After 3 years of working in the factory district of The Republic, Aureum Cordis was accustomed to the grimy, dark streets of the lower city. Armed guards were posted at each intersection to make sure the underprivileged citizens of The Republic didn’t dare step out of line. She followed the same routine as she did each morning, shuffling along the cramped streets filled with smog arising out of the countless chimneys and exhaust pipes from the surrounding buildings with the thousands of other workers on their way to work.
As she passed an alleyway she slipped out of the crowds. She was hesitant to travel among the masses of people these days due to the illness that’s been sweeping through the poor communities. There was no sign of where the disease originated from but more and more bodies that needed to be burned ended up piled, outside the confines of the poor district where the crumbling remains Old City still linger to this day.
To avoid the crowds Aureum found it easier to traverse over the rooftops that fit together like pieces of a puzzle. It was another abnormally warm winter day, she crossed the gravel-coated rooftops as she did every day, she felt a bead of sweat forming at the base of her neck.
Aureum rehearsed the words she would say to her supervisor at the water purification plant she worked in today over and over again in her head as if she were reciting the lyrics to a song she knew well.
Not to bother you, sir, I was just wondering if you had any space for a hardworking new employee to add to our team? It was nearing the 14th birthday of her younger sister, Mollis and she would soon be eligible to work. Aureum worked every shift she could get her hands on, but work was hard to come by with the ever-expanding population in the battered communities formed by the poor of The Republic. She did her best to bring home enough money to pay their weekly expensive but there was just never enough. She had hoped she’d be able to save up enough so that Mollis wouldn’t have to work for another few years and be able to stay at home so that she would be able to hold onto a sliver of her childhood before being forced to grow up, but the Governors continued to raise the price of taxes year after year and there was no way Aureum would be able to keep up on her own.
As she lowered herself back to the ground, ready to start another day of work, she was too lost in her thoughts to notice the crowds of kids around the front doors of her factory. Every morning the number of people looking for jobs grew and grew, she barely even registered it anymore, it was easier to just numb herself instead of thinking about it too much. As she slipped in the side door of the building and headed into the backroom to lock up her few belongings, she noticed the whispers of the other employees on her team. As she reached her locker she overheard a pair of workers speaking in hushed tones, “They quarantined another section of town today…” – muttered a tall woman in the standard navy blue jumpsuit all employees were required to wear. “Which one is it this time?” – asked the man at her side. “From Hickory Drive all the way up to Stoney Park… it’s awful, I heard there’s a lot of children in that section of the city” – Aurum stopped listening, frozen in place. Blood pounded in her ears and her hands began to shake. Panic seized her mind as she turned without thinking and sprinted back towards the door she came in. She didn’t stop until she reached the edge of the new quarantine zone.
Aureum and Mollis lived on Hickory Drive.