“It’s impolite to ask, you know that,” Ellie said as Madison moved into the elevator with her. The two girls were oblivious to the third in the glass cylinder with them. “You’re not supposed to question strangers about their date.”
“He’s hardly a stranger!” Madison said with a guffaw. “You’ve been pushing him onto me for the past three weeks, I practically know everything there is to know about him!”
“But not his ‘date’,” Ellie smirked. She adjusted her hands so that her clutch purse was tucked under one arm and her phone was held up compact mirror style before her face. She glanced over her shoulder and made eye contact with the strange girl she and her friend had failed to notice before. With a shrug, Ellie ignored the person and continued to fuss with her perfect face.
“I would think it’s an important question to ask. What if I were to get attached to someone whose date was coming up? Do you really want to see me heart broken?”
Ellie shook her head and tucked her phone into her bag, then turned. She puckered her own lips, a motion Madison mimicked instinctively. Satisfied that her lip shine was perfectly in place, Ellie smiled just as the elevator doors opened.
“All I’m saying is that it’s impolite. If you want to know someone’s date, you must wait until they bring it up, or you might put them off. You truly can’t afford to miss out on prime candidates just because of a slip up.”
The third girl watched as the other two moved out of the glass elevator. Ellie turned her head to glance over her bare shoulder, acknowledging the other they were leaving behind.
“Social faux pas can result in you ending up at the bottom of the food chain. And I understand that is a very lonely place. Very hard to get out of, to get…away from…”
The woman’s point was made, and her companion practically chortled at her subtle cruelty towards the lesser person they had ridden up the last ten floors with. As the sounds of their wicked mirth drifted away, the third person in the elevator was left alone.
She wasn’t hurt by their behaviour. In fact, it only made her smile all the more. Of course, her smile was subdued at best. She had a tendency to blend in and fade away without being too obvious about camouflaging in plain sight.
Her name was Marou. She had a propensity to shrink and hunch, and she liked looking small. She had no desire to be seen. And that was because Marou had a secret she wanted to keep from everyone around her. It wouldn’t do to be seen, to flaunt herself about like the other two women had been doing. She wanted to be exactly as she was, a shadow in the eyes of others, someone on the outside that was worth ignoring. She was a poster child for ‘what to do if you wanted to be forgotten’. Her style was simple, with her dark locks tucked under a large hooded sweater, flat soled boots that gave no lift, and dark heavy pants that were somewhat reflective but only enough to keep her from being run over by the nighttime robo cleaners on the lower streets.
Marou was forgettable. She liked it that way. The more she saw of the betters of the world, the more gratitude she had for being easily forgotten. She blended in with the cleaners and the servants and the trash grabbers, the people others looked down upon only if they absolutely had to notice them at all.
With a sigh of relief at the pleasure of being alone again, Marou turned back around to face the glass of the rising cylinder. The elevator was on the outside of the building it was climbing, and from here she could see the people below scurrying about like mice or ants. The further up she went, the smaller they became. And so too did their worries and their strife. They didn’t know Marou’s secret, and they never would.
When the lift finally came to the very topmost floor, it opened its doors to the young woman, and she slid out like a wisp of darkly coloured smoke. Moving down an unlit hallway, she made for a door marked ‘Roof’. She was now on the rooftop of one of the highest buildings in the city. Marou spread her arms out to her sides and walked to the roof’s edge. Then, fearlessly, she stepped up on top of the half wall that wound around the building for safety’s sake. Marou breathed in deeply and closed her eyes, then crossed her arms over her chest and turned her back to the city. She let herself fall backwards, prepared to plumet to the darkness below – if that were indeed her fate.
But she knew it wasn’t. As she turned and fell, someone cried out in dismay. She felt hands grip her tightly and draw her back in from the edge. There was a huge smile on Marou’s lips as she opened her eyes and looked into the gaze of a strange young man panting with panic as he stared at her.
Everyone in Marou’s world was born knowing the day they would die. The world based their society on and around the fact that when you were born, you knew when you were going to die. People didn’t know how they would die, so they would end things peacefully in luxury at public Release Centres. It was the only time that the rich and poor mingled and treated each other equally, with kindness and gratitude and understanding.
But Marou had a secret. She, like everyone else, had known her date. Then her date had come. And then it had passed. And Marou hadn’t died.
Either the world’s entire civilization had gotten it wrong, and people were killing themselves for no reason at all…or Marou couldn’t die!
((Word count - 1000! Exactly! Directly inspired by a word prompt for flash fiction from a website))