Copyright © 1996-2003 Sarah Henderson.
It was late on Wednesday evening and Denizen Armstrong was lost somewhere beneath the city of Kyrie. He had marched out of his cell cubicle and hadn't stopped walking until he sat down in a warm circular room beneath a nuclear power plant .
As his body was walking, his mind had been wandering. For the first time he studied the thick smoke that hung everywhere, making it impossible to breathe in the open. Instead people were confined to clear walking-tubes between the suburbs. Each suburb was encased in a white plastic dome.
The smoke was a residue from the time when energy was obtained by burning fossil fuels. This pollution was no longer generated due to the universal switch to nuclear power.
Den winced at that thought. The subject of nuclear power was very sensitive. His parents had been shot exactly two years ago, in 2041, for protesting the construction of a nuclear power plant. The government saw the protest as treason, punishable by death.
Den had been close to his parents, although he never shared their views on many things. The anniversary of their death was a very hard time for him, and his weeping grandparents only depressed him more. That was how he came to be walking through the suburbs of the city.
He entered a suburb of the city and found himself surrounded by dozens of small children. The city's children all lived together. They were separated from their parents at birth, in accordance with a law passed six years ago.
The children dropped from his mind as he walked through the next suburb. There was no noise and the place was empty. This section had once housed the elderly, but since the government decided that all people should be destroyed at age 55, it had been vacant.
Den hurried to the nearest exit door, but in his haste, he had stumbled upon the opening of the void beneath the nuclear power plant. He walked in.
His mind and body were wandering, but not together. He remembered what his parents had told him when he was a boy - that society hadn't always been the way it was now. Not so long ago, people could choose what to read, what job to do, who to marry, and even where to live.
By the time Den sat down in the circular room, he had decided to devote his life to the same causes as his parents. He would start with gaining freedom of speech.
Abruptly, his thoughts were interrupted by an unfamiliar swishing sound. Den saw, to his horror, that the gaping hole he he'd walked through was now closed. Too late, his mind realized that his body was trapped in a flux tube, a temporary storage and cooling unit for radioactive waste.
His parents had often worried about the dangers of flux tubes being open to the public, and now he agreed with them.
As his body began dissolving in the scorching radioactive sludge his mind floated, satisfied in the realization the 21st Century Earth was not a nice place to live.