Have you ever had a test that could kill you? Well, every year there’s a worldwide test called Project X7133, Project X. For short we call it The Thinning. Everyone that is 5-21 has to do the test. Why do we call it The Thinning? Well… because if you fail… you die.
I was seven when the world got overpopulated so the government then tried to kill off half of the population, but nothing ever worked until they finally got to Project X. I was 15 when they first started it. Now I’m 19. Three more years to go.
Lots of people have died over the years that have passed. It’s hard to say, but maybe I will too.
When The Thinning started, my friend Ella Cane invented contacts that give you an answer to anything you see. I know it’s cheating but every year she would give them out to people she didn’t want to lose during Project X. The bad news is this year, well, she’s all out. It takes her about 7 months to make 10 pairs. That’s good and all, but The Thinning starts in 3 days. I hope I make it out this year because I want to see my brother again.
It’s my little brother’s first year. He turns 5 the day before Project X. It’s sad that he has to come because I don-
“ Ellie? Are you ready to help me study? ”
That’s my little brother, Mark. I need to study also, but he’s more important.
As I walked downstairs, I see my brother with his big smile. I’m glad he likes to study because well, a lot of people don’t.
“ Hey, little bro?” I said with a teasing grin on my face.
He turned around and said, “Yes, Ellie? “
I smiled and replied back with a, “Promise you will try your best for me, okay? ”
Mark finished his glass of milk and said, “You got it, Ellie.”
I forgot to tell you, Project X goes by how old you are so lucky Mark, his testing is going to be easier than mine.
Anyways, I walked over to study with Mark and after 3 hours, he FINALLY went to bed. I also tried to study but of course, I had to fall asleep after 4 minutes. I’m pretty sure I slept late because when I woke up and went downstairs, my brother was eating his normal lunch. PB&J.
“ Mark? What time is it? “ I asked.
“ Oh! Good afternoon, sis! It’s 1:34 pm. I was waiting to eat lunch with you but I got very hungry and had to eat. I hope you will forgive me!!”
He did his trying to get me to forgive-him-or-buy-him-something face. I laughed.
“ It’s no big deal! Just wake me up next time. Oh, and Mark.. Did you have any weird dreams about The Thinning last night?” I started to shake.
“ So I see you had them too… Big sis… I’m scared.”
Mark started to cry. He was starting to shake and turned quite pale.
“ Big sis… I don’t wanna go! “
I let out a sigh and fake smiled. “ Hey, hey. Don’t cry. It’s okay. Everything is going to be okay..” I pulled him close.“Trust me. I will see you after The Thinning and we will have a big party just for you.”
I’m honestly not quite sure if everything is going to be okay. I hope it is, but I have no proof… But I’ll say and do anything to make Mark happy. Mark and I talked for a while then I got hungry so I decided to go to look for food. When I reached the kitchen, I found an old book my mom used to read to Mark when he was little.
My parents died in a car crash 3 years ago. The man that crashed into them has never been found. Maybe he’s dead, maybe hiding, maybe in jail. I honestly don’t know. Something I do know is this man is around my age now…
After staring at the book for about 2 minutes, I opened the fridge and looked around for food. I grabbed myself some soda and leftovers from the night before. When I came back, I saw my little brother watching me and smiling.
“ Mark? Did you take out the book mom read to you every night?” I asked with a questioning face.
I would be less suspicious if it wasn’t the fact that I hid the book from him.
“ No big sis. Why would you think that?“ He laughed.
“ I haven’t found that book ever since you hid it.”
That’s when his words hit me. No one knew I hid the book. In fact, I acted like I burned the book. Mark SAW me “burn” the book. He helped “burn” the book.
“ How do you know I hid the book? We burned it.”
He chuckled and I shivered.
“ If YOU burned the book. What’s this in my hand?”
There he was. Holding the book I hid from him. Then he laughed.
This was it. I was shocked. I had been tricked. The Thinning already started and I was being tested. The person I had been talking too wasn’t even my little brother.
“ If you aren’t Mark… who are you and where’s my little brother?”
The man just laughed again.
“He’s hidden.” He smirked.
I was so worried about Project X I hadn’t noticed “Mark”- which was really some man- was acting differently. I’m such a bad sister. How did I not notice this wasn’t my brother? I started to study the man’s face. Was he even a man? Why does he look so young? How can his voice be almost the exact same as Mark’s?
“What’s your name?” I finally asked.
“ Charles. Charles Codey.”
Why would he tell me his name so fast? Doesn’t this man, Charles, know I can now turn him in to the cops?
“Don’t think about turning me in. It won’t work. The government knows about this. It is part of the test you are going to- well taking right now.”
This was never in Project X the years I’ve been in it though…. Who knows? Maybe it has been. I don’t know what’s real anymore.
“ I’m sorry Ellien Richards. I didn’t want to but it’s part of my job. I know how hard this must be. You know, hearing I’m not your brother. I also want to tell you something…” Charles stopped talking and looked me in the eyes.
“Yes?” I asked. “What’s the matter, Charles?…”
He took a deep breath and I could not believe what I just heard.
“I’m so sorry Ellien… I would have helped your mom and dad, but I couldn’t move. I knew I needed to get better at watching people get their lives taken away. It’s hard, trust me. I just got the job a few days before it happened..”
He kept talking. After every few sentences, he said sorry. I stood there still while tears were running down my face. The Thinning starts in two days and I’m hearing this now. I can’t wait… Soon enough it was late at night. I told Charles he could sleep in the guest bedroom tonight then I made dinner and we talked about my brother. Most things I told Charles he knew about it already but I’m glad to say he didn’t know it all. It’s very strange how he knows almost everything about Mark because some things he knew, Mark would have never told anyone but me. That night I had some bad dreams about the upcoming test but I’ve gotten used to it by now.
The next day was pretty normal until I had to ask something dumb.
He turned and placed his fork down then looked me straight in the eyes and nodded.
“Where’s my brother? How did you know all that private stuff about him? Is Mark even my-”
Charles put his fingers over my mouth to shush me.
“I’m sorry Ellie but I have to let you know. Your brother also died in the car crash..”
I fell to the ground in disbelief and started to cry. After about an hour or two of bawling, I came to realize that Mark was dead. Charles was the new Mark in my family. Me, being who I am, had to ask something else.
“Hey Charles?…” How old are you really?
“What a nice question Ellien.” He smirked.
“Well, I’m just two years older than you.”
Is this true? He acted like he was older but then again when he was pretending to be Mark he seemed so young.
“I know what you’re thinking. How could I only be two years older than you? Well, you know Project X7133 makes some crazy things.” Then he smiled.
Wait… if my family died three years ago… This guy has been with me for- He knows about the-! Charles put his head to mine and smiled.
“I never told anyone about the contacts.”
“Wait… How did you know-”
He backed away and shrugged.
“Just a lucky guess.”
For the rest of the day, we talked and studied. Surprisingly he has tests too. I guess he’s not that bad once you get to know him.
We both went to our rooms at around 8:30 pm so we could get plenty of sleep. What’s funny is he made me forget The Thinning was happening tomorrow. Once I woke up, we were in the car, on our way to the testing grounds. It was too late.
“Oh! You’re finally awake Miss Richards!”
I got up and laughed.
“Miss Richards?”, I laughed again.
“What kind of name is Miss Richards?”
Charles was driving the car but he turned to look at me anyway. I couldn’t tell what he was trying to tell me but he made some weird faces as a warning. Not knowing what I was going to say yes too, I nodded back. He sighed in relief then went back to driving.
“So what should I call you Cha-”
“I-I-It’s just sir Miss Richards. Just call me sir.”
I wondered why. Why can’t I call him Charles? Why is it just “sir”? Is someone watching? No.. He wouldn’t have moved and gave me faces as a warning if someone was watching. Maybe someones listening? Then I heard a crash and everything went dark.