The Registration by Madison Lawson: Featured Excerpt
By Crime HQSeptember 30, 2022
Lynnel feels the sun cutting into her skin, a harsh reminder of her own mortality. She rolls forward onto her toes and holds her hand up against the sun. The motion puts an old scar on her forearm in her direct line of sight. Her stomach clenches and she steps back into the shade.
Dallas is busier today than on a usual Thursday. The first Thursday of the quarter, April 4th, brings promises of vengeance, clarity, relief, justice, and love.
It’s Registration Day.
Lynell pushes herself against the wall of the building and leans her head back. She flattens her palms against the hot stones, listening to the city’s symphony. Hundreds of feet pound the pavement, and the streets are congested with honking cars and people on the phone.
Across the street, an old man walks out of the large glass door Lynell has been staring at for two hours. He folds a piece of paper and slides it into his back pocket. She wonders whom he just Registered. The odds suggest a wife or loved one in chronic pain, as mercy is the most common reason for using the Registration. But perhaps this man seeks justice. Lynell’s high school history teacher used his Registration on a man who assaulted his daughter and got away with it. No jail time or community service.
But with the Registration, he found justice anyway.
A gunshot brutally pulls her out of her rumination. A young girl screams, and a few older kids jump or duck. Lynell, like most of the adults walking the streets, only flinches at the sound. While public Registrations aren’t common, the first day is always the most violent.
She looks up to see a middle-aged man lying in a pool of his own blood and a woman, the same age, standing over him holding a small, smoking gun. Instantly, a pair of Elysian Regulators rush to her side. Lynell can’t hear what they’re saying, but after the woman holds up a piece of paper and the officers dig in the man’s coat, they nod. A lengthy phone call later, the Regulators leave. If the Registration had been completed anywhere else, officers probably would have arrived first. But since she’s right outside a Registration office, there are plenty of Regulators around to check the legitimacy of the completed Registration.
The woman kneels next to the man’s side, back straight as she reaches toward his pocket. Two men a few feet away pull out their phones and start snapping photos before running off. Perhaps they’re nothing more than curious bystanders, but the deep frowns on their faces tell a different story. Lynell would bet her own Registration that they’re rebel vultures collecting gruesome images of any deaths they stumble across. Whatever remains of the revolutionists will flood the internet with photos of the worst completed Registrations to sway others to their cause. What they won’t show are the grateful faces of those who will be Registered so they won’t have to spend another day on a ventilator or suffering through chemo. They won’t show the heartbroken women Registering the unnamed fetuses they carry with debilitating illnesses, or the poor teens ending a pregnancy they could never afford. They won’t show people the government failed, like Lynell’s old teacher or Lynell herself, who now must seek justice themselves.
With the Sanitary Crew yet to be dispatched, no one touches or moves the body. Pedestrians simply avoid stepping in the blood, continuing with their day.
Lynell turns away from the sight and stares at the tall glass doors again.
She takes a deep breath. Not for the first time, she considers going home and taking advantage of her day off. She has most of her life to Register. After all, she’s always been told: “Never Register before you turn thirty. Chances are, you’ll need that Registration when you’re fifty more than you think you need it when you’re twenty.”
But Lynell is twenty-four and she’s been wanting to Register the same person for nearly two decades. She doesn’t think she’ll ever have a better use for this gift. And now, with the news that he’s getting married at the end of the year to a woman with three daughters, Lynell knows time is running out. She needs to do it soon, if not for her own sanity, then for the safety of those girls.
She could still wait until next quarter’s Registration, though.
Lynell looks at the scar on her arm. One of the oldest decorations to the canvas that is her body. She pushes off the wall and walks across the street toward the glass doors. She’s thankful Eric Elysian requested measures to make picketing and protesting outside Registration offices illegal, and grateful the government enforces them. She’s not sure she would have been able to walk past a crowd of ignorant jerks calling her a murderer. Without the Registration, chaos, violence, and homelessness would have consumed their world. Without it, they would never know true love or have anything to test it with. It’s the only thing that saved them after the devastating civil war that seemed to have no end. The entire country owes a lifelong debt to the Elysians for saving them. Lynell knows that.
The Registration is a product of the Elysians’ private business, but they work so closely with the government that it’s virtually an inalienable right. Well, an inalienable right that must be paid for. It’s protected by both the Elysian corporation and, when necessary, the government’s law enforcement. Eric Elysian, the current owner of the Registration, is practically one of the oligarchs himself.
In the past, before Lynell’s time, the rulers of the United States were supposedly elected by the people. But really, they conned their way there. It wasn’t a true democracy. Citizens fought back, demanding that their voices be heard. They wanted real power over their lives, laws, and money. They wanted to implement change. A civil war followed: brother fighting brother, sister denouncing sister, mothers, daughters, fathers, sons at each other’s throats. In ninth grade, her school made all students watch a documentary about the war. It was bloody chaos with far too many points of contention between the two warring sides to find compromises.
Then Gideon Elysian showed up and proposed his idea to the few leaders still holding power on both sides of the war. The Registration would give individuals power over life and death while the government retained the authority to create laws and enforce them. For example, the death penalty would be abolished, which is what half the country wanted. But the other half, individuals who wished to sentence a felon to death, could use the Registration to execute their idea of rightful punishment. The war came to an end and, tired of fighting, the country settled into a precarious peace. The rest, as they say, is history. The country has since been ruled by oligarchs with the aid of the Elysians and their Registration. They keep the peace, ensure commerce, and everyone is happy because citizens have access to true justice and mercy with the Registration. No need for corrupt democracy or oppressive tyranny.
At first, when Gideon Elysian proposed and created the Registration almost seventy years ago, everyone—regardless of age, origin, color, title, or class—had the option to pay the fee to get one Registration. The Elysians worked closely with the oligarchs, ensuring laws were set in place to support it. The Registration entitles citizens to kill the person they Registered, no questions asked.
But there’s a catch: you have to end that person’s life within two weeks or your immunity is forfeited, as is your chance for another Registration. If you kill your Registree at any time other than the two weeks after Registering, you will be charged with murder.
After a few years of madness, the government added another law. Parents must pay the fee for their newborn, or that child will never be allowed to legally Register anyone.
That’s why you need to know for certain. That’s why you have to be sure that this is the person you want to Register. You can’t waste such a gift.
Lynell has held onto her gift her entire life. Her mom didn’t have that gift. If she did, their life would have been different. Her childhood would have been better. And Lynell wouldn’t be using her own Registration right now.
Lynell looks at the scar again, thinks of those three young girls, takes a deep breath, and pulls open the large, glass door.
Excerpted from THE REGISTRATION by Madison Lawson. Copyright © by Madison Lawson, 2022. All rights reserved.
About The Registration by Madison Lawson:
Imagine it’s legal to commit one murder in your lifetime—if you register the victim and accomplish the kill within fourteen days. When Lynell Mize stands in line to register the man who abused her as a child, she’s shocked to hear a stranger has Registered her to be killed. Why would anyone who doesn’t know her squander his one legal murder on her? Desperate to survive the next two weeks, she must find out who wants to kill her. And why.
Easier said than done, as Lynell soon discovers that multiple strangers have used their Registration on her. Along the way, she reunites with her estranged husband who is determined to dig up a past Lynell prefers to keep buried. With only days left to live, Lynell is determined to uncover the truth and survive a destiny not of her choosing.