The Ones Who Don't Walk Away Fast Enough (HTML excerpt)
Jerod sits in the waiting room staring at the piece of paper in his hand. It's very small, just a half-sheet of official stationery, and most of it taken up by the seal of the city. Some people, he reflected, would treasure this missive as an heirloom for future generations to gawk at. They might frame it, put it up over the mantle, show off their family's evident importance, to have received such important correspondence.

They'd have to hide the message, though. No one likes to remember to what and whom they owe the city's prosperity and happiness.

Obviously it's no secret. Everyone is told about it. Most of everyone has gone to see it. And, having learned about it to their satisfaction, everyone--or, at least, everyone who's still here--agrees that it is necessary. But no one celebrates it. There are no parades held in honor of the Room's inhabitant, no prayers thanking whatever Gods that be for granting their city's happiness at what is really so cheap a price. No one is proud of what goes on inside the Room.

But it is hard not to think about the Room when one of its stewards has arrived, delivered a message into his very hand, and taken a seat. He sits at stiff-necked attention, reading a magazine in a manner more suggesting duty than interest. He won't be the only one here, Jerod knows, but he is the only recognizable component of the team that will shadow Jerod and Anya and, for a little, their newborn child, until the request-that-is-not-a-request is honored. Neither Jerod nor Anya will ever see any of the other representatives of the Room unless they do something ill-advised, like attempt to leave.

Jerod thinks of Anya, in labor with their first child. He no longer knows what outcome to hope for....
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This has been an excerpt from the Friday Fictionette for January 5, 2018. Subscribers can download the full-length fictionette (1087 words) from Patreon as an ebook or audiobook depending on their pledge tier.

Cover art incorporates public domain image sourced from Pixabay.