“Welcome to your new life,” the foreman says, thrusting a set of gardening tools and a pair of overalls at me.
I take them and file in line behind my little brother.
“Have you ever seen so much green in your life, Della?” my brother says, pulling on his overalls eagerly. “I’ve heard it’s all done by converting the sea water to fresh water.”
“Fascinating,” I say flatly as I step, reluctantly, into my overalls. “I still can’t believe mum made us leave the desert to come and work in this place.”
“Oh, please cheer up. At least we’re all together.”
“Not all of us,” I say under my breath.
He ignores my comment, and says, “Anyway, you know the developers would have bought the land eventually. And I know you found all that moving around just as tiring as we did. You’re only sour because you had to set the horses free.”
The line starts to move. One by one, we reach our stations. My brother, having already committed his training manual to memory, drops to his knees and immediately starts plucking any dead leaves from his tomato plants.
I kneel beside him and start tending to my own plot. “Let’s move to the eco city, mum said.” Pluck. Pluck. “It’ll be fun.” Snip. Snip. “Who needs fresh air and freedom?”
But my brother doesn’t respond. He’s chatting and laughing with the boy next to him.
I wonder if he misses dad at all.
The girl next to me says, “It’s not that bad once you get used to it. We have fun too. Everybody looks out for each other here. We’re one big community. And as part of a community, you have to do your bit.”
“What if I don’t want to be part of a community?”
She frowns. “Why wouldn’t you?”
“Never mind.” Pluck. Pluck.
At dinner, the performance evaluation. My brother grins proudly as the foreman leads the team in applause. All plants tended to. Hydroponics running at maximum. A record first day for the new boy.
“Better luck tomorrow,” the foreman says to me.
“Maybe you can get the horses to carry the fruit for you?” someone mutters.
My bother giggles with his new clan.
Dad would be so proud.
Through the towering glass wall of the hive, the sun is steadily sinking below the mountains, a fractured stream of orange laying an inviting path across the ocean waves. Beyond the shore, at the path’s end, the prairie lands, my home. Where my father taught me to track animals and tame foals. Maybe I could swim, and run, and find him…
The window suddenly dims, turning into a huge screen. A list of names in big green letters runs across the middle. I count five.
“What was that about?” I ask.
“At the end of each day we see who we lost,” the older girl sitting opposite me says.
“How did they die?”
“Accidents, probably… Sometimes people drown.”
“In the ocean?”
Nod. “The guards try to stop them, but sometimes they just―”
The boy sitting to the left of the older girl clamps his hand around her wrist. “What she means is, sometimes people ignore the warnings and… go for a swim,” he says to me. “The guards do their best to revive them, but, you know?” He shrugs.
“Don’t worry, though.” He tightens his grip on the girl’s arm and smiles. “We all look out for each other here.”
First published on 365tomorrows.com, September, 2016. To view this story, and hundreds more fantastic scifi pieces by awesome authors, please follow the link below.