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The Lottery of the Ruling Party Begins at Midnight

A dystopian tale of incredible loss and heart-wrenching acceptance

By Matt ReicherPublished 4 months ago 6 min read
The Lottery of the Ruling Party Begins at Midnight
Photo by Rob Curran on Unsplash

They took us from our homes and without telling us what was going on forced all us onto large trucks.

Each of us stared out of the window as a long line of trucks pulled up to the stadium. When we stopped, a strange group of men and women dressed in fatigues appeared and corralled us into the building and onto the field. It was dark, almost too dark to see the person standing in front of you.

Even though we couldn’t see them, we heard the whispers of the frightened crowd. The fear of likely hundreds of men, women, and children was palatable. Their feelings were understandable, no one was telling us what was going on — only proclaiming that the lottery would take place at midnight.

It is 11:55 PM.

A series of floodlights turn on, one at a time. A collective exasperated gasp fills the air every time another is switched on. Within moments we can finally see — but that doesn’t make me feel better.

Other seem to agree. As I scan the crowd around me, I see nothing but worry. No one knows what’s going on, but not a single person thinks it’s good. The children in attendance hug their parents tightly, husbands and wives hold hands as they look around — trying to understand what is happening.

Suddenly, a large door opens and a group of soldiers, each holding a large gun, file onto the field. The crowd only stares, eyes wide open and mouths agape. Not a word is spoken, and the silence is deafening.

This can’t be a good thing.

It is 11:56 PM

I can’t help but think these men are going to kill us. Why else are they holding guns? Is the lottery they keep talking about one to choose who lives and who dies?

John sees my concern and pulls me in closer. He whispers that everything is going to be okay.

I’m not so sure, but I hope he’s right. John and I don’t have children, but we aren’t alone. We have each other. I mean, look at him — who wouldn’t want to spend the rest of their life with that face?

That doesn’t seem like too much to ask. Does it?

The time is 11:57 PM.

I look over at John as he scans the men and women holding guns. He seems calm, and I’m not sure if that is good or bad. John turns to me and grins, “I need you to know that I love you completely — I have always loved you.” I nod and smile back, “I love you too.”

It took too long for us to get together. We grew up in the same neighborhood, but hung out with different friends. In high school, John was the dorky jock, and I was the preppy nerd. Later in college, we continued to let those ridiculous labels keep us apart.

Then one night — one incredible night — oddly enough at a house party — I hated going to those things — we gave in to our simmering attraction for each other. It was the best decision I ever made, and I am pretty sure John would say the same thing.

I’d say we wore each other down, but that makes it sound less than perfect. Cupid’s arrows found their mark. It just took longer than it usually does.

The soldiers are lifting their guns and pointing the barrels at the crowd. I think they are going to kill us. Maybe they won’t kill us all? Perhaps the survivors will be the winners? Maybe John and I will get to grow old together?

If only we’d given in sooner! We would have had more time together, more precious time.

The time is 11:58 PM.

Only two minutes to go. Is it the end? I don’t know but it sure looks that way It’s not fair. My emotions are all over the place. I want to run, to fight back, do something — anything! We are making it too easy for them to kill us.

I look around and see nothing but black walls. There’s no escape. Tears start to form. I’m scared.

For some reason John remains calm. He reaches into his pocket and pulls out a silver heart-shaped locket.

A locket? Has he decided two minutes before our death is the time to give me a gift?

He could tell I was confused. “I want you to wear this around your neck. Please — if you’ve ever loved me, do this for me. I need to put it on now, and no matter what happens, never take it off. Okay?”

I nod as I put the necklace on. John smiles and kisses me lightly on the forehead.

“Thank you.”

It’s 11:59 PM.

The soldiers begin to call out to each other. The crowd starts to yell and scream. I can’t understand what they are saying, but I think they’re getting ready to shoot. These bastards are going to kill all of us.

It was almost time. I was scared. Lottery? Why didn’t they do it already? Why lie about a lottery? It’s not like any of us was given a choice to be here?

John looked at me and said, “Don’t worry. Everything is going to be okay. I promise you.”

Had he lost his mind? I wanted to punch him. In less than a minute, we were going to die, and he was making promises? Damn him.

The screaming stopped. Everyone seems to have come to terms with their fate.

I hope it doesn’t hurt.

The clock strikes midnight.

I close my eyes. The weapons are all fired in unison, and within seconds there is nothing left but silence. Is this the sound of death? I look up and see bullet-riddled bodies and blood — so much blood — lying on the ground around me.

Everyone is dead — including John.

Why not me? Why am I still alive?

A door opens in front of me, and a tall man wearing a suit enters. He dances through the dead bodies wearing a smile on his face.

“Congratulations, young lady! What is your name?”

Staring at John — the man I love — lying on the ground in a pool of blood, I struggle to get the words out, “My name is Sara. Why am I alive?”

“Well, Sara, you won the lottery. The locket around your neck told us to keep you alive. Not only that, as a celebrated member of the ruling party, you will be given a ….”

I grasped at the locket around my neck, the one John gave me only minutes before.

“You mean you killed everyone that didn’t have one?”

“Sarah, you don’t understand. We killed everyone — they’re all gone. You were the only survivor, congratulations.” He continued. “The ruling party believes in unparalleled loyalty, and by sparing your life, we expect you will fall in line.”

“We expect you to be happy to be among the living.”

A man with a gun walked over. They’d expected an answer immediately. Was I going to be loyal to the new government and live, or be a problem? I chose loyalty. John would have wanted me to live.

I fell to the ground and cried. John gave me his heart-shaped locket, his golden ticket to survival, understanding that doing so meant he would die. He promised me everything would be okay — knowing that I’d live.

Here’s the thing though, I’m not okay. John and I deserved more time.

Short Story

About the Creator

Matt Reicher

Historian for The Streets of St. Paul and Minnesota Then. I'm using this platform to share stories about Minnesota history and whatever else (or wherever else) I find interesting at the time.

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