This was my 2015 NaNoWriMo work in progress. As such, it is a first draft and will have plenty of mistakes and plot holes and other issues. Follow along with that in mind and we'll see what comes from it.
I intend on revising the book and will upload the revised chapters as I do so. I'll mark the chapter as revised so if you are reading it you'll know what part is changed.
Thanks for reading. Any and all comments are appreciated. If something is or isn't working for you please let me know.
Eron couldn't forget the bloodcurdling screams of his brother Timo. The sound pierced his ears to the point of causing extreme pain. Timo had always been a strong boy full of adolescent bravery and confidence beyond his years. But when forced to endure the Selection, he howled and screamed like nothing Eron had ever heard.
That was the last time Eron saw his brother. It was two Earth years (or just under six Anastasian years) ago that Timo's ear-splitting screams were last heard. Eron often wondered what happened to Timo. Several weeks after Timo left, Eron woke in the middle of the night full of terror. His mother tried comforting him as much as possible yet all the while telling him that Timo had to go through the Selection, it's how things are done. She assured him it wasn't as bad as Timo let on and eventually he too would have to endure the Selection.
That's probably what bothered Eron the most. Knowing one day he would need to face the Selection and there was no way out. The inevitable event awaited him and unless he could stop the aging process, he'd face it one day. Growing anxiety about the Selection gnawed at him ever since Timo went through it. School studies suffered because of it. Most teachers understood though, they knew what faced Eron and other boys his age. It was something that the Anastasians instituted long ago while still a small colony. Still, Eron's mother didn't let that excuse stop her from berating Eron for his slipping grades.
"Eron, how many times have I told you to apply yourself? You can do better than this! Look at these grades. A D in history! History of all things! Come on you're better than that!"
"But mom, I've got a lot on my mind. Don't you understand?" Eron said.
"What I understand is I have a seventeen year old son who thinks skirting through school will help him as an adult! Your studies are the most important thing you can do son. Knowledge is everything. There is no room for incompetence. You have to take these things seriously if you expect to make something of yourself. You're smart, why are your grades dropping like this? Look, a D in chemistry and an F in literature? Eron I raised you better than this!"
Eron opened his mouth to reply but the stern look in his mother's eyes shut him up. He wanted to tell her about the Selection. About how scared he was. About how much losing his brother hurt. But as she stood with her hands on her hips and a scowl on her face, tears forming in her eyes, he dropped it. Excuses never went far with her.
"I'm sorry mom. I'll try better. I am doing better right now," he lied. Diffusing her was his priority and if lying to her achieved his goal then so be it. He hated that resorting to such tactics came easy to him but it was something he learned well before Timo left and he did it on occasions such as this. He was her last child and often caught a lot of her anger as though she saved it all up from his older sister and brother.
He hadn't seen Samantha for a while. The last he knew she lived on the other side of the colony on the other end of Anastasia. She had gotten married and had a child of her own already. Which was great since the expected population growth since human arrival over three hundred Earth years ago never quite panned out as expected. But since she lived so far away, he rarely saw her. On planet communications were pretty abysmal and hearing from her was not expected.
Eron's mother didn't talk much about her. Samantha was five Earth years older than Eron and she'd been gone since he was thirteen. That was four years ago. So much changed in her life, and his for that matter, in the time since she left that it felt much longer than that.
Eron hugged his mom. "I'm doing better mom, I swear. You'll see on my next report card." She squeezed him tight. With just the two of them left in the family, they were close. His father had been gone for many years. Eron used to be able to see his face in his mind but over time, that image faded and he was left with a vague impression of a man that was fun and warm. Now he wouldn't be able to pick him out of a lineup but that wasn't likely anyway.
According to his mom, his dad left years ago for the Anastasian Defence Force, a small but necessary military. All males over the age of thirty were required to sign up. There were no guarantees they'd ever come back either. Eron's mom would talk about him on long lonely nights when she'd had a bit too much of the local wine but other than that, he like Samantha, was something she rarely talked about. Sometimes the denial bothered Eron. He wondered if she'd end up doing that about him once he left for the Selection.
She finally let go of Eron and he went to his room to read. He'd heard about television and something called the internet back on Earth. It was part of his history lessons that he did so poorly on. Those luxuries weren't for most Anastasians. The military had something like it but Earth-like resources weren't abundant on Anastasia and the scientists and thinkers on planet hadn't yet figured out how to convert Anastasian resources to Earth-like devices and equipment. It was an unforseen problem still not resolved after all this time. Earth long ago stopped sending equipment as well because of what Eron's history book called "The Ultimate War" and since then, Anastasia was stuck in a strange technological limbo.
Not that it really mattered much anyway. Eron wouldn't have the time to watch shows or play games on a computer. His grades were slipping. He did need to focus no matter what awful things awaited him at the Selection.
The rest of the boys in his class were faced with the same fate. One day all of them would face the Selection unless they were physically or mentally unable to do so. There were a few over the years that Eron could remember. Most however faced the Selection and were never seen again. Rumor had it that those who went through the process lived a wonderful life in another colony. They'd come through the other end of the Selection stronger and more capable of helping grow Anastasia's shaky population. Some even said they'd have beautiful girls waiting for them if they made it. The girls would fight over them and then one would become their wife. It sounded like some made up stories to get the boys to accept the Selection but Eron wasn't convinced. For the sake of Timo, he hoped it was true.
Timo's screams started echoing in his head again. The awful sounds of agony stabbed his brain. When Timo set off for the Selection, Timo put on his bravest face. He told Eron not to worry. He'd make it through and one day when Eron went through the Selection, and survived, they'd meet up and revel in their victories.
That was before the rest of the boys were released. Once they were, everything changed for Eron. Watching the carnage unfolding in front of him and hoping that Timo would escape it, Eron feared not only for Timo's life but his own. The realization that one day he'd face the same thing overwhelmed him and when he heard those cries of his strong older brother, his heart almost exploded.
Eron threw his history book across the room. It slammed against the wall knocking down a plaque he received for perfect attendance. Not like he had anything else to do with his time. The Selection was coming. He couldn't escape it. Much like Timo before him, he'd have to endure whatever happened. He only hoped the screams of his brother wouldn't haunt him until then.
About a week after the memories of Timo overwhelmed Eron, he found himself thinking again about his older brother. For whatever reason, Eron couldn't shake those screams again. He awoke one bright red morning to his brother's agonizing howls. Sweat ran down his forehead. His sheets were soaked. It took most of the school morning to finally get the haunting sounds out of his head. It was only when lunch came around that he could focus on something else.
"Are you ready for the history test tomorrow?" his friend Connor asked. Connor was about a month younger than Eron but was slated to be in the same Selection. The Selection was done bi-annually, according to Anastasian time, and Eron's birthday was at the end of the second Selection which was held in the month of Stuart. He had five months to be ready.
"Yeah I guess so. I studied but none of it makes sense. I mean it's not like it matters to me anyway. What do a bunch of old dead people have to do with me? Especially if most of those dead people were on Earth?" Eron said.
"Come on Eron, it's more than that. If we forget our past, we'll never be what we could be. If we don't learn from past mistakes we are more likely to make them again," Connor said.
"Whatever. That sounds like a line our teachers would cram down our throats! It's all worthless and you know it."
"Worthless? No way! It's serious stuff Eron. Really. I mean it."
Eron rolled his eyes. Everyone knew the history of Earth didn't matter much to their remote outpost on Anastasia. Whatever happened years ago on some far off planet meant nothing to Anastasians. Well, to most anyway. Eron couldn't think if a single good reason to study ancient Earth history and imagined he was in the majority. What had Earth done for them? Other than send the initial settlement and two more follow up missions, Earth forgot about them. No messages, no resources, nothing. They were an afterthought. If that's how Earth thought of them, then why waste his time studying Earth?
Anastasians stopped calling themselves "Earthlings" a century ago, an action that would've shocked those on Earth had they stayed on touch. But they didn't. So why study their history? It made no sense and Eron couldn't bring himself to care.
"No matter what you think, you still need to be ready for the test," Connor said. He cut up the bright blue vegetable on his plate and wolfed it down. It contained the perfect amount of protein and fiber for their bodies. It was one of the many food staples native to Anastasia found to not only nourish the human body, but enhance it.
"Hey look, it's Tabitha. Aren't you gonna say anything to her?" Connor asked. Eron ducked his head low pretending his plate of food needed extra attention. "Eron, she's over there. Go talk to her," Connor said. He pointed at her with his fork drawing the attention of the table next to them.
"Come on Connor, stop," Eron said in a low voice. Not looking up from his plate, he waited for Tabitha to pass. "I don't feel like talking to her," he said. Connor shook his head and went back to his lunch.
Eron's heart raced. He'd wanted to talk to Tabitha for a long time but could never muster the courage to do so. If his brother were here, he'd be able to talk him through it. To give him solid advice and encouragement. Timo. The screams. He dropped his fork on his plate.
"I'm not hungry anymore. I'll see ya Connor," Eron said. He picked up his plate and dumped the remainder of his food in the trash. If the lunch monitor caught him, he'd be in detention. Food was always rationed in the colony and wasting it was severely punished. Not that he cared at that moment. Let them take him to detention or worse, it didn't matter. He missed his brother. Why did he have to go through the Selection? Why did Eron have to do the same? Why did any of them have to do it? And why didn't the girls have to go through it?
His classes were filled with more boys than girls, something like a ten to one ratio. It was always like that. No one offered a real reason why only the boys had to go through the Selection and no one really explained what it was. They only spoke in generalities saying things like "It has to be done" and "Every boy goes through it." They'd pat your head and smile as if it was the most natural thing ever. So if it was, then why did Timo scream like he did? Why did Timo, the strong energetic unflappable brother of his howl so fiercely?
Eron walked out of the lunch room and went outside. The bright red vegetation took most of its color from the red sun warming the planet. Shades of orange and yellow permeated the richly red landscape. A few laths flew above. Eron remembered from his history class that these creatures were similar to what are called birds on Earth except they also swam in water for extended periods of time. The laths danced in the air circling and darting around each other. Eron watched for a little while, their sky theater a welcome distraction.
"You gonna stare at those things all day?"
Eron cringed. It was Bello. Ever since they were in grade school, Bello was a belligerent loud-mouthed hulk of a boy that got his kicks by picking on Eron. He too was the same age as Eron and barely made the cut-off for the second Selection, the one Eron would be in.
"Hi Bello," Eron said. Timo taught him to stand up for himself and treat Bello like everyone else. Timo. The screams. Eron's mind started to wander again.
"Why are you out here? Is it so I can kick your ass and no one would see it?" Bello said. Eron clenched his fists ready for what would come next.
"I'm out here because I want to, Bello. Shouldn't you be in class? You aren't smart enough to skip a lesson."
That set Bello off. He lunged at Eron but Eron dodged his attack. Bello was huge but he telegraphed all his moves and Eron had been in enough trouble with him that he knew his tendencies. Bello fell to the ground. He jumped up, orange dirt covering his face and shirt.
"You'll pay for that Eron!" Bello said. He fainted left and struck right. He caught Eron squarely in the chin dazing him. A heavy dull pain engulfed Eron's face. Bello didn't wait for Eron to strike back and struck him several times in the stomach. When Eron tried to block the hits, Bello punched him in the face two or three times before Eron punched him in the eye staggering the larger boy. Bello held his hand to his eye checking for bleeding and Eron took the opportunity to hit his oppressor several times in the stomach though each shot seemed to be absorbed by the larger boys girth. Bello smiled.
"That's all you got? I always knew you were a wuss. You're brother had to help you. Where's he now? I hear he got killed in the Selection. Serves him right. Your family has always been a bunch of cowards."
Eron's face flushed a deeper red than the trees outside. Spittle flew from his mouth. "Shut up Bello! Timo was not a coward and he's not dead!"
Bello laughed. Eron lunged at the boy and slamed into Bello but he didn't budge. Wrapping his huge arms around Eron, he squeezed tight until Eron could barely breath. Then he let go and while Eron was bent over trying to catch his breath, Bello punched him several times in the face. "This," he said striking Eron, "is for being a coward and being the son of a coward and the brother of a coward." He struck Eron several times in the face. Eron's will was broken. He stopped fighting back. Tears streamed down his face mixing with his blood.
"Thats it, cry you little wuss. Cowards always cry," Bello said. He punched Eron one last time in the face and stopped. "I gotta stop wasting my time on cowards like you," he said and walked away leaving Eron hunched over crying and bleeding.
When Connor noticed Eron wasn't in their next class together he said something to his teacher. A janitor found Eron outside lying on the ground curled up. He was covered in sweat and orange dirt. His dirt caked face was streaked with blood like the red rivers covering Anastasia. After cleaning him up and trying to find out who did it, Eron wouldn't say, the janitor who found him walked him home to the shock of his mother. She left him alone that evening sensing he needed his space.