Fantasy Mystery Science Fiction

This story contains themes or mentions of physical violence, gore, or abuse.

Chapter One.

A projector screen unravelled itself from the ceiling of the Bubble Six’s dining hall. It hugged the entirety of the back wall of the canteen and tumbled to the floor rather ungracefully. Silence pierced the canteen and the air hummed with anticipation.

Then, as usual, two men dressed all in white, wheeled in the projector. The wheels shrieked as they came to a halt in front of the screen. On top of the projector, the button light flashed red. Then green.

Opposite the projector screen, rows upon rows of smartly dressed Bubble workers perched anxiously in their seats, all eagerly waiting for the daily announcement. Both men and women wore long-sleeved, ironed white shirts and dark trousers. Belts were not permitted. At their necks, red ties rest neatly, and, on their feet, white socks with black square-toed shoes. To avoid conflict, everyone wore the same thing.

The bitter smell of bleach lingered around the room, making the occasional eye well up. Like the ghost of a snake, it slithered up nostrils, sifted down the backs of throats, and crammed into lungs. It died there, urging the victims to cough or splutter at the burn. No one dared to make a sound. They had to wait until after the daily announcements before they could speak. Then, the lights flickered brighter.

Around the edges of the room, guards lingered. They were dressed head to toe in thick, protective gear and gripped onto weapons almost the same size as their arms. The barrels of the guns tilted towards the ground, but the threat was still potent for all the Bubble members. Stiff and still, the guards waited for any hint of chaos so they could get trigger happy. On their name tag, the large letters read: THE PROTECTORS. Their only job: to ensure the happiness of each room they guarded. Despite the hefty, mesh material covering their faces, they saw everything. Always present, always watching, always ready.

The light blue wash that stained their protective suits covered the entirety of their body, contrasting the white helmet and cuffs of their oversized jackets. It was rumoured that the colours represented a clear sky with the occasional cloud. In Bubble Six, happiness was ubiquitous, even on the Protector’s clothes.

The projector screen buffered. Towards the back of the canteen, Arabella’s eyes widened as she peered ahead obediently, their ocean-blue colour twinkling under the harsh lighting above her.

Her pale skin flushed with excitement. She was just as eager as everyone else for the talk.

“Hello friends.” A female voice echoed around the canteen. The black speakers in the corners of the room vibrated as she spoke,

“Welcome to Happies Headquarters. Here at HH, we are committed to making you happy.”

The sound was unaccompanied by any images for a brief moment. Then, a light-toned woman flickered into focus. A dark, blue dress hugged her skinny figure, with dark, rounded shoes poking out the bottom of the long silk. Her smile was dazzling with those pearly teeth and full, red lips. She radiated warmth. Unable to resist her charms, Arabella smiled back at her.

“My name is Lady Blue, and I am your point of contact to the HH. But I’m sure you all know that by now!” She exclaimed, throwing her arms out for dramatic effect. Light laughter filled the room. She briefly paused to let the laughter simmer down.

“Before we get onto the good parts, we must first remember yesterday to create a better tomorrow!” She announced dramatically.

The projector screen flicked to the next page as the beautiful lady disappeared. As a replacement, black and white pictures of destruction, misery and chaos popped up on the screen. A child being snatched away from its mother; a war tearing down the family home; women being raped and murdered; a man committing suicide. Shrieks, cries, splutters, and strangled pleads boomed through the speakers to mirror the images.

Audible gasps and disapproving mumbles echoed around the room, but they were drowned out by the hideous sound effects. Nonetheless, Arabella still muttered her disgust for the past as she shook her head. The images and sounds lasted a little longer, driving the effect home. Then, Lady Blue reappeared in the corner of the screen.

This time, there was no smile on her pretty face. She frowned, and the audience frowned with her.

“Before the uprising, there was awful pain. It was acceptable to offend, to lie, to cheat, to murder! They called that Freedom. But we now know that none of this is acceptable. We must have peace! We must have happiness! Down with Freedom!”

The projector flickered as it revealed a new slide. A happier slide. Pictures that depicted joy filled the screen; friends holding hands, employees smiling at one another and even a grinning child with a lolly pop. The crowd quietened down now all the misery had gone. The happiness was restored.

“No one was happy in the conditions of the past. Then there came a day where we decided enough was enough. So, as a nation, as a collective, as a family, we had a vote between two choices.” Lady Blue beamed, clasping her hands together, “Do we choose misery, or do we choose happiness?”

The crowd’s eyes lit up. This was their favourite part of the morning speech.

“And which did we choose?” Lady Blue’s eyes glistened as she peered out of the screen lovingly.

The crowd went wild, “We chose happiness!”

People banged on the tables, some hollered, some squealed in excitement and some of the happiest people cried with joy. They fed off each other’s energy and became almost untameable. Even Arabella found herself throwing her arms around in glee.

The Protectors stomped their feet. One. Two. Quickly, the Bubble members settled down.

The hologram of the woman at the front smiled like a proud mother as her eyes scanned the rows of her children.

“Yes, that’s right! It is much better to have a happy society which is why certain measurements were put in place. The past valued family to be those who were blood related to you. But this cannot be the case. It is a recipe for disaster! We are now one big family; look to your left, now right. The members besides you are your Brothers and Sisters, Mothers and Fathers...” Lady Blue declared. Each Bubble member shifted their attention obediently to her commands.  

“We’ve removed pain and suffering. We’ve removed offence! We protect your right to be happy and feel this new sense of freedom… But you must play your part too in following the rules, or else you’ll face the consequences!” Her eyes quickly lost their sparkle, and her lips pulled into a straight line.

The next slide blinked onto the screen, highlighting a picture Arabella knew all too well. The sinking feeling in her stomach grew stronger and her palms became sweaty at the sight of the Five Red Flags. On the screen, the scarlet flags were arranged neatly in a row, like soldiers ready for battle. Each flag had a slight crumple in them, as if they were waving in an imaginary wind.

“Let’s go over the rules of the Five Red Flags again, in case anyone has forgotten.” Lady blue’s face contorted bitterly on the projector screen.

“From the age of eighteen, you must strictly follow six simple rules to ensure our community never has to face the horrors of the past again. With every rule you break, you receive a certain number of Red Flags Flag dependant on the severity of the broken rule. Five Red Flags results in the offender being Cancelled. No exceptions.”

Arabella realised her lips were moving silently in time to the blue lady’s. This part of the speech always moved her, and she would never forget those cold words.

The lady on the screen observed everybody in silence; it was like those dark orbs were targeting each member of the crowd. People shuffled uncomfortably in their seats, and there was a faint wave of gulps echoing around the room. Not a single member in the room had a red flag, but the fear of slipping up and gaining one was enough to make anyone writhe.

The projector switched to the next slide. The crimes appeared, in order of their severity, next to their punishments.

1.     Three red flags for killing.

2.     Two red flags for adultery.

3.     One red flag for stealing.

4.     One red flag for lying.

5.     Half a red flag for offending someone.

6.     Half a red flag for swearing.

A long pause allowed each Bubble member to read through them at their own pace. Besides Arabella, a scrawny looking boy with blotchy acne, mumbled the crimes out loud. His voice was distracting, and he received a few disapproving stares from the members around him. No one asked him to stop though; they couldn’t risk offending him, even if he offended them first. It wasn’t worth the Red Flag.

“Bubble Six.” Lady blue said. For a split second, it appeared that the lady’s lips were saying another number, but the audio quickly reaffirmed that she was talking to them, “You are a very important part of our society. Without you, we could not continue the work we do.”

Arabella felt a blush creep to her cheeks; quickly, she forgot the distracting member next to her. The recognition of Bubble Six’s tireless work made everyone felt good. Even if the compliment was very vague.

Somewhere behind Arabella, someone shuffled in their seats. Normally Arabella wouldn’t take any notice, far too interested in Lady Blue’s speech, however the sound was followed by a soft whispering. No one usually spoke during the morning announcements. Curiosity took hold of her, and she found herself eavesdropping. The voices were strained but she could just about pick up snippets of their conversation.

“The Hunting Season is soon.” She heard a female voice whisper.

“Really? Already?” There was another voice, a male voice, which trembled as he answered his partner.

Arabella stiffened. As if on cue, Lady Blue began the section of the speech which discussed the Hunting Season.

“If you’re villainous enough to gain Five Red Flags during the Hunting Season, you will be caught and punished.” She bellowed, the sound echoing through the canteen. Arabella winced and bobbed her head.  There were rumours that if you were caught, you were Cancelled, which many believed to be an exile to the most inhospitable place on earth- Bubble Seven- to wither and die in the unbreathable air and toxic environment. Others said you were killed immediately in a back room, dragged towards the execution room in front of loved ones. A lamb to the slaughter. Arabella gulped; she wasn’t sure which option was worse.

Trying to distract her racing thoughts, she switched her attention back to the screen. It made her anxious every time the Hunting Season arrived even if she had never gained a Red flag in her life.

Everyone became that much more proper during the Hunting Season month. Friends eyed each other up, colleagues whispered behind your back, partners observed you in your sleep. For one month every year, the Bubble members were enemies.

The final slide appeared on the screen. It was a reminder of the Bubbles, and why society must work in the way it was designed. Arabella’s eyes fixed onto Lady Blue strutting around in the screen.

“In the olden days, the Bubbles were called continents.” She explained, “But the HH decided to split up each Bubble to be dedicated to research and furthering our community. This is how we can progress as a happy species.”

Arabella’s eyes flittered over to the screen as she read the words carefully, despite knowing them off by heart.

Bubble One: Technology

Bubble Two: Terrorism and safety

Bubble Three: Environment

Bubble Four: Business

Bubble Five: Religion

Bubble Six: Health and wellbeing

Bubble Seven: The Unhappies

As usual, Arabella skipped over Bubble Seven, not bothering to read the words. She tried not to think about that world of chaos and misery. The council had tried to help them, to care and protect them during the vote, but Bubble Seven had refused, so it was said. Arabella couldn’t understand why they didn’t want the help, but she didn’t try to understand it either. It was easier to pretend they didn’t exist.

“Now, can everyone please put on your helmets for your sector talk.” The lady asked sweetly, though she wasn’t really asking. She was instructing. Arabella reached for the black helmet which rested between her legs. She secured the heavy thing on her head and waited for her sector meeting to start.

The machine whirled; a buzzing surrounded her. Then, it flashed to life and the show began.

An image of a woman giving birth appeared on screen; she seemed to be in distress, sweat and tears mixing into an agonising river down her face. The female’s mouth contorted into a scream and then the sound began. It was horrendous. Arabella’s senses were filled with panting and crying as the lady pushed, legs spread apart so the crowning head of the child was visible. It made Arabella feel sick. Surely, there was a better way to bring life into the world.

The video faded away slowly but the image and sound still lingered in Arabella’s mind. It was a reminder of what her team was working towards, ending childbirth for good. Women shouldn’t have to endure such torture. It was offensive! It was Unhappy! They must remove it!

Lady blue appeared in Arabella’s private helmet. She wore a baby blue dress now which floated out at the bottom, and a white apron. Her black heels clicked as she walked into the middle of the white room and took a seat in an oversized chair.

“Welcome, Arabella.” The lady said. Arabella’s eyes followed the lips of Lady blue; she didn’t appear to say Arabella, but another name. As usual, she overlooked this mistake.

“You and your team in Bubble Six have had been working on ending Childbirth for human women.” Lady blue smiled; it reached her eyes. Arabella felt warm inside.

“Your team have already done so well in removing the uterus and ovaries. This has greatly helped the period infliction which caused too much suffering.”

For the briefest moment, Arabella’s eye twitched. The removal of the uterus and ovaries was by far the most invasive and risky surgery. Her fingers itched to touch her lower stomach where an awful, jagged scar rested. She had been amongst the first adult women to trial the surgery. It was a long, agonising procedure with minimal drugs so that the surgeons could monitor any changes in behaviour when rearranging her internal anatomy. Though it was voluntary, she didn’t remember having the option to decline; it was for the greater good of society and so it was a noble and worthy sacrifice. The pain of the operation was temporary for the enduring happiness of society.

Lady Blue’s eyes twinkled brightly, bringing Arabella back to the screen,

“I wanted to congratulate you on your hard work and dedication to the cause. With your effort, we will make the world a happier place.”

“Together, we will make the world a happier place.” Arabella dutifully repeated the catchphrase. In the canteen, dozens of other voices joined in.

May 21, 2022 15:30

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Graham Kinross
12:40 Oct 12, 2022

Great writing, could kick off with the action a little earlier and drip feed us the descriptions but it worked.


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Kenneth Allan
07:58 Jun 02, 2022

This was good and very descriptive. I like the detailed way you talked about the surroundings. The plot was good to, I did not anticipate the ending.I liked it.


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Keri Dyck
22:38 Jun 01, 2022

Ooh chilling! Great job with this story; I’ve never read a dystopian quite like it. The only thing I would recommend is making sure that your words don’t accidentally contradict each other, like here: “It hugged the entirety of the back wall of the canteen and tumbled to the floor rather ungracefully.” The word “hugged” implies it was wrapped tight, in which case it could not tumble. And here again: “Silence pierced the canteen and the air hummed with anticipation.” The word “hummed” brings to mind noise, which contradicts the silence ...


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09:54 May 29, 2022

Holly, this is great. You’ve set a fascinating context which as I was reading I was thinking would suit a larger piece of work. I will look out for the book.


Holly Guy
15:37 May 29, 2022

Hi Maddison. Thank you, there's a large sale going on from 3rd-10th June where all copies of 'Five Red Flags' are 40% off if you're interested :) Thank you for taking the time to comment


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18:01 May 24, 2022

Really intriguing concept, Holly! Never been into dystopian as a genre but I liked your take on it. Now I’m wondering which rules she breaks to get cancelled. The Bubble concept is interesting too. Makes me wonder though, is there a penalty for having any flags at all? Since killing someone is 3 flags, could you just murder someone and get away with it since it’s still under 5? In terms of constructive criticism, I’d suggest it lingers on descriptions too much in the first half, especially on the guards - I felt impatient to find out wha...


Holly Guy
09:26 May 25, 2022

Hello, thank you so much for this comment. If you're interested in reading more to find the answers to your questions, you can find my book for free on Wattpad or Kindle unlimited. Otherwise, there's a small fee on Amazon. And i completely agree with your criticism. I thought that too whilst writing. However, description is very important in the dystopian genre. It's a way of throwing in little digs and bits of information which will crop up in the future. As the novel progresses, the description gets less and less. It's just because it's ...


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Holly Guy
15:35 May 21, 2022

Hey guys, this story is a short extract from chapter one of my novel 'Five Red Flags'. I wouldn't normally do a promotional thing like this, but my opening chapter fit in with the prompt this week- so why not!! If you're interested, I have a link in my bio to my website. There is a deal going on from 3rd-10th June, where you can get the ebook 41% off! Blurb: She is a hard-working Bubble member. He is a blasphemous Freedom Fighter. Yet they both end up in the Red Flag Trials, fighting for their lives against the impossible odds. Set in th...


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