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Dystopian Short Story Excerpt
Days turn into weeks...
...weeks into months, months into years, and still I remain in this place where my life is not my own. Everything I once controlled is now spinning wildly out of my reach. I try to grasp onto something, anything, but it’s futile. Who I was is gone. That person has been replaced by someone new, someone who lives in an eternal state of discontent. This new being has overtaken my body, my mind, my soul. She has worked her way into my psyche and altered the fiber that makes up who I am. Struggling is useless. Fighting only makes her stronger. Still, I thrash against her as if she’s an undertow pulling me out to sea, forcing me beneath the water to drown over and over. It’s a cycle that never ends, a painful routine which, against all sense, I find terribly comforting. What could be more compelling than a battle than can’t be won? Tell me, what is more romanticized than those things that can not thrive?
My back is to him, but I can still hear every word he says. I don’t need to see his face to know his teeth are clenched and saliva is spewing through the gaps at a disgustingly rapid pace. This is how he speaks when he’s angry. This is how he speaks when he’s conscious.
“I’ve told you a million times, this behavior is unacceptable,” he’s saying. I can’t help it, I roll my eyes. Part of me wants to feel afraid, but I believe human beings are allotted only a limited amount of each emotion and I used my quota of fear years ago.
“If you would just let me explain…” the little idiot whispers weakly. I shake my head; doesn’t she know having a voice only makes things worse?
The slap comes and I don’t flinch. His behavior, as unacceptable as he deems others’, is predictable. I knew he’d do it before she even opened her mouth. Still, the cry I hear next causes me to clench to my fists together. No matter how hard I try, I can’t seem to reach my quota for compassion.
It’s stupid, what I’m about to do, but I do it anyway. My body spins against my will and I’m moving forward, reaching the place he’s standing long before I’m ready. A hand attached to an arm that looks like mine is flying through the air. It connects with his face. I feel nothing. I feel nothing when he jerks his head around to fix his dark eyes on mine. I feel nothing when his mouth turns up at the corners. And I feel nothing as my body crumples beneath me and the world goes black.
“Get up.” The voice is familiar in a way I wish it wasn’t. Keeping my eyes closed, I roll away from where he stands. “Get. Up.”
“I never understood that about people. Do you believe there’s some kind of power in saying things twice? If I didn’t listen the first time, repeating yourself is only going to illicit the same response.”
His hand closes around my ponytail and he pulls me to the floor. I feel my spine crack against the cement and I stifle a groan. My eyes are open now. I see him standing above me with the same smug look he wore before he knocked me unconscious. As always, I find his eyes first. They were green once. Years ago. Back before this place turned them black. I keep thinking, if only I look hard enough maybe I’ll see a speck of emerald shine through the darkness, but it never does.
“What was that about?” I’m lying on the floor with him still standing above me. We’ve been in this position before. I make a move to stand, but his boot finds my chest. “Answer me first.”
“Get your fucking foot off of me, Sean.”
“Don’t call me that.”
He lifts his foot up just high enough to cause pain when he brings it back down against my sternum. My breath catches. I cough and roll away. Thoughts of standing and fighting enter my mind, but I’ve already taken a beating today and I know my body can’t handle much more. I crouch in the corner of the room and wait for him to calm down.
“Answer my question,” he demands after a minute of silence.
“Don’t call me that,” I chime in a sing song imitation of his voice. A smile flits across my face and he takes a step toward me. This time, I do flinch, but he doesn’t reach for me. Instead, he falls onto the bed and puts his head in his hands. The number of times I’ve seen him do this is too high for mathematical calculation, but I still feel my heart fall into my stomach. I’m one step closer to my quota for compassion.
Before I know what I’m doing, the space between us is closed and I’m pulling him gently against me. His head falls against my chest, my fingers wrap themselves in his hair, and I hold him while his body jerks with silent sobs. Being close to him makes me remember who I used to be. We’re back in that park, smiling and laughing, oblivious to the changes we were about to face. Nothing could touch us there. On that day, we were invincible in our love.
Without warning, he shoves me away from me. I catch myself before I hit the floor. When I turn back to face him, he’s already halfway across the room, his arm outstretched. My mouth opens. His hand finds the doorknob and he’s gone.
Everything glistened when touched by the sun. The grass. The flowers. The lake off in the distance. His eyes shone brightest of all. They were the kind of green that put the Earth to shame. I couldn’t look away.
“I do,” Sean said with a smile.
I could barely choke out the words when it was my turn. Tears poured down my cheeks and I knew, in that moment, that happiness in its purest form is so intense it almost hurts.
My chest ached. My heart throbbed.
In the months that followed I would hold on to that day, to that memory. It wasn’t until years later that I succumbed to the realization of Sean’s death. From the moment he took the shield he was no longer the man with the brightest green eyes I’d ever seen, he was no longer my husband. Nine months, one week, two days, thirteen hours, and four minutes after we said I do, Sean ceased to exist. Nine months, one week, two days, thirteen hours, and four minutes after we said I do, Phobos was born.
As always, I keep my head down as I make my way through the crowded halls. They’ve let me out of my cell for now. Sean never returned. Nor did Phobos, but it was him who gave the order that led to my release. I don’t know why he let me go so soon. Phobos never does anything without a reason. If he wants me out it means he has a job for me. My body quakes as the ideas begin to flood my mind.
“Iole!” I hear my given name and turn my head. Leda is making her way toward me. She’s moving quickly and I know.
“What’s happening now?” I ask, already tensed for action.
“They’ve found another one,” Leda’s eyes are wide with fear. I don’t wait. I shove her aside and sprint back the way I came. For the second time today, I know I’m being stupid. If they’ve located another deserter, there’s nothing I’ll be able to do except watch him die. I know this, but I can’t stop my feet.
The interrogation room is small, so small that only three people can fit inside without having to stand on top of one another. Years ago, when our residents started trying to escape, Phobos decided we should all have the chance to see what happens in that room. He had his men set up cameras that feed into a viewing room. My feet don’t slow until I’ve reached the entry to the viewing room. I stop and look around. This room resembles the old movie theatres we once enjoyed. There’s a screen covering the entire back wall and seats lined up in rows. People are already filling in, eager for the entertainment. My stomach churns.
“Move,” I demand as one of the guards holds his hand out for my identification. He opens his mouth to argue, then snaps it shut when his eyes fall on my face.
“Apologies, Iole,” he lowers his head and waves me forward. I throw myself into the crowd, my eyes searching for the door I know is to the left of the screen.
Shoving my way through the crowd proves harder than usual. My head is pounding from Phobos’ hit and my chest still aches from his kick. Still, I move quicker, trying to get to the door before the interrogation begins. I’m halfway there when I hear a hum spread through the room and I know I’m too late. It’s already starting.
I stagger against a wall, my eyes glued to the screen in front of me. A bright blue light appears at the center of the screen and I watch as it grow larger, finally encompassing the entire thing. The humming gets louder and, finally, the blue light disappears and is replaced by a white, barren room with three people standing inside.
A man is tied to chair, his forehead sweating and tears streaming down his face. Instinctively, I take the smallest of steps forward. My foot stops immediately and I force myself to stay put. There’s nothing I can do now. It’s too late. I tell myself I don’t have to watch, that I can turn around and leave right now. I don’t need to see what’s about to happen. Still, I can’t tear my eyes away from the man illuminated on the screen. He shifts his head slightly, he’s almost looking directly at the camera now. My heart stops beating. My breath catches in my chest. I know this man.
The last time I saw him was before Phobos brought me to the compound. We’d just been married. He was at the wedding. Of course he was at the wedding.
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