“One life will make the difference.” Macey Holsinger has been hearing that promise her whole life. But it hasn’t saved anyone yet, not even her little brother.
The disease has claimed countless lives in the last hundred years, and the government is working hard to find a cure through human testing. Testing that has killed nearly as many people as the disease.
At sixteen, Macey has better things to think about than saving lives and submitting to any rule other than her parents’. As a budding artist, she has her whole life ahead of her, at least until she faces her own testing.
Questions plague Macey. Questions that make everyone else nervous. How can death be justified with more death? What’s the point of all this?
Answers evade her until she’s left with only one question: How much will she sacrifice in the name of the cure?
By eight, the party was in full swing. I was standing at a table near the dance
floor watching the fun when a group of girls from school converged on me.
“Hey, Macey, so what time do you get your date?” Ariel
I was trying not to think about it. I glanced at my watch. “8:23.”
She looked at one of the other girls. “When I got my date I was a wreck. But the message is actually pretty cool. Once it was over, I wondered what I was so
worked up about.”
I knew she was trying to reassure me, but it wasn’t
helping. One of the other girls,
Hannidy, piped up. “What was the message
like?” she asked. She was still a few
months away from getting her date and clearly wasn’t comforted by Ariel’s
“Oh, it was neat.
One of those immersion holograms, ya know? The speaker was in the mountains, and I swear
I could smell the cool, crisp air when the breeze blew across this field of
wild flowers and over a glacial pond. I
don’t even know if places like that still exist, but it was exactly where I
wanted to be.”
“And what did the speaker say?” Hannidy persisted.
“Well, not much to be honest. Just congratulating me on reaching an age
where I could contribute to the greater good, announced my date, and that was
it. All told, I think it was only about
two minutes long.”
I turned to one of the girls, who was nodding. She’d already gotten her date as well. “Was it the same for you, Charlotte?”
much. Mine wasn’t in the mountains
though. Mine was in the most luxurious
lobby I’d ever seen. Crystal
chandeliers, stained glass windows, giant marble columns, it was gorgeous. It looked like some place that demanded grand
dresses and dancing.” She smiled as she
recalled the image. I hoped I could look
back on my message with such fondness, and not as the death sentence it might
turn out to be.
At 8:23 p.m., Rosie interrupted the party. The music went quiet, and all games
paused. “An incoming message from the
Facility for Macey.”
My parents gathered around me, and Alex appeared out of
nowhere. “Would you like to see it down
here or upstairs?”
I looked at all my friends. Some of them looked nervous, but most of them
nodded encouragement at me. “I guess we
can watch it down here. Rosie, go ahead
I was surrounded by an image of the beach. Ariel was right. I could just about smell the salt air. Sea gulls screeched and swooped low over the
waves, and sand pipers darted in and out of the surf. I turned around and dunes stretched for miles
in either direction. The hologram was
like nothing I’d ever seen before. It
was so real, and slightly unnerving.
Although I knew my parents and Alex were there watching
it with me, I was alone on the beach, save for a woman standing a short
distance from me. The hologram was made
to be a complete experience for each person, so everyone watching had the same
experience. I was the only one that was
alone, though. Everyone else could see
me and the woman but no one else at the party.
“Hello, Macey.” she said. She was dressed in a dark suit, her bobbed
brown hair blowing in the ocean breeze.
She looked weird in the surroundings.
Out of place. I didn’t want her
here, spoiling it.
I didn’t respond to her. It was just a hologram, not meant to be
interactive. She continued without
noticing. “As you know, I’m here to
deliver your date. First of all, we at
the Facility would like to congratulate you on reaching an age where you can
fulfill the vows you’ve been making since you were five years old and become a
vital part of finding a cure to the disease.”
She paused and looked sympathetically at me. It was odd.
How did they know where I’d be standing, and how could they program her
to do that? I glanced left and right but
couldn’t see my parents. I felt someone
grab my hand, but when I looked down, no one was there. It squeezed, and I squeezed back.
“Now, your date is very special.” Was this normal? Why was my date special? “It’s the first of its kind.” I narrowed my eyes and watched the hologram
skeptically. It didn’t sound good. “Due to an overwhelming need, the Facility
has had to change its experimentation policies and date assignments moving forward. Macey, you are the first to receive a date
that precedes your twentieth birthday.”
I gasped in horror.
“Your date is June 30, 2115.”
She let it hang there for a second. “The Facility thanks you for your
contribution, and we look forward to meeting you in person.”
The image dissolved, and I was left in the basement
with the shock of knowing I had only two years until my date.
A low murmur passed over my group of friends. I frantically looked from face to face,
looking for conformation that I’d simply misheard. Pleading silently with someone to tell me
she’d said 2117 and not 2115, they all stared back at me with the same shock I
imagined was on my face, and a few of them had sympathetic, “better you than
My legs started to tremble. Alex reached out for me and guided me to the
nearest couch. My parents followed, my
mom leaning heavily on Dad. The guests
parted for us and went back to the party, trying to give us our moment.
I looked over at Alex, who’d settled next to me on the
couch. “Well, maybe it wasn’t such a
good idea to watch the message down here.”
I smiled weakly, trying to lighten the mood. Two years.
That was only a few months after Alex’s date and would be right after I
graduated from school. If I died during
the experiments, I wouldn’t have the opportunity to get rejected by art schools
because I was too much of a loose cannon.
“It’s a mistake, right?
A glitch in the message? Who can
we contact at the Facility to get her actual date?” My mom asked, grasping at
even the tiniest hope.
My dad sprang into action. “Rosie, can you please display the latest
There on the glass coffee table in front of us were all
the headlines of the day. At the top,
was the most damning one of all, time stamped from thirty seconds ago.
FACILITY CHANGES DATING POLICY.
Dad tapped that headline, and the article opened.
overwhelming need for more volunteers, the Facility has altered its dating
policy moving forward. All new dates
will be assigned after the receiver’s eighteenth birthday, not their twentieth. The first to receive their new date was Macey
Holsinger, who was assigned June 30, 2115.
The teen will be eighteen years and three months old for her first
representative issued this statement:
“We want to thank
all new volunteers. We hope the young
blood will be the key to finding the cure that much faster.”
Dad closed the article before the rest of us could
finish reading it. “My baby,” Mom
whispered. Dad turned and held her in
his arms. She looked at me over his
shoulder, too horrified to summon even a single tear.
Let's see. What do you want to know about me? I love apocalypse movies like 2012 (which is probably why my first book is sort of apocalyptic), I love to read, I love my fur babies, my husband and my family.
I'm a graphic designer by trade, but hoping to some day be able to write full time.
Dan, my husband, and I are brand new parents and loving life!
As far as writing goes, The Blackout was my first published novel, but I've been writing for quite awhile. I won honorable mention in the 72nd Annual Writer's Digest Competition for a short story junior year of college, so that was...awhile ago anyway. Although I published a scholarly paper senior year, fiction writing has always been my passion. Can't wait to see what's next!