How the Story Goes

Charlotte Burnett


Once upon a time, in the land before everything bad happened there lived a city, and this city was a very fine place indeed – or so the story goes. While everywhere else on earth was dirty, and smelly and choking on their own pollution, this city was beautiful.

It had always been so, and this was because its residents were such good and perfect people.  Unlike the people in our cities on this slowly greying Earth, they were good, and kind. They cared about the earth, they understood their place within it. They did not drive cars, but walked everywhere, they did not use fossil fuels, they did not shoot guns, and they did none of the other terrible things that humans have been slowly spoiling their planet with over the years

They were in all respects, perfect human beings – or at least, that’s how the story goes

They had to be perfect, why else would it have chosen them, them and only them to be saved from all the terrible things that were to come? It chose them, they knew it had, after all it had landed on the outskirts of their city – or so the story goes. Fallen from the sky in a beautiful shower of falling stars, it had come to them in the form of a meteor crashing into the only house in the city that wasn’t solar powered.

It was a sign, for such a great thing to crash into their city and kill the one bad man in town – the only man who had not upgraded his car to an electric when society called for it or updated his electricity to solar; the only man who still had a coal burning stove, the only man in town who did not have a job. And out of a city of thousands, for that space rock to only kill that man, surely it was a sign from god…and then that space rock split open and showered them with their real prize.

And they called it the Sun Ruby…Gods only knows why, doesn’t look much like a ruby from down here, it’s not even red.

Still, I suppose that’s not the point – the colour of the thing doesn’t really matter, no one can really see it anyway, hung all the way up there over their heads – it’s what it’s doing up there, that’s what matters. The dome, that’s what it’s making – a big giant shield that encases this ‘great’ city, this dome that keeps the others like me outside and their precious lot inside.

But they were perfect, and everyone else was awful, so that was okay.

The Snow has stopped.

The snow always stops around here.

It’s like clockwork, you can set your date by it.

We certainly did.

Down on the ground its ice, but up here, climbing closer and closer to the lovely thing it’s as warm as well…I’m not sure, I’ve never felt anything this warm.


Stand by the dome, that’s what my brother told me, stand by the dome and wait for the snow to stop, and you’ll see it. The Great Prize of the city of Hamilton – the Sun Ruby –  but I can’t wait for him any longer, I have to climb.

The storm’s coming, and it’ll bury me if I stay on the ground.

The people inside don’t know it, they don’t care, why should they, they live in Eden every day. They don’t know about outside, the month-long sandstorms, the year-long blizzards, the giant bug-men holding the southern border hostage – but why should they, everything is perfect in their world. After all, they’re ‘good’ people, and god protects ‘good’ wealthy people.

Or that’s how the story goes anyway.


My hands don’t feel cold anymore, as I climb up the bars of the city – the bars keep the dome secure, structured, not just a big ball of sunlight anymore – and in return the dome keeps the people safe.

If I look down I can see between the bars, beyond the orange glow of the dome, down, down into the city itself. It’s a pretty thing really, with long sweeping arches, and great noble pathways of water. They must be beautiful, the people inside but I do not see them…makes sense really, for they are far too good for this rotten earth now, they will not show their faces until the evil light of the sun has vanished from the sky, and the moon is free to be as pure as she likes. Or that’s how the story goes.

Everything’s so rotten outside now they can’t open the gates anymore…or so they say…it will let evil in. But they used to, so its told, they opened them wide and fed the hungry and the poor just with the beauty of their smiles. And the world was good for just a moment, their leaders were fair and their wealth enormous and just for a time they sought to share it with the rest of us. But, and here’s the part that always got me, the world was selfish and grew afraid of the city’s power  …why couldn’t people just see the good they were doing. Why couldn’t people understand? They were only hurting themselves by denying it, they forced the city’s hand…what other choice did they have but to turn the power of the Sun Ruby onto their enemies, so that they might know the true terror they were causing themselves.

Nothing could stop them, nothing at all…save of course the bombs.

That’s where the story ends…that’s where it always ends. With the bombs, the closing of the gates, and the raising of the dome.

Or that’s how the story goes.

I wonder if they’ll tell this story too…the tale of the stupid thief, the hungry thief, that climbed the side of the dome after a drunken bet made with their brother…and took the ruby from atop it, vanishing into the mist.

Yes, I think that’s how my story will go.

Best not tell the other bits…best not hear of the cold, or the way the ruby scalded my hands where I twisted it free of its perch. Or how all the time I was up there my brother and his drunken friends were laughing and hurling obscenities up the steps behind me.

No, no one needs to hear that part.

Just let the dome vanish, and the thief slink off into the snowstorm that’s coming.

That’s how the story goes anyway.



Charlotte Burnett is 23, dyslexic and currently studying Psychology at the Open University, although she has also studied copy-editing and creative-writing, and hopes to pursue both in the future.