Children of the Desert.

All Anuru had ever known was a strict, regimented life, obeying the harsh rules of Aronath. Trapped by the high walls of the citadel, her life was ruled by exams and regulations. That was until she met Lalia.

New to the city, Lalia befriends shy Anuru and opens her eyes to life beyond the strict laws of Aronath. With Anuru's quiet logic and Lalia's free spirit can they escape to the freedom of the desert beyond.

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4. No going back.

The warm sun beat down on Anuru's back as she ran through the old lanes and backstreets, making the most of what shade the high walls could offer. The grey walls were spotless which in itself was an acheivement considering the dust of the desert outside. Anuru made her way through the main square, striding confidently towards Town Hall. Naveed and Lalia were stood on the steps looking up at the intimidating archways guarding the large door.

"You're late." Naveed said through his chattering teeth. His palms were sweaty and he was very pale.

"Nerves?" asked Anuru.

"Yep. I don't wanna go down those mines, it's just the thought of being underground. I'm claustrophobic."

"Aww, I'm sure you'll be fine. Mining was unheard of where I'm from. My friends would be so jealous!" said Lalia in a daydream.

"Are you mad! We'll die!" said Naveed, laughing with fear.

"We might not even end up in the mines," Anuru said trying to calm the now hysterical Naveed, " there's the factories or..."

"Oh, the factories, the factories!" Naveed was trembling.

"I think he may faint." said Lalia calmly. Anuru eventually managed to calm him down, no thanks to Lalia who continued to gaze wistfully at the town hall. They were soon joined by Erotha and the others from the meeting before being escorted inside by a stern looking official. They waited in a dull grey waiting room. The more they waited the more their nerves built. Anuru looked up at the the thin slits they called windows, which were set high into the walls so no one could see out. It was beginning to feel more and more like a prison.

Anuru was so relieved when the stern official returned. He took them to another cell-like office where a another stern looking official sat.

"Sit." she said, beckoning to a circle of chairs in the middle of the room. "You're all here to find out what careers have been chosen for you. The desicion is based on your unfortunate rank. I'm sure you regret your desision to waste the education that the Chancellor so grasciously provided for you. Be grateful to the City of Aronath for the work provided. No complaining, no rebelling."

This made Anuru very angry. As far as she could remember she had put in effort at school, she may have daydreamed occasionally during class but she never deserve this. Naveed was trembling, anticipaiting a life in the mines. Lalia looked completely unaware of what the official meant, she would have to learn fast thought Anuru. Although she was angry, Anuru was resigned to her fate. At least Father would be there if she ended up in the mines. Anuru remembered the stories Father bought back from that place, gas leaks, tunnels collapsing, floods, the unjust overseers and harsh punishment. Anuru made a promise to herself that is she ended up down there she wouldn't let them turn her into another Aronath-loving zombie.

"Unfortunately all the factory jobs have been filled. You are to work down the mines."

The official left them after that. The others were outraged, Erotha threw a chair at the closing door. Naveed broke down into a cross between crying and mad laughter. Lalia looked concerned, wondering whether she should be angry with the others or in hysterics like Naveed. Anuru stood up, calm and collected, and took the other two outside.

"Stop crying." Anuru said bluntly. They walked through the hall to the steps outside. The square outside was of grey stone, like the buildings, their angular shapes cutting into the sky. The red flags of Aronath flew proudly in the wind. The shops were all square, with drab signs hung above the door. In the distance the tall high rise flats cast shadows over the maze of lanes and steets.They walked towards one of the tallest tower blocks, basking in the cool shade. "Is this where you live?" Anuru asked Naveed.

"Yeah, floor 43. I think I'll be okay from here." Naveed sniffled as he walked towards the forbidding door. The air was laced with uncertainty, silence buried the frustration Anuru felt.

"So this is it then? You let some dull official decide the rest of your lives for you. I thought I was coming here for a better life." Lalia said, expressionless.

"It's not that simple. There are rules. They keep the city in order."

"Order? That poor boy from the Rankings going to starve right? That's what you said. That's your 'order'."

"Yeah well there's nothing I can do. You'll realize that soon, when you've been here a while."

"Couldn't we help him."

"We're not much better off than him, we have enough to feed ourselves and that's it." Anuru sighed. She thought of Mundo and felt very guilty. But she was right, they couldn't help him without making they're own families suffer. "Like I said you'll soon see. Once you've been here a year or so."

"What, I'll become some robot like those officials. That can't be right. It's unfair."

"Ssssh! You've said too much. Didn't you hear the lady? 'No complaining, no rebelling'." But Anuru saw the sense in Lalia's words. Thoughts of rebellion and equality pushed their way into her mind. Anuru knew if she acted on these words there was no turning back.

 

 

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