I. North Wall
The strange buzz that pervades the air keeps at it until he hastily stops it. He then sits up and rubs his eyes as he always does. He finds no use in this ritual.
He looks to his left, to his brother. Correction, his new brother.
“That’s not right,” he absentmindedly says.
The woman with no name came in again, as usual. “Good morn Jonathan.” she said as she hovers the tray over to him, handing him the same purple cup. “Did you sleep well?”
As he swallowed the last of the water that rushed down the small capsules, he nodded. “I had that dream again. The one about the ground shaking and the walls crumbling.”
“Well that’s not very pleasant,” she automatically replied as she moves towards his brother. “Nathan, the time has come to arise. The sun has risen, there is no need to hide from the night.”
His brother’s blankets shuffle and move as they produce Nathan, lazy eyes drooping, dried up drool trailing from the corners of his mouth. He looks to the windows, blinds now opened, seeing the sunshine seep into the room. “So it has.”
Breakfast is the same, 32 pieces of cereal soaking in 3/4ths poured out milk in the clean, maroon bowl. He watched 11 of them soak and dissipate into pieces at the bottom of the bowl. Now he could finally pick up the spoon that was slightly bent at the middle, and take a sample of the milk.
Then Matthew arrived to the dining room.
“Heeeeeeeeeyyyyyyyyyyy there man!” Matthew said as he ran across the entire dining room to Jonathan’s personal bubble. This, of course, was no surprise for Jonathan, seeing as this too seemed like a usual morning. “Whatcha eatin’ there?” Matthew edges closer to peer over Jonathan’s shoulder to look into the bowl of soaking cereal. “Oh. The usual. I see.” He said, slightly calmer than his entrance. He then sat down on the stool next to Jonathan, quietly twitching from excitement/glee/joy/whatever filled his nervous, pounding heart.
“So Matthew,” Jonathan spoke eventually. “What will you eat this morning?”
Matthew looked at him pensively. “Ummmmmmmmmm…” He trailed off as he stood up. “I don’t know!” He said with a jump. “What are my options?”
“Well,” Jonathan picked up the Menu of Morning. “According to the MOM, you can request an omelette--”
“--a pancake platter--”
“--a fruit bowl--”
“Will that even fill me?”
“Or just have some cereal like me. Those are your options.”
“You know what buddy?” Matthew placed his elbows on the table and looked at him with loving eyes. “I might just plop down a bowl with you!” With that, he skipped away into the Kitchen Request area.
Matthew used to be Jonathan’s brother. That is, before the change was made. It’s not often that a kid gets a new brother in here. Special circumstances are created sometimes. Jonathan’s was that Matthew was too annoying and destroying his creative process. He heard one of the kids here say that before, and he didn’t know what that meant.
Some of the kids here have been beyond the north wall. Mostly, they were older kids. When a child here becomes an adult, there’s a big celebration and they move beyond the north wall. Jonathan continually thought of what might lie beyond the north wall.
“I’m baaaaaaaaack” Matthew spoke in his ear as he placed the colorful bowl of cereal not so gently onto the table and began devouring the food like he had never ate before. Jonathan sighed. Same old day.
After eating and conversing with the others that usually bothered to eat breakfast at this hour, Jonathan went back to his room and got ready for the day. He fixed his bed, sheets flat as the earth, no lump or dent detected. He grabs a predetermined outfit, goes to the boy’s room, and brushes every single inch of his teeth he could reach, meticulously reaching the deepest corners, remembering to scrub his tongue too. He had a thing for cleanliness and order, it made him feel satisfied in a particular way. He washes his face, puts on the grey polo and blue jeans he grabbed from before, then combed his hair to his liking that day. His hair was always the thing that was never usual. Some days he would comb it to the left, other days to the right. Today was a right day.
He moseyed back to his room, seeing Nathan moving the lamps again as he turned on every light where there was shade. Of course, these lamps would be placed in an upright position and not disturbing any of the order in the room. Nathan was aware of Jonathan’s likes and dislikes, his disdain for dirt and disorder. All the same, Jonathan knew Nathan’s worries too. Nathan was extremely afraid of any darkness. Shadows, darkened corners, and the night was all Nathan’s biggest fear. The only thing he ever does worry is about the dark, the approaching dark, and how to eliminate the dark completely. Jonathan didn’t fully understand seeing as one can never chase away the inevitable darkness, or the reassurance that the light will rise in the morn the next day. But in the end, it wasn’t his problem so why should he wonder?
“Hi Nathan, did you eat?” Seeing as Jonathan didn’t notice his new brother in the eating room, he felt obliged to ask.
“Hm?” Nathan replied absentmindedly, fiddling with some string lights in a corner. “Um, no. Winter has passed, Jonathan, meaning more sunlight, though that won’t happen for a while will it?”
Their room was in a strange place in the House. It was just high enough for sunlight to shine through the East Wall’s protective barrier, though since the sun rises in the East and sets in the West, shade comes in too soon. Before Jonathan graduated to the upstairs rooms with the rest of the kids his age, sunlight barely came through the windows due to the height of the Walls. Nathan would have hated it, he constantly wondered. Though, thinking about it more, it might have been better seeing as he could have hung up as many lights as electrically possible.
Nathan was new to the House which is why the adults assigned him to Jonathan’s room after he requested a new brother. He didn’t quite know Nathan’s backstory other than the situation he was in before he got into the House was not at all pleasant. Something about his world being filled with darkness with the occasional bright light from the doors that lead beyond to give him food to survive. It seemed like an awful world, and Jonathan didn’t exactly want to know the details.
Nathan also didn’t make that much friends most of the time. He seldom went out the safety and light of their room unless it was a sunny day or just to eat or go to the Academics. Sometimes other kids would wander over to their room during the free times and chat with him, but since the room was constantly bright no one wanted to bother. During sunny days like the summer, Nathan would be a big participant in the little gang Jonathan was in. Days were long, the sun was out constantly, and the group didn’t mind being in the sun all that much.
“Summer only happens once a year,” he would say to the group as autumn would approach. “So it’s time for my mind to retire once more from the group.”
Jonathan’s gang, which, he supposed, wasn’t as malicious as the word sounds, was a little group of his friends specifically connected to know more about what lies behind the Walls. His group consists of him, Hannah, his best friend, Tomas, who always had scruffy old shoes that bothered the adults, Autumn, who liked girls, and one called Painted because they were always in their painter’s apron. All five of them have lived in the House since they could barely remember so it’s not like they had a backstory like the other kids. This, and the wonder and suspicion that the adults are hiding what’s behind the Walls, united them. Nathan was invited along because he was the only sibling that got along with them and they accepted Nathan with open arms. He wasn’t like the other kids, and not because he was peculiar about light, but Nathan understood them. That’s all they asked for.
“Jonathan I don’t think you’re paying attention again.”
Jonathan blinked. Sometimes Nathan went on about the lights and all that Jonathan seems to zone out from Nathan’s insistent chatter.
“Sorry brother, I guess I was thinking about…how you’ll be able to come to our group again! You know, since summer is coming and all.”
“Oh! My apologies, your dazed look made me think you weren’t listening again. That’s exactly what I’m saying, and I was thinking, if we coordinate the meeting times right this time, the sun will hit the courtyard at the exact right moment! And…”
Jonathan was supposedly the leader of the pack, so they say, because from what they found he’s been at the House the longest. Despite their memories, and the secrecy, some adults let them in on when they came to the House. Hannah was the most recent of them all, followed by Autumn, Tomas, and Painted. July 17th, 2017. Just 2 days after his birthdate.
Sometimes Jonathan did wonder about what happened that made him go into the House. Kids here usually talk about living with just two, sometimes just one adult.
“Jonathan?” The woman with no name was at the door again. “You have a phone call.”
He saw her waiting for him at the bench. Correction, their bench, since no one really liked to sit at that bench. It was facing The Wall so no sunlight ever warmed the spot. Quite awkward, but no adults would pay mind to the people sitting there.
Hannah looked up excitedly, holding her papers that were bundled at the sides with string. “I’ve made more rounds of the perimeter of the area. I’ve sketched everything I can see and listed possibilities of outliers and things I missed. I think, if we can scale the wall somehow we can take a peek at what’s beyond the--”
“Stop.” Jonathan held up a hand, very serious. “I got a phone call today. It was...them.” He looked up at the House then to the North Wall. “They said,” he sighed. “They said I’m to be assigned to a new group they’re implementing.”
“New group?” She asked, eyes wide. “So, you’ll be on a different floor or what?”
“No, or at least I don’t think so. I don’t know what exactly the plan is, but I’m leaving today and probably not coming back.”
“But...where are you going?”
He shrugs, saying nothing.
Hannah side eyes him, eyes suddenly angry and suspicious. “But what about this?” She points to the papers held together with string. “What about our team? We were suppose to find out and see together!”
“Look...you’ll find someone to replace me in the team.”
“No, no we won’t! Jonathan you’re the leader! You’re my best friend!”
“It’s not me to decide ok? Th-they just told me…I have to go.” He stood there awkwardly in angry silence. He patted her shoulder awkwardly, then turned away. He felt angry or sad, tears starting to fill his eyes. The thought of leaving this all behind, all his family, all that he knew, hurt him. He felt he had to be strong and just accept what life gave him. That’s what the man on the phone said anyways. “Look, I have to start sorting my stuff and pack. I’ll say goodbye after dinner. I’m not leaving until tomorrow morning so…” he looks at Hanna, her eyes not leaving the ground. “We’ll figure something out.”
Later that night, he did not see Hannah at the eating room. Sometimes others wouldn’t stop for dinner during whatever everyone does, but Jonathan felt within that she wasn’t going to come to dinner because of him.
After dinner, he went back to his room one last time to recount the boxes of packed things again. His brother lay in his bed, staring at the lights above.
“Hello Nathan” Jonathan greeted his brother for what felt like the last time.
“So it’s true then,” Nathan said, crossing his legs as he sat up. “You’re leaving.”
Jonathan stared at Nathan for a bit. “Nathan it’s not my choice. You wouldn’t understand.”
“I understand.” he said solemnly. “But there’s one thing you forgot to pack.”
Jonathan looked at the boxes in a panic, mentally checking his list. Nathan stood up, unplugged a small, plain, crystal nightlight from beside his bed. “Here,” Nathan handed him the nightlight. “I don’t want you to be afraid of your new situation. I don’t want you to be afraid of them.”
Jonathan didn’t sleep that night. He didn’t want to. He knew they’d come early in the morning before everyone was awake. And he’d want to see everything without fatigue. Though, he reasoned with himself, if I get no sleep then I would be fatigued. He turned over, wrapped the blanket closer to him, and closed his eyes only for them to snap open again. He did this repeatedly for countless minutes or maybe hours. At night, time ceases to exist.
An hour before wake up time, they arrived.
He wanted to see the new House
“Soon, Jonathan.” said the man who gave no name.
He wanted to know why they were stalling. Were they hiding something, he wondered.
“We’re just getting your vitals, son.”
Would that be the reason there’s all these things attached to his body, he wondered.
A man with a bald head and a face full of hair walked into the room. Jonathan thought this made him look wise and official.
“Hello Jonathan,” the man extended his hand to Jonathan, which Jonathan then took for a brief second, awkwardly. “My name is Dr. Kunith. I’ll be helping you with your adaption today.”
Jonathan wondered why he needed a doctor to be taken from one House to the other.
“It’s just a part of the process,” Dr. Kunith said. “Just to make sure we’re doing everything right. You see, John, can I call you John? This is only a test run of this program and we want to make sure that everything goes right in this run, ok?”
“Now let’s get this thing going.”