September 16, 2033
The sun brings light to many things needed in order for all life to survive. It heats the waters and the land, illuminates the darkness, and is the beginning of photosynthesis for life to begin in a plant. The sun is also the enemy of the red-headed, pale-skinned, lank-limbed boy, Josh Kimbo. The red hair has been passed down through many generations of Kimbos, and will ultimately end with Josh.
Luckily for Josh, he found refuge in the Underground, which is 130 feet from the surface of the ground above him. 130 feet away from the sunlight that had given life to all, and now represents death. If Josh were to go above the surface and see the sun, it would kill him. In all honesty, it would kill anyone who went above the surface. It’s not necessarily the sun itself that would kill, but rather the toxic nuclear air that would shrivel anyone's lungs in less than two minutes.
Josh sometimes wonders whether facing that bright sun one last time would be worth the quick and quite horrible death. At least it would be quick, he thinks with a mental shrug.
“Aye, Josh, you gonna do something or keep daydreaming?”
The abrupt outbreak from Josh’s work partner, Reek, startles him from his deep thinking. In the Underground, there isn’t much else to do but think, and thought is very powerful. Sometimes thoughts are used to sharpen the mind like a whetstone, and other times, thoughts can bring a man down to his knees with eyes full of tears. While the East Garden of the Underground is being watered on this day, it is not from Josh’s tears.
Josh struggles to get his stiff legs moving, but eventually takes his long strides over to where Reek is using a hose to nurture the shiny red tomatoes of the greenhouse. While tomatoes are the priority for today, many other crops need tending—corn, onions, lettuce, and cucumbers. By far, the tomatoes are Josh’s favorite, and they always have been. Not only are they tasty and delightful, but he also finds joy in mixing the recycled dirt, sowing the seeds, and contributing to the growth of this lifeform.
It reminds Josh of the garden he’d had back home before the Underground and of how he and his mother would plant tomato seeds. He thinks back to when he first planted this patch of tomatoes and how meticulous and precise the work had been. The dirt in his backyard had been mixed, turned, and tilled by his father many times over until it was many different shades of brown. His mother used a hoe to create a home for the seed to be sowed, hammering at the ground with the tool on a bright sunny day.
A young curly-haired and bright blue-eyed Josh took keen notice of the sweat on her brow and knew she was working hard, and that gardening was not all sunshine and rainbows. Josh’s job was to plant the seeds in the earth his mother and father had excavated. Josh’s mother poured the bag of seeds into his hand and said, “Honey, make sure to hold out both hands to catch all the seeds. They need to be sown into a nice home in the earth, where they will bear fruit. If you drop a seed on the concrete, it will dry up and be withered away. If you don’t bury the seed deep, it will be taken by a bird and will be eaten. If you plant the seed with the roses and thorn bushes, it will fail to bear fruit.”
Young Josh knew his mission and was determined to succeed and get those seeds buried in the earth, where they would eventually become bright red tasty tomatoes. He carefully dropped each of the seeds along the rows with the utmost attention. It was life or death. At least, for the little tomato seed, it was, thought Josh in the present.
Next, he covered each of the seeds up with dirt and packed them down with his little hands. His mother handed him the watering can. “Now, you must water the seeds. In combination with the sun, these little seeds will become great big tomato plants,” she said, laughing her gracious laugh.
Smacked back into the present, Josh hears a raspy voice. “The tomatoes are not ready until they are as red as the top of your head, boy,” Reek jokes to Josh. Josh lets out a stifled laugh. The joke was funny the first time I heard it, but now, for the fiftieth time, it has gotten a little old. Letting out that stifled laugh is all that Josh can manage to give Reek. That, and a fiery comeback. “I know the corn is done when its wispy hairs stick out and look like the top of your head.”
The balding middle-aged man lets out a loud cackle that sounds like the spraying of a bottle. “Gosh, Josh, it’s too dang bad you’re stuck down here with me, because if not you woulda grown up to be a damn comedian.” This makes Josh smile, even though he senses slight sarcasm in Reek’s voice.
We’re stuck down here. Josh lets the thought float in his mind for a couple of seconds. Josh, Reek, and the other 150 humans had been in the Underground, or the Colony, as some call it, for ten years. Josh had only been eight years old when he had last felt the rays of the sun on his fair-colored skin. I have spent more than half my life in this dark and dreary underground. I miss the Above. How is it possible to have nostalgia for a world I never knew?
“Do you think there is anything left on the surface? We’ve been down here for ten years, and we haven’t sent a search team above the surface in six years.”
“Kid, you like the thought of dying? Because that is all yer gonna get up there. Ain’t no one been above in six years. You know why? Because there ain’t nothin’ up there to be seen.”
“Whatever, man.” Reek isn’t the brightest guy, but he put up a good case. Still, Josh isn’t satisfied with the answer Reek gave him. I guess I shouldn’t have expected any other answer from Reek, but for some reason, that logic is just not good enough for me. I guess it also would have been unexpected if Reek had said, “Yeah, Josh, let's go to the surface and check it out and eat some strawberries and cream.”
But Josh has a suspicious feeling that not all is uneasy on the surface. “I am just tired of breathing the same stale air day after day, year after year.” Reek scoffs at that idea.
I just have a feeling the Leaders are hiding something from us.
The group of men and women who led the Colony were called the Leaders. Increasingly, over the last two years, or at least what they said was the last two years, the Leaders had become more and more strict with rules and regulations. Some of the most protested new rules included laws saying unmarried men like Josh were not allowed to be alone with women and increasing watch patrols by Guardians. Who would have thought that people do not like being watched, and that young adults would enjoy being with each other alone?
“What do ya think of the new laws passed by Governor Nash?” asks Josh in such a soft whisper that even the ears of the corn lean in to listen. Governor Nash, with his big nose and slicked-back hair, had been a congressman before, and now was the leader of Leaders of the Colony. It’s not necessarily treason for Josh to question the Leaders, but others in the Colony have been punished in the past for similar accusations.
“Kid, you ask too many questions.” Reek doesn’t even bother to look up while he waters the corn. “But I suggest you just do as the Leaders say and do what they tell you to do. Them folks were chosen by the people to run things, and I don’t think neither of us could do any better whatsoever. If it ain't broke, why fix it?”
Josh knows this is the end of the conversation, and that he should keep to himself today and keep working away at the crops. Yes, “them folks” were chosen by the people, but that was ten years ago.
The elections for the Governor and group of four other Leaders had been held a couple of months after everyone had arrived in the Underground. Josh didn’t participate in the election, and doesn’t remember it personally, but what he does know now is that they haven’t had re-elections since. Now, we are told how and when to do things. It isn’t slavery, but it definitely is not what I remember freedom as.
The East Garden greenhouse is lit by special lights that give the plants the UV rays they need. Many times, the gardeners chose to wear eye protection, usually in the form of sunglasses. While Josh is pale-skinned, the exposure to the UV lights every day gives him more of a tan than most other colonists. The gardeners are easily distinguishable because of their darker skin tones. The green color of their jumpsuits also distinguishes them. Each section of the Colony has different-color jumpsuits that show their profession and their personality.
After Josh is done watering the crops, picking any cucumbers that are ready, and cleaning the floor of the East Garden, it’s time to check out of the greenhouse. He moves across the greenhouse as smoothly as grass in the wind with his green jumpsuit. He has to make sure the checklist he had for the day was finished and that the crop output is up to par.
Josh hands Reek his finished checklist for the day. Like most days, Reek makes sure that the checklist is complete, and gives Josh the go-ahead to leave.
“Very well done, Josh. Reading all those botany books is starting to pay off, huh? Someday, when I’m gone, this will all be yours, and you will need to provide for the Colony.”
There’s something off about the way Reek said that. He’s not much of a sentimental type. “Thanks, Reek. I love providing for the Colony, but I hope we’ll both live long enough to do this above someday—not just to provide for a Colony in the Underground, but for a city in the sun.”
“Very well said, kid, but we can’t rely on hope alone. You must focus on the now and on providing to those in front of you.”
With a nod of his head, Josh shows that he understands. He knows that this is his sign that he’s finished working for the day and would be allowed to head to his pod.
Leaving East Garden is nothing simple, because it’s the most heavily guarded area in all of the Underground. East Garden is one of two greenhouses, with the other being—yes, you guessed it—West Garden. East Garden has rarer and more valuable crops than West Garden, which has plants like potatoes, carrots, and raspberries. Because these gardens are so important, there are Guardians who stand directly outside the doors of East Garden at all times. The Guardians are easily distinguishable by their all-white boots, white leather pants, white armor, white capes, and all-too-famous white batons.
Along with the green jumpsuits, Reek and Josh have special ID credentials that identify them as gardeners. The Guardians check out their IDs in the morning, when checking in for work, and also at the end of the shift, when they check out. The Guardians also make sure that none of the gardeners are stealing the precious food that belongs to the whole Colony, as there are special ration rules.
What had happened to the last head gardener of EG? Well, let’s just say he’s no longer the head of anything. He was decapitated by the Guardians after some snitches found he had stolen some food. Theft is a big no-no in the colony, and is usually punishable by the machete of the Head Guardian, Jocko Makov.
Jocko Makov is a big brute with burly eyebrows and a broad, barbaric-looking beard. Today, Josh is lucky enough that grumpy old Jocko is on duty at East Garden, and is to check out Josh.
Josh hands Jocko his ID, and Jocko looks at it meticulously and suspiciously, almost as if he doubts that Josh is who he says he is. Why is he taking so long to look at it? Who the hell else here has red hair? There are maybe two other people in the whole Underground who do.
With a grunt, Jocko hands back the ID to Josh. Without asking for permission, Jocko begins a pat-down on Josh to check for any stolen food. He practically slaps Josh on the arms, chest, and legs with his big, meaty hands. “Be careful down there, or you might find a banana you didn’t want to find,” Josh says with a grin.
Jocko instantly looks at Josh with a glare. Jocko is a good four inches taller than Josh, and now is quite literally looking down at Josh. Josh begins to walk away, and Jocko decides to help him out by giving him a good shove in the back. The push makes Josh lose his balance, but, using the wall as a crutch, he catches himself as he stumbles forward with his leather boots grasping at the ground. While barely maintaining his composure, Josh manages to hold his tongue. Who the hell pissed in his Cheerios this morning? Ugh, I really miss Cheerios. But not Cheerios with warm piss in them; Cheerios with nice cool milk. To be honest, I would do anything to eat even a bowl of that whole grain healthy bullshit that my mom made me eat as a kid.
With the thought of Cheerios and cereal on his mind, Josh begins to make his way to the mess hall to have his supper for the day, to taste the fruits and vegetables that he helped raise to life.
Seconds after turning his back on Jocko, the voice of Reek pipes up. “Josh, hold up a moment.” Josh looks back to see Reek giving Jocko his ID and Jocko doing his full-scale body check with a glance of his eyes.
“Go,” Jocko commands Reek in his usual monotone voice.
Reek does an old man jog where his legs barely move, but his arms swing much faster, to where Josh is waiting. “I saw what happened with the big dope. Sorry about that, kid.”
“Yeah, not your fault. Legend has it someone slammed the Underground entrance hatch down on Jocko’s head when he first came here.”
Reek lets out such a loud laugh that even Josh is surprised by the intensity. Nonetheless, it makes Josh feel good to make Reek laugh. He loves making everyone laugh, and it’s probably one of the only things that keeps him sane in the Underground. Maybe Reek was right—maybe I would have become a comedian if we were not in the Underground.
Josh imagines a stage in the mess hall with all the workers and their various-colored jumpsuits at tables with candles. He’s on the stage with a mic, saying, “... even if you dropped a rock on Jocko’s head, he wouldn’t notice. Maybe then his name would be Rocko.” Josh mimics a rock falling on his head, then puts a frown on his face and starts mumbling like a caveman, imitating Jocko. “I felt something on head. It rain?” And the crowd of the Underground roars in laughter.
Then, Josh is sadly brought back to the present, and is walking with Reek away from East Garden. They both come to a halt, feet away from the East Garden entrance. The left led to the pods in which married couples live.
“Well, kid, this is where we split. I will see you tomorrow. In the meantime, don’t do anything stupid, okay?” Reek says in a tone that is almost concerning. Why is he being so weird? Does he think I’m going to attack someone? Does he think I plan on trying to escape? There is no way I could escape; it would be instant death.
In the end, Josh just scoffs at the remark and says, “See you tomorrow, Reek.”
At the cross intersection, Reek goes to the left to be with his wife and two kids. His oldest child, Tasha, is twelve, and his youngest child, James, is six, James is one of the few people who has grown up only in the Underground. To him, this is the only life he knows. He has not had the pleasure of knowing what a summer breeze smells like or the feeling of rain on his skin—just the never-ending nervous feeling of continually trying to survive.
To the right, the pathway leads to single pods, or the pods of those without spouses. There is a male section of pods, and a more heavily patrolled Guardian section, the female pods.
As Josh chooses the path straight in front of him, the thought of food and the mess hall rises to surface of his mind. Usually, the mess hall serves some sort of soup made of the vegetables grown in the Underground mixed with water. If we’re lucky tonight, they will let us have some fresh fruits. I don’t think I have tasted a raspberry in months. At least, I think it has been months. Time gets so scrambled down here; the Leaders tell us it has been ten years, but at times, it feels as though we’ve all been down here for 100.
The walls of the Underground are slick from the hot air of human bodies condensing on the cool rocks that have been carved out. There are pipes that align on the ceiling throughout the Underground that provide oxygen and water via a filtration system. Josh usually tries to walk with his head down to avoid eye contact with anyone and just to get to his destination without any distractions.
Josh sees a blue streak walking out of his peripheral vision, and his heart skips a beat. While many in the Underground wear blue, at the bottom of his heart, he hopes to see the face of someone particular.
Looking up, he sees the most beautiful girl he has ever seen looking back at him. It is Anna. Her brown curly hair flows as she walks, and her golden-brown eyes shine like amber when hit with light. “Hey, Josh.”
“Hey, Anna! How are you doing?” Josh replies a little too quickly, smiling from ear to ear.
Josh and Anna had become close during the many years of half-class and half actual work in the Underground. As children, both had found a natural connection as school kids who would hang out and make trouble throughout the Underground. Josh remembers a time when he “accidently” threw a tennis ball right a Jocko’s crotch, and Anna was kind of enough to take the blame. Thinking back, now I kind of know why he hates me so much.
Their connection has grown and grown, and the two have been friends ever since they could remember. And, while they have always been friends, it’s just recently—in the last couple of months—that Josh has realized the beauty of Anna. Before, she was a childhood friend, but now, she’s more of a crush. She’s a year older than him, but they took many classes together in the Colony.
Students take classes until they are sixteen, then “graduate” to become full-time workers in the Underground. Josh has just recently become free of schoolwork in the last two years, but is still under the work of the all-watching eyes of the Guardians.
Josh’s field of study is the garden and Anna’s is medicine. Anna has a love for helping others, and being a nurse in the Underground consists just of that. Whether it’s healing the injured workers, curing the sick, or helping to deliver a new baby, Anna has found herself in the middle of all the weak people. Anna is strong, and her love for people transcends Josh’s understanding.
That is why, recently, Josh has become so attracted to Anna. Yes, she’s beautiful, and yes, she’s funny, but it’s her heart that Josh is so unknowingly attracted to, like a moth to the light. Opposites attract, and the fearful young boy is charmed by the good, loving heart of a girl who shows courage and strength that Josh can only hope to live up to one day.
In response to Josh’s question, Anna responds, “Good! Was an uneventful day in the infirmary. How was EG today?” Her bright white smile lights up the dark hallway.
“Good, good, just watering the tomatoes today. Saving the planet, and whatnot.”
“I love tomatoes. I love the color red,” Anna says, smiling, and then glances up at Josh’s red head. They both know the attraction is there, but undeniable as it is, it’s impossible for the two to be together. “Well, I’ve got to get going. Bye, Josh!”
“Bye, Anna,” Josh says, still smiling like an idiot.
Josh is not an outlier when it comes to eighteen-year-old boys and having a crush on someone. The only problem is that Anna is nineteen, and she will end up marrying the douchebag mechanic Will Evans when they both turn twenty-one. Everyone who cares knows that they are to marry.
I have a feeling my crush isn’t one-sided, either. One time I was in the kitchen grabbing supper, and she touched my hand! We held each other’s stare for a split second, and at that moment, I knew there was something there, something special—some fireworks, as they used to say. There were big explosions of light and noise, but they were only inside my head.
As he looks up, he sees a blur of colors streaking across the hall. It’s prime supper time, and all the colonists are trying to get their fair share of food. Anna wears blue, like all the other women of the underground. Many of the women have less labor-intensive jobs, like cooking and food preparation or working in the infirmary. They wear light blue for the infirmary and navy blue for food prep and cooking.
Meanwhile, yellow is for the engineers, who work on various maintenance and repairs and, in general, make sure the Colony stays inhabitable. The Guardians wear all white to show the purity they aim to protect in the Underground, and the Leaders, who govern and maintain a balance of justice and freedom, wear red.
Not only do his ocular senses go off in the mess hall, but his olfactory senses are also reeling. The colors, compared to the dark, cold walls of the underground, stand out, and the bright, earthy smell of the food is strong against the stale air, which is recycled continuously in the Underground.
Josh steps into the assembly line of people waiting to get the second and last meal of the day. The people move in a set motion under the influence of the older women in blue. This soup doesn’t have nutritional value stickers on it, but is no doubt healthier than what many people before the Underground ate. For the last month or two, the meals have been nothing but soup, with a heavy focus on the vegetables provided by Reek, Josh, and their fellow peers of the Gardens. I am not sure why, but the fresh smell of vegetables is much better before being cooked. This soup heats the vegetables, and, in my opinion, ruins their perfection.
As Josh is handed his room-temperature soup of the night, he surveys the mess hall, looking for a spot where he can have some alone time to think. Ah, perfect—a little spot in the corner. He finds his plywood lunch table and sits his butt down with a groan of achiness.
I am constantly surprised by how difficult it is to have time to myself in the Underground. I am lucky enough that in the East Garden, Reek isn’t a huge talker. Not as many people are as lucky as I am. Thinking back over the last ten years, it’s surprising that more people haven’t gone completely insane down here. Josh is in deep thought as he continues to spoon up the dark-colored, green-spotted soup.
Only the toughest people survive such an event, and I guess those same people survive down here with the same drive and determination. One thing I can be proud of is my drive to live and survive—no one can take that away from me. Can’t say the same for everyone, especially crazy Jim Thomas. I remember as if it were just yesterday when he had his mental breakdown and began to throw his own—
Josh’s thoughts are interrupted by someone sitting down right across from him at one of the mess hall dining tables. As he catches the wave of brown out of the corner of his eye, he already knows who it’s going to be when he looks up. “Anna, nice to see you again,” he says with a side smirk. His heart is starting to beat a little bit faster than it was when he was alone with his thoughts
“Josh! I thought I would come to sit by you, as you seem to be all by yourself”
There was a reason for that. But Josh is just trying to play it cool, and he actually is ecstatic that Anna has chosen to come to sit by him and talk to him.
She takes a sip of her soup. “Mmm, this is especially good today. Do you think they added some sort of seasoning? Or is there some sort of new thing you are doing to help make the produce taste so good?”
No, is the first thought that comes to Josh’s head. Honestly, this soup tastes as bland as it always has. “Yeah, it’s pretty good,” he says, just to be nice. “But, honestly, I think food tastes best in its untouched and purest form, when it’s taken from the stem, and then it’s best to take a bite out of it.”
This makes Anna smile. The brown-haired girl leans in and whispers so that no one around may hear. “Have you ever done that? Have you ever taken a bite out of something right after taking it off the stem?”
Josh freezes in the middle of taking a bite of soup. The question is one of whether or not Josh has committed treason against the Colony. To take food from those it’s meant for is a punishment that can result in many weeks behind bars, sometimes even death.
Josh lets the question float out in the stale air of the Underground unanswered. Is she trying to trick me? It was only one time, and I made sure that no one was looking. Neither Reek nor the Guardians could have seen me take a bite of that tomato in the tall corn. Josh thought back to the time he had committed the crime, and how it had been true bliss for just a second. I still remember the taste of that fresh tomato as the juices poured down my face. Who can blame me? It had been years since I had last tasted something fresh.
“No, no, no,” Josh says, voice quivering and unconvincing. Why do I have to be such a shit liar?
Anna gives Josh a look of, C’mon, no one would blame you if you did. There is also something in her eyes that makes Josh think that she’s genuine, and that maybe she can see into his heart and know that his decision was unadulterated.
“Okay. Yes, I have,” Josh says in relief. He hasn’t shared this information with anyone before. Now it is here, out in the open, known to one other person. Did I just sentence myself? Why did I tell her?! Curse those big, beautiful brown eyes and the temptation they bring.
Josh begins to ramble on. “But it was only one time, and I regretted it, and I would never do it again…”
“What did it taste like?” asks Anna with the utmost sincerity. “I have wanted to taste something fresh for ten years, and I miss it. I mean, I can’t blame you.”
Josh is somewhat stunned at her response, but at the same time, quite relieved. He freezes and looks her in the eyes. “It tasted like life. As cliche as that sounds, it was like an explosion of flavors that lit up my mouth with sweetness.” He leans back in his chair to let the words settle.
All Anna can manage to say is, “Wow, I really do miss that. I hope someday we will be above, and we’ll be able to eat whatever we want whenever we want. I wanna take a big bite out of tomatoes, grapes, and strawberries, and just about anything I can get my hands on.”
Even though Josh had just eaten, the words make him salivate and yearn for something more. This girl is so amazing. I would do anything to be with her in the above and eat tomatoes, grapes, and strawberries. “Who knows? Maybe someday, we’ll get the chance,” Josh says with a big smile, and, as if a mirror, Anna smiles back just as greatly.
“But enough talk about dreams and sweets. Let’s talk about something serious: Have you heard the rumors about the Governor?” Anna asks in the quietest of whispers.
“No. I don’t talk to many people,” Josh says as he motions with his hands in reference to them being alone at the table.
“Well, there is this rumor that he has gotten sick, and that is the reason for restrictions on so many things.”
Josh tries his best to hide his shock. “Do you think it’s from the radiation? But are you also saying that the restrictions on the water, food, and curfew are because the Governor is crazy and losing his mind?” he whispers ever so quietly.
“I don’t know why he’s sick.” She tries to correct herself. “Or if he even is sick. The word is that the sickness is getting to his head and making him very paranoid.”
“No one knows.” And at that, Anna leans back, and Josh knows that it is the end of the conversation. “Well, Josh, I really should be going.” She glances around nervously and gets up to leave, even though her soup is only half finished.
Josh’s heartstrings are tugging at him to say something comforting. Say something, you idiot. Make the girl feel better and safe. But all he’s able to muster is a half-sure smile and, “Bye, Anna.”
“Bye, Josh,” Anna replies with a half-sure smile of her own.
Will I ever be able to have the strength to tell her I love her? I feel almost sure that she also has feelings for me. But what if she doesn't? Even if she did share the feelings, it would be fruitless, because she’s to marry someone else. I’m a year too young for her. In the above, when I hit my eighteenth birthday, I would have been able to do anything and everything with this beautiful girl.
Ugh, I need to get my mind off things that have no hope. The Leaders will eventually find a good wife for me, especially if I work hard and do my job.
With that, Josh is set and ready to focus no more on meaningless love affairs. He will put his nose to the grindstone and work his hardest for the Colony.
In a rush of commotion, the Governor enters the Mess Hall sandwiched between three Guardians, one of them being Jocko. Jocko and the other Guardians get in line to eat their own supper for the day. In line, the governor makes small talk with the cooks and they beam smiles back at him in response. Like the great politician he is, he glides across the mess hall, talking and smiling with all the working people of the Underground, doing his thing, winning the people over with his wits and cheerful personality amidst the public sphere.
Governor Nash casts a glance across the mess hall in an attempt to find the perfect place to sit. Just as he’s doing so, Josh looks up, and the two make eye contact. Nash flashes his big, brilliant smile and heads towards Josh to take a seat.
Oh, fuck, why did I not just keep my head down and leave? Did Anna rat on me? Did she tell him that I ate that forbidden fruit? No, no—she would never, right?
“Hello. You mind if I sit here?”
“No, no, help yourself, sir.” His white teeth are looking extra white, and his slicked-back hair is sure looking extra greasy today.
The Governor looks at the Guardians and says, “You guys sit somewhere else. Let Josh and I eat with a little bit more privacy, alright?”
The Guardians answer swiftly with a “Yes sir,” and depart to find a different table in the mess hall. At this point, Josh is trying his best to maintain his cool and not make too much eye contact with the Governor.
“So, Josh, how has the East Garden been treating you lately?” Governor Nash may be acting like he’s good friends with Josh, but it’s his job to know everyone and to know everything that there is to know about them. He’s the checks and balances of order in an Underground world that lacks control and discipline.
Hesitantly, Josh answers. “It-it's good. Been busy, and just trying our best to provide produce for the whole Colony, sir.”
“That’s great, and exactly what I like to hear. You are doing the Underground a real service by providing the food and nourishment to keep everyone in here alive.”
“Thank you, sir,” Josh replies a little too quickly. Get ahold of yourself; he’s just making nice, and he knows nothing. Maybe I can ask him something to throw him off my scent a little.
Josh ponders the question he is about to ask for a second, then says, “Why don’t we send more teams above to see if it is safe?”
He himself cannot really believe that the words just came out of his mouth. Did I really ask such a dangerous and stupid question to the most powerful man in the world as I know it?
The jaw of Governor Nash clenches, and his body stiffens like a board in the winter. He sets down his silverware and slowly reaches for a napkin to wipe his face while he finishes chewing. With a glare on his face and that friendly smile put away in a back pocket, he says, “That is something we might consider doing sometime in the near future. If the correct protection measures are committed to, that is.”
“Why not tomorrow? Or at least soon?” Why can't I just think first without speaking?
There is a hint of surprise on Nash’s face as he hears the words come out of this young boy's mouth. He hasn’t been stood up to like this in many years, and the anger he feels produces a smile on his face. “You need to learn patience. You are young, but someday you will learn.”
“I’m learning every day. I have learned that what these people want is freedom.”
“Don't you dare speak to me about freedom! You could not begin to understand what that word means even—”
But before the Governor is able to finish his rant to Josh, he’s interrupted by a scream—a scream that is followed by more screams from the same voice, and also shouting from others.
The Governor and Josh both whip their heads to look behind them, where the sounds of agony are coming from. That scream almost gave me a heart attack. It was the definition of a blood-curdling scream. Whatever is happening can’t be good.
Josh is trying to see what has happened, but there is now a mob of people in the mess hall who are also gathered to find out what the source of the screaming is. Even when Josh stands up, he’s not able to see over the crowd; the commotion is on the other side of the mess hall. All Josh can see is the head of Jocko, as he towers over everyone in the colony.
Two Guardians show up at their table in an instant and stand by the Governor’s side. They escort him promptly to the source of the pandemonium. The Guardians shove their way, with Nash between them, to the front, and Josh can see their white capes no more. The shoving stirs more pushing among the people, and Josh sees it as a perfect opportunity for himself to get to the origin of this confusion.
As Josh is making his way to the front, he begins to hear shouts of “Traitor!” and “Deceiver!” Well, it sounds like someone got caught stealing or lying red-handed. Whatever lowlife did it is probably gonna go to jail for a while or get his hand chopped off. They probably deserve it, anyway.
Josh finally gets near to the front of the crowd, where he can just barely make out the Guardians in all white and the Governor in his black-and-red suit. His black suit is dark, and all light seems to be lost in it, and his red tie shimmers and waves with the light as if it’s on fire. The crowd is still very restless, and the Governor is shouting, “Silence!” in an attempt to quiet and settle everyone.
Finally, at long last, Josh pushes himself to the front of the crowd and looks over the shoulder of the person in front of him. He’s frozen in shock at what his eyes tell him. He’s constantly being shoved and pushed, and just manages to see the color green, but this can only mean one thing.