Thursday, August 18, 2318
I have settled into my new housing without much trouble. Though I don’t particularly care for the women that reside here. They are cold, hard, and for some reason dislike and distrust me. The woman, Marma, has taken an absorbed interest into making my life miserable. The area here is much different from the family housing district. We are closer to the Barricades for one, the long stretches of razor wire and concrete walls that block off the Old City. The area that was damaged during the worldwide quake when the Earth died. It has been left abandoned with the ever ringing promise that one day it will be restored.
Things have always been seedier here.
The new residence I have been assigned is a mere closet compared to the four rooms my father and I shared before. There we had each had a bedroom, small as it was, the communal area which wasn’t much bigger and a small bathroom. We had also been lucky to have a few large windows. Here, my room is barely wider than my outstretched arms, my fingers brush the walls that are nothing more than gray washed concrete blocks. There is a bed, a little table folds down at one end. Above that a hot plate and small sink are recessed into the wall. Though I can’t use the table and the sink at the same time. There is one small closet which isn’t a closet at all, but the bathroom. It took me twenty minutes and an embarassing question to the neighbor to realize the toilet was also the shower drain.
There is only one small slit of a window perched at the very top of the wall. It’s frosted so I cannot see outside. It makes this room feel more of a cell than a home. I wonder if the penetentiary feels any different. I moved the few things I bothered to take with me from old home; my journals, clothes, a few kitchen and bathroom things, my father’s favorite coat, the one that still holds his scent, the last of my rations. The folded bit of white paper earns a space on the little window ledge.
I have no time to dream of birds now. The commute to work in the business district takes me three times as long. I have to leave even before the sun wakes, though the city is in perpetual twilight when it is not. There are buses here that congregate a few blocks away taking the single workers closer to their various destinations. I had debated using the transport but I have always walked everywhere I needed to go, I rely on my own feet more than a tool of the Government. Plus, they are always so jam packed it makes me nervous to be that closed in, having stranger press and bump against me.
By the time I get home it is late. I am so worn I fall onto the hard mattress and then into a black, dreamless sleep. I wonder if that is where my father now lives, in that solid, embracing darkness.
Today, when I sat at the empty, faceless desk and typed in my alpha-numeric screen name, then the corresponding twenty-six character password, scanned my hand for bio-recognition and prepared the headache enducing ear bud for placement, the computer beeped at me.
It was not a friendly beep. I started back at the welcome screen and tried the procedure again, this time only to be rewarded with two preturbed beeps. A third time resulted in three quite annoyed sounds and by the fifth I felt as though the insistent noises had escalated to just plain angry. What do I do?
Many people stared at me, the click of fingers paused, as I left the cavernous room and headed through the door marked “Authorized Personnel Only”. I entered a long hallway. Far in the distance there was a single square cut out of the solid white tunnel. When I reached it I saw it was covered in Plexiglas criss-crossed with thin metal wires, the area beyond was more blank emptiness.
“Hello?” I called out.
“State your name.” A mechanical voice shouted from around me, startling.
I answered equally as loud.
Minutes went by. I debated turning around, trying the computer just one more time and then a door I hadn’t noticed (which really wasn’t a door but just a sideways movement of solid white) slid quietly open revealing another hallway. “Proceed to room C.” I was commanded.
Room C housed an irritated little man perched behind an overlarge desk. I wondered how they managed to get it in the room. Perhaps, they had built the walls around it. He barked me into sitting and spent over long minutes trying to look Very Important at his computer, but I could tell by the keys he pressed he wasn’t doing anything that warranted the fierce scowl indenting his fat face.
The next words out of his mouth would have knocked me to the floor had I not been sitting. Even then it was a struggle to keep my seat.
“You are being reassigned.” His face contorted into a deep wedge of wrinkles that stretched far into his receeded hairline. “Well…this is…odd.” He pressed more keys and I was sure the scowl had extended all the way to the back of his neck. I held my breath in anticipation. “You have been given a choice of assignments. It says here you may choose between the private sector or…” he cleared his throat, uncomfortable. “the Hygrodomes.”
I don’t even remember leaving. Somehow my feet made their way back to my apartment and flung my numb body down on the bed. I didn’t even notice the hardness what with the thoughts visciously colliding in my head. There must be a mistake. I was given the opportunity to work in the private sector? That intangible promise of better assignments, better hours, better, just better. And then the strange dichotomy of being offered the option to work in the Domes. A place that no one wanted to be. A place they threatened us with.
It should be a clear choice. I shouldn’t have hesitated. I should have made my decision right then and there sitting in that uncomfortable chair and been swept away to my new luxurious life. But something held me back. Something felt wrong. Why was I being given a choice in the first place? Why was my name pulled up for this honor when I had done nothing, knew no one, paid no one for the priveledge?
Dreams didn’t come. Birds never flew through any blue, blue skies. I lay there awake well past lights out, my eyes unfocused in the gray twilight. I heard soft footsteps in the hallway well past any decent hour. It was probably one of the working girls coming back, though the usual click-clacking of too-high heels was absent. She must be tired.
The footsteps stopped outside my door. My stomach felt queasy wondering just what else was in store. A second later a thin brown envelope slid through the gap stopping halfway into the room. I pounced on it like a cat with a mouse, twisting open the plastic ties. There was a small paper inside. My heart stopped, then started again at a breakneck speed. I rushed to the door, flinging it open but the hallway was empty. Crashing to my knees, I returned to the letter. It made no sense, not really. Though at the bottom, one word in particular, simple and plain, caught my eye and wouldn’t let it go.