Saving Humanity This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

December 27, 2012
It all started eleven years ago. I was only eight when the Sickness came. No one is sure how it started, only that it killed everyone it came in contact with. No one was spared: not the rich or the poor, not the famous or the commoner, not the politician or the mail man. Death became so vast that people stopped disposing of the bodies because there was too many and no one to bury them.
In a desperate attempt to preserve the human species the American government gathered together and built the Network Arena in the least Infected area of the United States and began to hunt for survivors who weren’t Sick yet. By then I was eleven and orphaned, living off of the land and the forest that surrounded my home. I still don’t know how they even found me, but they came and made sure I wasn’t Sick before taking me away to the Arena where I was given a new home and instantly became highly prized. Out of the five thousand that were saved only seventy-eight were children. We were the last hope for America to continue in some form or fashion.
We were assigned to ‘partners’. Only two people lived in each apartment and we were all given a job. There were doctors, farmers, teachers, scientists, botanists, and every other calling needed to run a successful establishment. For the first few years we all were required to wear full body suits anywhere outside of our personal room and apartment, just to make sure that the Sickness hadn’t somehow crept in. We finally got to take them off by the time I was fourteen. I was ecstatic to finally stuff the stupid thing in the back of my closet, but the others, especially the adults, were not.
The world had to keep moving on. We had to keep building, especially with the odds against us. But people were afraid of mingling, of other people, in case they would get Sick. People wouldn’t report to their posts and the Arena began to fall apart. That’s when the Network came into creation and six years after moving here it became a reality. We run our entire world, talk to everyone, survive without even leaving the comfort of our apartment, with it. We place a helmet on that is attached to the monitors and we control the factories making our clothes, the robots who tend to the animals, and the machines who clean the Arena. We even have online shopping malls where you actually can believe you are in a real live store. You can almost forget that that world is only a cyber one.

By the time I was seventeen, my new ‘mother’ retreated to the Network and hid there…along with everyone else. I tried it, but I missed real people. I missed talking to a person face to face. I missed seeing a smile. I missed hearing laughter- not those stupid ‘LOL’s. I wanted to be with a human not some watered down version looking at me though a screen.
That’s when I started to roam. I started walking along the hallways of the Arena, watching the robots as they swept the floors, washed the windows, delivered the supplies to each apartment each week-all of who were controlled by a human locked away in their room somewhere. Then I went into the courtyard where the pool was, sparkling clear but not a single soul in sight. I sat in the bleachers at the baseball field, but no one was playing. I walked the bike trail. I went inside of the mall. I played a game of pool at the pub. I read a book at the library. I drove an abandoned go-kart on the road. And then…I found the Exit.

Right now I am staring at it. It has been three months since I first found it. The first day I ran from it. Ran as fast as I could back to my apartment and jumped into a hot shower, ripping my clothes off and scrubbing myself so hard that I scraped off the top lair of dead skin completely and had the water up as high as it would run and so hot it scalded me. The entire time I was in there all I could think of was my parents as they died, how their bodies began to thrash into strange positions, their strangled screams, the blood that poured from their ears and noses and mouths, and most of all their eyes… the look in them in the last few moments before death as they realized they was no hope for them. I’m not sure how long I stood under the water before I stumbled out and pulled on a pair of clean clothes. I’m not sure how I had broken the vase in the hallway or knocked the rocking chair over in my haste to get to the bathroom to wash the imaginary germs off of me….what I’m most unsure about is how my ‘mother’ didn’t even hear me. How she didn’t notice me crashing through the apartment and the strangled cries I made as I could see my parents re-die inside of my head.

I don’t know why I am here again…maybe for answers or maybe to remember my past life. It had been a good one, a happy one. One where my mother’s arms were always open for me to fall into. One where my father rustles my hair. One where there was someone to notice when I needed a haircut. One where people knew I hated yogurt but loved Jell-O.

I run my hand through my too-long locks and then stuff both hands back into my pockets. The Exit is large, made of solid metal with no handles. Even if I wanted to get out I don’t think it is possible. I am locked here. Trapped under the glass sunroof and encircled by ten foot thick Walls with only one Exit. The very creation made to save me will be my tomb. The very thing made to preserve humanity will destroy it.

I slowly place my palm on the door, jerking it back only once before gently settling on it. The cold metal pierces my skin and makes my heart pound within my chest. It is like an electric shock. Like someone has awoken me. I press my palm harder into it. My breath kicks up a notch and my pulse becomes thundering in my ears. I am not sure if I am scared or excited but I really don’t care, it has been long since I really felt something. Whatever emotion is raging inside me is making me feel alive, something I haven’t felt for two years.

I smile. I can’t help it. I think I even laugh. The first sound I have made since the last time I was here. And it feels wonderful. I slap the door and laugh again, this time louder and it echoes around me. I listen to myself, the way my voice sounds horse from the lack of use and the occasional snort. The noise is so nice that I can’t help but wonder how in the world we had given this up.

“What’s so funny?”

I abruptly stop and turn on my heels to look behind me. A girl with half-curled half-straight brown hair stares at me with a bemused expression. My mouth is hanging open and my eyes are staring disbelievingly at her. She is the first human I have seen in over a year besides my ‘mother’. Is she even real or just a hologram or have I caught the Sickness and am hallucinating?

“Are…you impaired?” she asks concerned. Her voice rings out smoothly and her body is lean and fit, unlike most who spend most of their days in front of their Network all day and have turned fat and weak.

“My…”I swallow, trying to get the roughness out of my voice, “my discovery is what is funny… In a sad way.”

“What did you discover?” she looks at me, meeting my eyes. My ‘mother’ never does that anymore, hasn’t been able to for twenty months now.

“That…we are alive but…humanity is dying. It is…eroding away because people are only communicating with keyboards and screens. That they saved the people but not the persons.” My words sound forced. It feels strange and good at the same time to have a conversation vocally. My ‘mother’ and I hadn’t spoken in fifteen months. She was afraid talking to me would make her Infected. She thought that the air moving from my lips would kill her.

The girl cocks her head and we study each other. I read her body language. There are hard lines in her face, clearly showing the trials she has endured. Her eyes, silvery grey with a thin rim of gold to wrap around her pupil, say nothing gets past her. The way there are scars running up her arms and legs tell that she is a fighter, a survivor. The way she has her hands on her hips, states that she won’t take any crap. The way she bores into me tells me she sees the same things in me.

“I’m Alex.” She steps forward and extends her hand. I stare at it, wondering when the last time was that I made physical contact with someone- especially someone’s hands.
My gaze flickers up to her eyes and I read the challenge there. Daring me to accept her. To let her in, like everyone has forgotten how to. Once again I see my parents- the images in my mind so strong I have to remind myself that they aren’t really here. I see them laughing, holding hands, kissing me goodnight, giving me a piggyback ride , spinning me around, embracing each other- living not existing. Just like we are supposed to. Just like we’ve forgotten how to.

I clasp her hand and feel the pleasant warmth rippling off of her skin. I feel a shimmer run up my arm and I smile again, enjoying the rush of adrenaline that runs through my veins. “I’m Chance.”

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This article has 120 comments. Post your own now!

Amaranthinium This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Aug. 11, 2013 at 11:12 am
Here’s some very technical, nitpicky critique: -A lot of your wording is very awkward to me. It just doesn’t always flow naturally. For example, the way you use, well, “the way...” while describing Alex doesn’t have much of a ring to it. it feels a little forced, like you were trying too hard to do something different with describing her. i don’t think that you can really use “the way” in that context.   I think part of the problem is your... (more »)
guardianofthestars This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
Aug. 12, 2013 at 11:47 am
Thank you so much for your feedback.  It is very helpful.  I will work on those problems that I have.  You're been very insightful, thanks. :)
Shailee M. said...
Aug. 5, 2013 at 11:41 am
This was just amazing! I haven't been on TeenInk for very long but this is the best sci-fi story that I've seen yet! The way that you incorporated the whole idea of the "Network" taking over the lives is something that may become our future someday. The descriptions you use are truly phenomenal. The ending was great! I loved it! This was a great story! I give it two thumbs up! Well done! And please keep writing! (:
guardianofthestars This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
Aug. 5, 2013 at 6:36 pm
Thank you! :D
Cutey-Beauty said...
Aug. 4, 2013 at 2:06 pm
Wow. Breath taking. I think I've read this about 3 times...Im not a big sci-fi fan, but this is just so INTERESTING. Especially when you look at our world today-everywhere we can see computers, laptops, cellphones, ipads, screens, screens and more screens taking the place of normal human interaction. Is it any wonder that today's society has more people in it that know more about gaming and facebook than they do about how to actually have a conversation with someone? Pardon the ranting..... (more »)
guardianofthestars This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
Aug. 5, 2013 at 9:41 am
Thank you SO much. I really appreciate this!  :D  I'm glad you liked it so much and my writings. I try my best. :3
SarahHarmon This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Aug. 3, 2013 at 11:29 am
Okay so there is a lot of comments on this story and rightfully so! The way you tell a story is pretty good and your descriptions were quite impressive. My favorite part was the ending with her name being Chance. However, you need to find a way to differentiate (omg my spelling sucks) this idea from all the other sci-fi pieces out there. There are plenty of novels about a world torn and as he title says so itsself, "saving humanity". I like where it's going and I feel like by developing it into ... (more »)
guardianofthestars This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
Aug. 3, 2013 at 5:42 pm
Aww, thanks so much! :) You're so nice. 
Claudia.VII said...
Aug. 2, 2013 at 1:36 pm
I love it. It really would make a good novel, and I don't think you should deprive the world of your writing. You should get it out there and get it published as a novel so that I can attend your book signings. The plot is just so intriguing and it's something I can imagine actually happening. Best of luck!
guardianofthestars This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
Aug. 2, 2013 at 10:02 pm
Wow. Really? I really appreciate the support! I can always use that. ^__^
jhhelena This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Jul. 30, 2013 at 10:44 pm
Really well written. I love how you end it with saying her name is Chance. And the plot captured my interest.
guardianofthestars This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
Aug. 1, 2013 at 11:07 am
Thank you for the feedback. :)
fountainpen This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Jul. 30, 2013 at 9:32 pm
Your execution of a mindless humanity is brilliant - I admire your clever themes and portryal of emotion interwoven between the dialogue. What I like the most, though, is the interaction between Chance and the girl; in the dialogue, the depth of your characters and your theme shine through. Now here comes the criticism: While I admire the brevity of your story and the world within it, I think you should elongate the backstory throughout the rest of the piece. Telling all the facts right away... (more »)
guardianofthestars This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
Aug. 1, 2013 at 11:06 am
Thank you for the feedback.  I really appreciate it. It is very insightful. :)
Shagun This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Jul. 29, 2013 at 12:34 pm
Well, this does have a good potential of being developed into a novel but there are some points in which i got confused about what excatly you were tying to convey. Also, if this is just and excert, then maybe you shouldn't have told most of what happened in one go. Maybe you shhould have held it out and made it more suspenseful. also, sometimes the wording was a bit akward. But all in all, the story seeems great and i think if you post this a novel, you have me as a reader for it..
guardianofthestars This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
Jul. 29, 2013 at 1:13 pm
Thanks for the tips. I'll work on that. :)
BlackbeltJames said...
Jul. 29, 2013 at 11:55 am
Although this is a short story and you have to get the details across without wasting too much time try not to just tell the reader what has happened. You start off straight away by telling us a lot of factual information about the place and what has happened, try to merge this into the telling of the story to make it smoother and more natural, you can give the same information but space it out and it will make it more mysterious and intriguing as well.
There are a few mistakes i.e. i... (more »)
guardianofthestars This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
Jul. 29, 2013 at 1:14 pm
I see your point...Thanks feedback. :)
None0 said...
Jul. 27, 2013 at 2:44 pm
Here is my re-read, on novel-feedback mode.   Somehow the wording of the entire thing really bothers me. There are a bunch of awkward sentences, and a lot that I feel can be made better with a different choice of words. Usually this can be corrected with a quick read-through, and over time your sense of wording should improve.   The description here is sufficient for a short story (since you have a space limit), but since novels have tons and tons of scenes in them and wil... (more »)
guardianofthestars This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
Jul. 27, 2013 at 5:51 pm
Thank you for the feedback.  It really helps me know where my weaknesses are as a writer.  Your advice was really helpful.  Thanks so much for reading and helping me out.  ^___^
Alizz said...
Jul. 27, 2013 at 1:13 pm
This was really great! The only critique I have is that I got somewhat confused at certain points. I think you need to introduce the world more and explain the difference between the arena and the network. I actually believe this has the potential to be a short novel. If you just expand on things a bit more, you could really go far with this.
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