"'In the beginning, we lived up there; on the surface. We existed very differently in those days, there were people living in so many different places, they grew food naturally, created their own businesses, and traveled as they pleased among many other things that we cannot do today. But of course...too much of a good thing can quickly become self-destructive as did life on the surface. These surface-dwellers had such a vast variety of opinions, likes, dislikes, religions, lifestyles and desires that there was no way that they could merely coexist harmoniously. Conflicted beliefs and desires soon led to war, temporary resolution, more war, another temporary resolution that lasted much longer than the first but, yes, another war began with technological advancements beyond anything we could ever dream up down here.' Now, who can tell me why we can't just move back to the surface now that we are the only ones left?"
Mrs. Perturb closed her copy of the freshman class's history textbook and looked over her wire-rimmed glasses at all of us. No one seemed to know the answer and, even if we did, we were too shocked to say anything. From our first words to the end of middle school, our parents and teachers had never talked to us about the surface other than telling us that something bad had happened up there over fifty years ago and it wasn't worth talking about, because those dark times are behind us, and why weren't we running along and playing like children are supposed to be instead of asking complicated questions like that? That was the response usually received from our parents on the rare occasion that we asked after hearing something about the surface in a government issued news update. Although, the surface was pretty barren, so the only updates given were those of filtration of the air we breathe and talk of things like atmospheric pressure changes among other terminology no one outside of our Surface-Seer Council would be able to understand. And yet, here we all were, on what we thought was a typical first day of high school, in what we thought was a typical classroom, where we would be taught by someone we thought would be a typical history teacher. And maybe that's what the others still think, because, for all I know, what happened next may not have affected them in the slightest.
"Because of the fumes. The toxic ones from the nuclear war."
Mrs. Perturb looked over at the girl who had spoken. She was sitting directly behind me. I turned in my chair to get a good look at her. She had the darkest hair I had ever seen; it was like looking into the pitch black, unexplored tunnels that mark the edge of town. Her skin was somewhat darker than mine, but only by a couple of shades, almost like the color of khaki jeans instead of the fair, peachy tone I possessed. I'd never seen skin that shade before; most people in the community had either dark, almost charcoal colored skin or were extremely pale like me. I looked back up at Mrs. Perturb and, for the first time, noticed a strong resemblance between her and the girl in question. It was hard to tell from the light in front of the chalkboard that continued to flicker on and off that she had the same shade of skin as the odd girl behind me, but she had that wavy hair with the shade I can only describe as "unexplored cave". I turned back to the girl, waiting for her or Mrs. Perturb to speak. I guess I hadn't been paying attention as she walked in, or as anyone walked in for that matter, but her voice didn't sound familiar to me, which was odd considering that all of us should have been in school together from the beginning. The underground community of Caldera only has one school system. That's how it was when I was born and that's how it's been since. Being the only existing humans after the "really bad thing" happened, Caldera was the only place to safely live...so where had this girl been for the last nine years?
Mrs. Perturb smiled at our stumped faces.
"Class," she said. "I'd like you to meet my daughter, Nova. She's been home-schooled up until now, because she is in training to take her father's place on the Surface-Seer Council someday. I hope you all will help her adjust to something that the majority of you have participated in since you could walk and talk."
Nova gave everyone a half smile, although to me, it seemed more like a smirk.
"I'll try my best to manage. But if any of you are good with essays, then come talk to me."
Of course, when we broke for lunch, everyone wanted to talk to the girl who would someday be a government leader, but she seemed somewhat disconnected from them, answering all of their questions in a bored tone, and picking at her food when there was a question she either wasn't allowed to answer or just didn't know the answer to. I, on the other hand, was observant of the small amount of irritation the pestering was causing her, so I decided not to approach her for the majority of lunch. After I finished eating, I looked up and saw her walk towards me.
"Hey," she said as she sat down. "Do you know where English Literature 1 is? I know some of the others would take me, but that means I would have to sit beside them and, not to be rude, but I don't know if I can take another one of their questions about the government. You seem chilled out though."
"Sure, I can show you where that is. It's my next class, too."
She smiled back, and for the first time I noticed how many different shades of blues, greens and possibly purple she had in her eyes. And I could tell that her smile was genuine because the second she grinned, her eyes did this thing that I couldn't quite explain...it was like the glint of glitter in a craft store.
I should have known right then and there that this girl was not and never would be like the rest of us. But soon, Nova had become my best friend. And three years later, she turned my whole life upside down.