Jesse awoke to a loud bang.
As she opened her eyes, Jesse could see her grandpa staring out the living room window. She got up slowly and walked towards him.
“What’s going on, Grandpa?”
“Rioters are trying to get outside again. This is the third time this week. You know, the air outside is unbreathable yet they keep protesting, like they are imprisoned. A little ironic, don’t you think?”
Grandpa was old, old enough to remember a time outside of this domed, glass city, one of twelve that now represent the last remnants of human civilization. Jesse looked out the window and watched the enraged attempts of the rioters as they flung themselves against the security officers trying desperately to hold them back.
In the distance, she could see the chaos that waited for them outside. Brown ash that violently crashed against the now charred radiated ground. Thick, endless smoke blackened the air, as debris crashed against the sides of their haven, the chaotic remnants of a once fertile planet now gone.
“I still don’t understand why they want to get out so badly.” said Jesse.
“They’re saying there are still people out there, after all this time.” said Grandpa. “You know they are calling New Chicago the ‘glass tomb’ now? Like we are just sitting here waiting for the barrier to start leaking. I really don’t think they have the right to complain. They’re alive. Most of us weren’t so lucky.”
Jesse zoned out as the intensity of the riots grew. People threw themselves at the glass, hoping that it would miraculously break and free them from their bondage. Security lined up to hold them back, as reinforcements on both sides poured in from other areas of the city.
“They think they see figures walking around out there. They think it’s safe, even after all the scientists say it’ll be another 300 years before things get better. Suicide, that’s what they want. That’s what this’ll get them.”
“Tell me again what it was like before, Grandpa.”
“Before all this? Oh it was like a dream. We had a lot more freedom back then, the kind of freedom you kids only see in old photos. People used to go outside for everything, tending their gardens, going for a walk. There was nothing like going outside on a nice summer day and feeling the sun on your face as you strolled the neighborhood. It’s a shame we didn’t heed the warnings of all those scientist folk who talked about global warming and pollution. When those record temperatures started hurting people, the government starting building these domes for us to live in. We were lucky we got here early, not everyone made it in time.”
Hanging on the wall behind Grandpa was an old picture of Grandpa and Grandma hiking near what used to be the “Delaware River”. Jesse saw the green of the trees, the blue of the sky, and clearness of the air and envied every inch of it.
“I hope one day I can see the Delaware River, and hike up there just like you Grandma.”
Grandpa turned around and took the picture off the wall. He turned it towards him, observing the bright colors of an old life, of an alien world that has gone and past. Jesse could hear the rioters getting louder, the bangs of bodies and blunt objects against the glass dome becoming more and more violent. Grandpa wiped the tears from his eyes and handed Jesse the picture.
“I hope one day you can forgive us.” said Grandpa
Another loud bang, this one the loudest of them all. Jesse resisted the urge to look away, knowing her fate. Instead, she stared reassuringly at her Grandpa as the carbon monoxide and fossil fuels filled their lungs, both knowing all too well that New Chicago was collapsing around them.