Excerpt from book:
Turning the knob, I push the door open and take a step inside. The smell, urine mixed with corncakes, hits me first. Then I see her. Dangling on a colorful rope. Hanging from the ceiling. Face red and blotchy. Eyes wide with horror. Neck gouged and bleeding where she fought from instinct or because she changed her mind.
I scream as the reality of what I see hits me. Hard.
Ryme is dead.
Hands help me stand. Lead me into the hall. Someone asks me to wait and other people in jumpsuits come running from every direction. I clutch my bag to my chest like a security blanket as activity swirls around me. Ryme is cut down from the ceiling. A gurney appears. When she is whisked past me, I recognize the rope still around her neck: her dress, the one she looked so lovely in yesterday, tied to a bed sheet.
I can’t help my stomach from emptying or the tears that flow hot and fast — for her, for me, for not seeing the desperation and depression under the arrogant façade. Did my taunting her with finishing the final written test push her over the edge? Could a kind word have saved her?
I blink and realize Dr. Barnes is holding my shoulders. Looking into my eyes. I blink twice and swallow the bile building in the back of my throat. Mutely, I nod that I hear him.
“They are going to assign you a different room.” He leans against the wall next to me. “Would you like to talk about
No. But I will. I have to. Softly, I tell him about Ryme’s arrogance and her taunts today. My reaction and the apology I eventually gave. Even the corncakes and what I suspected they might contain. He’s a good listener. His deep brown eyes meet mine without censorship. His head nods, encouraging me to say more — never once letting his eyes travel to the officials walking in and out of the room, cleaning the floor next to me, talking in hushed tones about removing her belongings.
When I am done, I feel empty, which is better in a way than feeling smothered by guilt. Dr. Barnes assures me Ryme’s death is not my fault. As we discussed earlier, stress is difficult. Some students handle stress better than others. Some can’t eat. Some never sleep. Ryme took her own life. While this is a tragedy, it is better for the entire Commonwealth population to learn now that she is not capable of dealing with the kinds of pressure she would be forced to deal with in the future. This event is unfortunate, but The Testing served its purpose. He hopes Ryme’s choice to end her candidacy will not impact the results of mine.
End her candidacy? Inside I am icy cold. An official in purple informs us my room is ready, and Dr. Barnes gives my shoulders a squeeze. I smile and tell him I’ll be fine and that talking to him made me feel better. I hope he can’t see the lie. Because while his tone was kind, I heard the indifference in his words. To him, this was just another test. One Ryme failed. If I am not careful, I will fail, too.
I am shown my new room at the very end of the hall. The walls are painted yellow. They remind me of the dress Ryme was wearing when I first met her. The official asks me if I’m okay not having a roommate. If I don’t want to be alone he is certain a female official would be happy to sleep in the spare bed.
No, I do not want to be alone. Awake, I am having trouble keeping Ryme’s lifeless eyes out of my head. Asleep, I will be defenseless to stop her from haunting me. Knowing I will be alone through the ordeal makes me want to curl up in
In Cia's dystopian society it's an honor to be chosen for The Testing. But it’s not enough to pass the Test. Cia will have to survive it.