This story is the second place winner of the March 2022 Short Story Contest.
One might say I was fairly nervous. This was my first date after all. And my first time breaking the law.
It was past curfew, so I walked through the back alleys until I hit the industrial part of town. Rumor has it this space used to be fairly trendy back in the day, but now people would describe it as more "mechanical". I walk in the shadows of a wide walkway, metal domes with painted red numbers on them lining the edges. I counted them down aloud, side to side, “Five, four, three...two." I paused. To my left was a massive sliding barn door with the number two painted on it. I sucked in my turning stomach and slipped in through the dark space.
My vision was obscured by the murky lighting of the room, but back in the day, people on the television would have described it as atmospheric. Ambiance was the word they would use. In the far right corner, I could make out two candles on a table, and the outline of broad, lofty shoulders. I immediately knew it was him, as the woman who had set us up had mentioned he was tall. I began to make my way over, and as I got closer he still did not turn his head. I worried about startling him as I moved around to the empty chair across from him I assumed for me, but he still remained frozen as I sat down. I saw the front of his face only once I looked up from my seat, and took a deep breath.
He was very handsome, with brown hair I couldn't really make out the hue of and shiny, dark eyes. A strong jaw, and thin lips. I found he greatly resembled my first and only love.
We sat there awe struck for a few seconds, taking in what was really happening. We absorbed the magnitude of what we we’re doing for two seconds longer, and then dove right into conversation, as we knew we didn’t have much time.
“Hello.” He croaked out.
“Hello.” I whispered back.
“No names, right? I mean that was part of the deal?”
“I believe so.”
There was an odd pause here where I looked into the darkness surrounding us, trying to make out any other shapes or figures, but he quickly drew my attention back to him.
“So, what is your posting?”
“I am a medic.” I said, almost with too much confidence. Judging by his gruff appearance I assumed he would be in a posting of a lower status, and I felt immediately ashamed of my boasting. I tried to remind myself that I am only now learning how to date, but the creeping thought crept in that I am not afforded the luxuries of second or third chances unlike women used to be. This could be my first and last.
“Oh, how wonderful.” He replied, genuinely enthused. “I am a mechanic, not as demanding as your post but it still gives the days purpose.”
“That is so lovely!” I exclaimed, barely above a whisper. “And please, don’t humble yourself. Mechanics are vital in these times! My old love used to always want to be one.”
There was a lingering silence here, and I feared I had said the wrong thing. I suspected it had something to do with me mentioning Hugh, but no one had ever taught me what to say and not say on a date. I was taking a shot in the dark.
Suddenly there was rummaging to the right of us, and I jumped. It was then that I had realized how calm I had become with this person. That was why when a masked figure, dressed as black as the air around us, quickly came into the candle light from the dark, and threw down two plates of canned Spam, my heart gave a jolt. I had come out of my reverie.
The figure was gone as soon as they came and we were alone again, both staring at the Spam. This is a delicacy nowadays. We picked up the forks that had been placed for us on the table, though neither of us dug into our meal just yet.
‘’I can’t imagine the pain you must have felt.” He murmured. “Being taken from your love.”
I was startled by his forwardness, but appreciated the honest conversation. “It was the worst pain I have ever felt.” I said, reciprocating his vulnerability.
“If I may ask -” but what he was about to ask I will never know. Within seconds the room was flooded with bright lights and big dogs on chains. Me and this man who I had just met sat placid in our chairs, accepting our fate. Men with guns raided the room. They pushed us to the ground. They tied up our wrists. They threw us against the wall. I could hear a helicopter outside the now wide open barn door, but my eyes were still adjusting to the new light. I was blinded. Tears began rolling down my face, but oddly, I felt my fate coming on with serene peace. It was happening on my own terms. I wasn't leaving like the rest of them.
The biggest officer began to shout at us through a megaphone, while twenty or so other men lined up behind him, facing us. I was starting to make out their figures.
“You two are hereby sentenced to immediate execution for breaching Bill Q59 under the decree of global overpopulation. No man and woman shall ever confer, rendez-vous, talk, be associated with one another or fall in love unless previously authorized. You both are aware of these rules, and will be executed accordingly.”
The men in the back row armed their guns and brought them up to eye level. I wasn't afraid. My eyes adjusted to the light fully just as the bullets came soaring towards my chest.