Read Solstice Online

Authors: Jane Redd

Tags: #Science Fiction & Fantasy, #Science Fiction, #Dystopian, #Teen & Young Adult, #Mysteries & Thrillers, #Mystery & Detective, #Romantic, #Romance, #Science Fiction & Dystopian

Solstice (6 page)

BOOK: Solstice
11.98Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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But no one came for me, and somehow I managed to keep my turmoil hidden.

As Chalice and I walked back to our dorm after classes, she was painfully quiet, and I wondered again about the red marks on her arms. Whatever was happening to Sol right now, the worst part was that it had been in vain. When Chalice fell asleep for the night, I’d do another search, but I knew I’d already looked every place. The book was gone.

I followed Chalice inside, wondering if I’d be able to hold back tears until night fell. As soon as the door slid shut, Chalice turned to me and put a finger to her lips. Then she motioned for me to sit on her bed as I watched her pull the wardrobe silently a foot forward. On the wall behind, Chalice removed a square section of thick plaster by running her fingernails along a cut-out line.

I stared in amazement as she reached into the cavity of the wall and pulled out a small box. I rose from the bed and knelt beside her, my pulse throbbing furiously as Chalice opened the box to reveal the book inside.

I let out my breath, not realizing I’d even been holding it, my thoughts crashing around me. The book hadn’t been discovered after all. And Chalice had hidden it for me. I looked over at her, trying to read her expression. She
had
to be different from the others—she had to care about me.

“Read it,” Chalice whispered, looking around as if someone could see or hear us. “Hurry, then we have to destroy it.”

But I was already shaking my head, and my pulse drummed with cold fear. “No,” I whispered back. “We should destroy it now—it’s already caused enough trouble.” I couldn’t shake the terror that had possessed me while I sat helpless in the classroom after Sol left. And I couldn’t let Chalice get involved, too.

Before I could back away, Chalice pressed the book in my hands. “That’s why you need to read it.”

I pushed the book toward her. “There’s nothing good in that book. I don’t want to read about the rules some woman broke and how she failed society.” I couldn’t tell Chalice that I was desperate to read the book. But I was afraid too—to learn about Rose’s falling in love. My breathing shortened. It was too much. Too hard. If I didn’t read Rose’s story, I could forget about how I was in the same danger.

“Jez.” Chalice stood and held the book out to me. “If you don’t read it, I will.” She looked me straight in the eyes. She had a haunted look in hers. “Do you want me to get into trouble like Sol? Real trouble?”

“No,” I whispered. Chalice had been through enough, and it stunned me to think of what Sol had done for me. What I wanted to know was
why.
Would I have done the same thing for him? Not if it gave away my state of immunity to the Harmony implant. Maybe this was a clue that Sol was more like me. Maybe he was immune, too?

Or maybe not. Maybe I couldn’t see past my own heart.

“It’s your inheritance,” Chalice said. “And it’s your caretaker’s last wish.”

“That doesn’t mean it’s right to read it,” I blurted out. But even as I said it, I wanted to take the book from her. It was like I couldn’t turn away. Naomi knew me more than anyone and somehow, David had saved this for me—hidden it for years. I couldn’t dismiss that fact, and couldn’t ignore that my caretakers wanted me to read it, despite the costs.

I stared at the book in Chalice’s hands. As much as Rose’s story repulsed and scared me, my curiosity was stronger than ever. “I’ll read a few pages,” I said, the words jarring in my throat.

Chalice moved to the door and sat next to it, listening for anyone who might come along the corridor. I sat on the floor as well and leaned against my bed, deciding to read only a few pages. But I kept on turning them, one after another.

There’s no one I can talk to anymore. Neighbors spy on each other. Best friends turn each other in. Parents testify against their own children. I don’t know if this journal will ever be read, or if it will be destroyed with everything else that seems to be attracting the zealots’ attention.

I had heard of the zealots—the ones who were out of control. The government had to step in and save the people from them. I glanced at Chalice, my throat feeling thick. She nodded for me to continue, her back pressed against the door.

Tens of thousands have died—not from the incessant flooding as I might have thought, but from diseases, starvation, and destruction through mudslides.

Tens of thousands . . . later millions. I had never allowed myself to think of the deaths that must have occurred as the rain persisted and the earth underwent catastrophic changes. Sorrow came up from the hidden spaces in my soul, and my hands trembled as I turned the pages to read about the diseases. About the hunger and food rationing. But I needed to read this; needed to understand.

The light in our room had dimmed as the afternoon faded to night outside.

And then the first introduction to
him.

The new edict was delivered by a man wearing an official-looking uniform—that of the new regime, or the Legislature, as they are calling it.

I discovered that I was holding my breath as I read.

When I opened the door and let in the officer, I was surprised to see he was no older than me. Probably about nineteen or twenty. He had the look of someone who had to grow up too fast and taken on heavy responsibilities too soon. Like me. I barely heard what he said as he spoke, but I did catch his name, although I won’t write it here. I couldn’t help staring up at him. His shoulders were broad, his arms long. The overcoat he wore was a little short on his wrists, as if he’d had to dress in another man’s uniform. Or maybe there weren’t enough to go around, and they had to share when they went out on official business.

Stop
, I wanted to tell Rose.
Stop and think
. But there were still more pages to read. My heart rate quickened as Rose described their first touches, their first kiss, what they said to each other.

We hid among the trees, eating apples. That’s when he leaned over and wiped the juice from my lips and kissed me.

My face burned as I read. The emotions that Rose described were so close to the ones that I had worked to suppress. Emotions that I’d never let fully develop. But Rose hadn’t suppressed hers. She’d embraced them.

Rose described how they met in secret, always hiding from others. Even though I blamed her for being so foolish for falling in love in the first place, I couldn’t stop reading. Until the next words came.

I am pregnant.

I stared at the word:
pregnant
.

We’d been taught about the old ways of reproduction, when men and women produced children without regulation, without prefertilized eggs or controlling implantation. Children were conceived randomly, and there was no testing done after to gauge the best chances of survival and fitness. Infants who had disfigurements or other ailments weren’t Taken, but allowed to grow up among society.

Reproduction and birthing were never discussed outside of class. We learned about it in twelfth year and left the rest of the details to the B Level. Women in the B Level were allowed to undergo in-vitro once they’d passed the caretaker exams and found a commitment partner.

Was Rose in the B Level society then? If this was the year 2061, then the population mandate had already been enacted. Everyone knew that was one of the first rules established by the Legislature so they could get the rampant diseases under control.

I can’t tell him about the pregnancy. It would be too hard for him to hide such news. I’ll have this child in secret, and my mother says she will pass it off as her own and take whatever punishment that might entail, since there has been a population mandate in effect for two years now.

I knew it. My pulse throbbed in my throat as I continued to read.

No one has any idea when the mandate will be lifted. So many children have died from malaria and other diseases from the damp. Even married couples must use contraceptives. It’s very difficult to get a marriage license, and if you obtain one, children aren’t allowed until the mandate is lifted.

I glanced over at Chalice. She was sitting on the ground with her back against the door. “She became pregnant,” I said, my throat strangely tight.

Chalice nodded, but didn’t say anything. She pulled her knees up and wrapped her thin arms around them.

I continued to read, my heart heavy as Rose wrote about her first weeks of nausea and how many times she feared being discovered, but she still refused to tell her boyfriend. Another blow came during that time, with the death of her “father,” who’d been suffering from one of the damp diseases.

Then a new mandate:

Today, he came to our home, on business from the government. I could hardly keep my eyes from him, but forced myself to stare at the floor. A new system of fortification has been installed by the Legislature. A system where they can control us, at least that’s the way I see it. Everyone is to report to the health clinic where each person will undergo a small surgical procedure and have a Harmony implant placed into their shoulder.

I do not trust the Harmony. They say it’s perfectly innocuous, but I don’t believe them. I won’t get the Harmony implant, and they cannot force me.

The Harmony implant. Had she really refused to get it? I turned the next page.

They forced me. Used drugs to knock me out, and now I bear the Harmony scar like every citizen. But something curious happened and it didn’t work like it was supposed to. I still have the same emotions. Even stronger, perhaps. I could pretend to be like everyone else, but then I am a fraud, and I refuse.

I read the words again. From what I could tell, she didn’t have the second implant—the key—yet.

Something else happened. When I was coming out of the drugged state, I overheard a conversation between two doctors. It seems there is an underground building project that will be reserved for emergency purposes. If the rain never stops, there is a plan to create more land surface by building higher mountains. Something about generators. I’m determined to discover the plan.

My heart thumped as I read, not knowing if I really wanted to continue. This was the beginning, so many years ago, and whatever Rose had hoped for the future hadn’t yet come to fruition.

I have joined up with the Carriers. I’m not sure how many of us there are, but we each carry a key that will activate the generators. A new hope for the future. It will be dangerous, but if things get too desperate, it will provide a new beginning. We will take back our humanity from the Legislature. Whoever can bring a stop to the rain will be the new leaders. If the Legislature gets control of the keys, then they will stop the rain, but they will continue in their absolute control, too afraid of the power of human emotion to disable the Harmony implants. We must destroy the Legislature, activate the generators, and give back dignity to the people. We must never let the Legislature know how much power we have.

It was all there. Rose and the other Carriers knew what they were up against. They’d started a plan to take over the Legislature, then to stop the rain. Even if it had been accomplished in Rose’s lifetime, it would take generations for the earth to restore itself to even half of what it once was. The earlier generations would need to make all of the sacrifices for the benefit of the later generations.

I thought about what else Rose had said—there were more Carriers than just herself. Who had started the movement? And how many Carriers were left?

I was caught trying to cut out my Harmony implant. Carriers everywhere have been executed for one reason or another as they refuse to conform. If the Legislature knew these rebels were carriers, there would be an all-out war. I await my own trial now. And although I know there is no hope, I’ll walk proudly to the judges’ council. I may die because I believe in the power of love and the power of choice. No matter what they say, I still believe that people are good and can make right decisions. I believe the world can find redemption if given a chance. I refuse to tell them where I put the Carrier key.
And I refuse to name the father of my baby—the Council will discover I’m pregnant soon enough when my belly grows in prison. My mother has promised to put in a petition to raise the child as her own in case I am not released. If I am sentenced to execution, I’ll tell my mother where this journal is. I’ll tell her about the key and where I’ve hidden it.

The writing ended, and I leafed through the remaining blank pages, wondering how long she lived after that. If Rose had only followed the rules, she would have had many more pages of her life to write about. But where would that leave me? Naomi wouldn’t have been born, and I wouldn’t be here, either. Maybe none of the keys would have been passed down, and I wouldn’t be a Carrier.

My own grandmother had turned her back on the Legislature. She’d ignored the rules that were for her benefit. And my mother was a product of that. A shiver passed through me like a warning.
So am I.

As if to match my mood, the rain came in thick torrents, slamming against our single window. The lamppost light cut through the darkness, but did nothing to dispel the feeling of gloom.

I looked up at Chalice. Her mouth was pulled into a tight line, and she gave me a single nod. “I saw you reading the book last night when you thought I was asleep. So I waited until you fell asleep and then I read it, too,” she said in a low voice. “I’m sorry. It wasn’t my business.”

Surprisingly, I didn’t feel mad, or betrayed—only worried. “You shouldn’t have. Now we can both get into trouble.”

Chalice lifted a shoulder. “Not more than I did wearing this.” She held up her hand, displaying the metal ring.

“Why are you still wearing that?” Apparently Chalice hadn’t learned her lesson in Detention. Or . . . I studied her. She was courageous. Fearless.

She was silent for a moment before she spoke. “It’s not why you think. I’m not ready to go over the edge and get myself Demoted. This ring brings me comfort, that’s all.”

“It’s just a piece of metal; how can that be comforting?” After reading about Rose’s stubbornness, I couldn’t bear to see Chalice act the same way, to take the same risks.

BOOK: Solstice
11.98Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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