Excerpt from Addleberg Lang:
I’m going to explain why I wrote this story before I give the context. This was the first short story I wrote for CWW; which means it was also the first timed one. This specific exercise was called The First Shall Be Last. We were each given a slip of paper with one sentence on it. It had to become the last sentence of our story.
What this story’s about is much more complicated. In my alternate version of the world, there are Eninones everywhere. There are easily over a dozen Eninone organizations that work directly with the government in order to keep Eninones secret while still helping them live the normalest lives that they can. There are a few organizations that aren’t affiliated with the government, the most prominent of these being the Order of Claws and Fangs, also called the O.C.F. Now, the O.C.F is little more than a glorified gang. Yes, they often step in as law enforcement for Eninones. It’s what they’re supposed to do anyways. But there are many branches of the O.C.F that are quite corrupt. This short story focuses on a young trainee who has yet to pass the simulated test to join the tactical force unit if the O.C.F and how he finds an unexpected loophole.
Jacob crashed into the dumpster and slid to the ground.
“Now, I’ll ask you one more time,” growled the figure hovering over him. “Where. Is. The. Money?” With shaking hands, Jacob pushed himself upright. He tried to wipe the blood off his face but only succeeded in smearing it.
“I already told you,” he croaked, his mouth throbbing with pain. “I don’t know.”
“Then there’s no point in me letting you live, is there?” Jacob watched in a daze as a flash of silver descended towards his chest. There was a flare of pain, and then he descended into the peaceful void of death.
“You failed again.” Jacob blinked, slowly re-entering the real world. “You’ll never be accepted into the Order if you keep this up.” Tanner disconnected a wire from Jacob’s arm. “You only get one more try. Want to do it now?” Jacob was still struggling to adjust to the sudden blazing white light of the lab.
“No. Not- not now.” He said, sitting up and beginning to pull off wires. He rubbed his face, trying to get rid of the feeling of broken bones. “Tanner, I don’t think I can do this anymore. Let’s face it. I’ll never be accepted.”
Tanner grabbed Jacob’s face and peered into his eyes. “Your pupils aren’t dilated,” his friend said with a frown. “And you don’t have a fever. I don’t know why you’re saying things like that.” Jacob pushed Tanner away. Why does he have to keep making jokes? He thought irritably. Tanner was the head lab assistant for the Kansas branch of the O.C.F. He ran all the simulated training tests and Jacob had been working with him for five years now.
“I’m going to be stuck as lab clean up forever,” he grouched. “I don’t know why I keep putting myself through that thing.” He gave the simulator a dirty look.
“Because you hate being here?” Tanner ran a hand through his hair the way he always did when he was about to give Jacob ‘the talk’
“Please don’t start saying-”
“I know you can do this.” Tanner interrupted.
“I hate this speech.”
“You were made to be a Order member. There have been eight generations of Marley’s in the Order.”
“And there already is a Marley in the Order!” Jacob snapped. “My older brother, remember?” Thomas had been a member since he was sixteen, passing the tests with flying colors. He’d earned two medals of honor and already had his own crew; an honor usually bestowed upon much more senior Order members. And he never stops reminding me. Tanner gave him a serious look, chewing on his lip as he always did when debating over something important.
“I think it’s time we try a new tactic.”
Jacob jerked around. “There’s another way?I thought there was only one test!”
Tanner steepled his hands together and said his next words very slowly. “There is a- program- that I developed a little while ago. It’s a bit different, but you might still be allowed to join if you pass.”
“I want to do it.” Jacob said immediately. He would do anything to join the Order.
“It’s more emotionally abusive than physical.” Tanner warned. “They need members made of the sternest stuff.” Jacob wasn’t listening; he had begun re-hooking wires to himself. Tanner shook his head and started the simulation.
Jacob stood on the edge of a cliff. Over the edge, he could see nothing but fog.
“Are you gonna jump?” Jacob turned with a start. He knew that voice. Thomas stood there, wearing a smug grin. “Or are you too scared to do it?”
Thomas motioned towards the cliff. “Jump.” Jacob peered over the edge again. And then he developed vertigo. He staggered back from the edge, gasping for breath. I can’t jump. He thought I can’t jump.
“I always knew you were a coward,” Thomas called. “A big baby. You never could do anything right. You’re such a failure.” Jacob couldn’t answer. He started walking away. “Where do you think you’re going?”
“I-I can’t do this,” Jacob whispered.
“I know you can’t.” Thomas jeered. “Which is why you’re going to fail this simulation and never make it into the Order.”
“I just don’t like heights!” Jacob called back. He didn’t want to talk to his brother. He just wanted to get as far away from the cliff as he could. A fist smashed into his head. Jacob barely kept his balance. Ears ringing, he whirled around in time to see Thomas’s fist coming at him. He barely managed to dodge. “What are you doing?” he yelled. His brother grinned, the same cruel grin that he wore whenever he beat Jacob at anything.
“You can either jump off the cliff or fight me!” Jacob shook his head and started to turn away. Thomas knocked him to the ground and kicked him hard in the chest. Jacob couldn’t believe it. His brother had gone insane. Thomas hit him again and again. And for some reason, Jacob was always just too slow to block the blows.
Finally, Thomas stopped. “I can’t believe I’m related to such a disgusting little weakling,” he sneered. “You’re just a coward.” Jacob listened as Thomas walked away. Blood trickled down his face and pooled in his mouth.
“I’m not a coward,” he whispered. He heard Thomas pause.
“What did you say?” Jacob picked himself up and faced Thomas, every muscle screaming from the movement.
“I. Am. Not. A. Coward.”