Excerpt from book:
They took Mother away today.
I was on my energy board when they came. They didn’t knock. They just came in, men in black uniforms. Enforcers. I shut off my board and stumbled, hitting my hip against the metal sidebar. They didn’t say anything but held up their hands in a way that told me to stop and not come any closer. My meter was only halfway to the finish point. Mother had gotten off her sleeping mat when she heard them at the door and stood there, head down. How tangled her hair looked, gray and lifeless.
They asked which sleeping mat was hers. She pointed to mine. I started to say, “No that’s mine,” but she gave a little shake of her head so I kept quiet. One of them rolled up the mat and put it under his arm. The other one tied short, dirty ropes to Mother’s wrists. I knew not to cry in front of the Enforcers but tears burned hot behind my eyes.
Mother hadn’t done her duty walking since I was paired with Jeremy two days ago. She had stayed curled up on her sleeping mat, her face to the wall, her back a row of bony knobs. I had walked both my board and hers those two days so our meters would register at Central Authority for two people. That was the only way to get food for both of us.
Maybe they could tell one person was doing two different meters because the meters registered at different times. Who knows? I’ve seen too many things over the almost eighteen years I’ve spent on this Earth to ever doubt the Authority’s power.
Mother went quietly, shuffling her feet across the rough concrete floor. She looked back at me and said, “I’m sorry I didn’t teach you enough . . . . I love you.” There was a scratchy sound to her voice as though the words were stuck inside her. “I’m sorry, Emmeline.” I didn’t know what she meant and I didn’t have time to ask. The Enforcers, one on each side of her, tugged on the ropes. She looked weak and shrunken between them.
I watched through the window slit as they pulled Mother up the steps of the bus-box. How trapped she looked sitting between them. Six other men, large and muscular in orange uniforms, stood in their harnesses. The Transport Team. The bus-box lurched forward as the men began walking in unison. I watched until it disappeared around the curve past our Compound.
Then I ran after her. The Gatekeeper didn’t see me; he was making rounds at the far end. I ran as fast and as hard as I could along the ridge between the ruts in the dirt road, the muscles in my legs clenching and unclenching like fists, until I could see the bus-box.
I slipped to the side of the road, crouching down, creeping closer. The bus-box turned onto a narrower road, hidden by trees. I never knew that road was there.
The green flag marking the area was barely visible. Beyond it was a building I had never seen before. Bigger than any Living Space and a deeper, darker gray than the other buildings. No window slits, just blank, forbidding walls.
The bus-box stopped in front of the building’s only door. Through the trees I could see the Enforcers walk Mother to the door. Dust swirled around her ankles as she shuffled. The odor here seemed familiar but was much more potent.
Mother still had the ropes on her wrists and the Enforcers were holding them tightly. She turned, looked at me as though she knew I’d been following her the whole time, and somehow was able to raise one hand to touch her chest, her heart. That motion lasted only a second. I’ll remember it for a lifetime.
A hand reached out and pulled Mother inside. The door slammed shut.
While the Enforcers got back on the bus-box, I hid behind a tree and watched until they disappeared. Then I leaned my head against the tree and beat my fists against the rough bark until they bled.
* * *
I had never been alone before. Mother never allowed that. Never. Jeremy wHOW MUCH WOULD YOU RISK TO BE FREE?
Emmeline and her family live in a place that just a generation ago was called America. Now, it’s simply known as “the Republic.” There is no president. No Congress. No Supreme Court. No freedom.
There are only the Authorities.
This bleak and barren existence is all that eighteen-year-old Emmeline has ever known. She dutifully walks her energy board daily and accepts all male pairings assigned to her by the Authorities. Like most citizens, she keeps her head down and her eyes closed.
Until the day they come for the one she loves most.