The Other Sides

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By definition, falling is rapid and without control. It can also mean to lose your power and collapse. In that second that passes, I face both meanings of the word. Surrounded by the rushing of air, I have no control over my body. Limbs flap awkwardly at my side, my hair spins like a comet's tail around my head. When I land, cushioned by some snappy, dead bushes, I roll onto my knees and collapse, struggling to regain my breath.

Above me, I can hear the guard yelling at Lexi and her high pitched maniac laugh. Yet, my sight fails me, and I struggle to open my eyes.

"Hold tight, Austin! I'll send someone over," the guard says, a blurry large shape leaning over the ledge. He disappears, dragging the piece of fire that is Lexi with him.

I've never been outside the wall. Here, everything is quiet. The wind is still, and I'm far enough away from the water that I can no longer hear it. Overhead, the tall and thin trees bend in the wind, but they do so silently.

As my sight returns, I see where the marshlands begin, solid ground fading away into soggy mud and tall thin grass. The bright green algae that grows on top of the marsh contrasts brightly with the ground I'm laying on. I thank physics I didn't fall out a little more, or the water would have absorbed me before I could fight back.

Scooting myself up into a sitting position, I look out, towards the Repor. It's just on the other side of the marsh. Lexi would already be waist deep in the mud, ignoring the fact that the shallow water on mud is loaded with alligators. My skin crawls as I imagine them lurking, staring out at me, their next meal.

"Lex!" I yell, the panic creeping back in my stomach.

No one answers.

I'm disoriented and have no clue which way to look for her. I can't seem to remember if the gate is to the left or right. Should I get up and walk? Maybe if I try to meet them, I could speed up this rescue process.

There's nothing else but the Repor anywhere near me. I see a road curling out of sight, but otherwise the landscape around Compound 5 is flat and empty.

Using the wall as a guide, I stand myself up, wincing as I put pressure on my ankle. The left one shoots pain up my leg, sending me tumbling back into the wall. Great. On the day before my Intelligence Exam, I manage to get myself hurt. I glance left and right, weighing my options. In both directions, I see nothing but more and more wall, curving out of sight. We are at the tip of the wall, as far away from the ocean as we can be.

But which way is the gate?

I crouch down, sketching the shape of the wall in the dirt. The wall curves in an upside down 'U', the open edge facing the ocean. I trace piles of circles on each side of the open end, where the rocks blend the wall into the water. Sharp zig-zag lines mark where the beach would be in my map. I write a 'Q' where I know that I am and a big 'R' where the Repor is in front of me.

Think, Quinn, think.

Along the jagged mess of what I'm calling waves, I draw squares: our houses. Then, a straight line for the separation of the Living District and Working District. I write 'WD' in above the line, and then draw another line to separate the Working District from the Agricultural District.

For a pathetic excuse of a drawing, it's not that bad of a map.

I shade in the different crop fields uniquely, corn with dots, potatoes with squiggly lines, wheat with curly lines, and so forth. I box off the livestock parts of the fields.

Now, the gate is located between the chicken house and the cow field...

"Oh!" I blurt out, startling myself. I jab out at the dirt, making a dot to the right of my 'Q'. Leaving the map, I push myself up, using the wall as support. Hand trailing along the wall, I walk to my right, in the direction of the gate.

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