The text for my image entry to the Cyberpunk City contest is rather long so I posting the story, which is actually a letter, here instead.
The link to the final image and description (found at the end of the long post and comments):
To my children,
If you are reading this I hope it is because you are old enough for me to explain my actions personally and this letter is just for show. Most likely you have reached an age with too many questions that need and answers as to why I never returned home.
It took me weeks to figure out what to say that would help you understand why I left. I struggled with the why’s, what’s and who’s only to fall painfully short of anything to provide answers to justify my leaving. The best I could decide was, I wanted to give you a life better than the dark ending that awaits all of us on this side of the channel. The seemingly simple risk I took to achieve that was one any parent horrified at the extreme limited possibilities available to their family would take. I realize that is hardly consolation for years without me there. Regardless the reward was far too great to overlook or dismiss.
By now I am sure you know that this side of the channel is certain abject poverty and a degraded life. It is imposed on us through isolation and forced ignorance. It is done with fake smiles screaming at us from those damned towering, moving, pulsing, over-bright ads and media burrowing false ideas of impossible dreams into our heads.
Meanwhile we would sit watching as more barely habitable buildings go up here in an already crowded city. The other side builds the occasional luxury towers separated by parks filled with trees and other life most of us only have seen in vids on our wall screens. I once read about a place called Nature in old books found in a school I discovered in the abandoned cities deep below us. I can still remember the faded pages showing trees covering hills that seemed to go on forever. It was never a real thing to me until I saw the first trees being planted along their side of the channel. We all stood there day after day for months marveling at the wonder of them. They said it was to beautify it but we knew it was to help block the sight of our side and improve the view as they took their walks.
Why look at the poor when you can see something beautiful that can actually live?
The idea to cross the bridge started when a bunch of us found some very old politics and government books in that old school. They were badly damaged but what we were able to read sparked a big change in all of us. A couple of our friends couldn’t handle it and eventually went to The Way facility to end their lives peacefully rather than live with the knowledge of what They would never let us have. We didn’t judge our friends for it. We understood but the rest of needed find a way to use the information to help our families.
In the end we decided to try something simple. We would cross the bridge. It seemed so easy but it also scared us so much that many left the group. Eventually our group faltered in our conviction until we finally went our separate ways. Soon enough life kicked us so hard many of us came back together and decided to try it anyway.
We had some plans when we got over there. Nothing complex because, quite honestly, we weren’t sure what we would find. The only history we had about this world was in those few books and none of us had ever been to the other side or met anyone from there. There is nothing we could find about why the channels were originally built. We were able to figure out that at some point they began to build more of them to isolate and control different areas of the cities. Soon they had thousands of miles of channels that essentially protects Them from Us. Instead of having a government in one location they built government hubs on the channels that would help to monitor and control the different city areas. Not their side, of course. No cameras watch their citizens and drone police don’t fly over their streets.
Those of us chosen to go spent weeks preparing our family’s but it didn’t really help. I am finishing this letter up after putting you two to bed and my hands are still shaking knowing this might be the last time I can ever do that. The grief of that loss is already taking hold with a feeling in my chest as if my heart is trying to implode. Only my hope is keeping it from complete collapse. I once fell down a twenty foot shaft only to have my leg impaled on some kind of metal pipe. I laid there for almost two days in extreme pain before they rescued me. I sit here writing this letter thinking that pain would be preferable to what I am feeling now.
Tomorrow I leave for bridge four with grief mingled with hope. It’s the latter I jealously hold onto and which gives me the strength to do this. Always know your mother and I love you more than you can possibly imagine, at least until you have your own children. Without you our lives would be empty bottles, lonely streets of wet, determined pain, or sad dark alleys of waste and frustration. Your existence makes ours worth any suffering if only to see those hopeful smiles and hear those incredible words come from you, ‘I love you, Daddy’, ‘I love you, Mommy’. I do this tomorrow so I can hear those words without also having to hear, “I’m hungry”, or something else just as dreadful because of a system that keeps its citizens dependent, ignorant and controllable through fear and false options that are impossible to access.
Please be kind to each other and especially your mother. While you weep, cry or get angry at my leaving she can only grieve on the inside. This she does so you will have her strength to help deal with the hurt and pain of my absence.
Like we say every night when I tuck you in, because it’s true, I love you super big, past the moon, past the stars, past grandmas farts, and that’s big! (Parents are allowed to be weird!)