Friday, August 28, 2009

Exile of Innocence

News of the hanged boy traveled fast among the crowd waiting outside of the grand auditorium. Inside, children were wrapped up in thought and preparation for the evening’s ceremony; unaware of the loss of one of their peers.

Backstage, ties were straightened, blouses smoothed, and fingernails bitten. “Since birth, you have been equally matched,” Wilena Reed, counselor and ceremony organizer, said. “The Eden Corporation has perfected this system many years ago, and it has successfully provided our colony with generations of perfectly matched life partners. Today is YOUR day. The day you find out who you have been matched with.”

Jennifer Watts played with a tiny piece of paper in her sweater pocket. She had written Brian Oldham’s name on it weeks before the ceremony, and made a habit of slipping the piece of paper under her pillow at night when she slept. Brian was oblivious to her as he was any other girl waiting patiently backstage. He looked green, and unlike most of the boys, he had lost his cool in a trash bin outside the auditorium while they waited. This did not phase Jennifer’s desire to be his match.

“Jenn, can you believe it?” Emily whispered, “It’s finally our turn.” Jennifer just smiled and wove the piece of paper in her pocket between her delicate fingers.

“I hope I get a good one,” Rachel said as she eyed the boys in their suits, “Where’s Jared?”

“Probably out back getting sick like Brian,” Emily laughed and Jennifer shot her a nasty look. “What?”

“May I have your attention?” Counselor Reed asked. “We have learned from past experiences, that it is better you learn who your match is BEFORE you get on stage. When I call your names, please line up together against the wall: Stephen Anders and Emily Briggs…”

Rachel laughed and elbowed Emily in her side before she hurried off to take her place next to her future spouse. Jennifer stared at her feet and pressed “Brian Oldham” flat against the palm of her hand.

“Excuse me, Counselor Reed, may I have a word?”

“Absolutely, Doctor. Children, will you please excuse me?” Counselor Reed said as she followed the short, balding man out of the waiting area.

“Emily and Stephen… that cracks me up,” Rachel waved at Emily standing silently next to Stephen, “What about you Jenn, who do you think you’ll be matched with?”

“I dunno…”

“I think you and Andrew Davies would make a cute couple.” Jennifer rolled her eyes and stopped listening as Rachel continued to talk to herself about her ideal matches.

Moments later Counselor Reed returned and reviewed her clipboard. “Jennifer Watts,” she said, “May I have a word, dear?” Jennifer nodded and followed the counselor out into the hall where the doctor was waiting.

“Jennifer, this is Dr. Markum, he needs you to go with him…”

“But the ceremony?”

“I am sorry, but you will not be attending today’s ceremony,” said Dr. Markum, “please accompany me back to my office and I shall explain.”

Jennifer’s heart sank as she followed the doctor down the hall. She would not be attending today’s ceremony; Brian would be matched with someone else. Tears began to well up in her eyes, as she began to place him with each of her classmates. “Please not Rachel,” she muttered under her breath.

“What was that?”

“I’m sorry… how much further?”

“This is it, on your left here. Please have a seat.”

The walk had winded Dr. Markum, so after resting heavily in his chair, he took a moment to gather his breath. “Miss Watts, you were to be matched with Jared Dalton today. Yesterday morning he was found dead in his living quarters.”

“Oh,” Jennifer breathed. She wasn’t sure what to say. She had classes with Jared, knew him fairly well, but never once thought she would be paired with him. Brian was the only boy in her thoughts, and to her the most suitable life mate.

“Eden has requested your services to be effective immediately…”

“Excuse me?”

“You have been selected for a special job.”

“Job? I don’t understand... “

“Miss Watts, since your intended match is no longer alive…”

“Can’t you match me with someone else?”

“Your match has been planned since your birth, no exceptions. You are property of the Eden Corporation and your service is requested. It is your responsibility to the colony… your civic duty.” Dr. Markum stood up from his chair and pushed his meaty hands into his jacket pockets.

Jennifer closed her eyes and gripped the arms of the chair. After a couple of deep breaths she opened her eyes and said, “When? When do I start?”

“Now,” Dr. Markum said as he pushed the syringe into the side of Jennifer’s neck. She barely raised a hand up to her chest before she slumped forward and was out.

Jennifer opened her eyes to the twinkling of distant lights. Millions of them, tiny and sparkling, further away than anything she had ever imagined. Quickly she sat up and glanced all around her. There were no corridors, no hallways, no living quarters, no… people.

Panic rose in her chest. The desire to run was overpowering, but Jennifer did not stand. Tears began to flow down her face as she lay back down on the dusty ground. Slowly, Jennifer slipped her hand into her sweater pocket, pulled out the fragment of paper, and released it into the night. Through watery eyes, Jennifer watched as “Brian Oldham” vanished into the darkness.


  1. Oh no...where is she? Are you going to tell us next week? Great story!

  2. Wow, this was a great story.

  3. I'm with Laura, don't make us wait another week. Lots of fun reading this, good stuff.

  4. To me, this was the perfect ending. Flash doesn't need the traditional end, that's what I love so much about it.

    This is an excellent story.

  5. That first line is awesome. Did Jared kill himself because he too had a life partner planned that didn't match his desire? Or some more sinister reason? The world here is intriguing and definitely worth spending more time in.

  6. "To me, this was the perfect ending. Flash doesn't need the traditional end, that's what I love so much about it."

    I couldn't agree more. A wonderful slice of a bigger story that can be left to the reader's imagination.

  7. Fantastic - I was afraid that the hanged boy would be the one Jennifer wanted, but I never thought about the consequences in such a society ... I'm very curious about this character, and where she goes from here. Well done!

  8. Man. Worst job ever it sounds like!

    Really well-written and I agree with the others that it's perfectly self-contained for flash-fiction. We don't need closure and resolution :P

  9. What a great story! I think it's absolutely perfect!

  10. See!!! I toldddddddddddddd you it was awesome.

  11. Thank you so much for reading and your awesome comments. This story is "sort of" a continuation of Forbidden Fruit, a #fridayflash I posted in July... well, they are related anyway.

    There will be more Eden Corp. to come

    You're awesome! Thanks again,

    Kemari: You're totally bias :-P

  12. The dystopian world you've created is so intriguing, I had to go back and read Forbidden Fruit! Can't wait for more. :-)

  13. Oooo, how twisted that in killing himself he doomed another to the life which he could no longer be part of. I dig where this is going.

  14. Wow, what a fabulous storyteller you are! I was intrigued from start to finish.

    Like others have said, I admire the self-contained #FridayFlash packaging of the story, but I so want to know what has happened to Jenn!

  15. Wonderful story! I loved it. Thank you so much. I'm new to this group and I think it will be a very good "match" Heh.

  16. oooo, now I so want to know what happens next. Great story!

  17. I really enjoyed this, although I admit the image of the hanged boy at the beginning threw me off a bit as you afterwards sink deep into third person.

    Are you planning on continuing the story? I'd love to read more, such as what special service she's been selected for!

  18. Fabulous writing, as ever. Eden Corp is probably going to feature in my nightmares tonight... :-)

  19. Wow, you certainly have created a very disturbing vision of the future, both with this piece and your earlier "Eden Corp" story. I was left scratching my head at the end, trying to figure out Jennifer's fate. Then I looked back at the title and it all made perfect sense, at least to me. Personally, I think Jenifer is the lucky one. Hope I find out in a future tale.

  20. 2, this was a fantastic story. I am so green over how well you pulled me into the story with the hook and kept me reading along to find out what would happen. The ending is spot-on, considering the foundation you laid down. Awesome stuff.

  21. I can't thank you enough for reading and commenting. It's been an amazing week for #FridayFlash; so many new faces and great posts. I am happy I get to participate with such a talented bunch.

    You're comments have really made my weekend. I am glad you liked my post, and I appreciate your thoughts on it as well. It's very encouraging; especially since I try to weenie out of posting every week... maybe I should just write some more?

    Thanks again!

    Jon - perfect sense to me too :-)

  22. I am so sorry but I JUST got around to reading this, and I will say I regret not reading it earlier. I love the concept, and even if you don't expound, I will definitely be one of your first readers next week!

    Keep up the awesome work!

  23. I'm in tears.

    This is fantastic.

  24. Nice work - concept, execution (pardon the pun), dialogue...everything.

  25. Excellent story. Seems like such a sad world where there is no choice (I'd have to imagine it's not just marriage, either), but that's what makes it so interesting to read about. I'll be interested to see further stories set in this world.

  26. Thanks, Eric. There are three posted on this site. I have tagged them "Eden Corp", and you can find it under "Categories" on the side bar... if you're interested ;-)

    Thanks again,

  27. You no longer fit within the community. Your only way to server your colony is to leave.

    Harsh, harsh. But it seems the world your characters inhabit is no less harsh.

    I didn't see this coming. I knew there was a problem coming. I didn't expect its resolution to be so sudden and final (seeming).

    Nicely paced.

  28. Of course, my intent was to write "...serve your colony".

    Apologies for not proof-reading my comment more closely.

  29. You've got an "Honest Scrap" award waiting for you over at my blog. :)

  30. Nice! I love the ending. The tiny bits of paper, her Brian, floating away. I got a sense of "Logan's Run," right from the beginning for some reason. That flavor. Well done.

  31. Ahh, man, you can't leave us like that. Where is she? Is she alone? What is her duty now?

    While true this is a flash story and that may be the end, it could also be longer. Hint, hint.

    Straight From Hel

  32. Oh wow this was beautiful. So glad I came and read this lovely work. I think you could have a novel on your hands.