Ethical Strains:

A Short Story

By Teresa Edmond-Sargeant

Genre: Dystopian, Fantasy SciFi


In a dystopian future, a rogue journalist uncovers what may be a revolutionary scientific discovery: a way for DNA to be extracted from the bodies of ‘morally sound’ people and injecting them into criminals as a way to reduce recidivism, and therefore the overpopulated prison system.


The street was as quiet as the dead that lay in the cemetery. Jacob crouched outside the metal gate in the shadows. The moonlight waxed silver onto the graveyard’s greenery, giving off a choral glow of peace and terror. Jacob’s heart pounded, refusing to allow the silence to tease him into thinking the street was empty. He moved his hand to his side, above the holster that cradled his gun around his waist.

Jacob extended his arm – covered with the sleeve of his leather jacket – and glanced at his digital wristwatch. 10:10. He returned his attention to the street. The wind escorted the fallen leaves along the deserted sidewalk, scratching the pavement.

She said she’d be here at 10. She did say she’ll be late.

He moved his hand away from the gun and adjusted his collar. He paced in front of the cemetery gate, his mind an agitated rush of thoughts.

Down the street, two uniformed soldiers with ammunition strapped to their bodies marched on opposite corners of the intersection. Emotional rigidity hardened their faces, while the shadows that their hulking physiques cast swept the concrete. Jacob tried to study the face of one of them, but it was difficult with the masked helmet obscuring the soldier’s face.

For twenty years I haven’t seen a street without soldiers. Doesn’t matter if I’m a kid or I’m now working as a reporter underground – things haven’t changed. Those government goons are always on people’s backs, always patrolling these streets. The beatings, the arrests, the murders. It’s a miracle I’m still alive.

Receding further into the shadows, Jacob pressed his back against the cemetery gate’s brick wall.

So many laws I’m breaking –hanging out in the streets after 10, meeting with someone crazy enough to tell me at this time she has an exclusive. What’s next? Grave robbing?

The soft shuffle of footsteps made Jacob look up. Across the street, a woman broke through the screen of darkness and crossed the street. Her low heels tapped on asphalt, while the faint moonlight unveiled her petite hourglass frame cloaked in a trench coat. A purple floral scarf covered her head, face and neck; only her eyes revealed a personal aspect.

“Jacob? Jacob Franklin?”

Jacob nodded. “That’s me.”

The woman untied her scarf and presented a gloved hand. “I am Dr. Sydney Pelham. We have spoken over the telephone. It is a pleasure to finally meet you. I apologize for my tardiness. I had an imperative appointment that ran long. This this meeting is unusual, but given the nature of my overall work, we have to be discreet. Although I work for the government counseling prisoners, the information I’m about to disclose with you is quite crucial.”

Jacob nodded. Discreet. Somehow by the time I’m done here, that word will reek of irony.

Dr. Pelham began walking. “Follow me. I know a way underground that will lead us to my experiments.”

Jacob shadowed her. “Experiments, yeah, I remember you mentioning about them.”

Dr. Pelham chuckled. “Actually, it is more than that. It is a cause. I could not divulge the details to you over the phone because someone might have tapped the lines. You have reservations about meeting a mad scientist, quote-unquote. But given that we have so many problems surrounding us – with the rampant criminal activities and the federal government demanding the construction of more prisons at taxpayers’ expense – you will understand there is a method to my alleged madness.”

Jacob wondered if it were possible to withhold his sweat from bursting onto his forehead, similar to how people could hold back tears. As a self-proclaimed maverick journalist working with a ring of underground reporters, he didn’t dare to give Dr. Pelham the impression he was shaken at the ideal of being among “experiments.”

Their footsteps crunched the fallen leaves under streetlights that cast a dim, bluish-white glow on the foliage. Both turned a corner and into the woods behind the cemetery. They walked another few yards, and then Dr. Pelham stopped. Jacob almost bumped into her.

“We’re here,” Dr. Pelham said.

She looked around and crouched down; her modest length skirt rode up her leg. With her gloved hands, she cleared the leaves to reveal a wooden trap door. She retrieved some keys on a chain from her coat pocket and unlocked the door. The pair descended the staircase into a brick tunnel. Water drops echoed and the coldness bore down on Jacob.



Teresa Edmond-Sargeant is an Orlando, FL-based poet, author and journalist originally from northern New Jersey. Her poetry has appeared in anthologies featuring NJ poets. During her time as a reporter in Jersey, she won two NJ Press Association awards.

In 2006, she published her debut poetry book, “How Fate’s Confusion Connects”; the book’s second edition will be released later in 2014. She is the author of three (so far;-)) Amazon Kindle ebooks: “Eve the First,” “An Estella Exclusive” and “Ethical Strains,” all short stories.

Edmond-Sargeant is a member of the Florida State Poets Association. She is now a staff writer for The Apopka Chief, a newspaper that covers the Apopka, FL, area (


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