Written by Audrey Francis-Plante
Photo Art by Plaidbowties
DEAN & LILY
The girl to my left shrieks when my fist connects with Dean’s jaw. My knuckles ache too much for a second punch, so I grab his blue hair and kick him in the groin.
He bends in two, but forces a smile. “Did you change your hair?”
“You’re a Trouper?” I step away like he stinks more than this orchard. How can he breathe without a mask?
Dean straightens up. “I am.”
“How long have you kept that secret from me?”
“Lily, please.” Just a whisper. I can feel the eyes of the other initiates on us, but Dean and I never cared about getting attention. We were the loud couple at school, always arguing. “I couldn’t talk about it.”
“I don’t care.” The silly hope that made me float all week shatters inside of me. Being a Trouper meant I would’ve been able to do what I love most, and been respected for it. But now … “I don’t want anything to do with the Troupe if you’re in it,” I say, and turn my back on Dean.
I’m walking away when another initiate says, “She can’t go. The instructions—”
I halt, remembering too well what the invite instructed. Refusing to believe it’s true, I look at Dean. He finally put a mask on, but I can read his grey eyes too well.
“It’s true,” he says.
“Then do something about it.”
“It’s too late.”
“You can’t leave,” a girl says as she synchronizes her wristband to the hologram above the tree, displaying her own invite.
“I know,” I mumble as the invite shines in red through the dark.
Troupe’s Initiates Ceremony.
09. 09. 2119. Flooded Orchard.
Bring a mask.
To decline the opportunity to become a Trouper, delete this message.
To accept, come to the Ceremony.
It won’t be possible to change your mind.
In order to protect the Troupe’s anonymity, the only way out of the Troupe is through death.
To be continued …