PROLOGUE

Abide by their dictatorship

Suppress your thoughts
Suppress your feelings
Suppress anything that doesn’t fit

Society society
Hear their rules
Abide by their dictatorship

Long for more
Yearn for pleasure
Learn to live

Society society
Hear their rules
Abide by their dictatorship

No feelings are right
Individuality is contrite
Burn that heart
It has no place

Society. Society.

– Sim Kaur

PROLOGUE

She remembers the rhymes they used to sing in school. She remembers the silly verses and the quick pace of them, and how everyone wanted to join in and learn the words off by heart. She remembers how, at the time, none of them knew the real meanings and no one actually paid any attention to them, until they grew up and realised that singing them could get them all killed, when everything changed.
She remembers the time when every single child included every single other child, and when it didn’t matter if you were richer or poorer, or who your father was, or which Tract he came from, or what your mother talked about over tea with her friends.
She remembers when the people you would walk past in the streets would look up and greet you, or stop to have a conversation, or invite you to their homes to continue the conversation started on the street.
But that’s all she remembers. What she knows as reality is different.
What she knows is how children don’t sing songs and don’t play games on the cement playgrounds and don’t ride bicycles because it’s illegal to sell them. What she knows is how no one smiles and no one greets you and no one invites you anywhere, or how no one even looks up when walking down the streets because they fear the officials. What she knows is listening to officials and following the laws and keeping to herself and hiding from other children who will laugh at her grey jumpsuit because it means she comes from a poor Tract and isn’t like them. What she knows is not to go near the High Walls and not to try to leave and not to cry over anything – including her brother’s death, and not to talk to anyone because she might just tell them her real name or her father’s surname. Because it matters who your parents are.
That’s what she knows.
But she wonders. She thinks and dreams and wonders, but she never tells anyone because they might not call them dreams – because they might tell the officials. She wonders what freedom feels like. She wonders how it feels to eat a full meal and bathe in a bathtub with running water – be it cold or hot. She wonders what it feels like to play with toys and swim in a pool like the wealthier people.
And she dreams. She dreams of escaping. She dreams of not waking up to the sound of another raid. She dreams of playing with the other little girls with ribbons woven into their plaited her and dressed pretty shoes. And she dreams of living in a home with perfectly painted walls that aren’t crumbling, with a green lawn and a big tree in it. And she dreams of a life where her mommy doesn’t worry about her daddy not returning home and her parents tell her why when she asks them questions.
And she’s just a child. Only a child. But she still wonders why. And she still asks questions because she likes to know the answers and the truth. She wonders why she can only trace the roads she’d like to travel across in the mist of her breath blown onto the window.
And most of all, she wants to grow up in a place where death isn’t inevitable. Where she doesn’t wake to the smell of burning and nightmares and fear, all mixed together.
But, if there’s one thing she knows, it’s that dreams aren’t real and they only last for a night, and they don’t exist in the world in which she lives. And they only get you killed.

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