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   Chapter 4 THE CELLAR

The Taàr (Dystopia #01) By John A. Bonello Characters: 9463

Updated: 2018-02-08 12:02


Sal went mad as soon as the Younglings walked in with the two captives.

Had they lost their minds, he asked. His hand slammed the table in front of him. He could not believe or even dare begin to understand how they could do exactly the opposite, the opposite, of what he had been preaching for years. How many times had he told them to steer clear of any strange people? How many times? And now they had captured them and brought them inside his home. Had the wind fried their brains? They had put a poisonous snake inside a bird's nest.

Edgar tried to jump in but there was no stopping the Taàr during an outburst of that kind. Sal told him to refrain from bringing up excuses. He told them to go, all of them, away, somewhere far from him. Then he changed his mind. Stay, he told them, he would leave instead. He didn't care what they did, but by the time he came back he wanted them to get rid of the captives. And with those last words he stormed out of the temple. All the witnesses to his outburst just stood there speechless. Everyone knew Sal was outspoken but they had rarely seen a similar tirade.

Kim walked over to Edgar, who stood there, looking miserable. Putting her arm round his shoulders, she told him very softly not to worry, that Sal would soon cool down. She gave him advice to take the prisoners to the cellar of the white house, right across the street from the temple. There they could lock them safely and stand guard. She assured him that once Sal returned, he would tell them what to do.

Uncle Sam, who had sat there through the entire rant, intervened before the boys could move. Pointing his finger at his own nephew, he ordered him to guard the prisoners by himself. He was going to have to stay locked up in the cellars with them alone.

For many, it would have been humiliating having to stay the night outside the temple. But the boy was not afraid, although his uncle's words did bite. In truth he had nothing to do with his friends' decision to take the two men back to the temple. He hadn't questioned their decision either, and because of this he felt a little responsible. Maybe I should have spoken, he thought. Resigning himself, he accepted the order without objection.

Head lowered, he followed Edgar, Dalin and the others outside, with the tower men bound and gagged between them. Following Kim's advice, they took them across the street to a house that looked like all the rest from the outside, with collapsed walls and roof. However, once inside, they accessed the cellars that lay underneath. These cellars, like those of other houses around the temple, could be locked up and were used by Sal's people to store food and items found in the zones.

It was still late afternoon. They walked the short way, climbed down the narrow stairway that led to the cellars, opened th

.

But be warned, he told him, not all the people inside the tower agreed that people from outside should join them. There was a divide: two opposing groups. Himself, Karl and others were in favour because they felt it wasn't fair they could live in the safest place on the planet while Ben and his kin had to survive in a contaminated environment, struggling for food, dying of sickness that could easily be cured. They believed the Taàr's people should be given the same opportunities as those within the tower. They should be thought about their past, about what happened to their planet. In return, their presence in the tower would be of enormous value–not only would they give the tower people new hope, they would also provide answers to so many questions, of how evolution had made them capable of living in the intense radioactive environment where they thrived against all odds.

Ben did not understand what Nel intended about that last point, and told him as much. Nel explained that someone like him or Karl, or any person bred and raised in the tower wouldn't survive outside more than a year without adequate protection, let alone forty, fifty or sixty years.

Sal is seventy five, the boy told them. The two men exchanged glances in the flickering light of the candle. They were evidently surprised.

Nel did not resume talking. Instead he sat down, his face against the metal bars separating him from the boy. His eyes were strange, reflecting the dancing light from the candle. Silence stretched for a little while longer. Then, in his low voice, he asked Ben to trust him, to consider their offer, for the good of all. The Taàr's people would be rid of their misery, while the people inside the tower would make new friends and with their help, ensure their legacy.

Had he answered all his questions, asked Nel with a little smile. Or had he confused him more?

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