Utopia Falls by Kody Boye Genre: YA Science Fiction
Society has reached its peak within the walled city of Utopia. While the outside world lies in inhospitable ruins, the city within brims with technological marvels—all thanks to a benevolent god that appeared during humanity’s darkest hour. But with the city on the verge of overpopulation, and the world outside not promised to be safe, time is running out for the Utopian people, and it’ll take one brave young woman to change the course of history.
Seventeen-year-old Ember Hillen has lived in the shadow of the god her entire life. With a promising future in medicine, she believes that her future is set in stone. What she doesn’t expect is for her Aptitude Test scores to come back with exemplary remarks—or to be chosen as her city’s next Holy Conduit.
As the Holy Conduit, Ember can connect with, and receive visions of, her god’s desires for the Utopian city. The only problem? Her god is implying that her people must somehow journey beyond their isolated city to build a new world in the wasteland. But with the mad leader of the premier engineering facility within Utopia attempting to sway Ember through whatever means possible, Ember must make a choice that will change a life forever. The only question is: can she withstand the storm that will follow?
I lie awake for an undetermined period of time. Refusing to look at the smart screen embedded into my bedroom wall, or at the time displayed upon it, I stare at the ceiling in a meager attempt to fall asleep, but find myself considering everything that has happened instead The tests-- The meeting-- The Connection--
I see Curito’s pale skin in my mind, his weathered hands, his aged expression, and I wonder: Is this my fate? Is this what will happen to me? Common sense would indicate that this will not likely be the case, because for one: I have to first Connect to our God; and two: I am a woman of color, and will age differently as a result.
These thoughts, and more, haunt me well into the night, and even after I fall asleep.
By the time I awaken the following morning, I find myself dreading the day, and the upcoming Connection, all over again.
“Good morning, Ember,” the AI says.
“Good morning,” I reply.
“Would you like me to read your messages?”
“I guess,” I offer, pulling the sheet up over my chest.
The artificial intelligence cycles through her automated processes for a few short moments before saying: “Jonathan Eeyers has sent a message.”
“Read it to me,” I say.
“Hey, Ember. It’s me, John. The tests were wild, weren’t they? I placed fine—or, at least, I think I did. I know you already did amazingly. Do you want to hang out later today? Let me know, and thanks.”
The artificial intelligence falls silent.
“Send an invitation to meet with Jonathan Eeyers,” I offer in response.
“Invitation sent,” the AI says.
Sighing, I roll out of bed and lift my eyes to face the smart screen embedded into my wall. It’s almost twelve o’clock already? I think, and frown. I can’t believe I slept so long.
Who could blame me, though, after the day I’d had, or the feelings I’d experienced? My life had changed in an instant—and will continue to change as the days go on. If you Connect, anyway, I am quick to remind myself.
A frown paints my features as I wander into my attached bathroom, strip out of my clothes, and step into the shower, in which lukewarm soapy water of my scent of choice peppers my body in rapid bursts. I sigh as the sweet smell of pomegranate wafts through my nose, and rub the soap along my arms and face to clean myself thoroughly.
Normally on a day like this, I’d take my time to shower. But knowing that Jonathan will soon arrive leaves me in no state to relax. So, with that in mind, I crawl out of the shower, dress, then begin to apply my makeup.
I have just finished painting my winged eyeliner along my tear ducts when the artificial intelligence announces Jonathan’s presence.
“Coming!” I call, lowering my brushes back into their tray, which instantly withdraws into my desk to clean and sanitize them.
In less than a moment, I am making my way from my room and into the living room.
Jonathan Eeyers—tall, pale, and lanky—awaits me. His blue eyes watch me from behind his lengthy fringe. “Hey,” he says.
“Hi,” I say. “Do you want to come in, or—”
“I figured we could walk the city, maybe do lunch or something.”
“That’d be nice.”
“You’re ready to go?”
“Yeah. I am.”
I step out into the warm afternoon air and wait for the door to close behind me before I begin to follow Jonathan down the hill.
“So,” he says, turning his head down to look at me. “How did the tests go?”
“I don’t—” I start to say.
“What am I thinking?” he asks, cutting me off before I can continue. “Of course you got high marks. The AI probably already assigned you an internship at the hospital, didn’t it?”
“Jonathan—” I start.
“I mean, yeah: it’s nearly impossible to get an internship at Trinity Hospital on your first try, but you’ve been studying for months. I don’t see how you couldn’t have gotten in.”
“What’s the holdup, Ember? Why aren’t you saying anything?”
“I’m trying to!” I snap.
Jonathan comes to a halt.
I bump into him.
The tall young man turns to look at me and says, “Sorry. I was rambling. How’d your test go?”
“I didn’t get the internship.”
He laughs. “Really, Ember? Is this one of your jokes?” He pauses and narrows his eyes. “Come on: be honest. You got the internship, didn’t you?”
“No, Jonathan. I didn’t.”
He pales. His eyes darken. His lips purse into a frown. “But… if you didn’t get the internship, then what did you—”
“My marks came back exemplary, Jonathan.”
The young man can only stare. “Thu… That means—”
“I’m eligible for the Connection. Yeah. I know.”
“By our God,” he mumbles, tilting his head up to the sky. “I… I can’t believe it.”
“Neither can I.”
“You really did make her smart,” he tells the floating being above, “didn’t you?”
I reach up and smack the back of Jonathan’s head.
“Ow!” he says.
“That’s for making fun of me,” I offer.
“I wasn’t making fun,” he replies. “I was just thanking Her for your smarts.”
I smack him a second time.
“Ow! Stop doing that!”
“I’m scared to death and all you can do is crack jokes?”
“I’m trying to lighten the mood,” he offers, sliding his hands into his pockets before turning to face me directly. He frowns as he considers the look that must be in my eyes, then asks, rather pointedly: “Are you really scared?”
“They say people who go through the Connection are never the same.”
“If they Connect,” Jonathan offers. “That’s a big if. Remember? Not everyone is worthy.”
“I don’t think it has anything to do with being worthy, John. I… I think it has to do with whether or not She wants to Connect with someone.”
“She connected with Curito,” Jonathan offers. “I mean, considering how batty the old man is—”
I press a hand to my mouth.
“What?” he asks, a crooked smile on his face. “You know it’s true.”
“Curito is our Holy Conduit. That’s almost as bad as disrespecting our God.”
“But he’s not God, Ember. He’s a man, just like us.” He pauses. “Well, you’re a girl, so… maybe not the best example, but—”
I shake my head and begin to lead on.
“Hey!” he says, pumping his legs to keep pace beside me. “What’s wrong? Why are you acting like this?”
“I’m just… scared… that I won’t be myself after it.”
“I doubt you’re going to have an instant personality switch.”
“Maybe not an instant one, but one nonetheless?” I shake my head. “I just… just—”
“I don’t know,” I say, and sigh. I cross my arms over my chest and consider everything that could happen, everything that has happened, that will. A part of me simply wants to break down, but another knows that doing so, especially in front of my best friend, won’t serve me well. So, for that reason, I simply straighten my posture.
“Ember?” Jonathan says. “Are you okay?”
“I’ll be fine,” I say, though I know it’s a lie, and I know Jonathan will know it, too. I start forward without much of a thought. “Let’s just get lunch.”
“Okay,” he offers, sliding up alongside me. “But we should probably avoid anything near the Extant Facilities.”
“Why?” I ask.
“Because of that.”
He lifts his hand and points.
I can only stare.
Crowded, among the premier construction factory within the Utopian city, are dozens upon dozens of people. Each are split into two groups, and each shout at each other with abandon I know comes only from the impassioned and enraged.
“Expand! Expand!” one group cries.
“Stagnant! Stagnant!” the other counters.
I shiver—more out of unease than actual fear—and find myself coming to a halt at the edge of the city sphere.
“We shouldn’t be here,” Jonathan offers.
“Why?” I ask. “It’s just a protest.”
“With a counter protest,” he replies. “You know what happens when things get out of hand.”
I do, but that doesn’t stop me from staring at each group—at the Expands on one side and the Stagnants on the other. While one rallies for the expansion of the city—a feat which is currently impossible given the volatile world beyond our walls—the other argues for stagnation. In a rapidly growing city that is now struggling to meet the demands of its population, it makes sense that one group would want to move into the wasteland. But we can’t, I think. At least, not now, not until they figure out how to make it safe.
The engineers—and my father in particular—helm the Expansion Project, which seeks to create safe or “bubble” settlements beyond Utopia. But they have been working on it for years, and there is no guarantee when, or if, it will ever get off the ground.
As I stare at the two groups—considering not only my father’s wellbeing, but the safety of those people protesting—Jonathan takes hold of my arm and says, “Come on. They’re coming.”
“Who—” I start to say.
Then I see them: the guardians of our city. Tall, majestic, golden in color, but mechanical in nature, the Sirens—who stand at least ten feet in height and resemble crowned, long-limbed women—exit the Extant Facilities and begin to make their way toward both groups.
The crowd divides. People rush away. A choice few threaten to remain, but one of the two Sirens turns its head to face them, and begins to project sharp projections from its mouthpiece.
The people close by scramble.
Those beyond its radius, like me and Jonathan, reach up to cover our ears.
“Come on!” Jonathan says.
I follow without hesitation, but not before looking back at the Extant Facilities and the men and women staggering away from the Sirens.
On one hand, I am thankful that their artificial intelligence drives them to keep the people of Utopia safe. On another, I can’t help but wonder:
What would happen if things got out of hand?
Though Kody Boye was born and raised in Southeastern Idaho, he moved south at the age of eighteen and has resided in various parts of Texas since 2010, living first in Austin, then in Fort Worth before finally landing in the Rio Grande Valley. His first story, [A] Prom Queen's Revenge, was published in the Yellow Mama Webzine at the age of fourteen. His debut novel, Sunrise, followed at age eighteen.
Since then, he has written several novels across multiple speculative fiction genres. His most recent works include When They Came, The Beautiful Ones, Kingsman Online, and The Red Wolf Saga.
Kody is currently enrolled in an online university and pursuing an undergraduate degree in creative writing and English, with plans to further his education with an MFA, which will allow him to teach.
When not writing, Kody enjoys reading young-adult novels, playing video games such as World of Warcraft and Guild Wars, and browsing social media endlessly.