Lights (A short story by Tyler Scott Hess)
Green lights hit the window sill in my room on the second floor of our house a quarter mile from the city gates.
“They’re at it again,” I say without looking back at my sister, whose footsteps I could hear coming down the hallway. She’s only fourteen. She doesn’t have to worry about this sort of thing, at least not for another year and a half. Jessica can go back to her own bed at any time knowing she won’t be in harm’s way. But she stays to keep her big brother company. We are always here for each other. At least as long as they let us.
“You know they won’t come for you at night,” she reminds me. She didn’t need to. I know the rules. They almost never come for anyone at night. But I can’t help but watch and wonder when my time will come. Everyone has their day. Everyone’s name is called eventually. But not everyone is chosen.
“What do you think it takes?” I ask her. “I don’t know if I have the skills to make it through training. No one thinks I’m good enough at school. Not my instructors, not my classmates, not even my closest friends.”
“I don’t think it works like that,” she says. “I’ve heard things about their tests. I’ve heard it has nothing to do about strength or intelligence.”
“Who told you that?” I ask her as I throw on a red and white sweatshirt. It’s cozy. It always calms me down.
“Some guy at school,” she says. “I overheard him in the lunch room.
“He would be wise to shut his mouth,” I tell her. They don’t allow that kind of talk in public. It’s barely allowed in the home anymore. They say it’s best that way. I disagree, but my parents don’t like thinking about it anymore than the elders do.
Jessica walks up to the window and presses her nose to the pane, whether out of awe or curiosity I do not know, and watches the spectacle intently. It will be over any moment. For some it lasts longer than other, but it always goes by faster than expected. At least that’s what I’m told. We’re not supposed to watch the festivities, even from outside the city. And all we can see from here are the lights.
I hear a knocking at the door. I look up at the clock. It’s half past eleven. We never have company this late. We never have company at all. That sort of behavior was eradicated long before my time. It isn’t safe. The only ones allowed at this time of night are – oh no!
“Hide!” Jessica yells.
I shake my head. It wouldn’t do any good. They have come. There’s no point in packing my bags either. No matter where I go, I can’t take anything with me. I’ll either be completely taken care of and provided for in every way or I’ll be an outcast. There is no in between. And there’s no looking back.
I would wake my parents. I would tell them goodbye. That I love them. But it would only make matters worse. I must go this road alone. Jessica wants to cry. I won’t let her. She needs to know that I will be alright. That she will be alright when it happens to her. But do any of us really know?
The stairs creek with every step. This will be the last time I will hear them. I won’t miss it, but maybe I should have enjoyed this place more while I was here. It doesn’t matter now.
I can feel Jessica looking at me from behind. “Don’t be afraid,” I say. But I’m talking to myself. I want her to hear it anyway.
I open the door that holds my future. Blackness. All I see is blackness. I’ve been taken. It was too quick to feel or react. I’m just gone, knocked out.
When I come to I see lights. No, I see light. Everywhere. Beautiful light. So this is now my home. I have passed.