Chapter Ten

Chapter Ten

A Chapter by Hollie

Ever since I can remember, I have loved climbing. Before the Segments were locked off from the world, we used to have an apple tree that grew in the centre of town. Residents could pick at the apples whenever the pleased, but everyone left that for the fruit and vegetable shopkeeper to take care of. However, during the months when apples didn’t bloom, children used the tree as a play toy, myself included. Max and I had raced up and down it many times, so much so we came to know each branch like the back of our hands.
I cried when the tree was chopped down. It was the sign that everything strong and pure was finally falling apart.
Right now I hang from a rope that is attached to the ceiling, my hands and feet clutching two of many large knots that make it climbable. Above is a series of metal beams we are supposed to climb onto, so I focus on my goal and pull myself up. My body bellows in protest so I grit my teeth, ignoring it as best I can. Instinct tells me to lets go, to end the burning in my hands, but I push on.
Perry stands below, calling up orders or remarks that I barely hear. I am grateful that he ordered me to take part since I felt pathetic sitting out in this morning’s session. This training room is the only one that is below ground, unnervingly close to the area of the confinement cells. Ethan had to guide us down here, but he’d been careful to keep his distance from me. Good. I feel more at ease when he isn’t within touching distance.
Everything’s here: climbing walls, platforms to jump, ropes to climb, beams to balance on, tunnels to squeeze through, nets to crawl under. Apparently it expands outside, where we will face the tasks of dragging ourselves in the mud and balancing on wet, slippery wooden beams. That course is for rainy days only.
Huffing and puffing, I latch onto the last knot in the rope. The beam is level with my feet, but I will have to tread carefully and quickly. Heart hammering, I push myself onto it, but my hands refuse to release the rope. I yelp as my feet dangle in the air, the pain escalating in my hands.
“Focus, Harper!” Perry hollers. Breathe, breathe! I slow my breathing as my feet find a knot to support themselves on, and the pain decreases. Come on. I clear my mind, focusing on nothing but the task at hand. My feet meet metal, and after a half second’s hesitation I release the rope. I feel my stomach leap into my throat as I try to balance my upper half, arm flailing. I take another step, and laugh. I made it!
I hear a scream, and I see a girl plummet to the ground. Of course there is a net five feet above the concrete, but the terror that poisons her face wipes the smile clean off my lips. She collides into the net below, bouncing ever so slightly as it accepts her weight. She’s a chunky girl to say the least.
I am the only one on the beam until Max takes the leap of faith, balancing herself on the metal with a little more ease than me. She grins and carefully stumbles over to join me. “I knew that tree climbing would come in handy one day.”
“Beginner’s luck!” Kyle shouts, hanging from a rope with Cole at his heels. We laugh. Just a little across from him, Jay struggles to reach the beam. Being smaller and lighter it should be easier for her to step on, but she miscalculates her move. She’s not high enough, her shoulders barely level with the metal. She jumps, and I run.
I don’t give her chance to scream when I snag her elbow, both of her hands locking onto my arm. It isn’t until I step back that I realise the beam is aligned with the wall, so with the help of Max to steady me we heave Jay up to join us. She laughs breathlessly when she is steady on her feet before thanking us.
“Cheats!” someone bellows.
“Teamwork!” Perry corrects.
Tilly is the next to balance herself on the beam, looking proud of herself as she grins at us. Sweat glistens her forehead just like ours, and all I want at the moment is a shower.
The boy I tried to race is next, who suppresses a smile. I can’t imagine why.
Kyle is next, who makes the same move as Jay had. However his arms find the beam and he is able to pull himself up rather easily, but accepts our helping hands all the same. A girl with purple and red hair is next, followed by a boy with similar features to her who I presume is her brother. Besides, his hair is the same colour. Cole is next, followed by Mike, and then a couple others pile on to finish.
The ones who fell stand below, looking frustrated behind Perry. DJ stands among them. There are seven of them in total, which means that twelve of us made it. I feel for DJ, though; he never got high enough to reach for the beam. I’d be frustrated, too.
The twelve of us sit with our legs dangling over the edge, looking down at Perry for further orders. He appears to be smirking.
“You lot are ten metres up!” he calls. “Doesn’t sound like a lot, does it?” No, it doesn’t. But the more I look down, the more my head begins to spin. “Did it ever cross your minds on how to get down?”
“You don’t expect us to jump!” says the purple headed girl.
“That’s exactly what I expect you to do!” he grins. “Think of it as a somewhat fear test! And since Harper was in such a hurry to get there first, I think she should do the honours of falling first, too.”
Well, crap.
“Any objections?”
“None here!” Kyle booms, suppressing laugher as he swings his legs. I glare at him.
“You’re dead to me.” I growl, but that just makes him laugh harder while others join in. I stand, and my legs have suddenly turned to jelly.
“Need a push?” Tilly smirks. I make a face at her with false laughter.
Staring down, I can suddenly hear my breaths, which are heavily laboured. Everyone’s eyes are on me as my body wobbles with uncertainty. Perry looks at his watched as the seconds tick by, and Ethan stands in the far corner nibbling on the corner of his pad. His eyes are closed, as if he’s concentrating on something, and then I realise my arm is flashing. I stare at it for a moment in an attempt to distract myself. I try to feel angry or determined, but all I feel is fear. My heart is pounding to the point of pain, ringing in my ears.
You’re being an idiot, I think. There’s a net, fall into it! I turn and face the wall.
“Fall, fall, fall...” someone chants; the boy with purple and red hair. His sister joins in, followed by Kyle, Tilly and Mike. Jay, Max and Cole stay silent, but their expressions are enough to imply that they are thinking.
Breath in, breathe out. In, out. In, out. Finally, I let myself fall backwards.
I hold back the scream with everything I have, gasping instead. My stomach leaps into my mouth, the air turning from cool to momentarily freezing, and just as my lips part to yell out, I hit the net with a bounce.
I blink and sit up, and then grin.
“Max, you’re next!”
“D****t.” I hear her mutter.
I stumble off the net and stand on weak legs, my head spinning for a moment. I walk towards DJ, who offers me his arm to lean on.
“You’re shaking.” he murmurs. I am, too. I’m trembling and yet I feel somehow lighter�"fulfilled. I smile up at him and shrug.
“I’m fine.” I assure him. He smiles back and rests his arm on my shoulder, using it like an armrest. I notice that the flashing in my arm has stopped, and a blue light above me catches my attention.
I look up just as Max’s feet leave the beam, but unlike me she releases a shriek and her body panics in the last few seconds. Once her body embraces her fall she can’t get on her feet quick enough and topples to the ground. I rush forward to help her to her feet, guiding her to where DJ stands.
One by one people fall in the order they climbed, some shrieking while others make silent descents. Once everyone is safely on the ground, Perry allows us to either sit out or embark on another activity. However, the way he says the first option has a hint of malice in his tone, so we automatically assume that that would be an unwise choice to make. The recruits who failed the climb have to try again and again until they get it right, so DJ parts from us with a sombre look.
I’m on a balancing beam near the door, Max and Cole bickering as the follow. I’ve never been good with balance. Mum always said I was clumsy as a child, constantly tripping over my own two feet. Most children cry when they fall, but I had fallen so many times that I’d become immune to it. Just get up and keep going. It only seems logical that I work on my weaker spots now.
A pang hits my chest; the thought of mum makes me ache in a way far worse than the pain I am feeling from this morning and yesterday. A small lump forms in the back of my throat, cold and hot at the same time. I blink several times and swallow it down.
The incredibly thin beam starts to climb before it makes a sharp turn to the left. I crouch, lining one foot in front of the other while my hands keep me steady. I almost fall when I reach the corner, my body wobbling so much I have to outstretch my arms for a few seconds. I push forward.
The beam climbs a little several more times until the height is roughly two metres. If I fall, it will hurt. However, I have to make a jump before I meet a metal stairway that descends safely to level ground. I will have to run the length of a car and a part of me thinks about. My legs are unsure of themselves, and my heart is beating unsteadily with nerves.
I run despite it.
For a few steps I think I’m going to make it. Then my foot doesn’t hit the middle of the beam, and I topple to the left with a gasp. I try to grasp the beam for support, only for my wrist to hit it painfully. Pain shoots up my arms, I yelp when my hip hits the mat below. Not that it does any good; I have to grit my teeth to suppress a groan.
“Again.” Perry snaps and I jump. I didn’t know he’d been watching me. I brush myself off and walk to the beginning of the balancing task. Max and Cole had given up, for now they are attempting to swing across thin poles that represent a ‘monkey bar’ type nature. Max it the one swinging, Cole’s hands on her hips to steady her. I smile.
Cole and Max have always had a soft spot for one another, ever since they were kids. I’d catch Max shooting glancing at him in school while biting back a smile. I’d see Cole blush whenever she said hi to him. Sometimes I saw them standing alone together before class, murmuring to one another and laughing softly. I strongly believe they had been in a relationship, and perhaps still are.
That’s when another pain hits. In a few years, they won’t value one another. They won’t even value themselves. That idea makes something deep inside me churn. They have something pure and beautiful together, but this life will threaten to tear it apart. And there’s nothing they can do. Nothing!
“Are you always this easily distracted?” Ethan asks, having come up behind me.
“I’m not distracted.” I say flatly. “I’m merely being observant.”
“Stop watching others and focus on yourself, you won’t get into trouble that way. Always think about the task at hand.” he says, and walks away, whistling as he does. I sense that there is a deeper meaning to that, and I curse myself for yet again digging too deep. I let it go, and start again.
I fail a further three times on the balancing beams and huff in frustration.
“You’re a waste of space.” Perry snarls at me when I lay defeated on the floor. “Again.”
In the same moment I watch DJ fall into the net, yet again having failed to reach the metal beam above. I sigh in disappointment for him, and Perry frowns.
“Are you listening to me?” he demands. I smile.
“Always.” I say sarcastically, and I think Ethan laughs.
I get up and try again.
By the sixth try, both of my hips have gone numb. Clearly I am not cut out for balancing. With a little reasoning, Perry releases me from this stand and sends me to the climbing section. I stare up the wall, and half way up are more beams that are parted. I imagine that this is where we have to jump more so than climb, the thick metal planks generously spread out on podiums. I bite my lip.
“Together?” someone asks, and it’s Jay. She smiles, her pink hair damp though it has been pushed out of her face. Her jaw looks awful, but I respect her for her next to no complaints. I smile and nod, so the two of us begin to climb. I ignore the fact that harnesses are not an option here.
That’s when Tony arrives, beaten and exhausted. I stare at him before I even get the chance to pull myself up onto the wall. His face is heavily bruised, and both of his cheeks are cut open along with his lip and eyebrow. His hair sticks to his face, sweat still dripping over his defeated features. Everyone stops to stare, and silence weighs down on us.
“What the hell are you looking at?” he shouts, and everyone carries on with what they were previously doing. Everyone but me. Jay doesn’t wait; she hurries up the climbing wall as if it were second nature now.
Tony walks towards me, his movements stiff. He must be in agony, but I can’t find it in me to care. He had it coming, right from the moment he laid a hand on Jay. Suddenly Tilly is by my side having just immerged from a tight tunnel, her glare ferocious. Max and Cole stop what they are doing, standing close together but poised to move. Kyle is it watching from a beam above me, Mike not far away. Even DJ is glaring from his position on a rope. Tony takes note of all these eyes, and nods to himself.
“What happened to you?” I ask despite myself. To say I’m curious is an understatement.
“Why would I tell you?” he growls. “Just take pleasure in knowing you put me there.”
“You asked for it.” Tilly sneers. His eyes snap to her face and he glowers.
“Keep your rat face out of my business.” Tilly clenches her fists, and if looks could kill, Tony would have shrivelled up like a raisin by now.
“Pierce,” Perry shouts. “Get to work!”
Tony nods in his direction but smiles down at me. “I can’t wait until you snap. They don’t take any crap around here.” There’s a warning as he speaks; he’s going to do anything he can to make me snap. I tip my head and smile.
“Game on.” is all I say.

***

Carl Hayes walks in during the last hour to observe, and I instantly want to hide and cower. His scars look more prominent in this light, and I wonder who, or what, had inflicted them upon him. He joins Ethan at the back, who had left a half an hour earlier to fetch himself some take away coffee and a muffin. He leans on the wall chewing carelessly, looking casually invested in whatever Carl is saying.
“You’re observing again.” Max says, nudging me.
“You heard that?” I say, tearing my eyes away from the scene.
“I didn’t need to hear anything. You’ve observed everything like a watch dog for as long as I can remember.”
“Trying to call me a dog?” I say, smirking.
“You have the temper of a bulldog, but that’s all I’m saying.” she giggles when I scoff, fending off my playful attack to her ribs. We amble towards the monkey bars, where I jump to latch on. I’m not sure how much more my muscles can take; we haven’t stopped for even five minutes. I groan and drop almost as soon as I grabbed hold, and I think everyone else if feeling the same. We are lazy now, everyone losing interest from being too tired to carry on. Even Perry has toned it down with the orders. Probably as bored as we are, I think to myself.
I look up, and DJ is finally perched on the metal beam. He just needs to work up the nerve to get down.
“What do you think he wants?” Max asks, referring to Carl. I shrug. She frowns at me when we walk under the netting, a rope hanging just above me. I jump and grab hold, fending off the pain in my arms as best I can. She rolls her eyes as I start to climb and walks away.
I manage to climb high enough to talk to DJ without shouting, and he’s sweating heavily. With a little less effort this time, I jump onto the metal beam to join him and groan with satisfaction.
“Surely there isn’t much more of this session left.” I say. “My limbs are gonna fall off.”
“Not helping, H.” he mutters, staring at the net below.
“I can help.” I offer with a smile. He laughs but it’s forced.
“I’m not cut out for this. I’m not. Why am I here, H? Charlotte should be here, not me.” he says in a voice that flows along the line of exhaustion. I presume that Charlotte was his girlfriend, and I touch his arm tenderly.
“Well, you brought yourself up here, so only you can answer that question.”
“You’re funny.”
“I know.” I smirk. “Look at me. You can do it, it’s easy. Just let yourself go. Think about it as if there’s water below, not a net.” Carefully I place myself in front of him so that my back is to the wall. His eyes never leave my face, and his hands grip my arms.
“Don’t you dare.” he growls.
“I’m a huge fan of dares.” I say slyly, biting my lip.
“I mean it, Harper, don’t.”
“Fine, you can stay up here and miss dinner.” I edge away, making a move to fall backwards, when he stops me.
“Wait... push only when I say, okay?” he asks, and I can’t help but smile at how innocent he looks.
“I’ll do a count down.” I assure him. I face him and wrap my arm around his front, my other hand on his ribcage. I can feel the hammering of his heart his t-shirt damp beneath my palms. He takes a fist full of my t-shirt at my shoulder, and I can’t shake the feeling that he will pull me down with him.
“On three.” I say. “One, two, three.” I push, and his grip on me tightens. I follow him down, but he releases me the moment his feet leave the platform. I suppress a scream and reach out, my fingertips brushing against the rope. In a fit of natural panic I grab hold of it, my body swinging through the air like a flag. I gasp and the rope moves against my hands, feeling like it is taking the flesh away with it. It’s short lived when a knot halts me, my feet scrambling for another one to even my weight.
DJ hits the net, and cheers and claps sound pleasantly in my ears.
When I make a steady descent down the rope and jump into the net, Carl is waiting for me. The smile I’m wearing vanishes as he gestures for me to join him on solid ground.
“Can I have a word, Harper?” he says, his voice sending shivers across my skin. Obviously I can’t say no, so I follow him to the back of the room, away from prying ears.
He stares at me for a long time, calculating my features, trying to read my thoughts. I can’t look away from his face; the scar practically begs me to look at it. Part of me thinks it was self-inflicted, but it’s far too... perfect, for lack of better word, to be done by his own hand. Someone else had done it to him, someone with an even steadier hand than Silver. Someone who had intended the blow to be a killing one.
He lifts his hand to his face, scratching the corner of his lip. His knuckles are raw, dried blood coating them. Recent. I put two and two together and instantly know that he was the one to beat Tony to a pulp.
“You should really get a bandage on that cheek.” he says quietly.
“It’ll heal faster if I leave it alone.” I answer, but my voice is stiff. It sounds like I’m talking to someone other than Ethan, other than Perry, other than my friends. I speak with a monotone, and I know that the word ‘sir’ sits at the tip of my tongue. I’m speaking like a soldier.
“Fair enough. About Pierce, he claims you lunged for him first.” he says, raising a brow. Sweat runs down the curve of my spine.
“Yes,” Don’t you dare say sir!
“Yet he did not harm you physically?” he flexes his fist. I swallow.
“No, but he hurt my frie�"Jay, he hurt Jay to get to me.” I stutter, my mouth going dry.
“I see.” He moves fast, and suddenly he has a fist full of my hair. I let out a squeak but bite my tongue, clenching my eyes shut that blur with tears. He leans in close, the smell of cigarette smoke strong and distasteful. “You keep your fists to yourself unless told otherwise, you understand?” he spits. “None of these recruits are of your concern. They should mean nothing to you. This is a Sector; this is where you no longer value life. Learn to understand that. Are we clear?” when I don’t answer he shakes me twice, as if I am a rag doll. “Are. We. Clear?” I wish he would shout rather than speaking like he’s talking to his child.
“Yes, sir.” I say, the last word leaving my lips before I can stop it. He smiles, and releases me. He leaves without another word, and I release the breath I had been holding. I am shaking, and everyone is staring.
“Dismissed.” Perry declares, sounding distracted himself. When no one moves, Ethan speaks up.
“Leave, now! What are you waiting for? Piss off out of here!” he sounds angry, desperate. Everyone dashes to the doors, Tilly, Max and Cole carrying me away with the crowd, just as the tears begin to spill.










© 2013 Hollie


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Added on August 22, 2013
Last Updated on August 22, 2013
Tags: Training, falling, fear, watching, threat, bruised


Author

Hollie
Hollie

Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, United Kingdom



About
I'm Hollie, 17, and an aspiring writer. I am outgoing, love to read, and am just a typical girl with a life long dream. more..

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