Futuristic novel, girl is drafted into special army unit against unknown enemies
|The leather seat of the bus is hard and worn. I examine the lines that run through the brown material and slide my nail through one, tracing the line up, down, and around my seat. The girl next to me frowns at my finger, then looks away hastily, afraid to make eye contact.
After the line ends and I become bored again, I stare frankly at the girl. Her skin is dark- not ‘caramel’ or ‘brown’, but closer to the leather of the bus seat. A little lighter, perhaps. Almost everyone in this world has dark skin now- a minor side effect of the sun exposure that also leads to early wrinkles and cancer. I'm an outcast with my lighter, yet still tan olive complexion and wavy copper hair. The girl's eyes are the same color as mine- brown. Her forehead and nose have a sprinkling of small bumps, a skin affliction that all of us have. The heat has curled her hair into small sweaty ringlets that stick out at awkward angles. She catches me looking, and nervously pulls the wayward short curls behind her ear. My own hair is pulled back tightly into a ponytail, or else it would be doing the same thing, only it's so long it would be more like a sweaty rope than a sweaty curl. The girl glances up at me silently giving her mouth a hesitant upturn, but when I don’t return her smile, she puts her head down again quickly. I’m sorry for this girl. She seems weak. She won’t make it. However, for her peace of mind, I turn.
Peering through the grubby window of the bus, all I see is gray. Not the pleasant color of a grandmother’s hair, but that of a flat, uncompromising landscape. The sky is a lighter grayish white, brightened by the ever-present burn of the sun. The land passes by hypnotically, and after a while my eyes unfocus and all I can see is blurred light and dark grays, combined with flashes of searing sunlight as the bus journeys farther into uncharted territory.
My body slams forward and I jerk out of oblivion. The window shows that we have stopped in front of a massive black gate. A man in a uniform gets out of the booth next to the gate and comes up to our bus. I am irrationally terrified, but calm myself. The driver of our bus gets out to go and talk to him. I look at the girl next to me again. She seems anxious and worried, and twirls her hair around her finger as she watches the driver and the soldier converse.
The people in the row across from us are still sleeping. The whole bus contains maybe twenty teenagers. When we were boarding back at the Center, I saw kids that looked ten, and others that looked up to 25. I’m right in the middle at seventeen. Looking out of the window again, I can see nothing past the gate other than the usual grayness of the burn and dead land. I have no idea where we are going. I start tracing the lines on the seat again and imagine.
I imagine the world before. It was green, not gray. The color of life, not death. At least that’s what they teach us. I wonder if there really was any before, or if it was always just gray. I think that people would want to believe that there was a before, because that means there must be an after. A future for us, the doomed race. I don’t know if I believe any of it- other than the doomed part. Anyone with eyes could see that.
By the time I have reached the end of my musings, the driver has finished his conversation with the guard. He climbs back into the bus, letting in a breath of hot air with him. One of the people in the row across from me flinches and slowly stretches. The silence strikes me suddenly. Even the sound of the driver falling back heavily into his seat reverberates throughout the entire bus. The girl next to me closes her eyes. I try to do the same. I hope this bus ride to hell ends soon. Maybe it won’t be so hot there.
I am roused again by the harsh squeal of the wheels of the bus as it screeches to a halt. Before I can do so much as raise my head, the driver stands up and begins barking orders.
“Hey! You guys in the back- pay attention. Or don’t, and you’re dead. Not my problem.” He gives the kids in the back a pointed look and they immediately hush.
“Now, we have four other buses arriving after us, so we have to be fast. Dismount from the bus in an orderly fashion, then scan your nametag on the machine. You’ll be given a color. Once inside the building, please go to the room with a door of your color.” Having finished his speech, he starts to climb out of the bus.
“Sir-“ A boy in the back stands up hesitantly. The driver glares at him.
“Whatcha want boy? Sit your butt down in that seat until it’s your turn to get off this bus!”. The driver turns away.
“But, sir, what if I’m colorblind?” the boy whispers, and the whole bus starts giggling. The driver whips around and sneers at all of us.
“Like I said earlier. Not my problem.” He thump-thumps down the stairs and out of view. The windows have been closed by blinds while we slept, so I can’t see where we are.
The first row slowly, quietly gets up and steps outside. I’m in the third row, so I get up. Curly Hair next to me does to. All I can see outside the doors is brightness. As the second row files out, I almost run over Curly in my rush to get off. I just need some fresh air.
As I step off the last step of the bus, I am amazed. We seem to have entered a dome of some sort. I can see the thin, almost translucent walls above that enclose us in this beautiful landscape. It is green. Green grass, green plants, and green trees. In the middle of all of this wilderness is a brick house. Not large, but stately. The dome is small enough that I can see the sides of it all around, but big enough that it surrounds the house and the greenery. I stand stock still, stunned. The overly eager person behind me almost knocks me over. Luckily, I don’t fall flat on the ground, but catch myself just in time.
“Sorry- oh my god, are you alright?” I look up and see a boy, or man rather, looking at me, concerned.
“Fine. I’m fine. Not your fault.” He is blond, blue-eyed, and has a very crooked nose. He smiles, and bends down to grab my nametag from the floor.
“Thanks.” I say as I take it from him quickly. The line in front of me has vanished, and instead I see Curly and the others making their way up to the house. I turn my attention to the machine in front of me. It looks like the scanner they used to use in the old subway stations. I slide my nametag over it, and it beeps happily. A white card with a black square pops out the other end. I pick it up, and rush to catch up to the people in front of me, leaving Blondie Boy in the dust.