A Vigil for Justice, is a serial thriller fiction novel. Updates of 1,000-1,500 words will be posted every Friday.
Recap: The Justice Law, which allows civilians to put to death up to three other individuals for any reason without repercussions has just passed. The law takes effect on June 1, 2021, giving Melanie, her friends, and family 28 days to prepare for however that may change their small Colorado town high in the Rocky Mountains.
Holly pulled her eyebrows together and pursed her lips as she stared at Melanie across the orange table. Melanie could practically see the wheels turning inside her head as Holly tried to figure this one out.
“Look Holl.” Melanie pointed to her left wrist. “The SAFE chip is inserted inside everyone’s arm when they are only hours old. These chips have the ability to communicate with one another and with the SAFE program. If they are then linked to the National Cybersecurity Protection System which is the most advanced big brother program out there, the government can have their virtual eyeball on everyone all the time.”
“Isn’t that an invasion of our personal bubble or something?” Holly asked cocking her head to the right.
“Majorly. The two programs were never intended to be linked to one another, but apparently those policies are being modified for some compelling reason.”
Seth popped a mexi-fry into his mouth and leaned back. “Yeah, so the police can sit on their asses eating donuts and monitoring everyone from their air conditioned rooms while regular people do their job.”
“We gotta get back to school.” Mitchel said, sliding out of the booth and shaking his head at his twin.
Melanie looked at Seth who smiled and gathered up their trays and garbage.
“Look it up,” Seth whispered to Melanie as he passed her on his way to the garbage can. He was probably at least partially right, which mad her skin itch. Mitchel held the door as they all went through. She slide her sunglasses on and ran her fingers through her long brown hair. Pulling the keys out of her jeans, she clicked the button to unlock the car doors.
She looked across the top of the car to Mitchel. “SAFE will work if they would just give it a chance. I just don’t understand why they had to do something so drastic.”
“I don’t know Mel, things outside of Blue River are bad. People are killing one another for a can of corn or a spare blanket. The gangs rule the streets. Everyone is afraid.” They slid into the front seats and pulled the doors closed.
Melanie looked left then right preparing to pull into traffic.
“The Justice Law gives the responsibility to protect yourself back to the people,” Mitchel said laying his hand on her leg. “Maybe it’s not such a bad thing.”
“Humans don’t have an innate sense of right and wrong. They do what they need to do to survive like any other animal,” Seth said.
Melanie glanced in her review mirror at Seth. He was watching the trees blur by out the window. Holly had her earbuds in and was dancing to whatever was playing on her phone. The radio in the car hadn’t worked for years. Holly smiled at Melanie in the mirror.
* * *
Sam bounded through the front door of the house dropping her backpack on the floor and dashing toward her bedroom in her pink leotard and ballet slippers.
“Hi Mel,” she said, as she ran passed.
“Hey Sammy, how was your field trip?” Melanie called looking around the wall at the pink streak.
“It was okay. Mom needs help getting the milk.”
“Can you stir the soup?”
Sam came into the kitchen still in her tutu. She grinned and drug a chair over to the stove. Melanie handed her the whisk.
“Just keep stirring, so it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan. Don’t touch the pan though, it’s hot.”
“No duh.” Sam rolled her eyes.
Melanie walked out to her mom’s van and grabbed the milk and a bag of groceries.
“Thanks hon,” Jennifer said. Her keys clenched in her teeth. Her hands were full of two or three white plastic bags leaden with fruits and vegetables. “How was school?”
“It was fine.”
Melanie set the milk and groceries on the table and went to turn the grilled cheese sandwiches over. She poured the tomato soup into three bowls and set them on the table with the sandwiches. Sam chattered away about dance and the museum. Melanie stirred the specks of pepper around in the thick red soup. She picked the crust off the sandwich letting the melted cheese drape across the plate before eating it.
“You should change out of your dance clothes,” Jennifer said.
Sam had stuffed her cheeks with cheese and bread like a chipmunk does with nuts. She nodded and whirled down the hall.
“If dad were here—“
“Stop.” Melanie’s mother set her spoon on the table and reached her hand across the table laying it on her daughters. Her voice was gentle and soft. “There is no use dwelling on what he would do if he were here. He’s not, and we need to deal with the situation on own. Blue River is a quiet town. Everyone knows everyone. Things will stay the same here,” Jennifer said.
“I wish people would stop saying that. This changes everything! Can’t you see that? How can I look at anyone the same? How can I look into Mitchel’s eyes always wondering if he would kill me? Or you? Or Sam? Or anyone?” Melanie was yelling now. Tears filled her eyes. She wiped her eyes with the back of her hand.
“Nothing is the same. You can’t just love this problem away, Mom. The world isn’t rainbows and butterflies anymore. Humans are animals. They’re predators. If they feel threatened, they will do what they need to do to survive.” Melanie’s face was flushed with anger. She pushed her chair back from the table. It screeched across the tile floor.
Jennifer moved to wrap her daughter in her arms, but Melanie pushed her away.
“There’s nowhere safe left to go.” Melanie stalked down the hall, pushing past Sam who was returning to the table.
“Don’t push Melanie. Mom.”
Melanie slammed her bedroom door. She leaned back against it and sank to the floor with her hands over her face trying to control her breathing. How is she going to protect them? Her throat felt like a tiny red coffee straw. She wheezed and chocked on her own saliva. She wrapped her arms around her knees. She had to think. Get control, she told herself. Breathe.