Musicians/Music Groups Fan Fiction >> Good Charlotte
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"Benjamin, stop squirming!" Michelle laughed as her best friend wriggled, trying to swat his
mother's hand away. "Hold still!"
Michelle waited patiently for her friend to come. He never did like to present himself with anything
other than fleeting, indescribable mischief. Although they were both Elevens, Michelle was much more
mature than her friend was.
"Benjamin! Behave yourself!" His mother's voice was irritated.
"Come on Benji." Michelle called her friend.
Benji looked up at her from beneath his unruly bangs. His mother ran the brush a last time through
Benji's hair. Then Benji ran off, joining Michelle and saying "I apologize for making you wait."
Although he didn't mean it.
"I accept your apology." Michelle said the standard response.
Benji was the only person Michelle knew who lied openly. He lied constantly, he lied about feelings,
he lied about dreams, he lied about why he was late, and he lied about himself. But, as though
guilty about lying so much, he'd tell Michelle the truth.
"What did you dream about?" Michelle asked once they were safely away from his mother.
Benji's eyes twinkled. "I dreamed about running."
"Running?" Michelle blinked.
"No, not just running. I was running through a scary place, only I wasn't scared. I think I was in
the Nurturing Centre." Benji laughed. "I know, stupid. How could the Nurturing Centre be scary?"
Michelle knew that was Benji's biggest fear. For some reason that Benji never told, he feared the
"What did you feel?" Michelle asked.
"I don't know. I saw a Birthmother, then there were two newchildren. They were identical."
Michelle nodded, but had no clue where to begin analyzing the dream. She stayed quiet, not sure what
Benji didn't notice. "I saw you at the Nurturing Centre yesterday."
Michelle nodded, feeling a little uneasy. "Yeah, Father wanted me to see the newchild born
Benji smiled, he liked newchildren, just like everyone else. "Male or Female?"
"Female." Michelle told him.
"Where are you volunteering today?" Benji asked.
Michelle shrugged. "Wherever."
"Do you wanna help me deliver packages?" Benji looked at her curiously.
"Sure." Michelle loved doing anything with Benji. Benji made volunteering fun.
"Benjamin please, stop talking and get some work done." The teacher's irritation made Benji giggle.
"I apologize for interrupting." Benji said the apology through his giggles and ended up choking as
he did so.
"We accept your apology." Michelle smiled and said the response with the class.
Benji only sat quietly for about a minute before eagerly scribbling a note on a piece of paper and
passing it to Michelle.
"Benjamin!" The teacher came down the aisle, discipline wand in hand. It was the only time in her
twenty-five years of teaching that she used it on an Eleven, or at least that's what she said.
Benji gave Michelle a small smile, then stood up. He knew what was coming; it was all familiar to
him by now.
Michelle winced even before the discipline wand came down on his legs. Benji winced too, rubbed his
legs and sat down again. The teacher knew by now that Benji's ways were set, and the discipline wand
had almost no effect on Benji, but the teacher had hoped it might at the least make him conscious of
The teacher had taken no more than three steps to the front of the room when Benji whispered "Open
"Benjamin!" The teacher whirled to face him. "Would it be too much to ask for you to just be
Benji ducked his head. "I apologize for interrupting." He said in a high pleading voice that earned
him a few laughs.
"We accept you apology." The class recited the phrase that had been welded into their brains from
the day Benji had learned to talk.
The teacher, by now fuming, resumed her place at the front of the room and continued her lesson.
Benji motioned for Michelle to open the note. As she did so she smiled. Benji's notes were never
anything important, as was this one, but they were always interesting. The note was this:
She's driving me
He'd drawn a picture of a cute little creature with angry eyes. The creature was called Frog.
Michelle still remembered her comfort object called Frog.
She'd been heartbroken at the ceremony of Eight. That had been when her comfort object had been
taken. She'd been a shy Female all her life. Frog had given her strength when she was weak. Frog had
given her courage when she had none. The ceremony of Eight had devastated her. She'd been the only
person other than the Ones to cry.
That had been the day she had realized how strong her friendship with Benji was. Even though it was
strictly against the rules, Benji had gotten up and left. He'd only been gone ten minutes, but it
was long enough to keep everyone waiting for him. He'd run up on stage, crashing into the Chief
Elder. A little shaken, the Chief Elder performed the ceremony. When Benji returned from the stage
he'd handed Michelle a piece of paper with a cute frog saying "Don't Be Sad". Of course Benji had
gotten into a lot of trouble for being late, but he'd taken it all in stride.
Michelle shook her head, clearing her mind and getting on with her work.
That afternoon Benji and Michelle delivered packages, enjoying their time together.
Benji looked at the package he had. "House of Old." He read the destination. "Hmm, I wonder what it
Michelle stopped her bicycle to watch him. "It's probably just blankets or something."
Benji grinned, peeking into the box. "Blankets." He confirmed. "How'd you know?"
Michelle shrugged. "Lucky guess."
They rode to the House of Old and dropped off the package.
"Where next?" Michelle asked.
"Nurturing Centre." Benji read and stopped. He shook the box. It sounded like glass bottles.
Michelle rolled her eyes. "Benji, don't worry, it's probably just formula."
Benji swallowed. His fingers trembled as he held the box. Michelle carefully reached over and took
the box from him.
"I saw a box like this in a dream once." Benji told Michelle.
Michelle watched him. "It's okay Benji."
Benji smiled. "I know."
They rode their bicycles to the Nurturing Centre. Benji stopped and looked at Michelle.
Michelle stopped a little ahead of him. "I'll go by myself if you want." She offered.
Benji sighed. "No, I'll come too."
They walked their bicycles up the path and stepped inside the cool lobby.
Michelle smiled at the woman at the front desk. "Package." She said.
The woman nodded. "Could you take it down to room 405? I'm a little busy here." She said, holding up
an armload of papers. "Two birthmothers are due tonight."
Michelle looked at Benji. "No problem."
"Thank you for helping." The woman said then went back to her work.
Michelle walked down the familiar white aisle. Benji was at her side. It wasn't like it was the
first time he'd been in the Nurturing Centre. They'd all been through here before. Born, then raised
in the Nurturing Centre until their first December.
Michelle knew each door by sight. She past all the doors until she got to room 405. Benji stayed by
her side, reminding her of a Two. A Two who was just learning to explore the world.
Michelle brought the box to the counter in the room and Benji watched her put it on a shelf. She
left quickly. It was the only room that never seemed to be occupied when she was there, but yet
there was an eerie presence about the room.
Benji was eager to leave the Nurturing Centre, but as it was their last stop of the day, it took
forever to get to the door.
"Michelle, Benjamin, nice to see you here." Michelle came to a stop and Benji forced himself to
stand beside her. Michelle's father came toward them. "How are you doing?"
"Good." Michelle answered. "And how are you?"
"A hard day." Father admitted.
"What happened?" Michelle asked.
"Two births." Father told her in a cheerful voice. "A Female and a Male."
Michelle watched Benji fidget. "Father, may we be excused? We promised Alice that we'd meet her at
the river soon."
"Go ahead then. I'll see you tonight." Father was a very understanding man.
Michelle and Benji did everything but run out of the building.
Benji wiped the sweat from his brow. His nervousness showing clearly through his dark eyes.
Michelle knew better than to ask him about it. It would be considered rude. Benji never worried
about whether he was being rude or not. That was partially why he got in trouble so much.
Michelle rode next to Benji by the river and tried to think of something they could do. Benji was
still very quiet as they stopped and watched the water pound onto the riverbanks. Michelle wanted so
badly to know what it was Benji was afraid of. The Nurturing Centre was the most joyful place
Michelle knew of. What could be better than seeing a new life be born?
Benji let his bicycle drop to the ground and sat down to watch the river. Michelle sat next to him.
Suddenly, there was something more than friendship between them. The feeling was brief, but Michelle
noticed it and wondered instantly what it was she felt.
Benji was intent on the water at play with different objects it had found from Elsewhere. He
suddenly looked up, his eyes focusing on Michelle.
Michelle knew instantly that he'd ask some sort of awkward question. He got a funny look in his eye
whenever he wanted to ask something that made her uncomfortable.
"Do you ever get Stirrings?" Benji asked.
Michelle was silent a moment. She tried to recall what Stirrings were. If Benji had asked someone
else they probably would have been offended and demanded an apology, but Michelle had learned Benji
never meant any awkwardness, he was just curious.
"What are Stirrings?" Michelle asked.
"They make you feel kinda funny. You wanna be around someone all the time, and sometimes you imagine
weird things about someone." Benji explained.
"What kind of things?" Michelle asked.
Benji seemed to get embarrassed. "Forget it."
"No, I'm curious now." Michelle begged.
Benji looked at her and smiled. "You wanna touch them, or just forget the rest of the world
Michelle inched closer to Benji. She let her head rest on his shoulder. "Yeah, I think I've gotten
Benji watched her. "Have you told anyone else?"
Michelle shook her head. "No, I didn't know to mention them until now. Why, do you get Stirrings?"
Benji nodded. "I'm suppose to take a pill or something for them, but..." He suddenly looked up at a
speaker on a pole. He knew, just like Michelle that every word they said was monitored.
They got up, and walked to their bicycles. They rode off down the path.
Michelle ate her meal in silence, wondering about Stirrings. She finished eating quickly, then the
normal conversation of feelings was held.
Michelle found herself thinking of Benji. He probably was holding a similar conversation at his
family dwelling. She knew he would just let the lies roll off his tongue. He'd sit there and tell
them he was happy with life. Sometimes she thought that his family knew he lied. His mother would
sometimes look at him longingly when they left in the morning.
"Michelle?" Mother's voice woke her from her thoughts.
"Yeah?" Michelle asked.
"What were your feelings today?" Mother asked.
She wondered where to begin. She'd gone from light-hearted, to overjoyed, to fearful, to worried, to
peaceful. She knew not to lie. "I was happy today." She told her family, which consisted of Mother,
Father and her older brother Eric. Eric had become a Twelve three years earlier and was now about to
become a Pilot.
"What were you happy about?" Mother asked.
"I'm happy about watching the river with Benji." Michelle thought quietly. "I'm happy about not
being fearful the whole day."
"What were you fearful about?" Father asked.
"Me and Benji..."
"Benji and me," Mother corrected.
"Benji and me went to the Nurturing Centre to drop off a package and I don't like room 405. It's
spooky in there." Michelle couldn't explain what it was exactly she feared of that room. She didn't
really know, but she knew she didn't like it. She went through each feeling with careful detail and
discussed each feeling until she felt her heart slow down and nothing was left to feel but
It was very early in the morning when she heard the small pebbles pelt her window. She opened her
eyes and snuck outside, knowing it was Benji and knowing he was in greater danger than she was. They
weren't suppose to be out this early and could get into terrible trouble for it.
"What are you doing here?" Michelle whispered as she crouched low in the darkness with Benji.
Benji fidgeted nervously. "I had to talk to you." He admitted.
Michelle watched him carefully. "What happened?"
"I had a dream last night." Benji told her.
Michelle could sense it in his voice that he was increasingly worried about the dream with each
minute that passed. "What was it about?" Michelle asked.
"I was in the Nurturing Center again..." Benji's eyes showed terror unimaginable in a world where
life was so simple.
Michelle sat closer to him. "What happened?"
"I saw the newchildren again. The identical ones." Benji explained. "I saw them..." Benji caught his
tongue, he glanced up wearily at the speaker. "They were on a table, and one was crying... I wanted
to help, but there was nothing I could do." Benji closed his eyes and shuddered. "I saw someone walk
into the room, and..." Benji suddenly clutched his ears. "I can still hear him cry!"
Michelle took Benji into her arms and waited patiently for him to calm down. "Shhh, shhh." Michelle
Benji looked up. "They took one away, and... the crying stopped."
Michelle had no idea what the dream meant. Benji was haunted by dreams of the Nurturing Center, and
it tore her to pieces knowing there was nothing she could do to help him. Michelle didn't know what
was happening, but she gently kissed his forehead. As though a gentle cue, his breathing eased and
he let go of his ears.
Benji lifted his tall frame. He thanked Michelle for listening and left before they could get in
Michelle went to school that morning alone. Benji's father had told her Benji had already left.
Benji was never eager to get to school and Michelle was instantly alarmed. She didn't let it show
though and went directly to school.
She let go of a relieved breath when Benji was in his seat, leaning over work. Of course he wasn't
really doing any of his work. Next to him were a stack of drawings.
He drew whatever came to mind. Mostly imaginary creatures with exaggerated features. A creature with
a long nose and big ears, a creature covered in spots, striped creature, furry creatures, smooth
creatures... anything that came to his mind.
It had been whispered that long ago a Receiver had escaped the community, and as he'd fled he'd
dropped memories behind. It was only a rumour, but sometimes Michelle wondered if any of it were
true. Something about Benji told her it was.
Benji looked up at Michelle and smiled. "I apologize I couldn't come to school with you this
morning." Benji told her, sounding like he meant it. "Father found out I had snuck out and he really
came down on me."
"I accept your apology." Michelle told him. "What did he say?"
Benji rested his head on his desk. "I'm stuck inside right after volunteer hours. And worst of all,
he's gonna make me volunteer at the Nurturing Centre so he can keep an eye on me." Benji said in a
Michelle smiled. "You want me to come with you?"
Benji nodded. "Yeah, I'd like that a lot."
Michelle and Benji's fathers both worked at the Nurturing Centre. Michelle's father had worked there
first, then when he became an official Nurturer had taken Benji's father on as his assistant. Now
they were both Nurturers with great reputations.
During the first period Benji didn't talk much. That didn't stop him from passing Michelle a note
every three minutes, but he wasn't in a mood for talking. Then as second period began he wouldn't
shut up and the discipline wand came down on him five times that period.
Benji was grinning at Michelle when third period began. "I can't wait for the Ceremony of Twelve."
Benji babbled on. Michelle sat quietly, listening to him talk. "I have no idea what I'll be selected
for. I can't see myself as doing anything important."
"Benjamin..." The teacher's warning voice came from the front of the room.
Benji was quick to answer with his apology, but he even cut off the class's response to continue
The teacher waved the discipline wand to try and get his attention but even as he stood up, knowing
he were to receive punishment, he couldn't stop talking.
The teacher's struck his legs with the slender object, but Benji paused only momentarily to bite
back the pain before babbling on.
Michelle felt it in the atmosphere that Benji was egging the teacher on. He normally didn't talk so
much. Even Benji had boundaries.
As she listened to him talk she started to hear more than just babbling. What he was saying was
starting to make sense.
"And I can't feel anything. I saw that newchild before. I know I did." Benji's voice was becoming
desperate and before long the other Elevens began to slink away, afraid. "He was crying! And I
couldn't do anything to stop the pain! I can't stop the pain! It won't go away!" Benji had to have
seen the discipline wand in the teacher's hand. "I just want it all to stop! I want it all to go
away! I hate it!" Benji was no longer talking to just Michelle. He was talking to anyone who would
listen. "I hate this place! I hate Father! I hate Mother! I hate the Nurturing Centre! I hate this
school!" The teacher was twirling the discipline wand in her hand, getting ready to strike him
again. "I want out! I don't want those Stirring pills! I want to be myself! I'm not going to be just
some other person they use for labour fifty years of my life then released!" Michelle stood up.
Benji acknowledged her by making eye contact with her. "I'm not going to no House of Old! I'm not
marrying someone they pick for me! I'm not raising kids that somebody else chooses!"
Then the teacher had enough. Unfortunately, Michelle stepped in the way as the teacher went to
strike him. The teacher obviously knew that hitting him on the leg did nothing to his behaviour, so
she had aimed for his face. Michelle couldn't keep the sharp cry of pain from escaping her mouth.
Benji was startled into silence. Whether because the teacher had aimed for his face, or because
Michelle had taken the blow instead.
Michelle reached up and wiped at the blood now coming from the gash below her eye. Benji trembled as
Michelle continued to stand between him and the now shocked teacher.
"Michelle, I apologize for hurting you." The teacher said the phrase.
Michelle nodded. "I accept your apology." She murmured. "May I please be excused?" She asked.
"Go ahead." The teacher told her.
Michelle went to the sink with Benji close behind her. Benji stood with her in shock as she dabbed
at the blood with a tissue.
"Are you okay?" Benji asked. His eyes were deep with worry.
"Yeah, I'm fine." Michelle smiled at him.
Benji stood silently for a moment. Then he looked down shamefully. "I apologize for you getting
"I accept your apology." Michelle wiped at her eye.
Alice walked toward her. The female Eleven grinned. "What are you guys doing now?"
Michelle shrugged. "What time is it?"
"Time to volunteer!" Alice was always excited about volunteering.
"Oh," Benji looked like he'd rather spend the whole day at school.
"So, where are you volunteering?" Alice asked.
"Benji and me are volunteering at the Nurturing Centre." Michelle told Alice. "Where are you
"I thought I'd tag along with you today." Alice said. "It is our last year where we can be
Michelle nodded. "That's true."
Alice shrugged. "Not that it matters much, you guys always do your volunteering together."
Michelle smiled. "Not always."
"Yes, always." Alice laughed. "Name three times when you didn't."
"The day before yesterday, I was at the Nurturing Centre, Benji was delivering packages." Michelle
told Alice and Alice held up one finger. "Uh, three weeks ago, I was back at the Nurturing Centre,
Benji was at the Department of Bicycle Repair." Alice held up a second finger. "Then there was a
time last year when I was at the Nurturing Centre and Benji was..." Michelle stopped to laugh.
"Okay, I get what you mean."
Alice grinned. "Come on, I'll help you guys out."
They walked to their bicycles that were propped up in their positions. Michelle took her bicycle and
watched her friends take their bicycles.
They went slowly to the Nurturing Centre, due to Benji repeatedly stopping.
When they got there Michelle smiled and said hello to the woman they'd seen the day before at the
"You three can help with the newchildren we got just last night. Three were born and we're a little
behind schedule." The woman informed them.
Michelle wondered how three newchildren could be born. She'd seen two born in one night, but never
three. Benji sighed as he signed in his name.
They went down to the room holding the three newborns. Michelle said hello to a very sleepy
"They don't sleep too easy the first few nights." The Nurturer told her. "The two males are
fraternal twins." The Nurturer smiled. "Were we ever lucky they're fraternal, they look identical
and weigh the same."
Michelle nodded and picked up one of the fraternal twins. "Hey little guy." She wrapped him in a
blanket to keep him warm. The newchild squirmed in her arms. His eyes wide and clear.
Benji bent over the second newchild. "I wonder what it would be like to be a twin." He said
The Nurturer smiled. "Dangerous. Why, I remember when you and..."
"James, we need you." Benji's father walked in the door and frowned at the man.
Benji gave his father a frightened grin and picked up the second of the newchildren. "It's okay
little one." Benji said in a silly voice.
Michelle rocked the newchild she held until he fell asleep. "They're so sweet." Michelle told Benji,
Alice picked up the female, who was squirming. "Hush, hush, I know it doesn't feel good right now."
Alice laughed as Benji kissed the top of the tiny twin's forehead. "I never picture you being so
good with the newchildren."
Benji shrugged. "It's not that I don't like the newchildren, I just don't like this place."
Michelle lay the first of the little twins back in his bed. Usually all it took was a bit of extra
care and the newest of the newchildren would go right to sleep.
In a moment her father came in the room to check on them. "Hey Mickey, how are the little guys
Michelle smiled, looking fondly at the twin's peaceful body. "I think they're all right."
"Were we ever worried that our tests had come back wrong when we saw them. They're so similar they
could pass for identical twins." Father laughed.
Michelle looked at the twins. "Why do you have to release them?" Michelle asked.
"Just procedure. Imagine how hard it would be to find a spouse if they were all identical. And
they'd get into all sorts of trouble." Father told her.
Michelle laughed. "Yeah, but Benji already gets in enough trouble for two anyway."
Father nodded. "You Elevens are at that age now where you're testing your boundaries."
Michelle knew Benji wasn't testing boundaries. He knew the boundaries. He just got into trouble
because he didn't know how to stay out of trouble.
Father looked at the three newborns. "They are sweet little ones."
Michelle, Benji and Alice helped take care of the newchildren at the Nurturing Centre until their
volunteer hours were up.
"Come here." Benji stopped in his tracks at his father's voice. He turned around and walked back to
his father's side. "Go straight home, do you understand me?"
Benji nodded. "I understand."
"Straight home, I'll be checking with Mother to make sure. No wandering off." His father's voice was
stern. "I've got some things to take care of, but I'll be checking up on you."
Benji joined Michelle in the lobby. He rolled his eyes and followed her to the door. They walked
outside and got their bicycles.
Benji sighed as they slowly began to ride home. Alice joined them and babbled eagerly about the
Michelle nodded as Alice talked. "They are cute." They passed the Hall of Open Records and Michelle
Benji and Alice had to turn around to come back to her. "What are you waiting for?" Alice asked
"Father asked me to drop off some records." Michelle said, holding up a thick folder of papers. "You
two go on ahead, I'll catch up."
Benji got off his bicycle and put it in its proper place next to Michelle. "I'm coming too."
Alice sighed. "Well, I'm not going home all by myself."
Michelle smiled. "But Benji, what about your..."
"Forget it." Benji grinned. "I apologize for interrupting" He told her, not meaning it in the
Michelle rolled her eyes. "I accept your apology."
They walked into the big building and dropped off the records. Michelle was about to leave when she
noticed Benji wasn't anywhere to be found. Being closest to the door, she knew he hadn't left.
Alice smiled. "He's a very irresponsible Eleven." She mused at Benji's absence.
Michelle agreed wholly, but thought it better to find Benji than talk about how irresponsible he
was. She walked into one of the huge hallways that held what felt like endless rows of records.
Every person who had ever lived in the community had a record in this place.
Michelle looked down rows briefly. This was probably the biggest building in the community. She soon
came across Benji, who was looking through the children born in their year.
Michelle came to stand next to him. "You coming?" Michelle asked.
Benji nodded. "In a moment."
Alice huffed an impatient breath. "Come on, I gotta get home soon. Mother wants me home to help her
make a new room for my new little brother.
Benji glanced over at her irritably. "I'll be done in a moment." Michelle watched as Benji flipped
through the folders. "Forty, forty-one, forty-two, forty-three."
"Uh oh." Alice's voice came from next to them. "Uh, Benji..."
"Hang on." Benji grumbled.
Michelle looked up and knew Benji better start thinking up a good lie. Coming down the aisle like a
runaway freight train was Benji's father. "Benji..." Michelle tapped his shoulder.
"What?" Benji asked with a little more aggression than he'd intended.
"Better start saying your prayers." Alice whispered.
Benji looked up in aggravation. He was about to snap at her when he caught sight of his father. "Uh,
hi." Benji said as his father stopped in front of him and propped his hands on his hips.
"Start explaining mister." His father stood, towering well above Benji.
"Uh, I was..." Benji stammered, trying desperately to think of something to say.
"Forty-three, you better get out of here in three seconds." Benji's father often called Benji by his
number instead of his name when he misbehaved. Sometimes Michelle wondered if Benji's father even
knew what Benji's name was. "One..." Benji's father started counting.
Benji didn't bother to close the drawer in which he'd opened. He turned, with his head down, and
walked down the aisle to the door.
Michelle felt bad for Benji. He was often misunderstood for a troublemaker. Most of the time the
trouble he got into wasn't anything major. Nobody really cared if you talked in class, or passed a
note, or switched bicycles with someone else for only a moment. But Benji broke minor rules like
that all the time, which irritated his parents and teachers.
Michelle waited for Benji's father's voice to fade away before looking into the drawer Benji had
opened. He'd opened his record and had begun to go through it. He'd gotten to the year in which he'd
been a Seven. Michelle was going to just close the drawer when the folder changed pages to the year
Benji had been a newchild. Her eyes caught the line on the top.
March 11th: identical twin males born
She caught her breath and couldn't resist from reading further.
Weight: 6 pounds
She felt her throat dry out.
"Come on Michelle, let's go." Alice moaned.
"Wait a sec." Michelle turned the page and continued reading.
Identical males born. Weight the same. After careful analysis released the less active of the two.
The more active of the two reacted well to the medications, therefore there is no reason to release
Michelle couldn't believe the signature at the end of the note. Her father's signature was there.
She closed the folder and rolled the drawer back into place. Her mind clouded over. Had her father
released Benji's twin brother?
She turned and left the Hall of Open Records with Alice. They headed to their family dwellings and
Michelle waved goodbye as Alice went to her dwelling. They were neighbours, and when Michelle
thought about it, had always been. Even when they were newchildren, Alice would have been right
beside Michelle. Alice being number thirty-five, Michelle being thirty-six.
That night Michelle wasn't eager to share her feelings of betrayal. She felt like her father had
betrayed her. How could he have released Benji's twin?
Michelle didn't eat one bite of her meal, wondering what kind of punishment Benji's had been given.
She thought of Benji's dreams. They began to come together with what she'd learned. When the usual
chatter of feelings came about Michelle knew she'd have to tell her father the truth of how she felt
but she wasn't going to say anything until she had to.
Mother talked about feeling sad for a man who would be released in the early morning. Mother was a
Security Guard and it made it extra hard to share feelings without getting Benji into trouble. Often
Michelle would skip over feelings of joy or worry that might get herself and Benji a day in the
It wasn't a new place for Benji, nor would it be a forgotten place. He spent one day a month at the
very least in the Detention Centre. A teacher could send a child there if they felt it was
necessary. Starting from about Four, a teacher would get angry at Benji and send him there for a day
just because they couldn't take anymore from him.
The Detention Centre was a scary place. It was pretty much a jail where anyone who broke the law
would go until their hearing. The only difference was that there could be children there. Children
only stayed for a day at most. The Committee of Elders had thought it inhumane to expect a child to
spend more than that amount of time in the Detention Centre.
Michelle listened to the rest of her family comfort Mother. Then Eric shared feelings of nervousness
for going on his first solo flight the next day.
Michelle wanted to spit at her father when he shared feeling of pride that the newchildren had been
born the night before. How could he be proud of them when if those twins had been identical he would
have released one of them on the spot?
Then everyone looked at Michelle, waiting for her to share her feelings. She swallowed, not sure how
to begin without sounding rude.
"I feel betrayed." She started. She looked down at her hands, which had clenched up without her
noticing. She felt more than betrayed. "And angry, and hurt, and sad."
"Only use 'and' once in a sentence." Mother interrupted. "I apologize for interrupting."
"I accept your apology." Michelle said slowly.
"Why did you feel betrayed?" Father asked and Michelle's anger welled up inside her until it turned
"You released his brother!" Michelle couldn't keep the bitter sting of rage from her voice. She
wondered why it hurt so much. Years ago, nobody would have shown this much emotion. That was because
nobody had had this much emotion.
Father looked surprised. "Me? Who did I release?"
"Benji's brother! You released him!" Michelle's heart ached as she said the words.
Father frowned crossly at her. "Michelle, don't jump to conclusions."
"I'm not! You signed that stupid note! You released his brother!" Michelle got up and was about to
leave the room.
"Wait, Michelle, we need to talk." Father stood up and reached over to grab her arm.
"No! Get away from me!" Michelle jerked her arm from his grasp. "I apologize I can not hold this
conversation." She left the room and went outside.
She sat on the front step and wondered what the feeling welling up inside her chest was. She looked
up and saw Alice and her parents staring at her. They must have heard the commotion and come outside
Michelle covered her face and wished everyone would go away. The door behind her opened and she
heard her mother's voice.
"I fear you've misunderstood the situation." Mother told her, sitting down next to her.
Michelle looked up at Mother. How could she have misunderstood the situation? Unless that note were
a fake, which was strictly against the rules. If that note were a fake, Father would be released in
"Father has released some newchildren, yes, but Benjamin isn't a twin, therefore it's impossible to
release his brother." Mother told Michelle.
Michelle realized then that Mother had lied. "Benji's a twin." Michelle insisted. "Or did Father
just make up that whole record?"
"Record?" Mother looked sternly at Michelle. "Were you reading someone else's record?"
Michelle nodded, too upset and too mature to lie. "Benji was looking through it and left it open. I
was putting it away when I read the note."
Mother narrowed her eyes. "You know better."
Michelle turned to face her mother. "Just throw me in the Detention Centre." Michelle told her
mother. "Then you'll all be happy and I won't have to listen to no more lies."
"Anymore." Mother corrected gently.
Michelle stuck out her lower lip. "Just leave me alone."
Mother sighed and stood up. "If you need anything, call."
Michelle looked away. "Whatever." She hissed under her breath.
When her mother went back inside Michelle stood up and walked to the fence that surrounded the
She watched the last of the light leave and heard the door open. "Come on Michelle. Time to come
inside." Her father sounded cautious.
Michelle ignored him. She continued to stare at nothing.
"You can't stay out any longer." Father told her.
"I'll be in soon." Michelle hissed irritably.
"Okay." Father went back inside.
Michelle was the last outside. She hated the feeling in her chest. What did she feel? Guilt, yes,
but it wasn't the dominant feeling. Anger, yes, but that was fading. Pain, yes, but that wasn't
calling her attention. She felt like she needed Benji to be beside her. It wasn't a want, it was
such a dominant feeling she was almost fooled into thinking she needed Benji by her side.
A movement nearby startled her. She jumped and let go of a small shout.
"Hey, shhh." Benji hissed, ducking behind a bush.
She felt the feeling in her chest soften, but not completely disappear. "Hey, what are you doing
here?" Michelle asked, ducking behind the bush too.
"It's not like I can get into anymore trouble." Benji shrugged. "Father's already sending me to the
Detention Centre tomorrow anyway."
Michelle sat next to him. "Ouch."
Benji sighed. "That's not all. He's gonna ask the Committee if they'll keep me there a week."
Michelle winced sympathetically. "I don't think they'll agree. It's not like you break any major
Benji smiled. "I know, but I've broken so many rules. Oh yeah, I brought you something." He handed
her a piece of paper.
She opened it and gazed in wonder at the sketch. "What is it?" Benji had sketched a forest where the
leaves had been stripped of the trees and a white fluffy cloud had covered the ground. The land
wasn't flat. Not at all like here. It was rolling with creatures all over the landscape.
"I don't know what it is exactly." Benji smiled. "I saw that in a dream once."
Michelle stared in wonder at the sketch. "You saw this?"
Benji nodded. "I've seen other things too. Sometimes it's really scary." Benji looked down at the
sketch. "I can't really explain it, but when I dream, things don't look the same. They look
"What kind of things do you dream about?" Michelle asked.
"Lots of stuff." Benji thought a moment. "I wish I could show you."
Michelle looked at the sketch. "I've never seen anything like this before."
"You know when The Receiver left and he supposedly dropped all those memories?" Benji asked.
Michelle nodded. She remembered the story well. The Receiver had left generations before her time,
or so it was said. When The Receiver left he no longer carried the memories and they dropped behind
him, going back to the people. After that there had been tremendous chaos and their world had nearly
fallen apart, but they had managed to collect the memories and seal them again.
Benji sighed. "I wish the rumours were true." Benji said, but it didn't sound like what he initially
wanted to say.
Michelle watched Benji but Benji remained quiet, looking up at the speaker above their heads.
Michelle knew Benji would probably never say half of what he meant in his lifetime.
Benji slowly stood up, checking to make sure no one saw him. He got ready to run when Michelle stood
up and snatched his arm.
"I'm coming too." She whispered, knowing he wasn't going back to his dwelling.
Benji nodded and they walked briskly away from Michelle's family dwelling.
They came to the river and Benji sat cross-legged under a tree. Michelle stood next to him. It was
the first time she ever really broke a major rule. She'd left her family dwelling late at night and
knew that people would soon be looking for her, and probably Benji too.
Benji looked up at her. "Sit down, it ain't dangerous."
"Isn't." Michelle corrected automatically, but she sat down next to him anyway.
Benji lay back against the trunk of the tree. He closed his eyes and a small smile took over his
lips. Michelle, feeling slightly afraid, lay against the tree with her head resting on Benji's
shoulder. Even afraid, it didn't take her long to fall asleep.
Her dreams were suddenly full of things she'd never imagined. Things flew in the sky that weren't
mechanical. Something warmed her back and when she turned to find out what it was she was blinded by
a ball of light so bright it was white.
She walked slowly up a grassy slope and came to a creek. Something about this place was weird, other
than the landscape and the light. Michelle looked at the grass underfoot and found it an extremely
strange colour. She searched her mind for a word to describe it. Green. Her mind told her. She
wasn't sure how her mind knew that.
She couldn't believe it. This was the world that Benji had told her he dreamed about. And now she'd
dreamed it too. She listened to the soft splashing of a creek. As she watched the creek a small
green creature came out of hiding. At first she screamed and jumped away in fright, but a moment
later she realized that she was seeing Frog. Only this was alive and it blinked.
She wanted to touch it, and reached out with her hand. As she reached out Frog's throat bulged in a
pulsing movement. Then Frog jumped into the creek and swam away from her.
She couldn't believe the world she'd encountered. As she explored the new world she found more
things she'd never imagined.
Suddenly she awoke to Benji gently shaking her. He put a finger to his lips and she took her head
from his shoulder, blinking at the light which wasn't as bright or warming as the light in her
"Shhh." Benji whispered. "They're here."
Michelle looked around the tree at two men who were wearing the standard Security Guard uniform. Her
heart stopped and she knew instantly that they were in more trouble than either of them could ever
imagine. She started to imagine all the shame it would cause her to be caught alone with Benji after
a night they had both went missing. Not the best combination of events.
"Check behind that tree." One of the men told the other.
Michelle knew they were talking about the tree Benji and her were hiding behind. She wrapped her
arms around Benji and felt fear run through her body as she shut her eyes tightly.
Benji looked down at her and stroked her back with his hand. "Michelle," He whispered, aware of the
footsteps coming closer. "promise me as soon as you get a break you run." Benji whispered.
Michelle looked up at him fearfully, shaking her head.
"Promise me." Benji hissed, fear starting to creep into his voice.
Michelle looked into his fearful eyes. "I promise." She whispered.
Benji slowly stood up, taking her arms off of him. "Don't hesitate." Benji told her.
Michelle nodded, wondering what he was doing and feeling her stomach twist into a painful knot.
Benji peeked out from behind the tree. "Hey, you there!" The Security Guard cried.
Michelle stomach dropped as Benji ran from behind the tree, heading opposite Michelle's family
dwelling. He ran as hard as he could but the Security Guards chased him and the two of them cornered
Michelle peeked out from behind the tree and felt her heart break when she saw Benji on the ground
with a Security Guard pinning him there while the other cuffed him. She watched him wriggled and
fight as hard as he could while the two Security Guards tried to restrain him. They finally had him
completely pinned on the ground.
Michelle caught his eye and Benji looked at her desperately. His teeth were clenched together as he
still tried to fight, which would get him in even more trouble. The two Security Guards were both
completely focused on keeping Benji restrained. Benji jerked his head to the side a few times
gesturing for Michelle to run while the Security Guards were still focused on him.
Michelle swallowed hard, then with the lightness of a deer (which she'd seen in her dream), she ran
She ran as fast and far as she could until her body burned in horrendous pain. After that she forced
herself to walk the rest of the way to her family dwelling. She couldn't go inside, so she sat on
the front steps, watching the other kids start to leave their dwellings for school.
She forced herself to do the same. She knew she wouldn't be walking with Benji today. She stepped
into her dwelling carefully, walking to her desk briskly and grabbing the school papers she needed
for the day and a few drawings Benji had given her throughout her life. She had a feeling she may
She was about to leave again when Eric stepped out of nowhere. "I found her!" He called.
Mother and Father both charged into the room, demanding to know where Michelle had been.
Michelle looked from one to the other. She was in no mood to talk to anyone today. She simply turned
and walked out the door, although her legs ached terribly and her muscles protested at every
movement she made.
She went to her bicycle and rode silently to school by herself. Probably if she had waited Alice, or
even Eric, would have ridden with her, but all she wanted was to be alone.
When she got to school the teacher gave her a sympathetic smile. "I really do apologize." The
teacher told her.
Michelle wondered what on earth the teacher could be talking about. Then she remembered the gash
under her eye. She had long forgotten about it. "I accept your apology." Michelle bowed her head and
quickly took her seat in the next to empty classroom. She had never been one of the first three
people to school.
When the other children started to come in she noticed especially then that Benji's desk was empty.
She watched the desk from the corner of her eye, almost fooling herself into believing that Benji
would just come jogging into class yelling out "I apologize for being late." Then giving some lame
excuse that no one other than a male number Eleven-forty-three named Benjamin could pull off.
She smiled as she formed the image into her head. But a moment later she heard a female next to her
lean over and whisper to her friend, not at all quietly, "I wonder where Benji is."
"I heard he got released." The other female whispered back.
Michelle's smile disappeared. She remembered the note. 'Therefore there is no reason to release him.
Yet.' She thought about the key word in that statement. Yet. Had they predicted then that they would
need to release Benji later? Michelle didn't have a chance to answer herself.
For the first time in what felt like forever, the speaker singled out a person. Will number
Eleven-thirty-six please be sent to the Detention Centre. Number Eleven-thirty-six, Detention
Michelle gulped as she gathered her things. She slowly stood up and excused herself from the
It was quite a long distance to the Detention Centre, but at that moment Michelle wished it were
longer. She rode her bicycle to the big building. Her heart pounded at each rotation of the front
wheel of her bicycle.
What if Benji really was released? Are they just going to tell me he's gone? She wondered to
She came up to the big building and put her bicycle next to the other bicycles there. One she
recognized as Benji's father's bicycle.
Michelle walked slowly up the steps and into the building. The woman at the desk didn't look at all
friendly. Michelle figured it was hard to look friendly when day after day that woman probably
watched dozens of people walk in this building a shameful disgrace, and there were probably a few
who left never to return to the community. Michelle felt uneasy as she asked the stone-faced woman
what she was doing here.
The woman was more talking to the Security Guard than Michelle as she said, "Go down the hall, the
third door on your right."
Michelle walked next to the Security Guard, painfully aware that what was to come wouldn't be good.
"Please wait in here miss." The Security Guard told her.
Michelle nodded and thanked him. She sat on a wooden chair, waiting for what was to come next. It
felt like forever before a door across from the one she had entered through opened, although it was
a little less than ten minutes.
"I apologize for making you wait so long." A man in a gruff voice said briskly.
"I accept your apology." Michelle squeaked.
The man was a big, bearded man with muscles that seemed to bulge as he talked. "Early this morning
we brought a young male into custody," The man began. He didn't seem aware Michelle knew that.
"Although it's a very unusual situation, he will be tried before the judge this morning. His only
request was that number Eleven-thirty-six appeared at the hearing."
Michelle wasn't sure what to say. Should she be relieved he was okay? Or should she be frightened
that his crime had been one of such appalling mischief it was being brought to court?
The man sighed. "Will you appear in court? It starts at ten thirty, leaving you plenty of time to
get back to school and get any work you missed."
Michelle nodded. "I'll come." How could she not? Benji had come to her rescue yet again, only this
time he was paying a much bigger price, the least she could do was come to the hearing and be mental
support for him.
Michelle didn't know how much longer she could wait. The court room was next to empty. The judge sat
at her stand, the secretary nearby, three men to pose as a jury, a Security Guard by the defendant's
box, a few people who would be tried later in the day had family watching the hearings until their
turn came. Michelle spotted Benji's parents sitting near the back, almost as though they were too
ashamed to admit that this was their son in question.
Michelle had picked a spot as close to the defendant's box as she could get. She wouldn't abandon
Benji when he needed someone he could trust now more than ever.
The last hearing before Benji's finished. Michelle notice the judge really coming down on the
people. This judge wouldn't accept any garbage and seemed to be really good at finding the truth
behind the lies. Michelle knew then that Benji wouldn't be able to lie his way out of this.
The judge sighed. "Send in Eleven-forty-three."
Michelle could feel her pulse quicken as she watched the door where all the previous defendants had
entered and left through. Michelle watched Benji walk through that door and look curiously around,
no signs of fear marking him.
"Don't act cocky Benji." Michelle hissed under her breath. She'd seen the first cocky guy get
released, although he'd been a third time offender.
Benji went to his seat in the box and promised to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
Michelle almost wanted to laugh. Benji tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth? That was the
biggest joke she'd ever heard.
Benji looked around the courtroom. His gaze settling on Michelle a moment then traveling around the
room before settling back on Michelle. She gave him a small and what she hoped was a comforting
"Eleven-forty-three, Benjamin." The Security Guard spoke in a loud, booming voice. "Accused of being
out at night and resisting arrest." Michelle knew Benji had done a lot more than that.
"Benjamin, have you ever come to court before?" The judge asked. She was a woman who had the
piercing gaze of an Elder who was too young to be on the Committee of Elders but had all the wisdom
needed for the job.
Benji shook his head. "No."
"You're an Eleven, so you must know the rule about going out at night." The judge crossed her arms.
"Care to expand?"
"Yes, I know the rules." Benji answered, glancing to Michelle and getting a rueful smile.
"Then what were you doing outside at night?" The judge didn't seem impressed.
Michelle didn't have a clue what Benji had concocted in his mind for a story, but she knew she was
about to find out.
"I snuck out because my parents had me under house-arrest. I went to the river and fell asleep under
the tree." Benji explained. "When I woke up I panicked, seeing the Security Guards for the first
The judge would have had to be blowing smoke rings to look any angrier. "Benjamin, what do you take
me for?" The judge asked. "I can see right through you."
Michelle saw Benji's lips curl back and knew what he'd say he'd regret. "Oh yeah? You tell me what
happened and I'll throw you behind bars for the next year!" Benji yelled.
"Unless you control yourself better, I will personally make sure you spend the rest of your life in
the Detention Centre, do you understand me?" The judge pointed at Benji.
Benji nodded, but he couldn't keep from sticking out his tongue.
"I think you snuck out at night to prove you could. Either to a friend or to your parents." The
judge told him.
"Puh-lease!" Benji groaned. "You don't think my friends already know what I'm capable of!"
"Young man, if you don't control yourself I will dismiss this case immediately." The judge lifted
Michelle looked at Benji pleadingly. He caught her gaze as he was about to snap a remark. She
mouthed the word 'please' and waited for his reaction. Benji slowly relaxed. He sighed and
apologized for his rudeness.
The judge looked disgusted, but continued with the case anyway. "Will Benjamin's parents please step
Michelle watched his parents walk up to the stand. Both of them looked utterly ashamed. Benji's
behaviour made them look like bad parents.
"Is this the first time your son has snuck out at night?" The judge asked.
Michelle winced at the answer. "No, he snuck out the night before and we delivered a punishment we
thought to be sufficient."
"Is this the only crime he's ever committed?"
"Yes, the only major crime. But he often commits the smaller crimes. Before the incident I was
planning to go before the Committee of Elders to plea he stay a week in the Detention Centre to try
and correct his behaviour." Benji's father didn't sound at all like he was trying to protect his
"Would you please elaborate on the other things he's done."
"He's late often, doesn't share the standard feelings and dreams, talks during class... He's even
got the marks on his legs due to his teacher needing a discipline wand." Benji's father seemed eager
to send his son away for as long as possible.
Michelle watched the judge's face for even slight compassion. "You may sit down. Benjamin?"
"Yes." Benji looked at the judge carefully.
"Stand up and show me your legs." The judge instructed.
Benji stood up and the Security Guard let him out of the box. Benji stood on the opposite side of
the rail from Michelle. He pulled up his pants to reveal the painful marks of the discipline wand
from his knees down.
"Either you've got a very cruel teacher, or you get into trouble often." The judge said in her
strict voice, but Michelle thought she sensed a bit of disbelief.
Benji let go of his pants. "I would have one more, but my friend took it for me instead." He told
the judge as he walked back to the box.
"Which friend?" The judge asked.
"Eleven-thirty-six, Michelle, she's right there." Benji pointed to Michelle and gave her a grin.
"Eleven-thirty-six, please step forward." The judge called.
Michelle stood up and went to the spot Benji's parents had stood at.
"Is what he saying true? Did you take punishment that was directed at him?"
Michelle nodded. "Yes, see?" She pointed to the gash under her eye.
"Did he force you to take the punishment in any way?"
Michelle shook her head. "No."
"So you just decide to put yourself between him and the discipline wand?"
"Not exactly. Benji was getting in trouble for talking again and he was pretty upset, I went to go
stand between him and the teacher. Our teacher was getting mad and I got caught with the discipline
wand instead. I don't regret what happened, I'd do it again if I had to." Michelle told the judge.
"Your teacher strikes Elevens on the face for talking?" The judge sounded like she didn't believe
"Well, you see, Benji kinda likes to talk. A lot. Sometimes he can really push the teacher's limits.
He never means any harm by it, but he just can't stop talking. Yesterday something happened. I'm not
sure exactly how it happened, but Benji was getting really upset about something and the teacher was
getting really upset because Benji wouldn't stop talking." Michelle paused. "I guess she figured if
she hit him on the face he'd learn."
"Is this the first time your teacher has ever struck a student above the shoulders?"
Michelle nodded. "She's usually got a lot of patience with us."
"Is there any reason whatsoever that you can think of that would defend him from being behind bars
for the next twenty-five years?"
"Yeah." Michelle felt her chest tighten up. "He's the best friend anyone could ever hope for."
Benji started shaking his head wildly, realizing what she was going to say.
"Hey, Benjamin, sit still!" The judge scolded harshly.
"He was outside at night because of me." Michelle said quietly. "I was having a rough afternoon and
he stayed with me last night by the river. Same with when we were at the ceremony of Eight. He left,
against the rules, to draw me a picture of Frog after my comfort object had been taken." Michelle
felt the tears crawl down her face. "I can't think of a better friend."
Michelle listened for the judge to speak. "You're telling me that you were outside against the rules
last night too?"
Michelle nodded. "Yes, I was there."
"She's lying!" Benji's voice was strong but at the same time fearful. "Michelle was never with me!
She's lying!" Michelle looked at Benji and he gave her a pleading look.
The judge looked utterly confused. "Benjamin, please, refrain from speaking."
Benji ignored the judge. "Michelle, don't lie for me! Please! Don't!"
The judge sighed. "This is by far the strangest case I've ever encountered. I'm calling a five
Michelle watched the judge and the jury walk from the room. She stood like a statue, waiting for the
ruling. Benji was frozen in his seat, waiting for his punishment.
The seconds ticked slowly by and Michelle felt the sweat slipping down her face.
Then the judge and jury came back in the room. "Eleven-thirty-six, is this your first offence?"
"Do you realize the consequences of your actions?"
Again Michelle nodded.
"I have reached a ruling I think is fair." The judge lifted her hammer. "Eleven-thirty-six will be
required to do an extra thirty hours of volunteering in order to become a Twelve. As for
Eleven-forty-three, with extreme rudeness and irresponsible behaviour, he nearly made this case a
mockery. I was considering giving you twenty-five years, but I'll take into account your age and
what Eleven-thirty-six said. For this irresponsible behaviour I sentence you to five years in the
Detention Centre." The hammer came down and Michelle's heart fell to the ground. "You will continue
to be schooled here and will finish your volunteer hours volunteering in the Detention Centre. You
will not be allowed to leave the proximity unless accompanied by your parents after a judge or the
Committee of Elders have agreed to your visiting Elsewhere."
Michelle broke down into tears. The words stinging her mind. When Benji stepped down from the box to
be led off she ran to him and hugged him tightly.
"Don't forget me." Michelle whispered as she hugged him close.
Benji hugged her in return. "I won't if you don't forget me." He bargained.
Michelle wiped at the tears in her eyes. "I promise."
The Security Guard gently tugged them apart and led Benji away.
"I promise." Michelle whispered to herself, watching Benji's retreating figure.
Michelle brushed her hair thoroughly. She smiled at her reflection. The tired look was still in her
eyes, and the heartbroken smile still played on her lips, but she knew today would be different.
She'd gotten a letter from Benji saying he'd be at the ceremony of Twelve. After a lot of hard work,
she'd been permitted to become a Twelve. Benji would become a Twelve too, but not at the ceremony.
He had a month of volunteering to do still before the Committee would let him get his Assignment,
which he wouldn't start training for until he was finished his time in the Detention Centre.
"Four and a half years," Michelle told herself. "then he'll be out."
Mother walked into the room. "Come on, we're going to be late."
Michelle nodded and followed Mother out of the room to the table. The family ate their meal in quiet
"Eric, what did you dream about last night?" Father asked.
Michelle watched her older brother elaborate on his dream of flying through the clouds. She was
proud he had now successfully completed his training for being a pilot. He had already put in an
apply for his own dwelling. Michelle wished she could do that, but first she'd have to receive her
Assignment, then complete the necessary training.
She wondered what Assignment she'd be given. After Benji had been thrown into the Detention Centre
she'd chosen to work as far away from the Nurturing Centre and the Detention Centre as possible.
Avoiding both made her highly aware of how much their community revolved around the two buildings.
Avoiding them had been torture.
Michelle had begun volunteering only a few months ago at the Hall of Open Records, learning about
the way the Records were kept.
Michelle listened to her mother talk about a fragment of a dream that was actually a memory. A
memory of when they'd received Michelle. Michelle listened, only half interested.
"Henry was holding her and she looked so beautiful." Mother told them.
Michelle felt a little embarrassed as Mother went on about that day. Then father shared his dreams
of newchildren. Michelle still hadn't forgiven him for releasing Benji's twin brother, but at least
Benji's brother was somewhere out there, safely away from their community, right?
"Michelle, what did you dream about?" Mother asked.
Michelle thought about her dreams. "I had a few last night." Michelle started. "The first one I was
sitting in a field and..." Michelle thought about the dream. "I saw different things. Odd things. I
felt weird, kind of like I were in the wrong world." She'd had the dream before. It was always a
little different, but it was the same place and everything that happened depended on which way she
decided to go. "I saw things that flew, and Frog. He was real."
Mother and Father went through that dream with Michelle, but she already knew why she'd had the
dream. She'd had it because it was the dream she'd had the last time she'd been with Benji. The same
dream, but the way the dream played out all depended on where she went.
"The other dream I had I was in a room I couldn't get out of. No matter which way I went there was
no door or window." Michelle remembered the feeling in the room. "I felt helplessly miserable."
"Probably how you felt when your friend went to the Detention Centre." Father guessed.
Michelle glared at him. He had become so ashamed of what Benji had done that he no longer mentioned
Benji by name. After a moment Michelle's gaze softened. She patted her pocket where the letter was
still firmly in place and the drawings Benji had given her long before had never left.
She stood up and left the dwelling, getting her bicycle and waiting for her family to come too.
Alice was leaving her dwelling at the same moment.
"Hey Michelle! I can't wait! I'm so nervous!" Alice laughed, riding her bicycle next to Michelle as
they started on their way to the ceremony. They rode a little ahead of the adults.
"Are you getting your little brother today?" Michelle asked.
Alice nodded eagerly. "Yeah! I bet he's really cute."
Michelle smiled at her friend's eagerness. It was rare for parents to wait so long before getting a
second child, but Michelle figured it was because they were such caring people that they wanted to
make sure Alice had a great start before bringing along a newchild.
Alice looked over at Michelle. "I wonder if Benji will be there." Alice wondered aloud.
Michelle glanced under her arm to make sure her parents weren't listening. "He's going to be there.
He isn't becoming a Twelve with us though. He'll receive his Assignment next month as long as he
finishes his volunteer hours."
Alice gaped at her. "I bet you're excited."
Michelle nodded. "I'd like to see him again, make sure he's all right."
Alice poked Michelle playfully. "Oh, stop sounding so discouraged. You're bouncing out of your skin
Michelle laughed. "Okay, I'll admit it. I can't wait to see him."
Alice rolled her eyes. "Gee, you're optimistic."
Michelle sighed. "I know, I know. I'm just a little nervous about seeing him again. It's been six
months since I last saw him."
Alice shook her head, but was soon talking about something else.
Michelle wondered what would happen as she sat with her group, very conscious of seat forty-three
being empty. It was the first year that seat had been empty and Michelle felt the stab of misery hit
her hard. She wondered if everyone had feelings this strong and passionate.
She watched Alice get up from her seat when her parents went to accept their newchild, who received
his name Saxon.
Michelle remembered the name meant swordfighter, or feisty. That was one of the things she had
learned about volunteering at the Hall of Open Records. She knew that they were very careful about
choosing names for the little ones. Often the Elders would call on the Hall of Open Records to make
sure a name wasn't already taken or had some law forbidding its use. Michelle had been the volunteer
to take care of sorting records and helping individuals find a record if they somehow had problems
Michelle suddenly became very alert when Benji's parents went onstage to accept a female newchild.
Michelle knew Benji had been quite a handful for them, and it had taken a while for them to gather
the energy to raise another child.
She watched them walk proudly to the stage, Benji nowhere to be found. They accepted the newchild
and cradled her gently in their arms. Riana was the tiny child's name. Michelle had remembered
looking up the name. It meant frisky. Michelle chuckled to herself, hoping the child would grow up
to her name, just to get even with Benji's parents.
Michelle found the morning irritatingly long. She wasn't that interested in the rest of the ceremony
of Ones, or the ceremony of Twos, Threes and Fours. She listened with some interest when Alice got
back and talked non-stop about Saxon, who was every bit as cute as she had imagined.
Michelle nearly flew out of her seat when they called a break for lunch. She wandered aimlessly
around the crowded area. She wasn't really hungry, but she ate anyway. Her parents had gotten
worried when she'd stopped eating almost completely after Benji had left.
She found herself lost in thought when someone sat down beside her. She continued eating quietly,
assuming it was Alice or maybe Eric sitting next to her.
"What did you think of the ceremony so far?" Michelle choked when she heard the voice. She turned
her head to face him so fast she was surprised she didn't get whiplash.
"Benji! I can't believe you're here!" She cried when she stopped choking.
"I told you I'd be here." Benji laughed. "Didn't you get my letter?"
Michelle patted her pocket. "Of course, but I thought maybe you hadn't made it when your parents
went up to get Riana and you weren't with them."
Benji smiled eating a fry off his plate. "You really thought they wanted me with them while they
tried to replace me."
"They weren't replacing you." Michelle protested.
"Oh, yeah?" Benji cocked his eyebrows. "They consider me a failure and are hoping to use this
newchild to save face. Make it look like I was just a troublemaker by nature and there was nothing
they could do to control me." Benji paused to muse at his description of himself.
Michelle couldn't keep a small laugh from escaping her mouth. "So you're saying that you aren't a
troublemaker and that they could have controlled you?"
Benji thought about it a moment. "No, they'd never control me and I'm still a troublemaker, always
will be." Benji shrugged. "Why do you think I'm not getting my Assignment until next month? I got
into a lot of trouble the first few months and they added on volunteer hours I had to complete. Now
I have so many it'll take me another month to complete them."
Michelle sighed. "So why'd you come?"
Benji looked at her in shock. "Just because I'm not becoming a Twelve doesn't mean I'm gonna miss
your ceremony of Twelve."
Michelle felt her face get hot. Benji could be a real charmer when he wanted to be.
Would everyone please return to their seats. The announcement came and Michelle was about to go to
sit with her group when she thought otherwise. Instead, she and Benji went to sit by themselves at
the back of the auditorium that had been selected to hold the ceremony.
Nobody recognized either one of them and Michelle and Benji talked almost all the way through the
second half of the celebration. Only when it was time to go home did Michelle leave Benji to find
The night was a happy one. Michelle felt ashamed when the announcement A reminder for Elevens and
under to stay with your group during the ceremony came over the speakers at night. She planned to
apologize in the morning, but the feelings of shame soon passed when she remembered Benji had been
at the celebration.
The next morning she woke up early and bounded through the morning. She informed her family that she
had slept soundly with no dreams and was so eager to get to the ceremony that she ran out the door
without them, forcing them to catch up with her instead.
Alice came out of her dwelling with the same eagerness. "I can't wait! We're getting our
Assignments!" Alice cheered.
Michelle grabbed her bicycle and rode next to Alice all the way to the ceremony. "I wonder what my
Assignment will be."
"Well, you're virtually guaranteed to love it. So, don't worry about it." Alice told Michelle.
Michelle knew Alice was right. The Elders had been watching every one of the Elevens exceedingly
close, and they would be very precise in choosing a role that fit each individual to the dot.
Michelle apologized to the other Elevens for not being present the previous afternoon and they
accepted her apology with little interest in what she was saying.
She sat with them, feeling utterly bored as the Nines, Tens and new Elevens went through their
routine. Then they went for lunch at noon.
Alice sat across from Michelle at a table. "I'm so nervous!"
"No need to be nervous." Benji grinned as he sat next to Michelle.
"Benji!" Alice cried and a group of younger kids looked toward them, having little to no idea who
Michelle grinned. "I'm so glad you came." Michelle had a way of sounding excited but not losing her
"Where have you been since forever?" Alice asked.
"Didn't you hear?" Benji asked, sipping from his cup. "I've been locked behind bars."
Alice smiled grimly. "That must be horrible."
Benji seemed lost in thought a moment. Then suddenly he snapped back. "It's okay. Better than being
with my family."
Michelle shook her head. Benji may have fooled Alice, but she saw right through him. He hated it at
the Detention Centre.
"Volunteering there must be horrible." Alice said.
Benji shrugged. "It's not that bad. I mostly help wash things and keep in sight of a Security Guard
at all times."
"Why? Don't you hate being watched constantly?" Alice shivered. "People watching you eat, sleep,
wash, go to the washroom..."
Benji smiled sadly. "Yeah, but it's better to be in the sight of a Security Guard than Big Lou."
Michelle flinched at the mention of the bully-like prisoner that occupied the Detention Centre. Even
if you had never been within three miles of the Detention Centre, you'd heard of Big Lou.
Benji began to elaborate on Big Lou. "That guy really took to picking on some of the little guys."
Benji shook his head. "I saw one kid get shot across the room when he stood in Big Lou's way."
"I don't get why they don't release him." Alice told them.
"I think they keep him there because he keeps everybody else in line." Benji explained. "I got
nailed by him once. Not real bad, but bad enough. He punched me two months ago and I still have the
bruise." Benji pulled up his sleeve and showed them the purple mark on his upper shoulder.
"That's gotta hurt." Michelle winced just thinking about getting the mark.
"It wasn't as bad as it looks." Benji assured them.
They finished their meals in between words, then the announcement to head back to their seats came.
Michelle was reluctant to walk back to her group, but she couldn't ditch her group for Benji this
"Wish me luck." Michelle told him, wrapping him in a tight hug.
Benji hugged her back. "Good luck." He murmured, knowing that this might be the last time he saw her
Michelle reluctantly let him go and walked to her seat beside the stage. She felt her heart pounding
in her chest and knew she'd need all the courage she had to get through the next few hours. She
fidgeted with the buttons on her jacket, only half listening to the Chief Elder give the opening
What seemed like forever finally passed and number One was called to the stage. Although Michelle
was relieved that the ceremony had finally started, she was even more nervous now.
Reaching into her pocket, she pulled out a piece of paper and focused on the drawing of the magical
land of hills, creatures and trees sketched before her eyes.
Alice glanced at the paper nervously, not looking one bit as assured as she'd tried to convince
Michelle to be. "Nice drawing." Alice whispered, but was cut off by a quick glare from their
'Benji drew it.' Michelle mouthed, knowing that they would most likely be chastised if she spoke.
Alice nodded her approval, then sat straight and watched One return to her seat with the Assignment
of Instructor of Threes.
Michelle kept track of every Assignment they mentioned and was extremely relieved when the
Assignment of Birthmother went to another female. It took every bit of determination she had to stay
in her seat until Alice was called to the stage.
Alice stood up and Michelle cheered with the rest of the crowd.
Alice took her place and stood quietly with the feminine posture she had been practicing for the
special ceremony with Michelle. Of course Alice took to the posture better than Michelle. Having a
male best friend who took little interest in anything other than talking, may be the reason behind
that, fore Michelle had noticed a lot of things about herself that she'd picked up from Benji's
"We have all enjoyed Alice's feminine antics." The Chief Elder announced.
The crowd murmured its approval.
"When choosing an a Assignment for her we considered putting her in charge of the House of Old, but
we didn't want all her positive attitude to be hidden from others of the community." The Chief Elder
seemed to make eye contact with everyone as she spoke. "Then we decided that Alice's feminine
posture and mature nature would be best applied to the children in which hold the future of our
community, but not just restricted to a certain year. Alice, it gives me great pleasure to Assign
you Director of the Childcare Centre." The Chief Elder handed Alice a folder and shook the young
Female's hand. "Thank you for your childhood, Alice." The audience howled with applause.
Alice smiled and did a little curtsey before walking from the stage, beaming.
Michelle stood up and hugged her friend. "I'm so happy for you!" Michelle whispered excitedly.
"I wonder what yours will be." Alice whispered back.
"We'll soon find out." Michelle reminded Alice.
"Thirty-six, Michelle." The Chief Elder called her number and she walked up onto the stage, half
expecting to trip and fall on her face.
Michelle stood before the Chief Elder, forgetting everything she'd practiced with Alice. She stood
like a stick-person, her back perfectly straight but her arms and legs far apart, as though she were
trying to keep her balance. Alice had stood there and been the perfect model of feminine poise.
Michelle now stood in the same spot being the worst. Michelle tried to fix her posture, but with
"We've all stood by and witnessed Michelle's mature and easygoing nature." The audience murmured in
agreement. "We have entrusted her with secrets that she's never spoke again. We have placed her in
the heat of situations that the rest of us might have crumbled under, and still she spoke her
peace." Michelle listened and felt her knees going weak in embarrassment. "When the Committee of
Elders considered her role in the community we all agreed she have an Assignment that requires self
control, discipline, maturity and will make use of everything she's learned." The crowd fell silent,
waiting for the Assignment. "Michelle, we have gone through every aspect of your past, present and
future behaviour and decided that you have the maturity to take the path required to be on the
Committee of Elders."
Michelle gave the Chief Elder a confused look. Was that an Assignment?
The Chief Elder answered her unspoken question. "This will require you to know almost everything
there is to know about our community, which is why your Assignment will be Director of The Hall of
The audience applauded with a roar. Michelle felt her stomach turn as she received the thick folder
holding her instructions.
"Michelle, thank you for your childhood." The Chief Elder shook Michelle's hand.
Michelle smiled and walked carefully off the stage, still worried she'd fall on her face.
Michelle went in search of Benji after the ceremony had ended and the steady stream of people began
to leave. She went by the entrance and looked around for him. It wasn't hard to find him, he was
looking for her too, having snuck away from his parents.
"Hey, congratulations." Benji told her.
"Thank you for the compliment." Michelle responded automatically.
Benji chuckled. "Hall of Closed Records. I don't think any of the Twelves have been in there before,
and most probably never will be."
Michelle smiled. "I'm still a little rattled. Committee of Elders? Me? Makes me feel old."
Benji walked next to her to get her bicycle. He talked with her about her new role until a very firm
voice came from behind them.
"Benjamin..." Benji winced at his father's voice.
"Hey." Benji answered reluctantly.
"You know where you have to be." His father glared at the younger Male as though this child could
not possibly be his son.
Benji ducked his head and sighed. "I know, I'm going."
Michelle felt her heart plummet, she didn't want to say goodbye. "Wait a sec, my parents are coming
out soon. I'll ask if I can ride with you."
Benji's face lit up and he nodded, grabbing his bicycle. Michelle quickly ducked into the crowd
coming out of the auditorium. She soon returned after a lot of begging and pleading saying she could
Benji grinned and they rode their bicycles well ahead of Benji's father, who had to come with them.
Benji talked almost the whole way there, but when they found themselves on the Detention Centre
doorstep he went quiet. He sighed and got off his bicycle, handing it to one of two Security
"Wait, Benji..." She called and he looked back at her with a small smile that was very clearly a lie
of how he felt. "I..."
Benji looked up at the door he was suppose to go through then walked down the steps back to her
side. Michelle got off her bike and hugged Benji. Every feeling she'd ever had for him came rushing
back to her, and then the sickening realization it would be more than four years before she'd see
him again. She'd never felt anything so complicated.
Benji gently rubbed her back as she buried her face in his shoulder. "It's okay..." He tried to
assure her of their fate as friends, which would be put under the ultimate strain.
Michelle sighed, trying to control herself better. She stepped back and looked into Benji's dark
eyes. Everything in herself was weakening and she wondered how she was still standing.
"I'll write you whenever I get a chance." Benji promised.
"Tell me what Assignment you get." Michelle whispered, choking on a strange feeling in the pit of
"I will. Good luck with that Committee of Elders thing." Benji said, his voice beginning to waver.
"Thanks." Michelle tried to smile, but every ounce of bravery she had was suddenly gone. "I guess
I'll talk to you in a while."
Benji nodded. "I guess..." He turned and walked up the steps, almost as though he were walking to
Michelle watched until he was out of sight, then went home.
Once at home she lay on her bed, ignoring everything and everyone. She didn't join the family for
anything at all. Not supper, not for the sharing of feelings, not for anything else they were
doing... It wasn't like they could understand anyway. The feeling she had was too complicated to put
Eric wandered in the room. "Hey Michelle, you wanna come out and help us tend to the garden."
Michelle shook her head. Any other time she would have laughed at the thought of her older brother
on his hands and knees putting flowers into the ground, but not now.
Eric left, not understanding why she was so upset. He couldn't understand. Eric didn't have any
close friends, and he never really had. He'd been the science nerd. He didn't know how much it hurt
for Michelle to see her best friend walk in the doors of the Detention Centre, knowing she wasn't
going to see him for another four years.
Michelle sighed as Eric left. She lay in bed for a few more hours, the pain sitting in her mind like
a huge tumour, spreading from one part of her to the other. She needed something, anything, to
distract her from the pain she felt.
Then she remembered the folder containing her unread Assignment instructions. She got up and got it
from the desk, opening it slowly and reading the handwritten note.
This Assignment has been given to you for a number of reasons the Committee of Elders have decided
upon, but I myself chose you for the job for many more reasons. This community holds many secrets,
many will never be revealed, but I believe you have the maturity and the right to know. Please, do
ask me if there is anything you are uncertain about. I have watched you, and I believe that this
position in our community will bring out your best.
Michelle blinked. She'd heard of The Receiver. He was a man who held all the community's memories,
and many that did not belong to the community. He'd been watching her? Why would he write a note to
her? Or maybe he gave a note to everyone.
Michelle shrugged and turned to the next sheet in her folder.
HALL OF CLOSED RECORDS
1) Immediately after school hours return to your dwelling and leave any school work you may have
there then report to the Hall of Closed Records
2) Do not repeat any information to unauthorized persons
3) Nobody other than staff and/or members of the Committee of Elders may gain access to the records
4) Arrive promptly and ready to work
5) You may lie
Michelle found the last rule confusing. Lie? Why would she ever need to lie? Her life revolved
around telling things the way she saw them and speaking from the heart.
She sighed and started shuffling through the other papers that consisted of a greater description of
her Assignment, maps of the building, and a booklet that named all the sections and where they could
be found in the five story building.
The next afternoon she found herself waiting for school to end. She felt the anxiety to get away
from the empty desk that still seemed to wait for Benji. The new teacher had a kind personality, but
Michelle simply didn't like the environment. Better get use to it, she reminded herself. It was
going to be a long four years.
When school finally ended Michelle dashed back to her dwelling and dropped off all her stuff, then
she rushed to the Hall of Closed Records. She put her bicycle in its proper spot and glanced at the
plate on the back of her bicycle with her name and the design that signified she was in training.
Michelle walked up the steps and walked into the building to the gush of chilly wind. A woman in a
dark coloured suit came to greet Michelle.
"You must be the new employee." The woman guessed.
"Yeah, how'd you know?" Michelle asked.
"We don't get too many young folks in here." The woman smiled. "This is my first year having an
assistant, so just ask if you have questions because I might not remember to ask."
"What do you say we get started?" The woman suggested.
"Okay." Michelle agreed.
"First of all, I'm Karen." The woman shook Michelle's hand. "Let's get you into your uniform." They
walked to a small room and Karen handed Michelle a bag.
Michelle looked in the bag at the dark coloured suit. She stepped to a change room and changed into
the suit, which clung to all the right curves. She came out of the room and put her other clothes on
"Where to start..." Karen mumbled as they walked into a long hallway. "Let's start with a tour, it's
easy to get lost in here. My first day by myself I got lost on fourth and a Security Guard had to
come find me."
Michelle chuckled, then followed Karen around the building on a tour.
The next week went by slowly. Michelle learned the basics about the building and finally they got to
"A new batch of records came in." Lucy, the secretary, told Michelle and Karen.
"Thanks Lucy." Karen walked into the room and filled the trolley with records. The records looked
like thin briefcases. When opened, there were two tapes, a thick folder of details that were more
unknown than the reason behind eating Brussels Sprouts, and lastly a cassette tape.
Michelle sorted the cases on the trolley so that it was easy to put them away. She actually liked
her Assignment so far.
They walked around the building, making a spot for the new records in the endless rows of older
records. She read the case she had. Beatrice.
Michelle went to the section for 'B's and put the record in its proper place. Then was walking back
to the trolley when she noticed the record labelled Benjamin. She checked the year. This was indeed
Benji. She looked at the folder and sighed, next to Benji's folder were about a hundred other
Benjamin. Names were recycled, and that could lead to problems if the records didn't have the
person's Birthmother, date of birth, and date of release on them.
Michelle sighed and noticed an attached record to Benji's. The attached record had no name but the
Birthmother and the date of birth, were the same as Benji's record. The only difference was that the
date of release was the same year as the date of birth. It occurred to Michelle this was Benji's
It struck her curiosity but she left the record alone, knowing that it was better to get in trouble
later than sooner. She walked to the trolley and met Karen.
"Karen, what is release?" Michelle asked.
Karen sucked in a breath. "Nothing really, they just perform a little ceremony and send the person
on their way."
Michelle rolled her eyes as she grabbed a record with Zev written on it. "I know that's not how it
works. Nobody ever returns. Ever. Why?"
Karen sighed. "Okay, you wanna know what they do? They kill the person. Look..." She pointed to a
big screen above them that was showing a record. The destination of the record was to the Receiver,
but it was played for the staff so that they knew not to report the missing of the record. "That's a
release in progress."
Michelle stopped to watch the release. The release was of an Old. The woman sat in the chair as a
needle shot clear liquid into her arm. Michelle watched, wondering what happened next.
Then the woman's body twitched uncontrollably until it suddenly stopped and all was still. Then
Michelle saw the wooden box off to the side and watched the Males around the woman place her gently
into the box. Almost like they don't want to anger the dead, Michelle thought, not realizing the
tears were coming down her face.
The true meaning of release, was murder.
She found it hard to concentrate the next month on anything other than her Assignment. She had
become determined to do everything in her power to understand their community better, even though it
was almost too sad to bare.
One evening she got a letter from Benji, a response to one of the letters she had written him.
How you doing? I got your letter, that's cool how you get to check out records and stuff. Wanna get
some dirt on me? Just kidding. Oh, I got my Assignment yesterday. I'm a Architect. They'll start
training me in a few days amongst the Detention Centre. You'd be surprised at how much went into
this building. Write back soon.
Michelle smiled. She was glad to have even that small letter from Benji. It would get her through
the next four years.
Listening to the judge was killing her. She sat at the front of the court, waiting for the judge to
just say the sentence she was waiting for. Michelle dared a glance at Benji. He had grown some, now
probably about a foot taller than her. His eyes were deeper now and he looked like a man, but he
still had the young presence.
The judge rambled on. "Do you believe that you have learned from this?"
"Yes." Benji answered.
"Will you commit the crime again?"
The Michelle heard the sentence she'd been waiting for. "You may return to the community." Michelle
smiled, tears of joy slipping down her face.
Benji nodded. "Thank you."
"You are returned to your family unit and will finish your training with Michael." The judge told
Benji nodded and stepped down from the box. His parents were at the back of the courtroom, frowning.
Riana had grown to be quite an angel, and they obviously weren't interested in having Benji turn her
Michelle met Benji in the aisle and he smiled, pulling her into a hug that portrayed all his relief
and fear at the same time. Michelle couldn't believe it. Her best friend was finally out.
Benji couldn't keep from smiling all the way back to his family dwelling. He talked with Michelle
about everything. Michelle had already completed her training the year before, but still was great
friends with Karen and asked about things she had forgotten or didn't know.
Benji was in the midst of finish his own training, which was a longer process than Michelle's. He
had only a few more months to go and was counting the days.
They approached Benji's dwelling and he hesitated. His eyes followed the walkway. His parents went
to the door and his mother stopped to wait for him.
"Well, are you coming?" She asked gently.
Benji nodded and took a cautious step toward the doorway, then stopped and pretended to look at the
flowers planted neatly next to the path.
His mother watched him hesitate. "Come on. It'll get dark before you make it in the house."
Benji risked a small smile and took another cautious step.
"Michelle, would you like to come in for a bit?" Benji's Mother asked.
Michelle looked at Benji as he turned to watch her. He nodded eagerly.
"Sure." She answered. She stepped to Benji's side and they walked to the door with more ease.
They stepped inside and Michelle realized the dwelling wasn't much different than her own. It was
decorated a little more vibrantly, due to Benji's mother being on the Committee of Celebrations. The
Committee of Celebrations decorated the community and took care of the flower beds that didn't
belong to anyone.
Michelle followed Benji to the dining area. The wooden chairs had beautiful flowers carved into them
and the table was decorated with ferns.
Benji stopped when he saw his younger sister for the first time in years. Riana looked up from
playing with some toys. She saw Benji and immediately got up to hide in behind her mother.
Benji ducked his head as though the little girl had thrown something at him. Michelle realized how
strange it was for him to suddenly be placed back in his family after four years. He stayed close to
Michelle, acting as though she were some sort of shield.
They stepped around Riana. Michelle had talked to Riana a few times, and Riana liked Michelle to
some extent, but Benji was new. He watched his little sister, who was now a Four, peek out from
behind their mother.
Benji sighed and turned away from the child. He couldn't have looked more hurt. They walked to his
room and sat on his bed, talking.
Michelle let him talk for a while without responding. He talked and talked, working himself into a
panicky fit. After a few minutes Benji asked a question and she didn't hear herself answering until
it was too late to take back the answer.
"Why do I feel like half of me is missing?" He asked, hugging his knees close to his chest.
"Because half of you is." Michelle answered, then stopped, shocked.
"What's that suppose to mean?!" Benji snapped, not meaning to sound so aggressive.
Michelle shrugged, but she knew she'd have to tell him.
"Come on! This is just another one of you messed up theories, isn't it?" Benji glared at her.
Michelle shook her head looking sadly at Benji. She wondered how to tell him.
"I hate this! One moment we're friends, the next you think of me as less than you!" He cried.
"That's not true, and you know it!" Michelle hissed. "Benji! How can you accuse me of that?"
"Because everyone thinks like that! You saw my parents in that courtroom! They would rather have me
dead than here! Do you really think I don't realize you all think I'm some delinquent who needs your
messed up charity?" Benji asked, his words stinging her.
Michelle looked deep into his eyes, trying to find something left in him that was the old Benji.
"Benji, I didn't mean it like that." Michelle tried to keep her voice calm but she felt anger inside
her. She tried to remind herself Benji was just stressed out, but it didn't work.
Benji glared at her. "Then what did you mean?!"
"You're a twin!" She told him, getting up to leave.
Benji paused, his expression softening. He watched her head for the door then grabbed her arm.
Michelle stopped to look at him, tears running down her face. "What?" She asked, feeling hurt and a
"I'm a twin?" He repeated, looking as confused as she felt hurt.
"Yes Benji. You're an identical twin." Michelle told him.
"How can that be?" Benji asked, still holding her arm.
"Your Birthmother has an egg, the egg gets fertilized, splits, two babies develop." Michelle
explained, knowing that that wasn't what he meant.
"How long did you know?" Benji asked.
"Years." She didn't care if she hurt his feelings.
Benji let go of her arm and sat on the bed, looking blankly at the wall. "Why didn't you tell me?"
Michelle looked at the door, then decided to stay and talk to him. "I didn't want to hurt you,
especially after I found out what release was."
Benji suddenly broke into tears. "I didn't even think about that!"
Michelle nodded, knowing he'd also learned about release from the other people in the Detention
Centre. She sat next to Benji and cradled him in her arms, wishing she could somehow change
everything. Then Benji lay back, his eyes closed and the tears streaming down his face.
Michelle stayed with him for a little longer, but she knew that their friendship was in danger.
The next few days Benji wouldn't talk to anyone. Michelle tried, but he didn't say anything. She
continued going about her life, but it was hard, knowing Benji was in pain.
She went to the Hall of Closed Records a week later wishing she could somehow change everything.
Karen greeted her with a friendly smile and they went to work; organizing records, fetching records
for the Committee of Elders, and watching them on the screen above their heads.
Michelle went to the office with a record they had called for. "Thanks Michelle." Rick took the
record from her. "A message just came through on the speaker. The Receiver wishes to have a record
sent to him."
"Okay." Michelle answered, not sure what else to say.
Rick explained. "He asks that you go as soon as possible. It's the Annex behind the House of Old."
Michelle nodded. "Should I go now?"
Rick gave her an urgent smile. "Yeah, anything to do with The Receiver should be done as soon as
Michelle hurried to get the record to the Receiver. Knowing that the Receiver got whatever he wanted
as fast as they could provide it.
The Receiver was at the door of the Annex to meet her. "You must be Michelle."
"Yes." Michelle nodded breathlessly. She propped her bicycle upright in its proper position.
"Please, come in." The Receiver led her inside and smiled at a woman sitting at a desk. They went
into a room and the Receiver closed the door behind them.
The room was tastefully decorated. Everything looking like it had been designed just for The
Receiver. The Receiver looked at Michelle through intelligent light eyes. Michelle was reminded of
her own dark eyes that were strangely coloured. They were almost completely dark, except for a
little trim of lighter colouring around the edges.
She stood across from The Receiver. "You called for this record?" She held out the record to the
"Yes." The Receiver smiled. "Thank you." He took the record from her and lay it on his desk.
Michelle was about to leave when she remember him telling her in the letter to ask if there was
anything she was uncertain about. She knew that personal issues probably weren't what he had meant,
but she needed guidance.
"Receiver?" Michelle stopped.
"Yes?" The man gave her his full attention.
"Say you had a friend you knew was an identical twin and you told them they were one, and it made
them feel really upset, so now they won't talk to anyone, what would you do?" Michelle asked.
"They'll probably come along in a while. Just give them their space and they'll eventually turn to
someone." The Receiver told her.
Michelle sighed. "I just wish there were something I could do."
"You can't go back and change what happened, but if you want you can try helping him through his
grief." The Receiver explained.
"Um, sir, would it be okay if I watched some of the records?" Michelle asked. The Receiver looked at
her questionably. "I just want to understand Benji better, that's all."
"Go ahead, and if you don't want the whole building to see what you're watching just take out the
cable attached to the player that has the little zigzags on it." The Receiver told her.
"Thank you for giving me permission." Michelle said, then left.
She went back to the Hall of Closed Records and went immediately to Benji's record. She pulled it
out and took his twin's record with it. Then she went to the fifth floor and went into one of the
rooms with a player and a television screen.
She looked at the two tapes in Benji's record. She felt a little guilty for looking through his
record, but she had gotten permission.
She placed the tape labelled Birth in the player. The second tape was blank, being saved for his
She pulled out the cable with the zigzags and watched a Birthmother deliver two identical twin males
into the world. Michelle blinked back tears, watching her father gently soothe one of the youngsters
as his brother's umbilical cord was cut.
The twin her father held was crying and kicking about, as if knowing what was coming wasn't good.
Michelle could see the newchild's fists clench up and he cried some more. The other youngster was
quiet, calm and collected. He watched his brother make enough noise for both of them.
Michelle tried to picture where she'd seen the other man holding the quiet newchild before. She
watched him closely. Then she realized where she'd seen the stern looking man before. That was
Benji's father. The two men brought the youngsters out of the room and the tape went blank.
Michelle switched the tape for the unnamed twin's release. The tape was blank for a moment, but then
came on. Michelle recognized the room at once. Room 405.
She watched her father walk in the room with Benji's father. The little twin in her father's arms
still cried non-stop. His cries echoed in the room.
"Hush, hush, I know you're cold." Michelle heard her father say gently in an attempt to quiet the
Her father placed the twin on a scale. "Six pounds even." He lifted the twin and tried to hand him
to Benji's father without hurting him. He took the quiet twin and placed him on the scale. "Six
Benji's father was obviously having trouble managing the young twin that was squirming and wailing
in his arms, so Michelle watched her father trade twins with him. Then her father gently cradled the
crying twin, trying to quiet him.
"Which one are you going to release?" Benji's father asked.
"That one." He gestured to the newchild cradled in Benji's father's arms. "He hasn't cried once and
it worries me. This little guy will eventually calm down."
Benji's father nodded. "Okay."
"Could you take care of releasing him? I'm going to make sure this little guy is calm before I go."
Michelle heard her father say. "After that you can go home. I'll fill out the forms." Michelle saw
her father leave the room, the twin still crying in his arms.
For the first time the quieter of the two started to cry. His voice just as loud as his brother's.
"Shhh, shhh, it'll be over soon." Michelle watched Benji's father pick up the by now familiar
syringe. She forced herself to watch, resisting the urge to close her eyes.
The baby in his arms squirmed and wriggled, crying frantically for his brother. Then Michelle saw
the unthinkable. Benji's father put the syringe on the table.
"I can't do it little guy, I can't do it." He hugged the little twin close.
Michelle remembered the rumour about The Receiver that had dropped behind the memories. People had
been devastated by the memories, but Michelle thought it possible that when the memories were
collected they missed something major. They missed the feelings.
Benji's father looked at the box near his feet. He placed the crying twin gently on the metal table
and picked up the box, pressing the lid firmly into place. He went to a cupboard and opened it,
taking out a blanket. Then he gently wrapped the twin and with one hand shoved the empty box into a
hole in the wall. Then he left the room, still carrying the twin who had suddenly become quiet. The
screen went blank.
Michelle blinked in amazement. That wasn't how it was suppose to work. She couldn't keep a small
bubble of hope from forming in her chest. Don't get too far ahead of yourself, she warned herself.
The twin could still be dead. But she couldn't keep the hope from herself and continued on with her
work smiling to herself.
She got permission to leave early and flew from the building faster than her brother did when he
flew planes. She got to the Nurturing Centre as fast as she could letting the bicycle fall to the
ground in its spot as she ran up the steps and into the building.
She ran through the halls, searching for him and not finding him. She went up and down the halls of
each of the two floors before slowing down and going to a room labelled Staff Only.
That's where she found him. He was sitting at the table, drinking coffee and reading the newspaper.
She approached Benji's father.
"Excuse me..." She tapped his shoulder.
He looked up at her. "Staff only, you can't be in here."
"I have to talk to you." She insisted.
"Benji's off in thirty minutes." He told her, going back to the newspaper.
"I know that. I need to talk to you" She told him.
The man looked up. "About?"
"Benji." Michelle said instinctively, then corrected herself. "Well, actually his twin."
Benji's father looked up at her. "I know he's got a twin."
"I know you know." Michelle sighed. "What I want to know is what happened to that twin."
"I released him." Benji's father told her, getting up to leave.
"I know you didn't release his twin..." Michelle said quickly.
Benji's father stopped, then started walking away again.
"What happened to his twin?" Michelle begged.
"I can't discuss that." Benji's father mumbled as he walked from the room.
Michelle followed him. "What did you do with the twin?" Michelle asked, jogging to keep up. "Is he
dead? Is he alive? Is he being cared for?" Michelle nearly fell on her face when she forced herself
to stop in order to stay beside the man.
"Yes, he's alive. Yes, he's being cared for." Benji's father told Michelle.
"Where is he?" Michelle asked.
Benji's father sighed. "You really want to know?"
"If you cross the bridge into the next community and go to the second dwelling on Hazen Street you
should find him. He's living with my little sister, Megan." Benji's father explained.
Michelle smiled. "Thanks, what's his name?"
Benji's father sighed. "Joel."
"Thank you, I really do appreciate your telling me this information." Michelle shook his hand. "Now
I must be off."
Michelle walked out of the building, the hope in her chest growing. Maybe she could help Benji after
She found Benji on his way back to his dwelling from his training.
"Hey Benji, wait up!" Michelle called, pedaling furiously to catch up.
Benji paused to look back at her. He brought his bicycle to a stop and waited for Michelle to come
up alongside him.
"Hey." Michelle panted. "How you doing?"
Benji shrugged starting off again, this time with Michelle beside him.
"Wanna stop by the river or something?" Michelle asked.
"Sure." Benji answered.
They went to the river's edge and watched the water toss a twig around in the waves. Michelle
watched the twig get thrown into a rock.
"Sometimes I feel like that twig." Benji said quietly.
Michelle looked back at him. "How so?"
"I'm all by myself against the rest of the world. The world tries to push me and I try to fight
back, but I still lose." Benji explained in a whisper. "I know that a long time ago I was connected
to others like me, but not anymore. Now I'm just thrown around until somebody decides they want
nothing more to do with me."
Michelle watched the twig finally come to rest on the bank next to other twigs and leaves the river
had found over time. "You don't see it now, but you're not alone. Eventually we'll all come to rest
on a similar bed." Michelle told him. She know from watching the different records of release and
hearing different recordings that each of them would fall into place next to each other later in
Benji lay on his stomach, watching the twig still get hit with waves but it stubbornly refused to be
moved from its spot.
"This is a lot like life I think." Michelle said quietly. "If you can find your place, nothing will
move you from that place."
Benji looked at her and smiled sadly. He shook his head suddenly, as though he were going to say
something but decided against it.
Michelle saw something in the river. She squinted, trying to figure out what it was that sparkled up
at her from the river. It called her attention and refused to let her pull her eyes from it.
Benji noticed her staring into the water. He looked too and noticed the object gleaming up at them.
"How deep is that water?" Michelle asked.
"Maybe three and a half feet." Benji guessed.
Michelle took off her shoes and gently slipped one foot, then the other into the water. She waded a
little ways toward the object then stopped to get a grasp on the slippery rocks. She felt for the
next step when a wave nearly knocked her over.
"Whoa!" Michelle cried fighting for balance.
Benji was on his feet, ready to charge in after her. "Michelle, get back here!" Benji cried
Michelle found her balance again, knowing that she could get killed if she fell and hit her head on
one of these rocks. She waded closer to the object gleaming in the water. The water pushed at her,
daring her to take another step.
She foolishly took the challenge. She stepped to the next rock and in mid step grabbed the object.
Suddenly the water knocked her over. She was afraid at first that she'd drown, but that was at the
bottom of her priorities when she felt her head hit the rock she'd been standing on.
The blackness almost surrounded her, threatening to make her totally unconscious. She fought the
current as the water swept her into the centre of the current where the waves rushed faster and
faster, knocking her into rocks and branches.
She knew she might drown if she lost consciousness, but the blackness still began taking over her.
She fought it and struggled to breath, but ended up breathing in only water. The last thing she
remembered was feeling the firm grasp around her waist.
Michelle opened her eyes and immediately started coughing. She coughed up water until her lungs felt
like they would explode.
Lying back against the grass, she blinked, something had changed in her surroundings. She stared up
at the sky and saw a brightness she couldn't explain. She'd seen it in a dream though. What was it
she'd seen? Blue. Her mind told her.
She saw blue. And when she looked at Benji she saw him differently. He was lying on his side,
breathing sharp breaths as though he were having some sort of nightmare. His clothing was soaked and
his hair was pressed firmly against his head. Michelle noticed his eyes staring blankly at her as he
gasped for air. She'd seen the colours in her dreams, but never in the real world.
The object was still in her hand and she looked at it carefully. It was shaped like a heart and had
a little latch on the side of it. She played with the latch until it released with a little click.
The heart shape opened and something happened that she couldn't quite explain. A soft, rhythmic
sound pierced the silence. She wasn't sure what it was exactly that she'd found, but she was pretty
sure she liked the sound that came from the heart.
She closed her eyes and opened them again. The colours disappeared. She looked at Benji and noticed
him moving his hand, as if testing to make sure it still worked. She clung to the memory she had of
him in colour. He looked different. He had dark, almost black hair she realized, and dark brown eyes
that portrayed a deepness that couldn't be found anywhere else. She'd noticed something else about
Benji. He dressed in complete black. Did everyone do this? She hadn't thought to look at herself
during that time and wished she had.
Michelle listened to soft sounds coming from the heart in her hand. She felt peaceful around the
sounds. They soothed her, but she knew she'd have to get up and they'd have to get back to their
dwellings before dark.
Benji watched as she sat up, coughing a little. She spit up a little more water. Benji rolled over
onto his back, gasping.
"Don't ever do that again." He gasped.
Michelle nodded, coughing up more water. "Where are we?"
Benji looked around. "I'm not exactly sure. We're on the wrong side of the river though."
Michelle looked at the river and knew Benji was right. "Can you see the community?"
"No." Benji answered, gulping in huge breaths of air.
"Are you okay?" Michelle asked, sitting up.
Benji nodded. "Yeah, just tired."
Michelle turned her head to look at him. He pushed himself up so that he was sitting. Michelle
started to stand up.
"Wait!" Benji cried, but she had already stumbled and landed on the ground. She looked at her legs,
which trembled and bled from scrapes and cuts that the rocks had left.
Benji pushed himself up and gently helped Michelle stand up. They relied on each other for balance
as the limped alongside the river. The river had swept them quite a ways and now they were in the
middle of nowhere. Michelle had never left their community before and felt hopelessly lost, but she
knew that if they followed the river they'd eventually get back.
They limped a while up the river before night finally settled. Michelle trembled from the cold and
could feel Benji trembling too. They'd never make it back as they were. It could kill them.
A few hours more of traveling and they found themselves on the outer edges of a community. Michelle
noticed the dwellings and such as they wandered through. Then she saw a street sign that rang a
mental bell. Hazen Street.
As she saw the street name a siren blasted nearby. "Hey! You there!"
Michelle's heart stopped. She remembered a Security Guard once calling out the same thing five years
Benji turned to face the voice, standing on one foot as if the other hurt. His eyes were wide, but
he stood his ground. They were in too much pain to run this time anyway.
The Security Guard shone a bright light in their eyes. "Joel! You know the rules!" The officer
yelled in a booming voice.
Michelle had a flashback of memories. Joel, Michelle thought about the name, Benji's brother.
"Joel! Get inside!" The officer shone the light in Benji's eyes and he tried to shield his eyes with
Michelle limped forward. "Excuse me sir. Could you help us?"
The Security Guard shone the light on something else and Benji blinked blindly. "What are you two
doing out at this time of night?"
Michelle gestured to herself and Benji. "We're from a neighbouring community and got swept down
The sirens still howled loudly, calling several people to their doorways.
"Okay young lady, we'll get you home in the morning. Joel, get home now! You know better than to be
out at this time of night." The Security Guard hissed.
Benji blinked, still trying to recover his vision. "Who are you talking to?" He asked.
"Joel! Get outta here!" The Security Guard called in annoyance.
Michelle jumped when a teenage man came out of a dwelling nearby. "I'm over here." The teenager
"What are you talking about?" The Security Guard growled, pointing his flashlight at the teenager.
Michelle couldn't believe her eyes. She was looking at an exact double of Benji.
"Joel, get back here!" A woman from the dwelling called, running toward the teenager who was now
standing a few feet away from Michelle and Benji.
"Benji, you okay?" Michelle asked as he shook his head, finally recovering his vision.
"Yeah, I'm fine." Benji nodded. "I'm just seeing spots."
The Security Guard pointed the flashlight in Benji's eyes again and he groaned as he shielded his
eyes again. "What's going on here?" The Security Guard demanded.
"I don't know." Benji hissed.
Michelle blinked back the light as the Security Guard pointed the flashlight at her.
The woman came up beside the teenager. "Pat, stop making all that ruckus."
"I wanna know what's going on!" The Security Guard barked. "Joel! Is this your idea of a joke?"
The teenager looked up. "No. I never seen them before."
"I think you all better make a trip to the Detention Centre." The Security Guard said.
Benji shook his head furiously. "No way I'm going there again. You can't make me!"
Michelle held onto his arm. "Benji, there are a few things I wanted to talk about earlier that I
didn't get a chance to."
"This kinda ain't the time." The teenager named Joel told her.
"Isn't." Michelle corrected then stopped.
"Let's all go inside and sort this out there. These two are soaking wet." The woman shook her finger
at the Security Guard. "No use bringing them in and having them get sick."
"All right." The Security Guard sighed.
Michelle stuck close to Benji as they went to the dwelling with Joel watching Benji curiously the
Inside the woman wrapped blankets around Benji and Michelle. "Gosh, you two must be freezing. Joel,
get some more blankets."
Joel obediently scurried out of the room then returned carrying an armload of blankets. The woman
wrapped Benji and Michelle in all the blankets and sat them in the living room setting them up with
a cup of warm tea.
"Thank you." Michelle shivered.
"Don't mention it dear." The woman sat next to Michelle. "What happened to the two of you?"
Michelle shivered. "It's my fault. I was trying to get something out of the river and went to far
out. The river caught me and I surely would have drowned if Benji hadn't rescued me." Michelle
stopped to shiver. "We got out of the river, and now we're trying to find our way back."
"Where are you from?" The woman asked.
"A community not too far from here. It's just across the river." Michelle explained.
"Oh, my brother lives there." The woman said. "He's quite an accomplished Nurturer I hear."
Michelle nodded. "I think I know him. He's got a son, and a daughter who's a Four now right?"
"Yes." The woman smiled. "How'd you know?"
Michelle turned to look at Joel. "Him."
"Joel?" The woman looked startled.
Michelle nodded. "Joel, are you a twin?" She watched him for his response.
Joel was obviously taken back. "A twin? Why?"
"I apologize for being rude." Michelle said the phrase. "I was just curious."
Joel nodded after a moment. "Yeah, I'm a twin. My brother was released." Joel looked sadly at the
Michelle burst out laughing. She couldn't help it. Only this afternoon she'd been wishing there were
a way to find Benji's brother, and here she was sitting with Benji and his identical twin brother.
"I apologize." She choked. "I shouldn't laugh, but it's kinda funny..." She looked at Joel then to
the woman then to Benji.
The woman looked at Michelle crossly. "How is that funny?"
"Well, you see, Benji is an identical twin too... and I was looking through some records after The
Receiver gave me permission. I found something out this afternoon. Benji's twin was never released."
Michelle smiled, seeing it slowly come together in the minds of the people around her.
"That's impossible." Joel shook his head.
"Wanna bet?" Michelle asked. "The Nurturer who was suppose to take care of releasing Benji's twin
never did. He went soft and faked it, then took the twin with him."
Benji looked at Michelle. "That still doesn't make this guy my brother."
"Oh yes it does." Michelle rubbed his hand. "I went to talk to the Nurturer who was suppose to take
care of releasing the second twin, and after a lot of begging found out the Nurturer had sent the
twin to live with his sister in a nearby community on Hazen Street."
"So, there are a dozen other males my age on this street." Joel told her.
"Yeah, but, Benji's father is the Nurturer who was suppose to release his brother. Benji's father
has a son, and a daughter who is a Four. This woman, I'm assuming Joel's mother?" Michelle looked at
The woman nodded.
"Joel's mother has a brother who has a son and a daughter who's four." Michelle watched Benji and
Joel's expressions. "Not to mention the fact you look so much the same that this Security Guard kept
calling Benji Joel when he was talking to us."
Benji stared at his brother in shock. Joel had the same shock in his eyes.
"It can't be right." Benji whispered to Michelle. "Father would get in terrible trouble for that."
"I know." Michelle smiled. "But however it happened. The truth is nether of you are dead."
Benji stood up and went to stand in front of Joel, who stood up too. They stared at each other then
something broke and the tears spilled down their cheeks.
Michelle smiled to herself. Half of her best friend wasn't missing anymore. Here they were. Two
individuals, but one restored soul.
Benji turned to come back to Michelle and wrapped her in a hug. "Thanks." He whispered.
Michelle hugged him back. "No problem."
Benji went to his brother's side and they talked about a few things that were really boring to
everyone but them.
Michelle leaned back and watched her friend become one with his twin again.
The Security Guard shook his head. "What does one do in a situation like this?" He asked.
"Technically speaking, we can't have the two of them alive."
Michelle turned her gaze to the Security Guard. "And why not?"
"It's the rule." The Security Guard said.
Michelle blew a noisy breath. "That rule should be changed."
Joel's mother shook her head. "Well, we don't have to decide anything now. Let them all get a good
night's sleep and we'll discuss matters tomorrow morning."
The Security Guard nodded. "All right. Thank you for having me. Would you like me to take the two
"No. My husband will agree that we're more than happy to have them overnight." The woman told the
"I'll be by tomorrow to sort this whole thing out. Goodnight ma'am." He left and Michelle felt fear
for the first time that maybe bringing the twin together wasn't such a great idea.
"Let's get everyone settled for the night." Joel's mother announced.
An hour later Michelle and Benji were settled comfortably in the living room in sleeping bags. Joel
had volunteered to sleep in the living room with them.
Michelle fell asleep first, shivering harder than she'd known possible. Benji was careful as he
wrapped her in his arms, trying to transfer his body heat to her and keep her warm.
A few hours into the night, Benji poked Michelle until she woke up.
"What?" She grumbled. "Is it morning yet?"
Benji shook his head, putting a finger to his lips. Joel was awake, sitting next to Benji.
"We're in danger." Benji whispered almost so quietly a sound didn't come out of his mouth.
Michelle nodded. "I know." She mouthed.
"What do we do?" Benji asked quietly.
Michelle looked at Joel. "I don't know."
Joel glanced back at his parents' door. "We gotta get out of here." He whispered.
Michelle searched her memory for a place they could run. "Like?"
Benji shrugged. "We don't know."
Michelle knew her best friend's life was in danger if they stayed. Michelle searched her memory for
somewhere she'd heard of. Then she remembered the rumour about The Receiver that had ran away.
"I've got an idea." Michelle smiled. "We leave here and head north."
"You don't have to come." Benji whispered. "If we're caught, you'll be shunned for life."
Michelle snuggled closer to Benji, suddenly feeling cold. "I'm not going forever without knowing
you're safe." She stood up and limped to the door, feeling chilly. "If we're going we should go
Joel shook his head. "Not like that."
"Why not?" Michelle asked, limping back to them.
"You'll freeze to death." Benji whispered, hugging her close.
Joel got up. "I'll be back." He scurried out of the room then returned with clothes. "Change into
these. I know they're kind of big for you, but being wet and out at night is suicide."
Michelle nodded. "Uh, do you have a bathroom?"
"Yeah, but it's through my parents' room." Joel laughed.
"Then turn around." Michelle told the two, feeling uncomfortable with changing in their view.
Benji patted her head and went to stand next to his brother. Once she was sure both twins were
facing away from her she changed into the dry clothes, which just about swallowed her.
She sighed and went to join Joel when Benji changed into dry clothes, which fit him perfectly. Then
they were ready to go.
They left the dwelling quietly, sneaking past the Security Guards that prowled the streets. Michelle
noticed the Security Guards here to be more plentiful and found it irritatingly hard to get around
them without being noticed. It wasn't an easy task when she was limping, but they accomplished the
first part of their mission.
They got to the outskirts of the community and found the river again. Michelle looked at the river,
then took the small heart she'd found out of her pocket of the tunic she had refused to leave
Even though the tunic was still a little damp she didn't feel safe unless it was on her. She dug
into her pocket and was relieved to find that the paper in her pocket had stayed dry when the rest
of it had gotten soaked. That was the good thing about the tunics. Whatever was in the pockets
stayed dry. In this case it was the drawings and letters that had stayed dry. Michelle had known her
father would simply get rid of them if she left them in the open, besides, the drawings had given
her courage during the hard times.
Benji, Joel and Michelle traveled as far as they could as fast as they could within the limited time
between night and day.
They reached the next community by the time day broke and then they stopped at an Inn to get
something to eat. They explained that they were just passing through, bringing a record to a
community far north.
Michelle smiled once they were sitting down and eating. "Those are the pros to working in a place
where everything I need to know is accessible." Michelle told them.
"How'd you know he'd buy it?" Joel asked.
Michelle shrugged. "Because there is a guy heading north with a record. It's in the Hall of Closed
Benji smiled. "You got good at lying."
Michelle playfully punched him. "I have a good teacher."
Benji pretended to look offended but it didn't work. "Well, we better get out of here before people
find out what's really going on."
Michelle agreed completely and they quickly packed their leftovers for the road. They left before
anyone could question them and found shelter for the day under some trees where they talked for most
of the day.
That night they set off again. Michelle was still limping, but she wasn't worried about it as much.
"Look out!" Joel cried suddenly.
Michelle whirled around in time to see the big plane over their heads that was flying slowly and low
over the ground. She searched their surroundings for shelter but found none.
Her heart came to a wrenching stop. This was it. They couldn't go anywhere. They were caught. Benji
and Joel were ready to run for it as the plane circled around, spotting them and landing.
Michelle wanted to run too, but she couldn't move. Then the pilot of the plane got out of the silent
plane and came towards her.
"Michelle, get in that thing now." Eric's voice was a relief and a problem at the same time.
Michelle felt her leg go weak and she stumbled to the ground. "Eric, I can't."
"Come on, do you want the other guys to find you?" Eric asked.
Michelle looked at him, dumbfounded. "What other guys?"
"The other guys looking for you three." Eric explained. "They think that you guys will set some
example and everyone else will start rebelling so they sent pilots out to get you."
Michelle shook her head. "I can't go back."
Eric knelt by his younger sister's side. "Hey, don't worry. I'm not like those other guys."
Michelle was shaking silently as Benji and Joel approached carefully. "I can't go back." Michelle
Eric looked at Benji and Joel. "They told us the story."
"Then you'll understand why Benji and Joel are in danger if they go back." Michelle begged.
"Michelle, did you think I'm here to turn the three of you in?" Eric laughed.
Michelle looked up at him. "What?"
Eric smiled at his sister. "Affirmative, they're not here either, keep looking further west." Eric
said into a microphone, then unplugged the microphone. "Benji's not the only one who lies like a
"What do you mean?" Michelle asked.
"I'm not just a pilot, although I can fly a plane, I'm under strict orders from The Receiver to see
to it that you three are safely transferred from the area." Eric told her. "Now let's get out of
here before someone not so friendly shows up. I'll explain the rest on the way."
Michelle shrugged and struggled to stand up. Benji and Joel followed at a distance as Michelle got
into the plane. Benji decided to trust Eric, although he didn't like to admit it. Joel followed more
because he didn't want to go on alone.
Michelle felt the plane jerk as it suddenly started moving. The plane picked up speed until it
lifted high into the air.
Michelle watched the ground drop beneath them through one of the windows.
Eric sent the plane off toward the horizon. "The Receiver called early yesterday morning saying
something about Michelle talking about a twin brother. He said to watch out. Then this morning he
called again saying that identical twins had somehow survived and to make sure they didn't get
Benji held on tightly to the seat he was in. "What's so special about us?"
Eric looked back. "The Receiver said something about you two being able to see colours and hear
things differently. He told me that you two could inspire the community."
Michelle looked at Benji and Joel.
"Yeah, I can see colour." Benji admitted.
"Me too." Joel nodded.
Michelle remembered the brief moment after she'd woken up when she'd seen colour.
"I still get the dreams sometimes. The nightmares about the Nurturing Centre, the strange dreams
where everything is different." Benji said.
"I think I figured out your dreams." Michelle told him. "But you probably already figured them out a
long time before I did."
Benji shook his head. "No, I didn't spend a lot of time trying to figure them out."
Michelle smiled. "Well, I'd have feared the Nurturing Centre too if that were the last place I saw
my sister, or brother in your case." Michelle remembered the tape. "Actually, you didn't really like
the Nurturing Centre when you were a newchild either. You cried a lot."
Benji looked down, embarrassed.
Joel watched Michelle curiously. "Did I cry?"
Michelle nodded. "But not until you were alone in room 405, suppose to get released. But that only
lasted like three minutes. Benji started crying right after birth and didn't stop."
Joel poked Benji playfully.
"Attention all passengers, we are now leaving all communities and entering life as it was
generations before our time." Eric announced.
Michelle looked around when suddenly the plane hit turbulence or something and shook violently. Then
it stopped and she looked out the window.
"Wow! Look at that!" She cried.
Benji and Joel looked and for the first time in forever the land was cover with colours. Creatures
roamed the hills.
Eric smiled. "Welcome to the real world."
Michelle smiled. "Benji, did you know about these places?"
Benji shook his head. "No."
Eric gently took the plane down onto a flat stretch and they stopped by a river
Michelle reached into the pocket of her tunic and found the drawing Benji had once given her. She
looked at it and then at the world before her. It was the same place.
Michelle turned to look at Benji. He was in colour too. So was Joel, and Eric, and herself. She went
to the river and looked at her reflection in the water. She had no idea how odd she looked. She had
green eyes that turned blue around the edges. She noticed her hair was also strange. A golden colour
that reflected the smallest light.
She couldn't keep from twirling in a little circle. There was a bright light that hovered in the
"Michelle, listen to this." Eric called, turning up the radio on his plane.
Something weird is going on. The land is changing. The Receiver says not to panic, this is safe.
There are strange sounds echoing through the community. Water is falling from the sky in some parts.
There's a big ball of light in the sky.
Michelle laughed. "The colour is returning."
Benji came to her side and wrapped his arms around her. Life had hit their friendship on as many
rocks as it could, but they had found their place in the world and weren't budging from the spot.
Then a message from The Receiver came over the radio. The memories have been set free.
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