In a dark vision of the near future, Los Angeles has become a desolate wasteland after a multi-pronged biological, nuclear, and EMP attack that paralyzed Southern California on a day that the rest of the nation celebrated independence. For the unlucky "New Angelinos," there is only one way out: gain entry into the New United States through The Raffle.
When raffler Ramsey Arami wins The Raffle after ten years of trying, he believes he will finally reunite with his wife and daughter in the New United States. But only if he follows the rules of the New United States.
Climaxing in Area 51, Randy Smith delivers a fast-paced geopolitical thriller that is equal parts suspense and philosophy, adventure and romance, science and technology in a future with unsettling parallels to our present.
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May 19, 2027
“You have three hours and fifty-nine minutes before the Raffle,” the blond haired, blue-eyed female guard said at the end of the narrow hallway we had been walking. She pressed her hand against a pad next to a door and it opened. A sign above the door said “Raffler #1”. As she stared into my eyes to see my reaction, she said, “Please enter your waiting room, Raffler #1.”
I nodded and surveyed the room. It was small, about one-hundred-fifty square feet with a single cot covered with white linen sheets and a pillow. Folded blue coveralls lay at the end of the cot. Perched halfway between the cot and the ceiling was what appeared to be a white, plastic-covered square speaker. Next to the speaker was a black-paneled clock with red-colored digits displaying the current time: 8:01.
A small white desk stood against the left-side wall with a white swivel chair. The desk and chair reminded me of a smaller version of a desk my wife and I had in our home office almost eleven years ago. Positioned in the center of the desk were a new notepad and two sharpened pencils, also things I hadn’t seen in almost eleven years.
Noticing that I was staring at the desk and the pad of paper, the guard said, “We encourage Rafflers having progressed this far to write.”
“Write what?” I asked cautiously.
“Anything they desire. A prayer, their thoughts, or a letter to individuals they knew before July 2016 that may live now in the New United States.”
“And why do you encourage writing?”
“Because writing is a skill New Angelinos have not used regularly in many years.”
She watched my reaction before continuing. “If your Raffle ticket gets picked tonight, you will be Re-Patriated to the New United States. Our Re-Partition Laws require Re-Patriated New Angelinos to have a job within two weeks of re-entry. And not all jobs available to Re-Patriots are the manual labor jobs that New Angelinos have been doing for the past ten years.”
“And who will read what I write?”
“That is entirely up to you. At 11:59 tonight, you will hear over the speaker above the number of the Raffle winner. If you are the winner and choose not to submit a letter for delivery, you may take your writings with you and nobody will ever read them or ask them of you. Your writings are yours to keep as a last physical memento of your time in New Angeles.”
“Am I supposed to believe no one will read the writings if I am picked tonight?”
“The ability to trust and show you are trustworthy are important skills to possess. By allowing you to participate in the Raffle we trust you no longer show the effects of M-V-16 Virus. Those showing effects of the Virus fail to advance as far as you have today.”
She paused and made direct eye contact with me, presumably to make sure I understood before continuing.
“And being able to trust in the New United States is also important for Re-Patriation eligibility. So, if you are told your writings will not be read if you choose not to submit them, then you should trust us.”
I realized believing, or at least pretending I believed, that my writings would not be read was another stage of the Raffle. Having never been so close to having my number drawn, I agreed to buy what she was selling, but I was still confused.
“Why would I choose to submit what I write to you?”
“On the other side of this wall you will find two slots, one marked destruction and the other marked distribution.”
She looked back in my eyes and said, “The destruction slot leads to an incinerator beneath us, and you may deposit your writings into the destruction slot at any time and they will not be read.” She paused again, presumably for effect.
“If you deposit a letter with sufficient delivery details to someone you believe lives in the New United States and the letter is submitted by 11:49 tonight, then we will deliver it per your instructions. Of course, that means we will thoroughly read your letter to ensure the best possible chance of delivery.”
I nodded and said, “Thank you for the explanation.”
While stepping forward I made a slight asking bow to her with a head nod towards my room, “May I enter?”
She squinted her eyes, making a mental note of my moves. I realized I passed another test by asking permission before entering the room.
“One more matter you should know that occurs at exactly 11:49 tonight. You must decide whether you will increase your chances tenfold by pledging your next ten Raffle entries. We call it ‘Pledging Your Ten’”.
“‘Pledging Your Ten’?” I said with surprise. “The Proclamation never mentioned ‘Pledging Your Ten’.” I reached into my yellow jumpsuit to retrieve my obligatory copy of The Proclamation.
“We completed the Settlement over ten years ago, Raffler #1. You are ignorant of many adjustments the New United States has made to the Raffle. If you are willing to maximize your chances tonight, we will document the pledging of your next ten Raffle tickets. If you fail to win tonight, you will not be allowed to participate in the Raffle for the next ten years.”
“Am I required to pledge my ten Raffle tickets?”
“No, you are not required to Pledge Your Ten, though, in making your decision, you should consider what the seven other Rafflers will do tonight.”
I nodded and looked away into the room. “Can I pledge less than ten?”
“No, Raffler #1. You may choose to Pledge Your Ten or take your chances with your single Raffle ticket tonight.”
I nodded. “Thank you, ma’am. Anything else I should be aware of before I enter?” I asked respectfully.
“You may enter, Raffler #1. Please remove your jumpsuit once the door is closed behind you. We have fresh coveralls for you on the cot.”
As I stepped into the room, I looked at the clock, which said 8:04 pm. I then heard the door whoosh closed behind me and lock itself. I realized I spent precious minutes learning about my choices before the Raffle tonight. My mind ruminated about the length of my questions: Was that another part of the test? Did I take too long? Was I too short?
The rumination lasted a precious minute: once the clock hit 8:05, my mind began to race. I stared at the clock, then closed my eyes, and breathed slowly until I was in complete control of my nerves. I continued to breathe until I had full control of my thoughts and mind through my brief standing meditation and opened my eyes to see it was now 8:07: Three hours and fifty-two minutes until the Raffle. I nodded to myself while staring back and forth at the desk and the cot, and asked myself, “Sleep or write? What will I do?”
Using the buttons on the side I stripped off and folded my mandatory yellow jumpsuit and placed it under the cot. I also removed my obligatory copy of the Proclamation and my Raffle ticket. I put on the coveralls and placed the Proclamation and the ticket in the front left pocket.
Trying to relax, I sat on the cot and placed my head in my hands. My racing mind felt like it was thumping, but I realized the thumping was just my heart. I was so close to leaving New Angeles, but I didn't want to get my hopes up. Only eight Rafflers remained. And how many of us would “Pledge Your Ten”? Maybe the others will think if they advanced this far this year then they will again next year and choose not to pledge their next ten Raffles. But, logic told me everyone would pledge their next ten Raffle tickets to increase their chances of being picked tonight. And if everyone else was maximizing their chances, then I should as well.
After breathing in deeply and exhaling, I looked at the clock. It was now 8:10. I thought about my wife and daughter. I had not seen or communicated with them in almost eleven years. The last time I saw them was when I dropped them off at LAX on July 3, 2016 for their trip to visit my wife’s parents near Boston. Although I wasn’t sure they were still alive, in my heart I believed they were and my belief kept me alive these years. It fueled my instinct to survive and continue every time I wanted to quit. I hoped every day to see them again. And now if the security guard told the truth, I had the chance to at least write them a letter. Other than documenting New United States fuel shipments to the Asian Quadrant I had written little in the past 11 years so my writing skills were poor. Still, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity: I decided to write a letter to my wife and daughter.