Odette Moore 2020
Australis is in lockdown and no one is allowed outside because of a pandemic. However, the government is lying about the pandemic, when in fact it ended seven years ago because they want the world to stay green and healthy and they believe humans cannot coincide with the environment without having devastating effects on the flora and fauna. The government employs Helpers who use brutality and harsh sentences (quite often death) for those who do not comply, and propaganda to persuade Australis into believing there is a pandemic raging havoc and that the only way they will ever do well is by complying with the government.
Those who are imprisoned or killed are believed by their families to have been either hospitalised or killed by the virus.
The government has plans to kill everyone and rebuild civilisation with a new species of advanced primates that don’t use anything that could harm the environment i.e. coal, natural gas, carbon dioxide
Australis: Another name for the countries/states that make up the Southern Hemisphere
The Party: The governing political party. They believe strongly in keeping the environment as healthy as possible. They are responsible for keeping an eye on everyone and are the ones who created all the propaganda about the virus. They tricked their citizens into believing the pandemic is still raging, when in fact they have been keeping everyone inside to ‘heal’ the environment from human destruction (climate change) and for their plans.
The Man: The political party leader. A dictator type. Enforces the idea of staying home. Believes strongly in environmental advocacy.
Helpers: Guards of sorts whom supposedly ‘help’ citizens stay inside when in reality they use brutal methods to keep people inside.
Sickness/virus: A mutated, deadly strain of virus that has supposedly been ravaging Australis and its inhabitants.
She grabbed her father’s bicycle that was sitting beside the empty grocery boxes and silently wheeled it out of the gate. As far as she knew, not a single person saw what she was doing.
The warm midsummer air flowed through her golden locks as the sun descended peacefully beneath the amber horizon. Why was the world so perfect outside her home? she wondered.
The deep indigo hue of the mountains in the distance reminded her of the vast night sky she and her mother used to lay beneath when she was little, watching the stars, as whispered words of wonder were murmured between them in the comforting darkness. The soft hum of the bush-crickets and the gentle clicking of her bicycle’s wheels filled her ears as she rode down the asphalt road, with not another person in sight. She exhaled and smiled to herself, sliding off the bicycle seat as she neared the rippling wheat field. The distant silos standing tall and still on the rolling forest green hills beyond the swaying grass. She closed her eyes as she stood peacefully in the tall grass, humming a lullaby to herself as her buttercup dress billowed playfully in the breeze. She let herself drift off into the horizon, her toes still brushing the soft earth beneath them, her mind, however, was flowing with the wind.
Her hands felt slick and weary against the raw cedar wood table, the varnish having been removed from years of bleach and biodegradable detergents. She should have known better than to think she could get past those cameras. They were everywhere. Silently watching. Waiting…
“Guilty… Guilty… Guilty… Guilty… Guilty… Guilty…” She squeezed her eyes shut as she tried to relax the deep crease of pain and anger that was marking her pale forehead.
The monotone voice continued echoing through the cold, stuffy hall, “Guilty… Guilty… Guilty… Guilty… Guilty…” and finally, “Guilty.”
She exhaled a slow breath and opened her eyes to face the jury, their smug smiles and gleaming eyes burning craters in her skin. She resented them all, even the ones she knew personally; they were all too naïve.
“There will be a sentencing hearing next week, to decide to your sentence, this trial is over,” said the judge as his slow voice reverberated through the courtroom.
She was helpless, all she could do was clutch her mother’s tattered handkerchief and force hot tears to stay inside her tear ducts rather than fall down across her cheeks, where a cursory glance from the judge could give her an additional 5 years imprisonment.
“Daddy, why aren’t we allowed outside anymore?”
“Amelia, sometimes there are just some things that are out of our control. The reason why we stay inside is the same reason why Mummy died,” he said softly.
“You mean Mummy’s sickness?”
“Yes, the virus got to her, and the Australis government doesn’t want us to get it so they say ‘stay inside’ so we don’t get it from a sick person.”
“Oh… But why has it lasted this long?”
“We don’t have a vaccine, now that’s enough questions, I can’t answer any more, Amelia.”
“No buts, you’ll understand when you’re older, but you’re only 7 so it’s not time yet,” her father explained and she sighed, getting up and skipping to her bedroom to watch the daily news.
“Daddy, what are those posters outside?” Amelia stared out the window at the brick wall on the other side of the street where several sheets of paper with a stern-faced man printed on them were plastered.
“They’re just The Man saying we have to stay inside, that’s all,” her father said as he exhaled and gestured for her to come and sit down with him on the couch.
“Daddy, why are you a part of the Party?”
“Because otherwise, I would be a ration provider or a Helper. And I’m not healthy enough to do either of those things: to be outside all day, touching and seeing so many people. Plus, I agree with a lot of what they believe in – the environmental side of things at least, it makes good money.”
“Daddy, who are these people you’re talking to? Why are they inside our house? Isn’t that the opposite of what the Party says to do?”
“Don’t worry Amelia, they’re just some of the people from my work, they’re a part of the Party. Don’t worry,” her father cooed and guided her to her bedroom where she would stay for the rest of the evening whilst her father and his colleagues conversed about the Party’s plans.
She didn’t think much of the mutters and the occasional clanging of the whiskey glasses. Snuggled underneath the warm blanket with her teddy wrapped in her small arms, she fell asleep listening to the muffled words of the Members on the other side of the wall.
“We must keep quiet about it…”
“You can’t tell her about it,” someone seethed to her father.
“Just don’t take her away from me, as you did with Delilah, my wife,” her father pleaded.
The person dismissed his plea. “Hmm yes, well anyways, a new civilisation, and you suppose that we’ll control this future civilisation?” he asked.
“Yes, yes, that’s the plan,” another member stated.
“A new species… Highly developed… We’ve been working on it for years, planning, waiting for the world to heal from human destruction…”
“Indeed, I think restarting civilisation will be the best move anyone has made yet, especially with climate change!” A lady in the corner of the room smiled and said.
“You suppose the people trust us by now?” her father asked nonchalantly, sipping his whiskey.
“I should hope so, otherwise they’d have been taken care of by the Helpers!” The Man bellowed and chuckled in reply.
The pitch-black sky surrounded her every moment. The icy, gloved hands of the Helpers constricting around her forearms made her wince with each movement. She was going to prison. Their heavy boots thudded along the concrete floor. Wrapped around her were a plastic sheet, a mask, and gloves. She was bitter and miserable. The rough iron doors screeched open and she was shoved into one of the unused solitary confinement units, before the door loudly slammed behind her. There she would sit and wait out her sentence. Would they kill her?
The iron door screeched open in the darkness and Amelia’s eyes flew open, quickly readjusting to the dark.
“Sh*t, that was loud,” a familiar voice cursed, near the door.
“Dad? That’s you, right?” Amelia didn’t know whether to feel relieved or scared out of her wits.
“Yes, yes it’s me. I came in for business with the Party. You’re escaping tonight, darling.”
She sighed. “Don’t be stupid Dad, you can’t be serious.”
“They’re planning to kill you, and the rest of Australis, we’re getting you out of here.”
Her face went pale in the gloom and she rushed to her father, stumbling on her unsteady feet. Tears streamed down her face as she hugged him for what would unknowingly be the last time.
“Now there’s a small panel in that wall over there that leads to the sewers. I persuaded a security officer to divert the cameras in this room and the corridor. Go now, put on your dress and go to the silos. You should be safe there.” Her father smiled sadly and kissed her on the forehead.
The heaving of the footsteps intensified as the steel ladder rose closer and closer to her resting place. Her golden locks, now streaked with dust and grime, lay splayed out on the concrete.
“They can’t hurt you. You have Mother. You have Mother. Breathe. Drift. Drift, please. I’m begging you. Let me drift. They’re near,” she frantically whispered to herself as she clutched her mother’s cotton handkerchief in her unsteady hands. Her erratic breathing quickening with each restless thought. The soft, summer breeze against her skin, a distant memory. The swaying of the wheat in the field, long forgotten.
“Dear child, we know you’re here. If you don’t come out and converse with us, you’ll suffocate in this silo.”
Her gaze slipped down to the canary yellow wheat below her, they were right, she would suffocate.
She clenched her hands around the soft pleats of her dress, breathed in a silent shaky sigh, and rose from the cool grey concrete, so she was in full view of the Helpers below her. She grinned at their perfect, smug faces and giggled softly as she revelled in her realisation that she had the upper hand. She would not let them get what they wanted.
She let go of her mother’s cotton handkerchief and watched it fall gracefully into the wheat, smiling as she stepped off the concrete ledge herself. Her mind, swirling steadily in the wind outside the silo, her body, drifting peacefully into the wheat.