“Shoot!” Ilana cursed at the radio. Other workers rushed into the office, thankfully not catching her swear. She ducked her head and pretended to work while she sank deep into thought.
She knew it! She knew there was something beyond this mess of a society! The feeling of victory and shock of knowledge blended with her frustrated feelings by this Olivia. She took a deep breath. She couldn’t believe what was happening- after all those years her doubts were doubted, and her thoughts not thought of … She was right! Should she tell Vanessa? No, she better not… Vanessa would tell someone else, even if she was her best friend. Actually, after that day she had an argument, she wasn’t even sure.
She straightened herself.
‘No more time to sit with wide eyes, concentrate on the stuff here, Ilana,’ she thought to herself. She rolled her brain, grabbed anything- everything- that came to mind that might be related to another town. Anything strange she had seen, anything extraordinary that she heard…
But she came to nothing, as life was always strict and organized. So she began thinking of what might be true.
‘If there really is another island- no, I know there is- there’s got to be a way there, right? I hope it’s not far, because I’ll get there someday! What would it be? Boat? No, then the people working on the shores would know… Then a flightcraft? No, that would be even worse… But then again, there’s nothing by land! I’m on an island! Not by sea, air, land… Unless they were to dig a hole under the sea and out onto our island!’
She chuckled at her own joke, then frowned. Something had just clicked, though she couldn’t quite put her finger on it… She carefully retraced her train of thoughts.
‘Not by sea, air, land… Unless… They were to go under the sea and onto their island!’ And she suddenly remembered that day, when it was raining like mad…
* * *
“Come on, Ilana! Just walk!” He mother said, squinting to avoid the drops of muddy water from Ilana’s constant jumps into the puddles. She had been taking her from school to pick up the ration on the way. As they arrived at the station, her mother got more and more frustrated.
“Okay, Ilana,” she sighed, “Stand right here while I line up and pick our food up, got it? No more jumping puddles, a lawguard is going to get you someday!” And with one last worried but angry glance at her daughter, she walked away.
The kindergartener, of course, would not follow her mother’s orders. She went straight up to the front of the line and watched in awe as some very nice men were handing out food. When they reached back to the stack of crates behind them, their hands would have food in it as it came to the front. Ilana had never seen so much food in one place, she was sure these men would run out soon but the food kept coming…
She walked right up to the men and said in her small voice, “Pineapples, pineapples,” but they did not hear her. The disappointed girl simply sneaked back and walked into a huge space full of brown boxes, but she did not see any food. Let down, she kept walking deeper in when she saw a curious sight. There was an opening into the ground, it seemed, and a few men were closing it up. She was watching when one of the men spotted her and went into a panic.
“Guys, this island girl was watching!”
“Rebecca would kill us… Let’s just get her a piece of candy.”
They ushered her out, popping a piece of something hard and red into her mouth. It had a sweet, delightful taste that she never experienced again…
“Hey, kid, do you want another one?” One of the men asked. She was tickled pink that they were offering her one more. Ilana’s head bobbed up and down.
“Okay, do you promise not to tell anyone what you saw? Promise?” He asked. Again, Ilana nodded. This time, they gave her a yellow piece and it tasted sweeter but sourer.
As the men pulled her out by her hands, she looked back at the scene over her shoulder. She caught a glimpse of a red circle with a line across it. That was the last thing she saw.
* * *
Ilana opened her eyes. She recounted the memory again and again, the story which was pushed deep into the corner of her mind for so long… Maybe, just maybe, it was the way to somewhere else.
* * *
Olive screamed silently. The thought of the girl on the other island wouldn’t go away. Well, no, there was no other island. Who cares? But Olive did. And she couldn’t help it.
For the first day, she was okay. She managed to push away the thoughts and convince herself that the call was just a joke. But as the week passed, she couldn’t help but feel that the call might have been sincere.
After all, hadn’t she hoped as a child that there was more of this world? Come to think of it, as she grew older, the repetition of life and the rules and order had kind of made her think that there was no more world, just Mayfield.
She did indeed wish there was another island, and she wished to believe everything that the girl said, but she knew her dreams and hopes were wild. She was so used to this comfortable, regular life, too. She ate enough not to starve, she worked, she was fit.
Should she take the roller coaster that might mean a new adventure? A twisting and turning dark tunnel that she couldn’t see a foot ahead? It was so tempting after thousands of the same day. On the other hand, a relaxing, calm, and orderly life was patted down in front of her, a road of life so straight and wide she could see it all the way to the end.
She decided that the lure of the roller coaster was too big to ignore. She’ll just try the ride, and if it gets scary, she’ll pop off. Right? Right, she thought. She never thought for a moment that if you get on, you have to ride it through.
* * *
After another day of exhausting work, Olive walked to her houseroom when she saw the familiar blonde up do with the periwinkle ribbon. It was Mary! Oh, how it felt like such a long time had passed! She happened to be telling a story to her new kids.
“We don’t believe it, miss!”
“It’s true, children!”
“A train? Really?”
“Yes, there really used to be one! It’s closed off now, but it used to take you to other places. There’s nothing out there anymore, but back then, there was!”
“You mean before the war? A passage leading out of this place?”
“Stupid, she said train! Right, miss?”
“Either way. Now, let’s check you guys in.”
The kids were so lucky to have Mary as a teacher, Olive thought. She was nice, funny… And she seemed a little like she received less influence from the government. Unlike the strict teachers, she was fun and sometimes told them stuff that they shouldn’t know. Of course, there was the thing that parents didn’t really like her. The general population who knew Mary was uncomfortable with her telling the kids ‘dangerous’ information. But Olive couldn’t see why the stuff was dangerous for kids. Sure, maybe it wasn’t that safe, but Mary knew when to stop.
Mary never lied. Never. But who would think she was telling the truth, listening to this story? I waited until all the kids were gone, and tapped her on the shoulder.
“Oh wow! Olive! Long time no see, huh?”
“Yes, it is. Uh…” Olive was unsure how to address Mary, now that she was in training stage. Back when she was being taught by Mary, it was required that all students call her ‘Miss’, but she wasn’t sure anymore.
“You can call me Mary now,” Olive’s former teacher said, breaking the awkwardness.
“Um, yeah. Mary. So, I heard your little... story… a minute ago.”
Mary became serious, colors draining out of her already-white face.
“Oh. I see. Well, you know, you’re not really supposed to know… that… you know.”
“Wait a minute. You’re implying that what you said is actually true? There used to be a t-“
“Shhh!” Mary silenced her quickly, looking around.
“Okay. It’s true. But there’s no harm in telling you, because it’s broken now, and you are going to keep quiet. Right, Olive? I mean, I’m sure you understand. I trust you. You’re mature enough.”