For Danny Glipo, because she came up with the character idea of Violet and mentioned Lucas.
She’s also awesome.
I strutted out of the door of the building, my heeled boots clunking against the pavement. My blazer ruffled in the wind as I gazed around the city. Long ago, I used to look at Ampleforth City with nothing but love. But now, mixed feelings raced through me as I looked around.
Everywhere you look, the influence of The Facility is there. The entire city has followed all of The Facility’s rules and customs. It has damaged this place. Imagine if you let someone borrow your jacket. When they give it back, it is dirty and the pockets are filled with things that were theirs. That’s what our city is like. The Facility had taken over this place.
I hated that the city just let them do that. Sometimes, I even hated the city itself.
But there were some small things that even The Facility couldn’t change, no matter how much their power grew. The crisp smell of pavement and baked apples that wafted through the air. Ampleforth City was a place of many smells, but the scent of pavement and apples were always there.
The melodic wind chimes strung on every block. None were exactly the same. When the wind blew, the chimes danced on their strings, providing melodies that were soothing, yet ghostly. Some say the chimes bring back ghosts from years and years ago.
The way our city held onto the old ways, yet embraced the future. Petchinas and dogs walked together on the streets. Phones and fabricusi alike were used simultaneously. Our citizens wore everything imaginable. From jeans and T-shirts to white dresses embedded with jewels.
The Facility could not change those things. Even if we followed their rules, our city would not crumble under its thumb.
As I walked through the streets, I breathed in the fresh air like I had never experienced it before. Some days, it actually felt like that. I would get stuck in The Facility’s buildings for days sometimes, looking at private information or testing superstitions.
Thank goodness I was out of that place for today. The work was exhausting. Day in and day out, everything blended together into boredom. Looking at people’s private information to figure out if they had been doing anything that went against the rules. Working at a computsis, monitoring surveillance or working with financial issues. I barely paid attention to them, just to annoy The Facility.
Although, there was one thing I enjoyed doing. Testing out the superstitions that could be either false or science. I would go down to the lab and test if a theory was true or not. Satisfaction would always rush through me when I discovered something new.
Doing this was dangerous, of course. I was already doomed to die at a young age. I was also fated to lose someone I loved. But what was life without a little risk?
I flopped down on my couch, happy to be home. As I lay there, resting, I realized that everything was quiet. No curralises honked outside. No birds chirped in the trees. Even my neighbor’s vactria wasn’t running at the moment.
Silence caused my mind to think. It wandered over to Lucas. Lucas.
A grin spread across my face when I thought of him. He was one of the only good things about working for The Facility. Lucas was the brightness in the dark of The Facility. I found this ironic, since his hair’s as black as ink.
He was all I thought about as I ate dinner. Every memory made me smile. We had been through quite a lot together. We’ve known each other since we were thirteen.
I remembered the time we had kissed when we were playing a game of You Kiss or Miss at graduation. We had let go as quickly as we could, blushing like crazy.
Or that time when I had broken my arm, and I had needed a robotic arm to fix it. Lucas had visited me at the hospital, and gave me flowers, along with a card that read, ‘Hey, Violet. Heard you need a robotic arm. That sucks. Don’t die from this, or I am not going to let you RUST in peace.’
All of these memories made Lucas seem normal. But I knew he wasn’t. A few days ago, he had told me his secret. He was from Terrundo. The only other planet besides ours that held humans. Humans that were more or less the same as the humans on Earth.
When Lucas had told me that, I had thought that he was crazy. How could he be from Terrundo? It seemed impossible. Terrundo had kept their distance from Earth for years. We hadn’t even known they had existed until a few decades back.
But Lucas never lies. He didn’t have a dishonest bone in his body.
For once, I wished he was lying.
For as long as I could remember, I had been taught by The Facility that Terrundo was their enemy. Earth’s enemy. I had been told that Terrundo was dangerous and unpredictable. That there would be a day when Terrundo will attack.
Everyone in the city, if not the world, believed this. The Facility tells someone something, and they buy it automatically. It was sickening. If anyone found out about Lucas. . .
I shuddered as I lay in bed. That could never happen. It never will happen. I won’t let it happen.
But worry still nagged me as I drifted off to sleep.
“Hey, Violet,” Lucas said, sitting next to me. “Another day at The Facility, huh?”
I nodded, looking glum. Now that I was here, staring at the piles of work, I couldn’t bring myself to do it.
“Does The Facility know your secret yet?” I asked him, sipping my coffee.
Lucas stiffened. I wished I could take that back. He knew the risks, and I could tell it terrified him. “I don’t think so. I have to be careful, though. Even more than usual. They’ve been building machines for months, and now, they’ve finished. The machines are ones that could discover who I am with just a click of a button. Not to mention how paranoid they’re getting.”
I furrowed my brow, concerned. “What do we do about that? You shouldn’t risk your life by staying in Ampleforth City.”
It hurt to say those words. The selfish part of me wanted Lucas to stay. But the rational part knew better. It was too dangerous.
“I have to,” Lucas said.
“Lucas, I suppose there’s a reason why you and your girlfriend are talking instead of doing your work.” A voice said behind us.
I turned, and saw the frowning face of Trina, our boss.
“Violet’s not my girlfriend,” I heard Lucas mutter.
Trina ignored him and continued talking. “That’s the seventh time you have been caught off task this week. How can I know both of you are not spies from Terrundo?”
I glanced at Lucas, shocked. When he said paranoid, he meant really paranoid. What had gotten into Trina?
“I’m afraid that you’re going to be tested to see if you’re spies,” Trina continued. “Just for safety measures. In fact, everyone in this building, along with some people in the city, are going to get tested today. Having someone from Terrundo within our city isn’t just bad luck, you know. It’s deadly.”
I didn’t dare look at Trina. I feared that everything would be written all over my face.
“But we’re not spies,” I protested weakly.
Trina smiled. “If you aren’t spies, then you have nothing to worry about while taking the test.”
I couldn’t argue with that. Apparently, Lucas couldn’t, either. We were marched down corridor after corridor, until we stopped at two white doors.
Trina nodded. “Go on in. The test is in there.”
I glanced to my right and saw Lucas’s hand shaking on the doorknob. Fear seemed to ooze off his body.
“It’ll be okay,” I mouthed to Lucas. He shook his head.
“No, it won’t be,” he mouthed back. He opened the door slowly and trudged in.
What would happen to Lucas? Would he. . . die? I didn’t want to think about it. I opened the door and walked in, ignoring my racing heart.
The room was the size of a closet. It was completely white. There wasn’t a speck of dust on the floor. It felt good to ruin that with my dirty boots.
A chair rose out of the floor, looking ominous with its sleek look and black leather. I looked around the room. There was no exit. The door seemed to have disappeared.
Might as well get it over with.
I sat down on the chair, putting my arms on the armrest. The chair, despite its sinister look, was quite comfortable.
At least, it was comfortable until metal straps wrapped around me, tying me to the chair. I gasped as it compressed around my body. My eyesight blurred. It was a miracle my bones didn’t snap like twigs.
A needle rose from a compartment in the chair and inserted itself into my neck. Poison seemed to writhe its way through my body. I screamed in pain, my head feeling like it had been set on fire. Black spots danced across my vision. I felt little webs of poison searching my brain, looking for any indication that I might be from Terrundo. It tore through my thoughts with such force that my brain felt like it was getting cut into tiny pieces.
After what seemed like an eternity, the poison dissolved. The metal clamps released me. All of the pain disappeared as quickly as it came.
I blinked, and suddenly, the door was right in front of me.
“If this room isn’t magic, then I don’t know what is,” I muttered, opening the door. I stepped out, and found myself standing in front of one of my co-workers. Pablo. A middle-aged man with grey hair and a kind look in his eyes.
“You’re not from Terrundo,” Pablo said approvingly. “Trina probably won’t kill you.”
“That’s great?” I said.
Pablo laughed. “Ain’t that the truth. Glad you’re not dead.”
“Thanks. . . I guess.”
He walked away, disappearing down the corridor. He was always a guy of a few words.
I don’t know how long I stood outside the doors, waiting for Lucas to come out. After a while, I couldn’t take it anymore. I opened the door to his room and walked in.
The room’s chair was in the center of the room, but it was speckled with red. My stomach did a rollover as I stared at the chair. What had happened here?
I glanced around, but only this chair remained in the room. No Lucas.
I raced out of the room, desperate to find him. I refused to accept that Lucas was. . . I couldn’t even say it. As I sprinted through the building, I ran into Trina. I stumbled, almost tripping.
“Ah, you’re here, Violet,” Trina nodded. “I knew you weren’t from Terrundo. I have to tell you our plans.”
“Plans?” I asked as several screams rang through the hallways. More sounded, until a chorus of cries filled the entire building.
For once, I couldn’t hear a single wind chime in the distance. It was blocked by the sound of agony. Something that I loved about the city had vanished. That thought chilled me to the bone.
“Many of the people of Ampleforth City are being tested right now.” Trina said, closing her eyes for a moment as if she enjoyed the shouts of pain. “We’re testing their loyalty to Earth. I’m afraid to say that many of them are from Terrundo. Lucas is one of them.”
Trina’s voice held no sympathy. She searched my face, looking for signs of shock. I did my best, but I was never a good actress.
“Lucas has betrayed The Facility,” Trina continued. “He has betrayed Earth. He, like the others, have been… removed.”
“Removed?” I did my best to keep from panicking. My voice shook from the effort. “Is Lucas. . . dead? Will I see him again?”
Trina brushed off my questions. “The Facility will cleanse the Earth of the people of Terrundo. After years of The Facility’s hard work, the elimination of the people of Terrundo has begun at last.”