Hayden had many thoughts cross her mind when the alarm clock woke her up. Would she be alive by the next morning? Who would she be sleeping next to if she were to wake up tomorrow? This was the last day she would have to be free. Free of a job, free of a husband, and free of life. But if the worst were to happen today, she would surely be free of any life and, of course, dead.
Today was Doomsday and Hayden was on her 19th year. On every citizen’s 19th year, his or her fate was decided. Whether they were to live or to die.
Only 25 men and 25 women a year were kept alive. And 19 was the year, the last teenage year, that each child's fate would be determined. There were 67, 19 year old's this year. Some years only had 50, 19 year old's—and those were the lucky years. Hayden was the 16th girl born 18+ years ago, out of 31 girls. Hayden knew of at least two girls who would surely be executed today. But she was unsure about the other 29 girls' fate. It was hard to tell when she was the leaders' child. For the leaders' child only had school with the other children and did no other activities with them, for she lived on the only hill in the city. That hill was kept for the Leaders' of Spartion. There had only ever been nine eras of leaders since World War Three.
Every time a child of the Leader is 19, a new leader is determined by the people and for the people. Every non-nineteen-year-old and non-nineteen-year-old's family member democratically vote for the leader based on who is not executed.
How one is saved: there's a computer system with the amount of good deeds each 19-year-old had done, the description of his or her life story and how he or she has treated his or her parents, as well as a legacy which tells of how one would benefit to society. The computer gives the names of those saved, as well as the person he or she is destined to marry and a job each couple gets. The leader is voted for the day before Doomsday. And the computer keeps that in mind, unless the leaders voted for are destined for execution. If that is so, which has happened only once in the past 200 years, the computer chooses a second option for leader. So, though it is a democratic society, it is also a technological society with a definite utilitarian spin.
It terrified Hayden, truly. She was scared for the outcome of today. She was nervous for her friend and if he would be executed. There were more 19-year-old boys than girls, meaning more boys would be executed. What if he was? Or what if he wasn't and she was? How would she know how his life played out and if it was a good life?
What petrified her most, however, was the idea that if they were both to be saved and that they were married to each other. After one is saved and placed in said job, they marry the person the computer chooses as their partner, by putting two drops of blood in a vial that they are to keep in their home in a safe. Then, they are given a first year's rations to keep them going until they're trained fully in their job, and a key to their new home. After their 23rd year, they are allowed to have one birth, whether it be to one or multiple children (twins, triplets, etc...).
Coda was her only friend, and he liked her more than a friend—almost loved her (maybe he did love her, who knows?)—and she didn't. She didn't want to lose their friendship. They promised each other that they would always be friends—and nothing could end their friendship. Even death itself could not harm their friendship. What could harm their friendship, however—in Hayden's mind—was if they were to be married. She didn't want to be his wife. She didn't want to live with him and carry on the same job and be together every hour of every day of their lives. She was scared that, that would make them never want to be around each other and that that would cause problems. Hopefully, though, that wouldn't happen.
Hayden pulled the covers off her and got out of bed groggily. She had no energy whatsoever to go on with the day. But she went through the usual, everyday motions she would on any other morning. She put her hair in her signature messy bun, put on nice jeans, a black t-shirt, and a blue sweater. She then rushed down the stairs, two at a time, and entered the kitchen. An omelet and milk were placed at her table spot and she thanked her mother, who was washing the dishes, as she sat down.
Her mother smiled at her, but said nothing. Her face was pale and her hands were shaking. Every mother of a 19-year-old must go through so much emotional pain on Doomsday, especially if they are leaders. Harper and Cayden would be placed in Leader's Estates after today, so that the new leaders could take the hilltop house. Harper hoped her daughter would become a leader—she had a feeling she would—but there was always that doubt. Leaders did run the town, but they had no control over whether their child would become the next leader. It usually happened that way, and no leader's child had ever been executed, but, of course, there was always that possibility. The computer was the ultimate leader and the ultimate determining factor.
At ten o'clock, the 19 year olds were required to go to the Town Square where everything would be explained. Most knew the exact way of Doomsday, but some were oblivious to it, other than the fact that some of them would be killed. At eleven, every other civilian would go to Town Square and at 11:30 the computer would read off names, starting with the Leaders.
At 9:25, after Hayden had scarfed down her omelet and milk, she took off walking toward Town Square. It was only a 15-minute walk, but Hayden wanted to get there early, especially because Coda had planned to get there early as well. When she got close, she saw Coda standing against a tree in the park. He smiled widely at her as she came up to him.
"Good day, my lady." He bowed to her.
"Is it?" Hayden asked, nervously. She always knew Coda never to get anxious or worried, but she thought that, at least on Doomsday, he would get a bit anxious. She, of course, was wrong. When Coda stood up straight again, after the bow, he smiled.
"Every day is good. You just have to look at the positives!" He said, and they began walking toward Town Square.
"It's called Doomsday for a reason. We're all doomed."
They were only a few feet from entering Town Square, through the alleyway, but Coda stopped. "You have to learn not to be so pessimistic. Be more optimistic. It's a better lifestyle."
Hayden stopped a few steps after him but did not turn around or make eye contact with him, even when he matched her stance.
"I'm scared, Coda. Terrified, even. Terrified that—"
"Shhh." Coda placed two fingers on her lips. "Stop worrying! You're the Leaders' daughter! You will survive through today and I will too."
"You can't know that."
"What did I promise you exactly one year ago?"
Hayden opened her mouth to retort, but Coda kept going. "Our friendship will never, ever be broken."
Hayden took a deep breath. "You're right. I'm sorry. That doesn't make me any less nervous, though."
"And that's okay. All that matters is that we're going to stay friends, no matter what."
Hayden nodded and they walked, together, into Town Square.
The computer sat in the center of Town Square motionless. Nineteen year olds began tumbling in as Coda and Hayden watched. At exactly ten o'clock the computer began explaining instructions:
"You are now and have always been a part of a greater plan." The computer spoke like a robot, displaying its words, one at a time, on its screen. "Ever since the plea to end all wars, and your ancestors fought till the end, you became a part of the plan. And this plan must be kept to create a perfect society. You are the products of a great and perfect society, and if your execution is today, you must remember that you are not a failed experiment, but rather a gateway to helping make this society perfect." It paused and Hayden and Coda exchanged glances with each other.
"Today your fate will be determined. At eleven o'clock, you are to sit in the designated 67 chairs. You are not to talk to your parents. You are to stay completely silent. At 11:30 I will say the two Leaders names. You will come up and your previous leader will give you a vial in which you will place two drops of blood into to seal your marriage. There will be no exceptions for who I choose as your partner. You must understand that I am programmed only for the best of your society. Then, I will print out two keys for your house, as well as enough rations for you and your first year of training in your job. After you get everything from me, you will go on to stand in the crowd and wait for the other 24 couples to be assigned. Those of you who are not assigned to a spouse or a job, and I will read out your names, will have two hours to spend with your family in the Town Hall. There are enough rooms for all 17 of you, and your name will be on the door of your designated room. After the two hours are up, the executions will take place, from oldest to youngest. They are painless, so do not worry about that. Just remember you are a part of the plan to create a perfect society. Thank you for your understanding."
The computer screen turned black and nothing more was said.
Angry talking erupted. People asked what to do and why the computer gave them no real explanation. The only person, it seemed, to not talk nor shout nor scream was Hayden. She walked toward the computer and had a sudden urge to kick it. She would not succumb to the urges of hate, of course, but she sure wanted to break that computer any way she could. She hated it. She hated everything about it. She hated how it said that she and everyone else were part of a plan to make a perfect society. She did not want to be a part of that society. It sounded barbaric. She had always loathed the idea that the 19 year olds who were not designated for life were to be killed. Why did that have to happen? Wasn't there some other way? But she knew no other way.
Eleven o'clock could not come any quicker for Hayden. At around 10:30, almost 20 minutes after the computer stopped talking, Coda walked over to Hayden staring at the computer.
"You okay?" He asked over the loud protests and shouts of the other 19 year olds.
Hayden said nothing. She had lost all ability to speak and all will to live. Maybe she wanted to be one of the ones who were executed. That way she wouldn't have to deal with this "perfect" society anymore.
Finally at ten till eleven, the talking and shouting died down. The 19 year olds must have decided that the shouting wasn't changing anything or helping anyone.
That's when Hayden spoke softly to Coda: "I don't want to do this anymore..."
Coda didn't understand what she meant. He wanted to, but he couldn't understand that level of pain. He was too immersed in optimism, that when someone had pain or had a doubt, he didn't and couldn't understand it. It was a flaw, and it was one of the worst flaws, Hayden thought. That's one reason why she couldn't marry him.
Parents and other civilians began piling into Town Square at eleven o'clock. Hayden sat in a seat next to Coda, but they didn't speak, as they were told by the computer—the computer that was the only thing to determine anyone's fate—Hayden thought.
Eleven-thirty finally came and the computer turned on again. All whispering by parents and other civilians ceased and the computer was the only one to speak.
"The Leaders of the new generation are Corinth Brown and Jaqueline Smirth.”
Hayden’s heart sank. If she wasn’t a leader, what would she be? Corinth and Jaqueline went up to the computer and it did exactly what it told them it would do. Hayden’s father was there, with the vial, and as the two of them dropped two drops of blood into said vial, he had a sullen look on his face. He was probably distraught that his daughter would not be taking over the Leader position.
Hayden waited to be called up for her job and spouse. It wasn’t until the 23rd couple was called up, that Coda was given the job of teaching and his wife. A girl named Willow, whom she had never spoken to before in her entire life. Coda seemed, in some weird way, okay about it.
Had he spoken to her before? Was there something there that I missed? Hayden thought. Her eyes began to water as Coda and Willow put the drops of blood in the vial. Maybe she was wrong and she did love Coda. She wished that she had spent more time with him. But it was impossible for her to spend time with friends when her parents were always busy and she was cooped up in the house all day, unless she was at school. Maybe while Hayden was cooped up, Coda was becoming friends with another girl, just in case the worst happened. And it seemed like Hayden was oblivious to it all.
Coda looked over at Hayden, but she quickly looked away and wiped her eyes. After Coda and Willow were finished with everything, the 24th couple was called up. Two people she didn’t know, or care about. All she cared about was the fact that she still hadn’t been called up.
Hayden’s father was shaking as he pulled out the 24th vial. It must be hard for a leader to know that his daughter might not be saved. Especially when eight of the nine leaders children became leaders before. The other one was called up second to become a cop. So, in all of history of Spartion, this had not happened. Never was a leader’s child called up 25th.
But Hayden was not called up when the last two were. She didn’t even care to look at the last two. Her father was shaking uncontrollably now. It was hard for the last two to place two drops of blood in the vial labeled “25.”
Had this truly happened? Had Hayden actually not been saved? This must be a dream, her dream. It was impossible—this had never happened before in all of Spartion’s history. That was when her name was called first, among the 17 to be executed.
Hayden hoped for an uprising from her father or mother, but none came. When all 17 names had been called, everyone, except Hayden was able to rise and go to the Town Hall. Hayden, however, could not. She had failed her parents. But how? How was this even true? She could not move a muscle. She was frightened. Her death was only two short hours away.
Coda was the first to come up to her. Not her father, not her mother, but Coda. The one who had been just married to another girl. Willow came with him and helped Hayden to her feet. They were saying soothing words, but Hayden could not hear or comprehend what they were saying. She was too focused on her own failure.
Somehow she was able to walk as Coda and Willow led her to her parting room in the Town Hall. It had her name scrawled on the door, but Hayden’s eyes were too watery to even look. Tears had not escaped her eyes, yet, but they would surely come. She sat down on the chair as the door behind her closed and she was alone. Who would be the first to say goodbye? Her parents—who were now no longer leaders? Or the friends that she didn’t have? Is that why she was to be executed? Because she was unsocial and only had one friend?
Her parents did come, but not for another ten minutes. They had nothing to say to her. They were just as confused as she was. They sat next to her and hugged her. She cried in their arms for the next two hours, until the executioner came to take her away.
She was the oldest of the seventeen who were to be executed. So she was first. First to die. First to be part of the plan for a better society. A failed experiment.