You can read the previous part here: Part 2

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July 29, 2030

Mei woke up, head throbbing. She stepped out into the rising sun. Mei was happy that, for once, she didn’t have to drape black curtains on her windows. She was free on Dalez. True, she had lost her father in the war, but she didn’t have to fear losing her friends or brothers in the war. That is, assuming the war managed to last that long. 

Dalez was the only place that was happy to stay neutral and peaceful, and provide her shelter. Dalez was also the only country that had sent the Hilitine any aid at all. Mei and what was left of her family had relocated there, in a refugee camp.

Her brothers liked to say “The food here is absolutely terrible. I think they’re feeding us sh–,” before their mother would make them stop and threaten to wash their mouth out with soap. Mei, however positive she was, couldn’t help but agree, though she didn’t ever say that to her mother. Nor did she say “Nobody here gives a damn about us,” to her mother. 

Mei’s mother enjoyed socializing. And she wanted her children to socialize as well. Unfortunately, Mei’s statement (admittedly with stronger words than “damn”) was a hundred percent true. Actually, it was true for just about anything in the refugee camp. Unlike her brothers, though, Mei did like something about the camp: the beach. 

Every day for six years, she had been watching the sea levels drop. Of course, she couldn’t see it happen on a day-to-day basis, but it was quite interesting to see the progress of the massive mass on the other side of the water. Te Riu-a-Māui was being exposed purely due to pollution and greed.

The camp’s tutor had told Mei that Dalez was one of the highest plateaus of Te Riu-a-Māui, the lost continent. Te Riu-a-Māui was a continent that was ninety-four percent underwater, and was being exposed due to the draining ocean.

A few years ago, an experiment to increase rain ended up stopping rainfall altogether. This had caused freshwater to become a precious resource, and all of the lakes, rivers, and ice shelves had been mined or drained. This caused no water to enter the oceans, which in turn caused more and more of Te Riu-a-Māui to be exposed.

They were simply waiting for the official order of the colonization of Te Riu-a-Māui before the refugee camp kids could visit the island. Mei knew that the order would come eventually. She just didn’t know when.

As if on cue, there was a loud celebration coming toward her. Mei jogged to the jubilant crowd and asked, “What happened?”

One of the refugees yelled, “We can go! We got the permit!”

Mei smiled, and then took off in the direction of the vast ocean. The sea green water beckoned to her as if telling her to come in. Catching on quickly, the refugees followed in hot pursuit, but Mei was not going to let this go. She would be the first person on this newly exposed landmass. 

She leaped into the water about twenty yards ahead of everybody else. That distance decreased as she swam toward the continent. The closest person was three yards away from her. As the others got closer, Mei touched the land and waded through the shallow water.

She didn’t know what she was expecting to be on Te Riu-a-Māui. Perhaps ruins, or even a whole lost city. That was not the case. It was just a normal piece of land, as sandy as any other beach. According to her tutor, about sixteen percent of Te Riu-a-Māui had been exposed.

The others were now treading on the shore, filling this unmarked land with its first footprints. Mei felt proud to be the very first person to set foot on this lost treasure.

She knew it was simply a piece of land, but every little bit of hope in this terrible time was a treasure. This was a new beginning for her, a second chance. To her, and many of the other refugees, this was the greatest gift of all: the gift of hope, however little it may be.

The shining sun bathed everyone with golden sunshine. “Nature’s first green is gold,” Mei muttered, remembering Robert Frost’s poem. “Her hardest hue to hold. Her early leaf’s a flower, but only so and hour. Then leaf subsides to leaf. So Eden sank to grief. So dawn goes down to day,” Mei paused, remembering the final line. “Nothing gold can stay.”

Mei stayed silent for a moment before shaking herself out of her trance. She was overthinking this gift. Idly, she wondered if she could pass off the poem as her own composition. But Robert Frost was right, as were countless others. Nothing gold could ever stay.

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You can read the next part here: Part 4

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