Lexy went on smiling and looking people directly in the eyes, or as directly as she could through their dark sunglasses. I won’t act invisible just because people are acting like I am. Finally, she reached the laser station. The ominous gray cement structure housed the lasers where people could add money to their CHIP. All monetary transactions operated through the laser system. Bills were paid by entering expenses into the home computer and scanning the CHIP to automatically withdraw funds. This information was sent to the laser and then those owed money could receive it via their CHIP either from a visit to the laser or through their home computer. No paper cash was needed.
Alexis figured she had about $10,000 in her laser bank. She decided to take it all, as she wasn’t sure where she’d find her next laser station or how soon she’d need it. She wanted to be prepared. When she approached the laser, the glass shield in front of it did not raise like it was supposed to. Shoot, she thought. It’s malfunctioning. She went to the one next to it. Still nothing. Weird. Two in a row? Is the whole system down? As she stood to the side, she watched a man walk up to the shield. It rose and he entered. He spent a few minutes filling up and then turned and the shield closed behind him. That’s funny, she thought, leaning against the wall. She waited about 10 minutes, though it seemed like 10 hours, until another person walked up to use the laser. As a young woman walked out and the shield lowered, Lexy ducked in before it closed. She put her wrist under the laser beam hoping the fill up would be quick in case her parents started to search for her. She waited anxiously for the beep, preparing to enter her request for all of her money. Nothing happened. She felt her skin flush with panic and her mind raced, wondering how she would get her CHIP filled. Just then, another woman walked up to the shield and it rose. She started to enter and Alexis brushed by her.
“I think it’s broken,” she told the lady, who sailed right by her as if she didn’t hear or see her.
Alexis was baffled. Why is everyone ignoring me? Do they all know I’m running away? Or that I’ve committed a horrendous writing crime. She knew the mind waves could be altered to affect everyone’s thinking at once–she had overheard her parents talking about setting public opinion. But could they really get that information out to everybody so quickly? she wondered.
Maybe they could. Since the laser hadn’t read her CHIP, Alexis didn’t know how much money she actually had. Maybe enough to ride the monorail out of town and to get a food tablet. She decided to catch the monorail to the next laser fill up station five miles down the road.
She felt a little woozy standing at the rail stop. When the train pulled up, she waited for the door to slide open. But it didn’t. A second later, the sleek gray monorail zoomed down the track, leaving her standing alone.
What do I do now? she thought to herself. Looking around, she saw people scurrying around like little mice trying to get through a maze. But I’m the one who feels lost. The city was swimming with people leaving jobs or starting the night shift. She decided to try and walk to Dan’s house. It’s about two miles from here, but what else have I got to do? thought Alexis. A nice walk will do me good. Plus, I’ve got to apologize to him for not waiting after school today. Was that today? It seems like a week ago. She had been so eager to get home and finish reading the mystery manuscript that she had actually forgotten to wait for Dan. It was the first time in the two years they’d been dating that she’d left school without him. And he hadn’t called her either. He must be mad. Now would be a perfect time to talk to him and tell him… what? She couldn’t tell him about her discovery–not yet anyway. She didn’t know what to say. She only hoped her parents wouldn’t be there.
She was distracted from her thoughts by a group of people she spotted in an alley between two tall brick buildings. Some were sitting in cardboard boxes and others stood around, leaning on the building or in groups of two or three. Mismatched clothes adorned a string hung from one box to another. Somehow these people appeared to be living there. She had never noticed these people in the alleys before. She looked down another alley as she walked further down the street. More people. Alexis couldn’t believe it. Where did these people come from? Who are they? As she continued on, a tall man with gray eyes approached her and asked her for pellets.
“I don’t have any.” She shook her head, hungry too. She kept walking, unsure about what these people were doing living in the street. She was a little scared. As she kept walking, she saw bodies lying motionless on the ground. Two men in black clothing were picking them up and piling them into the back of a blue pickup truck.
Lexy ran the last two blocks to Dan’s. She was out of breath when she rounded the corner to his house.
Alexis didn’t have to worry about what to say. When she finally reached his front door, she knocked. His mother opened the door and looked around. “Hi Mrs. Price. Is Danny home?” Alexis asked.
Mrs. Price didn’t answer her right away. “Hmm, that’s funny,” Dan’s mother said, seemingly to herself as she looked past Alexis and then to the left and to the right of her. Then she slammed the door. Alexis stood stunned, alone.