I heard his muffled cry from the bedroom. It was just a quick shriek at first. I listened and waited for it to escalate or to disappear entirely. When I didn’t hear another harsher cry I went back to the dishes. I was drying a plate when I heard the pained whimper.
I put the towel on the side of the sink and my hands flat on the edge. Again I waited. I knew I should go to him, see what was causing that terrible whine that was starting to pierce my heart but another side of me was terrified to go to him. I had heard that devastated moan before, I knew exactly what was causing it.
“Kelly,” he called. I turned toward the hallways, my decision being made for me. I walked through the short hallway to the bedroom. He was sitting on the ground, legs outstretched in front of him, head hung low. He looked like a child who just had his favorite toy taken away from him.
“Hon?” I whispered.
He looked up. I saw complete devastation on his face. I knelt beside him and wrapped my arms around his shoulders. I patted his side.
Finally he spoke, “I thought I was doing well. I thought I was trying. Why me? Why?” he kept asking the last question over and over again. I couldn’t look him in the eyes, couldn’t give him an answer because I had no answer to give him. No answer at least that would make all this go away and would make him feel less like he was dying.
“You know they have ways of making the decision They say they don’t make them simply. It hurts them too,” I told him. Such empty and rehearsed words. I knew exactly how they made their decisions and it was nothing short of throwing darts at a board.
I didn’t say anything more as he cried himself into silence. I just stared at my reflection in the mirror that hung on the back of our closet door. I looked, at least to me, calm and put together. I was being the rock he needed right now. I was holding my boyfriend as he grieved the loss of his dreams. I was keeping my face straight and devoid of emotions to keep him calm.
My mouth quirked up at the edges. I should have registered as wanting to be an actress instead of company assistant. I had learned quite skillfully how to hold back all the emotions that chased themselves around my mind. Right now I was breaking and I couldn’t show it. My love was watching his own world crumble around him and it was all because of me. I had caused all this pain and the worst part was that he didn’t even know. He blamed some featureless company, New Day, a name that made people shake when anyone even mentioned that place.
He sat up and wiped his eyes on the back of his hand. “I’m going to go make the arrangements. Get this whole hell over with,” he gave me a peck on my cheek and went to find his phone in the kitchen.
I watched him go, leaning my head back against the bed and took deep breath. I let it out slowly, feeling my chest deflate. My heart calmed and I managed to hold in the tears that were stinging the back of my eyes.
I hadn’t known what was I was doing when I had begun the project. They had only asked me to make a census type list at first. The wanted everyone’s name and registered dreams. I had done the task never thinking twice about what I was doing. They did this occasionally, made a quick list to see what the trend would be like and how the world could be changing soon. Usually it was just information to pass on to tech companies and medical personnel. Stuff like, a number of people have registered as wanting to rework the tablet computer to make life even more convenient, better alert the big technology companies and big wigs. Give them a heads up on who to follow and who could end up being a competitor sooner or later. Many people are now determined to scale the tallest mountains, better staff the hospitals nearby.
The dream registry concept was kind of a passing joke throughout the country. No one knew why it had really started. Something about wanting to show the world the number of different and innovated dreams that Americans were working towards each and every day. It wasn’t mandatory to register but almost everyone did because when you did you got resources to help you. Usually it was spam papers from companies wanting your business but sometime it was useful stuff like conference notifications and new classes teaching what you needed to know. You did it without really thinking twice about it
So I had never thought too hard about them taking a greater interest in the list. That was until they start making me track select groups of people. They all of sudden had a vast amount of information about what certain people bought and where they shopped. They knew who was taking classes, who was going to retreats to help them better themselves. They knew who was making new contacts and who was just sitting around not doing much.
“Why do you care?” I had asked one day as I had handed over a folder full of papers on the latest group.
“We did not become the greatest by being lazy and waiting for the world to change around us. People here work towards what they want. We will ensure that, that practice continues.”
It was just last year that I saw what I was helping them do. They took over every channel on TV and the radio and made the announcement. The president and CEO of New Day stood before his microphone and told the country about a new way of life. From that day onwards everyone would be watched though that wasn’t real new information since everyone knew they were being watched already. Spending would be tracked, visits to stores would be monitored. In every place you visited some of the people would be plants, sent to keep an eye on you. Not every single citizen would be watched but you couldn’t know if or if not you were being selected. Best to work and not to worry. If you worked and didn’t waste your time and the countries resources you would be perfectly fine.
If it was determined you were not working towards your goal and you are not seen to ever begin the work properly you would be notified. There were no warnings. You would receive a call saying you were done and you could no longer achieve what you desired. You could not register for necessary classes, buy certain items or watch shows with the themes of what you had once hoped to achieve. You would be cut off from that portion of the world.
Of course chaos had ensued throughout the country. Once the first calls came and it was seen that it wasn’t all a game it was too late they had completely closed their hands around our necks. We couldn’t do anything, we couldn’t get away. Who knew who was following you or how far their influence reached. Some rebelled but many began to work with vigor determined to never get that call. The land of the free became the land of the controlled and I had helped start it all.
“Tomorrow at 10,” he was leaning on the door, eyes on the ground. “You’ll come right?” he sounded as if he was doubting me.
“Of course,” I told him. He nodded and went into the living room. I heard the muffled sounds of some sitcom. I waited for the renewed sobs when he flipped the channels and realized that he could no longer access the history channel, his favorite channel.
Mike had registered as wanting to become a world renowned historian. He didn’t give any more details then that when he had done his paper work. That had made him an easy target. New Day loved people like Mike. They registered this huge and broad dreams with so many different parts to them that it was simple to say, “Nope, they aren’t working on this piece, lets end this.” People like Mike became examples for everyone else. Those who had very specific dreams with real details had a much better chance of never getting that call.
Why I stood up and made my way to the living room I had no idea. Mike was watching a home shopping channel. “I’m so sorry,” I said, surprised my voice was still strong. “I did all this.” I should stop talking right now. I was not allowed to say these words out loud. Why was I doing this to him? I was all he had left and now I was taking even that from him. Did I want him to be completely destroyed? What was I doing?
“What?” he hit mute and looked up at me, confused.
“I started this whole thing. That call you got? I drafted it. I helped track everyone, made all the lists they use. I didn’t know what they were doing. I swear,” I didn’t move. He was watching me like I was an alien life form, speaking a completely different language.
“You?” was all he asked. I nodded, my long held in tears spilling from my eyes.
He stood up. I flinched. He had never attempted to hurt me before but I had just told him all his pain was my fault.
He gave me the most disappointed look before turning and walking out the door. I watched him go and finally broke down.
I wasn’t welcome here. I knew that. I knew I was being insensitive and I should leave right now. He was already having to be reminded with each hug that his life was now pointless. To have me looking back at him was going to be like being slapped across the face. But I still loved him and I needed to be here. If not for him then for myself.
I was next in line. He looked up at me. I held out my arms and when he didn’t move I walk to him and wrapped him in a hug. A hug he did not return. I turned and went to the side room where his casket stood.
This part was not New Day’s idea. It was all created by those who had gotten the call and it was their way of dealing. It was a way of putting an end to the whole ordeal. This was a way to bury the pain in some manner. Mike’s casket was pretty bare. His registration form and a few of his favorite articles about new discoveries were all that laid on the white cushions.
My hands brushed the page and I sighed. How could I let this happen to our lives?
A hand squeezed my shoulder. I turned to find Mike watching me, “You caused this. You can fix it.” he looked down at me.
“I can’t,” I told him, my voice and heart breaking. “I have no access to any of this.”
“You can give me yours,” he said. There was the opportunity for one person to trade their dreams for another. You signed over your potential so someone else could succeed.
I felt something snap in me and before I knew it was I was on the ground laughing so hard I could barely breathe. I couldn’t put a real thought together. Tears rolled down my cheeks and a sharp pains started in my sides.
Mike just watched me with anger and a bit of fear on his face.
I finally gained control of myself and said from my place on the ground. “ I can’t. I already achieved mine. I registered as wanting to help a company change the world. Exactly one year ago today I did just that,” I breathed out. He walked away without a word and I let the laughter and sobs fight each other for dominance as I laid on the ground completely broken