"True statement," Stephen says, hugging me again before we part our separate ways. He smiles his usual smile, the smile that effortlessly matches his dark hair and smooth cheeks. My eyes glance back and forth between his eyes, and I pull the corners of my lips up for him. I notice the tint of his skin is back to a healthy color; his Enhancement Project sickly yellow skin tone is gone.
"Ready?" Stephen asks, referring to the doors.
I run my hand down his arm, giving him a subtle nod. I can still feel his lips on mine, still tingling. I don't want to let it go. But the doors beckon us anyway.
We each walk to our designated doors, the curve of the alcove blocking Stephen from my sight. I face the large, mysterious door while listening to Stephen's gates swoosh open. Unjustified nervousness threatens to settle into my stomach. I don't like surprises. Or crying in front of other people.
Exhaling, I tuck a flyaway hair behind my ear, and just as I do so, the door slides open, releasing a massive rush of dull colors. My eyes take a second to adjust to the lighting, and a wave of chatter crashes over my shoulders.
I step into the room with awe. Stacks and stacks of clothing fill the small room, reaching up to the ceiling behind clear walls. Every item in sight buzzes around, adding to the sheer wildness and activity of the room. The middle of the clothing room is peppered with boxed-shaped sections roped off by curtains.
Women in cream-colored smocks rush around the much-too-tiny room, outfitting people in small quantities. Voices both dull and sharp echo lightly; the colors of the clothes and walls are inviting and warm despite their continuous movement. I take another few steps into the amazing room, spinning slowly around to get a complete look.
"Holland Renner?" a female voice asks over the voices. I twist back around to face a smock-wearing woman with dark hair styled perfectly in a twist. Her cheeks are smooth and her eyes are coated in make-up. I can only think one thing: she is flawless.
"That's me," I say, suddenly realizing how annoying and kiddish my voice must sound to her and her perfection.
"Of course it's you," the woman says with sweet syllables. She pats my one cheek. "And you've got some natural beauty, hmm. I've got plenty of time to work with you." She begins to walk towards the hub of the room, and I follow her closely as she repeats, "I've got plenty of time to work with you."
The conversations around us grow louder, drowning out her voice. The woman leads me across the room, not bothering to explain any of what's going on. She approaches one of the walled-in rooms, pushing open a door. She holds the space open as I step in.
"Welcome to my office," the woman laughs softly, "I enjoy working one-on-one."
I smile politely, taking a seat on a simple black box a few feet into the middle of the curtain room. A metal briefcase sits on a black table near me, and the woman explains by saying, "I wish I had more supplies to work with, but we've got just enough I think."
The lady bustles through the curtains, leaving me to sit and wonder why I'm in a room filled with clothing. Before I think anything else, the woman pushes through the door again, her hands full.
"This is all for your official video," the woman says, "Every person in the Camps records and documents how they've been screened. Just be honest with the camera, and you'll be fine."
"Okay," I say, relieved to receive an upfront explanation. She hands me a folded bundle of clothing, and I unravel it gratefully. A black jacket with gray and white accents unrolls across my lap. I glance at the woman before slipping my arms through the sleeves.
"Zip it up," the woman says, digging through her metal case, "all the way."
I do as she says, and she looks up from her digging to nod in approval. She collects a few bottles and brushes before commanding me to close my eyes. Bristles tickle and press on my eyelids until I'm told to open them again. She nods a few times again, tossing her bottles with a clatter into the metal bin. She then moves on to my hair for a small while until it's perfect according to her liking.
"Now don't touch anything, not your eyes or your hair," she says, "and good luck. You'll need it from now on."
Without letting me ask her what or why, the woman pulls out a small device and moves its sensor near my eye. A sound beeps from the device, and the woman says, "You're good to go, Miss," before leaving the room.
"But don't--" I call after her before she leaves. She shuts the door anyways, not looking back. Seriously confused, I pull at the zipped-up collar of my jacket.
"Welcome, Miss Renner," a voice says from invisible speakers. I leap out of my skin, about to jump to my feet. The wall in front of me switches to life, displaying video feed of myself. The different version of me that I face looks startled. Her make-up features and twisted hair look... genuinely beautiful. Not to mention the fierce jacket.
The voice adds, "Pod 14 requires all citizens to document their screening experience. Your video feed will begin when you say the keyword "begin." Start by saying your full name and age, and end by saying "stop." Say "I understand" if you understand."
"Excellent. Make sure to plan what you want to say before you start. Begin by saying your name and age." Then the voice clicks off.
"Okay," I mumble to myself. I take a deep breath, sorting out my thoughts. I can't help but remind myself I'm technically committing treason. Yet the nature of Commander Liad's Pod 14 is anything but treason. It's freedom.
"Begin," I say. A blinking dot tick at the top of the projection on the wall. I swallow a breath of air, watching myself closely on screen.
"My name is Holland Renner, and I'm eighteen years old. I wasn't screened. That's not why I'm here. I'm here because of the Enhancement Project. It feels wrong to be explaining this, but it's true."
I raise my wrist so the camera can see them. "I used to be a number, number 400 to be exact, but when I was sent back to civilization, they blocked out the numbers. I don't know who "they" is, but to them, we were all just numbers. I don't even know who "we" is, but "we" looks a lot like me: an unsuspecting teenager."
I take a breath. "The Enhancement Project looks a lot like this place that I guess everyone calls Pod 14. The halls and clothes are the same, but the people are different. The citizens here have personalities. They aren't exactly trapped inside the Pod, but they're here in a good way."
I falter for words before regaining my rhythm, "But that's not my point. Let me start from the beginning. I'm Holland, and I'm here because my Sky-Train derailed and freefell to the ground. And I think it was all a part of the nation's plan for me. I'm here for a reason."
-- -- -- -- --
i used the chosen word "on screen" although more detail will be revealed about that part. sorry for late update again. starting soon i shall have loads of time to write and update!
my internet at home is messed up for now, so fingers crossed it gets fixed! and SUPER random news: at my high school, i was elected Student Council vice president! yay!
Question: choose a phrase: display, stow away, or replay.
Fun Question: Name your favorite movie. I really love Insurgent which I saw in theaters, but the Leonardo DeCaprio version of The Great Gatsby was also really good!
YOU ARE READING
Welcome to the nation. Welcome to the place where everything is monitored... everything is portioned... everything is perfectly under control... Everything except the SkyTrain Holland Renner was aboard. In a matter of seconds, Holland finds herself...