Most people had opted out when they’d learned about the catch. I was the first one in fifty years to enter. The fault wasn’t mine. The box. The door. The crumbling brick. They’d begged me to enter.
Of course, no one had parents in Lichtkasten. But old Thaddeus and his wife Drusilla had already told me about the dangers, just like they’d been telling every other kid who came of age since the last 167 years. “You’ll be invisible forever, Agape,” Drusilla had said, ruffling my razor-cut hair while I sipped cookie dough milkshake on her couch. “With no means to turn visible again,” Thaddeus had added.
It was necessary for everyone to make the Choice when they turned 16. No means to escape. Otherwise, they’d age backwards until they were a newborn and then die when they reached the age of minus one. In the 16 years of my life, I’d never seen anyone die like that. Even the most rebellious and daring kids I’d known- Tor, Shirley, Kyrslynn- all of them had made the Choice. The same choice, in fact- none of them had dared to go inside the Ticket Booth.
The Ticket Booth was a small wooden building the size of a closet, just like the one you might find selling roller-coaster tickets at an amusement park. It had a non-functioning neon ‘TICKETS’ sign on top, with red and yellow balls dotting the letters. It looked innocent. Not something that’d sell tickets to eternal invisibility.
My big day was supposed to be tomorrow. I combed my bangs with an almost maniacal obsession. I didn’t want to clip them back, but I didn’t want them falling into my eyes either. Which was almost impossible at the same time. Almost, but not quite. I’d found out that hairspray was the answer to my worries, but I was out of it at the time. So I used small bobby pins to hold them in position.
Of course, none of it would matter from tomorrow. No one would be able to see me- I could walk around naked for all anyone cared. I stared at myself in the mirror like a crazy lover, taking in everything about my appearance, trying to etch it into my brain so I won’t forget what I looked like. My slim face with its wide forehead, its width concealed by my bangs. My amber eyes and long lashes. My triangular nose. My lips, chapped from being licked god-knew-how many times a day. Even my 36-32-36 body, which I was not much fond of.
There was a part of me which wanted to go back on my decision, but most of me wanted to stick with it. Even though I’d be cut off from the world in a way that was impossible to describe.
Today, I had my last game of football. Today, I had my first and last appointment at the beauty parlour. Tonight, I had my last date with Cecil- one of the only two guys in Lichtkasten who pronounced my name correctly. The other one was Lucas. All the others pronounced it like the English word ‘agape’, while it was actually ‘ah-gah-pee’. Leave it to me to choose the most unusual name for myself. Kids in Lichtkasten weren’t named when they were born- they had to choose one for themselves as soon as they could think properly- usually around the age of three or four. ‘Agape’ was the Greek word for love.
The day passed beautifully. I played my best game and Leila, the nice lady at the parlour gave me one of her best treatments. One could say I almost looked beautiful.
At eight in the evening, Cecil came to pick me up. He looked even more amazing than he usually did, in a tux and black shoes. My heart skipped a beat.
We were sitting on his couch after having had a scrumptious dinner at Trophi, that fancy restaurant we’d gone to for the first and last time.
“Do you really have to do this, Appy? You know, it’s not midnight yet, we can still go to Thaddeus and Drusilla and tell them you changed your mind,” he said, taking my hands and leaning towards me. He looked so pleading and helpless that I almost said Yes. But then I snapped out of it. Cecil was a year older than me- if anything, he should be more mature than me.
“I’m sorry, Cecil. I have to go and see other worlds. I just can’t stay trapped forever in this city. Even if it means being invisible forever.”
“Why can’t you stay here? Don’t you like Lichtkasten? Can’t you do this, for me?”
“It’s not that I don’t like it here. I just can’t spend my whole life in a single city. I hope you’ll understand. I love you, and always will.”
“Me too,” he said and pressed me to his body. We shared one of our best kisses.
It was early morning and the sky was lit with the soft glow of the dawn. My backpack was fully packed and I was dressed in a half-sleeved top and jeans. Thaddeus, Drusilla, Cecil, Lucas and Iryna had come to see me off. I stood on the threshold of the Ticket Booth. “Goodbye, Agape. We’ll miss you a lot. Take care,” Drusilla wiped a tear from her eye. Thaddeus, who was on the verge of violent sobs, enveloped me in a bone-crunching hug. I resisted the urge to say ‘Ow’. I shared a group hug with Lucas, Cecil and Iryna. “You’re still a stupid tadpole, remember that,” Iryna said. She was good at controlling her tears. I forced a grin for her sake. “And you’re still an antenna-less cockroach; nothing can change that.”
“Can’t say I’ll miss ya, sistah,” said Lucas. “You’re a strong man. You’ll do just fine, bro,” I replied. Cecil kissed me one last time.
I looked at all of them a last once and turned to the door. Anticipation for what was to come replacing sadness for leaving my friends, I pushed it open.
Would you guys like a part 2? Or is this okay by itself? Sound off in the comments.
Edit: I’ll consider votes till Jan 1 2018, to prevent the scales from tipping this way and that.