2019 Winners and Honourable Mentions

CATEGORY C : 18 - 24 YEARS
Day 5: Urban
14 June 2019

WINNER

Koti and Kira
Chamath Kalanaka Vithanawasam


Nipun and Hari were in the newly built rapid transit system for what seemed to be forever. This new system was apparently 10 times faster than what his grandparents used, but then again, cities take up a much larger land area now, thanks to the great population boom of 2070. Public transport was almost ridiculously fast, so it was practical for residents to live far from the heart of a city. This explained the two friends’ being bored in a monorail that was considered one of the fastest to date.

Nipun hailed from an Electronics background, and Hari had a degree in Information Technology, specializing in artificial intelligence. They met in university and had been best friends ever since. Modern day advancements meant their qualifications were in high demand, there was hardly a rural community in sight, and they were employed by the city council itself. The thirst for the most populous cities to become smarter, more efficient, and simply put, appealing was fascinating to observe. Mayoral offices would act like corporations, stealing promising officials from other cities with assurances of higher pay, and shutting down any part of their own city that was deemed unappealing, with no regard to people doing their businesses there. The police force was equipped with an incredibly powerful, almost military-like arsenal of guns and riot-suppressing equipment. The municipal council of Metrovia had no issues regarding the loyalties of Nipun and Hari. They loved their city very much.

The two lads had purchased tickets for one of the most aggressively sought out events of the year. Tickets were priced at outlandish amounts, but people would flock online to purchase the tickets upto months in advance. Ten of thousands of citizens would attend from Metrovia itself, and thousand more came from all around the world.

As they stopped at their station and got off, they saw almost everyone in their monorail double checking the time and date on their phone for the event. They were all going to the same place. The two friends were glowing with anticipation. This amount of attention for this event was new to the world, it was not something people were interested back in the old days, when a movie at a theatre would have sufficed for entertainment. This event was unique to Metrovia, and each year it garnered the attention of the entire world. Nipun knew it was something he couldn’t witness for much longer; his future children will likely not see anything like it. He, therefore, wanted to get the most out of it.

Nipun and Hari sat at their seats and looked in anticipation as a man came to the middle of the football field-like structure.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” he said in his commanding tone, “you came from far and wide to witness this amazing event. Without further ado, please help me welcome Koti and Kira!"

The audience went wild with excitement. "Bask in their glory, people. Our two Cheetahs, the last two wild mammals on earth!”


The City
Nadia Mikail


They met at the edge of the City, at the hole in the border. You had to pay your way to use it. Oliver had money. 

“I have something for you,” Jeyne said, and rootled around in her bag. She produced a small bunch of squashed wildflowers, the kind that didn’t grow in the City anymore.

Oliver smiled.

***

Oliver and Jeyne had met two years ago, when Jeyne had been waiting for a smuggled parcel from inside the City, medication that her brother needed to survive. 

Oliver had been exploring. (He often thought, in another life, that he would have been an adventurer, to which Jeyne often replied, “You mean you want to think that.”)

Startled, Jeyne had produced a knife and pointed it at his neck. Oliver had managed to convince her he wasn’t a threat, just a bored City boy living out his adventuring dream.

They had kept meeting after that.

***

Ten years ago, with the very real, very dangerous threat of climate change, leaders had proposed Cities all over the world. Cities filled with green technology and no pollution. Cities living cleanly and protecting its people, with fortress-like walls and climate-controlled areas where people could breathe freely.

But only some could afford to live in those Cities. Those who couldn’t had to live outside their walls, without anything that had previously damaged the environment. No cars, no plastics. No oils, no emissions. Not much of anything else, either. Most people had their own little homesteads, their tiny farms.

Jeyne had never been in the City nearest her. She was not a resident; its borders kept her out. 

When Oliver talked about the sleek, sustainable buildings that rose high into the sky, vehicles that purred and hovered above ground, his new phone, Jeyne could not imagine it. He made it seem like something out of a science fiction novel. He made it seem like an urban utopia.

Oliver offered to give her things. But Jeyne’s family did not want to smuggle more than what was necessary: there were strict penalties on this. Residents of the City did not like things being given away to those who they deemed did not deserve their charity.

***

They met at the edge of the City, at the hole in the border. They watched the slight flutterings of dawn.

“One day I’ll bring you in,” Oliver promised. “You and your family.”

Jeyne laughed quietly. “Who says I wanna be brought in?”

Oliver wondered if he was saying something wrong. There were dirt marks on her face from the morning’s plow. She lay back against the wall. She looked exhausted, but she looked right at him.

“I don’t want to be one of the Residents, Oliver,” she told him. “Lavish lifestyles when people are suffering out here— at least we’re suffering good honest lives. I couldn’t live with myself.”

Oliver looked up at the cold, uncaring lights of his city. 

Looked at it through Jeyne’s eyes, finally. 

Saw an urban hellscape.