The Testers

Written in part to prompts from Wyste and Lilfluff, clearly not finished.


“And when you turn twenty,” Thomas whispered, “the Testers come and they take you away.  And if you’re very very lucky, they take you to a good place, and if you’re not, they take you to a bad place.”

The younger children shivered.  Kelly was supposed to be watching them tonight, but she was letting Thomas tell his stories, even if they weren’t at all helpful.

She’d be twenty tomorrow.  She remembered when they’d taken Aaron.  And before Aaron, Jennifer, and before Jennifer, Keisha and Min and Lad and Petyr.

Sometimes they brought someone, too.  The elevator would come down slowly with a small baby inside, and two of the older kids would say “this is our baby,” and that would be their child to raise and teach, feed and clothe and everything else.

“They”, “the Testers”, “the grown-ups.”  They said things like that, but none of them had ever seen an adult.  Their teaching videos had voices and pictures but no people; the Testers demands came with a small robot, like the ones they used to help them farm the hydrofarms; the Tests themselves came on the screens.  Once every five years, untl the one at Twenty meant that, no matter what, you had to go away.

Kelly had been born down here, like two of her three kids had been born down here.  She was pretty sure her mothers had been born down here too.  Children and young adults lived here, in The Burrow.  Right now, there were one hundred and seven of them, but Vittoria was pregnant and due to have her second baby any minute now.

What would they do when Kelly was gone?  Bian had been training to take over her duties as midwife and nurse, but Bian was nearly fifteen, and she tended to get distracted easily.  Reyansh had been their medic and midwife before, but he’d been gone for almost a year – although the little baby that had come down just last week had looked a lot like him.  They’d named the baby after the maybe-father, and, although they weren’t supposed to, Kelly had put some medical toys in his cradle.

Her baby-partner Yasin would take over the children when she was gone.  She was pretty sure that he would partner up with Terentiy, who had been partnered with Jennifer. 

She stood up.  Thomas was still telling his campfire stories over their digitally-generated fire.  He was good at it.  The kids were always a little shivery but almost never actually frightened. 

She kissed Erin’s head.  She was old enough for the stories, and Kelly wouldn’t take her away from that.  But Elisaie was only three, and Balu was two, and she could indulge herself in cuddling them for a while.

Balu probably wouldn’t remember her at all.  Maybe that would be best.  She had been six when her older mother had gone and seven when her second mother had been taken, and Kelly remembered it like a ripping pain.
She curled up in her bunk with her babies and whispered them stories her mothers had told her, stories of the Times Before the Burrow.
“And then, the skies were black and the ground rippled and shook, and all of the children went into the burrows. All over the world, they built these places, too deep and too solid for the enemy to reach.  And here we remain, all the children ever, safe and snug and comfortable, warm and full and, above all, safe.”  She kissed Elisaie’s forehead.  “Be safe, my children.  Someday I will see you again, in the Sunshine lands.  Someday the Testers will take you to the place for the smart, the clever, the industrious as well.  Study well.  Care for your fellows well.  And I will see you again.”
She didn’t sleep that night.  She knew she ought to.  There was a testing coming, after all.  She should be fresh for it.
Instead, she walked the halls of the Burrow, touching the walls, brushing fingers over the plants, watching the children sleep.  Tomorrow, for the first time in her life, she might see the Testers, the Grown-ups.

And then what?


4 thoughts on “The Testers

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  2. ???
    «Her baby-partner Yasin would take over the children when she was gone. She was pretty sure that he would partner up with Terentiy, who had been partnered with Jennifer. »
    Focus character: Kelly, ♀
    Kelly’s baby-partner: Yasin, ♂
    Yasin’s expected partner: Terentiy, presumably ♀
    Terentiy’s previous partner: Jennifer, apparently ♀
    What’s wrong with this picture?

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