Never Look Back

Not a soul in the nation of Regnum knows what it is like to be an adult. Or, perhaps a more correct term would be, they have never had a chance to find out. On the thirteenth of every month, officials come to round up those who are too old. It is unknown what future awaits those unfortunates, but seventeen-year-old Carmine is determined not to succumb to the same fate. After all, systems are made to be smashed...

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1. Dreamer

One.

Carmine.

Carmine did not normally remember her dreams. They were often very erratic, so much so that no single part was worth keeping in her memory. So they drifted away from her, day after day after day. However, on the morning of September 11th, she awoke with a memory of terror, colours, and her heart still hammered with the adrenaline and fear of being chased. But when she looked around her, she was still in the room her family slept in, though she had thrown her rough, scratchy blanket away from her, leaving herself shivering in faded cotton pyjamas.

Her sister was staring over at her, perched on her heap of blankets on the other side of the room. The girl's brown eyes were wide with concern, her head tilted slightly to the side, not unlike a curious puppy. "You were thrashing in your sleep again," she stated, quite matter-of-factly.

Carmine propped herself up on her elbows, shaking her head slightly so a few strands of auburn hair fell in the way of her eyes. "Was I?" she murmured, still unable to form a coherent thought. She never could, not in the mornings.

"I'm worried about you," the younger girl chided. You're always worried about me, Carmine thought with a trace of bitterness. She had to remind herself that it was in her nature to worry about others, and that she should not slap her for not thinking about something else for a change.

"Really, Ochre, don't worry, I'm fine." Ochre was four years younger than Carmine, but seemed to be a little older, despite being shorter than average girls her age. 

"Alright," Ochre shrugged, but very quickly a grin spread across her face. "I almost forgot!" Reaching behind her, she procured a plate from behind her back, with a single slice of bread on it. Upon closer inspection, it was decorated with a golden "C", created from honey. "Happy birthday! You're seventeen now!"

All thoughts had been erased from her head apart from the nightmare, and Ochre's reminder put a smile on Carmine's face. "Wow! Thank you so much! Is that fresh bread?" Another thought crossed her mind, and it planted a seed of anxiety. "...where did you get the money?"

The three of them, Carmine, Ochre, and their infant 'brother' Azure had been living in this situation since Ochre was just a child; no adults, no adults anywhere, and they struggled to get by with their low income. Fresh bread was a luxury, as they had to scavenge for their food most days, and honey was even harder to find, being a sweet product.

Ochre glowed with pride. "I baked the bread myself! I was up since four this morning making it." The look in her eyes convinced Carmine she was telling the truth, and to say she wasn't impressed would be a blatant lie. The only time the elder sister had tried to cook anything had ended up a disaster, with smoke residue staying in their clothes and hair for days afterwards. They still laughed about it sometimes, with much embarrassment on Carmine's part.

Taking a bite from the bread, she realized just how much effort had gone into this one morsel. "This is amazing bread, Ochre," she told her sister. It was rare to find anyone with baking skills these days, not since half the market closed down. At the remembrance of the market, Carmine quickly finished her bread. "You really are the best sister ever," she chuckled, ruffling her sister's hair.

Pulling a long, battered, brown overcoat over her pyjamas and putting on her thick boots, she stood and stretched. "I promised Thorn I'd meet him at the market," she explained, opening the door. "I'll see you later, 'kay?"

Ochre's parting words were lost in the wind as the Carmine's hair whipped around her face, and she began the long trek towards town.

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