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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Checkout (06/09/11)

TITLE: Life in the 'Centre of Death'
By Helen Curtis


Melissa sat rigidly in the passenger seat of the old, beat up 2010 Toyota Tarago. Ben killed the engine, the lights, the a/c. Melissa wondered if it was the residual daily heat in the old minivan or fear of the unknown that caused all 6 passengers to perspire. As far as they knew no one from the Checkout Clinic was suspicious, but they stuck to their plan regardless. Melissa closed her eyes and offered up a silent prayer. Jesus, please keep us safe, not for my sake, but for your glory, and the souls of your children.


It was a delicious day. The sun was high overhead; its warmth released the scent of jasmine through the air, tantalising the senses. Melissa Franklin was “feeling the love”, and she sang as she returned to the verandah with the day’s mail, “This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine! Here’s some mail for you-u-u, la da daaaa da daaaa! Whad’ya get ma, anything exciting? Mum?” Mrs. Franklin’s face turned ashen white when she saw the letter on the top of the pile.

“Oh dear God, no. Dan. DANIELl!”

“What is it Judith, you look like you’ve seen a…” Daniel halted as his eyes fell upon the large, blue envelope on his wife’s lap.

“Mum, dad? What’s the matter? What’s in the envelope?” Melissa looked at her parents, panic threatening her composure. Judith, unable to think rationally, went inside to put the kettle on, leaving her husband of 33 years to explain to their beautiful sixteen year old daughter that a supercomputer and pen-pushing government bureaucrat had determined their expiry date.


“THEY CAN’T DO THIS! What right does any government have to choose how long someone can live?” Melissa looked once again at the happy family on the brightly-coloured brochure attached to Checkout’s notice of expiration, the date twelve years into the future highlighted in red. The brochure read,

We’ve considered all the factors – genetics, socio-economics, intellect, family trends – and provided your government with a realistic model of your future. From this data they have provided the enclosed expiration date. Checkout(tm): helping nature take its course.

Images of her grandparents’ sudden departure ten years earlier scrolled through Melissa’s mind. Tears of anger and disbelief flowed freely as she poured her heart out to the God of all creation. With all my heart, I promise to fight for them, for everyone. Guide my steps, Father, and give me your strength and wisdom to stand.


The wait had been a test of endurance and patience, but finally Melissa started to see God’s plan unfurl. On the day of her 26th birthday she was appointed as Morgue Coordinator: Checkout Euthanasia Clinic, a position which gave her full access to all patient records and daily processing schedules. Almost immediately, she and Ben, the Clinic’s Head Anaesthetist and sympathiser to “The Cause,” surreptitiously met with a team of pro-lifers to pray and develop the next part of their strategy. For two years they went through agony, carrying out their ‘jobs’ and praying that God would make the way for life to bloom in the 'Centre of Death'.

Finally, God said "Go"!


There were fifteen due to be processed that day by Ben; they were equipped to liberate just four. God, may your mercy, grace and forgiveness be upon us today. His part of the plan went like clockwork; the machines all flat-lined as he injected the solution that would end their lives – or so the other workers believed. Thankyou, God, for stage props and fake syringes! Now, it was up to Melissa. Before her lay four body bags, each one containing a “corpse” ready to be processed and shipped to a pre-selected funeral home. Melissa waited impatiently for her assistant to leave for the evening. “There’s the buzzer. Quick, everyone get up! Don’t worry, the funeral director’s one of us. He said sometimes the cremations just ‘happen’ to get done earlier than planned.” Melissa winked as she beeped the back door open. “Shhh, go quietly; we’re not safe yet.” Ben saw them approaching and jumped down from the driver’s seat. “See? I told you this old heap would come in handy one day!”


Melissa and Ben left the Checkout Clinic that night with the first four souls ever to evade the government’s Compulsory Euthanasia Scheme - their parents. They would go on to save many souls from Checkout's clinics around the nation; but that, as they say, is another story.

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This article has been read 546 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Cheryl von Drehle06/17/11
this is quite chilling in its creativity. Held my interest to the end. Some of it was a little hard to follow and I would love to see you work on this some more: character development, motivation etc. Of course you can only do so much with the word count restraint. Nevertheless, very readable and thought provoking story.
Sarah Elisabeth 06/17/11
Whew, scary stuff! Lots going on here. I admired your MC's bravery and trust.
Laury Hubrich 06/17/11
This is a scary story and I hope and pray it never comes down to this here on earth. I love your title - very appropriate!
Verna Cole Mitchell 06/17/11
Chilling is the right word for this very creative story. You did a great job with the suspense. If God tarries, it is imaginable the a government beyond control could fashion a program such as this.
Kate Oliver Webb 06/17/11
Very thoughtful and creative, and yes "chilling." I am SO impressed with your bravery (oh, not that you'd be retaliated against) but just to consider that such a thing could happen. Yes, it certainly could. I'm afraid I would be hesitant to look that steadfastly into the horror of what might be ahead. God bless you.
Leola Ogle 06/17/11
Your creativity on the topic is certainly unique. God help us that it never comes to this. Cleverly written and definitely holds a reader's interest. God bless!

Kelvin Fowler06/17/11
What fun, I enjoyed the read, horrible subject. Well done kept me reading and annoyed with the government until the very end. cheers
Patricia Protzman06/18/11
Chilling tale and not too far from what may happen. If physicians and medical care become scarce, rationing will occur. Only strong, productive, citizens and those with enough money to purchase treatment will live. Those of us who are sickly, elderly, and non-contributors to society, will be extinguished.
Rachel Phelps06/18/11
Really great concept. I felt a few parts could have been tightened up to increase the tension. Excellent opener!
Joe Moreland06/18/11
Great, creative and riveting piece. I wish the word limit didn't exist because I would have liked to have read more about the staging and organizing of the first rescue and where it all ends. Great job!
Noel Mitaxa 06/19/11
Well-written for its scary element, and a great parable of how the Author of life will not be denied by eugenics.
Linda Goergen06/20/11
You have certainly created an ominous looking future, that, as others have said, is not as far-fetched a scenario as some might think. Fascinating read!
Patricia Turner06/21/11
A chilling and very inventive take on the topic. I think your transitions between future and past were effective in moving the story forward. Nice job.
Edmond Ng 06/22/11
A creative and imaginative piece of work. I think it would be a better start to draw in the readers first if the second paragraph onwards take the lead as the starting point of the story. The first paragraph, if needed, can then come in later as a recollection. With a plot such as this, your story can possibly lead to many more chapters for a novel or movie.
diana kay06/22/11
creepy :-) chillingly cleverly crafted. Full of discussion debating opportunities about the ethics of a person taking on a job that is ethically wrong so that they can try and save people... think how many people they must have been involved in dispatching before they were able to save their on family....
great writing and full of as many layers as an onion.
they will like it or hate it a bit like modern art.
diana kay06/23/11
well done on placing 7th in the highest rankings for level 3 :-)
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 06/23/11
Wow! What an incredible story it has traces of real history of the holocaust and grabbed me from the very beginning. I do believe you have the making' of novel, a movie, or a TV show!.

Congratulations for placing 7th in level three!