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Breath & Shadow

Summer 2017 - Vol. 14, Issue 3

"The Lucky One"

written by

Quentin Norris

Click, click, click.


Click, click, click.


Here I sit and here I’ll stay.


Fastened to this chair until the end of days.


These words I made up to keep myself sane circle through my head each and every day as I sit in my black cube until I’m allowed to leave, escorted back to a cell where I stare at the ceiling and imagine what death must feel like and whether or not I should have taken that road when I had the chance. And now I’ll never know.


I was proud once.  I was free once, or at least closer to free than I am now.  Now I spend my days scrolling through lists.  Clicking, scrolling, typing, searching, highlighting, exposing, sentencing.


We came to this world trying to escape a force that wished to wipe us from existence.  We fell from the sky into the oceans, the mountains, the deserts, and the cities.  We stood up, brushed ourselves off, and realized we had fallen into a world indifferent to our plight.  They did not care where we came from or what lay in our future.  They only knew we could not stay here.  They took one look and confirmed our fates.


We could not leave and we could not stay.  They gathered the survivors together and put us in a facility.  No windows, no color, the only doors heavily guarded.  We were kept there.  We were questioned, experimented on, tested, poked and prodded, individually and in large groups.


This went on for too long.  One day we said no.  We did not say it loudly.

We said it under our breaths and we whispered it to each other and we thought it to ourselves every day.  We said it to each other with casual glances and the shifting of our bodies.


We said “no more of this.”


The whispers turned to statements and the statements evolved into shouting.  Our voices bounced and echoed off the walls until the walls cracked and shattered like glass.  I don’t remember everything that happened that night, but I remember fire, and screaming.  I remember seeing my brother, one of the strongest leaders I’ll ever know, fall after being shot by an Earth officer.  I remember crying.  I remember running down hallways, blind, trying to wipe the tears from my eyes.  I turned a corner and felt a sharp pain in the center of my face. Then I remember the black.


I woke up in an interrogation room, similar to rooms before, except this one was pure white and filled with lights that made my brain hurt and my eyes squint.  A human in black clothes sat across from me.  He demanded that we speak his tongue.  We all had to learn the human language upon being taken here.  No one ever tried to learn our language.  I am always forced to speak in this language, even though it does not translate well from my own mouth.  He told me what had happened to our revolution.  As the earth’s sun came over the horizon some of us made it out of the facility and into the outside world.  Others had been killed.  Some of us were what he called the Lucky Ones.


He said I was a Lucky One. He said I had a choice.  I could keep up my lucky streak or I could join my friends and family in a large pit that had been dug right outside of the facility.  In one moment, I transformed into something I’ve hated ever since.  I knew the right answer.  I knew I had to honor what everyone I had ever known had done.  I knew I had to make the death of my brother mean something.  But I hesitated.  I thought about death.  I thought about not knowing what came after.  Even though I hated the life I led, I could not bear to let it go.  I felt my soul crack, shift and morph as I agreed to stay lucky.


My life became a cycle.  I have a room at the facility, the same as my room before.  I sleep there until the morning comes.  Since there are no windows in this place, a speaker in the far right corner of the room alerts me when it is time to wake.  I get up, my door is unlocked, and a guard escorts me down a maze of gray halls to a large white room filled with black cubes.Inside each cube is a Lucky One, just like me.  They escort me inside my cube and leave me there to myself and a camera where they watch my every move.


Other than the camera, the cube is sparse.  A small desk with a glowing screen hovering above it sits in the corner.  A keyboard and a mouse rest on the desktop.  A small, uncomfortable stool sits in front of that desk. I take a seat and that is where I spend my day.  They provide me with new lists every day.  When everyone escaped on the night of the fires, a lot of us were able to blend into the real world.  We’ve always had the ability to conform to our surroundings, taking on features of those around us.  Many were able to become indistinguishable from humans.  The lists contain suspects.  Human identities that they think could be my kind living in disguise, or real humans who are aiding my species, hiding them until they look enough like humans to enter the real world with a false identity.


I pull up the screen.  I find a name.  I research that name.  If I can’t find enough information, if I can’t find enough documentation on the individual, suspicion must be aroused.  Anything that seems suspicious must be reported.  I’m hooked up to a machine that can read my pulse and my heartbeats.  They use it to gauge if I become suspicious.  If I don’t highlight or report the name, they bring it up in a mandatory review at the end of the month.  If I can’t justify to them why I didn’t do it, I’m terminated.  I’ve let my fingers hover over the keys many times, wondering if I can keep my heart still long enough to make it seem natural to let them go.  I’ve always highlighted them.


Many times since saying yes to this life, I’ve had the passing thought that perhaps whatever lies beyond death is better than where I am now: seeking out my brothers and sisters who escaped and outing them in some sort of petty sense of vengeance.  Perhaps I am jealous that they made it out and I did not.  Why have they never tried to come back for me?  This is a thought that’s passed through my head more than once while drifting off in the cot in my sleeping quarters.  At one point in my life, I thought it was luckier to be living than dead.  I’m not so sure anymore.


Click, click, click.


Click, click, click.


Here I sit and here I’ll stay.


Fastened to this chair until the end of days.

Quentin Norris was born in New Orleans, Louisiana in 1990 and has grown up with a strong passion for storytelling in all mediums.  In the third grade, he was diagnosed with high functioning Asperger's Syndrome. Quentin has used his love of stories, fantasy, and magical realism to express himself and share his thoughts with the world, as it is often difficult for him to express them otherwise. He has been published in DOOM Zine, Scrutiny Journal, 1 For 1000, and Devolution Z Horror Magazine. He lives in Austin, Texas with his brother, a dog, and a cat.

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