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I have experienced two births. The first I can’t remember, and that's okay with me.
The second was only a few months earlier, and I can remember it with perfect clarity, and that is not okay with me.
The second birth, or the rebirth, had been as painful as it was necessary for me to live.
The Angels, who watch over all of the universe, had chosen six “lucky” teenagers to be a part of The Great Rebirth.
There's Correy, Lila, Harrison, Greyson, Savannah, and of course, me: Candor.
The only thing is that all six of us had been dying. I had been dying from brain cancer, when the Angels swooped in and saved my life. They told me that if I gave my consent, the healing would be permanent. And what cancer patient doesn’t want to live? The Angels are masters at hiding things, even though they are unable to lie. And they were masters at hiding the catch from me.
The catch was that I would be one of only six people chosen to live after the Angels burned the world clean of what was ruining it: humans.
If I had known what the Angels had in store for me, I never would have given my consent. I would much rather die, insane and broken, from brain cancer than being only one of six people chosen to live after the Angels burn everything and everyone one earth to make way for all six of us and the Angels.
I live up in Angel's Palace, where I train with the rest of the chosen. The great rebirth is destined to happen "when all of humanity is fast asleep, and the watchers have turned a blind eye."
There's a flaw in the Angel's plan, however. The prophecy also says that there is someone destined to try and stop the great rebirth, and if that person is to try and stop the Angel's plan, they will succeed, although they will have no one to tell them what they are meant to do.
The Angels have set up four different learning or training sessions per day. The first is to learn human studies, in case something goes wrong and we have to live among the humans again.
The second is to understand Angel history.
The third and fourth are to enhance our newfound abilities: enhanced agility, enhanced hearing, enhanced vision. In fact, I don't need to wear my clunky, thick black glasses anymore. We don't need doctors anymore, since we have enhanced healing abilities. Correy is the Angel's favorite. He's stubborn and refuses to let any one of us tell him that we shouldn't be part of the great rebirth.
"We were chosen for a reason," he'll say or "We were dying. Be grateful that the Angels thought us worthy enough to save."
We were at lunch when Harrison decided he wanted to make a scene. He stood up and started calling Correy a whole bunch of names that would have been bleeped out on TV.
The Angels want us to get along. They don't want us to fight. They think it will interfere with their plans.
Chosen, do not fight, the Angels whispered in our minds. It is not allowed. If you can't get along, we will have to banish you to the planet Nocturne shoveling snow and ice for the Nocturnians for a year.
The planet Nocturne is a small, desolate planet covered in snow and ice all year round. The Nocturnians are really nice, but... they're not exactly people you want to spend all your time with. They make you work for your food, for your clothes, for your right to have free speech. They like making you work. We've been banished to Nocturne before, a while ago for three months.
Correy glared at Harrison. We all did. None of us wanted to go to Nocturne again.
The Angels stood straight with their arms clapsed behind their backs as we sat down. Harrison glared at the rest of us, but didn't try anything else.
That night, I was getting ready for bed when someone knocked on the door. I quickly put on a bathrobe and opened it. Greyson stood there. "Hey."
I smiled. "Hey."
We stared at each other for a whole minute, or maybe an eternity, until he said: "So, can I come in?"
I nodded and moved aside so he could enter my room. "So, did you need something?"
Greyson blushed. "Yeah, actually, I did. Have you ever noticed how cute Harrison is?"
It was no secret that Greyson was gay. In fact, it was his abusive boyfriend that put him in the hospital with a broken skull.
I shook my head. "He's not my type."
Harrison was small and scrawny with brownish-reddish hair, dark brown eyes framed by the black glasses he refuses to get rid of, and pale, pale skin.
Greyson shrugged. "I didn't ask if he was your type. You can notice people who aren't your type you know. I noticed you, didn't I?"
Our first day at Angel's Palace, Correy had been talking about how disgusting gay love was (and we were all wondering what the Angels would do to us if we killed him) when Greyson walked up to him, got down on his knees, and declared his undying love to him. Correy's face turned bright red, and then Greyson had stood up and smacked him across the face.
The Angels had swooped in right away and told Greyson that he was not to hurt other chosen ones, and that he was to spend the night in his room.
As Greyson had passed me, he had winked and said: "How did you like my show, hottie?"
I had only smiled as Greyson strutted off.
"Yeah, I guess so," I say now. Greyson smirks and reasks his question: "So? Have you ever noticed how cute Harrison is? I wonder if he'll go out with me."
He stared at me until I sighed. "And you want me to ask Harrison if he would ever concider going out with you."
Greyson smiled. "Would you? That would be so awesome!"
I sighed. "I guess. But if I feel too awkward, I'm blaming everything on you and running."
Greyson laughed. "Deal."
The next morning during Human Studies, which are regular classes, I leaned over and tapped Harrison's shoulder. "Hey!"
He looked at me and raised a single finger to his lips, a universal sign for "SHUT UP!"
"I have to talk to you," I whispered.
"Shh!" he hissed.
I sighed and leaned back in my chair. Remind me again what Greyson sees in him?
After classes (and a stern lecture from the Angels not to talk in class) I caught up to Harrison.
"What do you want?" he snapped. "Other than to get me in trouble?"
I winced. "Sorry."
"Like, seriously, what is your deal?" he asked.
I shrugged. "I just need to ask you something."
"No, I will not help you cheat on your homework or on the tests, and no, not even for your food rations," he said mechanicly.
I blinked. "That's not what I want."
He smiled. "Then feel free to ask, although I might not have an answer for you."
"This might sound weird, but..." I took a deep breath. "Well..."
Harrison raised his eyebrows. Damn it, Greyson was right. He is cute!
"You're wondering if I'll go out with you," Harrison said.
"Of course. I'll meet you at seven tonight," he said, and walked off.
At lunch, Greyson came up to me. He looked very, very, very pissed off. "The goal, Candor, was to ask if Harrison would go out with me not to see if he'd go out with you."
"I didn't ask him that! I came up to him, and I got all awkward, and he thought I was trying to ask him out!" I protested. "I don't want to go out with him! And... how do you know about that?"
"Harrison may or may not be bragging that he scored a date with you," Greyson told me.
"Oh no, he is not!" I exclaimed. "Why would he be bragging about that? It's not like anyone likes me!"
"Umm, Candor, have you ever looked in a mirror? I mean, a full body one? Because damn girl! You are probably the hottest girl of all time!" He said. "You're making me re-evaluate my gayness!"
I punched his arm, and he stopped laughing. "Seriously though. If I wasn't gay I'd have asked you out a long time ago. Now go chew out Prince Charming."
I smiled, hugged him, and stormed off. "Harrison!"
He looked up from his lunch. "Oh, hey!"
Correy stopped me halfway. "Rushing off to Romeo, Juliet?"
I fake-laughed. "Did you come up with that yourself? Wow, I thought you'd have to at least be mildly smart to come up wit jokes!"
Correy scowled, but moved aside to let me past. I regained my anger, and continued storming over to Harrison. When I got to where he was, I slammed my hand on the table in front of him, making him jump.
"W-what's wrong?" he asked.
"You! You are what's wrong! I didn't even say that I want to go out with you! You have no right to be bragging that you're going out with me, because you're not! All I wanted to ask is if you'd consider going out with Greyson!"
Harrison looked mortified. "No, I do not want to go out with Greyson, I want to go out with you!"
I felt like the world's biggest jerk. Here was this sweet, cute boy in front of me, and here I was yelling at him, telling him that he had no chance with me, even though he does.
I glanced at Greyson. I didn't want to lose the only friend I still had over a boy we both liked.
Greyson shrugged and mouthed: "At least you tried. Go."
I turned back to Harrison. "At seven, you said?"
At seven, I knocked on Harrison's door. I had made it very clear that I would be the one picking the other person up, and he had agreed.
I was dressed in jeans that were artfully ripped and a T-shirt I had gotten at the concert I went to the week before I was diagnosed with brain cancer.
He opened it, and smiled. "Hi. I was starting to think maybe you'd decided againt our date."
Okay, maybe it was 7:25.
"Sorry, I was in the shower, and then I wanted to dry my hair, and then I wanted to eat, and then I needed to get dressed, and yeah. Sorry," I said.
Harrison laughed. "It's fine. I figured you'd be late. I mean, you're Candor Evans, the girl who ignored the Angels until they threatened to smite you."
I laughed. I remembered that day well. It was our second week in, and Correy had made some comment about how stupid I must be, with the brain cancer eating away at my brain cells. I had attacked him, and the Angels had pulled me away and told me to go to my room. Instead, I turned to Greyson and started up a conversation on how hypocritical it was to tell all of us we were special, and then choose only one as their favorite.
"I hadn't thought you noticed. I mean, you had your eyes glued to that book," I said.
Harrison blushed. "Yeah, I wasn't actually reading it. I was trying to see what would happen without getting noticed. Too bad it didn't work."
Shortly after the Angels threatened to smite me if I didn't do what they said, and I was walking back to my room, and Correy thought the Angels were watching only me, he decided to pick on Harrison. He grabbed the book from Harrison's hands and mock-read it out loud. Harrison had sat there, mortified, his face turning red, and then Lila jumped on Correy's back, screaming about how mean he was. Since Savannah was Lila's friend, she joined in. Greyson cheered them on, and I ran back to help Harrison.
That was the day the Angels sent us to Nocturne.
I laughed. "I remember that."
"Oh, my God, I was terrified! And then our punishment after!" he shuddered.
"Do you want to be here?" I asked.
Harrison looked at the ground. "I'm glad I'm alive."
"Do you mind if I ask why you were dying? I mean, everyone knows it was brain cancer for me, shattered skull for Greyson, school shooting for Correy, and car crash for the two girls, but no one knows why you're here. I mean, that's the only thing we all have in common. That we were dying, I mean."
"Umm. I overdosed on some stuff. Went into a coma. Trying to die."
"Oh," I said. I didn't get suicide. Dying sucked, and knowing you were going to die sucked even more.
"I regret my choice, of course. I mean, my family was devastated when the doctors told them that I wasn't going to wake up, and it would be better just to let me die."
I bit my lip and stared at the ground.
"And now I've freaked you out," he said sadly. "I'm sorry."
"No, I'm just thinking," I said.
"I'm sure you know the rest. The Angels swooped in, offered me life, and I took it. They told me most everything, except that I wouldn't be able to see my family ever again and that I'd only be one of six left alive. Jerks."
I nodded. "They kept all that information from me, too."
Harrison nodded. "I don't want to talk about it. Let's go to the theater."
Angel's Palace had everything from a pool in my room to a theater just down the hall. The Palace modified itself to fit the needs of whoever was in there.
We got to the theater, where Savannah and Correy were making out in the seats. I wrinkled my nose. "Oh, eww!"
Harrison laughed. "That's so wrong!"
He took my hand, and we ran off to the theater down Greyson's hall. Sitting in the seats, we held hands while watching some comedy from the 1980s.
When the movie was over, we went back to his room and layed on his bed. He played with my hair, and I babbled about unimportant stuff, like what I wanted my wedding dress to look like, and what I wanted my wedding to be like, and what I'd wanted to study in college, and the so-called treatments they had given me to "treat" my cancer.
After I told him about the so-called treatments, he froze. "Really? They can do stuff like that?"
I nodded. He looked at me, our faces inches from each other. We moved forward, and his lips met mine.
A minute later, however, there was a knock on the door.
"Damn it," Harrison swore softly, the first time I had ever heard him swear.
I got up, and he got up, and hand-in-hand we answered the door. Greyson stood there. His gaze found our entertwined hands. "I just wanted to inform you that the Angels are asking that all the chosen meet in the classroom."
"Thank you," Harrison said.
Greyson nodded and went off to inform someone else.
In the classroom, we all sat there. Savannah and Lilac were glaring at Correy, which probably meant that Correy had broken up with Savannah. They went through stages like this. One day they'd be dating, and then next they'd hate each other.
I know this is going to be hard to comprehend, the Angels said. But it is something we have decided to tell you. We did not save you from death.
We sat there, confused.
You were already dead when we saved you, they said.
We stared at the Angels in stunned silence.
"You're kidding, right?" I asked, knowing that the Angels do not joke.
The Angels looked down at me. No, child. We do not joke. You all died before we saved you.
"So you lied to us," I said.
We said that we had saved you from what comes after death. We never said that we saved you from dying, the Angels said. And we have told you, child. We cannot lie.
We glared at the Angels. They nodded as one (they did everything as one. Ate as one, drank as one, talked as one, moved as one).
We can see you need some time away from us to figure out your emotions. We will send you to Nocturne for five days. Then we will bring you back, they said.
Before any of us could protest, there was a bright light, and we were removed from the dining hall.
The light cleared, and we were on Nocturne. The woman we had worked for the last time we were on Nocturne greeted us with the customary hand-over-the-eyes bow.
All Nocturnians are short, dark blue skinned beings with hair in browns and blacks, and eyes shaped like almonds that are a beautiful rich purple. They also never used the word "I" or "me" or "my" or anything like that.
In fact, when the Nocturnians had seen my blonde hair, and Savannah and Harrison's red hair, they had been amazed.
They had also never seen blue, green, black, brown, or grey eyes, either.
"Hello, humans! We are Lunar, if you don't remember! We are so happy to have you back here! The Angels told us you are not in trouble this time, so we will not make you work!" Lunar said, beaming.
We followed Lunar into the biggest town on Nocturne, which was its capital: Opaque.
"Our house is this way!" Lunar said.
The Nocturnians greeted us the same way that Lunar had.
We waved, and they seemed pleased that we could teach them our customs. Nocturnians are very curious.
Lunar let us into her house. "Welcome to our house. We hope your last visit here had not been too bad and affected your image of us."
Correy smiled. "No, of course not."
Lunar smiled, pleased. "Good. Now, if you'll exuse us, we have to go and prepare dinner."
We sat around the living room.
"They lied to us," Greyson finally said. "We thought we were alive, but we're dead. How could they keep that from us?"
For once, not even Correy had a scathing remark to make.
"I don't know," Lila said. "But I know that I personally don't want to see them again."
Correy glared at her. "We have to. You heard what they said: they're bringing us back in five days."
I thought for a minute. "What if we fight against the rebirth."
Everyone stared at me as if I had lost my mind.
"Are you kidding? We're destined to be a part of the rebirth!" Correy snapped.
"Yeah, but think about it. We're destined to be a part of the rebirth, but what if we're destined to stop it from happening."
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