Author: Candyce Pruitt-Goddard
Genre: YA Dystopian
If I had a dollar for every time I found myself wishing for more time, I might only have to work two jobs. Maybe then I'd actually have time for a life. As soon as the thought slips out, the temptation to let myself feel desire consumes me. I squeeze my eyes shut and take a deep breath. I can't want more time. I can't want anything. Not if I don't want to end up in jail.
A flickering yellow light catches my attention. My gaze fixates on the steel bracelet clinging to my wrist and I have to remind myself to breathe. I strategically place my jacket over the bracelet to conceal the yellow light, and double check to make sure no one noticed. I quicken my pace and try to focus on getting to Calculus on time. When I'm within a few steps of the classroom I take a subtle peek at my wrist and heave a sigh of relief when I find no sign of the desire I almost let myself feel.
I scurry through the door and slide into an empty seat in the back. Without glancing at the clock, I pull out my textbook to cram in a few extra seconds of studying.
“Have you heard the rumors,” someone whispers behind me.
“What rumors?” someone else whispers.
“They’re saying the Desiderium died yesterday.”
I stop reading and focus intently on their conversation.
“Who was it?” the girl whispers.
“I don’t know. It wasn’t someone in The States, though.”
I shake my head in frustration and will the person behind me to ask the more important question. It doesn’t matter so much who the Desiderium was as it does what he or she changed.
“What happened?” she finally asks.
I hold my breath and eagerly await a response. Nothing about my life feels different. Not yet.
"Good morning, class," the professor interrupts. “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.”
My mind replays the students’ words. If the Desiderium is dead, it means that something has changed. Past Desiderium have already wreaked enough havoc on our lives. I don’t know if we could take much more.
Desperate to distract myself from obsessing over the rumor, I scour the room for any new faces. Students are always adding and dropping courses in the first couple weeks of the quarter, but I always hold out hope that I’ll see somebody from the high school. There are at least a handful of us who take advantage of the Running Start program that lets high school students take college classes for free.
I recognize most of the faces from the first week of class, and am 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 haven’t seen him around the high school before. I definitely would have remembered him.
His eyes catch mine and all of the blood in my body seems to pool in my cheeks. He raises his eyebrows, adding a sense of mystery to his subtle smile, and time seems to slow down around us. A deep breath brings me back to my senses and casts a dark shadow on the silly thought. My lip twitches into a smile and I convince myself to look away.
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 glides 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. Except the one person who didn’t even have to take the quiz.
His eyes meet mine 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 and I’m filled with a longing to get to know him. Not that I even have time for the friends I already have. 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.
The flickering light shifts his attention to my wrist, forcing my hands into my lap where they're safely out of sight. My eyes dart around the room, searching for something to distract me. The bracelet will pick up on even the smallest desire. Anything more than a trace amount of excess dopamine in my bloodstream will turn it red. When it does, it’ll only be a matter of minutes before the officials show up to arrest me. I know they’re only trying to protect us from the Desiderium, but that’s the last thing I need.
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 an official in a green uniform. The official passes the professor a respectful nod.
My heart races. My leg jiggles beneath the desk. With as much subtlety as I can manage, I glance down at my wrist. A heavy sigh escapes my lips when I can't find the light anywhere. If it had turned red it would still be red, even if the excess dopamine was no longer in my bloodstream.
“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 confused murmurs 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 for one of the police officers to slide the handcuffs onto her wrist. The officer jerks her up off the ground and a tear streams down her cheek.
“Sorry for the interruption,” the official passes another nod to the professor and everyone watches them lead her out of the room.
The professor nods in return. “Back to work everyone.”