40 3 0

I can’t believe that I, Danni Hart, am starting my final term of school, and taking the Test. This is it. No more tedious history, no more difficult math, and no more excruciating literature and I can’t even be happy about it because of how scary it all is. Everything I’ve ever done in my life comes down to this one thing, the only thing that matters. If I mess this up it’s all over. No more friends, no more family, no more life.

I’ve never thought about what it means to die. I try not to at least but every so often I can’t help but think of how terrifying it is. One day I’ll just cease to exist, I won’t have another thought or experience or memory. After I die I’ll just be… dead, over, done with. Who will remember me? I can already answer that and it’s not a big number. When some people die they become a fact in a book or a name on a wall but I’ll be even less than that. I’ll be nothing. Maybe by some miracle I could end up something but definitely not if I die during the Quota. That thought is even scarier than dying, that after you die it may not even matter that you lived.

Even though I just washed my hair it still managed to end up in a tangled mess. I have to brush it all out or it’ll get so curly I’ll look like a clown, or worse, it’ll frizz up. Auburn hair does not look good frizzy, trust me. My hair colour is best described as not quite red but not brown either, I wish it would make up its mind and pick one. That’s just color, styling it is a whole different mess. On the best days my hair is at this halfway point between straight and curly. It just waves around my head and sticks up at awkward angles. I hope today will be a good hair day. I hate to put it up unless I absolutely have to; when it’s up my face looks round and puffy. I think I look much better when it frames my face.

After I conquer my hair I have to pick out something to wear. Our school encourages creativity and freedom of expression as long as it’s appropriate, doesn’t disrupt class, and falls under the suggested school attire, so I can pretty much wear whatever I want. I go for my favorite pair of bamboo pants and a matching top. My school philosophy is it’s easier to get through it if you’re comfortable.

Finally I wash my face, brush my teeth, and do all the other basic hygiene stuff. Most of the girls in my school wear makeup but I can’t stand the stuff. My hands aren’t steady enough to make it look good. Besides, who wants all that gunk on their face anyway? It runs down my face when I sweat, clogs up my pores, and makes me look like a doll. Plus my eyes are big enough without mascara. I think they practically pop out of my head at all times but my mom says they remind her of a stormy sky, but that just something moms have to do when daughters complain about their looks. Whenever she says that I snicker and ask “since when do stormy skies look like concrete?”

The next thing I guess I should do is clean my room. It’s not that messy but I like to keep things in order, my purple duvet is wrinkle free and all the papers on my desk are in proper piles. In one corner of my room is a bookshelf, also purple. It has all my textbooks, assignments, and books from the last three years, organized by year and subject. I’m not big on reading, I don’t have the kind of patience it takes to sit down and stay there. I always have too much energy for any sort of stillness, there’s no way I’m going to subject myself to that in my free time as well.

My closet is the only thing that might be messy if I’m going somewhere special and panicking about outfits but even then I always clean up as soon as possible. My dad says it looks like I work for the military. I’m not sure why we have a military; since the countries united there hasn’t been a single war. I guess it’s more for protecting the important people from the odd psycho that somehow makes it to them. Even with the Test we can’t guarantee that everyone is completely sane, psychology is such a difficult subject to get right. The risks of mistakes are even greater because unlike other medical jobs, a computer can’t help. I heard they’re trying to create a machine that can psycho-analyze people but there are too many variables and no absolutes so it hasn’t worked yet.

I straighten out a few picture frames, polish one of my trophies, and I’m smoothing down my bedspread again when my mom calls me from the end of the hallway.

“Danni come on, your breakfasts going to get cold.” I can smell the pancakes and maple syrup and I know that they’ll be loaded with chocolate chips and covered in strawberries, my mom makes the same first day of school breakfast every term. She loves to cook, but when my mom was in school she was best in science and since cooking is in the art section she couldn’t do both. My grandparents made her choose science. They thought that science was a more respectable career than arts. It’s taken a long time for people move past that awful era. I feel bad for my mom; she would’ve been the best professional chef. She’s never had one lesson and her pancakes are so good that I don’t even care that eating them means I’ll have to do an extra hour of exercise to burn off the fat.

I take my schoolbag and head out into the hallway of our apartment. I’ve lived in this one place my whole life. The bright walls are nicked where I used barrel into them and if I look closely I can still see the stains from “the great finger-painting incident” as my parents call it. I don’t think it was my fault, who decides that having white walls, carpets, and furniture in the living room is a good idea while raising a child? In the kitchen my mother is still humming to herself as she fills up a plate with pancakes. She puts it down in front of my seat and continues making more for herself and my dad. They smell absolutely delicious, it’s a good thing I have track today anyway, so I can eat as much as I like.

As I’m happily eating my pancakes my mom starts chatting about some big project at work. She’s a psychiatrist, right now she’s working on something that is supposed to permanently block memories or erase them. I think it’s for those few people who’ve been traumatized by some horrific event but I could be wrong. I don’t pretend to really understand her work. All I know is that she’s really good, good enough that the government will pretty much give her whatever she wants to make this technology possible.

My dad walks in and gives me a kiss on the forehead. He’s an anthropologist and spends a lot of time halfway across the world trying to find evolutionary links or recover information that was lost during bedlam, the era before the Purge. But when he’s home we always have fun. He even helps me with my homework, my mom refused to continue helping me last year; she says I have to become self-sufficient so my dad and I keep this a secret.

 I don’t know how I missed out on the smart gene. Maybe this is like that math thing where two negatives make a positive, except two smart people make a dumb one. School has never interested me all that much. Except for the class where we’re learning about nature I’d much rather be in nature. Like I said I just hate sitting cooped up at a desk all day. I need to move and we don’t get nearly enough time in gym class to do that and the rest of the classes are just lectures droning on and on. I’d say it was torture except most of the time I fall asleep instead of fantasizing about jumping out a window. When the teachers catch me it’s just plain embarrassing.

“How are you feeling honey?” My dad asks while he pours himself some coffee.

“I’m fine dad, just a little tired.” He sits down at the table and starts reading the news on his computer.

“Sweetie hurry up, you don’t want to be late for your first day.” My mom is always worried I’m going to be late. I roll my eyes. As if she doesn’t know Nate figured out how long it takes us to get to school on time to the millisecond years ago.

“You know I won’t be late. Nate will knock on the door any second and then I’ll be gone.” Just as I say that there’s a knock on the door and I can hear Nate saying “Danni, come on! Ten minute warning.” I scarf down the last mouthfuls of pancake and grab my bag.

“Well, that’s my cue. Bye mom, bye dad!” I grab my bag and head out the door. They call out after me, saying goodbye and wishing me luck.

I can’t believe we only have ninety-days until the Test. 

The QuotaRead this story for FREE!