I jerk awake in my bed.
It was all a dream. I think in relief. Then I feel my neck. There’s a slight prick of pain from the needle wound. I cover my face as the tears start to come. Lee was my best friend and closest ally. Without her, I’m lost, figuratively, as well as literally.
And Garith was right. I could have chosen to stay, to have us both stay. We would have both graduated, and gotten out of here. I don’t know how long I sit on my bed. Maybe it was a few minutes. It could have been a few years.
I stumble into my bathroom and clean up. I eye myself in the mirror. Something’s changed in me, beyond the physical. I can barely stand to see myself in the mirror.
Then I hear a voice of reason. Is it really your fault, Proteus?
I try to shout it out, Of course it is! I could have stopped her! Stopped both of us!
But you’re not the one who pulled the trigger, are you?
I cover my face. I might as well have been.
I continue to argue with myself for a long time. I don’t know how long. But in the end, I come to my feet with a purpose firmly in mind. I will graduate; whatever it takes. It’s the only thing left for me. I’m not sure if her getting shot was my fault, but it doesn’t matter. I’m not able to kill myself because of guilt, I already know that. It’s just one of the things I can’t do.
I walk out of the bathroom. “Garith!” I yell. I’m sure he has me under surveillance. “Let’s get this over with! Let me graduate!”
The lights dim, and the screen appears. It’s Garith, only this time it’s not prerecorded. He’s looking much better than he did last time I saw him. He’s smiling. “Good! I’m glad you’ve finally come around, now that your friend is out of the picture.” I scowl, and he continues. “If you want to graduate, continue going to your classes. I’ll see to it that if you work hard, you’ll graduate early. Agreed?”
I nod sharply. “Agreed.”
The screen disappears, and the door opens, with my lights in front of me. I step out of my room, and onward to whatever comes next.
That day, as I’m walking to my last class before lunch, my lights stop. I follow their example. Suddenly, a ring illuminates around me. I’m at the very edge, and at the other end is another figure.
Just one more thing between me and getting out. I think. He steps forward, and I see that, similar to the thing I fought right before Lee and I tried to get out, it’s some version of me. This one doesn’t have the all-black eyes though. He has a knife in his right hand, and he stabs at me.
I deflect the blow to the side, and counter with a kick to his ribs. He stumbles back and regains his balance, then moves forward to attack again.
As we fight, I begin to think. What is the point of this? Making me fight myself. All the training I’ve done, ever since I can remember. All of those people dying in Phase 2. Why?
I blast through my opponents defenses and hit his noses, making his eyes water. I twist his knife out of his hands and stab him in the chest. Just like the other one, he dissolves, only here he stays as a pile of dust on the floor, since it’s not a grate.
The fighting ring disappears, and we continue on to my next class.
YOU ARE READING
The Proteus Trilogy: Book One: WarriorTeen Fiction
A teen called 1498 is raised in a place called the Research Center. He's trained to fight, and as time goes on his skills are put through tests, each one more difficult than the last. As he progresses, he begins to wonder, what is all of this for? A...