“Run!” he called out. Mira followed Ran the best she could as he nimbly darted around the broken down buildings. They were in the outskirts of the green zone and so, things were always a bit dicey out here. Ran must’ve spotted them up the road and figured, if they valued their lives, they’d better get out of there.
There were an, array of vents, many broken, huffing and puffing, along the front of the grey beleaguered factories. Their constant drone was a defining feature of the soundscape. Mira had long ago blocked it out.
They jogged for several minutes, Mira always looking around to see if they had any company. But there was no one. Ran ducked into an old dilapidated building at the end of the road, its broken tar sutured together in the most recent repair job. Mira followed him and caught her breath. “Do ya think they followed? Ran looked behind them.
“Nah, I think we gave ‘em the slip.”
“I can’t believe we’ve gotten this far.”
“We’re well out of the main area now, anyway. That’s the most guarded area. But no one ever comes out here. We better duck in here, keep going. This is the way, I’m told.” Mira worriedly looked behind them, but she hurried to follow Ran. They clambered through the long pipes riveted to the doors of the machinery. Mira almost slipped on a small pool of oil, although she managed to get her footing. “You gotta be careful here. There’s often oil slicks below the machinery. No one to clean ‘em up anymore,” he said, calling out to her from up ahead.
Mira wasn’t entirely sure where Ran was going. She didn’t want to say anything though because he seemed to know where he was going. Plus, these days, she always followed him. She wouldn’t make the mistake she made before. That almost cost her her life. It was lucky he hadn’t left. He’d said he’d just had an inkling things were going to go that way. Besides, that gang were always unpredictable and so, she should’ve known not to mess with them.
And she was glad she was with Ran. He could always outsmart the others. They’d always been wary of him, cause he was from the other side. Mira still remembered when their transport arrived, all of them filing off. She was pretty sure she’d actually seen him at the time, but she wasn’t completely sure. But eventually, their paths had crossed and they both knew they were meant to be together.
She looked ahead and Ran was crouched under an overhang, drinking from his bottle. When she caught up to him, he offered her a drink which she happily accepted. “Do ya know where we are?” she said, her head scanning around.
“It’s not too much further. Remember what I told ya this morning when we left. I’ve got a surprise for you.”
“Yeah, when we ran into that crowd, I thought we’d had it.”
“No worries. We had no problem giving them the slip. As we did. But never fear, we’re going places.” He smiled impishly, the way he always did when he was onto something. She smiled back, rolling her eyes and then gave him back the bottle.
“Wonder what they’re gonna do with this place.” She ran her hands along what seemed to be some sort of metal chute.
“Well, it’s already getting close to the end of the year. Can’t say they’ll do anything now. What’s next year, anyway? Half the time I forget.”
“I think it’s gonna be 2133. But I’m not totally sure.”
“Sounds about right.”
“All I know is I’d love to get outta here. You know, I’ve heard some say there are ways to get out. There’s trees and grass out there apparently. But I don’t think it’s true. They say it’s just a wasteland now.” She looked at Ran who had a self-satisfying look on his face. “Why do you look that way?” She frowned.
“No reason. Come on.” He got up and started scrambling into a more open part of the factory. Mira had to speed up to keep in pace with him. It wasn’t a problem as they were both fairly fit. That didn’t bother her. But where were they going?
They reached a wall and Mira didn’t know where Ran was going to go now. “What now? We can’t go any further.” Ran fished in his jacket. “What are you doing?” Ran turned to her and just put his hand to his nose. She always knew when he did that it was to say, ‘Not to worry, he ‘knows’ what he’s doing.’ She stood there while he took a card and slipped it into the slot. She looked around warily nervous; he was taking too long doing who knows what. Mira was always on the look out, as the guards were everywhere these days. Although, there hadn’t been any at all for a while, which put her more out of ease.
He searched around on the a piece of the machinery near the wall, feeling with his hands for something. He smiled, winking at Mira. “Gotcha,” he said. He slid two cards in two different slots and all of a sudden, the wall began to waiver and then disappear. Mira stood there, her mouth agape.
“How did you do that? That’s impossible.”
“Little bit of magic. And no it isn’t, provided you’ve got a little bit of information.” He tapped his temple.
“Come on. We gotta go.” He started off again, Mira again looking behind them as she followed. They ran through a labyrinth of machinery until they reached a large cylindrical shaped structure. On its surface it had a series of rungs. When Mira looked up, it seemed to go on forever.
Suddenly, Mira heard a noise from behind them. “Hurry, Ran. I think we’ve finally got company!”
“Okay! We’re in business! We can outrun them!” He hoisted himself up and began to climb. “We’ve gotta climb now—like our life depended on it!” he said.
“Yeah, cause it does!” She followed Ran and started up the rungs, looking to see if she could see them yet.
They were about twenty metres up and when they stopped and looked down to see several people on the ground floor. They apparently hadn’t looked up yet. But they were fairly high up already. Ran carefully and quietly fed his arm into the rung so as not to lose a grip. He took a drink of water and then handed it to Mira who took a long drink. “I’m hoping we’ll find more water when we get up there.” He looked up.
“I don’t even know where we’re going,” Mira said, a slight look of worry on her face.
“Me neither, but I’ve got me an inkling.” He flashed a smile and then started to climb.
Eventually, they reached what looked like a hatch. “What now?” Mira said.
“Just a sec,” Ran said as he pulled another card from his jacket.
“Where did you get all of those?”
“I met an old gentleman from the old times and he told me there was a way out. When everyone went to ground with the wars, there were ways to get back. Sure, he told me, there’d be a few tricks we’d need to get past the guards and their traps. And we needed to be strong and swift. I told him, we’ve got that.” He smiled impishly again. “He said he was too old now for him to do it. He’s the person I’d been visiting. Remember?” Mira nodded. “Then, one day, he gave me these cards and told me where I needed to go. The portals are meant to read the units in their hands. But they needed older tech in case that malfunctioned.” He held up the card. “So, here we are.”
He slid another card into a slot and they heard a click. Ran grabbed the handle and then pushed. They climbed out into a forest, a soft breeze blowing. A rocky waterfall flowed nearby. The smell was extraordinary, given the difference from the recycled air they’d been breathing. Ran smiled widely, looking at Mira who looked spellbound. He tilted his head back and breathed in. “Oh, this is heavenly!”
“This can’t be real!” They scanned all around. “No wonder it was so hard to get up here. They definitely don’t want us to see this!”
“Oh, yeah.” He hugged Mira as she laughed, twirling her around. “We did it.”
“Yeah, well, they know we’re gone and so we better keep going. I don’t trust them,” Mira said. They walked off, hand in hand. After a couple of hours, they encountered a spring and when Mira expressed caution, Ran told her it had all been a lie.
“Not to worry. That’s also a bit of a lie we’ve been fed. All I know is they don’t want us up here.” Ran filled his bottle. “Come on, we better keep moving.”
They found a cave and they were able to collect some moss from a nearby woods to make a comfortable enough place to sleep.
Later, they were having something to eat. “This is good,” Mira said, as she ate some of the rabbit. “Where’d you learn how to do that?”
“From that fellow I always used to visit. He was full of stories. One of those stories was about snaring rabbits,” he said, shrugging his shoulders like it wasn’t a big deal.
“How did he learn to do this?” She scooped more into her mouth.
“A good number had already broken off before the wars. So, they were living off the land on their own—doing just fine, he told me. He said some of his people are still up here. But no one wants us to know that, do they?”
The next morning, they were up early as Ran was insistent they watch the sun rise. “What’s the big deal? So, it’s a sun rise.” Mira said, as she poured a cup of tea they’d improvised from some flowers they’d found.
“Not just any sun rise. You’ll see,” Ran said, always with that same impish smile. He helped clear things from their breakfast. “Come on, ya gotta be ready for it.” She hustled along and joined him outside their cave. They found a boulder and sat down, Ran putting his arm around Mira.
Gradually the sky lightened and then transformed before their eyes into a pallet of pinks, yellows and blue. Just over the water and strewn across the sky were dollops of grey. Then slowly the light yellow grew, like a jewelled orb on the horizon, the pinks and blue dancing along its perimeter. The pinks deepened to an orange as it blended with the other colours. All the time the golden orb was growing in size.
“Magnificent,” Mira said in barely a whisper. Ran looked at her.
“Told ya. It’s the winter solstice,” he said. They sat for a while watching the spectacle.
“I’ve heard of that. But I didn’t even know what it was actually.”
“Well, it’s a real thing. The world will slowly transform now.” He spread his hands out before him. “Ya think it’s official?” Their hands clasped, both smiling.
“Yeah. We’re here to stay.”