So after a few suspicions of mine were confirmed by someone who gave me very helpful suggestions, I've had an "epiphany" of sorts and have made a SUPER REVISION to the first chapter of DROUGHT. I think this one will immediately capture the readers as opposed to building epically slow, like the last version.
As usual, any comments are most welcome! (I truly do take these into consideration and make changes based off of feedback. So anything you say will not be ignored. :D )
My name was Victoria Nickels. It was 7:00am and I wanted to puke. In an hour I would take the exam that would determine the rest of my life. I’d studied for a week straight without sleep and was stretched about as thin as I could be without snapping.
I used my portable screen as mirror staring into my brilliant blue eyes. I wasn’t sure what my natural eye color was, since I’d always used eye drops that turned them blue. My hair, which was pulled into a meticulously crafted bun, wasn’t naturally blond either, but neither were most of the Elita’s. I looked as close to perfection as I would get, and the bags beneath my eyes completely hidden with makeup. My stylist had done a good job.
As the Magno Car I rode in passed by the towering white buildings of the Elite Quartier, I turned my attention to the screen in front of me.
“Menu,” I commanded. “Breakfast. Coffee. Black. Pastry number one. Done. News.”
The news suddenly appeared on the screen in front of me as fresh cup of coffee rose up from the cup holder beside me. A hot and buttery croissant was presented to me on a napkin from an opening beneath the screen. I ate and watched the news as the Magno Car zipped along.
I immediately straightened up in my seat as I listened to what the reporter was saying. The picture showed a white hall with a metal podium at the center. Although it was rarely shown on the news, I knew exactly what it was: The Major Assembly, where all the laws for Ephax were made.
“What we are witnessing here,” spoke a reporter, “is a ground-breaking bill that, if passed, will change the system of the School of Elite for the first time in seventy-eight years. And now we’ll hear from Dr. Jay Rowe, head of the Department for Population Control.”
I bit my lip nervously as the screen switched to the image of a man who sat in front of a plain white back-drop. He appeared to be older, at least in his mid-forties, though his hair was dyed black like all the Elitus, and his blue eyes were illuminated by a bright light.
“One of the questions I was asked,” he began, “was if we anticipated having to take measures this soon after the original projections of population growth and capacity, by this year. The answer to that is: No. We did not anticipate modern medicine extending life-expectancy by as much as has in the last decade. This evening the Major Assembly will vote on a bill that is, in my opinion, is the best way of containing the situation for the time being.”
The screen switched back to the Major Assembly.
“Again,” spoke the reporter’s voice, “a large thanks to Dr. Jay Rowe for clarifying the situation. And now we’re back at the Major Assembly where representatives from our major corporations are voting on the bill as we speak.”
My stomach did somersaults. I still had no clue what it would entail.
“And the votes are in,” the man at the podium spoke, his voice amplified. “The results are as follows: All abstaining, two. All against the bill, zero. All in favor, twenty-eight. The new policy will create cuts to all current class years at the School of the Elite, including cuts for year five to be increased by three thousand. This policy comes into effect immediately.”
The blood drained from my face. I couldn’t believe what I’d just heard. It was outrageous. The Major Assembly had decided to cut three thousand more students the day of the exam. That meant that out of my class of eight thousands, only three thousand would become full-fledge Elites.
I arrived at the School of the Elite as other students poured out of their Magno Cars. I took out my plastic ID card and waved it in front of the car’s screen to pay, remember what my benefactor had told me at dinner, the night before:
“I knew I’d chosen correctly when I bid on you at such an early age. They tried to steer me towards another girl who was also doing quite well. But I have a specific eye for potential. And I know that you will do fabulously great things.”
My benefactor had bid on me at the annual auction at the Test Pool when I was only nine years old. She’d hired tutors to teach and test me so that by the time I was twelve I was more than ready to enroll at the School of the Elite. But in all the years under her careful and at times overly conscientious guidance, I’d never heard her praise me to such extent, much less in front of me.
Just do whatever it takes to pass, I thought as I stepped out of the Magno Car and walked towards the school’s entrance.
The School of the Elite was the second tallest structure in the city, aside from one of the factories in the Other Quartier, and there were no other buildings in Ephax that were entirely cylindrical. I was proud to belong to such a regal institution.
Long lines formed in front of the dozen elevators in the school’s lobby, packing students in with every trip they made. The students were all wearing their best clothes, since for many it would be the last day they ever spend in the Elite Way. That day, I’d chosen a white satin dress that fell just above my knees. White was all the Elites ever wore.
Recognizing a few girls in the line for the Fifth Year exam, I strolled over to meet them.
“Good morning Victoria!” Anne greeted me.
“Good morning Anne,” I replied politely. “What’s new today?”
“Darla decided to end it last night,” Peach answered for her.
“Oh no,” I reacted, frowning slightly. It would’ve been inappropriate to get overly emotional about it.
“It’s not surprising considering the pressure we’re under this year. I guess some handle it better than others.”
“I wish they’d all stop killing themselves,” interjected another girl. Her name was Joy, though no one would ever guess it from the deep scowl she usually wore on her face. “It just makes our chances for dis-enrollment that much higher.”
I hated how Joy used the words “killing themselves”. It seemed too brash for the sterile manner we’d learned to speak in, as future Elites.
“How many have ended it this week?” I asked.
“One hundred and fifty so far,” answered Anne, shaking her head with worry.
“I’m surprised more haven’t done so already,” Peach said. “When we were in our third year, almost one hundred Fifth Years did it.”
Though we were expected to remain poised and effortlessly fly through our exams, each year the sanity of a handful of students cracked. They decided they couldn’t handle the thought of being redistributed to another Way. Being redistributed meant that you’d wasted your life trying to be Elite, when in reality you were worthless. I tried not to think about it too much, because if I did I was sure that I’d go insane. We were all stretched thinner and thinner as we came closer to the exams. It was inevitable that some would snap.
“Poor Darla,” I murmured. Regardless how my peers seemed to take other students’ deaths in stride, I found it depressing.
“Let’s just get this over with,” Joy said briskly as we packed ourselves into the elevator.
The Exam Hall for Fifth Year students was located on the twenty fifth floor of the school. It took up nearly the whole diameter of the building and contained more than enough seats for our class. Peach and I separated from Joy and Anne, and filled in two chairs close to the center stage, a flat slab of white concrete. Our desks were comprised of large square screens which read Welcome to Your Fifth Year Exam.
We’d never had the time to invest in anything but studying, but of any other students I’d had class with, the relationship I had with Peach was the one that most closely resembled friendship. We’d traded study cards that held the information for the classes neither of us had taken, in order to increase our chances of passing the exam. It went completely against school policy to trade cards. They called it cheating. I called it survival.
The doors to the hall finally shut, signifying it was time to begin the exam. Though they were closed tightly, the doors were never locked so if any student cracked during the exam, he or she could run out at and leave the rest of us to finish in peace.
When overhead lights in the hall turned off, the only source of luminosity came from the desk-screens in front of us. I held my breath. All my years of studying, all the sleepless nights of going over lessons and class lectures at least twenty times… everything I’d done had been in preparation for this final exam when I would either pass or fail as an Elite.
Do whatever it takes, I reminded myself.
“Welcome to your Fifth Year exam,” a computer generated voice greeted us.