I look somberly at my purple birthday cake with the big 13 numbers punctured into the spongy texture. What luck. This year, the training Centre has reopened, just in time for my birthday. I know I won't come out alive. I'm a quiet, timid girl who often has her nose in a book, reading about adventures like this, not living them. I will die.
Once every three years, the gates of the training Centre open. The training Centre is located in Australia as there is plenty of space for it there. I don't want to go to Australia. I like it here.
I live in a small hovel of a home in England, and, in all honesty, the country has fallen into ruin. You can forget about your parliaments and royal family, that was so a hundred years ago. That was before The Claw and its army rose from the firey pits of hell. It had emerged from the sea and destroyed everything in sight, causing humans to flee underground and to the mountains. After a few decades, humans emerged from their hidey-holes and faced the beast. But the thing was massive. Its head was in the clouds when it was standing at full height. Guns have no effect on the beast or its army. We're back to good old fashioned swords.
My mother looks at me expectantly, "Make a wish Illyis," she coos softly. I hate my name. Writing it down on a piece of paper makes it look like it's all L's so I have a strange habit of never using capitols when writing my name, so I write it like illyis. See? Much easier to tell what my name is, even though it sounds like a disease.
Make a wish? What could she be thinking?
"I wish I survive training," I say as I blow at the candles. Mum looks heartbroken.
Dad looks impressed and nods at me, "Good wish."
Then we hear loud thumping at the door. There's a doorbell there for a reason, not just for decoration. My mum gets up and goes to the door.
"Hello ma'am," I hear a deep, male voice say. The formality scares me and I run to the door, knowing what it is.
"Is....L-ll-y-is, home?" Asks a female, stumbling on my name. I smirk slightly as I reach the door.
I see a man and a woman in the doorway, both wearing bullet-proof Armour. They're clearly trainers. The woman looks at me expectantly, raising her eyebrows in a questioning manner. Clearly she doesn't want to have to try saying my name again.
"Yeah I'm Illyis," I say, putting emphasis on the I.
"Illyis, may we speak with you for a second?" asks the woman.
"Sure," I say, stepping outside.
"Come in," my mum says, catching my arm as I try to walk out. My mum leads the two trainers into the house, still dragging me by the arm, and into the sitting room.
In our sitting room is one large sofa against the off-white walls, a single seater next to the door leading into the kitchen, a coffee table with half a corner missing and a small TV in the corner. Just this much fills the entire room.
The woman trainers eyes flicker to the birthday cake on the table, "Happy birthday," she says tersely and almost sadly.
I'm hesitant to reply, "...Thanks?" I say, questioning if this is the right response.
The woman nods, "How old?" she asks.
I thought the cake made that clear, "Thirteen," I inform her.
She nods again and smiles sadly at me.
The man claps his hands loudly then rubs them together, causing dad to jump.
"Right, let's get started. We've plenty more people to do. As you know, every three years the training Centre opens to allow in children from the ages of thirteen to sixteen to train for later life in the army against The Claw and destroying the abomination and its army of demons," the man says.
Blah blah blah.
"Children from around the world get the opportunity to prove themselves worthy of joining the Euphonic Army and serving us later in life," he continues.
Worldwide nowadays means all the dominant countries. These include, the US, China, Japan, Russia, France, Germany and the UK. There were other countries but they were destroyed. All minor countries seemed to band with these countries when The Claw emerged from the earths depths. I think the countries that survived The Claw was more so based on armed forces and all that. I dunno how that worked. So, for example, you get Irish people in the UK, but they seem intent on keeping the Irish heritage alive so you don't see many kids with Irish descendants who aren't Irish themselves. My friend, Aoife, is an example of this.
"Proving yourself worthy involves severe training which you may not return from, but me and my partner are here to guide you. My names Steve and that's Yasmine," the man, Steve, says.
Well hello, I don't really care.
When Steve sees me not acknowledging him, he seems lost for words.
"We have come here today to inform you that tomorrow morning, at 6 a.m.. sharp, a bus will be here to collect you. You will be taken to a plane which will transport you to Australia, where the training Centre is situated. Please pack all necessities and a few keepsakes from home tonight, ready for the morning," Yasmine butts in. Just as well, Steve looks gobsmacked.
"So, can I bring my books?" I ask.
A smile creeps across Yasmines face and Steve lets out a splutter, "Of course, you may pack anything, whether it be a book or a photo. Just keep it to a maximum of ten things and make sure they aren't to big," Yasmine tells me. Steve is looking down at our blue, and very stained, carpet, laughing to himself.
"How long will she be there?" dad asks.
Yasmine looks sheepish, "Sir, I'm afraid once your daughter leaves, if she passes training, she will be immediately enrolled and sent off to the Euphonic army. Training lasts for any period of time from two months to a year. She will be kept up with studies and exercise as part of her training."
"So you're saying I won't see my baby again?" mum says crying. I go red. I'm not her BABY. Steve had looked up from the carpet but looks straight back down again as he splutters again.
"I'm sorry ma'am. We will provide her the greatest care..." begins Yasmine.
"But you won't!" mum explodes, "She might die in your ruddy training and even if she doesn't, she'll be packed off to the Euphonic army to be a pawn in killing The Claw!"
My legs begin shaking and I sit in the weak sofa. Will that happen? Even my mother's saying I'm as good as dead.
"Ma'am, you knew what would happen when you put your name on the repopulation list. You were one of the chosen bearers..." Yasmine begins.
Chosen bearers? What...
Mum opens her mouth, then closes it again.
Steve decides to re-enter the conversation, "Could all goodbyes please be exchanged either tonight or before the bus arrives. If I-llyis is not outside with her bags at 6 A.M.. we will come in and drag her out of the house," Steve says forcefully. I can tell he is used to situations like this.
The two trainers begin to leave when I pipe up, "Do you think I'll live?"
Steve turns, his hand on the door handle of our front door, "In honest truth, no. Sorry."
Steve leaves the house and leaves the door ajar for Yasmine. Yasmine comes over to me, crouches in front of me and places a hand on my shoulder. She brushes some of my auburn hair out of my face in an almost motherly fashion. In Yasmines green eyes, I can see my own fearful blue ones reflected back at me. A smile breaks across Yasmines face, "I don't usually say this, I don't like giving false hope, but you....You seem different Illyis. I think you'll survive, and I'll keep an eye out for you during training," Yasmine says winking at me.
She then gets up and goes out the door, closing it softly behind her. I head upstairs to pack my bags, not wanting to discuss what has just happened with my parents.
As I am packing my things that I treasure most; a book or two, a photo of me and my family, a necklace my boyfriend, Josh, had given me-I hear the buzz of the telly from downstairs. I strain my ears to listen.
I listen to the news reporters boring voice;
Tomorrow, children from the ages of thirteen to sixteen will be taken to the training Centre, located in Australia. The childrens training will be broadcast in the homes of the families of the children. This year we ask people not to hack into the channel and we urge that you do not take bets. The last time the training Centre had opened its gates, a crisis level of people were gambling on the success of the youth entering. These people who were brought forward had been prosecuted. So, we warn the public, bets and taping into the channel are illegal. Any one caught doing so could face a fine or time served in prison....
I tune out after this and shudder. I remember my mother had demanded dad to tap into the network the training was broadcasted on so she knew what was in stock for me. I remember dad had rather insensitively invited his friends over to watch, and they had brought beer and screamed at the TV as if it were a game. But, the worst thing, I remember that people had begun placing bets on the kids who they thought were going to die or survive or cry in each of the trials during training. I feel sick as I realize exactly the same will happen to me, not in my house, but in someone elses.