December 31st, 2187
“Charles Clancy: Forgotten.”
Charles froze. His breath hitched in his chest as his hands clenched into fists. He knew this would happen, but it didn't make the truth any more bearable.
All around him, spectators erupted into a wave of gasps and murmurs. Charles Clancy? The president’s son? Forgotten? That couldn’t be right.
Charles lowered his head to hide the tears that were threatening to escape from his eyes and stream down his face. He didn't try to fight as the others had when he felt the cool metal of handcuffs clamp around his wrists, or when two steely hands roughly grabbed his shoulders and shoved him towards a gray truck. He didn't protest as the same rough hands nearly tossed him out of the truck and into a brown brick building. He didn't even say a word when he was led into a bright white room with blinding lights.
He was tied to a chair, the ropes digging into his skin, and was left in that room for what seemed like hours.
An eternity later, the glossy white door creaked open, and in stepped a young man wearing doctor scrubs. The doctor smiled at Charles, but Charles could see that his eyes were cold and dark, with no trace of empathy to be found.
“Hello, Charles Clancy. I am Dr. Smiths, and I will be taking care of you today,” he said condescendingly, carefully untying the ropes that confined him to the chair. Charles cringed. He hated this. He hated the doctor’s annoying voice, the way the doctor stood, the way he acted. He hated that look of superiority on his stupid face, as if he was saying, look at you. You’re worthless. Nobody wants you. But most of all, he hated how helpless and scared he felt, and how the doctor’s unspoken words haunted him. He knew it was true. Nobody would ever love him, and now he was going to die in this horrid place; alone, abandoned, forgotten.
He hadn’t realized that tears were streaming from his eyes until the doctor’s smile grew even wider.
“Aw, don’t be scared. I promise I won’t hurt you…” he soothed. But Charles knew that was a lie. This doctor wasn’t just going to hurt him, he was going to kill him and turn his carcass into plant fertilizer. A sudden wave of fury surged through him, making his fists clench and his eyes light on fire. What had he done to deserve this? Fail a stupid test? It was so unfair! The boiling rage that was building up inside of him exploded, and before he knew it, his fist was flying across the doctor’s face. Dr. Smiths stumbled back, pressing his hand against the place where Charles had hit him. Knowing that this was his last and only chance, Charles threw open the door and bolted through the eerily quiet hallways. He burst through the nearest exit and ran across the dull blacktop into the grassy field.
For a moment, he thought he was home free. Suddenly, he felt a dark, cold shadow brush at his bare arms and briefly swipe across his neck. He cursed under his breath.
I should've known that it wouldn't have been that easy, he thought. He had heard about these beings before, the dark shadows that guarded the border of the Termination Facility, but never thought that he’d come in contact with one. The feeling was indescribable. He felt himself being… swallowed up, almost. He was being pulled into a bottomless oblivion, an empty darkness that filled him with dread. He pumped his legs harder, faster…
April 19th, 2192
“Here in the New America, under the guidance of President Gray Clancy, we will prosper. At the age of 11, all children participate in a mandatory exam, which tests their mental strength, psychological health, and overall intellect. Those who pass are sorted into the Superior category. These individuals will get to enjoy the luxuries of life, such as fabulous houses, beautiful clothes, and a bounty of food. Those who barely slip by are deemed as Lessers, who live in the outskirts of the city and are left with old slums, rags, and a small share of food. Those who fail will be deemed as Forgotten, and are sent to a private facility to be taken care of… so study hard, children. Your life depends on it.”
The same announcement filled the cold, gray streets of the Lesser Province every morning at 10:00 sharp. The monotone voice sent shivers down Seven’s spine as he walked along the dirty brown sidewalk, his hood up over his head and his black backpack flung over one shoulder. Your life depends on it. Those words remained echoing in an endless loop in his head, taunting him. He knew what everyone around him was thinking: “taken care of” was just a nice way of saying that they are sent to a human slaughterhouse to be terminated… and the Lessers themselves almost suffered that same fate.
During the Placement Test result reading, when Seven was deemed as a Lesser, he didn’t know what to think. For one thing, he was happy that he wouldn't end up dead like the Forgotten, but when he saw the happiness and pure relief on the Superior’s faces, he longed for that life that he couldn't have.
Whenever Seven looked around the gloomy town, he saw miserable people who haven't been happy in such a long time that he doubted they even knew how to smile anymore. Every single day, the suicide rate in the Lesser Provinces seemed to rise. People were jumping off buildings and turning up dead in their houses so often that he had gotten used to the blaring of ambulance sirens and the pained wails from the victim's family.
Seven stopped in front of a TV being displaced in the window. It was currently streaming the news, which was pretty much the only channel left that you could legally watch. Ever since the establishment of New America, all creativity had been stripped, along with several rights in the Constitution. No trash-talking the government was allowed (failure to do so would result in termination, no matter what your Placement was), marches and riots had been banned, and several accused criminals could stay in jail for years at a time, awaiting their trial until they went crazy or died of starvation.
“The president's son, Charles Gray, is still missing, and even five years later, no trace of him - dead or alive - has been found…”
Seven sighed. That was old news. The president’s son, Charles Clancy, had been deemed Forgotten five years ago, much to the people’s dismay. The public was even more shocked when he was the first and only person that was able to escape the grounds of the Termination Facility. Following the Great Escape, President Gray had immediately announced that Charles was a disgrace, and a few days later, signed the papers that finalized the president's official disownment of his son.
As Seven walked away, he didn’t realize that the television had moved onto another subject. Words in big, red letters ran along the bottom of the screen. “REDEMPTION TEST TODAY,” it read. “ALL CHILDREN BETWEEN THE AGES OF 13-18 MUST REPORT TO THE FRONT OF THE TERMINATION FACILITY AT 3:00 P.M. SHARP. THERE WILL BE PATROL CARS SURVEYING THE STREETS TO PICK UP ANY RUNAWAYS.”
Seven opened the door of the local corner store and walked inside. Above him, a dim light flickered ominously as the floorboards creaked and the paint peeled off the walls. He walked down the aisles, looking for a pen to replace his old one he lost. He was always losing things, and never seemed to be able to hold on to anything for more than a week. As he rounded the corner, a sudden wave of dread rushed over him. His heart was pounding in his chest as he wiped his sweaty hands on his jeans. Seven stilled. The streets were eerily quiet, the only sound coming from the humming lights mixed with the sound of his rapid breathing.
He heard footsteps behind him.
He whirled around, just to see the barrel of a gun pound down on him, hitting him on the nose and striking him out cold. The gun-bearer slipped his weapon back onto his belt and picked up his victim, dumping him into a gray truck.
April 20th, 2192
Seven woke up to find himself in a cold, dark room. He was laying on a hard, lumpy mattress, causing his back and neck to ache. He sat up with a grunt and took in his surroundings. There was a splotchy stain that covered one wall and a wide crack climbing up another. The only source of light was coming from the dim light bulb that hung from the ceiling; the one ray of hope in a sea of darkness.
Just then, he heard the door unlock and creak open. Bright lights illuminated the walls and filled up the room, but Seven’s relief was short-lived. In the doorway stood a formidable figure who stood at around 6 feet tall. His clothes strained against his bulging muscles and his face was contorted into a permanent smirk. He neared Seven, bending down to meet his eyes.
“Well, well, well. What do we have here?” the man taunted.
“What do you want?”
“Boy, do you not know what you’re doing here? Did you forget what day it is? Did you not see the news?”
“W-What do you mean?” Seven asked, his voice trembling.
“Don’t lie to me, boy!”
“I-I really have no idea what you’re talking about!” Seven sputtered.
The man’s smirk widened. “So you really don’t know… interesting.”
Seven watched in confusion as the man straightened and paced around the room.
“Well, I suppose this could’ve just been a… coincidence. Not everyone is informed of these things, after all. But that seems very unlikely… our agents are the most committed and attentive individuals in the country… unless you didn’t receive the dozens of letters that we have sent, or the several phone calls we have made, unless you aren’t in our records as a Lesser, unless…” he suddenly whipped around, his eyes gleaming. “You’re a Forgotten.”
Seven stiffened. His hands started shaking uncontrollably and he clenched his fists to hide the tremors. His breathing became ragged, and he felt as if the world was turning, spinning… he held his head in his hands and squeezed his eyes shut. “No, no no no. That’s not possible!” he cried. “If I was Forgotten then I would’ve been terminated years ago…”
“Unless you escaped.”
“B-But there’s only been one successful escape since the camps were established! And that was made by the president's son!” Seven protested.
The man chuckled. “Did you ever realize… that you look… smell… exactly like him?”
Seven’s head whipped up. His eyes widened and he watched in horror as the man slowly distorted into a black shadow. Its eyes glowed bright red as gray smoke swirled around it.
“I have searched for years… do you know how many miles I have covered, just looking for you?" hissed the Shadow. "How many hungry nights I have spent, tracking you? You escaped from me once, you will not again… I haven’t terminated one of you worthless humans in years…”
“N-no…” Seven whimpered. He stood frozen as the Shadow inched closer, a gray, cold smoke reaching out, grabbing for him. He couldn’t move. He wasn’t in control of his body; he willed his hands to move, his head to turn, but it was no use. He was frozen in place. He felt invisible arms wrap around him, trapping him, suffocating him…
April 24th, 2192
The world was quiet and still.
Bid, red letters once again ran along the bottom of television screens all across the Lesser and Superior provinces. The meaning those words carried shocked the world into silence.
The president's son - Charles Clancy - had been found in a Termination Facility cell, drained of his blood. The picture of his dead body flooded every news channel, every newspaper article. His skin was a murky gray and his eyes stared lifelessly up at the sky. Some weeped for the innocent life that had been taken, while others looked away in disgust. Many thought that he was supposed to be dead five years ago, and his termination has been long delayed. But whatever people thought or said, one thing was clear: this marked the end of an old era, and the start of a new one. Something was coming. And when it arrived, it would rip the nation apart and send its pieces tumbling down into oblivion.