I hold my breath, sweat trickling down the side of my otherwise composed face.
"Sanna 195-C" the professor calls, resulting in a daunted looking girl with mousy brown hair being pushed from the crowd.
She's wearing the same white uniform as the rest of us. She looks like us, she dresses like us, she came from the same situation as us. She is like us, yet they shove her forward trying to avoid expulsion from the program into the world outside, a world of certain death. Is this what we have come to?
She looks around the crowd frantically searching for a friendly face in this unforgiving crowd.
Her eyes and mine lock, hers a delicate blue full of pleading and sorrow, mine stone cold. I don't budge.
She looks like she's about to have a panic attack as the professor nods at the two burly looking guards leaning against the wall near the only door leading to the main hallway. They grab her by the arms as she tries with all that’s left in her frail bones, frantically clawing at their arms and kicking at their shins, in an attempt to escape their grasp.
I turn my head away trying to avoid the scene. We knew we wouldn’t make it. Not all of us, not a large number of us, but maybe if we were lucky a handful would live to see the next day, or the next 109,500.
I cast one last look at Sanna, oh Sanna, why Sanna? Why my sister by all, but blood? My little sister that I promised I’d protect with my life.
Each thought comes like a slap in the face. They're all true. I can move. I can argue I can fight I can what?... Sentence us both to death?
I feel a gentle hand on my shoulder, the fists I didn't realize I was clenching release as the tension escapes my body. Turning I see the grim face of Joyce. Otherwise known as Joyce 299-C, she is the epitome of dour. That has to be ironic.
Her eyes soften as they meet mine. “It will be okay” she whispers in a tone that falls somewhere on the spectrum between comforting and empty.
I want to hug her, to pull her close that way no one could ever take her from me. She’s all I have left of my once perfect world, well almost perfect. There was never such a thing as perfect. There was littering, minor crime, political debates that ruined Thanksgiving, but I would take listening to uncle Dan go on about how blahdy blahdy blah is so great because they did blahdy blah blah which makes them ‘way’ better than blah blah blah than suffer through this. At least then Sanna and I would be enduring our suffering together. Sanna…
They're probably wiping her arm down with an alcohol wipe preparing to slip the thin needle of the syringe into a vein on her wrist as if she was receiving her yearly vaccinations. Like they'd care if the wound became infected, she'd be long dead before it would matter… Dead. Sanna dead...
Like Reina? Images of a witty green-eyed redhead, pale complexion lightly dusted with freckles, fills my head.
Like Tyler? My mind fogs over, the humorous, quite clumsy, blond boy who had quite literally had to use duct tape after he broke his glasses for the third time, in one MONTH.
Like Dante? The ever sarcastic, dark-skinned, computer whiz, and genius in all subjects relating to tech.
A dam breaks inside of me and tears spring to my eyes as I crumple to the floor. I don't notice the firm squeeze on my right arm. I don't notice as others turn to stare in my direction slipping me looks of sympathy, pity, and dread. I don't even notice as the professor calls my name. All I can think about is our little family. Sanna: dead, Reina; dead, Tyler; dead, Dana; repurposed for experimental use, Jonathan; repurposed for experimental use, Martin; expelled, Ximena; Stasis. They're gone, only Ximena has a running chance of survival, maybe Joyce.
Strong hands grip me by the arms yanking me to my feet. I turn, finding myself face to face with one of the very guards that lead my sister down her path to the afterlife. I can only conclude that he has come to do the same for me. I do not resist.
The guards drag me down the hallway, the throat of the beast that is this foundation. They bring me to a sterile room at the end of the hallway strapping me to an operation type table.
I stare blankly as a woman in a pristine lab coat tests the bubbles in a syringe. Part of me is horrified, these will be the last faces I see in my present life. I will never laugh again. I will never dance again. I won't even get to have my first girlfriend. At the age of 15, I'll have died, having the only female I've ever kissed be my own mother. Pathetic, I startle a laugh out of myself.
Screw them all, if I'm going to die, I'm going to die laughing.
That was the last thought I had before the world went dark.
I didn't expect to open my eyes again so you can imagine my shock when I find that the blinding light is NOT guiding me to the afterlife but instead is the light of the facility.
"What the," I start out only to realize it came as nothing more than muffled groans. Clamps release from around my wrist as a clear fluid drains from the bottom of the chamber. Chamber? I didn't fall asleep in a chamber.
Plastic breathing tubes remove themselves from my throat for what has to be the first time in 300 years. I gasp partly out of shock, partly because even after three minutes of sitting incomprehensibly, I hadn't yet dared take so much as half a breath out of fear of shattering the illusion, but it doesn't break. It's real. And so is Jocey walking straight towards me.