Laurie never knew what to say come Moan Day. Her usual gripe about Moan Day not actually being on a Monday was boring even her now, but who thought to hold the weekly moaning day on a Wednesday anyway?
Ever since she’d learned to speak, this weekly, legislated ritual had been a huge part of her life. Everyone else just seemed to take it in their stride, but she had to prep, make notes, do test runs, rehearsals, alternative takes, and make sure she was ready. Everyone else just rocked up to the lectern, spat out some perceived slight, and got back down again.
And it’s not like she could moan about all the work that went into Moan Day either. That was verboten. Moan Day was sacrosanct. Moan Day was done in a certain way, and anyone deviating from the format was usually never seen again.
State-sponsored whingeing seemed, on the surface, like a good idea. Until you added the policing, and the punishments.
Laurie wouldn’t be allowed to moan about anything that actually mattered. She’d have to moan about something tiny, trivial, something not worth the effort. And the consequences of moaning wrong didn’t bear thinking about.
She shuffled her note cards, checking the order for the tenth time in as many minutes. Her bladder was making itself known, the way it always did when the butterflies started to fly around her stomach.
The kerfuffle from the lectern was enough to make her look up. He was being dragged away, a buzzing think stick charring a shape into the small of his back through his burning shirt. The silence from the gathered crowd only served to amplify his screams of pain, even as they disappeared behind a door. Laurie hadn’t heard what had prompted this, and hoped that nothing on her note cards would do the same.
She stepped up to the podium, and coughed. Her throat was so dry that it was painful. A glass of water sat there, untouched. The first card suddenly became wrong, and she slipped it to the back of the pile. The second one was no better, and it suffered the same fate. The third one felt like safer ground.
“Right,” she croaked. “Yesterday I watched my friend pouring a cup of tea. He put the milk in, and THEN the tea.”
Laurie was never seen again.