The Blood of the Drakes (Chapter One)

The Blood of the Drakes is the novel I’m currently working on. Right now, it’s sitting at about 250 pages, but by the time it’s finished, I expect it to be closer to 400. Because of the length, though, it’s taken me a lot longer to write and edit, so it took much longer than The Last One. Without spoiling too much, a brief idea of the story is this- picture a world where one test you take every ten years dictates who gets to live in society or not. The people who pass get to live with everyone else, and the people who fail get sent to “The Box” which the public believes is a reforming system to help improve individuals functioning in society. However, the inside is not what it seems and Khai Drake is ready to take the system down after 10 years inside The Box.

Chapter One: Welcome Home


The sign was poorly decorated, considering that it was made by two adults and a teenager. The A in my name looked more like an E, and the I was missing its dot. The K was giant, like they completely misunderstood the size of the paper. This was going to be awkward.

“Welcome home!” Sorscha jumped up from behind the couch. I saw her through the window as I walked in, but she was happy that I was home. That was enough. Eris and Garcia appeared from behind her, looking less enthusiastic, but smiling nonetheless.

 I had yet to meet Garcia, the man who took in my sister after I left and my parents were no longer fit to take care of them. During my final goodbyes in the courthouse, Sorscha told me that a nice man a few streets down would be taking care of them until they became adults. As long as they were in good hands, that’s all I cared about. Eris, now 14, was only 4 when I left. I don’t know how much she remembers about me before I left, but I’m assuming not much. She looked closed off behind Garcia.

I took in Sorschas’s hug and didn’t say anything. She pushed away, “Wow, this sweater they gave you is super soft. I can’t believe I didn’t get one when I left.” I couldn’t tell if she was joking or not. It was just a dirty old zip-up that I brought with me ten years ago. I was surprised when it still fit me, but I supposed with years of malnutrition and a sweater that was already big as a child, it will still fit. 

“Here,” Sorscha nudged towards the kitchen, “We figured you would be hungry when you got back. Eris made you a cake and these really good cookies, oh my god you have to try..” She droned on, but my eyes went to Eris. She looked scared of me almost. 

There was a feast on the kitchen table, and I had to hold myself back from immediately running over. A massive cake was in the center with two plates of cookies on the sides. There was a giant salmon as well… my favorite food. Before I left we would only have it on my birthday because it was so expensive. They still remembered.

“Where did you guys get the money to buy all these ingredients?” I laughed and looked around. Ten years ago we were living off one meal a day that probably couldn’t have even been a meal.

“Garcia makes bank,” Sorscha piped up again. She was always the center of attention. A big talker.

“She’s lying,” Garcia finally spoke up, “I’m an analyst in the government. It pays nice but it’s not “bank.” Speaking of which, now that I have the chance, my name’s Pietro. But the kids just call me Garcia, it’s my last name.” He stuck out his hand and I grabbed it.


He smiled at me, but something made me shiver slightly. He had the smile of a con artist.

“I’ve heard great things about you, Khai. I’m sure we’ll get to know each other more over time right?”

I didn’t know what he meant. I assumed now that I was back home, a guardian was no longer needed. I’m 20 now, and Sorscha is 24. I don’t know why he didn’t leave sooner, Sorscha’s been a legal adult for years now. I looked over at her.

“We told Garcia he could keep living with us when I turned 18. He’s been like a dad to us, we couldn’t just dispose of him.” It was like she read my mind.

“Plus,” He chimed in, “Little miss Sora here was deemed not fit to take care of Eris by herself. You have to tell her the full story, no more lies.”

The expression on Sorschas face dropped immediately, “Let’s just eat shall we? I’ll tell you later.”

I walked over to the table and began eating. I almost cried when I took my first bite of salmon. I haven’t had a solid meal in ten years; in the box, they only gave us these smoothies that didn’t taste anything like a traditional smoothie. I’m pretty sure they just ground up a bunch of vitamins and proteins together and gave them to us.

“I’m not sure what they gave you in there, but I remember they gave me this nasty thing that looked like meat? I figured you’d want some real food.”

I put my hand over my mouth so they wouldn’t see that I’m chewing, “Vitamin blended smoothies. Twice a day.”

Garcia pretended to gag, “That sounds beyond flavorless.”

I nodded, “Yeah, it was. I guess the food they give differs based on your sentence and why you went.”

Sorscha got 2 years in the box when she was 12 for stealing from the farmers market the next town over. When she got back, she didn’t get a cake or salmon. She got her younger sister being sentenced to 10 years.

“So Eris,” I tried to change the conversation off of me, “How are you? You look so much different than when I left.”

“Good,” She looked at her food, “Nothing much is going on in my life.”

“Please,” Garcia scoffed, “Eris here made honor roll last month and made the varsity swim team as a freshman.”

“Oh? I didn’t know you’re a swimmer.”

“Well, I’m not much of a swimmer when I’m a toddler, am I.”

My eyes widened and I looked at Garcia and Sorscha.

“Eris, don’t be snippy. You know it’s not her fault that she had to leave.” Garcia looked at her.

I shook my head, “It’s okay. I get it Eris, you’re fine. Congrats on the swim team.” I picked up one of the cookies from the bowl and stood up.

“Where are you going? We haven’t even had cake yet.” Sorscha stood up with me.

I took a bite of the cookie, “Gotta go see Rhyn. He’ll kill me if I don’t go see him ASAP. Does he still live in the same spot?”

“He should yeah. Told you we should’ve invited him, Garcia,” Sorscha looked at Garcia and scowled. He just shrugged. He probably didn’t know Rhyn, but Sorscha and I were best friends with him as kids.

“Save me a piece okay?” I yelled as I made my way out of the house. Rhyn lived down our street and was my best friend before I left. He was like the brother I never had.

I felt footsteps behind me as I made my way out.

“Khai!” Garcia yelled, “You can’t listen to her, you know. She had a hard time dealing with everything, from you leaving and then your parents.”

I turned around and pretended to pout, “Oh. Life must have been so hard.”

“You aren’t denying your sister’s trauma, are you? She’s the one that found your dad dead, she has every right to feel the way she does.”

I laughed hopelessly, “No, no, I’m not denying that she feels that way. But I also don’t think you understand what I went through in those ten years Garcia. You guys seem to be acting like nothing happened in there and that I had the choice to go.”

He crossed his arms, “I don’t think we’re acting like that at all. We welcomed you back into the home you’ve barely lived in with open arms.”

I rolled my eyes at him. He wouldn’t get it. People can pretend to understand what the box was like, and they can show sympathy, but they will never. Ever. Understand what I went through there. 

Rhyns house looked almost identical as it did ten years ago. Red with four windows on the front, no shutters. The tire swing was still on the tree in the front yard. His dad was a car mechanic before he was a doctor and brought that tire home from a car that couldn’t function anymore. The lion knocker on the front door was still there, nice and shiny as always. It made the nicest noise when it hit the door.

“Hello?” He didn’t make eye contact with me when the door opened. His eyes were glued to my feet.

I snapped my fingers to get his attention, “Hello? That’s all I get for being gone for a decade?”

His chest stopped moving for a moment. His eyes slowly made their way to mine and his jaw dropped.

“Stop it. You aren’t here right now.”

I beamed, throwing my arms in the air, “In the flesh.”

Rhyn put his hand over his mouth, laughing. He lifted me in the air in our hug. Despite his short stature, he was always the strongest kid in the class.

He let me down, still grinning from ear to ear, “I can’t believe you’re here, wow. It’s been ten years?”

“Ten long years for me,” I pointed out, “Ten fast years for you.”

He bit his tongue, which was a nervous habitat he developed as a kid. He had such terrible anxiety about the test because he didn’t perform well on pretty much anything academic-based. His mom introduced us because she thought he needed a “good influence,” and she had heard my name circulating the school’s board.

“Do you want to come in and sit? I don’t know how comfortable you are talking about everything.”

I hadn’t gotten the chance to talk about it yet so who knows if I’ll melt down. I haven’t figured out my triggers yet.

“That sounds great.”

Everything about his home looked the same in the interior as well. He was never a man of change… he liked everything the way it was and would never settle for otherwise. Not in a neat and organized way, but he just didn’t know how to deal with change. That explains why he never moved out.

“So,” He sat down, handing me a glass of water, “Do you want to start first, or do you want me to start.”

“You go,” I took a sip of the water, “My story will be a downer.”

“Alright,” He clapped his hands together, “Not much has happened with me. I decided to go to college after all, which is probably the most shocking news. I’m a biology major.”

“Really? I never would’ve pegged you as the science type.” He always showed a lot of interest in art and film.

“I grew into it throughout high school. I debated moving out to California to direct movies, but I ended up with bio. I like it and I’m pretty good at it, plus I’d like to be a doctor like my dad.”

That made more sense. Rhyn’s dad died when we were 9, just a little bit before I went away. He was an orthopedic surgeon; I remember I went over one time and he showed me his latest project which was a special fiber to make robotic limbs more realistic. It’s a shame he never got to finish it.

“In orthopedics? Or something else?”

He licked his lips despite having a glass of water of his own, “Well I started in orthopedics, yeah. I’m trying to continue my dad’s project but unsurprisingly, it’s scary hard to figure out what exactly he did. He didn’t leave behind any notebooks or computer docs. All of it just disappeared.”

“Have you talked to Lani to see if she has anything?” Lani is his older sister who used to be my babysitter before she went to college. She must be in her thirties by now.

“Nothing. She said he was super secretive about his work and was scared that the government would try to get it so he probably burned all of it when he got sick.”

The government situation had gotten worse. As a ten year old I didn’t have any strong political opinions but both my parents were very opinionated people. My mom was practically an anarchist and wanted nothing to do with the government. She would leave home a lot to go to protests in the city and out of state. My dad on the other hand worked for the government. He was the head designer of the box. I’m sure he never would have thought 2 out of his 3 kids would end up in the torture device he created.

“So stuff is really on edge right now, politically?”

His eyes widened like a bug, “Oh god yeah. More survivors of the box are speaking out and trying to get it shut down-”

“And I assume they’re getting killed off for it immediately after?” I cut him off.

He sighed, “It was expected to happen. But at least a change is being made right? Lani and I organized a charity walk that we ran for 4 years before she moved out. We tried not to get involved in all the violence going on by the capitol buildings. There’s this group called The Woodpeckers that are going into town and just burning government buildings down and starting riots. That doesn’t feel effective to me.”

“I don’t see anything wrong with it,” I said, “They would beat the hell out of us in there. Shouldn’t they get a taste of their own medicine?”

He shrugged, “Eh. Personally not a fan of the violence-for-violence thing. I’m pretty sure that’s how World War 3 started.”

“It hasn’t already started?” I was starting to get frustrated again as I did at home. He was like Garcia and Eris.

Rhyn shook his head, “Do you have a plan yet on what you’re going to do? Going to hop town and try and get a job?”

“I thought about it while I was in there but I honestly don’t know. I think I’m going to see how content Sorscha and Eris are at home before I go anywhere first. I don’t want to just abandon them again, I guess Eris is still mad about that.”

“What, little Eris?” He sounded shocked, “Wasn’t she a baby when you left? How could she even remember?”

“That’s what I’m saying! Garcia said she’s still not over what happened with my parents though so I guess everything is on top of each other?”

Rhyn paused, “Are you over what happened to your parents?”

It’s not that I was over it. It was just that I had more important things to worry about.

“No, no, not at all. I guess it just always slipped my mind while I was there. I was more focused on passing daily inspections.”

He pursed his lips like he was thinking, “Did you see your mom in there?”

“Nope. Completely closed off from society,” I stood up to try and detail what the box looked like, “It’s a little concrete box about half the size of this room.”

I paused, trying to go back to my time there without crying, “There was a blanket and pillow in the corner. There wasn’t enough room for a mattress so we had to sleep on the floor. There’s a toilet on the other side, and a little drain on the floor. Note little… I thought about trying to escape. There’s a bucket of water and a bar of soap replaced at the beginning of the week for showering. Various books on top of the blanket for studying for inspections and then a couple of 10-15 pound weights in the corner to help keep our strength up. Food was given to us once a day through a little slot so high on one of the walls I could barely even reach. Sometimes my energy would be so low that I couldn’t bring myself to jump high enough and I would just starve another day.”

Rhyn looked at me for a moment. I guess I had shut my eyes to help visualize the space that I never wanted to see again. The space I luckily never had to see again as long as I obeyed the law, unlike Rhyn who would have to take his second test soon.

Before he could make a sappy comment I asked, “Did you take your second test yet? I haven’t been able to keep track of time for a while.”

He inhaled sharply, “A few days ago. Got an 85.”

“Hey,” I smiled, “That’s great! That’s such a good score.”

“I’m hoping I can keep it that high for the next couple of decades. You don’t have to take it anymore do you?”

“Nope. Unless I become a felon I’m all set,” He paused, “Do you want to stay the night? You can shower and have some dinner.”

Oh, how I wanted to. I wanted to sleep over like I did every Friday night ten years ago. 

“I really shouldn’t. I kind of ran out on everyone at home, I should go back before I upset anyone.”

He tilted his head, “But I don’t want you to be upset either. Today’s your day, not anyone else’s. Why don’t I text Sorscha that you’re going to sleep here so we can catch up some more?”

I grinned, “That sounds perfect.”

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