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2234: The Ancestors Folly
The yellowish lights flicked on. The buzzing, casting long shadows across the floor of the small concrete room. It was morning, supposedly, for there was no window in this room nor any others in the apartment to check if the sun had really risen that day (if there still was a sun for that matter).
There was a girl in the room, her dark brown hair cut short to her shoulders falling over her face in a tangled wreck. The lights did not bother her, nor the buzzing, she simply lay on the concrete framed bed staring up at the ceiling like she did most days. The door creaked open and small feet pattered across the floor.
She turned just in time to shield herself from the small figure as he launched himself upon her.
¨Kiran!” she exclaimed loudly as her little brother poked her in her back, trying to get her out of the bed.
¨Mom and Dad left, they told me that Maev would make me some food before school,¨ the small boy retorted as he continued to poke.
¨Fine,¨ Maev exclaimed scooping Kiran up and taking him out of the room and into a slightly bigger living area.
She placed him on one of the not broken spinny stool at the concrete table and opened a few cabinets searching for something that could be made edible. She settled on potatoes, something they always seemed to have, even when the rationing would get bad. As she attempted to make something resembling mashed potatoes, Kiran spun himself quietly on the stool in a nervous sor of way.
Maev could sense his unease from her position at the counter.
¨Something on your mind?¨ She asked, though she was pretty sure she already knew the answer.
The little boy shook his head but continued to sulk through the meal and even as they got ready to leave. Before he could open the apartment door to set off for school she held him back.
¨Kiran,¨ she paused, ¨are you nervous about today?¨
His inability to meet her eyes was answer enough.
¨Hey,¨ she said ¨look at me Kiran.¨ He looked up meeting her eyes. ¨There is nothing to be worried about everyone goes at your age and we are all alright. It is important for school and for the continuation of our society.¨ She winced for she never thought she would quote that particular lesson but Kiran seemed different than her: better.
The boy still looked unconvinced.
Maev sighed checking the clock, five past six, they should get going. ¨OK Kiran,¨ she said, knowing he would remain uneasy throughout the day. ¨I´ll talk to Ms. Heldag about coming with you, I'm sure she’d be fine with that.¨
Kiran looked up and nodded. Smiling back at him Maev opened the door and they stepped out onto the grated metal stairs that led down to the large corridor.
This walkway would usually be teaming with people in the early morning with over 200 families living in this quadrant, but they were late and the morning rush had subsided.
They hurried down the small corridor which then connected with the Vale, the bigger walkway in their district. Unlike the corridor outside their apartment the Vale was still crowded with people milling around the shops and rationing stations before the work bell called at 6:30. The yellow lights flickered on the ceiling adding to the disorder and dirtiness of the place. The crowded and sticky atmosphere still got to her even after 19 years of walking through the mess on her way to school but they pressed through the throng and finally made it to the lower station elevator.
She was glad to see that they were not the only ones late, about half a dozen children stood with them, all clutching tote bags with their chalkboards and lunch inside.
Maev waited with her brother by the lift until it arrived and she made sure Kiran was on it.
¨Have a good day,¨ she said, smiling, ¨ See you later.¨
Kiran nodded and Maev waved as the doors to the elevator closed and the huge box sunk to the school floors.
Maev weaved her way back through the vale to the farming port where she had worked since she had gotten her exam results back two years ago. She hadn't scored well enough to secure an engineering or government job but she still had hope for Kiran, he had always seemed smarter. She smiled to herself imagining the little boy in a white lab coat with all the other sciency people working on all of the never ending problems, but Kiran was still young and wouldn't need to think about the exam for another five years or more.
¨Hey, Maev!¨ someone shouted from the throng outside the nearby rationing station.
Maev turned to see Tobs the tall wiry boy from her quadrant waving at her while waiting in line for food. Maev waved, running over to him. He was with Cameron a girl from Burces district, a few miles west who caught everyone's eyes with her bright red hair when she moved to Clarnas after the exams.
“You eaten?” Tobs asked loudly over the clamor of the people around them.
“Yeah,” Maev responded, “if you call soggy potatoes food.”
Tobs shrugged. “Better than what some get.”
Maev didn’t respond.
Tobs and Cameron get their food and the three of them found an empty bench by the farmers port.
They sat in silence, Tobs eating his sweet potato stick and Cameron tearing apart her bread.
“God, it's starting to stink down here,” Tobs said after finishing the last of his potatoes, “ You think the air circulation system is busted or you think they are actually trying to suffocate us?”
Tobs was joking but the two girls didn’t respond and they spent the next five minutes discussing the new irrigation systems they were learning how to operate.
The work bell rung like it always did at 6:30 and all the work ports opened to reveal the elevators that would transport them to the agricultural level. The Vale slowly emptied as everyone boarded the lifts, leaving the space eerily quiet.
Maev squeezed in with Tobs and Cameron, pressed up against the multitude of hot sweaty people. The door closed and the lift sunk into the floor 60 levels the air becoming moist and stuffy until the lift opened onto the fields.
The work was monotonous as it always was and when the bell rung at 2:30 for end of shift Maev felt ready to go home and sleep but she had promised Kiran.
The school level felt sterile, so unlike the agricultural one, or even the Vale and as she walked down the corridor to Kiran’s classroom she couldn’t help feeling nostalgic. She had hated these rooms so much just a few years ago yet now with the exams done and work, she couldn't help feeling disappointed. The school bell rung, soft chimes unlike the harsh alarm of this morning. Children begin to file out, creating neat lines along the right side. Maev, walked past them until she reached Kirans classroom. They were all lined outside the room, Ms. Heldag calling for quiet.
Ms. Heldag had always liked Maev and smiled when she saw her approach.
“Ms. Heldag, you think that I could join you on the trip up?” Maev paused at Ms. Heldag’s concerned look. “Kiran is a little nervous, I think it would help him.”
Ms. Heldag’s face softened. She liked Kiran, knew he would go far.
“That will be fine Maev, just don’t disrupt the trip.”
Maev stood next to Kiran as they made their way to the lift that would bring them to the higher levels. As the door of the lift closed Maev glanced down at her brother who was clenching his fists in his pockets so no one could see.
The lift doors opened and the children were ushered out.
“Everyone get in line and be quiet or you won’t get to see,” Ms. Heldag shouted over the children’s shouts.
This quieted them down for no one wanted to miss this. They had all heard stories of this trip but this was the first time they’d be able to see it.
“So children you remember what we have been talking about the last few months?” the teacher asks.
“Yes Ms. Heldag,” the children respond as one.
“Emry can you tell us,” Ms. Heldag says, looking to the small curly haired girl in the front.
“We’ve been learning about Earth,” the girl says automatically.
“And what have we learned?”
“We learned that 300 years ago humans started to use coal to power their houses and their factories, they took all the coal and oil out of the Earth and put it into the air but it wasn’t good for the air or the people on the planet.”
“Thank you Emery,” the teacher cuts her off. “Orin do you want to continue?”
“The pollution in the air got too much for the humans and in 2078 humans moved to a place where they could live while scientists tried to solve the problem.”
“And where did we go?” Ms. Heldag questioned. “Maev?”
Maev looked at Ms. Heldag, taken a little off guard. “We moved here, into underground cities across the world.”
“Thats right Maev,” Ms. Heldag said softly. “So are you guys ready.”
The children nodded excitedly and Ms. Heldag opened the door to her left, holding it open for the children to file through.
Maev was the last one through the doors. The room was filled with a different sort of light than the children were used to. One side was the usual concrete but the other was clear, glass it was called. The children looked through the glass to the world outside, pressing their hands on the cold surface. The world they saw was not beautiful, not like the one in their workbooks with the forests and open pains. There was little green, with sand blowing across the deserted wasteland, everything foggy, unable to see beyond 20 feet in front of them.
“This is our world children. The one our ancestors left behind,” Ms Heldag says quietly.
The children looked at her, disappointment etched in every line of their faces.
Ms. Heldag just smiled weakly, “but it doesn’t have to be the world we give to the next. If we all work hard and learn from our mistakes we can create a good world for us all and for the generations to come.”
The children began to file out of the observation room silently processing what they had seen.
Mave looks down at her brother, who refused to look up from the floor.
“Kiran,” she whispered, “Don’t you want to look?”
Kiran shook his head. “No point now. I’m not going to look until I find out how to make it green again and I can see how beautiful it is, like how it is in the pictures.”
He looked up at Maev hard determination sparking behind his dark brown eyes and she knew that he meant it.
“I’m not going to look at it from behind a glass, I am going to go out there one day,¨ then a little quieter he continued, ¨ I won't live underground forever.”
He looked back down at the floor and walked back through the heavy metal door and to the lift. Maev took one more look at the swirling sands beyond the glass, closed the door behind her and got into the lift after her brother. The doors shut and it slowly began to make its way squeakily back down to the lower levels.