Sam knew he had come to the correct location when he saw the broken archway. He had been traveling for over a month now, looking for what he hoped would be the answer to his question. Everything he owned was covered by mud, and he felt as if he would collapse at any moment. The fact that he was wearing a heavy trench coat didn’t help either. He had finally reached his destination, and under his mask of mud, his mouth moved, forming into a smile.
Michael woke up drenched in sweat. Just a nightmare Michael, it’s nothing he thought to himself. His heart raced like a horse as he dragged himself downstairs.
When he arrived downstairs, a medi-drone immediately flew towards him to give him his daily medical injection. Fluids that supposedly quarantined your body of any lethal viruses and bacteria, but all it did was leave a harsh, red swelling in his arm, that left his arm in pain for hours. Michael sighed and put his arm forward, mentally preparing for the torture that was about to come. As the drone’s menacing needle injected the medication, a surge of pain ran across his arm. Michael howled in agony and nearly collapsed onto the ground. Tears were streaming from his eyes as he tried to regain his composure. His arm - as well as his hand - was numb, and his mind felt sluggish. The medi-drone proceeded to help him by flying away, leaving him in his current condition. He showed his displeasure by raising his functional hand to give the drone the finger.
The town was quiet, too quiet. A shiver went up Sam’s spine. He had been imagining a sunny, magical land full of lush floral life when he first embarked on this journey, returning as a hero when he returned with it. Instead, he was rewarded with a town full of crumbling houses, dead crops, and ample amounts of mud. The broken archway was probably the most intact structure in the whole town, which was depressing considering the fact that half the arch was missing.
Michael’s breakfast was ruined by the sound of the Administrator’s voice booming through the city’s announcement speakers.
“Citizens of Sapphire City,” he boomed, “as you all know, the Selection is happening today. As such, all women and men over the age of 20 are to attend the Selection ceremony at Sapphire Square in 5 hours. And those that don’t show up,” he then started laughing, and his laughter sounded exactly like the cackling of a demon from hell. The laughter came to an abrupt stop and he continued on “will be executed at the ceremony right before the main event.”
Then the speakers went silent, and Michael's heart pounded furiously in his chest.
Light. He could see light. The faintest light visible through the cracked window of a roofless hut that was nearly all covered in mud. He shook off his trench coat and started to crawl over to the hut, then everything went black.
The square was packed to the brim with people, all gazing at the balcony of the Administration Center in front, like helpless animals in a zoo, except zoos didn’t pack 230,000 people into a gated off area. In fact, a better comparison would be meat in a meat grinder.
The silence was deafening as the man dropped dead onto the floor. Nobody said a word.
“HA HA HA! Wasn’t that hilarious?”
It was the Administrator. A baby-faced man with a generous body and a mustache that looked exactly like a toothbrush.
“Citizens of Sapphire City, welcome to the Selection!”
The silence persisted. Ironed into the square.
“Now now, this is a ceremony, not a school hallway, where’s your spirit!”
Nobody dared to open their mouth. The Administrator’s face frowned in disappointment, and he nodded his head at his guards, who started shooting into the crowd. A man next to Michael dropped dead, and the crowd was in chaos, running wild and screaming like a stampede of buffaloes. The Administrator started laughing, goading his guards to continue as he screamed “More! I want More!” repeatedly. Eventually, the guards stopped shooting, and the citizens returned back to order, determined not to give the Administrator what he wanted, but the damage had been done, and the square felt as if it had a mist of dread from that point on. Michael looked at the ground in front and saw the same dead man’s body mangled from the chaos, with blood and guts spilling out of his body like a leak in a hose. The smell sickened him, and Michael tried his best not to vomit in the square. The Administrator waved his hand in front of his face in a failed attempt to regain composure.
“Well, that was fun, but sadly we must now go on with the Ceremony. Now, we’ve decided to change things up this rotation! This rotation, three people will be selected!”
All around him what little happiness remained in the crowd evaporated like water in the sun. The Administrator smiled at this and continued on with his speech.
“Now, the three people chosen are…” he paused and grinned.
Michael’s heart sank, and not just under the ocean of sadness, but under the ocean into a hole that leads to an abyss. The crowd parted for him, creating a clear path to the podium. He walked over to the podium, trying his best not to break into tears as he walked the final steps to the doors of death. The Administrator came down from the balcony to shake Michael’s hand and “congratulate” him on being selected. He adjusted his microphone and revealed the two other “winners”. An old man who looked to be in his late 50s named Will Smith and a woman in her late 20s named Maria Davis. But they seemed more like broken-down machines as they walked towards the podium, tears streaming from their eyes. The Administrator shook hands with both of them, with laughter that accurately displayed a one-sided crush. The people’s eyes were focused on all three of them, and every single one of them spoke with the tears in their eyes, translating into one word.