Archive for May, 2014


Jace was probably the only human to ever entered the Determination room without dread and fear in his heart. He was probably the only one who stood at the front of the room and felt at home. He had been in the room before. His father was a member of the fate committee, and had brought him here on more than one occasion to show him how things worked. After all, Jace was supposed to take over his father’s position when he grew up, but that couldn’t happen now. Jace would not see his father’s face in the crowd today. Family members weren’t allowed to vote on the fate of their children for fear it would bias the vote.

Jace was also one of the few people who knew where each of the halls led and what fate lay at the end of them. Again, something his father was in charge of. Each individual who failed to meet quota was given a class and sent down a hall. That is all the average individual in the Determination room knew. The classes were based on how much of a ‘perceived risk’ the individual was to the society, mainly focusing on if they could be scared into falling back in line.

Class C was low risk, usually kids that had ended up on the street one way or another. Nobodies who could easily be re-integrated without any identity reassignment. They were trained, given jobs and given a year to find a partner before they were re-evaluated. When possible these individuals were brought in and re-integrated long before their twenty-second birthday. A good plan, except these individuals and their children were locked into the unwanted jobs for a minimum of three generations after their re-integration. They were limited to finding a partner within their own class, another type C. Between the lack of upward mobility and the fact that the salaries were barely enough for one person to live off, let alone two and a kid, the C class often failed to meet quota, or their children ended up back on the street, starting at square one all over again.

Class B were mid risk, people who came from the middle or upper classes and had just failed to find ‘the one.’ They had families and the families needed to live under the illusion that their child had been punished. As such they were “re-assigned” to another city, usually on a different continent, on the other side of a former country boarder. Some place where if their family travelled they would simply see a girl who resembled their daughter, not their daughter. So the child didn’t reach out their memories were wiped. They woke up in a ‘rehab’ center and told that they were recovering from some sort of drug abuse. They were put into a ‘halfway home’ punishment for another middle class family whose son or daughter had failed to meet quota. They took over the roll which that son or daughter left behind, and given a year to find a partner.

Class A were the threats, people like Jace. People whose will was too strong to wipe their memories, people who didn’t have a longing to conform inside of them. These people would rise up and create anarchy given the chance. They were disconnected from the link and removed from society, left in the sparse wilderness to fend for themselves. Between the extreme acid rain, lack of shelter and non-existent survival skills it was assumed they perished, but this fate was worth the risk to Jace. Having a chance at a life was better than living a life he didn’t want in a society he didn’t approve of.

There was some fight with Jace over his decision. His father was a powerful man after all, they didn’t want to lose the heir to that role, nor did they want to see someone else fill it. But in the end he was voted a Class C and sent down the hall he wanted to walk down, the only one he wanted to walk down. At the end of the hall he came to a red door. Normally his mother would be on the other side of it to disconnect the link, as was her role. However, that wouldn’t be the case today, her assistant or a doctor brought in from another city would do his.

The operation to remove the link was simple, local anesthetic and a small slit in the back of the neck to disconnect the transponder, the rest of the wiring was left in place as it was worked into the brain, full removal would risk brain damage at the best, death at the worst.

After the room with a red door there was another hallway which led out to the back of the building and a bus of sorts. Each set of seats was made into an individual compartment so you couldn’t see how many others were being shipped off like you. The bus would stop at random intervals along the route. Create the illusion that you were to be abandoned alone. No one saw anyone else get on the bus so they didn’t know how many people were on the start.

There was only one drop off point though. Few were ever classes this extremely. The whole trip was another part of the illusion. Another way for them to convince you that you were making the choice, after all they couldn’t afford to lose a man who was capable of changing. They were trying to re-build the world and to do that they needed a population. A few times the person had begged forgiveness and the bus had turned around, they became a class B risk, fear had gotten the better of them. This wouldn’t be the way Jace’s trip ended though, he was determined to make it to the final stop.

On the last time Jace was in to work with his father a discovery was made. There appeared to be a clan living out near the drop off point. A group of the unwanted had survived. Knowing that survival was possible, or might be at least, was enough to convince Jace to turn against the system. It was a broken system and it couldn’t be fixed from the inside. The best chance at reform was the expose the system for what it was. To do that he needed to be outside of it, away from their ability to manipulate his thoughts, disconnected from the link.

Jace rubbed the spot in his neck where the incision had gone it. It at taken all his effort to keep his thoughts from drifting to his plans after he was classes and sent off. If they had known, or even suspected they might have actually killed

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Every footfall echoed down the marble hallway. One’s presence was announced the moment you stepped through the door, no matter oh light you thought your footfall was here it was a thunderclap in the silence. It was the last place on earth you wanted your presence to be announced and the only place where you couldn’t avoid it. If the statement this morning hadn’t make things real Sophia’s presence here sealed her fate.

She had been escorted from her apartment after collecting Silver and a bag full of clothing, a few books and brought here to the capital building. The walls were lined with photos, painting and status of the city at different times. Some of the oldest had an antenna like tower pointing out of the skyline easily three times the height of any of the surrounding buildings, another captured the moment that tower had fallen, the newer pieces showed city skylines in various states of re-build, though the closer one got to present day photos the less there were skylines in the mix and the more they focused on ribbon cuttings and meet and greets. The current leaders rebuilding some small area of the community or another, the skyline was too depressing these days. One needed to focus on the little victories.

The status and paintings were your typical portraits and busts of notable leaders which were always present in a building like this. There were little plaques under each with the person’s name and what they were known for, not that this would be required for most, the same information was available via a link inquiry should the viewer require it. Soph doubted that anyone ever actually read the plaques.

Soph’s escort had stopped outside a room known as Determination Hall. She was told to sit on a bench in the hall with a few others like her and wait for her name to be called. There were about 15 others, most around her age, waiting in hall with her. Some looked panicked, some sad, some indifferent. Some of the faces were vaguely familiar to her. Soph had seen them at various puraves or parties no doubt. Most though, she had never seen before. Most of the people sitting in the hall with her were covered in filth with acid burns on their arms. No doubt they had either been living on the streets of hiding from the scrubbers for weeks before they were found and accused of not meeting quota. There were maybe three others that, like her, appeared to have come in without a fight, either voluntarily or resigned to their fate. Their clothes were clean and they each had a bag of belongings with him. Two of them, like her, had a pet by their side.

Soph had been surprised at first that they had let her take Silver with her, at every turn she had expected them to take the dog from her side, but it hadn’t happened yet. As a result Silver was seated on the floor beside the bench with her head resting on Soph’s lap. Every time Soph quivered from nerves or fear Silver pushed her head a little more strongly into her lap and stomach; holding Soph in her seat, keeping her from running, screaming, crying or doing anything else which would only make the situation worse.

One by one people in the hall were called into the Determination room. Some of them were dragged in protesting and attempting to run. Others walked in by themselves, all but running to the door in the way you would when the nurse calls your name at the walk in clinic, knowing that if you weren’t to the door on time another name would be called and your appointment would be lost. For every person pulled into the room another appeared to be brought to the hallway to wait. None of the people brought into the room ever came out, at least not out the same door they entered. No one coming back out to tell you it would be okay or to tell you that it wouldn’t. This left your mind running wild, trying to imagine where one went when they left the room, and what they were walking into.

The others in the hall seemed to be talking to each other. There was a soft buzz in the room and occasionally a word, uttered a little too loudly, would echo down the hallway. Soph couldn’t bring herself to listen to them, her own brain was running a mile a minute trying to figure out what would happen on the other side of the door.

“Are you okay?” Soph’s head swung in the directing of the voice. There was a young man with brown hair and stunning blue eyes looking down at her. He seemed almost happy to see her. He looked familiar to Soph but she couldn’t place his face or remember a name so she just nodded her head and returned her eyes to their examination of Silver’s fur. “Are you sure?”

“Yes!” Sophy chirped back, a little too abruptly and loudly. The word echoed down the hall causing several others to look towards them.

“Okay” he replied grabbing a seat beside her. There was silence between them for a long while. Three others were called in to the room, three or four others arrived in the hall. The number of people who had been in the hall before her was starting to dwindle.

“You know it won’t be as bad as you think” The man said.

This time Silver seemed to response for her, letting out a grunt and moving to side on Soph’s other side with her back to the young man.

“I know you don’t believe me now, you don’t have any reason to. But really it won’t be as bad so you think.” His voice was insistent and desperate, like he needed her to believe him for some reason. Soph couldn’t imagine why. Maybe this was his was of convincing himself of whatever he was trying to tell Soph, his way of quieting his own worries.

“I believe you,” Soph replied, more an attempt to shut him up then an honest statement. She looked up at him to see if he had brought it, this was a mistake. His eyes were piercing blue, he seemed to see right through to her soul. After looking at her for a moment he shook his head resigning to the fact that his words had done nothing. He sat in silence until they called her name.

Sophia Shelly” The name came over the link, not audible. It would be one of the last times she had any communication over the link if the rumors were true.

“Stick to your guns and I’ll see you on the other side.” The young man said as she and Silver got up and walked towards the door.

“You can’t know that” Sophia said back. He only smiled, an eerie sureness in his eyes. He meant what he said and somehow he knew it to be the truth.

Sophia continued to look back towards the young man until the door had closing behind her. Only then did she turn to look at what she had walked into.

It was a lecture hall of sorts. There were benches surrounding a low lying staged area below. From the stage there were three hallways branching off in three different directions. She wondered which way she would be leaving by. She wondered what fate lay for her at the end of each path. She wondered if there was a path in life she could have taken that would have lead her somewhere that wasn’t this room.

Soph was lead down the stairs towards the stage and her three possible fates. As they passed the rows of benches she saw that many of the seats were full, various members of the Neopuritian party seated there, glancing towards Soph has her footsteps caught their attention then quickly returning their eyes to the screens in front of them or to the stage with awaited her arrival.

It seemed as though every key member of the party was here. How they could run the country if every day was a busy in the Determination Room as today was, was beyond Soph. Maybe they really were as useless to the people as some thought, it certainly seemed that way if this was all they spent their time doing. A few steps further down Soph caught a glace of one of the screens and got the answer to her question.

Scrolling across the screen of this party member where a list of current issues and voting options. They were clicking in their votes wordlessly, and with every voting screen that disappeared another issue seemed to pop up in its place. The options weren’t being presented, debated or argued, at least not aloud, they were simply being voted on and forgotten. There seemed to be terrifyingly little thought or compassion going into any of it.

A few more steps and Soph hit the stage in which the whole room looked down on. She was instructed to stand in the center of it. No chair, no pulpit, no anything on the stage just her and Silver by her side. She stood there wordlessly for a moment, watching, waiting for any sign of what she was to do next.

Sophia Shelly, you stand accused of failure to make quota and voicing an objecting to the process all together. Is this accurate?” The statement came over the link leaving the room in an eerie silence. Soph looked around to see who it had come from, but none of the party were making eye contact with her. They were all staring at their screens, voting on items with barely a thought no doubt.

Yes, this is accurate.” Soph was thankful that she could keep her voice from trembling over the link. There was something oddly disturbing about not knowing who in the room you were actually talking to.

Do you have anything to say in your defense?” Asked the same voice which had first come over the link, this time one set of eyes seemed to pop up from a screen to meet Soph’s for a millisecond at the most. Maybe she was imagining it, maybe this was the speaker. She would never know for sure.

Soph took her time to think over her response. She wasn’t sure anything she said would make any difference, the accusations were accurate and she did not intend to re-nag and marry. However, there was something daunting about literally standing at the cross roads, knowing her statement would determine her path but not knowing where each path would lead.

For half a second she though that re-nagging might be the best option. After all it wasn’t her birthday yet, maybe one of these paths lead back out to her old life. Maybe she could settle and marry for the sake of the community if not her own. Just when she was about to beg for this second chance his piecing blue eyes drifting into her head and stopped her.

“Stick to your guns and I’ll see you on the other side.” he had said. He has seemed so sure that it would be okay in the end, whoever he was. And he wasn’t one of the runaways hoping for the best. He had been clean cut and neatly dressed, clearly of the upper class like her, he had chosen to be there as well. Maybe he actually did know something she didn’t.

Miss. Shelly, we are waiting for an answer.” The voice stated in a matter of fact tone. Not impatient per say, but certainly not willing to wait much longer.

I will not defend or apologize for stating what I believe in or sticking to my guns.” The answer came out before she had fully processed what she was saying, yet somehow Soph knew it was the right one. “I will accept whatever consequences this action brings.

There was a brief pause on the other end, everyone’s eyes seemed to flick to the bottom right corner of their screens for a second. Where they voting on her path? “You will be disconnected from the link. As you do not seem to want to further our society you shall be removed from it.

Removed from it? Soph thought. What could that mean?

Follow the hall to your left and you will find the exam room where you will be disconnected from the link. From there you will be taken to the drop off point. Your dog and the belongings you brought with you today will be taken with you. All other earthly possessions you have will be taken care of by the scrubbers. Do you have any final messages for us to deliver to your family?

The last question seemed odd. If they were going to remove my presence why would they offer to deliver a message? “No, I do not.

Very well, leave us.” And with that it was over. Soph was escorted to the hall and sent along her new path in life. A path without a known end in sight.


“Enough!” Sophia shouted at the top of her lungs, not caring what her parents thought anymore, “I’m not marrying anyone. I’m not going to another party. I’m not worrying about you or the other parents and I don’t care what they do to me. I’m done!”

A deafening silence overtook the room. No one moved, no one seemed to breathe. Soph was just as shocked at her announcement as her parents. She didn’t want to go back on what she said; she thought it was the right call for her. Yet saying it made it real, and it being real made Soph scared. She waited for her father or mother to beg her to change her mind, or to just ignore her and insist on another option for marriage. They didn’t and the silence continued.

Soph stood up; if they weren’t going to speak to her then she wasn’t going to prolong the awkwardness. She was half way through the front door before there was any sound but that of her foot fall. “Wait,” Echoed through Soph’s head in her mother’s voice. She turned and saw one of the staff coming out from the back hall, a cardboard box in hand. “If this is what you want we won’t have it disrupt our lives anymore.”

“Fine” Soph replied, refusing to let the abandonment get to her. She collected the box and once again turned to leave. This time she wasn’t interrupted. She let the front door slam behind her and made it into the car before allowing the emotion to overwhelm her.

Within moments of giving the driver instructions on where to take her and requesting the divider be raised Soph had burst into tears. It was one thing to talk about defying the rules and accepting the punishments that came with failing to make quota. It was another to make the choice official and not be able to undo the decision. Her parents would have done the `right` thing and reported her decision to break quota. When she got home she would be given a few minutes to collect anything she wished to bring with her before they scrubbed her apartment. Removing any trace of her from it and any other locations where photos, images or property of hers would be found. No doubt her parents had given her the box to avoid the scrubbers having to come to their home.

A new round of sobs escaped as she thought of how her childhood bedroom would finally be re-worked into something more suited to a childless household. Quota mandated at least one childcame of every union. There was no maximum, though it was suggested that the preference was for each household to rear at least four children if they came from a privileged living. The world needed to be repopulated. We needed workers to rebuild the society and the world. Families who only had one child, such as hers, weren’t frowned upon per se. But they were expected to rear a perfect child, those who didn’t were made to regret it. Her childhood room would be used for a “purpose which furthered society’s goals.” Most likely her parents would be forced to house a recovering addict or a lesser criminal and act as assistance in their rehabilitation into community. These rehabilitation efforts often failed, forcing the family to relive their failure over and over again.

Her parent’s other choice would be to have another child, though Soph wasn’t sure this would be an option for them, not after the way she had left things. They might not be seen as suitable parents any longer. Either way, the room wouldn’t be the only thing in the house that never changed anymore.

She looked out the window as the car continued to drive. They were approaching the city’s edge, or where the edge would have been years ago when the city was thriving. These days the worn down buildings were little more than ruins. Trees grew up through the place where a roof once had covered the dwellings, ivy and other vines wrapped around the support beams appearing to tear the structures apart, bushes grew over the rubble. Mother Nature was re-claiming the land, or attempting to. For every healthy tree or bush springing up in the once urban paradise three more where starting to die and fall to ruins themselves. For some the acid rain would have finally gotten to them, others would have had their roots hit a former landfill and died from pulling the poison up out of the earth. From her view in the car it looked as though the planet was fighting a losing battle.

Much like the battle I’m waging now. The thought creeped into her head, shocked her, and refused to leave. Maybe she had made the wrong decision. What could one person refusing to live by an outdated system do? What was the point in putting up this fight? Why hadn’t she just given in to her parent’s wishes? Her thoughts continued to spiral out of control.

Now, it would be too late to change things. Now she would have to find out what came of those few like her. She closed her eyes, and laid back on the seat of the car. It would be at least another hour before they returned to her apartment and she had to face the scrubbers. She would spend that time trying to escape reality. Thankfully the emotion of the morning and lack of sleep from the night before allowed her to drift off in a few moments of blissfully dreamless sleep.


The rain had left the garden wet and muddy. There was a satisfying sucking sound every time Jace lifted is foot out of the muck, his rubber boot threatening to slip off is foot and stay lodged in the ground with every step. Even the earth under the apple trees where he was currently walking was this wonderful muddy texture.

When he had been a boy Jace had love to play in the garden after a rain storm like this. He often returned to the house looking like a swamp monster, sending his mother into a fit as he trailed the dirt in through the kitchen and living room into the bathroom to try to clean off before she noticed him. A couple of times his mother had stopped him at the door grabbed the garden hose and sprayed him down before he was allowed to enter the home. A look that was an intense mix of joy, frustration and love had always plastered his mother’s face at these times. She would lecture him about how he shouldn’t get into such trouble but burst out laughing the next instant when he playfully sprayed the water directly into Jace’s face and he returned fire by splashing the water pooling at his feet up at her. If only things were still that simple.

These days Jace still found comfort in being in the garden after the rain. But at his age he could no longer return to the home covered head to toe in mud. He had to satisfy his craving with a walk through the mud, picking apples for breakfast as he went. With every sucking sound of his foot falls the urge to run, jump and roll in the mud seared. His inner child daring him to give in, but the adult in him told the child no, and kept walking.

When he returned to the house he slipped off his boots at the back door, he knew better than to track dirt into his mother’s home these days, and entered into the kitchen. He placed the basket of apples on the counter and washed his hands in the kitchen sink. Once Jace had cleaned his hands he then started rinsing off and chopping up the apples.

Behind him he heard the click of the coffee maker, timed to start brewing a pot at this time every morning. Not long after the click of the coffee pot the rest of the house started to wake up.

The blinds on the windows started to roll up, letting in the early morning light. The shuffle of feet could be heard from upstairs as his mother and father got out of bed and headed to the shower. The sound of cars was heard in the driveway as the staff who didn’t live on site started to arrive to complete their duties for the day.

Good morning Jace” Molly’s voice floated into Jace’s head as he heard the back door through which he had entered earlier. Jace turned to face the cook who was more of a mother to him then his own mother had ever been.

Good morning Molly.” Jace walked over to embrace the now aging women in front of him. Molly was plump, with red cheeks and long curly hair. Crow’s feet and laugh lines were settling into her once smooth face. Her hair, which had once been a rich brown when Jace was a boy, was greying. Jace was always a little shocked by Molly’s appearance. In his mind’s eye she would always be the 30 something mother figure that had taught him how to tell which fruits were ready to pick and showed him how to bake a cake from scratch. Her appearance was another reminder that he was no longer that young boy.

What are we making this morning?” Molly asked gesturing at the apples Jace was slicing and reaching for a couple of coffee cups.

Mom’s favourite. Last night didn’t go as she would have liked. So I’m trying to ease the blow a little. Hopefully I’ll be able to make it through breakfast alive this way” Jace was half joking and half painfully serious in this statement. His mother had discovered that he left the party for a time. Not only that but the date he had been intended for was responsible for some outburst which his mother was confident would not have happened had Jace been talking to her when he should have been. Due to this little incident his parents were being frowned upon by their peers. This moment shouldn’t have happened. It was just as much their fault for inviting the girl as it was her fault for forgetting her manours. Or at least that’s the way society saw it.

Molly didn’t ask for details. She tended to disagree with the way in which these parties were run but would never say so blatantly. Instead of continuing the conversation she asked “What can I do to help?” and got to work on the sauce which Jace was requesting.

His mother’s favourite breakfast food, especially at this time of year, consisted of waffles, made from scratch with a hot apple cinnamon sauce drizzled over them. Molly’s sauce had always been better than the one Jace could make so he was happy to have her help, anything to appease his mother while he still could.

The two of them set into a comfortable and familiar rhythm. After all they had been sharing the kitchen since he was a young boy. This was one of the only ways which Jace had to relax, this and the garden where he escaped. Jace finished cutting up the apples and moved to pull out and heat up the waffle iron. Molly poured their coffees and chatted to him about everything from the weather to movie she had heard was worth viewing. Anything but the party last night, anything to keep her calm.

Once the iron was heating up Jace grabbed a bowl, eggs, milk, flour, salt, sugar and baking soda and started on the waffle mix. The sound of the shower stopped coming from upstairs. It would be about 30 minutes before his mom was dressed and came down. He should be right on time with breakfast. He mixed the batter letting his mind wander, half listening to Molly’s rambling while he worked.

Jace let his mind wander to thoughts about the girl who had caused the outburst the night before. His mother may be embarrassed by the whole situation, but she had found a better match for him then she knew. Part of Jace wished he had talked to her the night before. But if that had happened, his plan may have failed. If he was seen to be happy with her, even if they had not made a commitment, the dead line for the quota may have been extended, especially with their families’ standing in society. It was better that he had assumed, based on her appearance alone, that she was just another society girl looking to take her place on step higher up the ladder. He found himself hoping that her parents didn’t find a “suitable” partner for her, but stopped himself before his thoughts wandered any future. Even thinking of these things was dangerous. If he let his feelings slip to his parents he knew they would have him set up with her sooner than he could blink.

He removed the first of the waffles from the iron and tried to move his thoughts to something anything else, but there was something about Sophia’s image he couldn’t let go of. Molly’s voice came back into his thoughts “I think I hear your mother coming down. Do you want to prepare her coffee or should I?

I’ll grab it.” Jace replied. Pulling another set of waffles off the iron and starting another batch before he moved for the cup.

Good morning Mother,” Jace thought as he heard her foot steps in the hall. “I hope you slept well.” He turned to hand her the coffee and direct her towards the kitchen table, which was off to the side in a sunroom of sorts. The double French doors which allowed it to be closed off from the main kitchen area currently stood open, making it feel like one large room. “Breakfast will be ready in a moment if our want to have a seat.”

A faint smile crossed her lips for a millisecond, “Not as well as I would have liked” she replied as she took the coffee from Jace’s hand and headed over to the table. “When did you wake up this morning?

Around 6:30.” Jace lied. In reality he had jerked awake from a terrifying dream around five AM. A dream in which the world seemed to be collapsing in on itself, a dream that didn’t feel like it was his. It felt as though he was watching someone else’s fear. It was an odd sensation, one he had gone out to the garden to shake. The feeling was still haunting the back of his mind though, the same way Sophia’s image was still floating back there. He knew is mother would frown on him getting any less than 4 hours of sleep though. So he kept that fact to himself. “Would you like anything other than coffee to drink? Orange juice? Water?

The coffee is fine for now dear. What’s for breakfast?” His mother asked more out of a need to make polite conversation than a need for an answer to the question. The smell of the apple sauce and site of the waffle iron was more than enough of an answer.

Your favourite,” Jace replied as he peeled the last round of waffles off the iron. “I figured we could all use a pick me up after last night. I know you were hoping for a different result

Molly started pouring the sauce over the waffles. The smell of caramelized sugar, butter and apples was all but intoxicating.

Thank you dear.” Mother replied as Jace and Molly approached the table with the plates.

Will Mr. Archer be joining us this morning?” Molly asked before returning to the kitchen to clean up and put a third plate together if necessary.

The sounds of heavy footsteps coming down the hall towards the kitchen was answer enough for Molly, she hurried back to the counter top, put together another plate and poured another coffee. She set it on the table as Jace’s father took his seat. Without another word Molly returned to the kitchen closing the French doors behind her. Anyone with eyes could see that Jace’s father was less than pleased this morning, Molly was not one to be caught in the cross fire.

Good morning Father” Jace said. “I hope you slept well.

There was no reply as his father picked up his coffee cup and took a sip before starting on the waffles without a word. He did lock eyes with Jace for one terrifying moment. If looks could kill this one would have.

His father had piercing blue eyes, the kind of blue where every time you looked at them you felt as though you were about to fall into the ocean during an electric storm. The kind of eyes that you would swear could see through you right into your soul. Jace had been told many times that he had is father’s eyes, but he doubted that he could ever make anyone feel the way his father did when his gaze feel on them. Nor would he want to. In that moment Jace knew that regardless of the outcome with his mother he would be dead to his father. He had failed in his father’s eyes.

Isn’t the food lovely dear? Jace picked the apples himself this morning I bet. Didn’t you Jace?” Jace nodding, his father said nothing. At least not to Jace. Jace’s mother’s face told a different story. The link allowed for a whole new version of the silent treatment. If you didn’t want someone to hear you they never would. Based on the look on his mother’s face it was plan that Jace’s father was not happy with him. His father was most likely telling his mother about how they should disown him now so the day itself would be easier on them, on her.

After a silent exchange between the two of them Jace’s father stood up and stormed out. Leaving his Mother with eyes starting to water. Only then did Jace dare to say anything.

Mother?” he thought reaching over to touch her hand. She snatched it away.

Why do you insist on doing this to us?

If I could be happy and make you happy at the same time I could mother. But I can’t. This isn’t a world I want to live in.” Jace replied.

Tears were now following freely and silently down his mother’s face. She refused to make eye contact with him, or take the tissue he offered her. “If this is your choice, make it now. Go, tell them you are not going to make quota, don’t prolong this more than you have to. No one is forcing you to stay. If you aren’t even going to try to live in our world we don’t want you in it any longer.

Mother!” Jace replied, wounded. “I’m not trying to hurt you. I’m trying to do what’s best for the world.”

It’s not what’s best for my world” she replied. His mother stood up abruptly. “I want you gone by the end of the day. I love you, but I can’t have the heart ache of seeing you every day any longer.” She moved to leave.

“Mother wait!” Jace replied allowed, catching her arm. It pained him to see her like this. This wasn’t what he wanted. This reaction was never his intention.

“Go Jace” She replied. Allowing her voice and her sighs to become audible. “I know this is what you feel you need to do. It doesn’t make it any easier for me to let you go.” She pulled him in for one last embrace and kissed him softly on the cheek. “Remember, I will always love you. But I can’t watch them take you away, destroy your things. Leave now. Leave while it’s your choice. Take yourself from me so I don’t have to watch them take you.”

“I will mother,” Jace replied tears coming to his eyes now. “I’m sorry there wasn’t another way.”

I’m sorry too.” She returned to silence, regained her composure, shook his embrace off her and left.

Molly re-entered the room, took one look at Jace and took his mother’s place in his arms. She let Jace cry in her arms, comforting him. When his sobs started to slow “Come” Molly said, “Let me help you pack your things. You are making the right choice for you. That’s all you can do. I will take care of them for you. No harm will come to your mother. You have my word” When she spoke aloud her voice carried an Italian accent which wasn’t present in her thoughts. Though tones changed in the link depending on who was talking to you. Accents and language barriers were translated out of the conversation. Everyone was ‘unique’ but no one was different.

“You promise me that? You promise you’ll watch over them?” Jace replied.

Molly just nodded in reply, and together they headed to his bedroom to pack his things away and prepare him for the trip it would make later that day to make his choice official.


Author’s note:

So the CBC is holding a writing challenge  they are calling “The Shakespearing Selfie Challenge”  I liked the concept but  once I got to it my piece ended up way over the word limit for the challenge. So instead of submitting to the contest I figured I would post it here and see what all of you think. I hope you enjoy it!

Off, Off Damn Phone!

I’ve come to the Doctor because my head’s not quite right,
Only to be greeted by modern life’s great it’s woe…
“Cell phones off please. “ The sign says all aglow.
Just then my phone buzzes though to prove my thought,
If I turn off my phone how many messages will be got?
A friend could lay dying and send me a pic,
Their life in my hands, maybe I will stay sick.
I check on message, just my mom’s latest rumble,
Her phone’s still T9 and her message is all a jumble.
“Luck, liver onions, at tea Doorer my beer”
What could that even mean? T9 was quite Queer.
My finger on the off switch, I take a deep breath.
It’s, okay. I think… But it’s a type of death.
For an hour or two, no one will know where I am!
No text from me and surely the world would be in a Jam!
My head starts to spin, as my ringtone comes on,
A call from my dad, *ignore* that would be a yawn.
I’m not picking up to hear about the time he when fishing,
There are many other stories I’d rather be dishing.
Maybe if I turn my phone on silent and check it in stealth?
They won’t be the wiser while looking after my health.
I flick the switch and I pass through the door.
Then the vibrating comes, all been here before.
“Off, off Damn phone!” I think to myself,
While the other patients stare and think “I bet she’s happy with herself”
“Sorry” I mutter, as the phone keeps on ringing.
I pull out the phone with the vibrator still singing.
Dad calling again, great now what does he want?
I’ll just turn off my phone, maybe he’s just in a slump.
It’s never important when he tries to call,
It can go to voicemail, I’ll check it later in the hall.
With everyone watching I hold down the off button.
As a call then starts to come in from my dearest husband.
But that one’s important! I quick back out the door,
With an apologetic look to all those on this floor.
“What is it my dear?” my voice starts to sing,
“Oh just wanted to be sure you’re at tonight’s thing?”
What thing is he talking about? I think to myself.
“Oh right, that dinner with Duncan right?”
“No dear he’s dead! Your witch of a sister is coming instead!”
“Oh… yeah right… I’ll be there by five.”
“You better be coming dear, dead or alive.”

With that the call ends and I shut my phone off.
That’s odd… Why’d he say that… something must be wrong.
I hold the off button down for, real this time.
I enter the room, all is going to be fine!
“I’m here to see the doctor” I say with a grin.
“What time?”
“At quarter to nine.”
“We’ll let you right in”
Just then a sound comes out of my purse,
A song most embarrassing I turn with a curse.
“Off off damn phone” I say to myself.
“I swore it was off!” I tell everyone else.
They’re all looking at me like I have three heads,
When I pull the phone out the screen is dead.
That’s odd… I thought it rung, I guess I’m making things up.
“Are you coming Mrs. Macbeth?”
“Yes”
“While all right then let’s go.”
I head in to the doctors my thoughts all like “wow”
Maybe I do need this visit more than one would think.
Duncan’s death was so trying. I was at the brink.
Then yet again I feel my phone buzzing!
“Turn off you damn thing” I shout all but cussing.

“Excuse me?” The nurse turns around with a stare?
“Not you dear, my phone, Don’t want it buzzing in there”

“It you like I could take it off your hands for a while”

“No I’ll be okay,” I say crushing her smile.
I pull out my phone, again it seems to be off.
“On second thought dear. Could you help me? Now don’t scoff,
I swore it was off but it rung a second ago.
Can you make sure it is? Tech. can be my greatest woe”

She punched a few buttons and turned the phone round,
In back no battery was to be found.

“How could it be on Mrs? Plus I didn’t hear it ring.”

“Oh, I suppose you are right” What is with this thing?
She left me all seated in the next room we found.
And scurried off to find the doctor as I turned around.
Again there was a buzzing coming from my purse.
But that phone couldn’t be ringing. This is the worst.
Still I stoop to check, hold my breath as I may.
If anyone sees this they’ll put me away.
The screen was still off. But something odd happened,
As I held it in my hand it seemed for vibrate again.
“Off, off damn phone!” I screamed and flung it at the wall,
I can’t believe this, this is far from a ball.
I just be going crazy, or worse completely mad.
Did those calls even come in from my Husband and dad?
Again I vibrating sound come from over by the wall.
“Off, off damn phone” I yelled out.
“She’s crazy” Came from down the hall.

I must leave this place. I must run out the door.

I must get myself of off this psychiatric floor!

 


As she returned to the main building the room had started to empty out. Couples were making their way playfully to the pods which lined the far wall. Her return went more or less unnoticed. A few guests looked her way when they heard the door creak open, but they quickly turned their eyes away when they realized who she was. By the looks of things her outburst had branded her as she had feared.

Soph made her way as quietly and quickly as she could to the front doors. She stopped to collect her jacket and left. The night air seemed to have grown cold in the few moments she had spent indoors. The slight breeze was turning into a bracing wind with clouds building overhead. You could sense the storm coming. The wind was strong enough that for a second or two Soph thought she might be blown away from here and all of her troubles.

The staff were running about bringing anything that could come indoors inside and activating protective shields over the rest. With the preparations it looked as though there was acid rain in the forecast overnight. One of the many reasons the cities were in ruin was the lack of protection the people had from this factory-induced phenomenon. Here they had cleansing shields which would filter the chemicals out of the water, allowing the rain to come in and rejuvenate the plant life. In the cities these shields did not exist. If you were out in the rain for long you could get chemical burns on your skin. Soph had been pulled in out of the rain on one of her first days in the city by a complete stranger. Growing up on an estate much like the Archer’s she hadn’t known the damaging effects; only the cleansing feelings of cool water falling on a hot summer day.

Soph made it to the car before her mother’s voice broke into her head disrupting the memory abruptly.

“How could you? We raised you better than that!”

How rapidly word travelled always astonished Soph. A part of her had been foolishly hoping that she would be able to break the news to her mother herself. “Mom it wasn’t that bad it was…”

“You spoke, aloud in that company? Are you crazy? You’ll be lucky if we can get you joined with one of your fellow ghetto dwellers at this point! That’s what you wanted all along isn’t it? To shame your family and marry one of those rats!”

“Mom, no calm down” Soph’s head was pounding. She could feel the rage in her mother’s tone. Feel the hatred and disgust which her mother felt. “It was an accident. I was surprised. It wasn’t my fault”

“Oh, no I suppose it wasn’t your fault. It’s our fault for allowing you to live away from home among the people you do. Our fault for not reining in that spirit of yours. You do realize that your father and I will be lucky if anyone in that circle ever speaks to us again. We will be lucky if the shame you brought on yourself does not come down on the family as well.”

“Mom, honestly I think you’re over reacting. It was not that big of a deal.” Soph knew it was a lie as she thought it. She knew that her mother was probably concerned with reason. But agreeing with her wasn’t going to change things and wasn’t going to make anything any better. “It will be fine. I promise. I’ll be okay.”

There was silence for a moment and then her mother replied “Come over darling. Your father and I want to see you. Your birthday is coming and we want to see you before then.”

Soph was slightly relieved that they didn’t want to just disown her now. She agreed and re-directed the driver to her parent’s home. The drive from the Acher’s would take several hours so Soph settled in to sleep, leaving the link on so that her mother could check in on her location when she inevitably worried. She stared out the window as her eyes slipped closed, letting her eyes follow the edge of the horizon as it rose and fell in the distance, the rhythmic motion of the car rocking her to sleep.

***

The ground fell away from under Soph as she ran away from the mountain. Trees and rocks were falling all around her. She wove and dodged ducking under one obstacle then jumping over the next. The sweat beading off her was causing her hair to mat to the back of her neck. The world around her was crumbling, coming to an end. Somehow Soph knew that it was her fault this had happened. She had caused the mountain to cave in. But she did not know how.

The sweat on the balls of her bare feet was beginning to cause her to slip on the rocks as she ran. Soph fell, tearing open her leg on a broken branch. She barely got back to her feet in time. The ground gave way under her as she jumped ahead to where there was still solid ground. Soon that started to give way too.

She was running up out of the hole now, out of the chasm she had somehow created. Somewhere up ahead the world must not have been falling in on itself. Somewhere up ahead she must be able to stop running to check the wound on her now pounding leg. Her pace grew slower.

She was beginning to fall backward into the hole below her. She clawed at the ground which was falling away from her feet and fingers, desperately trying to grab a hold of anything firmly. No matter what Soph reached for it feel way, or pulled her down further into the abyss. She began to call out, to scream. She felt something grab her shoulder pulling her further down. No shaking her…

***

Soph jolted awake in a panic. The arm on her shoulder was that of her father silently shaking her awake. Time Soph thought as she worked to regain her composure, 5 O’clock, came the silent answer from the link. “Hello father” Soph thought forcing a smile to cross her face as she twisted herself upright and stepped out of the car. Normally she would have greeted him aloud but after the events of the night before she was not about to rock the boat with her usual insistence that the link was unnecessary in a situation such as this.

Sophia” was her father’s limited reply and he turned away heading towards the house, not bothering to reach out a hand to help her out of the car or invite her to walk with him. Soph stood and followed, trying to shake the feeling still lingering from the dream that the ground was falling from under her. After a few steps her confidence in the ground’s sturdiness returned and she looked up at the house rather than watching her feet closely with each step.

Despite the years it had been since she had come home, the house looked exactly as she remembered it. The home was similar to the Acher’s estate in style, though considerably smaller, more cottage than mansion. The sandstone walls were worn and faded with ivy growing up one side of the home. It was well-kept but still had a feel of age to it, as though someone had frozen the home right before it got too old to live in and right after it had started to lose its charm. The house had character, but the charm was fading. One wouldn’t call it a cozy home, sturdy and enduring where better words. It had stood there through generations of her family and would stand there for many more.

Inside was a sharp contract to the outside. From the moment you opened the door you were transported from the world of the enduring to the world of the temporary. The interior was decorated with the trends of the day, every item of furniture new, the paint colours were all but fluorescent pinks and greens the opposite of the grey tones that had covered the walls the last time Soph had been home. The floor was hardwood covered by area rugs and large sitting pillows. Curtains draped down every corner. It looked like a cross between the opium dens and 1960’s hippies houses which Soph has seen in a history of interior design book she had read at some point or another. The look was said to be “all the rage” these days and advertised constantly in the city. Her mother had always been one to follow these crazy trends, which though advertised never seemed to catch on for more than a month or two. For her mother it was nothing more than a way of proving she had the means to change her world when she wanted to and a conversation starter at the many parties she insisted on throwing to help them “move up” in the world.

Soph’s father pointed towards a chaise, one of the few pieces of actual furniture in the room “Have a seat Sophia” came forcefully into her head. “Your mother will be in shortly. I will arrange to have some tea prepared” Soph had hoped her parents would let her sleep a little longer before their interrogation started. Apparently she would not be so lucky. Soph obeyed her father’s request and he turned to ‘arrange’ for the tea, by which he meant have the help bring it.

Soph fidgeted while she waited. She was still in her dress which was becoming increasingly more uncomfortable the more awake she became. The corset was twisted and starting to pinch, the fabric becoming itchy and stiff. She hoped that she would be offered the chance to go to her room and grab whatever clothes remained here, or borrow an item of her mother’s. When fifteen minutes ticked by and neither her father nor her mother had returned, let alone the tea, Soph decided to venture off and see if she could find something more suitable for this time of morning; or, at very least, something she could wear without a corset built into it.

Soph slowly made her way out of the main room. Peeking over her shoulder as she went, half expecting her father to re-enter the room and yell at her for leaving her seat. She moved into the darkened hallway at the far end of the room. She did not turn on the lights; Soph did not want to wake her mother if her mother was still asleep. Every time the floor boards creaked her breath caught in her throat and she stopped moving for a moment. She felt as though she was about 6 years old, sneaking out of her bedroom to watch early morning cartoons, trying not to wake anyone in the process so she wouldn’t get in trouble. Only this time she was trying to make her way into her room, not out.

When she finally got to her door her mother’s voice drifted into her head “Sophia where are you darling?” So close and yet so far.

“I’m about to go into my old room mother. I’m looking for something a little more suitable for this hour of the day to wear.”

“Okay Darling, hurry back.” Soph let out a sigh of relief. Happy her mother was being reasonable this morning, “Your tea is growing cold”

As if that were possible, her parent’s tea cups were ‘ever warm’ keeping their contents all but scorching hot. The worst case scenario would have the tea be too cool to burn her tongue, yet still more than warm enough to provide the comfort of a hot beverage. Even if she took an hour the tea would still be warm.

Soph entered her bedroom closed the door and all but tore off the dress. She rummaged around her closet until she found some old sweat pants, a hoodie with her high school crest on it and a worn out t-shirt. The type of clothing which you never bring to your new home as you never plan on wearing it again, but for some reason your parents never get around to throwing out or donating.

Soph’s room, like the clothing she left behind, was the only room in the house that she assumed hadn’t changed since she had moved out. The walls were still a powder blue, the colour she had chosen and insisted on painting herself in her early teens. The walls were still covered in corkboards with photos of high school friends and posters of various underground bands and artists pinned to them. Her teddy bear was still sitting propped on her pillow. The bed was made with the blankets and sheets she had owned since childhood. This room was the only thing that she didn’t think would ever change. Unless… the thought began but Soph stopped it before it spiraled out of control. She refused to think what this room would become if she weren’t to marry before it was too late. She refused to think about how she would become nothing but a memory, if that. She refused to think that this room, the one place where she would feel at home and safe not matter how long it had been since the last time she had been there, would be torn apart if she failed her family. Every reminder of her would be purged from her parents’ lived, whither they wanted it or not. The purge was a part of the failure to make quota. The Neopuritans would send in a team to erase every physical reminder of who Sophia was. They would not erase her parents’ memory of her, nor anyone else’s, also a part of the punishment. One could not enforce quota if the punishment for failing to reach it was not remembered. But her parents would forget her nonetheless. The slow fading of memory when first they forgot the sound of her voice, then the look of her face, then her name would be their punishment for failing to raise a ‘good citizen.’

Soph shook away the thought. Maybe that was what her dream was about. She was causing the world of those around her to end due to her failure to conform. She wasn’t one to put much meaning into dreams, but maybe that was the reason for it. Soph pulled on the clothes she had pulled together, took one last look around the room and headed back down the hall to the room where her parents were waiting for her.

Soph refused to love someone who thought the demands of quota were reasonable. She refused to marry someone she didn’t love. She refused to allow sentiment and nostalgia to convince her that not marrying was the wrong thing to do. She would fail to meet quota. She would accept the punishment. She would live the best life she could where ever that punishment took her. Soph only hoped she could get her parents to understand her decision.