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The girl gazed wonderingly at the sky. Nameless shining objects hung to its blackness, seemingly by an unseen force. Even though she didn't understand why or how they were there, the shining things intrigued her. What was in the beyond? She wondered. Would she ever know? Or would this glittering canopy be all she ever saw.

First and her brother swung through the air. It was a clear blue day, like always, and a gentle breeze tickled the children’s cheeks. The lawn was perfectly trimmed, the house a flawless square, each fence board symmetrical. All was well. 

“I bet I can go higher than you, Two!” First shouted as she pushed her swing harder. 

“No you ‘tant!” The boy flopped around in an attempt to speed up. 

The children loved seeing who could go the highest, who could look over the fence first. Of course, this had never happened. No-one in their family had ever even glimpsed at what lay beyond the yard. All they knew was the blue sky, the lawn and the house. That was fine, they had what they needed. 

“First, Two! It’s time for the evening meal!” Mother called, chuckling as her little tykes tripped over each other, running inside.  

Everyone gathered at the simple dining room table, in the bare undecorated room, and waited. Food would come soon. They didn’t know how, or why, but it always came.

“Mother, I almost looked over to the beyond!” Two announced excitedly. “I was this close.” He held two fingers apart to show how near he’d been.

“Oh, Two. You know I do not approve of that.” Mother gave him a stern look. 

“It is alright Wife, they are only curious.” Father smiled. “But children, what is it you are looking for? We have all that we need right here. Everything’s fine.” 

Mother nodded in agreement as First and Two pondered his question. First spoke first. 

“But Father, what is beyond?” She asked. 

“Nothing, nothing at all! It’s a wasteland out there.” Grandmother hobbled into the room and seated herself. 

“Grandmother, you shouldn’t speak so harshly.” Father said to her. “And you must not continue to be late for evening meal, it is rude.” 

“Oh, pish posh! Who makes these rules anyway? No-one else is here to see.” She noisily thumped her elbows on the table. 

Mother clicked her tongue and was about to add something else, when a sound entered the room. A sort of whirring that emanated from the ceiling and was steadily growing louder, closer by the second. Five holes opened up above them, and five small metallic boxes came out. Thin wires clutched the deliveries and slowly lowered them onto the table, one for each person. 

“Ah, right on time! And looking delicious!” Father rubbed his hands together.

“Same as every day.” Grandmother grumbled. Then she did something unexpected, something forbidden and unusual. 

Grandmother reached up and snatched her package right out of the claw. Everyone gasped, one of the wire’s fragile metallic fingers hung twisted and limp. 

“Grandmother!” Father stammered. 

“What?” She slowly opened the tin. 

“That was-that was-”

“Completely fine. We’re all perfectly fine, Son. Eat your food.” 

There was silence for a moment, all eyes watched in shock as Grandmother placidly ate her food. As if nothing had happened. In fact, the way she intently chewed her meal, you’d have thought those gray powdery spheres were the best thing she’d ever tasted. Everyone slowly went back to eating. 

“Mother, what are we doing tomorrow?” Two inquired. 

“Just the same as today, Two.” She smiled wistfully. “Just the same as today.” 

First nibbled at her nutrition capsules, but stopped to speak.

“I hope they change it someday.” She confessed.

“Change what, First?” Father asked. 

“Well, we always have the same food.” Her forehead scrunched up in thought. “And, I-I just wish we could… could eat something different.” 

“Things are fine, First. Just fine, we have what we need.” Mother said solemnly. 

“Things are fine, First. Just fine, we have what we need.” Mother said solemnly. 

“We do?” She asked.

"Of course!" Mother insisted. "We have food, water, family, toys. Everything we need."

"Yes. Yes, Mother I see now. We're fine here." First nodded to herself. 

Grandmother snorted, but nothing more was said. The small family finished their dinner in peace, no more harsh retorts or thought provoking questions, and certainly they’d had enough of spontaneous activity.

The world our people lived in was a quiet one, symmetrical and congruent. Every day was almost exactly the same as the last one. They got up, had the morning meal, did chores, played, had the evening meal and slept. The only variable was what one would say or play, how you’d bid good morning or what to pretend on the swing. Their lives were a monotonous one. To them, everything was as it was, always had been and always would be. It was fine, they kept saying. Everything was just fine. 

“Mother, what’s that?” Two looked around, wide-eyed and confused.

“I hear it too.” First set her food down and looked outside.

A vibrating rumble sounded in the distance, it was like nothing they’d ever heard before. It was loud.

“It's-it’s coming from… beyond!” Two squealed. 

As if things weren’t terrifying enough, the lights suddenly flicked to white, glaring every corner of the room. All other doors suddenly clicked themselves shut and bolted. The rumble grew to an ever-present hum. 

“What’s happening Husband-” Mother started to shout. 

She was cut off, however, by a pulse coming from the metal plug on her lower neck. She and the others were immediately paralyzed, and could only watch the events unfolding before them. 

Outside, a great hovercraft lingered above the lawn and dropped down a single black object. The thing unfurled itself, revealing a strange robot roughly seven feet in length. Two arms jutted from its front, spinning and clicking like the mouth of a spider. Its form was armored and sleek, internal wires and gears humming with power, allowing it to glide silently above the ground. 

It moved slowly around the table, using its glowing white eye to scan each person in turn, finally stopping at Grandmother. Using one of its claws, the robot clicked into the old woman’s plug. After a moment of turning and whirring, it retracted and allowed Grandmother to slump over in a deep sleep. She didn’t feel a thing as the machine lowered her into a hollow space in its back, sealing her in. 

Next, the robot switched into each of the remaining people at the table. It didn’t completely remove the memory of what just happened, it only dimmed them, making it less strange and horrifying. The family would respectfully remember Grandmother, but know that she had to pay for her mistakes. The message was clear: Do not change, or else. But that was fine, they didn’t need to change. It was just fine. 

Then the robot left, returning to its ship. The foreign humming, pulsing, clicking, slowly dying away, until all that was left was a faded memory. A faded memory and a new understanding. 

First remembered these feelings as she stood underneath the night sky. A few hours ago, everything had been normal, but after dinner, it all had changed. Mother, Father and Two had gone on as usual, but only she had realized the truth: they were slaves. Kept happy and well fed until they had served their purpose and were taken away. She fingered the plug on her neck, every night they had to hook into a machine. They had to give a certain amount of their blood. Every day they did this. But why?

Well, now First would answer these questions. First born and first to see over the fence, no, to go over the fence. She took a deep breath and began to climb her tower. Three lawn chairs stacked on top of a plastic table would be enough to get her to the top. Besides stairs, it was the tallest thing she’d ever climbed. 

First went slow. Even with those small steps, she could feel a change in the wind, getting colder and more fierce the higher she got. 

It was the last part where she hesitated. One more step, and she would see the beyond. This knowledge could permanently change her, there was no going back. First climbed the fence and stood, nearly fainting at the sight before her.

In every direction, as far as she could see, were houses. Just like hers. All perfect boxes with no windows, two floors and high backyard fences. Between these was dust, an ugly brown color, blowing in the midnight chill. Devoid of plants or animals, it was a wasteland. It was nothing.  

First felt empty, everything she thought she knew was gone, blown away. She was merely a shell, a battery. Destined to serve a lonely life with peers who knew nothing. What now? Live with Two, Mother and Father until she became of age and was transferred to her own family unit? And what after that? Slowly age until she was taken away just like Grandmother? 

These realizations set in and First began to panic. She had to leave, she had to leave now. In her alarm, she didn’t realize the misplacement of her feet. Her body tipped, slipped and a scream echoed across the plains as she fell. 

The breath was knocked out of her lungs, back slamming into the dirt. First looked up at the stars for a moment… their still-mysterious beauty was entrancing. A stillness seemed to ebb from the sky, things seemed peaceful. Then the Earth opened up beneath her. She fell, down into a dark metal tunnel, her strained voice bouncing off the walls and back to her. A searing heat, white fire, burned below. She felt the blaze only for a moment, then First’s ashes evaporated and was lost to the wind.  

The next morning, Mother, Father and Two didn’t notice that the real First had been replaced. A robot, very much like their real daughter, had been put in her stead. It was a device, simply meant to keep their vision of peace, of safety. 

The family went on living just as they always had and just as they always would. Their day was the same as thousands of other families like them. All without blemish, revision, diversity or change. But that was fine, that was just fine. 

July 23, 2020 21:48

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2 comments

20:23 Aug 14, 2020

Yeah, here's an "oops!" for the repeat. I had some copy/paste action going on to get this story from my google drive : )

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Elliot Thomas
21:59 Jul 31, 2020

This is a very original story. The way you describe everything is well done. The only thing is you repeated "'Things are fine, First. Just fine, we have what we need.' Mother said solemnly." Other than that, I loved it. Keep up the good work!

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RBE | Illustration — We made a writing app for you | 2023-02

We made a writing app for you

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