I know the title of this makes it look like I’m about to give you all a lecture about being optimistic, but I promise I’m not! It’s just another short story I thought you might like to read.
I wake up to the sound of heavy rain falling outside. Turning over and pulling the covers up to my chin, I close my eyes and attempt to get a few extra minutes of sleep. Too late. I am already fully awake. Sitting up, my heart suddenly jumps from my chest into my throat. The wall clock reads 7:00 AM, the normal time that I would hear my mother open the garage door and leave for work. Today, there is not a sound. Not the steady rumble of the garage door going up, or the door of the car being slammed. In most normal cases, this wouldn’t be a problem – but it is for me. My mother is never late.
Ripping off my covers, I rush out of my room and down the hall. Cautiously peeking into my parents’ bedroom, I see them both fast asleep. Frowning, I hurry to my mother’s side and try to shake her awake. No movement. Panicked, I feel her pulse. She is still breathing. A slow river of concern begins to flow through me. Leaving the room, I walk into my three-year-old sister’s bedroom. As I enter, my elbow hits a toy on the shelf and knocks it to the floor with a loud bang. Cringing, I wait for the screaming to begin. But it doesn’t.
The entire house is quiet. My breathing quickens as I run to the front door, open it and walk outside. This time of the morning is when people walk their dogs or go for a run before work. It’s raining, but there is still no movement. No cars in the street, no garages open, no dogs barking. The entire world is quiet.
I pull my phone out of my pocket. The world of news had to have some information on what was going on. Scrolling through Instagram, I see one post from exactly two minutes ago. It’s a photo of a rainy street, and the caption reads – anyone else awake? There are 3 comments.
Thank gosh I’m not the only one!
Anyone know what’s going on here? Everyone is asleep but us.
I start typing fast, a little sigh of relief escaping from my lips.
Within minutes, everyone is talking at once.
Where are you guys? What’s happening? Do you guys want to meet up somewhere?
I reply to the last one.
Can we all meet at Littleton Park in ten minutes?
Everyone agrees, so I run inside, grab a raincoat and run down the street as fast as I can go without slipping and breaking my neck. As I reach Littleton Park, I take cover under an old gazebo and take a seat at the wet picnic table. A shiver runs down my spine as I sit there. What on earth are we going to do to fix this?
It isn’t long before I see a hooded figure walking across the field towards my deserted picnic bench. I can tell by his tall, lanky build that the figure is a guy. When he reaches me, he takes a seat, pulls the hood of his sweatshirt down, and gives me half a smile. He is nice-looking, with a wave of chocolate brown hair and sweet honey-coloured eyes. A few freckles dot his nose, and he has very straight teeth.
“I’m Elliot,” he says.
“Alex,” I reply. “How did you figure it out?”
“I didn’t figure it out until I saw this guy’s post. When he said, ‘anyone else awake?’, I thought it was a prank. I only discovered it wasn’t when I got up and yelled my mum’s name about ten times before I realised she wasn’t coming.”
I nod, fear prickling my skin. This was too strange to be an accident.
Another figure comes into view. Another guy. This one is wearing a black sweatshirt and jeans, and is shorter than Elliot but still taller than me. His hair is the colour of the stars on a clear night, and he has icy blue eyes, the kind that were strong enough to burn holes in you.
“Cole,” is all he says before taking a seat next to me.
The three of us sit in silence before I see a third figure. It’s another guy. He is also tall, with dark skin and jet-black hair tied back in a man-bun. His hands are shoved in his pockets as he reaches us. “Hey guys, I’m Beau.”
Silence hits us again as Beau sits down. My heart is beating fast and my hands feel clammy. Everyone seems to be in the same boat as me – we don’t know what to say or how to start a conversation about the reality that is surrounding us. The next ten minutes drag along, and I start to get fidgety. The next member of our tribe finally arrives. Her face is covered as she walks towards us. The rain becomes heavier, and she begins to run. I watch Cole’s eyes light up when she reaches us and removes her hood. For the first time since he arrived, he actually looks friendly.
“Diana,” she introduces in a thick British accent that makes an immediate image of Hermione Granger from Harry Potter pop into my mind.
Diana has a thick mop of curly brown hair and a fringe, which conveniently makes her look even more like Hermione. Her eyes are the colour of sweet caramel sauce, and her smile could light fires.
“It’s nice to meet you, Diana. Can I just say that you look absolutely beautiful today?” Cole toys, sliding towards me and nearly shoving me off the bench so Diana could sit next to him.
Diana looks him up and down. “How can you possibly think about flirting at a time like this?” she spouts with a frown, taking a seat next to Elliot on the other side of the table. “I’m here to find out why it is that the rest of the world is still sleeping, and you four are the only other people I can find to talk to.”
“To answer your question,” Beau begins, leaning in front of Elliot to speak to Diana, “I think it’s better this way. My brother was starting to drive me insane.”
Elliot chuckles, but Diana’s face remains straight. “This isn’t a joke, boys,” she chides. “It’s actually quite serious.”
“I agree,” I speak up for the first time, only to receive a death stare from Cole. Ignoring him, I continue. “Why are we the only people awake?”
“That’s why we’re here, genius,” Cole says, rolling his eyes at me.
“There’s really not much a bunch of teenagers can do about an entire country being held in a never-ending slumber,” Elliot states, pulling the hood of his sweater up again as the rain began to get harder.
“Maybe if we were a smarter group of teenagers, we’d actually have a chance,” Diana mutters, but both Beau and I hear her.
Without warning, in the middle of deserted Littleton Park, a loudspeaker roars into motion.
“Do not move from your seats. They are coming for you.”
Like headless chickens, the five of us jump up and scatter in different directions, completely ignoring the loudspeaker’s instructions. Out of nowhere, a group of strong-looking men dressed in tuxedos and black sunglasses to cover their identities start running towards us, and before we know it, we’ve all got our hands held behind our backs and are being forced to walk in the opposite direction of our peaceful picnic table.
“What in the world is going on?” I hear Diana’s British squeals from across the park.
Cole’s exasperated pleas follow. “Hey, mister. Back it up!”
Before I know what’s happening, I’m forced to my knees with the rest of the group. I bite my lip to keep it from quivering as my jeans soak up the water that had gathered in a puddle on the grass beneath me.
“What is going on?” Elliot, who is kneeling beside me, whispers.
“I don’t know!” I reply. “I haven’t been here any longer than you have!”
I look up to see the tallest of the five bodyguards standing in front of us with his arms folded across his broad chest.
“When I call your name, you say ‘yes, sir’. Understood?”
We all nod.
“Understood!” he barks again.
I manage to push a small ‘yes, sir’ out of my mouth – I can barely speak because of the sheer terror rushing through my bones.
“Yes, sir,” I hear Beau respond from directly behind me.
My hands start to ache from being stuck in the same position for so long.
The bodyguard calls out Cole, Diana and Elliot, and for the first time, I realise that our names start with the first five letters of the alphabet.
“Now,” the bodyguard continues when he has finished marking our names off of his list. “You will refer to me as Professor Steel and only Professor Steel. No nicknames, shortcuts or lazy options. That’s that.”
A thousand thoughts are running through my brain as I search for an explanation – any explanation as to why we were being held hostage in the middle of Littleton Park right now.
“I bet you’re all wondering what you’re doing here,” Professor Steel went on.
His voice is very deep, like that you would hear as bass in an old 80s band.
“It’s quite an interesting story, really,” he toys, beginning to pace back and forth.
The way he is joking around about this makes me sick. My stomach feels like it has been thrown into a dryer and is being spun around until it is completely distorted and out of shape. What could possibly be funny about putting the entire world to sleep?
“On the 24th of November 2016,” the professor continues, “The crew of Denarii 12239 and myself, the head coordinator, decided that the world needed a change. All we do is wake up, go to work, and come home. Our only possible way of communicating is by using our voices.”
I want to object. Put my hand up and tell him that we have letters and texting and emails, but somehow, I figure that that is not such a good idea, considering his name is Professor Steel. You don’t just obtain a name like that – there had to be a reason behind it.
“So, for months and months, we’ve been putting our heads together and trying to come up with a plan – a plan to change the way the earth works. The way we communicate. The way people use their minds.”
My heartbeat is increasing with every word that comes out of the professor’s mouth. Change the way our minds work? Was that even possible?
“We’ve done endless amounts of research, experiments and lab tests, and we’ve finally landed on a scheme. Today, the 14th of August 2017, is your lucky day. The five of you, A to E, will be tested on our blueprint. If it is a success, the world will be roused and changes will be made to improve our earthly communication. If not, well I suppose you can figure the rest out for yourself.”
I don’t know what to think. What Professor Steel has just explained is blowing my mind. While I’d been living my normal life on earth, there had been an experimental laboratorial blueprint scheme going on behind the scenes to change the world as we know it.
“Any questions?” Professor Steel says after a few seconds of letting us process his information.
“Why us?” I hear Diana say from behind me. “I mean, there’s the whole earth and you choose five random teenagers to help with your testing. Why?”
Professor Steel’s face darkens, his eyebrows deepen, and his smile widens. Not in a good way. He looks like a serial killer who’d just come up with a plan to murder his arch nemesis.
“I was hoping someone would ask that,” he says, his eyes receiving an evil glint. “The reason we’ve chosen you – Alex, Beau, Cole, Diana and Elliot – is because the five of you have something in common. Something unusual, and something that the rest of the world cannot possibly obtain.”
“And what would that be?” Beau inquires.
The same question is running through my brain, only I’m too afraid to ask it.
“You can read minds.”