Inquest Chapter 1

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Chapter 1

Imagined Perfection



I never thought someone I loved would try to kill me. But when you know you’re going to do something worse, does that make it okay? Should you hope for that person to succeed?

The numbers on my phone glare back at me, reminding me that I only have six hours left to live. Guardian law is absolute. Another minute passes and the urge to hide grows. It’s a familiar feeling. One I’ve quietly obeyed most of my life. Hide my talents, my power, my destiny. Lie when I’m questioned. Do whatever it takes to keep my secret safe. I’ve gotten pretty good at it, but it won’t matter in six hours. I will be revealed for who and what I am, and there’s nothing I can do to stop it.

I just wish my best friend, Jen, would stop talking about it so I can put it out of my mind. Not that she knows what is going to happen tonight, of course, but that doesn’t stop me from wanting to snatch the hot pink daisy right out of her bouncy blond hair and stuff it in her mouth. Keeping myself from breaking down into a trembling puddle of fear is hard enough without her non-stop jabbering.

“I can’t believe in a few hours you’ll have a new name, Libby.”

Neither can I, but I say, “What’s the big deal, Jen? It’s just my Inquest. Everyone goes through theirs. It’s the law. Everyone gets a new name they never even use. Everyone goes on with their lives like nothing happened. It’s not a big deal.”

“What about your talents being unlocked, and the diktats? Those are definitely a big deal.”

My fingers subconsciously rub the smooth skin of my left wrist. It won’t stay smooth for much longer. After my Inquest, the diktats will mar me for the rest of my life, however short that might be.

Jen notices me poking at my skin and raises a smug eyebrow. I turn away from her before she thinks too hard about what wrist I was fiddling with and shove a book back into my locker. When I slam the door shut, irritated that she’s seeing through my false confidence, her expression is even haughtier. Her green eyes pierce me in a way that makes me look away. Despite the fact that I wish she’d just leave me alone right now, Jen’s ability to see through my bravado is why she’s my best friend. I need someone who can keep me grounded.

“Well, I can’t wait for my Inquest,” Jen says. “I think getting a new name and finding out what my talents are and what job they’ll assign me to is going to be awesome.”

“I already know what my talents are. Painting, sketching, give me a pencil or a brush and I’ll do whatever you want with it. Those are my only talents.” At least as far as anyone else knows those are my only talents. And I am praying my guts out that it will stay that way. The Inquisitor is old, really old. Maybe he won’t see anything in me tonight. That’s my only hope now, and it’s a pretty slim one. “Why do I need some old man to tell me I’m going to be an artist? My school schedule isn’t even going to change. Nothing is going to change. The whole thing is just a big waste of time.”

“Those aren’t the talents I’m talking about, and you know it.”

Now it’s my turn to feel superior. My dark eyebrows lift in a smirk. “Oh really? Why do you think I prefer organic oil paints, or why I use natural horsehair brushes over synthetic? Why don’t I ever wear fabrics that aren’t made of natural fibers?”

Jen’s berry colored lips pop open in excitement. “You think Naturalism is going to be one of your talents? That’s great, Libby. You’ll be in the Creator class, then. If you have a Common name you’ll be screwed, stuck in some boring job like a gardener or something. A Warrior name would be a little better, but not much. An Iconic name, though, you’d be scooped up as a state-funded artist for sure. That would be so awesome!” She pauses, her enthusiasm waning. “Knowing so much already kind of ruins the surprise, though, doesn’t it?”

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