Palo Alto Weekly 34th Annual Short Story Contest
Teen Honorable Mention

The Illusion of Sonhe

by Kristy Rueff

Author Bio

Kristy is a writer from Palo Alto. While she loves learning about animals, she has always considered writing a hobby of hers. Her favorite genre to write in is Dystopia. She also enjoys spending time with her friends and likes hearing their story ideas.


I noticed in society how peoples' upbringings can play a huge role in their actions and mindsets later in life. "The Illusion of Sonhe" is meant to demonstrate how sometimes people can be so dedicated to a certain way of thinking that when someone contradicts their beliefs, they mentally reject it. In my story I wanted to demonstrate a dystopia in which these principles are the basis of their society.

Tap... tap... tap... the rain on the ceiling was a comforting noise, one rarely heard. However, today was a nice day, a day with plenty of rain. Our leader, King Fuadain, controlled the weather, and he decided to make today a rainy one, spent indoors.

"Look at that!" It was my friend, Hayley.

We have been best friends since we were born. Here in Sonhe, everyone is assigned a friend at birth. It is a completely random system that was first implemented 341 years ago. Each pair of friends is called a Duo. Hayley and I were assigned as a Duo, and unlike some other Duos, we are actually friends.

"What is it?" I responded.

We are in the "Year 17" house, meaning we are both seventeen years old. We only lived with our parents until the age of twelve, after that we are split up into different houses by age. In the "Year 17" house, everyone was getting ready for our final test, to deem if we are Worthy or Unworthy. Each group of friends shares a dorm. Every dorm has four rooms, a kitchen, a common area, a bathroom, and a bedroom. I was sitting at my desk in Hayley and my bedroom. I have been up since 5:30 studying for our final test tomorrow, it is now 15:23. My final test is tomorrow, my birthday, the day I will turn eighteen, the day my fate will be decided.

"There is a weird thing on our balcony!" shouted Hayley.

I better go and reassure her. I thought. I knew Hayley was worried about the test, maybe just as much as I was. I stepped into the Kitchen where Hayley was waiting, and she was right, on our balcony was a strange thing.

"What is it?" Hayley questioned, still peering outside the window.

"I don't know. It kind of looks like one of those creatures we read about in history."

"Do you think it is... what were they called?"

"A cat? Maybe, I didn't know they still existed!"

"Should we bring it in?"

"Sure! What harm could it do? In history, they said cats are harmless."

Hayley crept forward, as not to scare the cat away, and slid the door open. The cat, a wet, gray mess, lightly strode into our dorm.

"What do we do now?" Asked Hayley as she went to sit down on our couch.

"I don't know. Maybe find food for it?" I responded, then promptly went to the kitchen.

"Don't they eat fish or chicken or whatever?"

"I think so. Oh! Here's some tuna!" I grabbed a plate and poured the tuna on it. The cat crept over and began devouring it.

"I guess now it's ours to keep," Hayley commented.


Both Skylar and I have our Final Test tomorrow, I wonder how it will go. I should probably study, Skylar has been all day! Nah, I won't, the one thing Skylar and I both know, but won't talk about, is the fact I will probably be Unworthy. We both know how the system works. I just want to enjoy the last hours we can spend together.

The Next Day

"Are you ready to go?!?! Skylar?!?!" I shouted, we both needed to go to the campus common grounds, where we will be driven to the secret Final Test-taking area.

"Calm down, I'm here!" We hugged each other and departed to the common grounds. The walk wasn't that far away from our dorm. As we walked, we spotted younger people we knew and recognized when we did, we smiled and kept walking. When we arrived, there were multiple buses waiting for us, Skylar and I waited to board with the rest of the people who shared our birthday.

"Hello, welcome to the Final Test buses, please board with your Duo." Came a voice over the speakers, "My name is Vera, I am here to help guide you to your future. I am also here on behalf of our wonderful king, his majesty, King Fuadain, to ensure everyone gets placed where they should. As you all know, by the end of the test you will either become a Worthy or Unworthy. Best of luck to you all!"

"Which bus should we choose?" I wondered

"How about that one?" Skylar responded, pointing at a dull navy colored bus.

"Why not?"

We boarded and sat down on the fifth row. The bus was tidy with good air conditioning and the seats were made of a sky blue, fuzzy, fabric. Everyone packed in with their Duo and sat down in their respective seats.

"Welcome aboard! I'm your bus driver, Phil!" Announced the speakers, "The estimated time of arrival at today's location is 13:34, currently, the time is 10:27. For entertainment, we have a built-in movie system. Today we have three movie choices, the first is ‘King Fuadain's Greatest Accomplishments', the second is ‘How King Fuadain Built Our Society', and finally, ‘King Fuadain: A Dive Into the Life of a Leader.' In front of you lies a remote, please press the button that correlates with the movie you want to watch."

I grabbed the remote and pressed the first button, both Skylar and I have already watched all of the movie options, but the first one was the best. Because King Fuadain prefers not to show his face, he has Worthys act out his role in the movies. Some do better jobs than others, some are more comedic, some are more serious. I like the ones that are a mix of both.

Skylar leaned over and asked, "Which did you choose?"

"The first," I answered.

"Really?!?! Me too! I always thought you liked the second option better."

"I used to, but then it got old."

"You've watched it so many times that a sane person would've called it old a long time ago!"

"Well, you always watch the movie about King Fuadain's pets!"

"The scene where the llama saves the giraffe gets me every time!"

"I know! I'm the shoulder you cry on!"

"Fair enough."

"Shush! The movie is starting."

The movie was as good as always, but I was so tired, I fell asleep in the middle of it, and awoke to Skylar nudging me.

"We're almost there." She whispered.

"I'm up, I'm up," I responded

A few minutes after waking, I felt the bus come to a slow, steady, stop.

"Thanks for being a lovely group today! Good luck on your test! Always remember, if you have a hard time, think ‘what would King Fuadain do?'" Announced Phil.

Skylar and I got up and walked through the aisle, through the door, into the bright daylight.

"It feels like forever since we've seen the light of day!" Commented Skylar.

"I know, right?" I exclaimed.

The ground was made of sand and everywhere around us was barren rock, except for a road and a small building in the middle of a circle comprised of more rocks. Skylar and I, not needing to speak, started walking towards the building. Everyone else, not knowing what to do, followed. Together we walked through the wasteland to the building, until we stood in front of a glass door with the word "Pull" above its handle. Since we were young we were always taught to follow instructions, so naturally, I had to pull the handle. A big gust of cool air met my face as I stepped inside. The floor was made of white marble and the walls were a cream-colored wood.

"Welcome, I see at least one person has made it!" Said the now recognizable voice of Vera.

Startled, I answered, "Everyone else is outside."

"Well, you can start your test now if you like."

"I'd rather-"

Vera cut me off, "Just kidding! You don't have a choice! The test already started the moment you walked in!"


"Follow me!"

I followed Vera through a hallway, into a small room with a desk in the corner. The room was an ominous shade of dark navy walls and black marble floors. Vera handed me a sheet of paper saying "You Can Not Speak Until The Test Is Over". Such weird capitalization I thought.

"The test is simple, you have to write an answer to one question: ‘What is the greatest honor a person from Sonhe can be given?'" Vera continued, "You may write on the backside of the sheet I gave you."

I pondered the question for a moment then wrote, "The greatest honor is to be deemed a Worthy because that means you have pleased King Fuadain so far in your life." I slid the sheet back to Vera and waited.

After reading my response Vera commented, "I love it! Wait here."

Vera continued to go outside the room and grabbed the attention of a passerby. Together they looked over my answer, looked at each other and nodded.

"You pass! Congratulations! You are a Worthy!"

"I... uh... what?"

"Passed! Now you may go back to the lounge and wait for the others." Vera responded, shaking my hand.

I waited for a long time when finally Skylar came out with a grim look on her face, "I didn't pass." She mumbled.

"What?!?!?! You were like the most prepared person here! Even I passed!"

"Good for you."

I hugged Skylar and added, "No matter what happens we will meet each other every week in front of our dorm."

We nodded in agreement, stood up, and walked in opposite directions. I saw a door labeled "Worthys" and I walked through it. I was greeted by a bright yellow room with a hot pink floor with seafoam green lettering, reading "Welcome". In front of me were rows of desks and a chalkboard that said "Quick Intro: Worthy Rules", and of course number one was "Leave your old life behind: Don't interact with anyone who is not a Worthy unless given permission". I kept reading and gasped, rule number two stated, "Forget what you were taught: King Fuadain is not a real person. He is just a figure that a group of Worthys, called the Fuadain clan, made up to control the Unworthys" Everything I thought I knew is a lie! What should I do now? Do I tell Skylar? What would happen to me if I did? A person walked in and began, "Hello new Worthys ..."

I saw Hayley walk the other way and internally pleaded, don't leave me. Just promise me you won't leave me. I walked through the door opposite the one she did. It was a maroon room with black floor panels, and there was a white chalkboard with the words, "You have failed King Fuadain" spread across it. This is going to be a long week.

One Week Later

With a week spent honoring King Fuadain and the words "you have failed" etched into my brain, I walked down Hayley and my old campus to our old dorm where we are supposed to meet. I don't think she will show. She is probably full of herself by now. Probably being told how amazing she is for being a Worthy. At that moment I felt a hand grab my arm and heard Hayley's voice whisper from the shadows,

"I'm glad you made it! I don't have much time. King Fuadain doesn't exist, the only people you have and will spend time honoring are the Worthys who made him up!"

I reared back, "What?!?!?! You're lying!"

And then I woke up, it was just a dream, it was just a dream, it was just a dream I kept reassuring myself. However it wasn't just a dream, everything I dreamt about had actually happened, but in reality, I reported Hayley to a guard and she was taken away. I don't know where they took her, but she should've never lied to me like that. King Fuadain is real, and she should've known that was a fact.



Fuadain: "Fake" or "Artificial" in Scottish Gaelic

Sonhe: "Dream" in Portuguese