Authors: Chrissy Peebles
sh, Sky. Maybe we shouldn’t have watched
last night? It was just a movie, and that Canoe Reeds—d
“Keanu Reeves,” I corrected, rolling my eyes again.
“Whatever. You can’t seriously think this is all a dream and that our bodies are being stored somewhere? Next thing I know, you’ll be wearing a black trench coat and checking your neck for a microchip.”
“Don’t be silly. Of course I don’t think that, but I do think someone is up to no good. I don’t trust Dante Marcellus as far as I can throw him. You shouldn’t go around gobbling up everything they feed you, Rachel. All we know about the world is what we’ve been told. If they’d just let one of us up there to go see for ourselves, I might believe them, but they keep us isolated
in this underwater tank like prisoners, making us totally dependent on them. We can’t even breathe without them, because they have to pump in the oxygen to the city. Like I said, we’re rats in a cage.”
“And, like I’ve told you a million times before, I think they’re just protecting us,” she said.
think the atmosphere up there isn’t as stable as what they’ve told us, and they don’t want us to panic.”
“I just wish I could see for myself, that’s all,” I said.
“They take good care of us. You said yourself that we couldn’t even breathe without them. And on top of oxygen, they give us food, water, and supplies.”
But maybe you’re right, to some degree. Maybe they don’t want to dash our hopes and tell us—”
“That the sky is red and black and the air isn’t breathable?
That people’s toes are melting off when they set foot up there? That some sort of mutant cockroach/bigfoot hybrid survived and is eating people as soon as they step out of the tube?”
Her eyes grew wide.
“I don’t care what’s up there. I can’t live like this for the rest of my life. I refuse to.” My heart began to race as I thought of being encapsulated in that glass, undersea bubble for the rest of my existence. I gripped her arm. “I need to know, Rachel. I can’t live another minute not knowing the truth about what’s up there, if there’s really anything up there. I can’t take it. I just can’t.”
“Look, I didn’t mean to get you all worked up. This is supposed to be a great day, your sweet sixteen and all that. It’s supposed to be…unforgettable.”
“Hmm. You’re right,” I said.
I peeked around the corridor and down the long hall, then walked back.
Rachel looked at me curiously. “You’ve got that sneaky smirk on your face again, that look that always seems to land us in trouble. What’s going on in that crazy head of yours?”
My face beamed. “Well…”
She arched an eyebrow, intrigued. “What, Sky?” she asked. “What are you thinking? Or do I even want to know?”
“You said it.”
“I said it?” she asked, clearly confused. “What are you talking about?”
I gripped her hands in pure excitement. “The sky, Rachel. I want to see it for my sixteenth birthday. Like you said, this is supposed to be a memorable, special day. So let’s make it one.”
“Hmm. Sky wants to see the sky,” she mocked. “How…poetic. This is just like you—act first and think later.”
I playfully nudged her. “You heard Melvin. They’ll be gone for hours. We can sneak up there, take a peek, and be back before they even know we’re gone.”
My thirst for spontaneity always got me in trouble, and I’d never found anything wrong with trying to make the most out of every moment. I
was an adrenaline junkie, I guess, and I always wanted to immerse myself in situations that posed a great level of risk. This was definitely one of those moments. Nobody from our city had ever been allowed to go to the surface on a whim; only security, maintenance, and city officials knew what was up there, because none of the survivors who’d already gone had come back to talk about it. My curiosity was killing me. Is the air really breathable? The workers who returned never wore gas masks or anything like that, so I assumed it was, but assumption had never been good enough for me. I had to find out for myself, and there was only one way to do that. I knew Rachel thought it was yet another ludicrous, flaky idea, but I thought it was absolutely brilliant. I only hoped I wouldn’t prove her right and get caught. Little did I know that this little act of rebellion would foreshadow what would lie ahead for me in the coming years.
“So how do you think you’re going to get up there?” Rachel asked.
“With this.” I held up the card I snatched from Walter.
“You’re so bad!”
“When he goes back and doesn’t have it, they’ll just change the cards or code.”
“They’ll definitely change it so that card is good for only right now.”
“I like right now.”
“You’ve got questions, Sky. We all do.”
“Listen,” I said, trying to reason with her, “how do we even know there’s really a sun and blue sky up there?”
“Because our parents told us, and it’s in all the science books.”
I raised a brow. “But have you actually
it for yourself?”
“Then how can you believe it?”
“Because…well, I, uh…”
“Books don’t lie.”
“Books are written by people, and people do lie. If you’re so convinced, though, let’s go put that theory to the test,” I said. “Let’s see if those textbooks are really just fairytales.”
Rachel swallowed hard. “I don’t think we should—”
“C’mon, Rachel. You know you’re just as curious as I am,” I said. “I mean, why should they get to have all the fun while we’re stuck down here?”
She smirked. “Yeah. I guess pool does get a little old.”
“I’m going. You can come with me if you want, and I hope you will, but I’m going up either way. I have to see it. I have to see it for myself, and this might be my only chance.”
“If we’re gonna do it, we need to go now.”
“Wait. If we’re going to go through with this craziness, we might as well do it right.”
“What do you mean?”
“You’re going to see the sky for the first time. Shouldn’t you take your ball and chain with you?”
“Why not? This is gonna be a big moment. He’ll wanna be there.”
“You know why. He’ll try to stop me, like he always does. I love Brett. I do. But I’m not in the mood for a lecture. I say we make this a girls’ day out, no boys allowed.”
“Your boyfriend’s gonna be so mad at me.”
“Hey, he knew what he got himself into when he started dating me. I need to be who I am, and Brett knows that. He deals with it, or he takes a hike. I won’t change for anybody—not even him.”
“You’ve never hidden your…adventurous spirit, that’s for sure.”
“What can I say? I’m definitely not the girl next door. But I think Brett loves my colorful, take-no-bull attitude and my entertaining personality.”
She laughed. “Sometimes you can be a loose cannon, but you’re definitely entertaining.”
“You know you love my inherent charisma and charm. Besides, what would you do without me? You’d completely drown of boredom in this underwater city. You’re so lucky you’ve got me.”
She gave me a fist-bump. “True dat.”
I smiled. “So…are we gonna sit here all day psychoanalyzing me, or are we gonna do this thing?”
She hesitated, then said, “Let’s think about it for a minute. What if we’re caught?”
I clapped her shoulder. “No thinking, no analyzing, no talking yourself out of it. Let’s just do it. Be a little carefree and daring for once. I promise you won’t regret it.”
“Five minutes. We’re only gonna look around up there for five minutes, and I’m only doing it because it’s your birthday.”
“That’s the only reason? Are you sure about that?”
“Well, I guess maybe the curiosity is gnawing away at me a little too.”
“I thought so,” I said, wearing a victorious grin.
We walked across the room to the travel chutes were, and when I hit the red button, the glass door opened.
Rachel grabbed my arm. “Wait! This is just…crazy. I don’t think we should—”
I just winked at her. “See ya up there!” I said, ignoring her change of mind.
I knew I was letting my let’s-do-it attitude take precedence over the rules, but I had no problem plunging right into things, getting my hands dirty. I’d always lived in the moment, and I had to have fun, be spontaneous, live on the edge. I acted on impulse, and I guess that made me a little unpredictable, but I’d always been that way, and everyone knew it. Maybe I was just trying to find my place in this world, but I was quite determined, and nothing was going to stop me.
“You’re going up there with or without me, aren’t you?”
“You bet,” I answered. I didn’t want to force Rachel into anything she didn’t want to do, because she wasn’t as bold and daring as I was, but I wouldn’t give up my chance. If worst came to worst, I would go myself and give my best friend a full report when I swooshed back down. “You really do
me, Rachel,” I said. “This is something I have to do for myself. If you don’t wanna go, just stay down here and play lookout.”
“How am I supposed to do that? By the ti
me I see them coming, it’ll be too late. It’s not like I’ll be able to whistle for ya.”
“Don’t worry. I’ll be back in a blink, and I’ll fill you in on all the juicy details.”
She bit her bottom lip and looked into the tube. Then she sighed. “Goodness, Sky. I think you could talk anybody into anything. Let’s go.”
“No,” I said. “I don’t want to get you into any more trouble.”
“Hey, I’m my own person. I make my own decisions. This is something I wanna do. I’m tired of reading about what the sky looks like. I want to see it for myself.”
“Sounds like a plan,” I said, smiling at her.
She nodded. “We’ll be the first ones, but we can’t tell anybody.”
“Right. It’ll be our little secret.”
She got inside, and I hit the little blue button inside that shut the door. My gosh! I had such an inborn enthusiasm for taking these kinds of risks. I was always looking for the next big adventure or buzz. And it’s not like we had a ton of them in this city. It’s one reason why my soul longed for the surface. Taking a deep breath, I scanned the card and hit the red button that would jettison us to the top. The chutes automatically took anyone in any of the chutes up to the top once activated. It only took a few seconds to make the trip. When the door opened, I slowly got out and stepped cautiously onto a huge dock. A boat was securely fastened there, and I knew it belonged to the men who were busy working below.
The sun embraced me in its warmth, and
salty air kissed my face. My heart thundered as Rachel gripped my arm, squealing with the exhilaration of stepping on that forbidden ground. I covered my eyes, then slowly peered through my fingers. The expanse of blue water stretched as far as I could see, and it was spectacular—even more glorious than anything I’d seen in textbooks or in my dreams. “It’s so bright,” I said, covering my eyes again.
I waited for my eyes to adjust, and when they did, my jaw dropped at the stunning backdrop before me. My heart continued to pound in excitement as I stared up at the blue, billowy heavens. The hue was so stunning that it was as if I’d never seen blue before, and fluffy, white clouds dotted the sky. All my attempts to capture it with words failed. All I could mutter was, “Well, no black and red sky.”
“And we’re breathing clean, fresh air,” Rachel added. “I’m so glad I was wrong!”
“Why would they keep
from us though?” I said. “Maybe they’re afraid everyone would rush to the surface, that they’d revolt, ignore the rules, break out, and riot for the chance to spend the rest of their lives under this blue sky.”
“Do you think people ever took this for granted before the asteroid struck?”
“I don’t see how they could have, but I know I won’t—not as long as I live.”
“It’s even more beautiful than what Mom described,” I whispered, “even more majestic than any book or movie I’ve ever seen.” I spun in a slow circle. I was seeing sunlight for the first time, and it was mesmerizing. The sky was an endless portrait, stretching for miles and miles, and that image would be forever imprinted deep in my soul. Standing beneath that azure expanse, I felt pure peace, bliss, and tranquility.
Next, I closed my eyes to give my ears and nose a chance to take it all in. As squawking seagulls circled overhead, I inhaled deeply. I could instantly taste salt from the fresh air coming off the ocean. At first, it shocked my senses.
So much sea salt.
It was actually quite overwhelming, but only at first.
I opened my eyes again.
It’s the deepest blue I’ve ever seen, the most soothing color in the universe.