I'm at it again...two years later. I decided last minute I'd compete in this year's NYC Midnight's Flash Fiction Competition. Last weekend was round one and my topic was:
Group # 78
Location: Man-Made Island
1000 words max.
I'd love any feedback in the comments.
Here's my story.
It’s time. I’ve had 14 years, 364 days to make this decision, and now on my 15th birthday, I’m forced to make a decision that will control the rest of my life. It’s so not fair. The ignoramuses who destroyed the actual planet five hundred years ago had no idea we’d be this limited with our resources and forced to move to space, but now we are, so I’m forced to choose between work and marriage. Awesome, right?
I have to get ready for the day, so I throw my hair into a pony before asking my bot to spray on my face. The spray hits quickly, making me flinch. I know I should be used to it, but I haven’t been using it for long. Mom laughs when I jerk away. “You’re so innocent,” she tells me, but today, she’s not here. Instead, she wants me to reflect before going in. Whatever that means. I mean I’ve been ‘reflecting’ on this for as long as I’ve known about it, which is pretty much my entire life. I give myself a final look and shake my head. “It’ll have to do,” I say and leave my bedroom.
“Hey Mom,” I say as I walk into the kitchen.
She looks up from her reading screen and stares at me. “I can’t believe today’s the day. I’m so excited for you,” she says and smiles. “Honey, aren’t you excited for Iris?”
I look to Dad and just laugh. He doesn’t even look up from his screen. As always, he’s watching some live feed, this time it’s about the discovery of a skeleton somewhere on the “Island.” Though it sounds interesting, I wish he’d for once pay attention to us. “Dad, did you even hear Mom?” I ask knowing it will piss him off.
“Yeah, yeah. Excited. Choice,” he mumbles without glancing up.
This is what I have to choose? Getting married tomorrow and having a kid within the year, or having a career and staying single. My mom obviously chose marriage, but she’s practically alone, and once I leave, she will be. I read in my school screen there was a time when there was equity between the sexes, but when the world went to shit and surviving meant creating the healthiest possible people, 15 became the magic age. The roles regressed. Now women are either workers or birthers. You can’t be both, but I’ve heard rumors about workers having babies. They got ejected back to the planet below. It sounds horrible.
“Dad, can you look at me?” I say attempting to get his attention.
Finally, he looks up. “What’s up?” He’s totally oblivious.
“Um, not much other than I’m choosing my future today. That’s all,” I say with my hand on my hip.
He turns to my mom. “Claire, is that really today?” She nods and rolls her eyes, and he looks back to me. “Happy birthday, Iris. It seems like yesterday you were learning to walk and now you get to be married and make one of your own.” He’s actually excited about this.
“Um, who says I want to get married?”
My mom’s coffee cup crashes to the floor and Dad chokes on his own spit. “Excuse me?” Mom barely gets out.
I know this irritates them; they’ve told me dozens of times how they can’t wait to have grandchildren. “All I’m saying is I haven’t made my choice yet. That’s all.”
They look back and forth at each other and back to me before proceeding. Great. They’re pissed and I know it. Working women are disgraceful, to them, and I could be one of them.
“Iris, we’ve talked about this. I thought you wanted to get married,” Mom says and cleans the cup up from the floor.
It amazes me how much we look alike. We could be twins if we were the same age - same dark hair and same light skin - but now she looks old. 33 years old, married with two kids, and her life’s practically over. She could get sick at any point and the government would put her in her own room of choices. I shake my head trying to get rid of the thought. It’s too depressing. “Mom, I know you’ve talked about it, but I’ve never actually chosen. Seriously, you’re asking me to let a computer choose a guy for me to marry tomorrow and have kids. It’s totally barbaric. What’s wrong with me using my brain and working? I mean, I could totally be the person who figures out how we could heal the planet and move back.”
Dad laughs. “Not likely,” he mutters.
He’s a dick.
Mom looks at the clock and lets out a soft yell. “It’s time, honey. We need to take you to the Room.”
Together, all three of us, step into a tube that moves us through our metal and glass island to the Room. When we arrive, they both give me a hug. “Good luck! We know you’ll make the right choice,” Mom tells me and ushers me through the airlock.
It’s cold and sterile, possibly the most uncomfortable place ever. I’ve seen pictures, but nothing matches the terrifying reality. There’s a small white table with two buttons: the left is white with a yellow ring - marriage. The right is black with a red ring - work. Neither is very appealing, and I don’t want to be in here longer than necessary. This shouldn’t be this hard. On one hand, I could be a mom and have a family. It would be nice to have people to share my life with, but on the other hand, I could be known for my mind. I could change the world. I want to push both, but I’m scared one will choose for me. I shake my head, angry at the situation, but step forward and reach for the button I feel the strongest about. “I’m sorry, Mom.”
The door opens and I walk out.