Tristan rolled his eyes. “Hey, dummy, guess what? We didn’t finish that quiz earlier.”
Tristan often used the word “dummy” when talking to Jake. Long ago, when Jake was only five, he and Tristan had sat in the living room floor in front of the mega screen one morning, watching an old cartoon. One of the characters had mumbled the word “dummy,” and Jake had gone into a fit of uncontrollable laughter. Puzzled, Tristan stared at Jake for a few minutes as he rolled around on the carpet. Since then, whenever Tristan wanted to lighten the mood, he dropped the word “dummy” into the conversation.
“Okay,” said Jake. “What’s the next question?”
“Who’s the current president of Phoenix?”
“Um, I don’t remember,” Jake yawned. “I think his first name is Tiberius.”
“I’ll give you partial credit for that one. His name is Tiberius Vaughn. You see him on The Official Information Channel all the time when you’re walking around in the corridors. He’s the skinny guy with black hair and blue eyes.”
“Oh yeah!” Jake blurted, raising his eyebrows. “That spooky guy who never smiles.”
“That’s the one. You know why he never smiles? Because he doesn’t have a soul!”
Suddenly, Jake leaned toward him. “Really?”
Tristan waved his paws around. “No, I was being sarcastic.”
Jake smiled, slumping against the tree trunk. “Oh, I didn’t know. A lot of times, I don’t know when you’re joking. Sorry.”
“Um, it’s okay,” Tristan said.
“What’s the next question?”
“This is the last one,” said Tristan. “Where did the name ‘Phoenix’ come from?”
“Uh, they call it that because it sounds cool?”
“No, dummy. The phoenix was a mythical bird that burned to death and then came back to life again. It rose up from its own ashes. That was the idea they had in mind when they were building this city. If the whole world was wiped out, they wanted America to rise again.”
Jake nodded slowly as he reflected on this. “So what’s the next question?”
Tristan waved a paw in the air. “That was the end of the quiz, Jacob. We’re all done now.”
Jake yawned again and closed his eyes. As the muscles in his neck began to soften, his head dropped.
“Don’t ever tell anybody I said this,” Tristan added, lowering his voice to a whisper. “But President Vaughn doesn’t have any real power at all. He’s just a distraction. He’s just a bunch of noise. Phoenix is actually controlled by a group of people you hardly ever hear about.”
Jake mumbled something Tristan didn’t understand.
“Sometimes, you see these people on The Official Information Channel, having their little meetings,” Tristan continued. “And sometimes, if you stay up late enough, you see them on another channel too. That’s when they talk about the juicy stuff. But they like to turn off the camera when things get really interesting. Oh, that makes me so mad.”
Tristan was mainly talking to himself now, just venting, but he was surprised when Jake didn’t respond. Then he looked up and realized his friend had gone to sleep.
Tristan lay back in the grass and relaxed under the electric sun. Through the tree branches, he saw holographic clouds scrolling by. For a moment, he imagined what it would be like to live on the surface and see real clouds. He wondered if clouds even existed anymore. There was no telling what the atmosphere was like these days.
Under the Electric Sun is a young adult novel that takes place in a luxurious underground city beneath the ruins of Washington, DC. Jake is a dimwitted young man with a kind heart. Tristan is his electronic tutor designed to look like a raccoon, complete with synthetic fur and rubber paws. Under the Electric Sun is available on Amazon. You can click here to order.
Copyright 2013, 2015, 2017 Matthew David Curry. All rights reserved.