THE 30 DAY TRIAL
This is a story about a young girl named Ray. She lives in a world where society divides people into two groups, Life lovers and Fearless. Ray doesn't exactly fit in with her Life lover family and she feels like there could be more out there than it seems. Then, on one fateful day, when a strange boy asks her to join him, her world is about to change forever.
I can't think of the last time I was sad. It seemed to have never happened. Of course, it did happen. Or so my mother would tell me. Maybe I am always sad but I just don't know it. Well, like my mother always says, "It's never good to get too caught up in anything!" I always tried to follow that advice, even if she might not always do the same. If I were to drop my ice cream, I wouldn't be sad or concerned. If a family pet were to die, I would hold back my emotions until I feel nothing at all. That is how I stayed happy all of my Life, I guess. Every experience, just making me stronger to deal with these kinds of emotions, not that I was ever weak. Or so it only seems. I'd like to know what it's like to be sad. Maybe then, being happy wouldn't seem so bad.
I've always believed in Fate. It's the only thing I know that's real in this world.
I lie in bed, staring at the ceiling. I should get up. Mother will come and scold me soon. She says if I stay in one place for too long I'll go stiff, then I'll go weak, then next thing I know, I'll wind up dead.
I recite that phrase over in my head. I hear her little words of wisdom almost constantly whenever she's around. "Don't eat too much of this!" or, "Don't do too much of that!" All for what? I'm not entirely sure yet. My parents love Life. But with such love for Life, comes great fear of Death. We've developed a code, for keeping our species alive for as long as possible. It is said that great suffering comes after you die. You are tortured and beaten until fear takes over your body and you cry for eternity. Or so they say.
My people want nothing more than to create a positive, loving image for Life and a terrible, fearful one for Death. But I think I might be different. I am not afraid of Death. In fact, I don't think I'm afraid of anything. Maybe that's a good thing. I guess I'll find out sooner or later.
I sit up and run my fingers through my long, silver hair. My mother always envied my hair for some reason. She said it looked just like Life itself, somehow. To me it just looks like silver, almost metallic.
I quickly get up from the bed, take a seat at my mirror and start braiding my hair as I do every morning. When I finish, I slip on my black tank top and my black shorts. I think I'll go climbing today, so I grab my rope and slip the coil through one of my belt loops.
I've always loved to climb. There's a mountain, I call it Eddard, just a little ways off from our farm. I can't count how many times I've reached the top and every single time I went back to that mountain, I went up a different way than the last. Mother and father keep telling me that I shouldn't go anywhere near that mountain. They tell me that I might fall off, scrape my knee, damage myself, and then where will that get me? Death, that's where.
It's just another one of their 'friendly' reminders that Death is "always around the corner" and "we've got to make sure we make the most of what we have". They keep telling me these things, and maybe I would listen, if I wasn't the youngest, and considering the fact that they're barely ever home.
My parents work in the city. In fact, almost everyone's parents work in the city. My people dedicate urban areas for work, and farm land for homes. When my parents are out working, my siblings and I take care of the farm. Everyone is assigned a specific crop to grow, or produce to harvest. We have an apple orchard. Oh yes, and a mountain.
I have a big family consisting of four brothers and three sisters, the eldest being twenty years old who is perfectly capable of serving as the 'third parent'. Some families with smaller children accommodate however they can to both their farm and their work.
I walk into the kitchen to find my brothers and sisters gallivanting around the table, doing who knows what, chasing who knows who, screaming nonsense at each other. My mother and father sit at the table, quietly reading the morning newspaper. I sit down next to them, right before my brother can steal my seat.
My sister, Fala, comes up to me, nods to my rope and says, "You're going climbing again, aren't you." I quickly put my finger to my lips and she nods. She may be just as bad as the others, wild and hyperactive, but Fala knows when something should be kept a secret.
I catch a glimpse of the headline of my father's newspaper. There are new discoveries of Earth and quotes from important politicians on whether Earth is real, or if this is just another hoax the Labbies are "brewing from their beakers".
Labbie is slang for scientist, though no one says 'scientist' anymore. They are very well known for making up stories just to get the slightest bit of attention in the news, or so they say. I'd like to think that Labbies aren't what they keep portraying them as.
"Fame. That's all they want." - George Mitchel
"Where's the proof?" - Ronald Smithson
"I have hope." - Samuel James
All these people who I do not care to know about talking about something so mysterious. My mother and father don't believe in Earth. They say it's just something that would lead to danger, if not, Death. "Another planet is all we need. Who do they think they are? Suggesting such nonsense." My mother would say.
"Krown is the only planet with Life on it!" My father would say.
They that say Earth is just beyond our galaxy, that it's populated with creatures called humans and that we might be able to communicate with them... some day. I like to think that humans are real. I like to think that we aren't alone.
"What are humans anyway?" Elec, one of my brothers, would ask my mother.
"Nonexistent." My mother would reply.
Probably the most frightening thing about humans is that they say that they look very similar to us Beans. The only difference is that they have circles in their eyes, and those circles can come in many different colours. Brown, green, blue, grey, hazel. I can't imagine any kind of shape in my eyes. And I don't see why eyes need to have colour.
My father looks at me from above his papers. "Morning." he says. He makes a 'tsk' sound when he sees what I am wearing. "Those clothes again? You know black is the colour of -"
"Of Death, yes, I know."
"I don't understand why we even let you keep those ugly colours." He complains.
Before I can say anything, he gets up, folds his newspaper and heads for the door, pausing to call my mother. "Margret, work! Let's go!"
"All right, all right." My mother gets up from her chair, leans across the table to give me a kiss on the forehead."Be good." she says, then leaves.
As soon as they do, I run off to my room again. The large window in my room has the most perfect view of Eddard. I climb out of my window and take off running toward the mountain. I love to run because it makes me feel free, like I don't have to worry about my parents, or responsibilities, or my siblings, or even Death.
I try and be as carefree as I can these days. The Death tolls are increasing these past few decades and people are encouraged to have large families, to keep the population sustained. We don't know why people keep dying. Death just comes to us, for valid reasons, but extremely frequently. We wish we knew why, but we don't. Maybe that's why we are so afraid of Death. Maybe we're afraid of Death because it is the unknown. But, like I said, I am not afraid of Death.
I soon reach my flag, or rather, one of my shirts tied to a stick stuck in the ground. It signifies the beginning Eddard's land and that I am the only soul allowed on it. I like to think that me and Eddard would be best friends, that is, if he were a Bean, and not a mountain.
I take my usual path at first, then go left off my beaten track. After about half and hour of running through the thick trees, with breaks along the way, I find a massive clearing. I take the time to look around, and see what there is to see. The clearing is about five hundred meters wide and about a kilometre long. The grass is a mixture of green, healthy grass and beige, burnt grass, probably from the constant sun. There's a large pond at the end of the clearing. Maybe I'll check it out.
I crouch down next to the entrance of a nearby rabbit hole and peer inside. To my surprise, a small white rabbit flies out and nearly runs right into my face, but I quickly dodge him. I try to grasp at him as he runs past me but he slips out of my grasp and I follow him back into the trees. He's fast, but he's only young, and looks like he hasn't had much time to run around. I, however, have.
I quickly catch up to the small rabbit and leap to catch him. When I feel his soft fur against my palms, I quickly loosen my grip a bit, but still keep it firm and carry him back to the clearing.
I lift up the hem of my tank top to create a sort of pouch for the little rabbit to stay in. I hold up the hem of my shirt to keep him in my pouch as I walk over to the pond at the other end of the clearing.
As I get closer, I see that the water is clean and shimmering in the sun. There are many fish in the pond and it looks fairly deep enough to swim in. I carefully remove my tank top without letting the rabbit escape. I fold up the corners of my top and tie them together with the spare hair elastic I had in my pocket. If I had a long stick, I could put it under the knot and it would be like a homeless man's purse.
I quickly take off my shorts and under garments. I rarely look at myself, but now, as I catch a glimpse of my naked torso, it reminds me that I am only ten years old. I may only be ten, but I'm very small for my age. I am short, skinny and flat chested. Mother said I wont be like that for long, although I don't know what she meant by that.
I dive into the pond and even though the water is cold, I submerge my head into the cool, dark place. I swim to the deeper end and I am surprised at how long I can hold my brea—
Just as the thought comes into my mind, I feel the need for air, I quickly swim back up to the surface and gasp for air until I've caught my breath and I go down again. This time, I quickly dive down, kicking my legs and rotating my arms. I explore the rocks and the sand for a little while before it's time to go up again.
I stay in the pond for about two and a half hours until I'm sure I've discovered every inch of it. When I rise up out of the water for the last time, I shake myself dry. My braid is still in decent shape, so I leave it in. I find a nice spot on the grass to sit and dry off in the sun.
I close my eyes and think about Earth and how, maybe, it has ponds like this too. Maybe we are not all that different and, if Earth is real, maybe we could help each other. I'd like to think that would go well with my people, but in all honesty, I don't think Beans are the kind that are really up for it. We are so afraid of anything we aren't fully knowledgeable of, I think we'd be afraid of our own shadow if we didn't know what it was.
All of a sudden, I hear the snap of a twig and I quickly get up and spin around.
"Who's there?" I say into the trees where I heard the sound. Then I laugh. Who else would be here but animals? I am the only Bean who's ever step foot on Eddard, as far as I know.
"Wow, all this Earth nonsense is really making me paranoid." I mumble to myself. And I'm about to lay back down when I hear a voice. A boy's voice.
"You're not paranoid." He emerges out of the trees and I scream. I scream so loud, the sound pierces the air and hundreds of birds fly out of their trees and flee into the sky. I dive head first into the lake to hide my naked body from the strange boy. When my head surfaces and I make eye contact with him, I yell at him with the same ferocity.
"What are you doing on my mountain!? Get out of here!" I grab my clothes, except for my top, and put them on under the water. He just laughs.
Now that I get a good look at him, he's not much older than me, maybe one or two years older. He has short, jet black hair that looks like a night sky but without the stars. He has tanned skin and is fairly skinny. He wears a red shirt, dark blue vest, grey shorts and like me, is barefoot.
"Your mountain, eh?" His voice, now more clear, is smooth and confident. "Well, then, I must say you got yourself a pretty fine mountain." He says, looking at the scenery. We wears an expression on his face as if he were talking to a delusional child—an amused smile, as if I couldn't be more wrong that it's my mountain.
Now clothed, but wet, I climb out of the pond. I think of putting my top on, since I am only in my under shirt and shorts, but I remember the rabbit inside the fold so just hold the bundle in my hands.
"What makes you think you can randomly show up on my mountain?" I demand, emphasizing the word 'my', "And then start a conversation with me while I'm stark naked!?" I screech. Who does this guy think he is? He must be some sort of paedophile. A stupid paedophile. A stupid creep.
"Well, I was wandering around in my backyard and something struck me. That mountain is right there. So why don't I climb it?"
He lives on the other side of Eddard? I never knew there was anything back there. But that might be mostly because I've never been there myself.
He continues, "I wandered aimlessly around and came across this clearing and then I saw you swimming in the pond and—"
"So you were spying on me!?" I interrupt.
"Not spying, observing." He replies calmly. I don't think I could be calm if I tried.
"How long have you been there!?"
"I don't know," he mumbles. "Half an hour or so—"
"You were spying on me for half an hour!?"
At this, I walk up to him, so I am less than two feet away from him and slap him right across his face. "You creep!" He just laughs again. I am beginning to hate his laugh.
"Wow. So she's not afraid of Death, or her elders." He says with a sly grin. This boy is getting really getting on my nerves now.
"What makes you think I'm not afraid of Death?" I squint at him.
"Well, for one, you're up here by yourself on this pretty huge mountain. And two, because though you seemed you like swimming in the pond, part of you was, I don't know... bored, I guess."
"What's that supposed to mean?" I sneer at him.
"Well, it was like you weren't fully enjoying it. But I don't think it was the pond you were bored of." I am still holding the rabbit tucked away in my top. He notices it.
"What's that?" He says when he sees it squirming.
"None of your business, that's what!" I say, holding it back from his reach.
"Aw, come on! Let me see it, please?" And then he starts doing some strange things. Weird things, more like it. He puts on a strange face, widening his eyes and pouting, as if he were a whimpering dog. I've never seen anyone act like this, so I don't know how to react. I just stay still, staring at him, cringing in utter confusion and disturbance. Who on Krown is this guy?
I guess he saw the bewildered look on my face because he stopped the whimpering but the strange eyes and his pouted lip are still there. After it becomes clear that he wont quit, I decide I've had enough of this nonsense.
"It's a rabbit!" My voice bursts out in built up frustration. "It's nothing special! Plus, I can't let it out of my shirt or it'll run off. I need to take it home."
"Why?" He says.
"Well," I have to pause for a moment. He's so absurd. "Because I want to."
"Do your parents know?" He prods. His responses come without hesitation and it unnerves me.
"It's just a rabbit. They don't have to know."
"They don't have to know about what?" he asks.
"The rabbit, you stupid creep!" I cannot believe this guy.
"No, I'm not talking about the rabbit anymore." He shakes his head and rephrases his question. "Do your parents know your not afraid of Death?"
I squint at him. "Why do you care?"
"Because this is a big deal. And if you really are fearless of Death, then I want you to come with me."
"What? No! Absolutely not! I don't even know you." He is making less and less sense by the second.
"Alright, fine." He folds his arms and sits down on the grass, cross-legged, looking up at me. Does he want me to sit down too? "Sit!" he urges, and strangely enough, I do.
He begins with his name."I'm Iil."
"Ray." I answer.
"Pretty name." He says.
"Thanks." I reply.
"Nothing to say about my name?"
"Yeah. How do you spell it?" He explains it to me, then continues with his strange banter.
"I'm twelve years old. And you?" He asks. I don't know what he's doing or where he's going with this, but I decide to play along.
"I have three brothers and one sister." he continues. He has a slightly smaller family than mine.
"Four brothers and three sisters."
"My parents are Life lovers." He says, almost spitting out the words. Does he have something against them?
"Mine are too." I answer. His eyes light up at this. I don't know what could be so special about that, but I don't prod.
He gets up and unfolds his arms. He reaches down at me and I pick up my rabbit in one hand and grab his hand in my other and he pulls me up.
"There." he says. "Now we're not strangers." I don't say anything. He's so ridiculous. This whole situation is completely ridiculous. I've never met anyone like him.
"Again, I'd like you to come with me. Maybe not today. But tomorrow. I want to show you something that you might be interested in."
I give in and ask him what it could possibly be, but he just tells me it's a surprise
"Right here, same time tomorrow. Got it?" He asks.
I nod a hesitant and unsure nod and with that, he dashes off into the thick trees. I shake my head to clear any confusion that still lingers. Don't get too worked up, I remind myself. I walk back home with my rabbit in my hands, still squirming but less now. I wonder what I'll name it.
END OF CHAPTER 1