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Saeria
September 10th, 2015, 08:31 PM
Oh just your typical, post apocalyptic coming of age story :)


“32, 32, stuck her face in doo doo!” 37, 40, and 41 chanted loudly as they circled her desk.

“Stop! I hate that!” 32 buried her face in her arms and waited for class to start. She hated going to school. She was the only one there like her, and she hated feeling so… different. The teacher seemed to favor her over the rest of the class. Perhaps it was jealousy that prompted her peers to harass her so relentlessly.

“That’s enough, leave 32 alone!” 26 broke in, pushing the others away from her. He had been spending a lot more time with her lately since she started wearing the dresses. He had been changing too. He had sores on his face now, and his voice sometimes squealed when he spoke. There was just something about him that intrigued 32, but she couldn’t put her finger on it.

“I hate being 32.” She muttered. She wished she could be called something else, something prettier, but her mother would always call her 32 no matter what other names she came up with.

“You haven’t picked a new name this week yet?” 26 asked as he took his place in the desk next to her.

“Not yet, I haven’t found just the right name.” She normally derived her name from things she read on treasure. Last week her name was “Strawberry/Fresa” derived from a faded package of some sort she found in the playground.

“That’s okay. I am sure whatever name you pick will be just as pretty as you are.” 26 blushed as he spoke then turned away.She just couldn’t understand why lately he would become angry after saying something nice to her. Maybe it was because he was afraid of being picked on too.

The teacher rolled in and the little class settled in their seats waiting patiently for the lesson to begin. The teacher was nothing like Mama to 32. She was short and dumpy, squeaked with each movement. Sometimes a wheel would hang up on the edge of a desk and the teacher would whine and whir trying to free herself.

“Welcome students. The day is 31 Fall, 2323. The outside temperature is -31 degrees Fahrenheit. Air quality is 15.84%. Recess scheduled. Lesson #458710 in queue. Press start to begin. Because 26 was the oldest in the class today it was his job to push the button.
Gentle music played from the teacher while a deep, sing song voice began speaking. “In ancient America there were many presidents that reigned, but one of the most notable was Dr. Reginald Springdale. Dr. Springdale, the 93rd president, was born in Miami, Florida.”

32 felt her eyes droop. She woke abruptly to 37 shoving her roughly. “It’s feeding hour. Wake up, lazy bones.”

“I wasn’t sleeping.” 32 yawned. She had been unusually tired lately. “Hey, 26, want to feed with me again today.”

26 scowled and slammed his tablet on the desk. “No. Quit asking. You’re annoying me.”

She was used to 26 being angry with her, but something today just struck her wrong. She burst into tears and rushed out of the classroom, down the dim, dusty hallway, into the changing lobby. She didn’t feel much like eating anyway.

“Stupid 26.” She muttered. She dug around the pile of coats and masks until she found her own set. It was different from the green and black coats of the other students. Hers was white, lined with fluff, with tiny pink lines circling the snaps. Her mask was different too, smaller, decorated with bits of plastic and foil she had found in her travels.

It was a nice day outside. The orange sky seemed brighter than usual, illuminating the school grounds in such a way 32’s mood was changed instantly. Her soft pink gloves clung to her fingers as she stretched and flexed, contemplating how she would spend her recess. With no one outside yet to play with she had plenty of time to go treasure hunting.

Treasure hunting was a task all the children loved to complete. They were allowed to pick a trowel from the bucket and dig in the pits to find things buried in the Last Great War. When 32 was younger, one of the older boys, 19, found a little metal loop with a sparkling rock on it. It was just another decoration, nothing that could be marked on the treasure hunting chart, but it was the sort of thing 32 hoped she would find too.
It was a lucky day for 32. She was the first one to the trowel bucket so she had her pick of tools. There was only one left with a handle and today it was hers. She picked a spot next to a pile of rocks and began digging in the hard, dry earth. Each breath fogged her mask, making it hard to see, so she had learned to hold her breath in long intervals while counting.

The digging didn’t seem to being going so well. Every time her trowel would strike something her heart would race, but each time she managed to loose it from the earth it was just another rusted chunk of old metal. Her trowel struck something hard again. After carefully brushing and dirt and rocks away she found a little plastic tube, still intact with plenty of words to read.

“Tangerine Dream. Sparkling Lip Gloss.” She read aloud. “0.26 fl. Oz. Made in U.S.A.” She inspected her find happily. It was a pretty color, bright orange like the sky, with little bits of sparkle inside. She struggled with the cap a little bit before wedging the melted plastic away. Inside was strange and sticky.

“Lip gloss, I wonder what it is for?” She tried to taste it, clumsily wedging her gloved hand between and mask and her face, but instantly determined it was not edible. It smelled nice, however. 32 didn’t understand why the smell was so foreign yet so enjoyable. It felt satisfying on her lips too. She smeared more on her lips, feeling them glide together.

“Oh, What’s up, 32?” 33 yelled as he jumped into view. She almost dropped her new find, but she was quickly able to pocket it before 33 could see. There was no way she was sharing this with anyone except maybe 26.

“Nothing. All I found so far today was rust.”

“Tough luck. I found a circuit board yesterday. Remember?” 33 said gleefully.

“I remember. That was a great find. I bet you have the most points this week.” 32 replied, trying hard to mask her envy. The one with the most points from various school tasks was given a day to stay home. It was that promise of the extra day off that prompted the students to work so diligently in school.

32 could see 26 in the corner of her eye, sullenly kicking a rock across the yard and decided to cheer him up. Gleefully she skipped, grabbing his arm and laughing. To her surprise he seemed to brighten instantly. Cheering him up today was going to be a piece of cake.

“I’m sorry I said those mean things earlier.” 26 said sheepishly. Even through the mask she could tell his cheeks were turning red again. Maybe it was his medicine. “Sometimes you make me mad, but I don’t really know why.”

“That’s okay, as long as we can still be friends.” 32 smiled and grasped his hand. For a long moment 26 stood perfectly still, not even fogging up the mask with his breath.
“Did I say something wrong again?” 32 was starting to think this wasn’t going to be as easy as she first thought.

26 turned his back to her before responding. “That’s okay. It wasn’t your fault. I just feel weird around you. I don’t know.” His voice seemed labored, shaky.

“If you don’t want to be friends I guess that’s okay too, but that would be really really sad.” 32 let go of his hand.

“I still want to be your friend. “ 26 turned around and poked her visor. “I want to be your best friend forever.” He rocked back and forth for a few seconds then raised his hand high over his head. “And oh yeah, TAG, you’re it!” with a loud smack he struck her on the back nearly knocking her over in the process. The chase was on.

The day wore on slowly for 32. She was ready to go home to mama and read out of her favorite book, maybe even go out and play with 26 and 33 if the air was good enough. Just thinking about having fun with 26 made it difficult for her to follow the lessons. At last the teacher chimed, signaling her battery had been exhausted for the day, and she receded into the charging closet to sleep.

32 usually walked home with 33, 26 and his big brother 21, but for some reason 21 hadn’t been going to school lately. 26 said that he hadn’t been at home either, but his mama wouldn’t tell him where he had gone. They both discussed the possibility that 21 had been deactivated like her little sister.
32 celebrated her 5th year on the same day Mama brought home a new baby. She was the first person she had seen that was like her. Everything was just like 32 but smaller, cuter. 32 had been so jealous when 50 came home. The baby cried all the time, took up all of mama’s attention, and left 32 to play by herself more often. She hated the new baby at first.

Once her sister was old enough to walk and talk she was a bit more fun. She would throw the biggest temper tantrums, throwing anything she could wherever she wanted, kicking crying and screaming. That was usually a good distraction for 32 to sneak into the kitchen and snag a snack cube. Then when 50 was even older they played together outside, singing songs they made up, playing treasure hunt in the back yard. 50 couldn’t wait to go to school just like her big sister; she would never make it there.

On 50’s 4th year she caught the yellow. The yellow was something kids sometimes get when they don’t take their medicine or sometimes just because. 32 always thought that bad children were the ones who got the yellow. 50 wasn’t bad, just unlucky. Her skin turned a dingy yellow shade, her face began to swell, and she didn’t want to play anymore. One day 32 woke up and 50 was gone, as was her bed, her clothes, her toys, even her mask was no longer hanging by the front door. Mama said she had been deactivated, but said nothing more.

32 didn’t think that 26’s brother had the yellow though. He was too happy, too pink to have it. Today 26 didn’t even bring up his brother in conversation at all. He was more interested in 32 and her shiny lips.
“Your lips were pretty in class today.” He said in a whisper so that 33 couldn’t hear.

“Thank you.” She whispered back and giggled.

“So you picked out a name yet?”

“Hmm.. let me think. Oh, I know. This week I will be Tangerine Dream.” She exclaimed with a flourish.

“Tangerine Dream, that’s a funny name.” 26 put a hand to his mask hose. “I like it!”

“Oh.” 32 froze in her tracks, feeling a strange tugging in her stomach. “I think I need to make water. I am going to run home and beg mama for a snack cube. See you later, all my taters.”

“After while sock of guile!” 26 waved cheerfully as 32, now Tangerine Dream, rushed home. She dropped her backpack, coat and mask in hallway and dashed to the restroom for a quick break before her mama could even greet her.

“Good afternoon, 32.” She heard outside of the bathroom. “Please deposit your belongings into the appropriate places.”

“Okay, mama. Just give me a moment.”

“Please deposit your belongings into the appropriate places.” Her mama repeated. She would repeat this over and over until Tangerine Dream put her school things away. As she finished her business she noticed a streak of bright red blood in her clothes. She fought with the urge to cry. She didn’t remember hurting herself. Why was she leaking fluid? Her stomach tensed again, only adding to the panic she felt rising in her throat. Was she on her way to deactivation? Did she have the yellow?

“Mama!” she cried, interrupting the repeated message to put her things away. Her mama rushed in, slender metallic arms reaching out to embrace her as soothing colors cycled on her face screen.

“Stress relieving phrase #28133 not found. Try another selection. #21640 Don’t cry sweetie. Everything is going to be okay. What’s wrong?”

“I think I am leaking fluid.” Tangerine Dream wept on her mama’s cold breast.

“Initiating health scan.” Mama pushed her away for a moment, clasping her wrists in her delicate steel digits. The colors on the screen were replaced by strings of code flashing too quickly to read. “Health scan complete. Infection not present. Virus not present. Vitals within acceptable range. Elevated hormone levels. Stress relieving phrase #000002: It’s okay, honey. You aren’t hurt. It’s a natural part of growing older.”

“It is? I’m going to be okay?” Tangerine Dream sniffled, feeling a bit relieved.

“Childhood program complete. Please gather your belongings and prepare for transport to Breeding Facility Delta.”

Tangerine Dream froze. What was happening? She felt the tears returning, stinging her eyes so much she couldn’t open them. Blindly she reached out for a hug but her mama’s arms hung rigidly at her sides.

“Childhood program complete. Please gather your belongings and prepare for transport to Breeding Facility Delta.”

“Mama! I don’t understand!” She tugged, she wailed, she screamed but no amount of begging would make her mama hug her or reassure her again.

Blade
September 10th, 2015, 09:03 PM
I quite enjoyed this story myself.:sunny: I think you are able to draw the reader in to the strange little world where reference to everyone by number seems quite natural. A nightmarish situation, by our standards, is normalized but a naive child's perspective.:eagerness:


“Not yet, I haven’t found just the right name.” She normally derived her name from things she read on treasure. Last week her name was “Strawberry/Fresa” derived from a faded package of some sort she found in the playground.

This is both sad and comical IMHO, a tragic relationship between identity and 'treasure digging'.


On 50’s 4th year she caught the yellow. The yellow was something kids sometimes get when they don’t take their medicine or sometimes just because. 32 always thought that bad children were the ones who got the yellow. 50 wasn’t bad, just unlucky. Her skin turned a dingy yellow shade, her face began to swell, and she didn’t want to play anymore. One day 32 woke up and 50 was gone, as was her bed, her clothes, her toys, even her mask was no longer hanging by the front door. Mama said she had been deactivated, but said nothing more.

A sort of regression to the time when some childhood diseases were quite a serious matter.:blue:

I am not normally a prose commentator but I think you have done a good job here of describing a 'degraded' world by superimposing the naive perspective of a child on a rough situation.


As she finished her business she noticed a streak of bright red blood in her clothes. She fought with the urge to cry. She didn’t remember hurting herself. Why was she leaking fluid? Her stomach tensed again, only adding to the panic she felt rising in her throat. Was she on her way to deactivation? Did she have the yellow?


Deactivation would certainly be a fear of the time apparently.:devilish:

H.Brown
January 22nd, 2016, 12:36 AM
At first I found this story extract a little confussing, as I could not work out if the protagonist was a robot or a human, however after reading it again I realised the distinction that I had missed first time. I think that this a very strong story as it grabs the readers intest by pipiquing the readers curiosity, what has happened to the world? Where are the huuman adults (parents)? Which is good as a good story shouldboth keep you guessing and questioning what will come next.

I love the idea of young children and adults 'treasure hunting' and finding common place items and wondering what they were,
I agree with what Blade has said there is a childhood nievity to the character of 32; which I think allows for an interupted view of the world and character's surroundings which creates the feel that this is a world unlike our own, which was your clearly intent and this comes across very well.

Well done this is a very enjoyable story and I would be interested in reading more to find out what happens next. Keep on writing.

Abita
January 24th, 2016, 08:44 PM
Wonderful little snippet. I like the touch of pre-adolescent awkwardness making this alien world feel familiar and recognizable in at least one way. You might want to revisit the dialogue or delve further into why 32 is so naive; I would think that at this age (12 or 13?) she would be able to somewhat read a boy's behavior and recognize a crush.

Just a thought. You're off to a great start

sambot79
February 1st, 2016, 06:14 AM
I thought your story was great. For the first few paragraphs, I was a bit confused because I was trying to figure why the children were calling each other by numbers. It wasn't until the scene where she is was frightened by menstruating for the first time, I realized that her mother was actually a machine. The realization that the world of the story was frightening to me was this short dialogue[which was well-written].

"“It is? I’m going to be okay?” Tangerine Dream sniffled, feeling a bit relieved.

“Childhood program complete. Please gather your belongings and prepare for transport to Breeding Facility Delta.”

Tangerine Dream froze. What was happening? She felt the tears returning, stinging her eyes so much she couldn’t open them. Blindly she reached out for a hug but her mama’s arms hung rigidly at her sides.

“Childhood program complete. Please gather your belongings and prepare for transport to Breeding Facility Delta.”

“Mama! I don’t understand!” She tugged, she wailed, she screamed but no amount of begging would make her mama hug her or reassure her again."


The point of view of a child was really an effective point of view in revealing this terrible world. The child was innocent, afraid and didn't know what was happening.
I want to learn more about how the world became the way it did. For example, what happened to all the human adults? How did machines become the teachers and parents of human children? The orange sky and the discovery of objects in the dirt hides an ominous past waiting to be revealed.