The Education Facility loomed in the distance, tucked in a shadowy corner where the Wall and the Great Forest intersected. A concrete cluster of three buildings known affectionately as the EFC, this was the epitome of educational instruction in all of Aversano. Two smaller facilities bordered the Meeting House, but neither was as large or influential as the EFC. Generations of thinkers and leaders were bred here, leaving behind a legacy of excellence and success.
Asher had enrolled in the EFC a year ago, earlier than most his age by more than three years. It had been this decision that caused the first rift between himself, Mick and Abigail. They didn’t understand his passion for the discovery of knowledge. Asher loved to learn for the sake of learning. Mick and Abigail were still stuck in the belief that they went to school to spend time with their friends.
This was another thing that drew him into friendship with Jordan. Jordan wasn’t afraid of knowledge; like Asher, he embraced it. Learning was an adventure for the mind, an unexplored map that delighted you when you made a discovery and terrified you when you stumbled across something you simply could not understand. The quest for knowledge was filled with risks and tough decisions, as you had to know your limitations, when to stop and when to continue.
It was this journey that Asher found himself on. He was grateful to have Jordan alongside him to usher him into the way of wisdom.
“We’ll be entering through the back entrance,” Jordan informed him as they drew closer to the EFC’s well manicured front lawn. All traffic into the EFC stemmed from the central oval building into two rectangular four story buildings. Jordan’s proposition to enter through the back confused Asher, but he ignored his own feelings and followed his friend.
At this time of day, shortly after the gathering had begun, the EFC was entirely deserted. Asher gazed up at the tall building that rose from the ground before him. This was the second tallest structure in all of Aversano, not considering the seventy foot tall Tarkine Falls. The only structure that stood taller than the West Wing of the EFC was the Wall itself.
Jordan reached the building’s back entrance first, pulling roughly on the huge metal doors. Asher watched as Jordan struggled with the weight, his biceps straining. Asher glanced at his own spindly arms beneath the sleeves of his black collared shirt. He had never been overweight; he was simply out of shape. As Jordan finally won his battle with the rusting door, Asher couldn’t help envy the strength his friend possessed.
“Come on, Asher,” Jordan said, his voice dropping to a whisper. He put his finger to his lips and nodded to the door. “When you go up,” he said, “you must be sure not to wake them up.”
Asher looked at Jordan.
“Wake who up?”
“You’ll find out. Now hurry and climb the stairs,” Jordan commanded, impatient.
Asher could feel a lump rising in his throat. Somehow, it felt wrong to sneak into the back of the EFC in the middle of the day. To make matters worse, Jordan’s talk of people sleeping in the staircase frightened him.
Jordan stared at Asher angrily, almost as though he had read his thoughts.
“You feel afraid, Asher? Do you not know that fear is the path of weakness? I abhor weakness.” Jordan spat on the ground at his feet. “I can easily find someone else to do this, Asher, but I chose you because you didn’t seem afraid. Let me know now if I need to find someone else.”
“I want to do this, Jordan,” Asher interjected, still uncertain what ‘this’ was. But whatever it was, he need not be afraid of it. It wasn’t as though they were going to kill him or anything, whoever ‘they’ were anyway.
“Alright.” Jordan grinned and nodded towards the staircase once again. “Climb.”
And so Asher climbed.