He sat there grinning like a fool, envelope in hand. Some fool. My fool. I could not help but smile too. So in that small stretch of time the two of us were happy, more so than we ever were before. The ink on the outside of the envelope was dark red and official, there was only one thing it could be, the one thing we wanted or feared more than anything else in the world. Hardly anything was handled in paper anymore, except the government's business. William's hands shook with anticipation and fear as the paper let out a satisfying rip and a blue pamphlet slipped on to the table. Blue was the color of hope and death. We both reached for it at once, yet it was his so I receded. His smooth brown hands opening each delicate, symmetrical fold like a flower. The blood ink wrapped round his throat, stunning him speechless. I let my hands lay upon his shoulders and they tightened in fear as the blooded flower bloomed truth into our souls.Dear William Keel, you have been denied work permits for the position of university professor in the fields of science and applied mathematics as this position is already filled with automated learning textbooks. Your former status as Worker #479003 at Substitute Coal Factory D has not been re-administered to you, please do not report to work on Monday. Sincerely, The Secretary of Employment Affairs, Jerold H. Pardie.
This is the second letter we had gotten back from Mr. Pardie. The first was for me, ending both my future as a writer and my past as worker #479002. I let my hands fall from his shoulders and sank into the sweet, cold embrace of the apartment's concrete floor. Tears welled inside me yet could not force themselves from my tightly shut eyes. William was at my side gripping my hand like iron, anchoring me to the truth of dark red ink. My tearless eyes met his for a moment, then the blue flower that bleed out poison, then last on the slight bulge of my abdomen that I have already secretly named. Nadine, after my grandmother. William's iron grasp failed him as he lets himself be drawn towards the swell of my belly that he both loved and feared… Silently I prayed for Nadine's forgiveness. The tears finally broke the surface.
"I will go to the clinic tomorrow. After my letter came, I sold a limerick to the Reaper Man just incase you're le… just incase the worse should happen. I can go. I can let go." I pretended that the truth did not hurt. I lied. I was going to be a writer, that's what I was good at. William couldn't see the good in lies; he knew only facts. I could see the numbers running rampant in his head trying to equal x: one plus one equals three divided by the square root of the problem minus one, it did not add up. Numbers don't lie like I do.
He sighed and hung his head, "I don't trust the Reaper Man. Is there any other way? Maybe a fake id to use the gated facilities? Or a… I don't know, something else?" He was grasping at straws. No, not even that, He was grasping at air. He couldn't find the answer; he couldn't see that the Reaper Man was the only way. The air he was grasping at was running thin and we laid choking on the emptiness of our life. The seconds tic by as I let him fight his numbers as I already fought my words, in the end we curled up in defeat and resided ourselves to our fate. He sighed again, "tomorrow."
"Tomorrow." I choked on the word. The next day I had to take a walk through the hidden doors of what use to be a free clinic to let the Reaper Man take away my hope and to prevent her tragedy in one guillotine swoop. Tomorrow would be the end of living in the hope of life and the start of just living to escape death. "Tomorrow," I sighed again as we let the word echo in our small concrete cell.
That would be the last time either of us ever let anything happen, after that everthing just happened to us.