Today’s entry in our quick online reads section was inspired by the photo above, but it didn’t begin there. The title and premise for Colony 81 were concocted a few years back, but the project was left on the back burner while I focused my efforts elsewhere. Spending a little time in that world today has inspired me to tell a fuller story, a tale of power, sacrifice, and rebellion. If the following short is enough to leave you wanting more, let me know in the comments below. For now, grab yourself a quick drink, light a cigarette, and enjoy the next five minutes.
Jonah Reeves only ever knew life within the stone white walls of Colony 81. He had supposedly been shipped down from Utopia at the age of five—a promise baby from the fortunate, a declaration that ‘we will come back for you’—but he didn’t remember anything that wasn’t wheat fields and grey clothing. He knew it was all bullshit anyway. Nobody down on earth would ever be collected and taken up, not while the Utopians needed them to farm their food, purify their water, and provide all the resources they needed to stay up there. Jonah was many things, but a fool wasn’t one of them. They were slaves, and he knew it. His birth parents threw him away to keep their own spot on the ship, and he knew that too.
Nobody knew how many colonies were walled in, but it was clear they each fulfilled a separate purpose. They had water delivered in barrels marked 64, fresh clothes bundled in grey bags with the number 128 stitched into them. The highest number the colonists in 81 were aware of, was 342, from the numbers stamped on the side of the fruit crates that got delivered each week.
Jonah sat alone with his back pressed up against the colony wall, shaping multicoloured energy balls with his hands. After the riots and wars—the reaction to the launch of the Utopia—were over, people of all castes and creeds were bundled into the colonies. Families were separated, communities torn apart, and each colony was left with a diverse group of individuals that had to become cohesive. Religions and beliefs were abandoned or adapted, and in that simplicity, something new was formed.
No longer was there a God, or an Allah. As the years went on, there was never mention of Christianity, or Paganism, or Hinduism, or Sikh. They had no need for religion anymore. What came in its place had no name, only a voice they could all hear. A whisper on a quiet night, a feeling of connectivity that couldn’t quite be described. Some called it the Source, others, the voice of the earth. The Truth. The message they all ignored, the point they all missed. The silence that spoke all noise, the nothingness that encompassed everything in existence, living and breathing and powering the whole thing.
For years it beckoned out, shrouded by wars and technology, drowned out by the sound of their own voices. Had they quietened down a little, worked together rather than in opposition, they would’ve heard it before things got bad. But things did get bad, and it took tearing the world apart to find it.
Jonah watched as the balls shifted from red, to blue, to yellow, to green, floating and coming back down, dancing and stretching and shrinking at his will. Those small bubbles were a part of his essence, a part of everything’s essence. Translucent star-stuff, given form through focus and intent.
“You’ll get seen doing that one day.” Jonah looked up, and the energy dissipated at once in a sudden pop. Grace stood before him, the setting sun illuminating the edges of her silhouette in a pink-orange hue.
“You’ve gotta stop sneaking up on me,” he said, shuffling his knees under his body to come cross-legged in the cracked earth. He reached out and grabbed her hand, pulling her to him. “You make me nervous standing above me like that.”
“Deal, as soon as you stop playing with your magic shit in public.” She sat opposite him, wearing her I-love-you-but-I’m-not-quite-happy expression—a half smile pulled up to the left, equal parts happiness and concern glazing the surface of her amber eyes. She really was beautiful. It still left him breathless at times, softening his resolve, cooling the fires that burned inside him.
He sighed. “I’m just practicing Gracie. Gotta figure it out.” He played around in the dirt with his index finger, drawing swirls and squiggles without purpose. Her soft hands took hold of his face and pulled it inline with hers, kissing him before pulling back to meet his eyes.
“Well figure this. If they see it they’ll kill you, probably after tearing you open to find out what it is.”
“I can tell them what it is.”
“But they won’t care what you tell them. They’ll wanna see for themselves.” She took his hands and they sat in silence for a few moments, tracing the lines in each others skin. Farmers hands, both of them, but Grace’s were softer somehow. Warmer.
“No, you listen Jonah. Whatever you’re thinking, it has to stop right now. Put it away.” Her voice raised, but remained hushed as if others were listening. They were miles from the chalets, but something about Jonah’s discovery put her on edge. Scared her into caution. “What you’ve found here is beautiful. It’s amazing. You’re amazing. But it doesn’t change anything, and it can’t. We’re trapped down here on a dying planet. They’re up there with all the power. You come out with something like this, we’re sitting ducks. They’ll kill us all just in case.”
Jonah squeezed against her grip, smiling. “I know,” he sighed, “I’ll be more careful.”
“It’s just dangerous, I don’t want to lose you.”
“I know,” he said again, this time sounding more certain. He pressed himself up to his feet and pulled her up with him, pulling her in. He stroked her hair while she rested her head on his shoulder, coarse from the grit of the fields, but still softer than his somehow.
“Keep it to that bedroom thing, like the fireflies, okay?” She whispered, pressing her lips to his neck suggestively.
“Of course,” he lied, ‘let’s get back home.”
They walked the few miles through the wheat back to the chalet, rough hand in softer rough hand, appreciating the comfort of each other and the fading light of the sun, painting the sky a dazzling blend of purple, red, and pink. By the time they reached the tiny stone hut they called home, Jonah had the beginnings of a plan.
It didn’t include hiding his discovery.
This post is part of an ongoing collaboration between myself, Ian Steventon, and TJ Kelly. For their interpretations of this photo prompt, check out The Dome by Ian, and Secret, Secret, I Have a Secret!! By TJ.
So there it is. The dialogue and setting can be fleshed out so much more, and there’s a much greater story to be told here. But now I ask you, Would you like me to carry this on? Before the new year I’ll be launching a web series for you lovelies, so if you want this in my list of potentials, or would like me to add parts to this in the coming weeks, let me know in the comments! Don’t forget to follow for more posts like this, alongside blogging and writing tips to take your writing to the next level. Thanks for reading ☺️
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