Chapter One


I watched the ceiling panels in all their dirt and grime glory. The ketchup, or was it blood stain, oozing from the right-most corner caught my attention. In my boredom I tried to spit a wad of mucus at it. Just as I was about to go for that giant heave, this scary woman with red hair sneered at me. I choked instead and had a coughing fit.

Scary made this "hmmpt" noise and moved to the other side of the room. I wiggled my legs apart sexily, then spit flem all over the floor in front of us. The poor woman couldn't get away. Her eyes teared up and she covered her face with her veiny hands. I couldn't control myself, and honestly I didn't want to. I disliked her on the simple basis that she had come to sit in this waiting room voluntarily.

Instead of antagonizing her, I just sat there, legs spread lazily, looking her up and down with disgust and rolling my eyes for effect. She sneered again, and grabbed an 'easy conception' magazine off the rack.

I sloshed the mucus up with my shoe, soaking it into the ugly granite tile. The floor looked like it hadn't been swept since the tile was laid. Since the janitor's strike you couldn't even find a clean floor in these damn government buildings. With nothing else to do, I had spent the last two hours inspecting each crack.

I crossed my arms and made a clicking noise with my tongue. Scary was effectively ignoring me like a mature adult. I was eventually forced to stop, because annoying someone isn't any fun when they ignore you. Instead I observed her from my seat. The run down clothing, the wild red hair, and a purse made of hide all screamed, cowhand.

We both looked up at the same noise, hoping that someone had emerged from the office, to explain what was happening with our breed pleas. It was not a Tec however, but a girl my age, a mandatory. She was wearing the ugliest, blue and orange pants I'd ever seen with flared bottoms, and a white shirt that read in large pink lettering, " This is perfection."

I laughed to myself, and turned away slouching down into my plastic chair. She was the reason these stupid 'breeding' programs had to be started in the first place. Not intelligent enough to keep a marriage together or to get out when asshole starts beating your face.

I looked down at my own clothing. I couldn't exactly be called fashionable. My clothing consisted mostly of hand-me downs from big sister Celeste and the cousins. Today I was wearing a pink and orange striped wool skirt and a plastic jacket, both which had been out of style for decades. I had dressed for comfort. It was winter out there and I would rather be warm than stylish. I began to wonder what they would think of me.

My thoughts were derailed at the sound of the badly-dressed girl's nasally voice breaking threw the silence.

"Absolutely, not!" She protested looking at the printout she had just been given. Her hand flailed wildly around as she tried to convey the necessity of it being incorrect to the lab coat standing beside her.

"This is, really, impossible. I can't… I mean… I won't" She argued, stumbling over her words, looking up indignantly at the Tec.

The young female doctor looked as if she had suspected this response from the girl with the ugly clothes and took a step back. She opened her mouth a couple times to say something, but no words came out.

"I'm sorry, but it's the law." she finally managed.

Despite the gnarly fashion sense, I felt bad for the girl. Being a mandatory was bad enough, but being forced into marriage as punishment, was a lot worse.

Eventually, she composed herself, apologized to the Tec and quietly left the waiting room. I watched her go and then turned to glare once again at Scary. She shifted her legs and faced the reception desk, magazine in hand.

My explanation for my rudeness is that I'm bitter. I'm very, very bitter. Who in their right mind would come here willingly, when other's lives are destroyed because of it? How can Scary sit back and watch us mandatorys dwindle and squirm?

I shifted my legs nervously and tried to check whether my deodorant was working. It wasn't. I slid over in the chair and leaned against the wall. A few seconds later, after I had successfully fallen asleep, a huge looming shadow and the stink of a hundred beasts woke me.

I looked up into the pale, lifeless eyes of a cruel and ruthless monster, otherwise to be known as my 'fertility-advisor.'

It reminded me of all the government commercials, where they lie to your face and tell you it's all going to be okay, you're an 'American.' Put on a happy face, everything's okay because you're a proud American Woman. Patriotism will see you through the pain. It's your duty to have sex with some guy you don't know, and probably want to shoot in the face.

All lies, lies and more lies. I knew that for sure now, because I was actually standing there in the dirty room, looking at the woman who was supposed to lead me on my wonderful journey.

She wasn't pretty like was advertised and guaranteed. She didn't have shiny black hair or a gorgeous smile. She didn't even want to shake my hand, and thank me for being a guinea pig and following the law, when I should have just skipped town for Canada. Her face was crude, all business, lips purse into a thin line. She had seen a million eighteen-year old girls just like me. To her we're like robo-girls, not humans. We don't have any more personality than our fertility count allows us.

She's tired, just wants to break for lunch; I can see it in her glassy eyes. She looked ravenous with hunger, twirling that cheeseburger with extra large fries in tantalizing circles in her mind's eye. It's very thought, made her mouth drip with saliva. She just wanted to match me up and push me through the system. I'm was so fucking scared.

"Margaret Zeller."

I slid way down in my chair. It's not like I really thought I'd go invisible and that she wouldn't see me, but at the time it seemed like the low profile might help.

The fat, stinky woman stood over me. She looked down into my face wincing grotesquely like I was a pile of crap that she was preparing to scoop up or something. I returned the look.

"Margaret Zeller?" she countered.

I tried my best to be polite and not turn away, but this woman's breath was bad. The worst I've ever encountered.

"Uh huh." I squeaked in reply.

Ugly's face was inches from mine. I didn't want to breathe for fear of dying from the smell. So I just sat there staring at her pimpled face dumbly, no idea how to respond.

Out of the corner of my eye I could see Scary and I could tell she just desperately wanted to be in on our little get-together. She practically cut off her ear and threw it over to us so she could hear. I wanted to call out and invite her to take my place, but I didn't think Ugly would like that too much.

"Come with me." She snarled.

I slinked up out of my chair and took a last glance around the room, and at my freedom.

I started walking slowly, kind of sideways, not really wanting to give my life up. I heard that woman's voice in my ear again saying my name. I turned around to complain, but stopped in my tracks cause there it was, the blue door. The blue door, the legendary blue door.

The one all my friends had told me about, and my cousins and my aunts and my mom. Though sometimes the doors are green or gray, but never red or pink; all of these important things were explained to us in the standardized Marriage and Sex education videos in junior high school.

They explain all the important adult information, the door you pass through, and the tests that you will be taking in order to match you with a compatible spouse. It's all really stupid. All it is, is the door you pass through into the matchmaking chamber but still, everyone always makes it sound so cryptic, like some right of passage. I guess it is, and here I am. I would really, really like to go back now.

Ugly is looking at me again. It really creeps me out. It's so expectant. I mean what does she really expect from me? She's supposed to be doing the explaining. I don't know anything.



"Zeller." Great she didn't even know my name; she had to check the list. What can she possibly want now? How long can this take? I have other things to do.

"Miss. Zeller, are you with me?"

"Uh huh."

"You are to bring all your things with you. You won't be back in the lobby area."


I had completely spaced it. I was so embarrassed, everyone in the lobby, which was only Scary and one other person was listening intently to my blunder, but still.

I ran back and grabbed my coat and purse. As I was exiting once more, Scary shocked us all and spoke.

"What a beautiful purse you have there missy."

I back stepped, "Umm, thanks. My mom made it for me. It's hand-crocheted."

What else was there to say? It was the ugliest purse I'd ever seen in the entirety of my life. It was the kind of homemade purse you have to keep around for at least a week before you pretend you lost it. I was still within the dimensions of that week. For a moment there, I thought about giving it to her. But mother would have had a milk cow. So instead I smiled and followed Ugly.

So right, I went in through this security area, and she made me sit down and fill out all these forms just like in the doctor's office. It's nothing special at all, just hours of papers that I probably should have read before signing. The writing was so tiny though, and I had forgotten my reading glasses. I mean, whatever, it can't have been that important.

So then the ugly chick, she's all like, "It's time to put you on the computer now."

And I, I was like, "What?"

I had been lead to believe that the "Matchmaker" was like this all-world dating game or something. I guess that's stupid, because it's impossible, but I was really bummed. It's funny, because I really don't know all that much about one of the most notable and important American systems of government.

The only things I really did know about the Matchmaking database were what they had briefly taught us in government class. And, most of what they told us what secretive they liked to keep all of it.

However it's common knowledge that most every citizen on the continents of Europe, Australia, most of Asia, parts of Africa and the United States are plugged into the MM database with a special ID number. When you turn 18; become a legal adult, you finally get to go to the marriage office and find out who your mate is. It's of course the MM program that will tell you who that person is, and they could be from anywhere around the globe, though usually it's someone from your own town.

For example, my sister Celeste: her soul mate ended up being a neighbor boy she'd had a crush on since she was six. He felt the same way, and now their happy. That's what usually happens. Your printout reads someone you already know and like, and always someone your own age. But once in awhile, a person will get a cryptic reading.

They call those people wait-listers. It's very rare. It supposedly means that the MM means to match you with someone whose not yet 18. I'd never seen it. Neither had anyone I'd known. And of course once in awhile, two people who live across continents get matched, and must arrange a trip to great each other.

No one ever knew what the matchmaker was growing up. We told all sorts of horror stories about blood testing and surgeries.

Everyone always assumed when they were 18 that they would get married. There wasn't really a choice. Why be single? It was just the direction our life headed, and what society revolved around. Most of my friends had been preparing for years for their 18th birthday. I've always just thought the whole deal was kind of weird. I mean, there isn't any freedom in it.

I threatened to join the protest once, and my mom laughed at me. The matchmaker married her and my father. They are exceedingly happy, as is my sister and her husband. So I don't know why it's such a big deal for me. I just have the impending feeling of doom in the pit of my stomach.

And again, Ugly is breathing on me. Can't she get a clue?

"Okay. This is called the Emotions Personality test. It should take exactly, oh forty-five minutes. You'll be on the computer in the back, the hand held."

She gestured to the old computer in the corner with a finger and dismissed the look of confusion of my face with a frown.

"It's going to be fine Margaret."

"Meg." I muttered, "It's on the sheet."

The woman took a sandwich out of her purse and smiled like a Cheshire cat. I guess I was wrong about the burger fetish, but she looked like the type.

She walked over to her desk and sat down, carefully and methodically unrolling the wrapping. I continued to stand in my spot, staring at her.

"Can I help you?" She finally asked begrudgingly.

"Well, I'm just a little confused. I mean I don't understand." My shoulders sunk in heavily and I leaned up against the wall in frustration.

The woman sighed and put down her sandwich, "How can you not understand? Computer, you, test, match. Simple!"

She tried to control the sharp tone of her voice, and glanced back down at her ham and cheese. She took at giant bite, and I watched her begin to chew with pure horror.


Ugly spit the bite she had been chewing happily out on the desk in front of her, "What?" she exclaimed, "What is so difficult about this?"

I counter attacked her, trying to look firm standing a head smaller than her in front of her desk

"You are going to match me to some guy, on the principals of one forty five minute personality test? I guess I just thought there'd be more to it. Like actually meeting the man."

She wiped her eyes, breathing in deeply and shaking her head.

"No. There are five tests. Only two are personality related. The others deal with physical types, environments, psychological profiles… complicated things you wouldn't be able to understand. But yes, the matchmaker has its central database located on the computer. So get to it." Her eyes flashed dangerously.

She pissed me off. How dare she speak to me like that with lettuce and cheese in her teeth? I raised my eyebrow, "Oh is that so? What if I don't want to get matched? What if I wanted to choose my own husband? Didn't you get my plea? I filed a plea against mandatory."

The woman threw her sandwich down on her desk and rose to her full height. I couldn't believe that I had just said that in a government building. I had been thinking it for a long time, but to say it out loud was certainly something mom wouldn't have approved of.

"That is blasphemy!"

"It's not blasphemy. I still have the freedom of thought."

She shook her head in pity at me, her face turned down, " Your plea was for insanity. You are not insane, just difficult! And a stupid, stupid little girl. Do you know what the world was like before the Matchmaker program? It was a loveless place. Do know how many women every year come in here hoping to get matched, that aren't allowed?"

This was true. How could I have forgotten the Ceniud Mob? I looked at my feet in shame; I had no argument there. What was I thinking sometimes?

"The computer matchmaker is 98 effective. Would you really trust yourself to make that kind of decision? Do you really think any human could match themselves with 98 accuracy? We do this, for your own good. Relationships are hard enough once you've met the perfect person without having to go to the trouble to find them first."

She looked as if she were going into speech mode, so I sat down by the computer and watched her throat. Sometimes I could have sworn I saw an Adam's apple. At least it was some form of entertainment, and honestly I didn't think there was anything I could say that was going to get me out of this.

"Human beings do not have the capacity to choose suitable mates."

The woman glanced at me. I was swinging my chair around and staring at the floor. She decided to dumb it down to a level she felt I understand, speaking slowly and with heavy annunciation.

"Mates that will make them happy for a long, long time. Mates that will not abuse them. Or kill them. Good people. It's a big decision. I believe in that decision."

I looked up and gave her a smile in confirmation. Then swung my feet around in a circle, this was all very boring, and mostly things I had heard in the educational videos from grade school. She went on and on about the match and mate initiative for a happier and more domestic world. She even started in about the founder, Amanda Kirk. I almost dosed off.

"I was married once. He was exactly what I had dreamed about. But my husband died. It was a horrible accident. I don't want to remarry….I couldn't remarry anyway…."

Her eyes were foggy, and suddenly I knew why she was such an old toad. Her face was suddenly softer than it had been before. And she rolled her chair over to mine so that she was directly in my personal space with both hands on my shoulders. I twinged under her sweaty grip.

"But, Margaret, every girl is scared when they come in here. You don't need to be scared. Why would you even want to make the decision for yourself? When the matchmaker can make it so much more aptly?"

The way she put it, lessoned my reservations a bit. My feet were nervous all over the floor, and my hands were constantly attacking one another. I looked up at her. She wasn't so bad. But there was an awful lot of food still stuck in her teeth.

"Margaret, just be honest. That's my best advice."

"Okay." I answered, "my name is Meg."