Saturday, February 27, 2016

Short Story - They Yearn for the Cup

They Yearn for the Cup
words: 833

Aika forced a smile as he watched his brother Mika walk away into the dim mist of the night. He felt pain in his stomach knowing it would be the last time he’d see his brother. Despite the cheering from the crowd, his parents included, he didn’t share their joy. A pressure swelled in his stomach.

Mika walked into the gaping door, a smile plastered on his face, his hand in the air waving like the dozens of children surrounding him. They were chosen. They were special.

Mika had always been the shortest kid in his class. At parent teacher conferences Aika’s parents would beam with joy, knowing Mika would be one of the chosen.

Aika had been passed over so many times he was no longer eligible for the ascension. He was too tall, too strong. He would suffer the same fate as his parents, life.

“It’s not fair.” Rylee complained. “I can’t control how short I am. I wanted to be chosen.”

Aika nodded in agreement, though he disagreed. He wasn’t sure ascension was a good thing.

Rylee continued his rant. “Don’t tell me you’re not jealous of your brother. We’re leftovers. We have to suffer, to provide for others. We’re going to age. Mika’s immortal, you’re not.”

“Somebody has to organize society.” Aika replied.

“Does it ever bother you that of all the kids your parents had, you’re the first to not ascend?” Rylee asked.

“Yanip hasn’t.” Aika said. “There’ll be others.”

Rylee’s eyes cut to Aika, annoyed at the descension. “Not yet, but she will.”

“Just because we’re tall, because we’re strong, we have to get shafted.” Rylee shook his head. “I hoped for the longest time the images in my eyes would dull, like my sisters. It was pointless.” Rylee sighed. “I wanted to die. Now I have to serve a sentence, my body will eat itself from the inside out. Pain, suffering. You’ve seen your parents. Their bodies stop working. Like a machine that wears out. You want to live on in your prime or as a rusted bucket?”

“We’ll be able to learn more. We’ll be the guides for the next immortals.” Aika said. “It’s bad luck, but it’s out lot.”

“Have you ever seen a happy adult? They’re never happy. Their bones become brittle, their skin sags, who wants that?” Rylee asked. “And what if you aren’t a guide? You may not get that. Our parents didn’t. The worst of the lot they are. I wonder if I could fake it. Fall down the stairs or something.”

“They’ll know. They always do. Then you’re left to rot. You shouldn’t even talk about it. You’ve seen what happens. That’s no way to die. You’ll be desecrated forever. Everyone has a role.”

Aika rolled to the edge of the bed and pushed himself up with a grunt. He rubbed his eyes, his hands running down his cheeks over the stubble. His feet hit the floor and he got up with a groan.

His apartment was more like a cubby, containing just the necessities like a bed, a kitchen, and a bathroom. The only personal effect that wasn’t hidden in a drawer was a picture of his parents taped to the bathroom mirror. He had outlived them. The one thing no child ever hopes to do. He would never ascend.

He did learn more, but nothing he ever wanted to know. There was no value in living past your prime. Those that did, they become soldiers or breeders. It was a perpetual cycle, and those with the genetics to fill those roles endured labor.

He had considered becoming a soldier, fighting a war of which he was still ignorant. It promised the swiftest death if you weren’t one of the chosen. It was the best of the available choices, but Aika never developed an interest. Each production category was largely self contained so he never did discover what they fought. Was it a physical enemy or some unseen force? It had to mean something. The walls of their city would slowly expand with each victory. The requirements to ascend were more stringent than ever.

Aika had been a resource allocation engineer at one point. Deciding how many breeders were needed, what they should farm or produce.

When he tired of that he became an investigator. Many people were heartbroken when they weren’t selected for ascension. As requirements became stricter, dissatisfaction increased. Despite the warnings, despite the threats despite the bodies sliced down the middle and from limb to limb people would still maim or harm themselves hoping to ascend by their own hand. Instead they were left to rot. Their flesh would decay and that’s the form they got to take after ascension. It was the worst fate a person could suffer, but someone disillusioned is a poor planner for the future.
This was Aika’s role to research the false claims. He was the harbinger of death, but was it better than ascension at such an old age?
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