Green or red?
Red or green?
Life or death?
Death or life?
Come on, Sarah, you need to make a decision.
In a moment of impulsivity I slam my hand down onto one of the vibrant-colored buttons.
Oh no, I think, What have I done?
"Which did you choose?" My little brother, Kyle asks eagerly.
I open my mouth to speak, but mother intervenes.
"You know she can't tell you," she reminds him as we slip into the steel beast behind two other families.
I can see another question resting on Kyle's small, pink lips, ready to leap into the air and cry desperately "Please tell me!" so I say speedily:
"Thank you all for coming with me," there is a small quiver in my voice and I feel my eyes drift slowly over to the boy in the row across from me-alone.
"Of course, dear," my mother says sweetly, "The Culling Ceremony is the most important day in a young person's life." Her eyes, too, travel to the lonely, sullen-faced boy and she smiles warmly.
I can tell just from looking at the boy what he has chosen. It's obvious: red. He already has nothing to live for, no one to live with, and is one of those who can't wait for life to be over with.
Depressed, I think, recalling the past mental illnesses which I had just learned about in psychology. No one has it in the clinical form anymore, we are given an injection during infancy which prevents all mental illnesses, as well as one to prevent all STDs, strains of the flu, etc. We can't get sick. We can't die. At least, not until we're twenty five.
The train has stopped, but it is so smooth-riding that I hardly notice we have arrived in front of my house and only know to stand when I see my mother and brother rise out of their seats.
It's not uncommon for children to have only one parent, in fact many have none and are either adopted or supported by the government. It's nice not having people pity me for being fatherless, but I sometimes wish they would ask rather than just assume that he chose red and died at twenty-five.
Cancer. No matter how hard they try, the government's DNA-analysis team cannot target the gene which causes cancer. Many people blame the war and the radiation it left behind for the disease, but the government has denied all accusations.
Cancer. It killed my father. He was supposed to live forever. Of course, he knew he wouldn't; even though they can't prevent the disease, doctors can warn future cancer patients and try to convince them to choose red, so that they may die without suffering. But father was a fighter, mother always said, and as I walk past the other boys and girls' fathers on the train, I know it's true because they were too cowardly to choose death but my father, when begging for life, embraced it.
The train hovers slightly above the silvery ground below and a step ladder is lowered so that we may exit safely. I leap anyways.
In my home, nothing has changed, and at that moment I realize something: we are all newton balls-set into motion and forced to move on no matter how impossible it may seem. My whole life has just changed and everyone around me knows it, but they go on as if it is just an average Tuesday.
As I pass through the halls of our housing-complex I hear a buzz of voices:
"Happy birthday, Sarah!"
"Wow, Sarah! You are really starting to become a young lady!"
Completely normal voices. The voices that have bade me good morning and good night every day in my life and yet in those dull, monotonous greetings I hear something special because I know that they know that my life has just changed.
Their eyes ask me questions that their lips are too afraid to utter and the voice within their voice shakes as it speaks. They sense it and I sense it, but neither party acknowledges it because we are newton balls, and we are happy as newton balls.
At night, my mind does not drift to thoughts of the Culling Ceremony, as they have for the past seven years of my life, dating back to my fifth birthday when I was told it was up to me to decide whether I would live forever or die at twenty-five. I toyed with the idea ceaselessly; one night red, the next green. I had imagined everything down to the shades of red and green, to the curve of the buttons, to the whiteness of the walls. But for some reason, tonight all I can think of is the boy on the train. I reconstruct his image as clearly as I can in my mind:
He had glossed over eyes, which stared hopelessly and the ground beneath his feet. He seemed to be transfixed on something... or nothing.
He was thin, so thin that the bruises on his legs seemed to have come from his bony knees accidentally colliding with each other.
He wore a red plaid shirt that needed to be mended badly, but apparently he didn't care much for fashion anyways because his shirt clashed with his striped shorts.
The more I think about him, the less I think that he is depressed and the more I realize that he is simply apathetic. The government is against anything that may lead to disruption of the peace-even children making fun of one another for poor clothing choice- and so we are sent free shipments of new clothes monthly, if we choose not to shop for ourselves. Also, I haven't seen someone so skinny since group meals became mandatory in 2156 due to the death of an bulimic girl in our vicinity.
I no longer feel pity for him; everyone has a choice, and if he chose red for no other reason than that he is simply "bored" of life then so be it, I could care less.
Moments later, I find myself once again reconstructing his despondent, malnourished face with a feeling of sympathy growing like a tumor in my chest.