How the Kids Got Away?

Read Chapter 13 “Brief History of Ecotopia”

Josephine and Marcus were brought up in the strong tradition of Ecotopian core values of respect towards the natural world and every living thing. Nothing ever seemed too difficult or too overwhelming for them, that they couldn’t handle.

However, as much as Maggie wanted to protect them from reality, she couldn’t stop them from feeling that something unexpectedly wrong was happening to their immediate environment. They could see the signs nature was sending and it wasn’t that difficult to read between Maggie’s worried looks and unanswered questions. Josephine and Marcus were always willing to help out, but each time they offered their help, they were turned down and asked to join the community projects to work from within. But somehow working on the community projects didn’t feel fulfilling enough to either of them. The kids knew that whatever was causing change to the weather and the soil, at some point was going to affect everyone and everything around them.

When the kids found out about Maggie’s current work, her plan for the future of Ecotopia and the fact that their dad wasn’t their real dad, Josephine decided that the time to act was now. Even though Josephine was only ten years old, she was as stubborn and as driven as her mother. Without much planning, thinking or preparation, Josephine and Marcus decided to set off to find their real dad, in the hope that he was going to help them. In reality, Josephine didn’t consider any other alternative. In her child-like mind, responsible grown-ups do help when help is needed and fix things when it seems impossible to find common ground or workable solutions. Being brought up in Ecotopia where everyone is valued, respected, and where people selflessly help one another could have never prepared them for what the Old World stood for. The bits and bobs they knew about the Old World never mentioned the immense devastation, fear and loneliness that helped the Corporate Government keep the Down Below in increasingly poorer state for all those years.

The kids planned to sneak out in the middle of the silent and still Ecotopian night. Before the nightfall, they packed up their camping gear, together with other essential equipment they would need for survival. However, they didn’t predict the shortages of food and drinking water that were notorious in the Old World. How could they, coming from the land of plenty?

To sneak out of the Ecotopia, the kids took the flying scooters, which became a preferred method of transport used by the younger generation. Using an electronic map, which worked offline and left no trace behind, they made their way towards the only crossing there was still in existence. They wanted to get to the furthest reaching point on the continent, hide the scooters in the forest, and follow the path to the bridge. After the successful crossing of the bridge, they planned to head towards London where they believed their birth father lived. In a child’s mind, everything they do or plan is simple enough and doable. They don’t have the years of negative experience since life has been good to them; they always expect positive outcomes, regardless of reality.

Within a few hours under a cover of the night sky, the kids managed to reach the furthest reaching point of Ecotopia, unnoticed and unchecked. Once the scooters were safely hidden, they made their way towards the bridge.

That old bridge used to connect the Old World with the New World but was severely damaged the moment the Old World decided that the continent was the enemy of the Corporate Government. The New World insisted on the Corporate Government to mend their old ways of the past to save Earth and humanity from inevitable extinction. However, the Corporate Government always knew better and wouldn’t have anyone dictate what they should or shouldn’t do. Currently, the bridge was mostly used by the smugglers to smuggle provisions from Ecotopia and people from the Old World.

Josephine and Marcus surely didn’t fear the cold nights that became more frequent in the past two years. Besides, staying in the open, and out of sight of predators was not an alien concept to them.

However, what was very unfamiliar to them was the darkness and deprivation of what once must have been a magnificent forest. The closer they were getting to the bridge the less vegetation was around them. The dry hostile ground was full of twigs snatching under their feet, carrying the hollow noise across the barren land. Those were the first signs that things were very different in the Old World than in Ecotopia.

Josephine and Marcus had no idea that crossing the bridge could be a life-threatening experience. They could easily be kidnapped and disappear into one of the countless sweatshops the Above kept Down Below to control the remaining masses of the population. Being brought up in an Ecotopian bubble doesn’t prepare anyone for the austerity of the Old World, dysfunctional stands on humanity, and politics.

Crossing the bridge proven to be an eye-opening experience that stripped them from their childhood innocence bit by bit. The ruins that only slightly resembled what used to be the bridge were full of wobbly stones, which were better off left alone than stepped upon. When Marcus looked ahead, no end to that wobbly path could be seen from the shores of Ecotopia. After examining the state of the bridge, they both felt uneasy and scared but neither of them dared to express their fears out loud. Being brave, supportive and not afraid of challenges was how they were brought up and disappointing one another wasn’t in their nature.

Josephine decided that they should find some ragged clothes and put them over their Ecotopian uniforms, just in case they got caught or got themselves in troubles. She had this powerful feeling that somehow it could be their safety net if the trouble arises. Blending in with the environment was surely a good idea, especially in a place where everyone and everything had looked the same for years and strangers were not taken to kindly. It wasn’t challenging to find dirty, torn pieces of clothing. People often abandoned their belongings in a hurry and in desperation jumped into the sea in vain hope of reaching the safety of the Old Continent before the Corporate Government got them first.

Marcus was following in Josephine’s footsteps, who tried to step as gently and carefully on the stones as she could. However, with each step and each wobbled under her feet, Josephine developed a new anxious feeling that started to spread over her young body, influencing her decision-making mechanism.

Marcus didn’t like the thick fog that slowly was creeping around them, as if it was sucking them inside its swirly, milky consistency. The unsettling quietness of the crossing was petrifying, making their footsteps seem to be the only sound in the vast sea of undisturbed silence. Since the kids’ full concentration was on stepping on the right stones, they both failed to notices drones flying low above their heads and slight ripples on the water below them.

The drone and the sea ripples were part of the Old World’s the spying machine that was keeping track of their movement and thanks to their father’s invention, the eyes in the sky were recording their whereabouts. A specialized team of Old World troops sent from Down Below to meet the kids on the Old World’s side of the bridge. At the end of the day, it was a novelty for the Old World to have such young visitors crossing over. The Old World wasn’t going to let anyone sneak back (delusion of the Old World’s greatness still prevail over the reality), and that policy included kids. Those two could be of some value and maybe even could be used as bargaining chips with the Ecotopians.

If it wasn’t for the children’s physical strength and their high alert, crossing the bridge could have proven fatal for both of them. After more than five hours of exhausting and painfully slow crossing, they finally reached the other side of the bridge. Their small bodies emerged from the cloud of the fog into the unwelcoming shores of the Old World.

However, the path at the end of the bridge was covered with dead bodies. This sign profoundly disturbed Josephine and Marcus. But there was no time to talk about this or analyse the circumstances surrounding the event that led to all those people being dead. Unexpectedly from behind the grey bushes, a pack of young teenagers, just slightly older than Josephine and Marcus came out pointing old, rusty guns at them.

– “Who are you and what you want with us?” spoke a girl in a soft but commanding voice.

Read Chapter 15 “On the Road”