Chapter 28: The Hill Folk

Sycamore Hills.

That is the name the Unregistereds give their community, although the Registereds have all kinds of unflattering names. The Sticks. The Black Hole. That Place-Which-Must-Not-Be-Named.

Future Tabitha Hall (34)

But to Tabitha Hall and her neighbors, their home will always be called Sycamore Hills. There are more than just sycamore trees, of course. There are also oaks, and birch, and many other types that no longer exist down the hill. The Registereds decided long ago that they could no longer be bothered with trees that dropped their messy leaves and blossoms all over the pristine city walkways.

It is not an easy life, being Unregistered. That failure of Tabitha’s parents to have one tiny microchip embedded under her infant skin resulted in  a life sentence of living outside of civilization. No chip, no access, is the law of the land. No chip means no education in the city schools, no access to hospitals, no ability to shop at stores. The unchipped must weave their own cloth, sew their own clothes, and build their own crude wooden houses and furniture. The hardest part of being Unregistered, Tabitha thinks, is the hunger. They do their best to cultivate their own crops, and raise chickens and rabbits for meat. But often, it seems that there isn’t quite enough to go around.

Future Tabitha Hall (48)Future Tabitha Hall (51)Future Tabitha Hall (41)

Sometimes, very late at night, Tabitha and her husband, Jake, hike all the way down to the city. They creep through the silent streets, past enormous buildings and pristine parks, until they find a community garden, or perhaps a kitchen garden, ripe with fat tomatoes, juicy eggplants, or crisp cucumbers. She could never understand how the the Registereds were able to produce so much more food, or why it grew so much larger than the vegetables the hill folk struggled to grow.

Future Tabitha Hall (30)Future Tabitha Hall (25)

Then they lug their bulging sacks of food back up the hillside to share with their family and neighbors. All the while, they are careful to slip through shadows and duck around corners, always alert for the Monitors. Monitors, who never sleep, but roam the city streets, on the constant lookout for curfew-breakers. Once Tabitha and Jake were stopped by a monitor, who scanned them both. As neither one of them wore an identifying chip, the Monitor triggered an alarm. “INTRUDERS! INTRUDERS!” Its tinny, human-like voice was like thunder, echoing through the town. Tabitha and Jake exchanged panicked looks, then turned and fled for the safety off the hills. They haven’t returned since.

The loss of the night raids means more hunger for Tabitha and her family. More restless nights filled with growling bellies. This state of desperation would have continued, too, had it not been for the arrival of the Preacher, Graham Glass, and his car full of food.

Future Tabitha Hall (59)Future Tabitha Hall (62)Future Tabitha Hall (64)



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