Book One in the CUSA series
(C) 2017 Adam Cole
Published by Nuncici Press, an imprint of Adam Cole Works LLC
He looked down at her. “You don’t belong here!” he admonished. “Why are you in the building?”
Rosa didn’t know how to answer. Did he know she was chuseno? What would he say if he found out?
She saw Basil with his face all twisted up, and she could tell by that look that he was going to get it and he didn’t want her to see. So before he could ask her another question she ran out the room, down the stairs and out and away from the building.
The bike ride back was much harder and scarier. The only light came from the few telephone pole AVEs that hadn’t burned out or been smashed with a rock. When she got back to her house, wheezing and sweating, she slipped back up the hill, pulled the bars open and slipped in. Without a word to her Avatar, she slid under her blanket.
She lay there in the darkness, thinking. Should she get her things and go back? Back to Basil and a new life at the Church?
Pendejo. Marry her! He just wanted to see her naked. Rosa couldn’t believe she’d ever liked him.
And by 5 AM the next day she and her parents were on the I-285 with a crowd of people, walking their way around the arc to trade what they had for little paper vouchers to get on the bus. And now Rosa was wondering if she should have taken him up on it.
The bus driver said her name was Chassis. She didn’t say much after that. Rosa wanted to go over to ask her questions, but she stayed near Daddy instead, who had taken a seat opposite her and Mamma in the same row.
He was looking at Firoz like he hadn’t seen him before.
“What’s the matter, Daddy?”
“Nothing,” he said. He just glared. Meanwhile, Firoz wasn’t looking back. He was still gazing out the window, looking exactly like he did when he first sat down.
Rosa was nervous about the way Mamma and Daddy were acting, and she wanted to get away from them for a while. She tried to get up and move to the front of the bus, but Mamma put her heavy arm around her and kept her close. After about twenty minutes, the bus slowed down. Rosa thought Chassis was going to pull over, but she just stopped under a covered booth. She leaned out the window and started chatting with a woman in the gate. Real friendly. Chassis had her head out the window for maybe fifteen minutes. Rosa never heard a word, but she heard Chassis laughing. Chassis’ laugh sounded like two bricks scraping together, a quality that could put you on edge or make you feel real safe, depending on whose side you were on.
The woman in the booth came out and walked around the back of the bus. She walked slow, Rosa guessed, because she was checking things. Rosa wondered if she was going to look up the potty hole.
Finally, she got to the door and Chassis let her on. She was wearing a black and gold body suit with gold stripes down the side. She was heavy like Chassis, but a whole lot younger. Her wiry hair was cropped short under a tight cap with a brim that shaded her eyes. Mamma and Daddy got nervous again, but this woman didn’t look like she would cause them any trouble. She didn’t look like she even saw any of them. She just started talking in this dead voice.
“You are about to leave the Corporation of the United States of America. This bus is headed for the MidAtlantic Protectorate. You are expected to remain on this bus until it reaches its route.”
She sounded like she’d said this stuff five million times already, maybe even five million times today. She sounded like she didn’t care if they lived or died.
“CUSA makes no claim of your safety. Anyone traveling over the Unincorporated States by land does so at their own risk. Once you cross the border behind me, your electronic signatures will be deactivated for security purposes. Your connection to CUSA exists entirely in your voucher. For this reason, if your voucher is lost or damaged, you will not be allowed back into CUSA.
“This is for your own safety.”
She looked around at them like she was waiting for somebody to argue. Nobody said anything.
“As citizens and protectees of CUSA, you will be allowed back into CUSA territory upon presentation and surrender of your voucher. You must surrender your voucher to re-enter CUSA.”
She stopped again. It was like the pauses were part of the speech or something.
“CUSA is not liable for anything lost or damaged in the Unincorporated States. Any disputes arising in or with the Unincorporated States must be taken up with the Office of Foreign Affairs in Baltimore. This includes all loss of property and/or life. Are there any questions?”
“When do we eat?” asked the woman with the tennis-racket case. Everybody on the bus chuckled. Even Chassis.
The border lady nodded like she thought the joke was okay, but she didn’t smile. “Have a good day,” she said. Then she stepped off.
More about Motherless Child
When Rosa’s mother loses her job with the Corporate United States, her family must flee or be killed in an employee purge. Taking the dangerous bus trip across the Unincorporated States, they are ambushed by bandits. Hopelessly separated from her family, Rosa is rescued by the people of Ascension, a small backwoods Virgilna town with a terrible secret.
Seventeen years in the making, Cole’s book about a girl trapped between two Americas serves as a reminder of what the United States has become, and what it still could be.
Adam Cole is an author and music educator in Atlanta, GA. He has written numerous books and stories for children, as well as a number of adult and non-fiction titles including The Girl With the Bow and Seven Ways the World Can End.
You can find the next, or previous chapter of this book at http://www.adamcoleworks.wordpress.com
Can’t wait til next Wednesday? You can get the whole book at https://adamcole.selz.com/editor?url=/categories/all . (Just don’t post the ending, please!)
You can ensure the chapters continue to arrive on time by visiting https://www.patreon.com/adamcole and joining our growing fanbase.
What do you like? What do you wish was in the book? Post a comment at http://www.adamcoleworks.wordpress.com , or leave a post on Patreon and tell us what you think!