“Hello, I’m here to see Mr Tapas,” I say to the uncle in front of Tapa Headquarters. I know him, he used to be a taxi driver, but now he’s a security guard with a Tapa-Suit on.
“Do you have an appointment?”
“No, I want to show Mr Tapas my art.”
He shakes his head.
“Please, uncle, do you know what they’re doing with our river? We can’t let the…”
He closes the door just so in my face.
I look up at the massive skyscraper and the electric grid sparking over it. I know Tapas is up there somewhere. If I can just get to him then I’ll paint him one of my water portraits and he’ll see how important water is to us, not just for drinking and bathing, but for our culture.
The last bottle of Sparza River water that my daddy and I collected all those years ago is in my water bag. It’s probably the only water in the skiem.
Yes! I have an idea! My legs shake with excitement as I walk away from Tapas Headquarters.
I stand near a drain in the road, waiting for a moment when there are no people in the street or cars driving past. The drain lid is heavy, I have to use all my strength to lift it up so I can jump in.
The green goo that Tapas pumps into our houses is thick and moves slowly. It’s sticky and difficult to walk through. I think I know where I’m going, my daddy had a map of all the underground tunnels and pipes in our skiem stuck to a wall. He used to have to weld and fix these tunnels all the time.
Here’s a ladder. I’m sure I’m right underneath Tapa Headquarters now. I climb up and struggle to push another heavy drain lid to the side. I pop my head out. The bright lights reflecting off sparkly white tiles makes my eyes hurt. There’s a row of sinks and cubicles with Tapas’s name on them. I’m in the toilet. I pull myself out of the hole in the floor.
The foyer is busy, full of people who don’t look up. Their eyes are all glued to their Tapa-Tablets. Nobody notices me. I get into the elevator with a lot of other people and press 82, the highest number. That must be Tapas’s floor. Everyone in the lift gets out before me. I go higher alone. I get down on my hands and knees just before the elevator doors open at the top floor.
Lucky for me, the secretary’s desk is so high she doesn’t see me crawl out. She’s on a call.
“Yes, the meeting will commence soon, Mr Tapas is ready.” Her phone keeps ringing and she answers and says the same thing every time, “Yes, the meeting will commence soon.”
I crawl past her desk towards a glass door. That must be Tapas’s office. He must be in there. I’m waiting for someone to catch me, for security to see me on the cameras. But I am inside Tapas’s space and no one has rung an alarm or anything. I try to open the sliding glass door, but it doesn’t move. Locked.
The sound of high heels click-clacking on the floor behind me gets closer. It’s the secretary.
“Yes, the meeting will commence soon…” she repeats.
I put my hands up, I’m caught.
She’s holding her Tapa-Tablet in front of her face, it blocks her view of me. She rests her thumb on a small electric box next to the glass door and it slides open. I crawl in behind her.
I’m in a big room. There’s a wall of Tapa-TVs. The people on the screens are on a video call. They’re like moving portraits. Some of them wear military-style jackets.
Suddenly I hear a strong electric buzz. The sound goes through my teeth. Every bone in my body vibrates. I want to turn around and get out but I stop because I see Tapas.
He’s facing the people on the screen. He lifts a golden ball above his head. “Allow me to introduce you to the Tapa-Orb.”
Tell us: Do you trust Mr Tapas? Why/why not?