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15 Things You Should Know Before You Say Yes

Michelle Ann King was born in East London and now lives in Essex. Her stories have appeared in over seventy different venues, including Interzone, Strange Horizons, and Black Static. Her favorite author is Stephen King (sadly, no relation), and she also loves zombies, Las Vegas, and good Scotch whisky. Her first short story collection, Transient Tales, is available in ebook and paperback from Amazon and other online retailers. See transientcactus.co.uk for details.
1. Technically, you don't have to. The Special Ambassador program is for people who can embrace the future in a spirit of friendship and harmony, and our Allies do realize not everyone is ready to do that yet. So they'll understand if you say no, although it will upset them.
2. You don't want to upset them.
3. You're going to be a role model, so you'll need to make sure you always appear relaxed and happy around them. If you're not familiar with the concept of the Uncanny Valley, look it up--and then practice getting over it. You don't want to get caught looking creeped out, especially in public.
4. Along the same lines, prepare yourself for seeing the spawning grounds. You'll get used to it, but it's a shock at first. And while our Allies understand that aesthetics differ, this is their offspring we're talking about. Their babies. Extreme reactions will upset them.
5. See Item 2.
6. All the technological advancements--things like rejuvenation, communications implants, physical upgrades--are eventually going to be rolled out worldwide, but you and your family will get to go first. You'll say yes, publicly and enthusiastically, to everything you're offered. This is the future, and you'll be embracing it.
7. You'll also be demonstrating how civilized, sensible, and realistic people deal with the Arrangement. At some point, someone you know, and possibly love, will be among those who go to the spawning grounds and don't come back. You won't object to this, or make any kind of fuss. You won't, in fact, mention it at all. You'll act as if this is a perfectly normal and expected occurrence.
8. Which of course it will be, from now on. Babies have to be fed, after all.
9. You'll explain patiently to anyone who might be confused, or unsure, that the Arrangement works for the benefit of the greatest number--that the sacrifice of the few ensures the happily ever after of the many.
10. If you encounter people who remain resistant to this idea, who may be unsettled or even disruptive, you will report them straight away. Our Allies will then be able to provide these people with the additional clarification and guidance they need in order to successfully embrace the future.
11. You'll know what this really means.
12. You'll do it anyway.
13. You'll teach your children how lucky they are to be part of this new world where everything bad and dangerous--disease, crime, poverty, war--has been wiped out. You'll tell them about how awful things used to be, and how much better it is now that we're protected; now that we have no predators, only friends. Only Allies.
14. You will find that there are people--friends, family, interviewers, biographers, reporters, random strangers on the street--who will question you. They'll ask you whether you think you did the right thing. Whether we did the right thing. You will find, in the small hours of the morning when you can't sleep, that you ask yourself the same question.
15. You'll say yes. You'll always say yes.
The End
This story was first published on Monday, July 10th, 2017


I love list stories because so much is told between the lines. Each statement needs to carry a lot of backstory and worldbuilding, which is fun to work out. I also love aftermath stories, where it's not about the big events so much as the "what do we do now?" that comes when it's all over. Sometimes, in the case of a successful invasion, the answer to that question might have to be "exactly what we're told."

- Michelle Ann King

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