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A Heart of Havoc

Corrupt rulers, unexpected allies, and one girl with a plan.

By Sophia SajanPublished 3 years ago 8 min read
A Heart of Havoc
Photo by Ishan @seefromthesky on Unsplash

In the centre of what was once a bustling city, one building remains untouched by The Fall. Hearthold supports the remnants of the human race, its crumbling walls holding out poisonous air and acid rain.

The Fall happened slowly, then all at once. Father explained with a story; like a sewing needle on the edge of a cliff, it began with two sides. This needle could fall one way or the other. But, as tensions rose between the warring faction of thought, belief, and lifestyle, the ground on one side began to erode, worn away by deepening hatred and bitterness. Eventually, the needle found itself on the edge of a deep canyon. The needle teetered there, my father said, until a small gust of wind blew it off balance. And down it fell, far into depths darker than the world had ever seen.

Father always added that only in darkness does the opportunity for the most incredible capacity for light arises. He would tickle me and explain that, of course, that light was his little sweetheart, Harmony Edwards.

My fist closes around sharp steel. The lockets edges dig deep, but it cannot overcome the fierce, biting wind coursing through Bellower Alleys. Left and right, hands clutch at the hem of my long jacket, pleading behind masks of fading colours, turning the path before me into a sorrowful, dead rainbow. Finally, snaking through stalls of open-eyed fish sold by blank-eyed women, men call for more ale bolstering rank mugs of slimy brown liquid sloshing around-- I reach a shelter made of mossy green tarps thrown over several shoots of bamboo. Pulling back the flap, I duck inside and tug the bandana down under my chin to speak.

“Aya, Gretch, got what you asked for.”

“Harmon! Harmon! I could kiss ya’, sweet girl, come’ere! Whatcha’ got for me?”

At her command, I pull out cloth-wrapped morsels stolen from Eliten. Gretchen, of course, only got me the job in Elitens primary kitchen to bolster herself, but what’s a little stealing in exchange for a roof over this head and food in this hungry belly?

Father would never approve. I push away the thought, the truth, as I explain how good the red fruit tasted when I tried it on the way over, how the chef called this can “peaches” but I have no clue what they are, and how tonight’s special is something called “la-sahn-ya.”

“Oh, angel, we gon’ eat well tonight!” She drops four credits into my open palm, dismissing me back into the fray of Bellower Alley.

Father told me about Hearthold before The Fall, the grand Empire State Building. It’s hard to imagine these crumbled walls once being closed in by clean, clear windows instead of open to the gritty wind as it is now. Weaving out into Bellower, I head straight for the stairs.

Central only has two floors with one courtyard, a ten by ten of actual green grass. There are windows there, holding out deadly smog. How those people do not feel trapped, I will never understand.

Taking three steps at a time, I pass through Central in a few seconds, leaving behind the middle and lower class for the top three per cent. Eliten: ten floors of claustrophobic luxury, divided amongst fifteen families that dictate the fate of the human race. The stairs melt into a marble landing. Air shifts, feeling empty in my nose and sickly sweet on my tongue. The urge to gag on their premium, purified air is overwhelming, even after working here for three years.

“Harmony!” Eve, clad in thick, faded fabric with a capitol C-H-A-P-I-O-N printed across the chest, lags on the steps behind me from Eliten-2. The kitchens are on six, where I head to serve the dinner rush. “So glad I caught up to you,” Eve says, clocking me in the arm. I take a deliberate step away, frowning slightly and giving her a dull greeting.

Ever Marlow was born on E-9 in a hospital under the guidance of doctors. Her skin radiates wealth accumulated long ago, the smooth curves of her waist display the access to an adequate diet that few are lucky enough to access, and the light in her eyes exhibit a soul that’s never endured hardship. Most on Eliten share Eve’s sheltered life, but none trail me or try to get a glimpse of Bellower as Eve does.

It would be easy to say I am simply jealous of her. That I want to take her world, live in this castle of decadence. But I am not. Eve is the epitome of Eliten, the picture-perfect hope of a shining new world for these people—instilled with manners and patience and other acceptable social values that do not matter in the unsheltered world below our very feet at this moment. Yet, none of that’s necessarily Eve’s fault, and she’s the closest I have got to a friend, so I let her follow behind like a rat looking for scraps in the sewers of Bellower.

“Eve.” Cutting off her explanation of a new toy that requires something called ‘batteries’, I say, “I’m going to work and, unless you’re gonna get those pretty nails all chipped, this is where I leave you.”

“I’ll save you some of the lasagne from dinner.” I watch her smooth, golden hair flow down the stairs to her home on the second floor of Eliten before hopping the last leg to Eliten-6.

Work goes by without much concern. As always, I watch and observe the houses of Eliten. Serving each family, I can be the fly on the wall, always there, always listening. When people look down on the poor, they disregard their worth, speaking freely because what’s the harm in some nobody hearing the juicy gossip of the top floors? The Fords fighting with the Bezos’ again over the overcrowding ‘issues’ in the lower levels, the Torres' complaints about air quality in the housing and plans to preserve food longer; there’s always something to be said of everyone else by anyone. Tonight, Claudia Jobs, a renowned magician who keeps the water flowing through the building, discusses with Keira Wright what to do about long-term solutions for Hearthold’s dying machinery. Serving Keira often, I have heard much about her opinions on Bellower. She calls herself an ‘activist’ and believes we need air like on Eliten, and tonight she follows suit while talking to Claudia by arguing for Hearthold to be “equalled out”.

It brings a smile to my lips as I pour silky red wine into a Calhaus’ cup.

“What are you smiling about?” I nearly spill the drink onto the stark white table cloth. Straightening, I cast my eyes downward in the way the kitchen master, Brooks, taught us. I was thinking about how Keira speaks as my father did long ago before they took him, but I am not about to share that with this person who could have me sent to floor G with a wave of a hand.

“It’s okay, you can look at me,” they say again. I glance around the table to see every seat in deep conversation with the one beside it before darting up quickly to behold Elijah Calhaus. He lifts the wine glass slowly to his lips, smirking in triumph, and I ignore the defensive urge to reach for my locket, imagining it bouncing from my beating heart like those trampolines in Eliten Park.

Nobody ever prepared me for a blue-eyed, dark-haired Eliten boy to speak to me. Brooks’ warning included 1) do not make eye contact, 2) say nothing, do not smile, do not laugh, do not shout, and 4) never retaliate; you are their property, they may do with you what they like. This last part I know too well.

One of the old Candor men grabs my behind as I pass on occasion, raising scorn from Keira, but never any legitimate defence. Despising them would allow them to win, so I comfort myself with thoughts of how I will raze Eliten one day. This glass city will crumble, and, from its ashes, the Bellowers will rise.

Books were scarce on B-7, but Father taught me to read anyway with books he created himself. Once, I traded a full credit for a poem from an alley-sleeper, who recited what he claimed was the entire piece. It was by someone named Angelou, and there’s one line I recall which goes,

Bad as the storm that leaps raging from the heavens

Bringing the welcome rain

Bad as the sun burning orange hot at midday

Lifting the waters again.

These lines echo while I work, a mantra to inspire what’s to come. I will bring the welcome rain to the oppressed; I will free Bellower from their reign. Day after day, these people talk and talk of their struggle against nature, the issues of Bellower they never have to face—polluted air, water, sickness and disease, starvation.

“Are you hungry?”

I shake my head. “No, thank you, sir.” Elijah Calhaus is hardly older than me by the looks of his face, but his posture reflects an air of superiority I learned long ago to avoid.

“My name is Elijah. Elijah Calhaus.” As if one would not know immediately from the trademark lightning eyes of the Calhaus clan. “You look hungry,” he repeats, matter-of-fact. “I think you are likely starving.”

The lilt of his voice drips with the credits that bought him a standard nine years of schooling available exclusively on the top floors, formal and perfectly formed. I want to shoot back something clever and biting, but no small satisfaction could be worth getting thrown down to the ground floor.

Memory flickers behind my eyes, Father dragged away, disappearing into the depths of Floor G. Nobody ever comes back. Before Guardians, clad in white gear and carrying electric rods, arrested my father, he had been meeting with Gretchen. Hushed meetings, promises floating back to my cot of “uprising”, “change”, “resistance”, “equality”.

Elijah has caught the attention of the other Calhaus’ with our exchange. With a cunning smile, he pulls me onto his lap. He says something about a bit of fun, but I am frozen, using every ounce of strength not to punch this pompous, arrogant boy in the nose. Then, as I am about to bite the fingers running along my waist, I feel something slip into a pocket of my grey waitress uniform.

Like that, Elijah releases me and turns to the table, laughing rowdily. Beelining towards the kitchens, I clutch the steel heart dangling around my neck and inhale shakily. The paper’s unfolded on the countertop the second I get through the doors.

I know what your dad was planning with Ms Smither. I also know what you want. I can help you. Meet me on E-8, east wing, second door on the left at midnight.

I’ll be waiting.

- E

Instead of asking myself how far I can go or what I may be willing to lose, I pull the chain over my head and open the heart-shaped locket. A picture of Father and the woman I never met who gave birth to me. Baby Harmony sleeps, swaddled in a surprisingly clean blue blanket, held tightly between them.

Father’s mouth crinkles at the corners with an open joy I rarely saw in life, his eyes focusing on my mother, who looks down at me. My mother’s auburn hair cascades over her shoulders, slightly curled at the ends, like mine. Mere months before Guardians took him, Father entrusted this locket to me on my seventeenth birthday. After that, not a day goes by where I do not study every detail, committing my mysterious mother to memory.

Clasping the heart shut, I run my fingers along the silver key extending from the bottom point, visualising a corresponding keyhole. The door this unlocks is the answer. One way or another, Hearthold will fall, and I may have just found someone who knows where to strike first.

Young Adult

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    SSWritten by Sophia Sajan

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