We lived in the same world, looked up at the same sky, yet, stood on different grounds. We were only connected by the air we breathed and the government that ruled us. Other than that, we were oh so painfully different. I stared up at the rust-colored sunset. People in Central were surely looking at the same sunset by now. I sighed. I wondered what it was like in Central.
All I knew was that Central was where the people were richer, the air was cleaner, and the sun shone just a little brighter. Central was safe…safer than anywhere else. It was home to most of this world’s population. Those unfortunate enough to fall under the radar income wise lived in either District or Austral. Central was the place to be however. Central had music and eyeliner. Central had more technology than Austral would probably ever see. Central’s roads were paved! It was a dream come true for the people who had the opportunity to live there. It was a magnificent wonderland of pompous assholes that were all too afraid of the government to even enjoy themselves. Not that they’d ever admit it.
District was a different story. It’s a little farther away from Central and just a bit poorer. The good thing about District was that they had governmental protection without that ever present watchful eye burning holes into the back of their heads. District wasn’t as advanced as Central but they had some good stuff nonetheless. I knew some people who lived in District. I wouldn’t call them friends. I had no friends. They were…acquaintances. Occasionally, they’d risk the trip over the border to visit me. It wasn’t brave; it was stupid. Why the hell would someone come to Austral just to see me? Austral for Christ sakes!
Austral was the southernmost city in this world. We thrived on taking from others. I said “we” because I was just as much a part of it as anyone else. Austral outright sucked. Stop someone on the street and ask them what paved roads are. I bet they won’t know…and then they’ll mug you. It was dangerous here. This was where all the poor people lived. The rejects of society flocked here. The outcasts, the rebels, the unemployed. They were all here. Where exactly did I fit into those categories?
My stomach nagged at me, complaining about the lack of food going in lately. Food was scarce here in Austral. There was no such thing as welfare. The government did nothing for the so-called “scum of Axis”. Axis is the name of our planet. There are others in our ecosystem and we’re sure there is life on them. We co-exist peacefully. They don’t bother us and we don’t bother them.
“Time for work,” I said to myself just as the last few rays of sunlight dipped below the horizon.
Slipping the hood of my cloak over my head, I took to the streets. My feet were feather-light against the silvery loess covering the ground beneath me. I ran through the shadows with my destination visualized clearly in my mind. My first stop was going to be District. It was about five hundred miles away which was roughly a two hour run for me. I could make it as long as there were no interruptions.
Rounding the corner, I hopped over a crushed and rusting telephone booth that was leaning heavily against the adjacent building. How did it get there? It was probably the government’s attempt at giving us something nice.
I continued on, carefully stepping around pools of what I assumed was chemical waste. The pallid moon provided little light to illuminate my path. Skipping over a pipe jutting from the ground, I followed the trash littered alleys until I came to a stop at the dilapidated buildings that separated Austral from the outside. Without hesitation, I entered the first one. The dismal interior never ceased to make me shudder. My feet crunched over crumbled concrete and rusting metal. Shifting my bag to my other shoulder, I grabbed hold of a stone protruding from the wall and pulled myself up. My feet gradually found the footholds I’d worn into the wall. There was no roof in this building. It was just walls. The starless sky glared down at me as I continued my ascent towards it. Once I made it over the wall it would be an easy run without obstacles.
“Hey!” someone yelled.
Startled, I slipped and came crashing back down to earth. My back hit the ground with such a force I thought my spine would break. Biting back a string of curse words and tears, I rolled over and pushed myself off of the ground. Pain danced through my back. I could feel my teeth chattering.
“Did I startle you?”
I looked up to find Mariana smiling innocently at me. “I should snap your neck,” I hissed.
“Kai, I think we’ve established that I can kick your butt.”
I dusted myself off as much as I could and stretched. I had already gotten over the fall. Inspecting my hand, I frowned at the bleeding gash across my palm. Thanks a lot Mariana.
“You’re bleeding,” she said, instantly feeling bad. She tore a strip of cloth from her shirt and tugged my hand towards her. Her bellybutton ring gleamed in dim moonlight. Embarrassed, I looked away. “I’m sorry. I was just trying to scare you.”
We stood in silence as she wrapped my hand and once she was done I quickly backed away. “I need to go.”
“…District,” I admitted.
“Again?” Her lucid turquoise eyes glimmered with worry. “That’s the fourth time this month.”
“I’ll be back before you know it.” I smiled. “Now go home. It’s late.”
“I’m older than you! Don’t sass me.”
“If I bring you cake, can I sass you then?”
Mariana grinned. “You’ll really bring me cake?”
“No. I’ll probably eat it on my way back.”
Mariana punched me in the arm and stalked off. She wasn’t really mad at me. She was just worried. Mariana’s hair bounced up and down as she hurriedly ran back home. Her jet black hair was cropped short, stopping just above her chin. I still remembered the day she cut it. She used my knife.
Mariana thought of me as a brother and it pained me every single time I was near her. I’ve been in love with her since the day we met but she never saw me as more than family. We were pretty much all each other had. Mariana was nineteen. Only one year older than me. She just loved to tease me about being younger. Her smile…where do I even begin? She only had one dimple so whenever she smiled, that one dimple showed itself to the world. I swear my heart skipped a beat every time she smiled at me. Her laugh was like the tinkling of bells. Actually, I take that back. Sometimes she snorted. But it was so cute! I realized I’d been standing in the same spot, grinning at my feet like an idiot. This was what Mariana did to me. Sighing, I made it over the wall without another catastrophe and ran across the sandy fields leading to District. I held my cloak tight against my body, fending off the cold of the night. I checked the watch I had stolen from District two weeks ago. 9:26 PM. Hopefully, I’d make it to District by eleven o’clock. Willing my feet to propel me faster, I infiltrated the dust covered darkness.