Stories

A Hero's Identity

by Sam, Age 13 , USA

The walls were bare and an off white color, like the walls of a dentist’s office. There were yellow hanging lights overhead that never quite seemed to penetrate the corners of the hallway. From everywhere there wafted a sweet honeyed fragrance, but with a nauseating underlying smell of chemicals. It seemed to seep into everything, and never leave, there was not a particle of fresh air anywhere.

The air was surprisingly chilly, and everything seemed untouched by human hands. There was a slight whirring in the air that implied motors, but I never passed a machine. Another sight never to be seen, only heard, was the murmuring of other people. I didn’t once see a person that wasn’t part of my group walking any of the long corridors, or in any of the offices and rooms I peered into.

Finally I reached the room I would be staying in and was surprised to find it quite homey. I didn’t realize it, but when I was told I would be staying in a government building, I thought I would find a palace, afterall, here we would be saving the world, but instead I found the odd combination of a picturesque home and a doctor's office.

“You will be up and ready at 7:00 to have breakfast, strait afterwards, we will begin your training,” the lead officer instructed, “You had best be well rested”

I was again hit with his young age, he had dark brown hair, and steal blue eyes, and only seemed a few years older than me, yet he commanded with complete authority, and I certainly wouldn’t want to be on his bad side.

I quickly nodded with understanding, it would take a lot to save the world, but at least now I had the chance.

Of course, no matter how hard I tried, or how much I convinced myself that I needed  sleep, I stayed awake half of the night thinking about the events that brought me here, to an unknown building with no family members, trying to prepare to save the world.

Just a day ago I was an ordinary schoolgirl dreaming of getting a master in humanitarian assistance.  I was a nobody with dreams of helping others, and lots of determination; Now I was the prophesied one. I was going to be the savior of the world, and truly help people.

When I finally did fall off to sleep, my dreams were full of me rushing into battle to a shadowy darkness, shielding innocent civilians from depression with my powers of goodness, and in general, being the hero the world needed. I wish things turned out that simply.

An alarm was going off, I jumped out of bed and through the door, still rubbing the sleep out of my eyes, sure Dad was having a seizure again. Unfortunately, I forgot that I wasn’t in my old bedroom, nor within a hundred miles of my dad, so instead of my epic rescue, I managed to run straight into my new dresser’s corner and spent the next minute huddled on the floor, feeling like I was having my own seizure.

I finally got up enough to turn off my still ringing alarm clock and change out of my pajamas. As the pain subsided, I remembered that I would be saving the world today, and quickly got ready for my first breakfast as a hero.

I ran out of my door, and got past the first three turns before I realized that I had no idea where I was even supposed to eat breakfast. But, I mean, my legs seemed to know where to go when I started, so maybe I should trust trust my instinct and go for it. It could be a super power I discovered! No...super power was to kiddish, I’ll call it a “Power of Good”, or maybe a Hero’s Helper?

“Do you need something?”

I spun around and came face to face with another dark haired boy, around my age. But he couldn’t look more different than my instructor. True he was also wearing a business suit ( which went very well with his deep eyes), but he managed to wear it in a way that still gave off  laughter and friendliness.

“Oh…, I mean, uh…” I stuttered, flushed with embarrassment that not only had I managed to get lost on the way to breakfast, but I had also been caught daydreaming about what to name my imaginary super powers.

“Lost on the first day huh?” he said with a smile, “Well for future notice, they usually slide your schedule for the day under the door, but I’m heading to breakfast, so I can atleast get you that far.”

“uh, thanks,... that would be great. I guess I missed it…,I mean the schedule, that was under my door, probably.” I couldn’t believe it, I had met my first person today, and I couldn't even form a coherent sentence. Luckily, he didn’t seem to notice.

“Ya, It’s kind of confusing to get around for new students. I think it mostly comes from the fact that is is build in a hexagon shape, not square. People subconsciously think that if you turn three rights around a building, you will end up in the original spot, but that’s not the case for this building. It’s main hallways form the hexagon, and are lettered A through F, then there are the hallways off of the main ones that are colored in the order red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple. And then the rooms in the side hallways are numbered starting with 001 in the red hallways. What’s weird is that the hallways only come off of the outer rim and so that means…”

Wow, he really studied the architecture. All I got the impression that there was some empty space he had calculated was supposed to be there, but honestly I didn’t understand half of what he was saying.

When we got to the cafeteria, or at least that’s what it seemed to be, I saw that is was filled with mostly high school aged people, eating like it was a normal day at school.

I stared in amazement. “Wow, and I was worried that I would be the youngest here! This practically looks like a boarding school.”

“Um, ya, what did they tell you you were coming to? Did they forget to give you the initiation or something?”

“They just told me I was coming to a government faculty,” I mumbled, “ To learn...some things.” For some reason I didn’t want to tell him about being the hero and all, I guess it would just prove that I was even more out of place. I was pretty sure that this was the wrong breakfast. But it’s possible  they were all training to be heros, right? Maybe I was where I belonged afterall. “So since I didn’t get the initiation, why don’t you fill me in on some things, like what are we doing here?”

Surprised he said, “We're all here because we graduated our first four years of college  before most graduated high school. This is where we can get even more education and a job with the government once we are done,”

“Oh, that’s great.” I said with a fake smile, as I grabbed my breakfast tray. Even the amazing smell wafting from the breakfast couldn’t tempt  my stomach that was cramping with worry more and more by the minute.

“Ya, and they have so many options for majors, I’m going for architecture and security in government buildings. It is really interesting, there are so many secrets in just this one building, I really think that once I studied it, I can make some great improvements to the security.”

I was about to sit at one of the empty tables when he pulled me over to an already occupied one.

“Here I want you to meet some of my friends,” he laughed “Newbies should never sit by themselves.”

“Okay,” I replied as I warily sat down across from three other people. I really hoped they talked about something other than their classes, because I only passed Geometry with a B, and they probably aced it in third grade.

“Angela, Marcos, Cameo, meet… um” he flushed a deep golden brown

“You’re introducing us to her, and you don’t even know her name!” laughed a girl I assumed was Angela.I stared in wonder at her, I had always thought that dreads were something only worn by hippies, but she made them look like the most stylish thing ever.

“ Smooth dude, smooth.”

“Shut up, Cameo. So what is your name, sorry I didn’t ask before.” he asked.

“No hurt feelings, I don’t know yours either. Mines Vanessa, but most people call me Ness” I replied

“Thanks Ness, mines Raza, and as I was saying, this is Angela,” she had dark brown skin and her dreads in a ponytail, somehow looking absolutely gorgeous , “Cameo,” he had the classic surfer dude going, with his blond hair and blue eyes and ponytail, “and Marcos.” he looked the most like a college graduate, and he was already studying for something or other.

“Enough with the introductions, did you guys see the golden cup tournament last night?” Cameo asked “No of course you didn’t, you were probably studying or something, but anyways, Kellman totally aced it…”

It turns out, I had nothing to fear. Even if they were nerds, they still liked ordinary things like me, and I was able to dodge all of the questions they did ask about classes and stuff. I thought I might have actually made friends, until I saw my instructor marching across the room with a very a large scowl on his face.

“C’mon, you’re late” he growled, “leave your food, they can get it”

I was startled, it was barely 7:30, surly I wasn’t that late. I started to get up to dump my tray, only for him to snatch it out of my hand and slammed it on the table.

“I said they would get it, now get on with it,” he yelled

I turned to apologize to my friends only to find them all looking away and hurt, all except  Raza, that is. He just had a look of sad understanding dawning on his face.

“ It’s okay, we’ve got it,” sneered Marco, “ As he said, get on with it,”

Startled at their sudden change in tone, I hurried after my instructor, trying to figure out what I had done.

“ You will no longer be mingling with the common student body” he lectured, “ They don’t understand your importance, and are much to low of society for you to make friends with.”

I protested, “ But Mr….” and then I flushed, “ I’m sorry I don’t remember your name,”

“Just call me Sir. And there are no buts. You will not talk to them anymore, though I can’t imagine you have bonded very much in your five minute talk, and focus solely on your training” he instructed, “ Remember, the world is at stake. I hope you got a good night’s sleep.”

“ I know,” I mumbled, “ I just thought I could have friends”

“ So today we will mostly be trainting to see if you have any special capabilities…”

My day had taken a definite downward turn, and I hadn't even started training.

Sir took me to a enormous room full of an assortment of equipment including an exercise bike, a treadmill, and a pool of water barely longer than six feet, and even less wide. (It turned out to be a treadmill for swimming). He then said that he would have to leave the room to find the instructor,

“Don’t you dare touch anything, most of this costs thousands of dollars”

I looked around the now empty room, wondering how long he would take, when an alarm went off. It took me a moment to realize it wasn’t a normal alarm like my alarm clock, it actually did mean danger.

Then I heard over the intercom, “We are currently under attack, please remain calm and retreat to the C hallway basement.”

For a moment, I was frozen in terror, I was in a building under attack. My mind refused to process this, these type of things only happened in history books. But there was no time for panic now. I quickly ran over to the door, there was usually a sheet somewhere that said where the fire escapes were, hopefully they addressed terrorist attacks too. Unfortunately, there was no such paper anywhere in sights. Raza really had some work to do.

Quickly I ducked into the hall, and found absolute mayhem. I could tell that even the smartest people in the world panicked in emergencies. I hoped that somewhere in those panicked brains, they could remember how to get to safety.

At that moment, I was so glad Raza had explained the whole architecture of the building to me. I found the nearest door and saw that I was in E hallway. That meant the fastest way would be counterclockwise, or to the right, and down two hallways. I was about to run down my side hallway, only to see people panicking. Some people were obviously following instructions, but there were still a few people standing, and staring blankly, or crouching in a corner.

Quickly I grabbed the person next to to me and looked her straight in the eyes. “Go down this hall, follow the other people to the basement. The basement is safety. Go!” JI shoved her in the direction of C hallway. Then I found a boy, younger than me even, hiding in a corner. I took a different approach with him. I held his shoulders and asked his name. It was Marlen. “Marlen, see these people going out the hallway, I want you to follow them. Go into the basement, that is where safety is. Do you  understand?” He numbly nodded and stumbled into the flow. I helped a few others, and then found the basement myself, to sit in darkness comforting some of the panicked ones, waiting for hours with no news.

Finally, someone came down the stairs and slowly started taking people up. It took a while, but eventually everyone was back in the dorms, and me in my room, with the news circulating that some recently added defences were able to prevent any real damage to our building, and no human lives were lost.

This morning when my alarm went off, there was no reason to worry about running into my dresser again, I could barely move enough to turn it off. Yesterday was the most exhausting day of my life. Even after everything was settled I still had to train with Sir. I apparently had a lot of working out to do, because I wasn’t where they wanted me. I guess that I would just have to work harder to make up for it, because there is no way I was giving up.

This time I remembered to wait outside of my door so that I could be escorted to breakfast, which I ate nowhere near the cafeteria, and I was right on time, despite being extremely sore. I was kind of hoping to meet someone other than the doctors, Sir, my escort, who was very unresponsive to my polite inquiries, and my only friends who I was no longer aloud to talk to, but the only person that was there to meet me was Sir.

“Today we will train you in characteristics such as leadership, persuasion, support, and ingenuity,” Sir droned

“ Will I perhaps find out what I’m actually saving the world from?” I inquired, “ I don’t even know what threat I should prepare for.”

“ It isn’t your place to know that yet. All you need to worry about is preparing.”

I thought it would be good to have a change of scenery, but the new room I was brought to was even barer than the last. At least my previous room had had equipment in it, and machines. This room was literally a white square. I was almost scared to walk into it for fear of messing up it’s pristine shininess.

“Um…how exactly will I be tested in here?” I asked. No one answered. I turned around to find a blank white wall just like all of the others. I was starting to get scared, this was a little like a twisted puzzle in a book. I decided to sit down in order to remember which wall the door at least used to be on. It didn’t look like there was any way for contact to come from the outside, but I figured it was worth a try. Feeling like a crazy person talking to herself, I called, “ Can you hear me, I’m not quite sure what I’m supposed to be doing in here,” For a moment I thought my only answer would be the echo of my voice against the spotless walls, but then I heard a microphone hum on from somewhere.

“ Your tests will begin shortly. We will project on the walls and sealing a simulation of a situation. You will then have to act on your instincts on how best to solve it. Once we have gathered sufficient data, we will shut it off and all will return to it’s current state.” The voice hummed, “ Your first test will be of leadership. You are leading a group of soldiers into battle against immense odds. You must successfully lead all of your squad into battle, and defeat the enemy. They do not all have to return, if you see that their sacrifice will be needed,”

The next thing I knew, I was standing on a podium, facing a group of about 100 soldiers and watching news feeds say that we were the last building not under enemy control. At that moment, I knew that today would be even more exhausting than yesterday. I guess there is a reason no one said saving the world would be easy.

If I wasn’t so determined to leave the world better than when I came here, I would have given up after the first ill fated battle where half of my troops joined the other side, and the other half died along with myself, in a very badly planned attack. I couldn’t give up there though, so I went on to courage, memory, originality, strategy, and every other trait the hero of the world should have. I didn’t fail them necessarily, I just needed to work on them. I hope whatever threat that’s facing the world right now,(that they still refuse to share) does not require immediate attention, because I was beginning to doubt whether or not I was up to it.

Tomorrow I would take a break from testing (finally!) and look at the prophecy itself, along with some other related works. Sir, and whoever else decides this sort of thing, hoped that seeing it for myself might make something click. Honestly, I would take anything to having my brain or muscles stretched any more.

 

I was finally getting used to my alarm going off in the morning, but that didn’t mean that it was any more pleasant. Where had my enthusiasm for this job gone, I still wanted to save the world, I guess I was just worried I wouldn’t be able to. It didn’t matter though, I would be seeing the document that proved I was the hero the world needed. What better moral booster could there be?

I should have expected it, but the library we went into wasn’t the colorful, cozy ones that you always see. It was absolutely professional and plain. Full of what looked like encyclopedias, I doubted that there was a single novel in the whole place!

“ So which one’s the prophecy, Sir,” I asked

“ I will be looking at the prophecy first. You will look at the Third High leader’s journal entries from when he first heard of the seer, to the actually day the prophecy was said.” He instructed

Wow, a history lesson. Not exactly what I was looking forward to, but I guess it couldn’t hurt to have confidence of the prophet’s ability before I actually looked at the revelation.

It turns out, looking at an old leader’s journal is even more boring than it sounds. Lucky for me, I was saved. While Sir was in the bathroom, Raza peeked his head in the door, and beckoned for me to come.

“ I know your training, or something, but I found what I was looking for, you know, the empty space, and it’s even better than I imagined. Do you think you could come see it, I want someone else to see it so I know I’m not imagining it.”

Honestly the decision was made the moment he proposed doing anything but reading. I really didn’t think I was learning very much, and I was tired of being told what to do.

“ You just saved my life! Of course I’ll come. I’m just going to write a note to Sir so he doesn't’ send the building into lockdown. I’ll be right back.”

I left a note to say that I was taking a break and would be back some time soon. He would be furious, but at this moment, I didn’t care.

I slipped into the hall and found Angela and Cameo there too.

“I  told you she would come.” said Cameo, “ No one would choose studying over the chance for an awesome adventure, other than Marcos of course.”

“ Whatever.” Angela replied with a flip of her dreads.

I was obviously still not on her good side. Luckily it didn’t matter, because Raza practically dragged us to a janitor's doorway, three hall to the left.

“Look, through here you can get into the inside of the hexagon. I looked here because it was one of the only doors on the inside of the hexagon. The other janitor’s closet really is just that, but this one has a sliding panel in the back.

We crawled through a tiny hole that was indeed in the back of the closet behind three mop buckets, and into a sunlit meadow, surrounded by lush trees. I had never seen anything so alive, or green!  It was a whole ecosystem, surviving on it’s own.

“ Wow, I’ve never seen anything like it “ I exclaimed

“ Me either, I don’t think there is anything like it.” replied Angela in awe.

We stayed there for almost another hour, before heading back.

When I got back to the library, I was greeted with a very angry Sir, and was immediately dragged to my room

I sat in my room for the rest of the day,(was I grounded?) and thought about the risk I took in skipping out on training, and ultimately decided that it was worth it. I didn’t know what Sir thought I should be, but I think all heros needed friends. I was startled by someone knocked on my door, I opened the door to find Sir there with a face of stone.

“I’m sorry to break it to you, but we have found a new piece of information that informs us that you aren’t, infact the hero we thought you were. You really are just a ordinary citizen.”

I was stunned. I couldn't’ process how a dream come true, a difficult one but a dream nonetheless, could be ripped away so fast. I was sure time had stopped everything for just a moment, but then the spell was broken.

Sir cleared his throat almost nervously, “ You will be given the choice of going to back to live with your father permanently, or visiting quickly and coming back to go to the academy. We need your answer by tomorrow morning, with your packed bags.”

I just stood there as he closed the door. I wasn’t a hero at all. I couldn’t even think about the choice I had to make, there was too much going on. The one thought that kept coming back was that I still wanted to save the world. Even though they just shattered all of my dreams of being a hero, I still wanted to try. Maybe I didn’t need to have their approval to be a hero, but then where would I train? I needed a better place to think, lucky for me I had just found a secret garden that no one else knew about.

I quickly crawled into the janitor's closet and through the panel. The forest was even more beautiful with the sun setting. I quickly snuggled between a tree’s roots to think. If I went here, what would I study? Did I even want to go to a place where everyone would hate me for being a rejected hero? But then what did I have at home. True I could go back to dad, and he would completely understand. I could continue highschool and college, but it wouldn’t be the same. When you realize the world you have been living in your whole life needs saving and no one's doing it, you can’t just go back to being ignorant. Every beautiful thing I ever saw would remind me that soon, it might be destroyed.

My thoughts were interrupted by someone else entering through the panel. I quickly ran farther in the forest, but I was unused to such undergrowth and made quite the racket. I didn’t know who it was, but I would surely get in big trouble for being here.

“Is someone in here?” the voice warily asked.

I breathed a sigh of relief, it was Raza. Of course someone else did know where this was, it was shown to me with three other people! I climbed back through the forest into the meadow.

“ It’s just me, I came here to think. I didn't realize how beautiful it was at sunset.” I answered

“ Ya, me either. What did you come here to think about? It seems a great place to do it.”

“ Well…, um” I wasn’t sure whether to tell him the truth or not. It was a hard thing to admit, but he would hear it from someone eventually, it might as well be from me. “ It’s just… you have to promise not to tell anyone else.”

“Of course!” he said with certainty

“ Well, Sir just told me… I mean he brought the news...It’s just that… Look, I’m not hero the world was looking for after all, okay” I cried out.

I slumped to the ground. What was I now. Then I felt two hands on my shoulders. I looked up and found him looking into my eyes, and then he spoke, with absolute seriousness.

“ You may not be the prophesied one, but that does not mean you aren’t the hero the world needs. You don’t need them to tell you you're a hero, in fact after your actions during the attack, I think you're a more natural hero than anyone else I’ve ever met. And know that if you ever do decide to save the world, I will be by your side.”

And at that moment I knew, that no matter where I decided to go, I would do it to save the world, alone, or with an army behind me.

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