This piece was written for @F3nix's Finish the Story Contest - Week # 18. Each week, he posts a beginning script of a story, then asks that each participant finishes it off and posts it on their blog or in the comments. He rewards three of his favorite endings with shares in the Steem Basic Income program and splits the SBD payout with the honorable mentions. Grazie, F3nix, for this challenge!
Thank you to @Calluna for providing this week's script! She loves to write and her blog has a delicious collection of poetry, horror, and short stories to sate any reader's appetite. Head over to her page to treat yourself and check out her Tell Me A Story Contest!
Now, on to the story...
She picked up a resignation form today. She had been thinking about it for a while, handing in her notice, taking her last year. Every day is just the same, different faces, different flavours, but underneath, it was all the same. Was there any point in the endless forward march, the slow decline into ill health, unemployment and poverty? She didn’t have children, no friends who came to visit, and it was at least three years since her last match.
She sat on the corner of her single bed, in her single room, the thin long window illuminating the bare floor. She pushed a loose strand of mousy blonde hair behind her ear, and picking at her thumb, she wandered in thought.
She could travel, she could see the ocean, she could stand beneath trees, she could sit in silence. For one year. It was as good as it got, some people only got 6 months. But was she ready?
She couldn’t keep going, not like this. She had seen the lifers, the people who worked for 65 years and collapsed, decrepit, into the hands of hapless, half-hearted “help”. She had even been that half-hearted, hapless help, she had worked for minimum wage, clearing up bodily fluids, spoon feeding, doing what she could, but it destroyed you, seeing all your future had to offer.
A lot of people who worked there handed in their notice; you had to do it between 40 and 55 to get the year. Some people applied for special circumstances after 55, but generally they got less time.
She was 47. A lot could change in her life still. She could meet someone, she could have children, grandchildren, she could grow old. Couldn’t she…? Did she want to? She turned it over in her mind. She had accepted a lot in her life, but she just couldn’t face the rest of her life, playing out, day by slow dragging, hardworking, lonely, day. Night after empty, starless night. If she took her year, she could get away from the cities and their thick rank pollution. She could escape the crush of the masses, the regimented flow of preoccupied people. Her parents took her to a forest once, before the regulations changed, and closing her eyes, she could almost hear the hushed whisper of branches, almost feel the dappled sunlight on her upturned face. Almost. She opened her eyes, was there ever really any question? She had dreamed of it for as long as she could remember, and in that moment, she realised, she was always going to quit, it was never a question of did she want to, just when. Was she ready?
She flopped back onto her bed, bouncing back against the overly springy mattress. Relief coursed through her. She was going to quit, maybe not today, but she would do it. The digital display in the wall flashed, green numbers ticking over, 23:00. Instinctively, she felt around her bedside tablet, and pressing the button, retrieved her small blue pill. Blue before bed, white before work. It dissolved on her tongue, and she felt the thoughtless relaxation wash over her.
The next morning, she woke before her alarm had chance to rouse her. She stood at the window, watching the constant ebb and flow of people and traffic, the living city beneath her never slept. Her resolve had only hardened overnight, it felt right. She retrieved the form. She would quit. She would take the year. One good year, then call it quits.
Deanne walked into the facility and headed to the Human Resources Sector in the east wing. Maggie Clumm, her smile gleaming like her pearls, accepted the form and congratulated her on her choice to join the Dreamers. She handed Deanne a bottle of purple pills and her resignation packet, then bade her to continue down the hallway to receive the company's insignia tattoo.
Sitting in wait on an uncomfortable orange plastic chair, Deanne read through the papers in the folder, idly wondering why Maggie hadn't chosen to quit and take the year herself. An hour later, one of the technicians, a happy blonde fellow with puppies dancing on his lab coat, ushered her into the implantation room.
The sun had begun sinking behind the towering buildings of the city when Deanne walked out of the facility where she'd toiled for years. For a moment she stood, watching the gleam from the sun reflected on the glass and metal of the city as she ran her fingers over the tender skin of the fresh tattoo on her wrist. Such a simple design, a cloud with an eye and a waved line, the mark of a Dreamer. Deanne opened the bottle she'd been given, removed one purple pill and let it dissolve on her tongue. With a chuckle, she turned and headed home to pack. Nobody had told her that the freedom to follow her dreams would taste like raspberries.
August was spent in St. Lucia. She hiked the Piton Mountains and dove into waters bluer than any television screen had given justice to. October had her take in the wonder of Machu Picchu. Her tour guide was happy to share his natural delights with her as well. She'd never known how delicious her body could feel as it was tasted under the moonlight on a blanket in the mountains. A trip to Louisiana in November to visit her parents gave her the chance to listen to a god-awful band and discover the more enjoyable effects a woman practicing voodoo could give her body. Tahiti, San Sabastian, Kyoto and Giza opened her mind and filled her soul in the following months. The tattoo on her wrist paying her way and the taste of raspberries ending her day.
A year later, the second to last day in July, she strode back into the Human Resources Sector. Deep in her heart, she wanted to run, wanted to keep traveling, wanted more. The consequences of doing so, however, weren't worth it. Appendix D in her paperwork had spelled out the dire penalties to her, and to her family, should she try to take more than her alloted time.
Maggie Clumm, still in her pearls, smiled at Deanne and exclaimed how good quitting had been for her skin. She handed a black pill to Deanne, warning her not to take it until she had been taken to the Dream Beds.
Deanne walked to the north wing, waved at Mr. Puppy Coat as he passed her in the hall then held up her wrist and pill to the guards at the entrance. In the changing room, she stripped down, pulled on the soft lavender robe, then walked out, heading to the eighteenth row, seventh bed on the right.
Letting the soft robe slip off of her body to the floor, she stepped down into the white lined Dream Bed, fluffy like the cloud on her tattoo. Two technicians lowered the glass lid above her, sealing it tight. There was a hum as the system activated, a soft blue glow coming from the circuitry within. Deanne placed the black pill on her tongue and drifted off to sleep, the taste of grapes her final memory.
That night, a new series began on the Dreamer's Channel. Millions of viewers tuned in to watch the adventures of a woman's travels around the world. The premiere, with vivid scenes of her scuba diving in the jeweled waters of St. Lucia brought in record ratings.
art and flair courtesy of @PegasusPhysics