Japesns Story 1
Rules and Risks – Chapter 1
Indigo light filled the room with a haunting glow. It was the 36th of December on a warm summers morning in a small town on the south of England in the Utopian Empire. An eight-year-old girl slept under murky grey sheets.
Her eyes flitted around under closed eyelids, her brows furrowed, grimacing.
She scrambled around in her bed.
Her eyes snapped open. She bolted upright and screamed, ‘Papa.’
A boy’s silhouette crouched by the bed, lantern light casting shadows across his youthful face.
‘Shh,’ Jaspen whispered. ‘I’ve got you, Eva. I’ve got you.’
‘He was right there.’ Eva threw her arms around him.
‘I know,’ Jaspen said. ‘It’s not real, Eva. I’ll never let anything happen to you; it’s not real.’ ‘But it is real, isn’t it?’ Eva asked.
Jaspen drew a long breath, ‘Dad couldn’t see how perfect the Empire is, and he paid the price,’ he stood up and gulped. ‘Get dressed.’
He went to the living room. Glancing around, he sees all the things that remind him of home. An unused dining table filled with odd bits 5 had been left there, including a collapsable telescope of polished wood engraved with ivy leaves and the Utopian Empire cross. On one side of the room was a piano, a deck of cards, a hanging oil lamp, a three-piece suit, a chest of draws, and an hourglass on top next to a quilled fountain pen. Jaspen opened the drawer where they kept their Partages. He squinted and looked closer to make sure the dim light wasn’t playing tricks on him. He touched them to make sure they were real. It looked like a year’s worth.
Jaspen shook his head. ‘Eva.’
He knew it was her; she always broke the law this way.
Jaspen double-checked that the money was real.
Looking again, he confirmed his worst fears: the partages were real. He thumbed them from one hand to the other, counting out six months’ worth. Jaspen took a few notes for later and stuffed them into his pocket. He went and opened the front door onto the street where the flames in the streetlights still flickered against the twilight sky. The houses were all crooked with age, and the once advanced pointed roofs had become twisted and bent. The windows were all lopsided. Cracks and cobwebs enveloped the rugged walls that were overrun by ivy and weeds.
Selection day was coming up, and everyone Jaspens age was getting nervous. In the Utopian Empire children enter the workplace aged 12.
There were four main sections of society, Farmers, Academics, Military, and Nomads. Farmers were in controle of all food, Academics made up all professionals such as Doctors, Accountants, Lawyers, Politicians. Those who chose Military could go onto either Police or Military. The Police were incharge of both arrests, Judgements and Sentencing. The Police were ruled by an elite organisation within the Academics known as Thought Agents.
Thought Agents were in charge of Rehabilitation and essentially all thoughts. This was achieved through something known as The Autumn Dream. Though at that point in the Utopian Empire only the Rebel Coalition knew what the Autumn Dream really was. The Nomads, did all the other jobs in society, hair dressers, bike makers, candle stick makers, road sweepers ect. They were made up of people who fail to get into their chosen Unit of society. Everyone was expected to make their Selection by Selection day. Those who failed became Nomadic.
Once the Selction was complete everyone had to remain in that Unit for the rest of their lives, no going back, if someone changed their mind they would be transferred to the Nomad Unit.
After individuals made their Selection, tests were caried out. The results determined the final decision on which Unit they were placed in. They also decided who the life partners would be.
Jaspen intended to join the Military Unit, those who joined the Military were at risk of dying
young on the boarders but received a full adult allowance of Partages right away.
Jaspen crossed the cold kitchen and slid his hand over the cold metal handle of a kettle. Picked it up then dropped it on the blue flame of the hob. It rumbled and hissed like an upset cat as he stared at it.
He gazed about the empty room where his parents used to sleep. The tattered curtains lay half open, a rumpled bed in the centre of the room, and a dust-covered book sat on an old, rustic bedside table. A tall, wooden-framed hourglass gathered dust next to it.
Behind him, Eva rubbed her eyes.
He walked out of the kitchen into the living room and back again.
Jaspen brushed past her and ran his hand along an empty shelf of an open cupboard that seemed to have stayed that way since their parents died.
‘I have to do it,’ Eva said, referring to her habit of selling things on the Black market known as the Have A New. It continually moved and could never be pinned down, but people were frequently arrested for either buying or selling as both were illegal activities. Eva had a habit of making sweet treats that people paid well for. She had even got Tristan Vandals’ dad hooked on her Bakewell tarts because his servant kept buying them from her. He had since been arrested but wouldn’t give Eva up so she had got away with it. But it was only a matter of time, Jaspen thought before she was caught. And he didn’t think she could survive a stint at 8
Jaspen lifted a whistling kettle and poured boiling water into two cups before tossing the teabags in. He turned and gave Eva her a drink.
He sat down across from her. ‘Why?’
‘Because we need more Partages than they
‘Firstly,’ Jaspen inhaled the steam from his cup, ‘I won’t let you die, I promise. And secondly—’ ‘Secondly, it’s how Dad died, and you think I’m going to get caught and executed too,’ Eva interrupted.
Jaspen slammed his cup down on the table, making Eva jump. ‘Capitalism is a horrible thing.
Look at what it did to Dad. Look at what it did to us.’
Eva shook her head, her eyes swollen as her bottom lip quivered.
Jaspen sighed and tried to calm himself down.
He got up and grabbed two glass bottles from the grimy kitchen countertop, ‘I can spend the Partages this time,’ he said, trying to soften his voice. ‘But promise you won’t do it again. You. Could. Die.’
Jaspen opened the front door and exchanged the glass bottles for two filled with a fire-coloured juice called Early Daze. It was like orange juice but was more blissful than anything else on earth. Jaspen thought it was literally happiness in a bottle. He looked down the street; every house had varying numbers of Early Daze juice bottles outside. A free service to keep everyone in the Utopian Empire happy. Jaspen swept the bottles up as the door opposite opened, and Margot stepped out, doing the same thing with four bottles.
Margot was his age, twelve. They had been friends since they first entered school. In a few weeks, the Empire would consider them adults. Some of them would join the army and train at the front line of the borders. That’s what Jaspen hoped for. Not for the risk or because he wanted to, but because of the extra Partages military personnel got. Others would join the workforce in menial jobs, a select few would be graced with further education. And others would have chosen Farming. Soon
Jaspen would make his Selection just like everyone else in his year. Then the Empire would make theirs. Maybe, he hoped Margot would be selected as his life partner. Those things were planned by the Empire, decided at twelve and put into place when the youngest partner turned eighteen.
‘I don’t want to die,’ Eva said, her voice cracking.
Jaspen turned back. ‘Then, why would you sell stuff?’
Eva looked small and frail as she walked to Jaspen with her tea. Behind her from outside ran a little Empire bulldog. It bundled up to her, bouncing along on its crooked legs, it’s screwed-up face turned upward, open mouthed eyes fixed lovingly on Eva.
Eva turned, her eyes bloodshot. ‘Would you rather die?’
‘Yes,’ Jaspen said.
Eva’s big eyes looked up to Jaspen’s. ‘Do you believe all selling is punishable by death?’
‘No,’ Jaspen said. ‘All capitalists have a chance to redeem themselves by passing rehabilitation.’
‘Rehabilitation is an execution.’
This was mostly true. Although some people survived, it was rare. Only a few people had ever survived more than two bouts of rehabilitation. It wasn’t so much the fighting that killed people more the starvation.
‘Not true. It’s just half the convicts don’t prove their love of Utop—’
‘Give me a break. Dad died because they killed him, not because he did anything wrong.’
‘He didn’t prove himself, and like the others, he has been cleansed from society. The way to get by in this world is to keep your head down and let the empire sort you out. Everyone for everyone, and everyone for Utopia and the Empire.’
Jaspen crumpled his right hand into a fist and thumped his left shoulder twice before raising his right hand in line with his right shoulder in a vertical salute.
Eva snapped away from Jaspen. ‘Don’t rattle that trash off on me. There is no such thing as Utopia, and the Empire is nothing but a dictatorship.’
‘We live in Utopia,’ Jaspen said. ‘Nobody talks about our Empire like that. It goes against every value we have ever been taught.’
That is all for today. I will add some more soon and try to remember to link it here.