Sun light poured over me, warming my skin as I stepped out of the car. It’s funny how less than one hundred kilometers can make such a difference in weather. I hadn’t been out in the sun in about three months. Getting away from the city was getting harder and harder since Simon got the position of city keeper, though we all called him the executioner. He was harsh, and recently set up new rules and curfews. But as long as I got back in a few hours, no one would notice I’m gone.
The sand was hot under my feet. The crystal blue water stretched out in a perfect line making the horizon. I could taste the salt in the air, only a few more meters and I could feel the salt on my skin. The water was cold but welcomed. The sky back at my village might be constantly grey and looked like it was going to rain, but on most days it was so humid that it was hard to move. I dived under the clear water, letting the coolness surround me. Oh how I wished I could live here, come here every day. To sit in the sun and swim in the water would be paradise. Even if it meant abandoning my people. Not that they cared. Since my brother Henry died, I have no use in that hell hole. I live for myself, and make no use to any of my neighbors, who are quickly becoming aware of it. I know that if I make no go use soon, I will have to work for Simon. That’s were most orphans with no talent go. It’s sad really to watch them all being exploited. They all work like slaves. If only there was something I could do. Henry had a talent. If he was here still to provide for us, then I wouldn’t have to work for Simon. He was the best artist in the village. His paintings were so perfect. They were so good they looked like photographs, which got him a lot of business because clear photographs were hard to come by now. We could have been the richest family in the village.
I took another breath and submerged myself in another wave, the refreshing water taking away memories. I wish I could breathe under water, and then I could escape into the ocean, live among the fish as if I was one of them. If only. I don’t have a talent, I never have. They always told me I was lucky to have Henry, I knew I was. I didn’t mind all the other students gossip and laugh at me when I took a study period every time we had our elective. In a school day, the first four periods were classes like maths, English, cooking, cleaning, any sort of knowledge we need to get along in life. The last two periods were dedicated to our elective, our talent, which we either picked, or our teacher chose for us. Neither my teacher nor I could decide which elective I would fit in. So instead I spend my last two periods in the library, studying. I didn’t mind, really. Beside all I want to do is live here, by the water.
I walked out of the water, the hot sand sticking to my wet legs and feet. I laid out my towel, spreading the sand, and sat down, putting on my hat and glasses. The sun dried my skin slowly, giving me a dark and even tan. No one back at my village knew where I got my tan from. Everyone else was so pasty because of the clouds. The beach was a family secret, so everyone in the Winters family had a deep tan from coming to the beach so often. Ironic how my name and my looks clash so much, eh? But that was helpful and made no one question me. They all thought that colour ran in my family.
I sat up again and stretched, I must have fallen asleep. I must have not slept very long because I hadn’t burned yet. And that’s when I saw him. He stood down the beach, just out of my vision. He was a blur, but I could tell he was there. It was impossible. No one followed me, I was sure, and no one knows about this beach. I was sure of that. I stood and began walking towards him. He didn’t move.
“Hey!” I yelled. But he didn’t answer. I was getting closer, but he was not becoming clear in my vision. What was happening? I yelled to him again, but still received no answer. Suddenly in the corner of my eye I could see a hint of purple. I gasped and turned that way. I saw it up in the sand dunes that eventually grew to thick bushland. But there was no purple mist. I turned back to the boy, but he was also gone. How could he do that? There was no where he could hide in that time. Though the fog could be the only explanation.
Two hundred years ago, the world was different. People had freedom to do and go where ever they wanted. Then the purple fog came around. They called it the eggplant flu, because the mist was an eggplant colour, and smelled like one too. The teachers at my school taught us about it. They said that when it first broke out, the humans had a sort of immunity to it, well some of them anyway. Most of the old population grew sick with what everyone that was the common flu, hence the name eggplant flu. But in a few weeks these people would die very quickly of dehydration. Scientists and doctors of the world tried the best they could to find a cure, and they thought they did, for a while. The rest of the population was injected with a something that they though would prevent death from the eggplant flu. But it only stopped the weeks of sickness that was followed by death. Instead people began just dropping dead at the first breath of the fog. That was when we were rounded into communities like mine, to be protected from the fog. I don’t know how a wall like the three meter tall brick one that surrounds my village will shield us from a deadly gas, it’s a bit stupid to even consider. But we don’t question it. It has seemed to work for the years that they have been up and holding together.
My great great granddad, when he was about twenty, my age, figured out how to climb the wall; distract the guards and climb the tree. Easy I guess, but it’s easier said then done. My granddad was so good that he was going down to the beach once a week. He taught my granddad, who taught my father, who taught Henry, who taught me.
“You shouldn’t be taking you little sister to the beach.” my parents yelled at my brother when they noticed my tan.
“She’s fifteen; I think she’s old enough. Besides, why hide it from her, the beach is beautiful.” I never went as often as my brother did, but I didn’t complain. Going at all was good enough for me. But soon after that, my parents died. Although the wall kept out the fog, it didn’t keep out the other diseases humans were prone to. Like malaria. I wasn’t even allowed to say goodbye before they died, they didn’t want to loose another life to the awful virus, no matter how useless my life is.
I walked up the dune and stood on the edge of the bushland. I was risking my life by following what I think I saw, but I was fast, and needed to know if I did see something. Maybe I could out run it? I peered into the cluster of gumtrees that blocked my vision.
“Hello?” I yelled. But I got no answer. I looked up at the sky, at the sun. It was about five in the afternoon. “Shit!” I ran down the hill to pack my things and sprinted off to my car. I had only a little more than an hour before curfew.
I drove back to the house where we first found the car, only a block away from the edge of the wall, and ran down the street. It was a much longer trip back then I had expected, and it was past curfew. An icy wind beat against my face and the thunder roared in the distance. I climbed the tree that edged the wall. As a new rule, Simon cut all the trees on the inside of the wall down, the ones that were too close to the wall. He didn’t tell the rest of my village, to stop panic. If they knew that someone could climb the wall, chaos would break out, or at least Simon thought it would. Only Henry and I realised. And that is how Henry died. We were trying to get over the wall when he fell. I didn’t see it happen, but I heard the snap. I had to carry my brother back to the hospital. They didn’t ask me too many questions; I was too upset to answer anyway.
It took me a while to go back to the beach. Not only for the fact, that it took me a while to learn to climb the ridged edges of the wall, but because it hurt just to come back to the place where it happened. There was no blood, in was a fracture to his spinal cord that had killed him, but in my eyes, the area was drenched in an eternal sadness that forever reminded me of him. I had gotten quite skilled in climbing the wall, and thankfully years of weathering and decay had created grooves in the wall, perfect for my small feet. I hauled myself on top of the wall, and sat low, momentarily to scan the area. This was probably the furthest point from any houses, and ahead of me was a vast area of trees. There were no guards below or around me, just yet, so I leapt down, landing unsteadily on my feet and sprinted to wards the dim glow of the village rising softly above the tree tops.