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The Field of Gold

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Silently, she made her way down the grey sidewalk, careful to step over every crack.

          “Step on a crack, break your mother’s back,” she mumbled under her breath, as she skillfully maneuvered her way through a group of rowdy teenage boys. Once they passed, she was again left walking alone. She mindlessly fidgeted with her long brown hair, her doe-like eyes fixated on what lied ahead. Aurelia had no idea where she was going, she rarely did. All she knew was that, eventually, she would make it to the Field of Gold.
          Now, you have to understand, Aurelia had never actually been to the so called ‘Field of Gold’. In fact, she had no clue what she was looking for. All she had heard of this rumored Field was that it was out of city limits and that it was beautiful. Leaving the city was a crime punishable by death. Taking that risk was something Aurelia was still not certain about; no matter how much she wished to see the modern day miracle.
          Feeling light headed, Aurelia ducked into the nearest café. It was tough being outside for so long, because of how thick the smog had become over the past few years. Almost everyone chose to travel by hybrid or street rollers. Personally, Aurelia loathed automatics. She hated the awful sound they made, which most claimed not to hear, and the artificial air they provided was unbearable.  She’d much rather take her chances walking. It gave her a chance to daydream about what civilization was like in the twenty-first or twenty-second century, when everyone wasn’t afraid of their own shadows. Not like there was even enough sunshine to cast shadows anymore. After the last solar flare, the sun’s rays had dramatically decreased, giving the world a dim, washed out look.

          Inside the café, people of all ages were drooling over the glazed delicacies. The sweet aroma of baked goods was intoxicating as Aurelia made her way over to the lonely booth. Cafes like this one were one of Aurelia’s favorite places in the city. She longed to have lived when there was thought and time put into making such delicious treats; when there was an actual baker to knead the dough to perfection. Aurelia sat down on the cracked leather booth, a reminder of how old this café must be. She loved imagining people hundreds upon thousands of years ago sitting exactly where she was. Aurelia pulled out her paper map, only to get a few confused glances. Nobody used paper maps anymore, because there just wasn’t a use for them. At birth, everyone was encoded with a GPS tracking device, not only to secure your position to the government, but also so you can know where you’re going or where you’ve been. Knowingly, Aurelia marked the last few miles she had traveled with red pen, placing a star on the café. The map confirmed the café was in fact very old. Paper maps hadn’t been made since the first solar flare, almost a thousand years ago. Since then, there have been many more, the most recent causing what looked to be an eclipse. With no sun, there were no crops that were able to grow, resulting in everything to be machine made.

          After re-oxygenating herself, Aurelia left the café and retraced her steps back home. For years to follow, Aurelia walked farther and farther, her paper map being her only companion. She continually looks for the Field of Gold, never giving up in hopes it really is there. She always stops at the old café, for the satisfaction it gives her of knowing the past was better than the present.

It always seemed as if the moment she was coming to the end of the city limits, to the Field of Gold, she would turn the corner to find another line of city blocks. Aurelia was frustrated beyond end. She didn’t understand how these monotone lifeless buildings could go on forever and yet, she kept on walking. Soon enough, she became the talk of the city. People would see her trekking down the sidewalk and would call out her name. She was mocked for believing there really was a city limit, for some say it was all an optical illusion. Of course, when things like this happened, Aurelia just tilted her head towards the ground and endured the taunting.

Eventually, Aurelia grew old, her beautiful brown hair faded to snow white grey. She still clutched her paper map, and would walk, each step making her bones ache with time. Still, she carefully avoided all cracks, and out of breath would still murmur, “Step on a crack, break your mothers back,” barely above a whisper. By now you would suspect that Aurelia’s hope would have faded, that her motivation would cease to exist. Even she couldn’t comprehend why she kept looking; she just did what her heart told her to do.

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