Last week was pretty long, so I’m pretty glad that the weekend was relaxing. Was on the go from Saturday really. I didn’t get up to much over the weekend, watched TV and the like. My sister was across briefly and she brought the monster with her. He’s even bigger. How is that possible? 3 foot tall at the shoulders. He’s taller than all of our counter tops.
Thank god he’s a friendly dog. It was nice seeing Finn, but he really does need to land around my sisters place, he was getting a bit frustrated here as normally he can wander around my sisters large (fenced off) back garden, and play with his energetic friend. Here the only dog willing to be around him is too old and doesn’t have the energy required to play.
Despite that it was a pretty fun visit.
I also made a chocolate torte, it turned out quite tasty, but I don’t know if I’ll make it again, less about the taste and more about how it was a pain in the ass to fold the beaten egg whites into the batter. If I do do it again, I’ll definitely use a much larger bowl.
On with the show!
Jason took a deep breath, he had to be chosen today, it was the last year he could enter this, if he wasn’t chosen he didn’t know what he’d do. They had to let him do it, they just had to. There was no other option. He hadn’t even thought of doing anything else with his life. Ever since he was a boy he knew this was what he wanted to do, the noble sacrifice. It still gave him chills just thinking about it. His name would go onto the Wall and his family would be set for life, just that little boost would be enough to bring them up in the world. It would be perfect for them and for him. He might die, but he’d die a hero. Everyone would remember his name.
The day passed in a blur for Jason, one big nervous blur. He always thought it was cruel that they didn’t have the announcement ceremony until six p.m. he understood the logic behind it, otherwise people would miss the Friday in work, but for people like him, it was agony to wait. He had showered to wake himself up, he had tossed and turned the night before, then ate breakfast slowly, he didn’t want to be sick. When that was done he had hours to wait until the ceremony, but that didn’t seem to make a difference, before he knew it he was making his way towards the Chambers. Families would be sitting in the stadium, he knew that, his family would be out there somewhere, but the lights were focused on him and the others, too bright to see the people that were watching. They didn’t cheer, that would come later, now they were curiously silent, the entire stadium held its breath, waiting for someone to break the silence. Jason wore the official clothes, white cotton trousers, a white cotton shirt and a pair of white cotton slippers. He looked around at the sea of white, there were probably twenty thousand people waiting, just like him. It was surprisingly easy to spot the ones who wanted to be chosen, those who volunteered, they stood tall, proud. The ones who were hunched over, nervous, they had been forced to volunteer by their families. Jason wasn’t worried, everyone knew that they wouldn’t be picked. No, they went for people like him, but there were still thousands just like him. There were only a hundred spots. The announcer stepped out onto the platform, he walked leisurely to his place, then his voice boomed throughout the stadium.
“Ladies and gentlemen, families and friends, welcome!”
Music started to play, around him he could hear the crowd begin to work itself up, murmurs, claps, he counted to ten, and there it was, the crowd began to roar as one, each getting caught up in the frenzy. Jason closed his eyes and bathed in the noise, smiling all the while. This moment was his favourite so far, in the six years he had been volunteering, he always loved this bit. This was his last year and hopefully, this time it would be his second favourite moment. The announcer let the crowd roar for a moment, then he spoke again,
“These brave men and women, these brave volunteers stand before you, ready to give themselves for your safety. Those who are chosen should be honoured for they are saving the entire world. Of course, it would be a cruel world if we did not honour such sacrifices, if we did not celebrate their bravery. Those chosen will be rewarded, as will their families.”
He turned towards a screen that had been slowly descending,
“Remember folks, this system is completely automated, the candidates are chosen at random. It chooses the best of the best.”
Jason could feel the blood booming in his head, the vibration of the music through his feet, his chest felt tight and empty at the same time. He knew he was going to be chosen, he just knew.
Faces started to flash on the screen, a girl would be chosen first. The system was random, but it always started and ended with a girl. At the end there would be fifty of each gender.
The first face appeared, a young girl, maybe fifteen, beautiful, with clear skin, bright eyes and long chestnut hair, her name flashed at the bottom, the announcer read her name and the crowd roared as those around her parted, allowing her to move up to the platform. She stood beside the announcer in her designated spot. Her face shrunk and moved to a smaller screen, the live cam that would show all their faces until there was a tapestry of them all. Jason crossed his fingers, it had to be him, it just had to be, there was nothing else. Just this. He watched the screen as the faces flashed by, finally settling onto one, his. He felt the roar of triumph burst from his mouth, blending with the crowds, he punched his fist into the air and jogged up to the platform, beside the girl. He stood tall and proud, for he was finally chosen. He would help his family in death more than he ever could have in life.
Jason waited impatiently as the other names were called, he tried to stand up tall, to look brave, like a good choice, but he was starting to get tired. The lack of sleep from the night before was catching up. Once the final name was called, the announcer started his final speech, Jason tried not to fidget, he knew this speech, everyone did, talking about how the government used to take people in secret, how it was for the greater good, about the riots when people found out, how the world was decimated when the delivery wasn’t kept, how the brave people were volunteering now and blah blah blah. Finally, the speech ended, the music boomed and the crowd roared, Jason watched the others, the ones who weren’t chosen as the platform rose slowly. Some looked relieved, others looked outright hostile. He knew how they felt, he had been them once. Not anymore though. In less than forty eight hours his parents would receive a ten year payment bonus, and his family would receive the average yearly income for him for the length of an average lifespan. They didn’t let the chosen speak to their families afterwards, too much fear they’d panic and bolt, not that Jason would do that. No, he was brave, far too brave to do a cowardly thing like running.
Once they were out of public view the platform sped up, bringing them to the resting bay. There they were led to their individual rooms. Jason walked in and lay on the comfortable bed. The door closed and locked itself. After a few moments, there was a whirring noise, then a metal panel slid back, revealing a meal. Jason ate slowly, enjoying it. It was good food, better than he ever remembered having. Once he was done eating, he took the pills that were lined up on the tray, a mixture of vitamins and sleeping tablets. Once he swallowed them all, he lay back onto the bed and allowed himself to drift off to sleep.
He woke the next morning as an alarm sounded, he got up, feeling calm and serene. A mechanical voice came from the small speaker in the room, Jason stripped as it instructed. The door opened and he stepped out onto the corridor, not caring that he and everyone else were completely naked. They moved along the corridor in silence, soon they reached the final room. There were a hundred spots on the floor, each person calmly went to one. Jason stood, feeling warm and relaxed, almost on the verge of being dazed. He was doing a good thing. Such a good thing. The machine came to life, loud clanging noises. He frowned, it was hard to relax with all that racket, then, it was over. They were in a dark room, the light was faint, but there was just enough to see the others. There were no instructions for what they were supposed to do, so they stood, waiting patiently.
Ten minutes late they came for them.
In the end, Jason didn’t think of his family, didn’t think of the bravery, didn’t think of the people he was saving. His thoughts were drowned out by the fear and agonising pain. Just before it ended, before the merciful darkness took him away, before his screams finally stopped, while he begged for mercy, Jason wished he had never volunteered.