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It wasn’t appropriate to start a story with “I”, or at least it wasn’t “professional” but it’s a good thing I wasn’t appropriate or professional.
I couldn’t help but to stare at the boy with the golden eyes; the eyes that ticked to my impending doom. Every second was raw anxiety that even sadists would wince at, but it was my turn now to show the world- well not the world but more like the 200+ people in the auditorium- how appealing I can be. I had to convince them I was worthy of being picked off the shelf apart from other students who gathered here this Saturday morning. Rising from my seat in the front of the stadium like auditorium with my name and ID number plastered on a sticker covering the chest area of my shirt I walked onto the flat finished wood floor of the stage as they announced who I was and what could be one of a hundred questions.
“Maeve DeLeon 061898 from Iva Cova Community High School Area 41?” asked the boy with the ticking time bomb eyes. He seemed to be the youngest of the sponsors, somewhere around my age, but this was all just a distraction. I looked to the crowd of bored high school year 11 and 12 students who were waiting their turn and small group of maybe 8 golden eyed sponsors. Their eyes almost glowed in the dark of auditorium I half expected that if they turned off the only source of light in the room, the spotlight on the stage, their lights for eyes would prevail through the darkness. “Maeve DeLeon, is that correct?” The boy asked, slightly irritated by my internal monologuing
“Yes, that’s correct,” I said into the microphone while closing and reopening my sweaty palms and taking occasional moments in between to play with my fingernails. He took a second to close his eyes, but I could tell he was rolling those perfect jewels under those downturned lids. My first thought was Wow this guy is an ass, but then remembering thinking bad about the guy who was gonna give me my question maybe wasn’t such a good idea, He’s precious. A true angel. Amazing. I gave a light smile to myself as I watched his lips part and it seemed my mind delayed his words in anticipation.
“Well, Maeve, your question is as following: What brought you here to participate in the Iva Cove Independent Action Program? Was it the thrill? Boredom? It was probably the money-
“Murder,” I said cutting him off, “Definitely murder. About two months ago as you’ve probably seen in the news Iva Cove 41 was closed down temporarily because some ******* decided to kill two students on campus. Being the one to find the students’ bodies totally decimated and being ******* traumatized at that- Oh, sorry…” I smiled sheepishly, “Anyways, I didn’t get to do what I had aimed to that day which was apply for federal aid with paying for college and because I procrastinated and then missed the deadline I wasn’t allowed to apply anymore. Having no way of paying for St. Rose college, which if you don’t know if freakin 50,000 NEVs a semester, applying for a lottery system like ICIAP for a chance to win 500,000 NEVs sounds pretty **** good.” I stopped for a second looking into the crowd and remembering past contestants who desperately wanted sponsors, and remembered how past people got picked. It appeared to be random, but I felt most people had good reasons to want to be picked. Mine wasn’t a sob story or a story of success, and all that reminded me of was I didn’t need this. Conflict built up inside me, a part of me not wanting to be picked. What do you think your being some kind of hero if you let someone else have a spot you could have if you got picked? No, no, I just. I feel like I already ****** up my chances they want people who could change the world or someone who’s gonna help their sick grandma or whatever. I had to make sure they wouldn’t take me. The conflict only made me angry and what usually happens when I build up anger, happened. “I am a straight B student whose bottled up a lot of anger over this lottery-competition- thing. I was never meant to make myself as appealing as possible and the results of my internal argument tell me that that’s ok! I’m me, and I know that’s never enough for competing. So, I opt out ya’ll can suck my-
“OK!” The boy said into his mic to stop me from what I was about to say, “I’m going to sponsor you. You may not be appealing, but at least your honest.”
“The **** did you just say?” I asked bringing my head back and giving myself my cute ass double chin that I get when I make certain faces. I snapped back into reality once I realized by his lack of reaction that he was in fact, serious. “Oh. Um.” Suddenly my body began to get hot as I didn’t think I’d actually make it to this point. Conflict rose again, What the hell was all that good **** you were talking before about not wanting to be picked??? I don’t know! I just didn’t think I’d get picked??
“Should I recommend a good hearing doctor? I could name a few if your that much in need of some aid,” he rose his brows at me and signaled for me to come to him after handing the mic to the sponsor next to him. I looked around at my audience, then gave one last good nod to the 7 remaining sponsors and followed mine out the exit that was stationed to the far left of the auditorium. It lead into a staircase that would eventually lead up to the first floor of the high school. Once he got to the top of the staircase he opened the door and held it open for me as I caught up.
He was of average build with silky lightly waved black hair, a strong nose, with slightly slanted golden eyes. His skin looked to be slightly rough with a constellation of acne scars across his face on his warm golden skin. Holding out his other hand to me he introduced himself. “My name is Hiro Koenig, I’m happy to be sponsoring you Maeve.” I shook his hand and tilted my head to the side, giving in to the itching question that’s been rattling around my head.
“Aren’t you a little to young to be a sponsor?” I asked.
“Aren’t you a little too poor to care?” he retorted herding me through the door and leading me through the first floor of the school, or the yellow floor whose choice of poison was motivational posters. I had found the bodies in the left wing of the school on the 2nd floor, green floor, which focused on the sciences. On the right wing of yellow floor was the legendary teachers’ lounge. Legendary because it had the best internet access and air conditioning in the whole school, also they had their own lunch catering which was arguably the best food in the school. Also this is apparently where people who got picked by sponsors went. Hiro held the door open for me again and gestured for me to take a seat anyplace. I took the only open seat on the main couch next to two boys; one of which had pure white hair, and skin to match, with thin slit golden eyes . The other was quite muscular in his white tank top, with a short haircut, tan skin, and green eyes. I remembered the second one’s name was Rosco, I couldn’t remember his question but I do recall him talking a fair amount about his life in foster care. The two boys were talking to each other like they’ve been friends forever, and hey maybe they were. I eavesdropped a little bit out of curiosity of the white haired boy’s lineage. Afterall, no Eplix has pure white hair, it was only a trait of half bloods to have white or a shade of grey hair color. I guess that’s all there’s to it. I looked around to see who else was here with us. I didn’t see any other sponsors around, but there was a gorgeous girl who came into the room. She stood maybe 6 feet tall I wanna say, with a dancer’s body and neck length ruby red hair which complimented her soft looking dark complexion and eyes.
“Oh hey, another person,” she said casually, “I’m Liz.” She walked over to me and sat on the coffee table in front of the couch. “It’s nice to have someone else here besides these two they only talk to each other it seems like. I’ve been in here for 4 hours, and I can’t begin to comprehend why I couldn’t at least watch the other contestants. I was the first picked and Gods was I lonely.” She came on a little strong but someone as beautiful and confident as her can come on strong to me anyday. While it was still warm outside she wore leather leggings with a studded leather vest over a torn up crop top and black platform shoes. She didn’t seem to care what the weather was like and I could respect that. Verses me who’s dying in my high waisted jean booty shorts and tee shirt that had prints of cacti on it with my long brown curly hair caped over my back and shoulders. I felt a little out of place as I wasn’t really use to having strangers come up and talk to me.
Well, fake it till you make it Maeve, am I right? I gave a smile, “I’m Maeve. I uh, I almost told the sponsors to suck my **** before Hiro said he’d sponsor me.” I nodded along a wave of awkwardness coming over me having said that to someone. What the hell would have happened if I had finished that in front of everyone else?
She raised her brows somewhat surprised and impressed at the same time, “No wonder why Hiro chose you. My sponsor says he always chooses the weird ones.” I wasn’t sure how to take that, but I assumed it was a compliment. I looked back at Hiro, Always picks the weird ones, huh?
Hiro walked up to Liz and I, she turned to face him as did both the boys. “There are suppose to be two more of you, but I don’t know where they are. Ells told me that the lottery was over and that they had everyone they needed for the second part of the competition,” Hiro said putting his phone into the pocket of his black jeans.
“Does she know I left the room?” Liz said almost in a whisper. Hiro gave into her unrelated question and nodded to her. “Well, *******
“It doesn’t matter anymore, the six of you are our contestants-
“Wait no one ever said there was a second part to this?” the white haired boy said.
“Well there had to be some catch, right? I mean there can’t be six winners I guess,” Liz responded.
“Well let me get to that,”Hiro said rejoining the conversation, “ There can be more than one winner, I mean technically-
“Well that must ended quick after I got sponsored. There were like eight sponsors left, they would have had to picked the next two people that came after me if it ended that quick,” I said unintentionally cutting Hiro off again. Liz shrugged and gave me a face reading ‘I suppose so’. Guess that’s a little unfair to the rest of the students who came here today and didn’t even get to answer their questions. A little..? Waiting outside of the school at 6:30 in the morning was worth it, but I can’t say the 3 hours of sleep I got was (rookie numbers, I know).
Hiro, who was growing noticeably irritable, clapped his hands together with incredible sass right as the door to the lounge opened again. This time walking in was a heavy set, bald, dark skinned woman dressed in an expensive looking dark purple, almost black, suit and thick black framed glasses that magnified her golden eyes.
“You’ve got to assert yourself Hiro, I wouldn’t be interested in listening to you either,” she said closing the door behind her. She held onto a few sheets of paper with what appeared to have about a paragraphs length of words on it and two places to sign. The woman passed out the papers to us and said,“As one of you already knows… Liz..,” she rose her brows to Liz, “My name is Ells Crow. I am the senator’s assistant for the Iva Cove region of Valwick as well as head of Eplixian Affairs in Iva Cove which runs the ICIAP. As my assistant and fellow sponsor was trying to tell you; there is a second part to this contest. A part that each of you individuals must consent to before continuing further, after all 500,000NEVs isn’t pocket money we can give away that easily, especially if say all of you won. Each of you will be assessed for something we Eplix find very valuable: willpower. Not being able to tell you exactly what you’ll be doing, I will tell you that if you consent to being assessed by any means necessary you will not be able to tell anyone about what happens after we leave tonight and that violation of this contract is punishable by death.”
“Leave it to the Eplix to have a corrupt system with a death penalty,” the white haired boy said, “Since we weren’t prepared for a second part of this… What if…Nevermind.” He shook his head retracting his thought and looked down at the paper as the rest of us did. Blah blah blah punishable by death blah blah any means necessary bippity bop there ain’t squat about details.
“This literally says nothing more than what she said,” Lis whispered, “Well what the hell.” She looked around down at the coffee table and then to her sponsor and gestured writing something.
Ells smiled and reached into her pocket pulled out a pen, “This is something you have to sign with your signature and sign with some form of DNA.” Ells handed Liz the pen and she pulled off the cap and began to give the DNA portion a bit of thought before sucking her lips together and bringing the area where you sign with DNA close to her mouth. “Not that kind of DNA, please,” Ells said stopping her before she drooled on the paper.
“What are you? A heathen?” The white haired boy asked.
“What? She said some form of DNA. I wasn’t aware that we were making blood contracts. Uh, who are you anyways?” Liz said. I gave a slightly nervous chuckle at what Liz had said.
“Well I assumed you would have introduced them to each other when you brought your contestant in,” Ells said then grestured to me, “Maeve DeLeon,” then to Liz, “Elizabeth Monroe,” then to Rosco, “Rosco Luzelle,” then to the white haired boy, “Yukki Oshiro,” then to Hiro figuring she’d introduce him to the others while she was at it, “Hiro Koenig. The only other sponsor that will be joining us on our trip to the outskirts of the Metropolitan is Natalie Armmit, Yukki’s sponsor.”
“How do they sponsor us if they’re not there?” Rosco asked then taking the pen from Liz and signing the contract. He handed the pen to Yukki who was hesitant, but signed as well. He leaned over and gave the pen to me.
“Sponsoring is more of a… symbolic view?” Hiro said upturning his voice and looking looking at Ells for confirmation. She gave a slow nod.
“He’s saying most sponsors don’t care enough to come oversee us in whatever this is, they’d rather take the credit if their contestant wins and not be there/ignore if they lose,” Yukki said. “I wonder what kind of benefit Hiro and Natalie get from spending some quality time with us.”
“Yeah, thanks, but I volunteered to come,” Hiro smiled with hints of bitterness, “I agreed to sponsoring for a friend, but who I picked to sponsor I knew would be very special to me.” What he said was a little strange, or at least I thought so. Geeze what if he’s a stalker? Seconds later he realized it must have come out strange he aimed to clear things up, “As in someone I would be able to relate to.” I wasn’t sure if it actually worked and made things any better, but I’ll take it. Looking down at the contract and preparing to sign my name a wave of discomfort came over me. Ells had taken something out of her pocket, I glanced up momentarily but didn’t quite know what it was which caused me to have to direct my attention towards it. It was a white tube with numbered settings on the bottom half and a button. With her other hand she took out a small black case. It opened with a little “click” and she picked up a small purple part, the case seemed to have a few of these purple parts. Ells unscrewed the white tube and inserted the purple part inside of it in the upper half and pushed it in very tight, then she pulled a small part off of the purple part and reattached the other half of the white tube. Lastly, she turned the bottom half of the tube till it was on the middle setting, three.
“Who’s first?” Ells asked then turned to Rosco who was on the opposite end of the line of which we were sitting. “Can I have your hand, please?” Rosco held out his hand and she brought the tube to his middle fingertip. She pushed the button on the device and there was a quick snap and Rosco brought his hand away from the quick ***** of pain. My eyes widened and I looked away, though I could see from the corner of my eye Ells replacing the purple part. She went down the line till it came to be my turn, and I haven’t even signed the contract with my signature yet. I didn’t think they were actually going to use a blood contract.
“Something wrong Maeve?” Hiro asked. I played with the pen in my hand and without looking at the *****ing device and put my contract on the coffee table and leaned over it to sign it. My right hand signed quick while the fingers on my left bounced up and down on the mahogany wood, my hair shielded the sides of my face effectively hiding my unease. All the others had signed seeing a small ***** in the finger as a small price to pay for this to be over and had gone to the nurse’s office to sanitize and cover their wounds. I was left here with just Ells and Hiro, but it didn’t feel that way. I felt like I was trapped with no other choice and all I could see was red. There was red running off my finger and dripping onto the floor where there would be pools of it, and waiting for me and at the end of them…cold dead remains of mauled teenagers to young to die, but apparently just right to hunt. I could envision it, my hands stained with blood that I’d never be able to wash away. That crimson essence, the one that plagued my head for as long as I could remember, and I was being asked to give it up as a small token for the chance of prosperity. “Maeve?” I could hear Hiro’s voice, but it wasn’t until I felt thick, warm hands caress my cheek did I look up and see reality again.
I shut my eyes for a moment to recollect myself, “Sorry. I- I just. I don’t really like blood.” Hiro tilted his head to the side for a moment in speculation then went over to the countertop in the back of the room where most of the appliances were but took a paper towel off the room on the side of the counter and came back over to me. He held out his hand to Ells in signal that he wanted to be the one to ***** my finger. She approved and he took the device from her, took my hand, and pressed it to my middle finger.
“You’re gonna close your eyes, and I’ll put your finger to the paper then wrap it for until you can get it bandaged. Ok?” Hiro said, and I nodded to him hesitantly. I did as he said and closed my eyes. The ***** wasn’t so bad, but I could feel a slight warmth around the area *****ed and while I couldn’t see it I could imagine it. My heart beat increased as Hiro lead my hand down and pressed my finger again the paper then wrapped the paper towel around it just good enough so that I wouldn’t see the blood if it came through.
It was over like that, I had given up my freedom to talk about anything that happens after we leave tonight. It was over, I had signed.