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It’s just a gut feeling I have that, like most other women, I’ll be forced to give birth at least once every two years, and every single man will be entitled to my body during the year I’m not pregnant.

I have nothing against saving the human race from extinction, I just disagree with the way it’s being done. Not that I dare give my opinion. That’s strictly forbidden.

Honestly, I’m terrified of what lies ahead for me. The thought of having sex on demand makes bile churn in my stomach.

The emissaries enforced this law to keep the peace among the men.

But what about the women? Why do we have to be the ones who suffer?

It’s at times like this I hate the virtuous way. Mom won’t be here to help me with whatever path is chosen for me. She was lucky to be chosen as a bride for Dad. Sadly, Mom only had me and giving birth almost killed her. She couldn’t have more children after that, and I think that’s why she was chosen as a crusader.

In four weeks, I’ll either be married or forced to join all the single women to fulfill my duty to the men of our ecocity.

My stomach spins with nerves at the thought of moving out of my family home and into the bearer sector.

I seriously doubt it, but maybe luck will be on my side, and I’ll be chosen as a bride. That way, I’ll belong to one man and not all the single men in the ecocity.

Please, don’t let me be chosen as a bearer.

I’m pulled out of my thoughts when a man dressed in white says, “Jasper Matthias. Follow me.”

I get up and notice the other two girls are no longer in the reception area. They must’ve already gone for their check-ups.

The air is chilly as I follow the curer down a long corridor and into a sterile room. There’s only one chair, a desk with a monitor, and an examination table.

Glancing at the curer, I feel horribly uncomfortable when he shuts the door.

“Take off your shoes and lie down,” he instructs, his tone formal.

I quickly do as he says, and climbing onto the examination table, I lay down and rest my hands on my abdomen.

“Arms by your side,” he instructs.

I suck in a deep breath of air and watch as the scanner is positioned over my head. When I rest my arms in the grooves by my side, metal bands lock over my wrists and ankles.

I close my eyes and focus on keeping my breaths even as the scanner makes a soft humming sound when it moves over my body and back up again.

I hear the man type something into the computer, then he mentions, “We’re going to draw blood. You’ll feel a prick.”

I brace myself, my muscles tightening, but still, I flinch when the needle darts into my arm.

“When is your next menstrual cycle?” the curer asks.

“It’s due in three weeks.”

“Twenty-one days?” he checks.

I exhale slowly. “Yes.”

“Make sure to return in eight days for your last physical,” he orders. I nod as I open my eyes, then he adds, “You can put on your shoes back on. Blessed be.”

Relieved the examination is over, I quickly shift off the table and shove my feet into my sneakers. “Blessed be,” I whisper, then I dart out of the room and exit the building as quickly as possible.

Instead of waiting for a bus to go home, I walk down the street, rubbing my hands up and down my arms to get rid of the chill. My eyes flit from one pedestrian to the other, mostly men.

Everyone smiles politely. It all feels fake, though.

I feel like a helpless deer surrounded by a city of wolves, and they’re all waiting for the ceremony so they can rip me to shreds.

I don’t feel safe in the ecocity.

The realization makes my feet come to a halt, and I quickly search for the nearest bus stop. Hurrying to it, I luckily only wait a couple of minutes before one arrives. When I find a seat and the bus pulls away from the curb, I let out a sigh.

This has never happened before – feeling unsafe in the only place that’s been my home.

I tell myself it’s because I’m anxious about the coming ceremony. The day the seven crusaders are chosen is also around the corner.

Control your emotions. This is not virtuous behavior.

Chapter 2


“It’s time.” Dad offers me a stiff smile. Today is hard on him too.

Honestly, it’s hard on everyone in the ecocity. It’s never easy watching seven citizens leave their families and home to spread the word in the forbidden lands.

I take one last look at myself in the mirror, making sure everything is in place. My light brown hair is clipped back with Mom’s butterfly clips. They’re tiny and pale yellow. Even though they’re old, they’re my most precious possession. It’s my way of honoring Mom, remembering that she stood up to the emissaries to try and stay with us.

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