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Rohan: The New Law – Chapter 1: The New Law

Everyone stood on the hillock above the crop field and stared at the northern world. Someplace far away was on fire. It happened often these days, but they’d been watching this dark ominous cloud for days now and it still showed no signs of abating.

Mostly, Rohan and the other villagers had grown numb to these occurrences, but this felt different, closer today, denser, as though the fire were travelling across land, burning everything in its path and growing with it. If that were the case, he had no idea how long it would be before the flames reached his own village – impossible to tell the distance between them and the smoke, or how fast it was spreading.

Rohan tried to imagine their village burnt to the ground, everyone’s homes nothing more than ash and cinders. The people had little in the way of possessions anyway, but to lose their homes would be unthinkable. Where would they go? How would they survive with no units and no food? The crops would be ruined beneath the fire and they would have no possible means of starting again from scratch.

He didn’t generally give in to such morbid thoughts, but since his dad died, he’d been the man of the house; he’d been the one who worked hard so that his mum didn’t have to; the one who always smiled; and the one who always looked on the bright side. But even he was struggling to stay positive after three days of watching the sky slowly choking on the horizon. He swallowed, and he could taste the soot in the back of his throat. It was getting closer.

He would have to find a way to leave this village with his mum and his sister Sophie. He knew that Sophie would be upset: she was eleven years old and had never known anything other than this life, and her best friend Lola. Also, his mum wouldn’t want to leave Rosie behind, but he’d make her understand that his sister’s grave would still be here, if or when they returned.

But for now, they had no choice – they couldn’t stay here and wait for the fire to claim them and everything they possessed.

“Stop rubbernecking and get off home. What do you hope to see here anyway?” Arthur, the foreman, had crept up behind them on silent feet. Over the years, the old man had perfected the art of approaching and catching the youngsters idling, and now he cackled at them, while staring at the thick dark clouds himself.

One of the other older men stayed where he was, frozen by the sight. Rohan turned and made his way down the hillock alongside Arthur and a couple of the other workers.

“Do you think the fire will reach us here?” asked Rohan.

The old man narrowed his eyes in thought. “If it is heading this way, there won’t be much we can do to stop it.”

That was what worried Rohan; the river had long since dried up and they had no means of saturating their homes in the hope that the flames wouldn’t claim them. He was disappointed that Arthur hadn’t responded more positively.

“All the codes in the world won’t protect us from a fire if it has a mind to keep going,” Arthur continued.

The world’s knowledge had long been stored on codes, fragments of information that, when inserted into a code reader, gave people the answers to anything they needed to know. Anything within reason. The conversion to codes began long before Rohan was born, long before even his parents were born. Technology had advanced until people had given up on books and relied upon computers to store information, but eventually, even they had become obsolete and replaced by the code readers that every human now carried with them. Rohan’s code reader hung on a narrow chain around his neck. As a child, Rohan had believed that the codes they were allocated were limitless. Ask a question, and he would be given an answer. But as he grew older, he came to understand that even the codes were controlled by the people in power. The wealthy. The billionaires who controlled their food, their education, their knowledge. The military had reclaimed and destroyed the world’s books following the worldwide distribution of codes and the codes stored no more information than the powerful few wanted them to know. It stood to reason then that eventually there would be no more education, no more doctors and no more progress; it was the ultimate manipulation of society.

This thought kept Rohan awake at night. Their code readers were old, and he had often asked the travellers that passed through their village trying to escape the destruction of their own, if they knew how he could obtain a newer code reader. No travellers had been able to answer Rohan until a couple of weeks ago, and then he had learned that code readers were no longer in production. The world had stopped manufacturing anything. What humans currently had, was what they were stuck with, and even worse than this, society no longer even cared about information, or communication.

One traveller had peered into Rohan’s eyes and said, “It is every man for himself, lad.”

After the hopeless conversation, Rohan had spoken to Arthur about his concerns. “What will we do once all the code readers in the world have stopped functioning?” he’d asked.

“I can’t see that happening, boy,” said Arthur.

Rohan shook his head, unwilling to accept that answer. “What did people do before there were code readers?”

Arthur thought about it. “There were computers, machines that were a primitive kind of code reader. They could be used to transfer information to everyone all around the world. But before that …” he paused. “Before that, they only had pen and paper. And before that, well, they wrote on the leaves from the trees.”

Rohan hadn’t believed that information could be stored on leaves, so Arthur had to explain to him about the symbols that people memorised so they could write down information and then recall it by reading the symbols. It was called the alphabet.

Now, Arthur clapped him on the shoulder before they parted ways and Rohan headed through the village towards his own home. “Don’t worry, lad,” said the old man. “The world won’t always be like this.”

After the conversation, Rohan didn’t want to rush home but felt he should; his mum would worry if he was later than usual.

He was a couple of streets away from home when he heard raised voices.

Rohan followed the sound. As he rounded a corner, he realised that it was coming from the house where Sophie’s friend Lola lived with her mum, Olivia. He had never heard any commotion from their house before, and what worried him was that he could hear a man’s voice above the women. He opened the gate and followed the path towards the front of the house. The door was ajar, so Rohan pushed it gently and stepped inside.

The house was an exact replica of Rohan’s house only in reverse: the front door on the opposite side of the window, the bedrooms on the opposite side of the narrow hallway. He immediately took in the situation. A boy that he knew from the year above him in school, Harper, was standing near the door, his back to Rohan, and across the room from him, Lola was clinging to her mum, crying, her face pressed against her mum’s shoulder.

Harper wasn’t much older than Rohan, but he was taller, broader, a good-looking guy when he wasn’t pushing around the younger kids and yelling insults at anyone who dared stand up to him.

Rohan stood in the doorway and said to Olivia, “What’s going on?”

Harper whirled around and glared at Rohan. “What’s it to do with you?”

“I heard raised voices and Lola here is my sister’s friend,” said Rohan. He could see that Lola was trembling. “So, I thought I’d check that they’re okay.”

“They’re fine,” said Harper. “Keep walking, man.”

Rohan kept his eyes focused on Harper. “We’ll let Olivia tell me herself, shall we?”

Harper snorted. “Ha! Finally grown some balls, eh?”

“No,” Rohan kept his voice level. “My balls are exactly where they’ve always been.” He didn’t wait for the other boy to speak but turned to Olivia. “Why is Lola crying?”

“He …” Olivia nodded at Harper. “He was trying to take her.”

Rohan flinched. He turned to Harper. “Okay, you can see the girl is upset, so let’s just turn around and walk outside. Me and you.”

Harper clenched his fists, his eyes small and dark. “You don’t want to cross me, man. Stop interfering or I’ll kill you.”

“Well,” Rohan took a deep breath. “Killing someone is not as easy as you might think.”

“Want me to show you?”

“No, I want you to leave the women alone,” said Rohan.

Harper laughed out loud. “Oh, that’s a good one! Wake up, man, and get ready for a new way of life. The new world order is coming here too, starting right now.”

“What are you talking about?” Rohan wanted to keep Harper’s attention distracted from Lola, but he didn’t like what he was hearing. The boy clearly had no intention of backing down without a fight.

“I’m saying that I can do whatever I want, and you know why? Because the new world has one law, and that law says that the strong rule.”

Rohan was silent, choosing his words carefully. Eventually he said, “So, you think you have power because you’re strong?”

“Uh-huh,” Harper nodded.

“And you want to take Olivia’s little girl?”

Harper eyed her up and down. “She’s not quite so little now.”

Slowly, jaw clenched, Rohan moved to place himself between Olivia and Lola, and the boy. “You do know,” he said, “everything comes at a price. Tonight, you might just find that the price is more than you bargained for.” He was shaking with anger; he would not just walk away and let Harper get what he wanted, not when that something was someone’s life. “Try taking her. I dare you.”

For several moments Harper didn’t move. His face was flushed, his fists still clenched. Rohan wondered if he was weighing up his chances against him, when he said, his voice cracking, “That was not wise, Rohan. You’ll pay for this.” He turned around and walked out anyway.

Lola was still sobbing against her mum.

“Do you think he’ll be back?” asked Olivia, her voice shaking.

“No,” said Rohan, watching the other boy pass by the window. “You have nothing to be afraid of now.”

What else could he say?


<Prologue                                                                                                                         Chapter 2>

Recommended4 Simily SnapsPublished in Coming of Age, Contemporary Fiction, Fantasy, Fiction, Sci Fi, Young Adult (YA)


    1. I appreciate you taking the time to read and comment! Also, pleased you enjoyed it 🙂.
      Luckily for you there’s a few more chapters up already 😉 Have a good one!