People live in a community were they are ranked. 1 is the best rank you can have and the higher your rank is the worst your status is. Your rank can be based on anything. For example if you are athletic you would get a good rank, but if you had a disadvantage, like asthma, you would get a bad rank. Your quality of life is based on your rank. Where you live, how nice your house is, what your job is, everything depends on your rank.
“Cora Felly,” They called over the speakers.
The crowd around me shifted to let me through. My heart sunk deep within my chest. My turn had come.
The room was wide and circler with a raised platform in the back high enough that everyone would have a good view of it. Atop the platform sat the ten High Superiors. The rest of the room was packed in with commoners who slowly waited their turn to be ranked.
I took a deep breath forcing my nerves down my throat. It would be better to be confident during the Ranking. The Superiors hated weaklings. Smoothing a few loose hairs from my face I strode toward the raised platform. The crowd of people hardly noticed me as I weaved my way through. They had their own problems to worry about.
The air was thick with nervous apprehension and it pressed against me like solid thing. Everyone avoid eye contact with each other. There was no speaking. No whispers. Just the muffled noise of over three hundred people packed into a room together.
As I reached the stairs I caught Fynnian’s eyes in the crowd. His face was pale and his forehead was creased with anxiety. His dark blue eyes were fishlike and frighten as he watched me advance towards the platform. I gave him a tentative smile before heading up the dark stone steps. His expression remained the same.
My shoes squeaked the entire way as I walked over to the center of the platform. The crowd was quiet. My mind seemed to buzz with nerves. It had taken less than a minute since they had called my name for me to make my way over to the
Superiors, but it felt like an eternity. Wiping my sweaty palms on my jeans I turned to face the Superiors. The Superiors sat in a small semi circle facing the crowd. They sat in rank from left to right. From 10 on the far left to 1 on the right. Their numbers were each engraved in gold on their desks and each desk grew in extravagance from left to right as did their clothes. One or two apprentices stood on either side of each Superior.
As usual the Superiors look refined and immaculate. In comparison I felt shabby in my worn out shirt and jeans. I tried not to fidget.
The Forth Superior, a tall handsome man with sharp features and dark curls, gestured for his apprentice to continue. The young apprentice, a boy not much older than I, nodded with smug confidence clear on his face before locking his gaze with mine. I struggled not to avert my eyes. My heart pounded in my chest.
The apprentice was a smaller, younger version of the Superior. I presumed they were related. He was tall and slender with dark blue eyes that seemed to pierce my soul. He radiated haughtiness and overconfidence. It was hard not to squirm beneath his gaze.
He walked forward giving me an arrogant smile before glancing down at the report in his hand.
“You Cora Felly,” he lectured, “have been late to your assigned duties four days in row last term. In addition you failed the last exam, argued with a leader officer, spoke back to one of your teachers, and have failed to pay all your fines. For that as well as lacking any redeeming qualities you are now demoted to…” he paused filling the air with tension.
I held my breath. I was being demoted? My insides felt warped. I couldn’t afford a lower rank. I was already at the bottom.
“999,991,” he continued nonchalantly.
999,991. Nine numbers above the total population of the Inner Circle, 1,000,000.
The officer smirked at me. How could he be so calm? How could he say the numbers as if they were nothing. My head spun making me dizzy.
“Fynnian Felly.“ The speakers sounded returning me to reality. Dismayed I made my way over to the large double doors on the left. Passing through the metallic doors my thoughts raced through my head. What was I going to do? I had a family to take care of. I already worked my butt off everyday to provide for them if I got an even lower paying job… And what if I got demoted again? I was only 10 spots away from being kicked out of the Inner Circle. There was no way I’d ever survive in the Outer Rings by myself. Panic threatened to boil up through my veins and I had to bite my lip to keep from breaking down and bawling right there in the middle of the hallway.
I trudged down to the end of the hall before pushing through the back doors and into a circular room beyond. There were doors all around the room each with a flashing banner across the top. A couple of banners were blank, but most of them were red for occupied. Over one of the doors was a bright green banner. Streaming across it were the words “Cora Felly 999,991” as if I needed to be reminded of my circumstances once more. Taking another breath I walked in. Just before it was out of eyesight the banner flashed once more before turning red.
Inside I was greeted by a women covered with extravagant clothing. “Ah,” she said, “Well then, are you Cora?”
“Yeah,” I mumbled feeling slightly ashamed, “That’s me.”
“Well then let’s see it.”
I held up my wrist showing off the wide metal bracelet. Across the digital band flashed my old rank. ‘999,962’ The women pulled a device from her pocket with a small cord with one hand and gently grabbed my wrist with the other. I couldn’t help, but notice her own bracelet with the numbers “84,357” across it. I glanced away. She was so much higher up than I. She slid the small cover over on my bracelet exposing the USB port before she hooked the cord to the device in. I watched with a sinking feeling as the numbers turned back slowly one by one. ‘999,963.’ ‘999,964.’ ‘999,965.’ Ever so slowly until the horrid number ‘999,997’ lay flat against my arm branding me one of the lowest of the low.
“Why does it have to be like that?” I asked, “They could just make it switch the numbers. It would be so much faster.”
She smiled at me kindly gently unhitching the device. “You should be used to the system by now. Everyone is ranked from the ages five and up. It‘s so you can reflect on your choices, so that you‘ll be more motivated to get a higher rank next time.”
She gave me a pointed look.
“So what’s my new job?” I asked unenthusiastically.