Claire had walked into her parent’s bedroom to find her mother standing in front of an empty wardrobe, the bed an array of coat hangers and clothes.
“I’m sorting them out into piles, that one over there,” She turned to point at a stack on the bed,
“That one is for you, these on the floor, you can take them to a charity, there is a dress or two I’ve hardly worn.” Something caught in her throat and she tried to clear it.
“Where are you going?” Claire had looked at her mother, a sudden queasiness rising from her stomach. Her mother smiled and held out her arms.
“Come here…” Her mother led her to the bed and grasped Claire’s hand, it felt clammy and hot.
“I do love you, never forget that will you?” She pulled her closer.
Claire had stared out of the big bay window facing the street. She saw a black van parked outside, the back doors opening, her mother glancing up before stepping inside. Claire was sure she’d been caught looking and guiltily ducked down. By the time she peered back up to take another look, the street was empty.
Her father was in the kitchen.
“Where has Mum gone, the van, why did she go into the van?” Claire waited for an answer, but her father remained with his back to her.
She returned to her parent’s bedroom and had stare despondently out of the window. Then she saw it. The black van had returned.
Claire ran down the stairs and out of the front door.
But she wasn’t alone on the street. A man from a neighbouring house now stood nervously on the pavement. He had turned back only once to stare at the woman in the doorway, a crying baby in her arms.
The doors of the van were open and without giving it much thought, Claire sprinted over and jumped inside, expecting to find her mum there. Instead were two empty benches but it wasn’t long till she was joined by the man. The pair of them sat opposite each other, and much to Claire’s horror the doors shut and they began to move.
“Do you know where we are going?” For the second time that day she didn’t get an answer.
He only made a sound when the van stopped and the back doors were opened, a prayer or a curse she couldn’t quite make out. The two men in suits looked at her, then at each other. They disappeared and then returned with a third man, identically dressed. He was silent but indicated for Claire to get out of the van and when she had stepped down, he took her firmly by the arm. She turned to say goodbye to her companion, but he had already been taken and she watched as he was marched in another direction.
Claire had little time to take in her surroundings, the suited man seemed in a great hurry. There was a maze of corridors that led to nowhere, doors that remained shut. It reminded her of a hospital, there was something in the air, that uneasy quiet that seemed to go hand in hand with illness. The suited man’s tense knock on the last remaining door made Claire wonder what terrors lay behind it.
She had not expected the old man who smiled at her warmly.
“Please sit down… it is Claire isn’t it?” He indicated to a comfortable looking chair.
“I just need to see my Mum… is she here?” Claire’s legs felt like jelly, she was fighting back tears.
“Please Claire, come now… sit.” He continued to smile, but there was something about it that had changed now, a nervous twitch attacked his right eyelid.
“Well this is not quite… regular.” He quickly turned to the computer sitting on his desk, his fingers moving swiftly over the keyboard.
“Claire, your mother… ah yes Jane Clarke, due 13th March.”
“I don’t understand… is she here?” Claire lent so far forward she almost threatened to fall off her chair.
“Yes, in some sense she is… I’m afraid I need to explain…” He stood up now, arms folded, paced the room muttering to himself and then suddenly stood in front of her.
“You see Claire, the world, our world is overpopulated… people… there are too many of them…” He gave a little chuckle, but his face quickly fell back into seriousness when she continued to stare at him.
“It was the previous government who made this momentous decision to have a referendum on well, let us call it a culling on our population… and the public, you decided in favour of it.” He clapped his hands making Claire jump.
“You see Claire, civilisation has been growing at an alarming rate, we have to thank those great men, and women of science who have made it possible for us, the human being to live a life longer than nature quite intended.” He studied her for a moment.
“So, it happens every year, a computer-generated program…” He grimaced.
“All random of course, it was created by a very clever young man who ironically was our first…” He laughed nervously.
“Once you were old enough Claire, you would have become aware, been told…” He smiled.
“My mum… what have you done to her…” Claire had stood up, her hands clenched into fists. He approached her slowly.
“We can’t carry on like this, our numbers expanding, it has to stop…” His expression was stern now, a face to be afraid of.
“Death Claire, none of us can escape it, it is the only one true thing we can rely on, the one thing that makes us equal… your mother, she isn’t coming back…”
“I don’t believe you… I won’t…” She got up and lunged at him, taking the lapels of his smart suit and crushing them in her fists. The man didn’t struggle at first, it had taken him by surprise and he stared at her confused.
And then the door opened, and two suited men walked quickly in, both taking an arm each, too strong for Claire to fight against, though she did, even when they pulled her away. They paused for only a moment, looked up to the flustered man in front of them.
“Take her straight to room sixteen.” He walked up to her slowly, ran his hand over her cheek.
“My Dad… he’ll be looking for me…” Claire whined.
“He’ll be informed Claire; he’ll know you won’t be coming back.” He watched her as the two other men dragged her away, listened to her cries that trailed up the corridor.
When it had become silent, he sat and stared at the face on the computer screen. He suddenly remembered what his mother had once said, when his own father had died, ‘Samuel my boy, just think of it as those you love being in another room, that is all, not far away’. He thought of room sixteen and that young woman, of the other rooms in the termination block. He smiled and wrote it down, he did not want to forget it.
I’ve been creating since I was a child, but got the writing bug at eighteen, inspired by my love of gothic fiction and ghost stories. I am a writer of dark fiction, or tales that have a twist and usually it isn’t a pleasant one. I have lived in the midlands for most of my life and in the day work as a administrator which fuels my macabre scribbles at night.
Twitter: TR Hitchman (@TRHitchman) on Twitter