The fan is whirling. I hear it as I press my ear against the wall of my bedroom. The old, grandfather clock in the dining room calls out that it is noon now. Selection is only an hour away.
“Viv, Viv,”I hear mom talking to my little sister Vivian, “Come here. Sit still.”
Vivian grumbles as my mom tugs on a tangled clump of black hair.
“Why is your hair always so messy?!” My mom says exasperatedly.
Selection time is always very stressful on mom, which I found kind of funny for obvious reasons. Our family is not a part of the Ecolites, the most esteemed social level of our meager society.
Our class, The Heloites, is the middle class. We work and the Ecolites prosper off of our earnings. We receive weekly packages of foods and supplies but we have no system of income. We barter between ourselves in the City Square but any item that could be considered money was strictly illegal.
These are the kind of rules that people have been put to death over. Heloites take them very seriously.
The Selection is tailored specifically to the Ecolites. Never have I ever seen a Heloite inducted into the Selection. Which is why mom’s erratic behavior strikes me as odd.
I hear her squeak in my doorway.
“Ria?” Mom’s voice is drenched in irritation, “Why aren’t you dressed?”
I glance down at my light, brown slacks, “ I am.”
Mom huffs, and her long deep blue ball gown shimmer and points to the bright orange sundress hanging on my bureau.
“It’s just like what the Ecolite girls wear,” she says like I should be happy about it.
I nod my head in agreement, knowing a fight with her at the moment will not bode well for me.
Viv is dressed in a bright, pink frilly dress with long baggy sleeves and a bright neon pink bow around her waist. She looks up at me, seeking my approval. Her big brown eyes suck the sarcasm right out of me.
“Lookin’ good, peanut!” I smile and rub her shoulder gently.
“It itches,” Viv frowns.
“Ecolite clothing usually itches,” mom says, untying and retying her hair, “It’s what makes them different from the rest of us.”
“Maybe, but I would rather be comfortable than wear this…” I grip the bottom of my dress and shake it.
Mom frowns, in her very mother-like frown, “Your father will meet us there. Okay? Can we go now?”
Selection Day is always really confusing. The people who organize it never really seem to know what they’re doing and events just seem to unfold without any proper organization.
We are usually put into groups of age, not by class. The whole idea of the Selection is to at least make it seem like they tried to make the Selection diverse. I see a row of Ecolite girls standing outside the City Hall. They all look like clones of one another with their long blonde hair and manicured pink nails.
Eco-Girl 1 laughs, in a high airy cackle that the others duplicate. As the three of us file past them, their eyes seem to seem that a Heloite is near.
“Oh dear me. Is that what the Helos are wearing now? I would just die. You think they could at least afford a decent tailor.”
The Eco-Chickens reply in a steady stream of laughs that follow us into the Hall. Mom senses I’m about to turn around and scream something back so she grabs my wrist and tugs me along.
The Hall is packed. I can’t even see the floor there are so many people there. The parents are all sequestered at the very back, behind a 5-foot glass partition. The partition was installed after last year’s debacle.
Every now and then a few parents get pretty vocal and violent if their kid doesn’t get Selected. Once the Selection begins the partition rises and no one outside of the partition can hear what is happening within.
Mom kisses me and Viv on the forehead.
“Go on now. You know where to stand.”
I see father near the partition, speaking to one of the Overseers. His grey hair matches his grey suit. The Overseer has a firm hand clamped down on father’s shoulder. My dad has his head lowered and nodding. As he raises his head our eyes meet. There’s a moment of embarrassment and remorse that appears and disappears almost instantly. It is replaced by half smile, a self-assured half-smile that is meant more for him than for me.
I take Viv into the mass of people towards the elevated stage at the other end of the hall.
“Ria!” The voice of Constance Ver fills my ears.
Constance is the ultimate Heloite Girl that dreams of being an Ecolite Girl. She is the girl that spends her entire life reading up on every person who has ever been Selected. She breaks down each person into categories. What are their strengths, weaknesses, and hobbies? She trains like she is studying to become the ultimate athlete and reads so many books she could recite passages by heart.
“I have a good feeling about this,” Constance grins ear to ear.
I hear myself scoff, “There hasn’t been an Ecolite Selected in over fifty years…”
“Then I’ll be the first!” Constance claps her hands together, “There’s just something in the air…”
Yes, body odor maybe.
A long, whistle moves throughout the room bringing all to silence. Viv, Constance and I stand with all the Heloites on the left side of the room, while the Ecolites stand on the right, a wide walkway dividing us.
On the stage, the leader of the Ecolites, Sanra Quepin, approaches the microphone. Her long brown hair is tied back into a perfect ponytail and her long red, Ecolite style gown sparkles illuminating her light brown skin.
“Good morning all. Ecolites, and Heloites. We welcome you to the Selection. The rare moment in our society’s history where Ecolite and Heloite stand together to submit to the Selection process that is our longest standing tradition passed on through the centuries. The Selection is not based on social, religious or political standings. All are considered. Every last one of you should to proud to stand here in this moment. Whether or not you are selected you are a vital part of our working machine. Never forget that.”
Sanra tosses her right hand to the side as two short boys carry a steel box onto the stage and places it on a table next to Sanra.
“We will now announce the Selection.”
I feel Constance inhale and hold her breath.
Sanra reaches into the box and retrieves the first glittering golden sheet.
“Brev, Samuel – Ecolite.”
“Mong, Stefen – Ecolite.”
“Wo, Margie – Ecolite.”
I stop listening and start watching the Ecolites move from their places within the group onto the stage next to Sanra.
They all look so prim and proper and walk like they have steel rods attached to their backs.
“Aben, Ethan – Ecolite.”
“Car, Bev – Ecolite.”
I already see some of the Ecolites tear up, realizing the chances of them being Selected are dwindling. I smirk at the ridiculousness of it all.
“Beatrix, Ria – Heloite.”
There is a union of gasps that run throughout the Heloite crowd. I don’t even realize my name is called until Viv tugs viciously on my arm.
“They called your name, they call your name!” Viv whispers happily.
I shake my head, confused. From the corner of my eye, I see two aisle guards motion me out of the crowd.
I look from Viv to Constance. Constance’s pale face is brimming with shock, hate and defeat all at once.
“You?” She says in disgust.
I don’t even have the time to reply as the two aisle guards are making their way over and removing me from the group.
“That was the last of them!” I hear Sanra call out, “Thank you, thank you all for coming!”
I’m only able to catch a quick glimpse of my mother whose hands are glued to her mouth, her eyes are pools of tears.
But I am able to see my father who is deliberately avoiding my gaze. I feel a firm hand on my back as I am led into an adjoining hallway.
“Welcome to the club, Heloite…” One girl snarls into my ear. The hallway darkens around me.