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Her breath hitched, eyes gazing past the vast land of roaming hills and wavering brown grass, scattered buds had peaked out through the trunks of unkempt trees and tangled bushes. What she saw was beautiful, blissful freedom. To everyone else, it was nothing—a wasteland.
Sarah Vangaurder wedged her toes between the rotting wood and gripped at the spikes shooting out as if it were hit by a falling star. It crumbled under her weight and caved in ever so slightly. Yet she reached out higher and stepped further up the fence. Again and again, she would repeat the process until her body was at the peak. She swung her legs over, her body shaking with exertion. She sat at the very top, overlooking the land that lay outside Mayroal.
In the gleaming light of the stars, her silhouette would be recognized as a Taurus or Scorpio. Not as her Gemini.
As she sat atop the fence, hours had passed as mere minutes. The constant nagging of petrification buzzed in the back of her head as she contemplated climbing down the other side and dashing. However, before she knew it, the moon faded into the hills as the sun rose from the other direction. It was early morning, now, and Sarah knew the Bull Guard would be doing their morning routine: checking and securing perimeters and defending the people from possible threats. There’s always tomorrow, she supposed.
As the flashlights’ flickering glow advanced into view, Sarah started her way back down. The Taurii marched outside the fence, all chanting like a bull bellowing at a red flag. Sarah’s heart started to beat rapidly, the vines of fear weaved around her body and prevented any possible movement. She exhaled a shuddered breath; just like Gemini, she was a coward. She maneuvered her body against the emerald-clad wall, legs shaking as adrenaline pumped through her body. Her keychain clinked against it, the metal-on-metal sound resonated off the glistering walls that trapped her inside the city. The keychain was the first gift she could remember receiving and legally she had to carry it with her at all times; in a sense, it was identification. She always strung the keychain to her belt, it was always there; there was never an absence of the luminous gold rods welded into a Gemini sign. It was apart of her as much as the stars were apart of the sky.
The Bull Guard’s chanting had left the sound comparable to a pin drop. Sarah basked in the small victory for a moment or two. Her flight-or-fight instincts finally kicked into gear, she fled.
She made her way towards the occupied part of the city, pushing past hordes of people to get to her destination. The sidewalks were crammed with people in nothing less than shorts and a T-shirt, all making their way to their job catered to their sign. She herself was wearing a pair of black shorts and a simple tucked-in floral shirt; modest, yet comfortable.
The air was misted with fallen clouds, yet the sun warmed the city like a constant heater even in the night—that’s what they get for living in the city of Summer.
A building came into view, tall standing, and intimidating to many who are called in. This was where she worked: at the courthouse. Sarah was a judge, and she was pretty well off in her ability to do so. But that didn’t mean she enjoyed sitting in an uncomfortable chair for hours on end listening to tedious arguments about the smallest of felonies. However, it was that or a therapist, investigator, politician, or another job the higher powers decide would be suitable for a Gemini.
Sarah stood in front of the door, waiting for it to complete a full-body recognition scan, her body was a rock ready to be plowed over. She propped the door open, kicking her foot in front of the thick door as she balanced her messenger bag and the cat-eye sunglasses she was putting inside of it.
The hallways were wide and grand, and mostly empty at this time of the morning. It was silent except for her wedged sandals thumping quietly against the yellow and green tiles.
She headed to the communal coffee machine, craving the bitter taste of coffee topped with a foaming froth to help soothe her forming caffeine-withdrawal headache. There were many machines throughout the building, but the one in the break room near room 3 had a latte option.
Sarah slowly walked into room 3, the repercussions of staying up all night finally had hit her. Lazily, she loaded the machine with a dark roast K-cup and waited for it to spew out a stream of scalding bean-infused water. The foam came next, leaving a beautiful latte sitting in one of the communal mugs; to her, it was a sacred morning ritual.
She raised the mug to her lips, uncaring of the burnt tongue she would soon endure--at least she would have a distraction during the hearing.
An incessant beeping rung throughout the room, like a fire bell’s buzzing. Her keychain had started to glow profusely, its normal luminescent light had rapidly become brighter by the second. It also began to shake and jitter against her belt, vibrating so vigorously Sarah was sure it would just about explode. But no, she knew exactly what this meant: the higher powers had an emergency. An emergency Sarah knew would prolong the time before her bicycle-theft hearing.
A large crowd had started to form, and more people were still joining. A wailing toddler was next to Sarah, the caretaker had seemed to struggle with her new load of infants. She slipped the distressed child a small lollipop, to which he immediately began to unwrap and suck on--lollipops were a stress reliever for her, so she often carries them around in her bag. The caretaker did not take to kindly to Sarah helping her, she could tell by the stink eye she shot Sarah. She looked at the glowing item in the caretaker’s hand, noticing she had a Virgo necklace weaved around her fingers.
A celestial, out-of-this-world figure arose above all the people, a projection of Leo. His glowing projection had all the features Leo had if one had the once-in-a-million-years opportunity to meet the higher powers: long ginger hair reached down to his back, and a full beard blanketed his chin. His whole presence had radiated power, and the crowd could sense it. It wasn’t just because of his gold-plated boots, his broad upper body covered in a suit of armor hand-crafted by Aquarius herself. No, it was the awe they felt seeing him float above them all with a sense of dangerous grace. Sarah couldn't help but feel jealousy pump through her heart and run deep in her veins. She yearned to leave her job behind and do anything else--try her hand in art, make a necklace, be an extra in a movie, even watch flowers grow!
As Leo’s booming voice echoed throughout the city, a hush that no-one thought a city could manage fell over the crowd, his presence was similar to a muzzle on a rabid dog. “Hello!” Leo’s frown had easily formed into a welcoming smile. His eyes looked down onto his people, though not in a superior way, more of an I’m-taller-than-you manner. As quickly as his light-heartened welcome came, it faded into a bearing smile one only a king could muster. “I come bringing bad news,” his voice was clamorous, however, somber. People had begun to murmur, a simultaneous mixture of emotions washed over the crowd, many ranging from quizzical, scared, and shocked.
Sarah had hoped the news would bring about a new revelation the higher power had recently discovered, one possibly granting the citizens more freedom from their mundane lives. When the information had passed Leo’s lips, it was that of discovery, though, not one granting freedom--one granting chaos.
“This astrophysicist—” a collective gasp came at the casual mention of the illegal job “—came banging on our doors, spewing this and that about the stars being all messed up. Libra decided to humor him by doing some research before authorities take him to The Horoscope,” Leo paused, looking shameful. “We were wrong. I regret to tell you this, however, many of you will now be seeking a new profession. I ensure you this is the only way to maintain a productive, developing community. I will now be showing you the new dates, many of your birthdays will belong to another a sign, those who do will need to immediately report to your closest city hall and return your identification for a new one.”
Leo’s body disintegrated into shimmering gold ash and was replaced with the unpleasant sight of a monotone board. Sarah had suspected her sign to change before Leo had finished his explanation; her birthday did fall under the 18th of June. She was always perceptive, maybe a sign she was supposed to be a Cancer. So when the new dates were displayed to the whole world, Sarah couldn’t help but be slightly thankful her sign was different. Everyone else, however, was not.
Chants, protests, and screams had quickly emerged from the crowd, growing thicker and bigger like a tree shown in those old sped-up biology videos.
A vicious, unrelenting riot broke out; the human anger of thousands mingled together to form a vociferous song of a strangled symphony. The abrupt chaos had just as quickly spread until Mayroal lit ablaze.
Sarah, in all her selfish glory, had been thankful that she did not have to suffer through another petty fender-bender hearing. She knew she might die--get hit by a collapsing building--yet she did not care for she could finally die a free woman.
Through all the fire, the burning, Leo had appeared in the sky. And yet, no one noticed just how powerless Leo was in that moment without his people. Sarah had looked up to see what the people had thought of as a holy figure become nothing more than an ant. To Sarah, it had seemed as if the city was retaliating, too, as the roof of a pointed skyscraper had come cascading down and crashing through Leo’s hologram. The higher powers could not have expected this no matter how many horoscopes they read.
She stayed there, laughing at the irony, and watching the city burn around her. She thought she was nothing like these cowards who destroyed her city in mere hours. And yet, she was; she was a bystander about to be the last person to flee the city of Summer.
The tan of the city changed to that of a harsh red, blazing like the sun, and just maybe, it had felt like the sun lighting the earth.