After the test, I went straight home. Molly ran up and asked how I did, and I gave her a thumbs up, but we both knew that there was no way to know for sure. Nobody knows what they’re actually looking for on the test. Some questions don’t even have correct answers, and on the ones that do, there’s no way of knowing if the testers are actually looking for them. Maybe, only the stupidest of us pass. Maybe, they just want to most pliable on the World Ships.
“Listen, I’m exhausted. I’m going to go home, we’ll talk tomorrow.”
“Not going to join us for ice cream?”
She rejoined the others. There were only eight of us in class, so she rejoined the other six. We all got along well enough. Not all exactly friends, but we felt like a unit. When Sarit was sick and fell behind in her work, we all fell behind, forgetting our completed assignments at home. In Phys Ed, we refused to engage in competitive sports. They could make us run, but they couldn’t make us race. We formed a single study group until this test when there was no material to study. Part of me wanted to go for ice cream, to pretend for a little while longer that we were in this together, but I couldn’t.
During the test, I couldn’t help but look at the others. The way Javier sped through the pages. How Max agonized over each question. Molly started from the last page and went towards the front, convinced that the hardest questions always came last, and should be dealt with when she felt the freshest. Was it possible for all of them to be chosen for the World Ship? Was it possible that none of them would?
“Our planet is dying,” said the General Secretary of the U.N. sharing the stage with the President and other prominent world leaders, “But we have a plan. Eight space ships, World Ships, to take us to the stars. To start anew.”
It was not a popular plan. Some people said that if we’d put the same money and effort behind saving the planet as we had fleeing it, the problems would be solved. That obviously, only the elites would end up on the ships. People argued over what made somebody elite, being the single most argued question of the past 20 years at least. I didn’t know if it were better to be on the ships or not. But I’d miss my unit either way.
Mom hugged me as soon as I came in the door. My dad looked at my face intently, as if the answer to whether I passed or failed had already been imprinted on my cheek. Neither of them would be leaving earth. Too old. Too unremarkable. No vital skills. They were keeping their wishes for me secret.
“I thought you’d go out with your friends,” Mom said.
“Tired. Up late. Going to nap.”
On the steps, I turned back, “I love you, both. You know that, right?”
When Jen woke me up, it was already dark out. She was tickling my foot, and saying, “Wake up, stupid,” over and over.
“Stop, you little brat.”
She’d be tested soon. What if we were split up? Would I be able to talk to anybody until the ships launched without wondering that?
“You know, you made Mom cry,” she said.
“I didn’t mean to.”
“I’m not going to cry.”
“Want to know why?”
My sister considered. Only two years younger than me, I can’t say I actually remember life without her. She’d tag along behind me until the day she started running ahead of me. We’d watch the same shows, and even when our tastes changed, and we’d argue over what to watch, we’d still sit through the other’s pick. She was smart and stupid and the first one to laugh at a joke, and the last one to finish laughing. But, she could look at a page of scribbles and see a bunny nibbling a leaf. Maybe, she knew something.
She shook her head. “It’s dinner time. Mom ordered Indian food. I told her to make yours extra spicy! Let’s go.” And she ran from the room.