“Journey to the Lost City” by Zach Lawrence

The talk with the mayor did not raise Clark’s hopes. Even the mayor, the most important person around, knew that his own people were dying due to his failure. Clark felt something had to be done. New Bethesda needed to survive, so doing something was imperative. After all, Clark was a person who wanted to do the right thing. New Bethesda was broken down, with some buildings torn in half as if slashed by knives. Fixing up this town would be a nightmare, he thought. Next, he felt he needed to go back to his family and see what they thought.

As he was walking home, he reappraised everything happening in the community. “There must be a billion things wrong with this place,” Clark complained. Then, he thought of something. He knew it was a long-shot, but he felt it was possible.

“I could leave town,” Clark realized. “To leave Neomontgomery; it’s technically not against the rules.”

Knowing this, he rushed back to his grey and rotting house on Lawrence St. As soon as he got in, he saw his mom, who was wearing a surprisingly clean pinafore (his Mom liked things tidy), and Susan, his sister, who was texting on a phone she probably stole or found on the ground.

“How’s it hangin’, loser?” Susan said, focused her newfangled device.

“You’re the one that’s addicted to phones. Have you even gone outside in the last week?” Clark snapped back.

“Let’s be honest, who wants to go outside in times like these?” Susan counterattacked. Mom flashed Susan a look. Mom hated pessimism.

“Alright, you may want to cover your ears,” Mom warned. Clark knew what she was meant. The dishwasher and stove were broken, and the dishwasher made piercing nails-on-a chalkboard screeches whenever it was turned on, as if screaming in agony.

After they finished dinner, Dad had arrived, which always made Clark’s day. Dad worked in the mines, a dangerous job. Whenever he came home, they were relieved.

“What’s for dinner?” Dad asked Mom, as she put away the dishes.

“Is that really the first thing you’re gonna say when you get home?” Mom joked.

Clark and Susan shared a room, so they always had a small conversation right before bed. “So, I’m gonna sound crazy,” Clark started.

“As if you don’t already all the time,” she said dismissively.

“Shush, just hold on a minute,” Clark tried to say. “You and I both know that people are dying, and Mayor Murphy is trying to boost morale in New Bethesda.

“So? If you’ve just realized that, then you really are dumb.”

Clark ignored her unhelpful comments and continued. “Well, remember those stories we hear about ‘other cities’ on the radio?”

Susan looked at him strangely. “Come on, you know those aren’t real. We’re the last city on Earth. They’ve done like, a million expeditions. They’ve found nothing.”

“Well, first of all, we’ve only launched 3 major expeditions, and in 2 of them, they all died. So, I’ve been wondering…” Clark stopped. He didn’t want to finish.

“What?”

“Maybe we could…um…try to leave New Bethesda?” Susan looked scared, as if she’d seen a ghost where he was standing.

Then she came to her senses. “Go to bed, Clark.”

The next morning, Clark went to school. He had no real friends there, but there was a new transfer student named Ivan. Clark felt an immediate connection, so he sat with him at lunch. “Where do you live?” Clark asked.

“Elvis Ave,” Ivan replied in a monotone fashion.

“Oh.” There was silence for what felt like an eternity. Ivan was mysterious. Very quiet, and on

his first day, he was watching everyone at school, studying them. There were only two schools in the entire county, so if he knew everyone here, he would then know every student in the county.

Skipping forward a few days, one night Clark managed to convince both Ivan and Susan to try to leave. According to textbooks, only two people had tried this, and it had not gone well. Susan was only doing it to try to take care of his brother, and Ivan was doing it because he believed his father, a previous expedition member, was still alive.

“Why am I letting you do this?” Susan wondered aloud.

“Because we need to if we have any chance of saving this town!” Clark retorted.

“It is highly illogical that we will survive,” Ivan frowned. “The risks are too great.”

“Well, we’re going to have to try.” Clark said as he led them to the city limits.

Soon, they managed to get to a point where they felt like they were getting somewhere. Even Susan, never satisfied without a phone, was starting to have hopes.

“Guys, if we actually do this, we’ll be, like, heroes,” Susan said excitedly.

“We know. It’ll be awesome!” Clark almost yelled.

Ivan tried to get their attention. “Guys! Look!” Behind a steep hill, they found a gigantic city. It looked surreal, composed of skyscrapers shining so brightly that Clark felt they were made of gold. As they went in, they prepared to rest before celebrating.

At first, the local inhabitants treated them kindly. However, the moment they mentioned they were from New Bethesda, they were criticized and attacked. This became intolerable, so they escaped and returned to their community, confused.

“What were they trying to do? Our communities could’ve cooperated,” Clark said.

“I guess we’ll never really know,” Susan replied.

Clark could see Ivan looking sad, not only for the community, but for his father. “Cheer up, Ivan,” he said and smiled. “The fact that we actually found a community is pretty amazing. That means there could be more, and friendlier ones.”

They returned to their homes, and Clark told the Mayor about what they had found. While the Mayor was mad at them for leaving, he actually pardoned the three as they had made the first contact with the outside world, thanks to three curious kids who wanted what is right.

 

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