Nine years ago the world changed.

I was a kid like any other. I'd goof around in class if I was bored, and devour the books when I wasn't. I remember long summers and fun winters, regular meals and trips to the beach with Dad. We had a nice house and a big flitter with tri-dee and autopilot.

Suppose you could say we were lucky, because we lived in a nice area, and we always had nice things in the house.

When you're a kid, you don't understand the news the way adults do. I remember Mum and Dad sitting in front of the tri-dee, watching something about a star called Gateway. They said it had gone, vanished into nothing. I think I said something dumb like; can we get it back? When you're a kid, you say stupid things like that.

I remember this guy talking on the tri-dee, and Mum got upset and started crying. Dad was pacing around the house, asking what were we going to do.

The next day at school, the teacher showed us a map of the district. She covered over Gateway with her hand so we could see the huge gap between the next district and us. She talked about hyperdrive range and fuel, about the importance of trade and commerce, but I don't think we really knew what she meant.

There were other things too, scary stories of dead things moving around, bogey men that killed people in broad daylight. They'd be a report on the radio and the army would close a whole area. They'd trap thousands of people in a block and only let people out through gates. They said there was some kind of disease that changed people, sometimes eating them alive, other times creating monsters. There was this time when a room full of kids changed, and went through a school killing everything they could find.

That's when they split the city up. They created walls of steel and concrete with gates and soldiers to guard them. Going to school meant going through checkpoints, and going out after dark was banned.

The economy tanked and Dad lost his job. Suddenly, we didn't have money. Didn't matter anyway, nobody had money and the shops had nothing to sell. After a year or two, the lights would go out all the time and the trash didn't get collected. The schools started closing, and only the smartest kids could stay. I didn't care; I hated school by then.

I was twelve when a reaper broke into the house. It got Dad first, tearing his chest apart. Mums scream woke me up. She kept screaming till it decapitated her. I opened the window and jumped on to the garage roof. It must have heard me, 'cos it came right out of the house. Neighbour got it with a shotgun. He saved my kid brother and me. The little mite slept through the whole thing.

I got sent to an orphanage. Lot of kids ended up there, abandoned when their parents ran out of money, or when they just gave up.

That was six years ago, nine years since Gateway was destroyed. Now I've been turned out of the orphanage into a world lying in the gutter, a ruined society ruled by fear. The government is gone and it's just the army now. While the average Joe got poor, and the poor got destitute, the rich got richer still.

Eighteen years old and on the street, trying to avoid the gangs.

-- Joshua Isuza, Zone B2, Candor City


M3 figure with the Xurge3D SF casuals. Walled City scenery by Stonemason.

Scene assembly and final rendering in Vue 6 Pro Studio. Post processed in Photoshop CS2

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Updated: 18 May 2008

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