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The fog was thick. It seemed everywhere I looked, a dark haze clouded my view. Yet the sun was shining brightly, and I could feel its warmth as I battled through the throngs of people in search of my friend. The city was especially busy then. As I battled through the masses like a salmon swimming upstream, I wondered where everyone was going in such a hurry. There were so many people going so many places, yet the crowd never thinned.

I looked up at the sky as I did so often after my mother left. It was so beautiful, so different from the city. There was no concrete up there; no walls. The birds were free to do as they pleased. They would never be trapped in the Tower. Oh, to be a bird, floating gracefully above the hordes, seeing for miles, controlling the very wind that kept you afloat. But alas, I was human, and condemned to spend my life on the ground, within walls.

I pushed on like a pebble: bumped, jerked, and flipped around wherever I went, when finally, I was thrown to the ground by the rushing current. A hand reached out to help me up.

“Dave, I thought I’d never find you!” I said laughing as I brushed myself off.

“It’s a miracle you get anywhere, always staring at the sky like that,” said my friend as he shared in the laugh and looked around. “Can you believe we finally made it?”

“Are you kidding? I’ve been dreaming of this day my whole life. Finally, we’ll be able to leave this disgusting city.”

“It’s gonna be great! Did you tell your parents you signed up yet?”

“Yeah, but you know how they are, too busy in their cells in the Tower to ever care about what I do. They probably won’t even notice I’m gone.”

“That’s too bad, but soon you’ll be living your own life, starting your own family, free from the Tower’s evil grasp.” I laughed as he chased me like some monster, with his arms stretched out before him.

“Hopefully it won’t happen too quick, I want to enjoy my freedom first. I don’t want . . .”

Suddenly, I saw something out of the corner of my eye.

I looked over and my eyes rested on the most beautiful creature I had ever seen. Her golden locks swayed in the wind as she swam through the crowd like a beautiful young mermaid. I followed her every movement, enchanted by her graceful figure, hypnotized for what seemed an eternity by the patterns in her summer dress.

“Are you all right? You’re spacing out on me again.” I had completely forgotten about Dave, who must have been staring at me for some time now.

“Don’t you see her?”

“See who?”

“Hang on, I have to see her face. I have to know her name.” And with that I left my friend standing in bewilderment as I made my way upstream. She was walking in a hurry, just like everyone else, yet everything about her seemed so different. She was calm; full of confidence; the stream of people moved for her as she walked on. I walked faster and faster and soon broke into a run, yet the stream’s current was much too strong and my struggles seemed in vain. Though as long as she was within my view, my confidence grew and the crowd grew ever smaller. Soon it seemed it was just she and I.

Suddenly, I was in a different place, far from the city . . . Beauty surrounded me . . . It was then that I felt it for the first time . . . I was free.

There was no city; there was no Tower; there were no walls. I was in a large open field, running barefoot through the soft grass. The rich, beautiful wildflowers tickled my feet; yet nothing could deter me from the one true flower I now sought.

Faster and faster I ran . . . time seemed to stop . . . suspending me in this beautiful place as I grew closer. Suddenly . . . it was gone . . . she was gone . . . I never saw her face . . . I never knew her name.

I looked over just in time to see her crossing the street and a tidal wave looming over me as a car sped through a nearby puddle.

I awoke with a start as a wave of icy water poured down my face. “Get up, we’re late!” Dave cried as he pulled me out of bed.

This was it.

The day had finally come.

Today we would enter the Academy.