The men-in-white always came into the room at 6:30 AM to escort him to the shower he shared with all the others that lived in the complex. Twenty-Six was always ready, waiting by the door with a towel in hand, he was a creature of habit so he waited by the door for what seemed like an eternity. No one came though. Confused, he moved back to the small bed and sat down crossed legged, his eyes staring ahead at the door waiting for someone to come and get him.
Two hours passed before the doors opened, the men-in-white were not alone this time, though. With them was a man dressed on a lab-coat with a suit underneath. Twenty-Six had seen him before with the care-takers, watching him and the others from a distance, always speaking into a small machine that he had been told was used for recording his words. The two of them, however, had never met.
The man stepped in first and cleared his throat, at both of his sides the men-in-white flanked him as if they were waiting for Twenty-Six to attack or something. He had no intentions on doing that, instead he tilted his head to the side and stood up towel in hand.
"My dear boy, hello, I don't believe we have met,"
"We have not," he said matter-of-factly, the man smiled lightly and nodded as if Twenty-Six had said a funny joke instead of agreeing with his statement.
"I have some great news for you, subject 26, today we will be leaving this place and going to a new one. You will finally get to see outside, would you like that?" he said with the same devilish smile as before. Twenty-Six took a few minutes to consider it, the caretakers were always talking about all the beautiful things that happened outside, they sometimes brought in flowers which were pops of color in the otherwise pristine, white environment. They were beautiful, and Twenty-Six had always wanted to see more, but now that this man was offering he was unsure if he wanted to. "You have been selected from everyone here, to participate in a test, much like the ones you have participated in throughout your life. The stakes, however, have been raised. In one hand if you win you will get to be free, do whatever you want with your life, if you lose, however, you will be dead." the man continued, Twenty-Six tilted his head knowing he had not answered but quickly realizing that it didn't matter whether he wanted to partake on the test or not. He was intelligent enough to understand it.
The showers were empty, for the first time since he could remember he was alone in there. The men-in-white were still watching, except this time so was the man in the lab coat. He didn't mind though, nudity was not something he understood should be shameful, he was always naked around the other subjects, and when he was getting blood or physical tests done. He had never been conditioned to be ashamed of his body.
After he was done showering, he was given a nice button up white shirt, along with some white dress pants and a pair of white shoes with a belt. He had always worn white before, but the clothes he was being given were far more fitting and uncomfortable. The shoes were not something he was used to either, normally he went around barefoot or with sandals. But the man in the lab-coat had explained he had to dress nicer today, it was part of the test.
He followed him and other men-in-white into a small crowded room which started moving. He felt his eyes widen, the man in the lab coat laughed and told him it was an elevator, it would take them outside. But it didn't, it took them to another white hallway. He followed along without complaint until he saw a crystal door and right outside was a road, a big green flower, and an extension of blue that seemed to never end. The sky. It was beautiful. He came to a stop, mouth agape, but he was pushed from behind and he kept moving. His first step outside was simply extraordinary, the light from the sun felt so different than the one from inside, and the air was so fresh, and... it smelled good? He was not sure what that meant.
As he walked alongside his entourage he saw others like him, dressed in bright clothes walking hand in hand with men and women. They all looked worried, some held hands, the younger ones ran and laughed. Finally, they reached a big extension of flat where all the others were congregating, he could see the people closer to his age all behind some ropes chatting nervously with one another. They stepped in front of another man in white who held a small needle, he poked his finger and forced him to press it against a paper, Twenty-Six did not react, used to getting blood drawn and being poked and proded. "When they call your name, go up there," the man in the lab coat said and then that was it, the two men-in-white escorted him to where other boys his age were. The other boys looked at him and whispered but Twenty-Six ignored them, the man in the lab-coat had not said anything about them, and he was sure if he tried to speak with other subjects out of turn he would be told off.
Everyone went quiet when a strangely, colorful person appeared on stage, she welcomed them to what she called "The 124th Hunger Games" and then a video started playing. A video that gave him answers about what was happening: twelve Districrs, the Capitol, twenty-three tributes, a contest of life and death, a Victor, glory, fame and fortune. It all made little sense to him, but he was smart enough to figure out this was the test the man on the lab-coat had told him he had been selected for.
The ambiance around him changed, the colorful person at the front approached a big bowl and picked a name out of the bowl. It was not his, so he didn't move. He watched as a small girl with black hair made her way up the stage, she was a subject like him, except she was uncoordinated and tripped going up the stairs. Some of the boys around him laughed but he didn't, there was no need. The subject had red cheeks, a clear sign of embarrassment. Twenty-Six would have been embarrassed too if he was her.
"Lewat Waktu," the colorful person said. That was not his name, so he did not move. There were a few seconds as people looked around, the boys around him whispering. Suddenly the men-in-white were grabbing him by the arms and dragging him towards the stage. He looked around bewildered and confused, the man on the lab-coat had said his name would be called out and he would move, but why was he being dragged now? The men in white stopped by the stairs and he nodded, confused he made his way to the stage. "My name is Twenty-Six," he said into the microphone still confused.
But he knew deep inside the test had already begun.