The gold dome appears dull now, but in the bright light of midday it shimmers like a mirage. The building is left over from The Time Before. That’s what we call the years before everything went to hell. The capitol used to be the beating heart of Atlanta, the seat of the state government, where the governor ruled over his rich, productive, diverse state. This was, of course, before Savannah was swallowed by the sea. Before the farms dried up and the famous peach trees shriveled into skeletons. There is still a state of Georgia, and there is in fact still a governor, at least in name. But everything real is done at the national level. National edicts are the only things that matter. That’s why, when The Honorables program was announced, everyone snapped to attention.
I’m early but there are already a few others, making the same walk as I. We are silent as we pass through the gates, no friendly platitudes offered today. I don’t recognize any of my fellow citizens. We are united by only one thing: our numbers were pulled in last week’s drawing. When my number came up, I shrugged and kissed Grace on the top of her head
“At least I get a day off work,” I said.
I wasn’t nervous then, but I feel strangely edgy now as I hand over my identification card. I try to pinpoint the source of my unease. Maybe it’s the finality of it all. Once you make your decision, there is no reversing it. Or perhaps it’s the unknown. Those who have already gone through this process are forbidden to talk about it. All I know is you enter, make your choice, and leave. Then why does it seem to last all day? Grace went through this process two years ago, and even she wouldn’t give me any details. Grace, who is always ready to mock the stern government edits, at least when we’re lying safely in bed. But then again, why do I need details? We both know what my choice will be. I could never, in a million lifetimes, become an Honorable. Grace was following the rules, yes, but I think perhaps she was trying to save a little excitement for me. That might be the scarcest resource of all now.
I fidget with the others in the waiting area, until I am ushered into a small room that holds only a table and a chair. The walls are an unremarkable shade of beige, and there are no windows. I take a seat and a moment later a woman enters. She matches the room - her outfit, the required uniform of a government worker, is almost the exact same shade as the walls. She confirms my identification number, and makes a small mark on her clipboard. I expect the woman to leave, but she surprises me by beginning a recitation, reading from her clipboard in a bored voice. She has given this speech so many times that the words have lost all meaning for her. But in any case her instructions are clear. If I decide I want to become an Honorable, then I am to select the box marked “Yes.” If not, I should tick the box marked “No.” These are the only choices.
It’s incredible really, how your life can be boiled down to a simple check mark. For most people the decision is agony, but for me it’s been easy as pie. I knew my decision the moment I met Grace. I saw