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Authors: Tracey Morait

Tags: #epilepsy, #Science Fiction, #Young Adult, #Fantasy

Epiworld

BOOK: Epiworld
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Epiworld

Tracey Morait

Copyright © 2010 Tracey Morait

Kindle edition © 2013 Tracey Morait

All rights reserved.

No part of this publication may be reproduced without the prior written permission of the author.

ISBN: 978-0-9558550-1-6

Published by K&T Mitchell, UK

Cover design: Keith Mitchell

By the same author:

Goalden Girl

Abbie’s Rival

Big Brother

Goalden Sky

––––––––

For my fellow epilepsy sufferers

1. Unclean

Y
ou don’t know what’s happening when you’re rolling around on the floor frothing at the mouth; you only go by what other people tell you. It’s like you’re asleep. There’s just blackness, void. You lose time: not hours, just minutes, or even seconds. Sometimes you bite your tongue so hard it bleeds, or you pee yourself. When you wake up you’re staring around, wondering where the hell you are, and who you are. Your arms and legs feel like lead, your whole body is a dead weight. You can hardly sit up, and when you manage to stand up, all you want to do is to fall back down again.

This is how I remember my first seizure.

It’s early one morning, or the middle of the night, whatever way you want to look at it. As usual I’ve broken curfew, out on the streets with my gang, the Rockets, fighting the Prey on our patch in an alleyway down by the docks. None of the gangs keep curfew, which begins at sundown, even if the penalty for getting caught is death. We keep an eye out for the robot police guards, massive metallic machines over thirty feet high which maintain law and order in twenty ninety-nine. They shoot deadly laser beams from their eyes, and have missiles in their hands and feet. They’re especially tough on street gangs who defy curfew. Everyone, even the hardest gang member, fears the guards, but it doesn’t stop us meeting up at night, roaming the deserted streets, robbing for food and money. We’re like a family, looking out for one another. We don’t have money, or enough to eat, so we have to steal to survive.

We escape the guards mainly because we don’t have probes injected in our necks. Probing has been around for about three years to keep tabs on the behaviour of the population. A probe feeds off nerve impulses from the spinal column and the brain, monitoring our emotions and actions. Probing babies is law now. The crime rate has plummeted – except in the gangs. They haven’t been able to catch the majority of us yet to probe us. The authorities know who’s probed and who isn’t. We’re constantly hiding from anyone official who comes with the guards to search out the docks, inspecting people with their probe detectors.

Guards are soulless, sadistic, and cruel; they treat people like toys. They like to chase you before they shoot you. Well, I suppose you can’t really call them sadistic, as they have no feelings, but that’s the point: they’re robots, so they don’t care.

Say, for instance, they catch a kid drinking alcohol. Drinking is outlawed. The ground trembles and the road cracks as a guard pounds through the streets, its electronic voice droning, ‘Stop! Police! Stay where you are! You have thirty seconds to obey!’

The air is filled with the screams of people too scared to move in case a laser beam hits them in the head. I dodge through the door of a derelict shop, stooping under a block of concrete which is hanging down, watching the scene through the crack in the broken board nailed to the window. The lad sways on the spot, wasted with the drink, as the others around him are ordered to lie face down on the ground. He’s panting hard; thin, pale, weak, and too knackered to run any more, but he’s still shouting at the guard, defiant to the end.

‘Come on, yer loser! Come and get me!’

Seconds later he’s a burnt corpse.

The guard, having done its duty, scoops up the remains, then thunders away. The people lying on the ground stand up nervously before going about their business.

I wait until dark before I make my escape. I can barely see a thing in the shop, and I forget about the concrete block. I walk straight into it, banging my head so hard I’m stunned. I nearly pass out, but I manage to recover enough to stumble back to the relative safety of what I call home.

I’m street trash, with no family of my own. I’ve no idea who my family are, or where I come from. I don’t remember having anyone close in my life, except the Rockets. I’ve been with them for years. I have a tattoo mark on my arm, the letter ‘R’. We all have one, we belong. I’ve always been known as Travis, but I don’t know where that name comes from. I have no education. I can read, but that’s about all. Education is for the fat richers living in their cosy houses. They’ve got lots of things street trash don’t have, like renewable nucleic light, reserved for them, the big businesses, and the hospitals.

I don’t even live in a house. I live in a shack made out of corrugated iron, down by the Mersey, with other lonely souls in what we call Corrugated City. Our heat and light come from bonfires. It’s always cold at night, warm and damp by day. The old ones talk about cold winters, warm summers, and snow which I’ve never seen. It rains a lot these days. When the sun is out it can be too hot to move by day sometimes. The old ones blame something called ‘global warming’. They tell terrifying stories about great storms ravaging the planet before my birth, caused, they say, by the sky becoming too hot, resulting in electricity sending sharp, blinding lights throughout the atmosphere, and people drowning in floods caused by heavy rain.

I live on my wits like everyone else. I’ve no idea how old I am, something like fifteen or sixteen. I don’t have face hair yet like the older men, but I’m tall, and not that bad-looking. I have a girl I love. She loves me. Her name is Jenna. She’s a Rocket, too. 

The Prey’s territory is at other end of town. We get word that they’ve wandered into our patch, so we get together, all thirty of us, armed with our weapons, and go looking for them. We know Zed Lewis, their leader, fancies his chances with Jenna. He’s probably come to fight us with her as the prize; he’s been bothering her when she’s alone. I want to kill him! And we have another score to settle: one of our gang has been beaten up near the derelict containers. He’s nearly dead when we find him. We have to take him to the hospital, because we can’t take care of him ourselves.

‘They’re bound to tell the authorities he’s not probed,’ I say as we leave his body outside the hospital doors, before running back into the shadows.

Injury is the only reason you go into hospital in twenty ninety-nine, because genetic cleansing has supposedly wiped out all of the diseases. The old ones tell us about illness in the past: it’s been ten years since anyone has been allowed to get sick and be looked after in hospital. You can’t even get something called a ‘cold’ or ‘flu’, or even a ‘headache’ now, because they’ve found cures. Sickness is a crime these days. No one wants to come face-to-face with a health inspector – or the ‘clean police’ as we call them – any more than they like to face a guard.

We corner the Prey by the warehouse, and start attacking. I duck as Lewis takes a swipe at me. I run into him, charging him to the ground. As we’re grappling the glow from the fires all around Corrugated City start to swim, and faces become blurred. Lewis vanishes from my grasp. I’m falling away from him, descending into darkness.

I wake up in an old shopping trolley, being pushed at high speed through the streets. Shopping trolleys have littered the city for years, and we use them for all sorts of things. People have tried to trade them for their metal, but the metal is too thin and worthless. I open my mouth to speak. I taste salt, and my tongue hurts.

‘What’s going on?’ I lisp.

No one answers. Voices shout. Something dribbles down my face. I put a hand up to my head; it’s sticky. Blood!

‘There’s a wheel loose! I hope it stays on before we get there!’ That’s Saul speaking. He’s my mate.

‘Not far to go; just around this next corner,’ replies Jenna.

It’s too dark to tell where they’re taking me, and I can’t seem to focus properly. Everything is a blur. At last a large, brightly lit building comes into view, too big to be a richer’s house. I see big white vans parked outside, and a sign with the words ‘Accident and Emergency’ printed in big red letters. The hospital! I groan. I must be badly hurt.

They don’t drop my body outside in the dust; they push me through the big double doors. 

‘Help, please!’ shouts Jenna. Two men (or they may be androids) come from nowhere.

‘Leave him here!’ says Saul urgently. ‘We can’t go any further. They’ll call the guards...’

‘Travis, I’m sorry...’ begins Jenna. Her voice dies away.

I’m moved from the shopping trolley to a hospital trolley, pushed again, this time down a long corridor to a room occupied by people in green and blue uniforms. They’re all talking at once.

‘What have we got?’ asks a tired voice. My clothes are stripped off.

‘Young white male, about fifteen years of age, left by a gang of kids in the foyer. The girl called him Travis.’ Something cold is pushed in my neck. ‘Not probed, either, and he’s out of curfew.’

‘Rockets,’ says another man. ‘Look at the tattoo on his arm. We should notify the guards. There’ll be trouble if we don’t.’

‘The guards will have to wait for now,’ says the tired doctor. ‘He’s too ill to be interrogated.’ A light shines in my eyes. ‘Pupils equal and responsive; GCS twelve; lacerations and bruising to the face; the nose is broken,’ I cry out as pain shoots through my arm, ‘and the arm. Let’s get him down to the scanner as soon as we’ve finished here, see if there’s any more damage.’

Needles are stuck into my body. I pass out, because the next thing I know I’m looking up at a machine making noises. Then I’m wheeled into a room with pale blue walls, and put into a bed. 

I don’t know how long I’m there, because I have no sense of time. I just keep slipping in and out of consciousness. My arm hurts; it’s bandaged, elevated in a sling. There’s a needle and a drip attached to my other arm. Every so often someone coaxes me with a spoon or a straw, and a different, usually pretty young girl in a white uniform sponges me down, but I’m too ill to get excited about that. Sometimes a group of people stand at the foot of my bed, and talk in low voices.

‘How many has he had up to now?’ asks a grey-haired man, presumably a doctor, to a big woman in a dark blue dress, presumably a nurse.

‘Seven.’

‘Well, his scans show he definitely has epilepsy. The health inspectors will need to be informed. How long is he usually under?’

The woman looks at a clipboard. ‘This morning’s seizure lasted about ten minutes.’

‘And the Diazepam brings him out of it?’

‘Yes.’

‘Continue with the present dose. I’ll speak to the health inspectors. It will most likely mean the institution.’

I drift away, thinking about what health inspectors do. One whiff of anyone falling ill the inspectors class them as diseased, locking them away in institutions. Every town and city has an institution, dark, depressing buildings, with big steel doors, and bars on the windows. We all know what they get up to in there: experiments, treatments, attempts at cleansing that usually end in death. Saul’s brother, Emmett, is in one. Saul doesn’t like to talk about Emmett much.

There’s no danger of me going to an institution. I know for a fact I’m clean. The doctor must be talking about some other poor sod.

I press my tongue against my teeth. It still hurts.

As time goes on I become more aware of my surroundings. For most of the time I’m alone with nothing to look at but the four walls. Men in dark suits with badges labelled ‘Health Inspector’ come and go, but I get no other visitors. I don’t expect the Rockets to come. They can’t risk being caught by the guards, who don’t come, either, but I hear them mentioned more than once. It seems in my present state I’m not that a big risk to security.

‘It’s definitely the institution for him. He won’t be a danger to anyone there.’

I let out a low groan.

‘Oh, so you’re with us this morning, are you?’ asks the grey- haired doctor, peering down at me over his glasses. ‘How are you feeling? Travis, is it?’

‘Like crap,’ I mutter. ‘What’s all this about an institution? You only put the unclean in one of those. I’m clean.’

The doctor pulls up a chair. ‘Have you ever heard of a condition called epilepsy?’ I shake my head. ‘Well, you’ve been fitting constantly since you came in here, and we’ve done all the tests. You have it.’

I frown. My brain is fuzzy and confused. ‘But I haven’t got a disease.’

‘It isn’t a disease as such,’ says the doctor, ‘not like cancer or diabetes used to be. It’s caused by electrical disturbances in the brain. One of those things, unfortunately, and there are many sufferers.’

My heart thuds. ‘What’s – epilepsy? – and what’s it got to do with the institution?’

‘Years ago epilepsy was considered to be a type of madness. Sufferers were hidden away in places called asylums. Over the years excellent medication and surgery meant they were able to lead relatively normal lives, until they discovered that cleansing couldn’t eradicate it, and surgery became more risky with an increasingly high death rate. It will always need to be treated. It’s a condition that can’t be wiped out.’

BOOK: Epiworld
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