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   What's the point in saving humanity if humanity isn't perfect?

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The word that takes residence in her brain. The word that her life revolves around. The word that determines her status. The word that decides if she gets to live.

Head down; don't walk too fast; don't walk too slow; don't take odd steps; don't walk strangely; smile; not too much; ignore the catcalls; don't look ungrateful for attention; be nice; don't be a tease; look pretty; don't draw unwanted attention; be smart; don't one-up; be strong; don't intimidate; don't be a pushover.

The bright sun is a shining spotlight on the vibrant, immaculate streets. People roam the city, filling the walkways with perfect clothes, perfect hair, perfect attitudes, perfect souls. A smile rests on everyone's face as the world moves and breathes in harmony. All are content and at peace; society is without fault. Billboards relax on buildings, displaying the profile of all who walk past by reading one of the chips implanted into their bodies; specifically, the one residing in their heads. Beautiful, happy pictures glow on the screens, fading in and out as others walk by.

She looks at the sudden red pinprick of light blinking in her arm: a warning. She stops walking abruptly, immediately looking around and trying to discern if anyone has spoken to her or if she has done something wrong. She examines her body, searching for any flaw, anything out of place. Nothing, nothing, she can't figure it out. Panic sets in. What is it, what did I do, what's wrong? Where is it, what is it.

The light blinks rapidly. Insistently. Indicating she is running out of time. She spins, praying for someone to inform her what is unsatisfactory. No one. Nothing. The snake of anxiety weaves through her mind. No, nothing is wrong, right? But why is there a warning? What is it? please no. I can't see it. Please, no. God, no, not again, not again.

No one pays attention to her, yet she feels all eyes are on her and the seemingly invisible flaw. The light stops blinking for a moment and flares, turning from bright red to a dark, blood-like shade. Her heart races. She tenses, waiting for the wretched sensation.

A minute passes. Two. She exhales, relaxing. Perhaps it was a glitch.

White hot pain explodes in the base of her skull. Fire claws its way around her body, digging its talons into her skin. She gasps and bites her lip, digging her nails into her palm.

She refuses to draw attention to her suffering, afraid of risking another reason for the red light to start again. No, she can't show the pain. Perfect people don't suffer the agony encompassing her, as though sharp nails are burrowing into her soul and her spirit deserves to be punished for her errors.

Her eyes threaten to spill, and the red light resumes blinking. Fear shreds her heart and she blinks back tears. The light disappears.

People breeze by, not noticing or not caring about the woman rooted to the ground in the middle of the walkway. Eventually, the pain recedes, and she releases a long breath. She looks at her phone and is enlightened to her mistake. Her phone displays an image of her, taken from one of the nearby cameras littering the streets and city.

Her expression doesn't match those of everyone else. Her mouth is slightly downturned, eyes distant. She doesn't look happy. A message appears: smile.

She chides herself; what was she thinking? She should have known better than to let her inner turmoil show. After all, none should be burdened by the conflicted thoughts running through the mind of one ruining society's perfect image. The mask she painstakingly paints day after day must never falter, must never melt.

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