Girls without shadows

This is a sort of prequel/fanfic to one of my favourite Quibblo stories, Dice by _ Nothing _
(http://www.quibblo.com/quiz/i_ikbGW/Dice )

I promise I'll write an introduction later but honestly my brain is too bleh to come up with one now.

Chapter 1

How Simin Alkhatib got lost forever

by: FerSure
For once, in many years, I got nervous of speaking before an audience. It was not a large audience: it only consisted of twenty people, more or less. It was not because I forgot my words, because I repeat the same speech, year after year.

"You've all made the decision to become Jastens. We are proud of you. But now something must be explained. You will be trained to fight. You will have a total change of what is and isn't important, and," I paused, recapping those first years in the compound, "you may just find yourself begging to go home. But you made your choice. There's no going back. Now, let's get to the compound."

And I turned around, to hide my face. I truly felt pity for those innocent fools, who just happened to take the worst decision ever. They all could have stayed at home, and fixed their existential problems with therapy and meds. Even suicide sounded like an easy thing when compared to this.

13 years ago

It was just the dawning of my life, but it felt like I was slowly rotting, disappearing. I felt like one day I would wake up and find just a shadow in my place. Eventually, I would just end up being another number in the statistics. So much to look forward to.

"It's 7:30, breakfast is in the toaster" Mother told me as she passed by my room. I took in a deep breath, ready to face another day of feeling nugatory. I crossed out today from the calendar that my aunt got me for Eid, one of the few holidays we actually celebrate.

I repeated the typical before-school ritual of every day without a flaw: I spent around five minutes in bed, contemplating on human existence and sleep; I finally stopped being lazy and got up to take a shower; I wore clothes that didn't call much attention and finally, I devoured whatever-it-was that mother left for me in the toaster. That was the usual morning, without counting the breakfast-table drama.

"Mama, why does Simin get to stay up late? It's not fair!" One of my little sisters, Bahriyah, whined. All I could do was roll my eyes and keep quiet, not showing the slightest sign of anger or opposition or else, I would get in trouble because "she's younger and stupid".

"Love, your sister is old enough to be responsible for herself." My mother calmly explained, with her unique talent that made her patient enough to deal with Bahriyah and her thirteen-year-old life issues. I, on the contrary, barely tolerated my little sister and her raging hormones.

"She's right, Violet. Simin needs a bedtime and discipline, I mean, if we keep letting her walk around without control-" My father tried to explain, but I had to interrupt him.

"You all realize I'm sitting right here." I whispered, hoping it would be low enough for no one to catch my words.

"Why can't you just go away, like disappear or something?" Bahriyah said. I was not mad at her for anything, if something I was thankful that she expressed how she really felt instead of forcing herself to care about me just because we came from the same home.

"Bahriyah, no phone or visiting friends for a week." Mum scolded "And Simin, get to school. We will talk in the afternoon."

"But Baba-" I could hear my sister complaining in the background. I was not interested in whatever she or my father had to say, because there was one thing I loathed more than my entire existence: to have those two intruders discuss my problems and reach the conclusion that the only reason I was like this was because mum consented me too much.

The bus ride was as unexciting as always. Some random stranger sat next to me, stared at my veil for a couple of minutes and made fun of me with his two best friends behind and mistakenly thought I could not tell what was going on. I just decided to look out the window and imagine one day I would become a shadow: invisible and therefore, impossible to pick on.

"It's a Jasten van." The boy sitting next to me announced, to no one in particular. His eyes were fixed on a strangely purple-coloured van with a capital 'J' drawn on it. It looked like a stripper's car or something, which was highly suspicious unless the school had given up on all the popular kids and hired a prostitute to teach them about the gangdom life.

"Pardon me?" I asked.

"A Jasten van, as in The Jastens" He said, and when he saw the look of confusion in my face, he explained "The Jastens are a group of people who take kids from high schools and train them to murder."

"They're-" I tried to say, as the pieces in my mind started connecting and this all started making sense. That was also when the panic started filling my veins, attaching itself to my blood and made my eyes widen.

"Don't worry, they're not like slave-traders or anything. Joining is voluntary."

I let out a sigh of relief, glad that this wasn't my last day or anything.

But didn't I want to disappear badly? Escape from all the pressures in my family, from father and Bahriyah... I wanted to be a shadow, hard to be noticed.

"I'm joining." He confided in me.

"I think I am too" I blurted out, without even thinking it through. A smile appeared on his face, which I took as a signal that I was doing the right thing.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"To the auditorium, everyone over the age of seventeen, eleventh grade and above" Principal Adria shouted at the main door, pointing those who looked old enough towards that place we rarely used between the cafeteria and the middle school classrooms.

The boy from the bus urged me to follow, as he made way through the crowd of popular girls catching up on the latest news and boys joking about odd topics. I figured that if I stayed close to him, no one would dare point out that I had only turned sixteen a few weeks ago, therefore too young to do this.

I sat next to the boy and his friends, and there was a tall blonde settled on my other side. She chatted cheerfully with her friends about the guy standing on the stage, wearing a tight black suit that marked his muscles and something else. By then, I was clearly convinced that the guy next to me had entirely made up that trained-killers thing and that these were ecdysiasts, recruiting all teenage duds that wished to make a living from their body.

"Settle down, children." A man with dark chocolate skin, who seemed to reach up to the roof, said.

The attractive one spoke, then: "I'm Charles Hampton, and I'm positive that most of you don't have a clue of who we are. Well, we are two representatives of the Jastens."

As murmurs and stifled laughs began to fill up the auditorium, the other man yelled at us to stay quiet. Not one sound could be heard at that moment, the silence was too extreme for commodity.

Luckily, Charles Hampton filled the awkwardness in the atmosphere when he resumed with his speech. "Our mission here is to go back to our compound with at least ten or fifteen of you. The Jastens is a fairly new, yet quite popular, organization that was started a few years ago, by a group if teenagers like you who wanted to learn self-defense and form a community where everyone looked after each other. Now, my friend Kanen will be handing some papers with a more detailed summary on the Jastens. I would appreciate it very much if you all took time to read each point carefully and make a responsible desicion."

"Feel free to ask questions." The Kanen guy added at the end.

As a paper got to my hands, I started thinking about the pros and cons, not about joining the Jastens but about what would happen after I left that vacant in my family. What would happen to Bahriyah, when she did not have an older sister to compare herself to, or father, who would be left with no least favourite child? Those were the things I was glad about, but worrying about my mother out weighted all of the pros. This had happened once, when she had a miscarriage. She shut herself out, did nothing for an entire year. She tried to end her life twice. If she lost another child again...

"When do we leave?" A guy asked from the back of the auditorium.

"Right now." Charles replied. "Anyone willing to join us, I ask of you to please stand up right now and if you're still hesitating, then hurry up and make a desicion."

The first one to stand up was the boy next to me. A couple of others stood up after him, while he looked at me for approval. Then I decided. It was final.

I slowly lifted myself from the chair and stood up straight.

"Alright, follow me to the van."

My conscience acted up, just a few seconds too late and reminded me of my mother's words. "We will talk in the afternoon."

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