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Fantasy Teens & Young Adult Mystery

1-Libra

 

It was the day before our cohort’s A&S ceremony, and I had a lot to do to get ready. This was my first time solo organizing as a Planner, and I wanted this event – our cohort’s celebratory party – to be special.

 

My goal for the morning was decor, and I knew where I needed to go for that. I left the LCC - the Libra Convention Center, where I’d live full-time after tomorrow - and headed down Main Street to the Studio.

 

The sky was clear, and I could see the mountaintops that surrounded our town - they seemed to stretch on forever. Others were out walking and greeted me casually as I passed, and I waved back. When I was a block away from the Studio, I heard a voice call out to me that sounded different. Urgent.

 

“Lynette!”

 

I turned around. It was Alice, a girl from my cohort. No surprise to find her near the Studio. Alice was an Artist - a painter who created gorgeous murals. I was sure someday I’d be in touch with her to commission one for an event. “Alice! So nice to see you. I was on my way -”

 

She interrupted. “Have you seen Christopher?”

 

It was rude, but I forgave her. Artists weren’t as good as Planners at social niceties. “I haven’t. Is everything -”

 

Alice was running away before I could say another word. Everything clearly was not all right.

 

2-Virgo

 

Today I was out on Main Street, assigned to grocery delivery, so I saw Alice run by. I didn’t think much about it; Artists were a little nutty, and me and Alice weren’t that close. The nearer we all got to A&S, the more entrenched we became in our future lives, in the ways we’d serve our community for the rest of our days.

 

I liked to serve others. I was a Helper, so that went along with my identity. It matched well. My dad was a Helper, too.

 

“Vaughn, it’s the best life,” he said. “We get to help keep our community strong.”

 

It was nice, having a parent with the same identity, which didn’t happen for everyone. Everything about your life - your job, where you lived, who you were matched with for marriage - depended on the day you were born. Dad and I both had early September birthdays, which meant he’d had my whole life to tell me everything about being a Helper.

 

“It’s an identity that lets you mix it up a little, too,” he said. “Mom can’t do that.”

 

He was right. Mom was a Healer, and their jobs were pretty straightforward. Being a Helper, you could wash windows one day, deliver food the next, and work in the community garden the day after that.

 

I liked delivery days. It was nice, especially on a sunny day like today, to be out walking. I had to rush a little that morning – there’d been a delay at the Hive, people scurrying around to find some missing supplies. When I got to the next family unit - all the buildings for families with children in a cohort were on Main Street - I began to stack the crates of food, all neatly labelled by other Helpers, inside the front lobby.

 

“Vaughn?”

 

I turned. It was my older brother Alec, jogging over, grinning.

 

“Alec!” I put out my hand, but he pushed it away and pulled me into a headlock, laughing. It was great to see him. He was a Leader, one of the busiest identities, and once people were ensconced in their roles, it was impossible to maintain ties with your original family unit. My buddy Abe from my cohort is a Leader, too, and he tells me he hasn’t seen his older brother at all since he became a Trader.

 

“How’ve you been?” Alec asked after he released me.

 

We’d been chatting for a few minutes when I noticed Alec’s eyes narrow. I followed his gaze.

 

The last crate I’d stacked had something sticking out of the top - the corner of a light pink envelope. If messages needed to be communicated from the Leaders, an envelope might be included in the person’s family delivery.

 

“That’s for my buddy Christopher’s unit,” I said. I knew it was, because the crate was larger than the others. When Christopher was a kid, he was diagnosed with diabetes, and his medication was delivered weekly along with his family’s food supply - that’s why their crate was bigger.

 

I pressed gently on the pink envelope so that it was concealed inside the crate, as it should have been all along.

 

Alec nodded. He looked uneasy.

 

“You okay?”

 

“Yeah - great seeing you, Vaughn, I gotta run.” He started to walk away, but turned back. “Vaughn?”

 

“Yeah?”

 

“Be careful.”

 

Alec was gone before I could ask him anything. He was disturbed by the envelope, clearly, but I saw them often when I was packing crates.

 

Though, when I paused to consider, I realized I’d never seen a pink one before.

 

I continued my delivery route and tried not to worry about Chris.

 

3-Sagitarrius

 

As a Historian, I was the person in our cohort with the best understanding of our community’s history, but we all knew the story.

 

“Once upon a time, all the people in our little mountain town gathered to view a total solar eclipse - a moment when the moon fully obscures the sun,” my mother told me. "Few of us had ever seen one before.”

 

The moment of totality was supposed to last three minutes, but our community watched and waited while the sun remained obscured for ten minutes, then twenty - then thirty-six minutes exactly.

 

“They knew it was a miracle,” my mother said. “When it was over, they reached out to other communities - and it was our town, only, that had the thirty-six minute totality, so they knew it had to mean something.”

 

Our community’s leaders decided it meant that we were special - that we needed to radically change the way we were living our lives, to align with the cosmos.

 

“That’s when it all happened, Sarah,” my mother said. “When we started to live the way we live.”

 

4-Scorpio

 

My birthday is November 7, meaning after A&S, I’ll be an Engineer. I’m pumped. When I was a kid, I was super into blocks, then Legos, forts, model rockets. I’m sure my folks encouraged it, knowing when my birthday was, but it always felt like a natural thing for me - like everything was exactly as it should be.

 

The funny thing was, once I started hanging with the Engineer crew - they live in the Empire, the tallest building in our town - I saw that it wasn’t such a clear-cut thing for everyone.

 

Like this one guy, he’s an okay engineer, but it doesn’t come as naturally to him. He likes the design part, but sometimes I catch him writing in his journal instead of working on blueprints. His birthday is November 21, so if he’d been born a day later, he’d be a Historian like my friend Sarah from my cohort. It makes me wonder why we don’t have exceptions for guys like him, so they could feel as good about what they do as I do. I said something to Sarah about it once.

 

Her voice was quiet when she answered. “It’s been this way for a hundred years, Spencer. It’s not going to change.”

 

5-Pisces

 

Even before the Great Totality, our community was deeply connected with the motion of celestial bodies.

 

We’re nestled away in the mountains of North Carolina, in a spot where on a clear night you can see thousands of stars. Of course, our ancestors were always looking up to the sky for signs and guidance. But back then, people like me and my fellow Pisces were outliers. There would be a Mystic who lived alone, with visitors coming to them for advice, but many people were skeptical about their actual abilities.

 

That’s not so now. We Mystics are revered. Lots of young people wish to live the life of a Taurus - their living space is certainly enviable - but ours is lovely as well. A huge round building with an enormous central courtyard and rooftop deck, both of which are perfect for reading the stars.

 

Our final year before A&S is spent mostly in training, preparing to live and work within our identity. I’ve loved having the chance to actually read the stars myself.

 

However, recently, I’ve observed strangeness in the sky. The positioning of Saturn and the brightness of Jupiter have caused me concern for the Capricorn I know best: Christopher from my cohort. I asked my Mystic mentor if I should warn him.

 

She looked through my telescope and frowned. “Who is the boy, Phoebe?”

 

I explained.

 

“You cannot warn him,” she said. “It is already written in the stars what comes next. But -”

 

I waited.

 

“Be a friend. He'll need it.”

 

6-Leo

 

There’s a gazebo in our town square, and that’s where we Performers put on our shows. When we’re rehearsing like we are today, the vibe is casual. Sometimes people stop and watch, but sometimes they ignore us so they can enjoy the show on the official performance night.

 

My identity matched me perfectly; I’ve always been the class clown of our cohort. After A&S tomorrow, I’d do a performance as the lead actor for the first time ever, but right now, I was waiting outside the gazebo for my cue.

 

That’s why I was in the perfect position to see two things.

 

First Alice, catching her breath - had she been running? - and gazing around at the faces in the crowd, looking helpless.

 

Then, down the alley between the Clinic and the Archery, my buddy Christopher. He was slipping into a side door of the Clinic, rather than the main doors out front.

 

Why?

 

I heard my cue, walked on stage, and set the question aside for later.

 

7-Cancer

 

If you're a Healer, you live and work in a place known as the Clinic. We bunk in cots, and our living spaces are tiny. It doesn’t matter to any of us - we’re constantly working, and we all love that. Being a Healer is the most rewarding and important identity in our community. No one but us has access to the medicines that keep our citizens well.

 

I was in a storage room organizing when I heard my name.

 

I turned around. Christopher looked terrible - circles under his eyes and cuts along his cheeks.

 

“Coraline,” he said. “I need help.”

 

I was surprised. “Of course, Chris. What can I do?”

 

He explained.

 

8-Gemini

 

Our cohort’s had its share of conflict, especially as we’ve all gotten older, but that’s to be expected. Every cohort consists of twelve kids who are grouped together when they’re toddlers. It’s nice because you get to grow up with one person from each identity. Then, when the entire cohort reaches the age of seventeen, we have A&S, when we advance and separate according to our astrological sign. The conflicts are natural in a group with all the identities mixed together.

 

It’s been the worst between Christopher and Abe. They leave the rest of us out of it, but they get heated sometimes. Since I’m good at seeing both sides of an argument, sometimes I’d mediate. “Back off, Gilbert,” someone would say, and I’d stop. There was no point, anyway; they’d never be good friends.

 

I’ve always felt bad for Christopher. The diabetes thing sucks - if he exerts himself, his blood sugar can get out of whack, so he’s had some scary moments when we’ve been out hiking. He can’t carry extra food or medicine, because everything’s distributed by the Leaders, and I know that drives him nuts.

 

Plus, there’s the whole Mismatch thing.

 

Being a Gemini means I’m a Variant - I can move between identities, spend years as an Artist and then switch and work as an Engineer. Many of us don’t do that - we find our niche and stay there - but we have the option, and it would help if Christopher had options. He’s a Mismatch, and we all know it - a Trader, like all Capricorns are, who should have been born Pisces or Aquarius. He’s a spiritual, artistic guy who’s going to spend his life dealing with money and making purchases for the community.

 

There’s no other option.

 

9-Taurus

 

Everyone in my cohort experienced Taurus envy at some point. We’re Entrepreneurs, so we’ve got a living/working space set up to inspire - espresso machines, skateboard ramps, white walls to sketch out ideas on. It’s awesome.

 

I’m considered a prodigy because of the invention I came up with during my training year. Our Capricorn, Christopher, was especially impressed.

 

“It’s a navigation system that guides you through our mountains - like, if we ever ran out and needed to send a group for supplies, all they’d need was this.” I showed him the prototype. The device was tiny - the size of a matchbox - which was the coolest thing about it.

 

It would be mass produced eventually by a team of Helpers, but the Leaders let me keep the prototype. Abe - my best friend in the cohort - advised me to keep it locked away.

 

“Someone might steal it,” he said one day last week.

 

That’s why I thought of Abe right away this morning, when I found the locked drawer of my bedside table busted open. The device was gone.

 

10-Aries

 

No one was more excited for Advancement & Separation than me. I’m done with this cohort. Especially Christopher.

 

I do feel bad for him, and I understand how hard things are for him, because my older brother Cam was a Mismatch too. He was definitely never meant to be a Trader. Maybe a Planner or a Helper. Being a Trader was for people who were serious, who preferred numbers to conversations, and that wasn’t Cam.

 

It was actually stuff about Cam that really ruined things for me with Christopher. For the past year, he’s been asking questions - about Cam’s childhood, asking if I’ve seen him, acting like it’s weird that he’s never met him.

 

“I’m with the Traders every day, Abe,” he said on a cohort hike last week. “Don’t you think I should’ve met him by now?”

 

It meant nothing. “He’s probably got a special assignment,” I told Christopher. “Cam’s awesome.”

 

“Of course he is,” he replied. “But don’t you think -”

 

“I think you better watch your mouth before you make any more comments about my brother,” I said.

 

He went silent.

 

Now it’s the day before A&S. I haven’t seen him all day today. After the ceremony and party tomorrow, I might never see him again like Cam. But while I miss my brother so much it hurts, I’ll be glad not to see Christopher again.

 

11-Aquarius

 

I couldn’t find Christopher anywhere, and so I stopped in the town square and sat on a bench near the gazebo. Before long, Coraline came, and we watched Lester take a bow and then hop off stage to join us. I heard enthusiastic applause and noticed that the entire cohort - everyone but Abe, who was chatting with some other Leaders by the Clinic - had gathered to cheer for Les.

 

We’ve been together for fifteen years. We squabble and we make up, and we care about each other.

 

“Saw you running, Alice,” Vaughn said. Lester nodded; maybe he’d seen me from the stage. “What’s up?”

 

I shrugged, trying to not look frantic. “I can’t find Christopher,” I said. “He was supposed to meet me this morning and he didn’t show.”

 

There was a slight shift in Coraline’s face - imperceptible to someone who didn’t know her like I did.

 

“Well, I’m pretty sure he broke into my things this morning,” Travers said, “so he’s probably out on a hike. Getting some fresh air before he gets locked away with the Traders grinding numbers.”

 

My eyes went to Phoebe. I’m not a Pisces, but Artists can be as perceptive as Mystics, and I saw her face darken with worry.

 

“What’s the problem?” Gilbert asked. “So he went for a hike and did some petty crime. He’ll give it back, Trav.”

 

Abe had spotted us and was walking our way. I tried to keep my voice calm. “Don’t say anything you just said to Abe,” I whispered. When Travers began to protest, I cut him off. “Trav, have you ever met or heard of an adult Mismatch?”

 

He wasn’t expecting the question. None of them were. Christopher had only shared his fears and discoveries with me.

 

“They don’t exist,” I whispered. “We don’t know what happens to them. But I think -” I looked at Coraline. “He came to you, didn’t he? You gave him - what he needed?”

 

She nodded.

 

“What did he need?” Sarah asked.

 

I shushed them. We all smiled pleasantly at Abe as he approached.

 

12-Capricorn

 

It wasn’t just the prototype of Travers’ navigation system that I’d stolen. I’d also snagged his binoculars.

 

I watched them all - Travers, Gilbert. Coraline, who’d risked everything to smuggle me insulin and glucose tablets. Lester, Vaughn, Lynette, Spencer, Sarah, Alice, Phoebe.

 

Abe.

 

There was no doubt in my mind that his brother Cam was dead. How and why, I didn’t understand, but I had no intention of waiting to solve the mystery of what happened to Mismatches.

 

Thanks to the cohort, I was prepared for this endeavor. I had Travers’ device, Lynette’s planning skills, and I knew how Phoebe read the stars. That’s what was beautiful about our community - the cohorts, and the people. What was terrifying was everything else.

 

I watched them for one more moment. Then I hopped down from the tree, and ran as fast as I could away from everything I’d ever known. 


April 09, 2024 11:42

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24 comments

Martin Ross
17:47 Apr 15, 2024

Fantastic job of universe-building, and I loved the narrative structure. What thought and planning you put into the telling, and you saved just the right emotional and narrative punch for the end. Extremely well-done!!

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Kerriann Murray
19:28 Apr 15, 2024

This made my day. Thank you so much for the thoughtful comments!

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Jeremy Burgess
19:54 Apr 14, 2024

This story is just stellar! I love the construction and the slow reveal. It reminded me a little of Brave New World in the way the society initially seems almost utopian to the people within it, before you realise that it has a dangerous side as well. I also have a T1 diabetic in my immediate family, so it was nice to see that represented as well. Great work, I really enjoyed it!

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Kerriann Murray
22:21 Apr 14, 2024

Thank you so much for reading and for the kind words, Jeremy! ❤️

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Darvico Ulmeli
05:41 Apr 14, 2024

I like how you used Zodiac signs in the story. (BTW I'm Scorpio) Felt really nice and interesting. Well done.

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Kerriann Murray
10:51 Apr 14, 2024

Thanks Darvico!

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Trudy Jas
00:31 Apr 14, 2024

Another wonderful story. Slow reveal, but totally worth watching the unveiling.

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Kerriann Murray
01:00 Apr 14, 2024

Thank you so much for reading and for your comments Trudy! ❤️

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Martha Kowalski
21:30 Apr 12, 2024

So wonderfully and creatively crafted - I think you're cohort should meet my zodiac ambassadors haha I loved this a lot!!

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Alexis Araneta
16:48 Apr 12, 2024

*jaw drop* Kerriann ! What stunning work. You created such a society where you can't help feeling sorry for the inhabitants, especially the Mismatches. Great use of imagery and flow, as usual. Lovely job !

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Kerriann Murray
17:23 Apr 12, 2024

You are too kind, Stella! Thank you so much for reading!

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Annie Hewitt
11:47 Apr 11, 2024

Really compelling and interesting read. I enjoyed the breaking up of astrological signs. Straightforward but all the necessary information was there without bogging it down with extraneous filler. Beautifully done. Good job!

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Kerriann Murray
19:57 Apr 11, 2024

Thank you so much!

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03:03 Apr 11, 2024

Enjoyed the world you built here! Well done.

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Kerriann Murray
11:26 Apr 11, 2024

Thank you!!!

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Annie Persson
19:24 Apr 10, 2024

This sort of reminds me of Divergent but in a short story star-relient version. I love how all of the characters' first letters start with the letter of their star sign, nice touch. I hope Christopher gets where he's going safely! :)

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Kerriann Murray
00:20 Apr 11, 2024

Thanks Annie! I mostly did the initial thing because it was so many characters to keep track of, but then I ended up liking it. :).

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Annie Persson
08:22 Apr 11, 2024

:)

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Ty Warmbrodt
00:54 Apr 10, 2024

Very interesting and enjoyable take on the prompt. As always, well written. I do have to say that I got the wrong idea about the crab clinic at first. It took me a minute to remember that the crab is a constellation. That's my bad. Great story. Great take on the prompt. Awesome way of utilizing the different zodiac signs.

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Kerriann Murray
01:03 Apr 10, 2024

LOL, I didn't even think of that! I wonder if I should change it to something less distracting? If you thought it, others will, too.

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Mary Bendickson
21:13 Apr 09, 2024

Really liked the way you eked out their world little by little as each sign told their perspective. Creative approach. Thanks for liking my 'Too-cute Eclipse '.🫥

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Kerriann Murray
19:13 Apr 12, 2024

Thanks Mary!

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15:36 Apr 09, 2024

Would this be the start of something bigger? Really interesting setup, good job.

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Kerriann Murray
18:01 Apr 11, 2024

Thanks Laura! I don't know; we'll see! I might not know enough about the Zodiac to take on something bigger; even the research for this story was a lot of work. :) Thanks for reading!

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