Includes: At What Cost, Priceless, The Cost of Freedom
“I just don’t know what I’m going to do,” Hailey moaned to her best friend, Terri, at work. “It feels like I have pinned so much of my life on him and on our future, that I’m just stuck with the leftovers that he didn’t want.” Terri nodded in agreement, having heard this all before.
Two months ago, Hailey’s first, and only, boyfriend up and left her one day without any warning. He said she was boring and that she was holding him back from his potential, whatever that meant. He took everything that he felt he “deserved”; their bed, the couch, the tv, and all his favorite movies. But he generously left her with the apartment. Hailey ended up paying to break her lease, since she could no longer afford the fancy pent-house apartment with two bedrooms and a massive kitchen fit for a chef. She never wanted to live there anyway, hoping to save money to pay down her student loans and all the credit card debt she acquired from buying furniture for the apartment. Her first adult job paid pittance, and Hailey was scrambling to keep herself afloat financially.
“You could get a second job,” Terri coaxed gently. Five years older than Hailey, she had finally reached her first big promotion and had the financial room to breathe easier. She still remembered how hard it was to start out.
“Don’t you think I’m a little old to be working another job?” Hailey sighed. Why did life have to be so difficult? I thought everything was supposed to be easy once I graduated.
“No one told you life was going to be easy.” Terri nudged Hailey, reading her mind. Hailey quirked a half smile at her. “Let’s go get some coffee, caffeine should help us out.” Both women stood and walked to the elevators.
Hailey and Terri walked down the city street, enjoying the air and their coffee. Neither was in a rush to return to the office to complete their afternoon paperwork. They casually looked into the windows of the small boutiques that rented out the display windows along the front of the offices. Another grab for big companies to make a little extra money, and the boutiques garnered constant advertising, forcing people to notice their goods for sale. It seemed like a win-win, unless of course the boutiques’ customers were like Hailey and barely had extra money for a weekly coffee treat, let alone a floor length ball gown with matching purse.
“One day, I’m going to have a ball gown in every color for every day of the week!” Terri giggled, choking a little on her coffee.
“Oh yeah? Where would you wear them?”
“Just around the house, running errands, the usual peasant things.” She smiled at Hailey, a laugh in her green eyes.
“I’d love to see you come in to work wearing a ball gown!” Hailey sipped her coffee, laughing at the thought of Terri doing paperwork and selling printers to big companies that need to print thousands of sheets an hour. The thought forced a belly laugh through her, and she slapped her hand over her mouth, keeping a dainty look on her face.
“Fuck work. If I can afford ball gowns, then I won’t have to work anymore!”
“If you’re buying ball gowns, you’re going to need to work to keep up with your look!” Hailey looked down at her watch, coffee dripping out of her mouth. “Oh shit, we have to get back!”
Hailey and Terri stepped off the elevator and were greeted by the sales manager speed walking past them. Two other salesmen were hot on his heels as they headed towards the large conference room.
“What’s going on?” Terri asked the passing men.
“Not sure, just an urgent email to gather in the conference room.” He barely stopped as he told them over his shoulder. The women looked at each other and dashed towards the conference room.
The room was bursting with everyone from the office stuffed into every corner. All the chairs were taken, and some people were crouching in between the chairs to make room for the final late comers. One person had a laptop open on the desk, connected to the projector. The national news channel website was pulled up, with the current live broadcast at the top. A cloudless sky was set as the background on the electronic screens, a rough juxtaposition to the serious news presenters frowning down at the papers in their hands.
“We have just received breaking news from an official spokesperson at the United Nations conference being held in Luxemburg today.” The presenter on the right in a rich red business suit looked solemnly into the camera. “After months of secret deliberation and two official proposals, the United Nations has come to an agreement that will affect the entire world. A decision this big has not been contemplated since the Nurembourg trials after World War 2.”
“That’s right, Jena,” The stoic man in a dark blazer and matching red tie butted in. “This is an unprecedented decision with unimaginable results.”
“Just get on with it!” The person in front of the laptop hissed through his teeth.
“Our coverage of the past few years has brought to you a never-ending torrent of inflation and insurmountable expenses. Gas prices, housing costs, and groceries has sent our homes, communities, and the world into a financial stress that would take two generations to dig ourselves out of. The disparity between poor and rich has turned into an ocean instead of a crossable gap, many people are forced to juggle multiple jobs or do unsavory work on the side just to maintain a semblance of a comfortable lifestyle.” Blazer man continued in a dramatic fashion, oblivious to the tension and jiggling feet in the conference room.
“And Jeff, I could barely believe it when I first read the report, this news seems impossible to continue with.” The red business suit woman nodded, her brown hair barely moving, as if she was a robot designed just to toy with people’s emotions through their screens. Jeff flashed his eyes over to her, annoyed that she dared to interrupt him. “I’m just going to get on with it. The United Nations has come to an agreement that money, or a financial structure, will no longer exist in our world.” A few people in the room gasped, Hailey felt her heart leap up to her throat and back down again. “In the official report we received fifteen minutes ago, it was agreed by all nations that the current rate of inflation is creating unmanageable financial situations that are unsustainable for the majority of humanity, as well as causing an unfortunate record-breaking amount of suicides that are tied to being unable to afford a stable lifestyle that fits basic human needs as defined by the United Nations.”
“As of right now, there does not seem to be one standard decree or singular plan for all countries to follow as they begin to act upon this new agreement.” Jeff spoke over Jena loudly, seemingly worried about being excluded from this important news. “It is also important to note that there are 193 countries that have declared themselves part of the United Nations, with the five permanent members being Russia, China, France, the United Kingdom, and of course, our great nation, the United States.”
“I’m getting notice from our spokesperson at the United Nations that they have an update in this breaking news.” Jena held one hand to her ear, the other stretched in front of Jeff to keep him silent. Both news presenters had left all forms of politeness as they fought to be the face of this world changing news. The camera panned out from the table and a green screen flashed over the screen before focusing on a new woman’s face, black bars creating a dramatic background behind her head.
“Thanks Jena and Jeff, I’m standing outside the building where this landmark decision to get rid of a financial structure has been passed down. There’s an electric feeling in the air, I personally have no idea what is going to happen, but we shall see. A new update has been released, stating that each country will oversee how to regulate and monitor themselves in the upcoming months as the world transitions from its traditional financial dependence into a world that focuses on how to support humanity the best.” Her hair moved lightly in the wind; a passive look on her face. She seemed unbothered, like she was reporting the opening of a new shopping mall instead of delivering life changing news.
“The United States and the United Kingdom have both pitched aggressive desires to have their entire countries switched over to this new way of living within one calendar year from today. Many other countries, specifically Australia and most of Europe, have openly stated that they will model their transitions after the two hard hitters have completed their full year of transitioning first. If the United States and the United Kingdom can create a seamless transition with minimal problems, then it does appear that the rest of the world should have no issue with this new way of living. Our correspondence will continue passing along updates as we receive them. Back to you, Jena and Jeff.” The woman nodded to signal she was done speaking, the screen flashing back to green before showing Jena and Jeff’s serious faces.
“Well, there we have it. Our news channel will continue to report on this as we receive more news, please stayed tuned as we wait for an official statement from the President of the United States.” Jena tapped her papers aggressively on the desk, cementing her role as the face of this drastic lifestyle change. “A quick advertisement from our – “
The person in charge of the laptop in the conference room snapped the computer closed, immediately ending the broadcast on the screen. The projector left a bright blue screen with a black dialogue box stating, ‘No Connection’, blaring. The people in the conference room were left staring at each other, everyone absorbing the news quietly.
“Do we, do we just, go back to work?” A newly hired girl piped up, confusion and fear in her voice.