“Destiny” by Kirsten Bilger

   Everything has changed now. My great grandmother told me stories of what life used to be like when she was a little girl and how her parents had fallen in love. It was a beautiful moment when two souls fell in love and their hearts knew that they were meant to be. Love means nothing now. Humans have become too advanced for their own good. Humans do not feel very many emotions. We feel happy and sad. Emotions get in the way of how we act. Scientists have even made a pill that takes away depression. The worst thing they made a change to was love.

   My great grandmother told me many stories of what life was like when she was growing up. People would live their lives in search of love and happiness. Her parents had lived thirty years before they found each other, completely by accident. They had a fulfilling life after they met. My great grandmother was their only child. They showered her with tender affections and soothing voices. They could never get mad at their only daughter. When she had grown up and met her own husband, she had waited twenty-eight years. The two of them lived happily ever after. By the time my grandmother was born, the world was starting to change.

   People saw love as a distraction and came to the conclusion that if people stopped looking for love and was told when they would meet their one and only, the world would become more advanced and have a more advanced society. So the experiments began. My grandmother was soon to have a son and he became the scientist’s first experiment. Once he was born, they had injected him with some kind of liquid. His body started to change and glowed green. Soon the green glow was directed to his wrist and stayed. My grandmother, upon looking at her son’s (my father’s) wrist, noticed that the green glow had numbers shining. No matter how hard she scrubbed at his wrist when she cleaned him, it never smudged and never went away.

   So the scientists continued their work and injected every newborn with this liquid. Not all had worked in their favor. Some had not worked and showed no numbers, but still had the green glow to the wrist. Over time, the scientists began to improve the liquid, but there was always a chance that the glow would be numberless.

   This is how love was taken from the world. The numbers upon everyone’s wrist indicated the time of when you would meet your soul mate and husband/wife. With this taken, people forgot how to love. Parents had stopped caring for their children once they were able to take care of themselves, but even while caring for them, parents kept their distance. There are some unlucky people who do not get a number upon their wrist and walk this world in isolation. Bearing no numbers sent a message to others in our world: You are incapable of loving another and cannot live a happy life.

   These people are shunned from their families, as early as their birth. If their parents keep them, they do not socialize with one another. Going to school was a nightmare. Once someone saw you without numbers, you were immediately cast aside from everyone else. These are the unlucky people that wander this world, unloved and unwanted.

   I am one of those unlucky people.

   When I was born and was injected with the liquid, my body did not accept it. It had caused me much pain to endure having it inside me. I screamed and cried for an hour. When the worst of it was over and the glow slowly made its way to my wrist, my parents were horrified to see that I had no number. They, themselves, had numbers (once you have met your soul mate, the numbers show the date of when you met them) and were shocked that I did not accept it.

   They had considered giving me up right on the spot, but something made my mother keep me. I have yet to figure out if my mother was capable of loving at that moment. They had taken me home and kept quiet about me. When family and friends called, they were told that I would meet my right guy in twenty years. When they visited, I was made to wear long sleeves or gloves so that no one could notice. They congratulated and told my parents that they were lucky to have a beautiful girl like me. My grandfather had told my mother, “With her blonde hair and big, blue eyes, she will be a beauty and have no problems with her own children’s looks.”

   The day had come when I was to be sent to school. My parents did not worry over me. They knew what could happen. All they said to me my whole life was “Make sure no one takes your gloves off or pulls up your sleeve.” I received no kisses on the head or tight hugs to calm me. I left my parents and tried to fit in with everyone else sitting around me. I kept my distance from them, but came to realize that everyone kept their distance. Not one person was within five feet of the other. I went through school quite easily.

   As I grew up, I only had one person to truly talk to. My great grandmother showed me love, showered me with kisses, gave tight hugs to calm my nerves, and spoke to me with understanding and compassion. She was old and grew up in a different time, which was her excuse when people noticed she was too caring towards me. She stood up for me and soon she became one that I trusted. I trusted her enough that I showed her my wrist at the age of twelve. I confessed to her that I was to meet my guy in eight years according to my mother and father, but I had no one special to be looking forward to.

   She had taken my wrist and pulled the sleeve of my shirt down so no one else saw. She spoke calmly to me to make sure that she did not arouse fear in me. “My dearest Chloe, I sympathize with you, but you must not show anyone else. You were not to show me at all. Yet it is done and cannot be removed from my memory. When I grew up, I had no number to tell me when I would meet your great grandfather. It was destiny that pulled us together. My dear, listen to me, those accursed numbers should not control people’s love. It has taken too much from our society. Go out and find your destiny. You will know what to do.” I lived my life by those words. I never told a soul. We pretended that it had not happened and that I was to be married soon.

   On my nineteenth birthday, I received no love or cards or cake. I was asked if I was happy that I would be married in just one more year. I would smile and say, “Yes, I am happy.” I left emotion out of it. I was done with school and was expected to practice being a good wife. A good wife leaves her husband do what he wishes when he wishes. She is to cook for him and give him beautiful babies that would marry by the age of twenty-one. She is to clean up after husband and children. She is to blend in the background and only be happy.

   This was not the life for me. I feared that I would be found out or that emotion would creep into my voice and give me away. Normal people learn to leave behind all emotions by the age of ten. I was not normal. Fear clenched my stomach into knots every day, panic had stricken my heart, anger held a spot on my tongue, confusion swum before my brain. How was I to operate in a world without feelings? I decided then to take my great grandmother’s advice and make my own destiny.

   A year passed and my twentieth birthday came to be. I was to find my guy in just two days and become a bride in three. I was congratulated for how well I turned out to be and how beautiful I was. I took in every compliment, ignoring all faces but my mothers. She too was worried but hid it well. She knew of what was to happen in three days. The family would shun me, my parents would be made to stand with me or against me, and I would walk this world in isolation. My parents would stand against me. They could not be shunned from the whole family. I vowed that I would be gone before she had to choose to betray me. The time came to set my plan in action.

   I announced that I had a sudden urge to leave. Everyone was happy with my announcement. Once a person leaves with three days on their clock, they are leaving to find their soul mate. My family handed me a small duffel bag, which included some food and water and clothes. Then I was pushed out the door and left my home to begin walking this world. I promised myself that I would find love in this world.

   I walked through my society with an edge. Everywhere I looked there were happy couples or sad people who lived isolated. I looked down at the ground as I walked. Then I felt a hand on my arm and someone pull me aside. It was a boy, roughly of twenty-one. He bore a smile on his sweet face. He had beautiful brown eyes with black hair. I adverted my eyes to the ground. He took hold of my wrist and I grabbed his. He looked at me, still bearing a smile.

   “My dear lady, I mean no harm. My time has come and I have felt a pull here for the past day. Come and tell me that you are mine.”

   Before I could stop him, he pulled down my glove and looked at my wrist. I glanced up. His smile turned into a frown and he immediately dropped my wrist. He backed away from me and took off. I pulled my glove up and went my way. It was then that I noticed another boy, staring at me. I could tell that he was an isolated person instantly. His eyes cried for attention and his body posture was hunched. He had watched what had happened with me and the other boy. Both were sure to tell what they had seen. But this one just stared back at me. He looked around and motioned me forward. I walked to him until I was five feet from him. I looked at him. He was handsome. His brown hair was hanging in his blue eyes. His body frame showed signs of muscle and hardness, but his face was soft.

   “You have no number.” It was a fact and he said it so.

   “Neither do you,” I told him.

   “How do you still look like you belong to society?”

   I looked down at myself and cursed myself for being stupid. My clothes were society clothes, void of anything black and neon. I had an air of belonging. I would have to change that if I was going to keep to my plan. I looked back at him. His clothes were black and his shirt stretched over his muscles. He gave off a “do not notice me” look. I was sure people did not notice him anyway. He showed me his wrist. He held it out as if he were proud of not having any digits upon it. I carefully showed mine. “My parents had not given me up. I have just left on my own terms. I’m making my own destiny.”

   At this he laughed at me. “That is most likely the funniest thing I have heard. You have no destiny. People with digits have their happy life while we scrounge around. We keep to ourselves and love only ourselves.”

   “But for people with no digits, why not find happiness with someone like you? Why must you be alone?”

   “That is how it is. Even if you are extremely lucky to find someone like yourself, no one will accept it. You think your parents would be proud if you married a no digit? They would rather you die alone than with one of your own kind.”

   How could such a world be so cruel? I was truly out of my mind. Did I have a destiny? Could I find someone to love me and love them in return? I would not give up hope that I could. “If you are true, then I am already doomed, so what, may I ask, do I have to lose? I will find someone who will love me and I love them. I am not ready to abandon hope and neither should you.”

   “You must be young to think like that.”

   “I am twenty and have been in control of what I believe since I was ten.”

   “Tell me what you think when you’ve had a couple years on your own. Like you, my parents did not give me up until the day they had to. I was kicked out of my own home immediately and called every foul name under the sun. I was shunned from my family and was made to give up my name and start anew. I was kicked out when I was eighteen. That was five years ago.”

   We both went into a silence that lasted for several minutes. “Well, I cannot give up when I have not even begun. You wait and you will see. I am capable of more than to just be a wife.”

   He looked at me with careful eyes. He held out his hand and took mine. “Call me Danny. I will show you something, but you must not hate what you see. Promise?”

   “I am Chloe and I promise.”

   With that Danny took me downtown and showed me an apartment building. It was completely ugly with its faded and missing bricks, broken windows, and graffiti. He told me that this building stood years ago when life was different. It proved to him that time may have been hard years ago, but we have lost so much since changes were made. We lost our will to love and in turn we lost ourselves completely. “For without love, we are machines,” he told me. I believed that deep down Danny still believed that the world would accept him, that he was capable of being more than he was.

   I took his hand and told him, “You may speak of not hoping and not being anything, but I see in you something that I have never seen in anyone except one. You and my great grandmother are the only people who have showed me that humans are capable of love. So tell me Danny, why have you not found love?”

   “It is difficult when no one thinks the way you do.” He looked down at me and I noticed that he was five inches taller than me. “When the world shuns you for long enough, you start to believe that there is no hope and no love anymore.”

   I squeezed his hand. A simple sign to show that I knew how he felt. I have thought the same way since I was little. Here was someone that I could relate to, someone that I was capable of knowing freely. He gave me a new idea, a new hope. I would make my parents understand that we were all capable of feeling. I grabbed his other hand and pulled him straight to my house. This would work. I knew it would. He stopped me before we moved three feet.

   “I know what you are thinking, but trust me when I say that your family would only hurt you to know that you are talking to someone like me. Even if you are one yourself.”

   “That is impossible. My family is not so harsh. My great grandmother has kept my secret and I know that she will again.”

   Danny looked suspicious, but followed me anyway. I took him to my great grandmother’s house and entered quietly. I shut the door behind us and locked it. We then entered the living area and found her sitting in a rocker, reading. She looked up at us. She did not seem surprised to see me. “Welcome, my child.” She closed her book and faced us. “I was wondering if I were to see my favorite great grandchild again.”

   “Dearest grandmother, you know how I feel for you. I would have come to visit you. But my family must not know. You know the danger I am in. But I have found someone who views the world as I, grandmother. He believes in love and hope.”

   My great grandmother studied him and patted the chair beside her rocker. Danny walked to it quickly and sat down. She watched him as he walked and, when he sat, said to him, “You are not to repeat this conversation my dear boy. I am old and remember all too well how life was. There was no giving up children and no reason to give up hope. Times have changed and I fear that it will only get worse. You are to stay away from this family so that Chloe is not to be harmed. I have seen what has happened to those who find a mate but have no digit. It is not something I wish to see my dearest go through. Leave now and keep her safe.” She turned to me. “My dearest, I am indeed old. Remember all of the stories I have told you and tell them yourself. I believe you have a destiny.” And slowly, my great grandmother drifted away from me. I have learned that she had passed after Danny and I had left.

   Danny had taken me back to the abandon building and showed me a comfortable enough room. I sat on the floor, tears spilling from my eyes and onto the dusty floor. Danny had no words to console me. When I became weary, I laid down where I was and stared at the dirty ceiling. As I stared, Danny grabbed a blanket, laid down beside me, and put the blanket over us. He took hold of my hand and held it. We laid in silence the whole night. I wondered if he had ever lost someone so dear to him. How was I supposed to make my destiny now? I had no one to fully trust and no one to guide me. As I cried silently, I felt better knowing that I was not alone.

   Danny and I had spent three days together before I spoke again. I was grieving for my beloved and he gave me time to myself. “Danny, I want to see my family. I have to know for sure if they would cower away from me.”

   He looked at me with a look of concern. I was getting better at reading his emotions then he was of mine. “Chloe, I know what you are going through, but knowing will not make it better. Knowing will only hurt you more.” But he knew that he could not talk me out of it. We waited until dark and made our way to my house. He assured me that if things did not look good that he was going to take me away from that house in an instant. He, too, knew of what happened when a family cowered from you.

   When we arrived at my home, I knew what the family would think. Three days have passed since I left and I was to be a bride today. I opened the door and was greeted by happy family members. They welcomed Danny and I inside with open arms and congratulated us. I saw the hurt in my mother’s eyes as she saw me. I saw my father begin to retreat up the stairs. I had to tell them now, before they believed that I was a blessed child. I pulled off my glove and showed my wrist.

   Screams echoed through the house. They were horrified to see me with no digits. They all quickly regained themselves, showed me a quick look of sadness, and backed away from me. Not even my mother would come to me. I had to show them that I was fine and that I was to be more than a wife, as Danny was to be more than a husband. “Please, listen to me, my family. I am still me. You have loved me as much as you people can love. But now that you know that I am not to be a bride, you cower away from me as if I have a grave illness. Do you not see how wrong that is? People are to be free to love and to care. We are to have our own destiny.”

   My grandfather spoke out, “Wicked devil. Just like her great grandmother. Breaking society rules and not of us. Get out, you demon, before something bad happens.”

   I could feel my heart shatter and I felt Danny tense up behind me. But I shook off my broken heart. “My mother and father and great grandmother knew and had accepted me. Yet here you are, once loving and now hating. How can you not see that this is wrong?”

   My aunt spoke out, “Out! Out! Someone call for help! This loon will take us into her ways! Oh, help us!”

   Danny had taken my arm by now and we ran out of the house. Soon sirens were heard through the night air. We took shelter in our building. I sat in the corner, but did not cry. I knew what was to become of me. I was to die alone and afraid. I shook with quiet sobs. How quickly my family was to dismiss me! How was I to live with no one?

   I stayed with Danny while I pondered where to go from here. I could start a new life, but anywhere I went I would be an outcast, shunned by all who came into contact with me. Danny had given me comfort during this miserable time. I cried myself to sleep while holding his hand every night. I spent my mornings by his side and the afternoons by telling him my great grandmother’s stories. We lived, keeping each other company. Maybe this was to be my destiny? Not to find love, but to find a friend, a comforter, a helper.

   I was not content with this. Many times, we had returned to my family, and each time we left with the threat of sirens behind us. This time had to be different. I would make them see that I was still me and that I deserved their love.

   So that night, as Danny and I snuck to my house again, I held onto his hand. I knew that he was regretting ever letting me do this, but he stuck with me. He would smile at me and tell me that next time it might be different. He knew that I just needed assurance in my life. We arrived at my house. This time things were different.

   The police were already waiting for us. Fifty of them lined the front of my house and the surround block. A few held guns, but they were never used. If they were, they were just a mild tranquilizer. I could see my family standing in front of the living area window. They watched as Danny and I took off with the police chasing us. I heard the guns being fired and quickly hastened my step. We dared not lead them to our building, but how were we to lose them?

   Danny took the lead and led us through the back alleys. All of the police could not fit down there at once, causing a bit of an outburst with each alley we took. We ran like our lives depended on it. But it was too much. The police outnumbered us and soon their aim got lucky. A tranquilizer had pierced my shoulder and I went down. Danny had tried to help me, but he too was soon fired at. A tranquilizer had pierced him in his side. He fell beside me.

   We were taken away from each other. I cried out inside my head that I needed him. He was my rock in this world. He was the one I could trust. I watched as Danny was taken further and further away from me. I laid on the ground with the police surrounding me. What were they going to do with me? I wanted to scream out. This is not how it could end. I was to be with Danny. I knew it at that moment to be true. I had found love and it was taken from me.

   I was soon taken away from the alley and put into a prison. I was in solitude, where I was meant to be as the guards told me repeatedly. But I knew in my heart that they were lying. I had found what I believed in. I was not going to give it up so easily. I had tried to attack the guards, but this had led to me being in chains. I tried to hurt them with my chains which led to me being hung from the wall.

   I had passed a month in this solitude, not speaking to anyone, hanging from a wall by chains, and holding onto a belief that I might still get away from this world. I hung my head in a silent bow when I heard a noise outside my cell. I heard several grunts and soon my door was opened. The light that poured in blinded me and took me a moment to see who was standing in my doorway. I could not believe my eyes. My mother stood in front of me, keys hanging from her hand.

   She came to me and unlocked my chains and I fell to the floor. I was too weak to get up, but my mother was strong for me. She pulled me off the floor and dragged me out of the prison. Outside, the sun shone brightly and all I could think was What if someone is to see my mother helping me? What will become of her? But it seemed to not matter to her. She pulled me along and slowly strength returned to me.

   She took me to mine and Danny’s place. She opened up the door for me, and I felt my breath leave my body. Sitting in the corner was Danny. He looked starved and exhausted, but he smiled and came to me nonetheless. He hugged me like I have never been hugged before. It was a hug that told me I was loved and I was missed.

   My mother had tears in her eyes and quickly told me what to do. “You are to leave this town, this country. They will come after you, but I could not leave my daughter to rot in solitude. I love you, my daughter. Be safe.” She kissed me and fled the building.

   I could not comprehend what my mother had just done for me. She had rescued Danny, freed me, and brought us together. She must have saw the love in my eyes when we had went to their house all those times. I hugged Danny, letting all my worry roll off my back. He took my hand and together we left the country.

Ten Years Later

   I laid on the floor with my daughter. She was a beautiful blonde girl with diamond eyes. I had shown her love ever since I gave birth to her. She was my diamond, my love, my joy. I would keep her safe, as my mother kept me safe.

   Danny and I had escaped the country and soon went into hiding again. We made a little home in a wooded area, known to be inhabited by other non-digit members of society. We were not married in society terms, but in my heart was a special place for him. Our beautiful baby girl was now three years old. Not an ounce of a green glow showed on her body.

   It was strange to be accepted by non-digit people, but over time they saw how Danny and I could love each other and still be human. Soon, others began to show tiny affections towards others. It would be a long process, but I knew that we would change the world.

   Danny entered the room and laid down with us. He held my hand ever so gently and kissed it. He smiled at our baby, who we had named Hope. She was our symbol for a new life, a better change. I smiled to myself as I looked at both of them.

   I had control of my own destiny.

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