Author: the-elemental-writer PM
After the loss of most of the ocean's microorganisms and the Earth's main forests, the oxygen levels are seriously depleted. Anika Cardin and her rebel group, the Renegades, fight the Authorities to help save the Earth. A sudden turn of events forces her to go into hiding and trust a stranger who saved her life. She soon learns there's more to the world than she ever imagined.Rated: Fiction T - English - Sci-Fi/Fantasy - Chapters: 21 - Words: 79,308 - Reviews: 4 - Favs: 3 - Follows: 6 - Updated: 05-15-13 - Published: 01-06-13 - id: 3089719
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
My grandmother would always tell me stories about a world where the human race didn't have to worry about water or oxygen rations. She told me this all stopped in the year 2051 when the planets' water reservoirs ran dry, and the oceans became so polluted with oil spills and factory wastes that the microorganisms essential for oxygen died out. She tells me even the worlds' richest people had their money stripped from them to provide the necessities to keep human civilizations afloat on this Earth. Even people on the news agreed. "The direction our planet is heading has no use for rich or poor," one reporter said. "All humans are equal…and perhaps if we had treated them as so we would not be nearing such a downfall for this once beautiful Earth."
It is now the year 2082. I am seventeen years old and can only imagine perfect worlds in my dreams. My grandmother assures me it was never a perfect world, but to have a constant supply of oxygen and water…that would be perfect. Don't get me wrong, there are still trees and water in this land, but not enough to live comfortably in this world.
I work with a group called the Renegades. We would do anything to bring back the previous state of the Earth. We are the only rebel group fighting against the Authorities. We have several plans and if they could be conducted properly, we might just be able to save the planet! But we have to be careful…we cannot do this unless we have some sort of outside help.
"Anika…come…hurry!" I heard my grandmother's small cry come from the living quarters in our small home. My grandmother was born with asthma, but it worsened rapidly after the ocean's microorganisms died. She pointed to the mantel, where her inhaler was. I quickly grabbed it and hurried over to her.
She shook it, put it to her mouth, puffed it and breathed in. After a couple of minutes, she beckoned me to crouch down. I kneeled to make it easier on her, since she was eighty-seven and in a wheelchair now.
"Thank you darling," she smiled at me.
"You're welcome grandma," I said returning the smile. I stood up and wheeled her over to the Oxygen Distributor so she could breathe normally again. "I'm going back to my room, alright grandma?"
"Of course…" she said, waving me away. I walked down the small hallway and into my room. My walls were covered with very old pictures and newspaper clippings which once belonged to my grandmother, and her mother before her. It was all so beautiful. The grass was so green and the people so vibrant. Compared to the current state of our Earth, we have to be careful. We cannot afford any more demise of the planet on our part.
I gently closed the front door as I snuck out of the house. Every Thursday the Renegades meet. We change our location every week, so we can be positive others will not join us; others being the people who are still making a profit in this world when the rest of us are poor. They are the people who package our oxygen, and distribute our water: the Authorities.
Before I realize it, I'm rounding the corner to this week's location: the old water house. I neared the entrance and knocked the code: 1, 2, 3 – 1, 2 – 1, 2, 3. I heard a shift from within.
"What year did the Earth fall?"
"What year were you born?"
"Please identify yourself."
"Anika Cardin, daughter of Joanne Cardin, daughter of Persea Colby." I heard four clicks, and the door opened. It was Noah, my best friend; the one person other than my grandmother who I could always depend on. I looked at his kind face and smiled. His hazel eyes seemed to light up when they saw me and he ran a hand through his short, honey-coloured hair.
"Anika you're late! Everyone has been so worried about you!" He hugged me quickly, closed and locked the door. He began to walk towards the circle of people waiting for me but I caught a glimpse of his bare arms, which were toned and tanned, despite the fact that it was late November. He seemed to have the body type of what people would have once referred to as an athlete, and stood at 5'11.
"I know, I know. I'm sorry. I had to delay a little because I thought I heard my mom in the kitchen. It was only grandma though…" My grandmother used to lead this group. That is how I know of it. Before my time, however, the Authorities caught them and shut it down. The Authorities do not want rebels living under their noses. I joined the circle, all of us sitting on the floor and looked around.
"Say something!" someone shouted, sounded like Devon, but I wasn't positive.
"Um…" I cleared my throat and began. "So these plans we have," I looked at the pile of paper in front of me and picked them out, "are great. But how are we supposed to execute this? Metro tickets would cost a fortune for all fourteen of us, and they wouldn't let us buy so many at one time. Also this is just way too dangerous. I do not want to risk any of you – you're all assets and we're a family." I looked at their faces, old and young. Every one of these people matter, no life should ever be thrown away.
"Anika, may I say something?" It was John, our eldest member. He is seventy-eight. He was alive when mankind destroyed the Earth. I nodded and waited for him to continue. He stood and cleared his throat, "I've seen what humankind has done. I have many doubts any of these plans would succeed, but I also believe with your leadership we can do it. Especially if she has help," he looked at everyone before finally fixing his gaze on mine. "If we don't even try, where would that get us? We would continue these meetings and not advance any closer to our goal; to save the planet before it is too late."
"Okay, John." I began, "say we get the tickets, make our way into the Authorities headquarters…then what? What can we possibly do to change anything? We need more people, we need to recruit and eventually revolt. We need more time to plan. We cannot jump aboard a train and simply march into our enemies' home." He just looked back at me. Everyone was silent when there was a knock on the door making us jump. I slowly got up when there was another knock, three of them…then two…then three again.
I looked at Noah about to say something but he nodded, understanding. "What year did the world end?" he began.
A small, familiar voice replied, "2051." He looked at me with eyebrows raised.
"What year were you born in?"
The same voice replied, "1995…and before you go on my name is Persea Colby –" I hurried to the door and pulled it open – "daughter of…Oh hello Anika dear!" I was face to face with my grandmother. And she was standing.
"Where – where's your wheelchair, grandma…what's going on here?" Something seemed off about her. The bags under her eyes looked like shadows from hell itself.
"Oh that old thing, that's just a cover. No Authority would ever dream the Renegades' previous leader to still be at large…" she winked at me and crossed the room and gave John a hug, being old friends and all. I closed the door then turned to her.
"Grandma, we were just discussing a plan."
"Yes I know I heard it all, that door is not sound proofed you know. You all really need to think of better locations, I've been able to track you to all of them. You want hard to reach places." She turned to look at me. "Remember that my dear."
The door slammed open, and several Authority guards dressed in their black uniforms burst into the building, more getting in position outside the door. I looked at my grandmother and the last thing I saw from her was the smallest nod. A gun sounded, blood splattered and she fell to the floor in front of me.
"No!" I screamed, "Grandma!" I knelt beside her as her blood began pooling out from beneath her. I reached out to shake her – she can't be dead, she's all my hope, it's all thanks to her why I'm here – but I was pulled away. Away from the one person who taught me how to be true to myself and others, but most importantly, to the world. As I was carried out of that room I caught glimpses of my fellow members. It looked like John was also killed on the spot, while some were being beaten, and others carried out like me. Then I saw Noah. He was being punched, over and over, his blood everywhere.
Coming to my senses, I began to fight back. Why give up without a fight? We are the only ones left! That's why we're here! I began squirming, taking my Authority guard by surprise. I kicked, punched and bit until I fell to the floor; I got up quickly and sprinted to Noah. I grabbed a gun most likely dropped by an Authority and shot the soldier beating on Noah.
Shocked at myself, I looked at my hands. I dropped the gun to the ground. I just stood there until Noah grabbed me by the hand and together we sprinted, dodged and ducked Authorities until we made it out of that building; the building where I would bury my past.
I couldn't stop thinking about the last thing my grandmother had said to me: You want hard to reach places. That's when I noticed the ground we were running on began ascending…hard to reach. We ran until Noah and I were dragging each other, our hands still clasped tightly. We both collapsed out of tiredness, not out of breathlessness…
"Noah, where are we?" I looked around; we were completely sheltered in trees. I took a deep breath in; "I can breathe out here…like really breathe!" Slowly he sat up and looked around, his face growing paler with each passing second. He stood up.
"Anika…these are the Forbidden Wastes." I looked at him as realization dawned upon me. We were told in school from moment you first enter a classroom that the wastes are wastes. Toxic wastes, un-breathable, death if you even get too close to them! So if Noah and I can breathe out here, why lie to the remaining population of the Earth? We're told the wastes are all over the world. Why put everyone at so much risk?
I screamed as a gun fired and Noah slumped to the ground before me. A shadow emerged from the darkness of the trees, the person's eyes glinting from the light of the moon.
"Well, little Anika…no one can know of our little secret." He thrust the butt of the gun upon my head and all went black.
For the next two days I came in and out of consciousness. I would catch glimpses of the room I was in. But I couldn't make any sense of any of it.
On the third day I finally came to, and I was all alone other than a person hooked up to medical equipment on the bed across from me. I sat up and felt my head. No bump. Not even a small headache…I was fuzzy though. What was going on?
I heard footsteps and the door opened. A well-built man who was taller than Noah, with fair-brown hair and stubble on his chin, walked in. His face looked scary but his eyes were light blue and seemed kind, almost trusting. He glanced at me.
"I see you've finally awoken." He said, walking to the person on the bed. "I feel like I have some explaining to do. First of all, my name is Darren, and second, this is my cabin in the Wastes."
"We're in the Wastes?!" I interrupted. There was a memory I couldn't bring forth, it was foggy but I felt that it was important. "Can you tell me what happened? Why am I here? And who exactly are you?"
"…how much do you remember, Anika?" He asked me, meeting my eyes. Something in his eyes was very familiar, but I couldn't place it.
"Remember from what?" I asked.
"Three days ago, the Authorities attacked you and your group: the Renegades. Do you remember them?" He looked at me hard, as if I wouldn't know them.
"Of course I remember my group. There's my grandma, John, Devon, Will, Sarah…Noah. Is he – is he alive?" A rush of memories came back to me, a pool of blood encircling my grandmother, the Authorities pulling apart my group, John being shot. Noah and I running for what seemed to be forever, "We made it to the Wastes. But you said that's where we are right now…" I got up off the bed and moved as far away from the man as possible. "Did you kill Noah?" He just looked at me. "Answer…" it came out as a whisper.
He stepped towards me, his hand outstretched.
"Don't come near me!" I said while staring into the man's eyes. "My grandma…" I started. "She's dead, too isn't she?" I stifled a sob and fought my tears. I hope my mom is okay. I can't lose any more people. "How many Renegades got away?" I asked him, my throat tightening at the thought. He didn't reply, just stepped to the side making the person on the bed appear in full sight.
"Noah…" I rushed over to him. Not being able to hold them, my tears flowed down my face. He looked so small and fragile in the bed. I looked up at Darren. "But you shot him! I saw you!"
"I did," he admits. "And I hit you on the head too." I opened my mouth to speak but he stopped me, "let me finish, Anika. I am Darren Walker. I have lived in the Wastes my whole life. When the world ended I was fourteen. I'm now forty-five. I have known about the Renegades since the group was made by Persea." Shock spread across my face. How does he know my grandmother's name? "You need to know that although I never 'officially' joined the group, we're still on the same side."
"I don't believe you," I said right away. How could I?
Almost expecting this he says, "Tell me this then, how are you still alive? How is Noah alive? You saw him get shot."
"I don't know," I say, giving in to defeat.
"As I said, we are on the same side, Anika. You must understand that the only reason why I shot Noah and knocked you unconscious was because of the Authorities following you. From what they saw, you were taken care of, finished; dead. That is why they left us alone, why they didn't question me. As far as they know, I am this forests' only inhabitant." I let his words sink in and looked at Noah. I guess Darren was right…both Noah and I would be dead if it weren't for him. If it's true about Authorities following us they easily would have finished us off…especially after our discovery about the Wastes.
"Darren, why are we all being lied to? Why is it that the Authorities tell us these forests are Wastes if they're not?" I asked him, still looking at Noah.
"I'm sure if you give it some thought; you could figure it out on your own…unless you just want to know right now, plain and simple." He looked at me questioningly. I raised my eyebrows and nodded for him to go on, "Control. They work their way into our brains to the point where we believe we need them to survive. We don't. Although oxygen levels are dangerously low, we could still ban together and survive without the Oxygen Distributor crap. Pardon my language, and not only that, but the population declines every day. Although it isn't a comforting thought, fewer people, means less oxygen consumption." Once again, I looked down at Noah while I began processing the information. A thought occurred to me.
"Darren, you say the atmosphere still has enough oxygen to live without the extra oxygen, right?" he nods. "Then why is it so hard to breathe in the cities and towns than compared to out here?"
"Ah…the Authorities purposely pollute them to make the population believe they need the extra oxygen. They are evil. And of course we are in the middle of Falkron Woods. But we can still save this Earth. To do so, however, we would have to eliminate the Authorities. And from my understanding…you eliminated one of them that night." I looked up at him, wide-eyed.
"That was an accident," I say, trying not to hyperventilate. How could I take a life so easily? Whether that person was evil or not, doesn't change the fact that human life is a fragile thing. I cannot slip again. I can't. I won't let myself; it's not my place to decide who should live and who shouldn't.
"But it was to save your boyfriend –" Darren began.
"He's not my boyfriend!" I snapped, and regretted it immediately.
"– a life for a life," he finished. I looked at him.
"That's not my decision to make."
"But you already did it. We will need people like you if we plan on eliminating the Authorities for good; selfless, brave, smart. We will not get by with imbeciles." This was all too much for me. I stood up.
"Can I get some fresh air, Darren?" I looked deeply into his eyes. He nodded and walked over to a closet, pulling out a thick jacket and boots that looked far too big. "There's no way those will fit me." I said, getting irritated. "Where are my shoes? I'll just wear them." I began, looking around.
"Just because we live in a long forgotten forest doesn't mean everyone has forgotten. The Authorities check every now and then to make sure I am the only civilian out here. If you wear my boots, the tracks will look like mine and they won't know. As for the jacket, autumn has turned to winter. We will have snow upon us soon." He said passing me the pile. He craned his neck and looked at the clock on Noah's beside table. "10:42…I hope you don't take too long, the days are growing shorter. I will leave you to get changed," he said walking towards the door that led to the other part of the cabin.
"Why do they leave you here? How come they're not suspicious of you?" I quickly called out. He turned around and looked at me.
"I don't think I should overload you with information. I also believe you're not ready to hear it." And with that, he left the room and closed the door. I didn't change right away. I walked around the small area, which I'm guessing is now my room. It was unfurnished except for the two beds – mine and Noah's – and a chair which Darren must have used to keep an eye on us. There was also a fireplace on the wall opposite from our beds. Finally, I looked at Noah. He looked so peaceful. The thought that he was almost taken away from me twice scares me. If I decide to fight against the Authorities, it will be for Noah. To protect him and make sure he never gets harmed again. I can't let him…even if it means killing Authorities. I will do anything to keep him safe.
I swiftly got changed and rummaged through the closet looking for extra pairs of socks. I found five and put them all on, before putting the big boots on. They were still far too big but I knew it wouldn't get better than this. I left the room, glancing at Noah once. I went down the hall towards noises in the kitchen. I peeked around the corner, Darren was making food of some sort and as the scent reached me, I realized just how hungry I was.
"Do you want to eat now or after?" He asked, startling me.
"How'd you know I was here?" He pointed to the shoes.
"Very loud on wooden floors, you know." He said with a chuckle. "So…" holding up the frying pan he asked again, "before or after, Anika?" At that moment my stomach growled, giving away my answer. He laughed a bellow of a laugh and fetched a plate for me.
I couldn't remember the last time I had such rich tasting food. The Authorities don't let citizens eat anything other than their own processed foods. They say it's a waste of water to grow vegetation, and a waste of oxygen to breed animals only to kill them afterwards. Whereas most of the population will go their whole lives without ever tasting real meat or cheese or vegetables, my grandmother had connections. I don't know who they were or how she got the food, but those days when she would bring home fresh food…I would love to go back to them. I savored every bite I took of the bacon, eggs, cheese and lettuce…all of it was so perfect.
"Where do you get your food? It's all fresh!" I asked Darren, my mouth filled with food. He joined me at the table with his own plate of food.
"I grow it; all of it. I also have three pigs, six chickens and two horses." He exclaimed, clearly proud. "The cheese however, I get from a friend who is living the same lifestyle as me. Except I'm younger and he has a cow!" He laughed out loud. I smiled with him and shoveled the remaining few bites into my mouth.
"Thank you so much for breakfast, Darren! It was amazing!" He smiled and swallowed his mouthful of food.
"Do not take too long; as I said earlier, the days are beginning to grow short. The last thing I need is to be searching through these woods for you in the dark. The daytime is hard enough, believe me."
"Alright," I said simply heading for the door.
"One last thing, Anika," I stopped, turning around. "Do me a favor and follow the black stones. Most people just overlook them as pebbles, but they will take you to a beautiful place. That is where I would spend many of my days after…never mind. But this way, I can find you if I need to. I call it the Secret Grove," he said before he continued eating.
"Thank you Darren," I said smiling, finally heading out into the fresh air.