Our Outside

163973
Island City begins its Picking, an event that comes every 3 years. Where those picked are given the chance to leave and go to a new home. All will be gifted immortality from their Goddess who has given the people connections to elements. Matthias Rosswell, a connector of water, is picked on his 19th birthday. Reluctantly leaving his peaceful life and best friend, Nikkoli Kingston, behind. The first night of leaving the truth of the Outside is revealed. Somehow Matthias survives the coming days. Finding friends, love, and becoming a person he never thought he would be. After a devastating attack those who are left will learn just what exactly the Outside is.

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1. 1

The pen weighed down his hand more than usual. Its golden tip stained with near dried black ink. Usually Matthias would be able to connect words in ease. Now it felt as if the words are betraying him. Not giving away their secrets anymore since he sat down to finish his journal. Though he knew that that wasn’t the case at all. It wasn’t the words themselves betraying him, but the opposite.

              His mind could not fathom more than the worries running amok inside of him. Tomorrow will be the day of the Picking. There would be a possibility that he would no longer sit at his favourite spot. A table outside of the library in the back, next to the huge stone water fountain. By now the wooden seat would have worn down to the shape of him. Making it that much more comfortable to sit there.

              Or he wouldn’t seen the librarian who carefully watches over the old and new books. Always having a conversation with him once he returns any of his studies. Asking what he has learned and if there was a mistake in one of the jots by another student. One that could have been made years before he was even born.

              Then there was his family who he might not ever talk to again. His heart ached terribly with the future of never seeing his mother or father again. Even if he had different views with his mother he still loved her deeply. And his father, who he was the spitting image of. In both physical attributes and mind. If Matthias isn’t picked tomorrow he will continue on with his studied and learn how to be the grand scribe. Secretly he hopes to surpass his father one day and all the other grand scribes before him.

              But it all resolves around the dooming ‘if’. If he isn’t chosen, if he can stay in Island City until he reaches the age 50 and dies. If he is chosen and become immortal to stand by his goddess’ side. Before he always understood the powers behind every word he spoken or written or read. Yet he is still baffled about the power of that one word, ‘if’.

              His pen, now dried of the ink, scratched at the white paper. His father told him to finish his journal before tomorrow. Inside would be all his ideas, thoughts, feelings, and discoveries that he had made in the past three years since the last Picking. The journal itself is quite beautiful. Pearly white pages smelled fresh from the trees, the leather perfectly bending to cover the precious words. His father had the maker put the image of their goddess on the front. Her beauty so breathtaking that it is hard to imagine any women could look like her.

              Matthias wondered if he could sneak this journal with him if he is chosen. So he would have a part of home with him. No one knows what it is like on the Outside or who else resides there. The council, those without a connection to any element, tell people that the goddess made our city to protect us from any other god or goddess. We are her precious children and her enemies would destroy us if given the chance.

              That’s what they say at least. But he hasn’t seen such a god or goddess in his lifetime. He hasn’t heard her voice during prayers his visits to the temple. He wants to believe that there is such a goddess out there. That there is a good reason for not having any idea of the Outside. But his curious nature doesn’t allow pure faith in what he is told. Not unless he has evidence that he can see and touch. Maybe if his goddess finally came in person to visit them during the Pickings would he believe.

              Despite being lost in his thoughts, Matthias still heard the familiar footsteps coming closer to him. Always taking the same path as any other time the owner came this way. Looking up he smiled at his best friend. Nikkoli’s dark red hair looks to have been recently cut. Just yesterday the tips were slightly curled and messy. His mother must have taken him to get groomed for tomorrow. He is 18, so it will be his last chance at being picked.

              Only the children between the ages of 13 to 19 are allowed to be picked. That way they can nurture their connections under the eye of the goddess while they are in their most influential times. Once a connector turns 20 their mastery of their connections will stay as is. Unless they work at it every day of every month without taking a break.

              “Hey there stranger. Notice anything different about me?” Nik asked. His lips tilted slight to the side with a smirk.

              Matthias pretended to be confused about his question. Studying his best friend thoroughly before shrugging. “I only see an idiot sitting before me. There is no difference from the one who sat in that chair yesterday.” He lied.

              Nik raised an eyebrow. Leaning across the table he took the journal away from Matthias. Usually he does so to see what else Matthias has figured out. What he might be feeling to figure out his friend more. “The great Matthias Rosswell has finally become like the rest of us mere mortals. His quick wits and fascinating brain gave out in the midst of the night.” Nik said.

              Matthias believes that Nik enjoys teasing him to no ends. That he is trying to make sure that his best friend doesn’t become to serious like stone. He can always count on Nik to help bring him back to earth. To get his thoughts pushed back a little bit in his mind. And that is exactly what he needs right now.

              “Your hair is about an inch and a half shorter. Your eyes are still a tad red from crying. I guess your talk with your mother about tomorrow was really heartfelt.” Matthias said. Nik didn’t bother to be surprised by how well Matthias knows him. They have been friends since a young age. It helps that Matthias lives in the apartment under Nik.

              The two of them sat in silence for the next while. Matthias still struggling to write down what he needs to in his journal. What could possibly be the best way to end all the he has created so far? Though he has hopes that this time next week he will still sit at this table, he will start a new journal. One that will be for the next stage of his learning. It is like moving on with a different time of life, leaving behind his childhood.

              There will be others who read this journal of his. It will go on a shelf in the library in front of him. Luckily not collecting dust over the years. He dreads the thought that all his work so far would be for nothing. He studied great philosophers, the history of gods and goddesses, the history of man. He studied animals and plants, though the information was more lackluster than he liked. Matthias enjoys seeing evolution of time and the thoughts of other scribes. Not facts about Island City or the mysterious outside.

              “You’re thinking too much about what to write. Which is not like you at all. What’s on your mind Matthias?” Nik said. His green eyes searching for any sign of difference in Matthias. Usually Matthias is very grounded, smart and in control of his emotions. He doesn’t get confused easily and if he does, he will think it out and understand whatever confuses him.

              With a sigh Matthias closed the journal. There is no need to worry about letting the ink dry. Since he hasn’t put it on paper in the past while. “This will be my last passage in the journal. I need it to be the best and be of significance. Father said to write from the heart and say my final thoughts on what I have written and drew before. What if I don’t want to end it?” Matthias said.

              After all the years together, Nik could easily read between the lines of Matthias’ thoughts. “You are scared about being picked, aren’t you?”

              With wide eyes Matthias looked at Nik. He never let his thoughts stray that far to distinctly admit that he is scared about tomorrow. What would he benefit from admitting fear besides letting it fester?

              Matthias knew that if he talked about it with Nik that his fears would be more or less soothed. Nik is a firm believer in the Picking and the goddess. Ever since his brother and sister were picked last time, he has been dying to go and join them. Matthias remembers them clearly. Joanna, so smart and determined to help people and work at their father’s hospital. Jonathan working hard to master his connection with metal to form great buildings and tools.

              Now that the twins are gone, Nik is left to learn how to take over the hospital. It wasn’t what he wanted, he wanted to create art and use his connection to metal to transform the buildings for better use and greater beauty. But someone has to take over his father’s business. Matthias wonders sometimes if Nik wants to be picked so badly is because of his future in Island City.

              Putting the questions aside Matthias decided to talk to his best friend about the Picking. “I enjoy it here Nik. I love my family and don’t want to say goodbye to them. I will miss being able to study here and learn what this library and others have to offer. I plan on become the next master scribe once my father passes into the next life. It’s all I’ve ever wanted in life. But if I’m picked then everything I have come to know and plan for will be to waste. I don’t even know what it is like on the Outside.”

              Nik silently sat there watching Matthias. Before Matthias never let anyone know that he doesn’t like the Pickings and the he has so many questions and doubts about the supposed goddess or the outside. He is worried that his friend will tell the council about it or be disappointed in him.

              After a few minutes Nik spoke. “But what if you get to span your knowledge to what you might not have learned here? Aren’t you curious to see what is beyond the walls? I certainly am. You should be too. It is a great honour to be picked. Your mother and father would be happy that you get to make their bloodline forever and be with our goddess. You turn 19 tomorrow, you will have to leave your family soon anyways.”

              Matthias mulled it over. Of course he wants to know about the outside as well. But he wants to stay where he is more. He doesn’t want to have his life changed. With a sigh he leaned against his chair. His head tilting up to soak in the morning sun. “I think that if I am to be picked, I’d want you to be as well. So I can have someone, my best friend, out there with me.”

              “There is no way that I won’t be picked tomorrow. For sure I will be. I have to be. Everyone knows how much I want to leave and find my brother and sister. Maybe I should go over to the council later on and beg them to have them pick me. I know that isn’t how it works but it is worth a try.” Nik said. His voice filled with determination.

              It always has been like that. He won’t believe in any other outcome.  It is almost foolish to believe for certain that he will be picked on his last possible year. Yet with Nik anything can happen. He has a habit of getting thins his way. Luck favours him.

              An idea struck Matthias then. Quickly he opened the journal once more and dipped the pen into the ink pot. Never before has he personalized a page before. Usually keeping it formal and not letting on to who he really is. But this time it will be different. If this is the ending of this stage, then he will finally go against the grain.

              ‘If you could choose between two paths, one that leads to dreams of now; one that leads to unending possibilities, which would you chose? One man yearns for the first, while another yearns for the latter. Both are not what they believe to be. The future does not bow to anyone. It is a master of its own and will not let go any of its secrets.’

              Curiously Nik leaned across the table once again to see what Matthias has written. Yet he doesn’t want his friend to see it. For some reason he wants him to wait until the picking is over. It is dangerous to hint to what he has in this passage. The council does not accept any questions about how things are run in the city or about the outside. Hardly anyone does, but there must be some in the past who has questioned. Yet Matthias has not found any.

              “Hey. Let me see.” Nik pouted.

              “No. Next week you can if you still want to. But for now let’s get lunch. I’m supposed to go out with my mother in a few hours to prepare for tomorrow.” Matthias said. Once the ink has dried well into the paper he closed the book. Unknowingly, the future has hinted to him what his life awaits.

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