This is a short story written for the Writer-In-Motion event designed to share the process of writing. This is my first revision.
Joyce snapped. For years, she’d watched the government assignments dictate the future. Children two-years-old forced down pathways established by the all-seeing eye of their government. Two.
Algorithms chose their future. Not today.
She didn’t think. She acted. She changed her daughter’s future.
Serenity Grace Knowles, Teacher.
Internal Exception: Please wait by your terminal for assistance.
No. No. No. Joyce threw her head back and glared at the ceiling. “Just keep it cool.”
She slipped out the back and down the halls. They were coming for her. This was the end.
How long till they traced the exception to her, chased her down? How long did she have to hold her baby before they came for her? She shouldn’t have skipped her monthly MediScan. Her mood was destabilizing. That was why she triggered an internal exception today.
She forced a sob back down into the churning depths of her stomach.
Waroo Waroo the alarm sang through the air like a demon screaming chase her, chase her. It flew through walls and sang through steel and glass. She jumped into her pre-programmed car. Home. Anything could happen after that. She had to see her daughter first.
The Federal Bureau of Acceptance wasn’t bearing down on her to take her life.
No regrets. Though it might burn in the mind of her father. Thankfully, no one could trace back to the initial edict. No matter what, Serenity was a teacher. Safe.
The stupid smart car stopped at the green doorstep, and she ran in to relieve the nanny. She might have twenty, maybe fifteen minutes.
Sweet music trickled into the air from somewhere. Happiness. Joyce inhaled it. Tried to hold it forever. Purple flashing lights, the FBA, slashed across the wall, unleashing the wildling beating at its cage within her.
A tear escaped. Why the skies had she done it?
Lights slashed through her living room window, across the safety of her home. She wanted to call out for help. Find someone to rescue her from the precipice she found herself trapped on. Light a flare and get lifted out of the nightmare her life had become. She’d endured. Did it have to end like this? What kind of mother had she become anyway? Absentee? Broken.
Pounding below echoed through the paper-thin cement and slipped right up her spine.
“Mom!” Sere tore through the living room leaving the nanny at tea alone. “You’re hommmme!” Her tiny arms wrapped around both of Joyce’s legs.
“It’s tickle torture time.” Joyce choked back tears and chased Sere. They ran in circles around the furniture until Joyce slipped her hands under Sere’s armpits and hoisted her high, and then, falling backward, they collapsed to the floor, giggling.
Joyce stilled and Sere seemed to read the moment with her two-year-old wisdom.
“Mom, why are you sad?” Her little curls slipped over her serious eyes, a pinch between them.
“I’m okay.” Joyce swallowed.
Pounding feet down the hall sent Joyce’s heart stuttering. The blood drained from her head making thought impossible. Sorrow replaced it, bleeding through her ribs and bones. She was uninjured and bleeding to death.
She tightened her grip on her imaginary flare. Maybe that being her father spoke of would come pick up her shattered life and put it back together. A squeal of delight from behind the settee drew her out of herself. She would love Sere. Right now. Right here. They would make one more good memory, before. . .
Thump, thump, thump resounded through the flat. They were no more than three doors away. Joyce crawled on all fours and snuck up behind little Sere’s back.
Sere peeked around the settee. “Mom?”
“Right here!” Joyce folded her precious little girl into her arms and kissed her forehead breathing deeply the scent of lavender. It filled her full of memories, adding this last moment together. She memorized the feel. She’d remember that after death.
“I love you more than the stars. More than the air. I love you more than anything.”
“I love you too, Mommy.” Sere wrinkled her nose and twisted her lips to the side. A question scrunched her forehead. “Something’s wrong Mommy.”
“I made it right. Just remember. I love you and you are worth it.” A sudden insanity, a crushing urge to fly out the window with Sere in her arms flickered through Joyce. Maybe they could—
Bang, bang, bang ricocheted through her living room. Sere’s blue eyes rounded above her pink cheeks. Joyce froze, clinging to Sere, her one last flare of life in this world.
Tiny arms squirmed and squeezed as hard as they could. “Mom, are those bad men at the door? Are you going to let them in?”
“Serenity, please understand? Mommy loves you.”
“Open up. It’s the FBA.” The man’s voice set fire to Joyce’s thoughts. Not enough time. There just wasn’t enough. She squeezed her daughter tight. They sat behind the couch, silent, squeezing, memorizing.
“Ma’am, we know you’re in there. Open up. We just want to talk to you.” She’d lived too long to buy the government party line. She’d worked too long for the man in charge, and she knew, everything was rigged.
“Remember what Mommy?”
“Remember I love you baby.” She whispered it into her hair. Tears tripping their way through Serenity’s curls. Her precious little hands reached out and touched Joyce on both of her cheeks. “Remember baby.”
The voice outside quieted, the banging stopped, and then the silence splintered around the hideous ramming bar that broke through the door.
A flat-faced, bald man lifted her precious screaming daughter from her arms.
Another lifted Joyce by her armpits and spun her around cuffing her hands.
Nothing changed the course of the tears racing down those precious pink cheeks.
It ended for her, but it began for her little teacher.
For her little teacher.