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Home  >  Peer Work
Within the EYES
By Kacy Grundhauser, Steller Secondary School
Genre: Fiction Level: High School 10-12
Category: UAA/ADN Creative Writing Contest

I turned 16 a few weeks ago, and I was already hauled off to the FET building. The FET stood for The Final Evaluation Test, a test that each of us must take when we turned 16. The test would evaluate our physical endurance, mental drive, mental expansion and dedication to the system. This was just another program within The Early Youth Education System, or EYES. The EYES runs all of the schools and education of the country. They teach all of us from the age of 3 to 15, and then evaluate us at age 16. By age 17, we will graduate and start our careers in the work field.

EYES had transported us by car, plane, and train to the massive, grey FET building. The previous 13 years of our lives had led up to this. They lined all 3,000 of us up, and gave us our uniforms, study guides, and room number. The FET specialists told us that testing would start the next day, and then released us for the night.

Of course, none of this would have been necessary if it weren’t for the cure. Sometime ago, a team of highly gifted scientists created a virus that used gene-therapy to stimulate the brain, which would then create more neurons. The team had cured the world from all forms of memory loss. The medical field was ecstatic with the cure, until 10 years after it had been administered. Something happened and the virus changed people’s genetic structure to not retain memory. Instead of stopping memory loss, it accelerated it. The medical field could not find a vaccine for the virus. But the scientists found that if people continued to expand their knowledge they could keep their memory. The EYES opened their doors soon after the virus had taken over. Their mission was to give the future generation the best education and brightest chance in this new, changing world.

I was walking along the brightly lit hallway searching for my room, and then it happened. A strong but distant voice rang in my head, “Sam, it won’t be long. Find a way out and we’ll get to you as soon as we can.” I whipped my head around and expected to see someone talking to me. But all I could see was the sea of distraught teenagers around me looking for their rooms, and the monolithic guards at each section of the hallway. The closest guard gave me a stern look, and instinctively reached for the stun gun on his belt. I took note and kept walking with the other students.

I was about to enter my room, when a tall man in a white lab jacket came rushing up to me. “Are you Mr. Samson Standel?”

I nodded.

He responded, “Please come with me.” The hallways started clearing up as we headed toward the east wing of the building. A girl with red hair was standing in the middle of the hallway talking with a guard. She seemed as confused and angry as the guard did. We avoided disturbing them and kept walking.

The man started talking again, “You’ve been selected to participate in our newest program, The Replacement Information Program, or RIP. This program will see to your needs better than any of our others.” He took a breath and stopped at a crisp, white door. “Here we are. See you in the morning.” He quickly left, and I entered the room.

Room B137RIP, a small white-walled room that contained a bunk bed, two desks, a single dim window and a wash room. I put my belongings down by the closest desk and sat on the cold metal chair staring out the window. The sky was a streaked with bright orange as the sun set. In the parking lot, the buses that had dropped us off earlier were slowly lining up to leave us behind.

The door opened and a tall, muscular boy with dark, sandy-blond hair walked in. He set down his bags and the door slammed shut. He flopped onto the bottom bunk and stared toward the ceiling. I began to say, “Uhh, hi, my name is Sam Sta—”

He interrupted, “The fastest way out of here is grabbing a stun gun and running for your life.”

I replied, “Good to know… As I was saying, my name is Sa—”

“Sam, I got it. I’m Kellen. I have a pet chicken back on my farm,” he said, “I’m hungry.”

I was beginning to think that they had placed me in the wrong unit. Maybe they had gotten me mixed up with another Sam Standel. But I replied anyway, “Hello Kellen.”

He leaned up on his elbows, “Did you see her blow up in the hallway? She was red as an apple. I like apples.”

I confusedly responded, “No?”

“My chicken’s name is Frankie,” he happily replied.

The speakers came on, “Good evening, I hope you all found your rooms just fine. Testing starts tomorrow morning at 7 am. Please wear your school uniform. Lights out in ten minutes.” The speakers clicked off, and we changed into our night clothes.

    We settled into our beds and Kellen spoke up, “I think her name was Shell Reed. The guys with the stun guns took her away. Good night Sam.”

“Good night Kellen,” I said, and then the lights went dark.

    The annoyingly loud beeping woke me at 6:15 am. Kellen was already up and going. He walked out of the wash room in his uniform. He turned and looked at me, “The only time I've ever had to dress so fancy, was for my Aunt Jenna's funeral.” The uniform consisted black slacks, with a white-buttoned shirt, and a pair of loafers.

I murmured, “I’m sorry to hear that.”

He shrugged his shoulders, “Don’t be, she was a nasty old horse. Literally.”

The room doors opened at 6:50 am and crowds of teens made their way to the dining hall. All the guys wore the same attire, and the girls wore a white-buttoned shirt with a black-pleated skirt and a pair of maryjanes.

Kellen whispered, “That’s her.” He pointed to a girl in the crowd. She was slightly shorter than the rest, with the brightest orangey-red hair and an abundance of light brown freckles scattered across her skin. She happily talked with some girls from the RIP unit, then she glanced over the sea of people, looking for someone. When she couldn’t seem to find them, her face fell and she trudged into the hall. I swear there was a hint of anger in her frown.

    We filed into the dining hall and the speakers came on, “Welcome to the first day of The FET. Each of you will be evaluated by one of our prestigious specialists. Good luck!” The speakers clicked off and Kellen and I went to stand in-line for breakfast. The red hair in front of us was unmistakable—it was Shell Reed. Then I heard the voices again, “She’s the one.”

I looked around confusingly and asked Kellen, “Did you say something?”

Kellen replied, “Nope. Do you know if they have apples, or bacon? No chicken please.”

I ignored Kellen and kept walking. We finally reached the food carts and picked out our meal. Kellen bobbed along grabbing giant portions of food, and excitedly grabbed the last apple. The bright red hair flipped around and asked politely, “May I please have that apple?”

Kellen clutched the apple close to his chest and whined, “But I’ve wanted this apple since yesterday. You can even ask Sam!” I turned to say something, but fury struck her face and body. It was as if someone flicked a switch and changed her emotion just like that.

Shell hissed, “Fine! Take the apple. It’s not like you don’t already have enough food to feed an army!” She stormed out of the dining hall and everyone was silent.

Kellen finally spoke up, “Does anyone have some jam for my toast?”

After we were released from the dining hall, each unit went to their main quarters to meet with their specialists. Our unit was made up of about 500 kids, all put into a giant, brightly lit room. The farthest wall was lined with small doors with little glass windows, and within the windows you could see a man or women sitting at their desk typing away on the computer in front of them. The rest of the room was made up of rows and rows of single desks that contained a booklet and pencil on each one. I took a seat in the back of the room with Kellen as people piled in. Once everyone was seated our specialists emerged from behind the doors. There must have been at least twenty of them, all lined up in their lab coats smiling contently at our dull faces. A shorter man cleared his throat and looked at all of us, “Good morning Unit RIP. In front of you is just a little practice test to get you started. Today, each of you will be called up and evaluated by one of these superb specialists. When your name is called, please come to the corresponding specialists. Shall we begin?”

One by one the specialists called their subject’s name: “Rose Anderson, Noah August, Patrick Baker, Evelyn Black, Mallory Chase,” and so on. Each student got up and the specialist escorted them into their room. The rest of us began our practice test. It was a boring and lifeless exam, just like ones at home. I noticed Kellen and many of the other teens fidgeted in their seat, others just stared blankly at the walls, and some couldn’t even start the beginning of their test. I quickly finished my test and felt like the only sane person there.

The main doors swung open and a guard and Shell Reed entered. One of the female specialists that had just finished with another student, talked quickly with the guard and then took Shell into her room. As the guard was walking out, he stared over at the rows of us, sneered, and then left.

“Liam Schoolcraft.” A tall, skinny guy got up and walked to the left-most door. “Samson Standel.” I was up. I walked toward the tall man and entered his office. He closed the door with a ‘click’ and sat down at his desk. He motioned for me to sit, and I did.

He spoke, “Hello Samson. I’m glad to see you’ve blended well into the RIP. I wasn’t too sure when I dropped you off yesterday.” I remembered, he was the guy who had taken me to the RIP in the first place.

I responded, “Uh, yeah. Thanks.”

He replied, “My name is Dr. Hues and I will be evaluating you today.” We went over basic information like my name, family history, medical history, and education. Then he asked me about my physical activities, mental drive, emotional situation, and future plans. I told him that I wanted to be a mechanic like my grandfather. Even though that was far from the truth. I just felt like I couldn’t trust the guy. He seemed quite interested and pleased with my evaluation.

He said, “Well, overall a great evaluation. If you have any questions feel free to ask now. Otherwise, I wish you my best.”

I started to shake my head, but a woman’s voice murmured in my ear. She requested if I could ask the doctor just a few questions for her. I was a bit shocked that anyone was asking for my help, but I followed suit and asked Dr. Hues some questions she had told me. I started, “Dr. Hues, what happens to them? You know, afterwards? And how do you know when it’s your time?”

Dr. Hues cocked his head at me confusingly, but answered, “Of course, everyone is curious about what happens to those who choose or cannot learn. Well, knowledge and learning is what keeps us going, it’s like recharging a battery. When we don’t have any more energy, our battery dies. Some say they can feel it in their mind, the memories and thoughts slowly draining until it’s an empty void and a lifeless body. Once they are gone, we do what we would do to any deceased person. But I’ll save you from the grueling facts.” Dr. Hues leaned closer to me and spoke softly, “EYES has been working on a vaccine that allows these people and others, to get information without using their energy and time. It should be very exciting to see how this program goes. Maybe it’s the change that we all need.”

I slowly nodded my head and thanked Dr. Hues. He led me out of his room and told me I could leave the testing room as long as I was done with my test. I walked down the rows of desks, many of the students were already gone. There was no sign of Shell, but Kellen sat at his desk tapping his foot impatiently, barely into his booklet. Dr. Hues called for Russell Zimmer and I left the room.

    The evening was uneventful and dinner was flavorless. I was already in my night clothes when Kellen finally came into our room. He looked exhausted from the day. While he showered, a man in a lab coat dropped off food for him. Kellen changed into his night clothes and ate his food. Between mouthfuls he told me about his evaluation, practice test, and chicken.

The speakers clicked on, “Good evening, I hope your evaluations and practice tests went well. Tomorrow we will be conducting physical tests, so please wear your athletic uniform. Lights out in ten minutes.” The speakers clicked off and a woman came to pick up Kellen’s tray. We went to bed, and soon after the lights flicked off.

    In the morning we dressed in our active wear: black sweatpants, a white t-shirt, and white sneakers. The RIP unit assembled in the East gym and met with our fitness coach, Mr. Waters. Mr. Waters was a short, thin man with too many wrinkles to count but he had a voice that could be heard from a mile away. He gave us partners and started us on drills. I met with my partner to start, and it was none other than Shell Reed. She tied her bright red hair back into a tight ponytail as she started crunches. I sat down next to her and did crunches too.

I began, “I’m Sa—”

She blurted out, “I know. Remember? We met in the dining hall. I’m Shell, but I’m sure you knew that.”

“Right.” I responded. She sat up and started on push-ups. I copied her and continued, “Kellen really didn’t mean to be rude. I’m sorry he upset yo—”

She interrupted, “Its fine. I should be the one who’s sorry. I don’t know what came over me. Can you keep something between us?”

“Uhh, sure.” I said.

She looked around and blurted out, “My roommate, Kayla, they’ve taken her.” She got up and moved to jumping jacks.

I followed in suit and replied, “Are you sure they haven’t taken her for some more testing or something?”

She replied excitedly, “That’s what I thought in the beginning. But they took her late last night, and she hasn’t come back. I think she said that they diagnosed her with something named ‘Huntington’s disease.’ And I’ve been talking to others in our unit that have had this happen to their roommates too. All have been diagnosed with some disease or disorder.” She continued, almost whispering, “They say the RIP is where they put the “unstable” kids. And when the EYES said they would make life easier for the rest of society, they really meant they could kill off the unneeded and unwanted. They want everyone that graduates to be the top and most successful of their class.” She started some stretches and angrily hissed, “They take the ‘unfit’ teens and give their knowledge to old farts who want to live longer, but no longer want to work for it. You see? We’re their extra life source! We die so they don’t have to!”

She stopped and looked at me, her eyes almost to tears, “We’ve to stop this. This is not right. Kayla is already gone. We will be too, soon enough.”

Mr. Waters called for us to regroup. We went through many drills, physical tests, and then played some games. Mr. Waters and his assistants documented our scores for our physical tests. Kellen did well on his test. He especially loved running around and doing jumping jacks. Shell and I did well with all the tests, but we weren’t as thrilled as Kellen. Others had some trouble following directions, or performing the tasks. Some of the assistants took them out of the gym to “more thoroughly evaluate” them.

Shell’s words didn’t leave my mind all day. What if she were right? Were we just educated and fed information to die? Like raising a pig for slaughter? After class, Kellen and I showered and dressed for dinner. Tonight we had to attend an all school dinner, so we dressed in our uniforms and then went to the dining hall. Kellen and I sat down at a table in the back of the room. Shell came up and asked, “Is there anyone sitting here?”

I replied, “No. Please sit.”

Kellen said, “Hi there Shell. Don’t you look nice?” He chuckled, “These guards couldn’t hold back a riot of us tonight!”

Shell responded, “Thank you. And yes, I have noticed.”

I peered around and noticed that the number of guards since the first day had substantially decreased. I asked, “I wonder why that is?”

No one replied because dinner had begun. Servers came out and gave each of us a plate of warm and delicious looking food. The dining hall was full of people eating, laughing, and chatting. Shell and I sat together and discussed the RIP.

A small voice spoke in my ear, “Lunch is the time for children to break out. It’s also the same time most guards are off shift.” I also remembered that Kellen said the best way out of here was getting a stun gun and running for it. I told Shell about this, leaving out that someone had told me about it, and then we made a plan. Shell and I agreed on it, we would pack our things in the evening, attend morning class, and then leave during lunch the next day. After the plan was set, the dining hall closed and we went to our rooms.

    I told Kellen to pack his things and be ready to leave tomorrow. He lumbered around our room and filled his backpack with odd items like marbles, shoelaces, and pens. He kept telling me how these things would come in handy on our “adventure.” I just kept nodding and agreeing with him.

The speakers clicked on, “Good Evening. I hope dinner was splendid. I’m sure you are all very tired from the physical education tests today. So get some rest, tomorrow is a long day with lots of studying to do. Lights out in ten minutes.” Kellen and I were already in bed. My head was racing, and my heart was pumping. I sat and waited for tomorrow to come.

The next morning Kellen and I woke much earlier than the alarm. We dressed, putting our regular clothes under the school uniforms. We finished packing our backpacks and went down for breakfast. We met up with Shell and grabbed a hearty meal. While we ate, we hid snack items in our trousers. Kellen stashed apples, bananas, and about any other fruit he could find for the trip in his trousers. We bid our goodbyes and set out to our classes.

I sat in the back of my math testing room but I couldn’t concentrate on the test. My thoughts of what Kellen, Shell, and the voices had said, swarmed in my head. I fidgeted in my seat and stared off at the white walls looking for answers. I felt like I was slowly going insane, just like the rest of them.

I think the teacher told the class it was lunchtime, but I was gone before he stood up. I ran to my room and got Kellen’s and my belongings. Just before I left, I looked back into the small room and said, “Goodbye room that I never wanted.”

I left our belongings hidden, next to the exit door. Shell’s things were already there. I then headed to the main office. Shell and I waited around the corner and Kellen started in. He walked up to the giant guard in front of the main office.

Kellen turned and faced the guard, “MISTER! I NEED YOUR HELP! PEN-EEE HERE IS GONNA BLOW!”

The guard turned to Kellen and exclaimed, “What’s the matter?! Why aren’t you at lunch?!”

Kellen held up his pen and replied, “MY PEN-EEE. IT’S BROKEN! HELP IT!”

The guard frowned at Kellen and responded, “Go on kid, before I have to shoot you.”

Kellen shoved the pen in the guard’s face, “PLEASE!” Kellen squeezed the end of the pen, spraying the dark, sticky ink into the guard’s face.”

“Ahh!” screamed the guard. Kellen grabbed the gun out of his belt and stunned him. The guard seized up and fell to the ground.

    Shell and I popped up from around the corner and the three of us ran. We ran from the main office to the closest emergency exit. There weren’t too many guards around, and the ones we encountered Kellen stunned. Once we reached the exit, Shell pulled out her bobby pins and started on the lock. I grabbed our bags from around the corner, while Shell was at work. Two guards spotted me during their rounds. They yelled and started for me.

I ran toward Shell with our bags and screamed, “Shell! Hurry!” Kellen was too busy fake shooting his foot to care.

Then the voice spoke in my ear, “The marbles.” I rustled with Kellen’s bag and finally got its front pocket to open. Marbles of every size and color poured from his bag. The guards slipped on the marbles and were out cold. I was shocked that the marbles had actually worked, I had only ever seen it done in videos or cartoons. The lock clicked, we grabbed our bags, and flew out the door.

The sun blazed overhead and the crisp air filled my lungs. We slammed the door behind us and Kellen insisted we tie it shut with a shoelace. I quickly looped the shoelace around the handle and pulled it taunt. The sirens blared throughout the facility.

Shell yelled, “Over there!” She pointed to a motorcycle, and we hopped on while she hotwired the bike quicker than Kellen saying no to consuming chicken. She flicked the stand up and revved the engine. Kellen wiggled around on the bike and I knew he would never fully hold on by himself. I thought quickly and whipped off my belt. I put my belt through Kellen’s belt and latched the other end around me.

“Hold on boys!” Shell screamed happily. The motorcycle lunged forward with us hanging on for dear life. Shell held onto the bike, I grabbed onto Shell, and the belt around my waist pulled tight on Kellen’s.

    Shell aimed us for the only exit. Its steel doors were closing and the guards were close behind, they pointed their guns and shot at us. I tried to grab Kellen’s stun gun, but it dropped to the ground when he passed it to me.

Shell yelped with excitement, “I feel so free!”

Kellen looked ahead and yelled, “We aren’t gonna make it!”

Kellen was right, the doors were nearly closed and the guards were on our tail.  Shots blew passed us, just barely missing. Kellen began to struggle against the belt. I tried to keep him centered, but he was slipping. As Kellen struggled, bananas, oranges, and apples flew from his trousers. The guards’ bikes sloshed over the fruit. The banana peels sent some of the bikes swerving away, the oranges blinded some of the guards as they sprayed into their faces, and the apples set some of them drastically off track. Kellen whooped with excitement, as I centered him onto the bike. Shell revved the engine once more and slipped through the closing walls. The cement doors closed behind us, and we didn’t look back…

Well, Shell and I didn’t look back, but Kellen did. He said he saw one of his apples preventing the door from fully closing. The doors pushed on the apple, but the apple prevented them from locking together. Kellen said he saw a guard on the other side of the door. The guard had wide eyes and an open mouth. Maybe he was shocked that we got out, maybe it’s because we left, or maybe it was because we outsmarted the best security in the country. The door finally crushed the apple, closing and spraying apple pieces everywhere. The guard probably stopped staring and moved on, and so did we.

After a few miles, Shell slowed down a bit, turned her head to the side, and said, “Sam, what happens now? We don’t have any knowledge to keep us alive. We will surely die.”

I told Shell, “We’ll find food and shelter. I mean, Kellen has us covered on fruit for the next month.” Shell threw back her head and laughed. The soft light shone in her eyes and made them glisten with happiness.

Kellen turned his attention to us, and said, “And maybe our world hasn’t changed as much as we think. Maybe we don’t need to have knowledge crammed down our throats to survive. We just need to learn, and that’s something that we do every day. Easy stuff.” Shell and I looked at each other. We had never been taught or told that education didn’t have to come from a teacher or book.

Shell smiled, “We need to start the movement toward free-thinking. By opening our minds we can create unimaginable results.”

I looked over my shoulder and could still see a blurry outline of the FET building, “The Early Youth Education System was based on unease and worry that turned into fear and panic.”

Shell replied, “Although EYES isn’t all to blame, it’s our own assumptions and insecurities that led us astray.”

There was no guard in sight when the sun began to set. The bright pinkish-blue hue illuminated our faces as we rolled across the endless miles of earth.

Shell said, “The fence is coming up soon, I can just see it.” The fence was the border of the EYES control and reign. The fence was the starting line of the free land.

We reached the edge of the territory and slowed to a stop. I heard a distant voice, but this one wasn’t coming from inside my head. I looked up and saw a group of people on the other side of the fence.

“Hello Sam, we’ve been waiting for you,” said an older man within the group.

“I’ve heard,” I replied.

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