Pollution lingered in the smog across the valleys of the city. The year 3004 in New York on a hot summer solstice was not good for the neighborhood crops down the street let alone for anyone roaming around in the scorching heat. Tall metal towers echoed all around, amplifying the summer rays; evaporating the water in the air. Noon struck the city as the sun rolled by. A hot thick breeze swept dirt gathered in the piles. A small wondrous bug-eyed boy watching cartoons ate his cereal alone. Sweat trailed down his cheek, slowly simmering from the heat in the air.
A loud thud coming from the window caught him by surprise. He stood to find a bird with a twisted neck lying stiff on the window sill. Its wings lay spread-out, revealing nature’s design. “If you can’t handle the heat,” the boy began as he reached to grab it, “Stay out of the city. Sorry little guy. You’re in a better place now.” A much cooler place. He remained by the window nesting the broken bird on his palm while down below tiny critters roamed about. His eyes wondered to the streets, captivated by their light as they crossed one another creating a whirlpool of intricate colors illuminating in the heat.
He turned to the bird, feeling empathetically, silently asked it to rise. With a breath of fresh air, the broken bird stood stretched its wings and began to sing. Static buzzed behind him while he stood in disbelief. The tiny bird miraculously rose then flew away, disappearing into the corners of the city. A strange woman called his name but he remained by the window sill, awestruck. “Jova,” the woman called again. Confused, he turned to find a blond woman in a white room beaming at him through the television screen.
“How do you know my name?” he questioned.
“Jova,” she began brightening the screen with her smile, “At last we meet again.”
“Again? Do I know you?” He asked, lost in the ordeal.
“You mean you don’t know me?” she asked morosely. “In your defense, it has been forever since we’ve last seen each other. Jova my boy, my special little boy, you don’t know how relieved I am to have finally found you.” Chills ran down his spine as the pale woman spoke to him through the screen. “We’ve been apart for too long. There’s so much to take, places to conquer. Would you not want to be a part of the grand design?” She asked, noticing a question appear in Jova’s eyes. “It’s our destiny.”
“Destiny?” Jova took a step back, gathering his scattered thoughts to what has been presented before him. “I…” he began piecing the confusion, “I don’t know you. I’m only seven, I can’t go anywhere without my mother’s consent.” With his mother in mind he continued, “My mother always said not to talk to strangers.” He stood behind a wooden chair, looking at the strange woman who beamed at him; following his every move. “How are you…” He struggled to piece the puzzle together, “How are we talking?”
“Have you forgotten little one,” she laughed lightly, “I am everywhere. I’ve been on a hunt for you and at last your arrival has come, after all these years. What perfect timing. Join me, Jova, for you were destined to lead us to our fate; eternal peace and glory to all.” She finished and waited for a response. Jova shook his head dazed and confused. Who was this woman he knew nothing about? How did she find him? “Escaping is futile; running will only get you so far. Don’t forsake us, Jova.”
Howling engines roared in the air as its propellers balanced a patrol wagon in midair outside his window. “We have the place surrounded, surrender immediately,” ordered the enforcers through the intercom. More buzzed around as excitement raced in the polluted wind. Jova panicked, not sure of what to do. A team of enforcers barged inside the complex and raced up the stairs sealing every exit in sight. “Kneel with your hands behind your head.”
They were close, he could sense them. Jova opened the door and ran down the hallway. He turned every corner hoping they would get lost in the maze. “Holt, terrorist two o’clock,” one shouted as they all aimed their toys at a small fearful boy. Outside, the hovering patrol wagon bobbed with its brightening beams twirling in circles. “Get on the ground, now.” They all shouted with lasers aimed at his forehead. Jova got to his knees and surrendered. “We got the boy.” The commander informed the station. “We’re bringing him in.”
As the hunter gathered their prey, Jova tightened his fist and shut his eyes. A blinding pitch rang in their ears. Painfully deafening, the pitch rendered them to their knees from the constant scream. They were unable to escape the silent tune that lay imprinted in their minds; echoing in their silence. Jova got to his feet and made a run for it. He climbed out the fire escape and made his way down.
The hovering patrol spotted him shortly after. The patrol wagon stretched its tentacle arms and reached straight for Jova. Tranquilizers torpedoed in the air, each aiming to pierce his skin. Jova jumped the last staircase, fumbled to the ground nearly missing a metallic grip. The patrol sirens signaled his location; inviting a swarm of squad teams at his tail. Jova was on the run, not knowing where to go or what to do. No matter where he hid, he could not escape the target implanted onto him.
The streets were cluttered with hills of trash piled in every corner. Foul reeked in the air, suffocating in every stench known to man. Tamed souls and preying eyes wondered the valleys of a utopian city run by lies. Jova pushed among the crowd, the lost, as the enforcers hovered above their heads. Its wondering lens scanned every face in sight, searching for the one they sought. Data of every living person caught in their preying lens ran in the patrol monitor while the wagon searched around.
Billboards ran his picture across the city labeling him a terror, a menace to society. Jova was uncertain of the crime he did not know he had committed. The thickening heat smothered his lungs as he gasped for air. The chase was a marathon he could not endure. The tracking propellers of the hovering patrol found his every location, bringing along a team of armed enforcers. The smoldering heat dragged his feet behind, slowing him to their grip.
His legs were worn, mouth dry as ever, his spirit crumbled and weakened by the hour. There was only one place left to go as he ran for his life. The bay to the other side was all that stood between him and his freedom from the enforcers. With no boat in sight, Jova’s survival seemed slim. “What am I to do,” he asked the heavens desperate for an answer. In a matter of seconds the waters began to smooth out before him, solid to the touch but liquid to the eye. The surface straightened, clearing a path for him to stand on. The sirens soon echoed in the distance, it was now or never.
With one foot before the other, Jova miraculously walked the surface of the shore. He tipped toed his way a few feet in before sprinting to the other side, careful not to slip or fall into the polluted gulf. The squad team arrived on the scene within minutes, bewildered by the miracle at hand. “Stay put,” the commander shouted, his message echoing across the bay. Jova turned before landing on the shores to the other side. Across the pond, a herd of armed enforcers stood waiting for further instructions.
The New York skyline mirrored in the bay from where he stood. He marveled at its fading shimmer and vibrant vines. Across the bay, the city stood scared by a troubled past. As the sun began to set, Jova disappeared into the jungles of a deserted city, hiding from the injustice eye. A glimmering light deep in the jungle led him further into the unknown. He only hoped to find a sense of reason in all of the confusion.
Night critters crept in the dark as Jova made his way through the gloomy jungle. Empty cans and plastic bottles lay poking in the grass. Broken towers scattered throughout the vast emptiness. Jova did not know if he were alone in a city famine in poverty. The lonesome city told a tale of infamous glory. The past lingered in the future, haunting the present. Forgotten bones shined in the light from the rising crescent moon. Jova only guessed what his imagination could conjure of the history the city foretold.
Owls echoed in the vastness while Jova made his way to the glimmering in the opening up ahead. It wasn’t long before Jova came to find the deserted city sheltered few who sought refuge from a city run by corruption. Peaking behind a thick tree, Jova observed a small group of foreigners who huddled around the fire. They seemed friendly but Jova kept his distance. “You can join us if you’d like,” a man called to whoever was lurking. “We’re not going to kill you.”
Jova slowly stepped beside the tree, looking to see who had spotted him. Their faces were smeared in dirt, their hair disheveled and their rags were old but their welcoming smile assured him he had found safety among the lost. “Come,” the man added as Jova stood in the dark, “Here, there’s still some left.” The man tossed an open can of beans to Jova as he stepped into their circle and sat on other side. He wondered around to questionable faces, all curious to know of the new arrival. “Got a name kid,” the man asked as Jova settled by the fire.
“Names Phoenix,” the man introduced himself, “Where you from?”
“New York? Hasn’t been new for centuries. What brings you to our neck of the woods?” Phoenix asked. “You in some sort of trouble? Running from the law? I wouldn’t blame you.” He scrapped the bottom of the can with his finger as he savaged for remains.
“No, actually, I was chased out of my home.” Jova replied. “I don’t know why.”
“You said you’re from New York,” added a man who sat beside Phoenix. Jova nodded in response. “They probably wanted to sell you; kids are valuable labor these days. You know how I know? The cartels are running the city with the king pin as their mayor.” A question appeared on Jova’s face. “You do know who your mayor is, right?” Jova sat oblivious to what he was being asked, unaware of what they knew.
“He’s just a kid Mak,” Phoenix replied, “He’s from the city. They’re told what to think, remember. He don’t know any better.” Phoenix turned to Jova, “There’s a lot you don’t know kid. You being here means you know something you shouldn’t. The future is ever changing, and this is what we’re left with. Speaking the truth can get you killed; opposing the law will get you on their list, turn you into a slave or worse,” he paused to recollect. “The world took a turn for the worst, and there’s nothing we can do about it; at least not any more. All we can do is hide, run at best but it can only take you so far.”
“That’s what she told me.” Jova replied.
“Who?” questioned a figure who stood in the shadows.
“There was this blond woman who talked to me on the television, it was weird.” Jova began. “She said all sorts of confusing things. Do you know her?” The figure remained in the shadows, pondering. Unbeknownst to Jova, the figure in the dark knew many secrets kept hidden in plain sight. Of all the refuges huddled by the fire, one led the few who dared oppose a future left in ruins. Only they remain in the shadows, hiding from a loss they could never prevail.
“Mona?” Phoenix called. “What are you not telling us?”
“You must have done something extraordinary to have gotten her attention.” Mona began as she stepped into the light. A battered woman with a missing arm sat in front of Jova, making sure he noticed every scar lay exposed. “What Mak had mentioned before is that the world is no longer a safe place to be because there’s a lot you’re unaware of. The truth has been fabricated to the people by the regime, for ‘their’ greater good.”
“What truth is that?” Jova asked, puzzled.
“The truth is,” Mona continued, “The world has been at war for over a hundred years.” Jova sat in disbelieve. “It all began with the assassination of the president during a meeting with world leaders. They were to sign a peace treaty to unite the nations, but the regime had other things in mind. After the assassination, propaganda created by the regime spread all over the media warning people ‘Terrorists were on the rise’ when in fact, it was us all along." Jova cocked his head back, unsure of what he heard. “We were the terrorist on the rise. We killed our president to ignite a profitable losing war.”
“How?” questioned Jova.
“One brave veteran stumbled upon the truth behind the regime,” she replied. “He exposed the regime’s plan to assassinate the president to gain sympathy from the UN but not many believed his accusations because the regime had already labeled him a terrorist. He later formed a resistance to protest against the war the regime created but by then they had gained too much control. Those oppose of war were forced to fight it. No one made it out alive and those who did were never whole again.” She looked down at her arm. “Seen for that matter.”
“That is why we hide here in the jungles of old Brooklyn.” Phoenix added. “We may not have been a part of the resistance back then, but we sure as hell weren’t going to side with the enemy.”
“The regime scammed the people with promises of peace and protection but all they did was deceive the public with lies everyone bought.” Mak interjected. “They raised taxes to fund their war. They enlisted every orphan; they even went as far as to kidnapping new borns in order to gain more soldiers. The thing is they didn’t call it kidnapping, they called it an honorable act of service. To fight for their country, to fight for the regime.”
“This is the truth behind the regime’s perfect administration,” Mona replied. “Only those who oppose are aware of the truth behind their illusion. The damages are too grand not to see but their threats and manipulation are too keen. As war ventured on corruption broke the system, justice became blind and many lives were lost fighting a war that was never theirs to fight. The regime wanted war for resources but instead they got a crumbling nation left in ruins with everyone oblivious to the truth. This is the future they keep creating for the rest to abide.”
“But why would they come after me?” Jova asked, puzzled. “I’ve done nothing wrong.” He scrambled for reasons; anything that would have made some sense in the confusion, “There was this bird.” Silence hung in the fire while the rest sat and waited.
“What do you mean?” Mak replied moments later.
“I was eating cereal when a bird dropped dead by the window,” Jova explained. “I held it in my palm and felt sorry for it, so I asked it to wake up; and it did.” Everyone sat in disbelief, Mona grew concerned; she knew something they didn’t. “Next thing I know a blond woman is calling my name asking me to join her in fulfilling a destiny.”
“Destiny,” Phoenix interrupted, “Lies; they’re all lies, kid. The only destiny you know is theirs. You want to know how they found you. The regime is everywhere. Everyone is bugged with trackers that listen in on everything you do. Everywhere you go, anything you say is theirs to keep, observe, and use. By raising the dead, you’ve revealed yourself to them,” he continued, “You’ve accidently made your presence known without knowing it. Anyone who seems out of the ordinary are possible targets; but you wouldn’t know.”
“But what does that have to do with me?” Jova questioned.
“It has everything to do with you,” Mona replied ecstatically as she sat beside him. “Jova, do you know who you are?”
“I do,” he answered, “My name is Jova and I’m only seven years old.”
“Yes you are.” Mona replied turning to Phoenix, “Of course he wouldn’t know who he is.” She then addressed Jova, “If one thing you should know by now is that there are many, many secrets hidden from the public by the regime God being one of them.”
“Who is God?” Jova asked, confused but intrigued.
“God is the answer that can be traced through religion,” Mona answered. “Religion is a power the regime felt threatened by, so they controlled it. Before everything was rewritten, religion foretold of a second coming. Their version spoke of no second coming. They took matters into their own hands by eradicating all aspects of God. The second coming would be lost forever, not knowing of its own truth; a move the regime could utilize to their benefit. They forged an apocalypse on the people knowing it was their own. They tamed our fate to their will. The only God you were to praise, fear, was the one the regime created for the rest to believe.” She paused, “It’s a good thing you escaped. A weapon like yourself is far greater than any of their nuclear reactors. That is why she is after you.”
“With the powers of God,” added Phoenix, “Victory is theirs. They will use you as a weapon one way or another. They will turn you into their slave or who knows what other acts they can do onto you. They’ve done it before, succeeded once. I wish it weren’t true, it’s a lot for one to handle let alone a kid.”
“Powers,” Jova repeated, lost. “Is that how the bird came back to life; by the powers of God, me? It would explain how I managed to walk on water.”
“You walked on water?” Mona spat, astounded.
“What was I to do?” Jova answered defensibly. “I couldn’t swim across, the waters are polluted. I had nowhere else to go. I stood there asking the sun who watched what to do. Next thing I know the waters began to smooth out, clearing a path for me to stand on; right before my very eyes. I didn’t believe it at first but my options were slim. I walked on the surface until I reached the other side, it was my only escape.”
Mona inched her way closer to Jova who seemed to pull back. “I know we haven’t given you any reason to trust us but believe me when I say we are on your side.” He turned to the rest who were now kneeling before him. “God has returned in the form of a child. Jova, will you join us as we seek the hidden and find a way to bring an end to this dystopian world our leaders created?” Jova looked around, not sure of what to believe or say. He felt the heaviness in their eyes, the pain in their hearts and the glimpses of hope rekindling in their spirits. The second coming was upon them, fate delivered Jova to his destiny.