Hearing others fight is probably the most uncomfortable feeling especially when my name is dropped in every second sentence. This has been going on for days now and the closer it gets to the test the louder the volume. My plate contains the almost bare minimum, just enough to keep me going. Angus just loves to remind me how much we need this with casual comments about my weight, ‘ any more bread and u won’t make it over the bar’. Without the extensive use of pills and vitamins under this roof, I would have faded away long ago but anything to stay skinny right mum. I am never sure if Mum does it to protect my future or to save what’s left of hers.
Drowning in this white room with nothing but a chair for oxygen. It feels like I have been in here for hours but still, time goes too fast. All of the money spent on a coach for this moment and I can’t remember any of the things she taught me so I try to mimic the stretches I saw on the tv in the cafeteria. Every so often I hear a distant scream or a squeal apart from that, silence. I’m trying to distract myself by reciting a line from a movie but still, the daunting thought of the future plays tricks with my mind.
The blank white door suddenly glows a bright red before opening to reveal two men dressed in pale blue. One with a kind smile, the other with a distressed look. Each carrying a tray containing various alarming utensils which as they walk toward me rattle around on the metal making an unsettling sound. I can feel him about to grab the sharpest needle and just as I predicted he does. Needles have been my biggest fear since my eighth birthday when I had to get my first steroid pack put into my kidneys. Since then every 6 months, I dread the day my kidney monitor shows up empty. As they prepare the torture device, the whole room fills with an artificial strawberry smell but it’s been so long I can’t even remember what I’m smelling; candy or my morning electrolytes. The men both take a step closer which sends instant chills down my spine for many different reasons. The closer they get the brighter pink liquid becomes by now I know that’s a signal to take a deep breath and close my eyes. A cold hand lowers the collar while another guides the dripping needle to my neck and slowly pushes it deeper into my bare skin. I clench my fists tight but still, it aches. As I open my eyes I see the empty barrel and know whatever is in my veins cant be good. Both men shoot a smile at me while collecting all the equipment and begin to explain what happens now. After the last word, I try to process what I had just heard but only a few words caught my attention. “simulation”, “winner”, “forever”, Those words explain themselves but still, I had many questions.
“Miss Miller” chants a familiar voice, I snap out of my thoughts and direct my attention to the doorway. A slim man with an impatient look stands there with his hand tight to his side. It takes me several seconds to realize whos glaring at me. ” Hi, I’m Abigail Miller ” I shoot my hand out but he ignores it ” I am aware of your profile” he takes a long pause before continuing with ” I am here to escort you to the examination room”. As we wander down the hallways, I notice many more doors like the one I came from but no insight into whats in them. A TV pops up on the wall every 50 or so meters, each with a different message about the importance of sports in our future or the ways we can ensure a place in the top six. All of them starring Cliff Barkley. The tall man next to me is doing a great job at pretending his face isn’t plastered on every wall in this emotionless place. Modesty has never been a quality I have possessed. I am so desperate for an end to this silence that I try to form a sentence but out loud it sounds terrible. ” So….uuh why did u choose spor…..” luckily I’m cut off by the double doors that will quite possibly be the end or beginning of everything.
Dozens of heads turn in my direction followed by whispers and a giggle. I don’t give them any reaction because the only ones that I need to impress are the judges. All seven sit at a table, each evenly positioned around the border of the room. My hands shake as I attempt to re-tie my laces. I turn attention to the course and decide the moves required to reach the finish line. A tall boy probably no older than me walks calmly up to me, hands me a cup of water and waits patiently while I drink it. He takes the cup back, smiles at me then returns back to the corner of the room. The judges’ eyes meet mine which must be a signal to begin I take small steps up to the red line knowing very well what comes next. I have seen a couple of the previous year’s test videos but this course doesn’t look familiar. The huge black screen hanging from the wall flashes big red numbers. The numbers countdown from 10..9..8..7..6..5..4..3..2..1..BEGIN.
I start running along the gymnasium ground and approach a tumble track. After 3 somersaults, a backflip, and an aerial I land right in front of the uneven bars. My hands are shaking as I leap onto the first bar and begin to swing higher and higher, finishing with a forward flip into a quakey but acceptable landing. Moving from flip to turn until I am at the end of the test. I lean my hands on my knees to stable myself, Trying to catch my breath feels impossible. The crowd goes silent as one judge rises and calmly says “Well done, Follow the instructions and good luck”. I plaster a pathetic smile across my bright red face to hide how confused I was, Instructions what instructions. The same boy who gave me water walks up with a pamphlet in his right hand. I glance down at his shirt, cloud grey with an interesting logo on the left side, directly opposite is a badge with ‘noah’ in lower case letters. He quickly passes the paper to me, A strand of my long blond hair falls over my face but it doesn’t bother me enough to move it. He leans closer to me and whispers ” You have to be careful, just do the test then get out as fast as you can”. He starts to back away then spins around and walks back the way he came like he hadn’t just dropped a bomb on my reality.
Following the instructions is surprisingly easy, all I had to do was follow the blue arrows on the ground of the narrow corridor until I reached my ‘chamber’ then wait to be escorted to the next test. The walls are a cerulean blue with a complimentary pearl white lino coating the ground. My feet still bare from the test but my heart is pumping so fast I forget about the numb feeling in my toes. I have been walking for a long time but still no sign of my ‘chamber’ or any life. I start to run to entertain myself, the halls go on forever with a few left and right turns but then I start to notice the arrows glow a brighter blue. Slowing down is always the hardest part of running so I don’t stop completely but instead move into a slow jog. The markers on the ground continue until suddenly a door with the same luminous color exists at the end of the hall. I pick up the pace again, I’m slightly wary about what is inside the ‘chamber’ after the precaution from Noah but I still place my hand on the touchpad and type in my birth code ‘AM4208’. A handle ejects out of the middle of the door, with my hand on it I open the door and await the creak but unlike home this door is smoothly silent. The room has a single bed with a steel table next to it and a wardrobe, I immediately walk over to the big, wooden wardrobe and grasp the handles. Nothing but four lonely hangers and the smell of woodchips. On the table, is a plate with 4 pills, an apple and a cup of water, after tossing back the purple capsules, I notice a small square of paper underneath the plate. ‘TAKE SOME TIME TO REGENERATE THEN PRESS THE RED BUTTON UNDER THE TABLE’-Dinetic. Laying my head on the pillow and closing my eyes feels amazing, I can feel myself slowly drifting off so I give up fighting it.
Waking up to an alarm is the most relatable thing a teenager goes through every day but this sound was almost like a scream. I rub my hands through my hair and pull it into a messy bun while kicking my legs out of the navy cover. I run my hands under the bottom of the table until my fingers brush over the button. After pushing it, I sit down on the floor with my back up against the bed frame and wait for whatever the button is supposed to lead to. A full-scale investigation of the room and 28 situps later, a middle-aged woman strides holding a tray with needles similar to the ones I met before the first test. This time they contain a deep red substance which gives me goosebumps, closing my eyes once again saves me from my imagination. After all three viles are empty she politely states ‘ Once I leave I need you to count to ten then head back the way you came but just before you reach the gymnasium make a right turn and wait patiently to be escorted to your next test’. Once the ten seconds are up, I once again place my hand on the touchpad and await the opening of the door. I dread the walk back to the main base so I sing a few old tunes my mom used to sing to me by some man named Drake. Aimlessly treading through the oxygen with no way of knowing if I had been here for 5 hours or 5 days. The double-doored gymnasium was just moments away so I turn to face right just as the lady said but no door just an indent into the wall with a chair. I took my seat and waited.