Chapter Two - Break

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After a few minutes, everything stopped, and I felt fine again. I didn't understand what the hell had just happened, but it terrified me that memories of the aptitude testing lingered when everyone I knew said I shouldn't remember a thing. I regained my feet and shrugged the event off thinking it might just be a side effect of the strange IV fluid. My TV was off, and it was probable that I had imagined the words on the screen.

Deciding it couldn't hurt, I started getting out the supplies to make a cup of tea when I was finished with the soup. After I had microwaved the mug of drinking water, I added the tea pouch to the water and stirred. Mr. Barton told me they used to sell many different teas from other countries in a wide variety of flavors and colorful packaging. I didn't know if I believed it or not—everything was made in New York; the only country in a vast and empty world.

I sat down on my bed and turned on the TV; disappointed to see regular programming. News channels reported on the progress of Absolute Knowledge, promoting visits to local Collection Parlors. There were two movies on as well, also focused on the importance of Absolute Knowledge.

I finished the cup of tea and turned off the TV—there was no need to use electricity on things I had already seen. I grabbed a worn-down textbook from the shelf. 'Calculus,' it said on the cover. The math on the inside was above my knowledge level, but I liked to read it anyway. The book was interesting enough to keep me occupied while I waited for curfew and for my door to lock.

Enforcers were notoriously ruthless at night, and they weren't the only danger, so I never stayed out past curfew. I set the book down on my desk and climbed into bed, knowing I should try to sleep. I hoped I would see Mary Dunn tomorrow, the cute girl that lived a few flats down from me. She was also sixteen and had long brown hair, and beautiful blue eyes. The excitement of the day and thoughts of Mary made sleep difficult, but it came eventually.

The alarm clock next to my bed buzzed and woke me from a deep slumber. 8 AM. I grabbed a small plastic cup from the kitchen and put a splash of drinking water in it, enough to brush my teeth with. I walked into the bathroom and dug through the cardboard box marked 'Hygiene.' As long as I completed at least one session a week, I got a box full of hygiene stuff for free. Otherwise, I'd have to buy it from the store.

Brushing my teeth, I looked into the mirror. I wasn't too skinny and had developed some muscle by doing some routines in my flat. My father would be shocked at how much I looked like him. I had his deep green eyes, defined jaw line, and medium-length brown hair. After appraising my appearance, I applied a generous coat of deodorant.

I walked over to Mr. Barton's flat. He saw me coming and opened the door expecting me for our morning tradition.

Edgar Barton was in his thirties and rather tall and well-built compared to others his age. He was holding an old paperback novel, and kept his thumb pressed on the page as he let me in.

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