It was Him

Marielle Keum, age 13
It was Him Marielle Keum is 13 years old. Playing hockey and competing in judo takes up most of her time. In addition, she enjoys reading books a lot. Marielle writes mostly fiction but writes poetry from time to time as well.

“It’s the alarm that woke me up that morning. Not my clock that’s seemingly harmless, but the Imperial Alarm. It has never been used before.
When we first moved to the Triwall Sector, the second thing our family was taught about was the Imperial Alarm. It’s reserved solely for emergencies such as natural disasters, and the unexpected death of a high ranking member of the Imperials. I remember the man who gave us a tour of the place, carefully pointing every single thing out.”

Editor’s Note: This story explores darker themes and mentions violence & self-harm.

ONE

It’s the alarm that woke me up that morning. Not my clock that’s seemingly harmless, but the Imperial Alarm. It has never been used before. 

When we first moved to the Triwall Sector, the second thing our family was taught about was the Imperial Alarm. It’s reserved solely for emergencies such as natural disasters, and the unexpected death of a high ranking member of the Imperials. I remember the man who gave us a tour of the place, carefully pointing every single thing out. He had led us to the pedestal, holding the huge bell shaped alarm. “It’s never been used before and it never will,” he said. I guess that man was wrong. 

The bell rang, and it’s been ringing for the past half hour. It seems like no one knows what to do right now. Everyone’s scrambling around outside, frantically searching for some guards who know what they’re doing. I yank on my socks and slowly open my door to reveal the bare hallway. One step at a time, I pound down the stairs to find my family huddled around our Slim Screen that displayed the town square. The Slim Screen is honestly an extremely helpful tool. It broadcasts channels that play on TVs, and it translates over 6000 languages.

 My family’s faces are expressionless, but I see the fear beneath their eyes. I walk over to them and slip my hand in Mom’s. My mother, with her beautiful blond hair and blue eyes, the traits I inherited from her, is waiting with a worried expression and her level signal over her head. 153. Like Mom, I have her ocean blue eyes, yet take my thick, curly brown hair from my father. Mom rubs my back like she always has since I was little. I feel her hand, comforting me, and soothing me. “It’s going to be okay Alana, everything’s going to be fine.” When my mom says something, you have to believe her. The compassion and sympathy in her voice stay with you wherever you go.

 She’s squeezing my hand now too, and I can tell she is unhappy with the situation. My dad pulls me in for a side hug, and this time I didn’t resist. I mean, usually I would because who even hugs their dad when they’re 14? My head leans against his broad chest and I feel his chest muscles tense. He breathes in and out, in and out. I concentrate on his breathing. It’s ragged and heavy. I pull away and cover my eyes with my hands. I want to fall asleep. We stand there in muddled silence for about 30 seconds. The Alarm is still ringing, and it’s hurting my ears. Then, the Imperial Alarm lets out one last earsplitting shriek and falls quiet. Timmy squeaks out a sound. He moves to hold Mom’s other hand. Then, everything goes pitch dark. Even our levels are gone. 

The first thing we learned about when we moved to Triwall Sector were the levels. When you performed tasks the bots were happy with, the icons over your head gave you points. Having points gave you advantages which helped you lead a better life. As a pay salary for jobs each week, our levels go up by .25. Mom and Dad’s levels are really high for commoners, so we get lots of luxury. For example, our family, we all have levels in the hundreds. So, we are able to access the uptown of Triwall while the middle class can only visit Midtown and Downtown. For the people that have low levels, they can’t access the elevators, the cars, the luxury objects in everyday life. Points are like health levels as well. Your arm broke? Your neck broke? The levels above your head carry a value no one can imagine. They slowly drain while you’re getting better, while you’re summoning enough strength. After you’re healed, work harder. You work harder until the levels are gained back. That’s just how it is. Well, all that’s gone now. There are no more levels. There are no more levels. No matter how many times I repeat that to myself, I can’t seem to fully wrap my head around the fact that there are no more levels. 

My brother, Timmy, looks around with fear in his eyes. He’s only nine. I’ve always protected him. He’s like the best friend I’ve never really had. But now that the world is out of control, there is nothing I can do to make Timmy feel like he is safe. Because in fact, he isn’t really safe at all. I see my parents exchange that look that means, “Uh oh we’re in trouble.” But to us, they only give positive and supportive looks. Mom wrenches her hand from mine and Tim’s grip and hurries to the windows. Her forearms rest against the metal windowsill. My mom stares at the crowd, and turns to report back.

“The whole level system is gone. It’s chaos out there.” 

And indeed it was. I rush over to the window to see for myself only to find disaster. The usually lit-up streets were dark. The level symbols above our heads used to keep the streets glowing. There are no levels now. My hands fall on the windowsill. Without the level system, everyone can go anywhere. They don’t need to keep in line as they won’t be punished. I force myself to drag my feet back to the rest of my family. Timmy whispers, “Are we gonna die?” Feet shuffle, and finally, my mother says in her sweet voice,

“No, Timmy, we’ll be absolutely safe. We’re here for you wherever you go.” But somehow, even if Mom’s voice sounds exactly the same, for the first time, I don’t actually believe her. 

TWO

Mom starts soothing Timmy, who begins to cry. I can’t listen to this anymore, I’m way too tired. I’m tired of living in this world where levels control you, I’m tired of the levels malfunctioning. My feet drag with every step I take. My arms hang by my sides, like limp spaghetti noodles that Timmy throws under the dinner table. 

“I think I ought to get some sleep,” I say weakly. I mean, there is nothing I can do at this moment anyway. Mom nods, and Dad says,

“I’m heading up too, you guys should also catch a nap.” He gestures to Mom and Timmy. 

“Wait it out till the morning, nothing much can get worse from here.” Dad grins, puts an arm around my shoulder, and starts guiding me towards the stairs. Oh boy, is Dad wrong. 

We reach the top of the stairs. I leave Dad standing in front of his room and head to mine. I can barely keep my eyes open, my eyelids feel like weights. I sink down on my bed. I don’t even take off my socks. Pulling my blanket up to my chin, I immediately fall asleep and get greeted by a memory I don’t want to rewatch. 

“Alana Wilkson, walk up here please.” The levels above my head are rapidly shooting down, lower and lower. I want to stop them, but I can’t. The rest of the class is staring at me, laughing and pointing. My level is down to 33. I shouldn’t even be in school with a level that low. You need at least a 50 for that. Six, five, four, I feel myself losing strength. So this is how it feels to die. 

“I didn’t do anything wrong,” I whisper to Ms. Johns defiantly, while I fight for my eyelids not to close. She stares at me, daring me to lie. I want to sink into a small puddle, a puddle where no one knows who I am. Eventually, my levels were sorted out. I woke up in the office to find the most important man in the Triwall Sector waiting for me. That was the time I met the Elector Imperial. He drove me to his private quarters and then hired his team to fix the numbers. I watch as the symbols light up and my level is soon back to normal. The Elector Imperial fixes me with a smile, his ice cold eyes piercing into mine. “Sorry for causing you any trouble, Alana dear.” But even at the mere age of nine, I could tell he doesn’t really mean it. 

My forehead is beaded with sweat when I bolt up, wide awake. The truth is, I’m scared. I’m scared of the levels. When I used to wander downtown with Mom where the river is, where we saw the different boats coming in with shipments, I saw those homeless people, the beggars on the street. Their levels are low, really low, and their faces are blank. Like they’ve given up. Because once you’re down the ladder of levels, there’s really no going back up. Our lives are shaped by levels, and levels are vital to living in Triwall. It’s that important. So I’m scared. I’m scared because without levels, we’re nobodies, we don’t have a place in the world above anyone else. And I’m scared for my neighbors, my friends, and my family, but mostly, I’m scared for myself. 

THREE

I’m too startled. I don’t think I can go back to sleep and relive those unpleasant memories again. I walk to the bathroom quietly, as my whole family seems to be asleep. Peering into Mom and Dad’s room, I see Timmy snuggled in between them, smiling in his sleep. He’s probably thinking of good memories. Wish I could relate. I splash cold water on my face and pull on my boots. I am going outside. I am going to see for myself.

I open the door and fresh air hits my face. I need that. Walking to the Imperial Alarm, I see many people huddled in groups, even this early in the morning. It makes me uneasy, because usually no one’s around this early. It makes me scared. I pick up my pace to a jog when someone runs into me. I jump back in surprise. Without meaning to, my face lights up. He’s the most beautiful boy I’ve ever seen. Pushing those thoughts away, I analyze the person getting to his feet. He’a a carpenter, someone who fixes things that go wrong in the Triwall Sector. His badge gleams on his chest.  Can’t even call him a man, he’s barely 18. He looks flushed. Almost as if he’s hurting inside. Guilty for doing something wrong. “Sorry,” he mumbles, while averting his eyes and continuing on his way. I think I will remember that boy. With those looks, I don’t think I could forget him.

***

Wow. The space around the Alarm is packed four deep. People scrambled and shoved, trampled and tripped each other. Many people stay on the sidelines though. Without their levels, if you get hurt, there’s no telling what could happen. Of course, the risk takers wanted to see the Alarm for themselves. People touch it, bang it, or simply just stand in front of it. Normally, with the presence of levels, people wouldn’t dare. Points are taken off in big chunks for approaching the Alarm at all.  But now, you can do anything you want to, if you are okay with the possibility you may be in pain for the rest of your existence. After all, there are no more levels. Then, after an eternity of physical violence, people gasp.  Their faces are frozen with shock. “No!” someone screams, and all of a sudden, the Imperial Alarm rings again. Standing less than 30 feet away, the bell’s intense ringing hurts my head. I have no idea what’s happened. 

“The Elector Imperial is dead,” someone shouts while others repeat those horrid words. “Dead in his bedroom, throat slit.” 

My stomach hurts. I feel lightheaded. The world fades to black.

FOUR

I wake up to Timmy’s face hovering over me.

“Alana, you’re awake! Thank goodness!” my Mom says happily. Dad hovers over her shoulder, his eyes brightening the moment he sees me smile. Timmy dances around the room, like he doesn’t have a care in the world. 

“Mom, what happened?!” I gasp, finally finding my voice. 

“Nothing you have to worry about now, honey,” Mom replies, clearly hiding something she doesn’t want me to know. 

“Mom, I want to know. I deserve to know.” I sit up and pain hits my temples. It’s like a blinding light I can’t close my eyes to. Timmy shouts and screams. As much as I want to tell him it’s okay, I don’t have the strength to do it. I see Timmy’s hazy shape over me, and a memory hits me again. The day Timmy came home.

I see my old doll Betty in my hands. I’m pacing around the same table that’s still here now. Mom and Dad should be home anytime soon. I’m so excited. I get to meet Timmy. I’m with my old babysitter, Gerta. She’s gorgeous. Her level states 72. She got a job after graduation apparently, and then became my babysitter. There’s a knock at the door. I rush to open it, but Gerta beats me. She swings it open, and smiles brightly at Mom and Dad while I stare at Timmy. My eyes are only on him. He’s adorable. I make a move to grab his torso but Dad puts a gentle hand on my shoulder. 

“Sweetie, move to the sofa, you don’t want to drop him, not when he’s this young.” I sit down on the sofa and get comfortable while Dad sets Timmy down on my lap. He has blue eyes, the same as mine. I watch with huge eyes as a level symbol starts to form over my brother’s head. I swatted it, determined to see my brother’s full face and take in his face. The symbol stays put. Timmy starts to wail and scream. Mom takes him back hugging and rocking him. As Mom heads to her room, I stare at the hovering level signal with confusion. It’s always been there, and somehow, even now, I still can’t seem to get used to it. But now, as the levels are gone, it’s even stranger to not see the flickering blue digits above someone’s head. 

***

I’m conscious again, and Timmy runs over to me. I think I’ve gotten used to seeing our levels over our heads because looking at Timmy now, the space above his head just seems so empty. 

“Alana’s awake!” he says enthusiastically to the whole house. Then, to me, he says solemnly, “The Imperials want to talk with you. They wouldn’t tell us why. Mom pestered and pestered, but no one told us why”

The Imperials. That means the government. What do they want from me? A fourteen-year-old girl who fainted at the site?

Timmy tugs me up to a sitting position while Mom strides into the room. 

“Hey, hon, glad you’re up,” my mom says with her sweet voice like silk. She moves around, taking my temperature, and brushing my hair. When she’s satisfied, Mom sits down and sighs. 

“I’m taking you to Imperial’s Head for questioning, I’m sure Timmy has told you. Ready in ten.” Mom pecks my cheek and walks out. 

FIVE

We pass the Alarm as we head to the Imperials Headquarters. There’s caution tape around the site, but otherwise it looks the same.  Now, looking at the Alarm, it looks identical to what it looked like yesterday, but I know so much has changed. 

Mom pulls up to the huge cement block of a building. It doesn’t even have any windows. 

“Head in hon. I’ll wait for you outside.”

I’m numb as I pass through the endless metal detectors, walk by the countless stares the guards give me, and finally, when guards escort me to an office, my eyes snap open. 

There are two men sitting straight up in chairs. One is a general with badges all over his uniform. And the other is the beautiful boy I met this morning. 

***

He flashes a small smile, then returns to his poised state. I blush. Before I can move my mouth, the general saves me. 

“Glad to see you joining us, Ms. Wilkson.” He turns the corners of his mouth up, as if he’s teasing a smile. I nod tentatively and sit down in the chair the general points at. Once I’m seated, the general starts to talk. 

“I heard you were at the alarm early this morning. Is that correct, Ms. Wilkson? Yes, I assume that is. Judging by the face you made at Mr. Thomas Oberchy’s presence, I see that you two have met?” 

I nod again, and the general is silent. I’m still confused about why I’m here, but the general says no more. The silence is unbearable. I am here watching two men glare at each other with much hostility, and the reason? No idea.  

“Mr. Oberchy is suspected of the murder of the Elector Imperial,” the general finally says. I see Thomas clenching his fists. He must be instructed not to talk. 

“And as of now, you, Ms. Wilkson, are the only person Mr. Oberchy has interacted with this morning. I say, let’s begin. No need to make that face, Ms. Wilkson, this will only take about half an hour or so.”

The general really was trained for this type of questioning. Question after question, he shoots at me like bullets you can’t avoid. 

“Have you met this man before?”

“No.”

“Do you suspect there are other people involved?”

“Um, no.”

Tens of questions later, I find myself faced with one last question. This is where I make my mistake. 

“Was there any suspicious behavior from our suspect this morning?”

“He was worried, I think, and… and, he was heading away from the Alarm.”  My voice quivers and wavers in uncertainty. The general is still sitting up ramrod straight, but he smiles. 

Thomas’ eyes snapped open. The blase look behind his eyes is gone. For the first time, he speaks up. “I didn’t. I swear I didn’t. I was heading home to see my parents and my sister. I really swear I didn’t.”

His voice is like Mom’s. Smooth as silk, and it makes you want to fall for him. He seems so genuine, and his words seem to come from his heart. 

The general winks at me and steps out of the room to talk with his elders who are waiting outside. Thomas looks at me with wide eyes. He is only a few years older than me. His expression is so innocent, so real, he just doesn’t have the capacity to kill someone, especially in front of the Alarm, where there were hundreds of people present. 

When I first saw Thomas, I thought he was 18, but now I see the youth in his eyes, the sparks of joy. He can only be about 16, and as we sit here, in this cold cement block of a room, the youth in his eyes fades away. 

“Please,” he says. “I have family at home. They need me. My sister needs me the most. If there were anything more I had to say to make you believe me, I would.” He looks so vulnerable, so fragile. He looks away, then turns back. 

“I really don’t know why I’m begging you, but you are the only person who can change his mind. So please, help me, please do.”

I look over his face one last time, those deep blue eyes, flawless skin. His face is the definition of pain. It breaks my heart to see someone in that state. It hurts more to leave them like that. And even as I will myself to believe this boy is a criminal, I can’t bring myself to. “It was him,” the boy says. I shake my head. Is he talking about the general? His position is already so high, I doubt he would risk his own life to kill someone important like the Elector, I think to myself. My heart aches for Thomas. Turning away, I walk out the door, but not before whispering to myself that I was going to make sure I would do what’s right – not for the government, but for my heart. 

The general is talking with his elders in a room that looks executive. Even royal. Unlike the rooms they use for investigating people, like the one I just walked out of. He tells me, “We’ve all agreed! 10/26/47, we’re executing him.”

He chuckles, apparently proud of himself. I glance at him, disgusted to see this man. This man who has just dished out a death sentence without remorse.

I have just given a boy death, when I just as easily could have let him live. This boy could have been the man to find the cure to cancer. He could have been the president of the world. But most importantly, this boy will not be able to give his family love. He will not be able to love his mom, his dad, he will not be able to love his sister. His sister who needs him the most. 

SIX

Mom’s car is waiting idly in front of the building. I walk up to the car and knock on the window. 

“Mom, please unlock the car.” 

My mom gives me a thumbs up and I swing the door open. 

“How’d it go, hon?”

“It was fine, Mom.” I sink into the cushioned seat of the car. She stares at me pointedly as if urging me to tell more. I close my eyes and remember how easily the government was able to give a death sentence. The general too. And me. Can one person just end someone’s life? The general was so precisely trained, taught everything he needed to know to become as high-ranking as he was. And yes, you can train people to learn things, but you need to be born with a heart.

***

The citizens outside their homes are doing things they wouldn’t have dared to when there were levels. Why did the levels just vanish? Who would know how to start ringing the Alarm? And more importantly, who killed the Elector Imperial? In 27 days, a suspect who may be innocent will leave this world forever. We drive home in silence. 

Pulling up to our condo, I see Timmy and Dad waiting for us outside. Dad looks so worried. I give him a reassuring smile and tell him, “I’m fine, Dad, nothing to worry about.” But inside, I am hurting. I am hurting for Thomas, because if he is truly innocent, he doesn’t deserve this. He doesn’t deserve any of it. 

I sit on my bed for what feels like forever. When I will myself to get up, I remain sitting. Now the level crisis and Thomas’s dilemma add to my problems. It’s all weighing me down. The problems are holding me under water and won’t let me breathe. The problems I don’t have 

time for. 

SEVEN

Thomas was arrested yesterday, right after I left the Imperial’s Headquarters. He is being broadcasted on Slim Screen. He doesn’t even look mad anymore. His eyes hold the pain he is forced to bear. Looking at him reminds me of someone who has given up. Someone who has decided that there is no reason to live. He fidgets with his hands. He moves them around in a pattern. I do that sometimes too when I’m nervous. It makes me feel more connected to him. It makes me happy. Happier to be sad. 

The camera switches over to the general in his office. His jacket is adorned with badges that gleam in the light. “It’s honestly an accomplishment that we found the culprit who killed our dear Elector. We are working on making him talk about the damaged levels. The suspect remains quiet as of now. We still wonder why he would… ” I turn the volume on the Slim Screen down. 

He keeps talking. He looks like a goldfish. Spitting out words with no value.

***

Laying in bed that night, I realize something so important. The levels prevent you from dying. The levels are now gone. And the Elector is gone as well. Is this a coincidence? I think of what my dad told me when I was only a little kid. “There are no coincidences in the Triwall Sector.”

Hurriedly, I sit up and turn on my lights. I swing open the door to my room and start making my way to my parents’ bedroom. Inside, it is peaceful. The dark curtains cover the windows, blocking the chaos in the outside world. I gently prod my mom with my hands. Bleary, and annoyed, she opens her eyes and stares at me, confused. 

I start, “Mom, the Elector couldn’t have died if the levels were intact. That means somebody who – ”

“ – knew how to wipe out the levels murdered him,” she finished, the twinkle in her eyes grows. This excited her, I can tell. 

“Then. Then, that means someone with access to the level system must have murdered the Elector Imperial. Someone on his side must have ended his life.”

EIGHT

It is October 26th. Thomas will be executed today. I spend the entire morning staring at the bright, flashing screen of the Slim Screen. The news stations broadcast Thomas’s face, bored and restless. His hands are moving again. Constant fidgeting. Almost like defined movements. Tears roll down my cheeks every time I hear someone reporting facts about Thomas’s would-be death. 

Now, you may be thinking, Thomas will live. The general is responsible for the death of the Elector, and Thomas won’t die. However, if you are thinking that, you are wrong. In fact, Thomas will die that day. In fact, I will visit Thomas’ family that day, his sister, his mother, his father, all blue eyed and blonde. I will comfort them, hug them, cry with them, despite barely knowing them at all. I will learn Thomas’ mother’s name, Lindsey. His father’s name, Landon, and his sister’s name, Anna. The sister who will get robbed of Thomas’s love because of me. 

Thomas’ family and I grieve over him. We sit in silence, the absence of sound addressing our feelings of how unreasonable it is for the General to give a death sentence merely based on my word. 

“I don’t think Tommy’s life was worth only a few words from a teenage girl. I really thought it was more,” Lindsey says, her voice cracking. Tears brim in my eyes, and threaten to spill. I glance at Lindsey, and she looks away. My heart convulses in pain. 

I watch Thomas’s family in silence. I cannot bear the responsibility of his death. I stand up, push in my chair, and I tell them, “I am truly sorry. I am sorry from the bottom of my heart.”

Thomas’ parents give me a small nod. It’s Anna who speaks up. “It’s okay.”

The most meaningful words I have ever heard. 

Lindsey comes up and wraps her arms around me. I used to think that sadness brought people apart. Now I know that sometimes, sadness brings people together. 

***

At home, I take a long shower, trying to wash off the grief I hold inside me. It doesn’t work. The shower thunders down in streams. My tears do too. 

***

I stare at the Slim Screen and the General talking like a goldfish. Spewing out lies of Thomas’ crime. He’s literally dead. Don’t pick on him more than you have to. I turn the volume down. His hands stay still, like a professional. Why were Thomas’s hands moving with so much certainty? What is he trying to tell us, and what do I need to know?

I ask the Slim Screen, “Pull up all clips of Thomas Oberchy.”

Seeing the more recent clips, I smile. His hair. His eyes. 

I scroll down the list of crammed letters and words until I’m at the year 2037. Thomas sure does have a lot of articles about him. None are particularly interesting. The math award in 2nd grade, the art competition he won when he was 5. I scroll back up. And then, something catches my eye. October 26, 2042. 5 years ago to this date. My face blanches, and I breathe in sharply. 

11-year-old Thomas Oberchy Volunteers to teach kids American Sign Language.

NINE

American Sign Language. Oh my god. I frantically order the Slim Screen to play the clip of Thomas’s last appearance on camera, and zoom in on his hands. It makes sense. His hands move with dominance, while trying to be subtle. He is trying to tell us something. 

I tell the Slim Screen, “Translate American Sign Language to English.” I hold up the video of Thomas signing. The device processes for way too much time, then finally says, “He did it himself. He did it himself. He did it himself, is the translation of the clip you have ordered me to translate.”

***

I sit there for a minute, trying to make sense of what Thomas was saying. Then, I shout, “Mom! Dad! This is so urgent. Come here!” 

I hear their footsteps plodding along. Like they’re on a walk! Like they are lounging by the pool and getting pina coladas for me and Timmy. No, Mom, no, Dad. This most certainly is not the time to be drinking sweet pina coladas while dipping your feet in the pool. 

“Hurry! Hurry up!” I shout. The door to my room opens slowly, and my parents step in.

“Ok. Ok! Are you listening? You know I was watching the news clips of Thomas before his execution, right?”

At this, my parents nod. 

I continue, “And, I noticed, his hands were moving very, very much. I do that too when I talk, but not to the extent of what Thomas was doing. So I thought, maybe I would figure out more about who Thomas is. I scroll back to 2042, and golly, there’s an article about Thomas teaching sign language!”

My mom turns to me. “Honey, I am impressed by what you have uncovered, but do you think there’s a chance Thomas did it? I mean – ”

“Mom. Are you serious right now? You have got to be joking.” However, my mom does not seem to be joking at all. 

“Dear, I’m not saying you’re wrong, but the people who have captured him are trained professionals. Surely they would know and can tell if someone is truly innocent.”

“Dad. These people killed a boy with their only evidence being my word. Do you understand how unreasonable this sounds?” I say. My fists are clenched. I already talked to Mom about the killer being on the Elector’s side. Just what could have made her change her mind? My mother, who I relied on, who is my most trusted human on earth. What has happened to my mother? Can’t she see she is wrong?

“Thomas said, ‘He did it himself, he did it himself, he did it himself,’ in the translation. Do you see how big this is?” 

Unfortunately, my parents do not see. I sat up, “You don’t get it. He’s innocent.”

Yanking the doorknob open, I storm out of the room.

TEN

Who knew how to disable the levels? And what does Thomas have to do with this at all? Why was he randomly taken into custody? I decide to visit Thomas’s family once again. 

***

Knocking on the door, I fear I have made a mistake. Thomas’ family certainly would not want to see their son’s cause of death in the flesh. Before I can turn back though, the door opens and Lindsey peeks out. 

“Hi! I just wanted to ask a few questions because Thomas’ death is so confusing and does not make sense at all. I hope I’m not bothering too much, even though I know I am.” My brilliant idea suddenly turns not-so-brilliant. I should not have come here. Lindsey opens the door fully, allowing me to come inside.

I follow her to the living room, and watch her as she takes a seat on the stiff orange sofa. I follow suit.

She asks me, “Would you like anything to drink?”

Even though my throat is burning with thirst, I cannot take more from this family. “I’m okay, thank you,” I say.

Then, I proceed, “I was just thinking about Thomas’s death, and I thought why him? Because there were certainly many other people around the Alarm. There were so many other people who actually knew how to disable the levels. But Thomas was selected for a reason.”

Lindsey sighs, her eyes red and puffy, and quietly starts telling her story. 

“Thomas was selected for a reason. But not for the reason you think. You see, Thomas was one of the few carpenters chosen to feverishly work for four whole days, to end the idea of levels at all. They were told that the levels were unhealthy for society and the growth of humans. They poked and prodded with wires, changed the programs of the levels to allow them to be permanently discontinued. There were five of them. Everyone else but the Elector and those five carpenters knew zilch about this plan. When they finally succeeded, they were to report to the Elector himself. But those four other rats of people fled, leaving Tommy the only one to report to the Elector. Those four people literally left Triwall Sector. We still don’t know why. Anyway, he was driven to the Elector’s private office, where he told him they were successful in disabling the levels. The Elector flipped the switch that would wipe out the levels totally. Tommy left the office, proud of his accomplishment, but scared of the chaos that would happen.”

Lindsey clears her throat and wipes her eyes.

“This is where things go wrong. On the way out of the office building, Tommy said there was a thwack on the floor. A thump. He rushes back to his personal room where guards are already surrounding it. He stands on his tip toes and sees a petrifying scene. The Elector’s body is in a pool of blood. A slit in his throat. A knife lying next to his limp hand. The rancid and rusty odor emanated from the blood. Thomas tried to rush away, but someone grabbed him from behind, and told him to change, then come right back. He left, and then that’s where he ran into you, Alana. And so, Thomas’ death is not actually your fault. The Elector was not supposed to end his life. Thomas was not supposed to see that. The reason Thomas was given a death penalty is because he had seen the true cause of his death and was deemed untrustworthy to keep the secret. My husband and I, now you, are the only people who are aware of this. But it still saddens me. It really does.”

My eyes are overflowing with tears. I give Lindsey a hug. Thomas was right. It was him. “Him” could be anyone. It could be Thomas, who was part of the Elector’s death. But I will choose to think of Him as the Elector. The Elector did it himself.

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