Your Online Cup of Tea
What if in society all that mattered was Beauty and Youth? What if it determined everything in your life, from the people you could associate with, to the food you can eat. What if you were 39, in a society where no one is allowed to live past 40?
Welcome to Community.
“Teen pregnancy is at an all-time low. What a shame.” Clion wasn’t paying attention. The food in front of him swam in the milk as he idly played with the spoon. Unaware that two strands of his braids dangle in the bowl. He hadn’t been hungry for the past few days. The only reason he sat here at the kitchen table was to see her off.
“You know what this means,” continued his father, “our city will probably have to take in more Outlander children. The poor things. Being brought into the world by low-lifes who can’t take care of them. It’s a good thing we-
“Not now honey,” said the woman across the table. She pointed towards the stair way, as footsteps could be heard approaching. A few moments later, out walked a girl wearing a simple fine white knee-high robe. With golden embroideries of flowers at the hem. Looking as though she were ready for a special occasion, with her face oiled and long brown hair tied up in a bun.
“Luna, how are you this morning? You must be really excited,” asked the woman. Nothing on Luna’s face suggested any form of happiness. More a resolved indifference. Finding her place beside Clion she forced a smile.
“Well, I suppose it’ll be something new.”
“Not just anything new,” said Clion’s dad, “you’ve been upgraded to an 8. I mean to jump 3 whole levels of favourableness. Why me and Rona have been fighting to get to 7 status for years. But you… we’re proud.” Again she forced her smile not to be rude. Even though her new ranking in society meant a life of ease and luxury ahead, none of it made her happy. Only Clion knew how she really felt. Glancing over at him, he gently squeezed her hand under the table.
“Words to live by,” she said under her breath.
“Some say we’re never alone,” he quietly replied.
This was one of many things they shared that wouldn’t make sense to anyone else. Ever since she was re-assigned with his family when they were both 12, he had been her only true friend. But it wasn’t always like this.
When Community had first placed Luna with them, she was up till then an Outlander child. Having grown up outside the guarded walls of the county. Beyond it were “wastelands, pestilence and radioactivity” as everyone would say. Remains of the Great War that devastated the civilisation over 200 years ago in the 21st century. Humanity was on the brink of extinction until… they arrived.
“I want to go back to my parents! Send me home!” This was all Luna would say for most of the first week of re-assignment.
“This is your home now. Out there, that’s no life for anyone. Let alone a child. You’ve been rescued. You’re safe now,” Clion’s mother would say.
“I was safe with my parents!”
“They gave you up.”
“I was taken from them!”
“You were taken for them. Community doesn’t interfere with Outlanders’ affairs. They came to us.” Luna would cry herself to sleep. The wake up hours later, and the cycle would repeat. Eventually she did settle down. But there was never really a full settling in to their world for her. Were it not for that fact that Clion was the same age as her, she may have remained a complete loner. Nothing about the way things were made sense to her.
One of the strangest ideas she had to get used to was seeing people walking around with brooches on their clothes. With numbers going from 1 to 10. She quickly understood that the higher your number, the better people treated you. She also noticed that where they lived, barely anyone with a number higher than 6 could be found. What did that say about her? And the number 3 that she walked around with? The other thing that soon became apparent was how young everyone looked. During the first few months it dawned on Luna that she had not seen a single old person. Not in person, nor in any magazines or on TV. After being in enrolled in school, it didn’t take long to see why.
We the citizens do live by and swear to uphold the principles of a perfect society.
First, Youth and Beauty, the two deities and their attributes so called are to be desired above all else. This is the chief duty one has to oneself and the community.
Second, that one is under no circumstances to let their youth and beauty deteriorate past the age of forty. On their last day, each must undergo the ceremony of Beautiful Death. Whereby their current form is immortalized forever to enjoy eternal felicity. Or be reborn to a new life until such a time as they have earned sufficient favour for beatitude. Those who do not wish to undergo this death, must be forever an exile from the protected cities to the wastelands of Earth. And at death receive neither rebirth nor felicity.
Third, it is the duty of each individual to secure as much favour as is within their ability before dying. As such one may at any time decided to undergo Beautiful Death. But should one pass away before going through the final ceremony, they do show themselves not to be amongst the chosen and are damned.
These are the principles to which we, citizens of The Community, a perfect society, do live.
This was ‘The Great Incantation’, which she and the rest of the students were mandated to say, every day before class. The first few times this was said, Luna was too uncomfortable to say anything. When she eventually brought up the fact that beyond the city she used to live with her grandparents who were both in their 60s, she was told “I’m so sorry that you had to be exposed to such ugliness”, by the teacher.
Arguing that there was nothing wrong with being old, was usually met with derision. With warnings that such thinking would lead her to be damned just like her grandparents. A word that was said like some vulgar slur. With most of the children tending to avoid and look down on “Granny-Girl”, as she came to be known.
But Clion was impressed. Though he was certain about Community’s values, seeing Luna stand up to them made him less so. It stirred something inside him. And despite being rather quiet and kept to himself for the most part, he would on occasion jump in to defend her when things go heated.
“Hey, number 3,” said the one of the boys bullying Luna to Clion, “how dare you insult my girlfriend. She’s a 5 and doesn’t have to put up with you, loser.” With that said he lunged forward and swung right into Clion’s face. The dark bruise left over was so strong that it showed as a sharp contrast even against his brown skin. The following day his parents kept him home from school.
“No son of mine is walking out that door without looking good!” It surprised Luna that the first thing they asked Clion when he got home that day wasn’t “are you alright?” but “how many people saw you like this?”
“Not many,” answered Clion, “I wore a hood over my head to cover the eye walking home.”
“I’m going to make an appointment with the make-up artist,” said his mother fidgeting frantically on her phone, “honey call the doctor. He’s staying home tomorrow.” Clion went to his room and locked himself in. Luna tried to get him to open up but he kept ignoring her knocks.
“I’m sorry you got hurt, but I never asked you to defend me.” A few seconds later the door opened slightly.
“You think I’m upset because I got punched for you?” Luna burst out laughing. Clion was wearing a white mask that muffled his voice.
“That looks ridiculous,” she said trying to inhale.
“Better than how my face is now. I’m ruined. I’ll be a loser forever,” he said walking away. She followed after him as he fell back into his bed, trying to hide under the covers.
“Nope!” Luna pulled them away before he could get comfortable. “Get rid of that weird thing on your face.”
“That thing isn’t weird my face is. I’ve been marred.”
“Marred? What are you? A work of art?” Luna could tell after a few moments that he trying to hold back from crying.
“What is with you people? I’m sorry. But you’re all so crazy about how you look. I used to get bruises all the time playing out in the wild with my friends.”
“Yes, in the wild, but this is civilisation. Here, looks are everything.” Indeed, here at Community, looks were just about everything. Luna soon realised that even this was more complicated than it first seemed. Everything from how fit you were, how young you looked, how symmetrical you appeared, fed into your ranking. Or your Favour. It functioned almost like a currency that went up and down based on how well you contributed and obeyed the ways of the community. The mandatory implant in everyone’s head meant even ones reactions and attitudes were being gauged and computed. The more you gave your mind to the cause the better.
It also meant that offend the wrong person, and it didn’t matter if you looked like an 8, your Favour could be given a low ranking. No one wanted to be a “fallen-star.” Ones ranking being low meant access to work and privileges were limited. On top of this, all the envy of the high class by commoners could be directed towards you. For many fallen, survival meant turning to the world’s oldest profession in the seedy underbelly of the perfect society.
As the years went on, Luna learned that it was best to put on a good face when in public. Only with Clion did she ever express her true feelings. By the time they finished school at 17, his parents were already talking about them having children of their own, as “time was of the essence.” Having themselves had Clion at their age. “It is the duty of those below a favour of 7 to populate the next generation of the Community” his father would say. To marry at such an age wasn’t seen as too young in a society where he was considered old for being 34. Luna and Clion knew that these kind of conversations would happen eventually. She would mention how her parents didn’t even meet until they were about the same age as Clion’s. But that if she had to pick anyone to spend the rest of her life with, it wouldn’t be so bad if it were him. For a while after that it seemed that Luna was beginning to settle in the new world. But things did not stay that way for long.
Coming in to the society with a favour of three, every year during inspection, Luna’s status would increase. At the age of sixteen she had already secured a 5. In Community, ones teenage years could make or break their ranking for life. And while significant leaps were not unheard of, they were not exactly common. However Luna not only reached the first elite stage of 7, but was awarded an eight at graduation. Something many people didn’t achieve till their early 20s. And as per the rules of Community, no one at 8 or higher could have anything more than a formal acquaintance with those below. Clion was only ranked at 5. With Luna being re-assigned to the upper regions of the society, their friendship and any hope of romance, was put to an abrupt end…
Almost four years had passed since Luna left. Not even a single letter or text seemed to reach her from Clion. Now 21, he lived with his girlfriend at what used to be his parents’ house. Due to his uncanny abilities on the computer, he had earned enough favour to afford him the ranking of 6. Which was as far he would get based on skill alone. His girlfriend Silver had suggested he undergo facial restructuring to boost his chances but Clion refused every time. She on the other hand was doing everything to increase her chances. Having remained a virgin even until 21, Silver had taken “the path of innocence” to help boost her ranking. In Community, the valuing of an idealised version of youth meant an almost reactionary looking down on anything to do with adulthood. Next to dying, sex and reproduction were the things most commonly associated with aging. Those who choose never to have engaged in it while maintaining a young appearance, were almost seen as frozen in time. With the title of “the Ageless”. Not everyone, even those in the elite, could be awarded the title of Ageless. These people were near worshipped in society. Almost next to the gods themselves. But Clion was starting to see a contradiction.
Part of his job meant making sure there were no issues in broadcasting the tv programmes of Community. One such programme he couldn’t stomach was one that showed the life of 7s and higher. On the one hand, perpetual youth and celibacy was valued as embodied in the Ageless, along with the carefree almost childlike life of the elites. On the other the sex filled and very adult lives, obsessed with good looks as displayed on television showed growing up and everything that came with it was inevitable. They got over it however by undergoing the “cleansing ceremony” at the shrine of the god of Youth, every time sex was engaged in. So as not to drop in Favour for growing up. Indeed many of them chose to be sterilised. Stretchmarks as they say, were for the poor in body.
“Clion, you’ll never guess!”, said Silver coming through the door. Her long deep blue dress contrasted sharply against the gold brooch to which she was now proudly drawing attention.
“No way… you mean-
“I’m a 7 now!” she yelled at the top of her voice. “This has been what I’ve worked for all my life. Isn’t it great? Look see, the gold 7? It matches my hair beautifully.” Clion stared quietly. He knew she was obsessed with growing rank but never thought it would actually happen.
“I’m happy for you,” he said unconvincingly.
“You mean for us,” corrected Silver, “Now all you have to do, is get some surgery and you’ll upgrade too. Then we can both apply to become Ageless and-“
“We’ve talked about this Silver. This whole Ageless act was only until you got upgraded then we could be a normal couple like everyone else. And I’m certainly not going to be one. I want a family of my own someday-“
“I do too!”
“You can’t have children of your own if you don’t have sex Silver.”
“We will host high ranking children that are assigned to us.”
“We wouldn’t be having sex though.”
“Not in this life Clion, but in the next. If we both get upgraded to 7s and then get Beautiful Death, we won’t be re-incarnated but will have beautiful bodies in the next dimension. And we can do anything we want.” Clion’s head dropped into his hand. The last few months as she went through the application process had felt like the repeat of the same episode. He was reminded too of the time when not long after Luna was gone, his parents had left him. At the time, Clion was finally feeling as though he were finally getting over Luna. Then one day after work, he came home to find a letter on the table:
I wish there was a better way to do this. I wish we were there in person, but this was the only way. Otherwise we wouldn’t go through with it. As you are aware, your mother and I were both recently given the rank of 7. Having worked so hard throughout our life, attend social event, after social, saving for surgeries, medication and doing whatever we could, Community finally granted us what we long desired. Thanks be the gods. But we couldn’t risk that anything take this away from us. So we decided to go through the Ceremony. By the time you read this, it will all be over. And we’ll be enjoying our bodies in the next life. But Clion, next to this, you were and always will be what we love the most. Please do whatever you can to avoid reincarnation or worse… damnation, so that you can be with us forever. We love you son.
-Fredi and Sorca.
Clion could almost sense that same sickly feeling which had overcome his stomach that day. Never would he go down the path his parents did. It was around that same time, when Silver had moved next door to him. And was the only comfort that he knew for a long while. But now, even that seemed to be changing. Clion hated this.
He hated the system for getting in the way of his relationship with Silver. He hated the system for taking Luna away from him. He hated it for killing his parents. But most of all, he hated the gods Youth and Beauty. Terrible and cruel masters, parading as answers. He wished humanity had perished in the Great War, rather than be “saved” by their Arrival. How he loathed the story as it was given on television each day.
When humanity was on the verge of destroying itself, the two beings appeared offering a solution. Claiming to be from a dimension where everyone was satisfied, young and beautiful forever, they would show us the way there only if we did as they said. Most people followed after them. Why not? They provided the medicine and means to repair any of the damage by radioactivity of or biological warfare. They established safe cities all over the world with their technology. All one had to do was take in their implants which were said to “help re-align one’s consciousness”, and prepare it for the next life. Anyone who had these when looking at the two gods would experience in one of them a “perfectly symmetrical and idealised” version of themselves. Whilst in the other they would see “the most aesthetically pleasing person” one could like or see. It also had the effect of causing everyone to feel as though the gods were speaking directly and only to them, when they made public appearances.
Feeling overwhelmed by all of this, Clion decided to get up and head for bed despite Silver’s protest. Just as he was about to leave the room, his mobile watch vibrated with a text message. Tapping the screen, holographic words started to float out:
Words to live by… some say we’re never alone.
They’re coming. Your life is in danger! Run Now! Go to the Alimu.
Clion didn’t know what was happening. Was this some kind of joke? But that phrase. Only Luna knew about it. It was what they said when one of them was either sad or in trouble. Alimu was what they called the old hologram library they used to frequent. This had to be her. But why was she telling him to run? Who was coming?
“Computer, surveillance,” said Clion, speaking into his watch. Pointing it at the television, the screen changed showing various camera angles around his house.
“What’s going on?” asked Silver.
“Did you feel anyone was following you here on the way home today?” said Clion.
“No? Why would there be?”. Clion stayed quiet, focused on the screen. There on camera three he could see at least four police cars hovering down the road towards their direction. Once they reached his gate he knew it had to be for him.
“We’ve got to go.” Silver was startled, the police sirens were now audible from outside.
“What did you do Clion?”
“Nothing, but we have to get out of here now!”
“What? That’s crazy we can’t-
“Do you trust me?”
“Stay or go, I don’t have time to argue.” Clion made his way to the back of the house. His bathroom window was large enough to fit through. The landing was quite far. He jumped, falling and tripping on the grass. A few seconds later another body fell beside him. Startled he turned over to see Silver pushing herself off the ground.
“I hope you know what you’re doing,” she said offering a hand to get him up. He was almost just as startled that she was actually following him.
“This way,” he said to her getting up. Through a series of climbs and alley ways, they managed to escape the police on foot and slowed down. Clion wasn’t used to this running and started to think whether or not he had some form of asthma. Much to his surprise, Silver seemed almost a natural at being incognito and running. Their moment of rest was interrupted by sound of sirens approaching. A few more minutes of running hopping walls had passed, before they couldn’t continue anymore. They hid quietly, crouching behind the shed in a stranger’s back garden for half an hour, before either of them said a word. Not a single siren was heard.
“Do you mind telling what all of this is about? They could take away all our Favour for this! I’m not about to get exiled. What did you do? What did you drag me into?”
“Drag you? You followed me-“ Clion stopped as he looked into the forming blue pool in his girlfriend’s eyes. He sighed and held her hand. Showing her the message he explained what he knew so far.
“A text! You did all this over a text!”
“Not just any text.
“Oh yes, pardon me I’m sorry. Her text. The text of the girl you never fully got over.”
“This could have been anyone, for any reason. But whoever they are knew you’d up and do whatever she says.”
“Silver, this wasn’t’ some hoax. You saw the police coming after us.”
“It might not have been a hoax, but it doesn’t mean whoever told you to run had good intentions. The police could have been trying to warn us.” Clion didn’t know how to respond. She was right, running was probably not the best course of action. He couldn’t think of anything he’d done to get in trouble. His whereabouts and actions can be well accounted for in everyday life. But in that moment, after not hearing from her in so long…
“I know Luna. She wouldn’t lie to me Silver… I trust her.” Silver was about to respond but stopped and turned away.
“Your voice, when you speak about her… it’s never like that with me.” She stood up and wiped her eyes.
“Let’s get on with this,” said Silver, “it’s too late to turn back now. At least we’ll get some answers at the library… Hopefully it will help clear our names.”
“I’m sorry,” he said in reply, “for all of this.” Silver walked on, carefully surveying her surroundings, and Clion followed suit. After about ten minutes they reached the side of an old grey building that stood in contrast to the ones around it. The architecture was definitely pre-Great War, making at least around 200 years old. It wasn’t open at the moment, but when they were younger Luna and Clion only called it “Alimu” when they would sneak in by the secret entry on the side. After crawling through for almost a minute they found themselves alone inside one of the archive rooms. Some of the holograms had clearly been left on by, most likely by an intern who probably was in a rush to get home that day.
“Now what?” asked Silver.
“Well, well…” came a voice from behind them. “You actually made it.” Turning quickly they saw a group of masked armed men, no more than ten. In the middle stood a man wearing white running shoes with a greyish black tux and a red flat back cap. His long red hair hid one half his face but the large grin was obvious.
“Like what I’m wearing? I saw it in a pre-war magazine. Apparently it was in mode back in 2017.”
“I doubt you wanted us here to discuss fashion,” said Clion.
“Oh, so rude. Skipping the pleasantries then?” he snapped his fingers and the armed men seized them both.
“Where is Luna? What do you want from us?”
“In custody,” he said, “where she’ll remain unless you help us.”
“Let her go!” yelled Clion.
“We don’t have her, Community has her.” Silver gasped, she looked over at Clion terrified.
“These guys are resistance,” she said.
“Your girlfriend here is right. We are the resistance. Well… a part of it. But that’s neither here nor there. The point is, Luna was also part of the resistance. She always had been. And now unless you help us Community will kill her.” Clion was in shock. So much of what he knew didn’t add up right now.
“You’re lying,” he said, “you sent the text. You trapped me here for whatever reason. But Luna had nothing to do-“
“Then explain how we knew your code words?” Clion shut up.
“There’s a lot you don’t know. About the world, Community, Luna, heck even your girlfriend here is lying about her real name. Isn’t that right… erm, Eve is it? A very nice name, from your pre-War religious background. I can see why you shed it after you came from the Outlands. I was never one for fables myself.”
“Eve?” said Clion looking distraughtly at Silver.
“Clion, I never lied to you I was only-
“What’s your name Silver? Your real name?” he asked her. She dropped her gaze and took a deep breath.
“What, I- who are you?”
“Please just let me-“
“Okay enough of this” said the man, “While I’d love to sit here and play catch up, but time is of the essence.” The men brought an old fashioned computer and set it before Clion, hooking it to a projector.
“Luna worked very hard to get this information for us. The truth about Community. About what’s needed to shatter this illusion that is “the perfect society”. But it’s locked away on pre-War software… those clever elites. Which… incidentally you know to run on this old computer. You old nerd you.” The computer was missing a few buttons and the keys were faded. Some of the alphabet forms were no longer in use.
“You want me to hack an old computer software… I can use old tech but I’m not that good-
“You have one hour or….” One of the men pulled out a gun and held it Silver’s head.
It took about half an hour for Clion to get used to the new software. He continued working quietly, conscious of both the time and his girlfriend’s life on the line. As the old computer would take time to load, he would glance sideways at Silver whose calm was almost unnerving. After about fifty minutes the screen started to flash with images. There were hundreds of pictures loading, many of what seemed to be attacks on Outlander homes. Forced removal of their children. Even executions. Then there were, text after text. But there were some images which seemed to get the room riled up more than others. These were ones with small very life like figurines of naked humans like wax dolls. Hundreds if not thousands of them. Being guarded and kept away in what appeared to be see-through containers. No bigger than a large cup. Like statues on display.
“So… it’s true…” said the red haired man, walking towards the wall where the images flashed. Clion could tell that whatever he was seeing, it had him visibly shaken.
“What is this?” he asked the man. But his question went ignored. The projector was disconnected and the man took the computer to the next room. Leaving Clion and Silver alone in the room with a few guards.
“How are you so calm?” he asked, “Are you one them Eve?” Silence for a few moments.
“No. I’m not…”
“Then who are you?…”
“Yes we’ve established that already.”
“Look, be mad at me all you want. But don’t be a jerk about it.”
“Fine.” Further silence.
“My father came to Community when he was 15… son of West Byzantine Priest-
“A West what?”
“Your history books, probably mentioned something called the Catholic Church. It had as Sister Church in the East. The Great War killed most of the world’s population 200 years ago and after the Arrival, many of the few adherents of these churches abandoned their faith for Community cities around the world. So the churches joined up to form- anyways that’s not important. Needless to say my father was a religious man who tried to fit in here but couldn’t stomach it. He only stayed after falling in love with my mother. When she was pregnant with me, he convinced her to join him in voluntary exile. Since they’d never let her leave if she had a child.”
“Is this going somewhere?”
“Look would you shut up. I’m trying to answer your question…”
“I’m sorry,” said Clion, “this isn’t easy for me.”
“I understand,” said Silver. A minute went by before Clion spoke again.
“So they left Community?”
“Yeah, and as you know, there is no return. I grew up in the Outlands. There are okay parts with small gatherings, but there is also a lot of danger. There is no law. You need to know how to tell if your food or water is contaminated. And how to get away if you’re food for something or… someone else.”
“That explains earlier,” said Clion, “I knew you were unusually fast… and you don’t even seem afraid now.”
“I’ve been held at gunpoint more times than I can remember before I turned 14,” said Silver. “I resented my parents for leaving what I thought was a safe place. A better life for me. All because of his conscience. His faith. So I left them. Ran away at 15 to come to Community. I knew things were probably not as good as I imagined. But after I took the implant and started living here. I… didn’t care anymore. I started to believe. Believe in Community. The real gods that looked like me. That I could see. But at times. I would remember things from the past. And piece two and two together and realise that something is definitely wrong with this place. But almost like a switch, those negative thoughts would be pushed out and I’d start feeling good.”
“You mean your ‘consciousness’ would be ‘re-aligned’,” said Clion.
“Something like that…” she replied.
“Why did you change your name to Silver?”
“Because I was resentful and turned my back on family, like Judas, to join Community. You know. My thirty pieces of silver.”
“Judas?” asked Clion. Just then head red haired man came back into the room. He pointed at the two and hostages. Suddenly their arms were injected.
“What did you put in us?” Clion demanded. The room started to go blurry.
“Enough Syrol to knock you out, but not enough to kill,” he answered.
“What are you planning?”
“Well, you ran from the police. Now, they are going to find you here and think that unable to escape, you tried to painlessly kill yourselves to avoid capture. As some in the Resistance are known to do. But being incompetent, you got the wrong dosage. They’ll find that you,” he held up files in the air, “were still obsessed with Luna all these years, and out of envy worked to destroy the system that took her and your parents away. All the while trying to frame her to look guilty. Being the tech genius you are… I mean after all… they’ll see this old computer software hacked. Then they’ll free Luna, who will continue to spy for us, whereas you… you will die. Viva la-resistance as the Dutch used to say.”
“Luna will never go through with this!”
“Go through with this?” he smiled, “it was her idea.” Clion wanted to protest but the energy seemed to leave his body. Everything around him went dark. Then quite. Clion was out…
The sound of a slammed door woke him up. Clion found himself strapped on wooden uncomfortable wooden chair in a small dimly lit room grey room. There was just him and Silver perpendicular to him and… sitting on the chair opposite him, was Luna.
“It’s you…” he said, “it’s really you.” Despite the eventful day he couldn’t help but smile. Luna was there, the same as she appeared the day he left.
“Why did you do this to me?” she asked about to cry.
“Wait… Luna I-
“Why are you trying to get me in trouble? I didn’t do anything to you?”
“Luna, I’m just as confused as-
“She’s lying to us Clion,” interrupted Silver, “I grew up in a place where you if you couldn’t tell who to trust you died. I know liar when I see one.” Luna turned to Silver and enraged.
“I don’t even know who you are, or what this is about. But I know they think I stole something from them and now I’m being locked up.”
“Don’t play coy with us, you know exactly what’s going on!”
“Silver!” yelled Clion.
“Can’t you see that she’s playing you? Everything that’s happened today. You think they could have pulled it off without her help?”
Clion didn’t know what to do. Both girls were looking at him waiting for an answer.
“Silver, we were taken hostage by the resistance today. They knew about our code word… our secret phrase… that I used old computer stuff… how do they know?”
“I’ve no idea what you’re talking about.”
“How could anyone know our secrets unless you told them Luna?”
“I haven’t told anyone anything-
“How would they know then? I sure didn’t tell anyone. Not even my parents knew.”
“Clion I don’t know who these people are! Maybe they found it in my diary or something, but I haven’t told a soul.”
“Your diary? Really? That’s what you’re going for?” said Silver.
“Clion you have to believe me,” begged Luna, “you were my only friend.”
“I don’t know what to believe about who people claim to be anymore,” he said, turning his head to Silver. “You mean they knew the code word for where I was going from reading your diary?”
“Yes, I wrote about our trips to the library a few times.”
“I never mentioned it was the library,” said Clion. Luna’s eyes widened. Her mouth opened but no words followed. Just then the door opened behind them. In came a woman wearing a navy suit uniform, followed by Community police. Each with guns aimed at the three. The woman, probably not much older than twenty-five had a mesmeric face, with piercing blue eyes and slick black hair down to her shoulders. Her face rested in a perpetual smirk. As though she were always the smartest person the room.
“Right,” said the woman, “let’s get this over with already.” The straps on their arms and legs released and the police ordered they stand up. The woman took out a revolver from her side and held it up in the air.
“Don’t do anything stupid. My men are quicker than you.” She held the gun out towards Silver, who stared at it without moving.
“Well, aren’t you going to take it?”
“I’ve no need for a gun.”
“Oh? Well you see. At least one of you here are working for the resistance. Which means at least one of you has to die right here right now. Now, I don’t really care who it is, you’re all too ugly for your lives to have meaning anyways, even you princess,” she said to Luna, “So pick one. Pick yourself. I don’t care.”
“This isn’t a trick or-“
“Oh do hurry up,” the woman rolled her eyes and forced the gun into Silver’s hand.
“Make your move. But remember. Don’t be stupid.” Silver hesitated for a few seconds before slowly pointing the gun at Luna.
“Silver, no!” begged Clion. Luna was trembling and near tears. Silver closed her eyes. Took a deep breath, then put the gun back by her side. She slowly crouched, putting it on the ground. Kicking the pistol back to the woman.
“You do know she’ll probably just end up killing you right?” the woman chuckled picking it up.
“It’s a mortal sin to murder someone. Even a lying traitorous ass,” said Silver.
“Mortal sin?” asked the woman, her eyebrow raised, “I thought most of you died out… Oh well.” She turned to Luna and likewise handed her the gun, while smiling at Clion saying “Ladies first.”
Without a second’s thought, Luna had the gun aiming for Silver’s head.
“Please don’t do this Luna.” Nothing.
“This isn’t you.” Nothing again.
“If our friendship meant anything to you, you’ll put down that gun.” Luna looked at him with cold dead eyes.
“Sometimes the cause is more important than friendship.” Clion was taken aback. It almost didn’t feel real. I’m so sorry. He mouthed to Silver, the words barely leaving his mouth. She smiled at him and crossed herself. “Our Father…” she began under her breath.
“Luna! Words to live by!” he yell-cried at her in one final effort. A few moments went by before Luna bowed her head, and lowered her gun.
“Some say…” she began, “Shut the fuck up!” With that, Luna raised the gun at Silver and pulled the trigger.
The body dropped.
Luna was dead.
Clion jumped backwards in shock. Blood was splattered all over his face and clothes along with pieces of her head. Silver shook violently trying not to cry, with her hands over her chest trying to find a wall or chair or anything to lean on.
“Oops,” said the woman, “We must have given her a trick gun by accident.” With one foot she moved the body slightly and looked over it as though admiring a work of art. “These resistance people are so stupid. The other goons, we caught, especially that idiot with terrible fashion sense will have to die too.” Clion’s mouth dropped slight in confusion.
“Come on now, you didn’t actually think we were fooled by them do you? This was all an elaborate trap. You think you actually got away from the police with your awesome parkour? That we actually lost you?” Straightaway she pointed to her temple. And Clion knew what she meant.
“What… what happens to us now?”
“Well. We can’t let you go back into the society like this mess. And we’re not monsters. You didn’t really do anything. Sooo… we can either grant you a level 7 Beautiful Death, on the house. No reincarnation. Or you can be exiled… live a life of misery, and die shamefully. With the added bonus of damnation. Your call.”
Six months had passed since the incident with Luna. But to Clion they might as well have been just yesterday. How his life had been turned upside down by one simple text message. But it wasn’t just one text message. It was an entire person he thought he knew, that never really existed. But surely there were moments when their relationship was real. He knew she hated the system for taking her away from her family but to go this far? Then again, he knew how he had felt just from losing her and his parents. He could emphasize with her… if even that much were true.
But now after seeing what Luna was willing to do, how the resistance had set him up, how there was no life but trouble in the Outlands…. he couldn’t choose exile. At least, that what he told Eve six months ago. That’s what he tells himself. That he was tired. Tired of trusting people only to lose them. Of them lie to him. Letting him down. The system, he reasoned, never made them do anything. It’s there whether they like it or not. They’re the ones who chose how to respond to it. Now where were they? The resistance squashed. Luna dead… dead and gone without the ceremony. And Eve, exiled. Probably already dead, and possibly damned.
But the system. It remained unchanged. Maybe it was true. Maybe it worked. His parents were dead, but they chose it. They chose to face it head on, in their own way. Death comes to us all like it or not. The system was only preparing us to die a good death, he thought. To die… beautifully. If he was going to die anyways, and the system offered something more afterwards then why not? Why not join it. Clion was once again convinced. Once again the happy boy following the pat set out for him, before Luna came and shook his convictions. Once again he believed. And this time, he would get everything he wanted and more.
As per the instructions, the night before, Clion drank the ceremonial syrup. Waking up on the day of his ceremony, all sense of fear was driven away. He felt nothing but elation. Everything tasted better, smelled better, looked better and felt better. Music was never as sweet as it was on this day. He imagined that such a thing was probably used by the elite every day. No wonder they were always so happy. He skipped to the temple singing about how today was the day. When he arrived, Clion was stripped naked and led to a white room, with one single bed on it by the most beautiful women he’d ever seen. Or was that the syrup that made them so? He couldn’t tell. It didn’t matter. The sound of their laughter was intoxicating. Everything felt like a dream. If this was a small taste of what eternity would be like then he was ready to enjoy it forever. As he lay down, his temple was being massaged by two handheld devices with smooth ball ends, whilst the women softly whispered the Great Incantation. And he drifted in and out of consciousness…
We the citizens… the community… forever to enjoy eternal… exile…Beautiful Death…