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Scratcher
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Rewired, a Novelette in Progress

Chapter 1
I smiled sadly at my sister’s reflection in the mirror. Maeri was the picture of perfect, with precise golden curls and clear, blue eyes. My own brown hair only had a little bit of waviness that I treasured greatly, but other than that it hung over my shoulders limply. Everyone told me my honey brown eyes were pretty, but they couldn’t ever compare to Maeri’s. My soul ached as reality hit me, knocking the air out of my chest. In twenty four hours, I would be leaving Maeri, Kye, and everything else that anchored me to earth.
“You know, you don’t have to leave,” Maeri said as she began to braid my hair. I shrugged, causing my half finished braid to come undone. Maeri shook her head in annoyance and started the braiding process over again.
“I know. I sorta wanna stay, but….” my voice trailed off. I knew it would be easier to stay at home, letting my older sister baby me and playing tag with my adoptive brother Kye. Even though it would be easier to stay here, where everyone leads normal lives, taking care of children, it would be a disgrace. None of my choices were good; stay at home, cowering, devote my life to technology and be pretty much controlled, spend the rest of my days exploring the unknown areas of the world, and constantly risk my life, or spend my life in a place I know nothing about. No one knows what happens there, though it is an honour to be brave enough to choose to live there. How a fourteen year old could ever be that brave, I don’t know.
Some people see it as a betrayal, to leave your world for this lonely one, and others see it as an adventure. No way am I going there; no one has ever been heard of or seen a day after they choose to move to the Otherworld. In my opinion, it’s more stupid than courageous to give up everything just for an adventure.
“I had to stay here. Mom died, and since I was the oldest… here I am. You get the choice to stay, but I would really like some company,” Maeri said to me, tying off my braid with a peach colored ribbon that matched my new dress. Maeri had worked hard for all of the money needed to add lace and a full skirt to my otherwise dull dress. As she spoke, I could sniff out a small bit of resentfulness, almost as though mom had died on purpose. If I was brash, like Tye, I would have yelled at her for being so rude; however, my ever-present conscience told me to be silent. So I pressed my lips together tightly, nodding.
“I know you would,” I said, trying to keep my tone pleasant. Maeri sprayed something that had a sweet strawberry scent in my hair. She clapped me on the back, smiling gently.
“Go get Tye, okay? I need him to get ready early. It will take me quite a while to wrestle him into a suit,” she said, and I grinned, this time genuinely.
“Thanks Jay!” She yelled after me. I rolled my eyes.
“That’s not my name, just call me Jaidin, It’s not that hard,” I shouted back to her.
I found Tye shooting baskets with his annoying friend Ethyn. Ethyn was exactly my age, and we were both born around the same time, but he is so much taller and more mature than me. He used to be my best friend too, but boys are boys, and he soon grew out of me.
Tye ignored me, and Ethyn did the same. Tye was like the ringleader of the group; Ethyn closely followed. Last came me, the only girl living in Ashland.
“Maeri wants you,” I called to Tye, who shrugged.
“She’s just gonna put one of her stupid ‘gentleman suits’ on me,” He said, attempting to do a complicated trick with his new ball. He failed, and Ethyn laughed, doing the same thing, except doing it right. I shrugged.
“Kay, have it your way,” I said, entering the house. It was a humble home, with photographs taped all over, mismatched dishes, and a few luxurious fuzzy armchairs that Maeri treasured.
“Did you catch him?”
“I didn’t want to get into an argument,” I said, my eyes pleading. I knew that Maeri thought my tendency for peace was my greatest weakness, but it’s just who I am. I can’t change it.
Maeri shook her head, disgust seething in her eyes, like a boiling pot of water. Her perfect curls flipped perfectly over her perfect dress that perfectly fit her perfect frame. Sometimes I loved her, like a mother, but at other times I wished I could just wish her away from my life.
“Got it. I’ll go get him myself,” she said, briskly walking away from me. My cheeks began to burn, and shook my head to clear my train of thoughts. I was about to face what may be the most important decision of my life, and I wanted to be ready.
As the train we were traveling in stumbled over a pothole, My stomach seemed to do a barrel roll. I glared at Kye, who was chatting with a few school friends; I was so shy and quiet that my only friends were super popular kids that had no time to chat with me on train rides. Despite my loneliness, and the butterflies kicking at my stomach, the train was nice. Soft blue satin lined the seats, which I sank into when I sat down. Waitresses drove trolleys down the surprisingly wide aisle separating the two rows of seats, offering me snacks and refreshments, but for fear my stomach would erupt I only got a sprite and some fruit.
“You okay?” Maeri asked, squeezing my arm. I nodded vacantly. Sadness wallowed in my sister’s eyes, and I knew she must be as nervous as me to go to this ceremony. For the first time, I wondered where she wanted to choose to live. Did she want to join the Explorers, the Techs, or enter the Otherworld? I didn’t ask, for fear of upsetting her.
“Ugh, how long is the ride?” I asked, sipping my sprite cautiously. Maeri laughed, as if she was trying to push away the sadness.
“A few more hours, but we’re about to stop at another station,” she said. I silently groaned, but didn’t want to seem whiny. I was so lucky, in comparison to Maeri.
“Kay. Can you ring the bell so I can get another sprite?” I asked. Maeri, who was sitting by the window, nodded and tapped the serving bell located right below the window. A young waiter, who was about the age of twenty, came up to me, pulling a trolley. His piercing eyes were pitch black, and they seemed to suck all light off of his sharp face. I could actually only see one of his eyes, because the other was covered with a messily cut portion of his black hair that was way longer than the rest of his hair. I shrunk back, and Maeri pinched me.
“Manners,” she whispered, and I nodded. The man gave me an uneasy feeling, but I didn’t usually judge people. Just because he only showed one eye didn’t mean I could make exceptions for him.
“I, uh, just want a sprite,” I mumbled, turning red. My hands were shaking so much that I had to hold the sprite with both hands. Without another word, the man walked away briskly, and Maeri glared at me.
“What’s up with you?” She asked.
“Nothing,” I said. Maeri rolled her eyes.
“Sure. Just because I told you to use your manners around that serving guy, that doesn’t mean you can’t talk to me,” she said. I shrugged.
“It was nothing, seriously,” I said. Maeri sighed, and I turned away from her, towards the aisle, suddenly wishing I had picked to sit near the window.

After a long journey full of bathroom breaks and sprite refills, I longed for fresh air. When Maeri, Kye and I stepped off the train, I inhaled happily, hoping I wouldn’t puke and ruin this perfect moment.
“Ya ready?” Tye asked, slinging his arm over my shoulder. I shrugged moodily; this was not the first time someone had asked me that.
“Sure. Whadya wanna pick?” I asked, trying to sound sure of myself. Tye grinned mischievously, stopping in his tracks and causing me to stumble.
“It’s a surprise,” he said. I nodded.
“I don’t really know what I want to do…” I said.
“Hurry up, I don’t want to lose you in this crowd,” Maeri shouted to us, and I slipped out of Tye’s hold, rushing up to her gratefully.
“Maeri?” I asked, suddenly feeling tiny. She looked up from her phone and raised her eyebrows at me.
“What- never mind,” I said. I was going to ask her where she was going to choose to live, but I couldn’t gather up the courage to finish my sentence. Maeri returned to her phone.
People shoved and pushed at each other, trying to make it to the front of wherever we were going. No one knew anything about what everyone called “The Going,” and people that have already gone through it were not allowed to speak of what happened, but I always imagined it as signing your name in a book and being transported magically to a cool head quarters. But now I understood it would not be that simple.
After what seemed like hours of making our way through the crowd, we emerged into a miraculous area that was generally people-free. Towering in front of me was… a bus with glow in the dark stickers on it. Maeri’s face twisted in confusion.
“It’s a lot different than it was when I was a kid,” she said, shrugging.
“Next up is Jaidin Reed,” a booming voice called out.
“Go ahead,” she added, nudging me forward and stepping off to the side. I saw her climbing up a set of risers with a sign that said “parents.” Giving her a warm smile, and waving at Tye, I stepped inside the bus. Rather than seats, it had a booth that looked like an arcade game. It also held a snack booth and a large flat screen tv that was hooked up to what looked like a gas mask. A tall, lean man with a beard in progress, a huge adam's apple, and breath that smells like fish sticks greeted me.
“Heyo, and who may you be?” He asked, greeting me overenthusiastically.
“Uh, I’m Jaidin,” I said, tugging on the hem of my dresse’s slender sleeves. He grinned widely.
“Welcome to my tiny palace, I’m Haidin, which just happens to rhyme with Jaidin,” he said. I waved meekly; despite the slightly generic happiness radiating from this man, he seemed almost intimidating.
“Ah, I see you are nervous. Don’t be! Just pick a snack, any snack you want, and I’ll set up the telly,” he said, winking. I didn’t get the joke, if there was one.
“Okay, I guess,” I said, drifting over to the snack table while Haidin began messing with a few wires connected to the tv. I ripped open a bag of white cheddar popcorn and got halfway through it before Haidin finished with whatever he was doing.
“Tada!” he said, leaping back from his handiwork. I tried to grin.
“I have fixed this up, so if you will gladly sit down here,” he said, rolling a cheap plastic spinny armchair to me, “you may begin watching the program!”

Adventurous sounding music began to play. I was now wearing the mask, which apparently allowed me to smell, see, and hear the program better. An old man wearing a green camo ball cap walked on to the screen; I could even smell his deodorant and a faint scent of cigarette smoke.
“Your first choice is to join me on an exciting jungle adventure!” He exclaimed. I tried to stay respectful, but a more rebellious side of me wanted to laugh at him. He sounded like an older version of Jack Hannah, the guy that ran the Columbus Zoo, except as a smoker.
“My name is Evan, and I am your tour guide. Your job in the Explorers group is to route out new and exciting landmarks and even abandoned cities and more,” he said, and I couldn’t help but notice how bad his breath smelled. Was this a joke, or where they serious?
Evan went on to tell me all about deep sea divers who found evidence of Atlantis, Groups of explorers who discovered remnants of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, and much more that I honestly didn’t listen to.
Then, the screen went blank. A new type of music, which was a more tame version of electric rock, built up as a shiny, metal lab with a strong smell of hand sanitizer came into view. A woman with thin chestnut hair pulled up in a tight ponytail strode into view. She had a tight smile, hollow cheeks, and smooth skin that was obviously coated with makeup.
“I am pleased that you have shown an interest in joining the Tech World!” she began. I didn’t exactly show an interest, but I suppose it was just a recording.
“I am Melanie, the head of a large family that works on improving technology. Anyone that joins will be welcome, no matter what you are like,” she said. She sounded generic, like a robot, but with a crisper tone that made her seem more like a business woman than an inventor.
“We spend our days brainstorming, planning, and inventing! You will be provided with everything you need to have a relaxed, happy, and simple lifestyle,” she said. It sounded nice, but… no.
After what seemed like an hour of Melanie talking about how wonderful what she called Tech World is, the screen went blank again. What a relief. This time, a plump middle aged woman with a mousy face and slightly greying hair toddled onto the screen.
“Relax in Earth’s main hub, where you can settle down and have a quiet life. I’m Marla, and I know that such a quiet, relaxing life is the medicine for anyone who needs a nice home,” she said. This option seemed the best to me. I could understand why Maeri wouldn’t want to pick it; she’s so feisty, and thirsty for action. I, on the other hand, don’t really like the idea of becoming robotic or exploring with an old guy that smokes and wears flower scented deodorant. Marla’s speech wasn’t long, and she was mainly telling me about different people that had had successful lives living the quiet life.
The screen once again went blank. It stayed that way for a while, and I began to fidget. No music started playing, but a hooded man walked into the screen. He turned around, and I gasped. It was the waiter from the train.
“I can’t tell you anything about what the public calls the Otherworld. I can’t reveal anything about me, and you would be foolish to ask. Thank you,” he finished, and I squinted at the screen. Nothing else happened.
“You can take it off now,” Haidin shouted, and I did. I blinked rapidly for a few seconds, since the sun was extremely bright compared to the tv screen.
“That was…” I said, standing up and stretching.
“Enlightening?” Haidin asked, shooting me a large, fake grin. I shrugged.
“Yeah,” I said. Even though that wasn’t the word I was looking for, I didn’t want to offend Haidin. Sometimes I wished I were more outgoing, but that is just a dream too far for me to reach.
“Take all the time you want deciding, I’m gonna fix a few things on this television,” Haidin said, sitting down on the rolly chair and spinning around. I nodded, and sat down on a wooden chair, picking a few snacks.
I tried to hold back my nerves so I could think more clearly. Haidin rolled around in his chair, making adjustments to wires, whistling a song from Mary Poppins. My foot tapped relentlessly against the floor, and thoughts swirled around my brain. I glanced at Haidin, who still seemed content. I tried to narrow my options. I definitely didn’t like the sound of Techworld, and having Melanie as my leader sounded horrible, no offense to her. Joining the adventurers did not seem at all appealing, and I was looking for a quiet life. So that left the Otherworld and main hub. My solution should seem clear, but a slight longing in my gut made me hesitate. I wanted to know about the Otherworld. But at the same time, I would be leaving Maeri and Tye behind. I couldn’t be so selfish, especially because of Maeri. I knew what I had to do.
“I’m ready,” I said, my expression set. Haidin grinned, popping one last wire into a socket.
“Okey dokey, what did you pick?” He asked. Haidin said it as if this was just a preference that didn’t really matter, as if it weren’t a choice that would change my entire future.
“I… want to stay with my family,” I said, my eyes trained on my newly polished black lace up boots. Haidin said nothing, just smiled, and spun over to the thing that looked like an arcade game.
“You absolutely sure?” He asked. I nodded, swallowing back the lump in my throat.
“Got it! It’s done, so you can go back to your family,” he said after pushing a few buttons. I drew in a shaky breath and nodded, realizing that my dress was soaked in sweat.
I exited the bus and walked up to the risers, stumbling at least ten times.
“Jaidin!” Maeri shouted, running up to me with her arms open. I hugged her, welcoming her warm embrace.
“I’m staying with you,” I mumbled. She pushed a stray strand of hair behind my ear.
“Is that what you really want?” She asked, tears glistening in her eyes. I nodded.
“Oh, I hope I didn’t influence your choice,” Maeri said, her voice choking up. I smiled softly.
“It did, but that’s not necessarily bad.”

Maeri and I sat together as the sun began to set. Ethyn was up next.
“Weren’t he and Tye planning to join the adventurers together?” Maeri asked, and I nodded.
“Tye wouldn’t tell me what he wanted, but I know he would follow Ethyn off a cliff, so probably,” I said. I strained to hear better as Haidin’s voice rang over the risers: “Ethyn Thomas has just joined the Otherworld. Next up is Tye Reed.” My heart raced. Ethyn, join the Otherworld? Hopefully Tye wouldn’t follow his example… Maeri tensed up, and I could tell exactly what she was thinking.
“It’ll be okay,” I said to her. She shook her head.
“I should be the one telling you that. It won’t be okay. Tye is as good as gone,” Maeri said, wiping her eyes with her sleeve. I didn’t respond, so we sat like that for what seemed like forever, watching and waiting. My foot thumped against the risers for the third time today.
“Tye Reed has made his decision,” Haidin said, and my nerve level multiplied. Maeri squeezed my arm, and I returned the gesture.
“He will be entering the Otherworld. Next up is Rose Grant,” he said, but I didn’t listen.
“He can’t!” Maeri said, the fire that usually flickered in her eyes turning into an inferno. I stared blankly, shocked. Tye was gone.
“I can’t just let him go,” I said, somehow feeling guilty for him leaving. Maeri shook her head.
“There’s nothing you can do about it,” she said, not consolingly but fiercely. I moved out of her way as she shoved her way through the crowd. Sinking onto the seat, I realized there was nothing to be done. Moments later, Maeri came back, her hands shaking and her face stained with tears.
“What was he thinking?” Maeri asked no one in particular, running her hands through her wind tousled hair.
“It’ll be fine,” I said, not meaning it. I wanted to scream the things bottled up in my head, rant about every trouble crammed in my soul, but I couldn't. Some wall in my brain kept me from doing these things, and even though I kicked at it with immense ferocity, I couldn’t get it to crumble. Maeri ignored me, and she sat down, peeking at me through her through her fingers.
“At least I have you.”

Smoke clouded my vision as Maeri and I stood by a railroad. Dust blowed in my eyes, and I shielded them with one hand while pressing my dress to my side with the other. My hair was in a braid, but Maeri’s golden locks flew in front of her face, slightly dulled by all of the soot in the air.
“They should be coming soon,” she said, almost yelling just so that she could be heard over the wind.
“Will they be going slow enough for us to see Tye?” I asked, equally loud. Thoughts raced through my head. Was I really content in the “Main Hub”?
“They’ll almost be going at walking speed, this is sorta the takeoff point,” Maeri said. I nodded. A plan hatched in my mind, but I couldn’t do it, even for Tye. It was too dangerous, and the wall still stood firm, planted in my brain…
“Maeri, help me with something,” I said, now practically screaming as the noisy train approached.
“What?” she asked. I planted my feet in the ground, preparing for whatever crazy and totally stupid thing I was about to do. The wall nearly kept me from talking, but I kicked at it, and with a satisfying crack, it crumbled.
“Tell me you support me in anything I do,” I shouted. Maeri looked confused for a moment, then as the train huffed into view, realization dawned on her face.
“Jaidin, don’t do it,” she said, a stern and motherly tone overtaking her voice. I squeezed her hand, ran up to the train with my senses clogged up by the smoke, braced myself, and lept.




Chapter 2
Airo
I nudged my friend, Wil, with a goofy grin.
“Hey, I’m gonna go get a band-aid or something, I think I got a bad scratch,” I said, holding my hand over the nape of my neck. It was getting hot in the trailer that lead to the Adventurers base, so I couldn’t keep on the bandana hiding my neck.
“Hey Airo!” Tess yelled as I passed by, and I mock saluted her, not stopping in my path.
Ever since birth, a mark has slowly started darkening on the back of my neck. It was a sideways eight; an infinity sign. I wondered how I could be born with a sign as complex as that. Mom and dad just assumed it was a birthmark, but my sister, Tess, said it was a “special mark” and loads of more nonsense. Although I didn’t fully believe her, ever since it became fully visible, I have hid it from sight with bandanas, scarves, and especially bandaids.
“Kay, just be quick, I wanna look at the different expedition options we have,” Wil said, pushing me off the seat. I stumbled, rolling my eyes at him, and pretended to limp with pain to the bathroom. Before I covered it up, I turned around to look at my mark in the mirror. It had grown, and was now pitch black, showing up boldly even on my slightly dark skin. It would soon be hard to hide with a band-aid. I pulled out a cool neon green band-aid and pressed it over my neck, making sure to smooth the air bubbles so it didn’t fall off later.
Stuffing my bandana in my pocket, I exited the tiny bathroom, relieved to enter an open space. Small spaces made me feel compressed, and like all the air was being squeezed straight out of my lungs, so I disliked small rooms even though my claustrophobia is greatly diluted. Loud lights and great sounds also bother me, but I don’t let my friends know, or I’d sound idiotic.
I’ve always seen things differently; everything around me seems to flicker, pretty frequently, and reveal a void landscape of darkness. My friends told me I was just pessimistic, but seeing a dark world doesn’t make you dark if that’s just how it is. My dreams are different, too. Well, that’s a half lie. I have never had a dream in my life.
“Hey, what took you so long to walk to the bathroom and put on a bandaid?” Wil asked, trying to peer over my neck so he could see the bandaid.
“I heard they had cool band aids. What did you get, Dora?” He asked. I rolled my eyes. Wil was my best friend, and I knew he would do anything for me and vice versa, but sometimes he could be annoying.
“Stop pretending, we all saw your My Little Pony bandaids from when we were kids,” I said, smirking and rummaging through his bag, throwing stuff out in random places.
“Hey, whatcha doing?” He whined, and I ignored him. Grinning triumphantly, I held up a pair of his old band aids high up so he couldn’t reach them.
“I did not pack those,” he said, scrunching up his nose. I picked up a hoodie and stuffed it back in his bag.
“Yah sure?”
“Dead serious,” Wil said, groaning in defeat. Wil had an older sister, Jaqueline, or Jax, and he had inherited all of her old things. Jax was a tomboy, and she was the best player on the baseball team back in the Main Hub, but her mom didn’t really care, so she had a bunch of leftover My Little Pony things. Jax was somewhere else on the bus with Wil and I, but I never payed attention to her, except in school when we had to be partners in a Language Arts project about metaphors and other junk like that. I had always preferred math over reading, though I did like graphic novels, but my LA teacher Mr. Kane had said those aren’t real books. Like he would know.
“So, let’s get down to business,” Wil said, fumbling with a thick brochure until he managed to open it. There were at least twenty panels.
“Geez, this thing’s huge,” I said, holding the right end of it so Wil didn’t have to deal with all of it.
“Yeah, well that’s only part one. The old-I mean, elderly man said we had over a thousand options for expeditions,” Wil said. I scoffed at the memory of the old guy on the tv.
“That guy seemed fake. I don’t wanna go exploring with an old dude that goes ten centimeters per minute,” I said. Wil raised his eyebrows.
“That’s REALLY slow,” He said.
“It’s hyperbole.” I was surprised I even remembered that term from school; I pretty much had straight Fs. But school was over now, and I could make my own choices and decide what type of life I wanted to lead. My newfound freedom could pave my future into a pit of hopelessness or up to the top of a mountain of success. I wondered if having the ability to make all of my own choices was a good or bad thing.
“I’m not gonna bother to even ask what the heck that is. Anyways, how does deep sea diving sound?” He asked, pointing at a picture of a teen that looked about sixteen swimming rapidly away from a shark. It was definitely staged; you could see the scene perfectly, and they were on the ocean floor, which is completely unrealistic.
“I dunno. I never really liked those swimming lessons we had to do when we were, like, four,” I said, but that was the biggest understatement of the century. I had screamed and clawed at the sides of the three foot swimming pool until the swimming instructor gave up and said I could go and play in the baby pool.
“Oh yeah, good point,” Wil said slyly, and my face heated up.
“Shut up! What about prehistoric caverns?” I asked, pointing out a picture of a boy with a phony grin that reached from one of his gigantic ears to the next, wearing plastic headlights in a fake cave that had dinosaur bones painted on it holding up an indian spearhead. I had a feeling this would take a while to decide.
“Nah. Headlights don’t go well with my gorgeous hair,” He said, running his hand through his curly brown hair that could be mistaken for a messy pudding bowl cut at first glance. I rolled my eyes; it was his fault he asked his mom to get a haircut before he chose where to live.
“Then what do you suggest?” I asked, skimming the large brochure. We threw away most ideas, but starred a couple that seemed worthwhile, but we later decided to just dump them. Most of the pictures looked phony, but one that seemed legitimate stood out to me.
“Hey, what about this?” I asked Wil, pointing at the picture that had caught my attention. It was a laboratory, filled with bottles that steamed and bubbled.
“I joined the adventurers, not the techs,” Wil said, wrinkling up his nose and immediately dismissing my suggestion. A sudden urge of hatred coursed through my veins; he never listened to my ideas, and sometimes I wished I could do something about it. But we were best friends, and best friends agreed on things.
The place just held a certain quality, intrigue mixed with longing, and it seemed like some distant memory, slowly fading away from me.
“C’mon, just look at it, I feel like it would be much more exciting than anything we would be doing with Melanie,” I said, wondering how when Wil wanted to check out something, we always had to, but when I was interested the rules suddenly changed.
“Okay, but after this we’re going back to look at the Egyptian tombs,” Wil said, a tone of whining blended in with his usual joking. I ignored him and peered closer at the caption underneath the lab.
“Dream exploration,” Wil murmured, his eyes widening. I squinted, wondering if the words were some trick of the light. Dreams were unreal to me, since I had never been in one. Everyone said it felt like they were really there when they dreamed, and that they never even suspected real life wasn’t happening in them; I was almost glad I never had to go through that.
“That sounds interesting,” I said, but it sounded more than interesting to me. I didn’t care if Wil chose not to go, despite all of the blood oaths we had taken when we were younger. I was going.
“That gets my vote,” Wil said casually, then he turned to me, expecting me to make the decision without any time to think. I nodded, conscious of my every move.
“Let’s do it.”

For the rest of the train ride, Wil joked and made observations that a five year old could think of. I answered with short, three word sentences, because my mind was too ahead of the conversation I couldn’t keep track of it.
I would experience, for the first time, a dream. But how would I get in a dream? If they just gave me medicine to make me sleep, nothing would happen. And why was dream exploration important to the government? All of the other jobs profited our community, but dreams were just insubstantial. Stuff of the imagination.
We arrived at a plain landscape, and the only ways to tell where you were were the sun, which was high up in the sky, attacking the bus with great ferocity, a flock of birds, and a tiny gnarled tree that stood out from the dull brown grass.
“You guys ready for a hike?” The driver asked in a thick southern accent, opening the door for us. She was wearing a dull brown shirt, ugly khaki pants, and her dirty blonde hair was up in a tight ponytail. She looked like the barbie dolls that used to be strewn all over the “toy room” in Wil’s house, with sharp blue eyes, impossibly light skin, and a flat and generic looking face. I shrugged in Wil’s direction, and he shrugged back. For what seemed like a half hour we trudged through the seemingly endless plains. The lack of scenery made them look like a short distance, but I was drenched in sweat by the time we reached the small tree.
“Ugh, I’m gonna die,” I moaned, attempting fruitlessly to cool myself down by fanning myself with my shirt. I felt around my neck to make sure the bandaid was still in place, and sure enough, it was still sticking to my skin. However, it slid around to the touch, and I would have to replace it soon.
“I didn’t sign up for this,” Wil complained, and I refrained from rolling my eyes. I nodded in agreement, even though this was exactly what we had signed up for.
“How long is this going to take?” Tess asked loudly, flipping her thick, dark hair. I tried to wave, but she ignored me.
“Watcha mean? We’re right here,” The lady said, her southern accent as thick as the butter we used to get from the old grocery store that was across the street from us. I scratched my head, shrugging at Wil, who was staring at the lady like she was from another planet. I failed to comprehend how a broken down tree was the destination, but I guessed it was like those movies where the brave explorers entered a secret passageway hidden in the tree.
“This is way too cliche,” Wil muttered to me, eyeing the tree with apprehension. I nodded.
“You’d think they could do better than this. Maybe this whole thing will really be stupid, like the old man made it sound,” I whispered to him in disgust.
“Now what?” Tess said out loud, and the barbie lady grinned mischievously.
“Climb the tree, five at a time,” she said. What? What about the musty trapdoor in the base of the tree? I asked myself. I itched my ear, beginning to get impatient. I was like a puppy, waiting eagerly for a treat; I needed to know what was in that tree.
“Whatcha waiting for? Just climb,” she said, raising her eyebrows at us. I grinned at Wil.
“Race you?” I asked. He nodded. With a burst of adrenaline that seemed to give me purpose and true satisfaction, I sped up, racing way past Wil, who had to jog to keep up.
“Hey, wait up!” Wil called. I ignored him. Ignoring my scratched knees, I climbed up the tree. I was the first person. The wind which was previously scratching my cheeks now blew against them, slightly minimizing the intense heat. I paused, nearly falling off the tree before I could catch my balance.
“What do I do now?” I called down to the barbie lady, who had not revealed her name yet.
“Figure it out,” she yelled back up at me. She was now leaning against the small tree, picking at her fingernails, and I wanted to wipe the smug look off of her face. I fingered the different branches, tugging on random twigs that could possibly be levers. Nothing happened. Frustration steadily built up in me, like water in a dam. I glanced at the lady, who was still wearing her annoying smile. Something kept me from yelling for help.
My frustration getting the better of me, I kicked at air, excepting I wouldn’t find anything on my own as other people began to find their way up to the tree. I kicked again, and nearly fell as I kicked something solid. I gasped, fingering the area. No one else seemed to notice the boy who was standing on the end of a thick branch, touching air. It was definitely a branch. Then, I had another one of my dark flashes.
The world seemed to evaporate into steam, revealing a barren and rusty plank I was standing on. Red flakes blowed around in the air, scratching at my throat, and the sun was merely a shadow, clouded in dust. And above me, right where the invisible branch was, stood a blackened and rotting wood staircase, attached to a few crumbling remains of a home that must have once belonged to a wealthy family. Then it was all gone, and the evaporated image of the tree settled back down. I closed my eyes for a minute as the world spun around me, and I tried to push down the nausea threatening to climb up my throat. After a minute of recovery from the unsettling image, I stepped onto the first step gingerly, feeling around to make sure I was stable. The step held, and I felt around for the second step, a sense of adventure clouding up the world around me so all I could focus on was the pattern of my breathing, my pounding heart, and the invisible steps looming above me. I repeated the pattern, and glanced down occasionally; no one noticed the foothold I had found, and so far there wasn’t a single person who had spotted me, high above their heads. I noticed Wil, turning in circles and scratching his head. The lady with the southern accent was too far down to see clearly, but I could imagine her smirking up at the students. I was now about fifteen feet off of the ground. Wind fogged up my vision as I climbed higher, and my hearing was minimized each second. I began to hop up steps, getting into the pattern of the stairs. It was tedious yet rewarding work, and I effortlessly leaped up to the next step, confidence thundering in my ears. I felt my foot touch solid ground, then my second foot landed on thin air, and I stumbled. As I regained my balance, I heard a whistle blow, and I twisted around sharply.
I fell, facing the ground, and the wind whistled violently in my ears. The ground grew closer and closer, and I tensed up as I was about to reach the tree level…. Blackness enveloped my vision… five more feet… tension built up in my ears… the wind formed a vortex around me…My side slammed into something cool and hard, no doubt the ground… I was dying… but no. The surface I was on was metal, and buttons surrounded me. My side hurt slightly, but no more than if I was punched lightly. I stood up, fingering my face, which was, to my relief, not reduced to a pancake form, and realized I was in an elevator. I gazed around wearily, feeling too weak to do something. A screen lit up, and I flinched, relaxing as a soothing yet synthetic sounding female voice filled the elevator.
“Please remain still as the TekHelp scans you for weapons or any possible signs of danger.” I remained as still as I could, but my right hand drifted towards the bandage on my neck.
“Please remove any medical bandages, casts, scarves, jewelry, etcetera so the TekHelp is ensured a clear vision of you,” the voice said. I shrugged, removing the band-aid. It couldn’t hurt. The screen flashed red twice, and a sharp beep seemed to puncture my eardrums. I tensed, covering up my mark on my neck. A pair of lasers, swirling in a mesmerizing pattern, inched their way towards me. My breathing pattern went up a notch. I pressed myself against the wall, sweat drenching my clothes, and tried to make myself as tiny as possible. The lasers were now on me… they disappeared with a faint beep, and I exhaled.
“Airo Tanhali has been identified,” the voice said. “Please confirm you are Airo Tanhali,” the voice said. A slight itch of annoyance gnawed at my head; the robot had pronounced my name wrong.
“Uh, yeah, that’s me I guess,” I said, eager to get out. The elevator bolted downwards suddenly, catching me unaware, and it was as if my stomach had been left up at the previous elevator stop. The door finally slid open, and I lurched out greatfully.

Last edited by -_eclipse_- (Feb. 17, 2018 19:20:54)

Pin-guin
Scratcher
1 post

Rewired, a Novelette in Progress

This is amazing!! such a great author! ive had a published book but this is just… WOW!
-_eclipse_-
Scratcher
4 posts

Rewired, a Novelette in Progress

Pin-guin wrote:

This is amazing!! such a great author! ive had a published book but this is just… WOW!
Thank you so much! Wow, I've never been published (mostly cuz I'm just now starting middle school so I obviously can't get a literary agent XD) but I'm trying out for a kids magazine with a poem. What book was it? (Idk if that's too personal of a question so you don't need to answer it ;D)

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