Today I'm posting an excerpt from my newest project, Expiration Date. It's my first real attempt at dystopia, and I'm having a lot of fun with it so far. I'm roughly at the 11k mark with it. It's coming to InkPop June 6th, when I'll be doing a quadruple posting bonanza with Nella, Sharon, and Laura. So Inkies, watch out for that!
Here's a rough pitch:
They would’ve killed me already, but they said that death didn’t deserve me…
In The Community, your entire life is based upon your death. Everyone above the age of seventeen knows when and how they’ll die. Everyone is marked, their expiration dates tattooed on the back of their neck. Where you live and work is all determined by the Date. Prestige comes to those who will die young. People will do anything to get to The After, the supposed Eternal Salvation that death takes you to.
I, Scarlett Delacroix, was supposed to be the youngest person to die in over fifty year. I became a public figure. Everyone wanted to know the lucky girl who was set to Expire before she was eighteen.
But it all went wrong. I lived beyond my Expiration Date. Let me tell you, the government didn’t like me too much after that. They called me tainted, and exiled me from The Community. I was supposed to feel devastated for not being able to relish in The After. I was at first.
But then, just when I was so close to achieving death, Nate found me, and exposed me to a world completely different to The Community. No Expiration Dates. No talk about The After. Just a world focused on living, filled with people who are working everyday to expose the corrupted Community.
That's the general idea. Here's the excerpt from chapter one:
I’m supposed to be dead. Why aren’t I dead?
Disbelief and shock course through me. I’m alive. I’m still alive. I look at my reflection in the mirror, twisting around so I can see the black ink on the back of my neck. It dates June eighteenth of this year. The cause: car accident. A typical death, nothing extraordinary about it. The unusual part is how soon it was supposed to be. It’s only been six months since my seventeenth birthday. Six months since I got my Date.
My mother was ecstatic after I got mine. It’s considered an honor for your Date to be marked before your eighteenth birthday. A chance to visit The After while still youthful is something most people wish for. So though my cause isn’t noteworthy—the date I had is something most people dream of getting.
Except today is June nineteenth. And I’m still alive. To my horror and embarrassment—I can’t help but feel relieved. Sure, I want nothing more to relish in The After, like everybody else in the Community. I just wished that my Date wasn’t so soon. I accepted the honor with great pride, and knew how privileged I was to be granted the opportunity. To have a young soul live on in eternal salvation is the greatest honor of all. My name would live on the Community forever. I would be a legend.
I’m grateful for that—don’t get me wrong. It’s just… well, I want to spend more time in this world. I want graduate from Secondary School. I want to experience life on my own, away from my mother. I want to be in love.
Now, as I look in the mirror, I realize I might have these chances. My Expiration Date has passed, and I’m still alive.
What does this mean? Well, it means that The Sights can be wrong. Everything they say isn’t set-in-stone, like everyone believes. Or you could’ve done something wrong.
At this moment I don’t worry what the Community will think, or the things they’ll say. All I can think about is the fact that my Expiration date has passed, and I’m alive. I really shouldn’t be alive…
My head whips around. My mother is standing in the doorway, her mouth agape.
“Hi, Mama.” She works night shifts at the Medical Center, so she’s been completely unaware of my whereabouts. She was probably expecting to get a call at work last night. The call that was supposed to tell her that her daughter had been in a fatal accident.
I’m scared of what she’ll think. I’m scared of what I think. Because I think that I’m supposed to be alive. And that’s a dangerous thought to have around here.
“Why are you still alive?” she asks slowly.
“I don’t know. The Sights must’ve given me the wrong Date. Funny, right?” I say, forcing a light chuckle. I play it light more for my own benefit than for hers.
“This is anything but funny, Scarlett! Impossible is more like it. The Sights never make an error.” She’s nervous. Her only daughter is still alive, and she’s afraid. It makes me feel afraid as well. What will the Authorities do to me once they know? Do they know already? Of course they do.
They’re probably already on their way.
“I don’t know what to say. Maybe The After doesn’t believe it’s my time yet. Maybe they want me to have more time here.” I shrug.
The slap across the face I receive from the comment stings.
My mother grips my shoulders. “What have you done? You must’ve done something wrong! The Sights are never wrong! They weren’t wrong about my mother’s Date. They weren’t wrong about your father’s Date. They—” she stops mid sentence, choking out a sob. I know she’s thinking about my father. He Expired when I was five. Pancreatic cancer at age thirty. I don’t remember him much.
My mother’s Date isn’t for another twenty years. She’s said to Expire of heart disease at the age of sixty-two. An undesirable Expiration Date, in the Community’s opinion. That’s why she got stuck working the night shift. I know she misses my father. In the past she’s warned me that once I got my Date, I should be smart and fall for someone who will Expire around the same time as me. It’s less painful that way.
But I learned that you can’t help who you fall in love with.
“I’m so sorry, Scarlett,” my mother says, seeing the tears forming in my eyes. “I just don’t understand. You’re not supposed to be here. You’re supposed to be in The After.”
“But I’m not,” I snap. “And the only explanation is that The Sights messed up. I did everything right!” On your Expiration Date, Authorities stress the importance of just going about a normal day. Whatever you do, you’re not supposed to try to rush the Expiration from happening. It always does.
Well, except for mine.
That’s what I don’t understand. Yesterday was just an ordinary day. I did everything right. I went to school. Classes went by normally, apart from the Congratulatory Party that was thrown on my behalf. It’s been years since a student had an Expiration Date, and the faculty thought it was an accomplishment worth celebrating. Everyone had congratulated me, wishing me the best of luck in The After.
I thanked them all, portraying exuberance and acting grateful.
After school I went over my best friend Mia’s house, like I always did. Mia is still sixteen and hasn’t yet received her date. She can’t wait. Talking to her yesterday, I truly believe that she was jealous that I got to go to The After so soon. Then again, a lot of people were. And they should be is what should be my attitude.
I hugged Mia goodbye. She told me she’d miss me, but I promised her that one day we’d see each other again in The After.
Then I went to go meet Aidan at the lily garden in the park. It’s always been my favorite spot that time of year because that’s when the lilies are in full bloom. The beauty of the garden always strikes me, the swirl of vivid colors both beautiful and relaxing.
Seeing Aidan for what I knew would be the last time in this life was the worst part. I was handling everything else fine. But one look at his light brown hair that looked almost golden in the sun and the green eyes that sparkled whenever he got excited made me lose it. He wouldn’t Expire until he was forty. Forty. That’s so old.
He threw his arms around me and I melted into them. We didn’t talk much, just a few whispers of promises that were meant to be broken. I was anxious for The After, but at the same time I wanted to remember that moment forever. That was my biggest fear, forgetting. When I moved on, would I forget Aidan?
Maybe, that wasn’t the last time I’ll see him, I think.
When I tried to say goodbye, he wouldn’t let me. Instead, we parted with a “see you soon.” I don’t think even of us could’ve stood the finality that came with goodbye.
On my ride home, I did drive more carefully than usual, expecting that if the accident were to happen, it would’ve been then. I knew that my careful driving wouldn’t have been able to stop the inevitable.
And yet I made it home. This was what was so surprising. I was certain that when I’d left my house that morning, it’d be the last time I’d ever see it. Yet there I was, in the driveway of the small two-bedroom house that I called home, with its beige shingles and black shutters.
I should’ve been scared. I should’ve been disappointed. I was worried, but mostly about the shame. That was when I knew for sure that there was something seriously wrong with me.
Maybe they got the cause wrong, I’d thought to myself. So I proceeded to go through a normal night. I scrounged up a dinner with what little food we had. I ate it alone. I spent some time doing schoolwork. At nine o’clock I began getting ready for bed, and by ten I was asleep.
Goodbye, Community. Goodbye, world, I’d thought, certain I’d Expire in my sleep that night, and ready to embrace death with open arms.
And then I woke up.
I hope you liked it! Any thoughts would be so appreciated! :)