Don’t turn back unless you’re ready
Food Tower
My bucket of water tips over, and I go to retrieve a dry rag to clean the soapy water up. It’s early morning, earlier than I usually awake, but it’s better to start your chores earlier than later, due to the hot, dry climate my family lives in. But we couldn’t afford to live in a different state of the country of Amica. I pick out a rag, and start soaking up the water on the floor, feeling the soap bubbles intermixed with water, run onto my hands. I feel a warm breeze drift into the room, and I hear the footsteps of my older sister, Krisha, walk in. I’m ready to leap up and give her the job of scrubbing, but something stops me. I look up into her dark satin eyes. Her eyes are sad, and she looks like what I’m most fearing, and have been fearing, and experiencing too many times over the last seven months. I ask her what’s wrong, even though I think I already know what’s wrong.
“Ravena, you already know what’s wrong. All the manager even said to me was ‘dirty,’ and ‘low-caste.’”
“But we’re not even low-caste! We’re mid-caste!” I protest.
“Not really, Decumbent isn’t the middle caste, and try telling that to a Palatial! No high-caste would ever believe, trust, or even touch a mid-caste or low-caste. They think they’re supreme.” She exaggerates the last word so it sounds like “soup-r-eem”. I stoop down again, continuing to soak up the mess I made.
The country we live in, called Amica, is divided among four castes. Palatial, Betwixt, Decumbent, and Abscind. Palatial are of the highest. They are the rich people, also famous some of them. Rulers, guardians, and lawyers. Then comes the caste that is most known to be called mid-caste. Betwixt are average, they are teachers, caretakers, writers, and artists. most jobs are available to them. The third caste is my caste. Decumbent, the low-income. We are servants, farmers, substitute teachers, but never teachers; waiters, and any other side job, or “dirty job” is what the Palatial tend to say. The last caste isn’t really considered a caste anymore. More like all the people we call homeless. Abscind are the people of the streets, or the abandoned parts of the country, long forgotten after the third war that took the lives of more than half of the world. Bringing on the castes of Amica, that the president when the war ended decided it was to bring down yearning and anger. So we lower-castes don’t have to feel like we are alone. Since we all live together in different parts of the country. That is what the idea was, and still is now. No one was against it. After having a much longer world war than both wars one and two combined, most people just dreamed of a painless death with not much blood, especially for the so few children around. During the war, children under eleven were separated from their parents and taken to a few buildings in the country, where they were kept safe. The rest of the children, eleven and up, were forced to train and fight in the war alongside their own parents. Luckily, I was born a good nineteen years after the war ended.
“I found a way you can get a job.” I look up, getting out of my daze. Aren’t I too young to work on my own? Don’t you have to be fifteen to work? Questions run through my head like the cars on main street in the city to drop off supplies such as food and wood to families of the people who can afford the truck deliveries, so all the Palatial, and most of the Betwixt. “Loraine has offered a spot for you in the food tower. No one will suspect, because you won’t have to talk to people. You’ll be working in the frozen food department, just sorting food, and tossing out the molding ones.” I can’t speak. I know how risky it is to do so, but I once met a girl who worked in the greenhouses at the back of the food Tower, and I swear she was younger that me, and I was only twelve at the time. My eyes widen, like I did as a little six year old all those years ago, when dad didn’t work in the factories full time, and gave me and Krisha candies straight from the sweets factory on his way home.
It’s still morning when I swing my backpack over my shoulder, and head off to a bus parked on the side of the street. It’s a five minute wait until it leaves, and I’m off with the four other passengers. We’re riding along under the yellow and gray sky intermixed with pipes of different sizes puffing out steam every once and a while. The bus I’m on is an old one. Mostly meant for people of a lower income, who are poorer like me and my family. It’s a nicer bus though, at least as nice as these street buses can get. The buses for the higher income families in higher castes, are high up in the polluted brown skies. They’re more like zip lining buses because they’re attached to long thick wires always high above the pothole covered streets. I’ve been in a zip lining bus before, when I was nine. I had a friend who was from a Palatial family, don’t ask how I met her or even why she wanted to be friends with me in the first place. Marcie was my best friend from the age of five through eleven. Once, only once when I was nine, her family aloud her to ride the zip lining bus with me. The two of us eagerly took the elevator all the way up to the roof of their fancy Palatial apartment building, and stepped into one swiftly and smoothly. The sky buses are quiet, so quiet that you can forget your in one if you close your eyes. People of Palatial or sometimes Betwixt castes are often seen in them for small parties. Even though the rules state you aren’t aloud to ride them if you aren’t going anywhere, Palatial don’t often pay attention to the rules. They probably think they will always be able to pay a ticket from the Constabulary Force if they get caught. Which, they probably will, considering they are from a higher caste, and they get jobs that pay more. There are some really minor rules though, some so minor and old that even the Constabulary have forgotten about them.
The food tower is crowded with volunteers and workers rummaging around everywhere. Loraine is by my side in a split second, red cuff on her left wrist indicating her placement in Betwixt. Loraine is a food tower leader of the frozen foods department. She helps tell all the volunteers and workers what to do in the frozen foods department. Just like the other departments in the food tower: Sybilla Hearrim, leader of canned food department; Haden Cortz, leader and caretaker of the greenhouses in the back; Lain Mandrane, leader of the sweats department; and Loraine Scormezi, leader of the frozen foods department. “Revena! You’re finally here!” Loraine smiles at me warmly. She is one of the only people I know from a different caste who are actually nice to people of Decumbent and Abscind. Loraine leads me down the hall, full of people grabbing boxes of food and carrying them to other places in the building. I peak through to the side rooms. They are too, full of people pulling out foods and tossing them in the compost if they’re rotting, or back in the box if they are still good to eat.
A long time ago, sometime during the world war three. A magnetar came too close to the earth, and stripped all the data from credit cards, which disturbed a lot of lives instantly. It not only stripped data, but computers and most machines stopped working immediately, so we no longer had any way of communicating, since the ways we communicated stopped functioning at the precise moment the star came too near us. That is why we mostly work together as a community. We need everyone to get things done, since we don’t have the same things we did then. It says in school books how people began to learn community. How people started interacting and helping others more than usual. They were happier after awhile, even though the data had been stripped from all the cards in the world, we found a new way. There are people living in the world who still haven’t gotten used to it. They are in their late forties and fifties, so it does take away some. Those people though, live in Abscind, since they refuse to cooperate with the caste system.
The room Loraine takes me too has barely any people in it. The few that are working in it, are surrounded by boxes of not-so-frozen food. I think the food isn’t frozen because, unlike the other frozen food rooms, this one isn’t a giant freezer from the moment you walk in. In fact, it’s room temperature. “Why is this room different... like not...cold?” I ask.
“We have not been successful with freezing this room. The city leaders say it is one of the only rooms in this building that lost power due to the magnetar years ago...” She explains vaguely, then her voice trails off, lost in thought.
I don’t let her stop me from asking another question though, so I start a question up again. “But why did-“
“Decumbent, strictly said in the rules, are not knowledge seekers, that is the job of the Betwixt. The Betwixt keep knowledge, and give it to the Palatial who use it in their leadership. The Decumbent have no need for knowledge like that, they answer the questions they know the answers to, and don’t question the ones they don’t.” Loraine recites to me, looking at me like I’ve murdered someone. That is the not-so-good thing about Loraine, she’s always the goody-two-shoes type of person, following rules, even turning people in if she has to. That’s why it is always good to let her lead a conversation. Some people think she knows even the old, forgotten rules, and still follows them. That’s where another question comes in: Why did she offer a spot for me in the Food Tower? Why is she breaking that rule, but still in her rule-following self with other rules?
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