Below is my submission for this month's short story theme. I doubt this will end up being a short story in the long run, so here is the very beginning of what will likely be a full-length YA novel. Enjoy!
Our entire community was witnessing the argument going on in the middle of the commons. Just like everyone else in the room, my eyes shot back and forth between my mom and George Matthews. The room was dark, only the fire creating any sort of light, the warm glow of it bouncing off the rocky walls. They stood near the fire pit in the center of the space, yelling at each other, debating their sides. Again. Everyone in Safe Haven hoped that the outcome was different than it had been every other time this disagreement had surfaced. Well, that is, everyone except for me.
“Absolutely not,” Mom spat. “It is out of the question.”
What were they arguing about? Me.
My dad, with his short brown hair and wire-frame glasses, stood next to Mom in his trademark faded plaid button-up shirt and khakis. Arms folded and eyes narrowed on George, he’d managed to bite his tongue so far, but I could see how hard it was for him to rein in his temper. Each time this argument had broken out, I’d felt sick to my stomach. Thankfully my parents always won.
George, with his graying hair and his round, burly figure, copied my dad’s stance. Only instead of looking at my dad, he was staring angrily at my mom. She had a small frame, the only bit of fat on her was in her cheeks, and by the looks of her you wouldn’t think she’d pack much of a punch. But out of my parents, she was the force to be reckoned with. “MaryAnn, you’ve got to think of us as a whole, not just that she’s your daughter,” George said.
“I don’t care.” Mom shook her head, her brown curls bouncing around her face. She kept her arms folded, practically shooting daggers at George even though she was only five foot four. My parents and Mr. Matthews had never seen eye to eye, and I could see in her expression that she didn’t want to hear another word out of his mouth. Though I got the feeling that was the general consensus. “I won’t force her into this.”
“We need our numbers replenished. She’s old enough.” George tightened his folded arms. As if that would prove his point.
“She’s sixteen,” Mom gaped.
“Only for a few more days,” George argued. “She’d be nearly eighteen by the time any children were born, and that’s even if she becomes pregnant right away.”
I could actually feel everyone’s eyes fall on me. Mr. Matthews and my parents weren’t the center of attention anymore.
George, and a few of our other leaders, had been pushing for me to start ‘breeding’ for the last six months. Like I was some sort of horse. Sometimes I felt like one. Being the only girl that was of a fertile age, I was a precious commodity. Mom had birthed child after child, but with the harsh living conditions of the caves, I was the only one to make it. There was one other girl. One. And she was six years old. Her mom, Lilly, had passed away after giving birth to her younger brother, Nathan.
I was actually grateful my mom couldn’t get pregnant anymore. I didn’t want her to die like all the other women had. The men in Safe Haven’s society had been adamant that they keep breeding to regenerate our numbers. But a woman can only take so much, and comforts that they’d used to have like pain medicine had run out a long time ago. For me, it was a relief that Mom couldn’t have any more children. It meant that she’d stay alive. What did scare me, though, is that that duty now fell to me. Our leaders had been pushing harder and harder over the last six months, hinting that I was of age to begin bearing children. And with any hope, daughters. That was what everyone wanted more than anything. More women meant bearing more children which meant a bigger increase in our ranks.
“I’m not suggesting that she… lay with any of the older men,” George said, and then he cleared his throat at a few of the boys who snickered. He eyed my parents. “We have young men, closer to her age. That would do just as well.”
“Oh, and that should make her feel better about it?” Mom asked. Her face had started turning red. I could see the look in her eye, the one I’d seen plenty of times while growing up. It usually accompanied me being grounded or even spanked. It was terrifying. And right now it was focused on George. “You know damn well I’d never let someone older even think about touching her. The fact that you’re trying to force my daughter to have sex with every guy here is the problem.”
A few more male snickers sounded around the room, most of which came from the teenage boys I had classes with, and a few that were a few years older. I blushed and tried to ignore them.
“We need daughters,” George insisted.
“And you think that forcing my daughter to bear child after child just to die from exhaustion is the answer?”
“It’s better than your suggestion,” he growled.
I personally liked my mom’s suggestion of looking for other people, other survivors. Close to eighteen years ago, the human race was attacked by forces no one had seen coming. Somehow the sadistic monsters that had raided us did so without anyone knowing—at least until it was too late. None of us knew if the attacks happened all over the world, or if it was just on our continent. There was really know way to know. My parents, along with the elders in our community narrowly escaped the monsters’ grasps. Especially my mom. She’d been taken by one, but my dad refused to let her go. He’d hunted down the monster that had snatched her and rescued my mom before it’d had a chance to kill her. They’d gone on the run, seeking shelter anywhere they could. My dad had known they’d need to get far away from the cities since they were the most targeted, and they’d driven until their car ran out of gas. And that was when George found them. He and a few other survivors had brought them to the caves, which has served as our hideout ever since.
“Why are you so certain that we’re the only ones?” Mom asked, turning to an argument they’d had on more than one occasion with the elders. Neither of my parents agreed with the others that so few humans survived the raid. As for me, I had no idea. We’d never seen anyone else, and we’d sent men out plenty of times. Of course, they hadn’t gone out looking for other people, they went out scavenging for supplies: clothes, school books, food, and anything else we needed.
Mark Bellows rose from his seat in response to my mom’s question and stood next to George, squaring off against my parents. “Because we’d have seen someone by now. MaryAnn, you know as well as any of us that we need more people if we want the human race to survive. We need more numbers, which means we need more children.”
“Are you so willing to give up your daughter in ten years?” Mom asked him, her eyes focused on his.
Mark’s face fell. He looked quickly at little Natalie who was sitting next to Nathan. They were watching the argument like everyone else, though they were probably still too young to understand what it was all about. Looking back at my parents, he nodded. “I would convince Natalie that it would be the right thing.”
“And you wouldn’t mind her being raped by every man here?”
Mark’s jaw tightened. He said nothing more.
Mom knew she’d gotten him. I could see it in her smirk. “That’s what I thought.”
“It wouldn’t be rape,” George said, jumping back into the conversation.
My dad’s eyes burned with anger this time. “What else would you call it?”
George rolled his eyes. It was something he did when he thought people were being unreasonable. It didn’t matter what anyone thought of his ideas, since apparently he was always ‘right.’ His eyes landed on me.
“Don’t even think about talking to her,” Dad growled. “You won’t force her into anything.”
“You know we’ll leave if you try,” Mom added.
“And where would you go!” George yelled, facing them again. My parents had hit a nerve. They always did when they mentioned leaving the sanctuary of the caves. “Oh right,” he continued. “You’d find other survivors. Except there aren’t any!” His face was red as he pointed at Mom. “And you’d take the only possible way for us to procreate just to save her from something she probably wants.”
Now he said it. I felt all eyes on me again. The looks were heated, begging me to say that I wanted to sleep with every guy in the caves. I wanted to stand up and punch George in his fat face, but instead I avoided their stares by averting my eyes and focusing on the ground. It only lasted a few seconds before my gaze was drawn back to my parents and Mr. Matthews.
If looks could kill, George would have been incinerated from the glare he received from my mom. As it was, he brushed it off the way he did everything else, and Mom stepped away from him. She sat next to me and wrapped an arm around my shoulder. “See? You’re doing it now. You’re making her uncomfortable.”
“These are facts, MaryAnn,” George said, slightly calmer than before. He focused on me then, his anger draining. “Right Emalee? We can’t let our race die off, can we? Don’t you want to help save us all?”
He thought he had the facts? Here was a fact: I didn’t have any feelings towards the guys at Safe Haven. I’d been the odd one out growing up. Every boy my age had teased me beyond belief. Anytime I looked at any of them, I saw brothers instead of…well, boyfriends. It felt wrong to want anything with any of them. I could see the same feelings reflecting back at me in some of their eyes. Others, I could tell they wanted more. That was teenage hormones at work for you, and apparently some of the guys had an extra dose. It was those guys that made this all the worse.
“Emalee?” George asked again.
I shook my head and focused on him once more. “I…I don’t know,” I said quietly.
His jaw tightened. “You don’t know?” He hadn’t phrased it like a question, and that scared me even more. George’s gaze danced around the common area, his eyes barely glancing at each person. After a few seconds of silent calculation, his voice boomed throughout the room. “Everyone return here after dinner tomorrow. Anyone not seated in this room by 7:00 forfeits their rights.” His gaze landed on me as fear coursed through my body.
Their rights to what?
Copyright © 2014 Katalyn Sage
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Also available on WattPad.