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My hand shakes as I reach for the Phone, and I set it onto the pillow next to me. The notification hologram floats above the screen, urging me to respond. Reluctantly, I swipe the message open:


Congratulations! You are an official inductee of the 220th Autumnal Equinox. Across the nation, 18-year-olds like yourself will be participating in this rite of passage. Remember to follow all guidelines and rules to value the experience.

Your first task: At 7:45 AM, take the elevator to the pre-designated floor. There you will wait for further instruction.


The Equinox Team

"That's it?" I whisper to myself, skimming the message again. No threats or ominous instructions pop onto the hologram. But I know it's not over yet. The seemingly innocent notification churns my stomach.

I roll out of bed, thinking of Stephen. The last time I saw him was on the screen in the Enhancement Project. He was sleeping in a...

I glance at my bed. It has the exact same type of sheets Stephen was nestled in on the feed. I lift one of my cheeks into a fading half-smile. There's a good chance we're both in the same city, maybe even the same apartment complex. My heart pangs, clogging my senses. I subconsciously pace around the room a few times, folding and unfolding my hands.

What am I going to do? Should I search for Stephen or remain stagnant in hopes of staying under the radar? Will Stephen come to me first? I don't even know where to start. All I know is I need to get to the elevator by 7:45 AM before I get screened.

Still nervous, I decide to take a shower before the cameras become too suspicious of me. The Project voice echoes into my ears as the shower water switches on. I drag my fingers through my hair, squinting.

Dangers like yourself can be allowed back into society. So whether you like it or not, this is your final chance, Miss Renner. If you find a flaw in the technology, you will be killed.

The water trickles to a halt, and hot air vents dry my skin. When I step out of the shower, a folded outfit sits on a small cart. I don't know how it appeared there.

I unravel the topmost garment, running my fingers along the sweat-proof fabric. Slipping on the black long sleeve shirt and shorts, I notice white and gray accents lining the outfit. I can't tell which color is more dominant when I look in the mirror. The outfit is so similar to the one from Pod 14's video recording session but also so different.

Looping my hair into a high ponytail, I exit the bathroom and walk into the kitchen. I step onto yet another PrintPad and tear open yet another NutriBar. The Bar is suddenly tasteless and disgusting in comparison to Pod 14 food. I force myself to chew the Bar and swallow. It doesn't stop my shaking fingers or tapping foot.

I check my phone for the time, deciding to leave the apartment in order to find the elevator. After standing on another PrintPad to unlock the door, I tie on a pair of black and white sneakers and exit the apartment, undeniably afraid.

Feeling jittery, I cross the hallway with my arms carefully crossed. A few teens like myself wait for the elevator at the end of the hall. They lean against the walls, talking anxiously. None of them are Stephen, so I don't pay much attention to them.

"So what do you think of the clothes?" one of the girls asks me. Her outfit looks exactly like mine.

I rub the back of my neck. "Um, they're tighter than I thought they would be?"

The group laughs. "I guess they're not giving us a written exam," a boy says. "I feel like I'm going to exercise class."

The cluster of inductees continues to chat as four individual sets of elevator doors slide open. Each cab has a last name printed holographically across its entrance. With a final smile, I watch the girl enter the car labeled REMINGTON.

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