Wednesday, December 7, 2011


Picture taken from, courtesy of The Internet. Image is of the Capitol from the trailer of the upcoming The Hunger Games movie.
November is National Novel-Writing Month, in which writers from all walks of life and from all around the globe take on the self-imposed challenge of writing 50,000 words in 30 days. This year was my first year participating (along with the rest of my Creative Writing class), and I am pleased to report that I succeeded! It was an incredible adventure, and even though the book has not been polished yet, I feel like sharing an excerpt with you all.

The Machine known as the Omniscience, or the Omni for short, was created to calculate a person's every need and choose a path for his or her life that not only ensures maximum happiness for the individual, but for society as well. At the age of eighteen, every citizen is obligated to be tested and analyzed by the Machine for a week. The Omni determines one's occupation, social class, probable income, and even location, and is an essential ingredient for a functioning society. But over the last two years, something has been going wrong with the Machine. Matches have been made that are so far off the mark as to seem ridiculous. Teenagers have disappeared--or worse, been found dead--inside. Others have been psychologically scarred beyond repair, so severely that they can't even function.
It's Lilah Ellerby's eighteenth birthday.
The city of Edgerton was the mechanical capital of the world, and this fact was quite obvious to everyone who saw it. Large computers the size of office buildings dominated the skyline, and even the normal buildings shone with a copper color that made them look like machines. Smokestacks—utterly anachronistic, as steam and smoke hadn't been used for centuries—proudly stood on the tops of buildings. Patterns of gears interlaced with ornately-styled ones and zeroes embossed the stair rails.
Lilah hated it. It wasn't that she wasn't used to machines—in fact, practically her entire upbringing had been centered around them. They were a staple of society. Without them, everything would grind to a halt. It wasn't even the concept of machines dominating her life. It was just that one had struck a blow to her family that could never be recovered from. That wasn't something Lilah was going to forgive easily.
After a few minutes, the car stopped and the eighteen-year-olds inside got their first look at the Omniscience up close. It was the same golden hue as the rest of the Machines, though that was mostly for show. The metal was smooth and undented—the city must have a round-the-clock cleaning crew to keep it this pristine, Lilah thought with a slight bitterness. The entire Machine took up roughly the size of two city blocks.
“The whirring sounds are much louder up close,” she commented.
“Oh, don't worry,” said the attendant. “Once you get in, you won't be able to hear a thing. The Omni likes it quiet so that your brain waves won't be disturbed. Unless, of course, it is that you like the noise. If so, the Omni will take that into consideration.” Her tone resembled that of a tour guide's. “It's a very intelligent Machine, you know. Learns faster than any human possibly could.”
“Of course.” Lilah had heard that particular piece of information more than enough times.
“Follow me, folks!” The attendant turned and began walking towards a large glass door labeled “Launch Station #3”. The teenagers followed, some shaking nervously, some fingering their tools and communication devices.
They walked into a large lobby with much the same design scheme as the exterior and waited as the attendant checked in with the receptionist. A few bells dinged and a teenaged boy with scraggly black hair and wild eyes stumbled out of a nearby hallway. His clothes were disheveled. As he caught Lilah's eyes he opened his mouth as if to speak, but no sound came out except that of his heavy, panicked breath. One of the attendants rushed over to help him as the boy began to mutter under his breath, nonsensical words of which Lilah could only catch a few. “'s too dark... too dark... where are they hiding?... where are they coming from?... hide hide hide... dark... too dark... why why why... are they coming? Are they coming? Are they-” The members of the group exchanged worried glances.
The receptionist handed their group's attendant a clipboard and directed them all to walk down the hallway that the distraught boy had come from, which had a sign that marked it as the “Entrance Hall”. When they reached it, they found themselves staring at a line of uniform transparent elevators with large numbers etched on the doors.
The attendant pursed her lips and turned to her charges. “Look, I'm not going to pretend this isn't scary. This is probably the most dangerous time to be in the Omni. Ever. But just—be strong. The chances are that nothing too terrible will happen. And if they do, you're prepared. You are almost mature, responsible adults, and you still have the vigor of youth. You'll find a way to overcome any challenge you can face in there.” She smiled a bit, obviously proud of her little speech. She clapped her hands together. “So go! Have fun! The Omni is designed to make you happy, whatever that may be!” She glanced at the first name on her list. “Jonathan Edison, you're in Elevator One. Melanie Edwards, Two. Lilah Ellerby, Three. Adam Emerson...”
Lilah very hesitantly slid open the door to her elevator and stepped in. Whose bright idea was it to make the elevators see-through?
Once everyone was loaded in, the attendant relayed the instructions from the other side of the doors. “When you're ready, press the red button. There will be a wait to see if the room is available. If it is, the square button to the right will light up in green. Press it to go up into the Machine. If it lights up in red, get out of the elevator and come see me; we'll assign you another room. Anytime you're ready!”
Lilah took in a deep breath and closed her eyes. Sure, she was afraid. But this was just something she was going to have to face. Slowly, her hazel eyes opened and her finger slammed against the red button. Almost immediately, the green button lit up. She pressed it quickly, so that she wouldn't have the time to talk herself out of it.
The elevator lurched upwards at a seemingly impossible speed, propelling Lilah into the inner workings of the Machine known as the Omniscience. She held her breath, knowing that her life would be forever changed by this moment, one way or another.
Panic began to really set in. What if everything went wrong? What if she disappeared, just like Anna? What if she got trapped inside of the Omni forever?
Still the elevator continued upwards. Up, up, and away.

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