Negativum: Chapter 1, Book 1


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Chapter 1

The sun is shining over the skyline of the city. Summer is fading in Phoenix, but the warmth is staggering. It almost seems to feed into the room. It is as tangible as the tenseness of the war.

Luke pulls his head back from the window. So much time he has spent looking out that window; looking out at the world. The landscape has always fascinated him; how it is now, and how it will change in the future.

But for now he is in history class, gazing off into the distance while taking notes on the events of recent times. Unlike much of that which he bores himself with, it is actually interesting, but nothing he hasn't heard so many times. He glances at Isaac, but he is watching at least semi-intently; so Luke sighs to himself and stares with a barely concealed boredom.

"…and after the Bombing of New York in twenty thirty-two, the Third World War intensified. Millions of people perished over the coming months. So did the United States hold back? No they didn't! They struck back." He strikes the air with fervor.

He strikes Luke as the sort of man who actually cares about what he's doing. His hair is fiery red and swept up at the end. He was a young man, perhaps in his late-twenties, and Luke and admired him as a person. Admired him for his energy. But he could care less about all this review. It just felt like he was missing something; like he was unfulfilled.

He goes on with gusto. "The war ended in twenty-thirty nine, and the destruction was vast. The nations at the forefront soon begun to dissolve, including the United States." It is clear that as this is recent history, it is still quite raw in the minds of all. The mood is not depressed but it is somber and muted to a degree.

Luke looks unfazed. The events and their aftermath are that which actually matter today. He goes into thought. Why should we be afraid of the present? If we are paralyzed, how are we supposed to act? There is a lot that society just needs to do to triumph; it may not be easy, but it is necessary.

He often delves into such thought; he is an intelligent and creative man. He asks questions and he gets answers. The world is an open stage, and he knows how to use his intellect to benefit his life. Family and situations have inspired him to search for the deeper sides of life.

The dulled atmosphere throughout him is lifted by the teacher lifting from his lecture. He had gone off on the side of fervency as he discussed, but is now able to regain his composure. Luke is jolted back into the present reality at its most current state, rather than the heightened one he thinks in; he is shoved into let down, but is otherwise focused.

The teacher stands tall, then methodically asks, "The United States was broken up into six nations. What are their names and where are they located?"

Luke nonchalantly raises his hand before anyone else can think, in a way that suggests 'Seriously? Others, including the growing-handsome brown-haired Isaac, raise their hands behind him, but to no avail. Luke gets picked on to the surprise of no one, and starts into his confidently descriptive line.

Everyone looks more or less amused as they start- Isaac loves it. It lifts them out of the slight squalor with a wholly unshocked but nevertheless impressed atmosphere. Luke smirks, "Florida in the Southeast, the Federal Northeast States, complete with the largest city in the former United States, New York City. And a great degree of cultural influence. Texas, the heartland of the continent."

He takes the slightest of breaths here before continuing. He would be thought of as a nerd based on his intelligence, but he gusts and radiates that degree of charisma and coolness that makes it impossible to think of him otherwise. He has that legitimacy over his environment. "Alaska in the far northwest, Pacifica below it-stretching from the Pacific to the Hudson Bay. And of course", he grins, “our very own Southaro, which needs no explanation. “Atypically typical, and so very complete.

Luke finishes; everyone sheens with an impressed look to them. He flicks his blond hair for effect, and then the lesson continues. Covering the causes of the Third World War, the class in quite in-depth for sophomore world history, but nonetheless one Luke picks up quickly.

The bell rings with the standard tingling that has been so common for generations, and the students flood out of the class. Luke packs and heads off for his next period. He and Isaac walk down the hallways together. They are no five-star resorts by any means, but the sunset tones of orange give off an atmosphere of possibility. Hallways trend a dim orange, one that is complex; not one that is dank, but is full of opportunity.

Isaac walks close. "Have that English paper done?"

Luke smirks. "You really doubt it? Of course. And it was actually really interesting. It's crazy how applicable it is to us today. Do you have it done? We have a test today. Can't have you graduating a year behind me."

Isaac has to chuckle at that. The friends have a great rapport; the same age, born only three months apart, Luke on January seventh, Isaac on October twenty-first, and are with each other while being their own people. They have both received numerous school awards for academics; they often say that they are connected by being "ambitious dreamers. He responds, "Really? Remember, my test grades have always been better than yours."

Luke takes this as an opportunity. "Maybe, but you don't have the same style."

He slaps Isaac on the back. Being friends, and good friends at that, they banter back and forth constantly, but often with a shade of sophistication that is rare in such a dynamic. But in the eyes of them, and in a lot of the landscape, they did ring true. Luke always has had that ability to use humor, to make it ring with importance. They were always both brilliant and popular, but in comparison with each other, while Isaac was the smarter one based on pure intellect; Luke had that presence. They both possessed sets of green eyes, but while Isaac's shone so bright, Luke's radiated; he had that it factor, that charisma, only increasing today.

The two arrive at their class, one of many they share. It is one their favorites, due both to the pleasant and shining light that comes through, and the content of the class, literature. It seems to beckon in, a detail never lost on Luke, one who has an eye for the particular.

They settle down in the front row, their typical seats. The air conditioning only works to a certain degree in this building in the blazing Phoenix heat, but the actual windows provide some sunlight along with the heat, bringing some passion and fluidity into the room. Luke watches Isaac start to pull out his report while he does the same.

He starts. "You know," he grins and directs his voice, delivering with equal levels of deepness and bravado, "this might be the most practical class we have."

Isaac chews on that in thought and realization, then pipes. "Go on."

Luke leans in and faces him closer, and with an uncanny degree of deliberation. "Someone famously said 'The past is not gone, it is not even past.' We learn about what has happened before in history class, but we have learned about what people have thought before here," looking inspirational as he so often does.

"That's deep, man," Isaac throws back, "seriously, though, I can think of a lot of books that have as much implication now as they did, or maybe even more. You know our nation needs all the ideas it can get."

The undercurrent is key to their conversation, and everything is set against the backdrop of their nation, in its integral phases. Luke flashes a cutting smile of reality. "Where do you think we go from here? Our country; what happens next?"

They look at each other with active reflection-being in their circumstances without being a slave to them. "Three possibilities. One; we turn this war around and somehow win it-taking land and pride. Two; we lose this and our nation goes to total ruin. Or, third and most likely, it's somewhere between that-something gray." He zooms out, tilting his head towards the classroom in the most subtle yet saying of ways. "That millions of people will end up dying, and not much that was fought for would have changed."

Isaac turns make towards him, as if to gauge his response, though he already more or less knows it due to their long standing friendship. “It’s all gray." Luke looks unflinching and definitive, making use of every word. "Nothing is clear here- it never has been. Every aspect of society is gray. We just live it; without it, there is no depth in society-perhaps there is no society."

He thinks how cynical they may be coming off, but importance trumps pleasantness, even in a conversation such as this. He speaks just a bit louder and quicker. "History is deep, and in it there is so much to learn from. We just play it all to our advantage. This is more than us talking right now. This is about nations, about millions in society. Nations play with everything, it is just a matter of how."

"But we don't have all the control over that. But we do have control over what personally happens to us. All of this contemplation is deep, but we are in control of our destinies. And we can go places with them. We make our lives what they are, and we do it with action. With purpose. We've known each other since we were," He places reasonable emphasis on the next syllables, "twelve years old, Luke. We can act on this." Isaac talks with more emotion, more rawness; the fire is smart but passionate.

The bell rings to start the class. Their intensity is lifted, and they notice everyone in the class, including and perhaps especially the teacher, looking towards them, hanging on their words. They had spoken perhaps a bit louder than they intended, and the whole of the room had caught on- and their faces were strewn with intrigue.

Luke smirks. “I guess we were just a bit too loud," almost laughing as he says so with the added attribute of realization. The light of the growing afternoon floods into the room. The ice breaks and they plunge into learning.

But the teacher, a thirty-something lady with blonde hair who was in fact quite beautiful, gave them a real considerate look. "You two always add something to this class." She stops. Delves. "And I think I speak for everyone when I tell you to never stop."

The two love being loved, but, especially Isaac, they love being respected even more. Isaac responds with a simple "Thank you.", but it is one that conveys a depth concurrent with that of the prior discussion. Luke nods as they dive into the class.

The teacher clambers to the front of the classroom, and begins. "To continue our discussion on classic dystopian literature, we focus in on the early twenty-first century, where the themes were expanded on to all demographics, and had a certain level of realistic and personal sleekness."

Luke looks back over his paper to make sure it covers every angle. He nods his head in sufficiency and mutters under his breath confidently. "Not bad, not bad." He had always delved into what he was studying, and he was intrigued by the heroine of this. It had furthered his realization of how complex the world is, and how many turns it can take. He had stayed up late at night reading.

He thinks back to his sisters, and how much they've changed. What are they doing right now? He thinks of Lexi, and her medium brown hair cascading down her shoulders, and those hazel-brown eyes. She looks little like him, and in the same way; all like him. She is really starting to show her personality; she's an outspoken girl that is growing out of being a kid. He admits to himself that he is so proud of what she is becoming.

The teacher finishes and collects their papers to look them over. Luke and Isaac just hum silently in their heads; they are beyond ready for anything this school could throw at them. School has always been easy for them, it never really tested them, and as Luke has said, "We are destined for greater things than this place."

S.F. Raiston High is a newer school opened in twenty-forty four after the war, named for one of the greatest leaders of Southaro, one who navigated it through the dissolution with America and to a stable power. There is a degree of sleekness to it; Luke and his mates know so much about the history. Rebekah, who at sixteen is a junior this year, had a childhood crush on S.F., a handsome man still only forty-six. It is on the outskirts of downtown Phoenix, in the city without being right in the city. It strikes the perfect balance of what a school should be, but any world less than the world is too small a world for Luke and his friends. He thinks of how clean-cut this world is compared to the real world.

Brushing her golden locks out of her way, their teacher glances through the projects before reaching for another stack. "Quiz day," She says matter-of-factly, though with soothing tones that are only right.

"To conclude this unit, you will be taking a comprehensive, multi-step test that will test your understanding and creativity in a complex fashion." She looks out-of-breath, as if speaking in this sterile tongue of formality was foreign. Luke flashes her with a look of sympathy for the blandness she has to read, and she seems to register it with an understanding look in his direction.

Isaac has a very nonchalant expression as he takes his test, and he talks with a knowingly apathetical tone, as if the test is beneath him. But this material he has some passion for, and he goes with that. "Born ready, Luke?"

Luke leans back against his chair. "Might as well call me the 'Jay." He relaxes. "She is a really great character, she's complex. Like life." His light Swedish-German complexion radiates with fondness and inspiration. "Gonna get over a hundred percent?"

Isaac glances at the teacher. She is almost done passing out and proceeding on to the testing. "I better. I watched all four movies back-to-back last night. Pure epicness. The full sense of completion you get; it really moves you. Makes you wonder what the future holds."

Luke thinks. It sure does, contemplating as he begins work on his test. It certainly is comprehensive, but nothing overly difficult for a man like him. He sometimes thinks he analyzes it more than it's meant to be, and that's a lot; pure depth. He glides through these questions as time rises, and the light of the latter part of the school day pounds like only a summer afternoon in Phoenix can, radiant, and calling. Luke equates this to the books themselves, and of life itself.

Time always seems to pass faster with action, particularly with action that is fluid and thorough. The day just seems to wane more and more, quicker and quicker. The simple questions he answers without a second thought; the more complex ones, those about corruption and war, strike him more fondly, and he pours out very eloquently. Half-done, three-quarters done, one question left. It is like a virtuoso playing for a pack of kids; overwhelming and intelligent.

He finishes soon and thinks of the world. All that is in this nation; all the war, the conflict, the tenseness; it brings up to him a sickly feeling that these things would only increase. There are two sides to anything, the light shines radiant and blinding. But we do not have to be under anyone's control, it is always a choice. School symbolizes that. The laxness of the atmosphere increases as everyone starts to finish and the end of the day approaches. There gusts a growing feeling of at least temporary relief.

The ending bell shrills with a resounding motion of everyone making their way out of there. Another day bites the dust. Luke feels a rush, walking out with enthusiasm. He walks down the stairs with absent-minded commitment with Isaac, admiring the construction at play here, truly beautiful, feeling like a light-filled hub.

The world works day in, and day out, over and over again. It is up to us to change it. Luke attempts at every bend. He lets off a four-note whistle. Isaac takes a quick, but not unexpected look. "Just trying to liven things up?"

"That's about right. We can't just wait for things to happen. It's like a boulder; push it, and it will just keep rolling. Only math homework tonight; we have a lot of free time." Luke sighs, the wear of the day has gotten to him, but what has it gotten him.

"Any plans for tonight; it's Friday. Any wild partying at a millionaire's house with beautiful girls ten years older checking you out?" Isaac responds with surprising quickness.

Luke plays this and responds slyly. "Not ashamed to say that I wish. But let me see; no. Just sitting back at the old Sardenallke place, watching the breeze blow by. It's actually really relaxing; like you're in a whole other world. We can really miss so much if we don't go and take it all in."

"It's like you're in another world right now." Isaac always has had that eye for the situation and opportunity, as well as being analytically as well as ambiguously perceptive. "But depth really can have that sort of magic. One of the perks of being an only child is that you get to spend a lot of time observing."

They exit the building itself, striding across an intricate tile piece covering the entrance. It is that of S.F. Raiston, standing and looking over Phoenix, an expertly crafted piece that has become the most famous mark of this school. The tiles are made out of high-quality stones that sparkle greener and more spectacular than emeralds in the afternoon light. An artistic masterpiece that every student who has attended here has just gaped at, feeling that they have arrived for the big time.

The full front of the afternoon light is blinding, and the two cover their eyes over the first outward steps. Everything is always different in full force, and it is especially bright today. Isaac continues. "You always have been cool under pressure, I suppose you have to be; nothing seems to faze you."

The two keep chatting as they pace themselves to meet their friends. Luke speaks in a more serious tone. "It's what we make of our circumstances. Would you be more like me if you had two little sisters and a single parent? I don’t know. But I do know that I would be different if I didn't have my same circumstances, and that anyone else would react differently in those same circumstances."

Isaac keeps walking. He looks around absentmindedly, but is listening with a real direction and fervor. He approaches the front of the lot, complete with tall bushy trees fitting with its status as a well-funded institution, those providing a well-needed visage of green. “I think our whole nation would be well to remember that. Life's a game, and it can be real tough- but that doesn’t mean we can't win." He pauses, thinking. “How are your sisters, anyways?"

Luke shakes his head. "They have talent, I'll tell you that much. Lexi is looking for a date more than me, and she's eleven." The sun shines brighter, and they walk quicker. "It's like it is with a lot of brothers and sisters. You try to hate them sometimes, but it never really works. I actually really appreciate them as people. They're great, they really are."

The atmosphere seems to be re-invigorated with their intelligent ponderings. They spot their friends talking under the trees, a usual spot, and sleekly move in there. Their friend group is tight and large, and is full of intellectual people with something to add. The best.

They are varied, with a degree of presence. Mike, a seventeen year-old senior with stark black locks notices them immediately and grins, as well as their friends Rebekah, and Stacey- her blonde locks making her one of the most all-around stunning girls in junior year. “Another day done," Luke states as they all consent. The strength of the city is in their sights, looming beautifully, and the strength of their group is tangible, here and all-around.

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