Chapter One

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5:27 P.M.

Forty-two seconds until 5:28.

Three minutes until 5:30.

Thirty-three minutes until 6:00.

Zero milliseconds before everything went wrong.

I remember the exact time. The exact moment down to the very exact second. I remember my eyes hovering on the digital clock in the bottom right hand corner of the television screen as the words echoed out of President Alliath's mouth.

"Today....we're gathered here to announce the official release of the Animus, a device that will unify our world.....create a brighter future!"

The TV displayed President Alliath's face filled with fake ecstasy. In a glass box on a large metal stand about a foot from his face stood the device. In the all-encompassing sunlight, the metal invention shone like a sun in itself. The actual exterior was a dark yet reflective metal, and it was shaped into a thick band that was small enough for somebody to wrap around their wrist.

"Today, we can officially say that we have improved the human race. We've finally solved this plague, this never ending plague of violence that has been threatening humanity for decades. But now, today, we can raise our voices together in unison, and thank Mr. Hillsberg for creating the device that will cement our future, protect our species, and promise the survival of the human race!" he ended his speech in a triumphant shout, followed immediately by a responding chorus of cheers from the audience on screen. I could only imagine how loud it must be to be in the crowd. All I could hear was the muffled celebration coming through the speakers of the flat screen television attached to the large white wall of our small apartment living room.

The screen changed to a live video of members of the crowd being taken into a door next to the stage. Above the door read the words "Please enter for Animus". The camera zoomed even closer, unintentionally focusing on a post sticking up from the ground that had a miniature list of possible warnings that everyone felt inclined to ignore. My eyes found the words though, and read through the list. May have side effects of dizziness, nausea, and vomiting. In extreme circumstances, may cause brain damage. Please do not wear earrings into the Animus Fitting Room, thank you! It would only be days until I would be walking through a door much like that one.

If I had known my life had been completely altered the second the announcement had appeared, I would have run.

I could've run if I'd really tried. I could have packed a few pairs of clothes, as much food and water as I could shove in a small bag, and handfuls of money with the only personal touch being my small brown notebook. I could have hidden the bag somewhere deep under my bed until it was one in the morning, and then when I was certain my older sister was asleep, I could have escaped out of our apartment's front door, and left.

Maybe it would have saved me a lot of trouble if I had. If I'd run away like I should have. Maybe I could have saved myself if I hadn't been so curious about the Animus, and if I'd realized that maybe this device would actually work.

Maybe if I'd realized I would be a victim of the device, I would have run.

But it was too late now.

It's always too late.

Now I'm stuck, and there's no amount of running that would do me any good.

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