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Prologue: Critical Acclaim | Vanessa Rodriguez

Present Day

Year 2075


They’ll kill my baby. That was the first thought which ran through Lily’s head as she stared at the plus sign. Children, like Lily, were created in a lab; nobody was permitted to give birth anymore. Everyone was sterilized on their Graduation Day. If the Party legalized procreation, someone may give birth to an imperfect child - a crime punishable by death.

“Okay…” Jamie said, hesitating.

Lily could see the thoughts turning over in his mind by looking into his familiar brown eyes. They were sitting in the bathroom at the doctor’s office, fixated on the pregnancy test. Both had known Lily missed her period, but she didn’t want to consider the possibility she might be pregnant until they knew for sure…well, now they did.

“You know what we have to do, where we have to go,” he said.

Lily knew, but she was scared. “We don’t even know if Petros exists,” Lily said, tears welling up in her eyes. “We can’t leave and journey off to some unknown country; I’m pregnant.”

“We can’t stay here,” Jamie whispered. “When they find out you’re pregnant, our baby will be killed, and we might be as well. It’s not safe for any of us here anymore.”

She knew he was right; it’s what he tried telling her when her period was late, and again when she missed it completely, but she couldn’t even consider it, not until she saw that plus sign. This wasn’t what was supposed to happen; this wasn’t what they had planned.

“What other option do we have?” he asked.

He was right, leaving was the only way to guarantee their baby’s life, but it was risky.

“And if Petros doesn’t exist?” Lily whispered back.

“All I know is if we stay here, we’re dead; I’ll take my chances out there.

Regardless of what we find, I will protect you and our baby.”

“I know you will,” Lily said, kissing his lips. “I love you, now and always.”

“Now and always, but for now we need to leave.” Lily nodded, as Jamie continued, “I’ll contact the others; they’ll reach out to the Keeper on our behalf. We must be ready to leave though, okay? As soon as we hear back, we have to leave; we can’t delay.”

“Okay, but we can’t tell anyone, not here, anyway. If a Caregiver finds out…”

“They won’t, baby. They won’t. I’ll make sure of it.”

The doctor quickly discarded the pregnancy test before anyone could possibly stumble across it. Since the Party kept everyone inside The Village under constant surveillance, Jamie had to reach out to their friends outside The Village, who would contact the Keeper on their behalf.

There was only one way to leave Katmear, which was through the Underground: a tunnel running under the fence and into the Outside. Only one person knew where this Underground was located, a person known simply as the Keeper; no one knew the Keeper’s true identity, not even the Party. The Keeper was considered dangerous to some, but a liberator to others. If they got Lily, Jamie, and their baby out of Katmear alive, they would be a hero in Lily’s eyes.

They received word from their friends the following morning, the Keeper left the first clue on their friends’ doorstep during the night. The clues would guide them to the Underground, if they weren’t caught by the Party beforehand. Lily and Jamie did their best to act normal all day, while secretly packing, until the evening finally arrived. She called her best friend to have her meet them at the place at midnight; it would be their goodbye after sixteen years of friendship.

They snuck out of The Village at a quarter to midnight and made their trek to the place to bid their farewells. A few hours later, they were staring at the Underground. Lily stood on her tip toes, drawing Jamie’s face down to hers, and kissed him for the last time in their homeland.

Vanessa Rodriguez is an emerging author with a focus on long form dystopian fiction. Visit her landing page at Dog Eared & Read on The Prattlon Hub at or visit her writer website directly at


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