The Locket

By J. Speer

Photo by Bruno Castelli on Pexels.com

(This story was written for a dystopian writing challenge. The short story had to be 600 to 2,000 words and involve a silver heart locket.)

Part One


It wasn’t supposed to happen like this…


That was the last thought entering Dawn’s mind as her shocked eyes pulled away from the rearview mirror. In the reflection, she could see the slow pool of blood flowing out from her sister’s abdomen. Liz was crumpled in an unmoving heap on the ground 15 yards behind her. That was as far as Liz had gotten before the robots fired lasers at her fleeing the vehicle.


LIz was dead for certain. Dawn knew this already in her shattered heart. The shadows of drones flew overhead targeting her renegade F390 truck.


Her eyes darted to the glove compartment briefly and then drew back to the gathering robot border patrol guards. Dawn thought of the only weapon she had, an ancient Colt 1911 that had belonged to her father before he was euthanized by the People’s Republic in 2064. This was 17 years prior to this moment….her Dad euthanized at 50 to fertilize soil for the republic crops……euthanized by state mandate like all the other 50 year olds that surrendered their bodies for the greater good. State survival…it was necessary.


The laser sights flickered briefly to show the robots were on to her movements, armed and deadly. Dawn swallowed harshly.


A brief text appeared before her.


“You know what to do.” scrolled the incoming message left to right above her briefly on the digital windshield.
There was another pause as she considered the weight of the silver heart locket on her heaving chest.


“You know what to do.” the message repeated only this time it was followed by a slight command strong enough to stop her beating heart.


“Remember your family back here in Teyhanna.”


A solitary tear fell down Dawn’s right cheek as she continued to stare at the border crossing now filled with reinforcing robotic sentries. No more messages appeared.


Dawn reached quickly for the heart-shaped locket with her left hand. The laser lights flickered again. Four robots forcefully came forward.


“Halt!” They ordered. “You are in violation of ordinance 517.”


She thumbed open the tiny clasp on the locket. Her eyes were glued to the robots coming forward now, fast approaching the vehicle.


She felt the small pill fall into her cupped hand. She remembered what the cartel man had told her. You can’t allow yourself to be captured. If you do fall into their hands, you will wish you were dead anyway. They’ll never let you go. Slavery…prison….fertilizer….worse. You know what to do.


The robots slammed their fists into the hood of her car. Dawn closed her eyes and brought the little pill to her mouth. Then, she swallowed it down. Cyanide. He had said it was cyanide. It will be quick he had said as he had handed her the lockets and walked away from her little brother’s graveside in Teyhanna, the brother that was executed by the same cartel. He had gotten in over his head with the wrong sort of people.


Minutes later, robots yanked open the locked driver side door of the truck. Dawn’s limp, lifeless body fell in a crumpled up heap onto the dry, parched desert ground. When her head hit the ground, her soulless eyes stared towards her sister. A sort-of bluish foam pooled out from Dawn’s breathless lips.

Part Two


One week prior, Dawn was heading out the hatch door of her apartment flat in Drose. She was going to be late for work if she didn’t hurry. She activated her truck from her watch and noticed an emergency alert intercept from her older sister, Liz. Liz – the wise and strategic one who had married into wealth and fortune despite her upbringing…..despite the days of their youth trudging illegally across the desert wasteland between Drose and Teyhanna to reach the promised land. Days without food and barely any water…..days they survived by each holding tight to the hands of their father who kept the little girls safe, alive, and kept them going.


Drose, or rather The People’s Republic of Drose established in 2036 after the nuclear wars and eventual climate change desertification of 3/4 of the Earth’s top soil, depletion of the fresh water sources, and final death, destruction, plague, and general famine of the Great Eradication of 2041 through 2043. It took 3 years for nearly 7 billion people to be wiped off the planet.


Gone.


Drose had survived and so had the badlands of Teyhanna, south of Drose through the searing hot desert. Anything goes in Teyhanna…so they say. It was the wild, wild west of drugs, prostitution, murder, mayhem, black market deals and so on. Teyhanna fueled the abundance of Drose. Drose, for its part, drove the decisions of the overlords of Teyhanna.


Drose, The People’s Republic of Drose, on the otherhand was a model of thinly veiled democracy underlined by totalitarian extremism. There were no families, so to speak, in Drose….not according to the state. Bioparents birthed children who were sent immediately to boarding schools of advanced technology, science, and medicine. Rules were strictly enforced. Slavery and debtor prisons were re-introduced. From the age of 10, all were expected to work together for the greater good of survival and all were expected to help the crop cultivation and soil/water conservation through all means necessary…ALL means necessary.


It was a harsh reality but one much better than life in Teyhanna. Dawn knew this, so she grew up to service the plant industry cultivating seeds in labwork. She was a hard worker…like her father. LIz, on the other hand, due to beauty and charm…caught the attention of one of the higher class. She was not completely like Dawn, a proletariat citizen.
Dawn checked the message. Liz seemed upset which was rarely her outright nature, given that she was quite guarded emotionally.


“John has……I’m sorry to say this, Dawn……John has passed away.” There was a pause on the line. “Mom…she wants us to come home, to come back to Teyhanna for the funeral and to see the family. The funeral is Wednesday.” Another pause on the line followed.


“He was executed by gunshot. Bullet to the head. I’ve decided to go….to go back. I know it’s dangerous. I know this already. I’m going anyways. It’s been years. We need to be there for Mom and the others.”
Liz sighed. “Dawn, I want you to come with me. I need you to come with me.”

Part Three


She could see them from the graveside, the men in black. Everyone was dressed in black at the funeral but they stood out from the rest, these men that had murdered her brother. They had pulled up their entourage of vehicles 100 yards away from the little service among the crowded tombstones of the clustered graveyard. The preacher gave a brief sermon. Others cried tears of hardship and loss feeling the injustice of a life taken violently and too soon.
But Dawn watched the men quietly.


They eventually approached. They offered their condolences to the grieving mother and family. Dawn and Liz looked cautiously at each other as the leader of the group motioned them to follow him to a more distant spot to converse. Knowing this was Teyhanna, knowing the way of life here…..they reluctantly followed. The others from the family were leaving group by group back to their little homes and little lives in the barren, crowded wasteland slums of Teyhanna.
“My condolences to you for the loss of your brother,” he offered in feigned respect. “We had concerns regarding this situation…your brother’s allegiance and fealty to our….operations.”


Dawn felt a rising anger inside herself that she knew not to expose. Without missing a step, the two women fell in line with the overlord’s assistant. He walked a ways in silence and then turned abruptly.


“Our needs have not been met yet,” he said deliberately, cocking his head to one side. “When you return to Drose, you will be required to carry something onward for us….a gift for the magistrate….a package. Do you understand?”
The women said nothing.


“Consider your brother’s debt to the organization cleared when and if you cross the border successfully,” he stated.
He continued to walk and they followed.


“This package will come to you,” he said in a low voice as he motioned to one of his bodyguards holding an assault rifle near the vehicles.


Then he smiled. “You will deliver. Your family here will be counting on you. Understood?”


“It’s simple really. Just deliver the item. If however, you face….opposition…,” his voice trailed. “We will need you to wear these.” He gave the women each a silver plated locket. “There will be no compromising of the course of action. Come, follow me further and we will discuss in more detail.” He motioned once again to his men.


Liz and Dawn continued to listen quite carefully as was to be expected in a violent, notoriously black market place like Teyhanna. A few days later, the package arrived at their mother’s house. Shortly afterwards, the two said their goodbyes and made their way with the package to the border of Drose. Both women had a deeply unsettling feeling of fear but they did exactly as they were told.


They just didn’t anticipate what would soon occur. The package was hidden carefully in the truck undercarriage. But it was not secret enough to avoid exposure to the vehicle imaging scans of those silent, deadly drones overhead.

Golden Child

By J. Speer

The sun was dying.  The scientists predicted there would be 15 more years of light and then nothing, just pitch blackness.  The galaxy and everything in it would be swallowed within seconds into an ominous black hole never to return.  As a result of the dying light, our world was ceasing to thrive.  It was grey.  The sky and clouds no longer bore their blue brilliance.  The trees were nearly all gone.  The only plants that grew in this dystopian future were created and maintained artificially.  They were precious and few.  They were devoted to the harvest to feed the population.  No parks existed, no gardens, nothing but concrete and clustered apartment buildings in this portion of old Chicago.  The year was 3049.

The United States had long since divided into tribal regions.  Chicago resided in the upper lakes quadrant and was the capital of quadrant 4.  Chicago was one of the oldest and still most productive capitals among the 6 quadrants.  

The former United States capital of Washington D.C. had been blown up in the World War of 2025.    Much of the West Coast had fallen into the Pacific Ocean after the great rumblings and massive Super volcano eruption of Yellowstone.  Wyoming, Utah, Colorado and much more of the Midwest were obliterated.  What wasn’t destroyed by the massive lava flows was devastated by the ash fallout.  Chicago sat on the new edge of humanity.  It was the farthest city west.

The tribal quadrants were run by Councils rather than a Congress and House of Representatives.  Certain activities were not permitted following the great wars including the practice of any type of religion, even meditation.    

Chen Li knew this and he also knew the consequences of his actions in Apartment 502 of the fifth floor of 1417 E Centennial Drive in Southside Chicago.  Chen Li lived in what was popularly referred to as the slums.  All the housing was low income and each apartment was heavily populated.  Chen Li often looked out from his balcony at the despairingly bleak grey of the sky, the polluted smog, the grey apartment buildings as far as the eye could see, and the other tenants as they engaged in their daily activities of work and play.  Everything was grey.  The clothes were grey.  The rooms of the apartments were grey.  It was an entire landscape of grey devoid of much color. 

Chen Li worked as a book collector and book shop owner in the basement of a downtown Chicago building.  It was an older rummage shop full of musty worn books and other items that time had long since forgotten.  In the digital future, these artifacts of the past were considered undesirable or unnecessary.  So, Chen Li generally had very few customers.  Folks occasionally stopped into the shop out of curiosity and left quickly.  Others who shared Chen Li’s fascination with literature would, from time to time, stop in for a particular find.  But, otherwise, Chen Li was left alone which he actually preferred.  This gave him time to delve into the books with great enthusiasm. 

He had acquired a particular book through the underground market several years ago.  He read it in secret at the shop before and after work in order to not get caught.  Then, one day, he hid it in a leather briefcase and took it home.  It lay at the very back of the bookcase behind four other books on Architecture.  These were big and bulky books that were quite tedious reads but the hidden book…. that was the real treasure.  He had memorized parts of the book completely and begun to put it into practice.        

The door was locked.  Chen Li could hear occupants of the building run up and down the stairwell from time to time.  But he focused on clearing his mind, emptying out his thoughts and his being until there was nothing but the rhythm, the sound of the vibration emanating from his soul.  He went deeper and deeper into the sound until his third eye slowly opened. 

He began to travel in his mind through doorways and walls, through apartments and windows, searching and searching as he had done often lately.  He had stumbled upon this ability of recent and was still mastering the art of this meditative state.  He wanted to expand out his vibrations to others, those that would be receptive to the call.  He had been surprised to learn that the most receptive were the young children, ages 2 to 6.  So that day, Chen Li used his third eye to find the children that were alone in their grey dull rooms playing with their grey dull toys and dressed in their grey dull clothes. 

Chen Li first found a little 4-year old girl who was sitting on her bed and reading.  She had a very light blue aura surrounding her.  Chen Li raised his vibration to permeate the walls of the little room until the girl stopped reading.  She sat very still at first.  She could hear the ringing first in her right ear.  This had happened to her before.  She sat very, very still then because she knew if she listened harder and sat very still the ringing would increase and take over her body in vibration.  She did not understand it but she knew that it made her very happy and it felt like home.  She would sit still and let the vibration increase until her aura turned from light blue to blue, to purple, to pink, to rainbow.  The little girl felt the vibration for a good three minutes, holding it inside in a state of bliss, until it slowly faded away and then was gone.  Whatever it was, it made her feel better and she continued to her reading reluctantly, wishing the sound would come back.  But she was happier.  That was all that mattered. 

Chen Li searched for more children.  He liked to do this for them, to give them a moment of happiness in an otherwise bleak existence.  Throughout that evening, he searched the neighborhood raising the vibrations of 16 little children until they each glowed with a rainbow aura. 

Chen Li had been doing this in secret, in fact, every Saturday evening for several months.  It was not until he encountered the little boy in Apartment 133 of building 1419 that evening, that Chen Li questioned whether it was right or wrong.  He felt, however, in his gut that it was a noble thing to reach out to the little ones giving them happiness, that someday this would prove its merit.  He had no idea how important this would turn out to be.    

This little one had no family except his mother from what Chen Li could gather.  His bedroom was even more depressing than the others with barely any possessions at all.  The boy with curly brown locks sat coloring at a little table.  His aura was different from the others.  Chen Li noticed that it was even darker, almost to black itself.  Chen Li watched the despondent boy for a good five minutes before reaching out with his vibrations.  It took thirty minutes for Chen Li to break the barrier of the dark aura.  The boy paused his coloring and finally heard the distant sound.  He lifted his head and stopped coloring.  The vibrating sound entered his left ear and he held the sound in his mind.  The vibration filled his whole body.  He felt a strong tingling sensation from head to toe and traveling up his spine.  The dark aura slowly changed to light blue, and purple, and pink and……. that is when the boy started reacting differently. 

He closed his eyes in bliss and began to hum to the sound within him and all around him that enveloped him in happiness.  His humming grew louder and louder and Chen Li watched in surprise as his aura field expanded out further and further from the room, from the apartment, and from the building itself.  The pink aura changed to rainbow and then as the humming vibration increased dramatically, the color changed once more………a final time………to gold.  From that point, the aura field exploded into the sky. 

Chen Li’s third eye closed tightly.  He was thrown off balance and backwards.  In shock, he stood up and hurried to the balcony.  All the power in the city was out.  There was only darkness and the surprised and somewhat terrified voices of the other tenants.  Chen Li tried to look towards building 1419 but could not make out much details in the darkness.  He wanted to get a flashlight but was in darkness much himself.  He stumbled around the apartment until he found an old candle and managed to light it.  He went back to the balcony with the light but could see very little. 

He was worried that he would be found out.  The penalty of religious studies was imprisonment.  He stepped back cautiously into the apartment and decided it would be best to wait until the morning. 

The next morning, at sunrise, Chen Li woke to the biggest surprise of his life.  He stumbled out of his bedroom and into the side kitchen for some coffee and was startled to see a flash of green from the window.  He paused to go back to the window and re-examine more closely what he saw.  Outside the window was a small haven of green. 

Chen Li rushed to the balcony and looked down below into the street.  Many other tenants were out looking in shock at what Chen Li was seeing.  Trees.  There were trees everywhere in the little neighborhood for at least three blocks.  Trees and grass and more plants dotted the grey landscape.  He opened the door to the stairwell and ran as fast as he could down to the apartment building entrance.  Near the entrance, he stood in awe under the shade of one very large tree that had busted through the concrete. 

From a distance in another part of Southside Chicago, Chen Li could hear the sound of sirens blaring.  They were coming.  Chen Li looked to building 1419 and then began running towards it.  All around him the other neighbors were out looking at the sudden growth of nature.  He bumped into one person by accident on his way to building 1419.  He apologized as he kept running. 

The little boy with the strange aura was standing on the steps to building 1419.  He was holding the hand of his mother who could not believe what was happening.  Chen Li had been rushing forward but when he saw the both of them, he stopped suddenly.  He did not know what to say or what to do.  The sirens were getting closer.  He had to do something.  He couldn’t run.  Neither could the boy. 

Chen Li sat down on the new grass and broken concrete.  He tried to calm himself again, to clear his mind and empty himself.  He took up the sound again, the low vibration, and gradually his third eye opened. 

The little boy was standing in front of him.  He was smiling and began slightly humming too.  He sat down across from Chen Li and the two reached out hands to each other.  Their palms touched in the air, the little ones resting lightly on the big hands.  The vibration began to take them both over.  The little boy’s eyes were closed but he was smiling and humming.  The vibration was all around them and both their auras expanded out while changing colors.  Meanwhile, from nearby, the other 16 children were gathering from various homes throughout the neighborhood.  They gathered around the two bodies in a circle and raised their vibration too.  A bright rainbow aura expanded out from all of them.  The adults looked at them all with amazement but not truly understanding what was going on.  They could not see the auras.     

The humming from the little boy was getting stronger again.  His whole body glowed and suddenly both Chen Li and the little boy lifted into the air, levitating just above the ground together.  Chen Li opened his eyes in surprise and the little boy smiled mischievously back at him.  Then the little boy laughed slightly as if completely happy.  He then hummed much louder, and the vibration once again exploded out of the beautiful golden aura.  There was again a massive explosion of light and a giant rising phoenix of light and gold rose out of the little boy and twirled three times up into the air above them.  Then it shot right into the sky, through the atmosphere and hurdled directly towards the sun.  When it connected with the sun, there was a big bang of light.  The sun burst into enormous energy again.

 It was no longer dying. 

On Earth, suddenly, the grey was fading away as brilliant hues of blue and purple and yellow and orange burst into the sky.  All across the Earth, green was expanding out across the continents. 

Chen Li looked in wonder at the little boy.  Who just smiled back at him.

“Let there be light,” said the little boy.  He smiled at Chen Li.  Chen Li smiled back at him.  Everyone was looking at them with amazement.  Again, the sirens picked up in the surrounding city.

“We must go,” said the boy.  “We can’t stay here anymore.”  He stood up now and gave his little hand to Chen Li who, likewise stood up.  Chen Li took the little boy’s hand in his own. 

The little boy led him to his mother.  They exchanged smiles.  Then the three walked hand in hand, the little boy in the middle between the woman and man.  They walked down the street amid the broken concrete and trees and disappeared into the beautiful and colorful distance beyond.