The year was 2218. There had been horrible war. All that was left was a portion of what used to be the United Kingdom. The remaining area stretched from what was once called Edinburgh, to the city previously called London. With a population of approximately 30 million people, the country of Pacis was the only functioning society.
In the center of the country was the kingdom that housed the wealthiest citizens, and the royal family. The Community was luxurious. Mansions were scattered amongst the area and were accompanied by the royal estate that was in the center. Walls surrounded the Community, keeping it separate from the poverty filled streets that contained citizens whom struggled to eat once a day. Inside the walls, there was nothing but lavish events and entertainment. It was a high tech paradise that consisted of self-driving cars, holographic gaming technology, virtual realities, and more. If something was needed, such as food or slaves, there was always someone getting paid (very little) to go collect those things. No one that was “important” left their sanctuary.
On the outside lived the poor. Their lifestyle was harsh and frightening. Every citizen was branded at age 16, which was the legal age to start working to earn points (Points functioned as Pacis’s currency.) They received a barcode on their wrist, which was scanned every time the person made any kind of transaction. The code also functioned as their identification.
Even with the point system, debt still existed. Some people would create an account that tracked the points they owed. However, this was dangerous. If you did not pay back the points within the allotted timeframe, there were severe consequences. One of two punishments would be distributed. 1. Your child would be taken away and forced to serve the wealthy. 2. If you did not have children, you would be forced to serve the wealthy.
It was very difficult to earn points, unless you worked for the rich, which everyone did as a last resort. The wealthy citizens treated the poor like vermin and often didn’t pay them fairly for the work they did. So in response, most people stuck to working in the poor community. However, once debt built up, sometimes they had no choice but to work in the high class community for a while.
Sometimes, if the wealthy liked the servers that had come to seek out work, they would pay them so little that the citizen wouldn’t be able to pay their debt in time. Then, the richer man would request that very person once the poor soul was forced into permanent service.
Pacis had a system, and everyone knew how it worked. The rich loved it, and the poor feared it. Everyone knew their place. Despite this, one day the sun rose, and two boys were both thrown into fates that changed their place in the world.
A young man named Philip Lester was walking alongside his mother. They were both headed to the shop in hopes they had the required points to buy enough food for their family. Though they were a small family of two, they still needed to eat. Phil stayed close to his mother, worried about separation in a world where nothing was fair. His mother clung to him as well, fearing the debt that was slowly building up without Phil’s knowledge.
The summer sun beat down on the world, causing Phil and his mum to quicken their pace, hoping to get inside. The streets were busy with people going about their daily activities. Phil couldn’t help but to note that everyone looked sullen. Why did they have to live in a society filled with anxiety and dread? It just didn’t seem right.
Phil and his mother arrived at the store. Stepping inside, they were both relieved to be greeted with slight air conditioning. It wasn’t much, but it was enough to make a difference. Phil picked up a hand basket, and followed his mother around. He held the basket whilst she filled it to the brim with essentials. As the minutes passed, Phil was making small mental notes about what needed to be done in the store. He worked in the store since his family needed the points, and his shift started in a few hours.
Phil’s mother finished her shopping, so she and Phil walked up to the register. His mother turned to him, gently placing her hand on his shoulder. “Sweetheart, could you please run and go get me one more loaf of bread?”
“Yes, ma’am,” responded Phil. He swiftly unloaded all of the basket’s contents onto the conveyer belt, and then took off to get what his mother requested.
Quickly, his mother scanned her wrist. Her information appeared on the screen. The total came to 17 points, and she only had 7 points in her account. Unconsciously, she bit her lip and contemplated her options. Her biggest fear was losing Phil. He was only 20, therefore not a legal adult in their society. You had to be 21 to be a legal adult, and that meant that Phil was in danger as long as she was in debt. Phil was doing his best to earn points, but he was only earning about 2-3 points a week.
She took a deep breath, trying to keep her tears of fear at bay. “Put the remainder in my account please…” she whispered, wishing the words she had uttered weren’t needed. The cashier put 10 points towards her already increasing debt. She looked up at her remaining time to pay back the points. Next to the account number, the screen displayed “16 days.” There was no way that she could earn enough points. Even with herself and Phil working. She had already lost Martyn, Phil’s older brother, a few years ago. She couldn’t lose Phil too.
Phil came back with the bread just as his mother’s information vanished from the screen. His mum smiled, “Thank you, honey.” She gestured to the bags, “Go ahead and take these, and start towards home. I’ll catch up after I pay for the bread.”
“Alright,” agreed Phil. He picked up the bags and walked out of the store. His mother felt equally lucky as she did guilty. Phil was so loyal, and he never questioned her. She felt her heart sink when she added another point to her account. She couldn’t bear for Phil to see the increasing debt. When they lost Martyn, Phil was so broken. As she wiped away a tear, she quietly thanked the cashier, grabbed the bread, and caught up to Phil outside.
Phil and his mother made it home safely. Their house was a small, two bed, one bath home. Phil set the groceries on the counter, started taking them out of the bags, and began to put them away. His mother went to her room to get changed. She had work in about an hour at a flower shop not too far from their home.
After the groceries were put away, Phil went to his room to get ready for work as well. He sat on the bed and looked around. The room felt so empty. For years, he and Martyn had shared the room. They never fought; they never had issues with whose side of the room something went. They were perfect siblings. Then one day the authorities came. Martyn was only 17 when he was taken away. Phil was never quite the same after his brother was ripped out of his life.
Phil dressed for work, despite not needing to be there for at least another hour and a half. He sometimes went over early in hopes of earning at least one extra point. He seldom ever did, but since there was a chance, he took it.
After arriving to work, Phil scanned his wrist to check in. His information appeared on the screen, showing his face, and his earned points. He had earned 1 point so far in the week, and he was seven hours of work away from earning another. Glancing at the time, he saw it was 4:00 p.m. If he worked until around 11:00 p.m. he could earn another point for his family, so that’s what he did.
Phil returned home a little after midnight. He was exhausted. With a yawn he opened the front door. His eyes widened when he saw his mother sat on the couch crying. He rushed to her side, taking both her shoulders into his hands. “Mum! What’s wro—!” Just then, he felt a hand touch his own shoulder. He turned around slowly to see a man behind him. The man was in a tuxedo, and had an ear piece attached to a wire around his left ear. “Mum, what’s going on?”
“I’m so sorry, honey!” cried out his mother as more tears fell down her face. She looked up at the man with pure desperation in her eyes. “Please! I have 16 days!”
“At the rate you’re going, you won’t pay your debt in time,” said the man in a low, emotionless voice. “Phillip, you need to come with me.”
Phil felt his heart racing. He began having flashbacks of when his brother was taken away. He remembered hiding behind his mother as he watched his brother being shoved into a car. Martyn had struggled against the men that had come, but he was overpowered. The car sped off, and Phil never saw his brother again. Now, the same thing was about to happen to him. Phil quickly turned and embraced his mother, “I love you!”
“I love you too!” she said through bursts of tears. The man started to pull Phil away from his mother.
“Let’s go,” he said sternly. Phil wouldn’t let go of his mother. Tears pricked at his eyes and started to spill. “Move it!” The man grabbed Phil’s arm and yanked him back.
“No! Please, no!” shouted Phil trying to break away from the man’s grasp. He saw his mother breaking, and he couldn’t stand the thought of leaving her alone. “No! Mum!” The man grabbed Phil’s other arm and began to drag him out of the house. “Mum! MUM!” Phil was screaming. More tears rolled down his cheeks as he was pulled out of his own home. He saw the car, and his breathing started becoming rapid. “MUM!” he wailed. The man shoved him in a car and locked the doors. Phil tried getting out of the car, but it was no use. He stared out the window. He could barely see his mother’s face which was just slightly illuminated from a street light.
The car started up and drove away. Phil watched his mother’s silhouette fade, knowing it would be the last time he ever saw her. He hugged his knees and cried. Memories of his family flashed through his mind. He tried to imprint all the images in his mind. His home. His mum. His dad. His brother. Every memory made his heart break a little more. Due to his exhausted state, he eventually drifted to sleep with tear stained cheeks and a broken soul.