Sunday, March 29, 2015

Survival of the Fittest

I leaned in and set my eye against the scanner, and blinked as soon as the light hit. It took less than a second for a beep to sound and I pulled away. Perhaps it was my own self-loathing that made me see a trace of a smirk on the teller's face, but she passed me the credit slip anyway.

"Good day Ms. Steele," she said, before her smile died and she turned to reset the retina scanner for the next blank in line.

I hated having to show up in person to get the money that was rightfully mine, but it was the only method available to people like me. I shoved the slip into my pocket and walked out of the bank. I put my hood up and kept my eyes down, hoping no taxis would stop to pick me up. I'd have to walk the three miles to the medical facility because I had just enough credits to pay for the operation I needed.

"Want isn't the same as need, honey." I heard my grandmother's voice preaching at me again. But it was just a memory that I could soon erase because I wouldn't need her to take care of me anymore.

My mind flitted through the opportunities that lay ahead of me once I recovered. I would leave my grandmother's home and set out on my own. I'd have a good paying tech job with a future that would take me out of this hell hole. I'd watch her face when I would tell her to go blow it out her blank, and the look of righteous horror in her eyes when she saw the results of my operation.

I threw my head up and laughed at the thoughts, and the long walk didn't seem so bad even in the hot stale air.

A taxi flew by and suddenly stopped, then backed up and paced me.

"Need a lift?" the cabbie asked.

I shook my head but he scanned me anyway, the cab floating beside me as I continued to walk.

"I'll fly you for free," he snickered, once the scanner finished. I could see the red light flashing and knew why he bothered even before the next words were out of his mouth.

"I've got a fifteen-minute break comin' up, and I'd love me some oh-natural."

"Go blank yourself," I yelled, hoping he'd go away. But he continued to pace me for a few blocks until a real fare flagged him down. Relieved, I walked on hoping his passenger's route would take the cabbie far away and long enough for me to get to where I was headed. Girls like me seemed to attract men like that. But not for much longer.

I kept walking and was lucky that all the taxi hops were full of people waiting for rides. One day I'd be one of those people, instead of the blank that I was now. Just a few more blocks.

I rounded the last corner and silently cursed the picket line that surrounded the med facility. Dozens of blanks were walking in a circle around the building, holding signs that read: "All human life is precious!" "Don't let them take the human inside you!"  "I'm not sorry I was born human!" And finally, "Blank is beautiful!"

I watched as a couple of the picketers harassed a woman in a white coat as she walked towards the building. I decided I would use that distraction and pulled my hoodie farther down my face before sneaking into the picket line and pretending I belonged. My hope was to use the line to get close enough to the door and then step into the protection of the facility's security guards.

"Arabelle?" I turned to see my grandmother staring in shock, the sign she was holding wavering in the air between us.

"Oh my Lord, child," she said, dropping the sign and taking me by the shoulders. "I'm so glad you decided to join us. We need young people like you."

I let her hug me and then pulled away as soon as her grip loosened. I looked down and away, aching to leave her standing there and not wanting to see her face.

"Oh dear," she said, her voice becoming a feeble whisper. "You're not here to join us, are you."

I shook my head as I stared towards the building.

"No grandma," I said, turning to look at her one last time.

"Oh Arabelle." Her face twisted up and tears welled in her eyes. She looked as if she was going to collapse onto the ground, and I automatically went to help her. I moved her to a nearby bench and sat her down. Her hand on mine kept me from walking away.

"I know you think you need to do this, this thing," she said, "but you don't have to. You can stay with me. I can help you. We can help each other."

"No grandma, you can't help me. Don't you get it? Don't you know that if I don't do this I'll never amount to anything, just like you?"

The stillness of her face made me realize the insult I had flung, and for a moment I regretted it.

"Sweetheart," she said, "please don't do this. You're parents... You don't understand the consequences."

"The consequences?" I rounded on her with all the fury of my 19 years as a pariah. "I know the consequences, everyone knows the consequences. It's the old ways of living, your way of living that has ruined the Earth. You've made it uninhabitable. If I'm going to survive, if humanity is going to survive then we humans have to change."

I was yelling by the time I finished my rant, and several of the picketers nearby had moved towards us. But I didn't care anymore. I didn't want the life she had forced me into, that was made fun of by my classmates, frowned upon by my teachers, and turned every job interview into a snarky rejection letter.

"Thank you for your application, Ms. Steele. As you most certainly know, you simply do not have the requisite fittings for the position to which you've applied."

I yanked my arm from her, and pushed past the blanks who had come to her aid. I was determined to keep my appointment, no matter the cost.

Once I had my shiny new eyes, neural connections, and an exoskeleton to match my name, I could qualify for Yeoman on the starship Pioneer. And in less than a year I would ship out to Keppler 186f, and finally leave this dustbowl of a planet behind.

<word count: 1111>

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I just loved this story! Keep it up.