Sunday, September 15, 2013
1st 5 Pages September Workshop - Noser Rev 1
Name: Ann M. Noser
Genre: Young Adult Dystopian
Chapter 1 - HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME
My tenth birthday was the worst day of my life.
Dad had to work late.
Mom and I waited for him to come home.
Five years later, we’re still waiting.
Today I’m fifteen. Most kids would’ve requested a vacation pass, but not me. I’d rather forget the whole thing and help Old Gus prepare the chilled bodies in the hospital mortuary. I drag myself out of bed and pull on teal blue scrubs.
I fumble for socks and shoes, and a ray of early sunlight glints off my dad’s picture hanging on the wall. Once again, his eyes capture mine, as if he needs to tell me something important. On the floor beneath the photo sits a memory trunk full of how things used to be. But I won’t open it today. I just can’t.
Dishes clink in the kitchen. Mom calls out, “Hurry up, Silvia. I’ve got a surprise for you.”
She sounds happy, but I can’t tell if it’s real or fake. Since Dad’s death, both of us have done a lot of pretending. So far this year we’ve been able to avoid Psychotherapy Services and Mandated Medication, but sometimes I think I was sent down to Mortuary Services to push me over the edge. Fortunately, I find autopsies intriguing, not depressing. And since I never got to see Dad’s body after the accident, caring for other people’s dead loved ones soothes the empty ache inside.
So does Old Gus. He always knows what to say to me and what not to say.
Too bad Mom doesn’t have a clue.
Mom glances up from her green tea as I enter the modular kitchen. “I planned a big surprise for your birthday.”
I tense. “What is it?”
Mom slides over a bowl of organic oatmeal topped with raspberries, normally my favorite. “I got us Park and Art passes today.”
“I’m not hungry.” I shake my head. “And Gus is expecting me.”
“No, he’s not. He knows all about it. I told him weeks ago.”
“Really? Gus must be good at keeping secrets. He never even wished me ‘happy birthday’ yesterday.”
Which proves he knows me better than Mom does.
She frowns. “You should eat something, even if you’re not hungry. And if it makes you feel better, we can pretend it isn’t your birthday. It’s just some other day instead. A good day, not a bad one.”
I want to protest some more, but there’s a determined gleam in Mom’s eyes—one that hasn’t been there for a long time. And I don’t want to be the one to snuff it out.
I halfheartedly take a few bites of breakfast, swallow my eight prescribed supplements, then return to my bedroom to change into jeans and a long-sleeved green T-shirt. All my clothes are soft and plain, without decoration, made by hands like my father’s. Only Dad proved himself to be Gifted, so he didn’t make Basic Worker Level clothes for long. Instead, he got promoted to Government Level clothing production.
That’s where he burned to death.
“Hurry up!” Mom calls from the front door.
We clamber down six flights of stairs in the brightly-lit stairwell. Once we reach the main floor, we push out the airlock into the swarms of people flooding the streets. Dashing across the busy bike path and an empty car lane, we finally reach the closest walk way. Traffic is orderly today. No bikers stray from their lanes into ours. Men and women wearing blue scrubs of various shades hurry towards the hospitals and medical facilities. Those in green coveralls rush towards the monorail station to speed off to one of the numerous Plant and Protein Production Facilities.
I glance back at a beautiful dark-skinned woman, and try not to feel envious of her green uniform. Normally, I don’t mind my job. In fact, I feel more at home in the mortuary than anywhere else. But part of me still longs to spend all day surrounded by plants. Nothing can be done about it now. The Occupation Exam is over, and I’ve been placed where I’m most effective.
The street is crowded this time of day. People whoosh past us on bikes, as those on foot press constantly forward. Only the car lane remains empty, as usual.
We march past rows of tall buildings, offices on the first two floors and apartments up above. We make good time until we hit the Citizen Family Planning and Redistribution Building. Traffic stalls. A crowd of walkers fidget in place ahead of us.
“What’s going on?” Mom cranes her neck and rises up on her toes. “Can you see?”
After a long pause, the people ahead of us begin to shuffle past the building. A few cast furtive glances over their shoulders. Everyone’s in a hurry to get somewhere. Now I see who is causing the fuss. A red-haired girl who looks to be about my age shoves an orderly away. The crowd behind us pushes us forward. Tears stream down the girl’s pale face. She backs away from the building and turns as if to run. Then she cries out in pain, and clutches her swollen belly, breathing hard.
In her moment of weakness, the orderlies surround and restrain her.
“I won’t do it! I won’t do it!” the pregnant girl screams as they drag her away.