Flames licked the walls of the dank cavern. The circular table filled with elders, their eyes as blank as fresh pressed paper the type of paper they haven’t used in years. Above the hollow center of the table floated a shaded figure, long bony fingers tapped the floating chair it sat in. They all faced the cowering man entering the room. Doctor James Barley Carrow was a man of thirty-five who lived alone in the center of town. He is one of the few old school dentists that exist in the world.
“James B. Carrow,” the floating figure spoke in a sickly sweet voice, “You have asked to present some interesting news to us. If I find that this news is not fit for any use then you will be demoted and will be banned from the Council until further notice, do you understand this?”
Dr. Carrow hesitated and then replied in a wavering voice, “I understand Sir.”
“Then you may proceed.”
“As you requested my troops dug in the uninhabited caves near the northern side of our great city. We have just recently discovered what we think could have been another civilization. There was a cache of books, jewelry, cookware, bones just about everything you could find in a 21st century home. Except the bones, which we believe, are the remnants of the owner of the home.” Dr. Carrow looked at his master unsure whether he should keep speaking.
“You may continue,” spoke his master.
“I believe if we can harness these artifacts while, of course, trying to keep them intact, we can retrace our ancestors steps and find out what truly caused the massacre on the surface.” Dr. Carrow glanced in his masters’ direction waiting to see what reaction this information would bring.
“You may leave us; your services are no longer required here.”
Dr. Carrow tried hard to conceal his joy; he bowed and shuffled out of the room. His master stepped off the chair onto touch sensitive steps. “Poor deluded naïve Dr. Carrow. I think we shall keep an eye on him for a while. Make sure he doesn’t find what he wants.”
The old abandoned observatory was quiet in the night. The illusion of stars that scattered the sky was the main source of light. Derek floated on dust in the center of the glass dome staring at these stars. His brown bangs touched his green eyes. Dust covered the color of his plaid pajama pants and white t-shirt giving them a gray look. He used his arms as a pillow as he lay awake deep in thought. So deep he did not hear the creaking sound of the large door opening behind him. A girl stepped in wearing the same plaid pants and white t-shirt. Her light brown hair hung loose down her back, her bare feet barely made a sound as she walked towards Derek. She sat down next to him and spoke startling him from his line of focus.
“We shouldn’t be here you know.”
Derek jumped and looked at the girl who smiled at him.
“No you’re not supposed to be here Alice,” he said going back to his original position,”
I can go wherever I want I’m eighteen. Legally I’m an adult now and that gives me the freedom to do what I want when I want. Except, to leave this prison we call home.”
“Are you still going on about that? I keep telling you exactly what mom told me, there is NOTHING on the surface anymore. Nothing has been living there for hundreds of years.”
“Don’t tell me your not the least bit curious to see if that’s true or not.”
“Of course I am! I question it every day but I don’t keep mentioning it every single minute of every single day like someone I know.”
“Well you’re different than me. Besides you’re too young to understand this mumbo jumbo.”
“I’m sixteen and smarter than anyone in my class I think I can understand what this means.”
“Well as long as you’re up here why don’t you stay a while and keep me company. It can get lonely up here.”
“Then why do you come up here?”
Derek opened his mouth to answer but then closed it. He pointed at the holograph sky as a shooting star passed overhead.
“Make a wish,” he said. Silence fell upon them yet again.
“So what did you wish for?” Alice asked him.
“Well if I told you then it wouldn’t come true.”
“So be it.” She replied.
They sat there and chatted about their thoughts of how long they would stay in their underground home, if they will ever see true stars in the sky, feel real grass between their toes. If they will ever see a real shooting star rocket by on its journey to some far away galaxy. Derek decided to switch over to the topic of school when he heard the slowed breathing of his sister.
“Alice you awake?” He whispered.
A few minutes after she didn’t respond he looked over his shoulder to where she was laying fast asleep. He dragged himself up and looked at the clock in the corner of the room. 1:45 in the morning. Great I’ll never be able to get up tomorrow. He picked up his sister and carried her downstairs to her room. He placed on the bed. Then silently closed the door behind him so she wouldn’t wake up. He jumped into his bed and fell right asleep.
Trees, millions of trees blocked her way. Dodging the prickly thorns of the branches, Alice started heading towards the bright light of the sun. She peeked back for a split second hoping not to see her pursuer; she tripped on an over-grown vine falling to the muddy earth beneath her. Alice scrambled to her feet only to topple back into the mud. She struggled to break free of the mud. Then she heard a voice.
“Go on without me.”
She turned her head and saw her father standing in the living room the house around him engulfed in flames. A younger version of herself watching horrified as the flames consumed her father. A horrible screeching noise emitted from the younger Alice’s mouth as the flames crawled up her legs. Soon the bright red flames overcame everything she saw, including herself. Splashes of blues, reds, oranges and yellows washed over her vision.
“NO!” Alice screamed. She sat up in her bed. Sweat covered her face. She looked at her hands. They were unharmed and whole. Alice buried her face in her pillow. Why’d you have to go Dad? She questioned herself for the thousandth time that week. The same nightmare had haunted her since the day they moved into their new home. Their mom had decided that their old home brought too many memories of the fire that had befallen them, taking their father out of this world for good and soon after the family packed their few belongings and left for the heart of the city. Lifting her head from the depths of the pillow she glanced at her clock. Alice sighed and got up to start the day. She crept along the hallway towards her brothers’ room pillow in hand hoping for once he hadn’t woken up before her. Slowly opening the door she saw her brothers sleeping figure in the bed. Silently sneaking over she raised the pillow over her head…”BONZAI!!!” Alice looked behind her just in time to see Derek dive out of thin air towards her with his pillow. Alice felt a thump to the head and fell over shooting some death glare towards Derek. Seeing the trouble he started, Derek zipped out of the room and slid down the banister towards the kitchen. “I’ll get you next time.”
“That’s what you think,” he called back up to her.
The morning went on as it normally would with their mom creating some new form of breakfast food, her delicate hands slicing some tomatoes for a new omelet recipe. Her graying black hair was tied back into a ponytail showing off her deep brown eyes. She wore the same clothing everyone wore, gray pants, a white fitted t-shirt and their specialized jackets, each one accommodating to their owner. “You guys better hurry up otherwise you’ll be late for school,” she warned them. “Don’t worry Mom we’ll be there on time.”
“Yeah,” chimed in Alice. “We’ve never been late once and we will never be late.”
“What makes you so sure?”
“Because I am always prepared.” A flash of silver swished by her ear, she screamed and looked at the knife stuck in the wall. “So much for prepared,” Derek replied. Alice looked at her mother who was giving her a look that meant business. “What the heck was that for?”
“Well you said you were always prepared. I thought would pluck it out of the air.”
“You know what I meant by always prepared!”
“Maybe I didn’t know what you meant. Say you were out there and someone heard you say that and tried to test it would you be prepared? No you wouldn’t you would be found dead on the streets.”
“But that would never happen hear because we live in one big prison where everyone is watched and no one can have their own life.”
“Enough!” Derek exclaimed. “I’m sick of hearing you two fight it out every single morning. It doesn’t have to be like this. Dad wouldn’t want it to be like this.” A silence fell over the room sucking all the life from each and every one of them. “Come on, we’d better get going.” The each grabbed their bags and headed out the door leaving the unsettling words for their mother to ponder on.
Later that night after another dreadfully long day at school Alice was heading towards her room when she heard a loud bang coming from another room. Thinking that it would most likely be her brother she quietly opened the door to find her brother bandaging his thumb and an open half filled suitcase on his bed. Closing the door behind her she asked, “Why are you packing?”
“I’m going to the surface.”
“Are you crazy? You can get in so much trouble for that. The government could arrest you or could banish you from the city or put you in the horrible sane asylum or-“