I slide a warped metal sheet into place. I balance precariously on the edge of the roof and I do my best not to fall through the hole that hasn’t been patched yet. I lean down and reach my arm through the hole, feeling around for my hammer. I brush it with my fingertips and I lean a little farther to grab it. I straighten back up and begin pounding the metal into the right shape. The setting sun blasts its last rays over me and I wipe my forehead on my sleeve wishing we were a rich family.
I turn my head and glance behind me. A towering glass dome rose from the desert like a ginormous snow globe. Half of the dome is broken, and shabby man made huts spill out of it into the desert. Where the glass is whole, I can still see the shadowy outlines of crumpled towers and piles of debris.
That’s my home, Acies. It used to be a whole dome, sealed off from the world, keeping its citizens safe inside. It was an experimental city, supposed to be our saviour of the climate crisis. But it wasn’t strong enough when the Attack came.
Overnight, the only thing keeping us safe had been shattered, exposing us all to the desert, the heat, the storms, the risk of not being Fate’s favorites…
After the attack, about half of our people fled into the Outside, hoping to find help, or other civilization. They haven’t come back.
The remaining people of Acies now have to fend for themselves. We have to build our own shabby houses, hunt or make our own food, do whatever it takes to keep our families afloat….
My Ma is too sick to make money, and my brothers are too young to work, so I have to scavenge for my whole family. Every day I go out into the desert and dig up garbage and hope it will be enough to keep them from starving. When I get back in the evenings it’s my job to go to the market and haggle over my scraps in exchange for decent water or the remaining stale protein bars.
Sometimes I keep my own scraps and use them to fix our hut which is constantly falling into disrepair. When you live on the very outskirts of Acies, having a damaged hut is very risky. We can’t always count on the storms to be mild, or the desert magnanimous.
I turn back to my work and start pounding the metal into place over the hole, but something catches my eye on the horizon. I look closely and I can tell that it's a person.
I leap down from my roof wondering why anyone in their right minds would be so far into the desert so late in the evening. Mutants are the nightly scourges of the Outside...
I grab my bag from where it was laying against the side of the house and I pull on my fading leather boots before sprinting into the desert.
I leap over cracks in the dry earth, landing hard on my feet. I soar past crumbling bushes, their drying thorns snatching at my bare legs. The figure on the horizon grows closer and closer. Suddenly the figure is too close and I fly right into them with a shriek.
I tumble onto the earth and a cloud of dust fills the air. I prop myself onto my elbows, waiting for the dust to settle.
There is a disgruntled splutter and an indignant yell of “HEY! WHAT THE HECK!”
I recoil a little and cry “Sorry!”
The dust blows away in a light breeze to reveal another girl, about my age with ragged clothes and short brown hair. As she turns to glare at me her eyes flash vibrant green in a glimmer of sunlight.
A piece of my own long black hair falls into my face and I brush it behind my ear. I stand up and brush myself off. I offer my hand to her, but she gets up on her own. “What’s your name?” I ask hesitantly
“Dune.” She answers shortly
“ I’m Wren.”
“Nice to meet you.” She says sarcastically and she glances over to the town without looking at me.
She turns suddenly and asks me “Hey you live over there, right?”
Before I can answer she asks “You guys got anything to eat?”
I nod and start walking back to the dome. I can hear her soft footsteps behind me. I raise my voice a little as another wind whips across the desert. “Where did you come from? I didn’t think there was anywhere outside of Acies.”
“Oh I’m…. not really from anywhere. I was born in a city before the disaster, but then we moved to a lot of places.”
“Well where were you right before you came here?”
There is a long moment of silence. “I….. was in a domed city like this one, but it was enormous. But the glass was whole, and the buildings were huge and so many people… I was locked up though. There were scientists who did experiments and studies on me, and they took my sister, Ember too.
But I escaped after a few weeks. One day I was in my room and there was a commotion down the hall and the guards ran out and they forgot to lock my door. I ran out of my room and I broke into a vent in the wall. I crawled through the vents until I found one that led to the outside. I dropped out and I ran through the desert until a maniac came and ran me over!”
“Yeah… we know about the other city….”
“Yeah? Well what do you know? My family lived in the desert before they kidnapped me, so I’m fairly in the dark right now.”
“Well… I’ll start at the beginning…
“At first there was a peaceful and normal society. Then a lot of very rich and cunning people formed their own elite club, the Sparrowhawk. They had many members in the government and all around the world.
Then Global Warming became an issue, but Sparrowhawk lied to the people and told them there was nothing to worry about. They purposely do nothing about the climate crisis until it becomes too toxic to live outside.
“That’s when Sparrowhawk began the secret construction of the two domes. They allowed the most important, talented, or gifted people to live in the bigger and more luxurious dome, while normal citizens live in the smaller, shabbier sister dome. Meanwhile, in the main dome Sparrowhawk makes a very strict form of government with control of every aspect of its citizens' lives.
“The Sparrowhawk didn't know that it’s possible to live Outside, so they attacked Acies and partially destroyed our dome. They believed that exposing us to the Outside would wipe us out and eliminate their opposition.
“After the Attack a lot of citizens, even in the main dome, began to join an underground resistance movement called Peregrine, which has been working tirelessly to bring down the Sparrowhawk and make up for everything they’ve done to us. “
I finish my speech and I hear Dune’s footsteps stop behind me. I turn and she’s gaping at me. “How do you know all of this??”
I feel a grin spread across my face. “Because the whole town is part of Peregrine.”