Ultimately we know deeply that the other side of every fear is freedom.
I was born and raised to die. I was a pig getting ready for slaughter. I was a tree that was going to be cut down for paper. I was Poplar, dying for man kind.
Every year for the past one hundred, every country had to make a sacrifice. Every year, somebody was sent away wit the promise that if they completed a task, they would make it back to our world, but every year, nobody returned.
It all started near the end of the 22nd century, when she took rule. Celia Dupoint, that is. She took note of the fact that our world was dying, that our economy was shot, and that disease was widespread. Everything you would've thought for that time frame never happened. There was no technology. Cell phones no longer existed, nor computers, or even lightbulbs other than for the Elite. It was when Celia came in contact with him that he promised to help keep our world alive, if sacrifice was made.
The Elite bagan to get their lives back, but those of us like myself and the rest of the general population still had nothing. We worked to keep ourselves alive. We lived to work, and if we were lucky, there would be a bowl of oats on the table for the family to share.
I'll never forget the day it happened.
Mother had been saving up money for the past month to give us a nice dinner. I was mesmerized by the chicken legs, the bread, beans, and even the cake on the table. She poured my older brother and I some water and sat down.
"Wow mom," Alder started. "Just, wow. How did you do this?"
"Well," Mother began, "It's just proof that hard work does pay off."
"Well, I appreciate it," Alder responded.
"Better question," I started. "Why did you do it?"
"What do you mean?" she asked.
"Well, I mean, I get you were trying to be nice, but could we not have used this money on something that could be used for a while like, plates or a new shirt for each of us or something?"
"Well, I guess it could've Poplar, but you know everybody wears the same black shirts here. What would be the point?"
"Maybe having some that aren't ripped and torn to shreds or maybe--"
"Dang, Sis. Just be appreciative," Alder interjected. I rolled my eyes and took a bite out of the chicken.
We all started to dig in. Every bite of chicken tasted like love in my mouth. I savored every moment of it and just enjoyed it, thankful despite my own common sense. We finally got to the cake. I was the only person with any on my plate. When my little sister reached to get a slice, my mother grabbe her hand.
"Maple, you've not finished your beans yet. You need to finish those first."
But Maple's eyes had redirected from the cake to me. "Mommy, why is Poplar turning so red?" she asked. I stopped chewing.
"I'm turning red?" I asked.
"Yeah, and you're shaking."
I looked down at my hands and sure enough, I was shaking. And I wasn't just trembling. No, my hands were moving so uncontrollably I dropped my cake.
"Wh-what did you feed me?" I asked my mother as my vision began to deteriate.
"I'm sorry, Baby. I love you," were the last words I heard before I collapsed.