CRACK! Pain streaks through me as a large hammer comes down on my leg. The air is musty and damp in the mine, and it is poorly lit with the smell of coal and sulfur mixed into the air. I fell to the cold ground screaming at the pain now rushing up my leg. “Jaime!” yelled the boy next to me, “I'm so sorry! It was an accident!” I could not focus on what the boy was saying and slowly it all faded into blackness.
I woke on a cold table in a dark room, the only source of light a small candle on the medical table next to me. I listened outside to the usual sound of bombs going off and echoing hollowly out past the city walls. I tried to recall how I got here but had no clue. I attempted to slide off the table but a sharp pain rushed up my leg in great protest. Now I remembered. I was working with the other boys from the orphanage in the mines and Gauge had swung his hammer wrong. It figures because the 10 year old was much too young to be in the mines anyway, but The Authority insisted that we continue working at a young age to support the war.
I lay back down on the table, my leg still complaining from the attempt to sit up. I looked up at the old ceiling, worn with years of use. I assumed I was in the Unity building, known in the past as a “Hospital” but I was not sure. The orphans and I have heard stories of the land before the nuclear age from the elders, but we can only imagine what it would be like. They told us of buildings so large that they practically broke the sky, and that the sky was once blue and clear, not dark and full of fallout like it is now. I close my eyes and imagine it sometimes but I am always awakened to reality.
My Father went off to fight in the war when I was 4... or 5. I can't keep track anymore. He never came back, which left my mother and I to fend for ourselves. Everything was going relatively well until she died about a year ago when I was 16. She had been scavenging through the vast junk piles around the outer wall and was mistaken as a trespasser and shot to death by a guard drone. After this I was devastated. She was my only remaining family and after that I was left with nothing. They took what was left of her money and sent it to fund the war. With no money to pay taxes, they evicted our unit and sent me off to the McAlister’s School for the Orphaned. It was hardly much of a school, our mentors were cruel and heartless leaders and the other children and I were simply minions under their dictatorship.
The door opened and a man in a dirty shirt, slacks, and stained lab coat hobbled in. It was the orphanages doctor Dr. Merrill. Despite the fact that he was one of the heads in McAlister’s council, he was not cruel like the others. No matter how bad things around him got, he would always be there to provide comfort and in turn became sort of a father to the children. He looked at me and asked “How are ya feelin’ boy?”. I looked down at the leg and back at him and replied, “I can’t feel it, so that’s a plus” in a half-hearted monotone. “Lemme have a look at it.” came the equally bored reply. I propped the deadweight on the table and observed as he fidgeted with his glasses and put his bony fingers on my leg. He poked around on it and cleared out his throat to give the verdict. “Yessiree its broken” confidently, as if it was news to me. I gave him a falsetto surprised look and he nodded in contentment. “Now for the punishment of the one who did this...” He said in a melancholy voice. I had been dreading this moment ever since I had woken up. Just then an Authority dragged in Gauge by the back of his shirt, his little arms flailing and his legs kicking. “I didn't mean to, I’m sorry!” He screamed in complete terror. Under his gas masked helmet, the Authority recited the rites of banishment which we had all heard before. I looked away as the Authority robotically stated, “Under the Constitution of the New United States, stated in article 7, segment 9B, I hereby proclaim that this citizen, #345687994 is sentenced to banishment from the colony.” The door slammed shut and Dr. Merrill and I listened as the boy was dragged to his doom, kicking and screaming in protest.
I had taken a wheelchair back to my room in the orphanage and sat quietly, trying to get the thought out of my head. As a small comfort I rolled over to the small nightstand next to my cot and retrieved the small snow globe that had been the only thing I had been allowed to keep when my mother passed away. Inside, small flakes floated like dust in a miniscule expanse of crystal water. Under the flakes tall structures stood, depicting a large city with endless potential. On the front engraved in bold black letters read the words “ NEW YORK CITY, 2015” Apparently my mother had been a young girl when she bought the globe, and had purchased it a year before the bombs went off and fire rained from the sky. I shook the globe up, held it to the light, and imagined the world before all of this. I could only help but feel that someday, somehow, things would get better.