The Perfect Day -- flash by Gloria Bao
The blaring Alarm System woke her up. She groaned.
She went through her morning routine, ignoring her clock, and stepped outside onto her moving track. From the corner of her eye, she tried to see if Trix had gotten up. His house had been “closed for maintenance” for days.
He wasn’t on his track.
She frowned before noticing her neighbor watching. “Morning,” he said, toneless. “Happy Saturday,” she said, swallowing her sarcasm.
She was the last to the Recreational Center. As usual.
The exercises in the Center were unbearable without Trix, so during Fifteen Minute Dinner she snuck out. Every house was dark and empty.
Her heart pounded at the idea of being caught off her track; still, she ignored the red flash and beep that her track made when she stepped off.
The notice on Trix’s doorstep crinkled under her feet. She picked it up. “Inhabitant Trix Star has been moved to Expulsion District.” The mantra of the Districts was splattered across the page: “Work hard, take charge.”
She had heard rumors of people who were Expelled, how they were sent to a bleak District where they had no routine, no purpose in their every day.
She dropped the notice. Her hand sought the key in her pocket, and she looked around the darkened streets again. She unlocked Trix’s door.
She felt around in the dark, nearly tripping before finding a light. There was a pile of books on the floor, scattered from where she had tripped. She picked one up, and a brochure fell out. “The Perfect Day” was splayed across its cover.
“The Perfect Day: Are You Tired of Being Tired? Join Us!” She gingerly pried the pages open. “User Reviews: ‘With the Perfect Day, I slept until noon, enjoyed a long breakfast, and didn’t work on Saturday! I’ve never felt so great!’ Underneath, a smiling man. “What are you waiting for? Join the Perfect Day today!”
Just then, a clock on Trix’s table beeped. She jumped and hurried out, relaxing when the streets remained deserted. She locked Trix’s door.
When she turned around, her heart dropped. In the house across from hers, her neighbor stood in the window. His eyes glinted in the streetlight. She bowed her head as she scurried back into her house, clutching the brochure.
She shut the door behind her, sighing with relief before the shrill of her telephone interrupted the silence.
She stayed still for a moment, but the phone seemed to blare louder and louder. She walked over to the ringing menace carefully, as if approaching a wild animal.
“Hello?” Her voice wavered.
“They’re watching. They don’t forget.” A flat voice replied.
She gripped the telephone, trying to stop her fingers from trembling. Her mind raced with images of Trix’s empty home, of her red and beeping track. On the other end, silence. She swallowed and replied: “Work hard. Take charge.”
She lit a candle and burned the brochure, the words “Perfect Day” crumbling to ashes on the floor.
Gloria Bao is a writer who is obsessed with Agatha Christie and Edgar Allan Poe, and at times, Virginia Woolf and Maya Angelou. She currently spends her days writing, watching movies, eating way too much candy, and going to appointments at the dentist. She is a junior and not ready for college yet, but definitely ready to go see more of the world (when the COVID-19 pandemic is over), beyond her homes in Michigan and Hangzhou.