by Anna Silver
Published: April 4th 2013
Publisher: Sapphire Star Publishing
London and her teenage friends live in a reprocessed world.
Confined within Capital City’s concrete walls, London has done the impossible and the illegal. She’s created something New- a song. But her mentor, club owner Pauly, is not impressed. Since the historic Energy Crisis forced everyone behind walls generations ago, the Tycoons have ensured there is truly nothing new allowed under the sun. Pauly warns London to keep her song to herself, if she knows what’s good for her.
What he doesn’t know is that London is keeping an even bigger secret: she dreams. And she’s not alone. London’s band-mates and friends have begun dreaming as well, seeing themselves in “night pictures” as beings from another world. As Otherborn, they must piece together the story of their astral avatars, the Others, in order to save their world from a dreamless, hopeless future.
When Pauly is murdered and an Otherborn goes missing, London realizes someone is hunting them down. Escaping along the Outroads, they brave the deserted Houselands with only their dreams to guide them. Can they find their friend before the assassin finds them? Will being Otherborn save their lives, or destroy them?
“It feels weird, doesn’t it?” London asked.
“What?” Kim said, lighting a cigarette.
“This. Leaving. It feels weird to just start walking with no place in particular to go. Where you’ve never been before.”
“Yeah, it does,” said Zen.
Rye smiled at her but didn’t say anything and London felt even more put off. “You okay?” she asked him.
“As good as can be expected,” he said.
She blew off the uneasiness this created in her and said, “So, any dreams last night? Anyone see their Otherborn? Degan?” She didn’t want to say Avery, but they all knew the name was right there on the tip of her tongue. A chorus of no’s confirmed that they were dreaming no more.
London shrugged. “Worth a shot. Let’s do this.”
They moved together through the maze of the city. Capital City was laid out in an urban grid of buildings, towering sentinels and squatty old-timers all squished together like they were in a tin can. It was a long trek down Travis, past the park, and up the ramps that crossed the bayou which ran all the way to Old Green and the west wall. The ramps led straight onto the Ten, but they had to get past the Interstate Gates before they’d truly be on their way. One stop for coffee set them back a bit, and Kim detoured at a corner store to grab a carton of cigarettes, courtesy of Capital City.
When they reached the ramps, they stood staring at the bayou below with bulging eyes.
Here it ran thick and disappeared through a culvert in the wall to the north. They were already pushing the scope of London’s territory, and they weren’t even outside the walls yet. She’d only seen the bayou a handful of times before. Kim leaned over and dangled his spit above the steady, deep, brown waters.
Rye chucked a pebble, watching it slip away beneath the surface. “Never really looked at the bayou,” he said matter-of-factly.
“That’s because it’s the color of shit. Not much worth looking at,” Kim said after finally letting his spit fall and mix into the rush. “Look!” he said pointing below. “Now I’m part of the bayou too.” He waggled his eyebrows at London. “We could’ve taken the culverts out.”
“Yeah, if we wanted to drown,” London said. “Morons,” she muttered to herself, though she knew there were Scrappers who braved the culverts all the time. Occasionally, one washed up at Old Green, bobbing on the surface, all bloated and sticky.
She stared up the asphalt and rebar ramp where the Interstate Gates hung, their solid aluminum bars glinting a plain white-silver in the sunlight at their rounded corners. They were offset, one falling just a little lower than the other, its dull metal finish nearly scraping the road. At the middle, they were bound together in chains, a large black padlock looped through each end. The chains reminded her of Ernesto’s necklaces.
From either side, the walls wrapped around the city like giant concrete arms, holding it in a stony embrace. The Interstate Gates were its metal hands, opening and closing at the Tycoons’ will. But the spaces between the poles of the gates were wide and gaping; anyone on foot could slip through them as easily as sand through fingers.
Beyond, the great asphalt snake of the Ten undulated through a thicket of uninhabited, decaying buildings swallowed by trees and overgrowth, their roofs and rafters, beams and walls rising from the flood of foliage like drowning men reaching out desperately for help. The Houselands. Graveyard to the ones who got locked out. A chill ran up London’s spine. What the hell were they doing?
“This is it,” she blinked. It wasn’t a question.
“Yep,” said Zen, turning away from the sight of flowing water. “This is the one the Tycoons always parade in and out on.”
The Tycoons didn’t make appearances often. Actually, they didn’t make them ever. Just their cars. Capital City housed the presidential compound, the last remaining government office—farce though it was. Once or twice a year, their caravan would parade slowly through the streets and circle on its lawns, a centipede of black shining metal and rolling rubber. More often, they traveled by plane or helicopter, which could be heard coming first, their growing rumble a hungry beast in the sky, followed by the sight of flashing wings or whirling propellers. London thought they looked like giant, mechanical bugs.
“That way?” Rye asked, pointing where the trees eventually converged on the interstate. A visible wound in the concrete skin of the Ten exposed steel rods like rusty bones. Beyond the walls, civilization was losing its war with nature.
“Yep,” Zen nodded.
London raised an eyebrow. She hoped she was right about this. Either way, she didn’t want to hang around City Central letting Kingsnake pick them off one by one. And there was nothing east but more Tycoon control—the pits, the plants, the farms. She didn’t exactly feel like visiting her dad’s grave today. They were going west. There was nothing else to do. “No point standing here thinking about it. May as well get started.”
As they approached the gates, London decided she wouldn’t look back at the receding city. Pauly wasn’t there, not anymore. Dogma would become just another dingy hole for city rejects. There was nothing in Capital City for her anymore. Whatever she had of value was tucked away inside a bag of memories or standing next to her now, in the form of Rye and her friends. She would leave her pain, her years of disappointment, and her grief over Pauly at these gates. There was nothing for them back there but death. Course, there may only be the same ahead. It was a chance they would have to take.
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