The Greater Good

Dear Journal,                                                                                                         Today  Day 1

Today I am thinking of Ben and Alaya because one of the Society guards saw my wall and realized I knew how to read and write, so he gave me a small piece of charred wood and some bark.  Ben taught me how to read and write. He said I must be really smart to do all that at three.  I’m six now (I think), so I’m much smarter than I was then. I wonder if they’ll bring my writing to Ben.  I hope so.

Alaya never knew how to read because she was too little when her parents died a few days after the world ended. Ben told me all about that.  When his Uncle was a child, there were things that did all of the hard things for you: computers so you wouldn’t have to think much, cars and trains and planes so your legs wouldn’t get tired going far away, guns so that you could kill people without touching them, and air conditioners to make things cold. Ben said that his uncle taught him all of those things after his parents died in one of the earthquakes.  He told Ben that because people were so lazy, they would never figure out half of the stuff that they had before.  Ben said Uncle was a pestmist.  I’m not sure what that means, but I think annoyed.

“Things are very basic now,” Ben always told me.  He said, “One day, people will figure out how electricity works again and they’ll figure out how to make the engines that made cars go.  But until that happens, it’s our job to wait.  My uncle told me that after volcanoes erupt like they did when he was a boy, things start to grow after a hundred years or so.  I guess I probably won’t see that happen, but maybe you will.”  He winked at me.

Ben’s really smart.  He works for the Society.  It’s his job to make a library out of any old books that people find around the world so that maybe they can start making smart things like air conditioners again.

I have to go.  I have to dream now.


Dear Journal,                                                                                                                Day 2

I did not like my dream yesterday.  It didn’t help me do what they wanted and it was scary.  I dreamed about the big black bird that sometimes sits in my square patch of grey sky.  He sits, watching me with his small black eyes and clicking his beak like he wants to eat me.  In my dream, he came down from the window and flew around the room trying to peck out my eyes.  When I woke up, there was a dead black bug beside me.

That’s why I’m here.  To help the Society make a new world.  Ben and Alaya tried to hide me, but the Society found me.  Alaya told me “If they ever find you, Rya, they’ll use your gifts until you’re all worn out.  That’s why you need to stay hidden with us.”

Sometimes I got tired of never going anywhere.  Alaya said she was sorry that I had to sleep in the secret closet, but I didn’t mind.  I had all of the things that my dreams created, so it was very nice.  They let me keep my dream plants and insects in there with me.

“You better stop having so many nice dreams or you’re going to outgrow your closet,” Ben told me and laughed.  Ben smiled a lot.  Not like everyone here.  No one is happy here.  I’m not happy here.  Even my grey walls cry.


Dear Journal,                                                                                                                  Day 7

There is another child here!  I heard him last night!  He was crying and his voice echoed around.  Alaya told me that I was the only child she had ever heard of and that after the world ended, no one was able to have kids, so my mom must have been special.  I wonder if this boy is special too, like me.  Alaya and Ben always liked to tell me about the night they found me.  Ben is so funny.  My favorite time they told me the story was the day they acted it out.

“Okay, you sit over there Alaya.” Ben said pointing to the chair at the table. “And Rya, you have to be over there at the far end of the room which stands for being outside.  Okay?”

Alaya began. “Ben, do you hear something?”

Ben crouched down on the floor with an exaggerated look of curiosity.  After a moment of listening, he stood upright and said, “Nope.” He began walking and froze in place as Alaya shushed him with a finger to her lips and a very intense look on her face.  “I definitely hear something.”  She grabbed her prop which was also the weapon that she used in real-life and stood up.  “I think it’s a cat,” she whispered.

Ben cupped a hand over his mouth so that I wouldn’t see it, but he made a terrible sound that was supposed to be a cat. I laughed and Alaya gave him a look of “Really, Ben?  That’s the best you can do?” and pointed him towards his weapon.

“I hear it,” he said in too excited a voice.

“Let’s go. Maybe we’ll get a good meal,” Alaya said.

She was very good at making you think she meant it.  I think that is exactly the way she did things the night that she found me.

They made a walking motion toward me, Alaya keeping the serious searching look and Ben put his hand to his ear and mimed listening.  As they came closer, Ben whispered to me that I should make a quiet crying sound.  I did and they acted as if they discovered me.  Ben looked surprised and Alaya looked concerned.  She seemed to look me over very carefully and then looked around to see if this was some kind of trap.

“It’s a kid.” Ben stammered.

“Let’s get her inside before anyone else finds her.” Alaya said.  Ben handed his weapon to Alaya and picked me up. Throwing me over his shoulder, they walked back to the table.  Ben set me down and I laughed.

Alaya smiled.  “I don’t think that you carried her back like that, Ben.”

I remember her smile because she didn’t use it much.

“I’ll never forget what a surprise it was that you just came from nowhere.” Ben explained. “You were about one year old, we think.  When I picked you up, Alaya noticed that the ground where you sat was green.  Nothing else was green.  It was like it is now–all ash and dust and withered things.  We knew right then that you were special.”

I don’t want to be special.  I wonder if the boy is special too?  I hope that I can see him.  They haven’t let me come out of my room since I’ve been here.  I think I’ve been here…a long time.


Dear Journal,                                                                                                             Day 13

Today, I did really good.  I dreamed really good things and when I awoke, there were several green and beautiful plants growing beside me.  The Society guard looked very pleased and said that I could have all of the writing stuff that I wanted.  I wasn’t too sure if I should, but I asked him about the other boy.

“Which one?” the guard asked.

I think my heart stopped for a moment. “There’s more than one?”

“Sure.  There are four of you.  Two girls, two boys.  Four is the number of hope, you know.  You four will save us.”

I don’t know if I want to save everyone.  I want to go back to Alaya and Ben.


Dear Journal,                                                                                                               Day 17

Today, I heard the guards talking about the one little boy.  I think the boy has nightmares because the guard said that things were getting dangerous.

“What was I supposed to do?” my favorite guard told the other.  “The thing was coming at me and even in books I’ve never seen anything like it.  So I killed it.”

“You know that we’re not supposed to interfere.  These four are supposed to make our world new, no matter what they bring.”

Bring?  Is that what they call the things that come from our dreams?

Today I was thinking about Alaya.  I miss her so much.  I cried last night because I thought of the day the Society found me.  It was the middle of the afternoon and Alaya had asked me to read to her while she finished sharpening the weapon that she was making for me.

“Ben’s got plenty of book smarts,” she told me, “but we’re alive because I keep us that way.”  Her weapon and the one that she made for Ben were made from old road signs.  She named them Lyrh.  Hers was red and had an “OP” and Ben’s was yellow and had part of a black squiggle.  Ben showed me pictures once of swords and Alaya’s weapons are kind of like swords–maybe a little wider.  The one that she was making for me was small, very light and silver.  Alaya said that it was not ideal, but it would have to work until she could find better material.

Ben and Alaya never agreed about one thing.  Alaya didn’t trust the Society.  She said that they just wanted to hold the power, not to help anyone but themselves.  Ben disagreed and always said that it was the Society that paid him in regular food supplies.  It was only enough for two people, so Alaya always went out at night to find more food.  Sometimes, I read books to help me dream about plants we could eat.  It only worked once.

Anyway, Ben had brought back a book from his library and said that I would like it because it had really nice pictures to go with the stories.  So I started reading.  It was a story about two very stupid children who go wondering into a forest and start trying to eat a witch’s house.  The pictures were nice though.  I was finishing the part where the one boy with the weird name is in the cage, when someone knocked on the door.

“Quick, take your book and Lyrh in with you and hide in your room.”  I did and when she was satisfied that I was hidden, she opened the door.

Three women with high, too cheerful voices said that they wanted to just check in and see how she was doing.  Alaya gave a cough and said that she was very sick.  The women made sympathetic sounds, but unlike people normally would, they did not go away.

“May we come in?” The leader asked.  I recognized her voice.  Alaya said that she called herself Mina and Ben worked her name into sentences like “She is Mina than you.”

“What is this?” Mina asked, and I heard Alaya’s Lyrh being slid across the wood table. “You know this is illegal.”

“It’s…art.” Alaya said.

“Mmm…hmm,” Mina responded. She didn’t sound like she was listening.

I heard someone drawing close to the secret panel where my closet was.  “Mina.  Do you smell that?” an unfamiliar voice asked.

Mina took a deep breath. “I do.  What an odd smell.  Sweet.”

A moment later, the panel opened and I had to shut my eyes because the light hurt them.  Someone pulled me out.

“A child!” Mina cried. “I knew that you and your silly husband were keeping a secret from the Society.  How can we help one another if we keep such secrets?”  She squeezed my arm tight and looked down at me.  For the first time, I saw that she was hideous: like the witch from the story.

A moment later, Alaya grabbed me and ran out the door and into the dusty brown and grey.  I did not remember what the outside looked like in the daytime because the few times I left the house, it was pitch black.  I felt like I was in a dream. We ran, but after a few minutes, I realized that there was nowhere to hide.  Everything was bare as far as I could see–except for the huge cement building in the distance that was the Society and a few tiny scattered shacks like ours.  From behind one of the shacks, some Society soldiers made their way toward us. We were trapped.

Alaya knew it too.  She picked me up in her thin arms and dropped to her knees.  She squeezed me tight to her chest–it was hard to breathe.  The dust flew up around us and it made me choke. I had never seen her so afraid before or seen her cry.  Her tears made brown marks on her dusty cheeks.


That’s how I’m here now.


Dear Journal,                                                                                                              Day 25

Today, I got to meet the other children.  I was led to a room that is at the end of several long hallways.  The nice guard told me that all of us needed a break.  He was right.  The last few nights, my dreams only created dead things.

When we came into the room, it was filled with all of the plants that I had dreamed and many more that I think came from one of the other children.  I stood for a moment, trying to take the deepest breath I could hold because the air was good and sweet.  I closed my eyes and filled my lungs and when I opened my eyes, I saw the other three children in front of me.  At first, we weren’t sure what to do or what to say, but after a moment, I told them my name.  Only one of the boys had a name.  He called himself Pit.

Something moved behind the children and I saw something like in books–it was some kind of animal. It was large and furry and had enormous wings.  It was a beautiful blue color and made a soft purring sound.

“It was from my dream,” said the girl.  She seemed very proud of it and said that it was friendly.

The rest of the time, we played.  At least, I think that’s what play is like.

It was the best day of my life.  I’m going to dream now.