A dystopian world torn between two species of
People have evolved and the world is torn between
genetically-modified 'Humophranes' and humans.
In this unfair world, humans are little more than slaves to a more dominant species. The human Ophelia must encounter a fight for survival against all odds.
The sun rose in the sky, a bright orange colour, its light radiating through the small window of the basement that was high on the wall, and tinted brown. It was an exotic colour, the one that Ophelia woke up to every morning. She squinted in the light, sitting up slowly on the cold, stone floor. Even though the glass of the window was tinted, it still allowed a lot of light to bleed through. She glanced around the room, seeing nothing but its metal walls around her.
Yawning, she stood up and made her way to the platform that was situated below the door. The cold air made her shiver slightly, and she hugged herself, the skin on the top of her arm rough as it was lined with several deep scars she knew would never heal.
“Mother?” she called, looking around for barely a few seconds before stepping onto the platform. She pressed her hand to the pole, feeling the platform rise slowly before stopping as it reached the door. It vibrated mildly as it kicked into action.
She placed her wrist in front of a screen beside the door. Ophelia watched the screen as it scanned. Words appeared on the screen after a few seconds.
Ophelia Redhol, human.The symbols on the screen made little sense to her. It was something she saw every day but she could never decipher the meaning of them.
Ophelia rolled her eyes and waited for the door to open.
“You may proceed,” The robotic female voice came from the speakers beside the screen. An unpleasant feeling of anticipation and nervousness merged in her stomach as the steel door began to rise. She looked to the ground and shivered slightly as a light breeze of wind, lifting her soft, brunette hair off her shoulders. She reached behind her back and bound it in a plait before the door had completely risen.
With her heart racing, as it did every morning, Ophelia stepped out of the room and walked along the corridor, stopping before she reached the last door. She glanced around nervously. The corridor was quite narrow and dark due to the lack of windows in the metal walls. Both sides of the corridor were lined with identical metal doors, but Ophelia rarely saw the contents of them, not that she had any desire to. The only rooms she did see, apart from the basement, were the room in front of her, and a few cupboards.
“Computer, allow the human in,” A voice came from behind the door, the sinister voice of Mr. Evinhower.
Taking in a deep breath, Ophelia positioned her wrist in front of a screen beside the door and waited several short seconds before it opened.
Inside, there was a large window on the wall, darkly tinted like the one in the basement where Ophelia slept, filtering the light that entered the room. The walls were metal, including the ceiling and floor so each step she took made a metallic echo vibrate through the air.
Ophelia turned to face the other person in the room. Mr. Evinhower was tall, with dark brown hair. His cat- like eyes and bulky build of hard bones and strong muscles were traits that every Humophrane showed. Stronger and more prominent than humans ever were, they tended to live longer and survive injuries and diseases that otherwise would have made humans perish.
“Humans are worthless, like cattle,” he said, a malevolent tone to his voice. “Only cattle have a purpose- we eat their meat.” He turned around and looked out of the window. “Humans, on the other hand, still think that they are important enough to live in houses like Humophranes and eat our food. If it was up to me, all humans would be forced to live outside in the wild and see how long they last.”
He turned around again and walked towards Ophelia, who stood silently, hearing him speak but not listening. She had given up on wishing humans and Humophranes to be equal.
“But I’ve been told that humans can’t just be left outside to die, because you will be taken by our enemies. Humans are a dying species, and having more humans makes us wealthier and more powerful over our enemies. Besides, it’s apparently too dangerous for humans to be outside for too long because of the radiation from the sun.
“You overslept today, human,” he continued; “No wonder humans are so weak, they sleep for so long.”
“I’m sorry, sir,” Ophelia said quietly and looked around the room for a few moments after she said it.
“What are you smirking at?” He raised a threatening hand. Ophelia recoiled back.
“I'm not smirking," she said quickly, "sir… I can’t help needing sleep. Where’s my mother? I haven’t seen her in a while.”
He swung his hand towards her face, quicker than she had time to react. Pain erupted in her cheek as she felt the rough skin on his hand hit it. A burning sensation followed, she staggered backwards placing her hand over her cheek.
“Your sixteenth birthday is almost here, and then at least I won’t have to deal with you any more,”
Ophelia rubbed her cheek gently, trying to ease off the pain.
“Wha- what do you mean?” she asked, slightly hesitant. Without needing to look up, she felt him glaring at her as if he was a fire eating her as it burned.
“Do you think you can question me?” he responded. “You are a human, not a Humophrane. Remember that.”
Ophelia looked up and looked at him challengingly. She opened her mouth to retort, but after a hesitant second, she closed her mouth and lowered her eyes. She breathed deeply, a long, shaky breath, then eventually said,
“I’m sorry, sir.”
“This house needs cleaning. And don’t expect food until you’re finished. You’ll get it if you’re lucky. I’ve got a family to feed, not just a few worthless humans.”
“And if I find anything not clean, you won’t have any food at all. Except for the rooms you are not permitted to enter.”
After nodding again, she turned to the door and let herself out of the room. There was no point in complaining about the work. It had been the same every day for years.
Across the corridor was a metal door, opposite to the door leading back to the basement. Inside, Ophelia picked up a bucket and walked to the sink to fill it with warm soapy water.
“State setting,” the electronic voice said from the speaker above the sink.
“Bucket. Large.” Ophelia said loudly. Water started pouring into the bucket steadily. “Cleaning product,” she stated after a few seconds. A different pale- blue liquid trickled out of the tap, mixing with the water in the bucket.
Leaving the bucket underneath the sink for a few minutes, the tap running automatically, she strode to the other side of the room to pick up a brush and a sponge.
Back in the corridor, Ophelia started sweeping the floor with the brush, and then went back for the sponge to clean the floor. The heat from the steam emerging from the bucket mixed with the surreal temperature of the building. Each breath she took was long and deep, but her heart raced, desperate for oxygen. She felt blood rush to her head, making her feel light-headed.
She stopped scrubbing the floor for a few minutes and kneeled to allow herself to breathe. Her throat was dry, even when she swallowed; her mouth craved the taste of fresh, cold water. Her lips were cracked and barren like a desert, the only moisture she ever felt on them was the blood that occasionally seeped out of the cracks however, and it was a rare occurrence.
Her bones felt weak and fragile as she sat stationary. Her pale, almost lifeless skin was wrapped around small, frail muscles, her build being unnaturally thin.
Ophelia heard footsteps echoing from along the corridor. She looked up hastily, seeing the figure of Mr. Evinhower pacing down the corridor towards her. Taking a reluctant breath, Ophelia picked up the sponge and began cleaning the floor again.
“Human!” she heard his voice bellowing.
The tone in his voice portrayed anger. Ophelia cast her gaze up to him but did not lift her head.
“You thought you could have a break, did you?”
Ophelia continued with her job. She felt a sharp pain rush through her wrist as it was pressed to the ground forcefully. She looked up to see his foot pressed down on her wrist. She cried out in pain automatically, her hand suddenly numb as she tried to pull away.
“Please…” Ophelia stuttered, the sound of her voice soft and helpless as she could barely breathe with the pain.
“You ought to know better than to ignore me, human.” He responded.
Ophelia groaned in pain, barely hearing him speak. When he eventually removed his foot, leaving her free to move out of the way, her skin was red and tender. She looked up at him, cradling her wrist with her other hand.
“I’m sorry, sir,” Ophelia said sorrowfully, bowing her head and starting to clean the floor again.
She looked up to see Mr. Evinhower standing over her, the eternal evil glare still in his dark eyes. His burning gaze fell upon her, and when she glared back, his eyes crawled down to the direction of his shoes. Ophelia followed his gaze with her green eyes.
One of his shoes, dark and quite formal to match the light grey suit he always wore, was clearly coated in thick, dark brown mud. Ophelia sat rigid, her eyes turning cold as she saw a smirk pass over his face smugly.
“Let me pass, human,” the Humophrane instructed. Without giving Ophelia a few moments to respond, he lifted his foot and kicked Ophelia in her ribcage, hard. She was forced to the side violently and found herself lying painfully against the wall. She coughed; a weak wheezing sound came out of her mouth.
“Human!” Barked Mr. Evinhower’s voice, sounding distant from the other end of the corridor, “Clean that up.”
Ophelia’s head fell backwards weakly as she struggled to roll over onto her stomach to pull herself up from the floor. Her wrist still throbbed mildly, but every breath she took was agony as her lungs strained to take in oxygen.
Humophranes being stronger than humans, even the mildest assault from one could leave a human wounded for a moderate length of time.
Ophelia felt her body becoming numb, only noticing the pain from her ribcage. She blinked a couple of times, her mind attempting to stray away from the pain. She could live through it. In her past here, she knew she had coped with worse. But every time she was kicked or hit by Mr. Evinhower was as painful as the last.
A few minutes passed in a haze. She allowed her arms to push herself off the ground and she moved to sit against the wall. Wincing in pain, she glanced up and down the corridor. The floor that had been clean before was now interrupted by a few footprints of mud.
She dragged herself back to the bucket of water and picked up the sponge again. Gradually, she began cleaning the floor.
* * *
The sound of footsteps shook Ophelia out of the trance she had fallen into while performing the monotonous task of cleaning the floor in the corridor. She looked up, seeing a female standing at the door, Ophelia recognised her as Mr. Evinhower’s daughter, Sydney.
They had the same eyes as every Humophrane, narrow and cat-like, but hers was a gentle hazel colour. She wore black skinny trousers and a yellow tee shirt.
“Ophelia,” she said, “Father… I mean, your master, wants your attendance in his room right now,”
“Yes, miss,” she replied, standing up slowly, clutching her side as she rose.
“He didn’t hurt you again, did he?”
“I’m okay, miss. I’ve had worse days.”
“I thought he was in one of his moods again, and he would take it out on you again.”Sydneylooked over to the top of Ophelia’s arm, just below her shoulder, where there were a series of painful scars arranged in lines.
“I’m sorry, I ought to hurry up.”
“You’re right. I’ll try to save some food for you tonight.”
Sydneynodded and stood to the side to allow Ophelia to pass. On her way past, Ophelia bowed her head again.
She heard a sigh after she walked past. Her heart thudded in her chest, it seamed to grow louder as she came closer to the door of Mr. Evinhower’s room. She gulped nervously before placing her wrist in front of the scanner to be allowed in.
The familiar sound of the female voice of the Computer allowing her to enter echoed in her mind but she barely noticed it. Her head felt suddenly dreamy as she stepped into the room.
Mr. Evinhower’s voice stung her ears.
“I’m sorry, sir, I just got the message…”
Ophelia dropped her head and stared at the ground.
“You will stay here for the rest of the day,” he started, walking towards the door. “Your duties will be given to your mother when you go.”
“What do you mean?” Ophelia asked quickly.
Instead of answering, the Humophrane walked out of the door, it closing automatically behind him.
“You are not my responsibility. Or, soon you won’t be.”
Ophelia ran to the door and positioned her wrist in front of the scanner.
“You are not permitted to leave, Ophelia Redhol, human”
Ophelia thumped the door with her hand.
“What do you mean?” she yelled, even though she knew that Mr. Evinhower could not hear her.