What will happen when electricity takes over?
The City of Wonder
Chapter 1: How it Started
He always wondered what colored the sky blue, what pulled the strings on the little birdies’ wings. He burned. He itched. He bursted with it. All he got from his parents was, “the ConTrol”. It was clear that he was no ordinary boy. That’s just why everyone ignored him.
“Take-care, why do the WalkingWays have to be powered even in the day?”
“You know. ConTrol. Besides, it looks so much nicer,” the wary Caretaker said. She had wanted to be a loose-set PowerPit tender, but instead she had been stuck with this obnoxious Young One. Oh well. A life is only lived and over, right?
“But where does the power come from?” The impatient wonderer pushed.
“I’ve told you a hundred times. The PowerPits. From burning the Things.”
“But do they come out of nothing or—“ the screech of wheels stopped him mid-sentence.
“Listen to me, and listen now!” His Caretaker pulled the car over. “Power comes from the PowerPits. That’s all there is to it!”
He cowered in his seat, afraid to make a sound; he ignored the feeling of incompleteness that swelled up in him. The thick air between him and her filled the way home. Already the alarm lights had set the house with an eerie, superficial glow.
“See what you’ve done now,” the Caretaker snapped. He glowered. At least the walls weren’t being powered yet.
By the time the automatic door creaked open, he was back to wondering. He sighed and said aloud, “beverage delivery”. Again, he frowned. Another one of those stupid VitaRobo pills with my water, he thought. The spark in the back of his throat when he swallowed the medicine matched his irritation for the powered, automatic, robotic world.
That night, even the magic of sleeping failed to erase the longing burned in his mind.
Kaila looked out into the distance. The gray haze blanketing the horizon line had crept ever closer, nearing the edge of the farthest mountains. She shook her head. The time had passed so quickly. Either that, or the monstrous cloud had grown even faster. Once again, it was time to move.
Everything went, when the time came. Tiny trinkets, picture frames, and candy dishes were wrapped carefully in brown paper. Everything was hauled out onto the huge, faded, yellow wagons. Kaila felt sorry for the horses pulling them, strong as they were. She gathered plenty of grains and grasses for them to eat, smiling ever so slightly as their velvety nuzzles brushed her hand.
She was terrified of the gray, the black, that swallowed the sky. Evil spirits, whatever such rumors were passed, true or not, her fear was pure and threatening. Fear was the adrenaline that propelled her feet to move. It was the same with the others; and so the packing was quickly put behind. Then came the moving.
The first day, right before the wagons started creaking forward, everyone was expectant, restless, rushing about and making sure everything was just right. The youngest ones glanced around with wide eyes and held on to corners of their mother’s skirts; the older children scampered over the wet grass in new boots and carried tiny brown paper packages. Finally, just as the sun peeked over the highest hills, everyone sat, feet tingling, in the huge yellow carts.
“Kaila! Be a good girl, bring me the apple-basket,” a high voice rang out over the field. Kaila scowled. She wasn’t a girl anymore.
“Coming, mother,” she replied tiredly. Hitching up her skirt, she hurried over to her family’s wagon.
“Are you ready?” Even though they had done this 11 times already, the loving mother worried.
“Yes,” Kaila almost whispered. “Together we can get through this.”
“Blaaaaaaaaaaap!!! Blaaaaaaaaaap!!!” He confusedly blinked, then frowned. Take-care got to have a softer, choicer alarm. She’s always thinking up of all those excuses, he thought. Earned privileges, indeed. He bet she hadn’t earned a thing in her childhood.
He squinted in the neon blue light. At least the color of the powered walls today didn’t burn his eyes, like most of the time. Neon yellow walls weren’t such a great idea, at 6:30 in the morning. Waiting impatiently in the scrub room, his robotic brushes scrubbed him, cleaned his teeth, and untangled his hair. He wondered what the sky would look like outside the glass dome today; the sky-colors, as he called them, filled him with awe.
That day wasn’t so bad. He got to watch a Repair Robot patch a hole in the glass dome, and take-care didn’t argue with him. When he was riding home, he thought he saw strange, lumpy silhouettes along the edge of the Land Mound. What he didn’t know was that someone—or rather, something—in those things he thought he saw would change his life. The next day, on his window pane, there was a strange, thin, sheet of something. It had words, in his language, but they weren’t uniform and round like the ones on the Typers. He reached out of the open window for it, and it crumpled, fragile, in his hand. Carefully he peeled the piece open, and it said, barely legible:
Dear Diary,
I am so nervous. We are leaving today. The cloud that turns the blue sky gray is getting closer. Mother says
“Come down here now, boy!”
He slouched as the rolling cart rolled him down the ramp. Who was Diary? Blue sky? Was that some sort of fantasy? And why did it just stop ant the strange word ‘mother’?
Maybe it came in through the hole in the dome, he thought. He was suddenly filled with the urge to explore the world outside his little powered city.
Dear Diary,
I am so nervous. We are leaving today.
Kaila sat on the lumpy wooden side seat, writing in a page from the thick leather book Father had given her when she was 12.
Mother says
Suddenly, a gust of wind blew the paper out of her hands. For a moment she wondered where it would go, then tore out another page from the paper-book.
Dear Diary,
I am so nervous. We are leaving today. Mother says that I must be brave, and so I put on a calm face, rock solid, and I help with the little ones. They are the most scared. Even though outside I am rock, inside I am hollow, and I worry that this will be the time that we won’t make it. Last time the wild winds nearly flipped our wagons over and the dead, black swamps almost starved us to death. But we battled our way through the wind, and fresh green grass showed eventually through the black branches of the swampy trees. I just hope that someday, my children will enjoy a perfectly clear sky and peace of mind. Someday.
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