If any story must be told, then this one should certainly be the one. It must be told from the beginning until the end. But to be clear, this is neither the beginning nor the end. This story started when two little twin girls were born to the howl of the wind on January 17th, 00:03. The babies’ cries were hushed by last sighs and whimpers of lost dogs. The cold crept in everywhere. Crept in like a snake. Silent. Deadly. Countless lives it took that night. Some had suspected that it wasn’t just the cold.
And now, 14 years later, only one of the twins was sleeping in a grey room, on a grey bed. The room had no life. The hospital-white walls gave off a dusty, grey aura. The simple steel bed with grey covers was as cold and dead as a stone. The girl on the bed was asleep and blissfully unaware of the fact that she forgot to lock her door. Blissfully unaware that it had been opened. BAM! She woke up and jumped straight out of bed.
“You!” Miriam shouted and playfully slapped Ethan on the shoulder.
“Good morning” he smiled “Happy Birthday.”
“Thank you” Miriam whispered. Miriam pulled Ethan into a tight hug, and he hugged her back.
“You know you’re the best friend in the whole world,” Miriam said happily.
“I know.” He whispered and pulled her closer. There was something strange about his voice today. As if he was disappointed but tried very hard to hide it.
“Do you want to tell me something?” Miriam asked suspiciously, narrowing her eyes and looking up at him. She always knew if there was something.
“Well…” he hesitated. “Apart from you being the most amazing person I know.” Ethan paused. He wanted to say something else. Biting his lip and clutching his fist, he looked down. “So…em” he took a deep breath and stepped back “Happy birthday! I better go before they catch me. Bye, see you at breakfast.” Ethan blurted out.
“Uhh, thanks… Bye… ” Miriam said puzzled. He was just strange today. Well, stranger than usual at least. Ethan quickly walked to the door, waved goodbye and disappeared. Miriam absentmindedly got dressed in the simple grey uniform. Still rubbing her eyes, she stepped out the room. She walked down the bright, white hallway overlit by white lights. Passing grey twin doors all with a shiny hand scanner. The ramble of the meal hall became louder as she turned left and walked through the large double doors. Twenty grey figures were seated around a long metal table. Some seats still missed their owners. Miriam took her usual seat next to Ethan and examined the so-called meal in front of her. Ethan poked his food with a spoon.
“You’ve got to test and see if it bites,” He said jokingly, and Miriam gave out a quick laugh. He always cheered her up.
“One of those days it will. Take my word for it. Take my word,” she teased. Ethan scooped up some of the food, shut his eyes tightly, put the spoon into his mouth and swallowed, his face all twisted in disgust. He looked as if he was about to throw up. Cringing, he reached for his drink.
“Disgusting,” Ethan spat. “Worse than ever.”
Miriam picked up her own bowl and pinched her nose. Holding her breath, she emptied the bowl in one gulp. She tried her best not to taste all the added nutrients and ignored the thick syrup like texture. Being almost liquid, the substance still stuck to her gums and teeth, burning her tongue with the bitter taste.
“Teach me your ways!” said a mock dramatic voice on Miriam’s right.
She wheeled around to see Emma, in all her morning glory. Her big black eyes still sprinkled with her dreams, and her frizzy, brown hair spiked up like lightning. She was shorter than most people surrounding her but could scare the living daylight out of the biggest jock.
She slumped down next to Miriam and sighed at her food.
“Speaking of which, Happy Birthday!” Emma smiled.
After the so-called ‘meal,’ the children had to go to their lessons. Miriam had mathematics first. Trigonometry, the mortal enemy of class CP84. The clock struck noon when Miriam was helping Ethan battle question number four. Most have already finished their work and gone to the recreation hall. He sighed and propped his chin on his fist.
“Ph, ph, phhhh… well if the boat is 20 meters away, and the, um the cliff is vertical…” he slowly faded out and continued glaring at the paper like the answers would suddenly appear.
“So which function would you use?” Miriam asked hopefully.
“The one that works” He grunted back.
“You’re hopeless” she sighed leaning back in her chair.
“Fine.” Ethan concluded “Screw it. I’ll… I’ll finish it after the evening meal.” scribbling something on the paper. Miriam raised her eyebrows:
“Giving up so easily?” she teased and shook her head.
“C’mon it’s been 3 hours” he groaned. Giggling and teasing, they left the room and headed for the recreation hall.
The recreation hall was a cozy common room where children were to spend their free time in a civilized manner. Soft, plump chairs were positioned around small glass tables. Bookshelves had perfectly straight rows of books. The floor was covered with a soft rug, perfect for reading. There were large windows on the longer side of the room, letting in lots of natural light that helped lighten the atmosphere. The rays of sunlight often played with the shadows of the books and curtains. Miriam often sat on the windowsill next to the squishy pillows it was layered with. Enjoying the soft rays on her face or listening to the pounding of the rain outside – it was the perfect spot for reading. Miriam loved to read. Books fascinated her with their ability to take one out of reality and into somewhere where space and time didn’t exist. Only Miriam and her books.
Ethan politely held the door open and stepped in after Miriam. They moved towards their favorite table in the corner of the room. Their friends Emma and James were already there, in the midst of a heated game of chess. Both were glaring at each other and the board. Each had a good handful of the opponent’s pieces.
“Checkmate” James announced moving his tower, a little too close to Emma’s king to be safe.
“Correction, check you, mate” she fixed, taking his king with her bishop.
“What?!” James protested, “HOW?! Again? I swear she is doing something, something… , not, um right” he trailed off as Emma’s light laughter cheerfully rang through the room.
“ I beat him. Again” she declared as Miriam and Ethan joined them at the table.
“Oh no!” James dramatically covered his eyes and leaned sideways off the chair “I have been, once again beaten by noble queen Emma” he mock cried before completely falling off the chair. “I shall now rot in the bad place forever” James called from under the table as everyone cracked up above him. There was nothing quite like it, to sit with friends and talk about everything and nothing, fall into giggling fits over simple things like a silly face and just be a child. Be a child.
“Tables are not to be crawled under. Get up now, James!” a sudden voice shouted. The owner of it was Leo, an annoying boy with a long, pointed face and high-pitched, but very loud, shrieky voice. James jumped and hit his head on the table.
“Ouch,” he yelped.
“You okay?” Emma looked at him through the transparent piece of furniture “Calm down Leo, besides, he wasn’t even touching the table.” she leaned over to have a better look.
“Well, he shouldn’t be on the floor. And did you finish your math problems, Ethan?” he asked in a provoking manner, he had always teased Ethan for his complicated relationship with maths.
“I’ll do it after the evening meal.” he grunted back “And it’s none of your business. Anyway, who put you in charge?”
“Head instructor did, in fact,” he smirked with triumph “You should be careful of your tone, mister or else I’ll report you.”
Ethan narrowed his eyes and clenched his fists. He had opened his mouth to say something quite salty, but Miriam was there first:
“Go away, Leo. We all remember the incident with the table perfectly well. I trust you don’t want history repeating itself.” Leo went pale but was fast to collect himself.
“No one was speaking to you, missie, and is your girlfriend stepping up for you now, huh?” he sniggered looking at Ethan.
She took a deep breath and said just a little too calmly “ Leo, seriously, stop it, we are just friends and-” and that was the end of her temper. She jumped up, almost knocking over Leo, and flung her fist under his chin. She grabbed the front of his shirt as he tumbled to the ground.
“So whose girlfriend is stepping up now?” she hissed in his face and dropped him to the ground. “Out. Now!” she barked at Leo whose face stretched out in bewilderment and went a perfect shade of scarlet. Ethan watched with his mouth open as Leo picked himself up and wandered off to the far end of the hall. For a moment, they all just stared at her in astonishment.
“Idiot. What. Were. You. Thinking?!” Emma stressed she had finally found her words.
“Yea Miriam, that is NOT how you throw a good punch,” Ethan commented his eyes still full of amazement. He tried very hard not to smile, knowing it would make Emma even angrier.
“Ethan!” Emma cursed and threw him a shaming look.
“Don’t you know Leo?” she began “I bet he will go straight to head instructor and what you did was very irresponsible. Don’t you think, James? … James!” James had covered his face with his hands and shrieked with laughter. Having never gotten up from under the table, he was rolling under it.
“You are all disappointments.” Emma sighed and rested her head on her fingers, but even she couldn’t hide the notes of amusement in her voice.
“Your knuckles okay?” Ethan asked. Miriam showed him her arm, which was slowly turning red.
“Ouch. You’ll need something cold for that. Emma-” Ethan never finished.
“Oh, my poor baby!” Emma gasped. “That bony slubberdegullion did hurt you!” she stressed. “Let me go get you some ice from the drink distributor.”
“But, Emma, it’s fine-” Miriam tried to argue.
“No buts, no cuts, no coconuts” she snapped and marched away.
“No buts no cuts, no… what?” Ethan asked, puzzled.
“Coconuts?” Miriam suggested.
They watched as Emma filled a rather large plastic bag with ice. Meanwhile, James had successfully recovered from his fit of laughter. He had even managed to scramble back out from under the table, just in time before Emma stomped back to their table and chairs.
“Here,” she muttered and adjusted the ice on Miriam’s hand. “Think before you attack next time. Pick somewhere softer to punch,” she warned and sat back in her chair.
“Thanks, Emma. But really, my hand is fine,” Miriam made a hopeless attempt to remove the ice pack, but Emma grabbed her good hand and stopped her.
“Oh, Yea? That’s what they all say before their hand went all purple and bruised for weeks” Emma gave Miriam a stern look over her square glasses.
“Fine” she grunted, rolling her eyes.
“Anyone up for a game of chess?” Ethan suggested and looked around. Both James and Miriam shook their heads.
“I’ll do it.” Emma grinned and cracked her knuckles.
“Oh boy, this is going to be a heated game.” Miriam sighed. Ethan and Emma had been the best in the class at chess since kindergarten; no one had ever beaten them. Even when they got to play with the older kids, they still always won.
“Let the game begin” James announced. He then grabbed a white and black peg and hid them behind his back. “Your turn to choose,” he said looking at Ethan.
He narrowed his eyes and bit his lip: “Hmm… left?” James held out his left hand with the black. “Aw come on!” Ethan groaned. The merciless players battled harsh. In just a few moves, half the pieces were kicked off the board and onto the floor, as people gathered to watch. The atmosphere became so dense, the air vibrated with concentration. This was a rare moment, a moment when the recreation hall went absolutely, completely, unbearably silent. Miriam could almost hear the wheels turning in her friends’ heads. Emma’s face turned an intense shade of pink as she stuttered “Checkmate”. Ethan narrowed his eyes at the board, wondering how he had missed that. He smirked.
“Check again,” he said and kicked the king off with a tower. He grinned triumphantly as some children around them cheered. “Good game” he held out his hand, and Emma shook it, still glaring at him.
“Good job,” she replaced the mocking grin with a smile.
Right as she said that the bell went off, marking the end of recreation hour and silencing the peppy chatter of children. With heavy sighs and groans, all the children of class CP84 clambered out of recreation hall and headed for their biology class.