Dystopian Fiction Novel By, J. M. Lilin
“Keegan Jones! Belongs to the Stigma!”
The announcer yells this out as if there should be applause to follow. As if the crowd should be proud. His rough, withered hand grabs my wrist and lifts it into the air. As if I should be proud.
I wasn’t proud though. I didn’t feel any sort of victory. Only pure dread. The kind of dread that filled your stomach and covered your shoulders, as if to weigh you down and never let you get back up.
I hastily pull my arm back down while also keeping back the argue to also push the announcer away from me. I didn’t have time to show my disgust with the decision. The decision that was made for me. The crowd is cheering but I know that they only do this because they feel they need to. Most of them look down, unsure of how they should react.
My gaze searches the crowd. Only one person is on my mind. The people I know, the people I was close to, all look down. They grew up as part of the Altruistic and even when it came time to be chosen for their group, they still got categorized into Altruistic. Each of them look down, avoiding my gaze. They had expected me to be Altruistic.
Yet, I wasn’t and now they were afraid.
They didn’t know what else to feel about a boy from Altruistic who was abruptly known as a Stigma. At the moment, I couldn’t care less about what they thought. My dark eyes were searching for my father. Then I see him. He seemed startled but not disappointed. With his everywhere-hair and the scar he had across his face from a fishing hook, he could almost be seen as part of The Stigma, but he was nothing close.
My father was made from kindness. From patience. There was no hatred or selfishness that grew inside of him. No steely gazes that he kept for those he despised. No feelings of rebellion for orders that he didn’t agree with. My father only went for peace. For what he felt was truly right.
I was a villain though. I had just been categorized as part of the Stigma. My father’s green eyes meet mine and my chest burns as he gives me a look that is both sympathetic and encouraging. I force myself to look away as my legs somehow start walking and I go down the side of the stage that you went down only if you were put into the Stigma.
I knew what was going to happen next and I dreaded it. I was about to be branded. I would permanently be seen as a villain for the rest of my life. You got two black marks on your left arm, right above your wrist. They were just plain, black bracelet like brands. The Altruistic didn’t get a brand though.
Their skin was too precious for a brand. They were gentle and something as rough and dark as a brand could destroy that. I knew the brand wouldn’t only burn for the fiery heat of it. It would burn a mark into my heart forever.
How could the Altruistic ever forgive me? In a way, it was as if being categorized had already made me officially Stigma before I had even been branded. I had grown up beneath the wing of a man who was practically made from the pure goodness that humans held. Yet, there was still an unseen force inside me.
A force that told of rebellion. Past riots. What could destroy humans. Yet, it was the rules that there had to be both good and bad. To show the difference. To keep a difference. For if there was no difference, disorganization would break out in the different categories.
There would be no bad examples, and without bad examples, how could they do good? So, in a demented way, I suppose I was doing good right? By setting a bad example that the good wouldn’t want to follow? I shake my head in disgust, shaking the thoughts away as well.
The table is only about ten feet away from the stage and a crowd of Stigma’s are cheering as a boy gets his brand. The man in charge of giving the brand is bald, with a plain, unmemorable face. He brings the heated medal band up. I had forgotten to dread that part, the step where the man would hold the fiery medal against our skin for many seconds in which we had to hold completely still.
A mark that was burnt into your skin. A mark that could never get removed. A mark that showed who you were.
The boy stays frozen as the man, with protected hands, wraps the medal cuffs around the boy’s arm for what seems like forever. Then he pulls it away. I expect the boy to look upset. To lower his head and walk away before someone in the crowd, someone he knew, would see his new categorization but he doesn’t.
Instead, the boy looks at the two dark marks and then pumps both fists into the air with a lurid cry of triumph. Fists above his head, skin smoking, dark hair over his eyes, and the Stigma’s cheer for him. They already loved him. Some knew they were Stigma. Some were proud of it. Proud to rebel. Proud to make a change against what was considered normal.
Then it’s my turn. I step up to the man and he doesn’t even bother to look up. He simply sticks the medal bands back into the boiling black ink. I clench the table and my teeth as he brings it down and wraps it around my arms. It burns and I squirm, willing myself not to yell out as the boy before me hadn’t.
Then it’s over and I pull back from the man to look at this new part of me. The Stigma’s screams echo with the glory they felt for having a new member but all I hear is jeering. I turn, my skin burning, and without looking up, I follow the boy with black hair.
We walk straight through the pixelated door. That was another huge difference between the Stigma half of the world and the Altruistic. The Stigma side was all technology. The Altruistic side was all natural, wooden doors, soft beds, comfortable homes. The Stigma had technology that was unbelievable. The Stigma was considered immoral and corrupt for this. It was a fake. Anything that seemed real could be a lie.
Now, I was even wondering if there were fake people. All of the Stigma’s couldn’t be villains, right? I was now a Stigma and I knew I wasn’t bad…was I? Cold air bursts in my face and I have to restrain myself from shivering as a man wearing an anonymous mask pushes the group into a door.
As I pass by, his cold, hard hand grabs my shoulder and he roughly pushes my forward.
The door hisses shut as I stumble into a circular, silver room. There was no furniture except for two blue sofas and graffiti all over the silver walls, the biggest letters saying, “The Stigma Is Me.” I let out a breath and turn in time to watch the bigger boy with black hair sit down on the sofa, making it squeak an inch back. He was almost smiling as he linked his fingers behind his head. Almost.
Even though he was all tough and rough and the scent of burning skin and hair didn’t seem to bother him, I could see the quiet fear in his eyes. The fear that he might not survive the trials. Might not survive the harshness of those that had no concern for their own well-being. That he might not survive being a part of the Stigma. That he might not be resilient enough.
I knew I was afraid. More than afraid. I could feel my heart pounding against my chest and my insides churning like a carnival of concern.
A moment later, the pixelated door makes a humming noise and goes from the odd, light blue color to a dark red. Then there is a click. The door was locked. It takes several deep breaths to get oxygen flowing through my lungs again. I turn back to the bigger boy, but he just shrugs and looks back away as if it didn’t bother him.
There is a hiss from the other side of the room and another man enters. He has a scar that reminds me of my father, except, instead of one, he has multiple. The scar etches from his eye to his jaw and another from the top of his nose to his ear.
He has cold, grey slits for eyes. His hair is white with strips of purple and black through it. Along with his marks for a Stigma, he had tattoos of diamond shaped objects all the way up both arms. Piercings go up both his left and right ear. He grins and his teeth are pearly white with gold lining through each tooth. All I could think of when he looked at me was a snake.
“Keegan Jones. Didn’t expect to see you.”
I don’t say anything, and something flickers in his eyes. Frustration or disgust…I’m not sure. Whatever it was, it wasn’t considered kind nor patient. Nonetheless, he keeps up that smile that gleamed so bright that it seemed unreal. I have to force my gaze back to his eyes several times.
“You grew up under the government of the Altruistic, did you not?” the man drawls.
“Yes. He was my father,” I reply quietly. I dare a glance at the bigger boy with black hair, afraid he might use the conversation for his advantage later, but he doesn’t seem to be listening.
The man makes a satisfied humming noise. “Good boy. Was your father. That is correct. You are no longer Altruistic.”
I blink, trying not to show my disgust and in that split second, the man has approached me fully. Like a predator ready for something to devour, he inches his face close to mine. His grey eyes reflect the red from the door at my back, giving him an eerie look. He whispers, his voice like gravel, his breath hot against my ear.
“Keegan Jones. I will be watching you. Rebellion might be what drives us, but you have surprised many. You belong here now, and you better have that straight in your mind. You belong to the insane now.”
Eyes wide, I watch as he steps away. He grins at me and I shudder, wondering what thoughts could possibly be going through his head to make him smile. Then he laughs and I know there is no turning back now.
A laugh that proved insanity drove his motives. That no organization existed in his mind. That he was made of his own pure self with no control. It echoes through the medal room, bouncing off the wall in a manner that was haunting.
He shouts at the ceiling, “Welcome to the Stigma!”
This was the first chapter to a novel I had in an old folder. What did you think? Do you want more? Have suggestions? Questions? Let me know in the comments.
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