In The Cut: Prologue I

Mahira Burman, 16, Windsor ON

As usual, Mahira has one eye on her phone and the other on the people swarming her cafeteria table. It's practically criminal that the school expects an hour to be enough time for anything let alone for lunch. There's simply too much to be done but Mahira is nothing if not ambitious. It's one of the many reasons Twitter has blown up over the past couple of months. She's dedicated and her followers know it.

A spattering of notification tones spreads across the cafeteria and people instantly begin reaching for their pockets. Groups break away from the mass, whispering as they rush to open the app. Mahira doesn't have to guess what they're looking at, the custom tone coming from her iPhone already has the answer. The Cut sent out a new alert and that's a text no one here is willing to miss.

Beside her, Ava is tapping at the loading screen as the school internet struggles to keep up. Mahira uses one hand to bring up her Twitter page and the other strums impatiently against the table. She can already hear some of the others typing furiously on their laptops. She can't stand the idea that someone might already know what's happening when she doesn't.

By the time the feeds load, Mahira is already drafting her latest tweet. There's a possible confrontation in A, not exactly an uncommon alert but also not an uninteresting one. Mahira peers over, placing the faces pretty quickly. Everyone knows the contestants by now; their images have been plastered practically everywhere. Well, everywhere but her schoolyard; apparently, they don't want to condone the violence.

As if it matters.

Every student from freshman to senior has seen The Cut. Mahira can't imagine that anyone across Canada hasn't watched at least a couple of the replay compilations. Of course, she's aware that there're people that don't agree with the show. The news often covers them lining up outside the production studios to promote their moral superiority about the whole thing. As far as Mahira's concerned, if they don't like the gore they can just get the feed to censor it for them.

Anything you don't want to see can be filtered out with a few taps, pretty much everything in the app is customizable. There's no reason not to be watching. It's been one of the most anticipated events of the year since Mahria was in elementary school. Being out of the loop during the season is basically social suicide, especially at her school.

Mahira hasn't missed an alert in the last three years. The Cut is what's built up her social media following, and it's also just one of her favourite shows. Nothing else on reality television even comes close to the level of drama or audience connection that The Cut brings. No one can argue with that, in fact most people don't even try.

All they care about is the ethics of it all, but there's nothing immoral about any of it. It says right on the website that all of the contestants have to consent before appearing on the show. Many protesters like to question why anyone would volunteer to die on live television, especially given their young ages. Personally, Mahira doesn't want to think about reasons convicted felons might have for what they choose to do. That seems like a dark rabbit hole that no one sane should want to explore.

Besides, it's not as if the contestants don't deserve whatever happens to them. She's read about their crimes online; the world is better off without every single one of them. If they decide to repent for their crimes through The Cut, Mahira certainly isn't going to be the one to suggest stopping them.

Mᴀʜɪ B.

/ M_Bʜᴍ228

Iᴠᴀɴ ᴛᴀᴋɪɴɢ ᴛʜᴏsᴇ ʀɪsᴋs ᴛᴏᴅᴀʏ – ᴡᴇ ʟᴏᴠᴇ ᴛᴏ sᴇᴇ ɪᴛ! #TᴇᴀᴍIᴠᴀɴ #TʜᴇCᴜᴛ6

¹¹:⁴² ᴬᴹ – ᴰᵉᶜ ¹⁸, ²⁰¹⁹

It's impossible not to glance down at her post as Mahira continues to watch the feeds. She must have tapped the refresh icon a dozen times before she finally sees the likes and retweets begin to pour in. It's never unexpected when her posts do well, not at this point, but it's always a relief. Mahira's following is everything to her.

The alert is over within a few minutes, but Mahira's eyes are back to Twitter even before she hears the ending tone. The app does a decent job of notifying viewers when something is about to happen, but more often than not nothing actually does. In this case, Ivan just wanted the other contestant's food and they were smart not to fight him for it.

Mahira rolls her eyes thinking about how many of Ivan's alerts have ended like this one. She might have to consider dropping from #TeamIvan if things don't start getting more interesting. He was a favourite last week but he's going to become old news pretty quickly if things don't pick up. Mahira's just not sure who will be the one to replace him yet, too many of the remaining contestants are just as uninteresting. She wishes that Bly had managed to last a little longer; that girl had a knack for making things happen around the set.

Mᴀʜɪ B.

/ M_Bʜᴍ228

Wʜᴀᴛ ʜᴀᴘᴘᴇɴᴇᴅ ᴛᴏ ʙᴏʟᴅ!Iᴠᴀɴ? Cᴀɴᴀᴅᴀ ᴡᴀɴᴛs ᴛᴏ ᴋɴᴏᴡ. #TʜᴇCᴜᴛLɪᴠᴇ

¹¹:⁴⁷ ᴬᴹ – ᴰᵉᶜ ¹⁸, ²⁰¹⁹

Mahira's had particularly good luck getting on Live this year, so she hopes Ivan will get the chance to read her tweet. Of course, everything is screened through the show's website before the contestants get access to Live so there's no guarantee it will get that far. Either way, it's still one of the best things about The Cut. The ability to help your favourite characters is enticing; it makes you feel like you can really change the story for them. Mahira doesn't know how true that feeling is, but it's great publicity to get on Live regardless. If Ivan sees her message it's just icing on the cake.

A familiar face slides onto the bench next to her. By the time Mahira looks up, the forced smile has already reached her lips. Everyone else has already returned to their lunches, but of course Jason would head straight over here to bother her. She'd have been more surprised if he hadn't.

"You really think Ivan's going to win?" He laughs.

Mahira shrugs playfully, but it's a struggle to keep her smile up. "The fans like him."

"Not from what I've seen," he winks. "Is Mahi B. falling behind the times again?"

"Doubtful," Mahira says casually. She knows that the worst thing she can do is let Jason think he's getting to her, but it's impossible not to worry. Last night's homework didn't allow her as much time to go through the popular posts or even watch the feeds. It's extremely possible she missed the shift away from Ivan. It's also just as possible that Jason is just trying to mess with her.

Thankfully, the end-of-period bell brings an abrupt end to the conversation. Jason saunters away as quickly as he'd come, probably joining up with the rest of his crew of wannabe bloggers to go and bother someone else. She's not sure why she's even entertaining him at this point, she knows how he is. Mahira is at the top of the Twitter game in her school, and a single comment from anyone shouldn't fluster her this much. Except it does, it always has.

As everyone heads to next period, Mahira makes a beeline for the cafeteria washrooms. Calculus can wait; right now she needs to catch up on last night's feeds.

A/N: Hello, hello! If you had told me a few months ago that I would be publishing another story I would have thought you were insane. Turns out, I'm not quite as done here as I originally expected. This is going to be a modern-day AU based on a fictional Canadian reality television show called 'The Cut'. Basically, The Hunger Games but with teenage prisoners fighting for their freedom on live. This prologue is just meant to introduce you to the culture surrounding the show. There is much more to reveal about the show itself in coming chapters.

Contestant submissions are now open and all the details are up on my profile along with the form. It's very important that you read through the prologue and the submission details before creating your character in order to understand the verse. If you have any questions, feel free to shoot me a message. I'm usually in the mood to chat.

The deadline for character submissions is December 21st, 2020 at 12PM EST.

I look forward to reading all of your amazing characters!

~ Olive