Note: This short sci-fi horror story is unrelated to Don’t Feed The Dark.


It was the beginning of the end of life as Tommy knew it. Nothing could prepare him or the rest of his high school senior class for Career Day, and nothing would ever be the same for any of them again.

Tommy resisted attending, as was common, but he remained the good son, unwilling to embarrass his family name by giving in to fear. Besides, attending Career Day was not only a mandatory requirement to graduate high school, but it was required by Federal Law in order to work anywhere legally within the United States. There was also the penalty of imprisonment and steep fines for parents who were found deliberately withholding their children from attending–a deterrent against the radicals of society that continued to cleave to archaic and obsolete principles from long ago.

The turnout was huge this year as Tommy and his parents waited their turn in line to speak to his appointed career counselor. Up until now, Tommy’s dreams of becoming a professional football player seemed within reach. He had already attracted the notice of several college team scouts last year and his potential for becoming one of the youngest rising star quarterbacks seemed inevitable.

But by 2030, nothing was inevitable or unpredictable. Horrific advances in medical technology had made it so.

As Tommy watched the thinning line of students ahead of him, he wanted so desperately to run and never look back. Another student went in and Tommy wondered what his face would look like when he exited–how many years, more or less, would be reflected there. Of course, no one was allowed to witness this transition, for things did not turn out so well for some.

He could feel his father’s shaky hand on his shoulder. “It will be alright, Son.”

Tommy gave him a sharp look and responded, “There’s no way you can know that.”

The future was once a terrifying and beautiful mystery, but that was all about to change today. For on Career Day, each student’s date of death was revealed for the first time, initially calculated at birth and kept hidden until educated on how to handle the shock of such news, and with it, the unraveling of many dreams.

Tommy knew that if his date of death was anything less than thirty years, he’d never be able to pick up a football scholarship. Scouts wanted athletes, and anyone projected to die in their late thirties to early forties raised a red flag toward possible early hereditary health issues, which would make Tommy an insurance liability that no football team owner would consider.

Of course, there were other careers Tommy could pursue, dependent upon his longevity. If time permitted, he could continue a short-term degree in a less exciting profession; spend what time he had working for corporations that preferred “short-termers” because they could cut down on long-term retirement expenses and save companies money. Of course, anyone working for them would have to sign special wavers absolving corporations from covering death expenses. But Tommy loved football–had a real gift for it. He found it so unfair that his fate, after all his hard work, could be decided by one lousy day, one day that had already been decided long ago.

Tommy’s thoughts were interrupted as the sound of a mother’s tears could be heard following a student exiting the Career Day booth from three lines over. He could just make out a young boy and his family, quickly escorted out by security to private offices on the other side.

Some were left devastated, finding out that they had only a handful of years left to live, while others–a lifetime. Career paths were broadened or narrowed considerably, according to each outcome. Short-term counselors awaited to provide emotional support and a much shorter list of alternatives for the remainder of some student’s lives.

Tommy couldn’t shake the chill that seized him. That boy could be me, he thought.

“Next,” a counselor called toward him.

Tommy looked back at his mother. Her face was always so radiant with hope, even now. “Go on, Tommy,” she encouraged. “It will be alright, one way or the other. We’ll still be here to love you no matter what you find out.”

Tommy smiled then reluctantly turned and walked toward the booth to discover his fate. All he could do was hope for the best and throw one final pass toward heaven asking God to let him play ball. But as he considered the mother’s cries from three lines over that continued to echo in his thoughts, Tommy realized that being prohibited from playing football was not the worst thing he could find out today. He began to feel his own mortality weighing him down with each anxious and heavy step.


“Career Day” Copyright © 2010 Scott Scherr. All rights reserved.

If you’re new to my blog and want to read something a bit longer, feel free to check out my ongoing serial novel, Don’t Feed The Dark, and tell me what you think: DFTD Chapter 1-1: Demon Night


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