Rite of Passage
Emily couldn’t understand why her mother was so upset. Daddy wasn’t worried, he’d told her to just go with what came naturally, and everything would be fine. Mummy just kept crying. They each held one of her small hands in their own, as they walked her down the corridor to where the school nurse and her teacher, Miss Berry, were waiting. The nurse smiled brightly, Miss Berry looked grim, the way she did when, sometimes, when the cameras were switched off, she talked about the government, said things that Emily didn’t really understand but was told not to talk about anyway. The nurse asked her her name, and ticked it briskly off the list. Bobby Charles would be after her in the list, he was next alphabetically, and Emily was determined she’d do much better at the test than silly old Bobby Charles.
Mummy clung onto her a little, before Daddy put a hand on Mummy’s arm and said, simply, “Come on, Rose, it’s time”. The nurse put a friendly arm around Emily’s shoulder and led her into the holosuite, then placed a visor, the same as the ones they used in the practices, on her head, put her hands in the VR gloves, and stepped out of the room.
Sunshine. Blue sky. Emily ran towards it. There was a balcony, looking out over a valley. And balloons- so many balloons! Now she looked around, she saw a telescope- no…not a telescope. It was a dart gun.
10 minutes later, Emily emerged, looking dejected. When her Daddy asked what was wrong, she said she’d missed the yellow balloon, would they fail her for that? Mummy started crying again, big sobs, but she was smiling too. Daddy said they were both so proud of her, and took her for ice cream.
Bobby Charles wasn’t in school the next day. Neither were some of her other classmates. She heard the from Cheryl, who was her best friend that week, that silly old Bobby Charles had come out crying and said he didn’t think you were supposed to shoot balloons with darts, there might be people in them.
“But,” said Emily, “I thought that was the point?”