If you are reading this, STOP! (Today's date is 12/20/2012, different from when I originally posted this over a year ago.) If you didn't know, after writing three chapters of this story, the first of which is below, I started over because I hated the direction it was going in so I started over from a new direction that is so much better it's not even funny. You are free to read chapters one, two, and three of the bad story if you choose. They are still up on this blog. But I would highly not recommend it for its superficial quality and all around bad writing. Also you might get confused. Instead, I recommend you follow this link here to the real chapter one. The prologue is the same for both, so worry not if you've already read it. If you haven't, I recommend you read that first, lest you get confused. The next paragraph (the one not bolded), is the start of the original post posted on 11/26/2011 at 9:55 PM Mountain Standard Time.
I was reading some stuff today for aspiring authors and learned that one important quality in a critique group is to critique. So if it wouldn't be too much trouble (that was in a sarcastic tone if you didn't catch that, in other words DO IT) please tell me what you don't like.
Eight years later . . .
I mentally prepared myself for the onslaught that was sure to come. It was my first day at senior high. Up until this point of my life, boys and girls had been segregated into their respective schools. Now that I was 17, I’d been moved to the combined school. This was the age that the government had deemed right for boys and girls to start paring off, not that I’d ever be permitted to get married. I would attend senior high until I’d completed my final three years of class. After that, the government would decide what to do with me.
To me, boys were a completely different race. Living in the girls’ orphanage, attending the junior girl’s school, I’d had practically no interactions with any boys. I had no idea what to expect.
I sat in the back of the bus by myself. The rest of the orphanage girls were chattering nonstop in the front. Loneliness had been my only companion for the past eight years. I absently rubbed the hem of my shirt with my thumb and forefinger. It had become my nervous habit. Most of my red shirts were torn in the spot I was now rubbing. Every shirt I owned looked exactly the same. One good thing was I never had a problem choosing an outfit in the morning. One bad thing was my life was horrible and I never had a choice in anything. So far as I knew, no one had been named Crimson since me.
I’d replayed my doomsday over and over in my mind. It had taken me a few years to uncover my mistake. My mistake was succeeding. The whole point of the room was to judge my reaction. From what they had witnessed, I had no fear. I had methodically found the handle, something that must have been very rare among nine year-old children. And what’s more, I had escaped. The number of people who had accomplished that feat had to be close to none. If I hadn’t escaped through the duct, the walls would have stopped before squishing me. All of it had been a test to assess my fear. I’d proved to them that they couldn’t scare me. I’d proved to them that I had an analytical mind. I’d proved to them that I was a criminal. Now my life was an ugly, dark, black hole because I had been too stupid and stubborn to sit down on the floor and cry like any other nine year-old. Leave it to the government to create a test where failing was passing and passing was failing. It was a wonder any of us were sane.
I had been nursing another theory in the back of my mind for some time. Maybe the government hadn’t named me Crimson because I was the most likely suspect to commit a crime. Maybe they had named me Crimson because they feared me.
I was probably a long way off, but the idea made me feel better inside.
The bus rolled to a stop in front of the school. I closed my eyes and counted backwards from ten. The fear was gone. I was ready to face the harassments.
I filed along after the giggling girls down the aisle of the bus. I could hear boys outside catcalling to the girls in front of me as they exited.
I was the last off the bus. I didn’t know what to expect, but it certainly wasn’t what I received. The boys became louder.
“We got us a Crimson, boys!”
“Didn’t see that coming!”
“And a pretty little Crimson at that!”
“I call her!”
“No way, man! She’s mine!”
“I saw her first!”
My cheeks flushed in embarrassment. I expected the boys to back off and pay some attention to the girls that were practically pushing themselves at them. That wasn’t the case. I sped up my gait so I could reach the school.
One of the boys stepped into my path. I pulled up short of running into him. He had dark hair and gleaming eyes that matched. He slipped a piece of paper into my front pocket of my red jeans. I jerked back. His hands were not allowed to be down there!
“It’s my address,” he told me. His face twisted into a smile that curled my stomach. “Come over any night you’re lonely and need a man’s help.”
I didn’t understand what he was hinting at. His friends did, though. There obnoxious laughter filled the air around me. I pushed passed the dark haired boy. One thing the boys had said was true: I wasn’t exactly on the tall side. When the boys attempted to follow me, I weaved my way through the students.
The first thing that struck me as I walked into the school was the noise. It echoed off every wall directly into my ears. I would have to get used to that. Inside, there were lines of waiting people. They were the lines to pick up your schedules. The line you were in depended on your last name. I looked longingly at the line labeled G-J. I pictured myself standing in that line, telling them my name was Kya Harris. I saw them giving me a schedule that matched.
I blinked. The fantasy was over.
My line was positioned at the far right end of the table. I don’t know if line was the right word considering there was nobody in it. I walked to the CRIMSON line.
The lady sitting behind the table gave me a smile. It was a gift I wouldn’t wish to bestow on anyone. Her eyes held absolutely no joy. A small folder was sitting in front of her.
“What’s your name?”
She knew my name. There was no way she couldn’t. She wanted me to say it to remind myself who I was. “Kya Crimson.”
Her smile widened. “Yes, it is. Don’t you forget that for a moment.” She pulled my schedule out her folder and handed it to me. “Enjoy your next three years at Senior High, Miss Crimson.”
Her eyes looked passed me. There was someone waiting behind me. There was someone waiting behind me?! The person pressed a torn piece of paper into my hand. I curled my fingers into a fist around the paper. I stepped to the side so the person could have their turn with the nasty lady. I walked a short distance away and looked down at the words in my hand.
Wait for me. We need to talk.
Hope built up in my chest. There was a chance that I could have a friend after all.
I waited while he exchanged words with the lady. I was close enough to hear what was being said.
“I’m sorry. We don’t have anyone by that name attending this school. Is there perhaps another name you go by?”
Her acting made me sick.
“No, there’s not.”
The lady sighed. “Oh, Scott. One of these days you are going to learn that your defiance is the reason that you’re in the position you’re in. I pray for your sake that you learn the lesson soon.” She handed him his schedule. “Your name is Scott Crimson. Don’t forget it. Enjoy your final year at Senior High.”
Scott turned away without a second glance. He stormed in my direction.
Whatever I’d imagined him saying flew from my mind when he opened his mouth. “Listen close because I’m not going to repeat this. I’ve worked too hard to get where I am to let some new little crimy mess it up. Just because we’re in the same boat doesn’t mean I’m not eager to throw you to the sharks. Don’t talk to me. Don’t eat lunch with me. Don’t even look at me. To you I don’t even exist. Got it?”
He walked away without giving me a chance to respond.
I could scribble make a friend off of my Things-To-Do list. It didn’t look like it was going to happen. So far, my first day at Senior High was running smoothly. I gathered up the shattered piece of my dignity and went to my first class: Modern History. I don’t know why they called it Modern History. It was the only history class offered. It was the government’s way of reminding us how we got to where we are. I hated it. It was a class where everyone would consciously be aware there was a Crimson in the room.
I walked into the classroom long before the bell rang. I carefully chose my seat in the back corner farthest from the door. I could feel the teacher’s eyes on me, but I didn’t look up. Modern History teachers were the worst when it came to persecuting the Crimson. I sat down in my seat and didn’t look up.
There was a very specific reason for my seat choice. The back corner of the room provided three things. The first, nobody could sit behind me and stare daggers or play pranks. I did not want a repeat of my 11 year-old class when somebody decided to give me a haircut. The second thing was that fewer people could be adjacent to me. The fewer people sitting by me, the easier it was for me to protect my things. In my last school, it had been a sign of popularity to have one of the Crimson’s things. My stuff wasn’t exactly easy to replace and so I didn’t appreciate people stealing it just for the fun of it. The third reason, I would be last out the door. This reason followed the same reasoning as my second reason. The fewer people brushing by and walking passed my desk, the less chance I would have of misplacing my stuff. Stealing my things didn’t make them criminals, unfortunately. Stealing my things made them jerks.
The national anthem started playing in the halls. That was the signal to get to class. As the students began picking their seats, I let a small smile break out on my face. It wasn’t a full class. Nobody sat in any of the desks surrounding me.
The teacher stood up and began. “Class, my name is Mr. Ember. In here you will learn what advancements we’ve made over cultures in the past to reach our high level of society.” He flicked off the lights and turned on a slide show. The first picture was a pre-society painting of a meteor about to strike the earth. A hurricane was just offshore. A tornado was ripping buildings apart. The city was aflame from lightning crashing overhead. The streets were folded in on themselves from an earthquake. In the distance a volcano had erupted. People were dying in the streets. The caption at the bottom read “The End of the World: December 21, 2012.”
Mr. Ember continued. “December 21, 2012. Pre-society, this was a day people feared. To them it was the appointed end of the world. But The One and his original council didn’t see it that way. They saw the date as the end of a cycle. And with the end of every cycle, there must be a beginning. The One had a beginning in mind.
“On December 21, 2012, The One led a successful coup against the officials of what was once the United States of America. Some of the citizens rebelled, but a large majority accepted The One with open arms. ‘It was time for a change,’ they said. The rebels banded together and went into hiding. The One found them and they were taken care of.”
I didn’t like the way he’d said, “taken care of.” It sent chills down my spine.
“The One destroyed practically all criminal activity overnight. The prisons were emptied with no ill effects. It is still unknown to this day how he did it all. He knew that it wasn’t enough to rout out the standing criminal enterprises. If he didn’t do something, it would continue on with the rising generation.
“He pulled an idea from the book Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. Half way through the book, a man named Porfiry theorizes that children would have signs at birth that pointed them out for the scum they truly are. He developed the test that each of us takes at the age of nine to see if we had the attributes that pointed us out as good citizens or criminals. The criminals must wear only red so us good citizens can see them for the scum that they really are. Isn’t that right Miss Crimson?”
I had expected this. I’d been asked this same question in every Modern History class I’d taken since I was nine. It didn’t get easier as the years passed.
I took a calming breath. “Yes, sir.” Tears pricked the corners of my eyes. I would be strong.
One thing he’d said had been wrong. Crimsons didn’t only wear red. Crimsons lived red. I adjusted my red bag to a more comfortable position on my lap under my desk. I looked away from Mr. Ember. I picked up my red pen from where it sat next to my red eraser and started doodling red pictures on my red lined paper. To top it all off, the glances from my fellow students scorched my face until it turned red.
Only when Mr. Ember decided that nothing more could be gained by staring me down did he continue with the lesson. I’m not ashamed to admit that I didn’t listen at all for the rest of class. I had every part of Modern History memorized. The events that took place were the only reasons that I was different from everybody else. Then again, perhaps it was good they did happen. Pre-society I might have been out robbing a bank. This was, and would always be, the better way to live.