“Number 6117285,” Commander Valle said.
Thea’s hands froze mid-clap. She did not need to see the screen to know who belonged to that number. In a world where tattooed numbers were the things between life and death, it was hard not to engrain people’s numbers to memory. That was Dallas Citalalli’s number. Dallas Citalalli was Thea’s neighbor since forever. The thought of never seeing him again made Thea sick to her stomach. “He’s too good to die,” croaked Thea, her voice barley leaving her mouth.
She received a stern look from her father, so she began to start clapping again. Dallas Citalalli walked down the long aisle. Not far behind him, his mother screamed, helpless in the arms of the vicious guard. Dallas Citalalli did not look back. He mounted the stage and stood there staring out at the crowd. The crowd screamed and cried, and Thea realized she was not the only one hurting. In fact, her pain didn’t seem anywhere near the pain of the rest of the crowd. She had never witnessed such an outroar. But this was as expected. How could a population remain silent as they just lost their golden boy?
As Thea said, Dallas Citalalli was too good to die, not that any of the others deserved death, but he especially did not. He was the perfect student. He was jaw droppingly handsome, smart, and athletic. But on top of that, he was respectful to others and kind. He’s the one that would help you when you dropped your books even though he doesn’t know who you are. He’s the one that you see in the newspaper about his honorary volunteer work he did. Thea didn’t know him well. They used to be childhood friends, but now they only rarely saw each other. But, she knew something about him that many people didn’t.
Commander Valle patted Dallas’s shoulder and signaled for his guards to lead him away. Dallas suddenly swung at one of the guards, hitting the man in the chest. The crowd gasped in disbelief that he would ever attack anyone. Thea was not among them. She knew Dallas would be the third reaction type. The Citalalli’s family did well in keeping his secret, but not from Thea. She knew how aggressive he was, not from personal experience, but from multiple occasions of seeing him come home bloodied and beaten.
“Number 9787447,” Commander Valle saying this broke Thea’s daydream.
Dallas Citalallis was gone. He had disappeared off the stage and into the Entrance of Doom. His years of self-defense and karate were no match for the guards. Dallas Citalallis was gone, and Thea hadn’t even watched him go.
The numbers continued to be read off, and hope surely began to swell in the hearts of many. Thea was not among them. Her eyes locked to the projection screen, flinching every time a new name was added to the list. The screaming and wailing embedded their way into her pores, lodging themselves deeper with each new victim. She continued to pray and hope that she would not have to see another familiar number flash across the screen.
“Number 5388205,” Commander Valle said.
For a moment, the number did not register in her mind. But when it did, the world seemed to stop.