She quickly ducked out of the examination booth and scanned her surroundings. Nobody seemed to be paying her any attention, which suited Casey just fine. She would have to be careful from now on when she used the examination booth. She had to keep track of the baby’s health, but she couldn’t risk anyone else noticing the purple aura.
Casey made her way home. Her mother noticed the spring in her step the minute she walked in the door.
“What are you so happy about?” she demanded.
Casey knew she couldn’t tell her mother the truth. The woman would go straight to the Authorities. She was always looking for a way to ingratiate herself with them in hopes of improving her situation in life. Casey knew that would never happen. The people in charge of the country didn’t care if her mother invented the cure for cancer. She wasn’t of the bloodline. At least the only one that mattered to them.
“I saw Jody on the way home. It’s been ages since I’ve seen her,” Casey told her mom. She knew her mother would lose interest because she hated Jody.
“That slug! I hope you didn’t tell her she could come over here.”
“No, Mother.” Casey said. “She won’t come around here again.”
The last time Jody had come to visit, Casey’s mom had chased her out of the house with a broom. Casey had been so humiliated. Jody told her not to worry about it, that it wasn’t the first time and wouldn’t be the last time she was kicked out of somebody’s home. Casey hated that that was true.
Jody was of the Faulkner bloodline. The lowest on the chain. George Faulkner had been the head of one of three families that survived the plague by living on the streets. The Banks and Lemans were the other two. All three families had eaten rodents, drank sewer water and slept in the streets for two years before the contamination was cleaned and everyone else came back.
Jody was three years old when the other families returned to the city. She knew only disgust, ridicule and fear until Casey befriended her. It took Casey months to get close to Jody. Jody had been told she would make anybody she touched sick. Finally, when Casey could stand it no longer, she rushed at the smaller girl and hugged her. Jody was too shocked to fight. After a few minutes, she returned the hug, and the two had been fast friends ever since.
Casey thought something was fishy with the whole bloodline thing. Jody didn’t look sick to her and she’d never acted sick. None of the Lower families had. They seemed just like everybody else, only they lived in the shacks.
The shacks were outside the city. They had no running water or electricity. The Authorities said that if the families had survived with nothing for two years, they could keep doing it. They didn’t want to waste resources on people who were going to die anyway from contamination.
The Lower families were happy to have the shacks. At least they had a roof over their heads. Their skin even healed after a couple years of avoiding the acid rain.
Casey’s family was somewhere in the middle of the bloodlines. Her father had been in the military so was useful, which is the only thing that kept them safe. He worked to build the dome and protect the Authorities. Casey hadn’t seen him in years. He wasn’t allowed to come home. His post had to be manned at all times.
At first, families were allowed to visit, but then the Authorities decided the visits brought about depression among the men so they canceled them. Casey’s mother didn’t care. She received free housing and a food budget. She didn’t want a man around to please, but Casey missed her father.
Jody didn’t understand, but sometimes Casey envied her the life she led. Jody had her whole family with her. They were always together. More often than not, they were laughing and enjoying life, even with so little. Casey and her mother never laughed.
The last time Casey remembered seeing her mother smile was when she found out Casey was pregnant. Casey wasn’t sure it was something to be happy about at first. She had wished her shot were a placebo like the other months, but when the baby started moving, she couldn’t help but love him. The examination booth had told her it was a boy two months ago. And after what she had found out earlier, Casey was even more excited.
Her son could be the one.
It still felt strange to even think it. Casey hadn’t worked up the nerve to tell anyone else. She had seen Jody on the way home like she told her mother. Jody was begging on Fourth Street, which was why Casey took that way home. Otherwise, she would have taken Main, which was closer. Jody could tell something was up, but she would never think to push Casey to figure out what it was.
It was all Casey could do not to tell Jody the news. Her son might be the one to save them all.
Casey’s mother would try to have her committed if Casey told her that she thought her son might unite the bloodlines. Jody would believe her, though. Jody’s father would, too.
It was from him that Casey knew about the prophecy.
Legend foretold of a child born of an extinct bloodline. A bloodline that was purer than the Authorities. Only the Lower families believed the prophecy. The others discounted it because the pregnancy system was too sophisticated for anyone to manipulate. Casey didn’t know how it happened, but the proof was in her bag. The scan from the examination booth that showed the purple aura around the baby.
The Authorities had pink auras, the Middle bloodlines had blue, and the Lower bloodlines had white. The last person with a purple aura had died eighty years ago. None of his blood had been saved, or so the Authorities said.
Somehow, some way, the bloodline had gotten into the system and when Casey received her shot, she ended up pregnant with an Elder baby. Casey didn’t know what the Authorities would do if they found out, but she wasn’t going to chance it. She was telling no one about the purple aura.
Casey was in her bedroom when the Civil Patrol kicked the livingroom door in. Her mother screamed and then demanded to know what was going on. Casey had her ear pressed against her bedroom door when she heard the patrolman say they were looking for her.
She had one leg outside and one inside the window when they caught her. He belly had gotten wedged. It took the patrolman ten minutes to get her loose.
They took her to the Authorities headquarters. Casey had never been in the Tower before. It was cold and sterile. No art adorned the walls, the carpets were gray and the people were expressionless.
The patrolmen left Casey in an interrogation room. Two Authority agents came in a few minutes later. The tallest one laid a picture on the table in front of Casey. It was a duplicate of the scan she had from the examination booth.
They never said a word and neither did Casey. The men left as fast as they had come. Casey sat in silence until a nurse came to get her. Half way down the hall, Casey shoved the nurse and ran. She had no idea where she was going, but she wasn’t going to let them kill her baby, and she knew that was going to happen from the hatred in the agent’s eyes.
Casey rounded the corner and ran into what felt like a brick wall, but was actually the imposing chest of a patrolman. Casey was struggling to get away when the nurse walked up behind her. The last thing she saw was a needle coming toward her neck.
Casey sighed, rolled over and buried her head under a pillow.
“Casey!” her mother yelled again. “Get out of that bed this instant!”
Casey slowly sat up in the bed. She avoided the mirror across the room because the scarecrow that looked back at her was not pretty. She lost forty pounds in the first few months after the Authorities took her son and hadn’t been able to gain any of it back. Casey tried to force herself to eat more, but she just didn’t care. Her mother was even starting to worry, which told Casey things were really bad.
“What do you need, Mother?” Casey asked when she entered the kitchen.
“Eat some breakfast and then go get my cigarettes,” her mother ordered.
“I wish you’d stop that filthy habit,” Casey said.
“Hey, they don’t cause cancer anymore.”
“They still stink!”
“Whatever,” her mother said as she left the room.
Casey drank some milk and ate half a bagel before heading out. She no longer took the long way around to see Jody because she didn’t have the energy. Jody sometimes stopped by the house. Casey’s mom allowed it as long as they talked on the porch. Casey wasn’t sure she would have made it through the last two years without Jody.
Casey was almost to the market when a commotion in the next alley caught her attention. She watched as a woman and small child rounded the corner, chased by two boys. The boys swooped in and grabbed the smaller boy up. His squeals filled the marketplace as they threw him in the air and caught him.
Casey could tell the mother was proud of the children, but didn’t like the attention being drawn to their group. Judging by their clothes, they were of the Lower bloodlines. It was never good for Lowers to stand out.
When the mother picked the smallest child up, his hood fell away. The woman was desperately trying to recover his head. Casey felt like someone had kicked her in the chest. The purple aura surrounding the child was like a beacon drawing her closer.
She rushed toward the woman, holding her arms out and crying. “Please,” Casey begged, “give me my child!”
The woman pushed Casey away. “No, go away! He is not your child!”
“Yes, yes he is,” Casey argued. “Can’t you see?”
The woman said something to the two older boys and then started to run. The boys blocked Casey’s path. She tried to move them, but they weren’t budging. Finally, in desperation, Casey hit one of the boys and knocked him down.
She ran after the woman, but her strength gave out too quickly. Casey lay in a sobbing heap in the middle of the marketplace until her mother came to get her.
“Are you okay, Jacob?”
“Yes, Mother,” the boy replied for the fifth time. “It doesn’t hurt much.” He wouldn’t admit that his head was throbbing. To have let a woman get the better of him, and one that wasn’t as big as a minute on top of that, was an affront to his manhood.
“Who was that woman, Mother?” James asked.
“I don’t know, son. Just some poor deranged soul. We should pray for her.”
“I will, Mother,” James said.
“Good, now you and your brothers go inside. I’ll be along in a minute.”
The woman sagged against the shack after the boys went inside. She was shaking so badly she could hardly stand up. She pulled a radio out of her pocket and pressed the dial.
“Tower Central, go ahead.”
“We have a problem.”