The cool concrete soothed my burning hands.
I pushed against the wall again with all my might, though I knew it wouldn’t go anywhere. I was trapped here, and apparently I was the only one who cared.
A strong voice startled me out of my delirium. A voice I knew belonged to my best friend, Mateo. I flipped myself around and sat against the concrete Boundary, resting my head against the cold stone, then motioned for him to sit next to me.
“Are you alright?”
Obviously I wasn’t alright.
“I’m fine, I guess. No better nor worse than I have been.”
“How’s Jenna?” He inquired. Jenna was my younger sister, and lately she had been very sick. Nobody knows what is wrong, and I had been taking care of her because my dad is going through training to become a Leader. Not that he wanted to, anyhow. It’s required of every man in this purgatory that we call a society.
“Not much better, but at least the coughing has stopped.”
We sat in silence for many moments more, before we heard the all too familiar crackle of the loudspeaker. By this point, the loudspeaker was so old so I couldn’t hear the words clearly, but I knew them by heart. Weekly inspections.
Waves of people all filed into their assigned house. At this time of day, the Leaders come out of the tower where they work, and they inspect the wall and its security. Apparently, there is something outside the wall.
Something is out there.
I am the only one who wants to know what.
“Elaina... Elaina! Elaina Straye, get over here now!”
I then realized that I was staring at the looming Boundary and my dad was calling me. I strode into the rickety old house and waited for the loudspeaker to crackle again. It would tell us that we could resume to our “normal lives”, but something deep inside me told me that my life isn’t at all normal. I knew this because I wanted to escape. I wanted to know what was outside the Boundary. I didn’t want to be trapped in this... this cage anymore.
“I’m hungry!” Jenna whined from upstairs.
My dad, tired and weary, shut the door and sat down at the singular table in the room with a sigh. He took off his jacket and put his head in his hands. He had red hair like me, and so did Jenna. When my mom was alive, she didn’t look like the rest of us, with her dark, straight hair.
“Please, please Laina, can you make dinner?” My dad pleaded. He sounded exasperated and exhausted, which wasn’t something that I was used to hearing from my dad.
I shuffled over to the cabinets and pulled out my stew pot. I filed through the kitchen cupboard, and tried to gather something to cook. I grabbed some tomatoes and peppers,
and found some pinto beans. I started the broth and went upstairs to check on Jenna.
I opened the door and she was fast asleep. I pressed my hand against her forehead to see if she still had a high temperature. It was cooler than yesterday, but her skin still burned. I grabbed the glass of water on her bedside table, and woke her up.
“Drink this.” I said.
“Why... I don’t want to...”
“Jenna listen. This is the water I brought up this morning. You need to drink it.”
Just then the loudspeaker crackled to life. I could go out again.
Shoving the water glass into Jenna’s little hands, I started downstairs to meet Mateo by the Boundary.
When I reached the bottom of the stairs, I heard a voice that I couldn’t recognize. I peered around the corner but my view was blocked by a lean figure in a suit. I then realized this was the voice I heard.
“Daniel, you know we can not tolerate your kind of behaviour if you’re going to be a Leader.” The tall man said.
“Sir please, there must be be another way I can fix -”
“We’ve had enough of your “fixing”, Daniel. We can’t have you sacrificing the safety of our town by giving people ideas as to what is beyond that Boundary! You know the consequences of working for the Seekers. It’s in their name, they seek the truth. They wonder.”
My dad knew what was beyond the Boundary? What were the Seekers?
The tall man took a step towards my father. All of this sudden, my dad wasn’t as big and brave as I always thought he was.
“Do you know why we have the Boundary, Daniel?”
My father remained silent.
“So people in this town don’t wonder. Wondering is a dangerous thing, Daniel. Wondering causes people to make rash decisions. We don’t want people to run around thinking they can do everything they want, do we?”
“No sir.” My dad whispered shakily.
“Right. Now, we have to go. Time to take care of things.”
“Wait! Can I at least say goodbye to my family?”
“We have to go Daniel.”
Before I could say a word, the tall man ushered my dad out of his own home and slammed the wooden door shut.
I wanted to ask so many questions, but I feared that nobody knew the answer. But I did know two things. One - I had to find out who the Seekers were. And two - I had to find my father.
I walked out of my house. My house that I’ve lived in for years, the one place that I have memories of my mother. It all of this sudden didn’t seem like a safe haven to me. No, because after what I saw, it’s more like a danger zone.
“Ma’am! Excuse me, ma’am!” a grizzly voice yelled.
I whirled around, only to become face to face with the most foreign person I had ever laid eyes on. He looked nothing like the mundane look of the people in this village, though the Boundary stretches so far towards the south that he could still be one of us.
“Can... can I help you?” I stuttered.
He looked at me, and I saw intense insanity in his eyes.
“Listen to me girl, and listen up right. Tell me your straight answer, do you ever want to know what’s behind that blasted wall?”
He scared me.
“Yes sir... I do...”
“Don’t call me sir.” He protested, then dropped his voice down to a whisper,“If you’ve ever heard of the Seekers I’ll know you ‘aint lying.”
The Seekers... My father! The tall man spoke of the Seekers to my father. He said something about finding out what’s behind the wall... and my father was working for them.
I gasped, as it all of this sudden made a whole lot of sense to me.
“You know who the Seekers are? Do you work for them? Did you know my father?”I asked him frantically
“Slow down there, miss. Obviously I know who the Seekers are and I am one of them. Who was your father?”
“Daniel. Uh, I mean, Daniel Straye.”
He looked at me with wide eyes, “You’re Daniel’s daughter?”
“Then we have to get you caught up.” He looked around, skeptical, “We’re not safe talkin’ about this stuff around here. Come with me.”
He started away, and I was hesitant. But... if he could tell me about my father then I didn’t care who he was. I caught up with him and we walked for what seemed like forever.
We came to a smaller wall. It was about halfway through the space marked out by the Boundary, from what I could guess. There was a slit cut in the wall, about as wide as my hand and as long as my forearm. The foreign man reached in his coat and pulled out a tattered and worn piece of paper. On it was a diagram of intricate patterns that was all a muddled mutter to me. With great care, the foreigner began to trace the wall with his fingers, seemingly following the diagram. Many times he pushed against the wall, almost like if he were pushing a button. I heard a snap that awoke me from my hypnotised state. Part of the wall had slid open.
I peered into the opening. A town laid behind the walls, yet it was nothing like one I ever knew. It seemed so... dingy. It was nothing like I had ever seen, but it also startled something in the back of my mind. Just a taste of familiarity in the depth of my subconscious mind, yet it was enough for me to get spooked. It was official. I had been acting brave this whole time, but now I had no idea what I am even doing. What about Jenna? Mateo? I was leaving everyone on a whim. This town could even not be where the Seekers reconcile themselves.
“Something on your mind?” the foreign man asked.
“I...” I grabbed at an answer while I was gasping for breath, all of this sudden feeling terrified and alone. My feelings of confidence had been a hoax. I was startled as a soft voice slipped into my head, then I quickly remembered that what I heard were the calming words of Mateo. Close your eyes, Elaina. Close your eyes and breathe, I’m here. As long as I’m here you’re going to be okay. Those were the words he would whisper every time I panicked. I followed the instructions that played in my head and took a large breath. Even though he wasn't here, I was okay. Everything was okay.
Realizing my eyes were closed, I flung them open like shutters on the windows that I wish would let me see outside the Boundary.
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