Author's note: This book is heavily inspired by "The Hunger Games", "Uglies", and other works. It's a work in... Show full author's note »
Welcome To The Fifth LocaleI wake up in the middle of an alleyway in the Fifth Locale, like I always do. I want to wake up somewhere else, but even a small room costs thirteen senqite a month in this part of town. I walk down the narrow alley and look up to the make-shift bell tower the people of district three have set up. It seems to be about time for school, but I never go. Schooling is required for all children under two-hundred and fifty-six months old for people in the Fifth Locale, but not required in the Wasteland
I make my way down to the market, but not for food. If I want any food I usually just steal it. No one pays attention to a dirty street teenager, do they? I look around to make sure no one is looking, then I duck down a narrow alley and slip into an abandoned building. There are so many in this part of town. Inside the old condemned building lays just about nothing. It's been gutted out of anything valuable, many years ago from the looks of it. I look around for Kyle, and spot him sleeping underneath an old piece of cardboard. I walk over to him and push him awake.
"Wha..?" He manages to mumble. "Aaron?"
"Of course it's Aaron," I say impatiently. "If it wasn't, you'd be dead by now in this part of the Locale."
"True." Kyle mumbles, and stands up. "So, we going out again?"
Kyle walks almost drunkenly next to me as I lead the way out of the old building. "You haven't been drinking, have you?" I ask.
"Naw, not recently." He mumbles. Kyle always seems to steal the good wine whenever we had to break into houses. I warn him against it usually, since drinking gets you nothing but drunk, but he usually slips some anyways.
"Sure..." I say, and we walk back out into the marketplace. It's about eight in the morning now, and by this point loads of people are lining up to get their hands on something good during today's trade. Sure, you can use regular money, like reguild, havben, and even senqite, but usually its just trading that ever goes on. I reach into my pocket and pull out two reguild, the last two I have, and hand it to the baker, expecting a decently-sized loaf in return.
"This ain't gonna cut it, kid." The baker told me. He seemed as drunk as Kyle had been. "I'm gonna need five reguild for a loaf." I look to Kyle, who reaches into his pocket and hands me the remaining three reguild he had. I paid the man and broke the loaf in half, handing one piece to Kyle. We walked down the square and past the small, unimportant capital of district three. The Fifth Locale is the most well-off district in all of Wasteland Four, but it still was as poor as the rest of the districts. The capital here consisted of a small, worn out building and two or three even smaller buildings for government business. When the utopods were formed, according to legend, they left us no form of government to run on, or even if we had to have government at all. If you travel west to Wasteland Three, you'll see what I mean.
From what we hear (Which isn't much, just word of mouth) Wasteland Four is the nicest of all of the Wastelands. It's got fertile soil, a republic government, and even a great ocean to the east. We don't know what it's called, since that information was lost when we were abandoned by the utopods, but gives us water to wash it. Not to drink, though, the water is very salty. All the water we drink has to be pulled up by wells in the ground.
After we pass the capital, me and Kyle reach the end of the city, and we come to the place where the fence used to stand. Even though all citizens of the wasteland are allowed all around it, the past mayor of district three found certain areas of the district far too dangerous, and used a lot of money to fence them off. However, the funds for the project were so low, the fence was made with wood, and a good bit of it burned down after a fire broke out a few months ago.
"Sure was a waste, that project was..." Kyle says as he steps over the small stumps of wood where the fence was. I do the same, and we are off into the woods.
The woods of the Fifth Locale are very beautiful. Not as torn down as the Eighteenth Locale, or as burned and charred as Kyle's home, which was the Second Locale. These trees haven't really been touched, which is quite surprising, given that there are many homeless people in the district. I guess everyone respects the nonexistent fence.
It's fall in the capital, and that means the leaves begin to change color. No one I've asked can explain why they change. A lot of us think it's magic, but one old man told me that long ago, when the people of the Wasteland and the people of the utopods were together, they discovered why the leaves changed with science. I never really believed him, but then again, I never knew what I thought about the leaves. I just figured I would find out eventually.
"Hey Aaron!" Kyle says. "I think I found something!" I
I look over to Kyle, as he walks over to a tree not to far away from me. "What is it?" I say. I hope it's a large chunk of food. That bread didn't fill me all that much. Kyle picks up a small circular object. "This thing moves!" He exclaims.
I walk over to him and quickly lift the thing up to the light. I didn't see too much of interest, in my point of view. Just an arrow that pointed to the right of me. "It's not moving at all." I tell Kyle, but he shakes his head in disagreement.
"Watch." He tells me. I stare at the object as he slowly rotates it in his fingers. The arrow in the middle never moves, even though he was turning it. Suddenly, I remember what it was.
"It's a compass!" I say triumphantly. "A what now?" Kyle asks, and I don't blame him. He's never been to school a day in his life.
"A compass," I repeat. "They taught me in school that these things are very rare. They told me that you simply aim the arrow in the middle to the 'N', and then you can figure out which way is west, east, north, and south."
"What's the point of that?" Kyle asks. "I just follow a trail."
"The point is this will make a killing in the marketplace." I say. "Probably even a hayben. "
"A hayben!" He exclaims. "That'll buy us food for like, a week!" I just shake my head. "Yeah, better hold onto this." I hand it back to Kyle and he slips it into his pocket. "Well, let's keep moving then."
Kyle and I have been doing the same thing ever since I met the boy. Every day we would meet up at the marketplace and travel into the forests. We both would look for any remnants of the past as well as something to make a quick buck with. The partnership works well, and I have no plans to end it anytime soon. Heck, we even look alike. The same dark brown curly hair, tan skin and raggedy clothes. We easily pass as brothers, which helps us get a good trade with women when we tell them we are poor brothers who have nothing to live for.
We walk in the woods for another few hours, looking for anything of use. We find two old rusty knives, a box filled with old papers, and a leather pouch filled with odd looking pieces of green paper. They taught us in school that this was the old money in the dark ages, before the utopods appeared to end the dark ages. Usually we use it to start our fires. We walk for another few minutes, knowing that the sun is in the middle of the sky, and that we would need to head back before markets close. I look around and see a tall hill about fifty feet away.
"Be right back, Kyle." I say quietly. He nods, and I walk up the hill. We usually don't venture this far into the forests, but we have not found anything of good use other then the compass, so we are desperate. I climb the last bit of the hill and look outward. I am amazed at what I see.
The hill is very high up, and I can see over the tops of all of the trees. I see, to the far left of me, the great mountains of the Sixteenth Locale. Beyond the mountains lays the cruel and barbaric Wasteland Three. Right in front of me is a great sea of trees, as far as the eye can see. Finally, to the right, I see Utopod Four.
Utopod Four is an amazing sight to see up close, but far away, it's even more beautiful. The utopod is huge. It's about fifty miles in diameter, or so I hear. I've never had the courage or stupidity to venture to the far side, since on the other side lays Wasteland Two, and I've never met anyone travel who traveled to Wasteland Two. The large glass bubble rises high into the sky, but doesn't allow anyone outside to see in. The people in district three say that the people inside see outside, but I doubt they could ever know. The walls of the utopod stretch two hundred feet into the air, made of metals so fine in color that we haven't discovered what they are.
Kyle joins me at my right and looks out the utopod. "Sure is beautiful" he murmurs.
"Sure, but we suffer out here while they live in paradise." I say angrily.
"What makes you say that?" Kyle asks. "They could all be starving inside of that thing. They could have run out of resources or something."
"I doubt it. Haven't you read the inscription?" Kyle hears my words and looks down. I know he has read the inscription. Everyone has. It is written in big, bold letters on the outside of the utopod hundreds of times around the whole thing. It reads:
Here is Utopod Four
May it prosper greatly for all eternity
and all others face destruction.
Then below the inscription lays a list of all resources taken inside of the utopod the day of it's formation. The list goes on and on like a trading list that ever ends. Three million cattle. Five million chickens. The list continues until finally, at the bottom, it states proudly that four hundred thousand people entered on the day of the utopod's formation. I highly doubt that four hundred thousands of people would sit and starve to death with that many chickens and cattle. And so does Kyle.
"Well, let's move on then." Kyle says. "We still have a bit before we have to head back.
I walk down the hill, wanting to continue the search. I turn the left and continue the trail that we were on. I only have to walk five steps before I hear Kyle scream out, saying to look over here. I sigh, and turn around. Kyle has ventured down the hill, and I run back up it to see what is the matter. I walk down the hill and see Kyle staring at what appears to be a giant wall. It's not a new wall, definitely.
Moss hangs from the top of the wall, and large sections are covered in bugs and grime. Clearly this wall was from the dark ages, but what was around it? I walk up to Kyle.
"We need to see what's over this wall."
"But the suns already beginning to set! We'll never make it in time to sell the com-"
"Nevermind the compass. Just give me a boost." I say. Kyle pushes aside his frustration and gets on one knee, cupping his hands together. He helps me up to the top of the wall, and I quickly pull him up as well. Without truly looking, we both jump down onto the other side of the wall. What we saw was amazing.
I had seen quite a few dark ages-era houses, but never this many. There must be hundreds in this area. They seem to be connected to each other by this weird stuff on the ground that I was told used to be called "concrete", instead of regular dirt roads we use today. The wall we climbed over was made up of the same stuff. I always wondered why they used it since all of this "concrete" is cracked and mossy, but I never got the chance to wonder for too long.
The houses seemed to stretch on for miles. The "roads" kept going for as far as I could see. It's as if these people were trying to cram as many people into one area as possible, like the utopod, but much worse.
Kyle and I walked slowly to the concrete "road" that the dark ages people built and walked down it. These houses were so similar, even after being here hundreds of years. They had the same color, same doors, and same holes in them were I think glass used to be. I pick one quickly and go inside. Kyle follows after me.
I push the door open quickly, as it is rotting and falling apart from lack of use. The inside of the house is dusty and hot. Old chairs sit around the room, and a thin black rectangle hangs from the screen. I have seen a lot of people try to sell black rectangles similar to these but nobody knows what to do with them. I walk further into the house and come across an interesting kitchen. Even through the dust, I can see that the whole kitchen seemed to be made out of shiny metal and shiny stone. Even shinier plates and bowls lay strewn about. Kyle heads up a set of stairs and I continue looking around on the first floor.
I come across another room, ever larger then the kitchen or first room combined. In there, many those thin rectangle things, this time smaller then the one in the first room, surrounded this table in the center. I used my hand to move the dust, and I see that the table has some sort of green blanket on it. I try to grab the blanket, but it seems to be glued onto the table. I try to look around more when I hear Kyle call out to me.
"Come up here and look at this!" He yells to me from up the stairs.
I walk slowly across the creaking floor to the stairs, then take my time up those. The house is so old and rotting it scares me just to move around. Yet, the place intrigues me in some strange way. Kyle greets me at the top of the stairs and motions for me to follow him. He leads me down a hallway and through another old door. Inside lay a simple bed. Across from the bed a third black rectangle was mounted on the wall, and on the bed lay one of the most odd looking devices I have ever seen.
It seemed to be a very circular black device, with a cylinder sticking out of it. I cautiously pick it up and look at it. On the back was another one of those black rectangle things. I slide my finger across the top and notice a little switch on the top, reading 'ON'.
"What do you think that means?" I ask Kyle, nervous.
"I don't know..." He mumbles. "Look, let's just go."
"Hold on!" I protest. I look back down to the thing and slide the switch to on. Suddenly, the rectangle on the back lit up like a candle, except thousands of times brighter and more brilliant. Colors filled the rectangle, and I finally notice that the rectangle is showing me what is on the other side of the machine.
"Woah!" Kyle screams. "What kind of magic is this!?!"
"I'm clueless." I answer, shaking from the flash of light. "But it's like I can see through it!" I show Kyle the screen, and he looks nervous as he looks right through it. "Can you see me?" He asks.
"No. I don't understand the point of this thing. All these buttons just to looks through it." I say, pressing some of them. Then, a second time, the machine flashes a brilliant white light in my face for a fraction of a second. The blast of light is so bright that I fly backwards onto the bed and Kyle drops the device, which hits the ground with a loud thud and the light stops coming out of it.
"This place is freaky, dude. Let's get out of here." Kyle exclaims as he makes for the door.
"Why?" I ask. "This place is really cool. I've never been to a dark ages house like this one."
"They're called the dark ages for a reason, man!" Kyle exclaims. "That thing could have killed you!" sigh, and nod. "Fine. We should be heading back anyways."
We spend the next few hours climbing back over the wall, walking to the top of the hill, then finally tracing out steps back to the capital. By the time we get there, the sun is setting, and the marketplace has now closed.
"Aww, man!" Kyle exclaims. "Now we don't get to eat until tomorrow!" Sighing, I look around and see that he is right. Nobody stays open around the capitol at night, and the only way to get food is to buy it with reguild or haypen or senqite.
"Whatever." I say, trying to not think about food. "Lets just get some water and call it a day."
We walk slowly over to the town well and wait in a small line for access. I pull the canteen out of my belt and lower the bucket as Kyle pulls his. We both fill up the canteens and head back. I walk with Kyle to his abandoned building.
"Are you sure you don't want to stay with me here?" Kyle asks as we enter the small building. "It's depressing seeing you sleep in that alley."
"It's fine." I say. "Besides, your building doesn't have a roof either." I point the they nighttime sky to prove my point.
"Whatever, dude. Just remember to wake up early. Tomorrow is 'The Great Deliverance', and you need to be energized if your going to fight your way to the good stuff."
"I'll remember." I say. "Just lay off on the drinking tonight." Kyle blushes nervously and slides over to block my view of the suspicious cans behind him. "Will do, bro. Goodnight."
"Goodnight." I say as I turn around. I walk back outside and down to my own alleyway. Sitting down, I find my old blanket that I hide underneath some stones and pull it over me. I am still cold, but I'm used to it. I needed all the sleep I could get if I was going to survive this weeks 'Deliverance', but sleep never comes easy for me. I think about the day's events. The flashing device, the compass, and even the sight of Utopod Four. Shivering in the cold, I pull the blanket up to my neck as I slowly fall asleep.