I don’t remember life before they were here. It’s like they came and everything before them was just a dream. One of those dreams you can remember the details to in your head but when you say them out loud it sounds like something ridiculous. Still, we remember those dreams. Every month, on the full moon, we gather to tell stories around the fire. We talk about going across town to our Grandparents house, or just about being at the local park playing basketball. Breanne would talk about walking down the block to the grocery store to pick up whatever was needed for dinner that night. Nick would tell stories of him and his brother Nathan spending summer days at the neighborhood pool. We would tell about life before them: The New.
“Jamison! Jamison! Where you at?”
I looked up from my scraps of paper in the direction of the voice.
“In the kitchen.” I responded and scurried to collect the pieces of paper and get them in my bag just as Ian walked through what once was a door frame.
“What you doing?” he asked while examining the clutter in the kitchen. It must have been a nice kitchen once upon a time. It was small, modest, but it did have a marble island in the middle and a buffet that opened into the dining room. I could imagine a family sitting around the table and talking about their days. The parents would ask the kids what they learned in school and they would say “nothing” while shoving their face full of Kraft Macaroni or whatever real quick meal was whipped up that night.
“I was writing. It helps me remember.” Ian wasn’t listening. He was moving on to the bedrooms. I swung the bag on to my back and followed him. We were looking for supplies for our small camp of resisters.
“We should get out of here Ian we got to get all the way back before The New get here.” The New had patrols working in shifts and while they had become less vigilant they were still around. Ian shook his head and followed me out of what was left of the house and out to what was left of the neighborhood.
Nobody knows exactly where The New came from but when they showed up it was a worldwide phenomenon. The ship just showed up, out of nowhere, about 10 miles east of New York City over the Atlantic Ocean. The whole world was watching as the ship landed at LaGuardia Airport and what appeared to be humans deplaned. They were immediately whisked to Washington D. C to meet with the President and other world leaders. It was all anyone could talk about. It seemed like everything and anything was possible. After a couple days there was an international press conference held at the United Nations building in New York. I remember huddling around my Grandma’s TV to hear the announcement, she was sure “the aliens are going to take over the planet!” She was more right than she ever realized. The President began his address by declaring two of the world’s greatest mysteries have been solved: time travel was indeed possible and Atlantis existed.
Turns out The New were human. They were natives of Atlantis and they had just escaped the island before it was obliterated. Over the next months The New told the world about Atlantis and what happened to it. Atlantis sounded like it belonged in the 21st century not the ancient past. They had technology that sounded like what existed in the United States today. They had large metropolises with skyscrapers and knew how to utilize fossil fuels. They had figured out the internet and television and all the things that served as staples for Americans. They also had another thing in common with America: they had the largest, most advanced military in the world. They were the pinnacle of existence and they knew it. They lived in luxury and harmony, well what they thought was harmony. According to The New Atlantis had a judicial system that was the envy of the world and their guiding document was seen as the pinnacle of all civilized texts, it was the embodiment of good governance. Anybody in their right mind did everything they could to be in Atlantis or affiliated with an Atlantian, at least that’s how The New told it. Technology was developing quickly in Atlantis and they were starting to research time travel. A group of Atlantians, The New, felt they were ready to try the first time travel test. They would take a crew up into space and head for the reaches of the solar system, specifically where there were overlaps in the Milky Way. The spirals in the galaxy would provide for a cross section. The idea was that by cutting through the galaxy they would also be cutting through time. Everything was going as planned when just as they were counting down to launch the earth started to shake. The New didn’t know exactly what happened, all they knew was that they blasted off and by the time they were able to look down at what should have been Atlantis there was only water. They spent the next several years attempting to complete their mission: time travel. And that is how The New ended up here, in the 21st Century.
You would think The New would have fit right in with American society given how many similarities there were between the US and Atlantis, but they didn’t. It seemed like everywhere The New went there was at least one group of people who didn’t want them there. There were folks who claimed they were not human at all but aliens in human form and needed to be terminated. There were others who said they were trying to play god and deserved to burn in hell. And then there were those who felt threatened by them and simply didn’t want them to be here. Of course there were also those that welcomed and admired them, some even worshiped them. The government was certainly enthralled with The New. This made sense because their information was too valuable: They Could Time Travel! Because of this the government looked for every way they could to help The New adapt. When it became apparent that The New were not interested in adaptation, they thought themselves above that the liberals in government suggested that perhaps The New could have a segment of the country to call their own and America would lend aid and the necessary support for the country to grow and flourish.
The section of the country that would be given to The New was a small not too densely populated region in the center of the country starting at what was then Madison, Wisconsin extending west to the Mississippi River and North to the international United States and Canadian border. All the land and resources in that region would now belong to The New. The residents of the area could either 1) relocate or 2) live under The New’s rule. Within hours of The President’s announcement from the Oval Office the United Nations immediately held a vote to recognize New Atlantis’ sovereignty and right to exist. This obviously did not go over well, especially in the areas largest city, Minneapolis, which was to serve as the capital for New Atlantis. Riots and protests roared over the next three nights but on the fourth day, aided and supplied with United States military grade weapons, The New put an end to the protests with the Central Avenue Massacre: over 500 protesters were killed after it was announced that all property was to be confiscated and sold to any New that wished to relocate to the city. Within the hour New showed up at people’s homes demanding they leave. Protests sparked immediately. The New said the protesters were threatening, violent, and armed and they were acting in self-defense but when they collected the bodies they found nothing that would ever qualify as a weapon. The New sent their message though, they went through each neighborhood in Minneapolis setting fire to houses and killing any resister or perceived resister, there was no mistake about who had the power and it was The New. Those that wished to stay on their land and not submit to The New’s rule were forced west of the Mississippi and into hiding.
Jamison was 15 when The New showed up off the coast of New York and 17 when his brothers and father were murdered at the Central Avenue Massacre. He had lived in Minneapolis his whole life and had no plans of relocating or living a second class existence so he headed west and trained for war. That was 10 years ago.
Ian walked into camp before me. “Not getting rid of us today!” It was always tense when any of us went close to Minneapolis and Ian liked to make light of the situation in order to deal. He was born and raised on the South Side of Minneapolis, the son of a Janitor, Ian was tough. Before The New Ian wanted to be a teacher now all the wanted to do was survive.
“Thank god!” Kristina ran to Ian and hugged him tighter than I imagined humans could hug each other. Kristina is Ian’s wife, they had been together for years, ever since middle school. Kristina was also from the South Side but was a year younger than Ian. She was the youngest daughter of a waitress and landscape worker. Her family was always political, even before The New, her dad was from Guatemala and he was active in the immigration movement that was the issue before The New showed up. When The New came to claim Minneapolis there was no way Kristina and Ian were leaving. Ian was pretty worked up after the announcement on the day of the Central Avenue Massacre: The New had showed up at his parents’ house and demanded they leave. Ian heard about the protests in Northeast and was ready to head over to that side of town but Kristina had a bad feeling and managed to keep him home. When they got word of what happened they were among the first to rebel against New Atlantis.
“We didn’t get much and there was no sign of The New. I think they might believe they wiped us out. We need to let them know we are still here.”
“Jamison, it means that the peace talks are…” Gloria tried to offer perspective. In the 10 years since the establishment of New Atlantis there have been a number of rebellions and supposed “peace negotiations.” None of them ever involved New Atlantis having to acknowledge they took over our land. They seemed worthless to me.
“The peace talks are a fucking joke Gloria!” I interrupted “We all know that. They don’t even acknowledge what they did! How the fuck does justice come from that! We’re so soft now. The New didn’t give a shit about peace talks when they came and kicked you out of your house Gloria! They sure didn’t give a shit about peace when they murdered my family. Fuck the peace talks! Ten years of this shit! Emiliano was right we need to fight back!” Emiliano was one of my heroes. He was one of the first rebels to strike back against The New. He successfully led several attacks on The New in Minneapolis. On his last mission one of his crew had been bribed by The New and turned him over. They executed him without a trail or anything. Of course they never acknowledged this, they acted like he wasn’t even real. That’s a major reason Jamison liked the monthly remembering ceremonies so much. It was the only way people like Emiliano were acknowledged.
“What do you want us to do Jamison?” Nathan asked sincerely. He was sick of this argument. Sick of the situation. Just sick.
“You know how I feel Nathan. I think if we are smart and quick we can start picking off their patrols and eventually, if we start making progress, more and more people will join us.” I wasn’t even sure if I believed that but it was the standard line from those of us that wanted a more aggressive approach. The way I thought about it was it was better than sitting out here in the woods, always on the run, always being hunted and just waiting to be killed. We were considered terrorists to both The New and The United States, there was no safe place for us might as well go down fighting. At least that’s how I thought about it.
“If you aren’t New you have very few rights in New Atlantis and my sister’s last note said more and more of the ones that stayed are unhappy. The New are engineering economic crashes and pricing folks out of their homes or just straight up taking them from them. Things are not good. There might be others that want to fight back.” Breanne always had my back, I appreciated her for that. She was also the most reliable source of information about what was happening in New Atlantis, she had a sister that stayed and left her updates hidden in a whole in the wall.
“See. What the hell we waiting for?” my eyes were locked on Breanne. Something about the way she moved drew me to her. She had an energy that couldn’t be mistaken, she was good and she made me want to be good too. She was originally from St. Paul, it has one of the highest populations of New in the country. The New were already using their economic power to move into neighborhoods and buy up businesses, basically taking over. So Breanne and her family moved to Minneapolis in hopes of escaping The New. How ironic.
“And then what?” Elder spoke for the first time, calmly and full of wisdom.
“I don’t know Elder all I know is we can’t keep doing this.” My voice was much weaker when talking to Elder.
“Jamison, I know you are hurting. Healing is on the way.” Elder turned and walked away from the camp. I could feel the water damming behind my eye lids so I walked up the hill on the north side of camp. I could hear someone was following me but I didn’t care. When I got to the top of the hill the sun was barely holding on to the horizon and behind me, to the east, you could see the lights of Minneapolis. Breanne put her hand on my back and I sobbed instantly. I knew, somewhere deep down, that Elder was right: violence was not going to solve our problems.
The moon was full and its light was comforting. For a long time we just laid on the ground staring at the moon and whatever stars weren’t dulled by the city lights. I don’t know what you would call Breanne and mines relationship we didn’t know each other before the camp and there hasn’t exactly been a good time for dating since. But there was definitely something between us.
“Jamison, can I ask you a question?”
“Do you actually think we should be fighting The New?” The question lingered in the air like even it was scared of the response.
“I think so. I mean it’s only a matter of time before we can’t run anymore.”
“But we’ve been here for a while now and The New haven’t come searching for us yet.” Breanne’s voice was a mix of despair and hope. She knew as well as I did that just because The New hadn’t attacked for a while did not mean they were interested in letting us live. We were too dangerous to them. And it wasn’t just to The New, we were dangerous to the United States too. If we were allowed to challenge their claims and successfully fight back against their firepower who knows how many other people around the planet would follow our lead. No. The New were coming, it was just a matter of time. But, I had heard of some permanent camps that were living peacefully on their own. If we could find one of those maybe we could start over. But what about my home, my roots?
“Maybe.” I didn’t have it in me to say how I really felt. Breanne turned her face towards mine. There was something so soothing in her eyes. They were a color I had never seen before. Not manufactured from contacts like so many in the US were doing. No, her eyes were real and they reminded me of the sunset: a mix of dark brown with touches of orange and gold. Right now, with the city skyline behind her it looked like her eyes would consume Minneapolis in flames. It gave me hope for a new day, a future I struggled to see.
“It’s crazy…” her voice drifted off.
“What’s crazy?” I couldn’t stop looking at her. She made me want to start over.
“Jamison! What. Is. That?” She was looking straight through me.
I jumped up and turned in the direction Breanne was pointing.
“Fuck! Come on” I rushed Breanne to her feet. There was no mistaking what was coming right for us: a drone. I had never seen one in person but had heard enough stories from survivors of attacks. The New always sent their drones at night, and the survivors always talked about the same thing: a bright light that could be mistaken for a star or satellite except for right underneath the bright light was a red one. Often times you didn’t see it until it was too late but it was there, a red light. And that red light was heading straight for us right now.
“Run Breanne we got to get to camp!” I was worried that Breanne wouldn’t react, or would ask questions before going but she was right behind me. I wondered if she knew what it was too.
The camp could hear us before they seen us. “Hide! Hide!”
“What’s going on?” Nathan asked half asleep
“A drone! Fucking Hide!” I yelled. The camp arose at once and was abuzz. Nick threw water on the fire. Gloria jumped up, grabbed her son Manny and headed for the woods.
“Cut the hammocks down!” it was a mistake so many other rebel groups made, they would put out the fire and hide as well as you possibly could but they would leave a hammock tied up and as soon as the drone operator saw that on the video feed it was full blown attack mode.
I dove into the brush with the last hammock and hoped we would go undetected. It felt like I was laying there forever. I tried to think about who I had seen and who I hadn’t. I saw Breanne run into the woods with Nathan right behind her. Nick had put out the fire and helped Gloria get Manny out of danger. Hopefully they knew they had to stop moving otherwise the drone would notice them. That still left Ian, Kristina, and Elder. Just then I could hear the drone.
I saw the flash before I heard the explosion. Then came the heat. It was so damn hot. My head was ringing and my shoulder throbbed. I reached to the source of the pain, my shoulder was soaked with blood and right underneath my collarbone was a shard of wood. I pulled it out and stumbled to my feet.
“Breanne! Breanne!” I made my way through what was left of our camp. There were several fires threatening the rest of the woods. I had to find Breanne and the others before we all burned to death.
“Ja..mi…son” right away I knew it was Breanne and ran to her voice. She was bleeding from her head but she was alive.
“You ok?” I asked the first thing that came to mind.
“I think so. Everything is spinning.” Her voice was stronger than when she called for me.
“Ok. You are going to be ok. Here let me…” I tore off some of my shirt and tried to clean her head. Luckily her cut wasn’t too deep and the bleeding stopped after applying pressure for a few moments.
“You’re bleeding Jamison.”
“I know. I’m ok though. We got to find the others.”
It didn’t take us long to find Nathan, he was lying about 15 yards away with part of a tree through his stomach. His intestines were hanging out of the wound. Breanne vomited as she sobbed. There was nothing we could do for him. We found Ian about 50 feet from Nathan he was kneeling next to Kristina with his hands holding her right side.
“I love you too, hang on! HANG ON!” She was dead but that didn’t matter. Ian buried his head into her chest still telling her to hang on and that everything would be ok.
Gloria stumbled out of the woods with Manny, who was crying hysterically, he was only 7 and had no real idea what was happening. Nick was right behind them.
“Anyone see Elder?” I asked
“Alright, we got to find Elder” I went in the direction Elder went earlier that afternoon. Nick saw Nathan and ran to him, Ian was still trying to resurrect Kristina and Breanne went to try and comfort Manny with Gloria.
I stumbled through the woods my head was still ringing but I was starting to get my bearings. This was the shit The New was capable of, attacking while peace talks were taking place.
Elder was about 100 yards from where Nathan and Kristina were laying dead. Elder had sprained an ankle and could barely walk but was alive. The blast had run out of most its force by then.
We took the rest of the night to clean and bury Kristina and Nathan. None of us slept. The next day we headed southwest, we heard more explosions in that direction last night and we wanted to look into those. We walked all day not saying anything, just walking. Every once in a while we would come across an area that had clearly been drone bombed but we didn’t see any bodies.
After walking the entire day we came across another rebel camp which was set up outside a small town that looked abandoned. The camp was much bigger than ours and looked almost permanent. Their scouts spotted us and took us straight to their camp. It was a series of abandoned limestone caves and was actually pretty welcoming. Really anything that could keep us covered and let us rest was welcomed. They had heard of the bombing outside Minneapolis and wanted to hear our story but first they fed us and let us rest. When we had ate and rested we told them what happened and about Kristina and Nathan not making it.
“It sounds like you have been through a lot.” Kevin, the leader of their group, said. He was a middle-aged very well built man. He had on military fatigues and was clearly ex-military. I wondered if this camp was fighting back.
“Yes, but no more than others. This has been going on for years.” Elder always had context for everything.
“True, but it hurts no less.” Kevin made the point that all of us were thinking.
“We saw there was an attack in this area as well, but that doesn’t make sense why would The New be this far west of the river?” Gloria asked.
Kevin laughed “The New have been pushing west since the US gave them New Atlantis. Hadn’t you wondered why there is no sign of the US around anymore? Local governments, sure, at least in the small towns, those don’t matter much to the US anyway, but no FBI, no National Guard, no federal anything. They are giving The New the middle of the country. All they care about is the money they are making from The New.”
“No way! The world wouldn’t let them do that!” I wasn’t sure if Breanne was telling or asking Kevin.
“Little girl. You are so naïve. America has the largest military in the world, nobody is going to do shit. Of course they can’t just out and out say they are letting The New take over more land but they need to remain on good terms with them so they won’t stop them either. In many ways New Atlantis is more powerful, they have the time travel technology and they are leveraging that to get rich off the United States. Why do you think the US military isn’t here defending us? Shit, that drone was American made!” Kevin looked at us like we were the most ignorant people on the planet. “Ya’ll understand now? We are the enemy. The media in the US and in New Atlantis portrays us as crazies and biologically violent and savage”
“How did it get like this?” Breanne seemed crushed
“It’s always been like this.” Elder’s voice was more strained than I had ever heard it.
“People been taking what they want forever. We just don’t talk about it. We act like everything was perfect before The New but really we were broken way before they showed up. If you were lucky enough to have a job you worked for shit. Rich white folks moved in and out of neighborhoods with no regard to the history or well-being of community. The police treated all poor people like they were criminals and god forbid if you were black! You were lucky to be alive after crossing path with police then” Elder sounded like a preacher. “We been fighting this forever! The United States was founded on taking over other peoples land. Of course America is ok with it.” Elder was absolutely right.
“So what we going to do?” I asked
“Some of us are planning on striking at Minneapolis.” One of Kevin’s crew said. He was a skinny, middle-aged man that looked like he would have a hard time even picking up a rifle.
“You got weapons?” I asked seriously considering the possibility of going to war.
“Some. Not enough.” Said another one of Kevin’s crew, a twenty-nothing dark skinned woman who looked like she had more fight in her than her body could confine.
“Jamison.” Elder said my name in a way that made me feel safe “if we don’t change the cycles nothing will ever get better.”
“Elder, they killed Kristina! They killed Ian! My family! They tried to kill us! Who knows how many others they have murdered! You want us to just sit here and do nothing?”
“No Jamison. That’s not what I’m saying. I’m saying that violence won’t stop violence.”
“And what will Elder? We can’t go anywhere else. This is it. We can’t go to The United States they have left us to die, they decided we are dispensable, and we sure as hell can’t live in New Atlantis. You hear the reports from Breanne’s sister. I want to go home Elder, I WANT TO GO HOME” I could feel my heart beat in my neck.
“There are options, Jamison.” Elder was dejected.
The Twenty-nothing woman stood up “We have to do something. The negotiations are more between the United States and The New, we don’t have a say in those. If we don’t do something we will lose our land and much more.” She turned to me “We leave in the morning if you want to join.”
I looked at Breanne, her eyes seemed dim. She looked at me, then to the cave floor and then walked away.
Dear Zoe, We still tell stories. After working in the fields and attending to the community we gather around the fire and remember. Things have changed so much. It took courage but we made the right decision. I hope that you understand what happened and why we made the decisions we did. It was not always like this.
“What you doing Jai?” Breanne walked in with a basket of tomatoes and corn and other vegetables.
I walked over to her, put my hands on her stomach and kissed her softly.
“Writing to Zoe. I don’t want us to forget.”