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 Secrets All of Ch. 1

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A) You rock for writing this! More!
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PostSubject: Secrets All of Ch. 1   Tue Sep 14, 2010 5:08 pm

Chapter One
I am one of the few people in our community who can write. More of us can read, but I can do both special secrets. We are not supposed to know how to. The Leaders say that having too much knowledge will lead to destruction. And so they ban school and encourage jobs. Even ten year olds work, though the legal age is twelve. We are all desperate for money and food. Ariana has little good farming land and huge, horrible cities along with poor, suffering villages. I live in one of the poor villages that is forgotten and tossed to the side like old food. We do not even have a name. Yes, we are so forgotten and put to the side that all we are called is Village Three. There is only one good thing about being forgotten. We can be more rebellious. We can attend secret schools and go hunting in the nearby woods. We can eat unripe wheat from the barely producing fields. Yes, there are some rewards for being forgotten. In the cities they have metal building and hot, paved streets. So no woods are around. There are no berries, squirrels or rabbits to eat. But the Followers are always listening in cities and villages alike. The Followers obey everything the Leaders say, they do anything they do. They are always listening for the rustle of a forbidden page, looking for the mark of a dull pencil, watching for anything illegal that will lead to ‘justice’. But all ‘justice’ does is tear families apart and put people into freezing, starving dungeons. But we are already starving, so the people who die must freeze to death. Rumors are always circling about what happens in dungeon jails. No one from our village has gone to one and returned. Actually, there is one person who has. But he does not speak. Not to ask for bread or to talk of his experience. He is the scariest, most rumored about man in the whole village. He has no friends and no family, something rare. Everyone takes care of him though, giving him their leftovers or a cup of water. He told everyone not to call him his old name. He goes by the number they gave him in prison: 162. He almost never shaves his short, rough beard and lives next to the baker’s oven. The baker is a woman with such a big heart she wouldn’t turn an injured mouse away. She gives him crusty loaves of bread and lets him use her bathroom and in the winter gives him enough blankets to cover every orphaned child in the whole country. He doesn’t go inside any buildings because it reminds him of the government building where he was imprisoned. He sits outside in the courtyard that holds the baker’s ovens and watches her all day and through the holes and cracks in the wooden fence he watches the rest of humanity too.
“Elizabeth!” I hear my mother call as I peek through one of the baker’s fence holes. “Don’t you worry 162!”
I always look, always peek through a special hole that has a slash of red berry juice by it. I put it there, to mark it as mine. I have not seen anyone else use the hole since I put the mark there. Perhaps they think that it’s blood. The baker looks at me as she places dough into the oven.
“Liza, 162 is smiling. I think he finds how your mother yells funny.”
I grin. She has given me this message for the past five weeks, hopefully is means that he is becoming more human.
“What is his real name?” I call to her, but I am truly asking him. Every daring child asks him this, knowing they will never receive an answer, but we all truly want to know. “Does he have an answer today?”
She gives me a small smile, but shakes her head no. “The last time he spoke was the first day he was back. And that was telling us to call him 162. He isn’t ready to speak yet.”
She tells me something like this every time I ask, every time anyone asks. ‘He is no ready yet’. It is her way of telling him that he can take all the time in the world till he’s ready to speak. Which may be never or just a week around the corner. He’s silent and mysterious so perhaps he is just waiting for the right moment to speak or maybe he isn’t ready yet and doesn’t think he will be for a long time. Nobody knows.
“Elizabeth, come on. Aknee cannot be alone with Darien for too long.”
“Good bye Baker!” I call, then add, “Good bye to you too, 162!”
His head gently bobs, he has heard me. I smile and run from the fence back to Mother, who has started walking already, knowing I can catch up on my fast feet.
“You know he isn’t ready to speak.” Mother lectures me. “He probably won’t be in my lifetime. You’re mocking him.”
“No I’m not!” I argue back. “I’m encouraging him! One day he’ll answer me. You’ll see!”
I do a little jump and start running again, wind whipping my hair and skin, trying to blow me back to Mother. But I don’t let it and am soon in front of our little house. I can hear Aknee crying from inside, expecting comfort that she used to always get immediately.
“Aknee!” I call gently and see her on the floor. “Silly is here.”
She calls me Silly because she couldn’t say ‘sissy’; it had too many s’s for her. That was when she was two and now she’s three and has not put aside the name, although she can say any s now.
“Silly!”
I reach down and pick her up and almost immediately her tears clear and she smiles.
“You gone long time.”
“Only fifteen minutes sugar plum.”
“Too long.”
I laugh. “Fine. I’m sorry then.”
“Mama?”
“She’s coming.”
“Dada?”
I kiss her head. “He’s still at work crazy Aknee.”
She giggles and kisses my cheek in her adorable way. I smile and bounce her on my hip, knowing she’ll get bored and start crying again. Seven-year-old Darien comes out of his bedroom, where he’s supposed to be napping.
“Darien, go back to bed. Mommy’s coming soon.”
“I’m not tired. When’s dinner?”
I sigh. I haven’t had the time to check my traps today, so I’m not sure if there will be dinner.
“I don’t know yet. Will you watch Aknee and tell Mommy that Sissy’s gone to check on dinner?”
He nods. I hand over Aknee, who then starts to cry and reach for me.
“Crazy Aknee, you’ve gotta be quiet. That way you can surprise Mama.”
“No. No go.”
“Darien. Play with your sister.”
“Aknee play patty cake?” He asks using his little baby boy voice.
She smiles and nods. While she’s distracted, I slip out the door. If I run I can make it to the fence in a few minutes. If I walk it’ll be too close to dark to see any Followers. So I do my little jump and run again, looking as though I’m going towards the fields, like I’m going to collect Father. But I quickly veer the other way and slide under a patch of bushes. This is where my first trap is. Smaller animals often wander under the fence if there’s a hole. I made one here and fitted a trap just under a group of berries. I find a rabbit with its foot caught, leaping at the berries. Reaching down, I unleash it and as it’s small mouth touches the first berry, my knife attacks it’s stomach. It falls straight down and I remove my knife from its chest. Still laying on my stomach, I wrap the small meal and clean my knife. Then I stand and jump to the next cluster of bushes, crashing into it like a thrown rock. No animal has wandered into this one, but I notice a squirrel in a nearby tree looking at the acorns around it. I quietly remove myself from this clump of greenery and watch the fuzzy brown creature. It leaps gracefully down and grabs the first acorn it can reach. This trap is metal and as soon as it reaches over for another one it’s torso is caught. It writhes for a minute, then stops and blood starts to leak from the holes. I snatch it up carefully, clean it, then stuff it in my pack. Still, a rabbit and a squirrel isn’t enough to feed a family of five. Hunting is not illegal, but the Leaders made it almost impossible to enter the woods. That’s why I must set traps outside of the fence. If I could get in, I would. Everyone would get in to hunt and gather, if they could. Trying to climb it is impossible, the holes are big enough to cram your foot in, but barbed wire is at the top, if you can climb hard, cutting wire to the skyline of a forest. The bottom is bolted down in certain areas, so trying to lift it would mean lifting the whole fence. Impossible. They planted a forest there to taunt us, telling us ‘if you can get in, then you can hunt and gather, but you must be able to get in’. No one can. They knew that.
To my great delight I find a raccoon with it’s side pierced in my next trap. This one is not hidden by bushes, but crafted to look like the fence. It looks as though the raccoon got stuck trying to come through a hole, that’s all. I quickly snatch it and wrap it up, putting it in my bag with my three other catches. This will be enough to feed us, I decide. But before I go to get Father I pick the berries off of a bush that leans through the fence. These I put in a cup that I always carry and then I put on its lid. I run to get Father before the sunset. If dusk falls and Father has not be collected, the man in charge will make him work nightshift as well and I know this is more than Father can take.
“Father!” I yell and lean over, panting at his side. “I have come to collect you.”
The overseer glares at me, knowing I prevented one of his good workers from nightshift. I smile at him; making him turn redder, then take Father’s hand.
“Dinner is ready.”
Father smiles. “Good girl.”
We walk home together and I tell Father about school in a hushed whisper, making myself sound tired so that no one will suspect. In a normal voice he tells of his day in the fields, how it hurts his back and such. I relate our fifteen minutes in the square buying tea, bread and butter and interrupt myself with fake, long yawns. This will fool anyone listening and soon we reach home. Father skins the raccoon, deciding to eat it first. Mother prepares the other, smaller catches to be stored and hidden incase there are no kills for a while and for winter, when my traps freeze and do not work. Darien whines about having to watch Aknee for so long, but I must boil the cooking water and throw away animal organs, so I cannot. Eventually we trade, but he complains about that too. Once he turns eight I’ll teach him to set traps.
“Liza.” Father says, staring at me with a gleam in his eyes. “I think I’ve found a way into the forest.”
He tells me this once or twice a year and every time it is close, but I cannot enter.
“Are you sure this time?”
“I could fit my head through. All the hole needs is some expanding.”
“What if the work crew finds it tonight?”
“Then-”
I know why he doesn’t finish his thought.
“It’s okay. We’ll check it in the morning.” I say, giving him a tight smile.
Finally dinner is ready and we all sit down.
“Darien, you know you’re turning eight next month-right?”
“Mm-hm.”
Mother looks at me and I nod.
“Well, Liza has offered to teach you to hunt.”
“Not really hunt.” I cut in, as to not get his hopes up. “Set traps by holes in the fence. One’s so small things like rabbits can fit through them, but not people.”
His eyes widen. “Really?” He sounds less like a little boy. “Yes! I want to!”
I smile, but then become strict. “Can you be quiet? And sneaky?” I tickle him and he laughs. “Can you?”
“Yes! I’m smaller then you, I can do it!”
“All right then. Tomorrow, when I come home from school-”
“Since I’m a big boy, can I go to your school?”
Immediately Father, Mother and I exchange looks. Darien can be a little chatterbox and break under pressure. It wouldn’t be safe.
“How about when you’re a little older?” I ask gently. I hope I can teach him secrecy on our trap collects. “Maybe then, okay?”
He frowns, but nods. I think he knows that he’d talk too much, that he might ruin the secret for everyone in the village. Though it’s ‘illegal’, the mayor allows everyone too. He declared, secretly, that school was permitted. Any child could join from age eight to fifteen. So it is legal, for us, in this village. But that might be why more Followers are around. They see us go into the building and say nothing. Until they see books and paper, nothing can happen. It is legal, by local authority, to be able to go to school. So I am not breaking the law, which makes me very happy. Still, it’s safer if we talk about it quietly.
“You have to go to bed now, okay?”
I kiss my little brother’s head and pat his bottom on the way to his bedroom. He giggles and runs into his room, changing and climbing under the covers. Mother goes in, tucks him under the covers and comes back out.
“It’s too dangerous.” She says as soon as we hear gentle breathing. “Even though the mayor made it legal. It could still be dangerous if he wants to read outside, in good light or leaves his pencil on the table while we’re all gone. I want him to wait until he’s at least nine. Maybe ten.”
I nod. “It’d be better. But I could teach him is ABC’s. That way he’ll be a little prepared.”
She gives me a grave look. “And what if he starts singing them in the market? Or draws them in the dirt when he’s bored?”
I think about this. We need Mother. She keeps track of all the money, knows how and where to buy things, how to store and save my kills, mend our clothes or make new ones. If Darien sang his ABC’s around her, the adult would be arrested for some time. The mayor would get them out, of course, but he’d have to be very smart with it or we’d be found out.
“No learning. None at all.” I agree. “Or else he might not have a school to go to.”
Father seems to disagree with the idea, a pained expression on his face, but we all know that no one can get hurt. No one can go to jail or get sent to Jasmine, the capitol, to face the Leaders. So Darien cannot know anything. Aknee howls from her baby seat.
“Shush!” I snap, making her only louder and tearier eyed.
I picked her up and hummed the lullaby the always put her to sleep. Quietly and slowly she sniffed and hugged me. Then she was breathing evenly and sleeping in my arms. I carried her to the crib that leaned slightly against the wall, right outside my parent’s room. My bed was in this large room that also held a couch, fireplace and table, as well as the door that led into our narrow kitchen. Mother could not be kept up, it made her cranky and horrible, Father had to work all day and needed his sleep and Darien was so young that he couldn’t be allowed to take care of the little toddler all night, as well as the fact that he was too sound of sleeper. So there was only me. I didn’t have to go to school and setting traps should normally be done in the evening anyways. So I curl up in my narrow bed that’s growing too small for me and sleep till I hear a begging wail. Groggily I sit up and find my way through the dark to my little sister’s cradle. I bend over the bars that barely contain her and pull her out. She’s shuttering with wails and screams.
“Aknee, little one, the world is dark, but loving. I am here and I have heard you. Now open your arms and find me. Find me, I am here.”
I continue to whisper the last sentence into her hair right above her ear until she stops and just whimpers slightly. Finally, after what feels like an hour of being awake in the darkness, she goes back to sleep. I put her back and return to what used to be my warm bed. The warmth has completely left it, but I have no choice but to crawl between the covers and let my body heat warm myself. Outside, the wind brings torrents of rain that howl and pound. I wish I could be Aknee now.
“Sissy! Sissy!” I feel tugs on my arm and start to hear cries.
Behind my eyelids something bright cracks and what raises me from sleep is the following crash. I open my tired eyes and see Darien, shivering, crying and with a runny nose trying to wake me up.
“Sissy!”
I sit up and fold back the covers. Immediately he slips in and curls into a little ball. His head is by my hand which props me up, but when I lay back down our foreheads are touching. Nothing lights up the sky unless there’s lightening, flashing a horrible, evil grin, then, from it’s now invisible mouth, the laughing boom comes. It happens fast, together, almost no silent break in-between. Storm is showing us no mercy tonight. Within seconds Aknee is wailing along with Storm, begging the outside fury to stop. I kiss Darien, whose eyes widen with fear at being left alone, but climb out anyways. He knows that I have to get out and comfort Aknee, it’s my job. But tonight, realizing that she is no longer a very little baby, I shield her face and come back to the bed, slipping her between Darien and me. Her hair touches our lips and my arm covers her stomach as my hand rests on Darien’s side. She is still crying, but having my arm and two pairs of lips on her, as well as feeling our combined warmth, makes her quieter. I smile and slip into sleep when Storm has finished his fury.
“Sissy!”
Tug.
I groan.
“Sissy! Mommy, Daddy coming!”
Another tug on my arm that wants to stay limp forever. I let another long groan pour from my throat.
“SISSY!”
I bolt upright, the once asking voice now a yell, now a scream. Darien is standing beside the bed, his hand on my flopped arm. Dawn is being painted, the beautiful hues of pink and orange. Now I know why he was so urgent. I was supposed to be up by now. Aknee’s diaper needs changing and the stove needs to be lit. I feel tired, drained, but I have no one to blame my own actions on. I have heavy weights on my shoulders that must be lifted every day. For some reason Mother and Father cannot or will not do them. I lift Aknee out of bed and quickly change her diaper on the special mat on the table. Once she’s done I hand her to Darien, who gently places her back in the too small crib. Then I look in the cellar, the door hidden by the old, worn rug, for wood. It is our special supply and if it were a normal day I would have brought home the needed wood. But I overslept and Father and Mother will soon be coming out to make and eat breakfast. I take as few logs as possible and pile them in the cooking fireplace. We call it a stove, though it is not truly one.
“Hurry.” My little brother whispers to me. “The bed is noisy.”
I find the pack of matches that costs too much and light one, throwing it onto the piled wood. The tiny flame catches and licks the food, making the house smoky, but warmer. He then runs to my bed and curls up as if asleep. Normally he should not be up, not till sunrise when Mother or Father wakes him. But today his mind woke him up and I quickly give him a thank you kiss. I back away and look out the window, which I do every morning. Through the grimy glass I watch the sky become a canvas. Orange, then pink glows from the once black, then gray sky. The stars slowly melt away and blue comes too. Then the fiery ball that is too dangerous to look at rises and gives a big hug to the earth. Wisps of white clouds are now visible, looking like big waves compared to the little ones that the creek makes. I smile and try to feel the sunlight through the thin glass. I cannot, but stretching my neck feels good.
“Good morning Elizabeth.”
I turn and smile at Mother, who has just come from the adult bedroom.
“Mother. Isn’t it a beautiful sunrise?”
She smiles and laughs. “You ask that every morning. And the answer, as always, is yes.” She walks quietly over to Darien, curled up in my bed. “Darien? Little one, wake up.”
She gently shakes his shoulder and he sits up, actually looking sleepy.
“Mommy. Good morning.”
She smiles and kisses his head. He climbs out and runs to his room to dress in his day clothes. I haven’t dressed yet; I can’t since I have no room of my own. So I wait till Darien’s done then run in and quickly change. I wear a medium blue shirt, brown belt, jean pants and brown shoes. The jeans were pricey, but hold up better than the thick light tan tights I used to wear. My shirt is too big for me, the reason for the belt, but we had to save money after buying the jeans. So Mother gave me one of her old shirts and used a belt Father had long out grown. I tie my hair back with a rubbery band that’s too small and unusable for normal rubber band tasks. I immerge from the darkened room and can immediately smell herb tea, something Mother makes and uses to keep us healthy. I already know she’s setting out bread filled with nuts that I’ve gathered and dough that she made herself. She’s probably made the berries into a jam and if she didn’t, we’ll be eating them this morning. Though I’ve never thought of it before, my life is mainly boring and utterly and completely predictable. Mother knows I’ll ask about the sunrise, I know what kind of bread we’ll eat, Father can predict that this evening I’ll tell him about school and 162 knows that I’ll ask him his name. Even the forest animals will know that a human shadow will appear as the sun begins to sink this evening and they know that they’ll see two long shadows as twilight approaches. I sigh.
“Something wrong?” Mother asks, as always being her worrisome self.
“No.” I sigh. “It’s just-my life is so predictable. I know what bread we always eat, you know I’ll ask about the sunrise and Father knows I’ll talk about school. The forest animals know when I come and look at the traps. I know how my day will end before I set food out this door.”
Mother smiles, though I see no reason to. “That’s not boring really. It’s routine, normal and how we spend our lives. The big picture, darling, is almost always predictable between shifts. You don’t know what kind of animals will be in the traps and you don’t know the exact number or type of nut.”
“But I know almost everything else. And besides, the details don’t matter.”
She smiles again. “You’d be surprised how much they do.”
And so my whole day follows course. I spend most of my school hours wishing some big change would happen, hoping that something-anything, would step in and make a difference in my life. But nothing does, as I predicted and as I walk home from school I remember the hole in the fence. The one Father said he could stick his head through. I turn, run and soon find myself at the bushes that hide my traps. I begin to walk along it, towards the fields, and eventually find a whole held in place by a simple nail. If you were not paying very close attention, you would pass it. I pry the nail up with my fingers and lift the now free metal. I get through down to my hips, which are caught at the side. I know better then to try to rip them, they cost so much money. However, I don’t want to give up. This is the biggest whole we’ve found and it could mean something. I use the nail, which is still in my hand, and chip at the dirt just below the fence. It takes a long time and Mother must be worried sick, but eventually the right side of my body can come through. I turn and begin work on the next side. This time, knowing how to cut and rip, I go faster. My left hip slides through and I pull my legs in after them. For the first time in my life, I find myself behind the fence.
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PostSubject: Re: Secrets All of Ch. 1   Tue Sep 14, 2010 6:09 pm

So long! I LOVE IT! And my kitties do, too! They won't stop staring at the computer screen. O o
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PostSubject: Re: Secrets All of Ch. 1   Sat Sep 18, 2010 12:40 pm

Thanks. I'm pretty proud if it myself (not to be bragging).
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