Census – Possible Novella

This is something that hit me one night. I know dystopians are a little over done right now, but I liked the idea, even if only for a novella.

My name is Jack. Rather that is the name I have adopted. I am a member of The Drury Lane Resistance Regime and fugitive of The Federation of United Nations. By no means am I a saint. I have lied my way into and out of deplorable situations, and I have killed in the name of self-preservation. Yet that is not to say that I am a bad man. I carry a certain appreciation for life that I find others seem to forget. Not so long ago, as I sat in a make-shift shelter eating a can of questionable tuna, an epiphany occurred to me.

I am the result of innumerable years of my ancestors surviving through unspeakable hardship and producing living offspring. Thanks to their refusal to succumb to disease, war, famine, and natural disasters, I have the privilege of existing. Even more amazing is the fact that I have born witness to extraordinary crimes committed by a murderous government, and I am alive to tell the story. Incalculable odds led to my breathing today. I have to admit, it feels a little like winning the cosmic jackpot.

Every morning begins with a small ritual. I open my eyes, breathe deep, and smile as I repeat my own special prayer of thanks. It required a great deal of effort for me to arrive at this point, however. For a long time, I stumbled through our upside down world, inhaling toxic beliefs and exhaling resentment. I did not always perceive myself with such clarity.

It is in the darkest of times that we as humans discover ourselves. Our eyes open wide, and our true nature becomes clearer to us than ever before. The day the proverbial world fell apart, such awareness proved unfathomable and terrifying.  Demons revealed themselves in the form of average men and women. They stole from those too vulnerable to protect themselves and killed the innocent without so much as flinching. My story begins fifty years after the near destruction of mankind – the day I received a letter from the Global Census Bureau.

It was my first Census as an adult. I was confident in my interpretation of myself. At twenty-eight, I knew with all certainty that I would enjoy another ten years of existence. I was a little naïve, I must admit.

I thanked the postman and opened the letter with steady hands and plans for the future. No doubts existed – except maybe the expiration date on the half-gallon jug of milk in my refrigerator. I unfolded the crisp paper and skimmed my Census results. In less than ten seconds, everything changed.

“Selected for Extermination,” it read.

I ripped it apart, my heart racing without rhythm and my eyes burning with hot tears.

No. The answer in my mind surprised me. I had always followed the law, never questioning its purpose or the agenda of those who made it. Yet no matter how much I wanted to believe in the greater good of our government, I refused. My feet led me to my bedroom, and my hands packed a meager bag of necessities. In that moment, I realized I was not the law-abiding citizen that sat back and allowed himself to die for another man’s convictions. I was a defector, an aspiring fugitive.

I waited for nightfall. Donning a pair of dark blue jeans and a matching t-shirt, I fled from my house and into the ever-frightening unknown. My first stop was my sister’s house only two miles from my own. March had just turned twenty and, like me, obeyed the law with rigid commitment.

She opened the door, eyes half-open and hair frazzled. “Jack?” A sleepy grumble croaked in her voice. “What are you doing here?”

“I don’t have time to explain,” I answered. I pushed past her and rushed through the quaint living quarters, finding various essentials to pack.

“Jack, what are you doing?” she asked again. March had almost no patience, especially when it came to her older brother. When I did not answer, she slammed her hand down onto a glass tabletop and glared at me. “You will tell me what is going on, or you can leave.” She never raised her voice. My little sister possessed the ability to frighten a man with her simple, even tone.

I stopped what I was doing and stared back at her. My eyes met hers, desperate to convey my self-doubt and trepidation. “The letter came today,” I said. I had no need or desire to say more. I dropped my gaze.

“It was . . .” March’s voice trailed as I nodded before she was able to finish asking the question. “And you are thinking of running?”

I huffed and pinched the bridge of my nose with my eyelids squeezed tight. “I’ve already decided, March. I am running, and I’m taking you with me.” My hands dropped to my sides as I looked at her again.

She crossed her arms and allowed her signature frown of disapproval to rest on her lips. “I’m not going anywhere, Jack. You know the punishment is worse than extermination. You remember what they did to our father.” Her voice faltered with the slightest quiver upon mentioning him.

Our father had attempted to flee after reading his own execution letter. What they did to him was unbearable to imagine. Two weeks after his capture, we received a document detailing every method of torture he suffered before he met his end. He’d lasted four days. Lost in those memories, I shook myself free of them and continued to pack her belongings.

“Stop.”

“No. I’m taking you with me.” I stuffed everything I’d gathered into a small bag and pulled the drawstring tight.

“Jack, I will call the Census Bureau.”

I dropped the bag and stared at her. My jaw clenched and muscles tightened. I believed her. March never lied. “You’d do that to your own brother?”

She rolled her eyes and shook her head, brown curls bouncing. She looked just like our mother when she was frustrated, small, gray eyes narrowed, mouth turned down into a pouty scowl. “You are doing this to yourself. I love you, Jack, but look at what you are doing. You’re turning into one of those . . . one of those people who tries to destroy everything they ever believed in.” Her hand started to move to the phone. “I’m calling them.”

I rushed at her. “No!” Gripping her hand in mine, I squeezed it tight. “You can’t.” I felt them falling, angry tears, desperate tears. “You don’t . . .”

March’s demeanor softened. She had never been emotional, but I saw the glimmer of heartbreak welling in those angry eyes. It proved she cared. She brushed a strand of hair from my forehead, delicate fingers tracing across my skin. “Okay,” she murmured. Her voice lowered to a whisper. “But I’m not going with you.”

As much as I wished I had the power to change her mind, I knew I had none. March gripped her beliefs with such fervor that no one and nothing could pry them away. My hopes quashed and life on a thin, broken line, I accepted her wishes and turned to leave.

“Goodbye, March.”

Those were the last words I spoke to her. She said nothing in return.

Copyright © 2015 by Sophie Giroir

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