Yet Four Promises Made
The Head-Instructor led them deeper and deeper into the underground through countless stairs and halls.
“Are we there yet?” Leo moaned from the back.
“Almost, dear, just a little more,” Head instructor smiled at which Leo groaned, but continued to drag his feet across the cement floor. Miriam snapped out of her thoughts in an instant and shot him a dirty look. They have been walking for ten, at the very most, fifteen minutes.
“Teacher’s little pet” Miriam muttered under her breath and pulled a grimace on her face.
“Watch your tone young lady” Ethan grinned as he held back a laugh. Miriam nudged Ethan in the ribs with her elbow.
“Silence!” the Head Instructor barked and both of them made serious faces as if they had never even thought about goofy in their entire lives.
The rest of the trip went by without any more trouble or events worth mentioning. Unless, reader, you are interested in hearing about how twenty-two feet tapped through a chilly underground. Only a few would have noticed the just slight angle of the floor. Miriam frowned and looked down, something was definitely off, but she couldn’t put her finger on it. She looked at where the wall met the floor. A trick of the light perhaps? Miriam decided it was best to shrug it off. They marched to some place of great mystery, and perhaps, misery too.
The company made their way down to a steel door when the head instructor stopped. She turned slowly on her high heels. Miriam wondered how she never fell in such shoes with such short legs. “You will now, be separated into two groups and sent to two different places first thing tomorrow morning” she raised two fingers. “You will spend the night here.” Head Instructor pointed at the door behind her. “All classes canceled. Questions?” – Head instructor concluded. But no one asked questions. Questions were not appreciated and, in most cases, not answered. Answers were often denied, especially to questions concerning the topic of family, particularly, what it was.
“Great!” she smiled “The rest of the details will be given to you on the way there along with a morning meal” Then Head instructor opened the door, pushed the lot in and slammed the door shut behind her. Miriam walked into a room which looked very much like the recreation hall. It had the same squishy, grey armchairs, soft pillows, and rugs, but there were no windows and books. The beaning windows were replaced by blinding lights. They were so bright it hurt to look at them. This took away any possible coziness and comfort of the room, left it to be lifeless and lacking. I wish I could tell you what it lacked, dear reader. There was something about the room that was missing. And no one, not even Emma and Miriam, the brightest girls in the class, could put their finger on it.
“Okay, that’s rude” James commented.
“I don’t like this. I don’t like this at all” Emma complained, she fidgeted with her dress and turned around as if she expected something to jump at her.
“They can’t just shove us out” Leo began
“And why not?” James argued and crossed his arms on his chest
“Because… because” he stuttered
“Exactly, nobody needs some kids,” James concluded. “Though, I must admit, such a sudden change of mind can be suspicious”
“I don’t think it is a change of mind …” Ethan mumbled almost to himself “Think about it,” he continued a little louder “as of today, we’re all fifteen.” he sighed in defeat and sat down.
“Ethan’s right. This is planned” Miriam turned to walk to the chair and yawned over her shoulder “We might as well enjoy our last night here” That came out too sudden. Their last night at the academy. They spent their entire lives here. And here it is. The last night. As soon as Miriam said that everyone went silent and looked down. Even Leo showed some anguish at this though.
“This is our home” James whispered.
“Let’s play a game, ” Emma suggested, she tried a little too much to sound cheerful and forced a laugh. But she only got looks in response “Come on guys” she tried again “How about, ‘I spy’?”
“Forget it, Emma,” Ethan said, “We’re not in the mood” he sighed and pulled his knees to his chin on a chair.
“It’s all your fault” Leo snarled at Miriam. Everyone froze. Miriam turned around on her heels to face him.
She raised her eyebrows “Excuse me?” Miriam challenged and crossed her arms on her chest.
“You were misbehaving this afternoon and head instructor decided to kick us out” Leo argued and took a step closer.
“Yea,” Sophie wined and took a spot behind Leo “You lot are always fooling around and misbehaving.” Sophie was a large girl, taller than most of the kids in the at the academy. She had a pink, round face and bright red hair that was tied into pigtails. She wasn’t the brightest of them all, so she usually took disagreements and arguments by force.
Miriam stood there for a moment, open-mouthed and speechless.
“Well, um” she stuttered but was quick to recollect herself “I may have had fun times with my friends, but at least I have some” Miriam paused and took a step closer “And your resort to attacks; speaks volumes about your own self-doubt and fear of losing this argument” she spat at him, then wheeled around and marched to her chair, followed by Ethan.
“Maybe you just can’t take responsibility for your actions” Leo called after her.
“Ignore him, he’s only doing it to get a reaction. ” Ethan murmured in her ear before Miriam could respond to Leo’s bullying.
Meanwhile, Leo, sneered with triumph, just like he always did, but not because he thought he won. His reasons were much more complicated than a small victory in an argument.
They all sat, in silence and listened to the clock ticking. Miriam wondered where they would be taken. But why two groups? There was only ten of them. Tic-Toc ‘I wonder where the new school is’ Tic-Toc ‘Who will be in my group’ Tic-Toc she closed her eyes. Tic-Toc ‘Ethan better be, he’s my best friend ’ Tic-Toc Miriam didn’t notice she was dozing off. Tic-Toc Miriam wasn’t in the room anymore. Tic-Toc She walked down a train platform. Quickly. Too quickly. Ethan was just here. Right by her.
“Where are we…” Miriam began but there was no one there. She was alone. All alone on a deserted platform. Alone. The words rolled through her head like thunder. Then, someone grabbed her arm and pulled toward the train. She pulled and kicked to free herself, but it just kept pulling.
“Help!” she called, but Miriam was alone. People now surrounded her. She was in a cage a trap. Among those blurry faces, she saw Ethan, but not the Ethan she knew. His face was straight and emotionless. His bright blue eyes stared into space as if they were made of glass. His tanned skin had turned pale and his lips were white.
“Ethan! Please!” Miriam begged and tried to resist the vigorous force that pulled her to the train. She saw Emma and James too. Just like Ethan’s, their faces weren’t their faces. None of them were them anything, but cold and lifeless dolls. Her friends floated away towards the train on the other side of the platform. To the other train. NO.
“No!” she roared, but only a faint whisper came out. Just then the invisible hands stuffed her in the dark door of the train. Tic-Toc, Miriam opened her eye and woke up with a start and sprung up panting. Tic-Toc, she was back in the recreation room. Tic-Toc, wait, not the recreation room. And it all started to come back to her. Head instructor, underground passages, rooms, the photo, the dream. The dream, the train, the crowd, the faces. Ethan was asleep on her left. James and Emma are in the room too, discussing something in the corner. They’re right here, always have been, always will- but what if? Tic-Toc.
“No” she gasped and collapsed back into the chair. Ethan woke up and lifted his head from his knees.
“What’s wrong?” he asked, still half asleep.
“Just… just a bad dream” Miriam painted
“Are-are you alright?” Ethan sat up, his forehead creased, just like it always did when he was worried. Miriam closed her eyes and tried to calm her breath.
“I’ll go get you some water, ok?” he tried to get up.
“No. Don’t go… please…” she whispered and grasped his arm with her shaking hands, pulling him back down.
“Ethan,” she breathed “what if… what if we’re not… not in the same group?” she squeaked as her voice cracked.
His eyes widened and he opened his mouth to say something but then closed it again and looked down. Ethan choked and coughed.
“What time is it?” Miriam asked anxiously and looked around for a clock. Ethan glared. Just now she noticed that the lights have been dimmed and the room was now covered in a semi-darkness, it cast long shadows on the rugs and walls. Most of the class crawled into a dark corner to try to get some sleep. But not many could sleep.
“It’s 4 am,” he murmured, without taking his eyes off Miriam “it’s ok, it’s alright, I’m here, we’ll be ok… It’s just a bad dream” he stroked her shoulder.
“And Emma… and James…them too…” she trailed off. At the mention of their names, Emma and James both turned their heads towards them with questioning looks. Ethan gestured for them to come over.
Emma saw the look on Miriam’s face and bombarded her with concerned questions:“Are you alright? What happened? Do you need something?”
“I’m fine, Emma,” she assured, “It’s just, what if we’re not in the same ‘group’?… or whatever head instructor calls it” They all gulped at this thought.
“Uhhhh….” James tried to speak, but couldn’t make a sound come out of him. They sat there in the silent semi-darkness, devastated at the mere thought of being separated.
“Uhhh… Miriam? You’re crushing my hand” Ethan hinted. She didn’t realize until she let go, her fingers still stiff with effort.
“Oh… um, I’m sorry” and she slowly let go and pulled her hands away and brought it to her chin.
“Well if,” James began “if there are two groups, and… and there are 10 of us, then, assuming the selection is random,-”
“But it’s not” Emma argued, “Head Instructor said we have been ‘carefully divided’ ”
“I’m just saying, there is still a chance we might end up together”
“Yea?! Like one in THOUSANDS.” Emma exploded and crossed her arm on her chest.
“Actually, we could calculate that, just give me a second…” James said.
“Seriously James, you’re not helping” Miriam groaned. She was exhausted but anxious. Her eyelids were drooping but her mind kept flashing the white faces, the platforms, the black doorway of the train every time she closed her eyes.
Ethan sprung up and paced between the chairs. “No, no, no… I can’t do it like this. I can’t lose you! We can’t lose each other like this! I-l- ” he roared and made heads turn.
“Ethan, calm down please,” Miriam took him by the shoulder and stared in his eyes, “You will be fine. We will all be fine” she said it with such confidence, that even she believed it. For a second. She then turned him around and pushed him to sit back down.
“We will be fine” Miriam repeated under her breath, in the hopes of convincing herself. She knew she was lying. But it was always so easy to fool herself, find a stupid reason to believe something she wanted to believe. She felt that they weren’t going to be ‘fine’. Miriam couldn’t explain it, she just knew it. Lying helped to relieve the anxiety.
“Let’s not think about that now” she leaned back in her chair and sighed. She looked around at her friends. Ethan ran his shaky hands through his pitch black hair and stared into distant space, out of this world with his bright blue eyes. Emma sat on the edge of her seat and fidgeted with the end of her uniform dress. Her frizzy hair came out of her ponytail and stuck up worse than ever. Emma looked down and blinked several times.
“Hey” Miriam walked over to her “You ok?” she put a comforting arm around Emma.
“I’m fine” she blurted out and suddenly found the ceiling quite interesting. Miriam squeezed Emma’s small hand. James gave Miriam reassuring smiles whenever she looked at him. But she knew those painted smiles. Miriam knew him too well to believe that he was okay. The room went back to the silence, stiff with overthinking and anxiety.
“Guys,” James brought them back from their bubbles “let’s promise each other that, that … that, whatever happens… whatever happens, we’ll find each other again”
“I promise” Miriam held out her pinkie.
“I do too” Emma held out her’s.
“Me too” Ethan smiled. This gave them all hope that they would reunite someday. Someday. After they all swore to see each other again, Miriam managed to relax. For some time, forget about the possibility of losing her friends and doze off.