Age: 13, Grade: 8
School Name: Nyc Lab Middle School For Coll Studies, New York, NY
Educator: Nora Kurtz
Category: Flash Fiction
When The City Died
The alarm went off and the lights flashed red. Joe and the other workers at The Center merely glanced at each other, but they knew. They walked to the emergency sector and entered the room. Another patient had made the decision. Joe saw the others, wrapping the body and putting it in The Machine, where they put the rest.
This was a familiar sight for Joe. Joe belonged in the patient department and he helped provide treatment for the patients. Joe often heard the bell ring from the church that informed the workers that more had given up.
The Center contrasted the rest of the city; it was the only thing keeping it alive. Because of this it was always busy for the workers. Joe and his team were in charge of looking after Mr. Brown. It had only been 5 years since The Revolution, but The Center had more patients than ever before. Life was hard for everyone, but it was especially so for those like Mr. Brown. He was a slow man who could never fit in with the fast-paced world. He liked reading books and going outside and drawing on paper with a wooden pencil. Truly traditional was Mr. Brown, who found it hard to adapt to the usage of technology and the strict laws of The Council.
Joe liked looking after Mr. Brown. Even though Mr. Brown refused to use the headset at times and take his immunity pills, even though Joe always got castigated by The Council when Mr. Brown ate food instead of taking his injections and drinks like a normal person. Sometimes, Mr. Brown made Joe and the other workers uncomfortable when he insulted The Council despite knowing that they could hear every word he said.
Mr. Brown still tells stories about the time before The Revolution, when life was better. Mr. Brown told them a story about the time when people still walked everywhere and how he wished they stopped using cars and floating disks. Joe would tell Mr. Brown about the time when all the students at school were excited when the headset came out since they didn’t have to go to school anymore. He told Mr. Brown about their shock when they were sent into concentration camps to “strengthen their immunity” and that when they came back all the buildings had been bombed to make space for technology areas and Centers. He complained about how they couldn’t play sports in real life and that sometimes The Council would take control of their disks and ram them into land mines or use the programs in their headsets and masks to suffocate them and get rid of people just to make space for themselves. And though everyone knew it went against everything The Council said, they all wished that life would go back to the way it was before, when everyone had a choice and they were all free.
Even the children liked to visit Mr. Brown and listen to the stories about the beauty of the skies and the oceans that had since then dried up. The children were young, but they understood that the stories were real even though it seemed like a fairy tale; they would learn about colors and they would hold the crayons they got up against the grim, gray sky, trying to imagine how it’ll look, but it was hard to imagine something they’ve never seen. Mr. Brown taught the children things The Council would never teach, like breathing without the mask, and learning how to read and write using the old language. Life was not boring anymore with Mr. Brown and the happy attitude of the workers as they all played board games and made cool bracelets. The children saw Mr. Brown everyday until the very last day when they heard the alarm, saw the flashing lights, and sadly followed the workers into the emergency sector. And there was Mr. Brown, ready to say goodbye, before Joe and the workers wrapped him up and put him in The Machine, and now the whole world was really colorless.