The Cave, or Final Exam, is fenced off just outside the dorms. It’s almost always locked except for during test week. Today it stands open, and our head master, Mr. Waters, waits for us at the entrance.
“Hello all!” He addresses us before everybody has caught up. We’re the last group this week and I suppose he wants to get back to his normal routine.
“Today is the day that you have all been waiting for, FINAL EXAM’S. Time is different in the cave, and what seems like a lifetime in there will only be a few minutes out here. As you all know, when you enter the cave it will display your worst fears for you. The cave will close behind you, and you will only open when either: You conquer your fear, or you die. Now who would like to go first!?”
I’m taken back by his abruptness. We all knew the test was a matter of life and death but when it’s staring you in the face with only two ways out; you would expect your teacher would show some empathy.
I glance at the people beside me, all looking around hoping someone else will volunteer to go first. I’m half expecting Justin to volunteer first when:
“I’ll go.” It’s so soft I barely hear it and I strain to try and see who it is. People start moving to the side as the person makes their way through the crowd. I stand still, in shock, the volunteer is Jessica.
I watch as Jessica moves through the crowd little by little. She keeps her head low and keeps glancing side to side, like she’ll change her mind at any moment and bolt in the opposite direction. I can’t believe that the girl who was crying only 5 minutes earlier is the first to step up.
People pat her and wish her luck as she passes, quickly closing the gap behind her so she doesn’t chicken out. God forbid they be the ones to go first. Jessica smiles shyly when she finally reaches me. “Wish me luck?”
“I- uh,” I grab her hand and squeeze it tight, “You don’t need it.” I smile, try and make it reassuring, and give her a little shove towards Mr. Waters who leads her towards the entrance. Jessica glances at me once more before stepping inside, the cave sealing behind her.
People crowd closer, interested in a fate not there own. It’s silent for a moment before people start talking among themselves.
“Think she’ll pass?”
I tune them out watching the cave intensely. It’s not long before a loud whooshing, queits every body down.
The cave opens again.
The time almost seems to stand still when Jessica doesn’t appear immediately.
I bite my lip, trying to see in the cave. Where is she?
“Jess!” I’m about to break protocol and run in after her, when I see something at the mouth of the cave.
Jessica walks out slowly, dazed and confused. Mr. Staurt approaches her slowly and places a hand on her shoulder.
“I PASSED!” I place my hands over my mouth to keep from laughing.
Mr. Staurt is startled by her sudden outburst, while Jessica starts throwing her hands in the air yelling, “I PASSED!” which get’s some applause and hoots from the crowd.
“We knew you would!” Brit says, and I roll my eyes. Mr. Staurt raises his hand to quiet everyone down before leading Jessica to the main entrance. “Please go wait in the cafeteria while we finish.” He tells her before asking for the next volunteer.
Justin in next to volunteer. The class is a a lot more encouraging when he steps forward and there’s only positive chatter when he goes in. He passes and the class erupts in applause like with Jessica. I’m the only one that notices that he doesn’t look like the same guy coming out as going. I guess the exaggerated bravery wasn’t as sturdy up against real fear.
Five others go next-of whose names I didn’t care to learn- and each pass. Brit and her friend go next, and there’s mixed reviews about whether they’ll pass.
Unfortunately, Brit is the first to not return.
The whole class goes silent. Mr. Waters doesn’t say anything, instead he returns quietly to the class and asks for the next volunteer.
Moral starts to steadily decrease as 4 of the next people don’t return, one of Justin’s friends in the mix. People have started getting farther and farther from the gate, as reality sinks in that only 15% return alive. The gape between volunteers also begins to widen, less people as eager as in the beginning.
“I’ll go next,” I say, after a particularly long pause, and follow Mr. Waters to the entrance.
I step inside.
The “door” is louder than I thought, and the occupying gush of wind almost knocks me off my feet.
I blink a few times trying to adjust to the darkness. Then I remember I still have my flashlight with me; I had clipped it to my belt once the sun started coming up. I’m surprised Mr. Staurt didn’t take it from me, but I guess what harm could it do.
I click the flashlight on and shine it around. Nothing interesting, just rock walls and rock floors, not even a bug in site.
“Um, hello?” The cave isn’t even deep a enough to echo and I reach the cave in the two steps I’ve taken to enter and let it seal behind me.
Is my fear small spaces?
I laugh slightly, remembering the time Jessica spent 3 hours sitting in a closet, small spaces couldn’t be my fear. I shine the light around a bit more before the “door” opens again.
I step out.
I’m half expected this to be my fear getting started and i’ll see some altered reality, but all I see is Mr. Waters standing there with a smile on his face.
“Congratulations.” He says
“But,” I look back at the cave confused, “nothing happen.”
“I went in there, but nothing happen. I was wasn’t even in there a full minute.” Mr. Staurt looks at me for a moment, rubbing his chin, before stepping inside the cave himself.
“what the-!” I look around as the cave closes behind him. The class starts murmuring,
“Does this mean the test is over?” someone calls. I look at the cave just as Mr. Staurt returns looking at me up and down. I fold my arms suddenly subconscious.
Mr. Staurt returns to the class and selects a student at random, taking them to the cave and making them step inside. The student returns a few minutes later.
“What did you see?” Mr. Staurt asks.
“I- um,” The kid stammers around for a bit before whispering in Mr. Starts ear, who quickly dismisses him to the cafeteria.
“As for you miss Celine, can you please go wait in my office, Mrs. McClan will let you in.”
“We need your parents present to discuss your results.”
“What do- Why? Did I do something wrong?”
“Oh no!” Mr. Staurt says taking me by the shoulders, “You did something very, very RIGHT!” His smiles starts to creep my out so I back away and head towards the main building. All the while receiving odd looks from the rest of the class.
I don’t head straight to his office, instead I detour to the cafeteria and slip in quietly next to Jessica who is eating in the corner.
“You passed!” she squeals, “well, I mean, I knew that you would, but-”
“I’m not sure i did though.” She looks at me confused
“What do you mean? You’re here right now, how could you have not passed?”
“Well, I don’t know. When I went into the cave, nothing happened. And Mr. Staurt told me he couldn’t discuss my “results” without my parents. ”
“You didn’t see anything?”
“Hrm,” she takes a bite out of her sausage link and narrows her eyes at me. “Maybe you’re like, the reason they do the test.”
“What!? Jessica, that’s crazy.”
“No, no it’s just!” She jumps up from her seat, “Think about it! We literally do this test to face our biggest fear and like, live without fear, or whatever. Soo..” She trails off
“So what,” I roll my eyes, “I’m like the chosen one or something?”
“Well,” she flops back down, “don’t go getting a big head or anything.”
“Celine Shey’s to the office. Celine Shey’s to the office.”
“Crap,” I say standing up, “I thought they would wait until everyone was finished.”
“Chosen one” Jessica sing songs, as I leave. I’m glad to see her so happy after the final.
- – –
I enter the Mr. Staurt’s office to find my parents already seated at his desk.
“How did you get here so fast?” I ask.
“We kind of assumed this would happen.” My father says offering me his seat.
“Your grandmother was selected,” My mother says softly.
“Nana?” She shakes her head and almost looks like she’s about to cry. Dad goes over and places his hands on her shoulders.
“So,” Mr. Staurt starts, “your parents are already aware of the situation so I’ll just sum this up for you.” He’s more excited than I’ve ever seen him and I have a feeling that I probably won’t like the news he’s about to deliver.
“We’ve been using the Cave for generations hoping to find, well people like you. Without fear. There are creatures out in the wilderness that can sense our fear, that’s why the children are kept so close the the center of our community. They live of our fear an-
“What does any of this have to do with me?”
“Okay.” He pauses, folding his hands, “I’ll get to the point then: The council wants to send you to fight in the wilderness.”
“Wait, what!? But, why me? Just because I didn’t see anything in that stupid cave?”
“Yes.” He states simply, “You are a rare bread. Those who go into the cave and have no fear to face, are the only ones who can face the beasts and win.”
“You grandmother was selected on her 25th birthday, when she took her re-test.” My mother says beside me.
“I thought those were to, like, keep us on our toes?” My mother shakes her head and my father squeezes her hand. She lost her mom to this ritual, and now she’s going to loose her only daughter.
“They can’t make me go! This isn’t fair!”
“It’s not about fair.” Mr. Staurt says, “It’s about humanity.” he pauses, looking to my parents. “But I see that this is going to be tough on you all. I’ll wait until the Final Exam’s are complete before notifying the council; but you have to understand they’ve been hoping for something like this for generations.”
“Thank you Mr. Staurt.” My father says grabbing my shoulder. “I think we’ll be leaving now.” He shakes Mr. Start’s hand and leads my mother out of the office.
I follow my parents with mixed feeling. Of course I wanted to to live in a world that wasn’t in constant fear of being wiped on the planet but, this was my life they were talking about. Not only could I die out there if they were wrong, but I would spend the rest of my life in the wilderness.
Darn Jessica. Ginxed me with all of her “chosen one” crap.(1914 words)
If I were to have planned this out in a novel form, I think I would write it from Jessica’s perspective. Or make her the main character and still narrate it from Celine’s POV. I feel like it would be a more interesting story in the long run. But I didn’t think about that until about half way so. Oh well.
Also it’s a “late post” (2am) because: My job sucks