It was five minutes past midnight, and I had a bad headache. I was lying down in my bed, eyes closed, listening in to the droning of my desk fan. I hadn't slept at all in two days, and I was trying my damned hardest to get even a wink of sleep. I had just been trying meditation for the last thirty minutes to clear my mind, but that hadn't helped one bit.
Deciding that my efforts were futile, I gave up, groaned, and reached for my phone. I held it close to my face, just far enough for me to see the screen clearly, and launched my email application.
3,391 unread emails. I hadn't checked my email in over a month, so they had accumulated for all this time. It was mostly things like local women in your area ads, dietary supplement scams and other forms of spam (the downside of using 's email service is that it lacks a proper spam filter). I flipped through them all, mindlessly clicking delete on anything I deemed unimportant.
When I finally finished, it was already three o'clock and I had only 137 unread messages left. I read through and replied to them until I came across one particularly eye-catching message. The message, titled Re:application, looked rather professional and used an unusual, yet readable, font with a lot of bold text. The original email wasn't in English (it was actually Tamishivan), but I'll take the courtesy of translating it. It read:
June 6th, 2232
9:45 AM EST-T
Dear Markus Flynn,
We are pleased to inform you have passed the entrance exam, and that your application to attend Maple Ridge High School has been approved. You are expected to arrive at Pierre Elliott-Trudeau terminal by September 2nd (the twenty-fourth of Tarmutisalá in your calendar) with the bare essentials; i.e. clothing, toiletries, stationery and at least $400 Canadian upon arrival. Textbooks are already paid for by the school, and will be provided on the first day of class.
We hope your two years at Maple Ridge will be the best years in your life.
I was dumbfounded. My face, which I presumed too look pretty stupid, transformed into a wide, toothy grin. I wanted to scream! But that would've woken up my entire apartment complex, so I didn't. But I wanted to!
I sent my friend, Masha, an IM:
[3.61.73] ZaEndo: hey, my application got approved! What about you?
About 30 seconds later, surprisingly, she replied:
[3.62.03] masher: hellyea! i got accepted 2, jsut got the email a minute ago. hellen got accepted 2
[3.62.15] ZaEndo: oh wow, both of you?! :
[3.62.33] masher: yup :D
[3.62.51] ZaEndo: Well, we have about a week until we have to get our asses on the jumper to Earth. We should start packing soon :l
[3.62.61] masher: language!
[3.62.70] ZaEndo: Sure, mom.
[3.63.03] masher: haha, i gotta go markus. a beuatiful woman like me needs tons of beauty sleep!
[3.63.13] ZaEndo: sure.
After ultimately deciding that I definitely was not going to fall asleep tonight, I got out of bed and started my day.
You see, I don't usually start my day at 3 in the morning, so it was a little unusual for me to go through my daily routine while there wasn't any sun creeping into the apartment. Both of my siblings were asleep, and my father wasn't going to be home for another three days, so it was a lot quieter than what I was used to.
I decided to just start off with an hour-long shower, since it would probably be at least 4 o'clock by the time I was done. The bathroom was rather small with a linoleum-tiled floor, horribly-painted walls, and no bathtub; only a shower stall. The whole room reeked of must and mold.
The smell was so unbearably, offensively bad that I didn't even want to take a shower. I moved on to the kitchen to make myself some breakfast.
Despite my urge to cook something extravagant, I decided to make a simple egg omelette. Being more tired than I usually was when I cooked, I cooked it for a little too long and smoke started billowing out. The egg was fine, but I was worried the smoke alarms would go off. The smoke was apparently not enough to set off the alarm, but just enough to set off my sister's nose.
"I smell smoke! Is there a fire?!" Amalie yelled, almost loud enough to wake up our neighbors.
"No, no, I just screwed up an omelette, is all," I said. "Don't worry, it's intact and edible. Want some?"
"No thanks, toast is fine for me."
That was Amalie, my older sister. She's twenty years old, has a good-paying job in retail, but she still lives with us. I wanna say it's because she's just looking for a house to move into, but I think it's more because she can't cook and relies on me for most of her meals.
Amalies yelling stirred Arthur, my ten year old younger brother. He's the black sheep in the household: he's overweight, unsocial and incompetent in school. He grabbed a bowl, got his ChocoLoco cereal (ugh, how can he stand that miserable excuse for a breakfast cereal?) and plopped his fat ass down on the couch to watch his cartoons. Of course, it was early in the morning, so it was mostly adult-oriented stuff like Chase Scott. I wanted to change the channel to something more kid friendly, but I decided against it after remembering what happens when you incur his wrath.
"He didn't even take any of the omelette I made…" I whimpered.
"You know Arty. He doesn't like eggs, remember?"
"Meh. I'll take some."
I don't know what happened with Arthy. We were raised in the same house by the same dad, eating the same meals every day. How could he have ended up the way he did?
Amalie, seemingly able to read my mind, shrugged.
"So, Amalie, my application to go to Maple Ridge got accepted!" I said loudly enough to ensure Arty hears. He didn't respond.
"Wait, really?! That's awesome!" she said. "I really wish I had the opportunity to go. It's a shame that our calendars don't line up all that often!"
"Should'a been born sooner, Amalie!" I said jokingly.
"I wish I could have been!"
Suddenly, Arthur speaks up.
"What's so cool about school to you, Mark?" he said. "School's just so... Boring. All you do is learn stuff and get yelled at by bullies and teachers."
"And the former is exactly why I like school!" I snapped back. Arthur returned to his Chase Scott.
Amalie, with her (presumed) clairvoyance, seemed to notice that what Arthur said really bugged me.
"Don't listen to him, Markus. He's just trying to get to you," she said.
"Thanks. Besides, some of the greatest minds in the Five Worlds went to school at Maple Ridge! I ain't passing up this chance, not even because my brother doesn't care!"
"That's the spirit!"
After about an hour of miscellaneous conversation, I looked up at the clock to see that it was already 5.16. I decided I would start packing now so that when I left, I knew I had everything on me. I only had a week to get ready, so I had to do everything super quick!
Dad was home around 6.00, so I told him everything. When the topic came to money, he said he would give me $400 (around ¤1000) straight up, and add an extra $180 (about ¤450) every month to my bank account. He would also pay for the jumper trip (which usually came out to around ¤750).
I looked for one of dad's old travel bags, and I found a gigantic one, perfect for packing everything I needed. I packed pretty much everything the email told me to bring, along with my laptop and a couple of novels I was currently reading or about to read, with Felony Place Search being one of them.. By the time I had finished, I had packed the bag so full I thought the zipper would break!
One week had passed, and I was ready to go. I had to lug my fourteen-and-a-half kilo travel bag down eight flights of stairs (my apartment complex lacked an elevator), out of the building and into the car, which was a real chore. The drive to the nearest jumper terminal was usually about sixty minutes from our apartment, but we got there in fifty because we left early in the morning, around 8.75, when there was less traffic.
The jumper terminal was huge! The structure was a large circular building that resembled a stadium. On the outer wall, you had hexagonal windows and pathways that lead to the terminals; On the inner edge, you had currency exchanges, banks, restaurants, and souvenir shops. Out of the windows, you could see the Braukhmaan mountain range in all of their magnificence. I'd say the entire floor area of the building was around fourteen square kilometers.
"Alright, dad, Amalie, I'll be going now!" I said as I was about to leave for my flight.
"Bye, Markus!" said both Amalie and dad in unison.
"Have a safe trip!" said Dad. "Come back during the summer, okay?"
"I will! Alright, I really have to go now, or I'll miss my flight!"
I ran quickly in the direction of flight YUL-E 1313, which was my flight. I went through the security checks, made sure I had everything and entered the gangway to the jumper.