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Curiosity led my eyes to wander the classroom, glancing at the watches on everyone's right wrist. From a distance, it was difficult to make out the grey, digital numbers on the little metal slits wrapped on. Though it was difficult, it was easy to make out a certain number. Zero. All the timers I could see had many zeros on them, meaning their journeys were to come to an end and the clocks would unlatch themselves forever. I looked back to my own watch and winced as if the numbers were a knife to the chest.
Seven hundred and thirty-five days, twelve hours, fifteen minutes, seventeen seconds...and counting.
Just a little over two years until that fateful day. Though, there was something strange about my timer. It was slower than the average clock, so when a minute passed on the digital clock that hung over the classroom door, only thirty seconds had passed on my own timer. My time was double what it should've been. That damn doctor screwed me over with this thing. I began to tap my sneaker on the ground, growing impatient with the class. The clock on the wall showed that only a minute remained until school was over and as would be our teacher's boring lecture on Mao Zedong. Suddenly, a group of girls giggled loudly, the squeal hurting my ear. Mr. Calibri's beady eyes shot over to the girls, annoyance clear on his expression.
"You three," he snapped, pointing to a group of smiling girls at the far-right side of the room, "you all know the rule of this class. Draw attention, get detention." I mentally rolled my blue eyes and huffed quietly, a strand of long brown hair falling over my left eye. Only seconds left until we could leave school for a few days. One of the girls, the blond one, giggled again and shrugged. I knew why. She had been bragging all day about how she was supposed to meet her soul mate when school ended. Then, when she did, the annoying, thin metal watch would beep and fall to the ground, all of the numbers flashing zero.
The school bell rang.
At once, everyone stood with their backpacks, shuffling to get out of the godforsaken classroom. The girl with the almost dead timer was first to the wooden door. As was Mr. Calibri. He wanted out of here as much as we did. The two both reached for the silver handle at the same time. My eyes widened as only their pinky fingers touched.
Two timers beeped and fell to the ground. One had fallen from the girl's wrist and the other had slipped through Calibri's sleeve. They both landed with a clang on the white tile floor. No one dared to make a move. I caught my breath, staring at the two apparent should mates. The girl looked up at Calibri, who smiled at the teenager seductively. Tears filled her eyes and she forced the door open, sobbing furiously. Calibri chased her, yelling for her to come back. I sighed and shoved through the crowd of my peers into the hallway, knocking them out of the trance that they'd been in. That was one of the reasons I hated these little slits of metal. They matched you with someone you didn't want to be with. Very rarely do I hear of people actually being pleased with their match. My parents weren't happy, my friends' parents weren't happy. Hell, they still aren't.
I didn't bother going to my locker. It was no use pushing through the sea of people, younger and older than me, to get a book out of there. Instead, I made my way to the front doors of the small school and walked out, making my way over to the cracked sidewalk. I made sure to keep myself in the middle of the walkway, making sure I didn't hit the old barbed wire that stood on both sides of it, blocking me from the street and the green grass on the other side. The sun was shining, but everything still looked eerie and dark. It'd been a little over seventeen years since World War III had ended but everything was still in ruins. According to our textbooks in school, the last war that took place in the United States was during the 1800's. Even World War I and World War II didn't make it to America. I was born shortly after the third World War had ended, a few months after. These ruins are all that I had known.
In the past, as a child, my mother would always tell me stories of life before the war. The destruction began when she was almost thirteen, so her and my father both knew how the world had looked before bombs were dropped. There was green grass everywhere instead of in patches like it still was that day I walked down the sidewalk from school. The buildings in our city, at the time of my mother's childhood, were not in ruins. There weren't as many ditches in the ground before that first air raid from France had come to the states. When I was eleven, I asked mother why the war had started. She'd told me that for every World War, there was a bad guy. In the first, it was the Austro-Hungarians, who fired the first shots at the war when they invaded Serbia. The second was caused by Germany, or at least by Hitler and his Nazis in Germany. Hitler began the Holocaust, killing off Jewish men, women, and children or sent them to concentration camps, eventually to die from starvation, disease, or gas, to achieve a perfect society.
We were the cause of the third World War.
The United States was in terrible shape. We were a mess. There were shootings everywhere. Schools, banks, parks, neighborhoods, literally everywhere. It had gotten out of hand and began to happen once a week, sometimes twice if someone was feeling risky. Along with all of that, we were causing many problems with outside nations. Anywhere there was a fight, our president either sent camera crews to film it and show our own country or military troops were deployed, making a simple battle between two groups into a full-fledged war. At one point, there were troops in forty-eight different countries, starting battles or creating a war they weren't to be involved in. We also expected payment for this, apparently. No one liked the United States, but some didn't think that they should start a war with us for being selfish. The opposing countries split in half; half on our side, half on the side that wanted to end us.
Instead of the fight being fought in one area in Europe, it truly was a World War and took place everywhere. It was a giant dispute between citizens of different cities in each nation, thus making nowhere safe for anyone. France was the first to declare war, sending an air raid to each state in the United States. Our president then declared war and all Hell broke loose. The casualties from the second awful war ranged from sixty thousand to eighty-five million deaths. Well, try to imagine that being doubled. Before the fighting started in 2110, population had been a growing problem. Almost seventeen billion humans made up this earth, causing problems everywhere. In the end, the casualties had been totaled up to fourteen billion to sixteen billion deaths. While the world fought its useless battles, they ended up almost killing off our entire species.
In a panicked attempt, the remaining scientists continued creating Timers. During the year 2134, they were brand new and everyone wanted one. At that time, they had a choice as to whether they wore the wristbands or not. After a few more years, the population had barely risen. Our world was in deep trouble, facing extinction. In the year 2145, the scientists who created the Timers went to work again and made all new ones. These were special Timers. The second the doctors found a heartbeat on a child in their mother's womb, the mother underwent a special surgery to get the watch placed on the unborn child. This procedure became enforced by the government in every hospital across the world…what was left of it anyway.
The annoying sounds of construction that have been a constant since I was a baby still rang loud as I jumped the barbed wire to cross the cracked street. These workers have been working on the city since the end of the war and they were just now getting to the busiest part of my town. A lot of the time, I would look down while I walked, even across the streets. Not a lot of people have cars anymore, so there was no worry about any asshole drivers not paying attention. I entered the busy “crosswalk”, merging with plenty of other people who were also on their way home. For years, I never looked up while walking unless someone called my name or I felt I needed to get home in a hurry. God, I should have looked up that day. Someone ran through the crowd, heading the other direction. I didn’t see them coming. Suddenly, I was mowed down, landing hard on my back and losing my breath, a weight on my whole body.
That weight ended up being a boy.
Gasping, I pushed him off me and sat myself up on my arms. A group of people had formed a circle around us. Some worried about me, snapping at the boy for not being more careful. He seemed a bit frazzled, almost as if something had scared him enough to make him run for it. After gathering my senses and my breath back, I heard a faint beeping. It was coming from my wrist. But that was impossible, I had over seven hundred days left until it was supposed to be doing that. I looked at the watch and felt light-headed.
Zero days, zero hours, zero minutes, zero seconds.