, shaking with tears. "It will be okay," he whispers.
"Who wants to go next?" asks Marlene appearing to be more like the devil every time she speaks.
"What to do you mean? I ask confused.
"Lathan get up here," she says handing a gun to me and dragging Lathan next to her. I watch Lathan shake with tears. I can't shoot him. I will never hurt him just like he wouldn't hurt me. "Now Lyra you have thirty-seconds to shoot or we’ll do it for you—go."
I look at Lathan with fear penetrating though me. I shake my head at him and he looks at me. "Its just a test," he says.
"What?" I ask forgetting that we were in a test.
"It's just a test. The emotional parts over with. We're done."
He's right. Its over with. I sigh in relief. We're done. Its all over nothing more to worry about. Everything soon starts to disappear, one by one and I'm left in a black space. And before I know it I'm opening my eyes to a room full of doctors and scientist staring at my brother and I. Marlene looks up from the computer and stares at me.
"Say goodbye to your brother, after that I'll speak with both of you individually," she says gently.
I stand up from the chair and run to my brother, hugging him, glad it was just a test. I look up and notice Marlene smiling slightly at the sight of Lathan and I hugging. I have no clue why, but she nods at me, still smiling and for a moment I think catch I glimpse solicitude in her eyes.
But I ignore it, feeling that it was all made up in my head. Marlene is not a nice person. She hates my brother and I. It seems impossible for her to show that, but I remember what my mom had once said to me, "Don't judge people by the first couple interactions with them. Wait and get to know their other side because believe or not there always is one.People have a way of hiding things.”
And so I guess that’s what I will do, I think as I follow Marlene out the door. I turn around to look at my brother who nods at me once again, as he always does, reassuring me everything will be okay. He seems to do that a lot.