Time for more fiction!
So I’ve made the decision to try to post something short (flash, short story, poem, etc.) at least once a month. Below is something I originally wrote for a contest, but never submitted (I know, I know). If I had to categorize it, it would be Sci-fi flash fiction (less than 1000 words), but there’s no aliens, spaceships, or lasers. Think 1984 meets the Klingon Empire with a splash of Ender’s Game (No, no aliens!).
WARNING – This story will not be for everyone. It’s dark, and, depending on your viewpoint, doesn’t have a happy ending. You’ve been warned 🙂
Enjoy, and comment away!
Strange. That’s what they told me. That I was Strange. It was the worst day of my life.
I got off the bus with the other twenty-seven Strange kids. None of us spoke. We weren’t allowed to. They marched us single file into a space big enough for a hundred times our number. That’s when I saw her. Margaret Killnen, Chief Transition Warden.
“Welcome everyone to Transition and Allocation Center two-two-four,” she said. “This facility will be your home for as long as it needs to be. You’ll get your room assignments from your Transition Agent, who you’ll meet shortly. That’s all.”
We were directed over to two small tables. A Transition Agent, one male and one female, sat at each. We were divided between them, boys to the woman, girls to the man. I was at the front of my line.
“Tiny group this year,” the man said.
“Gets smaller every year,” the woman said.
“That’s good, yeah? Means we’ve almost routed out the scourge.”
“Yup. Name?” the woman said when I was shoved at her.
“K-Kyle. Kyle Burns,” I said.
She swiped across her tablet. “Burns, Kyle. Age ten, brown hair and eyes, seventy one pounds. Father: Michael, mother: Sheila. One brother: Jackson, sixteen. Already serving in the Effort.”
“Do you know why you’re here, Kyle?”
“Because I’m Strange, ma’am.”
She looked up at me. “Everyone is strange inside, Kyle. Why else?”
‘Inside’ was the codename given to places like this. Or more accurately, to the program they ran. ‘The way to be normal is to search inside,’ the slogan went.
“It’s to make your parents proud of you, Kyle. Like your brother. Is that what you want?” she said.
It was. With all my heart. “Yes, ma’am.”
I don’t remember much from my first year. It’s all a blur. I think that’s mostly because of the drugs, but the concussions didn’t help. Rough going for me early on.
I broke my left wrist fighting Allen in my second year. It was my fault. He wasn’t progressing as well as I was, and I got overconfident. I tried to charge him, take him off his feet, and drive his face into the ground for a quick victory. Landed with my arm under him. Got full marks for aggression, though. He cried. I never saw him again.
By my third year I was tops in my group. My Transition Agent had me taking on kids three and four years older than me. I didn’t always win, but I left them knowing they’d been in a fight. That’s the same year Jackson died. He fell leading the charge against Belshik’s Iron Wolves mech group on Sherman Island. He wouldn’t have wanted to transition out anyway, I told myself.
My parents came to visit me on my fourteenth birthday. They seemed pleased with my progress. My father smiled when I tried to tear his throat out with my teeth.
“Wow, you’ve done a remarkable job!” he said to my agent after a few wardens pulled me off of him.
“Thank you,” she said. “I’m very proud of your son. Looking at him now, you’d never know he was determined Strange a few years ago.”
Hearing the word Strange spoken with my parents there took me back to the moment they were told. I remember the Determiner saying “You’re son’s compassion rating is very high, I’m afraid, and his aggression score is below average. I have no choice but to label him Strange. He is not fit to serve the Effort as he is.”
My father beat me for two hours that night. I don’t blame him. Who wants a compassionate son when the Effort needs soldiers? Thank goodness for the Inside program.
It was a week before my allocation when I learned they were closing the program. The state officially declared that they’d wiped-out Inverse Aggression. Every child they’d tested over the last three years had passed. Not one Strange.
I didn’t know how to feel about that. I knew it was good that we, as a people, had triumphed over the scourge. It meant that every child-citizen would be able to aid in the never ending struggle to defeat our enemies. That was a good thing. But what I’d learned inside as I grew was invaluable. Not the fighting skills, anybody could learn those. What I learned about myself. The sheer violence I’m capable of. I knew I would serve the Effort, and serve it well. I never would have been able to discover that without having been Strange in the first place.
Over a ten year span, as a member of Conscription Troop one-three-five, I wracked-up seventy-eight kills. Even took down a Wolf mech. Deetes said it was his kill, but I knew it was my EMP grenade that knocked out its shields. I challenged him to arm wrestle over bragging rights. He can’t bend that elbow to this day.
Then I got told I was being transitioned. It was the worst day of my life.
I knew it had to come eventually. New conscripts were ready for allocation, so some of us were always being reallocated back to support citizens. It was happening more and more. With no one being determined Strange, there were plenty of folks able to aid in the Effort.
I got off the bus with the other three-thousand-two-hundred-eleven transitionees. None of us spoke. We weren’t allowed to. They marched us three abreast into a place barely large enough for us all. That’s when I saw her. Margaret Killnen, Chief Transition Warden.
“Welcome everyone to Transition and Reallocation center two-two-four,” she said. “This facility will be your home for as long as it needs to be. You’ll get your room assignments from your Transition Agent, who you’ll meet shortly. That’s all.”
Thanks for reading,