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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Red (10/01/09)

TITLE: Out of Time
By Leah Nichols


Jenae splashed her face with water, rubbing sleepiness from her eyes. As she reached for the towel, in the mirror she caught a glimpse of the indicator.

Yesterday it had glowed a bright orange color. Today, the hue tended toward red.

She closed her eyes, choking back tears. It's not fair! her thoughts screamed. She hurried in her morning routine, fighting to ignore the implications. Thankful for cooling days, she pulled on a high-necked sweater which would cover the device.

As she tidied the apartment, every item seemed more precious than ever. Pictures of hiking in Iran, surfing the Antarctic coastline, exploring ancient buildings of New York City – each one brought back beautiful memories. The non-metal dishes inherited from her grandmother – who else would wash them with the fondness she had for old ceramic pottery?

Not only dishes had she inherited from her grandmother. The indicator reminded her of that fact.

She pondered the rest of her day. I should skip work. What's the point, anyway? She had walked by the job posts yesterday, and discovered her position open. No doubt it related to the senior team leader noticing her indicator in the washroom last week. Jenae kept it covered, but had bent over the sink just as the other woman entered. Likely they expect me to stop coming any day now, she thought grimly.

Her CP alerted her to an oncoming transmission. She reached for the mobile device and opened it toward the open wall. Her mother's figure materialized in graphic form. “Hi, Mom.”

“Good morning, Sweetie. I thought it best to check on you. We haven't talked lately, and you didn't reply regarding next week.”

“I didn't know how to reply. Agency posted my position yesterday. They obviously aren't expecting me to be around much longer.” Jenae plunged the ceramic tea cup into the dish water and avoided her mother's stare.

“Oh, Honey, I'm sorry. What color are you now?”

“It's not just orange anymore, Mother.”

“Darling, are you ready for this? Have you made out your papers and organized your belongings?”

The process sounded so sterile, so impersonal. Jenae fought down her disgust with her mother's disregard for her feelings. “Everything's been ready, Mom. All my life I've been ready. It's so unfair!”

Her mother stared blankly. “What's unfair?”

“People walking down the street out there with their purple indicators like time is not a big deal at all! And I have to cram every experience of my life into twenty-three short years, living with a lease on time. Which is just about to run out.”

“Well, at least you know, Dear. Just imagine living in the old days when they had no indicators. You would have no idea if you would live to old age or die tomorrow.”

Jenae shook her head. “I think it would be easier. Everyone would have to live with a true appreciation of time.”

“Hmmm. That's exactly what your grandmother would say. She refused to wear the indicator, and see where it got her!”

“How long did she live?”

Her mother frowned. “Not long enough. Jenae, it's a terrible thing to grow up without a mother.”

Jenae changed the subject. “Mother, what did Grandmother say about time? You told me once, and I was trying to remember.”

“Oh, something about everything being beautiful in it's time. I can't remember. I was very angry at her for leaving me, you know.”

“Well, I'm leaving you too.”

“I know, Darling. But I love you for all your twenty-three years, and for every moment I have left.”

“Love you too, Mom.” Jenae closed the CP.

In curiosity, she typed everything beautiful in it's time in the G-device. Eagerly she read the result: Bible. Ecclesiastes 3:11. She read aloud, “He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also He has put eternity in their hearts....”

One more thing she had from her grandmother.

Inside the closet stood the old trunk. Jenae walked slowly to her room. Removing her sweater, she grasped the indicator between her fingers and pulled firmly. Clutching it tightly in her palm, she opened the trunk. Removing the Bible, she replaced it with the indicator, shutting the trunk quickly before she could see the color.

Eternity in their hearts.... At least she had a little time remaining to find its meaning.

Inside the trunk, the indicator glowed a bright red.

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This article has been read 952 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Charla Diehl 10/09/09
This story is sort of sci-fi, but not so much that it didn't seem real. I imagine anyone suffering from a terminal disease would feel the emotions your MC was experiencing. Creative use of the topic--thumbs up to you.
Sara Harricharan 10/09/09
Oooh, Good sci-fi. I like this. I really, really like this. I love the twist and how the colors fit together, what a great idea. I bet you could make a whole novel out of this, lol. I'd certainly want to know what happens next in this world. Very well done!
Cherie B.10/09/09
Such a creative take on the theme! You did a wonderful job on this!
Joshua Janoski10/11/09
This was a very unique concept for this week's topic. I can't imagine what life would be like if we had an indicator telling us when we were nearing the end of our lives. On one hand it could be useful so that we would maximize the time here on Earth, but on the other hand many people might just freak out by it and allow it to completely make their lives miserable.

I think it would be cool to take this concept and create a full novel out of it. Show more characters with more indicators. Show different reactions to the colors. That would be cool. Lots of potential here for future material. And I'd like to see more since I felt like 750 words weren't enough to tell the entire story.

Great job with this one. :)
Jan Ackerson 10/12/09
I'm a sci-fi fan, and I LOVE this. I agree with Josh...this has novel potential. You could explore more deeply what happened in this world to make this technology necessary/accepted...have people who resist...the possibilities are endless!
Steve Uppendahl10/12/09
Very cool idea and well written story. I didn't like the mom too much. (Seemed a bit callous for a daughter dying too young.) Again, very imaginative idea. Great last line.
Lynda Schultz 10/13/09
Really good writing—and a valuable lesson to boot!
Shilo Goodson10/14/09
This was an interesting approach to the topic. I liked it. I have to agree with several other postings. This would make a great novel.
Laury Hubrich 10/15/09
Wow! Didn't read this one. Great job. Very mysterious. Congratulations, Leah!!!
Marita Thelander 10/15/09
Okay...am I the only one that thought she was hiding a hickie?! sheesh.

Great job, Leah...am thinking this one should have even been further up the top ten ladder. Captivating.
Amy Michelle Wiley 10/15/09
Oooo, this is cool. I try to cherish my time here, but it's so easy to just get caught up in life. Great story.
Brenda Shipman 10/15/09
Yay Leah! Congratulations for placing with this excellent entry. Well-deserved, for sure. Can't wait to read more of your stuff!
Lisa Johnson10/16/09
I am also a sci-fi fan, and I was thoroughly drawn in by this story. I agree that you should consider expanding this into a larger form. Congratulations on your EC.
Catrina Bradley 10/17/09
Excellent story! So well written, suspenseful, with a message that doesn't shout. Instead, you lead the reader glean it and wonder about it. I love this! Congrats on your EC, Leah!
Diana Dart 10/20/09
OK, that was gripping. I love how you drew me in at the beginning. What does this thing "indicate?" What's her bond with Grandma? I was eating it all up trying to figure it out. Consider mine a vote to expand the story further. Definitely A LOT of potential with this storyline (not to mention the incredible talent of the writer ;)) Great job and congrats on the EC.