When you look closely at the streets that spread throughout the city, you can see each of the colors woven into the pavement. The streaks of red the most prominent, purple the least. The more important you seem to the city, the more representation you get. It seems fair when you only know the basics, but not once you know all of the details. When you know that the lower groups are harassed for their placement, even though it is all based on a test you take when you are barely six years old.
I get my one chance to retake that test today.
As I walk down the street, my eyes following the few streaks of purple hidden among the others, I hear a man shout at me. His voice is deep and raspy, and he sounds like he smokes cigarettes. I never look up at him, I don’t want to acknowledge him, or I will only draw more attention to myself. I can tell one thing, though. He is part of the Orange group. The strongest are placed in this group, and smoking is pushed on them to make the appear tougher.
“Hey, you!” he shouts in my direction. I keep my head down, and quicken my pace. “Hey, get over here!” he coughs. I ignore him. I ignore everything. I keep my eyes on tips of my shoes, shove my hands in my pocket, and keep walking.
I approach the gate that leads to the entrance of the Red Village. The gate is extremely intricate, with black bars twisting and weaving between each other, until they reach the end of their journey, where they end in sharp points that look like spears. I rarely pass by this gate, and that is how they intended it to be. The Red wanted to seem mysterious, and they did a good job at that. This is only the third time I have ever entered the Red Village, and my first alone.
A red and white marble path leads up to the main building of the Red Village. It is where all of the important meetings are held, and where I am not normally allowed.
I approach the main doors, which are at least twelve feet tall. The doors are a shiny white, and I struggle to push them open. I enter an enormous room with the same floors as the path outside, only they are much cleaner.
On the wall furthest from me hangs an aged map of what the world used to look like. There is a red dot over the word COLUMBUS. That must be where I am standing. Dots of other colors circle around the red one, with orange the closest and purple the farthest.
I examine the map for a little while longer, before I hear the clicking of footsteps coming down one of the many spiral staircases. I step back from the map.
“Elliott Flores…” I hear the voice say to themself. It sounds like the voice of the woman, and it echoes throughout the room. “He probably isn’t here yet, those filthy purple are never on time.”
She, she, I think to myself. Not he…
“I’m right here, ma’am,” I call quietly. I’m not completely sure which staircase she is coming down, but I try to make my voice loud enough that she hears.
She emerges from a staircase to my left. I straighten my back and clasp my hands together to seem polite. I’m not, though, I’m really not.
“You’re…Elliott?” she asks, raising a dark eyebrow. She mumbled something under her breath, and from the tone I could tell it was offensive. She patted down her gleaming red dress, and buttoned the cardigan that lay atop her shoulders.
“Yes, ma’am,” I stammered. I kept my eyes down, making myself as small as possible.
“Well, then,” she said, her voice energized. She must have to seem friendly to all visitors, I know she doesn’t want me here. “Come with me,” she continued.
She led me up many winding staircases and through hallways, where the floors were all the same white and red marble. The railings on the staircases were made of a material I had never seen before, but it was a sleek milky white. It was almost iridescent, since the light from the tall windows lining the walls reflected off of it and turned it to a light shade of ultramarine. I stared in awe, but immediately looked down when I noticed the woman looking back at me.
After what seemed to be hours of climbing staircases of endless white, we approached a red velvet curtain. It shimmered in the light from the windows. Today was unusually sunny.
A sign stood on a silver pole on the ground, and read “TESTING ROOM” in a fancy font. It looked handwritten.
The woman turned to me. I never realized how tall she was, she must have been six feet at the least. A name tag hung from the collar of her shirt. Her name was Caroline Richards.
“You cannot exit this room until the test is completed. Do you understand?”
“You will be under a type of mind control that allows you to only be able to answer questions with your subconscious. This means you will only be able to tell the truth. The answers you give to the questions you are asked will determine where you will be placed. You can choose to move to the placement chosen for you during this test, or you can stay in your current placement. Do you understand?”
I nod again, though this time I’m slightly more hesitant. I shouldn’t be afraid, though. My placement can’t be any lower than it already is.
Caroline draws the curtain back, slowly. I look at her, and her golden brown eyes are filled with fear. She never looks in the room, only lightly touches my back to suggest I enter.
The curtain closes behind me, and I can hear Caroline’s shoes clicking against the stairs as she walks back down. I run my hand through my chin length, brown hair and turn around. A man stands on the opposite side of the room, and he walks towards me. “Arm,” he grunts. I roll up my sleeve and hold out my arm. He quickly injects a black liquid into my vein, and I flinch at the sudden pain.
I feel odd already. I don’t know how to describe it. It’s like I’m floating and sinking at the same time. My stomach drops, and I clutch it as I sink to my knees.
“Get up,” I hear. The voice is an echo, and it bounces around inside my head. I do nothing. I can’t move, I feel frozen.
That’s my name, I think. I can tell that I’ve turned my head, since I was looking at the ground previously, but I now stare directly into that man’s eyes. He looks funny, his face is contorted. It makes him look dumb. But he probably isn’t dumb, he is probably putting up an act. He is probably a liar.
Before I realize it, I’m on my feet and stumbling my way over to the other side of the room. When I first entered the room, I remembered it being completely white with hints of red here and there. Now I see thousands of colors, making it difficult to do anything.
I stand in front of the man; I’m almost as tall as him. I look him directly in the eyes. “That’s my name,” I say. It doesn’t sound like me, though. It’s distant, and I turn around to see if anyone else is in the room.
No one is there.
I don’t know what I’m trying to accomplish. I remember what Caroline said earlier, but not exactly. Something about my subconscious and the truth.
“Sit down, Elliott,” I hear the man grumble.
“No,” I hear that distant voice scowl. That can’t possibly be me. I would never be so rude, so defiant.
I am moving farther across the room, behind the man. He was intimidating to me when I first walked into the room, but now he is nothing, just an empty body.
“Elliott, do you know what is happening right now?” The man asks. I can tell he is afraid, but I’m not sure of what. Is it me? No, it can’t be.
“Of course I know what’s happening,” I announced. I don’t know what is happening, though. I never act like this, I’m not supposed to. My whole life, I was taught to be quiet and polite.
Everything has lost its color now, and I can see clearly again. I feel aware, but stronger than I ever have before. I circle the man, straightening my posture as I get closer to him.
My vision fills with a flash of light, throwing me off balance. I stumble backwards into a chair that wasn’t in the room before I began my test. I sit down.
The man stands in front of me and crosses his arms over his chest. “I will return in a few minutes with your test results,” he murmured. He strides over to the curtain and brushes it aside, and then disappears.
I examine the chair I am sitting in while I wait for the man to come back. It is a deep shade of maroon, and made from a shiny plastic. I run my fingers along the arm rest, which is ridiculously smooth. Everything in the Red Village is so incredibly perfect, it looks like it was crafted by fairies.
I don’t know how long I stay lost in thought, but long enough that I don’t notice the man creep back into the room. I jolt when I hear my name.
“Elliott Flores, your test results have been calculated and are in this box,” he disclosed. He sounded much more confident than before, and I wonder if he had seen my test results.
“No one has seen your test results yet,” he continues. Well, I guess that’s not why his attitude abruptly changed.
He approaches me and hands me the box, which is a gleaming black color encrusted with jewels of every color of the rainbow. I take it in both of my hands and stare at it. The man clears his throat, and I open the silver latch that keeps the box sealed shut.
I shut my eyes tight, and draw in a tremendous breath. I open the box, and let out the air I was holding in. I peer into the box, lined with black velvet.
A blood red ruby sits neatly in the center of the box.
“What…” I whisper. I brush the ruby to see if it is really there. It is cold and smooth, and definitely real. It sparkles, even though the sun has already set since I first started my test, making the room dim. The ruby splattered bursts of pink glowing light onto the walls.
I looked up at the man, and I waited for him to tell me it was a joke. That it was just a silly prank, a way that the Reds messed with lower placements. He looked back at me, waiting for me to tell him what my placement was.
“Elliott?” he questioned. He raised an eyebrow. “Please show me the box. It is required.” He reached out to take the box, and I passed it to him.
He grunted, confused. He lifted the ruby out of the box and closely examined it. A burst of pink light shifted across my eye, blinding me for an instant.
“Odd…” he mumbled. He furrowed his brow and squinted his eyes as he brought the ruby closer, and stared at it.
“What? Why is it odd?” I asked. He set the gem back into the box and closed it. The box made a loud snapping sound that startled me. He handed the box back to me.
“You are the only person to have been placed in Red during your second testing,” he answered, his voice calm. “Normally, the test can detect whether you should be placed in Red or not the first time around, but not with you…”
I felt my heart rate increasing. This whole time, I have spent my years in the worst possible place, and I was never meant to be there.
My childhood was taken from me.
“So, Elliott,” he continues. “Will you be moving to the Red Village with the rest of us?”
I should move, I should get out of that mess of a village, but I can’t just ditch everything and everyone I’ve ever known.
I sigh. I clasp my hands together in my lap and look down for a moment. I blink slowly, and lift my head.
“I’m…” I trail off. The man turns his head and stares at me, waiting for me to finish.
“I’m staying,” I blurt out. “In Purple.”