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Science Fiction Drama Speculative

Sakura whirled round at the sound of familiar footsteps, to see her closest friend, Yuto, running towards her – chased by the Restriction, which were only a few metres behind him. She opened her mouth to say something before realising that what she wanted to ask, What's happening? – or more accurately, Why are they trying to get you? – wasn't one of her speech options. She made do with a surprised open of her eyes accompanied by a questioning raise of her eyebrows.


Thankfully, Yuto understood what she was trying to say. He pointed to his mouth and made a cross with his hands as he ran past her, the Restriction drones still chasing him with their antennae flashing red.


Sakura turned and began running beside him, unsure of what else she should do.


No. Yuto couldn't mean... he couldn't have said a non-option word. Sakura shook her head and mimed the gesture for Try again. He must have forgotten or misused a gesture – but he couldn't have. They'd practised non-verbal communication together for hours in case they wanted to tell each other something that wasn't a speech option. He had learnt the signs faster than she had. He couldn't have made a mistake.


Sure enough, Yuto repeated the communication with the same gestures. There was no doubt about it – he had said a non-option word. Why had he been so stupid, when he was normally so careful?


Sakura mimed Thinking before outwardly shutting herself off. Her legs kept running beside him as if on auto mode as she considered what to do about the situation.


After a moment of hard thinking, she snapped out of it and winced. She'd made her decision. It would be painful for both of them, but it was best. With shaky movements, she told him to stop running.


An expression of panic took over Yuto's face. Not you too? he gestured.


You know I'd never do that, she mimed, hurt. I meant, they're going to get you eventually. She pointed to the still-following Restriction, who were visibly catching up. They'll force less time on you if you stop running now and try to look sorry for the word.


Yuto laughed bitterly. Sakura winced again – had he forgotten their mind-chips monitored any noise out of their voice-box, not just words?


It was more than a word, Yuto gestured.


Oddly enough, this didn't surprise Sakura. She knew Yuto well enough to know that if he lost his caution, he lost it completely.


What was it, then? she asked. A sentence?


I'll tell you when I get out. And Yuto stopped running.


It only took a small wave from her friend to make Sakura run on. She looked back with apprehension as the Restriction gathered around Yuto and separated his atoms to prepare him for the travel to his cell. She shook the word cell out of her head – it was safest not to use dangerous terms, in case they came out. They weren't taking him to a cell. They were taking him to... a holding centre, so they could talk to him, make sure he didn't want to start a rebellion. They might tie him up. Test him, hurt him, warp his senses and thoughts to muddle him, make him go almost insane, to force him to give them the answers they wanted, even though he couldn't even give them since he didn't know anything.


She paused. Took a deep breath. Worrying wouldn't help her. It wouldn't help either of them.


Before reaching home, she came across her older brother. She started, and ran towards him with a smile on her face. She hadn't seen Kazuya for days, and she'd began to be scared in case her brother had been taken. It was an irrational fear, she knew, given Kazuya's perfect conformance record, but it didn't stop her worrying.


She waved, mentally selecting the second 'informal' speech option. “Hi Kazuya!”


Kazuya smiled back at her. “Hi.”


Sakura searched her options for something that would get her message across, finally settling on the eighth. “How have you been?”


“I left on a business trip,” her brother replied almost instantly. Sakura envied his swiftness at choosing options – but then again, she would rather be herself, a slower-speaking individual, than him, a conformist who lived entirely on the Restriction's rules. She pushed the thoughts away; she loved him, despite what the Restriction had turned him into. She did.


There was an awkward silence as Sakura searched the options for something appropriate for the occasion. “I've missed you,” she said awkwardly, at last.


“I've missed you too.” It was said automatically, as if it was the only speech option. As if it was a necessity, not a choice.


What if he's been fully turned? Sakura thought as her brother walked away. She stiffened. What had she just thought? What if...


It was a beautiful pair of words, when she thought about it. But she'd never thought about it before, because she'd never thought it before. What if... It was an exciting sentence fragment. Could I... There was another one. Something in the back of her brain told her these were questions, but they weren't like any questions she'd ever asked before.


Now she knew.


Her mind whirred as she made her way home. On recognising her mind-chip, her front door slid open. She walked through it, barely noticing the slight delay in its closing time.


Up in her room, she forced her mind onto her chip. She'd practised it so many times with Yuto. It had to work.


Focus. Focus on the chip. On its functions, on its existence. She repeated it like a mantra for an agonising minute before, finally, she felt something snap.


It hurt. It hurt as if part of her brain had been set on fire, but she remained steadfast, not allowing her thoughts to sway from the chip. When the fire died, she opened her eyes. She hadn't even realised they were closed.


She knew the best way to test if the split from her chip had worked. There were no speech options when she was alone, so all she needed to do was say something. Anything would prove her chip had been successfully disconnected.


She opened her mouth. “Sakura.”


The code-word activated her bedroom's hidden room – a safe place to hide anything she didn't want the Restriction to find. The wall slid aside and slid back once she had entered.


Inside the room, lay a simple wooden desk, with a crude wooden chair in front of it. Sakura dropped into it thankfully. She rummaged through the vintage drawers and finally drew out a battered, crumpled piece of paper. She paused for a moment to enjoy the memory of her father that always came with the sight of that paper. He'd spent his last year teaching her to write so she could eventually use it, but he'd never told her what she would do with it. The most he'd said was that she would have to learn for herself if she wanted it to be useful.


With What if... readily in her mind, she knew what to do. She knew why the Restriction executed those who knew how to write. Knew why they gave everyone speech options instead of letting them talk how they wanted to. And best of all, she knew how to free herself from their bonds.


Gently, she placed the ragged paper on the desk and smoothed it out with one hand, using her other to search the drawer for a pencil – another of her father's forbidden items. She placed it on the desk beside the paper, and took a deep breath. This was it. She could – she would – write, and she knew what to write.


She picked up the pen. Positioned it between her fingers the way her father had instructed. Bent down to the paper, and began.


Once upon a time...

April 21, 2024 14:51

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13 comments

D .
19:33 May 06, 2024

I don't usually read here/comment,but I love it!

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08:53 May 07, 2024

Thanks! 😊 That's high praise! Thanks a lot! :D

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Jesse Smith
02:22 Apr 29, 2024

LOVE this! What a fun and interesting read. It's frightening to think that this sort of world may lie directly in our future. Very creative and imaginative. Well done! :)

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10:18 Apr 29, 2024

Thanks! 😊

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Darvico Ulmeli
09:44 Apr 28, 2024

Scary world. Nicely done.

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12:31 Apr 28, 2024

Thanks! :)

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Emilie Ocean
16:25 Apr 27, 2024

This story is making my brain work. Imagine living in a world like Sakura's... :s

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17:46 Apr 27, 2024

Thank you! 😊 It would be horrible! Really. And I'm so glad it made you think. I love when my stories make people's brains work!

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Mary Bendickson
19:59 Apr 21, 2024

Boy, this is a strict restricted world! Annie's title suggestion is good.

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10:56 Apr 22, 2024

Thanks! Absolutely. The whole purpose of the Restriction is to stop creative thinking. And yes, I'm taking Annie's suggestion!

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Annie Persson
17:26 Apr 21, 2024

This is slightly scary but also totally awesome. I hope you do another one in this world at least, maybe not with the same characters, but that wouldn't be a terrible idea...(Not technically asking for a sequel...) ;) Uuuuhhhh, title ideas. What about something like 'Restricting Words', 'cause it's got the Restriction in it with out being stupidly obvious. And it's about her struggle with words and writing and everything like that. :)

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10:56 Apr 22, 2024

Thanks :))) Ooo, that's a good one!

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Annie Persson
12:06 Apr 22, 2024

You're welcome! :)

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