Prompt: “I thought I saw.”
Somehow or other, this ended up turning into a sort of dystopian story, VERY reminiscent of THE CITY OF EMBER. But anyway, here it is:
“I thought I saw…onions.”
“Why would you think that?”
I shook my head. I didn’t know. Lacey was always telling me that my imagination was vivid for a kid.. “I’m not sure. There were just onion-shaped things.”
Lacey frowned. She drew her coat closer around her and kept walking, not bothering to wait for me. The sky was dark, as it usually was, because of the pollution. “Tess, you idiot, onions don’t exist.”
I ran after her, shivering. “I know.”
All of a sudden Lacey’s blue-tinged fingers were at my throat, her eyes sharp. But when she spoke, it was in a concerned voice, an apprehensive, worried, whispering voice, full of fear. “Tess, you can’t talk about things like that. It’s dangerous.”
I massaged my neck, gasping, as she let go. “Okay, Lacey.”
Lacey’s eyes flashed again, and she dragged me down a narrow alley. Dark, deserted and stinking of vegetable refuse, the alley wasn’t one I recognised. “Tess, you don’t get it, do you? If people find out you know of…things like onions, and toys, and butterflies, they. Will. Kill. You.”
Lacey had always been so dramatic. “Lacey, I know you’re going to be on television one day, but you don’t need to start yet.”
She pressed a finger against my lips. “Don’t talk about television. Don’t talk about anything like that. Understand?”
I understood. I was only seven at the time, but I understood.
But what I didn’t understand was that people like Lacey, good auntie Lacey, could die so suddenly.
Fast forward to ten years later, the day I turned seventeen. It was a significant birthday for the Underground, one that merited the beginning of adulthood and responsibility. I would move out from Mother’s place, begin training and be paired with a male to “bond” with. The authorities were practically forcing us to have kids. Hopefully mine wouldn’t be like some of the doorknobs I was used to.
My best friend Jen accompanied me to the Ceremony. She was eighteen, happily married to her partner Logan. It was rare that partners liked each other, rarer still that they loved each other as Jen and Logan did. Their first baby was even on the way.
“So,” said Jen, skipping along, her red scarf flapping, “What sort of training are you going to do?”
“Dunno,” I said. I shoved my hands into my pockets. “Maybe Surface work.”
Jen’s eyes widened. “Really? You can bring me back some stuff then!”
“Don’t talk about it,” I said, eyes shifting. Lacey’s message from ten years ago still stuck in my mind. Don’t talk about anything like that. Understand? Well, now I understood more than anyone. Show the slightest sign of wanting to live on the Surface? Boom, tragic accident. “Come on, Jen. We’re going to be late.”