Sprinting across the asphalt road, on her way to school, all Drew had on her mind was how the prank was going to unfold. Over the years, she had perfected her talent for imitating other people’s voices. Hmmm, how can I make sure she’s out of her office? Drew thought as she rounded the corner. She paused briefly to tie back her unkempt brown hair. I hope she’s still getting her coffee.
Still racing, Drew caught glimpses of nice cottages in rows, each one with a window box and a grassy patch for a small garden. Everything was neat and tidy in The Dome, everything organized, and everything was always exactly the same. Drew had lived in The Dome all her life. Her parents told her that she should be grateful for what she has, and where she is, for the remains of the human race were living inside this huge glass dome, safe from the wasteland the world had become. The Dome was perfect, and Drew was known for messing up the perfection. For example, a year before, she flooded the boys’ bathroom, and earlier this year, she had pulled the fire alarm and set all the sprinklers off. Those were some of her best, and most prized, pranks.
Finally, Drew snapped back into the present at the sight of the school building. She dashed right in, holding her hands in front of her to push open the wooden double doors. Drew knew the quickest route to the principal’s office by heart and automatically rushed there, hoping again that Ms. Pavo and her ridiculous beehive hairdo wouldn’t be there to ruin Drew’s devious plan. Luckily, her office was completely deserted, ex cept for her tank of bobble-headed fish. Drew jogged over to Ms. Pavo’s window and kept watch for the usual swarm of approaching students. And sure enough, they came, all racing to be the first into school. This was convenient, Drew thought, Ms. Pavo is always the last one in from the playground. Perfect.
Drew strode across the room and scanned the office quickly for something resembling a microphone. Halfway through her scan, she noticed a small headset with a tiny microphone lying askew on the principal’s desk. She chuckled as she imagined this tiny headset perched on her principal’s huge hairdo. Drew snatched up the headset and felt around for an On button. She fiddled with the microphone for a fraction of a second and heard a faint crackling noise. She took a quick look at her watch and began to impersonate Ms. Pavo’s shrill voice.
“Attention, students. We have been notified that there is a gas leak in the science lab, and the building must be evacuated immediately. Go home, and don’t come back until tomorrow.” Drew finished with a grin, and in the wink of an eye, she was back on the pavement, headed to her grandmother’s cottage, closely followed by the rest of the students.
* * *
Drew looked deep into her beloved grandmother’s eyes. They were bright blue, just like her own. She and her grandmother were very close, and even though she didn’t always fully approve of Drew’s pranks, she never tried to stop her. Drew loved her grandmother for this, and for many other reasons. Her grandmother yawned, and Drew realized that she should probably go and let her grandmother rest. She was getting older and slowing down. The wrinkles in her face were becoming more pronounced, her hair increasingly white. Drew went home and spent the day relaxing. After sunset, though she wasn’t tired, she followed the rules and got ready for bed. Her schedule was prescribed like all citizens of The Dome. Mealtimes and bedtimes were set. You couldn’t skip meals or stay up late. It was hard for her to fall asleep, but eventually she did.
* * *
In her troubled slumber, Drew watched in despair as her grandmother got wheeled out into the cold night air. The door to her grandmother’s cottage slammed, and Drew suddenly found herself near the glass wall of The Dome, the wind whipping her pale face. Time stopped as she desperately searched for her grandmother. Where have they taken her? She heard a dull thud, and there, on the smooth surface of The Dome, was a slightly smudged, dusty handprint. Out of impulse, Drew tried to wipe it off, before realizing with an overwhelming feeling of despair: the handprint was on the outside of The Dome.
* * *
Drew woke to the sound of her own screaming. She sat up in bed and wiped the sweat off her forehead. The handprint was still vivid in her mind. She knew she would never be able to unsee it. How could there be a handprint on the outside of The Dome? No one ever left The Dome. No one came in. There was nobody but them. She shook the thought away. No, it couldn’t be true. It was only a dream. Her grandmother was still in her cottage a block away. Nothing could have happened. She had just spoken to her the day before. Still worried, she ran out the door and down the path to her grandmother’s cottage, not eating the breakfast that had just been delivered. Drew knew something was wrong when she didn’t see her grandmother tending her garden as usual.
“Grandmother,” she called softly, walking to the back of the house. No answer. She called again, a little louder this time. “Grandmother, where are you?” Every second that she couldn’t find her grandmother made the dream more and more likely to be true. “But it couldn’t be,” she reassured herself in a soft whisper.
As she circled to the front of her grandmother’s house, a cleanup crew was clearing away her grandmother’s things. “Do you know where my grandmother is?” Drew asked, while trying unsuccessfully to keep the panic out of her voice.
“What grandmother? You don’t have one,” the leader of the cleanup crew answered. Drew knew it wasn’t true. “Now, go away girl. We’re cleaning this residence out. Orders,” he said.
“But, these are my grandmother’s.”
“We’ve told you once, now we’ve told you twice. You don’t have a grandmother,” one of the Lower Ranks addressed her, while being slapped in the back of the head. Lower Ranks weren’t allowed to talk to the citizens, except on orders or to family members. Rule Number 48.
I know I have a grandmother. At that she fled her grandmother’s cottage and didn’t stop running until she saw the dusty handprint, just like the one she had seen in her dream. She stopped dead in her tracks and stared. Even the wind that brushed past the walls of The Dome couldn’t erase the handprint. In a daze, she walked over to touch it. She couldn’t feel the dirt. It was on the outside. It stung like a slap to the face, and Drew wondered what this could mean. A red wasteland covered the ground as far as the eye could see. No one could live out there. What she had thought was only a dream had become reality. The handprint was strangely red compared to the shiny glass of The Dome. Drew wasn’t one to shed tears, but at that moment she couldn’t help it. But soon her sadness turned to anger. Someone is making people disappear, but why? She ran back to her family’s cottage to think.
Ever since she was little, there had been blank spots in her memory. It never had occurred to her that memories could have been taken away. But, how could it be possible for humans to disappear without anybody noticing? And why am I the only one who remembers?
As she thought this, her stomach growled and she realized the one thing that was different. The one thing she didn’t have today that the rest of The Dome had.
Breakfast. She ran down the stairs to ask her mother a simple question. “Where’s Grandmother?” Drew braced herself for the answer as her mother replied with a chuckle, “Who? Honey, you don’t have a grandmother.”
Drew’s heart was racing. People were disappearing, never to be seen again. Namely, her grandmother, and assumedly countless others. Who was next? Her mother? Her father? And breakfast was the only thing stopping people from realizing it. Drew’s eyes grew wide as she contemplated the possibility that the Governors might be putting something in the food to make people forget. Drew had to do something about this. But what? It occurred to her she had no authority to stop people from eating the delivered meals, and she fell into despair. Then she realized that the High Governor did have that authority. And Drew had the ability to sound like the High Governor. As the day wore on, Drew started to formulate a plan. She knew she had to avoid eating the delivered meals and resolved to pick fruit from the trees in her yard to keep herself going. The next morning she would skip breakfast again and put her plan in motion. But tonight she would sleep. It had been a long and troubling day.
* * *
Drew raced down the sidewalk. Zero-emission cars puttered along the road that ran next to her. It was eight a.m. That morning at breakfast she had declared that she was not feeling well and shouldn’t go to school but back to bed instead. She promised her parents that she would check in at noon. She went up to her room and climbed out the window. Now, Drew was racing towards the center of The Dome, towards the Governors’ Building. Her plan was risky. She would break into the PA room and announce… something. She would figure it out when she got there. Finally, she skidded to a halt in front of the sleek modern building. She pushed open the double doors and tried to appear like she knew where she was going. After much searching and a few close calls with security, she noticed a sign indicating that the PA room was just around the corner. This is it, Drew thought. She stepped around the corner… and instantly jumped back—the hall was crawling with Enforcers. Drew peeked around the corner again. They were still there. She would just have to wait it out.
Two minutes later she stepped into the empty hallway. Drew pushed open the door marked PA and looked around for the microphone. She recognized it right away; it was the same style she had used for the prank at school. Drew put the headset on and cleared her throat. She had never imitated the High Governor’s low, hypnotic voice before. She didn’t know if she could do this. She did a test run. “Greetings, citizens.” That sounded about right. She flicked the On switch. Here goes, she thought. “Attention, citizens of The Dome. There has been an accident in the kitchens, and the breakfast is no longer suitable for consumption. I repeat, the breakfast that has been delivered is not safe. All are advised to avoid eating delivered meals for the rest of the day.” Drew eased off the headset and slipped out of the room. She strolled back through the building, once again trying to look like she belonged. Out of the doors and back to her cottage Drew walked. If they hadn’t eaten breakfast, the citizens of The Dome would be starting to remember. She hoped that would be enough. Drew’s feelings were complicated. While she felt accomplished, in the pit of her stomach she had a sense of foreboding. She realized that this was only the beginning.