Freedom From Choice

Alex is on the cusp of graduating high school, and has not an idea what to do with her life, much to the dismay of her mother. After a war of words, Alex wakes up in a new world where, suddenly, her problem no longer exists.

Alex Fields rubbed the sleep from her eyes and let loose a mighty yawn. She shook her head slowly, massaged the muscles of her neck, and threw her feet over the edge of the bed. Her toes soon found themselves tucked into warm slippers, the knitted kind that only her grandmother still made.

As Alex shuffled her way down stairs she remembered the argument from the night before. Her mother had been interrogating her about life plans, jobs, and school. Alex had had no concrete answers; she wasn’t even technically graduated yet! Yah, the exams were all finished and the grades were being tabulated, but she didn’t have that piece of paper yet, that all important high school diploma.

“How am I supposed to know what to do with my life at seventeen, anyway?” she mumbled to the floral wallpaper.

Although the graduation ceremony was only a few days away, all Alex’s friends were still writing exams. Somehow she had managed to fall in with a crowd of aspiring doctors, dentists, and other science types – they had a chemistry final today and physics the day after. Alex shuddered at the thought, as biology had been enough of a torment for her.

So, with her friends at school or studying, Alex had yet again nothing to do for the day. Just another lazy Tuesday of sitting, sleeping, watching TV. Maybe a short jog around the block in the evening when the heat died down, but nothing strenuous.

Alex sighed and said, “Unless you count arguments with mother as strenuous.”

After finishing her slothful journey from the upstairs to the ground floor kitchen, Alex braced herself for questions, reprimands, or stern glares from her mother. Mrs. Fields wasn’t the type to let go of an argument easily, no matter the pettiness.

“Morning, mum,” Alex almost whispered.

Mrs. Fields turned around to her daughter and smiled. “Good morning, dear. Sleep well?”

“Uhm, yes?” Alex fumbled for words, surprised at her mother’s cheeriness. “Did, ah, did you?”

“Why yes, Alexis,” she answered, the sickly smile plastered to her face. “Thanks for asking.”

“No, uhm, no problem, mum,” Alex said. She had cringed at the mention of her full name, Alexis. She hated it, and her family knew to call her Alex.  Taking it as passive-aggression on her mother’s part, Alex rummaged in the pantry for the box of Cheerios, her go-to breakfast.

“What are you doing, honey?” Her mother asked.

“Getting my breakfast,” Alex answered simply.

“Oh, but I made breakfast already, Alexis.”

Alex cringed again. “No thanks mum, I’ll have Cheerios as usual.”

The smile fell from Mrs. Fields’ face abruptly. “But Alexis, today is Tuesday.”

“Mum, please call me Alex, alright? And why does it matter that it’s Tuesday?”

“Tuesday is pancake day,” her mother stated matter-of-factly.

“Tuesday has never been pancake day, mother,” Alex said with a raised eyebrow. She was very proud of the fact she could perform that trick.

Concern now washed over her mother’s face. “Oh dear, are you feeling alright? Tuesday has always been pancake day, at least ever since the election thirty years ago.”

Now it was Alex’s turn to show concern. The election had been just last year, if her mother was on about the federal election at least, but before Alex could correct her mother she started to speak again.

“Cheerios are for Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays,” she continued. Mrs. Fields’ eyes had an almost glazed over quality. “And on Tuesdays and Thursdays we have pancakes. Everyone does. It’s what we’ve been told.”

“You’re seriously starting to creep me out, mum,” Alex said when her mother appeared to have finished. “Are you still mad I haven’t made any choices about my future?”

At this her mother suddenly laughed, a pitchy sound that tickled at Alex’s eardrums. “Oh, dear, you don’t need to make any choices!”

“I, I don’t?” Alex said.

“No! The government has already made all the choices for you. We have the freedom from choice, remember?”

There was a silent pause for a few moments as Alex let her mother’s words sink in. “You mean freedom of choice, right, mum?”

“No no no, Alexis dear,” Mrs. Fields said, the smile having suddenly reappeared. “Freedom from choice! No more choices to make, no more need to fret over an unknown future.”

Alex stared at her mother wide-eyed, shoulders slumped, and repeated an inner mantra:this is just a dream. Your mother is crazy. This is just a dream.

But somehow, in some niggling part of her brain, Alex knew that she had woken up to some strange new reality.

The End

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