A.J. and I leave our room. We go to the large silver doors.
“I-I think we press this arrow,” A.J. suggests gesturing to the downward pointing arrow. I look behind me and see other people staring at other silver doors. A little girl with shiny brown hair comes up to us.
“How do you get to the fourth floor?” she asks in a pretty voice.
“Well, little one, we were figuring that out ourselves,” I tell her. Thinking quickly, A.J. pushes the button. The arrow lights up and the doors open. All three of us step inside. I press the button marked “4”.
“So, young one,” A.J. says squatting lightly. “What is your name?”
“My name is Elaina,” Elaina whispers. “What’s yours?”
“I’m Amber Jane, but everyone calls me A.J.,” A.J. responds kindly.
“I’m Thalia,” I say. “How old are you?”
“Eight,” Elaina whispers. Inside my head, I realize that this girl is very scared. The elevator doors open into a large room. We are one of the first ones there. Again, a guard made note of this, and expresses surprise that we had brought along Elaina. Inside the room is a very long table. “Seats One Million” a plaque next to me reads.
Besides the plaque the room is very grand with large lights hanging overhead. The table looks like it has been polished several times and the chairs are very soft. Thomas exits one of the elevators and sits next to me while A.J. sits on my other side. Elaina clutches A.J. tightly. A.J. awkwardly pats Elaina on the head, in what looks quite comforting. The little girl relaxes somewhat, but still looks uptight. As the other 900,994 children arrive servers begin to serve food and take drink orders.
Back home, Arcturius had warned us to never drink the special drink, Coke. It was extremely unhealthy and would slow you down when you were running and make you fat. He also said, to try and keep the dessert consumption down.
“Hello!” the waitress smiled. “What would you like to drink?”
“Orange juice,” I say. “For all four of us,” I add, gesturing to A.J., Thomas, and Elaina. Elaina frowns.
“But I want to try Coke!” she whines, pointing at the large menu on the wall. The waitress grins evilly.
“No,” A.J. tells her sternly. “Orange juice will make you healthy.” I nod to the waitress who frowns and writes down our order. Minus the Coke, I notice. The waitress serves our orange juice. I sip it, expecting the tasteless, watery juice we have back home. Instead, the juice is alive with flavor quenching my thirst and energizing my bones. Elaina drinks some of hers too, and clearly likes it as much as I do. Unfortunately, as I look around, most of everybody has the dark, bubbly drink that Arcturius described to us.
Finally, the food is served. It’s a type of pie, full of chicken and peas and carrots. Again, I am expecting the type of food they usually serve at home, but I am mistaken yet again. The crust is delightful, with a wonderful texture that melts in my mouth. The chicken is thoroughly cooked with plenty of juices and flavor and the peas and carrots are delicious. Yet, this is another ruse. The AWA Training Facility only wants the best. While they recruit one million, they only chose about 600,000 of them, at the most. Which means the ones who aren’t intelligent, agile, good looking, sociable, and creative will be sent away. So the faster they can eliminate people, the faster they can train us. So, they serve large portions of food; more than we need.
I nudge A.J. She looks over at me.
“Remember, don’t eat a lot,” I remind her.
“Right!” A.J. pushes away her plate. Noting that Elaina has also eaten most of her food, A.J. pushes Elaina’s plate away and pushes the orange juice towards her instead. Elaina drinks the rest of it as the desert comes around. There are lots of sweet things like chocolate cake and ice cream, but there is also fruit with fluffy whipped cream. I get a bowl for myself and A.J. also gets a bowl. She slaps away Elaina’s hand from the other things and gives her fruit instead. Elaina frowns again. After dessert, the pretty female voice comes again and tells us that we can either go to the 279th floor or go to our rooms until it’s time for bed. We decide to take Elaina to the roof. The air is probably fresher up there and we can tell Elaina the reason why she can’t have the tasty things. Honestly, though, it’s taking me quite a bit of self control to not eat the tasty things either. We step into the silver doors with Thomas and press the button for the 279th floor. It shoots up very fast again. Elaina manages to stay standing but she wobbles quite a bit. The doors open into the fresh air. It is relaxing and tantalizing. There aren’t many people up here and is relatively quiet. All four of us go into a secluded corner.
“Listen, Elaina,” Thomas says seriously, looking around. “It’s not that we don’t want you to have tasty things. It’s just that in order to pass the tests, you need to stay healthy.”
“And sometimes, the most tasty things aren’t going to make you very healthy,” A.J. adds.
“What happens if I don’t pass?” Elaina asks.
“You get sent away,” I say. “We don’t know where.”
“So I should do what you tell me?” she asks again.
“Yes,” Thomas says. “You must.”
“C’mon,” A.J. calls. “We’ve got to do our exercises.”
“Come along little one,” I say soothingly to Elaina. We go through our exercises on the now deserted roof (the lady hadn’t said it was time for bed yet). We have Elaina do some as well. She was about average so we have some work to do. As we head to our floor, stopping only to leave Thomas at his floor, A.J. and I have a whispered conversation.
“There’s no way she’s going to make it on her own,” I whisper.
“Elaina?” A.J. asks. “No way. We’re gonna have to train her hard.”
“I know,” I whisper back. The silver doors open at our floor and, after depositing Elaina at her room, we go into our rooms. A.J. heads straight for the tall thingy that disposes water and can clean you very well. In the meantime, I inspect the long rectangular things on the small table. I press a big red button with a symbol with a small dash pointing down with a half circle under it. The long black panel lights up with lots of colors and people all talking and doing several things at once. These people were sitting around talking about the fat man we had seen in the auditorium. Then I remembered what this was called. It was… What was it? IV? UV? Right, it’s a TV. Arcturius says that they will try to make you sit around all day. Well, I’m not going to sit around all day and watch this thing. But I can’t anyway, because I hear a thump outside my door. I peek out, and on the floor is a neatly wrapped package. I bring it inside and unwrap it. Inside are two small rectangular shaped items with a black panel, only these seem to be cased with purple and green. There is a button on the bottom. I press it and, just like the TV, it comes on with lots of light. At the bottom of the screen, it reads “Press Home”. I assume the button on the bottom is the home button so I press it again. The panel opens again to reveal lots of little squares. I look over at the package. Inside is a small white book. I open it to find instructions on how to work the device. Apparently, it’s called a phone and you can communicate with other people on it. And there’s a footnote. The number that allows you to communicate with others is taped to the back of the phone. I pick up my phone and look on the back. Sure enough there was a ten digit number on the back. I open the manual again and find the section for actually contacting someone. According to the instructions, you would need to open the square called an app marked Contacts and put in my own number first and then add any other numbers I wanted. So once I opened Contacts, I clicked the thing labeled My Profile and entered my name (the thing with all of the letters on it was creepy) number and birthday. Then I clicked the plus sign and made a profile for A.J. Next in the booklet, it mentioned something about this thing called instant messaging. I read that and learned that the more popular term for it was texting and it’s a quick and easy way to talk to friends. At the words quick and easy, I pause. Arcturius said that anything quick and easy was probably bad for you. And based on what I read, it sounded extremely addicting. And probably bad for vision as well. But I set it up with A.J.’s number and set up her phone, turned off the TV and sat.
After a refreshing bath in the tall clear thing, I go to my
closet. Inside a drawer is a blue, light shirt and thick, comfortable pants. I put the things on along with a pair of shoes that are soft and comfortable. I go into the couch room to find Thalia embroidering her headband and mine with our initials.