"Come on dear," Sara's mother cooed into her ear, "Everyone has to go to the School. There will be other kids there that you can play with! You will like it, I promise."
Sara looked down at her feet, not wanting to look Mother in the eyes. She didn't want to go to the School. She wanted to stay here, in their little house with Mother. She didn't want to go off to some strange place where she didn't know anybody. Sara wanted to sit by the fireplace and watch the wood crackle as the fire ate at it. She wanted to help Mother cook the pies that Mr. Johanston picked up every evening from her. She wanted to play with her doll that Father had found at Work.
"I don't want to," Sara said definently, as if Mother hadn't heard her say it the first fifteen times Sara had said it.
"Sara," Mother said, her patience running low, "You HAVE to. You don't have a choice."
Mother paused for a moment, as if debating if she should say what she said next.
"You don't want Elder Johanston to get mad at me and you, do you?"
At the metion of Mr. Johanston, Sara felt a shiver go down her back. No, she didn't want that. Mr. Johanston scared her, with his eyepatch and scarred face. Sara shook her head. No, she didn't want Mr. Johanston mad.
"Then you must go to the School," Mother said, "For one, Elder Johanston would get mad at you if you don't show up for school. Two, he will get mad at me because I won't have made enough pies today because you are holding me up."
Mother was beginning to glance more and more at the clock that sat above the fireplace and a worried look came over her face.
"Sara, you must go NOW," Mother said. Her voice had a hint of desperation in it and Sara could see that she wasn't going to get her way this time. Besides, she didn't want Mr. Johanston AND Mother mad at her.
Slowly, Sara nodded her head.
A smile spread over Mother's lips and relief flooded into her face. "That's a good girl," Mother cooed, as she kissed Sara on the forehead quickly and grabbed her jacket from the peg.
"You know the way," Mother said, more of a statement than a question. Sara nodded anyway and let Mother put the jacket on her.
Mother kissed Sara's forehead once more and said, "Hurry along now. You don't want to be late for the Sorting!" Without another word, Mother gently pushed Sara out the door and closed it behind her.
Sara ran as fast to the School as she could, the thought of Mr. Johanston's possible wrath pushing her faster. She remembered when she had walked to the School with Peter last year, before he had...disappeared.
Peter said that he was learning everything there was to know about the World there, and how she would too. He learned about how to plant and harvest grain, how to fix a plow, and what materials worked best for fertilizers. Of course, Sara wouldn't learn those things at the School, unless she too was Sorted into the Farmers like he was.
He also told her about how he learned about the Knowledges of the Elders. That she would learn, as everyone had to learn about the Knowledges. The Knowledges were the teachings that the Elders supplied to the Teacher. These Knowledges were about the world and how it worked, as well as rules that had to be followed.
Sara finally reached the School and ran up the steps. She opened the doors and then the world began to blur; shifting into a different image...
Sara was sitting at a table in the School. Teacher Madison was speaking, telling the group of eight year olds about the the World. A map was drawn on the single chalk board at the front of the room, a map of the whole World.
"This here," said Teacher Madison in a drawling voice and pointing the picture of a house that he had drawn in the center of the map, "Is Town. Town is the center of the World. Town is where people live and work. It is the center of our lives."
Teacher Madison then pointed to a bunch of horizontal, parallel lines that he had drawn to the west of Town. "These are the Fields. This is where all the food is grown and where the Farmers work."
Teacher Madison spoke to them in short, almost fragmented sentences, and very slowly, as if they couldn't understand him if he didn't talk in such a way. "This is the Scrapyard," Teacher Madison said pointing to a large boxed off area to the south of Town. The Scrapyard went all the way to the edge of the map and seemingly did not end. "Only Scavengers are allowed in here."
At the mention of Scavengers, Sara's heart throbbed with pride. Father was a Scavenger. "One of the best," Mother always said.
"The Scavengers grabbed any metal or other junk that can be melted down and reused again by the Smiths. They are not allowed to take anything from the Scrapyard for themselves or even to talk about their work, so don't question them."
Sara knew the second part was true, about not asking what the Scrapyard was like or what the Scavengers did in it. She had asked Father once, and he immediately became angry and told her never to ask it again. However, she thought Teacher Madison was wrong about the first thing he had said. Not allowed to take stuff home? That obviously couldn't be true. Father was always taking stuff to his small study to...well, she wasn't sure what he did with it. Plus, he had gotten her a doll from there. Teacher Madison didn't know what he was talking about.
"The Scrapyard is surrounded by a huge wall, fifty feet high," Teacher Madison drawled on, "So if you any of you are getting any ideas of seeing this place for yourself, don't bother. I've been told by the Elders themselves that it is nothing more than a bunch of old junk, so there isn't anything interesting there."
Teacher then pointed to the area that encircled Town, the Fields, and the Scrapyard. "This is the Glade," he said, "It is a large expanse of grass that seperates us from...the Woods."
Finally, Teacher Madison pointed to the area that entirely surrounded the World, minus the endless Scrapyard. "Y0u all know about the Woods. It is the endless forest that surrounds the World. It goes on forever, never ending as the Knowledges of the Elders tell us. Everyone is forbidden from entering the Woods. If you miraculously survived the dangers of the Woods and somehow returned, you would be executed."
Teacher Madison seemed to have forgotten that he was talking to a class of eight year olds and he soon realized how harsh he had sounded. His face cringed, but he did not change what he had said. It was true, and the sooner the children learned it the better.
"Well, that will end today's lesson," Teacher Madison said, still no emotion in his voice, "Remember that tomorrow is the Sorting, so be here half an hour earlier than normal. Failure to do so will result in punishment. Dismissed."
Once again, the image began to blur, but this time Sara could feel herself awakening...