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The chattering teeth, the uncontrollable shivers, it was how we knew we were alive. I couldn't remember being truly warm but I know I must have been at some point. I knew the difference between what I felt now and what I once felt when my parents were alive. Maggie, my little sister, was lying next to me, curled up in a ball, clinging her favorite teddy bear. She called it Louie. We had found it in a garbage can one day when we were digging for dinner outside the Wilkes Estate.
I remembered that day well. It was an easy day. The Wilkes Estate was the largest in all four quad-rants. They always had the largest amount of garbage. We did well there.
The Estates made up whole sections of land under large constructed, climate controlled bubbles, keeping the occupants safe from the elements that we endured every day. Enormous hulking honeycomb structures sat like large bugs guarding the corners of what we called home. Those who were lucky enough to live inside, we called Staties. The rest of us, the unlucky ones, we called ourselves The Community. I had never met anyone from inside any of the bubbles. We spent most of our lives hating them and their luxuries while depending on their wastefulness to survive.
We were an overall peaceful society of people living just to stay alive. There was some order established before I was born. People once took charge and tried to organize life out in the elements but it had since broken down to the simplest instinct of survival.
A shiver shook me back to present. I looked around our campsite. The glow of the fire I lit cast moving shadows on the fragments of walls that surrounded us. I was able to take a couple of layers of cloth off as long as I sat dangerously close to the fire.
Maggie looked peaceful. I didn't want to wake her but I knew I would need to soon. It would be time to get dinner.
“Annie? I'm hungry.” Maggie looked up at me rubbing the sleep out of her big brown eyes. She was ten years old. Our parents died when she was a baby, and I was only eight. We were told they had been shot by Statie Guards for trying to break into one of the Estates to get to a pharmacy. They needed medicine for Maggie. She had the croup. We never saw their bodies. Because we were so young, they were buried in secret by the other adult members of our Pride to protect us from seeing them that way. Most families ran in packs that we called Prides. There were thirty or so Prides in The Community.
We stayed with our Pride for a while, but with our parents gone, we were always an afterthought when it came to food or water, or a place to sleep. There was a nice guy there we called Uncle Joe. He taught me how to read, how to fight, how to scavenge for food. I spent hours learning from him. He took me to an old rubble of a building we called the Great Library. He told me it was once called The New York Library. We dug through hundreds of piles of books. We would spend days reading and learning. And then one day he was gone. I always wondered what happened to him. I had hoped to bump into him again someday so that he could see how Maggie and I grew up, how much we learned from him. When he left the Pride I didn't see a reason to stay anymore. I took Maggie, and we went off on our own.
We did okay. I found abandoned buildings for shelter. I taught Maggie how to read. I taught her how to fight, and defend herself the way I learned from Joe. I kept us on a very strict routine when it came to training and studying. We would spar against one an-other daily. She was actually quite a good fighter, knocking me down more times than I would like to admit. I wanted to make sure that Maggie would be okay if anything ever happened to me.
We didn't know any other way. Just survival.
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