Just a little short story I had to write for my English class last year
|The artificial leaves of the large oak trees, which lined the streets of the neighborhood, fluttered down, down, down. Scattered all along the only road out. The blades of purple grass were coated in the early morning dew drops. Everything was silent, peaceful--until a siren of chimes rang through the speaker in the center of town. The screens in every home flicked on or away from whatever it was that they were doing, and were switched over to the morning announcements made daily by the Capital. The national emblem of "freedom" appeared on every screen under the jurisdiction and supervision of the government. The zealous voice of Monet Moon echoed through every pair of speakers in Utopia, projecting words of false information as well as the daily reminder to "always take your medication before starting your day. And remember, you're never alone." And, as if preordained, every resident in every home simultaneously swallowed their prescribed red pill with a sip of water or coffee or juice. No one ever seemed to question why they had to take this pill or what it even did, they just took it because they were ordered to. Because the president had made an announcement seven hundred forty-five years ago that every citizen was to be prescribed this pill, the X14, and that no one was authorized to leave their home without having taken it. It, supposedly, was scientifically proven that the pill was vital to their survival. The people were given no statistics, no facts, for that was classified information. However, the mere word of the President was enough to satisfy their suspicions.
Ashton looked around the kitchen. Both of his parents had swallowed their daily dosage, as well as his younger brother and sister. They seemed to do so without a moment of thought, as though it was just second nature, but he hesitated. Three seconds after the rest of the population's pills were already traveling halfway down their esophagi was just enough time for one thought: what's the point of this?
Then he joined the rest of them in swallowing the crimson pellet. He shut his eyes for a moment, trying to figure out what exactly it was that the drug would do. Would it stimulate some sort of optic nerve and allow him to see clearer? Perhaps it would boost his metabolism and prevent him from ever gaining weight? Would it put him to sleep and make him believe that he was awake when, in reality, he wasn't? Oh how nice it would be to live in a dream, something new and unpredictable every time. Ashton's life was a series of absolute certainty, a pattern of events that hardly ever seems to alter.
When his eyes reopened, his straying thoughts evaporated. Something seemed different to him, but it was so microscopic that he couldn't seem to put his finger on it. The monitor on the fridge was wiped clean of their government-issues message, and was returned to its homescreen. His little sister was refilling her glass of water, his father went back to reading the paper, his brother returned to shoveling blueberry pancakes in his mouth, and his mother was now off in the basement doing laundry. He no longer seemed to dwell on the questions he had only moments ago, in fact, he couldn't even remember them; a side effect of the drug.
The hazel-eyed boy stood from his place at the table and handed his plate off to the mechanical hand suspended from the ceiling. He walked out of the kitchen, trying to remember what exactly he had been thinking of only moments before. It was as if there was a gap in the timeline of his memories. He shrugged it off, along with the nagging sense of familiarity before carrying on with his usual routine. He got dressed, brushed his teeth, did some reading for school. In the midst of it all, he paused for a moment. Something was different, something felt off. In all of his seventeen years of life, everything was always the same. Life was orderly, systematic, controlled by some higher power so that he never had to worry about a thing. But now, something shifted inside of him, and he could tell that things were about to change. It was as if he had some new sixth sense.
There was a roar, a screech, a boom. The walls of the house reverberated, and the siren of chimes echoed eerily through the empty streets as if the sudden explosion of noise had triggered it. After such a concerningly loud experience, one would expect everyone's hearts to be pounding in their ears like the drums of fear; but they weren't. In fact, everyone was quite calm, sedated by their morning pill.
For the second time that day, the national emblem appeared on the people's screens, a rare midday broadcast following. Ashton looked over at the wireless, paper thin screen stuck to his wall as the usual reporter spoke in her saccharine tone.
"Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen. I have a special message brought to you by the Capital. For the next few days, you may be experiencing some loud noises coming from outside the gates of your community. Do not be alarmed, it is merely a test, an experiment. As you know, our scientists work 'round the clock towards advancing our technology to the very best, as well as enhancing our life experience. Weaponry is not something we often have to worry about, but it may some day in the very distant future. It is important to always be prepared. Therefore, to ensure the eternal security of our nation, our bombs and other forms of defense will be in testing. That is all. For your safety, please remain indoors until further notice. Remember that we are always watching over you."
The screen clicked off. Another roar, and the walls shuttered. The lights flickered for a moment. Silence. The whole neighborhood was silent. Then, as quickly as the scintilla of anxiety came, it was gone again. Ashton sat on the edge of his bed, staring at the now blank wall before him, feeling a dull sense of discomfort settling in the pit of his stomach. But Monet Moon had told him to remain calm, and her word was that of the president, and didn't President Clarke know best?
Of course he did, which is precisely why the boy brushed off any feelings of uncertainty. He returned to his usual activities. The occasional thunderous crack of an explosive in testing followed by the rattle of the home's interior structure slowly became less and less distracting, eventually fading into the static background noise of life. They did not even phase him or anyone else for the rest of the day, until the medication wore off.
Ashton jolted upright in his bed the next morning to the sound of an especially loud crackle of gunfire. It sounded much closer than all the others. A new sentiment took hold of him, sped up the beating of his heart. For the first time in his life, he experienced true, unshakable fear. The feeling was new, and, though terrifying, exciting because it diverged from the dreadful repetition that he lived every single day. He began to question things, things he had never seemed to be able to question before. At least, not that he remembered. Were they being lied to? Was this more than just testing of munitions? Was there even an army base near this sector? Every inquiry seemed to hit him all at once, like a rush of water, the current pulling him out to a sea of rippling thoughts.
On thought in particular seemed to hit harder than all the rest, and that was the thought of not taking his daily X14. Never before had the idea ever even waited at the crosswalk of his mind, but why? He had always been so curious, always seemed to hesitate before ingesting the unknown drug.
He rolled out of bed and followed the smell of sizzling bacon down to the kitchen. The clock read 8:27, three minutes before the scheduled announcements would take place.
"That was quite the explosion this morning," his mother commented with a light-hearted chuckle, "Startled me half to death." His father nodded in agreement, flipping open the newspaper that contained no more than comic strips, advertisements, and sports columns. Ashton scanned his eyes around the room, wondering whether anyone else felt as particularly unusual as he did that morning. Their expressions were definitely altered; still empty, but with a hint of uneasiness woven within the fibers of their pale irids. It was as if they were putting on some sort of front, like they weren't allowed to be anything other than the typical dollhouse family. If they were thinking anything that he was, they sure did a good job of hiding it.
"We're always watching over you."
The eerie phrase seemed to resonate new queries within him. Were they being observed? He glanced around the room once more. Paranoia, corrupting the senses, caused him to perspire apprehensively as he considered the thought of someone watching him through a screen somewhere; of them knowing exactly what he was thinking without even having to be inside his head.
When it came time for the citizens of Utopia to concurrently take their X14 for the day, Ashton popped the pill into his mouth and hid it beneath his tongue, just in case there really was someone watching. Besides, the last thing he wanted was to raise suspicions among his family members. A feeling of trepidation sunk in, adrenaline galloping through his ventricles. Once no one was looking, he inconspicuously extracted the pill from his mouth and slipped it into his pocket.
This is it, he thought, today I finally get the truth.
There hadn't been any sudden explosions since the one that seemed to wake everyone from their slumber. This sparked an urge within Ashton to go have a look outside. It seemed like it had been decades since he had taken a breath of fresh air, so he excused himself from the breakfast table.
He paused for a minute in the foyer, his hand resting on the door knob. He didn't know what to expect. Three minutes of natural, unintoxicated blood circulation through his body, and he was already feeling significantly different--better, to say the least. He felt like he had been liberated from some sort of cell. It was the most alive he had ever felt. He drew in a deep breath before pulling open the front door and slipping out without making a sound.
He was instantly greeted by his nostrils stinging of chemicals. His eyes met the sky, which was clouded by something dark and grey and thick; smoke. Behind the row of houses across the street, a large concrete wall stood nearly ten feet high, and the top was lined with coils of razor-sharp barbed wire. The trees that always appeared to be so beautiful and lush were actually barren, a few fake, waxy leaves stuck to some of the dead branches. The green lawns he remembered so vividly now presented themselves in a greyish-lilac hue. Black soot covered the sidewalks, the tree trunks, his house. In the distance, he could see the glow of fire and destruction, and he wondered: how on earth can anything be so awful?
He was absolutely horrified by the unsightly truth. For a moment, he almost wished to return to his ignorant bliss, but he knew it was impossible now. He could never forget this, something had to be done, but what?
A distance hum soon became an increasingly louder roar. He stepped off the front porch and onto the sidewalk, ash dusting over his bare feet. He squinted as he looked up into the vast emptiness of the sky, his eyes burning from the pollution, and he was just barely able to make out the shadow of something. A plane? Something was falling, gradually becoming bigger and bigger, whistling as it descended through the atmosphere.
The boy froze. All of the oxygen was sucked out of his lungs, and he felt numb. His feet were glued to the sidewalk, a sense of nausea slowly welling up withing him. Dizziness. He turned to run back inside and warn his family, but it was too late.
The loudest explosion yet did more than just rattle the walls this time, it blew them to smithereens. A flash of white light, and everything within a four mile radius was extirpated completely. Utopia was in ashes, for the bombs were not only dropped on Sector 13, but all across the land. The government promised to protect the people from outside forces, but what they didn't realize was that they were the true danger.