Riley Mercury lives in the ruins of the United States in the year 3017. Being extremely poor, tired, and overworked, Riley gives herself up to a twenty five year old man named Nate. When she thinks things can't get anymore different, something happens that changes her life forever.


1. Chapter 1

I hack at the dirt, trying in vain to finish the hole I started a few hours ago. I softly place a blue daisy at the bottom of the hole, to tell people it was mine. The year was 3017, and the world was much more scary. I lived in a place they used to call Nevada. The ground was always moist, the sky always filled with gray clouds that cast a dreary taste over our simple town. I haven't been farther than twenty miles outside of my community, but I've heard slips here and there about everywhere else. I lived in a place called Grace Republic, basically the ruins of a past nation called the United States. The entire eastern side of the country was submerged in water, all the way from Kansas City to Rhode Island. I've heard of a vast land they called Europe, but I didn't have any clue as to where it could be. Our country was ruled by a strict man, Gordon Hall. He didn't care about us or anything else for that matter, as long as none of us stepped out of line. I didn't even know what would happen if we did. One time when I was around thirteen, there was this kid that I liked, Castor Blaine. He was a troublemaker, but I wasn't really. Well, until I met Castor. Sometimes he'd take me with him on some of his escapades. Like breaking the lock on the chicken coops, sneaking out of the house at midnight and just sit in an abandoned farmhouse we found, me usually falling asleep in his arms. Until one day he invited me to tear apart one of the widow's houses in town, the now dead Mrs. Clayton. I had refused and in anger, he decided to do it himself. After that night, I never saw Castor again. I remember hearing shouts of agony, through the thin walls of my house. I had just pulled my sheets over my head and sung a lullaby softly to myself until the screaming stopped. Now I wonder what would've happened if I had stepped in, now that I know those screams probably had belonged to Castor. The black soles of my boots have long since turned a light gray to match the granite colored dust that has been settled over the terrain for as long as I could remember. I walk to one of the slack food stands where I knew Nate sold food for cheap. I didn't question where he got it from, but every now and then, I have to pick a rock out of my bread, or a dead insect out of my lettuce. When I get to the stand, he grins at me. Nate was about twenty five years old with black hair that he had to shake out of his blue green eyes every few minuets. At times you could trust him, well, at times. He was on drugs, and if he went without them, he wasn't the same. "Hey pretty lady." His voice was deep and a little raspy, sending shivers up my spine. "How's it going?" His warm breath tickles my cheek, and my nose fills with his usual scent of cocaine and peppermint. "I'm fine. How about you?" He chuckles at my light voice and bends his neck down to my shoulder, taking a small sniff. "I told you, Riley. I could do your work for you." The back of his hand gently brushes my cheek. "Nobody would have to know." He finishes in a whisper. I pull away, chewing my lip. "I'm alright Nate, I can do it myself." He takes my hands and flips them over to see my palms. I tighten my jaw at the stinging pain. They were a blood red, blisters and burns all over the insides. "Baby girl if you're so worried about getting in trouble with me doing your work, why don't you come with me? There's no law against that, doll face." It was true. If two people were married, they could do each other's work. I've occasionally thought about it, fake hooking up with Nate just for him to do stuff for me. But it seemed so wrong. To let him feel me up every night so he could fix my problems in the day? I would feel like a whore. Just to make it more tempting, they give the family and the newly weds a large sum of food and water. Every night I always come close to walking over to his house, to give myself up just to save myself from the pain, to give my family food. "I'll.....think about it." I stammer breathlessly, quickly paying for some bread and a few tomatoes before leaving quickly. I hated walking through the heaps. The smell didn't bother me, it was just the kids that rummage through the trash heaps, starvation slicing crude edges into their bodies. It was worse when you'd see them a few weeks later slumped against a trash can, dead. One of them in particular I had a soft spot for. Lucy McEntire. She was only four, and spent almost all day stumbling throughout the street. Her parents fought quite a bit, and as a result, she was abused. I see her sitting on the side of the road, a purplish blue bruise on her tiny wrist. Her blonde hair was in two pigtails and she watches a small ant climb over the pebble stones. "Hey sweetheart." I kneel next to her and whisper. She smiles wide when she sees me, her big blue eyes sparkling. I hand her a apple and her small hands quickly take it from my grasp and she finishes it easily. I wonder when was the last time she'd eaten. She grins wider and I hand her my pouch of blueberries, twirling a strand of my hair. "I've got to go now, but I'll see you later?" She sticks her thumb in her mouth and nods, putting her arms around my neck. I pull up my pack and wave goodbye to her before treading off to my house.

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