The sky is a dark grey, causing shadows even in the lightest of places. It’s not necessarily because there’s bad weather; it’s always this way. It’s almost like the sun is no longer existing, like it gradually decided that this sad excuse of a planet wasn’t worth it’s time.
People walk at a reasonable pace, all wearing black suits or black dresses. They style their hair in a certain way in the morning, not because it’s how they like, but because they know they’re not going to get any respect if they show up to work looking like they’d got out bed five minutes ago. Each face is empty, almost lifeless.
I’m the same, of course. My hair is forced out of my face every morning, shining due to the gel. I rise out of bed every morning and take the time to make sure I’m looking presentable; ensuring my suit is ironed and my shoes are shining. I eat cereal - the same one added to the breakfast table in every house all over the world each morning - full of fibre with no exciting taste. I don’t like it or hate it.
The long drone of the alarm buzzes through the building, and I don’t hesitate to the lean over and reach into the top drawer of my desk. I keep nothing in there besides papers compulsory for me to do my job. I grab the small gun that sits in the middle and feel the roughness of the plastic underneath my fingers. (The government had to create billions, do you really think they’d use anything that’d cost them more money?) I already know there’s four doses ready to be used because I made sure to reload this morning.
All around me, men and women are doing the same as I. As though it’s recited, we all raise the gun to our necks and pull the trigger, still sat behind our desks. The skin surrounding the end of the gun is opened and allows the blue liquid to seep into our system. To describe how it feels would be impossible; the whole purpose of the dose is to take away any feelings or any emotion that threaten to surface.
The room falls silent when the alarm stops ringing and everyone has shut the drawer of their desk. I sit up straight, feeling refreshed. Just as before, there’s the constant sound of typing and clicking from each desk around me.
“Bieber,” I hear the rough voice that I’m aware belongs to my boss as he comes striding along from behind me, I can hear his shoes meeting the floor as he walks purposefully. “Have you taken your dose?”
“Of course, sir,” I reply and stare ahead. There’s no movement in my face - my nose doesn’t twitch, my lip doesn’t threaten to curl up into a smile - while my boss’ hands press against my desk.
“There’s a woman just been brought in, mind doing the honours?” he asks and when I’ve had enough of his stare burning holes into my face, I shift my gaze from the multiple backs of heads in front of me to look at him.
His hair, just like mine, is swept back and kept in place with gel, although his hair is a lot darker than my own, apart from the grey strands beginning to show. He has a crooked nose that gives me the feeling he’s going to poke my eye out with it if he gets any closer. He’s showing his age with the crow’s feet and wrinkles that are starting to layer over his skin, and not to mention his ashen skin that makes me wonder whether he’s ill or simply tired.
“Of course, sir,” I nod before rising from my desk. “What’s she here for?”
I’m walking by his side now - I’m only just taller than him - and we must look almost identical, I think.
“What do you think?” He doesn’t give me time to compose an answer. “Sense Offence.”
I don’t say anything in response but carry on walking, knowing the exact moment my boss will turn off onto a different route as he aims for his office. When he does, he takes the awkwardness from the conversation with him and I feel as though I’m able to breathe again.
There’s a door at the end of the hallway. It’s grey paint glitters under the blazing lights. As I’m marching towards it, it opens and one of the other men appears dressed in the same suit as me. He catches sight of me and does a subtle head nod in my direction, I return it before swiftly sliding into the room and closing the door.
Sat at the table, a woman sits staring at the wall opposite, as though interested by it. She doesn’t acknowledge me, even when I make my way around the table so her eyes are piercing through my stomach.
“Hi. What’s your name?”
She doesn’t show a sign of wanting to talk to me, or wanting to be here, and I don’t expect an answer from her and I know I’m right not to when she continues to keep her lips in a straight line. My hands press flat against the table so I can see the veins on the back of my hand rising through my skin; they look like tiny rivers.
“I’m Justin Bieber,” I say and she - finally - looks me in the face, although she looks less than pleased, “but you don’t care about that,” I mutter and grab a chair that’s been pressed up against the wall and sit in front of her. “Do you know why you’re here?”
She takes a few seconds, but I watch her lips part and she takes a deep breath. She’s starting to tremble slightly. “Because I want to live like a real human being?” She looks like she might start crying.
“To live like a real human being is to abide by the law and take your doses, and we both know you haven’t being doing so. Why?”
“What keeps you going?” she asks, taking me by surprise.
“What makes you get out of bed in the morning? What’s your reason for living? What’s your purpose?”
I frown at her, watching her eyebrows furrow while waterfalls are building in her eyes, threatening to burst and flood her cheeks.
“To serve, to make sure offenders like you are incinerated the second you leave this room.”
“Are you happy?”
I shrug. “I’m merely doing my job; I neither love nor hate it.”
Her facial expression shows sympathy, although I’m unsure as to why. Her body shakes, causing strands of her hair to twist and turn.
“Feeling is beautiful. It’s what makes us human and what keeps us alive, and yet, it’s being taken from us completely. Why?”
It’s starting to feel as though I’m the one being interrogated. “Emotion is forbidden and you know it. Emotion is dangerous. These doses are what’s keeping this race existing, if you have some kind of problem with that, you should take it up with the government, although I highly doubt you’re going to make it as far as the double doors of this building. Now, answer my question; why aren’t you taking your doses?”
As though something snaps - a vein or a muscle - behind the surface of her skin, the tears finally spill over, gliding down her eyelashes before splashing against the woman’s cheeks. I notice her try to blink them away.
“I can’t live like that anymore; not feeling anything, it’s driving me insane. I refuse,” she gulps.
“Very well, but you know what happens to anyone who’s been found to be feeling and/or not taking their dose-“
“Do it. I don’t care.”
She’s shaking vigorously now and she looks as though she’s shivering. Her cheeks are a faded pink, and the victim of multiple sets of tears; all hot and salty and leaving a subtle shine to her skin. I watch her blankly. Neither of us speaks for a moment.
There’s a fan doing circles above us and it’s creating a humming sound all around the room, meaning we’re never in complete silence. I inspect her face and see hurt and pain, my head tilts to the right ever so slightly.
“Do you not ever wonder what you’re here for, what’s outside your life within these walls?” Her voice is calm, which I find unusual. I notice she’s slumped back in her seat now, her fingers locked around her stomach.
“I have a family; a wife and a kid. That’s my life.”
“How? How can you possibly take a woman’s hand in marriage when you don’t love her? How can you be intimate with her, and conceive a child when you know you’re not going to love the heart and soul of that child? You feel nothing for those people who you share a life with, do you really know them at all?”
“Have you never wanted to be able to touch someone’s hand and feel their warmth? What about music and art and poetry- oh wait, I forgot, you’re the one who makes the effort to go around and burn those kinda things, aren’t you?” she spits, and an angry expression takes over her face. “Emotion is everything. Emotion keeps me going, keeps us going. Love is pure, but so is hate. Fuck you.”
Her face is round and glows under the blazing light; I’m sure if I could feel a single thing I would feel something for the woman sat before me.
I wait until I’ve risen from my seat to speak again. Her gaze follows me tiredly. I straighten out my suit before clasping my hands behind my back.
“You’ll stay here until someone comes and collects you. I imagine they won’t take you for incineration today, and if not, I’m sure I’ll be seeing you sometime in the near future.”
Even as I’m walking towards the door - the fan still humming above me - I can feel the woman’s gaze on the back of head and I’m more than aware it’s full of hate and despise for me, maybe even a hint of disgust.