LAUREN NICOLLE TAYLOR
Clean Teen Publishing
THIS book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are the product of the authors' imagination or are used factiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events or locales is entirely coincidental.
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Copyright ©2014 Lauren Nicolle Taylor
All rights reserved.
Cover Design by: Marya Heiman
Typography by: Courtney Nuckels
Editing by: Cynthia Shepp
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This is for you.
I was eleven years old when they decided to save the world.
I stood pressed close to my mother, my sticky-with-sweets hand in her dry, calm one. Before the bombings, this wasn’t how things were done, but now the safest place for the prime minister’s son was under the watchful eye of the prime minister herself.
Four leaders crowded around a mahogany table, sweaty hands making vapory prints on the rich brown surface, fading in and out. Bottles of valuable, pure water glistened, slick with tears of condensation. I licked my lips as I stood close enough to touch one. The other first families lined the wall, probably all thinking the same thing—what would our fate be, and should we place our faith in the strange man dancing around the table? Unfamiliar faces wore recognizable expressions. Masks of restrained fear.
They listened to a man making big arcs with his arms speak in a grating twang. He gripped each and every one of them with his penetrating gaze and, I have to admit, I became entranced by his intensity. His deep blue eyes shone like sapphires. I broke from my mother’s grasp and crept toward the table, the music of his speech drawing me closer like the pied piper.
“You see. It’s perfect! It’s the perfect opportunity. We have the chance to restructure society, all of it. Start fresh and stop all of this—” the man swung around quickly, “from happening again. Aren’t you tired of worrying someone will kill you in your sleep?” People nodded. “Aren’t you tired of worrying who you can trust?” They started to mutter.
I took a step closer to the blueprints they were taking turns examining. It looked like a maze. No, there was no way out. It was a prison.
“But why circles?” the black man asked, his deep voice rumbling like a marble in a barrel.
“Circles, squares, it doesn’t really matter. It’s the gates and the understructure that are important. Imagine if you knew there was a disturbance in one ring or section? You could shut it down, like that.” The man clicked his fingers. “The perpetrators would be dealt with easily. No muss, no fuss. We will keep life above simple and keep all the messy, complicated stuff below.” He wiggled his finger as he pointed to the levels underneath the ground. “Each ring can run independently, so even if there are issues in one, a lockdown will not affect the others’ ability to run smoothly.”
The complicated structure reminded me of plates spinning on narrow pieces of bamboo but on a much grander scale, rings balancing on long, metal supports, straddling the wide underground river that ran in loopy swirls underneath every town. “And see here, constant fresh water and easy waste disposal,” he finished with a wink.
“I can’t imagine the need for such a complicated facility. It will cost too much to build.” The black man stepped forward, pointing at the various levels below the towns.
The American almost galloped over to the African president. “Oh, you’ll want it. The population will grow, and waste disposal as well as the ability to isolate and control any disturbances will be an important aspect of this system. Besides, Sekimbo, money means nothing. Money is no object. This is about recreating civilization as we know it. Money is irrelevant.” He leaned in, and the black man backed away. “I can’t believe you even mentioned it.”
Sekimbo grunted, stepping back from the table, and grabbed a precious bottle, taking a large sip.
“Can you taste it?” the American asked. “That is the sweet taste of change.”
My mother cleared her throat, holding up one of the bottles and shaking it. Usually a flutter of silt would rise to the surface, but not this time. “So you’re going to pollute what looks like one of very few pristine water sources left in this world?” She pursed her lips, a sign that she was unsure.
He pressed his hands to his forehead like he was frustrated. “No, no, no. We will ensure that everything is biodegradable or recyclable. We will process the human waste here.” He pointed to a series of tanks hidden under the ground level. “These are details, details I’ve gone over, perfected and finalized. You don’t need to worry about them; you only need to worry about your own survival.”
My mother removed her glasses and cleaned them with her sleeve, giving herself a second to ponder what he’d just said.
The American paused for a few moments and then sprung into another speech, his eyes sparkling as if he were in love. “The rings, the circles, the Woodlands, it’s beautiful, it’s simple. It’s a symbol of growth and change. The towns of the Woodlands will be set out like the rings of a tree trunk. And like a great redwood, we will become strong and unyielding.” He made a fist with his pale hand.