Echo of Chaos: Ch. 5

After the Drills came the Executions. Each one right after the other. 

I focused on the replica of the Program’s flag painted on the floor of The Belly, clearly visible through the glass of the Execution Chambers, and tried not to think of Maxi as I killed his classmates. 

I tried to deny the lingering thought that kept entering my mind as those innocent, accepting, unaware eyes awaited their fate, the barrel of my Execution Executive Silencer pressed to the back of their small necks.

This shouldn’t be happening.

Such thoughts would classify a felony. Punishable by death. Everything here was punishable by death. 

I was beginning to realize the life of the Program depended on the death of anyone who questioned the system.

I could understand my father’s frustration at such corruption.

I had to bury these feelings though. Felix was watching me particularly closely for some reason. He followed me from room to room as I made my Executions, as if he could sense my disease, my illegal thoughts. I could feel him waiting for me to snap, to say what I was really thinking, to admit what we were doing was wrong. Then, he could handcuff me and present me to Captain Fancy Pants like a prize.

I bet he would take pleasure in my Execution. 

However, the way he was watching me, waiting for me to screw up, only made me more determined not to.

But I hated myself more and more with every kill.

By the time every Execution on my schedule was complete, I felt like I was suffocating. I wanted to escape the execution chambers and retreat to Zen as soon as possible. I needed to feel his arms wrap around me, needed to hear him tell me it was going to be okay. 

And then, I needed to go home, and hold my brother tight, grateful it wasn’t his face awaiting death today.

But that wasn’t going to happen.

“Where do you think you’re going?” Felix asked me as I was changing out of my uniform.

I jumped and covered my exposed chest with my jacket. He wasn’t technically supposed to be in here. Tripoli or not, the intermixing of the sexes in the changing rooms was prohibited. 

I looked around. We were the only ones here. No witnesses. This wasn’t going to be good.

“My schedule has been cleared,” I said.

“Think again.”

“What? I just checked. I’ve been cleared.”

“You’re not cleared until I say you’re cleared.”

I swallowed my urge to argue with him. He walked until he was inches away from me. I could feel his exhale against my skin. I held my breath. His amber eyes flickered with an intensity I didn’t understand.

“What do you want from me?” I asked. “I’ve been cleared. I’ve fulfilled my duty to the Program today. Let me leave.”

He slapped a hulking hand against the locker behind me, and pinned me against it with his other arm, his forearm against my throat. I gasped and felt my skin crawl at his touch. My first instinct was to knocked his feet out from under him, and run, but I couldn’t do that without releasing my grip on the only sheath of clothing I was clutching to my chest. I looked away from him so he couldn’t see the fear in my eyes. He chuckled, noticing anyway.

“Do you know what happens when a Congruency Ceremony is cancelled?”

“Yes,” I said.

“Tell me.”

“The Congruency Team is unable to match you until your twenty-first birthday.”

“And why is that?”

“I'm sorry, I don't understand why—”

“Say it!”

“Because a Ceremony is only cancelled under dire circumstances, and two years is the appropriate time to resolve and recover any extenuating circumstances that would have led to the cancellation.”

“And what exactly were the dire and extenuating circumstances that cancelled your Ceremony last night?”

I couldn't fight the urge any longer.

“I don’t have to answer that,” I said.

He smiled. “There you are, Echo. I’ve been waiting for you to come out and play.”

He pressed his forearm harder into my throat. I winced. The metal of the locker was pressing into my spine, but he wasn’t letting up. I thought about screaming or calling for help, but I knew there was nobody around to hear.

“Please,” I croaked, “you’re hurting me.”

“Good. Maybe now you’ll think about how your actions hurt others.”

I lifted my gaze to meet his, and for a second I saw past the anger and hatred in his actions. I saw disappointment, longing, and fear.

“When you’re done waiting to die, come find me,” he said. 

And then he shoved me hard against the locker, and walked away.

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