Author: Candyce Pruitt-Goddard
Genre: YA Dystopian
The deadbolt of my front door clicks and the door creaks open, urging me to move faster. More time to get ready would be nice. As soon as I think it, I squeeze my eyes shut and try to distract myself. I can’t want that. I can’t want anything. Not if I don’t want to end up in jail.
My bracelet blinks yellow for a few seconds and then stops. I heave a sigh of relief. If the light turns red, it means the amount of dopamine in my blood is over the legal limit and the government will know about my desire. It’ll be a matter of minutes before the government officials show up. I know they’re just trying to protect us from the Desiderium, but an official knocking on my door is the last thing I need.
“Are you ready to go, Rhiley?” My best friend JM wanders into the living room and plops a copy of my house key onto the coffee table.
“Only if I can study in the car,” I say as I throw my hair into a sloppy bun and jam my books into my bag.
“You do know you can take a break, don’t you?” he asks as he topples onto the couch and sinks into the worn-out cushion.
“I don’t have time for a break.” I don’t have time for much of anything. I wince as soon as I think it.
“You might very well be the only 17-year-old workaholic in the world,” he smiles as he tosses a pillow at me.
As I gather the rest of my things, I can’t help but notice the concerned look on his face. His chocolate colored eyes always reflect a hint of worry whenever he gives me some variation of the “you work too much” speech.
JM hauls himself off of the couch and reaches for his key.
“You know I don’t have a choice. And if we don’t hurry I’m going to be late for class.”
I shove him towards the door, but he doesn’t budge. He chuckles and shakes his head in amusement as he steps outside. I shoot him a reprimanding look, but his smile forces a grin onto my face. JM and I have been best friends for ten years and I don’t know what I’d do without him. He’s the only reason I feel anything since my brother died.
JM leans against the side of the house as he offers me his copy of my house key. I shoot him a playful glare and lock the door. He grins and jumps off the porch. I chuck the key at him, but he turns just in time to catch it. He waves the key tauntingly and jogs over to the car. I try to fight back a smile as the gravel crunches under my feet.
JM climbs into the driver’s seat and reaches across to open the passenger door for me. I toss my bag onto the floor and hop in. His car whispers to life as he flicks on the radio. The blaring music makes me flinch. I roll my eyes and reach over to turn it down. A smile takes over his face as he backs the car out of the driveway. For the rest of the ride, he hums to himself while I try to study.
Before I know it, the Central Washington University sign whirs by us as we approach Bouillon Hall.
“Thanks for the ride,” I say as we pull into the crowded parking lot and I jump out of the car.
“No problem. I’ll see you back at the high school,” he hollers after me.
Frantic students brush past me as my feet glide across the floor. Once I reach the secluded classroom, I slide into an empty seat in the back with just enough time to cram in one final minute of studying.
“Good morning class,” the professor says, interrupting my thoughts. “Please put everything under your desks except for a pencil. For those of you who have just been added to the class, you will not be required to take the quiz but you will be responsible for the material. For everyone else, you have exactly ten minutes.”
Students are always adding and dropping classes in the first couple weeks of the quarter, but there’s always the slightest chance I’ll see somebody from the high school. There are a few of us who take advantage of the Running Start program that lets high school students take college classes for free.
Most of the faces in the room seem familiar. I’m about to look away when a student a couple of seats to my right catches my attention. He brushes his curly amber hair out of his face to reveal startlingly deep blue eyes. He doesn’t look much older than me, but I don’t recall seeing him around Ellensburg High School. I definitely would have remembered him.
His eyes catch mine and something sparks inside of me. He raises his eyebrows, adding a sense of mystery to his subtle smile. A deep breath brings me back to my senses. My lip twitches into a smile and I convince myself to look away. It isn’t easy.
Someone jabs me in the shoulder and shoves the stack of quizzes in my face. I slide one off the top and notice the new student doing the same. My pencil slides across the paper until all of the questions are answered. With two minutes to spare, I flip my paper over and lay my pencil on the desk. Everybody else is still scribbling away at their quizzes. Maybe I could just sneak one more peek at the new student.
His quiz is already flipped over. His eyes find mine and hold my gaze. My eyes glide across his face. His eyes do the same to me and I can’t help but wonder if he sees the same green-eyed girl with curly hair and tiny ears that I see when I look in the mirror. My stomach ties itself into a knot. I wish I knew more about him. As soon as I realize what I’m doing, I have to struggle to regain control of my thoughts.
My bracelet blinks an annoying shade of yellow.
My eyes dart around the room, searching for something to distract me. Whatever I do, I cannot let myself feel desire. The bracelet will pick up on even the smallest desire. Anything more than a trace amount of dopamine will turn it red.
People tell me I won’t even be tempted to feel desire anymore when I’m older. It’ll be nice. Then I won’t have to worry so much about setting off the red light on my bracelet or letting the words want and desire slip out of my mouth.
The door slams open behind me, forcing my head to whip around. Two police officers barge into the room trailing a uniformed official. The official passes the professor a respectful nod.
I subtly glance down at my bracelet and heave a sigh of relief that it isn’t red. It isn’t even yellow anymore.
“Samantha Jones,” the official’s voice booms.
All eyes shift to a girl in the front of the room.
“Yes?” she stutters.
The police officer slides out a pair of handcuffs.
“The levels of dopamine in your system have exceeded the legal limit. You are under arrest.”
The solid red light on her bracelet gives her away.
“No, you don’t understand,” her voice shakes.
The officer yanks her out of her seat.
Before anyone can realize what’s happened, the girl’s elbow smashes into the police officer’s nose. Blood trickles down his face. The desk crashes to the ground. The room erupts into confusion as she makes a break for the exit. The second police officer stumbles after her. Just a few feet from the door, the official reaches out, his face expressionless, and shoves a black object against the girl’s side.
Her body convulses as she tumbles to the ground. The official slides the Taser back into his pocket and waits as one of the police officers slides the handcuffs onto her wrist. A tear streams down the girl’s cheek as the officer jerks her up off the ground.
“Sorry for the interruption,” the official passes another nod to the professor as they lead the girl out of the room.
The professor nods in return. “Back to work everyone.”