The Great Outdoors
Jeremy was always angry these days. Not a day could pass by anymore when he didn’t get frustrated, or yell at someone, or get in a fight. And he had become fiercely competitive. I looked at him and then back at Gaatrie. They had gotten into a fight over a piece of food, but there was plenty of food. I don’t know why Jeremy would hit Gaatrie over something so small. I wanted to go talk to Jeremy about it but I had become a little scared of him over the past few weeks. All three of us came into the compound together. We grew up together. We ate together and we played together. We even hid by the fence to see the fanged monster together. But something was different about him now and you couldn’t even talk to him anymore without him storming off. Maybe I’ll ask Julian about it. Julian was the oldest out of all of us. I could always count on him for a word of advice.
I suddenly heard Rayna screaming. “He’s dead, he’s dead!” I didn’t need to ask. Damien had been sick for a long time. The men had come in to give him medicine on several occasions. They had built a separate area for him so that his sickness wouldn’t spread to the rest of us but we could still see him through the fence. He was no longer moving. His eyes were shut and the insects had already begun swarming around him. Poor Damien would never be selected now. The men came and dragged him out like a pile of trash. I hope that doesn’t happen to me or my friends. It made me sad to watch. I walked over to Julian and asked “What’s going to happen to him now? Where are they taking him?” Julian was quiet for a minute. Then he answered me, “Do not worry. Damien is gone now. They will take care of him.” I was confused. What did any of that mean? I suppose it didn’t matter. I went to the other side to go to sleep but I was stopped by Rayna. Rayna was a good friend of mine. She came into the compound with the rest of us. She and I became friends immediately. Sometimes I’d tell the other boys I was too tired to play so I could sit with Rayna. I’m pretty sure they knew that but they let me have my excuse. We had a quick conversation. I’m a little embarrassed to go into details but she wanted to know if I was okay and we just talked about Damien.
The next morning I heard the call. The men had come in and they were calling Jeremy’s name. As they began taking him out I started to panic. When they took the boys out, they never came back. Usually the girls come back, but never the boys. No male had ever come back except for Julian. I ran over to Julian and screamed, “Help him! Help him! Tell him what to do so he can come back. I need to talk to him! He’s my friend.” Julian simply looked at me and said, “Not to worry, he will be coming back.”
It’s not that I didn’t trust Julian. I was just scared. Two of my friends had already been selected and they didn’t come back. But questioning Julian wasn’t something we made a habit of doing. He was bigger and stronger than any of us and we were afraid of making him mad. He didn’t get angry often, but an enraged Julian was something I’d imagine even the fanged monster would be afraid of. Not only that, but he never really gave a full answer, so we were used to just accepting the answer we got.
I went to sit with Gaatrie to pass the time. We were both worried. “Well wherever he went, at least we know it’s good.” Gaatrie said in an attempt to lighten the mood. “Yea, that’s probably why no one wants to come back.” I joked. It was true though. Whenever the girls or Julian came back, they were almost always in a great mood. That’s why we all wanted to be selected. The next morning I woke up to see Jeremy running in. He was happier than I had ever seen him. “What happened, what happened!?” I asked. Neither Julian nor the girls would ever tell us what happened out there. Julian said we didn’t need to know and the girls said they did “girl stuff”. I was sure Jeremy would tell me since we were best friends. But when I asked him the suddenly loud and ecstatic Jeremy became quiet. He seemed almost ashamed of himself and he said “Oh, it’s nothing, you’ll see when you get selected!”
“Laaaaammmmme!” yelled Gaatrie. “You sell-out, you’re supposed to tell us.” But Jeremy was not about to tell us anything. It was all very confusing. If it was girl stuff then why were they taking Jeremy? They had to be taking them all to a different place. They didn’t always come back at the same time either. I guess I’ll see when I get selected.
Over the next few weeks they started to select the girls more and more. They even called Rayna a few times. They started taking Julian less and less and Jeremy more and more. Jeremy and Rayna had also started to become closer. I assumed they were bonding over their experiences on the outside. I felt left out but I didn’t want to be a jerk. At least I still had Gaatrie.
One day I happened to pass by Julian as he was eating. He looked at me and said, “The day is quickly coming when they will select me, and I will not return.” It was really confusing. He looked sad. “What do you mean?” I asked. He just looked at me and said, “It’s been nice, and you’re a good kid.” He didn’t say anything else after that.
That night, I went to eat with Gaatrie and Jeremy, but Jeremy wasn’t there. I asked Gaatrie where he was, only to find out that Jeremy was eating with Rayna. It annoyed me. I looked over to see them together. That’s when I heard a loud growling noise. It was the fanged monster. He stood tall and fierce. I saw the gates of hell in his eyes. I had heard terrible stories of how the fanged monster would kill and eat us instead of real food. It was barbaric. He attacked Rayna. I didn’t know what to do. But Jeremy attacked the monster. Jeremy made a big mistake. He missed. He tripped and fell. He was finished. I wanted to help him but there was nothing I could do against that monster. That’s when I saw it. A large shadow came over the ground. As it passed by me I saw that it was Julian. He grabbed the monster, picked him up, and slammed him into the ground. The monster howled in pain. He could barely move after that. Even in his old age, Julian was the greatest of us all. He stood tall and let out a mighty bellow. The fanged monster scurried away with what little strength it had left.
I decided something that night. I wasn’t going to let Rayna and Jeremy’s friendship bother me anymore. I was going to work hard to become more like Julian; strong and smart. But what I liked most about Julian was that he was loyal. He was there for us this whole time and he always came back to us after he was selected. Now he was getting older and it was time for someone to take his place. That must have been what he was trying to tell me the other night when he said he wouldn’t return one day. I fell asleep thinking those thoughts.
The next morning I woke up to another selection. This time they took Gaatrie and Jeremy. “Good luck!” I called to Gaatrie. In a very solemn voice, Julian said “You should say your last words to Gaatrie, he won’t be coming back.” I would trust Julian now. He’s never been wrong ever before. I ran up to Gaatrie, “Goodbye! I’ll see you when I get selected!” He yelled back but I couldn’t hear what he said. I assumed he said his goodbye. A part of me still hoped he’d come back but the days passed and he never did. I still took solace in the fact that I would come back after I was selected. And then I’d be just like Julian. I had all the time in the world now. Jeremy and Rayna spent all their time together and Julian had become quieter than ever. The new kids were brought in but I had no interest in making new friends at this point. They reminded me of me and my friends. When I became like Julian though, then maybe they’ll look up to me.
Then I heard the call. I had been selected. I was excited. They began walking me out. I noticed that they were also bringing Jeremy. We started walking. Suddenly, Jeremy became very violent. He hit the men on his right side down and started screaming out to me, “Run! Run! They’re going to kill you! I saw them do it to Gaatrie!” I saw Jeremy swinging back and forth attacking the men. That is when I noticed how big his horns had become. They had grown so much in the past weeks; at this rate they’d be as big as Julian’s in no time. That’s when the men took a long black horn and pointed it at Jeremy. I thought to myself, such a small thing is useless against Jeremy. But it let out a loud bang noise, and Jeremy fell to the ground. I looked forward and saw another one pointed at me. Before I could move, I heard that bang noise again and never woke up….