Eliz flips the pages of her chocolate-stained book that was mixed with a quarter of guilt. You’re going to drop the chocolate, Eliz.
No, I’m not, she insisted.
Suit yourself, Official Cathie replied.
Ten minutes later, her butterfingers slipped the chocolate on her book. She just needed to drop it on her tongue, but it landed weightlessly on page two, sinking and melting on the word because.
Why didn’t you listen? Official Cathie snapped.
“So, are you excited?” Fiona’s mother asks, checking the rearview mirror.
“I think so.”
“Well, you better be! This school is ranked number one in this state! I promise you won’t regret this.”
“What’s the school called again?” Fi plays with her thumb. The car runs over something, and she jumps, along with her backpack which weighed heavy pounds.
“London Fields!” She makes a left turn and makes a whooping sound. “I’m very impressed with them. So organized, beautiful, and includes talented students!” She says “includes” as if it was a special item inside of a toy box on a commercial.
“I think they’re too organized. Oddly neat uniforms with no wrinkles. A three-hundred page ‘manual’ of instructions, guidelines, teachers, uniforms, classes, and a four hundred-page ‘manual’ of what to expect from the school. Plus, I heard a student got expelled there for picking up a grape on the floor. Overboard, don’t you think?”
Her mother just raises her eyebrows in the mirror, and parks twenty feet away from the school. “Well, whatever happens, I hope you have a great time.”
“Today, we have three students who will be joining us today.” High Official Krestner stands, raising her scroll into the air.
“Marinna Jahyn, who is in grade eight. Tarissa Wilmer, grade ten. Lastly,” she raises her eyebrow all of a sudden.
Official Kip, Official Cathie, and Official Palmar rush to the stage with concern. They all whisper and hiss and the students remain quiet with no expression, leaving one new student blank, tilting her head.
High Official Krestner clears her throat, facing the expressionless audience. “It appears,” she starts a little hoarsely. “We have an unofficial student.”
There, at that moment, came simultaneous gasps from the audience.
“Miss Fiona Baker,” says she, “Please stand and follow Official Cathie. We will have this sorted.” Then she said to the faint and pale audience, “Please remain calm, students. Stand in alphabetical order and walk carefully to your classrooms, following your Official. Official Cathie’s class, please remain seated.”
Fiona trembles, following the strange, noisy silence that fills the air. “Where are we going?” she asks Official Cathie. “Why am I unofficial?”
Official Cathie’s expression hardens, leaving nothing but a track of silence. Fiona follows then quietly, her knees like glops of jelly.
Official Cathie leads her into a small room of nothing but chairs and an isolated desk. “Now, what do you have to say for yourself?”
The Official narrows her eyes. “In London Fields, the most prestigious school of not just the county, but the state, requires all students to read the manual.”
“Seven hundred pages in two days? There’s no time!”
“In London Fields, the most prestigious school of not just the county, but the state, requires students who will make time to read a thousand pages a night, including hours of class and five hours of sleep.”
“Officials never lie. In fact, we know everything.” She leans farther back and grabs a long needle with two fingers.. “But, you will not have to worry about any of the stress, and still receive an honor roll with all remarkable As.”
Fiona no longer is trembling and is now curious. “How?”
She smiles. “By taking this needle. It will make you powerful, so strong, and will let you do anything you ever wish to do. You,” she taps Fiona’s nose. “Will be just like everyone else at the school. Fearless and bold. Intelligent and beautiful. Happy and graceful.”
Fiona backs away. She thinks for a few minutes and glances every five seconds at the needle that might be pricked inside of her sensitive skin. But was it worth it?
Fiona takes a deep breath. “Can I do it alone?”
“You’re the unofficial,” Eliz says, with the same blank expression on her face.
“Yeah! No, wait. I took the shot. I’m like you guys now.”
Eliz looks at her strangely. “What shot, exactly?” She sits down at a table with a lunch tray.
Fiona widens her eyes. “I mean, the shot. The shot, like, I took a shot, as in chance. I took a chance in…Not being unofficial?” She clears her throat and tries again. “I mean, I’m a student. In the most prestigious school not just of the city, but the state.”
Eliz’s blank stare didn’t move. “Alright.”
Does anyone even have feelings here?
Does anyone even think?
Will they know I didn’t take the shot?
Fiona remembers what Official Cathie told her earlier: “In fact, we know everything.”
In fact, we know everything.
Fiona just groans. “I should have taken the shot,” she mutters. “Now hundreds of people will be coming after me. They’ll know.” She looks around her dorm room. This isn’t a normal school. No normal education. I need my mom.
She reaches into her pockets, but then something instantly hit — they took away everyone’s phones.
Will everyone stay like this forever? They won’t ever have a great future, get married, or even have feelings for themselves. They’re like robots, but really just brainwashed humans. She sighs. What do I do before they come for me?
The door opens suddenly with a loud crash, and the umbrella behind it cracked into two. She didn’t even need to look up to know who it was.
High Official Krestner.
She isn’t angry. She isn’t smiling, either. Fiona studies her face. She was smiling.
That can’t be good.
“Fiona Louise Marilyn Baker,” High Official Krestner booms. “We have checked the system two hours ago, and it appears that your name is not showing on the list. Perhaps you would like to explain why?”
Official Cathie, behind her, tilts her head pitifully. “I know you’re afraid of needles, sweetheart. But don’t worry, we aren’t doing needles anymore.” She holds up a tight-locked cup with an orange liquid inside. “You can drink this and feel no pain, and be happy and beautiful as everyone else.”
Fiona stares at them, bewildered. “Happy? You call these students happy?”
High Official Krestner looks down in her eyes. “Well, what do you call them, sweetie?”
“They’re brainwashed. You’ve abused them. They aren’t happy, because inside their beautiful feelings are locked up inside a deep well and pit of nothing. They need to see what’s happening, and I am going to be the one to let them know about it. Stop hurting the students here, can’t you see you’re hurting them inside but their emotions are kept away in the broken pieces of the dry, lonely ground? You said you never lie, but every word that comes out of that mouth are lies. All lies.”
Official Cathie cries, “Now!”
Fiona turns around like lightning, but not as fast enough as something pricks her in the back of her arm. Her eyes turn instant white and glassy, and she falls face-first on the ragged carpet. Her wrist fades colors, shaking as the blood trickled from her arm to the now-red floor.