I eat dinner in my apartment alone, knowing that tonight Calix is planning to visit his brother. I change into a fresh set of robes and then start the short walk to building sixteen where the infamous Satisfaction Room is housed. When I’m just a few buildings away, I see a long line twisting from sixteen’s front door around the side of the building. There must be two hundred people all waiting for whatever is inside. I contemplate turning around, wondering how they’ll possibly get through the line before people have to be at work in another twelve hours. But a shout stops me in my tracks.
“Alicen!” It’s the registrar from months ago when Griffin and I first arrived in Mid. This time he isn’t looking down his nose at me. In fact, he’s standing by the Satisfaction Room’s front door, beckoning me over with large waves of his hand.
I step through the crowd, which passively parts for me.
“So you’ve come at last,” he says.
I turn to my left to look at the people around me. They don’t seem interested in our conversation. They just stare ahead, slightly swaying on their feet from standing in line so long.
“Sorry,” I say. “I didn’t know it was a requirement.” Sarcasm, learned from Calix, drips off my tongue easily.
The registrar chuckles. “It’s not, but we keep tallies of who’s been in.”
I scrunch my brow. “I’m sure you do.”
“The Elected asked me to specifically watch for you. Wanted to know when you’d been here.”
I almost slink off then and there. I hate being scrutinized like this. But another part of me wants to see what’s inside and why Calix wants to know when I tried it.
I snort. “Well, you can tell him I’ve come tonight. I’ll just take my place in the line, if you’ll excuse me.”
“No, no. You don’t have to wait in line. Come in.” He opens the front door and gestures grandly with one arm extended.
I look again at the people who I’m supposed to be passing in line. No one seems bothered that they’ve waited for two hours and I am about to sidestep them all. I follow the register through the glass doors and into the almost black interior of building sixteen. My eyes have trouble adjusting to the lack of light. All I see are red lights on the floor leading us down a corridor.
“Just through here,” says the registrar. “Since this is your first time, I’ll go inside with you and explain the process.”
I shiver, but he can’t see my nervousness in the darkness. I follow the registrar obediently, passing by a few rooms. I hear nothing coming from within and ask if anyone else is here.
“We have five other rooms all going at once. Soundproof walls. You won’t have to worry about a thing. Complete privacy.”
I almost snort out loud again. Privacy. Yeah, right. The surveillance team is probably jotting down everything that happens in these rooms.
“What kind of place is this?” I finally ask when we’re standing outside of a shut door at the very end of the hallway.
The registrar doesn’t laugh this time or tell me it’s a stupid question. “Beyond that door you’ll be able to choose whatever physical satisfaction your body requires. Anything you need to get your physical needs out of the way in a timely manner without any messy talking or emotional attachment. So you can get back to work feeling refreshed.” My eyes open wider, but the registrar doesn’t notice. “You can have any pleasure from your wildest imagination.” He opens the door, and the room is a stark contrast to the dark corridor. It’s a gleaming white box with nothing inside except a large monitor and a touchscreen. “Here we are,” says the registrar, guiding me toward the equipment.
I look at the blank screen, trying to discern how it’s supposed to work when the register reaches down, flips a switch, and the monitor revs to life. The screen beams out a yellow background with the word SATISFACTION across its face in black.
The registrar types in his code and the one-word image is replaced with a series of questions. “Just read these and fill out your answers by touching the keys you see on the screen. You can write in answers or if you can’t think of something you’d like, just use the drop down boxes for ideas.”
I stare at the screen and look back up at the registrar.
He smiles at me indulgently. “Take as long as you like. First-timers are allowed an extra hour.” He starts to walk out, and all of a sudden I’m nervous to be left alone in the eerie white room.
“Wait!” I call. “What if I don’t want to choose anything?”
The registrar laughs, but it’s not condescending, just assured. “Oh, you will.”
Then he turns on his heel and the door clicks shut behind him. I am alone. I run to the room’s entrance to see if the door locked me in. It opens easily, though, and I breathe a sigh that I’m not a prisoner here. I slowly walk back to the glowing screen and look down at the first question.
Do you like men or women or both?
I cough out loud, embarrassed already by the first line. Uneasily, I put my fingertip out to choose an answer and then stop. It’s funny how just a year ago I wouldn’t have known how to answer this question. Now as I place my finger on “men”, I’m surprised how easy it is to respond. I still don’t understand what will exactly transpire in the Satisfaction Room or how it’ll be accomplished without another human being, but I keep proceeding through the process.
How would you like to be touched?
I have no idea how to answer this question. I don’t even know what would be sufficient. One word? A whole paragraph of explanation? It’s such a convoluted question for me, I almost laugh out loud. If I write “I’d like a hug from my mom,” I wonder what would happen. Instead I punch the key for the drop down box and turn a deep shade of red as I’m allowed to check as many of the options as I want. The options range from things like, ‘Tickle my feet.’ to ‘Tie me up and spank me.’ I punch in four of the answers and then press enter.
Describe your ideal romantic atmosphere.
For this question I decide not to pick from a drop down list but write in the answer myself. A forest completely surrounded by trees. An open space within the pine trees with soft needles under our feet. A warm evening, but not humid, with a crescent moon in the sky for light.
I press enter and am rewarded when the room around me is transformed into the very images I just described. The walls become vibrant green pictures of a forest. Sounds of birds chirping and owls hooting quietly leak from hidden speakers. The scents of pine and cedar hit my nose. The only things they haven’t been able to create are the pine needles. But fake plastic grass shoots up from the floor in front of me as if it’s been growing there the whole time. I look down at the screen again.
What color hair would you like your suitor to have?
I choose “dark brown” from the drop down box.
I look at the suggestions and click “straight”.
I type in “brown the color of maple syrup.”
Body build type?
At this, I feel a chill run down my spine, but I keep staring at the screen to type in “Tall. Lanky. Wiry muscles. Strong enough to wrestle a wolf and win.” I smile at my last written words, remembering the lone wolf we had in East Country’s animal sanctuary.
After a dozen more questions, some of which send my knees shaking, the screen returns to a yellow background. It now reads, “Please wait while your robot is created.”
I twirl a piece of my hair with two fingers, squeezing my lips together. So this is it then. They can make robots look exactly how we want, and the robots will please us exactly how we wish. I bite off all of the nails on my left hand as I wait.
Finally, an almost invisible door opens in the far right corner of the room. My robot glides forward, long legs, dark brown unruly hair, and a crooked smile.
“Pleased to meet you, Alicen. You look lovely tonight.”
I bow my head, surprise and a touch of shame causing my cheeks to tingle. Without knowing it, I’ve made my robot look almost exactly like Griffin.
East Country upheld the laws. Mid destroyed them.
In the year 2185 Earth is rebuilding after a global eco-crisis. Countries maintain complete isolation so there is no warfare over scarce resources. One Elected family is chosen to lead each country for 100 years to ensure stability. Women aren't allowed to take office and must reproduce at all costs. Technology use of any kind is banned to preserve what's left of the environment.
And yet, I'm my country's Elected. I've just sanctioned technology use to ready us for war. I'm about to cross the border to spy on our neighbor. And...I'm a girl. Shhhhhh.....
Rori Shay is a strategic management consultant living in the Seattle area with her family, black lab, and cat. In the writing world, Rori is primarily know for her science fiction trilogy, The Elected Series. She enjoys running, reading, snow-shoeing, pumpkin-picking, and right now…writing the third ELECTED novel! Rori is also a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI).
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