Short Story- Project Life

Hey guys! This is a little different for me, and a bit vulnerable as well. I love writing, especially pieces of fiction. I am taking a Creative Writing class right now, and our final project needs to be a collection of pieces, of varying genres. The following is a story idea that I formed after reading a Tumblr post about a biological clock that counted down until you would meet your soul mate.

Project Life

There is a lot more I would like to write; however, I am already over 13 pages, so we’ll see what I submit for grading. Thanks for reading, and please!, send me any corrections, editing suggestions, or even possible ideas for the rest of the story. I would love to know what you think! Thanks for reading! Xx

Part 1

10: 05: 03: 06: 10: 26: 51

The countdown, ghostly grey, ticked down the seconds. Situated on his left inner wrist, it had started ticking from his first second of life. Years, months, weeks, days, hours, minutes, seconds; like everyone else, his life raced towards Day Zero. The government appointed day when his clock would run zero and his wife’s name would appear on his wrist.

His country, swept in the worldwide current of singleness ideology, wrecked economy, and dwindling population, had instituted Project Life, a scientific and economic attempt to improve the nature of the country, by bringing couples together. The thought was that, perhaps, an increased population would lead to more jobs, thus boosting the economy, and thus save the nation. The slogan had become “What We have brought together, let no man separate.” It had become required that whoever shared the same Day Zero and was branded with another’s name, must take that person as their mate. Whoever refused was sent to live elsewhere, or were, as the rumors suggested, killed.

He was ten, a student in the country’s elementary school, anxiously awaiting turning 25 and watching the zeros string across his wrist. He was nervous, curious, frightened. In an attempt to maintain his sanity, he participated in sports, worked hard in school, and aimed to the best he could, desiring to bring honor to his future wife. He spent time with his friends, hearing about their clocks. His friend, Taron, was a few short hours from his Day Zero. The young boys, walking into the giant white school building, were tight with excitement and anxiety. Taron was the youngest in their group of friends, and perhaps even in the school, to reach Day Zero.

Sitting at lunch, in the bright air and large window atrium, they watched the final numbers fade. Slowly, a name in rigid print appeared: Seraphine Alphim.

“She’s a new girl in my class …..” He breathed, watching Taron turn pale and start to look around. Across the room, in the same white uniform, a girl with a long thick black braid sat down at a table. Alphim, in the uniform’s silver print was emblazoned on her back. Suddenly, her back straightened and she looked around. Her gaze searched the atrium, fear in her eyes and flush in her cheeks. Deep blue eyes reached their table, and Taron stood up. Slowly, the two walked to each other, their names blazing on each other’s wrists. Taron kissed her hand, and the atrium, which had fallen silent, cheered.

That was Jastin’s first Day Zero.

02: 00: 10: 02: 06: 02: 15

As time passed, Jastin became numb to watching others find their mates on the set days. His anticipation grew as his day grew nearer, but he couldn’t help but feel bitter that his day was still so far away. Taron and Seraphine had married a year after graduation, and they already had two children, with twins on the way. His friend Mikal was a few weeks from his Day, and his other unmarried friend Yanna was a few days from hers. He celebrated with his friends when their Days came and past, but his own excitement dwindled down to a constant ember in his heart, ever present and ever warm. He had waited this long already and he would continue to wait, but he knew it was best to take one day at a time. He knew he would drive himself wild mentally counting down the days, building the excitement and the anticipation.

He had risen to a high ranking business official in the capitol city’s government district. He generated reports on the food consumption in the capitol and surrounding areas, as his company sought to find the balance between the growing population and limited resources. He was making enough money to buy a penthouse apartment in city and a cottage in the country. Every morning he rode the subway to work, stopped at a local coffee shop on the way, and dined with big name executives for dinner. With every paycheck, the chip in his right wrist pinged the growing amount, and with a swipe of the wrist for a purchase, it glowed the decrease. He had enough money saved to be able to buy any ring his wife wanted for the wedding, and to provide her with whatever her heart desired. He was content.

00: 00: 00: 00: 02: 15: 30

Jastin woke up. He knew it was Day Zero. He had dreamed about this day for so long. He knew his life would be different by dinner, and turning over, he was hit with the realization that his wife may be in his bed tonight. Pushing that away, he got up and dressed. Checking the time, he knew he had enough time to get ready and tidy the apartment before leaving. He was not sure where he would meet her, but he knew it would be before he got to the office.

Would she be a new barista at the coffee shop? Or the new secretary at work who is supposed to start today? Perhaps she would be from another company, dropping paperwork off for him as he arrived to work?

He made a pot of coffee, and pouring a cup, he made himself focus on smooth steady movements, mentally slowing to breathe in and out.

00: 00: 00: 00: 00: 45: 02

Straightening his tie, he took one last look in the mirror, and breathed in and out one last time. He locked his door behind him, and rode the silent glass elevator to the lobby. The sky was brilliant and blue, the depth of clear fall mornings. Stepping out onto the sidewalk, the air was chill, but the sun was warm. He could feel the rhythm and importance of the day and the quickly fading seconds propelling him forward.

He walked to the subway, a silver bullet running through the city. He felt the tension in his muscles, of wanting to run, to speed up time, against the persistent reasoning that running would not help. Swiping his wrist at the kiosk, he stepped onto the subway.

00: 00: 00: 00: 00: 15: 00

He stepped off at the coffee shop, his heart loud and full in this throat. He ordered his tall coffee, working hard to not shake. As he reached for his coffee, his sleeve relaxed, revealing his ticking numbers.

“Day Zero, huh?” The cheerful barista asked. For a split second, their eyes locked and Jastin froze. He felt his heart suspend, as if cresting a hill on a roller coaster and waiting to descend down the impeding slope.

“Congrats! Mine’s in two months!” She pushed up her sleeve and there, on her dark skin, rang multiple numbers; 00: 02: 01: 07: 11: 42: 12.

Jastin breathed out, unaware he had stopped breathing. He laughed, perhaps louder than he should have, and said “thank you” louder than he should have. Leaving the café’ he received many more congratulations, from patrons who had overheard the exchange. He received all with a smile, but his heart and nerves were louder now.

00: 00: 00: 00: 00: 02: 10

He was back on the subway, pressed against the cool frame. He felt like he was overheating, the warm sun magnified through the glass at his back. He had burnt his mouth on his coffee, but the routine soothed him. He was a stop and a half from his office. He looked around; all of the people on the subway were people he recognized. He felt like he was running out of time.

00: 00: 00: 00: 00: 24

The subway slipped into the stop before his office. His mind was so busy it felt numb, and his heart was beating such that he felt breathless. In a last attempt, he took a sip of cooling coffee, closed his eyes, and breathed in and out. He was determined to settle into the fact, that in this next moment, his life would change. This was certain and unstoppable. It was something his friends had all experienced, his parents as well. His feelings were not odd, they were normal.

His heart ceased to beat as the remaining seconds ticked away.

00: 00: 00: 00: 00: 00: 00

The subway doors slid open. A rush of people walked in. Jastin felt a tinge surge up his arm. He looked at his wrist. Day Zero.

Amily Banks.

He looked around. He knew all of these people. Mr. Greg from the supermarket. Mrs. Zhou from the Captiol School. Isa from his office. Other familiar faces from daily subway rides.

Wait. There. By the door. A woman. With brown hair. A strong profile. A grey scarf. Were those brown eyes or hazel? The tinge grew stronger. Was she looking at her wrist too?

The subway was silent. People were watching the news on their optic visions. He felt her name form around his teeth and push at his lips.

“Amily …….” His voice cracked. Nothing. He breathed in.

“Amily.” He said. Firmly, confidently, passionately. She turned.

“Jastin..?” It was a question, hopeful and expectant. He pushed towards her, feeling the atmosphere shift towards them.

“Hi.” He breathed, standing right beside her, right at the subway doors. He saw the city pass by, smudges of color, snapshots of life outside of this moment.

“Hi.” She said, her voice soft and gentle, but full of life. He showed her his wrist, and she showed him hers.

Jastin Mallory.

Amily Banks.

He wrapped his hand around hers. His wife. She was here now.

The subway filled with congratulations.

Day Zero.

Part 2

The subway doors opened. Jastin’s heart was full. His wife was beautiful and wonderful. In the few short moments they had on the train, small talking into the future, he knew he loved her. He was beyond excited to marry her. His heart, which he had held safe for this day, leapt with love and happiness.

He knew of people who decided to date and be intimate with others who weren’t the designated mate. He knew of a whole subculture of people who didn’t care about waiting for their Day Zeros, and swept their bodies into the currents of untamed passions. He knew that these people, once the clock struck zero, would give up their ways and fall into the lawful life. He knew these people saw that lifestyle as a form of escape from the inevitable. When he grew impatient, he often considered, if for one night only, to slip into that crowd. But right now, with Amily’s hand in his, he knew the wait was worth it, and he could not wait to love her, and to spend the rest of his life loving her.

They stepped from the platform surrounded by the world but only seeing each other. The sun glistened in her hair and her hazel eyes bounced with gold.

“I work here ……” He said, motioning to his office, just a few steps from where they stood.

“I work over there …” She said, pointing to the laboratory across the street. The moment hung suspended, anticipation rippling through their tightening fingers.

“Come to my apartment for dinner? Meet me here, and I can take you there from here ….” His question was whispered.

“I would like that very much.” She pulled closer to him.

“Wonderful. Amily.” She smiled, wrinkling her eyes and a girlish giggle danced around her mouth.

“Happy Day Zero.” He wrapped her in, and without thinking, he kissed her full and soft on the lips. He felt her give away against her, and his heart tumbled in his chest and pushed against his ribs. They pulled apart breathless, a gentle taste of cinnamon pressed into his lips.

“I should get to work.” She offered, giggling, starting to move apart.

“Me too … but don’t forget. I will meet you here at five. Any later, and I’ll come looking for you.” He teased, straight faced.

“Five it is.” She played a long, a grin playing around the corners of her eyes.

Smiling, Jastin turned to walk into his office, looking back at his wife. Smiling, she waved as she stepped off the side walk.

The building doors slid open.

Brakes screeched.

Someone screamed.

He turned.

Ran outside.

Blood.

Gray scarf.

A wrist.

00: 00: 00: 00: 00: 00: 00.

Dropped coffee.

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