It's the 3rd day of September and I am committed to writing one piece of flash fiction every day this month in order to earn my monthly author badge. I hope you are enjoying the dark tales.
by Meredith Loughran
In the land of Utopia there is no pain and suffering; no illness or hunger. Disease does not exist. Neither does depression or anxiety. Everyone gets along and smiles are always sincere. At least that's what Bette thought. The day of her 18th birthday would change her forever.
It is common knowledge that everyone goes through the Pit in their 18th year, but no one ever talks about it. Of course, the days leading up to their transition from girl to woman or boy to man, Bette and her friends often wondered about the mysterious ceremony.
Today felt like any other day. With a self-deprecating chuckle, Bette finished dressing and sat down to breakfast. Her parents were unusually quiet and refused to make eye contact. Shrugging it off she reached for an apple but her mother stayed her hand.
"You're not going to want to eat," she said quietly. Bette did not understand the strange look in her eyes. It was an expression she did not recognize.
"Mother..." she began but the brisk knock at the door interrupted her.
"Go on," mama said, "it's for you."
Her stomach fluttered with nervous excitement. Today was her day.
With shaky legs, she opened the front door.
"Yes?" she answered.
"Per Utopian law you are hereby summoned to come to the pit where you will swear allegiance and become a full citizen. Will you comply?"
What a strange question, she thought. "Of course."
With a brisk nod, the officer escorted her to the center of town where the tallest building in Utopia stood.
She paused before entering and peered at the very top of the building, fascinated by how it swayed with the gentle breeze. The officer motioned her to follow him into the building then prompted her to place her thumb on the scanner.
A disembodied electronic voice announced: September three, twenty-eighteen. Bette Dubois. Identification code 2225254572. Enter.
A door opened. Bette felt her heart skip a beat and hesitated, looking at the guard. He nodded toward the entrance.
The door closed behind her with a heavy thunk after which the disembodied voice prompted her to keep walking down the hallway. The further she walked the more unfamiliar sounds began to emanate from the walls.
She was led to a room and instructed to stand in front of the glass wall. When the lights went out the disembodied voice began to speak again. "Bette Dubois. Identification code 2225254572. Welcome to the Pit. What you are about to witness is the rite of passage into full citizenship of Utopia. You are free to ask questions as we proceed. Let us begin."
Bette swallowed back her nerves as the heavy curtain opened to reveal a hellish site.
On the other side of the glass was an emaciated girl; filthy and disheveled. She looked bruised. Her eyes were dark and sunken. There was something so familiar about this girl but Bette couldn't quite put her finger on it.
"Who is she?"
"Bette Dubois. Identification code 2225254571. First born. Marked for execution on this day September 18, twenty-eighteen."
"Marked for...execution? Wait, why does she have my name? What do you mean 'first born?'"
"As a citizen of Utopia, all couples will bear twins. The first born belongs to the state and the second born belongs to society. This is the Utopian way of maintaining peace and prosperity for all of her citizens. As a citizen of this state you will carry out this duty and live a healthy, happy life."
Bette wanted to throw up and the memory of her mother staying her hand, warning her not to eat flashed to the forefront of her mind. She knew this was going to happen. The girl on the other side of the glass hobbled toward her so they stood facing each other. Bette could now see the familiar face looking back. It was as if she was staring into a freak show looking glass.
"What happened to her?"
"For every day of your Utopian life, 2225254571 must balance the scale in the Pit."
Bette touched the cold glass, tracing her sister's face, and for the first time in her life she felt a pain so deep she wanted to collapse to the floor and cry for this poor wretched soul.
"Are there any other options? Must she die?"
The disembodied voice remained silent.
"Bette Dubois. Identification code 2225254571. First born is marked for execution on this day September 18, twenty-eighteen so that you may gain full citizenship into the Utopian state. Failure to pass this test means you will both be purged. You have 1 minute to decide."
Bette put her head against the cool glass. Her world forever changed now. With horror she realized her parents had made this terrible sacrifice, as did her grandparents, and her older friends. Then she remembered the rumor about one boy in her class who ran away. It was a huge scandal until the citizens made it against the law to speak of such things because nothing bad happened to its citizens.
Bette knew what happened to him. And now it was her turn to make a choice.