We step outside and a blinding light has me turning my head and closing my eyes. I feel warmth hit my face and realise it’s the sun. The sun! It’s only been a week since I’ve been here, but it felt like I was never going to feel the sun again. It feels amazing and I almost want to cry.
I open my eyes and let them adjust, taking in my surroundings. There is a white brick wall to the left. It can’t be more than half a body length taller than me. I’m sure I could get over it. Except there is no way it’s that easy, otherwise everyone would have escaped by now.
I look at Laura. “Has anyone ever escaped from here?”
“No,” she says. “And I know what you’re thinking. The wall looks easy to climb, right? Well, not easy, I am a hopeless climber, but totally doable, right?” She pauses so I nod. “It’s not. Heaps of others have tired. There is a force field at the top of the wall.”
I gape at her, though I shouldn’t be surprised.
“We’re in a dome, Amberly.”
My heart sinks, my eyes going to the area above the wall. I need to get up there, see if I can see what’s beyond the wall. I can’t go over it, but maybe there is a way under it, or even through it. If Laura is right, and we’re not as important to them as the Talented, maybe this area isn’t as secure as the tower was. But there is no use escaping if I don’t know what’s on the other side.
“So,” Laura says, bringing my attention back to her. “You have two choices to start off with. I can take you straight to the rec hall to show you around there, or I can take you straight to The Hill, and judging by the way you are lusting after that wall, I’m guessing you’re the type that wants to go straight to The Hill.”
I look at her confused. “What’s The Hill?”
“The highest point in the dome,” she explains. “Well I guess other than on the roof of the houses, but it’s much safer on The Hill. You can see the whole of The Farm from up there.”
She’s right, I want to go straight there. “Take me to The Hill. Please.”
She nods. I follow her down a stone path. There is a picket white fence bordering the front yard and Laura opens the little white gate, gesturing for me to go through. I do.
There is a strip of green grass and then the fields. Standing by the fence is what looks to be a type of scooter, but one that can hover. It has a round platform for standing, with a long bar attached to it that spreads out to form handlebars at the top.
Laura puts her hand on one of the handlebars. “Each house has three of these. The Farm is pretty big and this is the easiest way to get across it. The field workers have dibs on them.” She steps up onto the round platform. “We usually only have one rider at a time, but it can take two people. Come on up.”
I step up beside her, having to press my arm against her so we both fit. She presses the big round button in the middle and it comes to life.
“Hold on,” she says, and I grip the bar in front of me. “It doesn’t go that fast,” she assures me, and then she tells it to go to The Hill.
It starts to move and I grip the bar tighter. She’s right, it’s not fast, moving at the same speed of a bicycle being ridden at a moderate pace.
“So this is the farm part of The Farm,” she says with little enthusiasm as we glide along beside the fields. Curious faces stop what they are doing and follow us with their eyes until we pass them. “This is where we grow all the food. All sorts of vegetables, corn and wheat, as you probably saw from your window. We do have cows and chickens here, but this is a meat free zone, like back up there with the Talented. They’re just here for the milk and eggs. There’s a small pond but no fish.”
Damn, I would have loved a nice juicy steak for dinner.
“We work on a rotating roster,” she explains. “So you’ll either be helping out here or in the house. Newbies usually start inside the house for a week, and then you’ll be assigned to someone who will teach you the ropes on each section of the farm, then you’ll be slotted on to the roster.”
I nod. I’m not sure if I’ve ever worked on a farm, or anywhere for that matter, but I’m happy to help, as long as I get some time off to find a way out of here. The most important thing is to not stand out. Starting a thing with Oliver brought too much attention to me, I’m not going to make that mistake again.
The orchard comes into view and Laura stains her neck, looking for something.
“Callum works in the orchard,” she says. “We are pretty sure he was a farmer in his other life. An orchard farmer, judging by the way he lovingly handles and looks at the fruit. He’s the exception to the rule.”
My eyebrows furrow. “What do you mean?”
“You know how I said you’ll be put on a rotating roster?”
“Well Callum isn’t on it, he gets to stay in his orchard every day.”
“Right.” I scan the trees but I don’t see anyone.
We come to the end of the orchard. There is a grassy path between it and the wall. We glide down it. The orchard ends and I see it. It’s a literal hill – grass and everything. I wasn’t sure what I was expecting.
Laura presses the button and the hover thingy shuts down. She steps off it and I follow her.
“I hope you don’t mind climbing,” she throws over her shoulder.
“I don’t,” I tell her. Well at least I think I don’t.
The path we take is well-worn. It must be one of the favourite spots for the people here to go. It’s steeper than it looks and I’m panting when we reach the top.
“Welcome to The Hill,” Laura says.
My jaw drops and I walk across the grass until I’m close to the edge. You can see the whole of The Farm from here. The orchard, the vineyard, the fields. I can even see the paddock where the cows are, their distant mooing just reaching my ears.
There are four rows of houses and another large rectangular building behind it.
I jump when Laura puts her hand on my shoulder. “Look up,” she says, and my head goes back. She pokes my cheek, moving my head more to the left.
My eyes go wide. There is a glistening white rectangular shape in the sky, and it looks like it is on the other side of the dome. I’m not sure where it starts or where it ends, rising up from behind the wall and disappearing into the clouds.
“That’s Paradise. Or The Tower of the Talented, as I like to call it,” she explains.
Oliver is in there. So close, but so far away. If only I could talk to him, tell him I’m safe. He would have no idea where they put me.
“Thinking about pretty boy?” Laura asks.
I blink and turn to her. She is smirking.
“How do you know about Oliver?”
“We saw it on TV of course.”
I feel my cheeks redden. What exactly did everyone see?
“So,” she says, looking like she is just about to burst. “Did you sleep with him?”
I scowl at her. “No.”
Her face falls. “Too bad, he was totally lava.”
How am I supposed to face everyone if they saw everything I did in Paradise? Well, not everything, I guess, Laura didn’t know whether Oliver and I slept together.
“C’mon,” Laura says. “I’ll take you to the rec hall.”
I look at the tower one more time. I try and send Oliver and Lyssa a mental message that I’m Ok and then follow Laura back down the hill.
©Rochelle Sharpe 2015