Lilygreen

United States

Ridiculously self- pressured, hopelessly (and unsuccessfully) in love for three years, and scared to write the things that matter. And that’s me on a good day . Good luck.

Message from Writer

“Here’s some advice- stay alive.” Haymitch Abernathy
“I make mistakes, I am out of control and at times hard to handle. But if ... But if you can't handle me at my worst, then you sure as hell don't deserve me at my best.”- Marilyn Monroe
“A girl should be two things: who and what she wants.”- Coco Chanel

Creativity Lost

May 22, 2021

FREE WRITING

2
Today is the day. I line up with the rest of my class, all of us in stained white uniforms yellowing with age, but with the sign of our elated government, sewn proudly on our pockets. Some of my classmates slouch, but I stand ramrod straight in my two sizes too small shoes. I know it’s probably too late to make a difference, but they’re always watching, and I don’t want this to affect my chances. “A good impression is the key to success.” boomed out from the loud speakers, as if the government is reading my mind. The girl beside me sniffles. Sarah Anne, I think. She’s a mediocre student, one of those “faceless” that wander the halls, average in everything that they do. I can almost imagine the fear she must be feeling. A subpar evaluation means life in the sewage treatment plant, or worse. I subconsciously shift away, as does the girl on the other side of her. Failure isn’t contagious, but association with lessers is weak. “You are who you associate with,” as my mother would say, quoted from the Cubic Society’s Guide to Success. I couldn’t agree more. 
    The line starts to move, and our Head of School gives the customary address, thanking everyone who has shaped us into the people we are today, how the Cubic Society welcomes all of us into the workforce, and so on. I’ve heard it so many times, I tune him out, mindlessly playing with the spoon I have tucked the waistband of my skirt. It’s one of the few rule infractions that I allow myself to make. Stealing is wrong, but this dented metal spoon is perfect for the mini windmill I’m working on, and I put in a lot of work for this moment. Over the year trinkets haves been going missing, and I’m sure the Evaluators could trace it back to me if they wanted to. It’s been careless, but maybe I want them to ask. Maybe I want them to take notice of me and my inventions. 
    The first student is called up. She takes her script of paper with a shaky hand, I can see it quivering all the way from the back of the line. She opens it carefully, like she’s afraid a monster will spring from it if she goes too quickly. Wait, one seconds, just one more... I can hear her voice in my head. I’m sure I’ll do the same once I’m up there. Finally, she takes the plunge. The officials let out a quiet sigh of relief. I’m sure they remember what happened at last year’s Reading. 
    The girl breaks down, but it’s only natural. The crime is only in not opening the paper. Once that is doneu, the Evaluators can go home and sleep at night, forgetting the tears of silly teenage girls in the refuge of their warmly lit homes with their doting trophy wives on the Upper Side. So different than the Plumbing District, where the only light comes from a stolen bit of  wax used to patch a last minute leak and the women are too tired, too beaten down to dress up in sparkly ensembles. They’re lucky if they can get something cooking on the stove to tempt their good for nothing husbands away from the call girl’s clutches. 
    I know what they’re looking for. I am what they’re looking for. I forced myself into it, early in life when I saw my parents’ tired eyes and chapped hands from working in the pipes all day. I am a force of nature, a cut above the rest of my classmates. Bright and creative and new, unlike the slums that surround me. Look at me, my eyes scream, with my ramrod posture and impeccable assignments, do I look like a girl that belongs here? And in my fancies, the Evaluators shake their heads amongst themselves, murmuring in conference. They debate for awhile, wondering whether a Slummer like me could fit in at the Imagine District. But my smile wins them over, my eyes look into theirs and they see something that goes deeper than a dirty  uniform and too- tight shoes. At least, that’s what I want them to see. 
    “Azalea Dorthrop,” the Head of School drawls, barely turning my way. It’s too soon! I stumble up to the stage, all my practiced poise and eloquence I had in my daydreams squandered by a second of carelessness. I rush to grab a piece of paper when I make it up to the stage, my shoes clunking on the stairs, as I rush up. I nearly trip, thanks to a loose nail in the floorboards and I hear a couple mean-hearted giggles in the crowd. So what? I’m not popular amongst them, thanks to my studious nature and drive. They have already given up, just as their mothers and fathers gave up, and their great- grandparents did before them. They’ll continue to give up, doing their mundane work half heartedly, never even dreaming of rising above their lot in life. It’s fine, I’ll be gone from here soon, and someone needs to do it. 
    “Bootlicker,” the boy exiting the stage mutters at me, his eyes puffy and red. Normally I’d retort, even I’m not the type to let these Slummers walk over me, but I’m directly in front of the Head of School. I’m not willing to risk my reputation for one moment of satisfaction at shutting this insolent little boy down. So I turn away and smile at him, thinking of the life he’ll have compared to mine. It’s more than enough retribution. 
    I can tell that he knows what I’m thinking even before the fist hits the side of my head. It’s no secret that I’m better than him, and worse yet, that I know I’m better. The Evaluators are on him in a second, pinning his hands, punching him, once, twice, three times. It is the typical punishment for insinuating violence. He grins at me through bloody teeth as they drag him away. “I had to do it once, jumpship!” He calls as they drag him away. The audience gasps, and even I feel my eyes widen, an embarrassing blush flush across my cheeks. A bootlicker is a child’s insult, but a jumpship is in another class entirely. A jumpship is branded for life, it’s the name we refer to for the only people lower than us on the Cubic Society’s social ladder. Outcasts, they’re thrown out for unspeakable crimes, and they’re blotted off the map, their entire existence erased. Their crimes are so despicable, it’s illegal to talk about them, and most of us have no desire to know what they are. In our village, the only one old enough to remember a Jumpship is Helga, an old witch who brews faulty charms for headaches with river reeds, and last I’ve checked she still alive, so even she’s not stupid enough to talk about it. To call someone a Jumpship you have to hate their guts, and wish them dead ten times over. I never knew someone despised me that much.
    I can’t dwell on it, so I distract them, smiling at the audience, and drawing their attention back to me with a peppy “Let’s get things moving, shall we?” There’s a couple groans, but at least then the ceremony continues. I take the piece of paper with my name on it, scrawled in dark green ink. I unfurl the corners slowly, building the suspense. I do this to draw out the suspense, and while I hear a couple sighs in the audience, it’s worth it. Because I see a “C.” In artsy script, not the standard print we use in school. These are letters made for someone important. Someone like me. 
    I rip the rest of the paper open, and hold it up to the crowd. It’s protocol, but the way I do it, proudly with a smile on my face alerts the guards. They seize me roughly as the Head of School announces it, and the announcement is greeted with mostly blank stares, but the cleverer ones have the sense to show envy or bitterness, and a scant few applaud. I recognize my Study Partner, Rosey among them. She wasn’t too bad. Not anywhere near my level, but not bad. She might be lucky and become a wife or a cook. I want that for her. I really do. 
    But for me, as the soldier clings on my arm and pulls, I feel my spirits lifting. I knew it would be this way, quick and painless, without a chance for goodbyes. I’ve said mine to my mother earlier, and while today is a special occasion for the graduating class, work continues as usual for the full members of the district. My mother is sweating away in the boiler room right now, mixing together the tarry stuff used to mend pipes. She’ll know if I’ve succeeded when she returns home and finds an empty, unlit house with a card on the front step saying that I’ve been selected as a Creator. She’ll be happy for me, and cry tears of joy and sadness, mingled together to run down the drains she works so hard to keep clean. I won’t forget her. 
    Once we’re away from the crowd, the soldier treats me more civilly. “Sorry, miss,” he grunts, letting go of my arm and walking briskly ahead, “You know we’ve got to make it look good.” I nod, following him, as my feet ache in protest. I’m still glowing inside from the “miss” he addressed me with, a title one reserves for their betters. I’ve never been called it before, but I look forward to hearing it again, as I’m sure I will, once I get to the Center of the Cube. I see a tram waiting for us, and the guard gives me his hand as I enter it. We sit in silence for awhile, while I look outside at the blur of colors past my window and he fiddles with the instruction manual at his belt. 
    “So, how’d you do it?” He asks, finally managing to unclip the thing. “Not many escape that hellhole intact.” Grinning, he opens it up and pulls out a puff, a powdery and white tube used by guards before high speed chases, but unavailable to the rest of us. He offers me one, and I politely decline. Satisfied, he checks off a mark in his manual. That’s the easy part. Every inventor knows your mind is your weapon- and you never dull your blade. I’ve heard of this two- part test, but I take my time before answering him. I look around at the plush seats, the shiny metal frame in the tram, memorizing what I stand to lose if this goes wrong. 
    “It’s necessary for some, I suppose,” I drawl, trying to avoid his eyes, which scrutinize me, gauging my body language any hint of a lie. I draw myself up straighter. “But others work towards something better. I’m a creator. I deserve to be here because of my passion, ingenuity, and natural intellect. I will fight to move pass the prejudice reserved for me, and justified by the weak nature of my peers. I am one of you now, and I intend to stay that way.” It’s not the speech I had planned, but something about this guard and huis scrutiny made me say it. It surprises me, but it’s true, every word. I’ve never felt so strongly in my allegiance to the Inner Cubic Society and the life that they could give me. Maybe because it feels so tantalizingly close. 
    I wait for a response, but the guard’s face remains blank. I expect him to spring up, to pounce on me and denounce me as an imposter, throwing me out of the moving tram. But he doesn’t. His black-gloved hands touch each other once, twice, three times and then he stops. He’s smiling at me, and the moment of appraisal is gone. Now he’s just another being, the both of us equals, heading towards my future life. The judgment has been passed, and I have passed. 
    “With flying colors.” His low voice murmurs, cutting through the tension. “I haven’t heard an answer that ballsy since I’ve been on the job.” He claps me on the shoulder, and I feel relief, sinking down into my seat, until a sudden jerk pushes me upright again. The tram unfolds, and where was once plush leather is now a city bright with lights. I’ve heard of this place, a flu rescan to palace of inventions, with Zoom Screens on every corner, advertising new products. They jump out at me, life sized images with new soaps to turn your hair into magnetic spikes, useful for finding lost keys and trophies, bubblegum that turns your hair pink with every pop. This frivolity, this loveliness.... this living. This is mine now. 

I am free.  

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1 Comment
  • bookmagic

    woooooooooowwwww, this is amazing! I think Helga might be my favorite character....


    4 months ago