Straws

By @jselkowitz

Straws

By @jselkowitz

An unnamed character describing his origin and his home

Chapter 1

Straws

In the beginning there were islands, islets, a very deep harbor and a peninsula perched at the bottom of a mountain. The land was a nightmare for any developer, so for the longest time that’s exactly how the land stayed: undeveloped. What was the point? All this section of area had going for it was a deep harbor. When you have a deep harbor, you attract fishermen, that’s a given. That’s how the city started out. It was a prime fishing spot where fisherman flocked for their next catch. To one-up each other the fishermen took their families to live on the peninsula. That was the beginning of another sleeper fishing village. This arrangement couldn’t last forever though. Maybe they were overhunted, or they got smart, but the fish stopped appearing.

Under normal circumstances the lack of fish would spell the end to the village. The fishers would have packed their things, gathered their families, and set off to find the next school of fish to make a living with. However, a lot of the residents didn’t want to leave. This had been their home, so why give up that easily? With that some very determined residents constructed what mining tools they could and set for the mountains. Their logic was that if they were able to find some valuable mineral, maybe gold or silver, they could create a mining industry and allow people to still make a living. Months passed and that soon turned into years. The villagers were beginning to lose their drive and were starting to plan their departure from the peninsula. A few kept at it until one day someone discovered a bright yellow stone that shined brighter than the sun or a crown. Assuming that they had discovered a brand new substance these pioneers decided to name what they found coronaium. After that first discovery the floodgates opened and it was all people were finding underneath the mountain. The first villagers were relieved as they thought they finally found something, but they didn’t know what to do with it. Someone eventually figured out that coronaium could be used as an energy source, an extremely powerful, clean, and efficient energy source. It could also be easily transported. Let’s see now… an abundant source of power that can be easily transported? If that doesn’t sound like a cash cow I don’t know what is. The floodgates were opened. Word spread all across the world. Everyone wanted a piece of the action. A resource like that doesn’t just appear anywhere, and to this day coronaium hasn’t been found anywhere else. For the people in charge, this meant a sudden supply of power and money. With all of that coming in everything about the city changed. To accommodate the increase influx of people they had to figure out how to build skyscrapers on the side of mountains. Urban planners had to figure out how to organize the city. Any sort of solution you could think of: land reclamation, underground networks, desalinization, every last detail had to be tackled with precision. Even with this increased capability of hosting people, it still became on of the densest places in the world. Because of the lack of space, leadership was wary of letting too many people in at once. They were under the impression that history repeats itself, and where a lucrative commodity was discovered trouble usually followed. Eventual demise was not in their plans. As a result getting permission to move there was notoriously difficult. It’s hard, but it’s not impossible. I should know. I’m one of those people they let in.

Well… not exactly, but it’s true that I’m not originally from the city. The first half-decade or so of my life was spent in the very nation that is now at war with the city, a war that they claim was started by me. Irony right? Normally the city would never accept anyone from there. But the offer that they got from my mom was… unique. She was into research and wrote up an incredibly detailed method on how to mine coronaium more efficiently and with greater number. She submitted her findings to the city government. Apparently they liked what they saw and granted her a special working visa. She was allowed to take one other person with her. My parents knew that it was either me or my older sister going along, but they couldn’t figure out who to take. How did they decide on this life altering choice? Straws. They took ten bendy straws from the kitchen cabinet, five for me and five for my sister. They had one close their eyes and pick a straw at random. It just so happened that the straw was picked had my name on it. I didn’t learn about how this went down until years later from my mom. She told me that at the time she and my dad didn’t think that was going to be too big of a deal. She told me that the government told her that if her research continued to do well they would allow my dad and my sister to come over as well. She told me a few weeks before she disappeared with no explanation. With her disappearance, the hope of a family reunion was pretty much dead.

The straws would continually haunt me, especially now with the sea of fire that was ablaze behind me. If the straws had drawn differently maybe it would have been my sister who came with my mom to the city all those years ago instead of me. Maybe it would have been she who started a new life in the city. It would have been she who made friends who supported her after mom disappeared. Who agreed to help her get out the massive debt the city had placed on her. Maybe it would be she who would be labeled a traitor instead of me. Likewise it would have me who stayed behind in the home country, and who would have grown to hate the city, and by extension me. It would have been me who saw his sibling after so many years in a high stakes competition that would result in a fight that spilled over into international politics. It also would have been me who led an invading force of thousands into a foreign nation. And… it would have been me who killed her best friend right in front of her, all because of a couple of straws. I guess that’s why I don’t put them in my drinks anymore.

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