Author : Jay Haytch

One exception

She stood at the threshold and looked out at a burnt world.

It wasn’t really a proper threshold. There was no welcome mat, for starters. Just a trod-over pile of rubble where one last stray missile had hit the city wall and left a person-sized crack. On one side, the city. On the other side… well…

No one had sealed the breach, even after all these years. Why bother? There was no enemy anymore. Nothing left out there, they said.

Behind her she heard the morning fanfare trumpet through the city’s loudspeakers. Time to get up and start the day, for everyone. No exceptions.

She looked ahead through the crack again. Blasted, fractured, cold, harsh desert. Barren rocks and brutal landforms. Grey. Lifeless. There were no windows in the city wall; this little crack was all the view its inhabitants could get of the rest of the world. It was all the view they needed.

Others had gone out before, of course. But no one knew what happened to them. They never returned. She knew as soon as she set one foot over the threshold, it was all or nothing. No one was allowed back in. No exceptions.

She hadn’t seen the orderly yet, but it didn’t matter. She knew it would be there. There was an unwritten rule that anyone could stand where she was and contemplate the outside for as long as they needed to, and the orderlies wouldn’t interfere. Until that person turned around.

Wait, there it was, in the doorway of a nearby building, watching. It had gifts for her if she would only head back to the city. A comfy leather jacket that would pin her arms tightly to her chest and a big bottle of serum that would make her happy and content again. For the rest of her life.

Some people took the orderlies up on their offer. They went back to being productive citizens and smiled a lot. Every day in fact. No exceptions.

Only the insane would think of doing what she was thinking of doing. The sane, they stayed put. The city, after all, provided a person’s every need.

She stepped forward, through the gate of civilization into who knew what. Though the grey was ahead of her, to her left and right – obscured by the wall until she’d passed the point of no return – there was green.

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