Chapter 1: Phoenix Wall's
I stare out the small rectangular window as the green fields and large shining houses pass by. The bullet train is silent except for the dull drum of the train rattling down the metal rails. The inside of the train is posh and elegant the twelve seats in the first status lounge are lined with fine white leather, each handcrafted. The floor of the train is covered with an almost light blue silk carpet giving the compartment a sleek finish. Unlike the B-status class which was often full and even overly packed, the first status class, or A-status was empty except for my handler and me. We were traveling beyond the second wall to the outer boundaries. I could only remember one other time I had been allowed to leave the inner boundaries of the second wall, which held the A-Status citizens including all government buildings. The lower class or B and C status citizens lived between the outer wall and the wall keeping the upper class from the lower.
My hand instinctively pushes my long brown locks behind my right ear. Letting out a small sigh, my attention wanders to the tall-lush trees as we pass them. The large wall is always in view no matter where I went, and yet only when I got closer did I notice the many dents, bolts, and other smaller details that usually go unseen.
“Your nervous.” My handler says quietly as if her words would disturb phantom passengers around our deserted cabin. I am snapped out of my thoughts.
“I’m not nervous, just preparing myself.” I try to sound confident, but It comes out slightly terrified. I had only left the inner wall once before, long before our city had fallen into its overpopulation issues. Back then the houses were quant and painted with vibrant colors, but now they had changed for the worse since the rise of the new regime.
“I received word from your father early this morning, but I thought it was best to give it to you later, if you would like you may read it now?” She tries to distract me. As my handler, she was not obligated to do so but over the past year, she has become more of a sister to me than anything else. Like me, she was born into A-Status. I stood at the height of five feet six inches, while she stands five feet on her tiptoes. She appears small and unthreatening with her feminine hourglass figure and long blonde hair now curled perfectly at her shoulders.
Her shiny hair coupled with her vibrant blue eyes and olive skin made her no doubt the heartthrob for every male in her status class.
With her blond hair, olive skin, and unusually blue eyes it was clear she was the daughter of the Honorable Judge George Westlake, the chief judge. As such Clare Westlake was the talk of the town and no doubt the heartthrob for every male who laid eyes on her. It was a surprise to everyone when she became a special operation handler. Now she watched over me, her duty was to keep me safe or to make sure I don’t take off; I can’t be totally sure.
It was a strange relationship, but I no longer felt odd with her always being by my side. In fact, she had become more like a second limb to me.
“I’d rather not hear my dear father’s words at the moment, Clare,” I tell her absentmindedly.
I can feel the train begin to slow to a stop at the inner wall. As a precaution, the walls were built with exit tunnels on either end. Before someone is allowed in or out of the city the whole train is scanned for any signs of contamination. Another one of the many ways the government protects the lives of every citizen. Luckily, the original virus had been eradicated. The real danger that keeps us behind the wall is the infected or forsaken.
I watch as large metal arms travel down the outside of the train. They were equipped with bright laser beams scanning through each window. The lasers are meant to detect anyone who could have been infected and eradicate the threat. Fortunately, I have been given a special formula to keep the sensors from triggering when they hit me. To distract myself I turn to Clare focusing on her hand and scribbling notes into her small black book. When we were first placed together she would always pull the book out and I would spend hours asking her what she was writing, and every time I asked her she would simply shake her head and say ”Nope“.
“How long will it be before we reach the station, Clare?” I ask her. Clare looks up from her book and peers down at her old watch.
“We should have a good hour and a half. That’s including the time it will take for the train to be scanned.”
I pull the lever to my seat allowing for the chair to fold out. I lay down on my back and try to ignore the bright light from the scanner. It has been three years since someone has come down with the virus in the twin wall perimeters. I guess you could call it the calm before the storm. It always seems that a few years of complete peace and health in the community were followed up by an outbreak or two. Nowadays people only discussed the virus in private. It was a topic meant for dark corners and locked rooms. It’s not a secret but rather a sensitive subject. Every single person lost family and friends to the virus. It was constantly on everyone’s mind. If someone so much as sneezed in public, they would practically be blacklisted from society. Regardless of this fear, people tended to live their lives as if nothing existed outside the walls. It’s easier that way.
I feel the train begin to move once again. The inside of the train darkens as we travel into the inner wall, I can feel my eyes grow heavy as I am lulled to sleep by the rocking motion of the track.
Scream’s fill the air as hundreds of people desperately push past one another fleeing from something they could never truly escape. I watch as buildings burn. They topple to the ground as their residents scream for help, but no one can save them from being burned alive. No one stops to help. Survival is their only focus. Fear is in complete control as they tackle and attack one another rushing to get away.
Suddenly, the loud emergency sirens ring out through the sky drowning out the scream of pain and fear.
“This is an emergency broadcast from your government of the Twin Walls City. We are experiencing a Code 2 outbreak in sectors 1 through 4. All residents seek shelter while our outbreak specialists find and eliminate the threats.” The siren blares out repeatedly.
I stare out the window of a small house placed in the outer sector. I can hear Aunt Noelle rushing about shutting and locking doors and windows. And that’s when I see it, a “forsaken”. It passively stood there in front of the house breathing heavily. The crowd has dispersed leaving the road deserted and quiet.
This is the first time I have ever seen an infected person let alone a mutated one. He is a monster. He stands hunched over his long hair matted with blood and blocking a clear view of his face. His body is half-clothed. His pants are shredded, and his chest was bare. I can see his pale emaciated stomach, a clear sign of starvation. My attention is drawn to the many cuts that cover his body. They produce red pus that drips down his molting body.
I watch from the window for a while completely entranced. The siren continues and houses burn in the distance, as I gently rest my head on the windowsill completely hypnotized by the image in front of me.
Unexpectedly a group covered in contamination-proof suits appears. The mutated man darts towards his next victims, hungry to spread his disease--”
My eyes spring open and it takes me a moment to remember where I am. I focus on calming my breath. My heart feels like it is trying to escape my chest. It takes me a moment to remember where I am. I hated that dream. I settle myself back in my seat and try to rub away the remainder of the nightmare I had only moments ago.
“30 minutes,” Clare says pulling my attention to her. She is in the same proper position she was in when I had fallen asleep.
“What?” I mumble.
“We have 30 minutes before we reach the station,” She clarifies. She looks up from her black book, “That dream again?”
“Yep” I reply popping the P.
“Hmm, you really should get new nightmares. I’ve grown bored of yours.” She says nonchalantly then returns her focus back to her writing.
“You and me both. I have an idea! How about you describe your dreams to me?” I challenge sarcastically.
Clare doesn’t even look up from her book, “I think not. I’d rather not have you in my head.”
“Yeah, I thought so!” I taunt her with a laugh. That is the thing about Clare, she may have come off as a high-class, A-status girl but she was a genius and superior in combat. Her most extraordinary skill was, without a doubt, that she could read people without much effort. It was like she could take one look and know what a person was thinking.
I watch out the window of the train for the remainder of the ride. It exits the tunnel of the inner wall and I can see the settlements that reside between the inner and outer walls. The contrast between the two was undeniable. While the inner wall surrounds those in the government, the A-status citizens, and even some B-status. The outer wall housed hundreds of thousands of the lower-class C and D-status groups. The inner wall has large extravagant houses each with large green lawns and gardens. In contrast, the outer sectors are separated into two sections. The Northern side had small broken-down trailers stacked one atop of the other. The more unfortunate soul would even attempt to forge huts made out of mud and dirt. It was often referred to as the Ant Farm. Trash littered the streets and it wasn’t uncommon to see beggars on the roads.
On the south side, there are farms. The government-run farms produced food for the citizens of the Twin Walls. They are in a neat section filled with different colored foods and like always the biggest fields are filled with the most important commodity, wheat. We used this to keep the Outer Wall citizens from starving. It was amazing what a person could do with just a cup of wheat and a few simple ingredients.
The train starts to descend from the wall to the ground on a worn-out ramp. This gives me a better view of the large city that looks like it is over a hundred years old. Most of the buildings existed before the first outbreak. I suddenly feel Clare’s hand on my knee pulling my attention.
“We’re here. Put your hood on,” she whispers.
And so, it begins.