The Subsequents (An Original Story)

Three-Hundred-and-Twenty-Nine years in Mankind's Future, at exactly 8:12am, the fate of the world lies in the clammy, shaking hands of one young boy.

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Chapter 3

Choices

by: Skyling
My hands are shaking -- nervous sweat dampens my clammy palms.

Standing just a few feet away from me are my tickets out of this pitiful world. Walking, breathing, talking tickets. I swallow, taking a few stuttering steps forward.

At the end of Aisle 12, something makes me hesitate. Fear, doubt, guilt? Which of the three it is, I cannot be sure. My right foot hangs in the air, undecided as to whether it is moving forwards or back.

I try to slow down my chaotically whirring mind by focusing on the exact moment when breathing had become so difficult.

“Subsequent Hawke,” My name flies out of the silence and pierces my stomach like a flaming arrow.

It is a different Precedent to the previous speaker. This one looks slightly younger; his hair is a pale shade of ginger, his bony flesh white and pimpled.

I slowly lift my faltering eyes up towards him, and let my gaze rest somewhere between the young man’s moist upper lip and a lone freckle sprouting from his pale earlobe.

I can feel the Precedent staring me down as if I am the prey and he, my hunter.

The skin on the back of my neck prickles.

“Subsequent Hawke,” He repeats the title, as if testing it out -- seeing how it will sound when read out on a list of casualties.

I try to ignore his undertaker’s tone, and instead concentrate on the bobbling motion of the ear-freckle as it jiggles with every word.

“Your presence is required at the Great Hall. Immediately.”

I can tell by the way that he pronounces the last word, that "immediately" in fact means, ‘Before you even take another breath or it may be your last.’

“Yes, Precedent.” I drag my eyes away from his freckle, and gladly drop them to my feet once more. Shuffling hurriedly past him, I scoot through the rows and rows of Ancient Records in the vague direction of the doors.

But before I have time to wonder why the Precedents could possibly have need of my presence, the door I am about to exit swings open and I collide forcefully with someone coming the other way.

“Oh, I’m sorry!” I exclaim, staggering backwards a few feet. “I didn’t see you coming.”

“It’s not your fault; I should have been looking where I was going.” The girl is as tall as I am, with dark auburn hair, and startlingly emerald eyes. She gives me a quick smile before stooping to gather the thin bundle of papers our clumsiness has scattered.

“Oh, here, let me help you,” I say, stooping also.

“No, no, it’s quite alright. I’ve got it sorted,” she replies, waving me away with one hand -- the other busily scooping up the pile of strewn documents.

“I insist!”

Before she can stop me, I bend down to retrieve a page that has wafted underneath an empty chair. I am handing it back to her when she snatches it angrily out of my hands.

“I said I have it sorted!” She snaps, green eyes blazing.

Quickly bundling up the rest of the papers, she storms past me into the Library; completely ignoring the group of Precedents who have turned to witness her outburst.

I know I should be at the Hall by now -- there will almost certainly be a punishment in line for my tardiness -- but all I can think about right at this moment is the four words I glimpsed on that piece of paper before she tore it from my grasp.

The tunnel is located--

Tunnel.

The Tunnel.

It can all only mean one thing; this girl is the mystery viewer who had taken Albert’s information. But why has she come back? What possible explanation can there be?

I watch her as she rushes across the Library straight to Aisle 5, where I first found Albert’s VidLeaf. The girl frantically searches the shelves, her face worried but determined. My fingers unconsciously slip into my side pocket, where the small device still is safely concealed. I smirk.

After a few more moments of frenzied searching, she pauses, her face cofused. Then the girl’s eyes widen, and she turns straight to me.

She mouths a single word,

Asker?

I nod. She starts towards me, grinning. But a word like a gunshot rings out around the room, almost freezing both of our hearts.

“Stop.”

While I had been examining her, and she the shelves, the Precedents had gathered. Now they all stood facing the girl, expressionless eyes fixed on the ruffled stack of papers under her arm. With one unanimous expression displayed on their usually void faces;

Hunger.

“We want those documents.” It was the black haired leader again, the most unnerving of them all.

“What for?” Her voice is firm and clear, but the girl’s knees look weak. No one can confront the Precedents and come away sane.

“You are hiding something, Subsequent. We have sensed your fear.”

She pushes her shoulders back, and locks glares with the older boy. “Fear is not a word in my vocabulary.”

“Maybe not,” His voice is little more than a growl, “But it is in your eyes.”

She looks to me now. And, standing twenty metres away, I can hear her silent plea.

Help.

If the Precedents get hold of that information, our only ever chance of escape will be lost, as well as possibly hundreds of lives. I suddenly realise that the decision I make right at this moment could perhaps decide the fate of the entire population of Iriselas -- change the future of our small world as we know it.

This weight is on my shoulders now. I have to act fast. The Precedent takes a step towards the girl, she takes a hurried step back.

Now.

Her stance is determined, shoulders locked, brows furrowed, the papers clutched firmly to her chest. She’s made her decision -- death before cowardice.

A death of honour.

Would it be better to brave the chance of dying as a hero, or to live out my 'forever', always wondering what could have been?

The question circles in my mind, faster, faster.

It is time to make my choice.

For better or for worse.

I have only one chance; if there’s a second, it will be in hell.

Her eyes strike on to mine.

I move.

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