Out of Sight
By Matthew S. Cox
Publication date: August 13th 2018
Genres: Dystopian, Young Adult
Most Citizens hold Outcasts in dim regard, but Sima never expected they’d throw her off the planet.
In 2411, overpopulation has spread a plaque of filthy, congested city to the corners of the Earth. Government has raised corruption to an art form, and no one hears the cries of those left to die in the dark passageways of civilization. Following the End of Nations, people cling to the only division left: social status.
Since running away from home four years ago, she’s managed to stay a step ahead of death―or worse. At sixteen, she’s getting too old to survive from begging, despite her best effort to pretend she’s younger. Worse, the sidewalks teem with little kids edging in on her turf, monopolizing Citizens’ charity with their wide, pleading eyes and genuine innocence.
A chance meeting with suspiciously nice cops leaves her more confused than ever. Between deadly gangs, unforgiving security forces, and a terrifying madam eager to exploit a girl her age, merely getting older is the biggest threat to her life. With no good choice to make, she risks the least of three evils.
Sima thought her life on Earth had been dangerous…
She hasn’t seen anything yet.
For the rest of the daylight hours, Sayed stayed at her side hamming it up for the crowd. Whenever a gee-vee came by, he’d yell, “Mommy” and cling as if frightened of it—or when a person in nice clothes gave them dirty looks, he’d overact being terrified. Sima had trouble selling the whole ‘mother’ thing for a while since she couldn’t help but think of her mother, and how much the word ‘mom’ had become something of a swear. Eventually, she found the acting easier—certainly putting up with a small boy holding her hand beat working in a brothel. For a while, Sayed pretended to be sick, coughing and shivering, and Sima worked the passersby with lines about how she couldn’t feed him enough to keep him healthy.
By the time it became dark, they’d raked in fifty-three glint. Done for the night, they retreated into an alley to divide their earnings. She knelt by two piles of twenty-six chips, holding the stray.
“You can have it,” said Sayed, “for protecting me.”
She’d been thinking of taking it just because the boy couldn’t do much about it, but she’d also been considering giving it to him because he was only six. As much as she resented kids for the easy time they had begging, he didn’t exactly ask to wind up an Outcast. His telling her to keep it made her angry with herself for wanting it and angry with him for not being greedy, because that made her feel like a bitch. Sima would’ve kept the stray chip if not for how damned pathetic he looked. She sighed and dropped it on his pile.
“You need it more,” said Sima, her voice mostly sigh.
Sayed’s expression yelled ‘wow really?!’, but he didn’t hesitate to pull his pile close and pack it handful by handful into his pocket. “Those guys woulda taken my tunic and beat me up.”
She glanced at the olive-drab fabric, all the embedded electronics in its sleeves aglow. “Looks new.”
“It is.” He smiled.
“Did you steal it?”
He shook his head. “No. Begged.”
“I don’t believe you.” She scoffed.
“A woman bought it for me.”
Sima narrowed her eyes. “How do you beg a hundred-glint tunic?”
He shrugged. “Lucky, I guess.” The boy lifted up his tunic to show off a threadbare set of tiny shorts, and ribs that hinted he hadn’t eaten well in a while. “She saw me shiverin’ ’cause the wind, and pulled me inside a store. I don’ think it cos’ a hundred glint. The man there said it was old models.”
Grumbling that this boy with his giant brown eyes and innocent face could guilt a Citizen into feeling so bad for him that they bought him a tunic, Sima pulled the paper stuffing out of her shirt and threw it aside. The whirr of drone fans approaching made her pick it back up, fearful she’d been caught on camera littering. Though, a six-month stint in jail might not be a bad thing given how her life had been going—at least the EGSF would feed her. But if she got arrested, she’d have a record, and then every time the security officers saw her, they’d give her a hard time. So far, she’d stayed out of trouble. They’d look at her, but nothing came up in their computers, so they let her be. Once the flying menace disappeared around a corner at the end of the block, she chucked the paper over her shoulder. In the secluded alley, she transferred her glint from the tunic’s front pocket to a pouch she wore under it around her neck. There, it stood far less chance of falling prey to thieves or spilling out all over the ground if she tripped. She counted forty-one total after adding the day’s haul.
It never lasts long enough.
Born in a little town known as South Amboy NJ in 1973, Matthew has been creating science fiction and fantasy worlds for most of his reasoning life. Somewhere between fifteen to eighteen of them spent developing the world in which Division Zero, Virtual Immortality, and The Awakened Series take place. He has several other projects in the works as well as a collaborative science fiction endeavor with author Tony Healey.
Hobbies and Interests:
Matthew is an avid gamer, a recovered WoW addict, Gamemaster for two custom systems (Chronicles of Eldrinaath [Fantasy] and Divergent Fates [Sci Fi], and a fan of anime, British humour (<- deliberate), and intellectual science fiction that questions the nature of reality, life, and what happens after it. He is also fond of cats. Awards: Prophet of the Badlands (excerpt) – Honorable Mention – Writers of the Future.
From one bookaholic to another, I hope I’ve helped you find your next fix.
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