To 2015 - 2016

By sherry luo

  1. Untitled
    By Alice Lee, 12
Caroline showed up at Clare’s door unannounced and practically in tears, the veins in her eyes bloody tributaries. It was two in the morning, and the only reason Clare was still up was that she was working her way through a marathon of her favorite shows. Caroline had her dog, Morocco, an intimidating Doberman, on a leash, which she thrust into Clare’s hands.
“What’re you- ?” Clare stuttered.
“Clare. I’m leaving.” Caroline’s lips trembled terribly, an earthquake in miniature taking place at the corners of her mouth.
Clare rubbed her sleep-deprived eyes. “Oh, that’s nice, Caroline. Where to? You’ll be gone for what, two, three days?”
Caroline shook her head, her recently shortened chocolate brown hair whipping rhythmically from side to side. Clare, with her caffeine-addled brain, blankly thought of a metronome. “I’m leaving. You know. Leaving leaving.”
“Oh.” It was all Clare could think of saying. No words of consolation, no pats on the back, nothing. The pity inside of her gushed but could not materialize. “Oh, Caroline, that’s- “ Before Clare could finish her sentence, Caroline unshouldered a backpack she had been carrying.
“Here’s everything Rocco needs. There’s a notebook with vet info, his special diet, stuff like that. I also put all his favorite toys in here. You’ll- you’ll take care of him, won’t you?” Caroline’s voice cracked in trying to convey her desperation. Clare realized that the only reason why Caroline was at her doorstep at this hour of night was because she had no one else to turn to, no one else she could trust so absolutely. She just wished that Caroline was more concerned for Clare’s emotional stress than for her dog’s physical well-being.
Caroline then took out a polaroid camera, a curio she had bought in Old York. “Would you mind if I took a picture of us together? I want something I can take with me.” Together Clare and Caroline (along with Morocco of course) took a picture of themselves. Later, in the white margins that beckon unlimited possibilities of captions, Caroline would write: June 26th, 3071: My last day on Earth.
She was notified to visit the doctor’s office every year on the 24th of June, an hour before the appointment itself. She had been sitting in a café (such an archaic term!), the kind that still had baristas that wore milk-stained aprons and served actual coffee in paper cups. Her friends preferred Starbucks’ caffeinated tongue patches, but while the tongue patches came in different flavors, they could not substitute the motley of spices that lined the counters of the café, the sweet and bitter aromas swimming aimlessly through the bar. This was one of the only authentic cafés left in Old York, a quaint little place called Eff Hon Strich. Or, at least, that was what remained of the letters above the shop.
Outside, tubing crisscrossed the sky like a spider’s web, constantly shifting and switching segments to accommodate everyone’s transit. People flew across the city in these tubes to get wherever they wanted to go. There was so much tubing above that it was difficult to even catch a sliver of pure exposed sky, a fact that not many deplored. Even if the tubing did not exist, the soaring condos and office buildings were effective in blocking out the cerulean heavens on their own. 
Caroline was taking a tentative bite into a madeleine when a bulletin sent off a bing! inside her head near her right parietal lobe, where she told the surgeons to implant her wire for her convenience. Caroline closed her eyes and pressed her right temple. Her Mainframe home screen appeared on the back of her eyelids. Caroline was greeted by the lively image of Morocco bounding about like an unbroken foal, an eyesaver she had chosen some days ago, to “freshen up” her brain. Using her mind to input Mainframe commands she opened up her bulletin board where the notification was waiting for her: June 24th/Dr. Price/medical examination/12:09/Thoroughgood Medical Center. Would you like to save this reminder? Caroline told her Mainframe that yes, she would like to save it. With the reminder safely tucked away in the folds of her cerebral cortex, she took advantage of her closed eyes and answered several texts, combed through other pesky notifications.
She opened her eyes and took a sip of coffee. She then pressed her left temple and changed the settings on her Mainframe so that the volume of all surrounding sounds would be muted by thirty percent. She switched on her music with a simple impulse and relaxed in her chair, jiggling her foot to the tempo of the song.
She had an entire hour to herself before she was due for her appointment. Actually fifty-eight minutes and twenty-two seconds, Ms. Corrhizae, her Mainframe dutifully reported. She leaned back and watched the passerby of Old York. Caroline herself did not live in Old York but in New York, the capital of the United Powers of America. Caroline had never taken a single history class in her life (history was deemed unnecessary by the national curriculum), but somewhere along her education she remembered being told that Old York had once been New York during the Second Millennium and that back then Washington D.C. had been the capital of the United States of America. Clare had laughed when Caroline told her this. “D.C.? You mean those ruins on the East Coast? You must be joking!”
The waiting room smelled of...nothing. Not even rubbing alcohol. The lack of odors put the clinic in such stark contrast of the café; where the clinic was sterile and immaculate, everything in its place, the café was rustic, sentimentally dingy. Caroline knew which she preferred. She did not like the white textureless walls, the floor so clean it was hard to tell where it met the wall.
Caroline was greeted by Dr. Price’s secretary, Ms. Thierry. Ms. Thierry had long, blonde hair and very nice proportions. Her nose height was just right, the width between her beryl eyes not a millimeter off. She wore a mint green blouse that nicely complemented her modest silver accessories. She was, physically speaking, the perfect woman.
Caroline herself was not entirely unappealing either. Her recently shortened chocolate brown locks were about as straight as could be found in nature and they neatly framed her pleasantly slim face. Her looks were what could be called “regal.” Caroline’s slightly raised chin, her dark brows that imprinted a seriousness upon her amber eyes, her finely chiseled cheek-bones; people often said that her face belonged on royalty. Caroline took that as a compliment despite the fact that all royal figure heads were executed at the end of the Second Millennium.
As she sat waiting for Dr. Price to call for her, Caroline casually studied the decorum of the clinic. On the wall across from her hung a portrait of Charles Darwin. Seeing him with his wispy beard and cat-whisker eyes Caroline wondered how anyone could ever become so old. The idea of getting old did not so much disgust Caroline as it fascinated her. Even her own father, who was nearly three times her age, had not a shade of gray in his hair nor a single wrinkle on his face.
At exactly 12:09 the door to the innards of the clinic swung open. It was Dr. Price strolling out with one of his female patients. Dr. Price was the dictionary definition of the perfect Third Millennium male specimen. Reddish-brown hair, the shade of smoky topaz, an artful tumble of locks; several escaped apostrophes grazed the tops of his clear, green-gray eyes. He had not a superfluous movement; every movement was carried out efficiently, not a single drop of energy wasted. He was quite a bit taller than Caroline, but no taller or shorter than the preferred height for men, of course.
He turned to Caroline and shook her hand, going through the basic niceties: inquiring after her family, speculating over tidbits of news, the like. He led her through the spotless labyrinthine corridors of the clinic, past intricate machinery and closed-off rooms with silhouettes imprinted on their narrow windows. Eventually they reached a room that Caroline was very familiar with. This was where she had to come every year for her examination. The center of the room was dominated by an ugly centipede of a machine. It was a sleek, multi-segmented tube with a hole in the middle that was large enough to easily fit a human being. Jutting out of the machine were ominous-looking appendages that had scanners, lights, lasers, and probes attached to them.
Caroline laid down on a stretcher that would take her through the machine. Dr. Price went into a separate room. Caroline was marveled that such a bulky apparatus was still needed to monitor people’s health.
 The stretcher slid into the tube machine. Sensors and scanners activated upon picking up signs of life. They came to life and surrounded Caroline, twitching         
and emitting whirring noises; she felt like she was a zoo exhibit being scrutinized by alien beings. The whole process took little more than two minutes all together. Two minutes and forty-four seconds to be exact.
 From an intercom system Dr. Price’s voice called out to her. “Ms. Corrhizae, if you would please wait outside.” She hopped off the stretcher and waited outside on a chair for Dr. Price to discharge her. From her past experiences Dr. Price would usually come out of the monitoring room after a few minutes, compiling all of her updated medical information into her database, but this time she had to wait for over half an hour before Dr. Price came out. Thirty-two minutes and fifty-two seconds, to be precise. His expression was grim.
“Ms. Corrhizae, there’s something we have to discuss.” He seemed unsure of how to continue. “Let us begin with the good news. Your facial coordinates are flawless, as expected. Weight, shape, muscle-to-fat ratio, all good. Albeit we haven’t performed the blood and urine tests yet, I doubt we’ll find any problems with the results.” He cleared his throat. “As I told you last year, all twenty year olds are required to undergo a full reproductive examination, which includes-”
Caroline stopped him. “I know what it includes, no need to go into the details.”
Dr. Price looked slightly abashed. “One of the tests included an x-ray examination of your pelvic bone. I am sorry to inform you that the diameter of your pelvic outlet is too small, making you unsuitable for child-bearing.”
Caroline already knew what was coming but had to ask anyway. “Meaning…”
“Meaning you will have to be deported from Earth due to your reproductive inability.”
“But- but- it’s such a minor deformity! Surely you couldn’t, I don’t know-
“As minor as it may seem to you, it is a deformity nonetheless that places the gene pool at risk. Ms. Corrhizae,” he continued, dropping all pretenses, “you are a twenty-year old woman whose bones are unlikely to grow any further, and a smaller-than-average pelvic outlet simply won’t do.”
 Caroline thought for a moment, trying to wage a mental battle against what she already knew was a war already lost. “Assuming that one day I’ll decide to have children, can’t you simply do a caesarean then?”
“It is certainly within our abilities to do a caesarean. It is even within our abilities to artificially widen your hip bones. But it is not desirable, certainly not for us. The issue does not lie with plausibility but with the fact that your genetic coding is what caused your malformation. Changing it would be counterproductive. Do you understand what I am trying to get across here? The purpose of our existence is to continuously strive to create the perfect human being. It is not only essential to our anatomy, but to the population as a whole. If we were to give everyone with reproductive impairments caesareans, we’d reach carrying capacity again. It’s when people like me start feeling merciful towards people like you that 2698 happened.” Even without her Mainframe to tell her, Caroline was well aware of the significance of 2698. 2698, the year mankind reached its carrying capacity, leading to acute fluctuations in population and depleting the last of the world’s nonrenewable resources. “No, best to let things fall as they may.
“I understand that this all may seem very disproportional, overly selfish, but this is for the greater good. We cannot allow someone like you, whose genes contain a consequential error, to sully the gene pool. It simply cannot be allowed. I am sorry, though. Truly I am.” And with that, he retired into the monitoring room without another word, as if he had just announced the time of his lunch break.
Two men dressed in identical white coats just like Dr. Price’s came and led Caroline away by the arms. She did not resist, did not kick or scream as she should have. As foolish as it sounded, she kept expecting Dr. Price to return to say that it had all been a mistake, that his whole spiel had been for naught because she was as perfect internally as she was externally. Her fantasies never materialized. Dr. Price did not return. Dr. Price was done with her.