I love the old choose your own adventure books and an article in the Daily Post about polls gave me the idea. Each week I am going to write part of a story followed with a poll. You, the reader, can then vote on which direction you want the story to take.
Let’s get started with last weeks answer-
Beth kept her eyes on the device, allowing it to finish its scan so she could enter the square.
Peter stepped up next. He stared into the beam with no complaint. She remembered how hard it had been to get him to look at the scanners after he’d registered at the required age of one. “One, he was just one…” the thought drifted into the next before she could stop it. “He was one and the odds are one in six…one in six, he was one. One in six”
Beth scolded herself. The gate opened. She took Peter’s hand and together they entered the crowded plaza. Every women and child in their district was here and it was quite crowded. Men were forbidden to enter the square during testing day. They stood in groups or alone outside the fence, watching the procedure with fists clenched and jaws set. Peter’s father, James, was among them.
“One in six. He could be one in six. Oh God, don’t let him be one in…” Beth bit down on her tongue hoping to take her mind away from the trail of thought. She had been like this for weeks, unable to forget the statistic once she had read it.
She found the area marked for children ages two through five and chose seats for them on the edge where they could still see James. “Two seats but my son could be one of six!” Beth felt close to screaming. She suppressed it, calming herself for Peter’s sake. The other mothers around her looked equally nervous.
They gazed at each other, secretly sizing each women up to see who would be this years crack up. There was always one, sometimes several. Nearly every mother cried silently when it was her childs turn to go up, but most of them held onto the hope that everything would come out ok. They kept their small ones calm until the results were announced at least and then some held on after, for the child’s sake.
“But what if he is one in six? What if I can’t…?” Beth pushed the thought away and concentrated on staying strong. “Be strong for Peter,” she told herself.
There were always a few mothers who didn’t make it through the testing ceremony. They simply cracked under the pressure unable to think of the consequences. Instead of walking with their son or daughter (you were allowed to hold their hands right up to the testing point) they broke down, forcing the guards to drag the screaming child to the stage while it’s mother wailed and fought behind them. Some women pulled out their own hair, others tore scratches down their faces with their nails. All of them had the same upsetting results on all the children, making other mothers hate them even in their pity.
Stress can cause a false positive on the first test and so the kids most upset were often the ones taken for further investigation. It was important to keep the childs heart rate down if you wanted them returned to you.
Beth would make every effort to keep Peter safe. If he was (“one in six”) one of the children chosen for further investigation, she would reassure him. She would give him every advantage possible to pass the next round. If they had to take him, she would tell him to be brave, and she would show him how with her own example.
A horn cut through the air, announcing the time to start testing was at hand. It would be the infants first. It went according to age group. This was Beth and Peters second year at the testing. Her first horrible year had been excruciating but at least it had ended quickly. She remembered sitting in the infant section, crying and rocking Peter, thanking God and fate it was over, while she watched of all those other mothers who were still waiting. She imagined he horror of having to sit for hours, waiting to know if your child would be taken. She watched the other mothers of children taken cry and scream and the whole time had been glad it was not her feeling that pain. This year the wait would be worse and she was grateful Peter wouldn’t be in the last group of eight to twelves yet.
“Good Morning!” a loud voice announced over the crowd. Standing at the microphone was Mrs. Perry, their community voice. “Welcome to this years testing. We hope to have you through as quickly and painlessly as possible. We all know how hard this can be on our little ones and we appreciate your time spent here keeping out community safe.”
“As if we had a choice you bug eyed bitch,” One of the other mothers mumbled and Beth suppressed a smile.
“As we call each name, would mother and child please come forward. Archer, Bryan.” And so it had started. Just like that the names were called and the child was brought forth. Each one was placed into the clear box which read the childs physical conditions. It went quickly once it was started and for the first year that Beth could remember, only two infants were taken for further testing. Both children’s mothers fought viciously against the guards and were ushered roughly from the crowd.
Now it was Peters group’s turn. Beth waited, holding her breath, as the name calling began. Her mind tried to hurt her,”One in six Beth. Only two out of twenty gone so far, that increases your odds to…Oh shut up will you!” Her internal voices fought for control.
“Andrews, Michelle” A small women in a tan robe stood with her young daughter’s hand in hers. They were beautiful. There was no mistaking they were related with both having the same long blond braids down their backs and the same small frames. Just before the girl entered, the mother leaned down pressing their foreheads together and whispers to her daughter before ushering the frightened child into the box.