5 Years Old
The young boy, five years old, sat with the other children in the room. It was a bright room, filled with playful and fun-looking toys, and the walls were painted a wild assortment of vivid colors, including bright red, pink, light green and light blue. There were people in white suits as toys. He played with them and moved them around, pretending as if they were flying. He himself wore a white suit, and so did the other children. On his back was a number: 42.
"Okay, kids, playtime is up," an elderly woman told them. Quietly, they stopped what they were doing, put down their toys, and walked out of the room. The elderly woman opened another door and the kids silently, in line, walked right in.
This room was completely different from the other room. Almost everything was painted white, to the point of almost blinding one who had not seen this room before. The children sat down at the multiple white tables. There were screens built into the tables that showed pictures of space. The people in white suits were in space, like the toys, but this time they had no face, just a white ball with a black "screen" over it. The children have been doing this for more than half of their life, starting at about two years old.
8 Years Old
The young boy was in the same white room that he was five years ago. Everything was still white. But instead of staring at the people in white in space, they were learning quadratic inequalities on the screens that the children had begun to know so well. Most were doing practice problems already, but this young boy did not understand it at the moment. He went through the demonstration again and again, but still did not understand it.
12 Years Old — from the young boy's point of view
What do I do?! I asked myself. 48 just went under! Should I save him? What do I do?! 48 was underwater, sinking like a brick into the deep waters of the Atlantic Ocean.
"FOCUS ON YOUR TASK."
I had to stay floating for ten minutes, now I remembered. That was my goal; Mr. Howard had drilled it into all of us. No matter what, I had to keep my head over the water for ten minutes. Ten minutes is 600 seconds. How long was it since I had entered the freezing cold water? Two minutes, three minutes? I was not sure. All I knew was that my legs were getting tired. They couldn't move fast enough; sooner or later, the water would suck me in as if I was in a whirlpool.
Someone had already gone under: 48, one of my friends. We had played together a long time ago, since we were little kids. I wasn't sure if I should save him. But survival was most important; that was what Mr. Howard had told us. Survival is most important.
At that moment, I did not care. I had to save 48. I took a deep breath and dove underwater, using the fast dolphin kick that Mr. Howard had shown us. I grabbed 48's foot. He looked like he was dying. Survival is most important. I took better hold of his foot and started to kick upwards where I had come from. My legs were burning; they were extremely tired. But I could feel the adrenaline pulsing through my veins, and with that we emerged above water, both of us breathing heavily and in relief.
I wondered how I would be punished by Mr. Howard.
"Mr....Howard?" I mumbled through the microphone.
"YOU'VE DONE WELL, 42. YOU'VE PASSED. YOU CAN GET OUT OF THE WATER. EVERYONE ELSE, INCLUDING YOU, 48, CONTINUE TREADING UNTIL THE TIME IS UP."
I got out of the water, confused. I passed? But I didn't stay above water. I walked out of the training room, and went to my own room and slept after a long day of training and education.
20 Years Old — from the young boy's point of view
We were on the ground of a new planet. 48, 25, and I walked on the orange ground. It was strange, seeing as we had done this so many times, yet I felt that it was new and refreshing. Every once in a while we took pictures, and everything was on video.
We no longer wore the huge, bulky, white suits that we had learned how to use. Instead, we were wearing slim, improved white suits that were perfect, created by the latest technology. We were all tall now. We had taken many tests and learned many techniques and subjects, just for this experience. We were destined to do this: we have been taken from an orphanage to a facility in New York when we were very small, at around three years old, and were set up from the beginning to become an astronaut.
Space has become a home to me. My life revolves around it — we explore and record the mysteries of space. Mr. Howard always told us that survival is most important. And we have learned that, while still capturing the mysteries of the universe for all back home on Earth to see. We have already terraformed Mars and settled it. We can do the same for more planets, as the population keeps increasing and increasing.
Someday, after all this is done, I think I will go to the orphanage, and ask them to check my records to see by who I was left there. And then, I will visit them. I will say hello, and show them the person I have become.
I have a name: it is 42, the only name I can remember.