This is my entry for this week’s Reddit/WritingPrompts Smash ‘Em Up Sunday which gives you a theme and writing constraints. The prompts/constraints reminded me of this piece I wrote a while ago and helped me build more on that world. I already have a lot more for this story in my head, but part of the constraints was a word count of 800. I definitely plan on writing more, hence the abrupt ending.
Just add ‘em to the pile, I thought as they wheeled the corpse past me down the hallway. Strangely, my palms began to sweat. Surely I’ve seen enough dead bodies by now, but today I had more at risk. Today was my 22nd birthday.
At the end of the hallway was the entrance to the exam arena. To my left was an empty chair and to my right, the check-in window, which was manned by a slovenly fellow with a scanner.
“Please present your identification,” he said without looking at me. Stepping up to the window, I placed my arm through the small opening. The man slowly moved the scanner over my upturned wrist.
The scanner gave a loud BING!
“Oh good a Terri. I’m getting tired of calling the morgue today. Thank you for your cooperation. Please be seated.” he said. His words lit a spark of fear in my chest. Sit and wait? I didn’t want to do any more waiting. Isn’t 22 years long enough? 22 years of hoping I’m making the right decisions. 22 years of knowing my fate may already be written. 22 years of wondering if I’ll make it to 23.
There were plenty of those who thought this system wasn’t fair; it was rigged against all of us. But what was the alternative? There was only so much space left to live on Mars. Earth had been overpopulated long ago. So we did what we could as a species, only let the strongest, kindest, and most honest survive. There was simply no room left for anyone less than.
“Enter the chamber.” boomed a voice from behind the arena door. I took a deep breath and straightened my spine. I’ve long known this day was coming, but now that it was here, it felt surreal.
I grabbed the door handle. It was ice cold. The door began to swing open on its own. The chamber was pitch dark, except for a single spotlight in the center of the room. I took a few steps forward, but paused as I heard the door closing behind me. There was a soft hiss as it sealed, which echoed throughout the chamber.
The room was frigid. I could probably see my breath if only there was enough light.
“Please step into the Lumecriton.” said the voice. I made my way toward the light. My head began filling with doubt even though everyone had told me I had nothing to worry about. My entire family, including distant cousins, had made it through The Judgement. “We have solid DNA.” my Mom would always say. But as long as I could remember, I always felt something dark inside. What if I were somehow different?
I stepped into the light, and felt its warmth on my face, much like the sun.
“Sarah Dunn” said the voice. “You are here today to seek Judgement.”
‘Seek?’ As if I had a choice.
“We are well aware of your family’s performance, but it will not be relevant here. You are to stand in Judgement, alone.”
‘Let’s just do this thing already.’
“Do not attempt to resist the light. This will be a pain-free exam as long as you do not resist.”
My feet suddenly left the floor as the light became blinding. I could feel the warmth of the light reaching my bones. Suddenly a flood of memories whirled through my mind – it was as if I were on a merry-go-round watching my life spin by. Then I saw his face. Tyler. I missed him so much. No. Not this memory. I can’t relive saying goodbye again. I began to feel a sharp, searing pain in my head. Everything went black.
I was cold. There was something frozen against my cheek. I opened my eyes but all I could see were blue halos. There were faint voices in the distance, but I couldn’t make out what they were saying.
“Hello?” I croaked. “Have I been Judged?” My mind began to clear and I realized I was on the floor. I was pushing myself up when I felt a hand on my shoulder.
“It’s OK Sarah, time to go.” said the voice as he helped me to my feet.
“Go? Go where? Have I been Judged? There was pain. Did something go wrong?”
“Relax Sarah, nothing went wrong. We’re just not used to Terries failing.”
“Failing? I failed? No – no. I’m a Terri. My Mom, My Dad, my whole family.”
“We know Sarah” said the voice. “Your test results simply didn’t add up.”
My eyes welled with tears. My knees buckled. I didn’t want this to be the end.
“But don’t worry Sarah,” said a different voice from behind me. It was a voice I recognized. “We have different plans for you.”