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Chronicle of the Colored Sky; Chapter 1: The Setting Sun
To Whom it May Concern,
The world was cold, we were running out of resources, the sky had turned green. A long remembered blue radiance would never again look down on what was once the normal world. I remember running, hiding what we had planned. Technology had come a long way since I was a boy and by the time I had turned seventeen, cars were a thing of the past. New forms of energy had been forged in what was thought to be a revolutionarily break-through company. The creation of PACE (Planetonic Alternative Clean Energy) had resulted in a miracle product, a “savior of mankind.” Appliances no longer needed the oil and gas our nations had so long fought over. PACE was easy to make and brought trillions of dollars flowing into the economy, creating new jobs and seemingly bringing our great nation out of its deep recession. This new source, however innovative and “world-saving” it might have been, would be the total downfall of the planet.
Many other nations were intrigued by our new method of clean energy. Soon after its invention, our president had talks with many nations, nations that also wanted to harness the power of this great PACE. Negotiations continued on for months and months until finally, a man that looked nothing like us, in size, shape, or form, signed papers with our president. It was only when millions and millions of people seeped into the walls of our country, people who bore a marked resemblance to man who spoke with our president, that we had any idea what had happened. These newcomers all wore the same clothes, spoke the same funny language, and treated the rest of us as if we were walking piles of waste.
Soon after the...well invasion... they no longer allowed us to choose where we worked, what school our children went to, what kind of house we could live in. Our president assured us that everything would be fine, that this new way of life would be for the better. Right.... for the better... I wish we knew then what we know now.
An unforeseen flaw lay dormant within PACE. When emitted, this product, hailed for its superiority above all forms of energy, reacted violently with the atmosphere, causing pulsating displays of light similar to the aurora borealis. At first it was beautiful; people stood outside for hours watching the many shades of neon green swim through the sky like eels in a celestial ocean. It did not take long, however, for people to stop gazing at these serpents in the sky.
People were dying - not just by the handful, that was normal. People die, it’s the way of the world. Death is natural. But for people to die by the THOUSANDS is otherworldly. As I said before, PACE reacted violently with the atmosphere. Well the reaction caused the light, and this light had something in it. Something that sucked the life out of any who stared too long at its brilliant display. People lived to tell the story, of course. People who worked at night, the bedridden, any who were unable to watch the great pictures in the sky were safe from death. The government instituted an eight o’clock curfew, and in the fall and winter months, no one was to be out of their homes after six p.m.
Many people abandoned religion; others embraced it with all they had. Others blamed it on prophecy, the world was bound to end sometime right? People failed to see what was right in front of them. This demise wasn’t brought upon by any god or ancient premonition. We had done this to ourselves, through our greedy and unsatisfied for more. More was something that was soon forgotten... for we had no more.
I’m writing this letter in hopes that its reader will make a change. An attempt to preserve what is left of the dignity and potential of this world. If not... I fear that the world as we know it will crumble, crumble down into the dirt from which it came. The tools are out there to stop them, to stop this corrupted government from erasing the beautiful faces of the future from our planet. The tools are out there for those who seek them. I hope when you find this it is not too late.
A young man folded up the letter he had read many times before. It was stained yellow, blotches of dirt and grease speckled the paper. The tall, brown-headed youth sat in an abandoned building. Dirt was on the floor; windows were busted out everywhere he could see. The wind blew what was left of a white curtain in the window to the right of his face, making the hair on his neck stand on end. The sky was green outside, as it had been every day since he could remember. Pale green clouds rolled over the horizon as a sense of danger fogged his mind. Someone was coming, maybe more than just one person. Three, maybe four… no it was more, many more. Seconds went by and the young man looked at the door on the far side of the room. Why must they always follow him? But that was an ignorant question, they hunted him for the same reason they hunted the writer of his letter. He sought change.
Just then, the door was blasted open. Men in black helmets resembling those of a SWAT team flooded the room, their faces concealed by black visors. He had to go, he had to escape, they couldn’t catch him no matter how hard they would try. He smiled, gave them a wink, and just like that, he jumped out of the window with the white curtain blowing in the wind. One of the helmeted men rushed to the window. The kid was running. He shot, and just as the bullet left the barrel of his gun, the kid had disappeared. Vanished into the wind that was blowing the pale curtain. The same wind that warned the men that it was time to leave. It would be dark soon. The shooter stared out of the window, down at the pavement that was once so full of lively children, his own child.
Every person had lost somebody after the creation of PACE. Brothers were left with no sister, children with no father, wives with no husband. All walks of life had somehow unwillingly sacrificed their loved ones to the god of mass expansion. Taking a deep breath, the shooter at the window felt the hand of another on his shoulder, “Let’s go, the sun is setting,” his friend said. And with that, the men filed out of the room, down the stairs, and through the door leading out into the wasteland of modern days.
The young man tapped casually on an enormous iron door. Moments later the sound of tiny footsteps could be heard; faint at first, but growing ever louder. The noise of the hasty tread brought a small smile to his face. “Nyla,” he said under his breath, “What’s she got now?”
The patter of little footsteps grew closer until finally they were heard no more. He could hear her climbing on top of something, and then finally a small slot in the door was opened. “Who’s there!?” said a hardly audible voice.
“Nyla, it’s me. Let me in, it’s cold outside!” `
“What’s the password?”
“Seriously? Nyla, it’s me!”
“What! Is! The! Pass! Word!”
“Oh my god, you have to ask me the question first!”
Gears turned from behind the wall and the door slowly crept open. The young man stepped in and met his persistent gatekeeper.
“Where have you been?” Nyla asked as she hopped down from her stool, her head coming to the young man’s hip. The two walked together. She took three steps to his one stride. She was pleasantly small with fine black hair that came to just past her ears. She wore black glasses with square frames, a black turtlenecked shirt, gray slacks, and black ballerina flats.
“What’s it matter?”
“He’s going to be angry with you.”
“You know he doesn’t like us out this late, the sun’s just about to set!”
“But it hasn’t yet. And that, my dear Nyla, is exactly why the excitement in your life is measured in the inches it takes to measure your height, not the feet.”
“Thirty-eight and nine sixteenths to be exact sir!” Nyla had paused to say this, and had wound up behind him. She stretched her hand out and slapped his rear-end as he approached a rickety brown door at the face of a massive black building.
“Oh la la shoshana!” he laughed and entered through the doorway. He stood in the threshold and watched just as the sun met the green horizon. In this brief moment, when sun, sky, and earth were one, the firmament looked as it was supposed to, or at least how he was told it was supposed to. Orange, a beautiful orange, like fire, fire that would keep him warm tonight, fire that would cook his meal, fire that burned down houses and took life away just as it helped to sustain it, fire that he both feared and revered.
Seconds later the sun had set, the green haze turned to blackness and a screech could be heard all over the city. The violent spectacle in the sky had begun. He stepped to the side of the door and allowed Nyla to pass through. She pranced over his feet, continued forward, and took a right. A lamp burned on the wall directly in front of the doorway; a dullness that only lit a few feet. He had learned the ways of electricity from the old man; the way it would spark in an instant, make things work that would never work without it, and keep things cool and warm depending on the need. This, he understood, had all been done away with after all but a few (that is except for the ones that had managed to survive the initial blow brought on by the serpents of the sky) had died. People were left to fend for themselves. People continued to die, and before anything could be done, all that remained were the old man and a small group of survivors that had banded together.
These people called themselves, “Strength.” This secret faction was meant to train each other to fight the corruption brought forth by PACE. A sort of mercenary service, members of Strength would collect money by doing various jobs. Like modern day Robin Hoods, these civilian soldiers would steal food and give it to less fortunate members of Colony, a small community established by the founder of Strength; the old man’s mentor, the one who foresaw what would come of the creation of PACE. The government kept track of every person in demand of the product, mistakenly assuming that the entire nation was in demand. Colony was easily overlooked in an abandoned section of Big City.
One of the world’s first resources to run scarce was water; citizens were forced to move from small towns to bigger cities. Water was cut off everywhere except in major communities. Populations increased ten-fold, bringing famine, filth, and even more disparity of social class. The poor were soon left to die with no hope of finding a home, while the rich enjoyed the benefits of investing in the miracle. All the while, water was depleting even faster than expected. A year after everyone had migrated to the major cities, water in the Midwest and Mideast was gone. The only places left to live were the cities on the opposite sides of the nation.
Then, tragedy struck the Westerners; a great earthquake took every water-rich community down into the depths of the sea, killing millions. That was the end of it - the only people alive in all of the free world were now subject to the rules and regulations of Big City, the only city.
This one candle was something the young man had always remembered. Even when he searched his mind for clues of why the old man was the only parent he had ever known, it always returned to his first memory of the light at the end of the small hallway. He followed in Nyla’s footsteps and right down the hallway; many lanterns on the walls were sure to lead him to another session of lecture and scolding about why he should not be out, especially alone, and why it is so dangerous to be outside so close to dusk.
He reached the end of the longer hallway and found himself in a living room. A bookshelf was filled with works of literature, stretching to the ceiling as it outlined a fireplace in the wall. It was dark in the room, for night had just set its deathly gaze upon the city. Across from the fireplace was a couch, and adjacent to the couch was a chair. A chair, one might add, that wasn’t nearly as comfortable as the couch next to it; the young man knew he’d be sitting in the chair. Two large windows allowed the green haze of the night to peer in behind faded white curtains. He grabbed an apple on the desk in front of the fireplace and sat down as an older figure walked through the door.
“Oh good, you’re sitting. Stand up.” The younger did as he was told. “What in the hell were you thinking?” the older man asked carefully with a hint of frustration in his voice.
“What are ya talkin’ about, James?” the young man said as he took a bite of his apple and sat back down in the rickety old chair.
“Raef! This isn’t a joke! One of these days you’re going to find yourself killed.” James was a middle-aged man, his dark hair reflected the green of the night; hints of gray flashed sparingly on his head. Wrinkles weighed his face down and dark circles surrounded his eyes. “One of these days they’ll follow you back here, and then what? They’ll take us all apart, test us, treat us like we’re animals. Raef, you have to stop being so careless.”
“Well James,” Raef put his hands over his smooth face for a moment, for a minute he was deathly quiet. He then ran them down his face as if they were melting, showing his thick brown eyebrows, dark eyes, and young complexion. He ran his hand through his dark hair and continued, “I understand how horrible it would be if someone were to find your Care-Bear collection. However, as you’ve noticed, I’m perfectly fine, the Crusaders aren’t beating down the gates, and your Pretty Pink Princess Bear is just fine.”
James looked at Raef sternly; he didn’t know if he had crossed his boundaries. The two stared at each other silently for a moment and then, as if all was forgotten, James let out a small grin and a quiet laugh. Raef gave a smile of relief and spoke, “I’m sorry, James. I just get so tired of being cooped up in this place. I want to see what’s out there. It’s not fair that we have to all hide here like we’re a bunch of criminals.”
Both men walked from the living room back down the hall to the doorway. On the opposite wall was a portrait of a young woman. Her curly blond hair blew peacefully in the wind. She wore a white dress; her creamy skin contrasted with the pinkness of her lips, which curled into a smile. The only passage from the hall was the doorway leading back towards the gate, ignored as Raef and James approached the picture.
“Hey there Delilah,” said Raef cunningly. The picture remained still as he looked in the eyes of the oil-based young lady. “Many days have passed, shining brightly on the Earth our Lord created.” The picture remained the same. “But the moon still peers bright and green, the end is not in sight.” For a moment, nothing happened - had he said it wrong again? Did they change the password? A few frustrating moments passed, but eventually, and with great relief, Raef observed the portrait’s transformation.
Her smile faded and the hair grew still. Delilah hung her head in despair. She became deathly pale; the hair on her head turned thin and ratty before falling out completely. Her flesh began to burn away until all that remained was a skull. She lifted her head once again to look back at Raef, her green eyes the only feature that survived the transformation. They peered directly into his, and as she stared, one tear fell before she said, “You may pass.”
Then, like ghosts, both Raef and James disappeared through the wall. The two entered the other side walking in stride. The older stood the same height as the younger and as they walked, one might notice that their steps were exactly the same. From the back, it was impossible to distinguish one from the other.
“Kinda rough on her don’t you think?” James asked playfully.
“It’s a love/hate thing with her, man. You’d think she would’ve accepted it by now!” Raef replied, walking down another dimly lit hallway. They headed right around a corner marched down a short flight stairs, which led them to a long bridge. Without stopping, both continued along until they were midway across. As if in sudden realization of what they were doing, Raef stopped, looked around, and then down at his feet.
“James, why are we walking? Would it not be easier if we jumped?” he grinned as he stepped to the edge.
“Raef, no!” James said, trying to convince his friend to stay put.
“Oh Jamie, you’ll never let me have any fun!” And with that, Raef turned around and fell backwards off of the side. All that could be seen was black below him. James took a deep sigh and jumped after him.
“WHY DO YOU DO THIS?” James yelled out as the sound of air whizzed through his ears. Raef’s clothes flapped as fell and he called back, “What’s life without a little excitement, James? Come on, chill out.”
“RAEF, LOOK!” The younger turned just in time. Another bridge was just feet below him. It was approaching him quickly. Larger and larger it got until Raef’s face was inches from the walkway; close enough to see the grating in the metal. And just as he had done earlier that day while escaping from the house in Big City, he became smoke in the air. Nothingness among nothingness, and James followed him into his hazy abyss.