Author : Ajax

Zoë sat rigid in the steel chair. Her gaze was locked, unwavering, on the screen in front of her, which displayed a countdown. Five minutes and fifty-six seconds, a relatively short time, seemed an eternity to Zoë. Her hands tightened on the hard, uncomfortable armrests. She would know in five minutes and forty-one seconds.

Today was Expiration Day. Today she and the six other about-to-turn-eighteen-year-olds would find out precisely how much time they had left to live. Down to the second, they would know the precise moment of their deaths, supposedly to better spend their lives. Expiration would determine their class, occupation, marital options, and a multitude of other aspects of their lives. The long lived, the ones with enough years to matter, were the politicians, the doctors, the lawmakers. The short lived would become soldiers, factory and custodial workers. Fodder. The length of one’s life determined everything.

Four minutes and forty seconds. Had it really only been a minute? Despite the precisely controlled temperature of the room, sweat beaded on Zoë’s brow. Statistically speaking, with the six others in their own dark rooms, staring at their own screens, she had around a sixty-seven percent chance to get a decent lifespan. Assuming a standard deviation of years awarded compared to all previous years. Her rebellious brain chimed in.

Shut up. Just calm down. Zoë focused and, with a herculean effort, relaxed her stiff muscles. She exhaled, pushing the air from her lungs. Three minutes and twenty-one seconds. Ok, you’re relaxed. More a command than a statement of fact. She ran the numbers again in her head. Statistically speaking, she could expect thirty to fifty years, plus or minus ten years.

Two minutes fifty-two seconds. She was still nervous as hell. Some people said that if you were rich enough, or knew the right people, you could rig the Program to give your child a long life. Zoë thought that was ridiculous. Rig the Program? You’d be better off trying to rig the sun. The Program was foolproof, had to be to ensure that everyone’s expiration was fair. Besides, even if you could “buy” a longer life, Zoë’s family was in no position to do so. Her parents were just above the Orange Value line, with no excess income to speak of. No. Today, Zoë’s Expiration would be unaffected by any outside influence. Her years would be her own.

One minute, twelve seconds. Ohhh crap. Another wave of anxiety ripped through her. What if she only got ten years? The lowest score that she knew of was two, but that had only happened once. She thought.

Shuttup think about the bright side. You could be the next Mayor Sloan, and get a hundred years! Somehow, despite the fact that they were both equally likely, one seemed much farther out of reach. Listen, Zoë told herself, you’re going to get through this, you’re going to go home, and you’re going to be so so sooooo much more relaxed now that you know the answer. Your life’s about to get a whole lot more simple. You’re going to know who to hang with, you’ll know what job to get, and you’ll meet a nice guy around the same lifespan as you and have a nice solid life. Zoë calmly watched the numbers scroll down. Thirteen seconds. Five. Zoë breathed out, calmly watching the last seconds of her teenage life tick away. Three… Two… One… Zero. The blue numbers faded away, replaced by a larger golden decimal.

0.008219, it read. Zoë’s heart froze. She had three days.

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