Teens & Young Adult Science Fiction

The bag was pulled suddenly from her head, the hours of being jostled and dragged apparently at an end.

She looked around quickly, her blinking eyes straining against the sudden light.

Bright light.

The sort of light one found in a televised trial scenario.

"Anxiously, you stand accused of blatantly disregarding your birth name and fomenting rebellion in your peers. How do you plead?"

The girl who was once named Anxiously smiled.

This is what Curiously had prepared her for.


The day had started like any other--in complete chaos.

Overconfidently, the more overbearing of her two mothers, strode around the house declaring that things would be just so in a voice that brooked no argument. "We are not late!" she declared, mandatory overconfidence dripping from every syllable.

But they were late. Anyone who looked at a clock could see that they were. But feelings were truth, and if Overconfidently felt that she wasn't late, then that was her reality, and who had the right to question that?

"I too declare that we are not late!" said Courageously, Anxiously's other mother, a dramatic fist in the air. As always, Courageously followed Overconfidently in everything because it was the courageous thing to do. Anxiously had always thought, even before she'd understood, that Courageously would have followed Overconfidently off a cliff if Overconfidently declared it to be a bridge.

It was almost enough to make her feel genuinely anxious.

As things stood, she had to pretend.

"But I think we are late, though!" said Anxiously, twisting the hem of her skirt around her fingers in a movement she had long ago learned made her look scared and uncertain, putting just the right amount of tremor into her voice.

If she was in the right frame of mind, it could almost be fun to watch Courageously and Overconfidently try to live their own names while at the same time allowing Anxiously to live hers. Anxiously wondered often if they regretted the name they'd given her, confidently and bravely declaring it to the world, no thought or consideration needed.

She wondered what it was like for nine-year-olds in homes with parents named Thoughtfully or Cautiously. Maybe they made it to school on time. Maybe their realities were allowed to include actual planning and preparation.

Or maybe their lives were just another flavor of awful.

"No, Strictly!" Courageously yelled from the dining table. "You have to be strict! You can't just pour cereal into your bowl any which way you like!"

Anxiously skittered over to her four-year-old brother's side where he was staring, wide-eyed and frightened. "Your name is not Fearfully!" Courageously was yelling now. "So wipe that look off your face!" She slapped Strictly's hand as he reached for his spoon by the wrong end, a look of mortification crossing her face as Strictly yelped.

Anxiously wondered if her mother was sorry that she'd hit her child, or sorry that it wasn't a courageous action.

Sadly, she thought she knew the answer.

"Mom!" whined Anxiously, winking with one eye at her brother even as she made her voice tremble. "You're hurting him!"

"I--I must fetch the mail!" declared her mother, sweeping from the room and courageously stepping into the burgeoning snowstorm barefoot and without a coat (and definitely not running away like a coward from a situation she wasn't allowed to handle).

Anxiously patted her brother's hand and quickly got as much breakfast into him as he could manage. She could hear Overconfidently loudly declaring Courageously to be an idiot from the other room.

Then, there was blessed silence for a few minutes as one mother went after the other.

"What's your nick?" whispered Anxiously to her brother. His tear stained face relaxed slightly a small smile appeared.

"Happily," he whispered back, and Anxiously gave him a big hug.

"But it's a secret, right?"

"Right," said the boy secretly named Happily.

"What does 'strictly' mean?" asked Anxiously.

"It means 'in a way that involves rigid enforcement or that demands obedience,'" said Strictly immediately.

"Good," said Anxiously. "Which means that you just have to pretend to care about rules and tell on people who don't follow them. Keep doing that, and you'll be okay. Until things change."

"Until things change," said Strictly with a determined nod. Then, in a voice of tentative glee, as if he was speaking a great truth, he added, "Green is green."

"Green is green," said Anxiously with a nod, adding, "Okay, it's show time," as the door opened and both frozen parents dithered on the doorstep, each declaring that the other should enter first.

Neither had fetched the mail.

They mean well, Anxiously reminded herself. They're doing their best in a world that doesn't operate sensibly.

But they were the adults. They were the ones who were supposed to look at how things worked and go, "Hold on, this doesn't seem right."

It was hard to forgive them for that some days.

"Can we go to school please?" pleaded Anxiously, her body belying her words because only Strictly could see her at that moment. "I'm anxious about being late!"

There was a delay as her barefooted mother courageously tried to start the car without any keys, desperately declaring that she didn't need them, a situation resolved by Anxiously dropping the keys into Strictly's hand and nudging him to say, "The correct way is keys!" in a high-pitched voice that sounded more anxious than anything Anxiously had ever been able to pull off, and then they were finally away.

The roads were chaos, but they always were. Angrilys driving angrily, Cautioslys holding up traffic, Defiantlys breaking all the rules, each manifesting their reality based on the one and only way they were allowed to feel.

"Oh, but you can feel anything you like!" they always said. "Just as long as you feel it correctly! You can be anxiously happy! You can be anxiously sad! You can be anxiously anything! And you WILL!"

"You didn't hit anything!" yelled Overconfidently from the passenger seat, as their car slammed to a halt in the overcrowded, undirected school parking lot, smashing into several other cars on the way. By some miracle, they were almost on time that morning. Anxiously quietly pulled Strictly from the car while her parents bickered. Courageously thought that the courageous thing to do was to admit to her error in hitting the other cars, but, as Overconfidently's reality currently stated that no cars were hit in the first place, the fight couldn't really go anywhere--they were literally two aliens arguing from completely different worlds.

Anxiously grabbed Strictly's arm and ran for the daycare class, pushing him through the door right as the bell rang.

"I must always be on time!" said Strictly loudly, like Anxiously had taught him, then he was darting for his seat and Anxiously was running for her own classroom.

It didn't matter if she was late. It only mattered that she appeared anxious about the consequences of being late.

"Fucking ridiculous," she whispered, but not loudly enough for anyone to hear.

It wasn't time for that yet.

So, she ran to appear anxious, but also to get to class as soon as possible. To the one place where things were allowed to be different.

She was the last one there. The other children had a combination of names and parents that allowed them to be on time, unpredictable chaos on the roads aside.

Anxiously smiled and closed the door behind her, flicking the lock in place. She joined the quiet, pensive circle in the middle of the room, lowering herself to the floor with a relieved sigh. She smiled at her classmates: Monthly who only did work once a month (even if he wanted to do more); Eventually, who was going to hand Paper 1 in any day now, Miss (even though they'd already written it); Viciously, whose work was always illegible due to her angry pen strokes (even though she were quite gentle, really); Cruelly, who had to be unimaginably mean in every answer he gave (even though it brought him great pain); and Zealously, who had to bleed every fiber of her being into her classwork, zealously completing every last assignment with fervor (even though he was on the verge of burning out at the tender age of nine).

And of course, part of the circle, was the New Teacher.

Anxiously didn't know what had happened to the last teacher (or how a Uselessly had gotten the job in the first place), and she didn't much care, because now they were in Curiously's hands, and Curiously was the best thing that had ever happened to any of them.

"Welcome," said Curiously, with a smile. "Now that were all here--" she leaned towards Anxiously, and whispered, "Birth name or nick?"

Excitement leapt in Anxiously stomach, the way it always did when the lesson started.

"Nick," she whispered back.

"Then, welcome to class Scientifically," whispered Curiously with a smile. The girl who wasn't Anxiously at all shivered happily. She loved hearing that name. She loved hearing it used for her even more.

As usual, everyone wanted to use their nicks. Monthly was actually Sweetly, a name that suited him perfectly, and Eventually was really Warmly, a name they were still growing into, but one that they felt very strongly about. Viciously was trying out Cautiously this week, which Scientifically thought was an overcorrection, but Curiously said that everyone had to find the name that fit them best. Cruelly was currently Mockingly, because it turned out that some habits were harder to break than others, and he needed to ease into change. And Zealously was really Daintily, a name he'd picked without needing a moment's thought, his face lighting up the moment he'd said it out loud.

"Scientifically, if you would," said Curiously softly, nodding in her direction.

Scientifically smiled.

This was her favorite part.

It had started months ago, when Curiously had first asked her to live her new name. She hadn't really known what to do, but Curiously had guided her until she'd understood.

Now, it was something of a ritual.

In the center of the circle were two beakers, one with yellow-colored water, and one with blue-colored water.

"Yellow," said Scientifically, raising the first beaker. "Blue," she said, raising the second. She emptied the blue beaker into the yellow, and swirled it gently. The group watched, attention rapt, as the colors mixed. "Blue and yellow make green."

"I declare it to be orange!" said Mockingly, playing his part in the ritual.

"No!" said Scientifically. "Blue is blue! Yellow it yellow! Green is green! Declaring otherwise cannot change the way things really are!"

"I declare it to be empty!" said Daintily.

"No!"" said Scientifically again. "We see with our eyes, and our eyes say it is there and it is green!"

And on it went, until everyone had manifested their own reality and been made to realize that it could not be true. The ritual ended when Curiously said, "Green is green," and the children repeated her words.

There was a moment of silence as the children considered their crime, something that was becoming easier and easier with each class, a way of thinking that was almost commonplace for them now.

Green was green.

"Now, children," said Curiously, "today we will--"

But Scientifically and her friends were robbed of their lesson when the door burst open. Heavily armed and armored guards stormed in, the smoke grenades they threw having no impact on them through their thick marks.

As Anxiously fell to the ground, coughing, Curiously's streaming eyes caught her own. Scientifically knew what Curiously would say if she'd been allowed to speak at that moment. Look at the guards. Do you think they're really all named things like Obediently? Why may they be a coordinated force and we may not?

And then the bag was pulled over her head, and she was dragged away.


"Answer, Anxiously!" said a judge, angrily, although their name was Delightfully and angry words should never have been on their lips.

But the rules had always been different for those who ruled.

"My name is Scientifically," she said, boldly (because she could be more than one thing at a time, if that's what she wanted). "And I would like to know why you are not behaving according to your name?"

The crowd stirred. The televised trials always had a live audience. They only picked dissidents who would fall in line with the rulings easily. There was never a Bravely put on trial, nor a Powerfully or a Truthfully--it was too risky. Easily cowed people only, so that the trial went the way they wanted it to.

Which was why she had always worked so hard to appear just the right amount of anxious.

An anxious person wouldn't talk back. An anxious person wouldn't stand up to the authority. An anxious person wouldn't have a plan.

Or so they thought.

Scientifically did feel anxious, but who wouldn't, under the circumstances? She felt a lot of other things too. Scared. Proud. Angry.

That was the point.

"We are not one thing!" she yelled at the cameras. She didn't have much time and she had to make her points quickly. "Green is green! Believe it isn't as hard as you want! It will still be green!"

"Silence!" roared a judge named Recklessly (but who was usually quiet and sensible whenever she appeared on television). "This is treason!"

"Green is green!" yelled Scientifically. In the audience, her cry was taken up. Green is green! Green is green! Just those the resistance had planted at first, and then more and more people as the cry took hold.

Guards were moving towards her, a little uncertainly, but coming nevertheless.

"They keep us under control by keeping us busy, so, so busy, working to live our names every second of every day! They need us busy so we don't think! They--" A bag was thrown over her head again and she was dragged away.

An explosion shook the ground, and the guards dragging her stumbled.

Under the bag, Scientifically smiled grimly.

The bombs had started.

Just as planned.

"Change is coming," she said, although no one heard her. The trial room was in uproar, slightly muffled yelling and screaming flooding her ears, green is green a constant, underlying chant.

The second explosion hit. A guard's grip tightened, but Scientifically didn't mind.

Whatever happened next, she was ready.

November 17, 2022 20:18

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Annie Persson
18:05 Jan 16, 2024

I really like this. It's plenty creative, but it has a nice undercurrent of normality. Nice work! :)


Tamarin Butcher
15:35 Jan 18, 2024

Glad you like it!


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Ken Cartisano
04:15 Oct 18, 2023

Wow. Cool. Subversive. Really creative. This is really original. Not the 'resistance' part, but the conceptual aspect of people conforming to a given adverb, or name. (I once met this guy named Gerund, and he could never fully explain exactly what he did.) Very clever and well written story. I noticed that you misplaced 'masks' with 'marks.' Other than that, well done. It's a good read. I wonder why there are so few comments. I was wondering that before I read it. It's probably the resistance thing.


Tamarin Butcher
18:14 Oct 18, 2023

I was a newer writer--it seems like it takes a while to build a following. Thanks for going back to my older stuff and leaving your comments! It is great timing, because I am starting to think about what my next steps will be with my growing short story collection.


Ken Cartisano
08:00 Oct 19, 2023

Man it's late and I hope I was still making sense at the end of it. Anything that seems dumb should be disreagareded[]]]ou'tre welcome. I like to start with a writers earlier stuff and work forward to see the improvements they're making. Most writers on this site were writing before they started posting on it and producing pretty clean stories. Many have a winner on their first entry. I only want to go back 15 t0 20 stories. You should read some of Kevin Logue's stories. He's hilarious. I am as clueless as you about where or how to publis...


Tamarin Butcher
19:59 Oct 19, 2023

Thanks for that, lol! I will look out for Kevin's stories.


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Daniel Allen
13:41 Nov 25, 2022

The ending to this was really intriguing. I like the message. Keep up the good work!


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Tommy Goround
13:09 Nov 25, 2022



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