One continent. Two stories.
Here it is. The most important moment of my life, of my entire family’s life. All the children, that is. Including myself.
“#3, come up to the front of the room,” Johnston says, gesturing for my oldest sister to come towards him. Everyone in the room, except for Johnston, seems nervous, and for good reason.
Ree (#3, as Johnston calls her - we’re all classified by numbers here) walks towards him, and I watch as she takes a deep breath. “Yes, sir?” she asks.
“Hm,” he says, looking at her. “Okay, #3, you’ll be staying here, as a farm-hand. Next, #4, come up to the front of the room.”
As Fo walks nervously up to Johnston, Ree stands next to me, sighing in relief. “I hope you get to stay, little bro,” she whispers, ruffling my hair jokingly when Johnston isn’t looking. “You’ve always been my favorite sibling.”
“Don’t do that,” I say quietly, ducking away from her hand. “You’ll get in trouble.”
“Naw,” she says casually with a bit of a smile. Ree’s never cared about the rules all that much. It’s going to get her killed one of these days.
“You will also be staying here, #4, as a household cleaner,” Johnston says, sending Fo back to the line of my siblings. Lucky Fo. Household cleaner isn’t as bad as the other jobs you could be assigned.
“#5, come up to the front of the room.”
Fi walks briskly up to Johnston, looking him straight in the eyes. I want to dash up there and move her out of the way, keep her from getting in trouble, but that would only make it worse. Fortunately for her, she’s the only one of us who’s actually good at a certain job. She’ll be fine. I hope.
“Okay, #5, you’ll be staying here as a stable worker.” Okay, everything is going good so far. Let’s hope it stays that way. “#6, come up to the front of the room.”
Xe, my only brother, goes up to the front. He keeps his gaze low, waiting for Johnston’s decision. After a moment of consideration, Johnston says, “You’ll be staying here, #6, as a farm-hand.” Xe nods slightly and stands back in the line.
My turn.
“#7, come up to the front of the room.”
I walk up to Johnston, trying hard to keep myself from turning my hands into fists. I really hate Johnston, just like everyone else does, and punching him seems like a good idea. But the others would get in trouble, too.
“Hm,” Johnston considers before saying, “You’ll be staying here, #7, as a farm-hand.”
Going back to my siblings, I can’t help but sigh in relief. There’s only one more sibling to go, and everything’s gone good so far. “#8, come up to the front of the room.”
Eih is my little sister, the youngest of all of us. While I’m 17, and the others are 18, 18, 19, and 20, respectively, she’s only 12. She walks up to Johnston, her hands twitching nervously.
Johnston looks at Eih questioningly for a moment. “#8, you will not be staying here.”
“NO!” I scream, almost at the same time as Xe. Johnston looks at us with narrowed eyes. I can’t help but form my hands into fists, and I’m ready to punch Johnston and get my family out of here, but Ree puts her arm in front of me. She looks at me, and I can see her eyes are filling with tears. “Venn, you can’t,” she whispers.
“But Ei-“ I start, trying to push her arm away. Eih looks terrified, standing in front of Johnston. If I can just get rid of Johnston, we can all get out of here.
“Fighting him will get us nowhere, if not hurt more,” she reasons.
“You are all dismissed,” Johnston says, his voice showing no emotion. “You have one more night until #8 leaves. But remember, you will be guarded heavily. If you attempt to escape, you will be caught, and you will be punished.”
He gestures for us to leave, and Eih runs towards Ree. She scoops her up in her arms, and they’re both crying. Fo and Fi are crying, too. But I’m too shocked to do anything but keep walking. I look at Xe, and he’s not crying, either. I can tell we’re both thinking the same thing.
Somehow, we’re getting Eih out of here. We’re keeping this family together.
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