Foreword: This is a rare science fiction short story I created, its theme is dystopia. Hope you like it!
The pulsating, gem- studded night sky seemed to swallow Hope whole as she lay on carpet- soft grass. All was calm and silent, and Hope was content. A little sigh sounded to her left, and she glanced over at her companion, Amicus. He too, was entranced by the stars.
‘The north star.’ He whispered, pointing to a blue star that glittered with startling brilliance.
‘How did you know?’ She followed his hand with her eyes, curious.
‘I’ve read about it.’ Amicus grinned proudly.
‘From a book?’ Hope laughed incredulously. ‘Books haven’t existed for more than a few decades already.’
‘I found one, about the stars.’ He smirked. ‘Come, I—’
‘Wake up!’ A shrill voice that wasn’t Amicus’ screeched loudly. Hope emerged from her dream, suffused with a feeling of loss.
‘Coming, Mother!’ Hope called rustily. She noticed that all was dark. She wondered why she had to wake up so early.
‘Hurry! The results are to be announced!’
She then remembered that today was the announcement of the annual lucky draw results, exclusively for students, and the one winner would win a tour and an opportunity to live in ‘The New World’, a place where dreams came true.
Hope rolled her eyes. There were thousands of students—what were her chances?
She slid into a sleek, streamlined vehicle, lying down and facing the sky. The glass slid up to join seamlessly with the main part of the vehicle, sealing her inside.
‘The academy.’ She said in a bored tone.
The vehicle slipped soundlessly out of her house from the roof, zipping through the outside world, hovering twelve feet off the ground. It paused at a traffic light, and Hope gazed at the grey, hazy sky, before observing her surroundings. A sameness met her eyes—everything was grey, from the tall buildings to the litter that crowded the ground, leaving no space to walk.
‘Destination reached.’ The machine eased in through the open roof of the academy, parking in one of the many circular indentations along the vast walls of the building. She took a lift down to the ground level, where a vast crowd was already gathered, their voices a cacophony of jarring noises.
Amicus struggled towards her, buffeted by people. She grinned, reaching out to him, and they stood together as the crowd fell silent, and the principal announced that one winner. Hope felt no excitement. This place of dreams, was it just a lie?
‘The winner is… Hope Indigo!’
The cheering crowd swept her to the front, where a vehicle awaited her. Gazing uncertainly at Amicus, she climbed in.
He refused to meet her eyes, but Hope perceived that beneath his stoic front lay a pleading, almost wistful expression. Before she could blink, she was off.
She zoomed into the sky, where ashes pattered against the glass, the sky grey and foreboding, before bursting out into sunshine. Before her was a sight that rendered her speechless.
The world of dreams existed up here, above the clouds— green grassy slopes stretched on for miles, clear blue skies, and little stone cottages spread out over the plains. This entire world hung in the sky, like an ethereal place for privileged people.
A man in an expensive suit awaited her. She stepped out, gazing about in wide- eyed wonder, feasting on the sights, at the same time aware of how dreadfully grey she appeared.
The man doffed his top hat as a gesture of courtesy, the way it was in legends of old, causing Hope to giggle.
‘Greetings, Miss Indigo. Welcome to “The New World”!’ The man spread his arms wide to encompass the land as they walked into the place of dreams.
Hope couldn’t help but bend down to touch the grass, stroking a blade gently. She looked up at the blue sky, breathing in a deep breath of fresh air, not at all tinted with ash. She glanced around at the people walking around… And saw something that was horribly wrong.
They all had blank faces. Not a smile, not a single note of laughter. Hope accosted one woman, but she only looked through distant eyes at her, before walking away.
‘These people have made their payment.’ The man explained. ‘Only then, this wonderful place is home.’
‘I have money, I can pay you.’ Hope said readily, her eyes feasting on the scenery. The memory of the woman, although mildly disturbing, was just a little hitch in the beauty of this dream world.
‘We do not accept coin as payment.’ The man replied quietly.
Hope gazed, flummoxed, at him.
The silence stretched. There was a gust of wind, and with it, came feather- like things. One of these things tickled her arm, and Hope grasped it, annoyed. She wiped her hand on her dress.
‘What do you want?’ Hope was angry.
‘We want you.’ The man replied. She stared at him uncomprehendingly, until an inkling of truth came to her.
She glanced around her, at the sky, at the grass, and at the quaint cottages. Then, she took in the people, noticing how they seemed not to know where they were, or who they were, or where they were going. They seemed almost soulless.
This was the price they had paid, Hope realised with dawning horror. Then she looked down at herself, and realised just how better off she was.
‘Don’t you see?’ The man seemed to take her hesitation as a sign of encouragement. He gestured elegantly around him. ‘We need you, and the essence of other people, to build this wonderful place. They have given their memories, where their ideals of how a world should be has been extracted to make their dreams come true! Look at everyone’s blissful expression! They are living in the perfect world that they have helped to build!’ The man stopped, looking expectantly at her.
Hope remembered Amicus’ longing expression. She suddenly understood what it meant, and made her decision.
‘I don’t accept.’ Hope said breathlessly, the weight of truth crushing down upon her, and the lies around her stealing her breath away.
The man gave an irritated jerk of his head, as if irked by a fly. He shooed her back into her machine. He seemed discourteous, impatient to be rid of her, now that he knew she wouldn’t accept his offer.
The ride back was bleak and silent, and as Hope gazed at her own reflection on the glass, she felt hopeless. She was now returning to the mundane, grey world that she had always known, and would now hate with a new intensity.
Her gaze travelled down and came to rest on something white and feathery, stuck onto the fibres of her skirt. She realised she had brought with her one of the things. She picked it up, enjoying the feel of feather brushing her fingertips.
Hope frowned suddenly. Wasn’t this a seed? She had seen a model of it, in the museum. The label had read ‘An animal- dispersed seed’. An idea took root and grew, like vines growing and spreading rapidly.
As Hope cupped the seed to her face, she looked at her reflection again, and saw not only herself, but hope. A small smile played at her lips, before growing wider. Laughter bubbled from within her, and she found herself gripping her sides, trembling with mirth, all the while gently cradling the beautiful seed.
Upon touching ground back at the academy, she found Amicus staring morosely at the ground, alone in the suddenly empty and vast space.
He looked up, delighted, as she alighted from the vehicle.
Hope told Amicus all that had transpired. His face registered disgust when he heard of how the people up there had traded their humanity for a better world that they could not enjoy, then brightened when Hope told him of the seed.
‘To think we were out of hope.’ Amicus commented casually. Hope laughed, leading him out of the academy, to the rubbish- infested streets. They trod on the compressed trash, feeling as cans were crushed beneath their feet.
‘Here’s a good place.’ Amicus stopped, squatting and unearthing rubbish from the ground. Hope joined him in labour, and they excavated ten inches deep of compacted rubbish before hitting gravel. Amicus dug a bag from his pocket, and to Hope’s amazement, it was soil.
‘You had one part of the puzzle, I had the other.’ Amicus grinned. ‘Our instructors were trying to recreate real soil in our school’s science laboratory. Shall we test their experiment?’
‘I can think of no other way.’ Hope replied readily.
He poured the damp soil carefully into the little hole they had dug, before Hope planted the seed, covering it carefully, almost lovingly, with more soil.
And they returned, every day, to water the seed. As they watched green shoots force their way out amidst the rubbish, a stark contrast to the grey, drab surroundings, Amicus turned to Hope, his face solemn.
‘Hope, you have given us hope.’
Author’s note: That’s the end of it! What say you about the ending?(: Mind you, this is just a first draft, so there might be flaws/ loopholes in the story. Well, do tell me if you spot any!