My body was swallowed by my plush comforter as I sank into my bed. I stared at the barrel-vaulted marble ceilings that were outlined with intricate gold moldings. The moon light glinted on the swirling designs. I rolled on to my side and let a crack of light spill in in through the comforter. The houses across the way were dark but the glass shimmered in the pale moonlight.
Out of the corner of my eye I saw a blur of a black speck. I strained my eyes against the darkness but could only see a fuzzy dot on the street. I creeped out of bed wrapping the comforter around me like a shield. The plush white carpet tickled my feet as I padded over to the glass facing the street. I pressed my nose to the cold glass to get a better view of the road. My breath caused fog to creep across the glass. A small, round figure was slinking in the shadows of the street. It made its way slowly in the direction of the bus station. It moved in short bursts of energy, stopping every few feet and standing still. It was a fat blob against the tall pillars that loomed around it. When it scuttled through a tendril of silver light, a tiny object fell on the ground. It flashed as it rolled farther into the street. The blob waddled after it and was able to grab it right as it came to a stop outside my house. The figure picked up the shiny object and straightened becoming clear in the light.
I fell face first into the glass in surprise when I saw her. The window pane shuttered causing the woman to jump and look around. Her poorly kept frizzy brown hair was plastered to her sweaty forehead. Her tired eyes widened in alarm. Her thick arms instinctually covered her swollen belly. She stepped back, but her ankle twisted on the curb and she landed hard on her bottom. Her face twisted in pain as she tried to stand back up. Her grey rags blew around her as she scrambled to her swollen feet. Her urgent eyes met mine again. I peered around the street to make sure no one else had noticed the intruder. She stood frozen with her hand on her stomach and her other hand clutching the shiny object. I raised my thin pointer finger to my pink lips. It took her a moment to understand what I was doing, but I saw her muscles relax. I curled open my empty left palm and held it out to her, as if offering her something. Her eyes flitted to her palm and then back to me. I could see her arm trembling in the cold night air as she held out her hand for me to see. In her palm was a small syringe filled with a milky substance. I placed my own hand over my flat stomach. She bowed her head at my silent question. It was a nutrition injection for her and her unborn baby.
Suddenly out of the corner of my eye I saw another blurry figure strolling down the street. I frantically breathed on the glass and wrote in large letters for the woman to see: RUN. She followed my gaze to the opposite side of the street. The buff figure was getting clearer now, it was Enforcer Crowley, but he was too absorbed in his Unitary to notice this trespasser in the city. The screen lit up his pale face, so he looked as if he had been embalmed. The woman hiked up her grey skirt and despite her large belly, sprinted like a gazelle into the darkness. I smashed by body up against the window so I could see where she was, but she was a ghost. My burning thighs choose that moment to collapse and my body bashed against a mahogany table, sending a vase careening to the ground. I screwed my eyes shut as hundreds of dollars shattered on the floor. The sound reverberated through the quite street. Crowley’s head snapped up and his hand flew to his obsidian gun on his belt. When he saw a gigantic marshmallow in the window his perfect face furrowed in confusion, then his mouth twitched in a smirk.
I shook off the duvet and picked myself off the floor. My scarlet satin camisole stood out against my white bedroom. If we do not appease them, they will tear us down. My mother’s voice resonated in my bones. I ran my hand through my silky hair so that it framed my face like a waterfall. I snuck a glance at my window where I had scribbled my urgent message to the woman. At no cost could I let him see my warning. He already knew my weakness was my sympathy. If he saw that one word, he would smell blood in the water and would not hesitate to take a bite out of my family and I. I was completely exposed and his attention was trained on me. His hungry eyes watched me curiously and I wanted nothing more than take a steaming shower to wash off my disgust. I lengthened my bronze leg and took a deliberate step toward him. I forced a soft smirk as I drew my dainty fingers to my lips and at the same time slowly moving my left hand towards the message. He was hypnotized by me, but I knew it wouldn’t hold much longer. As I pressed my body to the glossy window, I closed the gap between my palm and my warning. The awkward movement caused his eyes to train on my left hand, but I smashed my hand on the writing, smearing it against the glass. His face gave no sign that he had seen anything. His sky-blue eyes remained on my face. His lips twitched in anticipation, I reached down to gather up my comforter and turned slowly back to my bed. I felt his eyes burning a hole in my back as I lay the other way. I buried my body under the white duvet until I was swallowed by the darkness. I trembled so violently I was sure my entire bed was vibrating.
I felt as if someone had grabbed a fist full of my hair, yanked me out of bed and threw me in a war zone. I heard stained voiced echoing through the house. The thundering of feet moving quickly on the calacatta Italian marble floor and clanging of moving furniture rang in my ears as I readied myself for a new day. As I trudged down the floating oak staircase there was a flock of men and women wearing matching grey uniforms and white gloves. They bowed their head to me as I entered the foyer. I didn’t recognize any of them, but they must have been newly hired Greys. What was going on? I made my way to the kitchen where Jaya was preparing our morning breakfast. The kitchen was a large steel coffin. Everything was metallic and reflective. Jaya was wielding her knife and mincing onions for my father’s daily omelet. Wisps of her grey hair blew over her lined face. She sensed my presence before I could say anything. She set down her weapon and smiled at me.
“Master Myra, is there something wrong with your breakfast?” She wiped her hands on her black apron. “Is there too much salt? I can make another omelet for you.” She made for the refrigerator door which blended into the silver cabinetry. I grabbed her wrinkled hand to stop her.
“No, I’m sure the food is wonderful.” I shook my head and caught sight of the platters of serving trays piled high in the corner. Rows upon row of color hydrangeas, tulips, roses and lilies filled the table top. Note cards with swirling type labeled “cubed lamb with goat cheese”, “smoked pork with pickles” and “steamed artichoke with lemon vinaigrette” littered the table. Round golden table clothes etched with royal red designs were folded neatly into a pile. The wet bar was stocked with the most expensive whiskey, scotch and cognac. I felt the sweat building in my armpits and I began to fan myself. “Jaya, what’s going on? Who are those people at the front? Why is there all this stuff here?” I swept my arms towards the mountains of party favors.
She handed me a glass of ice water which I gladly downed. Her old eyes were heavy with concern. “She didn’t tell you, did she? I don’t think she told anyone. I only found out this morning. Your mother must have put this all together last night.” With a deep sigh she sat down on a bar stool. “Tonight, is your Choosing ceremony.” The cold water tasted like bitter poison in my mouth. I coughed so violently my eyes bugged out of my head. Jaya moved quickly and rubbed my back until the coughing subsided. “I am sorry my dear, but this is a part of our life.”
“This is because of yesterday! Because of what happened at work and with Crowley and, and…” My vision blurred with tears. I looked at Jaya desperately, “I don’t want to do this. I just became a citizen. I don’t want to be forced to be Untied with someone. I don’t want to be a prized jewel pawed off to the highest bidder.” She ran her wrinkled hand over my back and rubbed me as if I was a baby, just like my grandmother use to do. My grandmother. I gently pulled away from Jaya. “Where is my grandmother?” She exhaled heavily and tucked a strand of hair behind my ear.
“She was randomly selected for a health screening.” A guttural scream started to crawl up my throat, but I forced it down. “My dear, do not worry, they will not put her down. She is a healthy woman.” Jaya wiped away my tears with her callused fingers. “For now, just prepare yourself for tonight. You are beautiful, someone will choose you.” She patted my cheek and hustled out to the dining hall to serve breakfast.
I caught my reflection in the refrigerator door. My frown looked foreign against my sand skin. I forced a strained smile on my face, but I looked like someone had just stepped on my toes. A pair of hard brown eyes materialized next to mine. My mother removed a piece of lint from my black scoop blouse. She locked eyes with my steel reflection. “Your dress for tonight is upstairs. Pull your hair back so the men can see your small face. Remember we want the best for you. Don’t be late.” Then she vanished back to the foyer.