Would Lanissa graduate and do as she is told or strike out to discover the world?
|I fluffed the fuzzy tassels hanging from my leathers. They designated me as a graduate candidate. My hands were sweating as I prepared for graduation. I checked my weapons. They were all regulation. I had checked that several times to ensure I wouldn’t be disqualified. Graduation would mean work for the council and food on the table. Disqualification or failing in my graduation tasks would mean death.
The tasks were presented at the graduation ceremony. We would not know what they were until they were assigned. There were three days allotted to complete the tasks. The ceremony would reconvene at dawn after the third day. Some of the graduates would not make it back. Some would fail and be executed on the spot. I had tried to gain information on what these tasks could be, but no one would speak of them.
Again I wondered whether I should try to run. I was not the best in my class in any domain. I could not impersonate others well because I was so distinctive. My hair flamed in the sun with a fiery light. Most of the other islanders had dark brown or black hair. I could fight, but I was certainly not the best in my class. Running of course meant that they would come find me. Again, the penalty was death.
The tasks were supposed to be difficult but in the area that the authorities thought we would best be placed. My problem was that I didn’t think I would fit anywhere and didn’t want to be part of the military set, which is where most graduates were placed. For so long I had only contemplated what I wanted to be out of the choices offered me, but what if I wanted something else? What else was there?
I had taken classes since I was four: survival classes, weapons training classes, agricultural classes, classes on how people think and why they do what they do. There was nothing about geography. No class showed us what was beyond our side of the island. I wanted to know what else was out there. What was beyond the water that ranged in so many colors of blue as it spread out around the island? My instructors informed me that there was nothing. I didn’t believe that.
Once, when I was in my first year of training, I was sent to deliver a message to the council leader. While I was trying to find the leader, I lost my way and walked past a room where I thought I heard my name. I turned and started to enter, but stopped when I saw that everyone in the room was wearing a mask. I was scared and almost left, but then I listened to what they were discussing.
“Have you heard from the exploration party?”
I couldn’t tell who was speaking under the masks, but the voice sounded familiar.
“They have not returned. We still don’t know where Lanissa came from.”
Another spoke up. “What if they come for her?”
“We don’t know that!” A hand slammed down in emphasis, making me jump.
The noise I made was noticed, and I heard chairs slide as I turned to run down the hall.
I found the council leader later, and gave the message, mumbling apologies for not being there sooner and ran back to my room.
I lay there for many hours that night and for many nights thereafter wondering who they spoke of. If there was no other land and no other people, who were they taking about? Today, the answer to this mattered more than any other day. Today, I would bet my life one way or another. Why was I so different? Where did this exploration party go? Where could I go? Were there others like me?
Today was graduation. Today I would decide my future. Would I complete the task and be assigned the life the authorities and council decided for me, or would I take a risk and find out who I am? My head spun with the possibilities and with fear. A mistake either way would be deadly.
A loud gong sounded and I drew myself up to my full height, a head taller than almost everyone on the island. I walked forward and found my position in the procession. I was headed to my future, but it would be the one I chose.