I come from the Cave

Two populations, two races, two worlds. One lives in the bright sun, one lives in the darkness below.
In the Cave life goes on as usual. Men work in the mines, women work as teachers, architects or nurses, while some have the privilege of working in the above world as tutors.
Andrea was born different. Not because of her looks, but because of her tattoo, and her number. Without her knowledge, everyone's eyes are on her, everyone is watching. And as she begins her own tutoring job in the above world, she realizes her mission is far bigger than teaching chemistry to a rich boy from a rich family.

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3. Chapter two

The Guardian waited for me, as I collected my books and shoved them inside a black bag that Kyle had given me for my 19th birthday. All the while, my parents watched me closely. My mother would, every once in a while, hand me something I was forgetting.

“Now Andrea, you be careful. Up there everything is different” warned my mother, before hugging me tightly and whispering for me to come back soon. My father hugged me next, and then kissed my forehead lightly. I couldn’t be sure, but it looked like he had tears in his eyes.

The Guardian stood impatiently by the door, waiting like a body guard.

“Where are we going, mister?” I asked him jokingly, hoping to be able to irritate him.

He simply walked. He started down a side lane, a short cut that led straight to the elevators. I never took that route, because it ran along the edge of our cave and the idea that nothing but compact earth and stone was waiting for me on the other side of the last wall made me feel queasy and in danger. But this time I did not have a choice, and so I started out after the Guardian, following the shine from his lantern.

“Hey! Wait for me damn it! I don’t have long legs like yours!” I yelled after him, well aware that if I wanted to I could run faster than him.

He stopped, waited for me to catch up, and then began walking again, always without saying a single word.

Finally, after about ten minutes of awkwardly (at least of my side) walking in silence, we reached the elevators. Even at such a late hour in the evening, they were still incredibly busy. Women of all ages descended and entered the huge elevators, and were transported upwards towards the above world. The Guardian waited silently next to elevator’s doors, and when it opened boarded without a word. I walked in behind him, and soon found myself pressed against the wall by the bodies of fellow Cave Girls. A circle had formed around the Guardian, nobody wanted to stand in his vicinity.

The elevator buzzed, the pressurized doors opened and I stepped out in the above world. It wasn’t really that different from the Cave, but only where I was in that moment. The in between station had been designed specifically to resemble the Cave, so that we wouldn’t feel uncomfortable in the morning and would feel at home in the evenings, returning from our jobs.

The Guardian motioned me to sit down on a hard back plastic chair, while he went to get my file and the name I had been assigned to tutor, leaving me to think about my future.

There were a lot of tutoring jobs available, but very little applicants. People from the Cave did not understand why they should go work for them when there was so much to do at home. But for me, tutoring had always been a dream. Tutoring someone meant that you got to see the outside world every day, meant that you could come in contact with the other race, and it meant that you could get away from the Cave.

The in between station was bursting with activity. Guardians and Gate Keepers moved quickly from one corner to the next, their arms full of files and folders. While they walked, my race sat. Most of us were women, waiting for their pass to go in the above world. They were tutors, like me. However, I saw a couple of young guys filling in job applications.

Usually only women were allowed to work in the above world. People from the Cave believed that they only allowed women up there because they were scared men would revolt. I wasn’t sure if I believed it or not, but it didn’t seem very plausible. Considering how easily they had forced us into the shadows, I didn't see why they would worry at all.

I watched as the two young men finished filling their applications. Every year, in spirit of equality, they allowed two young Cave Boys to be included in the police force that controlled the Cave. It was only two posts, and there were thousands of boys applying. Kyle had applied, but he hadn’t gotten in because of his scar. To become a Cave Guardian you had to be perfect, healthy and obedient. You couldn’t be a revolutionary and get into the police force, they weren’t that dumb.

“I got your file, Andrea Sterling, number 29999.” The Guardian materialized at my side, and handed me a file with his gloved hand.

I gingerly opened it, and found myself staring at a picture of a young man, maybe a little older than me. His blue eyes stood out from his dark skin, and I couldn’t help but realize he was pretty. Not handsome, pretty. His cheekbones were too high to be manly, and his arched eye brow gave him the air of someone with a very high opinion of themselves. On his shirt, I could see the logo of one of the most important schools of the above world. His name was Stark.

“When do I begin?” I asked the Guardian, before realizing he already had in his hand the syringe.

“Oh, that fast? Very well, go ahead. Inject me” I exposed the skin around my shoulder, where my number was pulsing. He removed the cap from the needle, squirted some liquid out to check for blockages, and then stabbed me just above my number. My muscles contracted as the liquids entered my blood stream, and I felt slightly dizzy for a second.

The Guardian watched me closely, checking for any allergic reactions, or any fainting spells. When he realized I was fine, a light of disappointment shone in his eyes.

“You wish. – I snarled at him – now let me go meet this Stark kid.”

“Watch your tone, 29999!” he hissed back at me, before walking off towards the checkpoint.

I sighed and cursed my temper. I got up, waved at the two young Cave Boys and went after him. My heart started beating a little faster as we neared the checkpoint. I had never been so close to the portal between the two worlds. I had never seen the above world; I had never been to Earth. The checkpoint got closer and closer, and before I knew it I was being squeezed through a metal door that closed behind me, leaving me alone in a tiny room.

“Stand still.” Commanded a voice. I stood in the centre of the cell-like room, opened my arms wide and spread my legs. I let the metal detector and x-ray examine me.

“Step away from the door.” The cold metal voice reminded me of the voice my father used to put up when he used to tell me the story of how the Cave came to be.

On the other side of the door, Gate Keepers stared me up and down, as I followed one of them to the document check counter. I slapped my identification document and my qualification booklet on the table. The Gate Keeper took them and spent a good five minutes examining them minutely. He then passed them over a scanner to check their authenticity. The machine beeped and the screen flashed green. I was real.

The Gate Keeper that had led me to the counter motioned for me to follow him. He walked up to another counter. Here, neatly stacked one next to the other, were the same masks that they all wore. I shook my head.

“I don’t need one.” I told him and the other one standing behind the counter.

“I know you don’t. I need a new one though” said a voice behind me.

I turned around and found myself facing the live version of the picture I had been looking at only a couple of minutes ago.

“Hi, I’m Stark. You must be my tutor” he said, holding out his gloved hand.

I felt my jaw drop.

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