Kate L. Mary
Award-winning author of adult and young adult fiction, mom of 4, and USAF wife. Get more information at: https://KateLMary.com
I stuck to the shadows, watching people as they went about their day, not a single one significant enough that I would remember them later. Men hurried to work, their heads down so they didn’t accidentally make eye contact with any of the Regime soldiers, while women lugged overstuffed bags to the laundromat or ushered children through the dense crowd. Old and young, tall and short, it didn’t matter because they all looked the same. Haggard. Dirty faces and unkempt hair, their thread-bare clothes as depressing as the sky above. That was what they reminded me off, actually. Pollution laden clouds in grays and browns that drifted through the sky monotonously.
I was sitting at the table when the click of footsteps against the marble floor alerted me to Victor’s approach, and I took a moment to arrange myself. Straightening my skirt, crossing my ankles, and setting my hands demurely in my lap. He liked when I made a big presentation of greeting him, and although I took no pleasure in pleasing him, I knew I had no choice.
Here for You
Everything changed the day Cade discovered The Undying. I mean, everything. “You can’t be serious,” I’d said, staring wide-eyed at the pamphlet in my hand.
The faint light from the moon shone through the smog-filled sky as I paced, stopping after only a few steps to scan the darkness in hopes of spotting Enid. She’d left before sunset the previous day, which wasn’t like her, and no one had seen or heard from her since. The heaviness in my gut grew with each hour that ticked by, but I wasn’t ready to accept what this might mean. Not that I was delusional. We’d lost enough people over the years to know the odds of her making it back after this long of an absence were slim.
Icy water. Salt. My eyes and sinuses burned from it, but the discomfort was secondary to my confusion. I kicked my legs, fighting against the current to stay afloat, and paddled my arms, spinning so I could survey my surroundings. Water. Nothing but water in all directions. It was pale blue beneath me, contrasting with the indigo sky above, and stars twinkled against the perfectly clear backdrop. It was nothing like the sky I was used to, which was gray and clogged with pollution.
My calves burned and with each pump of my legs, my breaths came faster. The cool air was damp, filling my nostrils with the scent of wet earth, and the ground squished beneath my feet.
Breathe. I close my eyes and suck in a deep breath through my nose. The air is musty, the room smelling of neglect and decay, and dust particles tickle the fine hairs in my nostrils. I exhale, then suck in more air, having to work to keep the breaths slow and steady. The panic of not being able to move is threatening to push me over the edge, but it’s nothing compared to the terror of not knowing what’s going to happen.
I squint against the blinding lights, but even then, it takes a moment to locate who I’m looking for. They’re in the front row – my parents, Nash, and Easton. Their features are indistinguishable, but I can picture my father staring up at me, pride shining in his eyes the way it did the day I qualified for the Assessment.