The Sonata in Red series will be on a short hiatus. It’s reached a nice cliff-hanger in my opinion to let step aside while I try out some different short stories. For practice and fun.
This is a short mystery set in a science fiction dystopia inspired by the writing prompt:
“When I went to receive the results of my blood test, they told me they were classified”
You can find more of my science fiction attempts here: Science Fiction
“Good morning, I’m here to check my results.”
“Of course sir, what name were they under?”
“One moment, sir.”
Today was the day the wait would finally be over. The woman behind the counter turned to search the monitor for my future. I glanced back at the crowded processing centre behind me. They promised that automating the Process would mean less than .01% of applicants would ever see the inside of one of these centres, meanwhile in reality the line stretched back through the door into the hall of the complex. I’d waited for hours before getting through to see someone.
“Do you have your application number?”
I handed her my form with a smile. For days process centres all across the planet had been filled with all manners of people seeking clarification. This level of bureaucracy was hardly uncommon unfortunately. Khthon was an emigration planet, our largest and only export was people. Overpopulation had completely over-saturated every local industry. Every year people my age underwent the Process to match applicants to employment pathways. Academic record, physical capability and even genetic aptitudes were considered by the Process.
“I’m sorry for the wait sir, there’s something unusual in your record. If you wouldn’t mind taking a seat in the next room someone will be with you shortly.”
I smile and nod. There’s no point in arguing, I’ll simply be thrown out and have to rejoin the line with a mark added to my application. I push my way through the crowd to the waiting room, purgatory it was affectionately nicknamed. During the Process week quirks in the system were left here to be sorted out when it was convenient. I tap the screen of my watch, dialling my mother to let her know what was happening.
“Yeah, hey mum. They lost me in the system, so I got sent to purgatory. No idea how long I’m going to be stuck here, if I’m not home by dinner can you get Henry to bring me a sleeping bag and some dinner?”
“Of course sweetie, don’t stress though. It’s all going to work out, I promise.”
“Thanks, wish I had your confidence.”
“When you’ve seen as much as I have you will. Your brother and I will be praying for you.”
“Bye mum, love you.”
The waiting room was almost eerily quiet and empty compared to the main room of the process centre. Inside were only three other people. All of processing age, the nearest two were women seated together and talking quietly together while on the far side of the room a fairly rough looking guy lay on the floor, his sleeping bag beneath his head and a hat covering his face.
Rows of chairs filled the centre of the room, but could easily be removed when space was needed for people to sleep. Khthon never stopped. The majority of the population had moved underground, reserving the surface for agriculture. As a result day and night were abstract concepts to most of us born and raised on planet. The workers would process the people day and night, the quirks in the system that bound us could be resolved any moment and if we were not here when they called us it was the back of the line. Such a drag.
Settling into one of the seats I activate my watch switching on the virtual U.I.. Online my friends had already started posting the results of their applications. Most seemed to have performed as well as was expected. I see Luna and Owen together in line, showing I’m not the only one still waiting for their results. At least five others in my extended network are the same. I post an update of my place in purgatory. The discussion fills with sympathetic platitudes and playful jibes, nothing of substance.
“Mr. Gabriel Robinson?”
I blinked twice, dismissing the U.I. to focus on reality. The source of my name was a severe looking short blonde woman stood at the back of the room watching for an answer. I stood and crossed the room to where she stood. After politely greeting me she led me through a door at the back of the room, down a corridor to a small office with a nameplate that reads ‘Grace Walker, Branch Manager’ on the door.
“Please take a seat Gabriel.”
She took her seat behind the desk as I sat across from her. I’d been in purgatory for less than half an hour, that was pretty much unheard of for a system glitch. She glanced at the monitor briefly before addressing me.
“I have your results here.”
I watch her in confusion as she paused rather than continue straight on.
“Unfortunately I’m not able to open them.”
“Your results have been locked. Something in your medical caused access to be restricted.”
“What does that mean for me?”
“Your guess is as good as mine here, I’m afraid. I’ve never seen this before. Before you ask, it’s not a quirk in the system. This note was left manually, by a human.”
I stare blankly at her, with no idea how I was meant to respond. In the end I simply nodded and waited for her to continue.
“If I was you I’d stay in the waiting room for now. I’ve contacted my boss, when I hear back I’ll let you know.”
She returned me to the waiting room. The other three people who’d been waiting were gone, weird, it seemed unlikely they could have all been processed during my short meeting. The only person besides me in the room hadn’t been there before, he seemed a bit old for the Process. Taking a seat at the back of the waiting room I tap my watch to activate the my virtual U.I., instead a agonising shock ripped through my body, knocking me to the floor and convulsing in pain.
The man at the front of the room stands, as he walked casually towards me the black dots covered my vision and blocked out his face. The last thing I saw was the shiny black toe of his shoe as he knelt before me. His voice strangely familiar.
“Don’t be afraid, Gabe. I’m going to take you home now.”
The blackness completely filled my vision and I drifted into unconsciousness.