Chapter Eighty-Three

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As they lead me out of the room, I felt my fear rocket up.

This wasn't going as we planned.

Rose had been wrong.

The guards on either side of me lead me out of the door and into the hallway beyond. I quickly glanced back and forth, hoping to get a glimpse of wherever Rose was hiding, but I saw nothing. It made me question whether she'd come at all. Maybe she actually worked for them.

But if she did, then what good would it do to get my hopes up for a plan that wouldn't work? The only logical explanation was that she must not have known either, and now it would never work.

I turned a corner and lost sight of the hallway that I knew Rose was hiding in.

I was pulled down more and more hallways until they reached a more open area. The hallway widened into a room with steps descending into a white floor. It was odd, because even though the room was seemingly huge, almost as big as the cafeteria back at the complex, there was nobody in it but us. The only other addition besides its blank wall and floors was a massive screen on the opposite end, which was currently completely black.

It sent chills down my spine. Something about the room gave me a bad feeling. I was lead down the stairs and towards the middle of the room, wondering what was about to happen. Nothing seemed like an immediate threat to me.

Then the lights in the room suddenly dimmed, and the massive screen turned on. The massive scruffy face of a man in his forties, with bright blue eyes, glasses, and a bald head appeared, filling in the black. He wore a white lab coat, and behind him was a simple background of what looked like a sophisticated office. He barely smiled as he looked straight at the camera.

"Hello," came his voice, directly from the speakers in every corner of the room. "I'm Dr. Kelling. I know that you all have been waiting a very long time for this moment."

I looked behind me, expecting to see more people, but there was no one there but the guards. The one directly behind me sneered at me before shoving my shoulder. "Watch," he ordered, and I turned around again to look at the screen.

This had to be some recording. But who was the "all" that it was talking about? I could see how the room would be meant to show large groups of people this same video, but I didn't understand why. I doubted they made a personal video for prisoners.

"Before I can continue on explaining to you what is about to happen, you all must kindly go through an examination to make sure you're ready. Please form neat lines and proceed through the doors labelled on either side of this screen. Please form neat lines and..." The recording began to repeat itself incessantly, for anyone who apparently hadn't heard. At this note, the guards began moving again, and I did as Dr. Kelling insisted. I walked towards one of the doors with the black label of "Room A". I was slightly afraid of what was behind the door, but I assumed that if they were planning to kill me, they would have done it by now.

That is, unless this was their way of killing me.

The guard who'd sneered at me grabbed the door handle and pushed it open before shoving me into the room.

The first thing I saw was Dr. Conway,  standing dead center and staring at me. She beckoned me towards her with her hand, and at first I didn't want to move. I remembered how we'd left things off, with her giving up on interrogating me and refusing to tell me much more. I didn't understand what she wanted with me now. 

I walked towards her, feeling the presence of the guards behind me, and knowing that there was nothing I could do now, even if I wanted to.

"Hello, again," Dr. Conway said, as I stopped about a yard away from her. "I'm hoping you've enjoyed your stay here." I couldn't tell if she was being sarcastic. I hoped she was.

"Why am I here?" I asked, truly wanting, needing, to know. I couldn't stand all these secrets. Rose hadn't told me the whole story, and neither had she. Something was being hidden from me, and I couldn't take it. I'd always thought the world was simpler than this. I thought that there had been an excess of snow that had massacred the human race and there was nothing more to it. Now, I was finding out that there was so much more to it than I'd originally believed. My mind journeyed back to that one teacher I'd had at the complex, the one who'd claimed that the snow had been abnormal...and almost seemingly intentional. Other things like that bothered me, and I was having trouble getting any decent answers.

Dr. Conway sighed, like I was some annoying child she didn't want to deal with. "You'll find that out soon. I'm here simply because it's a procedural thing. Even with prisoners, we must keep to the law," she explained. She suddenly gestured towards a door standing behind her in the small white room. I hadn't had time to focus on much else but her. This second door had one word listed above its head. "Procedure".

She noticed me looking. "I'm guessing you have heard about the Procedure back in the training complex? It's the graduation ceremony for anyone entering the Equator, although none of the students are supposed to talk about it."

"Or they get shot?" I asked, as the realization hit me. The Procedure was what the girl in the cafeteria had been trying to tell us all about. Whatever this is, it was important enough to kill someone over.

Dr. Conway just tightened her pink-painted lips, but I noticed a hint of sadness pass through her gray eyes. "There have been casualties." I watched her for a few moments, only then remembering that this was supposed to be an examination for readiness.

"So, are you examining me?" I asked her.

"No." Her response was immediate, and there was something dark in her expression as she said it. "You're going straight there. There will be another room. Another explanation. But that's all. Soon, it will be over. Good luck."

She stepped aside, and the guards pushed me ahead once more. I tried to look behind me at her and read her expression, but got nothing. Something about what she'd said sent a stab of fear through me. It will be over.

The door opened again and I was shoved once more into a room that was nearly identical to the first with the large screen in the front, except there were a multitude of different doors branching off from this one. Each was labeled with a number.

And again, the lights dimmed, and Dr. Kelling's face reappeared. This time, he didn't take a second to introduce himself, he just jumped right in.

"At this point, you have passed examination. After months of hard training in our training complex, you're finally ready to join us in the Equator. But first, I have a video to show you all," he said. His face disappeared and the screen went black. I wondered if that was it, and they weren't planning on showing me whatever this video was.

But then the screen lit up on a dark scene of snow falling upon frozen bodies. I felt my breath catch just seeing it on the screen. A voice began to speak over the video, as the snow fell. "Death. We see it everywhere. In normal life." The video suddenly cut to a picture of an old woman on her deathbed in the middle of a bright hospital. "And in nature. To the human race, death has always been its greatest weakness. Even with the human ability to understand more than other animals, we still have fallen short when it comes to death. Death is one of those few unbeatable things, that no one in this universe may escape, not even humanity."

The shot changed again, showing a slowly revolving video of Earth. "Our company believes in solving problems to advance the human race. Our goal is to do what they say is impossible, conquer the unconquerable. Defy the rules that the laws of nature place in front of us. In the past, we have created inventions to help the government, and the people of all nations. Our company has gotten so far, but it always fell short. We have not been known until now. Because now, we have conquered the unconquerable, even become the unconquerable."

The entire time the video had been playing, all I could feel was silent shock, but now that shock blossomed into an idea that burst through my mind, like a raging train. An idea that made absolutely no sense, but also so much sense at the same time. I felt my expression falter, exposing itself into the horror I felt rising up from deep inside me.

"We have conquered death."

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