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Choose Your Kid's Adventure

Meghan Jenkins is a writer and aspiring biologist currently living near Dayton, Ohio. Her motivation for writing stems largely from wanting desperately to read stories that don't yet exist.

The salesman pulls another file out, hoping against hope that he'll get to go to lunch soon--an appointment had gotten flipped in his directory. Instead of a quick consult to help a middle-class family choose their children's virtual reality upbringing, he's helping a general and his wife flip through book after book of real-world upbringings. Each of them is engineered for maximum excitement--for the upper classes who can afford them. He's halfway through pitching an option where their son would be raised as a janissary, then go on a mission to return a "magical" jewel, when he mentions the 20% failure rate. He winces as the woman's shrill voice cuts through the air.
"I'll not have our child dead, so if we could please see some reasonable options." The salesman nods agreeably, and pulls out the packets of safety-guaranteed upbringings from his right-hand drawer. The scarred face of the man across from him stretches into a grimace as his wife settles back, satisfied. She rests a hand on her belly, round with child.
"One of our most popular options is that of a country boy who finds passages under the house of his aunt. As it's a closed environment--some little cottage our company's bought in Scotland--there's more room to customize the experience." The mother shakes her head.
"No, he'll need something a little more refined. I myself was raised as a princess near a unicorn glade, perhaps you have an alternative for a prince, with a dragon?" The vendor stands and rummages through the fantasy upbringings on the top shelf - they aren't often called for, compared to the more modern or timeless ones, as they're god-awful expensive. "And all perfectly safe, of course, we'll want--"
"No!" The general's face has reached a shade hovering near mulberries, and his clenched hands are very close to leaving dents in the cheap wood of his chair. "I won't have it--no guarantees of safety. He'll live and die by his own merit."
As his wife turns to argue again, a bullet crashes through the window with a strange, high shriek. She and the salesman jump back as the general thuds to the floor. Several minutes later she explains, shocked and teary-eyed, to the salesman:
"I told him not to buy any package that included the possibility our eldest child--our daughter--could find us, but my husband was so adamant her upbringing include high risk both to the girl and--and himself. I don't think he ever outgrew that need for the thrill of danger, to be honest." She hiccups, crying, and edges out of the way of the emergency droids. "Of course, being raised in an upbringing with 99% fatality --all that danger!--I can't blame my husband for coming to rely on that adrenaline. Or my daughter for hating him, as he chose for her the same fate."
The vendor nods in understanding, says soothingly, "For that reason we've discontinued all assassin upbringings. I'd recommend a low risk option for your younger one. If I may...."
The End
This story was first published on Wednesday, July 27th, 2016

Author Comments

The spark of this story was realizing that my childhood ambition of being a dragon tamer/witch/knight/etc. would more than likely have left me dead. Our culture produces thrills of danger when none exist--look at roller coasters, or bungee jumping. It wasn't a huge leap for me to imagine a world in which parents provide for adventure and danger where none would exist--or the bitterness that would arise when the children had the wool pulled from over their eyes.

- Meghan Renee Jenkins
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