I hate the one I've been writing. I always cringe whenever I think about it. It was always completely different from the direction I wanted to go. So I started over. I Prologue was perfect so I left it alone. I love this version a lot more. Have the new chapter 1.
Snow fell softly. The day had yet to wake. This was always my favorite part of the day. It was the time when nobody was yet awake to spread their ugly stain over the dying world. Sorry, the “healing” world. At least, it was temporarily healing. It would continue to heal until our pathetic little point on the globe passed under The Burn Zone. Then everything would die. It would happen. I knew it. If it had happened before, it would happen again. It was only a matter of time.
The snow covered the death, that’s what I liked best about it. As long as there was a layer of snow, the world looked pretty. However, the gleaming sparkles would soon be the color of the gray death they covered. The plows would roll through, and the pretty would be gone. But that time was not yet. Until then I would enjoy this respite from my dreary existence.
Behind me I could hear the deep breathing of seventeen other girls. Not one of them had ever said more than maybe two words to me. I could say that it didn’t bother me. I could say that I liked the loneliness. I could say that listening to them talk about this boy or that boy or the fabulous life associated with doing this or that job. I could say that I never wanted them to include me in their meaningless conversations. I could say all of that, but I’d be lying.
My bed was the closest to the window. In most living situations, that would be the best place to sleep. But this wasn’t most situations. This was an orphanage. I’m sure that back before The First Burning, orphanages were well funded. They were probably stocked with blankets and pillows and four square meals a day for the children who weren’t old enough to go to their Glimpses. But that was in the before time. This is now. I shivered and tugged my thin blanket tighter around my shoulders. The chill coming through the window was enough to rattle teeth. Yes, this was the worst place in the room to sleep. If it wasn’t, I wouldn’t be there. In coming days, the other girls would push their beds together and huddle under piles of blankets as they attempted to go to sleep. They would use each other’s body heat to stave off the biting cold. I would be stuck on my own by the window.
My hand dropped absentmindedly to my foot before I had a chance to stop it. Under four layers of socks, one would find my small right toe dead and blackened from one of the horrible winters a few years ago. I’d cried for day, but nobody had bothered to check and see what was wrong with me until it was too late to save my small digit. After that, the caretakers had given me extra socks, red like all my other clothes, but nothing more. I’d taken to sleeping in a sitting position after that, with my feet tucked under me and my body curled into a ball over my legs. It had taken a while for me to get used to that position, but I’m sure it was the salvation of quite a few of my other toes. I could say I’m glad that none of the other girls ever ask me to share a bed with them, but I’d be lying. As I child I used to cry myself to sleep at night, but that stopped when winter hit and I’d wake up with frozen crystals on my cheeks.
Despite the horrors associated with the window bed, I did find a bit of joy. It came from looking out the window. If I didn’t sleep where I did, I would have forgotten long ago that sometimes, the world could be beautiful.
I heard a plow’s rumble from down the street. The fantasy was over. I laid back down on my bed and squeezed my eyes shut. I didn’t want to see the destruction of my perfect world. The roar of the plow grew louder and louder and softer and softer. It was over. Time to wake up and face another day.
On cue, the door opened and the overhead florescent light burned my retinas. Groans erupted from my formerly sleeping roommates.
“Up girls! Wake up! It’s time to make memories of another glorious day!” Ms. Whitley skipped around the room, checking to make sure all the girls were indeed up. Right before she reached my bed, she swirled around and skipped back down the row of beds the way she’d come. I can’t ever recall a time when she met my eyes.
I rolled off my bed and landed with a thump on my hands and knees. I pulled my small trunk of clothes from its place under the bed. I could say that I’m glad all my clothes are the same so I don’t have to make a choice in the morning, but I’d be lying. Back when I was still newly red, I’d asked one of the caretakers why, if my trunk could fit five tightly packed jumpsuits and four sets of night clothes, did it only have two of each. That was before I’d learned being a thinker was not a good thing. I shed one of my two sets of night clothes and dawned one of my two jumpsuits. I kicked it back under the bed and stood.
I wasn’t exactly tall, but I wouldn’t consider myself short either. Other people probably did consider me short, but that was a matter of opinion. The only description I could give my hair was brown. I gathered it up in one hand and pulled it over my shoulder. As I crossed the room of groaning, stretching girls, I ran my fingers through the snags a few times before weaving the strands into a braid. When I let my braid fall down my back, it reached my lower back. I would need to find something at the plant sometime and hack a good portion off. It was at the point where it was always in the way. Life would get simpler with it gone.
In the dining area, I downed a cup of something in one go. I struggled not to let it come back up. I think this slop used to be called breakfast, but most times I would rather continue to fast than choke it down. However, I’d missed dinner the night before and I’d need some strength to make it through the day. I rinsed my mouth of the awful lingering taste of the slop mixed with morning breath. And just like that, I was done with my morning routine, ready to face the day.
I walked out the front door the orphanage. Nobody said goodbye to me. Very few days did people in the orphanage actually acknowledge my existence. They would all be happy if I disappeared forever. To tell the truth, so would I.
I kicked up snow as I waded down the sidewalk. In a half hour, a bus would arrive to take the other girls into the district for their respective Glimpses. My job was in another sector, and the bus wouldn’t be heading in that direction. Jack Frost was on my heal, urging me forward more quickly. I apologize for my use of an allusion that you probably don’t understand. Back before The First Burning, people used to say that there was a man named Jack Frost who brought the winter chill every year. When I said that he was on my heal, I was referring to the fact that I’m freezing cold and the sooner I reach the plant, the sooner I’ll be warm.
My red jumpsuit stuck out starkly against the gray white sludgy snow that the plow had cleared out of the road. I didn’t bump shoulders with anyone though sidewalks were crowded. Back before, everyone used to drive to get anywhere. Now, the dwindling gas supply was kept in close reserve and only officials and the rich were still driving. I suppose it’s a good thing not as many people drive now. Burning fossil fuels is one of the key reasons we are living in the messed up world that we are. Our ancestors destroyed the ozone and started the burnings. Anyway, nobody brushed shoulders with me. Nobody ever did. The crowded sidewalk parted for me the like Moses parted the Red Sea. Sorry, that was another old allusion that you probably don’t understand. I’ll try harder to avoid those. One day they I’ll say one of them aloud and get in trouble.
The streets were wide. With so few cars, as many people walked in the streets as did on the sidewalks. Tall buildings loomed up around us, their purposes long since forgotten. The One commanded us to stay out of them, so we did. As I got closer and closer to the plant, the crowds became thin. Soon, there were very few people still about me. Nobody was walking in my same direction.
I was alone.
The plant loomed up in front of me like a giant blot against the gloomy sky. In front of me was the rest of my life. My moment of pause that I always took before entering the building was over. I climbed up the giant steps to find out what new surprises today had in store.
The plant was giant. Though it was shoved off to the side of the compound, it was the heart that made our society run. Below the floors was a massive storage empire. Food, clothes, gas, whatever, anything that had to be stockpiled, was stored here. Under that labyrinth of mazes and rooms, was the giant electric turbine that lit our world. The turbine ran twenty five hours a day eight days a week. In other words, it was always going. That is, always unless we were hit with a burning.
I arrived at the elevator and rode it down. Nothing was on the first floor except offices. I was headed to The Crimson Room. From there, I would get my assignments for the day. I breathed deeply through my nose. I was claustrophobic, thanks to a mishap I’d had before my evaluation day. The elevator ride down was bad, but the ride back up, when it would be choked with other bodies aside from my own, would be worse. The only thing that made the trip up better was my continued reminder to myself that I was heading to the outside.
I forced my breathing to remain even as I stepped out of the elevator and walked down the narrow hallway to The Crimson Room. My feet vibrated with the energy of the turbine on the floor below. There was one good thing about the plant: I wasn’t cold anymore. I wiped a bead of sweat off my forehead and pushed open the door to the room. I was, as usual, the first one to arrive for the day shift. Back when I was still a thinker, I would purposefully make sure I arrived long before anyone else. That way, I’d be able to gauge the other Crimson from them that day. Now, I only arrived early out of force of habit.
On one wall of The Crimson Room was a giant screen. The names of all the Crimson were organized into categories of what they would be doing that day. My name was under mechanics. I walked over to the corner where all the tool belts were stored. I always used the same one. It gave me the feeling that something was actually mine. I searched through the disorganized pile until I found mine. I secured it around my waist with a smile. The fact that I was on a team today and not doing a special job was a good thing. Because of my size, I was always assigned the special jobs that required a small person. Any day I wasn’t forced into further seclusion was a great day. I leaned up against the back wall of the room where I wouldn’t be readily visible to those walking in the room. I waited.
I didn’t have to wait long before me “coworkers” began to arrive. I’d been working with all of them for just over eight years. I didn’t know a single one of them by name. We weren’t a very sociable group. We weren’t allowed to be. For the most part, my fellow Crimson were men. There was two other women, but they were nearly as severe looking as the men. Our lot in life didn’t make us the most friendly people, as if someone would want to be friends with us. Back when I used to think, I knew a few of these criminal’s names. I had memorized the group of assignments as well which face went where. Each day, the probable names for each individual would get smaller as the teams changed until there was only one option left. Knowing their names was a stupid, pointless task, and since then, I’d worked hard to forget them. It was better this way. The Crimson had almost all arrived. We would soon be put to our respective tasks.
It had taken me at least a year to discover what about me the evaluators had deemed bad enough to destroy my life. I puzzled it out until I realized, no normal child would be able to do what I did. I was supposed to fail the evaluation. Instead, I’d passed and, by doing so, failed. Fail to pass and pass to fail. I should have realized before it was too late, but that’s the glory of hindsight. After this revelation that thinking was bad, I’d stopped. Now I was living life one day at a time.
The last Crimson arrived. The room was filled with our red presence. The white walls held us all in together. Red jumpsuits against the white walls like a drop of blood against newly fallen snow. We were the scourge of society, the ones that didn’t quite fit the mold. We are the Crimson.