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Felix stood in front of the mirror and winced. He'd spent the last week eating little more than water and cabbage, but his body appeared to be stubbornly unaffected. Even the special compression body stocking his mother had purchased did little to mask the sheer mass of his body. Now he not only resembled some grotesque mutant sausage, but he felt as though all of his organs were going to be squeezed out his orifices.

His mother's laments could be heard before her petite figure reappeared in the doorway. She had been on continuous loop all morning, alternating between berating him for his gluttony and sloth and asking the heavens what she had ever done to deserve this fate. Every day she worshiped at the temple, offering the sweat of her body to quench their thirst. She made sure to always leave food on her plate as a token to please the gods. Still, she'd been cursed with this embarrassment of a son. It must have been his father. She never should have fallen for a stranger without a pedigree—but he had been so beautiful and muscular. Surely such a fine specimen had the favor of the gods. Then he died so suddenly and it was too late. She was already with child, a child that she prayed would not be defective as his father clearly was. But no matter how hard she tried Felix just wouldn't stop growing. Even if by some miracle he managed to pass today, just look at him. He'd be dead by twenty. So many years invested in rearing this son, all wasted.

As he wrapped the binding tape around himself, Felix tried to tune her out. That only made things worse, though. His mind filled with the voices of his classmates. There was Helen's nasal sneer informing him that his mere existence was a curse upon the town. Then David chiming in to express relief that they'd soon be rid of him. The others had nodded in agreement before starting in on the discussion of what exactly happened to the chosen ones. Rosalind tossed her curls, looked straight into his eyes and with glee declared, “They're going to eat you!” It wasn't the first time that he'd heard the stories, but this year Felix felt nauseous.

“Hold still,” Felix's mother barked, as she aggressively dabbed caramel colored concealer on his forehead. He had to pull himself together to focus on the challenge before him. For a moment, as he gazed into the mirror, he thought he might succeed. He saw large brown eyes fringed with thick lashes, a finely chiseled nose, his father's lips. But the illusion was shattered once he noticed the extra chin, the thick neck, the excess flesh that squeezed out the edges of body stocking and binding tape. It was folly to imagine that the gods would protect a monstrosity such as himself, and yet he clung to a morsel of hope. It was possible they wouldn't take anyone this year. It had happened once, when he was only four years old. They came, inspected the young, and left empty-handed. It could happen again.

From the town hall the great bell resounded through the streets. It was time. While Felix struggled to compose himself, his mother smoothed her hair and applied a fresh coat of lipstick. They obediently filed out of their house like everyone else. Streams of people—perfectly uniform in size and shape--merged to form a river that flowed directly to the town square. Felix cast about, hoping to spy Monifa in the masses, but there were too many faces. His mother grabbed him by the hand and dutifully led him into the throng. When they reached the square she gave him an obligatory peck on the cheek, recited a hollow “I love you,” and left him to join the rest of the thirteen year olds from the six town consortium.

Despite being surrounded by his peers, Felix felt utterly alone. The rest of the young teens were adjusting girdles, tucking stray hairs, applying a last daub of rouge—as though they had anything to fear. With their chiseled features and lean bodies, surely they would never be forsaken by the gods. Not like him.

“Felix!” A voice like warm honey broke through his cloud of despair. He looked up to see the one friend he had ever known. Her eyes sparkled above her round apple cheeks. A smile played on her mouth making her already full lips appear to be even wider. Felix couldn't help but reciprocate that infectious grin.

“Monifa!” They embraced for a moment, before Felix pulled back in surprise. “Your arm... it's working.”

“My father splurged on a new prosthetic.” Monifa laughed, causing her rows of perfectly plaited hair to dance across her head. “I tried to talk him out of it, convince him to save his money, but he'd have none of it. Imagine. Thinking a silly little thing like this would make a difference.”

But Felix wasn't so sure. From a distance, the new arm looked nearly identical to her good one. Someone would have to study Monifa for a while to discern that it didn't have quite the same mobility and dexterity. With so many youths to observe, maybe she could pass. She was certainly attractive enough otherwise.

“You never know.”

“Don't be daft. Besides, maybe I want them to take me.”

“You... you can't be serious.”

“Yes I can. Felix, I don't want to stay here. Even if the rumors are true, I'd rather go with them. There's nothing for me in the consortium. There never will be.”

He knew that she was right. There was nothing here for him, either. He was an outcast, cursed by the gods. Still, that seemed better than the unknown of The Saviors. He was trying to think of the words to convince Monifa to keep hope alive when the first strains of the anthem sounded through the bustle.

A hush settled across the crowd. The assembled children stood with their best posture. Each face was plastered with the most pleasantly neutral expression that could be mustered. As the trumpets sounded all eyes turned to the massive platform where The Savior emerged. Felix had never seen this one before. She was the largest woman he had ever seen in both stature and width. Her creamy skin was so pale that it was almost blinding in the sunlight. Mousy brown hair framed her face—which was completely void of makeup. Even though he knew he should be disgusted, he couldn't help but think she was beautiful.

Felix reached out with one hand to clasp Monifa's as the music died down. His other gently fingered the small clear orb that hung around his neck on a delicate gold chain. The young were told not to do such a thing, that it would only draw unwanted attention, but he couldn't help it. Monifa gave his hand an encouraging squeeze. He tried to listen to the opening remarks, but he couldn't focus. His head was fuzzy. His stomach was full of lead. He tried to imagine himself somewhere else, anywhere but standing here awaiting his fate.

It was no surprise to the crowd when the orb around Felix's neck was the first to glow. They politely averted their eyes, all except Monifa and The Savior. The former offered him an encouraging smile, while the latter studied him intently. Felix could feel his whole body shaking, but he willed himself to answer the call with what little dignity he possessed. He shuffled toward the platform, moving slowly to minimize the jiggle of his body.

As he ascended the platform, Felix looked out to see what other orbs were now illuminated. First, there was a boy from one of the other towns—tall and slender with blond hair and bronze skin. That was a bit of a surprise, until Felix noticed he was wearing a bit more makeup than was customary for a boy. Next was a short girl with full breasts, wide hips, and so many freckles that even the priciest foundation couldn't conceal them. Then, he noticed Monifa, who was smiling radiantly and bouncing to the stage with a spring in her step. He thought he caught a glimpse of the blond boy's mother, struggling to free herself from the grip of a handsome man—perhaps a brother or husband. Monifa's father was trying to remain stone-faced, but Felix could see that the man was devastated. But his own mother had already melted into the crowd. She would never make a scene, certainly not over him.

There were more words, but Felix couldn't concentrate. The village had been saved once more, but what was to become of the four? Like the others, they'd never be seen again. Maybe The Saviors wouldn't eat them, though. Maybe they'd just be sent to a labor camp. This new Savior, she didn't look like someone who ate teenagers. Maybe. He barely noticed when the ceremony had been completed, nor when he was vacantly shuffling with the others toward the transport. He was too numb even to notice that Monifa had been holding his hand the entire time.

It wasn't until The Savior spoke that Felix realized they had left the crowds behind.

“Welcome. Do not be afraid. You do not have to come with us if it is not your wish. But we came here to save you, and I do hope you'll hear us out before making up your mind.”

Comments

( 21 comments — Leave a comment )
halfshellvenus
Jan. 30th, 2013 05:42 am (UTC)
I started off thinking this would be a bullied overweight teen story, but it went off into a completely unexpected direction.

The interesting thing about the chosen ones never returning is that you can't know if they're going to something good or something bad. I still feel sorry for Monifa's father, though, who clearly loved her too much to lose her!
occasionally
Jan. 30th, 2013 01:32 pm (UTC)
Well, I guess in some ways it is a bullied overweight teen story--it's just that that's not all it is.

I've always been drawn to stories of people who disappear never to return, because it so perfectly captures the unknown. I think most people are scared of the unknown, but some, like Monifa, are able to see possibility in the shadows.

Thanks for your thoughtful reading.
(Deleted comment)
occasionally
Jan. 30th, 2013 01:40 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much. This is my first foray into fiction for Idol (and even outside of Idol, something I haven't really dabbled in for years). I was excited enough by discovering that I do, in fact, still possess an imagination. But I'm even more excited that people enjoy what I've created.

I'm hoping that there will be prompts in the future that work well for continuing the journey of Felix and Monifa and The Saviors. And if not, I'll see what I can do outside of Idol. Who knows, maybe I'll actually have a project for NaNo for the first time.
alien_writings
Jan. 30th, 2013 11:34 am (UTC)
This definitely went off in an unexpected direction! You have created an interesting world here. Good job! :)
occasionally
Jan. 30th, 2013 01:42 pm (UTC)
Thank you! Unexpected and interesting are both excellent traits in a story. :)
audreybuttercup
Jan. 30th, 2013 04:11 pm (UTC)
What a neat story! I'm interested in finding out what happens next!
occasionally
Jan. 30th, 2013 04:35 pm (UTC)
I'm glad I've created an engaging world. Thanks for the encouragement.
cherriesarered
Jan. 30th, 2013 07:15 pm (UTC)
This is really interesting, especially the different attitudes towards being taken! Do you know if there will be more? The ending left me curious.
jenny_evergreen
Jan. 30th, 2013 07:44 pm (UTC)
Definitely engaging...just don't be too predictable when you keep going! (And keep going!) :)
kandigurl
Jan. 31st, 2013 06:19 am (UTC)
Really enjoyed this! I love the detail we get about Felix and Monifa, hopefully they'll be happier where they're going.
mezzogiorno
Jan. 31st, 2013 06:01 pm (UTC)
Very good. You did very well in easing in to the tension, letting us try to decide what is actually going on before showing us. I'm also pleased you don't tell us what happens :)
myrna_bird
Feb. 1st, 2013 12:11 am (UTC)
I hope future prompts allow you to continue these characters. I really like your fiction!
jem0000000
Feb. 2nd, 2013 02:33 am (UTC)
How intriguing; I wonder what will happen to them?
witches
Feb. 2nd, 2013 04:50 am (UTC)
I LOVED this so much. I've always been interested in 'disappeared' stories too, (mainly because I'm fascinated by the unknown), and this is great! And very cleverly written imo.
ohelectricshock
Feb. 2nd, 2013 07:37 pm (UTC)
Oh this was so intriguing! I loved your take on the topic.
tatdatcm
Feb. 2nd, 2013 11:46 pm (UTC)
I really liked your take on the prompt. I want to know what happens to Felix and Monifa and how The Saviors help them. I also think you've left a door here that could swing dark - in a "careful what you wish for" way, or end happily.
jensi08
Feb. 3rd, 2013 05:00 am (UTC)
Great job and the surprise was so neat at the end...great flow here.
roina_arwen
Feb. 3rd, 2013 05:23 am (UTC)
This was very intriguing. Some overtones of The Hunger Games, but very cool. It would be great to read another chapter of this!
baxaphobia
Feb. 3rd, 2013 04:09 pm (UTC)
Oh Now what happens? I want to know! This sort of reminded me of the Hunger games a bit.
dreamsreflected
Feb. 4th, 2013 03:55 am (UTC)
this was really intriguing I want more!
phoenixejc
Feb. 4th, 2013 03:20 pm (UTC)
I love it! I was disappointed when it ended.
( 21 comments — Leave a comment )