“When did the sickness start?” Asked Emma, as she looked out beyond the dome that enclosed them. Her father turned to face her, she thought she saw the sadness within him again, but he smiled, that magnificent smile that cured her of all her ills.
“It all happened so quickly, the domes were built for protection while you were still a young baby, they help to keep us safe, to keep the world safe, you know that.”
Emma looked out beyond the shimmering glass, everything looked so normal, the sun was shining, trees moved gently in the breeze. She saw birds rise up above the treetops and watched as they disappeared into the distance.
“Yes, but I wish I could go outside, feel the sun on my face, the breeze through my hair.”
Her father’s face suddenly darkened. “Don’t ever talk like that Emma, you know damn well we can never leave this place, the consequences would be catastrophic for us all.” He turned, and without looking back at her strode off towards the housing pod.
Emma watched him go, she saw him disappear inside the pod the door slamming behind him, then she turned back for one last look at the outside world before she too headed back to the place she called home.
Supper was a quiet affair, her mother and father were heavily preoccupied with the harvest, so much needed to be done in such a short time and everyone worked as hard as they could. Her brother Ellis, was slightly older than her, he was tall and athletic and spent all his time helping their father. Even he seemed subdued and had little to say, he grunted at most of her attempts at conversation.
“Why do we never talk about the outside?” She asked finally. “I just want to know more about what happened, and why the sickness came?”
Her father slammed his cup down on the table making everyone jump, then he glared at Emma.
“You know the rule Emma.” He spoke through gritted teeth.
“Yes,” she replied, “never ask about the sickness. But that’s just stupid, I’m going to spend my whole life inside this dome, and I can’t even ask why?”
She waited until after supper before slipping out, as she skipped across the fields she kept looking back, just to be sure no one followed her, they didn’t. She reached the edge of the dome and then began walking along the perimeter looking for the special place that only she knew about, when she found it her heart missed a beat, she was still scared what would happen if anyone else found out.
The boy was waiting on the other side, he waved when he saw her. She carefully removed the sticks and leaves, and uncovered the hole, her gateway to the outside world. She didn’t know how it had happened, but the dome had become damaged and only she knew about it, apart from David of course, her new friend on the outside.
She scrambled to get through the small hole, David helped her, he grasped her hand and pulled her through.
“I haven’t got long,” he said, looking back over his shoulder, “my parents think I’ve gone to see a friend.”
“You have,” she replied, smiling, “just not the one they think you have.”
David looked around uncomfortably. “I know, they keep telling me not to go anywhere near the dome, they’re all frightened of it, I don’t know why?”
“Did they tell you about the sickness too?”
“Yes, but I don’t understand, I’ve never seen anyone get sick, not really.”
“Me neither,” she replied, “it’s not fair being stuck in there, it’s so much more beautiful out here.”
They talked for a while, exchanging stories of their different lives, then David looked at his watch, his expression turned to sadness.
“I have to go, they’ll come looking for me if I don’t get home soon, and I don’t want them finding out about us, that would ruin everything, and I don’t have many friends, not ones like you anyway.”
Emma took that as a compliment and watched as his face turned red.
“Thank you, I don’t have many friends either, and none of them are like you.”
They said their goodbyes and David jumped on his bicycle and sped off, kicking up a trail of dust as he shot off down the dirt track, back towards his own life, and his own family.
Emma was lost in her thoughts as she clambered back through the hole and then began covering it up again, she didn’t hear the footsteps behind her, not until it was too late.
“What are you doing?” It was her brother, he looked horrified as he watched her finish covering the hole.
She jumped to her feet, hoping he hadn’t seen what she was doing, but the look on his face told her it was too late.
“Have you been outside?” His voice was angry.
“I made a friend,” she said, defiantly, “his name’s David. I know the truth now about the sickness, so you don’t frighten me by being cross.” She folded her arms and scowled at him.
“The truth, what do you mean?”
“David told me, there is no sickness, everyone outside is fine, nobody gets sick, not like you and dad said anyway.”
Her brother’s features went from anger to sadness, when he spoke again it was almost a whisper.
“You don’t know what you’ve done Emma,” he seemed to search for the right words, “we should have told you, but mum and dad said you were too young to understand.”
“Understand what?” Her brother was frightening her now because he had started to cry.
The walk back to the pod seemed to take an eternity, her brother held her hand, he squeezed tight and didn’t let go. She wondered if she would ever feel the sun on her face again, or the wind in her hair. As they approached the pod he stopped and knelt down, he hugged her and told her everything would be alright. He’d stopped crying now, but it was what he’d said to her that was now etched in her mind forever.
“We are the sickness, not them, we are the carriers. The dome was to protect the world from us, if the sickness gets out, everyone dies, there is no cure.”
This post is part of a collaboration with fellow authors and bloggers Gary Holdaway and TJ Kelly. Each week we put forward a prompt for each other, and have until the following Monday to make our post. This story was inspired by the photograph above.
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