Cycle of Ashes

CHAPTER ONE

One step forward
Three steps backwards
I can’t feel the light
To be better
To be more
To keep hope alive
To rise above and beyond
v…

Maria looks at her write up and groans, “Its so bad!!!” she’s startled by the sound of the morning horn that wakes every one telling them it’s time for labor. “When will this stop? I don’t understand why people take it, I mean it’s obvious the minister and his cohorts use us to enrich their bellies sucking on the dreams of the poor,” she stands to dress up for another morning ritual and murmurs, “They expect us to thank them, for what? We plant the seeds, we water them, we harvest them, and all they do is sit and look pretty. They stop us from learning; apparently it’s a waste of time. I don’t understand at all.” She looks around to ensure her mother is nowhere near her, she knows how much scolding she’ll get for such words. Maria rolls her eyes at the thought of this, she looks out her window and looks at the morning sky “At least the sky looks the way I feel, bleak!!! ” she hears her mother calling her, “I’m up mama, I am ready for another blissful day, ” she says sarcastically.

Her mother is a slim beautiful woman who looks older than her age thanks to the labor drill enforced by the ministry, “Maria, don’t be cheeky with me this morning, I do not have the patience to listen to you today, will you come down here and let’s get to work”
“Yes mama” Maria answers her mother. She goes down from her room and meets her mother outside who is ready to go for another day in the ministry.
They get to the assembly; Maria and her mother locate their assigned places, standing together with the rest of the colony, in the 22nd century waiting to be told what to do. The vizier in charge of their land comes up marking the register to ensure everyone is available, that’s what they do. Vizier Franco is also the priest of their faction, a tall bulky man with a friendly face but downright nasty when it comes to his appointed job which is making the cut for the national harvest. He enjoys the privilege of being supervisor and mayor of the faction. Maria mumbles to her best friend, actually only friend since having many could be considered dangerous and a threat to the ministry. Her best friend, a small, curvy girl with cornrows and a boldness that’s more than anyone can handle. Of course, Maria and Chi hit it off right away when they met at their first labor gathering ten years ago.
“Look at him, looking smug in his all black ensemble, he looks like the devil’s twin brother especially with that ridiculous haircut,” Chi snickers. “Well, no one said having good taste had anything to do with being privileged,”

Maria laughs getting attention from soldiers around. She tries to school her face to look neutral but too late, the Vizier already has his eyes focused on her. “Anything amusing you would like to share with the rest of us, I could use a good laugh,” his smile downright creepy. Maria knows that smile, she is in trouble.

Maria mutters under her breath to Chi, “The troubles you get me into. Why don’t you join me today, you little snake?” Chi chuckles, “Well you asked for it, don’t blame me if we end up in the sack, although I have been curious about what happens in the sack.” She winks at Maria who groans. Chi looks at the Vizier approaching them, “Sir, I can help you with that, we were just wondering about how many months pregnant one has to be to match the size of your stomach, Maria here had the opinion it would take about seven months, but I think and this is just a thought, ten months, I mean you can carry twins in the…” The Vizier slaps Chi and Maria sighs and thinks to herself, she is already in trouble, what’s the point of being tight lipped? “Sir, you asked and she answered and quite honestly we were talking about your great taste in fashion, no one can quite pull of cruel as you do” she takes a pause before adding “sir”, the Vizier looks ready to burst, and is astonished by their guts, he stares at them for a moment, “Sir, are you okay? There’s a vein I think that’s about to pop, right here.”

Maria points to her Forehead and Chi chuckles, there are murmurs and silent laughs everywhere. The Vizier smiles mischievously, “Since you two are so funny, the sack could use a little humour, I’ve heard it’s getting really bleak in there.” There were gasps everywhere on the assembly, Maria and Chi, trying to look undisturbed but really scared, Chi shrugs and Maria smiles, refusing to give the Vizier any more satisfaction., “I guess it’s time for a change of location, I was getting bored anyways.”
“We’ll see what you have to say to that after spending six months in there.” He beckons to the soldiers to take them away. Maria looks at her mother, whose face is in agony, “Mama don’t cry, I’m really sorry, I promise I’ll survive.” She hugs her mother before she’s pulled along with Chi and taken to the transport that’ll take them to the sack.

Maria and Chi are bound together and are being transported to the sack.” Do you think the sack is as bad as they say? I mean, they say no one survives there and people eat other people there, and girls have to sell their body for protection, it is even said that every fourteen days, the fire comes from the volcano and burns everyone to crisp for being bad and not following the rules of the ministry, they…. ” “Chi, relax, breathe in and out, you are getting hysterical, I’m sure it’s not as bad as they say, rumors are usually worse than the real thing, you remember when people said your father sucked the blood of innocent children and that’s why he has red lips, see turns out that your father just sucks his lips a lot.” Chi laughs, “Nobody ever said that and you are terrible at pep talks, why on earth did you have laugh out loud? You could have smiled under your breath, or better still have chosen not to laugh.”

Maria rolls her eyes, “Wow, so this is my fault now? You didn’t have to join me. For just laughing, I could have been given twelve strokes of the whip, rendered an apology and promise to be good to the ministry, you were the one that decided to go all out and call him a pig.” Chi tries to look at her but impossible to since they are bound with their backs together, “I said no such thing, I just described him. I mean seriously, what on earth does he eat that his stomach keeps growing?” Maria laughs, “I know, right?!! We barely have enough to eat yet people like him eat and feed their pets with what we can’t even afford. It’s disgusting, really.” Chi sighs in resignation, “There is no justice in the world anymore, for just talking, we are sent to where murderers and people who commit the worst crimes are sent to, and do you think we will survive the sack? No one ever comes out alive after their term.” Maria says spiritedly, “We have to, we just have to; we just have no choice but to survive.”
“With my sass and your cleverness, sure we can survive a den of cannibals, rapist, murderers and who knows what else.” “I know you are being sarcastic Chi but we will, I promise you and yes, I know, don’t make promises you can’t keep, I intend to keep this one.” The transport stops, Chi and Maria are unbound and blindfolded. The soldier in charge of their punishment says, “Advice for you two, if you want to survive there and I’m not saying you will, keep your head down, and run from wherever there’s trouble.” Then he pushes them into a tunnel and locks them the gateway.

Maria and Chi removes the blindfolds, Chi says in a whisper, “It’s so dark in here.” Maria looks around, “Look at that light over there, I think that’s the way to wherever.” She starts to move in that direction, “Wait, we don’t know what’s waiting for us; I think we are safe where we are.” A sinister laughter is heard, the girls scream and try to run, some men come out from the shadows, “Not so fast,” the one that seemed like their leader says.

The girls pause and try to get used to the dim light, they hold hands and try to comfort each other, “where do you think you are going? Now you are here, I own you” he snickers and speaks to his men “They look so innocent, what do you think they did to deserve the sack? They don’t look like the killing type,” he tilts his head to take a better look at them, “let me guess, an elder took an interest in you and you said no? Nahh, you don’t look that spirited.” Maria and Chi look at the man talking, scared and vulnerable. “Looks aren’t everything, we could be lethal assassins pretending to be scared and afraid,” Maria says to him, Chi whispers to her, “Good one but I don’t think they’ll buy it.” The men burst into laughter at Maria’s comment; Chi rolls her eyes, getting pissed. Maria feels her tense and groans, “please Chi, control your emotions, don’t say anything, and please don’t say anything.” Chi sighs, “I’m not an idiot, of course I won’t say anything stupid.” one of the men comes close to Chi and touches her face, she grimaces, he moves his hands to her lips and she bites him really hard. The man screams and punches her in the face; she falls but grins with blood in her mouth at the man. The men laugh and mock the bitten man, the leader smirks, “I take it back, you are spirited after all, it will be fun watching the both of you break.” Chi spits the blood in her mouth, “be careful what you wish,” she says to the leader. He smiles and signals to his men, one of the men blows a white powder on the girls, they go unconscious. The men carry them as the go deeper into the tunnel.