Before the Cold Dawn

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Science Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

Like other ordinary people, Ji Chen and Wu Lizi struggle in a post-apocalypse world where each individual is segregated from others in safety houses to restrain their emotional fluctuation to
survive a fatal infectious diease. One day, they meet in the safety house of Wu Lizi when Ji Chen is pursuing by the police on an inspection tour. Then something is secretly changing...

Submitted: October 31, 2017

A A A | A A A

Submitted: October 31, 2017



Before the Cold Dawn



It was hot and sticky in Beijing on 8th June. Even though there was still about 3 hours before the sunset, the darkness seemed to creep quickly from the ends of sky to the center of this great city. Dark clouds were rapidly gathering. But 5,000 meters right under them, no one tended to leaving. On the contrary, the size of crowd was constantly expending. And the entrance gate of the examination building was so closely surrounded that it was impossible for parents who just arrived here to break out and move forward from the outside of the crowd.


“The university entrance exam is over!” a man suddenly shouted in excitement, attempting to pull his wife out of the crowd. “Look, it’s our son!” he said proudly, wiping beads of sweat rolling from his forehead.


A young boy around 18 ran out of the gate, waving his pencil case with a shout of cheer. He was the first student who get out of the examination hall. Unable to restrain his joy, he greeted everyone passed by him with a big smiling face as if he was not only the student who came out first but also the student who had got the information of becoming the top scorer.


“Good job! My smart bo-”


When the farther was about to stretch a hand to take his son into his arms, the boy abruptly toppled down to the ground on the back. He turned pale with sudden fear and opened his eyes wide. With his face twisting in pain, he kept twitching his arms and legs just like a dying fish left on the dry deck. It seemed that he was struggling with the ache that his fingernails were smashed because of his scratching on the ground. His father tried to do something helpful but finally he can only successfully call the ambulance with his trembling voice.


At last, the dark clouds gathered as a huge iron plate which almost weighed down to the heads of the panic crowd. But only the gentle rain fell from the sky, washing the blood off the boy’s hand and blessing the innocent soul from this corpse.




“A candidate for an university entrance examination was attacked by the Sentiphobia outside the examination building in Beijing, China on 8th June, 2080 which was reported by the Nature and Human Daily as the first case of the virus “Buster” causing death,” Wu Lizi read utterly but she didn’t aware of that because all of her attention were attracted by the content showed on this website. Lizi was born in 2083 as a member of the new generation after the catastrophe. And that’s the first time when Lizi got the permission to be exposed to the history and events happening before the New World.


Maybe I’ve been looking forward to that day since I could remember? I don’t know. Who cares? Lizi thought. What she really cared was that she failed to fall asleep for the first time last night. But that wasn’t matter, was it? She thought, taking a deep breath and then sliding her finger in the air to enter the control system of the safety house.


“Nice job,” Lizi said to herself. She pointed somewhere on the holographic projection of her safety house in front of her and turned off the electronic voice which was reading and analyzing the outbreak of Sentiphobia for her. Even though the electronic voice of her safety house was molded out of her alleged mother’s voice and kept her company in every night before she was 18 by telling her bedtime stories, she now found its speed was too slow to meet her demand of reading. And actually, she has been living alone in her safety house since she was born. So she didn’t know what on earth her mother’s voice was like and it didn’t make sense for her, let alone this indifferent electronic voice sometimes made her feel cold.


Ah it’s more interesting than what I’ve found before and it may be the greatest thing for me to kill time, she thought, unable to hold herself back from reading with her eyes running down a line after another. But her train of thought was suddenly interrupted.


Wait, she thought, finding something extraordinary, “The student died of over excitement.” “Excitement?” What this word means? It seemed that the time flowed backwards to her childhood when she learned a great many new words everyday through the education system in her safety house. The bad memory caused by this kind of "spoon-feeding" teaching made her slightly knit her brows. And that was the greatest extent to which her facial expressions could change.




In 2080, a worldwide outbreak of a horrible viral infection, called Sentiphobia, put human beings in jeopardy. At an irresistible speed, the virus spread quickly from China, a country of the densest population, to all around the world. Even the turbulence of oceans and rigors of the Antarctic Continent couldn’t get in the way of it. In less than a year, the earth was shrouded in the dread of Sentiphobia which claimed billions of lives.


And at the end of year 2082, the last healthy person was infected with the virus “Buster”. But there are still 20 million survivors who endured the sharp pain and gained antibodies which had a 20-year-term of validity. At that time, 0.05% population experienced an irreversibly genetic variation accompanied by the formation of antibody. This group of people gained evolution of their brains and became about 5 times as intellectual as ordinary people and have a much lower frequency emotional fluctuation which could help them decrease the probability of being attacked by the Sentiphobia after their antibodies lose efficacy.


In this sparsely populated world, the concept of boundary and sovereignty was replaced by the concept of the United State. Besides, naturally, survivors in the world were divided into two classes. According to their high intelligence quotient and their amazingly adaptive capabilities, Intellectual people rapidly flowed to and took over almost all the dominant positions in the society such as the government officials, police, and scientists. They became the outstanding planners and organizers of the new society with the ambition of protecting the original human civilization. Finally these intellectual people from different countries voluntarily gathered together, forming an International Government and a Scientific Development Organization to help all the other survivors rebuild the society and prepare for the coming day when their antibodies lose efficacy.




5-year-old Ji Chen was leaning on a French window with his forehead and his tiny apex nasi nestling up to it. It’s like a wry face on the window if someone outside looked at it. He kept his body unmoved for a while as if he was absorbed in meditation. If it were not for his eyes twinkling like two naughty butterflies, he should be regarded as a doll placed by the window.


It was 4:30 pm on 8th June, 2080 when Ji Chen’s parents would come home off work half an hour later. And that’s also the last 30 minutes when people could enjoy their ordinary but happy life before the catastrophe.


This was the second floor in a school district building which located by an examination hall of the university entrance exam. Ji Chen looked down through the window, finding his parents’ car. But it’s too early that he could only saw the crowd in which were parents and teachers waiting for examinees finishing their exams. “How boring! Every years are the same,” he murmured, turning himself about and running to his bedroom.


Several minutes later, Ji Chen came back with a picture book about a robot girl’s adventure. Then he sat down by the window and read it.


Time passed quickly. When he jumped out of the story in the book, he found that the sky outside became dark with a big cluster of black clouds and a few fine raindrops broke on the window.


“Hey Mum! I’m here!” Ji Chen shouted happily, opening the window. Rainwater accompanied with the hot wave streamed into the house. He stood on tiptoe and saw his mother was waving a big pack of snacks to him. “Wow, I love you, Mum!” He cheered, springing to his feet.


But at that time, the crowd outside the examination building seemed to be alarmed and bewildered. Someone trotting out of the crowd knocked down Ji Chen’s mother and snacks were scattered on the ground. Quickly, his father finished parking the car and ran to his mother, lifting her up and scolding the rush guy angrily. But suddenly, the man fell to the ground. In the meanwhile, Ji Chen indistinctly heard his mother’s scream and he struggled to climb on the windowsill. After he finally bended over the windowsill, he was shocked by what he saw that his parents were lying on the ground, twitching.


There was a thunder and then a lightning flashing across the dark sky. More and more raindrops swiftly knocked on the window and were smashed to pieces. Ji Chen felt his heartbeat faster and faster. Tears trickled down his cheeks and he wanted to ask what’s happening there. But it was all in vain. The sound of the heavily rain covered his shout. “Mum! I want mum! Come back!” Ji Chen cried, felling down from the windowsill. He rushed to the door with tears and mucus flowing down rapidly.


The corridor was dark just like a horrible open mouth of a monster. But Ji Chen still groped the handrail and went downstairs in temptation. It seemed that the loss of parents was more frightening than the darkness. Eventually, he made it, getting out of the building and stumbling into the rain.




Two years after the outbreak of the Sentiphobia, the Scientific Development Organization which was composed of intellectual people from different countries figured out that the horrible infectious disease called Sentiphobia was caused by a virus “Buster” through contact transmission. And when the amplitude peak of emotional fluctuation of a person who had been infected with the “Buster” exceeds a specific value, he would immediately suffer a Sentiphobia attack with the sharp pain all over. The pain creeped from the four limbs to the whole body and then penetrated into the viscera. And people were always cruelly tortured by the physical suffering until they died of anguish.


Ji Chen was a lucky boy. After the horrible afternoon on 8th June, 2080, his parents and he all survived this catastrophe and gained antibodies. But in 2082, a new constitution was published by the international government. According to the law, enormous overall mechanized and multifunctional houses named “safety house” are compulsorily distributed to every individuals. So being sent into his safety house, he was separated from his parents without knowing where they were arranged to.


Different safety houses had their different styles due to their functions of personalization. But even though the safety house was an overall mechanized and could meet all the basic demands from people, it’s a kind of enclosed room which cut off all the connections between people and outside world and segregated each individual from others. People couldn’t go out and every day they lived in their own cage, “communicating” with their artificially intelligent house.




There was only a sentence in the preface of the New World Citizen Pamphlet: Without emotion, without pain.


During the growth of Lizi, she was asked to read the Pamphlet carefully on her birthday every year. It was 5:00 am on Wu Lizi’s 18th birthday. She got out of bed and ran to the study room. Without sitting down, she slid her figure and opened the New World Citizen Pamphlet projected on the wall.


“Let me have a look. Which page?” She mumbled, flipping pages quickly. “Ah, here it is.” Her eyes rest on the 9th regulation and she prudently read it over and over.


Then Lizi seemed to make a big decision. She pressed “transfer” in the menu option, accessing to a new and colored website where she never had seen so much information from the internet. “The black 8th June in Beijing? Interesting.” She said, opening that document.




For the 9th regulation, if you were a qualified citizen, you would definitely know and absolutely uphold this most significant law that the information of the pre-apocalypse’s history can only be unlocked after a person (especially who is born after the apocalypse) becomes 18 years old, which was emphasized by the red color in the electronic New World Citizen Pamphlet. Because it’s confirmed by the most famous intellectual scientist that the first 18 years of a person’s life was a gold period of sentiment formation. And those intellectual leaders considered that the new generation who were born in the New World without the antibody of the virus “Buster” were more vulnerable than others. However, to be fair, survivors from the catastrophe also have the right to accept the relief from international government to prepare for the 20th years after the catastrophe when the antibody lose efficacy. So every ordinary people must abide by this regulation to learn to efficiently control their emotion in the best time.


Besides, communications and interactions especially love between two individuals was verified as the chief murder of the Sentiphobia infection. So it’s illegal for people to meet and contact with each other and that was regarded as a kind of murder which shall be sentenced to death. And for a responsible international government, it’s obligated to help every citizen train themselves to control their sentiments and form a heathy habit of keeping little emotional fluctuations to prevent them from the Sentiphobia attacking. Almost all the historians and scientists announced that it’s a great historical turn for international government to formulate a new constitute and distribute the safety houses to every individuals to benefit the interest of citizens and save their lives. But it seemed that these intellectual people turned a blind eye to the fact that all the moderate proposals and the contributions from the international government to every individual were compulsorily asked to accept.




“Quirky!” Ji Chen said, looking at the wry face made by him in the mirror. He burst into laughter which lasted several minutes when his face became numb. He laughed till the tears rolled down his cheeks. And then, he suddenly stopped laughing as if someone pressed the stop button of him. How long haven’t I laughed like that? He thought, heaving a sigh.


It’s the 20th year after the outbreak of the Sentiphobia. Ji Chen had stayed in his safety house for 18 years. Every day passed slowly for him in the memory of his parents and the happy time in the old days. Although tasks of he’s job which was programming for an international institution was growing at age, he still felt that there was a big blank left in his life.


Last month, Ji Chen woke cold and shaking from a nightmare. He was frightened with his heartbeats faster than ever, which made him felt alive. He muffled his face with hands, crying. At that time, he started to notice that he was becoming apathetic and gradually losing expectation of life just like a dead-alive person in the safety house. So Ji Chen had his mind made up to change. He had been practicing different facial expressions and had been trying to review all the memory before the catastrophe for a month.


After planning for a month, Ji Chen eventually found a vulnerability of the control system in his safety house tonight and escaped from it. Even though it’s illegal for people to get out of their safety houses, Ji Chen was still excited for this journey. But to keep it secret and sound, he determined to come back before 12:00 pm when the audit programme, used to ensure every individuals were in their safety house, opened.




Wu Lizi rubbed her temples and then stretch her limbs. It’s tired for her to reading the reports and stories of the Sentiphobia for such a long time. When she got up and opened the visor of the safety house, she found that the night screen had hung down. Without her noticing it, 13 hours had passed. But the unknown information still had a strong appeal to her. So she asked the food and beverage system of the safety house to send her a simple dinner and then she press her finger on a heart-shaped document called love.


“Oh, it’s complex,” she whispered, snapping her fingers. There were more than ten sub-documents of “love”, such as happiness, excitement, passion, expectation, sadness, bitterness, depression, perturbation and fear. All of them were unknown for her. Then she opened the first document “happiness” and pressed the first video Roman Holiday.


I know enough knowledge about Rome. So it must be easier for me to understand that video, she thought, playing the video.


118 minutes passed, Lizi still kept her body unmoved. She then played this video again. Cheering and laughing delivered from it. It’s beyond logic and above reason, she thought. But she felt something penetrating into her heart even though she didn’t know what it was. She found people in the old days should go out of their house, screams of laughter, weep aloud, communicate with others and even touch others.


“They were abnormal and would get sick,” Lizi said in doubt. But she got up and imitated the princess’ dancing. She whirled and walked around with her shoes knocking on the floor. But nothing happened. Lizi felt nothing, let alone the “happiness” described by the video, except a sense of exhaustion.




“Damn it!” Ji Chen murmured, hiding in a cluster of bush. When he was looking for his parents’ houses, he exposed himself to the police who were on an inspection tour. The police had almost followed up him with pursuit until he found that place. He was puffing hard with the sweat running down like raindrops. Ji Chen thought he was tired out that he couldn’t run anyone.


Then he sat on the ground and leaned against the wall. Wait! A wall? Ji Chen thought excitedly, coming up an idea. He was in the back of a safety house. Although he didn’t know what would happen if he intruded into this house, hearing the approaching sounds of the footsteps, he knew he had no choice. Then he took the same steps as what he used to escape his safety house and entered it.


Swallowing his mouth water one time, Ji Chen went into the house on tiptoe. He felt odd because it’s dark in the dining room, the bedroom either. But when he was close to the study room, he heard a sound of hurried footsteps. What’s happening? Ji Chen thought curiously, stepping forward silently. He pressed his ear on the bedroom door and tried to hear clearly.


However, unfortunately, the door was open when Ji Chen leaned on it. In a twinkling of an eye, he was unable to control himself but fell forward. And he also made the person who had just opened the door fall down in passing.


What bad luck! Ji Chen shouted in his mind, lifting up his body with his hands on the floor. Then he saw a pair of eyes which were bright and clear like diamonds but were also indifferent as if there was no emotion contained in them.


A new generation girl, Ji Chen thought. That reminded him of the robot girl in the picture book which he read in the horrible afternoon in 2080. But the robot painted in the book was not as beautiful as her, he made a brief comment in the heart.


“Hey, can you stand up and get away from me?” Ji Chen heard the girl asked in a cold voice. Blushing with embarrassment, he quickly jumped to his feet and then stretch out his hand to the girl to pull her up. “Ji Chen. I mean, my name is Ji Chen,” he said, “I’m so sorry for all of that.”




Wu Lizi gazed at Ji Chen without any action. After a long period of silence, she stood up by herself. “Wu Lizi,” she said in a low voice, approaching to the warning device.


“Please don’t call the police! I’ve been pursued by them. I just want to keep away from their capturing.” Ji Chen entreated.


“Why did you get out of your safety house? It’s illegal and outside world was dangerous,” Lizi said, slightly knitting her brows.


“Because of missing,” Ji Chen explained, smiling. Past events flashed across his mind again, which let him felt happier and relaxer.


“Missing? Missing what?” Lizi asked slowly. She was fascinated by his smile. It was a strange sense of dizziness with a kind of warm stream flowing into her heart. She then unconsciously put her hand onto her left bosom and felt the heartbeats.


Compared with the laughter in the video, Ji Chen smile seemed to be more “real” as if Lizi can touch his happiness when she stretch out her hands. And she did so, stepping to Ji Chen and tending to touch his mouth.


“Missing my parents. Missing the sun, the sea, the scarab, the sings of birds, the sands of beaches and the snow of winter. If I don’t come out, I’m afraid I will forget what the natural world is like,” he said in expectation, losing himself in his memory.


“How did you do that? I mean, smiling? You are happy, aren’t you?” Lizi asked in doubt, touching his mouth. “I’ve found on the internet that people before the catastrophe could smile when they were happy. But I can’t because happiness is not necessary for me.”


Lizi’s touch gave Ji Chen a start. He shrugged his shoulders and drew back for a step with himself brushing again. “Well, yes, I’m happy. And every one has the right to be happy. But it’s a long story to explain it,” Ji Chen said, walking towards a sofa and sitting on it. “By the way, can I ask for some water? I’m thirsty to death,” he said.


“Sure. Here you are,” Lizi replied, sitting opposite. “But I’ve never smiled. I don’t know how to smile. Does that mean I will never gain happiness?” She asked.


“No, definitely not!” Ji Chen said in excitement, “It’s hard to explain but I can teach you to smile and maybe to feel the sense of happiness one day.” He then thought for a while. It seemed that it was also not easy for him to come up with an idea how to teach her to smile.


“Hey, Lizi. Do you remember my name?” Ji Chen suddenly asked, smiling again.


“Chen?”Lizi answered in hesitation.


“Yes, it’s Ji Chen,” he replied. “And try to feel the shape of your mouth when you pronounce ‘Ji’. Just put your hand on the mouth and say ‘Ji’. Have a try,” Ji Chen said, full of expectation.


“Ji,” Lizi said, putting her hand on the mouth. But she didn’t know why she was asked to do that.


“That is, Lizi! Feel it. You’ve pronounced ‘Ji’ with your lips up. That’s what a smile looks like!” Ji Chen said happily. He then followed Lizi towards the mirror. “Look, you are beautiful when you are smiling. Even though you didn’t experience the happiness, you can still smile. Maybe it will bring you a bright feeling one day,” Ji Chen said, looking at their smiling faces in the mirror.




A week after Ji Chen’s leaving from her safety house, Wu Lizi felt that she seemed to become abnormal. She always sat on the sofa where she learned to smile with the help of Ji Chen and stared blankly in the air. She started to recall that day and Ji Chen’s smile again and again. And saying “Ji” to practice smile became the first thing to do every day after she woke up. Lizi looked up on the internet and she finally knew that all these behaviors of her was proper, especially before the catastrophe, because they just indicated that she missed him.


For the first time, she felt lonely. She opened the visor of the safety house and looked outside. Is the outside world as magnificent as what Ji Chen described? She thought.


“Hey, how are you, Lizi?” There was a familiar sound transmitted from the back of her. “Ji!” Lizi shouted, turning round quickly. She ran to him and said again “Ji!” She smiled. Lizi felt her chest was going to explode and her heartbeats faster that she suddenly wanted to embrace Ji Chen and conveyed what she was felt now. “Ji!” She said again.


“I’m here, Lizi,” Ji Chen responded, gently stroking Lizi’s head. At that time, Ji Chen wasn’t as hard-pressed as what he was last time when he was pursuing by the police. He was tidy and handsome with a tender looks. “I found that I missed you so much. So I sneaked here again. Do you mind that?” Ji Chen said, touching his apex nasi.


“No, absolutely not. Actually, I was looking forward to your coming. I felt lonely when you left,” Lizi said, “Tell me more stories about the outside world. I’m very curious.”




2100 was coming, which awakened survivors’ fear of the virus “Buster” again. In that year, the antibody of the Buster would lose its efficacy and people would be exposed to the second wave of infection.


But most people owned a mingled sense of hope and fear. Because it’s let out from the scientific field that about 0.05% survivors of the second wave would experience further evolution. This lucky group of people could gain the most intellectual mind and would become completely emotionless, which it’s hopeful for them to replace the intellectual people to become the leading status and would never be threatened by the Sentiphobia. But amnesia of these people would be a possible side effect of this evolution.


For Ji Chen, if he didn’t experience the catastrophic event in 2100, he must said that the proudest thing and most worth rejoicing thing is letting Lizi understand love which contains the most complicated emotions. But now, fortunately, it’s in 2099. And they inevitably fell in love with each other in the indifferent era after the apocalypse and was enjoying their sweet time.


After the second meeting between these two young people, Ji Chen came to Lizi’s safety house more and more frequently. But even though every time he met Lizi at night for a short time, he still worried that they would be exposed to the police.


Besides, Lizi gradually felt that the safety house was like a cold mechanized cage and she couldn’t bear the separation from Ji Chen when he came back his house. But she refused to accept Ji Chen’s suggestion that they escape from their safety houses together and live in the mountain where he had found a group of people living here. Because she didn’t have enough courage to get out of the house where she has been growing up since she could remember.


Eventually, Lizi then accept the suggestion that they escape from the safey house before the coming of the second wave of Sentiphobia. But Finally, Lizi backed out in the last minute.




“I love you, Ji Chen,” Lizi said, spreading out her hands. “I just want to find a sound method to be together with you forever! And everyone know if a person step out the safety house now, he will have 95% possibility to die two hours later! I don’t want to lose you,” Lizi cried, sitting on the sofa. It was at 10:00 pm on the last day in 2099 which the antibody would lose efficacy after 2 hours.


“But that’s the best opportune moment for us to escape. The government and police are preparing for the second wave of the Sentiphobia. They won’t divert their attention and capture us,” Ji Chen explained again. He had explained to her several times but it still couldn’t work out. “These safety houses were prisons. I can’t endured anymore. Even the death can’t stop me and I know that you thought the same,” Ji Chen said. He felt that his patience would almost fade away.


“Don’t compel me!” Lizi shouted, standing up quickly. She wanted him to let her alone and became clam. But when she was walking to the bedroom, she felt a sharp pain from her fingertips and then ached all over. Losing any strength to stand, she fell down to the floor.


Ah it finally came. Although I stay in the safety house, I still can’t avoid its attacking. But what I only regret is that the time spent with Ji Chen is too short, Lizi thought, tears filled her eyes. She wanted to say “I love you” again to Ji Chen but she couldn’t. Just a pronunciation “Ji” slipped from her mouth and then she closed her eyes.


“Lizi! No Lizi! Don’t leave me alone!” Ji Chen shouted. He rushed to Lizi and tightly held her with both arms. It’s me who transmitted the virus to Lizi, Ji Chen thought in all of a tremble. With nothing to do, Ji Chen saw Lizi breathed her last in his embrace, which made him felt downhearted to live.


Two hours later, Ji Chen stood up with Lizi in his embrace. He felt his limbs were rigid like sculptures. But he still tried to walk quickly. When he stepped out of the safety house, he stopped. “Look, is the moon beautiful? Is the wind make you comfortable? People in the mountain are waiting for us to come back the community. That’s the real humans’ home to return to,” Ji Chen said, choking with sobs. Then he twitchily put Lizi’s body on the ground and lost his consciousness.




It was 5:00 am on the 10th January 2100, Lizi was bending over to clean Ji Chen’s face in a cave. She remembered when she came round, she found that she and Ji Chen were in the forest surrounded by people. And Ji Chen was in a state of unconsciousness.


But fortunately, we are all survived, she thought.


“Hey, Lizi! How’s Ji Chen now?” an old lady asked, coming to Lizi and bring the breakfast cooked by her.


“He was still in a coma,” Lizi said in sadness. When she just finished this sentence, she found Ji Chen opened his eyes. “Ji! You come back!” she shouted, embracing him warmly. But suddenly she became speechless.


“Who you are?” Ji Chen asked in a cold voice. “Can you stand up and get away from me? There was no emotion contained in his eyes.


Outside the cave, the fog in the forest was lifted. The first light of morning fell onto the highest branch of a tree and then flowed down to the ground. Day was breaking.




© Copyright 2019 helena silver. All rights reserved.

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