I’m pretty sure this was how it felt to stand on the top of a platform, looking down at the tiny river below, knowing that the only thing that could keep me alive was a bungee cord tied to my feet. Granted, I wasn’t actually bungee jumping, but right now that might be less scary. And I wasn’t the only one feeling like this, judging by the expressions of all the kids around me.
Yesterday, me and the other seventeen-year-olds graduated from school. Today, we found out that we’re either going onto Higher Learning with the rest of the humans, or joining the ranks of Hunters on the other side of the Wall.
“Ah, Jyn, I’m so nervous.” Marcie, standing in line ahead of me, shifted and looked back. “I knew I shouldn’t have eaten breakfast. My stomach’s all cramped up.”
I forced a smile and patted her back. It’s not like I was much better. “I didn’t think you’d be so nervous. You don’t have any Hunters in your family. Do you really think you’ll be one?”
“No, but it’s not like they can go back more than twenty years to check, right?” She moaned and massaged her stomach.
It’s true, there wasn’t a way. When my parents were growing up, magic was a myth. Then twenty years ago the Gates to another dimension appeared. Earth, and the humans inhabiting it, changed.
I bit my lips and looked to my right towards the Wall. Red-bricked and ten feet high, it stretched out, cutting the city in half. People had been angry when the Wall was first built. Families were torn apart — parents taken from their children, brothers and sisters separated, even married couples were split apart. As harsh as it sounded, there was a solid reason. This side of the Wall was Garden City, where normal humans and everyone younger than seventeen lived. On the other side of that Wall was Eden, where the Hunters — enhanced humans — lived.
Even more importantly, it was where the Gate was.
The Gate’s huge black arch loomed over buildings in the distance. From the naked eyes, there was nothing beyond the Gate. It was just a black, seemingly two dimensional, hole. One that spilled out wave upon wave of monsters — man-eating monsters — if the Hunters didn’t keep them under control. If the Hunters didn’t kill those monsters in the dimension on the other side of the Gate, they’d come out and kill everything that moved.
Scientists theorize that humans developed into Hunters because of the Gates. It was Earth’s way to defend itself, to evolve it’s already most advanced species. When the Gates first appeared in each major country on Earth, random people across the globe started to Awaken with magical or enhanced powers regardless of their age. Now, the most common age to Awaken is seventeen. So children nowadays have mandatory school until they graduate at seventeen. Then we’re all tested.
Ironically, the Wall that surrounded Eden wasn’t to keep the Hunters and monsters in. It was actually to keep the crazy humans out.
There were treasures and energy crystals in the Gate, so Hunters were generally pretty rich. The stronger the Hunter, the wealthier they became. But a normal human with a normal weapon was nothing but dead on the other side of that Wall. Even Hunters had a high mortality rate, which is why they were paid so well. An E Rank Hunter, the weakest rank available, still had a free ride in life as long they brought enough energy crystals out of the Gate.
My dad lost his life in the Gate five years ago.
Everyone knew that there were hundreds of Hunter deaths a year, but that didn’t stop the greed-hungry expressions of the kids around me. They stared at the platform ahead with open desire, dreams of being the next S Rank Hunter written all over their faces. In the entire USA, there were only twenty-four S Rank Hunters. S Rankers were the gods of the Hunter world, the strongest of the strong, one fire blast or punch could level cities. It’s been more than a year since the last one was announced. The country was ready for another megastar to be added to their roster.
On top of the platform was a giant glass ball, taller than the two Hunters manning it. Every eye, from the students, parents, and the random watchers in the crowds, were glued to that ball, waiting to see if it reacted when a boy or girl put their hand on it. If it lit up at all, whether it be red for mage or blue for melee, the person was ushered towards the Wall. The brighter it lit up, the higher the person’s rank was. I heard that when the last S Rank was found, the ball glowed so bright, it made the sun dim. If the ball didn’t react at all, the kid was normal. Shoo, be normal.
Even as I watched, a kid walked up to the ball and lay his hand against it. Almost instantly, a glowing red stain appeared in the middle of the glass ball and spread until it filled the entire orb like a red light bulb.
People crowded around the edge of the square cheered. Out of the two thousand or so students that had been tested so far, he was the three hundred and thirty-sixth newest Hunter to be found in Garden city. The kid puffed out his chest and strutted to the right side of the platform where a Hunter waited for him.
“Why didn’t we get farther back in the line, Jyn?” Marcie muttered.
My brows wrinkled as I looked around. “We did line up in the back, remember?” As it was, there were only a couple hundred kids behind us now. It’s just that, that many kids have already tested.
I couldn’t help but glance up into the rafters where the crowd sat. On the right side, my family watched me. I wanted to look at them, but at the same time, I couldn’t seem to bring myself to. My stomach twisted and I nervously tugged on my hair. If I became a Hunter, I could change their lives. Give them a life worth living. But I’d have to leave them to do it. Even with regular visits, it wouldn’t be the same as waking up every morning to see my sister’s big smile.
In no time, me and Marcie were at the front of the line, staring at the steps ahead.
Marcie was shaking so badly, she almost missed the step when the man on the stage beckoned her forward. She looked at me. I smiled in encouragement, even though I felt like throwing up. She practically ran up the steps and across the stage. She slapped her hand on the ball so hard, I could hear it thump from here.
I stared at the detector so hard that my eyes started to water. Please, don’t change, I thought. Don’t change. Her whole family was human, typical dentists. You couldn’t get more normal than that. Marcie wasn’t Hunter material; she’d never survive on the other side of the Wall.
“Human,” the Hunter on the right side of the detector called out.
Marcie’s knees bent like they were ready to give out. She sighed and patted her chest then straightened up. She practically danced as she hurried to leave the stage. Before she disappeared down the stairs on the left, she turned and gave me a thumbs up and mouthed, ‘You got this!’
I forced a smile then looked at the top of the platform. I sucked in a deep breath and stepped up the stairs. It was almost like I was in someone else’s body as I walked across the stage on wooden legs. Thousands of eyes were on me, like lasers, burning holes into my body. Geez, I hated being the center of attention. What do I do with my hands? Were my steps too big or too small? What if my ponytail was crooked?
But the worst was the giant detector, getting closer and closer. I stopped in front of it and looked up as it loomed over me. I wasn’t overly tall, but I’d never felt such a crushing weight before. This magical glass ball completely controlled the course of my life. I either obeyed what it said or went to jail. So harshly black and white, most kids like me didn’t even bother to dream about what they wanted to do with their future until they were tested.
For myself, I just wanted to live. Human or Hunter, my family would collapse without me.
I took a breath and forced my heart to slow down. No matter what, I’ve got this. I reached out and put my hand on the cold glass. I’d meant to slow down my heart rate, but it seemed to stop altogether as I watched the inside of the detector, just waiting for it to change color. And waited.
Slowly, I let out the air I didn’t realize that I was holding.
The Hunter next to me opened his mouth. “Hu—” He stopped mid word.
I paused just before I lifted my hand from the detector. At the center of the glass, a faint blue mist appeared. It slowly spread out, turning the entire ball a pale robin egg blue.
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I am an author, mother, wife, and jack of all trades. I mean, every mom is, but I’ve found that through my research for different stories, I’ve picked up a lot of random (and sometimes actually useful) knowledge and skills.
I’ve had a vivid imagination since I was a child. And as much as I wish I could actually live in the worlds in my head, the closest I can get is with the words I put on the page. These characters are like real people to me. The funny lines they say, their emotions that make my heart bleed, the amazing things they can do that I physically can’t, the adventures and sights that I can see in my head. I love sharing those things with my readers and hope that they can feel at least a part of what I do.
I do have other works that are published through Amazon. They are not LitPRG, but I'm still really proud of them. Check them out if you have the chance.