An excerpt from Call of the Sun Child by Francesca G. Varela.
The temperature in the facility is always seventy degrees. This, they say, is the perfect comfort zone between sweating and having to wear a sweater. But tonight there is something wrong. Something’s broken. I wish I had a jacket, but that would be a waste of resources.
All that is gray seems to be captured by icy blue. It must be at least fifty degrees. The stiff air, pushed around by the conditioning and ventilation systems, is sharp. And still we must go to school. Still we must venture out into unknown discomfort. There is no reminder of the powerful sun we cower from. He’s busy, after all, burning the other side of the world right now.
The chill is a thousand needles breaking through my thin white tunic. I’m almost to school. But there won’t be any heat there, either. All buildings are hooked up to the central system.
“There has been a mechanical error in the heating department,” said the blonde man on the news before I left. “The government would like to assure everyone that the problem is being addressed, and that the temperature will be back to normal in about thirty minutes. Please excuse the inconvenience.”
Mom says that this happened once when she was a little girl. Every twenty years or so parts gets worn out and they have to replace them.
“So they’re not perfect,” Alden raises his eyebrows. His bare arms are sprinkled with goose bumps.
“Why didn’t you wear a long sleeve shirt? It’s freezing.”
“I don’t have any.”
Ms. Morgan doesn’t even acknowledge that anything is abnormal, although she looks nice and warm in her double layer of robes. We begin class, but are soon interrupted when a tall boy walks in.
“Yes, yes. What do you want?” Ms. Morgan asks the boy with shaggy brown hair that’s highlighted green.
“Is this the accelerated tenth grade class?” His voice is strong but his eyes look unsure.
“Yes it is… Are you Timothy?”
“That’s me,” he folds his hands behind his back.
“Class, Timothy here has been moved up from the standard,” she spits it like they are far beneath her, the way she talks about the outsiders, “tenth grade class. Timothy, you can go have a seat. I’ll send you the class list of phone numbers. Now, we were just talking about governmental order.”
He takes the empty chair next to mine. I think about saying something but don’t want to disrupt class. Instead I offer him a smile. When he grins back I realize how very good looking he is. I glance from the corner of my eye at his strong jaw, his angular face. My breathing grows shallow. I’m not cold anymore. He smells like soap, like fresh minty soap.
Then he lays his phone down on the table. I let out my breath. Bright blue with green stripes. He’s rich, he’s handsome, and he’s above me in status. I know he sees my plain phone, but he doesn’t seem repulsed. He doesn’t shove his way across the table to join the other wealthy ones.
The only way to become rich if you’re not born that way is to marry up. It’s been done, but not often. There is only one rule concerning love; no more than one child per partner is allowed. Overpopulation is a threat that never ceases. If your family gets too big you’ll be thrown out into the dust, newborn baby and all.
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