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The Double Doors by Chanacee Ruth-Killgore | Word Riot
Flash Fiction

July 29, 2017      

The Double Doors by Chanacee Ruth-Killgore

     “Pardon?” I asked, tapping my ear, though I’d heard her the first time.

     “You don’t have enough points, sir,” she repeated.

     “I see.” I had known it was coming and now as the middle-aged nurse rolled me toward the dreaded Double Doors, I felt the apprehension I’d seen on so many other faces as the end was pulled into plain sight before them.

     “When I checked last night…”

     “That was before you needed help getting to the bathroom this morning, sir.” Her tone was matter-of-fact.

     “It didn’t used to be like this.”

     “No, sir,” she replied, as we continued toward the end.

     Her heavy shoes squeaked on the linoleum. The fabric of her uniform rustled as she walked. Fluorescent lights hummed overhead and flooded the empty corridors with white light. I suppose it was intended to offer reassurance and a sense of warmth to those of us heading into the great unknown. It didn’t though. Not at all.

     “Used to be people got excited about a baby, about life. Well, most of the time,” I said, though I knew she wasn’t listening.

     It was criminal really. Now, a healthy baby gets six-thousand points. It’s enough to get them to school-age, to when they were expected to start earning their own way. Everybody is charged living expenses. No exceptions. For the first sixty months of life some of their points went to their parents, some to the state, etc. The child was even charged for its mother’s failure to work and the loss of her contribution to society while she was on maternity leave as well as for any subsequent sick days. It was only fair, they said. Everyone was to contribute equally.

     A baby that was deemed imperfect, that was another story. Significantly fewer points were awarded at birth. Ultimately, it depended on their specific health issues. It was a way of stacking the odds against the child and keeping them from becoming a burden on society.

     “Of course, I was already past my prime when the new Equality System came to be,” I said.

     Now that was a memory! Nothing like some government bureaucrat showing up at your door to evaluate your worth. As it turned out they didn’t think me worth much. You can always earn more points, the man had offered by way of reassurance, but we both knew better. I’d outlived my usefulness and he had come to make that clear.

     “Too bad offering a laugh or kind word doesn’t count for anything anymore,” I said. “I was always good at that.”

     Still, the nurse remained silent.

     To ensure the Equality System was iron-clad points were non-transferable. Which made generosity obsolete and dying of natural causes the epitome of a waste, not that many got the chance. Scrimping and saving for retirement was no longer about enjoying the Golden Years, whatever the hell those were, it was about life and death.

     “I read about a young girl, eleven or twelve, I think, out west somewhere. She fell off her skateboard and got real banged up. Serious stuff, a shattered leg and a concussion. Poor kid had failed math. She was taking summer school, but as it was she was barely going to have enough points to make it to her first report card. She’s gone now.” I shook my head. It was a terrible thing.

     “Reading subversive propaganda carries a one hundred point fine,” said the nurse as if from rote.

     I laughed. “What are they going to do, kill me? I should have read it out loud!”

     She gasped. I couldn’t see her, but I knew she was looking over her shoulder, terrified someone had overheard.

     “I wonder if I’ll get to meet her? That young girl, I mean. You know, on the other side of the Double Doors. I’d really like to know how high she got to fly before she fell.”

     The nurse said nothing. I didn’t envy her job.

     I was pondering the poor kid in that fateful moment, her last real moment of living, and how it must have been a spine-tingling juxtaposition of exhilarating and terrifying, when we stopped in front of the Double Doors. They were white, like the rest of this place, and there were no windows. “What do you think’s on the other side?”

     “I guess you’ll know soon enough,” said the nurse with practiced indifference.

     I sighed. I didn’t want to make a scene or cause the poor nurse stuck in a crap job any trouble, but it did occur to me that this was my life. My life! I pushed myself up and turned around with a vigor I hadn’t known in years.


About the author:

Chanacee Ruth-Killgore is a wife, pup wrangler, book lover and writer. She is author of the Alphabet Soup adventure-fantasy series for middle grade readers as well as a new cozy mystery series, Hart of the Smokies. Chanacee lives in East Tennessee with her husband, Michael, and their two wild pups, Wrigley and Arkkis Pond. You can find more about her on Facebook, Twitter or at www.chanacee.com.

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