For our Blood Red Road writing contest, we asked you to write a 250-500 word short story describing a futuristic/dystopian world. Thanks to our friends at Simon & Schuster, three winners will each receive a copy of Blood Red Road! The winners were all chosen based on the quality of their entries.
Check out the winning entries after the jump!
Today the sky is dark, as always. No sun exists in this kingdom, but I know it does elsewhere. The pictures lining the walls of the main hall in our castle show a kingdom with a blue sky and a yellow spot in the dark void of our atmosphere. I used to tell my mother I wanted to go there, but nowadays sensibility informs me I cannot speak of such matters. They watch me every second; a thought put into a journal could send me to a lower rank. I know why I live in such meager conditions now; I will not live in this way anymore. Today is when they tell me what kingdom I will live in, I wish to leave and never come back. A world this dark bodes no good to anyone. I pull on my simple black A-line dress and a pair of black ballet flats. These shoes cost my mother almost six months pay, but I am glad I have them. In whatever kingdom I am welcomed into a good first impression is necessary. I step out into the gritty gravel of the streets and inhale the steam and smoke that comes from the blacksmith homes scattered throughout our kingdom. In our city we make metal and blow glass. The rest of the world uses our metal to construct pleasure items; we use it to defend ourselves. We are the weakest of the kingdoms, and being stolen from is something that happens almost every day to those who can’t defend themselves. My family is one of the families that does the stealing, and we do it just to get by. You learn to always fear taking from the households who own more, because they have security systems aimed for the kill. Every year half my acquaintances and friends die from them. I stop at the building marked “Government Offices”. The Government Offices are where you get divided into your new home; they are also the area where those who rule truly are from. A king or any others who are of the monarchy are really from the Government Offices, and are re-elected every twenty years. The Government Offices rule individual kingdoms but the leaders of this Earth are called the Embodiment. Twenty members make up the Embodiment. Each person embodies one of the many kingdoms in our world. Every year the Embodiment comes together to make group decisions for the good of our countries. I look at the red framing on the door and stroke it lightly with my hand, frowning. I lightly knock on the door, and as it opens I am enveloped in a white light that sinks into my very pores and hurts my eyes. As my lashes lift, I am in a room that shows more hope and happiness then I could have ever imagined. In that room was a light. And in that light all my hopes and dreams for the future were stored. A future that would be decided now.
Nobody had liked the world when success was based on looks rather than intelligence. So now, with all these new technological advancements, everyone’s genetically modified to look attractive. Look-wise, different people don’t exist. Which is why when I hear the rumors, I can’t believe my ears.
“Have you seen the new kid?” The whispers fly through the halls. “He’s so ugly. Sucks to be him—apparently he was immune to the modifications.”
But that’s impossible. The Elders made sure of it so that there’d be no favoritism or discord in this society.
Then the new kid walks into the classroom. The instant I focus my gaze on him, I know the rumors were true. He isn’t of the same ambiguous ethnicity as everyone else; if I’ve learned anything from history, he’s half Native-American. His eyes are the most startling of all—so bright and colorful, like the color of the sky in textbooks where Earth was undamaged by humanity. I wonder why we can’t have those pretty eyes instead of our boring gray ones.
I’m still staring at him—but that’s okay; so is everyone else. I don’t know why, but there’s something interesting about him. I should stay away, but I can’t resist even though different is always dangerous in this world.
When the lunch bell finally rings, I gather my courage and sit across from him.
He doesn’t look up, but he knows I’m there. “Did you come to tease me like everyone else?”
“No, I… I don’t think you’re ugly,” I blurt out in a rush.
He chuckles, not even insulted. “Ugly? I think people have forgotten what that even means. Just so you know, the all-knowing dictionary doesn’t know either.”
I frown, confused. “But the dictionary—”
“—is a liar. The Elders have shaped it to their own useful ends. Here,” he says, tossing a small, worn book at me, “take a look.”
I examine its faded cover. “Merriam-Webster” is completely unfamiliar. Uncertain, I glance up at those sapphire eyes.
He smiles encouragingly. “Go on. It won’t bite you.”
Somewhat placated, I flip through the pages. I’m about to demand why he wanted me to look at the dictionary when something catches my attention. I squint, wondering what the word “conformity” means. But there’re so many more unfamiliar words. “Justice.” “Prejudice.” “Rebellion.”
“What’s your point?” I demand, thinking he must be playing a joke. “Do you make up words in your free time? Like con-for-mity?” I stumble over the foreign pronunciation.
“Conformity,” he says, automatically correcting me. “And no, I didn’t invent that word. What you’re seeing is a real dictionary. One that comes from before the rebellion. One that survived The Razing and preserved our real history.”
I turn to look out the window, which offers the same boring view. Smooth dirt and rocks of the underground, where we were forced to move after the aboveground was devastated by fire, warfare, and pollution.
Have the Elders been lying to us all along?
I’ve been running from the government for two months-twenty days-and seven hours. The society that we now face is cruel, and has changed drastically since the flood of 2012. I currently live in the central part of the United States; it’s the only area that survived. Not only had the face of the earth changed completely, but our leaders had as well.
The main capital is now located in the central states. The people who live there are known as “The Leaders”. Most other people live in the four cities surrounding the capital. I was one of those people, and they call us “The Followers”. We are a group of middle class citizens who are known to be followers of the government. From day one it is drilled into our heads that our leaders are always right. They claim corruption is no longer an issue, but I think other wise. It’s also my reason for running.
There are more than just “The Leaders” and “The Followers”, every society has them but here it’s a lot worse. “The Rebels”, the ones who want nothing to do with the society and who despise the government. The second you have any signs of becoming like them, a minute later the government is at your door throwing you into the Outskirts. You are thrown into a society where there are no rules, and you live off the wild life, and what-ever scraps are thrown into the dumps on the western side of the Outskirts. There are cameras on every street corner, and people watching them around the clock.
Some people like my father want to become part of “The Leaders”; they only allow that if you pass this extremely hard exam. Only one out of every thousandth person to take it will pass. My father was just about to receive his award for becoming one of them, but then I rebelled.
The cities were great places to live in, they were safe. The only crime that took place was if a rebel slipped past a guard, and it rarely happened. They didn’t scare me. As a child I always wanted to get a feel for what they were like. Finally once I reached eighteen, mom finally allowed me to leave the city and explore on my own.
Exploring is what got me in trouble, if I hadn’t of met him I’d still be living with my parents. I also wouldn’t be running for my life.
The outskirts were almost jungle like, easy to hide, but hard to run through. When they found out I’d fallen for the wrong side they immediately thought of me as a “Rebel”, so I ran. Now here I am months later running from the government because not only did I fall for the wrong kind, I married the wrong kind. In their book if they aren’t the ones to throw you to the other side, then you shouldn’t be alive.
Thank you to everyone who entered — we had some AMAZING entries in this contest, and it was really hard to choose only three winners. Congrats!