knew my decision the moment I met Grace. I saw her small, freckled face peeking out from a cluster of vines and from that day on, it was over. And so I only listen with half an ear as the woman reads the contract, reciting the terms in that flat voice of hers. I relax and push my sleeves up. The room is very warm, which seems inconsiderate. Not even government buildings are air conditioned, and the least they could do is give us a window. The woman is telling me I am thirty-one years old, as if I don’t know. But she has to state this, as the whole program is based on age.
It’s quite simple, really. The moment you turn twenty you are given a number, and every week there is a drawing. It’s kind of like being summoned for jury duty, if juries were still a thing. Some people get called right away; some have to wait years. But eventually, your number will be drawn. And when it does, you will have to make the choice.
The choice is the same for every citizen: live your life as a miserable pauper until you die of natural causes, or become an Honorable and live out your days in the most exquisite luxury. An easy decision, right? Except for one thing. The moment that you choose to join The Honorables, you have an expiration date. Your days are numbered. You are, essentially, agreeing to the date that you will be murdered. When that date will be depends on your age. If you’re between twenty and forty, you get a full year as an Honorable. If you’re between forty and sixty, you get six months of that unimaginable luxury. If you’re over sixty, two months, and if you’re over seventy, you get one month.
The over-seventy-ruling really irks me. Why should these people get anything? They are the ones who are most responsible for the situation we’re in. Thirty years ago, when we were hanging on by a thread, when maybe we could have turned the tide, these were the people who were true adults. They were grown men who watched their house catch fire and didn’t have the courage to do anything about it. What were they worried about, exactly? Upsetting their bosses? Looking like a wuss if they were caught composting? Maybe they feared for their 401ks in a faltering stock market. Well, they don’t have to worry anymore, as it no longer exists. I imagine how the New York Stock Exchange must look now. It was perched so precariously at the tip of Manhattan; there must be standing water up to the ceilings, the briny Atlantic corroding all that fancy machinery.
The old people - they said it happened so fast. One day they were commuting an hour to work in their pick-up trucks, the next, the economy was collapsing. It didn’t happen fast, of course. The scientists shouted themselves hoarse in the years before the bloody decade. Here’s a little secret, though. I think the older people like it. It’s an irrefutable fact - the old have resented the young for as long as humans have walked this planet. When you’re old, your future is gone. I know what these old bats are thinking now. At least we took their future too. Sometimes I wonder if we should have done as other countries did with their old. Now, I’m not sure what that was exactly, but most of them disappeared very quickly.