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Hecatomb

The Decision

By Jason BasarabaPublished about a month ago Updated 12 days ago 12 min read
12
ArtStation

The outside world was unknown to her, but she could see a glimpse of it through the window in his room. He watched her staring out, unmoving, it was unnatural and a little annoying.

He took a deep breath while scanning the large all white room, the forced light was so bright the whole area felt Surreal. The floor was white, the ceiling and walls were white, the gowns and masks the elders wore, all white. The only other color came from him and the two other Guardians, if you call black a color. The headphone in his helmet crackled. "Alpha, you sticking with your choice?"

He eyed the Lady again, not a muscle had moved. “Yeah, she is going right today, I feel it." They dubbed her the 'Lady' because of the way she held herself, with poise and grace. Her long dark hair with silver streaks was always combed and perfect. Even though they could not see her face, he imagined it was regal.

"The voice crackled once more. "Ok, last chance, I'll even double your bet if you want?"

Double? Shit he wasn't that confident, out of all the people that had come and gone, she was the constant. No one knew why she stayed, her husband exited right months ago. As far as they knew, she has no family, no friends, none that they could discern. No reason at all other than being stubborn. No, she is definitely going right. The payout on her was growing everyday.

Beta reminds him. "Alpha, she's gone left and returns to her room every time, what's different today?

"No, I'm keeping my original bet."

"Chicken."

Beta could be such an ass sometimes. Alpha looked at the line of elders standing in front of him, a half dozen old people remain. When his shift began he was sure the day would go by swiftly, in fact the first five took the right door within minutes of looking out the window. The sixth returned from where they entered, left. Then came the Lady next in line. She continued staring at the pane of glass, her allotted hour was almost up.

Out of necessity for survival, the GENISIS concept was conceived. The Committee presented a stipulation, they agreed elders would never be pressured, coerced, or forced into a decision until they felt ready. The 'Window' was created to help guide them. The choice was theirs, but eventually they all went right.

Charlie chimed in. "Will you two clowns focus, we have a job to do."

He never saw the faces of his co- workers. Their visors were tinted, to protect everyone's identity. No guilt.

Charlie‘s voice had gotten sexy, smooth, and silky with a touch of rawness. Their uniforms didn't hide the body shape, hers was stunning. When did she mature? He never noticed the change until this year.

"Sorry." Beta mumbled

"Yeah me too." He meant that. “It's just that the Lady has lasted longer than anyone else. You can't help but admire that and not get caught up in the game.”

Beta adds. “She may be the first person going right, that I will regret holding the door.”

Alpha whispers aloud what was on all their minds. “What must she be thinking, what is keeping her here?”

Charlie speaks up. "We are to remain neutral."

Alpha and Beta both reply. "Agreed."

"Good. But, for the record I have fifty centars that she goes left, and I will gladly hold that door open for her." Charlie says this with a slight chuckle.

He can’t help but laugh. Suddenly the Lady moves, He holds his breath and watches in silence as she looks to her left. Stepping out of line, angling in the opposite direction. His heart skips a beat, she is going right. Suddenly in mid stride she pauses, looking toward the back of the line, at him.

"What is she doing?" Calls Beta, his hand instinctively goes to his sidearm.

As the Leader of the Guardians, they looked to him for the answers. "I don't know. Hold tight, she may be deciding."

Then with purposeful steps she marches to the back of the line, straight for him."

"Alpha, she may be straying, do you have this?"

His position was critical, every now and then one of the elders would panic and make a break for it. His job was to stop them and calm them, to control the situation. He was good at it. Being bigger than the average person, he could easily restrain anyone. But his greatest gift was his kindness. He had the ability to defuse a crisis by using his words and being understanding. His job was not to harm, but to help guide the elders and let them know they were safe, until they decided. Sometimes they got confused.

"It's ok, I got this. Help the next in line."

The Lady walked with a confidence that quite frankly made him hesitate. Holding his arms out wide, as if he were going to embrace her, in a calming voice asks. "Excuse me, do you need assistance?"

The Lady continues forward. "No, thank you. I have decided that I need more time, so I will join the line again." With that she smoothly steps behind the last person in line.

Beta's voice came through clear. "Can she do that?"

In his entire four years on the job, no one had ever done this, they had either gone left or right, or ran hysterically around.

He made a quick decision. "It's alright, she is calm, let’s not cause an issue if it doesn't exist."

Charlie adds her own concern. "What if others make this choice as well?"

"We will deal with this today and confide with the council after our shift to inquire how to proceed in the future. For now, continue as if all is normal." He felt good with the decision.

As one Charlie and Beta reply. "Confirmed."

He takes his place, behind the lady. Turning around, she looks up at him. He could have sworn she was smiling. It’s hard to tell, the masks are made of a soft breathable, material. contoured to look neither masculine nor feminine, smooth with no expression. But the eyes, you can see the eyes, and he swore they had a twinkle to them, a secret.

"Thank you." Was all she said, yet it was heartfelt. He hadn't felt like this since his first day on the job, she made him feel nervous, excited, yet whole.

Then for the second time in one day the Lady does something unexpected, she begins a conversation with him. Not illegal, but it seldom occurs. Mainly the elders talked quietly amongst themselves or stayed silent with their own thoughts, until it was their time.

"How many years have you put in?" She inquires.

Without hesitation he replies. "Four years two months."

She tilts her head as if in thought. "Only ten more months of service then."

He stood in silence, she was correct. Each guardian serves for five years then moves on to live their life. It was a duty and an honor, not everyone was chosen. How did she know this, was it common knowledge?

The line moves forward.

She continues, small talk mostly, telling him of her youth and things she experienced in her life. He was enthralled with her stories. She appeared to accomplish so much in her five decades of life.

Personally, he had trouble remembering his earlier years, it was strange he never thought about it before. Everyone was allotted the same amount of time before they arrive here. Why was she holding on?

"You have a gentle voice, it is sincere." Her voice brings him back to the now.

"Thank you, it is kind of you to say." In truth her voice was beautiful, it soothed him deep inside. He wanted to ask her questions, but knew that would not be appropriate.

"My son was taken from me and became a guardian as well."

The statement came out of nowhere and takes him by surprise. "What do you mean, taken from you?"

"Oh, I may have said to much, I assumed you were informed."

"Informed of what?" His mind was trying to understand what she was saying.

They now stood side by side, like friends in conversation. Changing the topic, she asks. "Are you happy, do you have a good life?"

This was a question that never occurred to him. "They treat me well. My position is rewarding."

"Tell me, what do you do for fun when you are done work, clearly you cannot hang out with friends and family?"

He begins to laugh. "Of course, I do. I have fun and do things.” For the life of him he can't remember any of it though.

The Lady continues. "What are your plans, when your tour here is completed?"

"I’m Studying to become an Enviro Controller.”

“That is an honest job.”

He pauses then shares. “After our conversation, it makes me want to live and experience things like you did, it sounds like you had a wonderful life.”

The lady breathes deeply, “I did, I truly did.”

Placing a hand gently upon her shoulder he says with meaning. “You should be proud, knowing that you did your best. May the window guide your decision, so others have a chance to live a similar life.”

In a deadpan voice she replies. "Oh, I am so proud, knowing that I have extinguished all my resources and have nothing left to offer society. This is truly a joyous choice to make."

He wasn't sure, she seemed sincere, but it also sounded a little ...sarcastic. Encouraging, he softly says. "You do know, eventually you will need to..."

Nodding her head in agreement, she sighs. "I know."

Taking the chance, he asks. "May I ask, what is it that keeps you here?"

The line moves up.

"I cannot say. I guess until I am satisfied with a question I need answered, I will stay."

He tenses up, no one has ever stayed longer than expected, most decide in the appropriate time. Glancing at her, he asks a forbidden question. "What do you see, when you look through the window?"

She chuckles. "It doesn't matter. What I see is different then what you will see when it is your time, I am sure of that."

"My time?" He stifles a laugh. "I'll have thirty years before I need to decide, which is long way off."

Her hand rises gently to his shoulders, her touch is firm yet loving. "That is but a blink in time, I was here where you are now.”

His heart skips, He felt there was not enough oxygen in his helmet. "You were a guardian?"

Nodding slowly, “That is why I lived the remainder of my life the way I did. I witnessed the inner struggle of those who wasted their days, thinking they had more time. I wanted no regrets, you must do the same."

He is shocked by the forceful way she says this.

She bows her head, wrapping her arms around her body he sees a slight shiver. "Like you, for five years I had no memory, no life.” Staring at him, he feels as though she can see through his visor.

"I have memories."

Tilting her head she demands. “Try as hard as you can to think about your life now. What are your memories?”

He thinks hard. He remembers playing games, having drinks, and watching games. He went skiing once in the winter dome, he is sure of it. Try as he might there is no clear faces of his companions, weird.

Sensing confusion, the lady continues. “They wipe them, so you have no family to worry over, no friends to distract you and no love life to interfere with your duty. For five years your life belongs to them.

He stops. That wasn't true, he had friends, he did things. Although right now he can't remember any of it. Surely he has family, although he cannot place when he talked to them last.

The line moves up. He stumbles on.

An urge overtakes him, he calls out on the radio. "Charlie, Beta, tell me something about your friends and family?"

The crackle came back instantly from both. "What... what did you say?"

"Friends and family, do you have any?"

Charlie replies first. "Of course, we do, what's going on Alpha, are you feeling ill?"

Beta was less concerned. "Are you trying to get out of your bet by playing sick?" A laugh echoes through his head.

"Tell me one thing about them, anything." He was sounding panicked, and he knew it.

Silence. No chatter from Charlie or Beta.

Alpha asks. "Charlie, Beta, are we friends?"

Silence.

The line moves up.

He looks to his two companions, their heads are down, in concentration. He sees their struggle, watches as Beta mechanically opens a door as an elder goes right, he stares for a while before closing it.

The line moves up.

The Lady speaks "Well, we're here."

Looking up he see’s the window. She is the last one today.

Turning to her large companion, in a soft voice she whispers. "May I see your face?"

"What?"

She glances into the window and speaks. "For over a year I have went without seeing another face, I wish to see one before....."

"Before?" He knows what she means but there is something inside that wishes for her to continue talking.

The Lady stands tall, defiant. "I know what this is, we all do. I go left, and tomorrow we continue our discussion, go right and we do not."

He feels emotions long buried begin to rise. He cannot explain it and doesn't mind not understanding. He looks around, there is only the four of them. They are so tiny in this large empty room. On a whim he calls out. "Charlie, Beta please turn around and face the wall."

His headphone come to life with two confused voices. "What's going on... Alpha or you ok,....do you need..."

His voice is firm. "Please, turn around."

They hesitate for only a moment then turn.

The Lady faces him, as he reaches up, unclips his visor and slides it open. She takes a step, her arms floats upward to gently touch him, cupping his face in her hands, they are warm and alive, vibrant. She wipes a tear from his cheek, that he was unaware fell. Stepping back, she removes her mask, they look at one another, Smiling she faces the window one last time. Before she enters the unknown, their eyes lock. He will remember her words.

The lady takes one last look upon her son and goes right.

Hecatomb /ˈhekəˌtōm/ noun (in ancient Greece or Rome) a great public sacrifice. An extensive loss of life.

"Excessive urbanization, global warming, and various pollutions are at the origin of this hecatomb"

Thank you for reading my story, if you enjoyed it please subscribe, leave a heart and comment. It is greatly appreciated.

Jason Basaraba

Another story for the 'Behind The Last Window' challenge:

https://vocal.media/stories/process-interrupted

Sci Fi
12

About the Creator

Jason Basaraba

I have enjoyed writing for most of my life, never professionally.

I wish to now share my stories with others, lets see where it goes.

Born and raised on the Canadian Prairies, I currently reside on the West Coast. I call both places home.

Reader insights

Outstanding

Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!

Top insights

  1. Compelling and original writing

    Creative use of language & vocab

  2. Easy to read and follow

    Well-structured & engaging content

  3. Excellent storytelling

    Original narrative & well developed characters

  1. Eye opening

    Niche topic & fresh perspectives

  2. Heartfelt and relatable

    The story invoked strong personal emotions

  3. On-point and relevant

    Writing reflected the title & theme

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Comments (9)

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  • Lisa A Lachapelle20 days ago

    I always like your stories. This is excellent.

  • Mariann Carroll25 days ago

    Very captivating story .👍👌

  • Cathy holmes29 days ago

    This is a great story. I was thinking there may be a connection there at the end. Very well done.

  • Daniel Jeyaraman29 days ago

    I am reminded of my own poem, "Crossroads" while I read this wonderful writing of yours, Jason. Congratulations, you have earned yourself a subscriber and a reader. ❤

  • Babs Iverson29 days ago

    Magnificent!!! Absolutely magnificent!!!

  • Heather Hublerabout a month ago

    Ah, that connection at the end, so good!! This was beautifully written and well thought out. You really made the emotions shine and the characters come to life. Great work!

  • Lea Springerabout a month ago

    Intriguing...a world apart from reality... people deciding their own fate by going left or right. The window--what a clever interpretation--looking back on life before making one's decision. Whether intentional or not, you also gave reality to the window/door saying--when one closes, the other opens...and the mother/son disclosure was a perfect ending....

  • Lilly Cooperabout a month ago

    Well done! I really enjoyed the complexity in such a restricted word count.

  • Excellent dystopian dark concept, and love the dead language for the title and that mask image.

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