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Boom, boom. The sound reverberated in the empty space.

The ball flew into the air, hit the wall, and then made small bounces on the steel floor: Boom, thunk! Thunk Thunk X sweated from the strain of this exercise. He had been bouncing the sam e ball off of the same wall since daybreak; it was his routine on Solemnity to r ise before dawn, displace the sphere, and walk with it to the area of the wall d irectly in front of him for the sole purpose of bouncing it against the wall rep eatedly. There was only one ball which he claimed as his own and one wall. When the ball deflated, that meant death to his Solemnity ritual: he had neither air pump nor accompanying needle attachment to re-inflate it. Once the ball met its inevitable demise, he would be left with the one wall to remind him of better So lemnities, in which case, he would rather just stay in bed the entire day. Boom! The ball met the steel panels with incredible force, causing the w all to vibrate ever-so-slightly. X was not one to brood. His only concerns were will his ideas work, how, and in what way will they be beneficiary? Sentiment wa s a waste of energy that he could direct towards more important things, like eat ing, eliminating, and sleeping. Sentiment was also, unfortunately, something inh erently branded into the underbelly of his heart. He had so little in life; the idea of anything being taken from him, whether naturally or purposely, depressed him immensely. It was just that considering said depression wasn t worth the exer tion of his (what he thought to be) superior and refined cerebral cortex. Who, besides him, was there to threaten his sacred ball-bouncing territo ry? Who was there to steal his possessions? He wished the answer to be: no one, but that was not true; he was surrounded by people, far, far, too many people, a nd they all wanted a piece of him. His reverie was broken when a smug-looking, but unusually attractive gir l of about fourteen scooped the ball into her arms on its way to the ground. Her black hair, which grew past her buttocks, swayed in her green eyes, which were bold with determination. What she seemed to be determining, however, she always kept a secret. Good morning, X. , she said with an appallingly monotone bluntness. Her attitude was not appropriate for a girl her age, no; her tone should have an air of feminine dignity, a slight, educated drawl to her accent; her short, tan ned leather dress be replaced with something soft, maybe beige in color, to comp liment her eyes. These were X s thoughts, anyway. He reminded himself that he didn t care about her, fixing his deliberately blank expression on the steel wall, whi ch was now reflecting a glimpse of the approaching mid-day sun. Giving me the cold shoulder, as usual, I see. She said. What sort of respo nse to his silence was that? It was as if her mouth moved, and a voice spoke, bu t no emotion validated anything she said. His brow wrinkled at the thought. She disgusted him. Well, I ll have you know that The Origin is waiting in the mess hall. Don t b e late for breakfast, or you know what will happen. She winked. He grimaced at th e gesture. Don t call her The Origin like you re so special. He attempted to affect ang r, but he felt a smile crawl across his face like a black widow spider, ready to inject her venom of affection into his heart. Oh, she is special. He thought, t hen immediately took it back. I take it back he said aloud. Y remained like a doll, her composure beautiful and perfect, with unwave ring eyes as cold as glass piercing into X s. What are you taking back? Do you mean you want your ball back? She inquired as she glanced down at the weight in her a rms apathetically. Yes. X barely managed to suppress a stutter. He practically whimpered the reply. He felt nauseous; he was beginning to sicken himself. Excuse me He said, his voice growing deeper with every syllable, while stumbling towards the small, tw o-story box of a dormitory which contained his cell. Y shouted I thought you want ed your ball back! from across the lot, but it seemed her cry didn t reach his ears . On the contrary, he heard her quite well, but decided that returning to her si de in order to retrieve his precious ball wasn t worth any possible further exchan ge between him and her. After all, ever since he first met her, she had always b

een the first person on his mind, and the last person he wanted to think about. His loss Y sighed with a cat-like grin. She dribbled the ball mechanically while walking towards the mess hall, balancing her every slow step on the three -inch-high heels of her knee-length suede boots. She let out a slight giggle at the thought of X holding his knees to his head, desperate to end the pain his lo ve for her induced, and was amused even more by the fact that he thought he coul d control it with his freakishly genius intellect. Such thoughts were all she ne eded to be entertained; she couldn t imagine herself replacing them with a lifeles s object like a ball. She stopped, and kicked it in the direction of X s cell. It made an echoing CRASH! upon its impact with his cell s pitiful excuse for a window . She hoped the sound would give him an excruciatingly painful heart attack.