“One star. Again.” I sighed and put a box of robot parts on the shelf. The screen hovered a second longer in front of my head, reminding me I’m not good enough. Then it disappeared.
Somehow I always get one star, even though I really try. Is everyone against me? Is it because I’m below everyone, below all the pilots and the leaders?
“Stop messing around, scrap kid. And fix this thing.” A tall figure was standing in the door opening, lifting up his arm. A few sparks and a sizzling sound came from it. I quickly grabbed a few tools, dropping a few on my way to the man. The man was angrily eyeing every movement I did. After I finally fixed his arm, a screen hovered in front of the man’s angry eyes. His finger hovered over the stars, for a mere moment I thought he was gonna give me two stars, but I was just fantasizing.
In a world where we are controlled by other people’s opinions, it’s hard to find our own strength.
I want to have 5 stars, just for a day, even 4 stars would be enough. I want to live in the sky for a day, is that too much to ask? My thoughts were stopped by a girl that walked inside. I grabbed my tools and walked towards her only to see nothing broken.
“Come with me.” the girl reached out her hand and I looked at her puzzled.
“Where?” I asked.
“Away from here.” those words made me feel kinda funny. I reached out my hand too, the girl grabbed it and dragged me with her. I quickly snatched my jacket that was laying between some parts on a shelf. We were outside. flying past the crowd of robot humans. Some of them had a robot arm or leg. Some even had a robot face. And when one of those parts broke, they came to me to fix it. The metal streets were cold, on the contrary to the girl’s hand which was warm. I could see everyone’s rating, most of them were 1 or 2 stars. A few were 3 stars. And between the people, I could even see someone whose rating was 4 stars. There were no 5 stars in this metal scrap district. No, the 5 stars, the best of the best, lived in the sky. The white-orange buildings touched the clouds. We only heard legends about the ones living in those buildings. Some say the rulers and leaders live there, others say the invincible king resides in the skyscrapers. And some say he’s got 10 stars if that’s even possible. I’ve never been near the Star District, I haven’t even left my home.
Our world is divided into three districts, my district; the scrap district, as I call it. The Middle District, where the 3 and 4 stars people and some of the 2 stars live. They can enter the scrap district whenever they want. But we can’t, one star people are just scrap that nobody wants. And then there is the Star District, the place where only people who have a rating of 5 stars are allowed. They can go anywhere in the world, but why would they? They already have everything in the world.
We arrived at a fence with 2 stars above it.
“I can’t go in there.” I looked at the girl who was already disappearing into a small alley. I quickly followed her, afraid of losing her. She pushed a metal plate away, revealing a new world. I could see green things I haven’t seen before. I was scared but also pulled into adventure. I put on my jacket and went through the hole in the wall. My hand touched the cold metal, but when my feet touched the prickly green ground, I let go.
I smelled something I haven’t smelled before, it was different from the smoke that came from some of the houses. Everything was green and there were oddly shaped things coming from the ground. I looked behind me, the girl was closing the hole in the wall and stood beside me. She was smiling, that’s when I noticed she didn’t have a rating.
“Where are your stars?” I asked.
“I have to show you something.” She avoided the question and walked towards something in the distance that looked like a house. I followed her. The ground tickled my feet, it felt funny. I’d never seen this place before. I looked around and saw a tall wall, behind that wall must be where my house was. I followed the wall and saw it changed shape further to the right, that must be where the Middle district was. And in the distance, I could see a white wall with bits of orange and tall buildings rising from behind it.
We arrived at the house, it was partly made of metal but also something else. Something that looked like the oddly shaped thing coming from the ground.
I walked inside. There were all kinds of things like tools and parts of machines. A piece of fabric that touched the ground, separated the rooms. I swiped it aside and saw a picture of the green land where we were now. On the ground, I saw another picture. This one was different, a woman. She didn’t have any robot parts and was wearing colorful clothing. The girl entered.
“You really haven’t been outside your district, huh?” the girl picked up a tool that was soft on one end and stood in front of the picture, adding something in the sky.
“No.” I softly said while taking a closer look at the picture.
“You made that?” I was amazed.
“Yes, I like to paint things how I see them. Or how I want them to be.”
“How come you don’t have any stars? Is it broken? I can fix it.”
“No, I don’t need those stars. I want to be free. I don’t care what other people think of me, how good everyone thinks I am, where I can and can’t go. I don’t want that. I want to do what I like and what I think I am good at. So I broke it.” She finished her sentence.
“But don’t you ever wanna live in the Star District?” I wondered.
“Who needs all that luxury when we’ve got this place?” The girl pointed at the painting.
“We’re all just stuck in this stupid system where we’re waiting and hoping that people like us enough to live in the sky.” Her words made me feel a spark. I couldn’t explain it but I felt like breaking my rating system too.
“What do you want to do?” She asked. I searched my pocket and showed a part of a small robot I was making.
“I’ve really wanted to make this robot,” I said. “but I always quit whenever someone gives me 1 star. I’m not good enough.” I sighed. The girl took something from the shelf that was full of books. She sat down on the soft ground. I sat down next to her. The girl showed me an old book and turned to a page with words I could not read. She started reading.
In a world where we are controlled by other people’s opinions, it’s hard to find our own strength. In this roller coaster ride, we call life, it’s hard to take control. And I just wish I can take control and fight back. But all I did so far, is fall. At the bottom of the ocean, I found a cave. And in the darkness, I found a light. It might not have been so bright, but it was enough.
The girl closed the book.
“I had a rating of 3 stars and I really wanted to go to the Star District. So I hid on a plane and got into one of the tall buildings. It was everything I’ve ever imagined,” She paused for a second, her face changed “but then I was caught, thrown into a dark building. They were going to erase me,” She looked at me “that’s when I saw something sticking out of the dirt, it was an old book, must have been over 400 years old. I opened the book and let it choose the page. I read it and escaped. I found this grassland and built my own house, my own world. After I broke my star system, I finally felt free.” She stood up and carefully put the book back on the shelf. I was in awe and wanted to break my star system too. I wanted to be free.
Inspired by Reedsy Prompts: Start your story with someone receiving a one-star review.
(Contest #141: Everyone’s a Critic)