The last drop of water falls from my bottle into my mouth.
Around me are the bodies of my classmates, my friends, my brothers. They all failed at the same thing I do now; retrieving a package from the Carolina Coliseum. When I exited the Capstone building, the sun laid low in the sky. Hours have passed, though, and it burns onto the top of my head. I drop the empty bottle; the less weight on my person, the better.
I knew this trek would not prove easy. Hundreds if not thousands put off package retrieval because of the steep danger posed to their person. If I could turn back now, I would, but I have traveled too far and my supplies would never last.
Ahead of me stands the Thomas Cooper Library. I kneel and drink from the oasis in front of it. Non-retrievers gawk, but allow me to stand, wipe my mouth, and move forward without interruption. A light breeze does nothing to cool my face, hidden by cloth to filter the air when it passes my mouth. Halfway there.
Wild animals watch me trudge through their domain. The squirrels jump at me from time to time, but I offer nothing to eat, and they back off. I learned that lesson the hard way.
Finally, I reach the Blossom Precipice, an abruptly angled descent toward the package office. I remove my harness, belay device, and climbing shoes.
The escalade takes at least an hour, and scaling it with the parcel will last three times as long. I don’t think about that.
First, I must cross the Assembly Expanse, a stretch of eight lanes of traffic with only a small island of sanctuary dividing them. I lock eyes with a driver as they pass. They stare back with a look worse than malevolence: apathy. These people don’t see me as a human, but a speedbump. They will not slow down. They will never stop. I take a deep breath.
If I survive this, I will be the first of the Capstone Scholar faction to do so. If I don’t, will they remember me? I think to myself, “Is this really worth it?” as I tie the rope to the crossing post at the corner of Main and Blossom. Sure, it is. After all, how else am I supposed to get my set of 24 Faber-Castell Grip Watercolor EcoPencils?