Night Glows, the adults called them, called all the ‘Of age’ that inevitably fell into the destructive wake of Eaias’s great name, that was so common every night.
The youth took the name and made it their own. It wasn’t like they cared what the ‘protected’ thought anyway. The grown lived safe, and protected, they couldn’t be taken, they were safe.
But the youth, the teens, the Night Glows, whatever people wanted to call them, couldn’t care less, they couldn’t care less about almost anything actually.
Most people wouldn’t if they spent ten years of their lives worried about being taken for the Rank.
Eaiae was big, big enough to cover to continents, growing bigger with each year. It was also one of the biggest touring countries in the world. Why? The nightlife parties.
Eaiae’s youth could be found on any street that glowed Neon after dark, partying in the Closest Glow district, there was one in every town, no matter how small.
Foreigners were always shocked to see teens, barely more than children, out drinking and partying, alone even.
The Night Glows would never explain themselves; they had run out of patience for words far too long ago. Instead, bar keepers, or shoppe runners would exasperatedly shake their heads at them and explain with the same clipped words they spoke every night.
“Eaiae is a country that doesn’t stop growing-”
“Everyone knows that” the tourists would inevitably say, acting as if they knew anything, what they didn’t know about Eaiae could fill libraries.
The local would glare at the offending idiot until the idiot shut up, before continuing.
“Eaiae doesn’t stop growing, and neither does our Rank” unchangingly their voices became tired and old when they spoke the next part.
“As soon as our children turn twelve, they can be ‘Sluiced’ into the Rank, until they turn twenty-two, they are eligible to fight, and defend our country, as such our laws allow for, well, all this”
They’d gesture to the crowd all around them, everything awash in the neon light that gave the youth their name. The alleys full of thumping bass and wild music. The shoppes full of teens getting covered in glow paint and tattoos. The youth all around that looked like they’d cut open glowsticks and poured the substance on their skin for all the light they seemed to emit.
And to the darker, more heartbreaking reality, that needed only a second glance to be found. Glass bottles filled with luminescent liquid clutched in hand, silver flasks strapped to hips, shot glasses artfully woven into hair until it looked like futuristic art pieces.
Inhalant wands covered in every imaginable pattern, sticking casually out of back pockets or tied around upper arms, like some sort of twisted glimmering jewelry. Even just some old-fashioned cigarettes Silly banZed together with antique lighters.
And the horrid, awful flowers that almost all of them wore, tucked behind ears, tied around wrists, laced through heel straps and boot buckles. Wrapped around belts and tied around fingers.
One flower for those close to them that had been Sluiced that day. After the day of the Sluice the flowers would be still be worn, but in tattoo form. It was a grisly tradition that most of society didn’t talk about. If the Sluiced came back after their service their loved ones would get the flower colored. Some people had entire bouquets inked on their skin, some even had a few colors interwoven with the black and white tapestry.
And that was from just a second glance.
Not all but most of the ‘Of age’ would come nearly every night until they were either Sluiced, or aged out at twenty-two. It was sick kind of victory and goodbye, a victory you weren’t Sluiced out, a goodbye incase you were the next day. Sluicing was always done in the morning, and no one was given a chance to say goodbye.
The parties had started out as a commiseration for the ‘Of age’ a way for them to be free and alive when they had no control over their lives. They were all forced to live with the knowledge that they had a 50/50 shot of reaching the age limit and living peaceful lives.
The only other way to avoid it was to be so wholly unreplaceable, with certain skill or knowledge that you became invaluable enough to not be worth risking.
A few lucky hundred, more or less, were able to achieve that feat, and even if they did, it only applied for the years when they were still useful. So, if they stopped being needed, they stopped being exempt.
Either way it was a nightmarish way to grow up. There was of course the Hunger games rule. The ultimate sacrifice that any Eaiae citizen could give, Listing.
After turning twelve no matter what age, everyone had the right to List, Permanently. Effectively Sluicing themselves into the Rank, if done they were able to take any one name out of the Sluicing potentials. They even had within five hours to take the name of someone that had just been Sluiced.
Siblings Listed most often, taking the place of brothers or sisters that were far too young, aunts and uncles, or any living family could as well, friends or partners could too, but most simply bid fare well at night instead. Living every new night at the phosphoric parties that never seemed to stop, just grateful that they’d survived another day.
While other countries had names like; land of waterfalls, the city that never sleeps or the kingdom of laughter, Eaiae was known as the ‘party that never ended’.
A party, yeah, a party where teens laughed bitterly while swallowing smoke and inhaling chemicals as if they were fresh air and pleasant candle scents.
Waiting in line at the corner clinics to get their stomachs pumped out every night before they could go home, the cuff they received when entering any glow district made sure of that.
What a wonderful party to never end.
What a horrible nightmarish torture that tourists could come and go from, laughing and happy as naïve puppies. Even while Night Glows threw up in alleys and behind buildings, laughing, a sickly-sweet laugh that convinced only the foreign that they were ok.
Yes, what a wonderful party.