Maggie felt herself being pulled up. She had been expecting the pull, had been ready to welcome it. Now that the time was upon her, she wasn’t ready for it. She didn’t want to leave her family. She didn’t want to leave anyone behind. In her world, when one reached a certain age, they were drafted into the service of the Master in the Sky. No one had seen the Master. No one was seen after they were drafted. Not everyone was drafted. Tests, lots of tests, were given. It was nearly impossible to purposely fail them, though a few had tried. She just wanted to be able to live the life that she chose. She didn’t believe that anyone had the right to tell another how to live his or her life. She knew that she wasn’t the only one who felt that way. There were many others, though they kept quiet, just as she did. All speaking out against The Master and His Collective would accomplish is death or instant pulling. His Collective had done the tests. She’d lost count of all of the tests that were performed on her. She had a physical, multiple. They tested her brain. Her heart. Her muscles. Her bones. When they were finished, every single part of her body had ached. Completely and totally ached. She hadn’t been able to move the next day. But they hadn’t been finished. They gave her a day to allow her body to recover, and then they had put her through mental tests. Emotional tests. She had cried until she had felt that her body had no tears left. She had raged, against nothing and everything. It had been completely out of her control. Why did they need all of this information? She had hated every second of it. The worst of it, though, had been the complete and total isolation. She had never felt so alone in her life. The first day she was at the Collective, she met one single person. She hadn’t given a name, nor had she done more than say a well-rehearsed speech, completely monotone, almost as if she had been bored with the whole situation. “Welcome to The Collective. You have reach the Age of Testing. Tomorrow, you will begin your testing. You will not see anyone, nor will you have any contact with anyone.” She had walked over to a wall and pointed at it. “Here, you will find your food synthesizer. Just speak ‘Food’ and then your choice of eatery, and it will become available for you.” “Your bed will appear at the time to sleep. The bathroom is through the door that way,” she had added, with a barely discernible nod towards another door. “There are any choice of book available on the pads, as well as programs you might enjoy watching.” Before Maggie could respond, to ask a question or acknowledge that she’d heard or understood (not that she had), the woman was gone, leaving behind nothing but the silence.
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