It wasn’t easy, living in the sand.
It wasn’t easy, having to stay inside every day of your life.
It wasn’t easy at all.
I stepped outside, breathing through my sand mask. It tasted like dust, and there was probably some in there, because my sand mask was an older model. I couldn’t afford a newer one, being an orphan and all.
I kicked up some sand as I walked toward the bathroom. I wasn’t allowed to, but nobody was there to tell me off. Or I thought so.
“Hey, July! You’re not supposed to do that! You know that, don’t’cha?”
I groaned. It was Dusty, the school bully. His name was unfortunate After the Sand, and being an orphan made it worse.
“Why don’t you be a doll and pay some cash, eh? And I won’t report ya to the miss?”
“Buzz off, Dusty,” I said as I tried to walk towards the bathroom.
“Aww, I’m just tryin’ to help.” He said, blocking my way and shrugging.
“No you’re not! So shut up!” I said, kicking his shin and running inside the ladies’ room. He let out a soft mmf and growled.
“Fine! But I’m telling Miss Follworth!” He yelled from outside. I heard angry footsteps going away to the classroom. Sighing, I pulled out my vintage iPod and plugged it in. It was made back in 2027, almost 24 years ago, so I had to keep it a secret. Otherwise it’d be stolen by the Ravagers, a group of murderous robbers who stole anything and everything and sold it for good cash. They killed whoever they wanted- peasants, nobles, each other- anyone who wasn’t too hard to kill, or who was in touch with the Master Ravager.
I’d contemplated becoming a Ravager, only because they were a community that would benefit me more than this stupid orphanage. All it was was a place to keep parentless kids before they choked to death in the sand. We didn’t get a break from our teachers, ever, and we didn’t learn anything helpful either. They’d never deviated from the ways Before the Sand, but the ways back then weren’t useful After the Sand. Obviously.
By now my iPod had charged to 57%, or “good enough” as I called it. I unplugged it from the wall and raced back into the ELA classroom.
“JUNE! Where have you been? It has been precisely 23.47 minutes since you left. That is a very long time to be going to the bathroom! Would you like to share what you were doing instead?”
I leaned back in my chair, pretending not to be panicked. Miss Follworth was a merchant, a lower rank of the Ravagers. She was only a buy or steal type, like most adults in the city.
I looked at my nails and cleared my throat.
“I’d rather not, if it’s all the same to you.” I said, attempting to keep the anger out of my voice.
“I do not appreciate that attitude! You’ve had detention 36 times this year already, so let’s not make another strike!” She shrieked. Her face softened into an irritated smile. “Now, let’s try that again, okay? What in the heavens were you doing during your bathroom break?”
I breathed in deeply for a second, and let it out for a second. “During the bathroom break,” I began. Miss Follworth smiled eagerly. “I was charging this.” I pulled out my iPod and held it aloft.
Miss Follworth made a mad dash for the phone. Her Ravager mind saw its worth, and the worth was high.
“GIVE IT! GIVE IT TO ME!” She bellowed, clambering across the desks. I knew it was an old item, probably worth a lot, but that was not the way to go about getting it. I ran to the door, displaying a half grin, half snarl under my dust-covered brown hair. I stopped before going out the door seal. My sand mask! She had my sand mask! I looked around frantically before dashing out the door, not looking where I was going. Maybe I could make it, maybe I could make it! I thought. The sand isn’t too bad. But once I was outside, she locked the door. Because later, she’d simply go outside and retrieve the iPod from my dead body. Because guess what was outside?
Yup. A sandstorm.