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The Culling

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Landon flipped on the radio to catch the early morning news, as he did every day. He listened for the words that would mean it was time – the words “ribbon”, “siblings” and “love”. The local broadcaster droned on, unaware that she would, one day, read a code on the teleprompter that would let those in the program know it was time.

In other news, Jonny Prichard has won the first place ribbon for the largest pumpkin in Greenville County. His siblings, Joan and Jeff, won second and third places. In her interview, Joan noted, “We just love growing pumpkins!”

The news report went on but Landon flipped the radio off. It was time… Excitement rose in him but also fear. This would be the start of something new but he had to get there in time.

He looked at his girlfriend, still asleep in their bed. It was too bad she didn’t qualify for the program but he had told her from the beginning of their relationship, five years ago, that it wasn’t going to be a long-term thing. No time to say goodbye.

He grabbed his go bag, put his cat outside and walked out of his suburban house. He left the door unlocked. The cat looked up at him, confused, having never been outside before. But she’d have a better chance out here and he wasn’t coming back.

He got into his black Mercedes-Benz, backed out of the driveway and drove away without looking back. Only twenty minutes later, he was pulling into the complex. Everyone had to live within half an hour of the place in order to be eligible for the program. Landon had donated seven million dollars toward the construction of the secret facility. All participants were required to donate a large portion of their financial wealth to the program.

The heavily armed guards at the gate waved him through. He drove into the underground parking garage. The thickness of its door made him shudder. It was frightening to think that they would be shut in here for the rest of their lives. But it was worth it to preserve the human species. Everyone involved had been hand-selected. Only the most intelligent and the strongest would be saved.

They were told that the code words would only be broadcast on the news if nuclear disaster were imminent. America and the whole human race had been on a self-destruct course for years now. It was only a matter of time.

It had been seven years since he had been selected for the program. He had left his wife and two children because the director told him that she didn’t qualify. But it wouldn’t matter. In the program, a woman who was genetically suitable for him would be selected, and they would reproduce in a controlled manner, producing offspring who would repopulate the world, once the surface of the planet was safe again.

He parked in his spot, just as he had rehearsed during the practice drills. How did they would know that a nuclear strike was imminent? It seemed the world was always on the brink of war. But he was glad he had been worthy to be invited to this shelter. And this wasn’t the only shelter that had been constructed. There were one hundred others around the nation. In a way, this could be seen as a good thing. One day, America would be great again. The wheat was now being separated from the chaff.

As he walked down into the complex, he looked at the women. Not as hot as he had hoped and most of them were older. The corridors and staircases were narrow. They walked down, down, down to safety where they would be sealed in so the coming radiation wouldn’t harm them. Most of the people weren’t talking, expressions of fear on their faces.

“Coming through,” came a young female voice. A woman jogged past him down the stairs. He checked her out until she was out of view. Clearly, there were a few hotties. He would have to talk to the director about her. Maybe he could make an extra payment to influence the breeding selection process. When they reached the bottom of the stairs, there was a hand-written sign.

“Join us in the common area for food, drinks and the viewing of the end of the world.” Landon laughed. This was weird. The group moved together towards the common area. As he walked into the large room, he saw that chairs had been set up for everyone. A few people were sitting but most of the people were crowding around the large screen TV, watching the national news, rather than viewing it on the even larger screen on the wall.

Landon checked out the snack table first. They had things pretty well decked out – everything from raw oysters to pizza to deserts. This place was turning out even better than he had expected. Not only would he survive the coming apocalypse, he’d do it in style. He grabbed a plate of chips and a beer and joined the group at the front. He’d come back for more later.

They all watched the screen intently, waiting for the end to come. Currently, the reporters were going on about climate change. Landon laughed. One of the men beside him looked at him curiously.

“Little do they know how the climate is about to change,” Landon said loudly.

The people standing nearby snickered.

“They’re fools,” said a woman.

Landon turned to see the young woman from the stairwell. He nodded approvingly.

As they continued to watch the news, he wondered idly who was coordinating this attack… But ultimately it didn’t matter. America would be cleansed, ready to start anew. The worst of this country’s cancer would be cut away. He turned his focus back to the TV, waiting for the inevitable to happen.

The crowd had grown larger. He glanced around the room. The double doors were closed now. Everyone they were expecting must have arrived. He checked his watch. Yes, it was just over half an hour since the code words had played on the radio. The news broadcaster was sharing some happy, feel-good story. Could the program directors be wrong about war being imminent? Suddenly, he felt very tired and wanted to sit down. He took a few steps in the direction of the chairs before he collapsed on the floor.

***

In a news broadcast, a female reporter, looking grave, conveys a story on national news.

Some of the wealthiest and most influential people in America have been murdered today in an elaborate, nation-wide scheme. The victims were led to believe that a nuclear attack was imminent and were lured into underground bunkers where they were killed with the poisonous gas, carbon monoxide. The death toll has reached 16,000. As of this time, no one has come forward to claim this act of terror.

 

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