After Speech class, I wait in the hall for Chase, Jordan doesn't have 2nd bell with us, and she already went ahead to flirt with Trevor. Chase has a boyfriend, Troy, but with December 31st looming it is getting awkward between them. Troy wants to go to Aileron, and is begging her to come with him, but she's undecided. We are undecided. Every cycle has a decision, either all go to one Domicile, or each go to one. We aren't told where our parents are from until the day of our decision, and the question of "where will I go" is on everybody's tongue. Pick Portend and wind up with a white and green amulet that gave you the power to read minds and predict the future. Chose Aileron for a lilac and navy blue amulet that gives you power to fly. Decide Belie and receive a black and red amulet that gives you power to shift into any land animal. Of course, even if you pick where your parents are from, there's no guarantee that you'll be assigned to the same city as them. Every city is divided into 3 equal parts, with a Center at the middle, and there are cities all over the world. Our Guardian is from Belie, but she's forbidden to tell us anything about the Domicile. In fact, all adults are forced to swear an Oath that they will not mention anything non-factual about any Domicile. And in Arcadia, a broken Oath causes immediate death.
Chase smiles at me, "How did I do?" she asks, oblivious to my questioning the ethics of our society.
"Great!" I grin at her, "But pretty mono-tone at the beginning. What? No enthusiasm for England?" I tease, knowing full-well that she could talk about ancient civilizations for eons. She frowns and smacks me on the arm.
"Whatever, Dag," She smirks, using my hated nickname, it's bad enough that I'm named after some character in a book written forever ago, but Dagny? It doesn't even sound like a name… Apparently Ayn Rand, author of 'Atlas Shrugged' thought so, but she's the only one. "Ms. Connie says I did fine." Chance justifies herself, and I roll my eyes at her as we walk down the hall.
"Isn't it weird that they used to have 'time zones'?" Chase wonders, "I mean, they must have realized how stupid of a system that was! It's the same time everywhere, I mean, how could they have rationalized it being 12pm in one place and 12am in another? Weird."
I smile slightly, "Chase, you do realize you're the only one who cares, right?" I raise an eyebrow at her. Ignoring me, she crosses her arms she sticks her tongue out. Almost begrudgingly, she starts laughing too, and when we reach 2nd bell we're still laughing while the rest of the class, the same kids we've been with since we were 3, ignores us as we sit down.
Arcadia is synonymous with Utopia, and is defined as a region that offers simplicity and contentment. The word is originally from Ancient Greek name Arkadia, a district in what used to be the Peloponnesus. Over thousands of years, arcadia became the term for fictitious place characterized by idealistic happiness.
When our country was first founded, Arcadia was the decided upon name because it portrayed our ideals of a simple life and the idea that everything that was once considered impossible or fictional is now a reality.
Arcadia protects our ideals of simplicity by allowing there to be equality in everything.
Like every child in Arcadia, I was adopted by the government on December 31st of the year I turned 3 and sent to the Center in order to be acclimated with the other girls my age, and to grow up unbiased to any particular Domicile. In every "cycle" there is one child from each of the Domiciles; Portend, Aileron and Belie. These 3 children are put together and raised by a government-sanctioned Guardian until December 31st of the year they turn 15.
Essays are impossible, I think while absently tucking a stray lock of boring brown hair behind my ear. Flicking open my phone, I smile down at my screensaver. Staring out from the screen is 18 kids, 9 girls and 9 guys, all staring at the camera with a motely of smiles, smirks and one "dear-god-when-will-this-end" death-stare. My eyes easily gravitate to the three girls standing on the right edge of the image, wearing matching smiles. Jordan's ginger hair is bob-cut around her ears and constantly falling across her cheeks; getting stuck to her almost-always moving lips. In the picture she's wearing a forest-green t-shirt tight across her barely-there upper body and down to her hips. Standing barely 5'2'' Jordan's by far the shortest of our cycle, although she's trying extra hard to make her legs look longer in short denim shorts that cover approximately 2 inches. Chase, my other cycle sister, has cocoa skin, thick black hair that she usually wears in a braded bun on top of her head, and unlike Jordan and I, she's fully developed and curvy all over. Standing 5'7'' she's 2 inches taller than me, and she loves bringing it up. As for me, I'm standing to Chase's left with one arm around Tanvi's shoulders and one around Chase's, wearing tighter-than-tight red cotton shorts and a loose white shirt. Tanvi has light brown skin, thick black hair and a grin that makes you wonder if she's sane (she's not) and a pair of jeans paired with a strapped tank top. The tan-skinned, black-haired, brown-eyed girl to Tanvi's left is named Maya, and her slightly-past-shoulder-length hair hangs in a fishtail braid down her back. Katie has light brown hair, darker eyes, and a sense of humor to put anyone to shame. She's the same height as me, but Katie's got a little more junk in her trunk, and a lot more confidence.
Olivia, Olivia and Marissa finish the train of girls linked by arms with the Olivia's smirking at each other. The first Olivia is the definition of beautiful, with naturally wavy dirty-blonde hair and blue eyes. The second Olivia goes by Livy, and never stops being sexy, with full lips and deep brown eyes to match her hair. One shoe on and one just gone, Marissa has straight blonde hair and green eyes. I'd say that was it, everyone in my year, but I'd be leaving out exactly half my class. Trevor, Drake and Charlie stand in order to Marissa's left, joining the train. Trevor stands 6'2'' with thick blonde hair cut at the tips of his ears and blue eyes that make most girls melt, including Jordan, she has a major crush him. Drake is mine, has been for 2 months now, and even staring at his image in the screen makes my heart beat a little faster. His brown hair and green eyes are enough to give anyone a little heartburn. Their cycle brother Charlie and I have a bad history, and I try not to laugh at his smug little smirk and blonde hair that used to make Chase and I swoon. Landon has brown hair and hazel eyes, and I won't lie about my very un-platonic feelings for him. Chris stands to his side, with a dead expression that would trick anyone who hadn't known him for 10 years into thinking he was depressed. Those of us who do know him, know he has the same likelihood of shutting up for a minute that I do of learning to breathe underwater. Both Olivia's like him, and he knows it. There's some drama, and speaking of it my eyes drifted to blonde haired blue eyed 5'9'' Andrew. He also doesn't like me…. But that's a long story. Kyle, Spencer and Troy; the hottest guy, the most perverted, and Chase's boyfriend, finish the picture with smirks that make you wonder what prank they just finished planning.
"Dagny!" I hear Kendra calling, and I accidently drop my phone in surprise. "Where are you?" my cycle's Guardian asks in her calm voice. Kendra's dyed blue hair is pulled up into a messy bun that shakes dangerously as she walks into the library. "The other girls are looking for you." She smiles at me, and I walk up to the only parental figure I've ever had.
"Thanks Ken!" I call, walking past her while shoving my notepad and pencil into a bag, angry with myself for getting off task instead of finishing my essay.
Shifting my bag over to my right shoulder, I call out to the girl in the hall ahead of me, "Maya!" Her so-dark-it-looks-black hair whips around and she smiles.
"Hey, Dagny!" Maya pauses to wait for me to catch up, she's skinny, probably more than is healthy, but not too skinny to be pretty. She's is shorter than me, but taller than Jordan. "What's up?"
"Not much." I lie, not wanting to divulge my difficulties about Arcadia; the utopia that is today. A place where children are taken from their parents and given to a Guardian. A place where those same children must later make a choice that will decide who they are for the rest of their lives, "What about you?" I ask, ignoring the weather. Outside, thick rain hits against the windows and thunder rumbles in the distance. What a glorious day to be alive.
She answers "Oh, I'm just going to an extra chemistry lab." Of course. Maya always was a genius. Smiling, she ducks into a classroom and disappears, leaving me to walk the rest of the way to my dormitory in silence.
Opening the door, I spot Chase and Jordan on their respective beds with their heads in their hands at the ends of their beds. I join them immediately, knowing what the thought process is. We're staring at each other in the awkward silence that only thinking about the 31st can cause. "Portend." Jordan finally offers, defiantly breaking the sound barrier. I know it's not what she wants, but she remembers that Chase and I have always wanted to be psychic. We used to pretend to read each other's minds, but now we know each other so well we don't have to be psychic to tell what the other person's thinking. Jordan was born to be Aileron, and in fact we all think that's where her parents are from. Chase and I trade glances and speak in unison.
"Belie?" Chase says with little hope.
"No." Jordan complains from her bed. We're all too tired for this, this conversation we've had to many times. Like a dance, but much less entertaining. Still we have to finish the routine and I'm up next. "Aileron." I announce for the umpteenth time, less like a suggestion and more like a statement.
"No." It's Chase this time, and no one is surprised. It's a well-worn conversation that nobody wears well, and nobody knows how to end the vicious cycle. Cycle. Our cycle is supposed to work in harmony, we're supposed to come to a calm decision, but how can anyone be calm when their being forced to choose where they'll live for the rest of their life? How am I supposed to pick a power? Explain to me how. Rolling off my bed I break the pattern.
"Come on guys, do we need to talk about this?" I phrase my question as a comment, knowing full well that we don't have to talk about anything. It's only November after all, and we have one month to go. One month of this awkwardness. One month of questions hesitating on the tip of every tongue. One month? May as well be one years or one lifetimes, when every minute is an hour, and every hour is a month, and it gets to a point where you can't breathe because all you can think about is a decision you'll make in one month.
I don't know how any of the other girls can take it. Boys must not have it as hard, they don't have anything as hard, and I just can't understand why it has to be this way. I mean, I understand, but that doesn't mean I like it. Your body will only accept that change that an amulet will bring for one week of one year; the first week of the year you turn 15. That's why you must choose on December 31st, so you can be given a necklace at midnight. It really isn't the end of the world; those of us who stay in this city will still attend school with each other until we're 18, so that part of our lives won't change. But we'll have powers. And we won't live in cycles anymore. I can't even imagine not coming back to my dormitory at night and falling asleep to Jordan and Chase breathing; it's a weird thing to say but it's true. I've lived in this Center, with these 18 kids and 6 Guardian's my entire life. In every year of every city everywhere, there are 18 kids and 6 Guardian's. Perspective parent's must fill out forms and wait for approval before having a child. That way, the government ensures that there will be 3 boys and 3 girls from every Domicile every year. Population control. Everything must be properly controlled, or the world will end. It's ended so many times. It ended when Rome fell, when China was overrun by India, and when the United States of America fell to anarchy.
It cannot happen again.
I shake my head and look back at my cycle sisters; we're all lost in thought and lost in the constant "where will I go" that has become our lives. Closing my eyes I fall back onto my bed, putting off the final decision just a little longer can't hurt, can it? I have one more month to make a decision, and only a few hours until my essay's due.