Chapter 1: Marked
I drummed my fingers against my desk, my nails making tiny scratches in the soft wood. The digital clock sat on my bedside table reading six-fifteen, fifteen minutes until the time when my alarm would go off and I was expected to wake up. If only I could sleep. I'd taken some sleeping pills the night before, but they never seemed to have any effect on me. Picking up the glass sitting on my desk, I raised it to my lips. It was empty, save for one drop of cranberry juice left at the bottom. Although I was parched, I couldn't force myself to go fetch another drink. There wasn't even enough left for a full swallow, but it still managed to fill my mouth with the taste of throw-up. Old cranberry juice tasted like barf, who knew?
Dragging myself to my feet, I decided I might as well start getting ready. It bothered me that I had to try to fit in with trends that had truly happened hundreds of years ago. I wondered what people outside the city would wear. On instinct, I reached up and felt my left cheekbone. It was bare, it bore no little black tattoo. This reassured me until I realized that that could all change today.
I had already finished showering, but my family was still asleep. I didn't understand how they could. Sure, Erin had little to no chance of being marked today, but if I were Rosa, I probably wouldn't have gotten to sleep at all. I didn't know what I'd do if one of my sisters was marked. I didn't have to worry about my parents. They were past the age where they could be marked, as far as I knew. I'd never heard of anyone older than their mid-twenties being chosen, although I wasn't sure if it was impossible. Of course, there was no way I could really know what my family was thinking. Maybe they weren't asleep at all.
Looking out the window, I noticed the overcast sky and the faint smell of rain. The dreariness of today wasn't helping my mood. I surveyed the view: the greenish-brown lawn, the single tree that stood between the sidewalk and the street. It was the only view I'd ever known. What did it look like outside the city? My feeble imagination couldn't even conjure up an image.
Hitting the button on my straightener, I began to pace nervously across my carpeted floor. My hair naturally hung in ringlets, which I usually liked to leave alone, but I needed something to do until my family woke up. There was a hissing sound as I ran the hot metal strips over a strawberry-blond lock of hair. I looked up to admire my handiwork. In the mirror, I met my own eyes. Their murky blue colour made me think of looking at the sky through dirty glass.
A rustling sound, originating from another part of the house, jerked me out of my reverie. My family was probably waking up. I grabbed my sweater from the closet. It was Abercrombie. It made me feel strange knowing that I was just wearing a vintage copy, a recreation. It made me feel old, like someone's great grandmother. The whole city was old and fake, like the exhibits in a museum, and today was the day that they decided which exhibits would be taken off display.
On a normal day, Rosa would have driven us to school, but today Mom took us. We all knew why, but no one talked about it. As I looked out the window, I saw the signs, “This marking we're specifically targeting criminals,” and “Mayor Gregory is cleaning up the city this marking.” These signs both reassured, and filled me with dread. They served as a reminder that today was not an ordinary day, yet I wasn't a criminal and why would they mark me anyways?
As far as I knew, who was marked was determined by several factors. Firstly, if you were thought to be a criminal or drain on society you had a far higher chance. It also had something to do with personality tests and the assessments of your teacher. For example, if it appeared that you would one day become a criminal you'd be marked. For me, the average student, this had almost no importance. If I were marked, it would be random. These random markings were mostly based on your age and gender. For example, if there was a large number of girls in my age group, I'd be in more danger than a guy.
Something that had always bothered me about the marking was how it was contradictory to what the government usually stood for. The city was supposed to be a perfect recreation of the pinnacle of human society, the twenty-first century. Yet nothing even close to the marking had ever existed, as far as I knew. Whenever someone asked, they spewed some crap about the fear level. How the risks in the twenty-first century outweighed the risks today and they had to keep everything true. That was the part that confused me. The marking was more a part of our lives than a lot of little details they obsessed over. Did it not occur to them that the markings themselves were tainting the “purity” of our city?
|Bella Thorne||as Nancy (Nance) Foreman|
|Callan McAuliffe||as Dustin DeStorse|
|Diggy Simmons||as Jason Dunne|
|Sasha Pieterse||as Aria Davis|
|Nicola Peltz||as Skye|
|Nikki Yanofsky||as Lela Tanitus|
|Jessica White||as Miya Dunne|
|Jesse Bradford||as Alec Tanitus|
|Alan Ritchson||as Drew Carson|
|Matthew Fox||as Arch|