Unexpected Belligerance

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This is a story by Brandon, written for the 2015 Spring Equinox Storytelling and Sushi Feast.


Four Sols until it's done. Me, not quite 11 years old, and the biggest decision of my life looms over everything I do. In four Sols I choose whether or not to live forever.

Sometimes I wish I was "Y not" instead of a "double hugs". Double hugs, that's what my mom calls XX. She'll say, "Us double hugs are lucky, we can be mothers if we want to be." As she says it she'll beam at me like I'm the best thing that has ever happened to her. I know she loves me, but I can't help feeling guilty knowing I'm the reason she'll expire before her time. I guess every kid has to work through that knowledge somehow. Although it does seem to be easier for seconds. My little sister Greta has never shown any signs of feeling guilty for mom. I guess by the time she came along it had been years since mom drunk the water. Mom's early expiration was inevitable as soon as she decided to have me. Greta blames Mom's early expiration on me. Never mind that she wouldn't have existed either if mom had chosen forever instead of kids. Greta feels like she's an extra bonus, making a bad situation better.

No one has ever had to wonder what Greta will choose next year when it's her turn to drink. She's been very clear that only fools drink the water. I think even mom knows how she feels. I think she'll probably become a beligerant.

Anyway, back to my choice. I'll have only one chance to drink and the moment for that choice is less than 100 hours from now. For the last couple of mornings I've woken up with a sense of peace and certainty. I've made the choice and I know that it's right. But before I come fully awake I realize that I can't remember what I've chosen. It had been crystal clear just a moment earlier, I'm certain of that. And it was right ... for sure. As I blink and look around my dim coffin, I start feeling panicky. "Breath, just breath. It's gonna come back." But it doesn't. As I pop the coffin and swing down, the panic ebbs and is uncovers a feeling I can only describe as sour curds. I don't want to choose, but not choosing is choosing just as surely as drinking the water is choosing. I'll probably drink. Almost everyone does.

At least today will be kind of fun. I'm scheduled to assist Martha in the fishbowl. Martha is a belligerant scientist. She's spent more than a 150 years trying to break the choice. She says that the water contains some kind of machines in it that are too small to see. I don't know of anyone who believes her, even among the other belligerant scientists. How could a machine exist that is too small to see? And who would have made the machines in the first place? I'm not sure what I think. Maybe Martha is crazy, but she's always been kind to me and never scolded me for asking my special brand of off beat questions.

Even though I enjoy the science I know that I'll never be a belligerant. I agree with everyone else that it would be horrible if the forevers could have children. The math is simple enough that I've already gone through it myself. In 10 generations the world would fill up and big green wouldn't be able to keep our air breathable.

Yesterday was a different kind of fun. I got to help out with the ladybugs at the nuture center. The ladybugs are the youngest kids that go to school. Martha never gets to spend time with kids that young. 10s like me are the youngest shes allowed to work with. I think that suits her fine.

When I got to the lab Martha never arrived. A terrible accident they all said. A porter on the stairs had slipped and Martha knocked over the edge and fallen 4 stories to the landing below.

I guess a part of me must not have believed it was an accident, because I skipped when it was my turn to choose. I think everyone thought I would drink. My mom seemed disappointed.

I've been assigned to take Martha's spot. I guess I'm going to have to make up my own mind about those little machines.

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