As I walked to my desk, I spotted a sleek, black Unitary with my name engraved on the top. I ran my manicured finger over the letters, enjoying the feel of finally achieving what I was told was the second most important moment in our lives. The first was choosing the right person to Unite with. That thought made me feel like an inflated balloon that had just been pricked by a needle. I sat in my seat as my files loaded on my Unitary. My test scores, notes, and thesis statements were all there. I clicked open the document that was responsible for my white coat. “The theory of medicine and genetics: The effects of lineage on the efficacy of pharmaceutical treatments”.
Thinking back, I remembered those long days and nights in the teaching simulations. Given test after test to see if I was at the same level of intelligence as my lineage. I would wake up every morning with a pit in my stomach, not knowing if today was my last day as a Pure. My hands would begin to shake as soon as I sat at my desk in my teaching pod. The hum of the speaker powering up would cause my heart to palpitate and the soles of my feet to sweat. “Hello Myra Raaz. Are you ready to be a productive member of society?” The disembodied female voice would ask me.
“Y-yes” I stammered like a broken record.
“Today is your final exam, which will determine if you are worthy to be a Pure and a member of our society.” I could feel her cruel smile through the speaker. My desk turned into a black screen. “Remember, anything below a 100% is considered failure. You have one attempt. Failure means you no longer show promise of being a productive member of society and will be expunged from society. You have ninety minutes. Please begin.” The first question materialized on my screen. I hunched over the desk until my nose was touching the screen. At the sight of the first question, the air was sucked out of my lungs and my chest tighten until I thought I would implode. I raked my fingers through my hair and massaged my throbbing head. My eyes began to water as panic seized my heart. It’s in my blood I told myself. My father, mother and grandmother were all in Medical Row. I have their DNA. I can do this. I repeated this mantra in my head a few more times before opening my eyes and facing my future.
Those were the fastest ninety minutes of my life, but the minutes that followed dragged on painfully. I rested my heavy head in my hands as I tried to take deep, slow breaths like my mother instructed me to do. I wondered what my family must be feeling as they waited for my results. I had heard of children who did not pass and were erased from their family lineage. Their parents hardly ever showed their faces in society again. I shuddered at the thought. Failure was never an option. At the whirling sound of the speaker, I lifted my head and straightened myself to full height.
“Ms. Myra Raaz.” The voice said. I suddenly had the overwhelming urge to vomit. “As per your test results you have shown yourself to have the intellectual capability to be a productive member of society. Congratulations, you are now a pure citizen.” I took in the deepest breath of air that I could manage. I felt like I was going to fall out of my chair.
“Thank you” I managed, “I look forward to using my knowledge to further benefit society.” I could feel my face stretching into a smile so big my cheeks were hurting.
“Over your schooling years you have shown promise. Our teaching simulations, examinations and written thesis have justified you as worthy of Medical Row and your families standing as a Pure. On the first of June, you will join the work force of United Laboratories as a pharmaceutical researcher. Based on your thesis, you will be researching the relationship between our lineages and medications. Although we have come to eliminate all most all disease states from our society, it is important we remain vigilant to any upcoming contagion. Only the strong and Pure survive for a reason, to breed citizens like yourself. We charge you with the responsibility to study, treat and eradicate, any weakness or contamination in our society. Good luck, Doctor Myra Raaz.” My legs tingled as I stood up from my desk. My mind was a foggy mess as I tried to process everything that had transpired. I was quickly wrapped up in the warm embrace of my mother. I buried my face in her dark hair as I breathe in the familiar scent of her Givenchy perfume. I felt her wet tears on my head and her warm hand stroking my hair.
“You did it. You did it. You did it.” She kept saying, as if she was trying to convince herself this was real. She pulled away from me and held me at arm’s length. She reached up and wiped away a tear from my cheek. I hadn’t even realized I was crying. “I knew you could do it. You’re my child. It is in your blood.” Her smile reached her eyes. It was one of the few times I had seen her genuinely happy. My father pulled me into his embrace next. He didn’t say a word, but his silence spoke volumes. He radiated pride. I had continued his lineage and guaranteed our family’s status as Pure.
Coming out of the memory, I sighed with satisfaction at earning my place among my peers in society. The ding of the elevator drew my attention to the front of the lab space. A group of men emerged and began making their way towards the benches. They weren’t wearing the standard white lab coats, instead these men had perfectly tailored black suits with matching black ties. All of them except the man in the middle, who wore a navy-blue suit with a golden pin on his lapel and the man to his right, Enforcer Crowley. My stomach dropped like a stone. They were from the Magistrate. I noticed at Reena raise her eyebrows in concern.
“Why are Magistrate men here?” I kept my voice low and lifted my Unitary to hide my face from the men. I wiped the puddle of sweat that had formed on her upper lip. Reena shook her head in confusion.
“It can’t be good if the big guns are here.” She glanced back at Dr. Darling’s office. Darling stormed towards the men, without the slightest concern that he was confronting some of the most powerful men in the United.
“Can I help you gentlemen?” Darling drew himself to full height and crossed his lanky arms over his chest. The man in the blue suit stopped one row in front of me. His glowing chestnut hair mixed with the sunlight creating a halo effect around his head. His manicured hands gripped his Unitary with such force I thought it would snap in half. His sharp, chiseled jaw drew back into a smile. Not a single line appeared on his face, it was as smooth and white as alabaster.
“Chancellor Andrew Blightnik” the man in the blue suit extended his pale hand to Dr. Darling. His voice was melodious and pleasant to my ears. I felt Reena’s bony finger poke my side. I could hear the low hum of my fellow co-workers whispering. It’s not every day the Monarch’s right-hand man made a public appearance. Darling however did not look impressed. Darling narrowed his eyes, but cautiously shook Chancellor Blightnick’s hand. Enforcer Crowley stood to his right with his thumbs hooked through his belt loops. He raised his eyebrows in recognition when he saw me. I averted my eyes quickly and bit my lower lip in frustration.
“Very well, Chancellor, what can I do for you?” Darling didn’t flinch as Enforcer Crowley brushed past him, but his grey eyes followed his movements. Enforcer Crowley stopped in front of my desk and my heart nearly detonated. He looked at me out of the corner of his eye and winked in reassurance.
“Evan Stewart.” The Chancellor narrowed his hawk eyes at the man sitting at the bench in front of me. I remembered Evan, he grew up a few houses down from me on Medical Row. He had platinum blonde hair that fell over icy eyes. I never spoke to him much, but during his family galas he would make sure I had enough of my favorite hors d’oeuvres, deviled quail eggs topped with savory caviar. As Crowley’s shadow eclipsed Evan’s body, Evan locked his beautiful eyes on me. His skin seemed to have lost its rosy glow and his eyes that used to sparkle like sapphires, were now dead. Crowley dug his tan fingers so deep into Evan that he whimpered in protest. Evan hung his head like a dog being disciplined. Crowley dragged Evan towards the Chancellor. Even from this distance I could feel the animosity emanating from Dr. Darling. His hands had curled into fists and his knuckles were turning snow white.
“Chancellor, with all due respect-“
“With all due respect Dr. Darling” The Chancellor interrupted while stalking in a circle around Evan Stewart. “Evan Stewart is in the custody of the Magistrate now.” He pulled a blonde strand of Evans hair and examined it in his pale fingers before he plucked it out of Evans head. Evan staggered back and would have fallen over if Crawley hadn’t been keeping such a strong grip on him. Chancellor Blightnik gingerly placed the strands of hair in a plastic bag. Darling took a step toward the Chancellor possibly preparing to tear out his throat by the looks of his stormy eyes. But Crowley placed a large hand on Darling’s chest. Darling’s face turned a shade of crimson.
“That man is a doctor, Chancellor! He has a respected standing in our society as a Pure and in Medical Row!” Darling’s voice resonated through silent the room. For such a kindly looking man, I was not prepared to hear the ferocity in his voice. He looked back and forth between Crowley and the Chancellor, unsure of who to tackle to the ground first. I felt my legs moving before I knew what my body was doing. Darling was too gentle of a man to feel the wrath of Crowley. I knew if I didn’t interfere, Crowley would bring his favorite night stick out to play. I could already see his fingers inching towards the weapon on his blue belt loop. I wrapped my small hand around Darling’s arm and was surprised by how thin he was. He whipped his head around so fast I thought it would snap off. His grey eyes lost their fiery glow when he looked at me. I tightened my grip on his arm and silently urged him to stay quiet. I had seen Crowley in action before. He was the Enforcer responsible for purifying the city from the Tainted and ripping out those who were not deemed Pure enough away from their family. Chancellor Blightnik looked between me and Dr. Darling, his hazel eyes gleaming with amusement. I steeled my nerves and forced my eyes to meet his gaze. I felt like an army of ants were crawling in my veins. He glanced at my badge.
“Doctor Myra Raaz.” Hearing my name coming from his lips sent a shiver down my spine. He pursed his lips and inclined his head to me. I could only trust myself to blink in response. “Evan Stewart is under inquiry for the quality of his work and other reasons....” He trailed off. My eyes flitted to the plastic bag with strands of blonde hair in it.
“Other reasons?” The words came out of my mouth before I could stop myself. I shifted my body weight from one foot to the other. I expected a scolding for questioning authority but Chancellor Blightnik broke into a wide grin.
“My dear, this is none of your concern.” His eyes hardened to stone when he looked at Darling. “But Evan Stewart may serve as a good lesson for all of you.” The Chancellor raised his voice to address the floor. “Evan Stewart is under inquiry for hiding the truth about his lineage. We do not tolerate any mixed blood. Apart of what makes the United strong, is that we can all live together, but we only breed with our own. Purity is the key to our intelligence and our survival.” I felt a tornado of fury brewing inside of me at his ignorant words. Words that every child was taught and believed. But how can this thinking be right if it condemns a kind man who has never strayed from the law, a kind man like Evan?
The Chancellor snapped his fingers and Enforcer Crowley produced a thin syringe from his pocket. It seemed like everything was happening in slow motion. I saw the needle catch the light of the sun. Evan Steward squirmed in Crawley’s grasp, but it was useless. Quick as a viper Crowley slammed the needle in Evan’s neck and Evan went limp. His body hung in Crowley’s arms like a rag doll. His blonde hair now messy and covering his sweaty face. I dug my fingers deeper into Dr. Darling’s arm to keep myself from falling over. The Chancellor laughed in delight when he saw my horrified face.
“Not to worry, it’s only propofol. We don’t need him struggling all the way to the Magistrate.” I felt someone touch my arm. I looked to my right to see Crowley looking at me with concern. I jerked away from him. I hadn’t seen anyone injected with propofol before. I knew it was a non-lethal way Enforcers used to control unruly situations, which rarely ever happened. But seeing Evan’s body hanging from Crowley’s muscular arms brought back my father’s words to me. “Make sure you learn fast, don’t make too many mistakes, and don’t ask too many questions”, or else this is what will happen to me. Who knows what will be done at the Magistrate. Those who were taken away because of mistakes they made at work or failure to be productive were rarely ever seen again. Those who lived were marked as Tainted and were sterilized, in fear that their offspring would be sub-par.
Instead of Crowley’s cold touch, I felt Darling’s warm hand on my shoulder. I could feel the trembling in his hands reverberating through my small body. “Now we must be on our way.” The Chancellor pulled out his Unitary and touched something on his screen next to a picture of Evan Stewart. Underneath his picture were two other pictures. I gulped a glob of fear back down my throat. Two more people would be taken today. I felt Crowley bump my shoulder as he pushed past me with Evan still hanging in his arms. The Chancellor nodded his head at us and realized he still had the attention of everyone in the room. The room was eerily silent. He didn’t seem bothered by the audience, in fact he flashed them his winning smile. He raised his hands in the air and said,
“Doctors in the Pharmaceutical division of United Laboratories. Thank you for your hard work and dedication to keeping our community safe, strong and pure.” He brought his right hand over his chest, where his heart should have been. His hazel eyes looked so sincere and his words were spoken with such truth, it was hard to imagine this man was responsible for seizing one of our own. “It is my duty to remind you to keep up the good work. Failure is not an option for anyone.” He paused, his eyes swept the room, daring anyone to speak. “Be productive and you will be rewarded.” He looked at Dr. Darling, then me and grinned. Then he turned on his heels and strutted into the elevator with his entourage. When the ding of the elevator was heard through the room, I finally let myself breath. I ran my hand through my hair and looked up at my peers, only to be met with their critical gazes. I brought my shaking hands behind my back and clasped them together so no one could see they were trembling. Dr. Darling realized everyone was staring at us. He clapped his hands together and rocked on his heels.
“Alright everyone. Yes, The Magistrate was here. Now they are gone. Make sure you’re not the next one they drag out those doors. Get back to work!” Everyone lowed their heads and the room resumed its quite buzz of activity.
I had to crane my neck to look at Darling since he was a good foot taller than me. His somber eyes looked like they had so much they wanted to say, but instead he patted me on the shoulder. “Thank you.” He seemed to age ten years in five minutes. His smile lines were no longer there, instead little creases had formed about his brow bone and his charcoal eyes sagged from anguish. He opened his tired lips to say more but he seemed to think better of it. He nodded his head and made his way back to his office, with is head bent so low it touched his chest. I felt like my brain was going to hemorrhage. You need to pull it together, I told myself. I lifted my chin and smoothed out my silk skirt. Then I sauntered to the restroom as if no one I knew was abducted from my work place.