Outside the Gates

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

In a despotic future America, four girls escape from a camp known as the Serkos to find a city. Instead they meet a group of ragtag wanderers who hold them hostage against their will. They take them to their town, and it is there that the four friends discover what the Serkos is really all about.

Chapter 1 (v.1) - Outside the Gates

Submitted: March 06, 2009

Reads: 169

Comments: 1

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Submitted: March 06, 2009

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It might have been a change in wind which made us think the way we did. The air had a taste of summer, and the wind had been unusually quiet for this time of year. The still air of August began to warm when we began to change. We were close to our eighteenth birthdays, and our minds began to wander to things beyond our borders. The trees called to us somehow, every scent drifting into our noses and making us think differently. Every shadow outside our walls invited us, calling us to the dark side to live in the mountains and stalk the earth.

We didn’t think those things exactly, but some part of us felt the change. An invisible rope connected us to the shadows, and it suddenly began to pull us in. Keitha, one of my roommates, sat and watched out the window while she did her homework, her pen drifting mindlessly over the page, making nonsensical doodles. I glanced outside to try and find what she was staring at, but I never found anything of interest. “What are you looking at?” I asked her, and she turned to me.

“The trees,” Keitha said, returning her gaze to the window.

“You are so weird,” Jetta, another roommate of mine responded from her secluded corner of the room.. 

Keitha laughed. “I’m kind of wondering... you know? Why we’ve never left this place.”

I looked up at Keitha. Her question took me by surprise. “We are going to be leaving here, next year,” I said. “You know that, right?”

She shook her head. “I don’t think so. I think they’re lying.” Lying wasn’t common in the Serkos. Truths never needed to be kept secret in the Serkos. I was shocked by her question, and I turned to see that Jetta and Sherry were too.

“About what?” Sherry asked, another one of our roommates. “That we’re going to the cities next year?”

“Well,” Keitha began, “we haven’t seen our parents in twelve years, and the teachers here told us when we first arrived, that we would visit them from time to time. Have we? And now they’re telling us we’re going to go to a city on our eighteenth birthdays. I don’t buy it.”

“They never told us we would visit our parents,” I said. “They’ve never lied about anything like that, and besides why would we want to see our parents again?”

“Well they told me we would,” Keitha said, and I caught Sherry nodding her head, agreeing. “If we do go to the cities, what are we even going to do? I go to history class and they say all these things about what people do in cities and we don’t do any of those things here.” She bit her nails and her face twisted in confusion. “I wish we could... not go... or... go on our own. I’m really starting to hate the Serkos.”

“You mean escape,” Jetta asked in dull disbelief. “You’re kidding, right?”

Keitha’s eyes widened. “I hadn’t thought about escape!” Jetta rolled her eyes. “We could escape! I think we should do it.” Sherry and Jetta stared on in disbelief, while silence filled the room. I said, “Sure.”

“Jetta? Sherry?” Keitha asked, turning eagerly to them. 

Jetta turned her attention back to her homework. “Yeah, because we could totally survive in a city alone by ourselves, without having ever left the Serkos,” She said sarcastically. “That sounds like a great plan Keitha.” 

“I don’t know,” Sherry said. “I’d have to think about it.” I smiled, and I started to wonder too: why were we living in Serkos, when cities existed, filled with people of all ages, different people to meet and different things to do every day? Why have we always believed everything the Serkos told us?

My biggest question had been: were any cities even left? Maybe that’s why we lived in Serkos, because we needed to avoid whatever devastation might be out there. 

“Maybe try to escape when they take us away to the cities?” Sherry suggested. 

“No, I mean now,” Keitha said. “Right now. No one but our teachers ever told us we’ll leave. I want to meet someone who has lived here before us to tell me I’ll visit a city. I want to hear it from their mouth.” So she wanted proof, something tangible besides a wordy promise. 

I thought about what she’d said to myself. We’d never met anyone from the Serkos besides our parents, and we hadn’t seen them in twelve years. I wish I had been with them and asked them the real truth, to find out if they would nod their head enthusiastically or look at me with the smile which always meant ‘no, but you can dream’. 

We were now, however, the oldest people in the Serkos. The girls before us who had turned eighteen were gone, and yes, they had gone somewhere, but no one really knew if they went to the cities or not. 

“Oh, please, stop,” Jetta said, tying back her sleek black hair. “Leave and go where?” Jetta was always the questioner. She was skeptic about most of the crazy things Keitha and I had done over the years. Out of all my friends though, she was the closest one. 

“We’ll find a city,” Keitha proposed. “We’ll take everything we need. Food, clothing, stuff to sleep on. Essentials? And then we’ll go, and find a city.”

“Oh, please,” Jetta retorted. “We don’t even know what’s out there. We could die for all you know.”

“Or we could survive and live on our own and find a city, and...” Keitha stopped suddenly, unsure of what to say next. 

“Exactly. What would we do?” Jetta asked. “Whatever, it’s late. I’m going to bed.”

And so we all went to sleep with those thoughts on our minds, and everything we thought about the Serkos had changed. 

The next day, despite our silence on the subject of escape, we all knew our heads were reeling with them. I found myself unable to concentrate, making tiny little lists on my notes of things we would do in a city. Go to a zoo, find the president, and drive a car, were my favorite ones. At the end of the day, I sneaked away from the rest of my classmates as the classroom doors burst open and chatter filled the hallways. I jumped outside and made my way quickly across the grass, heading behind the school buildings, my feet crushing dead leaves as I left my classmates behind. 

The dirty and gray maintenance building ahead of me seemed small and insignificant. I walked over, seeing two maintenance workers talking outside in their standard blue jumpsuits, the blue house and faded sun symbol on their chests. The symbol of the Serkos. “Jeff here?” I asked.

“Inside,” one motioned towards the building. I walked past them and entered into the shabby room to see Jeff digging around on one of the shelves. “Just a second,” he said, until he pulled out an old fan-looking thing. “Oh, hey Tarika,” he said, glancing over at me. Jeff’s long pale face was covered in dirt, making his black hair even darker and his blue eyes stick out. 

“What is that?” I asked, pointing to the object in his hand. 

“This? One of the air conditioning units broke. What’s up?”

“Um...” I had decided early on I would tell Jeff what had happened last night. Jeff was very close to my friends and I, and usually we could trust him with anything. But now, I felt awkward about it. “Well, we all were talking last night and--”

I turned around to see Keitha walking in, the door slamming behind her. “Hey, Jeff. Why are you here?” she asked me as she set her stuff down. 

“Probably the same reason you are,” I said. 

“All right, what’s going on?” Jeff asked, setting down the fan part on a nearby table.

Keitha stared intensely at me before she began, but I motioned with a wave of my arm for her to go ahead. “I was thinking about things last night, and I want to know... that is, if you know... what happens to people when they leave here? Everyone has always told us that we’ll go to a city, but I don’t know if they’re lying or not.”

The moment Keitha brought up leaving, Jeff turned away from us and began rummaging through a drawer, almost absentmindedly. “Oh...” he began. “You shouldn’t be worrying about little things that.”

“But we are going to see a city, right?” Keitha asked. “That’s all we want to know.”

It took awhile for Jeff to answer. “Yeah, you’ll see one,” he said, still turned away from us. 

“Did you go to the cities when you left the Serkos?” I asked. We knew Jeff had gone through the Serkos, like us, but he had always told us that talking to us about his past was against his employee contract. 

“Go back to your dorm room,” he said, still fiddling around with the fan on the table. 

“Jeff, come on,” Keitha said, but I wished she hadn’t.

Jeff turned around and yelled, “Go back to your dorm room!” The screwdriver in his hand flew down to the table and bounced off with a clang. He walked away towards another shelf, and I rushed Keitha out of there. 

“What was that all about?” Keitha asked once we were outside. 

“Hey, what the hell was all that noise?” one of the other maintenance workers asked. “You kids get out of here! Always sniffing around...” I waved an apology to them as we left.

“He knows something,” Keitha continued as we walked away. “And I want to find out what it is before we think of leaving.”

“You don’t want to leave before?” I asked. “I thought you wanted out now. If anything, I think we should go tomorrow.”

“You’re serious about this?”

“Of course!” I said, comforting my friend. “C’mon, let’s go see if we can persuade Sherry and Jetta.”

Deadly silence filled the room, except for the breeze coming through the open window and disturbing a loose paper or two. I glanced up from time to time to see Jetta writing furiously on a scratch sheet of paper, and I eventually grabbed my books and papers and sat down next to her. 

“Hey, Jetta, did you get these math problems,” I began to say, until I saw what she was writing on her papers. “What are you doing?!” I asked in excitement, grabbing one of her papers from her, and reading them aloud.

“Hey!” Jetta yelled, as I ran across the room and began to read. 

“Midnight: gather belongings and leave dorm room. Stay close to buildings and away from lights...” I drifted off as I read the rest. 

“Thank you!” Jetta said, as she ripped the paper from my hand, crumpled it up and stuffed it in her pockets. 

“You were,” I began, but Jetta cut me off.

“No I was not. That paper doesn’t prove anything. Hey! Keitha!” 

Keitha had grabbed the rest of the papers Jetta had left on her bed, and she smiled when she looked at them. “What we need to take,” she began to read. “Blankets, pillows, large amount of food we could get from Jeff, clothes--”

“Stop taking my THINGS!” Jetta screamed as she yanked the last of her papers away. “You two are so unaware of personal space, aren’t you?”

“Jetta, were you planning on escaping?” Sherry asked, who up until now had sat quietly in the corner. 

“I just... wanted to see if we could escape is all. Turns out we can, but it would take a lot of planning. Planning that Keitha and Tarika, think they can just read for themselves.”

“Sorry,” I said, and I sat down on my bed. 

“But can we?” Keitha asked. Jetta’s nod was all it took to make Keitha scream in excitement and hug Jetta like a toy doll. “Jetta you’re awesome!” 

“Now what do we need to do first?” Sherry asked. I smiled as I looked outside at the mountains, a breeze rolling through the window as if to welcome me to my new home.


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