It’s a bunch of years after the war. It has been exactly seventy-seven years since the war. It’s been two generations now, since the war. It’s like a mabrillion years after The War. Ohhh my Godddd, it’s so many years after the war.
Ever since the war, things have been different. After the War, everything changed. Nothing was the same after the war. The war changed everything.
Now, society’s bad. There was only one way for society to survive. Society’s real bad. Our society was bad after the War because of bad things. Remember all the things about your society right now? Just make ’em worse, that’s our society. Nothing’s trees but everything’s brown leggings and government.
Today’s the day the thing happens. The one big thing that happens to you nowadays — only one Thing happens to you, and it happens to everyone. Today’s the day of the test. Today’s the day of the Sorting. Today’s the day we are Chosen. Today’s the day we go to the City and get selected. Today’s the Thing Day. Normally one thing happens, but this time a different thing will happen, because of how different we are, which is unusual. There’s only five things you can be, but I’m a different thing. Society just made everyone pick one thing, somehow. You have to wear the matching jumpsuits or else you’re the wrong thing.
You’re so different. You’re so strong. You’re so brave. You don’t know how brave you are, which is what makes you so brave. You’re not like all of the others. You’re different, the way that you are. Not like the way things normally are. Which is bad, because here in the future, everything’s the same except for you and your sensible ponytail.
We can’t trust anyone. No one can find out about this. There’s no one else we can trust. If they knew the truth, they’d kill us.
I told him I can’t trust anyone, and he said Okay but you can trust me so I did so now I guess I trust one person and it’s him. How can I be different? I’m not different. That’s what makes you the most different of all, he said. I don’t trust anyone either, he said, but let’s take our shirts off in this abandoned old building that probably used to be a warehouse and then trust each other.
You’re a threat to the system. You’re the problem. Don’t you see? The glitch is you. They never expected someone like you to come along. The game doesn’t work if you don’t play.
They’re always watching. They can see you right now. Their eyes are everywhere. You have to hide. You can’t let them find you. You have to hide in the last place they’d look. You have to hide where everyone expects but no one would think of; you have to hide in plain sight where everyone can see you but no one can recognize you. Your weaknesses are what make you strong, because of how different you are. From society, which is bad, and also the government, which is worse, but especially your friends, which you weren’t expecting.
You’re going to have to choose. You have to make a choice. The time will come when you have to pick a side. Whose side are you on? What do you stand for? What will your choice be? Your choice, when will you make it? You can’t hide forever. This is the future and you’re wearing a tunic and you’re making choices right now. Let’s stop being just one thing, let’s be all the things, and let’s do it together. Let’s get rid of these state-issued tattoos. Take off that wristband. Remove your government tracking device. Lose the virtual reality helmet. Let’s be clean slates. Let’s jump together. Keep jumping across those rooftops. Don’t stop jumping.
They’re looking for us. They’ll find us. We can’t hide forever. We’ve got to fight back. We have to fight back. We’ve got to stand up. We’ve got to take a stand together. They can’t fight us all. If you’re different, maybe we can all be different at the same time, together, here in the future, wearing our tunics.
“Are you ready?”
“That’s how you know you’re ready.”
Mallory is an Editor of The Toast.