This is the beginning of that short story I wrote for a recent contest run through Scholastic (I’m still waiting on the results front). I figured I’d share it on here, since I did make that whole category for stuff I write and there’s barely anything there. Since this story is sort of long, though, I’m going to cut it down into multiple parts released once a week until we get through it all.
While I’m on the subject, I apologize for not posting yesterday. I was doing a thing in a place and therefore had neither the time nor the Internet connection to write something suitably witty.
The prompt for this was to write a “dystopian story that depicts a terrifying future”. I don’t know about terrifying, per se, but I think I succeeded at creepy. You’ll see what I mean.
Please remember that I had to fit the entirety of this story onto four pages, and so some things that would have made the writing better had to be cut to make it all fit. I haven’t added anything here, either; what you see is what the contest people got. Therefore, it’s not my best work, but it’s also not my worst, so I’m pretty proud of it, all told.
I hope you like it.
I never thought much about the end of the world until it happened. Even so, I had assumed it might be bigger somehow, more violent. In reality, it was quietly destructive, finding me on the night of my eighteenth birthday, while I was waiting for the Reading of the Rules to start and sulking over my lack of birthday wishes.
Of course, my more loyal friends hadn’t forgotten me. There were eight hundred or so posts on my Network profile. Not horrible, but still a disappointingly low number for me. The rest hadn’t left so much as an e-card to celebrate. Some friends they are, I thought. I wasn’t the most popular person on the Network, but I felt I deserved a bit more. After all, I was eighteen.
That’s why I was watching Angela and Mike and Sara die for the hundredth time. Wilderness had been canceled last year, but it was still the best show in my opinion, especially when Angela was involved. I liked how she never gave up, how strong she was. Especially when she met that bear.
The first time I had watched the bear scene, I had moaned about it on the Network for at least a week afterward. It was all computer graphics, but something about it had seemed a little too real. I still feel a little pang in my chest at the moment Angela realizes what’s about to happen. Even then, she stands tall, defiant in the face of death. I know she’s fictional, but I’ve always wanted to be like her.
As the bear pulled back its paw to deliver the first vicious swipe, a countdown appeared in one corner of the wallscreen. Five minutes until the Reading. I sighed and closed down the viewing window.
Pulling up that week’s guide, I took a quick glance at the television schedule. This was what I was really concerned with; the Reading of the Rules messed up the entire night’s programming. For example, that night I was going to have to stay up a full hour later so that I didn’t miss the new episode of The Henry Vlog, and even then I would be forced to tape Red Dawn. I cursed under my breath but set the recording.
The clock now read 2:14. Just over two minutes until the Network was shut down and the Reading started. That gave me enough time to glance over the Ratings. It seemed the fantasy programs were doing well, especially Predator vs. Prey and Savannah. That was good, at least. Apartment Hoarders was doing poorly; I sighed in relief at that one. Most likely it would get beat out by the newer, more popular shows. I wouldn’t have to worry so much about keeping my room spotless.
It was now one minute to the Reading. I accepted some new friend requests.
Thirty seconds. A notification popped up on the wallscreen: Jayden Wallace has posted a message on your profile. Jayden Wallace was a quiet boy whom I had first met in our third year of school. Despite his shyness, he was one of my closest friends nowadays. With twenty-five seconds left I pulled up my profile.
The message consisted of three words: Don’t freak out.
I stared at the message for several seconds, trying to divine some sort of meaning and coming up blank. Don’t freak out? What was there to be freaked out about? The Reading? But no, that would be the same as it had been every other year. What, then?
As it turned out, I didn’t have the time to puzzle over this any longer, because it was at that moment that my Network connection shut down. The countdown read 0:00. My profile was replaced by a smiling Administrator in a black suit—the same man every year, the same suit, the same set of Rules which governed our lives in the Apartments. He held several sheets of paper in front of him. These were the Rules themselves, created at the very beginning of our society so that generations to come would know how to live productive, healthy, peaceful lives.
“Greetings, citizens of the Apartments,” began the man in deep, profound tones. He began to outline the history of the Apartments: the war that had wiped out most of the planet, the meeting of the Great Minds, the decision that all human suffering was caused by simple interpersonal conflict. It was the same speech every year, and as I settled back in my chair I prepared for the next hour to be as dull as an episode of Admins.
That was when I heard a knock at my courtyard door.