Chapter One: Rainy Season [THE CUBE][Unedited]

Chapter One: Rainy Season [THE CUBE][Unedited]

A Chapter by Rachel Barnard
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Indescribable; Future Best Seller; Page Turner; Future Classic... I can dream, right?

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THE CUBE

RACHEL BARNARD

Text Copyright © 2012 Imagine Group USA, Inc.

Copyright © 2012 Imagine Group USA, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

 

[Unedited]

Chapter One: Rainy Season

I ran outside as thunder boomed to meet me. Rain streamed down in little waterfalls. Lightning cracked and the sky shook fearfully. I ran under the downcast sky and twirled. Puddles formed beneath my moving feet. Rain dripped down my nose and my hair lay wet against my head. My clothes were soaked through, but I was not cold. I was exuberant, I loved life and life loved me. I ran up and down the street, dancing to the feelings inside of me. I didn’t feel the cold or the wet raindrops splashing down around me. The puddles around me formed a pool and slowly, ever so slowly, they crept up my ankles. My dancing stopped; my shoes were too full of water for my waterlogged feet to move. All that was left was a light drizzle. The sun pushed away any remaining clouds and shone bright and true. My body moved sluggishly toward the drooping shed. I went around to the back and pulled out my kayak. I hopped in the knee-deep water and pushed my kayak forward. I jumped in and paddled toward the sun, shedding water as I glided effortlessly like a swan across the smooth surface. Around and around our little ditch I went, laughing at the hilarious picture I must have made. There I was, an emerging adult at seventeen, and I was kayaking in three feet of water, in our ditch, still soaked through.

Several hours later, I was in bed cozying up to my teddy bear, under my fluffy comforter. Freshly showered, my skin felt tingly; under my clean sheets. I turned on my back and gazed up at my ceiling. The cat’s eyes from my ceiling poster stared back at me. Four sets of eyes from my roommate’s Beatles poster, also pinged on the ceiling, fell on me. Side by side, all eyes fell on me. Jeanie made a muffled sound and rolled over in the bed next to mine. She was a pretty sound sleeper, but she had a tendency to talk in her sleep. At the Academy, where everyone kept secrets, Jeanie’s bedside habits did not do her well. As a roommate, I knew more than anyone about her. She had once talked about a crush she had on our self-defense instructor in her sleep-murmurs. She was pretty cool though, and mostly kept to herself when she was awake.

More so than Jeanie, I never told anyone my secrets. They would get me expelled. I was careful never to get too close to anyone and after three years at the Academy no one really knew who I was. I shuffled my blankets off my feet and rolled over onto my stomach. Time to sleep. I needed my sleep. Tomorrow the fourth years are going to start their training in the Cube and I wanted to be ready. In this last year, I needed to prove myself capable. It was very important for me to rise to the top of my class and the Cube was crucial to my success. If I failed now, all my hard work would be for nothing.

To get to sleep I started to tell a narrative in my mind. It always helped me to concentrate on something as benign as a story. I liked to create the same story every time but with different details. A great ravine formed in my mind. The rocks were dull and covered in a dust that swirled through the air and whipped into my eyes. I took to the skies in flight and swept up and down the drafts of wind, getting caught up in the particle clouds coating my wings in a fine layer of brown dust. I swooped up and down and found my usual spot within the rock wall, a narrow slit that formed my cave. I could have reached it easily from climbing down the wall, but would never have found it without a panoramic view from 100 feet above the narrow racing river below and 20 feet out from the rocks, suspended in the air. I raced for the crack and stopped short as soon as I was encased in the cool rocks. A slight outcropping of rock kept the raging winds out and I settled down in my favorite chair, a little droopy from all the years since I had created it and sat in it. I contemplated my surroundings: a small dingy bed that had started to sag in the middle, a wooden table that would have made any dining room proud with its elegant dark designs, and finally, a coat rack that stood in an empty corner. I never knew why I imagined a coat rack; I never had on a coat while I was flying around in my swirling ravine. I got up from the chair and ran to the edge of my little cave and jumped.

The alarm sounded exactly at 6:00 AM. Jeanie hit the snooze button and rolled over.

“Come on, girlie time to partay!” I said.

She just mumbled something unintelligible. I knew she would get up as the second snooze rang, so I let her be. I didn’t really want to talk anyway, no sense getting familiar. I still found it funny to imitate the other girls now and then with their ridiculous mannerisms and phrasings. Then again, they all came from upper class backgrounds and had nothing else to do but gossip and lay about before the Academy chose them. I, on the other hand, had better things to do.

I pulled on my requisite outfit for the Cube, like a spandex outer layer of skin. I swear they had not updated these outfits in years, and before that they had probably copied them straight out of all the old sci-fi movies with virtual reality games. Whatever. I didn’t care and they were designed to allow complete range of motion. I started my morning stretches, pulling the fabric this way and that, as I readied my throwing arm.

As I walked through the dark hallway out of the building towards the Cube; I messed with the settings on my suit. I changed the color from the school’s standard black fabric and white middle screen on the chest plate to my favorite, tie-dye. Each player was part of a four-man team and ultimately the colors would reflect that but when not actually competing; the suit could be altered to reflect any individual’s desired colors. I saw blues, reds, and a multitude of rainbow suits walking or jogging impatiently outside. This was our chance to shine. We had been training for this moment, strategy classes, psychology and human behavior, anatomy, etcetera; all designed to help us in this moment of competition. Of course, only fourth years were allowed on the Cube itself but every week we practiced on the grass fields behind the building.

The Cube loomed ahead, a large mundane structure, at least five stories tall. Large castle-sized doors were open and our trainers were standing at the entrance ready to scan our identity chips. I held out my wrist and the machine beeped in recognition. The first time I had to get scanned, I had nearly freaked out in anticipation. What if it didn’t accept me? Slowly I had gotten over my fears that I would be caught. I relaxed outwardly and continued walking through the large wooden double doors, looking up to read the motto I had heard a thousand times at the Academy, “Aim with all your ammunition and you lose your chance to succeed.” The first time I saw it; I was puzzled but back then I had never heard of the Academy before or the Cube or knew what the matches were. Simple really, the meaning: Aim with your entire round of ammunition and you would lose because you had more than one enemy. Take down one and you leave yourself defenseless from the rest. Some other student told me, “You better have accurate aim because you can’t be using the entire fireball on one and frankly you can’t even divide it into fourths either, you have to take tiny pieces. You better break off and use a marble sized ball because it’s rough out there.”

“I don’t understand” I had replied.

He laughed and stated back, “You will.”

During my first years at the Academy, the upper classmen were never very informative. They were too busy to explain anything to the noobs like me. I had to learn the hard way. I had never played before; I didn’t come from that kind of background, no grooming for the Academy or anything. The very first field day we had, we divided into several teams of four. I was handed my fireball, my ammo: a round spherical ball. I watched as my three teammates took small pinches off to get ready. I did the same. The stuff smelled like electric clay. It felt powerful. The trainer told us to get ready. We all stuck our back feet firmly on the ground and held our small pinches in our right hands, except Jeanie, she’s left handed. She held her fireball in her right hand. Our outfits had turned purple in unison and we stood against four yellow-clad girls. They glared at us. Several blow up obstacles stood between us and them; a large cylindrical red piece, a couple rectangles and several cubes. Obstacles to the team that took the offensive but great walls of defense to the team that hung back. Looking around at the sweet and innocent smile on Jeanie’s face and the diminutive frames of the other two girls; I assumed we would be using the objects for the latter objective.

The whistle blew and I saw bits of yellow flying toward our end of the field. Our team took off as well. The two small girls leapt to the right, behind the cylinder, and Jeanie and I headed to the left. The yellow team came around the cylinder and threw their small weapons. One of the small girls on my team screamed as one of the small balls of ammo made contact. Her body froze for an instant and she looked terrified, as she slumped to the ground. Confusion hit me for a second as I looked down at the ball of ammo I held in my right hand, what did it do? I didn’t wait for long to figure it out; as the yellow team took down the other small girl and started rounding on Jeanie and I. We both looked at each other and then hopped over the rectangle in front of us. This obstacle was quite large and shielded us from view from the yellow team momentarily. The other blown up squares were nearby and Jeanie made as if to run for them but, I pushed her down and scrunched up beside her. The first yellow girl flew over the obstacle and I chucked my little ball at her but it missed. Jeanie, without missing a beat, threw hers and it contacted; down the girl came, confusion playing all over her face. The second and third yellow team members were right behind the first and Jeanie and I took both of them down as well. The fourth yellow girl had caught on and was hanging back, waiting for us to show ourselves, or perhaps she was sneaking around the far square? I couldn’t tell but it was time to move. Jeanie was a lot smaller than I; so I put her right behind me and motioned for her to use me as a shield, and take out the yellow girl when she appeared. Roaring like a madwoman the final yellow girl rounded the far square obstacle and a huge orb hit me square in the chest.

It was like being hit by a thousand fireflies from inside and as they burst out of me, I collapsed to the ground. Jeanie did not wait a moment as she rose up from behind my falling body and threw her entire fireball; as well, surprising the yellow girl, who now only had half her ammo left and didn’t have time to throw it or move as her momentum from throwing the other half at me was still carrying her straight towards the oncoming electric storm. Jeanie beamed proudly and tried to pull me up by my arm but, I was paralyzed and much too heavy for her to lift.

Suddenly, I could hear cheering, as our other classmates clapped for our victory and the show we had put on. The trainer appeared, frowning. She pressed a button and suddenly I could move again. The other players were allowed movement as well and we all started to stand up.

“Heroic but ineffective. You will now play the red team. Angela, Jade, Quinn, Ashley, You’re up.” She shouted at four of the girls sitting on the side. Their uniforms started to morph in color: a deep shade of crimson.

“You do know that you are only allowed one fireball per game and each game will last until there is only one team left. I see that you have sacrificed your entire ball Jeanie, and you have used more than half of yours Molly. You do not get any more.” With that she blew her whistle and the second game had begun. Confused over what to do without any ammo, Jeanie hung back and looked pathetic. Now we were like a three man team against the fresh, ‘blood thirsty’ scarlet team.

“Now you see what it is like to continue a fight after a victory. You will have many victories but you will also have many battles. Aim with all your ammunition and you lose your chance to succeed.” The trainer looked at Jeanie as she said this and then continued, “Learn to be accurate with smaller pieces, so that you don’t sacrifice yourself as a useful player to your team.”

That night I slumped down in bed. I was physically exhausted and my arm was starting to feel a deep and enduring tiredness that I would come to get familiar with as the physical training continued. I reached my sore right arm up to the ceiling, nearly touching the cat’s glazed eyes and sighed. It had been a straining day, pretending to know all the rules of the game while in fact learning on the spot. I had to mask any surprise and anxiety I had felt while on the field; and suppressing my emotions had drained me more than chucking smaller and smaller balls, at the opposing teams.

I started drifting off; running along the ravine, running with the rabbits, my hair whipped around my face. I was wearing one of those long and flowing white gowns, which was thin but somehow not see through. The dress curled around my legs protectively, letting go every now and again but coming back to meet my ankles every time. I laughed and ran faster, waving my arms like windmills and then suddenly taking to the air and flying up, up, up into the sky. I spun around and then stopped moving and for a second all physics stopped before I plummeted feet first; back down to the bottom of the ravine. The water rushed to meet my bare feet but I spun so my body was parallel to the river… just as my dress leaned down and dipped into the water. I took off, now aligned with the river, dragging my hem along, splashing droplets everywhere.

Excerpted from The Cube by Rachel Barnard. Copyright © 2012 by Patricio DeLaCruz. Excerpted by permission of Imagine Books, a division of Imagine Group USA, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

***This is an excerpt from RACHEL BARNARD’S “THE CUBE.”***

***Released by IMAGINE GROUP (USA), INC. ***

***Every two weeks, a chapter will be leaked; so stay tuned. ***

*****



© 2012 Rachel Barnard


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Good story! Your descriptions of motion are especially compelling; the dragging hem puddles creeping up your socks. I think you should write more about every scene in the chapter, and then edit that down.
I'd like to hear more about the academy and the cube and I think chapter one is the place for the reader to learn what the academy is. I wondered why she would be at this academy playing this elite sport without knowing anything about it. Good job.

Jake

Posted 7 Years Ago



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Added on May 20, 2012
Last Updated on May 31, 2012
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