FANFIC: For the Ones We Leave Behind – Prologue

GOSSIP GIRL

Full Summary: In a dystopian future, New York City has become a ghost of its former self, barely recognizable.  Economic class divisions have been obliterated, written language has been outlawed, and major life decisions are now predetermined by a faceless entity known only as GG.  Instead of proper names, newborns are assigned a Class Number and a Letter of the alphabet.  In Class 1111, D dreams of becoming the new “Archivist,” a prestigious career assignment that will finally allow him the rare opportunity to write freely without fear of repercussions, but when he gets his wish, the past slowly comes to light and the cracks in their perfect little world begin to deepen and grow.  Dan/Blair, Serena, Chuck.

Disclaimer: I don’t own Gossip Girl.  I also don’t own the countless dystopian, futuristic, and fantastical works of literature and film that I shamelessly culled inspiration from, most primarily Lois Lowry’s The Giver, Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, Richard Powers’ Galatea 2.2, Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, George Orwell’s 1984, Neal Shusterman’s The Dark Side of Nowhere, Mark Dunn’s Ella Minnow Pea, Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go, Mary Karr’s poem “Winter in the City of Friendship,” Matt Groening’s Futurama, Andrew Niccol’s Gattaca, Lucile Hadzihalilovic’s Innocence, Patrick Wolf’s song “The City,” and Oceanship’s song “Hotblack”.

 

I. PROLOGUE

i.

This is a story about a great many things:

The inexorable future of a city that never sleeps.  The flawed workings of a society governed by senseless rules.  A rusty old typewriter that holds the remnants of written language in its keys.  A secret underground tunnel that leads us to our past.

It’s a story about an elusive and all-seeing dictator known only by the initials TPTB, and the faceless handmaiden who weaves riddles from the threads of our indiscretions and calls herself GG.

But most importantly, this is also a story about an ordinary girl and an ordinary boy.  A story about two people who fight and bicker with one another—trading insults like Cabbage Patch accessories—from the beginnings of childhood, who both scorn the other’s existence, despite being told that their futures are each other, and that someday they will get married to each other and have their own children, so that the whole cycle can start all over again.

This is really a story about them: this ordinary girl and this ordinary boy—known to their peers as B and D—who risk everything in an attempt to do the extraordinary.

ii.

Their society is divided into Classes of twenty-six people each.  Newborns are assigned letters at birth, starting with A, then B, and C, all the way down to Z, after which a new Class is created and it begins once again from the top, rinse and repeat. On their 18th birthdays, they’ll be allowed to adopt a proper name from a list of pre-approved choices, but until then, they’re nothing more than a series of letters from the alphabet.   These letters are a way of stripping away their individuality and their personalities, a way of making them more alike, more the same.  In the process—and this is an unfortunate side effect—it also becomes a way of making them less human.

In the Classroom, the alphabet is one of the first things they learn.  They even learn how to read, but books are scarce and it isn’t encouraged.  They are never taught how to write, how to construct and spell out words and sentences from the letters at their disposal.  Nevertheless, some children will always have the natural inclination to do so.  In this life, there are several fates for such individuals.  Only one of these could be considered a happy ending.  Maybe even none.

Great things were always expected of their Class.  1111 is a potent number; everyone says so.  But from the very beginning, plans go awry.  First, A is born premature, sickly and feather-light at a mere four pounds.  As a result, she is ready to be delivered before B, who was originally conceived to be the leader—the Queen—of the new Class.  Instead, B has to settle for second best.  And from there on out, the inauspicious events only multiply.

B is everything her parents and the others dreamed of when she first enters the world: fists balled and eyes shut, sandy brown hair already growing out in wispy waves, to darken and lengthen over time.   With permanent ink unseen by the naked eye, the nurses mark the inside of her wrist with her basic information (Letter, Class Number, Family Jewel) so she can always be identified, as we all are, like branded cattle.

Next comes C, with a whispery wail that fills the delivery room when he exits his mother’s womb.  His is a difficult birth, rife with complications.  Even now, the human body is still an unpredictable vessel in need of oxygen and a regular heartbeat.  For a few tense hours, the doctors worry that both lives, the mother and the child, will be lost.  But somehow the baby pulls through.  He survives.

And then there is D, the infant with the dark, untamable curls and bottomless eyes.  They can’t help but notice how the fingers of his left hand curl lazily inward, thumb meeting the inner curve of his index finger, as if he were already holding an imaginary pencil. It isn’t long before his parents begin to worry about his future.  It isn’t long before GG, who watches in isolation from an unknown location, begins to take a special interest in him.

iii.

None of the living can remember the city when it was just New York.

They can’t remember the skyscrapers that seemed larger than life, the interconnecting subway lines that ran in a tangle of crisscrossing passages underground, or those five boroughs and the bridges, prejudices, and arbitrary lines that separated them.  Now the sun hangs impossibly high, illuminating the outdoors in a perpetual, golden glow.  The squat buildings, with their domed ceilings and dark windows, barely cast a shadow.

This place was alive once.  It was fluid and ever-changing; it told stories without speaking.  The city moved—bright lights in every direction, the horns and squealing tires of traffic playing its own kind of symphony.  You could brush past people of any shape or color or origin while walking down the busy streets, on your way to the Met, or MoMA, or the Walter Reade.  The Statue of Liberty watched over the city; the silhouette of the Empire State Building was iconic and recognizable from miles away.  At the New York Public Library, you could find the archival materials of yesteryear: newspaper articles, sound recordings, artifacts, and diaries.

It isn’t that way now.

Everything they know of their history now, they know from urban legends and old censored films and the few books that TPTB didn’t burn.  In other words, they know almost nothing.  There are no Polaroid cameras, no smartphones, no way to capture motion on film.  If someone sees something beautiful and awe-inspiring—something he wants to remember—he hopes his memory is enough because it’s all he’s got.  The past leaves few fingerprints on a present that is disconcertingly sterile and pristine.

But some things haven’t changed.  Every year, the old still die while the young are born anew.  Every year, we lose a little bit more: history slips through the cracks in the pavement like coins that tumble from our pockets without our knowing, never to pass through our fingers again.  Instead, the loose change sinks further and further into the depths of the planet to mingle with the bones and ash of our ancestors, the dead who might gape in horror at what has become of us.  With each passing year, the earth’s soil becomes richer and richer, wealthier even than the families that once occupied the penthouses on the Upper East Side.

Meanwhile, our heads empty out like jack-o-lanterns the morning after Halloween, in the days when people still knew of Halloween: the wick of the candle burnt and blackened, the flame long gone.

II. B IS FOR BYZANTINE

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    • Anonymous
    • January 3rd, 2015

    Are you gonna continue this story? I’m hooked!

      • Susan
      • January 4th, 2015

      Hey there! Since you are anonymous, I’m not sure you will come back to see this reply. However, here is my somewhat noncommittal answer:

      I try to finish what I start, but I know it sometimes doesn’t happen. I started this while I was in grad school & was very busy at the time. I always intended to finish it later, but I was pretty upset with the way Gossip Girl ended (as you can imagine a Dan/Blair fan would be) and haven’t felt inspired since. I’ve also been focusing on my fanart. I will keep in mind that you still want to see more, and if a new part is written it will definitely be posted here & at ff.net. The next part actually has been partially written for a long time, so I will try my best to finish. So glad to hear that you’ve enjoyed the first two chapters!

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