Rosa plays the numbers, punching invisible digits on the tabletop with a pinkish fingertip. A grin stretches across her face, eyes wide like she is conjuring dark magic.
“It all adds up.”
She places both hands palms-down on the table and looks into my eyes.
“Emersons is slaves, always been, always will be.”
“Stop that nonsense, woman.”
“Ain’t nonsense and you know it.”
“When Tomorrow come over the horizon you see it different.”
“Ha! You a fool, Book Emerson. Ain’t nothin’ but trouble come over the horizon.”
“We see soon enough. You heard the man. Say they got power, loads of it, too. Say ever’one welcome, ever’one free. Ain’t no slaves in Tomorrow.”
“Uh-huh. Ain’t no history I know of where our kind is ever free. Bunch of hoo-doo talk. Who he say he was?”
“Said he was a recruiter. Don’t know what that is.”
Rosa shrugged. “That why you turn him away?”
“That, and I don’t trust a man that smiles so much.”
We walk. Before the Great Collapse this was a two-lane country road. Now, it’s all gravel and weed.
“Book you think that’s where all the slaves are?”
“Yep. Gotta be," I say and notice the light has changed. "Sun goin’ down quick. Ever’thing is orange and lost its color. We better stop.”
We make camp in the woods and gnaw on the little food we have left. Before she fall off to sleep, Rosa say, “Somethin’ ain’t right in the world, Book. That man, the recruiter, just let us walk. No one lets a slave walk free. We need to take care.”
“Maybe you should talk to the numbers again in the morning.”
“Maybe. Not so easy with no people around. Hard to feel anything.”
Come morning we awakened by a far off noise, something unusual. Neither of us wants to wait so we pack and go, forgetting the maths.
“Look at that.” It’s near lunch time, bees buzz around us and the air is sticky with honeysuckle and our sudden apprehension at the sight—lights blazing in the daylight. “It does exist.”
“Easy, Book. May not be what we think.”
“It’s freedom, that’s what I think.”
“That’s a starving slave talking. You walking too fast. We need a good set of eyes on the place before we march on up. You see freedom but they might see fugitive.”
“We got a good hour to walk. Anyone comes along we hide.”
As we get closer, Rosa says, “No rain here in a while. We kickin’ up dust with every step. There’s a weird energy coming through my boots.”
Rosa stops and sits on the ground and pulls off a boot. A web of static electricity spreads from the boot to each finger as she pulls her hand away.
“Thana said they got plenty of energy.”
“Thana, the recruiter? Name ain’t right, Book. Feels wrong.”
“You ain’t never tasted freedom before, that’s all.”
“What the recruiter say about the energy?”
“Said Tomorrow is powered by the oldest source of energy they is, what’s driven the world from the beginning. He say the souls of the people light it up. It’s a spiritual thing they harnessed.”
We can hear the noises of the city as we approach and a large transport vehicle rises from inside the outer city wall and accelerates away, quickly disappearing from sight.
“Something wrong with this road, Book.”
Road’s new, been recently paved. It’s a crushed material that is near white.
“Come on!” I holler at her and run up the road toward Tomorrow.
“No, Book! You have to stop, now!”
“What you mean ‘stop’?” But when I turn and look Rosa watches as pieces of the road fall between her fingers. She sits crosslegged and punches out invisible numbers. There’s an aura around her and sparks fly from her shoulder and hand, dust puffs up and swirls on some invisible eddy and rises over her head.
“It’s all wrong, Book. They ain’t no slaves here because they all dead. The roads are crushed bone. They trapped their spirits here, their souls. They use it to power the place. That recruiter is an agent of death. Quiet your mind. You can feel the anguish here. The place is screaming.”
Rosa’s eyes is wide again but this time in fear. I hear it—the anguish, pain and fear. I feel them, all of them—trapped forever powering the man’s city.
“Ain’t no slaves in Tomorrow,” my voice is weak.
“Ain’t no slaves, Book.”
Rosa starts with the numbers again.
“No need,” I tell her. “It all adds up.”
in category Fiction