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    drsawzall
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.
Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 
This tale owes a debt of thanks to Shirly Jackson’s 1948 short story called The Lottery.  It is well worth the time to check out.

La Tombola - 1. Chapter 1

As it was for every year, with school letting out for the summer, crops, animal stock bountiful in the fields, along with the Solstice, signaled the beginning of the Days of Obligation. A solemn remembrance harkening back nearly a millennium, to the first settlements, as their ancestors left an overcrowded, polluted beyond repair and slowly dying Terra, known as Earth in the old language. Climatological abuse, the deliberate raping of the planet for resources, and the wars to keep control of their ill-gotten gains, was the final death knell.

A concentrated, concerted effort as the planet was choking to death, by one of the last, advanced nations paid off as their interstellar telescopes, showed the path forward if humanity were to survive. Veiled in total secrecy, a nascent program was born. Its mission was to initially launch a series of three interstellar ships, their destination was Orion-24ZFX.

Exploratory satellites at the utmost limit of their range, sent back proof that the planet was habitable. Approximately the same distance from their sun as Earth, Orion-24ZFX shared one other characteristic with Earth. The planet was a water world, where the land mass was roughly 25% of the planet’s surface. There were three continents, making up most of the landmass and two smaller ice-covered poles. Interspersed among the three continents were several smaller islands, all of which were deemed too small to support any communities. While much of what they knew was conjecture, everything they could glean from the limited data could not be overlooked.

Heated debates centered around who to include, what technology to bring, lasted several years with decisions no clearer as the date for launch drew near. Word eventually leaked out to the other nations of Earth what was going on. Some of the larger, more powerful, demanded a seat at the table, as there wasn’t any more time for these nations to create and develop their own programs, the planet was convulsing in its death throes.

It was decided that what would be brought were the tools necessary for agriculture, housing, and healthcare along with the ‘selected’ sixty-four families. All told some two-hundred-and fifty souls. The second, future wave of interstellar ships would bring everything else necessary for a larger colonizing the planet now known as ‘The New World”. The first initial settlement would be known as Plimoth Plantation.

What wasn’t brought were political parties, religious, sexual, or racial intolerance. A governing compact known as the New World Compact was created to establish self-government, consisting of justice and equality for all, enshrined in the legal framework of the document. Every one of the settlers’ families and those at or above the age of majority, signed the compact.

Time had run out, war was impending…the promised total-destruction by those nations left out was coming. Sensors aboard orbital satellites showed nuclear warheads in the launch position, targeting major population centers and the launch site.

Early on the morning on March 10th, 2154 the first rocket ship blasted off from the Mojave Desert to meet with a pre-positioned cargo ship Discovery, hidden just off the dark side of the moon. The Mayflower carried the sixty-four families and the goods necessary for their first year’s survival, to be followed by the cargo ship, Discovery from the dark side of the moon where it had been pre-staged, hidden from prying eyes.

In a paroxysm of anger, missiles were launched towards the launch site shortly after the initial launch, necessitating and moving up the Speedwell’s launch. While the defense of the launch site bought some time, it would be a close call. By the narrowest of margins, the Speedwell barely cleared the atmosphere as the launch site disappeared with the coordinates of their destination, under a cloud of radioactive dust, along with a large portion of the rest of the planet.

They say that time heals all wounds, and for the most part this is true. As the Mayflower, Speedwell, and Discovery neared the planet formerly known as Orion-24ZFX, their new world and home, old earth was just emerging from a nuclear winter that had lasted five-hundred-years, never to be the same.

When the interstellar ships were approximately a year out, everyone was brought out of stasis and work began to get ready for transfer to the planet’s surface. Everything concerning the landing and transfer down to the planet of people and cargo was pre-programmed. Safety checks needed to be conducted, cargo secured and inventoried.

In all the planning no one fully understood or accounted for, the effects of a five-hundred-year journey across the vastness of space, would have on the three interstellar ships. Or what would be found down on the planet known as Orion-24ZFX…what their sensor and scans did not pick up…the Gnos.

                                                             ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The morning of this late June day was reserved for what had become known as ‘La Tombola’. From the days of the first landing, certain traditions remained inviolable. The length of days and the number of those along with the seasons, mirrored that of the ancients’ home world. Important dates were kept as the settlers grew accustomed to their new surroundings. Numbering was based on the decimal system as well as the naming conventions.

The citizens of New Boston, a prosperous village of four hundred souls would all gather on this day, each year to take part in the ritual. It would start on or about the tenth hour of the day and conclude in time for the mid-day repast.

The younger boys were the first to assemble, eager in their new-found summer freedom to vie for the choicest spots in the town square, while they waited for the adults to slowly make their way.

They filled those empty minutes with a sense of nervous anticipation as they at first gathered in small groups of one or two. Soon however, their restless energy found them engaging into animated activity amongst themselves. Talking about the school year past, of lessons, teachers along with those who were caught misbehaving and punishments. All were glad to see they had moved on the next level in their education. Off to the side, no less interested were the young girls talking quietly amongst themselves, as they looked over the young boys and the smaller children playing at their feet.

Now off to the side of the town square the men, husbands and fathers and eligible bachelors began to gather, unwittingly seeking comfort in the company of their peers. They spent time talking of the weather and the crops in the ground. The prospect of beneficial rains through the growing season. The latest improvements in agriculture and care for the animals they rode or plowed their fields with. Not surprisingly they grumbled about their taxes and the need to economize. Wistfully recalling the tales of old, of the first settlers and the wondrous machines they had.

Machines that could so the work in hours that took them days until their time ended abruptly. Parts wore out or things broke and in the fullness of the early years, replacement parts were no longer available, or could be made, the planet simply lacked the resources needed.

The women, wives, and eligible daughters, wearing the toil and struggle of their days, arrived shortly after in their faded slipovers and washed-out best dresses. Exchanging news of loved ones in different communities, gossip, the latest pregnancies, and births along with recipes.

As the town square filled up, the assembled began to gather in their family groups. Mothers called out to their children, who actively were still roaming the square playing game known only to themselves, as they waited for things to begin. As the children came back to their parents, they were reminded, admonished to settle down.

La Tombola was a yearly event of gratitude, unlike the other holidays, dances, weddings, and various civic undertakings. It was conducted with the utmost solemnity; as it deserved no less. It harkened back to the first years after the landing, the desperate struggle to survive, one they almost did not. So many things went wrong, belying just how unprepared the original settlers were.

The mood of those assembled quieted as Josiah Trimble made his way up on to the stage that has been built in the days previously. Standing next to the large revolving drum, he greeted the crowd and asked that the assembled families take a moment in reflection as to what this day meant before adding, that soon it would be time for the slips of paper to be placed in the revolving drum.

Josiah Trimble had the time and wherewithal to devote to the town’s civic activities. A widower with no surviving offspring, he ran the mercantile store located just off to the side to what passed as the health center. There wasn’t a business or farming operation that did not use his services. All goods, from the sawyer to the smallest farmer or tailor, that did business with him and through him. His store was the conduit that all goods needed or produced crossed paths. Items ordered from other towns such as theirs, or offered for sale in those towns, went in and out of his warehouse.

The drum was showing its age, it was older than anyone in the town. Grandparents fondly remembered their grandparent’s tales of the day and that drum. Occasionally, the menfolk would discuss replacing the drum, but doing so would upset custom, and no one wanted to be responsible for that. Legend had it that the various pieces of wood that made up the drum, could date back to the original one and many subsequent ones.

Horace Smith, the town administrator, and keeper of the records followed shortly after Josiah Trimble. In his hands was a locked black box, every bit as old as the drum. Its condition was care worn. In the box was the name of every male villager, between the ages of twelve to fourteen, on a slip of paper. When a boy reached the age of twelve and then fifteen, the name was recorded, written on a slip of paper, and placed or removed the box.

When not in use, the box sat in a safe located in the office of Horace Smith. Each year, the day before La Tombola, Doc Graves and Horace Smith would peruse the town records, confirming the list of all the eligible young men whose names would then be placed on a slip of paper inside the age worn box. Both men saw to the securing of the box, placing it in the safe. When it was time to come out, both would be present at its removal prior to being brought to the town square.

The box was placed on a stool where everyone could see it and note that it was securely locked. As Horace Smith stepped to the back of the stage, Doc Graves took his place and presented the key to the box to Josiah Trimble.

With the arrival of the box, there was a great deal of fretting as the time to declare La Tombola to commence. As with any civic occurrences requiring the town’s assent, there were formalities that needed to take place. Josiah Trimble needed to take the solemn oath, administered by Horace Smith, who by dint of his duties to the town, served as the de facto official of the day.

There was a time the older denizens of the town remembered, that the day was much more involved. There would be recitals, songs sung in honor of the day, the speech made before the drawing of the name or names. Many of these traditions had lapsed over the intervening years but one such ritual held fast. Josiah Trimble, as in years past, having assumed his duties to the town, would call up each of the eligible young men and greet each one with words of encouragement and thanks.

Thom Jamison, the oldest man in the village, turned to Peter Boone, who in conversation about the day, told him that had heard that the town to the north of them, were discussing giving up the day of remembrance.

“Fools, nothing but silly fools,” Thom exclaimed. “Those folks would rather go back to the way folks lived, eating nuts and weeds, and living in the hollows. It’s like nobody wants to work anymore or honor the traditions that have kept us alive. Why would they want to go back to that way of life? There is an old saying, much older than me or my grandparents, La Tombola in June, crops will be copious in fall. There’s always been a La Tombola,” he added in a sarcastic voice. “It’s bad enough to see Josiah Trimble laughing up there with everyone.”

“We’ve all heard tell that several towns have given up La Tombola, Mrs. Harrison noted. “Likewise, they ain’t doing so good, lack of rain is making things very difficult for them. They ain’t got much to trade or much that’s worth anything.”

“I was conversing with Horace Smith the other day,” Old Thom continued, “He’s getting requests for all the produce we can spare, seems like some of our non-believing neighbors ain’t having much luck this year,” Letting a derisive snort out, “Yields are down and their stock is faring poorly.”

“Is it any wonder?” Mrs. Dunbar heatedly butted in, “They’ve turned their backs on all we’ve done to survive, the sacrifices made for our community of settlers, in order to survive, and the giving of thanks in remembrances of those efforts is too much for them to bear?”

“Surely you don’t hold stock in those old tales of the beginning, do you?” Larry Begins asked. “Isn’t that what they are, just stories that have changed over time, perpetuating a silly old ritual that hasn’t anything to do with the crops, stock, or the seasons.”

Old Thom was incensed, “Surely Larry, you as much as anyone have benefitted from this…quaint tradition, as you have called it. You’ve been lucky, more fortunate than most some would call it, from this day of tradition.” Reminding him of several years past, Old Thom went further, “Your family has been called on this day, more than once over the years and has been rewarded many times over.”

“Larry Begins,” Mrs. Harrison acidly commented looking down her nose at him, “It may be best if you and yours, took some time in the library’s records of the seasons, going as far back as the embarking of our ancestors to this new world. You may be surprised to find that in those records, there were times in the past, when those in this little town thought they knew better. Driving her point forward, “You’d be astonished at the correlations found between hunger and disease nearly wiping us out, to the prosperity enjoyed when we’ve followed the tradition, you above anyone else here must understand that!”

“This is what bothers me most about some of the foolishness we’ve allowed folks to get away with.” Old Thom sternly reminded those gathered around him, “We have allowed such talk despite what the records show and prove, we are doing a poor job of reminding all of us the importance of this day. It brings shame and discredit to our community.”

Looking directly at Larry Begins, Old Thom continued, “I don’t know about you, but I think I speak for most of us, I won’t stand for any further deviations from the sacred tradition of this day, that so many of our families have been called on, that to do otherwise would bring a disgrace and dishonor, that would be forevermore an un-washable stain on our community.”

What went on unnoticed by those in that conversation were the number of folks that had gathered around them, what wasn’t a surprise was the nods of assent or the quiet admonitions of support for Old Thom.

Horace Smith noticing the restlessness of the crowd thought it was time to commence, calling out, he announced the swearing in was to begin and the start of the day’s ceremony. Josiah Trimble stood proudly and pledged a fair and equitable process. The names had been certified; it was time for the calling of the names.

“If I could have your attention folks, lets quiet down,” He said soberly, “The sooner we get started the quicker we can get back to our homes and business. Is there anyone missing?”

“Corey Larking,” Called out his mother. “Had his appendix out the other day, he’s resting in the Health Center.”

“Who will stand for him for the drawing?” Josiah asked.

“His brother Tim, he’s a bit young but knows to behave, he’ll also run over and let him know if he’s been picked,” His mother added.

“Well then,” Josiah said. “Guess that’s everyone spoken for.”

The anticipation was palatable as the gathered crowd silently stood, awaiting the results.

“I’d like to call up this year’s boys up to the front of the stage so we can begin.” Josiah stated.

Once all the boys were present, the locked box was opened, each boy was given the corresponding slip with his name on it, confirming in fact that it was him. Once done, each boy in turn placed his slip in the revolving drum, returning to the front of the stage.

Slowly the drum was spun several times to ensure there wasn’t any subterfuge, and then brought to a stop. Opening the door on the side of the drum, turning his head away from it he reached in, and drew a name.

Bringing out the folded slip, he held it up for the crowd to see before opening. Pausing for a second, he opened the slip of paper and called out…” Peter Miller.”

Standing in front of the stage Peter was stunned to hear his name called. He knew it was an honor but was conflicted to what it all meant. He’d be leaving home, never to return, to face an unknown future. That three others would be called to accompany him, to the point of no return on the Walk of Survival was comforting. His mind was a blur, a mix of emotions cascading throughout him.

Before he knew it, he was saying good bye to his parents, brothers, and sister. All were teary eyed.

~~~~

“We all know what this day means,” Josiah Trimble started, “When our ancestors landed here, we nearly did not survive. We faced odds that were never accounted for, hardships that threatened the very fabric of our survival.” Looking out and studying the faces before him, “We were alone, left on this world with very little. What had been planned for never materialized.” “More to the point,” He continued, “Had it not been for the help given, none of us would be here.”

“I want you boys to know the honor that has been bestowed on you. The very survival of our community rests now upon your shoulders. Like those who went before you, they did only what needed to be done. You have been taught our history; you know how tenuous life here is. There’s a price to pay for what we take from this planet, it demands our respect and obligation and for that, we thank you.

A little bit later today, I will be speaking to each of you individually with your instructions for tomorrow when you begin the walk. For now, all of you need to meet with Doc Graves for your physicals. After that we will meet in the Founders Hall for the evening meal and then your instructions

Copyright © 2022 drsawzall; All Rights Reserved.
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Thanks for reading, your comments and thoughts are appreciated. Please take a moment to let me know your impressions.
Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.
Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 
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Chapter Comments

10 hours ago, raven1 said:

The purpose of the lottery is the preservation of humans on the planet, but how is that accomplished? Is it a human sacrifice?  What is/are the Gnos, and does it/they have anything to do with the lottery?  Drsawzall you have got me hooked. You start out with a mystery that has me wanting to know the answers to questions, so now I need to read more to find the answers.  Excellent beginning.

All will hopefully come to light, evolution can be a tricky son of a gun...

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Late to the party but the sinking feeling I had as you ratcheted up tension about the lottery was REAL. I’ve read The Lottery so had some clue the boys were not in for a good time. I’m hooked to find out more!

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8 hours ago, imogene_arant said:

Late to the party but the sinking feeling I had as you ratcheted up tension about the lottery was REAL. I’ve read The Lottery so had some clue the boys were not in for a good time. I’m hooked to find out more!

Thanks, I thought Shirly Jackson's short story raised so many questions and possibilities that needed to be explored! Looking forward to your thoughts and comments!!

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Interesting start. I wonder if the boys that go off ever come back, or maybe join other communities elsewhere. What are Gnos?

Enjoyed chapter 1!

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11 hours ago, Doha said:

Interesting start. I wonder if the boys that go off ever come back, or maybe join other communities elsewhere. What are Gnos?

Enjoyed chapter 1!

Thanks!@!!!

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On 4/12/2022 at 1:20 AM, imogene_arant said:

Late to the party but the sinking feeling I had as you ratcheted up tension about the lottery was REAL. I’ve read The Lottery so had some clue the boys were not in for a good time. I’m hooked to find out more!

Somehow I missed this, thanks for reading and your comments!

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1. As you have asked me, I read your other stories, and I well, however, I would like some direction as to what I should read next!

2. I have sent you a message and I am guessing you have not read it. I wish that you would!

This is a truly a good beginning to this very good story. So, they cast out 4 young boys are they in fact scapegoats! Well, this is very well written at some point I hope to find out how this archaic ritual started. Are they trying to maintain the population at some level?:thankyou:

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55 minutes ago, Albert1434 said:

1. As you have asked me, I read your other stories, and I well, however, I would like some direction as to what I should read next!

2. I have sent you a message and I am guessing you have not read it. I wish that you would!

This is a truly a good beginning to this very good story. So, they cast out 4 young boys are they in fact scapegoats! Well, this is very well written at some point I hope to find out how this archaic ritual started. Are they trying to maintain the population at some level?:thankyou:

I would read either Doc Tompkins or Empty Shoes next!

I will respond to your message tonight! My sincere apologies...

Hang tight, much more is to be revealed...

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3 minutes ago, drsawzall said:

I would read either Doc Tompkins or Empty Shoes next!

I will respond to your message tonight! My sincere apologies...

Hang tight, much more is to be revealed...

Thanks:yes:

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3 hours ago, Albert1434 said:

1. As you have asked me, I read your other stories, and I well, however, I would like some direction as to what I should read next!

2. I have sent you a message and I am guessing you have not read it. I wish that you would!

This is a truly a good beginning to this very good story. So, they cast out 4 young boys are they in fact scapegoats! Well, this is very well written at some point I hope to find out how this archaic ritual started. Are they trying to maintain the population at some level?:thankyou:

Hey Albert!  I know you will love this story.  There is a sequel in the making according to remarks made in @drsawzall's Anthology story this year.  Have fun reading this!

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On 2/12/2022 at 5:18 PM, weinerdog said:

One quick comment before talking about this chapter the people who demanded a "seat at the table" on one of the three ships were probably part of families whose businesses helped put Earth in the dying position it got in. I sure hope this story stays science fiction instead of science fact 100 years from now.

I'll be very interested to see what the instructions are next chapter.I couldn't help but be reminded of the story The Lottery as I was reading this I wonder if that's what you were going for.  The difference in that story is  the end results was more severe and barbaric then it would seem to be here

 

On 2/12/2022 at 5:57 PM, drsawzall said:

I did base this tale on Shirley Jackson's 1948 short story called The Lottery and I do borrow certain themes, taking it in a slightly different direction. While there will be some 'science' involved, it will be a less important part of the tale. 

This is a short story as well with a companion piece to follow after the next chapter!

Thanks for your comments!

Yes. Shirley Jackson's story immediately came to mind.

Peter's thoughts of never returning are grim.

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1 hour ago, drpaladin said:

 

Yes. Shirley Jackson's story immediately came to mind.

Peter's thoughts of never returning are grim.

It is something all young teens have to contemplate in this brave new world, while life isn't as harsh as it could be, it comes at a cost..

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