Wednesday, August 10th, 2318
I was just a girl when the Land finally died. So young I can’t recall the true green of a leaf nor the yellow glow of a daisy. To speak of these things is forbidden now and would be lost to me if it hadn’t been for the midnight whispers of my father’s gruff voice.
“Faylinn,” He’d say, “remember these things. Remember what I have told you.”
Though I can’t recall the twining of vines or the smell of fresh grass there is one thing I will never forget; the rumbling beneath my small feet and the soul piercing moan as the Earth gave up and died.
It had fought long and hard but like ants overpowering a beetle, it was no match for the blight set upon it.
Humans. People. Men, women, children. Twenty-nine trillion souls packed elbow to shin sucking life from their only home.
I’ve heard the stories. That three hundred years ago they knew this would come. They forecasted, predicted and studied concluding that one day the Earth would cease to live. Scientists screamed it but they were ignored. How could my ancestors have dismissed these claims? How could they have allowed the land to be swept away under a sheet of never ending concrete? The Rivers are black with poison. The only animals left are scavenging bugs. Perhaps if they could see us now, they would have changed. Perhaps they would not have been so short sighted.
But I wish for something that cannot be.
I’ve learned long ago to let foolish dreams die. Perhaps that is what they did, too.
Last week my father died. He got sick on a Thursday and by Saturday morning his lifeless body was encased in a medical bag and taken away. They told me it was The Ice. A super-virus immune to all our advanced medicines, one that had errupted like a silent, invisible volcano pouring over the Earth when the polar caps melted. Too much sterilizations. Too much dead, processed food. Too many medicines, preventatives, vaccines have left us weak. Left us susceptable to this ancient disease. At least, that is what my father said at midnight.
There were so many things he told me. Wondrous, mind exploding things that seem too fantastical to have ever been real. Did you know there had once been a creature, quite small in size to us, that could glide through the air on long bending arms? I didn’t believe it either but my father had seen it once in a book. Their hollow bones and bodies were covered with thin light things called feathers that helped propel them through the sky.
A sky, that, he told me, had once been blue. Can you imagine that? I laughed aloud at the ridiculousness. My heart still holds the dream that maybe, one day, I will see a real bird. Not a machine made of metal and plastic.
Though I know the gray cloud that hangs in the air, choking me, will never again be blue. If it ever had been.
The day before he died my father told me I was a Seeker. I don’t know what that means and I dare not mention it to anyone but he asked me to write my story down. To chronicle my days and to write down his stories, too. I have a separate book for those memories. One I’ve made sure is well hidden. A book of the past and one of the present. It seems fitting.
Lights out is only moments away so I must go for now. I will cry. I will dream. Of birds and blue skies and gruff, scratchy whispers; things no one will know but me.
Saturday, August 13th, 2318
I grow tired of this cage.
Today is ration day. Usually, a pleasant enough event but today the gray sky pushed down on me, grating against my skin, pelting it with an irritating spray of painful rain. The tall gray and glass walls enclosed my heart.
Gray on the ground, gray center, gray above. Even the people, in their loud clothes splashed with names and logos, seemed muted to my eyes. The air was rife with commercials rapidly flashing on every surface, vomiting noise, driving people to madness in their pursuit to purchase. Acquire. Own.
I don’t know why I haven’t seen it before. This madness, this…I just can’t find the word but it makes my tongue feel coated in rotting fur. Perhaps, with my father, my one kindred spirit, gone I’ve grown jaded, distrusting. Disgusted. I feel incomplete and anxious waiting in a monotonous line.
But I put on a sweet smile and hurry up and wait.
Standing, waiting, grinning, like a mind-weak child. They can’t know.
I hide the truth through layers of saccharine and obedience. If anyone should hear of my true feelings, should read this journal, I would be Labeled.
No one wants to be Labeled.
Medications would be prescribed, monitoring would commence. My life would never be my own again. Even if these feelings passed, the Label would remain in my file for all eternity. All my actions, thoughts, feelings, dreams, wants, desires would all be because of that one Label.
I wouldn’t be me anymore.
Who am I? I’m not sure I have the paper to write it all out.
The simple answer is that I am Faylinn Monroe. Daughter of Jackson and Kate. Born on September second in the year twenty-two thousand nine hundred and ninety six. I turn twenty-two next month. My mother died when I was three, when the Earth died and swallowed her up in it’s last gasping breath. My father died one week ago. I have no siblings. I am alone.
I suppose if you were of a mind to describe me, you would immediately think of “average”. Average height, weight, averagely brown hair and skin. I will only admit, here, because I am the only one to read it, I have very unaverage eyes.
They are green, like how I picture leaves might be. And they are large. Probably too large for my narrow face and they are rimmed in thick black lashes with dark, perfect arches above them.
They are my mother’s eyes. At least, that’s what father always said.
But I digress.
Today is ration day and the line isn’t overly long and the people were quiet, minding their own business. But I couldn’t shake these feelings of wanting to run, screaming through the gray streets. To shake people, hard, to wake them up to the obscenity of our lives.
To see if anyone else believed in blue skies and dreamed of birds.
I closed my eyes and pictured my father standing beside me. I willed my blood to cool. My heart to slow.
I turned in my voucher to the plump lady behind the counter, passing the slip of paper through the small slot in the Plexiglas wall. She typed my number into the computer with long, clacking nails that spelled out “Drive Manbouto”, her day-glow hair was pierced with a large plastic set of golden arches. A little metal door to my right whooshed open ejecting a brown package onto a gray counter. I held it in my hands, I swallowed hard, it weighed nearly nothing.
Today is ration day and with my father gone my food supply has already been cut by more than half.
Monday, August 15, 2318
I met a man yesterday. He was tall and broad and smiled at me as he blocked out the few drops of sunlight that squeezed through the choked gray sky. For a moment I was taken aback caught in the bright blue of his eyes. The sky, I had thought thoroughly captivated.
“Is that a bird?” He asked pointing to my lap. Confused, I looked down to see this journal, the pages spread wide where I had doodled in the margins. I quickly clutched it to my chest but the damage had been done. “It’s alright.” He whispered, taking a seat beside me on the bench. I had come to the park after Services bored from the ever long drivel spouted from the holy mouths of Religion. Voices that droned on, while we sat obediently as they lectured us, reminding us of our duties to our Government.
Though this wasn’t a park like my father had once whispered. Those that had been filled with stretches of green grass and bushy trees. Where birds sang and people happily played. No, this was not a park of old but a stretch of dull gray cement pimpled with ugly black metal statues -an artists rendition of trees- and a few unwelcoming benches sandwiched between thick bands of heavily clogged throughfare.
“I don’t know what you mean.” I replied. One side of his mouth turned up sending shivers down my spine. He was dangerous, even in a blindingly orange shirt slapped haphazardously with affiliations, there was a darkness about him that warned me. Yet, I couldn’t help the pull I felt, like a black hole sucking me in. I was afraid, not knowing if I would be shattered reduced to simpering molecules or tossed out the other side into some magnificent new world.
I trembled under blue intensity.
We talked for a few stuttering moments of nothing truly important. He asked my name, he gave me his. Tybal. “Can I have a sheet of paper?” I looked at him warily, hesitiated. My paper was precious. When he cocked that lopsided grin at me I tore a sheet from the back. Our fingers brushed as he took it and I was sure it wasn’t on accident.
“No! That’s not-” I nearly snatched it back from him when he started creasing the page then sat mystified as he turned it this way and that, adding bends and folds. He turned away from me, hiding. I wanted to crawl over him to see but thought better of it. Finally, he turned with his hands cupped and the paper no where to be seen.
“Tell me where you saw a bird.” His voice was so low I barely heard him but I looked around afraid. So many monitors we have on our lives; video, audio, satellites, spies. There isn’t a single thing that transpires that isn’t captured and cataloged. But we were away from them for the most part, it was why I chose this seat. While I was sure we were being taped in some form, our low voices wouldn’t carry over the whir of cars, bikes, Personal Transports, and pedestrians that milled around us.
I leaned in, close to his ear. He smelled of spice and machine oil with an underlying dampness. I took a deep breath in, savored it. “My father.” I whispered, “He saw them in books.” If half of one smile made me weak, witnessing one that included both sides reduced my innards to jelly. He layed a small, white thing on my lap. I looked and quickly covered it so only I could see. Then stared at it a long time tracing each line with my eyes. It was beautiful, elegant like in my dreams. And when I finally looked back to him, he was gone.
Today was not a nice day. In fact, it was terrible.
Four days a week I work in a processing department in the business district. I listen over an ear piece and type out everything I hear. This is how I know we are watched so rigidly. This is why I am so weary. I walk into the beige room, find an empty cubical, log into the mainframe and type until my fingers are numb and stumbling over the keys. Until the ear piece has cut into my sensitive flesh resulting in a headache that will last well into the night. With all our technology, you would imagine they could make comfortable ear buds.
They have machines that do this, too. Voice recognition software that automatically decodes conversations. But sometimes there is distortions, background noises, that the computers can’t understand, little things that they are working to correct but until they do I have something that can pay my bills. Or perhaps, they just need something mundane to keep us all busy.
Today when I left I walked down the crowded streets. We have never been rich enough to afford a car or even a PT, those small personal transports that are no more than a disk on wheels with a high back. They have always made me nervous. But each of them takes gas, something that our society has never been able to live without even though there is so little left. But just when you think there is none, they find just a little more. And still they hoard it like thirst-dying animals in a desert fighting over a drop of dew instead of leaving the desert to find an alternative. Why won’t we learn?
The building where I live is called family housing. All housing is assigned based on size and need and, of course, income. The only way to get a better home, in a better area, is to make more money. But, for the low medium class like myself and my father, the Government assigns your job for you where there is no ability to make more money unless you are reassigned or pay for it. For both you need to know someone that has their hands dipped in power. We do not. Excuse me, I do not. I forget I am alone.
So, I walk home, slump up the many steps to the floor that houses the small flat my father and I shared. There is no one to greet me, no reason to rush. Before I even get halfway down the corridor I see it. The neon green sign is plastered to the beige door just under the symbols 17B. My throat closes up. I have to force my feet to move forward, breath to fill my burning lungs. I had known it would come, I just thought I had more time. My brain is under the assumption if I don’t see it, don’t read the words, than it just will not exist. But I finally reach it.
Under Article 6.48092, subsection G, paragraph 875, line 3
of the Government of New Merica’s Reconstitution,
You are hereby given twenty-four (24) hours notice to vacate the premises.
Based on the information that you no longer qualify for the assigned dwelling.
Please report to your nearest Housing Office for reassignment to a qualified unit.
If you choose not to vacate, you will be in breach of Government protocol and will be subject
to a fine of no less than five hundred thousand dollars ($500,000) and three (3) years serving
your country in the State Penitentiary.
Have a nice day.
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 inducing 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 perturbed 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 receded 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 viciously 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 privileged?
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.
Saturday, August 20, 2318
I’m not sure how many more entries I will be able to write. Drastic things have happened since last I placed pen to paper, the letter from Tybal was merely a drop in the bucket. I smooth out the page he sent me, written on a small square of paper. For some reason it is more precious than this journal. Yet, I also hate it.
Has it only been two days? Not even that, not yet, though it feels as though years have passed through my fingers.
Friday I made my choice. As I was standing there, about to cast my life to Fate, my tongue didn’t want to form the words my brain wanted to say. I had dreampt about my life in the private sector, the fresh food I’d be able to purchase instead of the tasteless nutritional bars and vitamin-fused drink powder I was rationed. The nicer clothes with fewer brands plastered across them that fit my shape better. I dreamed of a larger room, perhaps even big enough to dance in. But when the air passed through my vocal cords that were primed and ready to say “private sector” that wasn’t what emerged.
“Hygrodomes, please.” Much to the astonishment of upper management as well as myself. Then it was done, my life was ruined by a tiny scrap of crumpled paper and disobedient tongue. I barely had time to collect my meager belongings, to swipe white birds off high ledges, before I was shoved into an overcrowded bus like a can of sardines -the smell was fairly equivalent- and driven out of town to the far edges of the city. Far past the barricades still taunting us with it’s promises as it eats us with fear. The course of my life has changed so much over these past few weeks, I feel like a ball being hap-hazardously thrown by unfocused children. I don’t know where or when I’ll land. Though I know in the meantime I won’t be treated gently.
The processing center for the Hygrodomes is a stark white building with stark white innards. Genderless humans dressed all in white with large masks on heads and air tanks strapped to backs lead me with white gloves to a small area. Here I am stripped, scrubbed. My skin stings with anitbacterials, antifungals, antivirals. I gingerly smooth baggy white pants and shirt over red skin. They cut my hair off. I silently mourn my pretty hair, brown debris on a colorless floor.
I am genderless now, too.
I understand why they do this. The necessity that proceeded me here. Three hundred years ago our seed supply was gobbled up by corporations. They designed new, better seeds that could withstand drought, bugs, be immune to pesticides and herbicides, produce higher yields in smaller spaces with less work. It was a miracle product and all they had to do was tamper with God’s creation.
The corporations were a bit greedy though. When people started objecting to the food produced by these miracle seeds. They didn’t want their food contaminated by chemicals but there were starving people in the world. The arguments on both sides, much like political parties could never win over the other, at least not for long. So, the companies started buying the old seeds, the ones people kept for generation upon generation and destroying them until the only thing left was the miracle, magic seeds.
Which would have been alright I suppose, if we took care of those things. But as history has taught us, we can’t ever learn. One year, a virus mutated. And in the span of a few months time seventy five percent of the crop foods in the entire world were wiped out. Those that did survive, those that they mutated and engineered further had to be grown in specific conditions inside sterile plants. They couldn’t touch dirt, or the sun, or the wind for fear that they, too, would be compromised.
And the Hygrodomes were built. Far from the city in a restricted area, miles upon miles of white round blobs erupted from the dead black earth. They had their own power plants, food processing, police, hospitals. They were cities unto themselves and no one in the world could survive without them.
They were also a very scary place. One that parent’s threatened their children with when they misbehaved. “Clean your room or I’ll send you to work in the Domes!” Because once you went to the Domes, you never, ever left. Outside government wasn’t allowed inside for fear of contamination, there were no visitors. Everything was under lock and key with biometric scans and flash cards. Rules and regulations were read to me from a thick book. They gave me a copy. There were no windows anywhere, only a strange white glow that emanated from the high white dome above my head. I was lead to a small room with no furniture and told to wait, for what or whom I couldn’t guess.
And here I am, being processed into Hygrodome XXIV all because of a stupid note attached to a smile and a traitorous tongue.
Monday, August 29th, 2318
Word has gotten out. There are times I find myself wishing for Marma and her unsubtle cattiness. Wishing I had realized my freedoms and privileges of the city and appreciated them. Even the solitude -where I had cried hot tears for arms to comfort me or a friendly face to make me smile- I mourn the loss of. Funny how it is we can miss those things that made us miserable just as much as those that made us happy.
I have been dedicating the few moments of writing I have to journal in the book of my father’s stories. Those memories are fading faster than I realized. It is important work. Or so I tell myself. I try not to actually think upon my father while I write. If I do, then crying starts and I lose those precious moments and smear the ink with fat drops. Exhaustion overwhelms the birds that fly in my dreams, plunging them into black nights.
But the word has gotten out and there is nothing I can do for it. They know, every single one of them, I can see it when I meet the gaze of angry eyes. They know I chose the Hygrodomes. And they are all wondering if I am a spy, what branch of Government I work for, who I will snitch on first, who after that? And then, when the answers to those questions don’t come, they wonder if I am a Liberal, a terrorist, a Utopian, here to bring them down or bring down what they do. They don’t know and it scares them.
The laundry where they assigned me has nearly fifty workers. The steaming heat is stifling. My hands raw even after so little time. The large space set aside for it is far away from anything important, too far for me to damage anything even if I was sent to. No one of consequence to tattle on.
Yet, they won’t talk to me. They won’t ask the simple questions with simple answers. They choose to live in fear, to hate me. I crumple the paper once again. Then quickly smooth it out when I realize what I’ve done.
I’m clinging to this scrap, I know. I won’t let myself think that this was a cruel joke from crafty hands and diamond smiles. There had to be a reason for him to send me here. There has to be something important for me to leave behind even that miserable life and be imprisoned in white caught up in rolling hatred. There has to… Hasn’t there?
Tuesday August 30, 2318
I found it during my walk back from the laundry today. I traveled through long hallways fitted with small long slits of triple pane glass that lighted the narrow passages. This area was not important enough, not large enough, for the graceful self-lit arches. And there it was a spot barely visible from where I stood, oddly splashed in sunlight as if the gray mists opened up solely for the pleasure of caressing that one place. A sacred place.
My wash-worn hands trembled when I saw it, a fleck of color on a rough, dull landscape. Excitement sang through me, warbling trembles. But I walked along, averting my eyes each time they darted to it even as it silently screamed for my attention. I rushed as fast as I dared to the journals, flipping madly through the pages of my father’s stories looking for a name to give it. The word sat on the tip of my tongue relentlessly holding on as I tried to spit it out. Was it this page? That story? No, no, no!
I almost screamed my frustration nearly hurling the precious book against the whitewashed wall but something inside stayed my hand, my voice, pulling back the momentum just enough that the book fluttered briefly before landing on the bed. And there I saw it, exactly what I had been searching for.
I made love to the word with my mouth, arching muscles and lashing tongue against the textures of sound emitting from my throat. I whispered it, afraid the others might hear. Afraid I was being watched even though I scoured every crevice of the room for bugs each day. I made a decision then. One that only took a small flash across my brain to gain complete acceptance. Everything about my choice felt good, right, even as fear wound it’s merciless way up from the core of my stomach.
There was no way I couldn’t do it. My body, my soul, mind, would never be settled if I didn’t. Every cell resonated, every molecule urged me to move. Now. I emptied the white pillow case and fashioned a sort of bag out of it, tearing it down the middle and tying the ends. I didn’t have much to take with me and everything else would be too noticeable. It would be better if it wasn’t white but I had to make do.
The bird, the journals, pen, clothes and a few small rations I tucked away make their way into the makeshift sack. My hand hovered over the crumpled scrap for a moment before I thrust it in my pocket. As I placed the last of the nutrition cakes inside I wondered briefly if I hadn’t somehow known this would come to pass. Perhaps, some higher power spoke silently to me, telling me what I needed to do to be ready for this day. Perhaps, it was my father.
Along the western corridor there is an emergency exit. Double doors splashed with red warnings like streaks of blood on pale skin. A few morning’s ago I saw one of the officers sneak into the hallway when he thought no one was looking. I rushed over and stood on tiptoes, peeking through the high glass window to see where he was going. A woman waited for him. I turned away embarrassed as he wrapped himself around her. But, I noticed as I hurried to get to the laundry, the alarm hadn’t sounded. I wasn’t sure where the hallway went but it must be abandoned enough for secret rendezvous. Maybe that is when my mind started planning.
Lights out was a Dome wide event set at the same time every day, 20:45. Energy was a precious commodity, we reserved it whenever we could. I wished I had a flashlight or something to see by but there was nothing to be done about it. Thankfully, the colorless landscape lent itself well for nighttime excursions emitting a faint glow that was only mostly difficult to navigate. I cringed as the door to my room clicked shut, holding my breath, waiting to be discovered, heart pounding in my ears but no one came. Slowly, I made my way around corners and down long passages where there was no place to hide if someone else walked these halls except the rooms of other worker’s where I knew I wasn’t welcomed. Everything was quiet, nearly peaceful. How different the Hygrodome was out at this forbidden hour.
I made my way and before I knew it, stood before the red marked door. Could they have reactivated the alarm? Could the officer have had a special key I hadn’t noticed? The door looked ordinary, no bioscans or anything otherwise but I still worried. What would happen if I was caught? My nerve faltered, my feet shifted heading back toward my room. Then a voice echoed down the abandoned hallway. I had no way to know how close they were. Someone was coming!
Adrenaline spiked and worries about alarms vanished. I quickly, though quietly, I pushed open the door, my heart lightened when nothing happened. I closed the door behind me just as the voices turned the corner. The wall supported me while cold fear nearly took me to my knees. Please, please, please just pass by.
I let the noise die into long silence and waited for what felt like hours before straightening. No other voices bounced along the hallway. I took a deep breath trying to flush out the fear, adjusted the sack and ran as fast as I could down the hallway, left, sprint, left, right, sprint. My heart beat in my ears. My feet made split second decisions on direction. I prayed hard to a faceless God, let me make it. I was sure the ragged sound of my breath was echoing through the entire Dome alerting everyone but I kept going. I kept readjusting my path heading for the outer walls, towards that yellow burst of hope.
One last set of doors stood before me. I was in what looked to be an abandoned reception area. It reminded me so vividly of my arrival except thick dust covered everything and the molded plastic chairs were stacked in a corner. I don’t know how I found it but I wasn’t going to question it too hard. The outer door was the last barrier. I knew I couldn’t go back. There was no way for me to remember how anyway, further wandering of the dark halls didn’t seem like a smart idea. But the idiocy of both choices warred with each other.
I took a breath, closed my eyes, recalled that sun kissed image and the words from the book that weighed against my back. I needed that flower. With my eyes still closed I opened the door.
The alarm was so loud and the lights so bright I stood still for a long moment before I realized what was going on. Then instinct took over and hurled me into the night made day by the abundance of bulbs. I ran as fast as I could, shouts sounded from far behind me. I was confused, turned around trying to gain my bearings on where I was. The dandelion was to the right, self-preservation headed me straight ahead, as far away as I could get. I turned, the voices grew louder in the blaring scream of siren. Finally, I spotted it in the night. I fell to my knees panting before the yellow bud in the dry dead dirt. It was so small, it was a wonder I ever saw it at all.
Right there that flower reaffirmed my belief in God. It filled me up with hope, happiness. Tears streamed down my face as laughter bubbled up from a secret well deep inside me. How was this possible? The earth was dead, died, and here life, Life!, sprung up from it. Hearty, healthy, impossible.
The voices were growing louder, the lights I left not far behind were traveling now, looking for me. I couldn’t let them have this. I couldn’t let the Government, the selfish people of the world, destroy this miracle. I remembered my father’s stories about the roots. I tore a thick piece of cloth from the front of my shirt, then scooped my hands wide around the base of the fragile little thing, my nose came close and I dipped my head for a quarter second to smell it. It smelled horrid and wonderful at the same time. A thick tang settled in my nose and I sneezed but I managed to remove the plant from the dry earth quite easily. I wrapped the ball of dirt and roots in the cloth, careful not to damage the thin green stem.
I clutched it to my breast ready to run as far and hard as I could from the searching lights when a figure stepped out from the shadows. I froze, terrified, crouched ready to spring. It walked toward me hands raised to the side. Tension filled my muscles as adrenaline seared my veins. Then it spoke,
“I wondered how long it would take you to escape.” A half smile I despised emerged from the darkness. My feelings exploded like a shot from a cannon. I reared back, baring clenched teeth and punched Tybal straight in the mouth. The dandelion swayed in approval.
Friday, September 2, 2318
Colors flash in, out, dark, light. Warbling voices scare me, I can see them floating on the swirling waves of air coming for me. A yellow flash and my heart pounds. Body aches as mind melts. I taste coin and bile and pink. A ringing starts from somewhere far away, escalating, growing, crawling over my skin, hammering in my head until my ears seep with pain. Faces dance subtracted from bodies pinched and stretched into demons with lashing tongues and popping eyes. I scream and scream and never think to stop.
I’ve been drugged.
There had only been a few self satisfying moments watching Tybal try to capture the blood that pored from his lip before a sharp pinch alerted my attention to my arm. Other’s had come up from behind me. Only another moment to worry before delirium spiked hot shot through me from that sharpened point. Only a breath to feel betrayed.
The visions melted away slowly replaced by a small dark room. I lay on a cot, my white clothes had been changed for soft black pants and tank top, white shoes for bare feet. I peeked under the tightly fitted clothes for a moment to confirm what I already knew; no underwear. Why, out of all the things that had happened, this bothered me more than the public scrubbing at the Dome or any other humiliation I’ve suffered in my twenty two years I couldn’t tell you. Maybe it was because, though my mind wouldn’t admit it then, I worried the work had been done by Tybal. I still flush at the thought but I’m too proud to ask. If it was him, I don’t want him to think I even care. If it wasn’t, I don’t want to acknowledge the thread of disappointment- however ridiculous- housed inside me. These are new things for me to deal with, unimportant things, girlish things, and I have too much else happening to indulge them even if I wanted to.
Which I don’t.
The air was damp, I could practically taste the moisture coating my nostrils as I breathed. I took my time sitting up, my head still swam. This room wasn’t that much larger than my single apartment but it was worlds different. One wide door sat near the end of the bed and had a small window near the top. That was the only window in the room. There wasn’t a sink or bathroom at all and the realization sent a flare to my bladder. How long had I been here? Where was “here”? I worried over my journals and my dandelion. Other than the cot and a small table near the head of the bed, the room was empty. I stood in front of the door and frowned. There were no handles on my side. I searched for a bio-pad, card key, anything but there was nothing. I tried pushing, pulling, breaking a nail on the crease trying to pry it open. Nothing worked. My bladder was screaming at me. I pulled the little table over and stood to look out the window at the top. Stupid, I should have done this before trying to escape. I shook my head trying to clear it of the last wisps of drugs.
God, what have I gotten into now?
The window was useless, the hallway outside was black as well throwing long dark shadows but giving shape to nothing else. There was nothing for it, I really had to pee. I banged on the door, a few testing pounds, and waited. Nothing. So I banged again louder and longer. Then waited. I tried again and again, each time lengthening until I ended up constantly banging and screaming for someone, anyone to let me out.
The hallway light flickered on. I quieted.
Noise sounded, I scurried off the table, placing it back where it belonged. I didn’t want to give them further reason to be angry as if my temper tantrum at the door would be that much more increased if they noticed I rearranged the furniture. Fucking drugs were making me stupid. I sat down on the bed because I didn’t know what else to do, waiting as noise turned into measured steps.
The door slid open into the wall. And two stoic men with long sticks that sparked at the end filled the doorway. They were large, muscled beyond reason with deep frowns carved into what could be handsome faces. They could have been brothers. “Come with us, miss.” The one on the right commanded. He stepped aside and walked into the hallway, I followed, number two fell in behind me.
“Where are we going?” I asked. No answer. “Where are we?” I hedged a few moments later. Nothing. Down long stretches and around tight curves, I felt as though I was in the Dome again except for the darkness. “What’s a girl gotta do to use the bathroom around here?” I asked, irritated at being ignored. “How big is this place?” We headed up a long flight of stairs. I debated stopping, refusing to continue until they answered me but my bladder was still screaming, the walking didn’t help matters there, and I wasn’t interested in finding out if they had leave to use the viscous looking prods. They led me to an unmarked door and stopped. I opened my mouth but before I could ask yet another question Number One nodded at the door. I pushed it open and nearly cried.
Nothing larger than a small closet with no place to escape to, I quickly freshened up and fell back in line between the two guards feeling a million times better. Up another flight of stairs that curved to the left. It felt as though my ears were being pushed on, up, up, up we went until they finally popped and the pressure receded a little. I was still fiddling with my ears when we stopped for a second time. The hallway here was much wider, a thick decorated carpet lined the walk and large paintings hung inside golden frames. It was too dark to really see what they were but the one closest to me was of a naked woman riding a horse. I reached out to touch it stepping closer but a thick arm like a guillotine sliced down in my path. One side of very tall double doors opened a crack and that branch-like arm pushed me from behind toward it.
I think before the door even shut behind me I had stopped breathing. The room was vast, with walls so high they rivaled some of the city buildings, it circled around from the doorway on both sides before ending at a large glass window. It was dark outside, night, so I couldn’t see where I was, but I doubted had I been able to see, the sight wouldn’t have been as glorious as the one in the room. Shelves and shelves of books every color of the rainbow, red, brown, yellow, lined every single inch of space on every one of those rounded walls, from the carpeted floor to the domed ceiling. I raced to a shelf, traced the embossed name on the spine Treasure Island before moving to the next and the next. I lost myself for many minutes touching things I had only heard about in darkened whispers. My heart ached thinking of my father, how he would have loved this room, until a chuckle sounded behind me. I spun around, feeling stupid for letting my guard down.
“Who are you?” I asked the figure behind the large wooden desk. I hadn’t even noticed it before, how stupid I’ve been! Dark eyes crinkled at the corner as he smiled.
“Have a seat my dear, and we’ll have a little chat.” His voice was rough, aged but he didn’t look particularly old. He sat with his hands steepled before him and then I noticed Tybal seated a bit behind him.
“What is he doing here?” I smiled evilly at him when I saw the bright red swell to his lip. “You drugged me!”
“You punched me in the face.” He accused.
“You deserved it.”
“I saved you.”
“From what? I was going to work in the private district and your stupid note made me change my mind.” I balled my fists at my sides.
“It got you out of there didn’t it?”
“And for what? Leaving me to rot in the Dome?” We were screaming at each other, words forced through clenched teeth.
“You escaped. I knew you would, why do you think we were waiting for you?”
“I escaped. I did. You didn’t have anything to do with it. Where’s my dandelion? Where is my bag?”
“We have them, they’re safe, don’t worry.” He cocked a grin at me.
“Those are mine give them back. Now.”
“What about this?” He held up a crumpled piece of paper. I glared at it as though my gaze could catch it on fire. He moved around the desk, in front of me. “You want this back too?” I reached to snatch it from his hand but he was taller and quicker than me. I ended up stumbling forward a little, my hand braced me against his chest. Both our arms were stretched toward the high ceiling, his other wrapped around my waist, holding me tightly, pressing me against him. I remembered my clothes, how tightly they fit, what was missing beneath, my skin prickled everywhere, heat rose in my face, I realized how close our lips were now and strange feelings swirled through me mixing with the anger. I wanted to kiss him, to punish him with my mouth. I wanted him to fight back equally. My heart pounded and the world melted away as I warred with myself over what I wanted. I looked into those sky-filled eyes wishing I was a bird to soar in them, wishing I didn’t see the same battle I felt reflected back at me.
For a second I thought he had chosen, his lips descended just a fraction. I smelled something spicy, earthy, clean that I remembered from the park as being his. I started to shift my weight to my toes, to meet him that fraction that remained before I was thrown back into the reality of the world by a clearing of throat. We separated like a bullet from a gun. The moment was gone and I felt it as acutely as though I’d lost a limb.
“Now, if we’re done playing children,” the man behind the desk said to us, “it’s time to talk. Faylinn, take a seat.” I did as he asked. He pulled a yellowed envelope from a drawer in his desk. “He asked me to give this to you when you arrived.” I took the thick package, my name had been written in a familiar script, I felt flush, swallowed tightly.
“Who?” I asked not wanting to believe.
“Why, your father, of course.”
Thursday, September 8, 2318
It’s growing cold outside. If the Earth was alive it would be fall, the season not of dying but of sleep. The massive trees with their crowns of gold and red and amber would be falling soundlessly to the ground. Animals would be burrowing, coats thickening, gathering those last bits of food to sustain them for the long white months ahead.
Birds would fill the sky, flying far to search for warmer thermals. If only I was a bird.
They moved me from the dank room in the bowels of this building to another closer to the room of books they call The Library. It is quite nice truth be told, even nicer than my bedroom in the apartment I shared with my father. Thick blankets coat the soft bed in pretty colors. The walls are washed a pale blue which I like but leaves me wanting a real blue of sky. I have to shake the image of eyes from my thoughts every time I look upon the walls. There is a little metal desk and rolling chair, a shelf of books which I have been told can be exchanged in the library, a small chest for my clothes already filled with the same tight fitting dark material and my little white sack with the things from the Dome.
It feels as thought that was a lifetime ago, the city a million years past and my father’s smiling face has already started to blur in the wash of time.
I haven’t been able to read the books on the shelf, I haven’t been allowed to leave the room (which, thanks to God, has it own nice sized bathroom), no one has visited me.
For nearly a week I have been subjected to a series of tests. Nothing painful, not yet at least but each day those same stoic guards have been leading me each morning to a group of sterile white rooms where they test my abilities. They throw out math questions with little sticky things stuck to my head. Something about my brain waves. They give me logic questions while holding me upside down strapped to a large board or have me fit together puzzle balls with my hands in a black box I can’t see into. I don’t mind. Mostly because I know we’re getting to the end soon. Mostly because I feel safe doing this, it brings back the memory of my father and the games he would play with me as a child.
My father. They won’t answer my questions about him, the ones I ask between the ones they ask me. The older man that had sat behind the desk, Grifkin is his name, likes to think he is immune to me. He oversees the tests, standing in the rear with his hands clasped behind his back but I see the spark in his eyes when I do well. I see the glimmer when he whispers to the others to make the tests harder. He knew my father, that much I know. And somehow the man I had loved with all my being, who I’ve mourned all these weeks, still mourn for now, was not the person I believed him to be. I feel somewhat betrayed. I wonder if I will ever understand.
As they test me my mind wanders to the package Grifkin had given me. There are several pages written in code and the only photograph I have of my mother and father holding a baby me. They looked so happy standing in front of some building somewhere, I was screaming. Slowly, I’m decoding the letters but I’m taking my time, savoring the words as I know once I read them it will be the last I’ll ever get.
I am gone and for that I am sorry. There is so much I would have told you but you will learn soon enough why I did the things I had to do. I did them for you, my darling daughter, I did them for your mother. I did them for love in a world where love is not prized. Perhaps you will learn about this someday. I wish I would be there to see you fall in love.
There is no point in wishing any longer. Please know you are my heart forever and always even in this place I have gone. Now, there are things I must tell you, things you need to know…
The code is difficult to get through and they test me for so long that, even though I am not physically tired, my mind fumbles over the symbols by the time I am led back to my room. I haven’t seen Tybal and I’m not sure I want to. Though sometimes late at night something inside me feels pulled to him, like an ache I can’t soothe. I don’t understand it, this isn’t something I have been taught about.
But we are getting to the end of the testing, for that I am sure even if they haven’t said it. I think I am doing well but I don’t know for what purpose. I wonder if I should do poorly, if that would be of more benefit for my future but when they ask me I can’t not answer wrong. I have no note to blame this time my damned tongue betrays me.
Tuesday, September 13, 2318
Yesterday I awoke and mindlessly fell into the same routine; wash, dress, wait by the door for the guards to escort me. But the doors never opened and I was never lead to the testing rooms. I stood there for nearly a half hour before lying back down to wait. My stomach growled impatience and I had to agree, it was nearly ten and no one had come.
I think one of the things I find most unsettling about my room is how at home I feel in it. How quickly it became my space. I lay there knowing no one would enter without knocking, that no one would sniff through my things while I was gone, that there were no cameras or listening devices to spy, much unlike the Domes or even the single housing in the city. It was as close to safe as I felt living with my father and it disturbed me.
I have abandoned his journal. The words that felt so important to memorialize with ink have fallen away under the words I uncover in his letter. I still use mine, obviously, but I feel the tinge of resentment that doing so was his urging and not my own desire. How can someone be mad at the dead? I feel terrible for it.
It got to the point that I couldn’t just lay in wait any longer. I had banged on the door once to get their attention, I could do it again. The first time my fist landed on the cold metal, the door whooshed open revealing an empty hallway beyond. I stood there stupidly, waiting I suppose, before sticking my head out with a tentative “Hello?” No one answered. Could something have happened? Could they have abandoned this place? My stomach was the only thing that answered.
I snuck into the hall and crept down the long corridor. My feet took me back along the same paths the guards had led me down but before they made that decisive turn right to the sterile rooms, they headed left. I knew where they were going and urged them along. It might be my only opportunity.
The room was empty which was a relief. I hurried to the first shelf, trying not to be distracted, and ran my finger along the dusty edge. I was halfway around the room before I found it. J.L. Monroe My breath hitched in my throat, there were dozens of them. Gingerly, I pulled one thick tome from the shelf, a pang vibrated in my heart. These were his words. These were things he wrote about before he ever knew me. I devoured the pages, there was so much here he never told me, never taught to me. My hunger was long forgotten as I feasted on his words.
“Your father was a brilliant man.” I knew the voice that pulled me from obsession.
“He was.” There wasn’t any denying that, not after the rows of books that still proclaimed it. “I didn’t know.”
“He didn’t want you to.” Grifkin pulled a chair up to mine and settled himself down as if for a long stay.
“I don’t understand. I didn’t think he kept anything from me.” In my own ears I sounded childish.
“Every parent keeps things from their child, it’s the way of things.” He waved a hand as though waving away my foolishness.
“What is this place? What do you do here that my father was so important.” I pulled my legs under me, resting on the arm of the big fluffy chair. I didn’t expect him to answer, no one had answered me thus far but my eyes widened as he began talking. A phrase took form inside my head and wouldn’t be released. As I lay in bed that night they replayed, over and over, a thousand million times making my heart fly.
“This will be the place the Earth is reborn.”
Thursday, September 22, 2318
Grifkin is the kind of man that people initially overlook. The round, quiet older man that sits in the corner, unobtrusive. His graying hair and soft appearance, endearing. While you think he is idle and unconcerned, he is in fact biding his time. I could cut myself on the sharpness of his mind which I found out nearly by accident.
I had become a habit, a routine, something predictable. Each day was the same, how easy it was for me to fall into a dance, especially when I felt safe. That is no longer true. In the course of a single day my entire world collapsed yet again.
I am beginning to wonder just how many times I can have this happen before I break.
The freedom they had given me, the ability to roam the halls was a farce. Every corridor, every door, every entrance was blocked or locked besides a select few they chose to leave access to. The library was one, my room, the cafeteria and the testing rooms. Other than that I was trapped like a rat in a cage. Which is exactly how I felt meandering through the dark, solid walls. Until yesterday.
I think my mind worked like it had in the Dome, detecting and devising while I focused on other things like reading the books my father had wrote. Oh! And what vividly stimulating books they were, filled with all the things he told me of and so much more. There was an entire series dedicated to the study of his research with molecules and nanotechnology, injecting small machines into the living tissue of plants and animals. So far his experiments were failures. But I imagine my father, in a long white coat, hunched over these very books, the ink flowing freely under his intense gaze. I run my finger over the indented markings, the overstuffed chair molding around me and the scent of dust and paper filling my nose and feel close to him. But I digress, this isn’t the time for nostalgia.
On that morning I had a stomach ache and stayed in my room longer than usual. How easy, it seems, for others to fall into the same steps I dance. They didn’t think to look for me or monitor me, so predictable I had been, so on this day I rose later than usual and headed toward the kitchen. Fifteen steps before I reached that door another lay. My eyes caught the sight before I realized what I saw. A fissure in the door, a line of light seeping through, for whatever reason it hadn’t fully shut. I stopped, listened for sound and heard nothing, felt no one. My fingertips gingerly eased it open.
The flexible foam shoes were soundless, I am sure I stopped breathing. The sound of my pounding heart would surely give me away. I could hear voices, loud, arguing, coming from further down the hallway. I pressed my back against the cold wall just outside the open doorway. I couldn’t see in and didn’t dare peek but I knew who was in there without needing to look.
“You have to tell her!” I heard feet pounding against the floor and imagined Tybal pacing as he yelled, his blue eyes flashing.
“She isn’t ready. You see how she is, burying herself in Monroe’s books. We need to wait.” Came Grifkin’s easy reply.
“I waited long enough for her. She needs to know. If you won’t tell her I will.”
“No. You won’t.” A razor edge entered Grifkin’s voice. I pictured him sitting, relaxing in an overlarge chair as he did talking to me that night. But where there was comfort in his voice then, it was stripped away now. “She didn’t grow up knowing, like you. She didn’t have the years of acceptance or training. Monroe did what he could trapped in the city but it wasn’t nearly enough. You saw the test results.”
“She’s fine. She’s perfect. Let me tell her. Let me have her now.” Tybal sounded almost petulant. My heart squeezed in my chest. My mind grasped for something, something it felt it knew but couldn’t access or remember. I ignored it, focusing on their words and listening for footsteps in the hall.
“I won’t let you disrupt this project with your pettiness. It has taken us centuries to get to this far and as far as I’m concerned it can wait a few more decades until she is ready. You know it won’t matter in the end but for this to succeed you will follow my directions. Do you understand me, Tybal? She is the important piece, you, my son, are expendable. Don’t forget you’re not the only one in line, just the first.” Tybal growled, his footsteps grew closer, my eyes darted around for a place to hide but there was no where. I took a deep breath, relaxed and as he turned the corner smiled at him as if I stood here every day.
His eyes widened nearly imperceptibly but he didn’t say anything just grabbed my elbow, pulling me along beside him, never even missing the beat of a step. As the hallway door shut behind us -Tybal giving it an extra push just to make certain- and the smell of dinner bloomed in the air, he finally spoke.
“How much did you hear?”
“I heard nothing.” He smiled at that.
“Oh, now, don’t be like that. I know you heard us…bickering.”
“Well, maybe I heard a little but I don’t understand. Tybal, please tell me, explain. It was me you were talking about wasn’t it?” I placed my hands on his chest beseechingly. I felt the warmth through his dark shirt. I felt awkward and unsure and slightly nauseous though from his nearness or the information I overheard I still am uncertain. His hands came up to my shoulders as he looked down at me.
“I can’t.” I could see the pain shooting through the clear sky of his eyes. And then I saw it, as vividly as if I was witnessing it before me. I saw a star, a silver speck in the blackness, flame and move, streaking across the night sky. I knew the names of these things as I watched them, the burning white trail; the coma, the white-hot head; the nucleus though I had never seen them in anything more than pictures. Now they moved in slow motion across the empty canvas of the Universe.
And then I felt it, a tingling that had nothing to do with Tybal. I felt a pull like nothing I had ever felt before, so different that words escape me how to describe it but I know it was a calling. When my vision cleared and the tingling subsided Tybal was smiling down on me. I opened my mouth to explain but closed it again. There was nothing I could tell him. He already knew.
“I will come get you in a few days. I have to make some arrangements first, but there is something I want you to see.” I nodded dumbly, still recovering from my vision and he left.
“Faylinn,” Grifkin’s voice sounded behind me. I froze, half opening the cafeteria door. I pasted on a smile and tried to look innocently. I didn’t want him to know I over heard. I wasn’t ready to piece together what I had learned. I know I didn’t want him to know of the vision. Instinct told me that would be bad. He wasn’t who I thought he was. This place wasn’t safe anymore than the Domes or the City. And I was trapped. He smiled in return, the viper I heard only moments before was now hidden behind a teddy bear. “Make sure you’re up early tomorrow. There are a few more tests we need to do.” I swallowed hard, afraid this time, of these new tests. Tybal was expendable. What did that mean? I wondered if he could read my guilt and fear on my face but I schooled myself as much as I could and nodded.
When he left he took my appetite with him.
Sunday, September 25, 2318
I do not like the new tests. My shoulder burns where they extracted a dermal sample. “All for the best.” Grifkin answers me, “To be sure.” He replies. But for what they will not answer no matter how I try and threaten or how ever angry I become. And I am angry.
I slump back to my cell each day, has it really only been three days? Exhaustion weighs heavy on me, the long days filled with physical tests; running, lifting. There is a room somewhere where tiny vials filled with all parts of me lay, megabites of data float inside computers each with my name. It is unsettling.
The guards have returned, my modicum of freedom has ended. They escort me where I need to go, the door no longer opens for me. My eyes are already closed when my body crashed to the bed at the end of each day. I don’t have time to miss the Library, or his books. I don’t have time to even realize that I still feel safe in this room and to question the sanity in that.
But tonight, as I lay already deep in sleep I was awoken.
“Come, Faylinn.” He whispered. And I went.
We took a door I had never noticed before, to the far left of my own hallway. The guards were gone, everything dark and silent though I felt that it must be nearing morning. We entered an elevator and Tybal pressed a series of buttons, inserted a card and the back lit numbers changed from red to green, the door closed with a ding. It was as if I were flying, we zoomed so high so quickly my ears popped. I had no idea the place was this large.
The room was bright and it took my eyes a long moment to adjust and when they did it took me more minutes to catch my breath. My body tingled. It was a huge room, washed in white lights that hung from the tall ceiling. The air here was thick, hot, scented with a million thousand flowers that were blooming all around us. Every color I had ever imagined spotted brilliantly over lush fields of green, hung from enormous pots, trailed up support beams and threatened the lights, overtaking the room. I had never seen anything so… alive.
“Do you like it?” At those words I remembered Tybal. I rushed back over to him, throwing my arms around his neck.
“I love it.” He hugged me back and for a moment I forgot about the room.
“Let me show you something else.” He took my hand and led me through a semi-clear path towards the far wall. I saw it instantly. It sat, alone, inside a little clay pot on a ledge. “It’s yours.” The flower had already gone to seed, a white puff delicately held together on the stem head. I mourned the loss of the yellow, remembering how desperately I had wanted it. How much it had meant to me then.
“Did you put it there? That night? So I would leave?” I cradled the little pot in my hands.
“No, Faylinn. This is yours, you found this one.”
“Then how did you know?” He looked pained as though there was a fight going on inside of him. I waited as he started, stopped and started again.
“We were monitoring the entire perimeter, as soon as you left I felt it, I knew where you were going.”
“And the note? What was the reason for that?” He pulled something white from his pocket. Why did he still have that scrap of paper? He turned, brushing away a thick leaf on the wall to reveal a display. Music sounded, filling the room, an orchestral piece not frequently heard in the City. So different from their penchant for electronic mixes.
“Dance with me. Please.” He took the pot from my hands, placing it back on it’s home on the ledge and wrapped my arms around his neck. We swayed to the music before I felt the hush of his breath on my ear. “We must be careful. They listen everywhere, follow our movements. Faylinn, please listen to me. Right now they are pushing you around, telling you where to go and what to do. They keep you like a prisoner, like a pet. But you have to realize that doesn’t have to be the way.”
“I don’t understand.” I whispered, finding his ear.
“And they don’t want you to. Not until they have what they want, not until their tests confirm what they already know. You are Chosen. It will be you they all turn to but they are too blind to see it that way right now. All they want is to control you, they don’t understand that they need to be accepted by you.”
“You’re not making any sense.”
“We don’t have a lot of time. There is so much more I want to tell you but I just can’t right now. I’m not important, Faylinn, I’m no one. Not yet, anyway. If they know I’m telling you these things you’ll wake up one day with a different Consort. One that is on their side, one that won’t look at you and see the things I see. You have to accept me. I know I’ve made mistakes, like with the note but it was the only thing I could think of. The only way to get you to make the choice to go to the Domes. We couldn’t extract you from the Private Sector. The City is too heavily guarded, it’s why your father never left.”
“Did you have to use his words? Did you have to use them against me like that?” I wasn’t nearly as angry as I should have been. To use the dying words of my father to manipulate me had been wrong. And he knew it. But I still couldn’t be mad, not now, not as I swayed in his arms listening to his desperate words. I didn’t even need the apology he gave over and over again.
“What do I need to do?” Before he could answer the music was drowned out by a harsh whir of machinery. I broke away from Tybal, turning to the large outer walls. Slowly, the whitewashed walls rose exposing thick black glass. Higher and higher, until enormous panes reflected the room back to us. We stood silently as I watched my first sunrise. Pinks and orange shot up from behind the black masses of nearby mountains. We were up so high I couldn’t see the ground below. The colors shifted into red, yellow as the sun ascended, aided it seemed by the lure of the music still playing. My entire body vibrated with the sun, the plants, the thick air, the colors. I felt connected to them all. As if I could reach out and tell the plants to grow bigger, force the sun to rise higher, make the air hold more moisture. I felt Tybal next to me, I could feel his warmth, his solidity but where I felt power over these other things I felt none of that with him. Though looking back there was something there, some connection not made, a break in circuit, something I couldn’t quite place my finger on but it was dim and overpowered by the sensation of everything else.
The spell was broken as the door to my room closed behind me. When I realized he had never answered my question, I rushed back to the door only to find it locked once again. I took off my night clothes to get ready for the day. My reflection caught in the mirror. I turned, fingertips feeling their way to the place on the back of my shoulder where they had removed the square inch of skin.
It had already healed.
Saturday, October 1, 2318
I have been conducting my own tests.
There seems to be a theme going with the words I overheard and the ones Tybal whispered in the Atrium; they need me. For what exactly is still unclear but there is power in that and I have latched onto it with both hands. I have not written down the things that have happened lately because I can feel now that I am being watched. I don’t want to give them anything to hold over me but today I felt the journal calling and so I sit and write.
“Tell me about my mother.” I had asked Grifkin as more of my blood snaked through a clear tube. I saw the flash of anger contort his face before he regained that cool composure. His words were dull and meaningless, nothing in them was truth but the shift in his eyes and the saccharine tones that dripped like venom from his mouth told me enough. Later that night Tybal collected me from my room and we took the elevator up. The Atrium has become our sanctuary, our time to spend together speaking frankly. Though how he manages sneaking us there so often I don’t know, but I don’t care. I trust him. I can’t explain that either, something inside just does.
I can see in those blue, blue eyes as we sit together on the stone benches under the shading canopy of green leaves that he wants to say it all, that he wants to tell me everything but he cannot. So, I carefully pick at him like teasing a string from a tight knot until I gain just a little more information. A little more fuel for my tests.
I don’t feel guilty for this, he knows what I am doing and the information is bubbling up so overwhelmingly inside him, I think he feels relief that it is said by my urging and not his own will.
Grifkin and my mother were not friends. My mother didn’t like what they were doing here. When she found out she was pregnant, and that the child was a girl, she left. My father followed her to the City.
How or what or why he never said, just those terse sentences. That was how he always told me things. But I had to be careful, even through all these games we played, Tybal and I, was the constant reminder shouting in the back of my head that, to these people, he was expendable. I think that is why I don’t push too hard.
“What is a Seeker?” I asked Grifkin as I pushed myself on the treadmill during one of his tests. This time I wasn’t able to look at his face but his long pause told me.
“Where did you hear that?” He asked.
“My father told me once that I was a Seeker. I wondered if you knew what it meant.” I replied innocently. I glanced at the controls, I was nearing my thirty-fifth mile. By the eightieth, we had to break for lunch.
I am still unsure if I should be doing poorly on these tests, but in all honesty I don’t know what that would mean, less than what I am able but by how much? I have no gauge except my own ability. There is no one being tested with me for which I could determine if I was better or worse. I just do what comes naturally even when it results in eyes silently flickering between scientists. I asked Tybal but he said for me to do my best, that nothing I did would ever been lacking or wrong. I rolled my eyes and shoved his shoulder in play and told him to be serious. Later that night, alone in the darkness of my room I realized he had been serious.
Piece by piece things fall into line, snatches of memories between my father and I resurface and I begin to understand, even a tiny bit, what was happening, though my knowledge is lacking so painfully much. Last night Tybal told me to ask Grifkin for something. Something that is a bit ridiculous but that I tell him I need. That will make me happy. He said to think of it as another test for them. Which is how we talk now; Us and Them. Somewhere we have formed an alliance.
Before he left me in my room he grabbed my hand, turning me toward him. At first I thought there was something he forgot to say but his eyes were shining in a funny way that made my stomach flip on it’s side. I cannot describe the feeling of his lips touching mine. I cannot remember what I was thinking, if I was thinking at all. The only thing I can say is that something happened, something more than a kiss. When the doors shut me into a black void I swear I could feel his heart beating a quick rhythm to the pace of his steps as he walked down the hall. I felt him still, as it softened, slowed as he drifted into sleep, as it lulled me into my own.
Saturday, October 15, 2318
Tybal is gone. I’m sure of it. He left me that night and hasn’t returned. I asked Grifkin where he went, my heart pounded so hard in my chest, but he wouldn’t tell me. I’m afraid. Afraid that Grifkin has lived up to his threats. Afraid of what that might mean for me. For weeks I’ve waited each night, throat tightened, staring at the dark space along the wall where he would knock. Wait in desperation for time again with him in the Atrium. I wait until sleep drags me under her black waves and then I dream. Terrible, racing feelings, bright lights and distorted faces screaming in silence until I wake up shivering, damp with sweat.
And all this time I worry and wonder about him. I know he is gone.
Grifkin has taken a liking to my visiting him in his Library where he talks to me about sciences, politics, humanity. Though these “talks” always devolve into one-sided lectures. It feels like he is trying to tell me something important every time he opens his mouth. He questions me on my feelings about current issues, staging hypothetical situations to moral dilemmas. I care little for these things and I tell him so. I make him angry with my disinterest.
“Did you have any friends in the City?” He asked, nestled like a viper in his over-sized chair.
“Yes, of course.” I answered, too quickly.
“Who? Who was your friend?” I answered this time with silence. And here is where the viper rears back his head to strike. I could see it in his eyes, the triumph, and understood my mistake. “You had no friends. There was no one, was there? You lived for over twenty years in the same area, worked with the same people and I bet you can’t tell me a single one of their names. Tsk, tsk. For all Jonathan taught you, in this he failed.”
I felt fear then as I had not known it before, snaking up my spine. He had spoken like this before, that I was not what they hoped for, that I had too much to learn but by the hard look he punched at me I knew things had changed.
“What does it matter that I had no friends?” I supressed a cringe at the weakness of my voice.
“A little. A lot. But it doesn’t matter now. We have wasted too much time already trying to prepare a thing that can’t be prepared. We need to move forward whether you’re ready or not.” Before I could speak the door opened and a man walked in. He was tall and thin. By the way his clothes hung loose, too thin. His head was shaved and small, dark eyes poked out from under brows so thick they were nearly joined. “This is Aaron.” He announced it as an explaination, gesturing to the young man that now prowled toward me like a cat to mouse. Instant dislike fringed on disgust singed across my skin. I wanted to move away as his eyes slowly perused my body, his thin lips turned to a greasy smile I wanted to wash off me. Triumph lurched in his eyes as they met mine.
“No.” I whispered getting up and moving behind my chair. Aaron’s face fell.
“She’s already bonded.” He hissed at Grifkin. “You told me she hadn’t made a connection yet. I’m not going back there. You said, I was chosen.”
“Shut up. She hasn’t bonded, we didn’t allow them any time together. Maybe she just doesn’t like you.” He retorted, leaving the chair and walking around to the front of the desk. “It doesn’t matter. We’re running out of time. Faylinn, Aaron is your guide now. I want you two to spend time together. He’ll collect you from your room and escort you to where you need to go.”
“No.” I said, my voice growing stronger. “What does he mean “bonded” to what? To who? Tell me now, Grifkin.”
“Or you’ll what?”
“Leave?” A laugh erupted from his stomach. “You think you can leave here?”
“I escaped the Domes.” I replied.
“My dear,” He said rubbing his hands together. “We are in the middle of a mountain, surrounded by other mountains. Even if you managed to get down to ground level, there’s no where to hide. The closest City is a an eight hour ride by Heli. No, little Faylinn, you’ll never leave unless I say it.”
“Why won’t you tell me what is going on?” I wouldn’t let the despair color my face. I was trapped. Tybal was gone. And then there was Aaron.
“Because, as I’ve told you before, you’re not ready. Your stupid mother took you to the City where we couldn’t get to you so you weren’t brought up properly. You don’t know your place. I suppose Jonathan did his best but I still don’t understand why he didn’t teach you, train you.” His face contorted to a hundred degrees of disgust as he spat the words at me. ”Instead I get handed this mess and now they tell me to get the project up and running. There’s no time to coddle you anymore. You’re humanity’s hope, it’s future. God help us all. I don’t want to hear you refusing us anymore, I don’t care if you’re ill-informed. Take it up with your father, the way things are going you’ll be seeing him sooner than you think.”
“I want Tybal back!” I blurted out before clasping my hand over my mouth. Both Aaron and Grifkin’s mouths hung open, staring at me like I just asked them to bring me a purple puppy. “If you want me to cooperate, fine. You want me to follow you blindly, I’ll do it. But I do it with Tybal not with him.”
“Tybal isn’t on the board any longer.” Grifkin replied after a moment’s hesitation.
“Get him back on it.” Tybal said I should ask for something Grifkin would be hard pressed to deliver. I doubted he thought it would be himself I’d ask for. “Take her to her room, Aaron. I have a call to make.” By the flushed look he gave the telephone I could tell it wasn’t going to be a pleasant chat.
We walked in silence down the hallway and as soon as we turned the corner away from Grifkin and the Library Aaron grabbed my arm, yanking me to a stop.
“How did you bond with him? He wasn’t given access to you, they promised me.” His whispers were sharp in my ear and cut into me as hard as his fingers. “I won’t go back, I won’t let them take me.”
“Where were you? Where did they take Tybal?” My own whispers sliced the air.
“I don’t know about him. Give me a chance. Please. You can make him change his mind, make him let me stay. Please, Faylinn.” He pleaded.
“Why do you all think I have power over Grifkin? I’m as powerless as you are. I don’t even know what I’m doing here.” I yanked my arm but he wouldn’t be refused.
“You’re the only girl. The only one. Ever. The males, they breed them like rats in cages and treated worse than that. You’re special don’t you see? When they bring Tybal back, you’ll know. I can feel it now, the bond, it’s not that strong but it’s there. When he comes back they’ll take me away. Listen to me now, I need you to understand this, promise me, don’t worry about me but the others, they need you. You have to see that they’re set free. This is important, I want you to swear to me you’ll free them.” Tears welled in his dark eyes, the desperation threatened to drown me. I agreed, I swore, I said whatever he wanted me to say. The others would be free.
The darkness of my room crept inside my skin. I felt hollow as I lay fetally in bed wondering, worrying. Sleep washed over me in wicked waves that ebbed into blackness until I couldn’t tell if I was awake of asleep, lost in a rolling torment. Until I couldn’t tell if the knock on my door was real or imagined. Until he lay down behind me, molding his body to mine, cradling me in the warmth of his arms and I shook with tears of relief and confusion.
When I awoke this morning I was alone.
Tuesday, October 18, 2318
The days grow shorter but feel a thousand times longer. I lay in my room counting the hours, minutes, seconds wondering how long it will take for Tybal to return, if he would return. After he left me in my room, I haven’t seen Aaron since. I worry a little for him, also. Does his absence mean Tybal is coming back? Does it mean something different? Even Grifkin has kept away.
I am learning more, the tests are finished, but I feel like everything I do is being tested, examined, graded. Maybe that’s just me. A small dark man in a white jacket, “Professor”, he tells me to call him, has been instructing me. He allows me to focus on science, biology. I find it completely fascinating. Much I already know, some is new. I grab onto the newness pleased to have understanding in something when there are so many places I lack information.
“Professor,” I ask, “Why are there no animals any longer? Why are there no birds?”
“In some places animals still live, but those are laboratories and the like. We are trying to clone them but it’s just not working, something in them isn’t right. But we have their codes on file, one day we will have them again.” Something bright flashed through his eyes as he looked at me.
“Do you think there will ever be wild animals again? Ones that roam freely?”
“Only if the Earth is able to sustain them. The ground is too polluted for even weeds to grow. The animals need something to eat, either plants or each other. It’s hard to say if it will happen.” I thought about my yellow flower like a star burning in the emptiness of the universe as it sat alone in the dirt. I opened my mouth to tell him but he cut me off with a gentle whisper, “The dandelion you found was bait, Faylinn. I thought you would have figured that out by now.”
I didn’t know what to say so I said nothing. Have I been that stupid all along? Taking things for face value without looking into the depths? Yes, I’ve been naive. I wished Tybal was here to talk to. Then I realized that he had known, he had set that trap for me. Was it to give me motivation to escape? Was it to spur me in the right direction? Now I questioned my request to have him return. Aaron had been more open with me, but he had been scared.
Is there anyone for me to trust?
Yes, there was. Myself.
After lessons, I was summoned to the Library yet again. And when the door opened I lost my breath. Tybal sat in the over sized chair, pulling himself to his feet when he met my eyes. In only a few weeks he had changed so much. His face was drawn tight, darkness shadowed sky blue eyes, like a storm threatening well weather. He was thinner and when he moved toward me I noticed he limped slightly. What had they done to him? Why had they done it?
He drew me to him, enclosing me in his arms and the questions and doubt I had melted away. For a moment I was at peace. A moment that ended at a rough clearing of the throat. My attention was drawn to the desk and the tall, thin man standing behind it.
“It’s alright.” Tybal’s hot breath gently brushed my ear, chilling me. The man gestured for us to sit. I was apprehentious and felt tension strum through me. I tried to recall the peace I felt only a minute ago but it was a lifetime away now.
“Hello, Faylinn.” He said as he sat. “I am Lordain.” His tallness intimidated me a little but his plain face held a smile that reached into his brown eyes. It reminded me of another meeting in this same room though the feel of it was markedly different.
“Where is Grifkin?”
“We no longer required his services. I think you will find many things much changed.” He had a voice like silk, cool and smooth but I didn’t detect the hidden layer beneath, the darker one I felt under Grifkin’s words. “We apologize for removing Tybal. We didn’t understand.”
“Who is “we”?” I asked suspiciously, narrowing my eyes at him.
“We are a collection of scientist, researchers, doctors. Our order was formed many centuries ago when it was realized that the Government wouldn’t heed our warnings. We are the force behind the Carbon Monoxide Inhibitor tanks, the food cakes, the waste to water centers, the list goes on and on. Though we have worked secretly, preserving what we can along the way, all the while developing a…cure, if you will, to reestablish the life of the Earth and ensure this horrendous neglect doesn’t occur again.”
“I still don’t understand where I fit into all this.”
“You will, my child, soon. I promise.” White teeth peeked out from between his smiling lips. “There are no more guards at your door, nor will you be required to be escorted. I want to apologize for Grifkin’s stricter ways. It is not our intent to cow you into submission;, we want to work with you. Cooperation between us can’t be forced with secrecy and detainment and fear. We understand you favor Tybal. It is our desire to see you happy here. The Atrium has been opened for you to visit any time as well as the Library. If there is anything else you require you need just ask.”
“Will you test me again?”
“No. That is over and frankly, Grifkin was a little too enthusiastic. He has been reassigned. I would ask, though, that you still study with Professor Haem, he is delighted to teach you whatever you wish to know. If it is alright with you, we have another room available for you to stay in. I think you will feel more comfortable there.”
“I…suppose.” Truth be told I was floored over these changes, so abrupt they came. A little voice in my mind whispered to me that Tybal had told the truth; I was important to these people, these scientists. A weight lifted off my shoulders with the news of Grifkin’s departure.
“What of Aaron? Where is he?” His words were so dire, they rang in my ears and my stomach filled with dread.
“If you would like him here as well, perhaps something can be arranged. But I assure you he has taken safely home.” His voice held an air of finality. I wasn’t sure how to answer. I didn’t know what his home was or where it was. He could be happy there, though he was adamant he didn’t want to return to wherever they had him before. Was it his home? Or had he been taken from there to somewhere else and that was the place he didn’t want to return to? Could I even trust what Lordain told me? My head swam with indecision. If I asked for them to bring Aaron here would he be happier, safer? Or would I be forcing him to leave his family? I just wasn’t sure so again I said nothing.
“Grifkin said that things were moving up, that it didn’t matter if I was ready. What was he talking about?” A button started blinking, a red flash on the desktop that captured Lordain’s attention. He muttered something and quickly shooed us from the room. The hall was dark and empty. We didn’t meet anyone on our way back to my room. At some point Tybal’s hand wrapped around mine. I felt the warmth from it penetrate my hand and move up my arm until it permeated my entire being. I had missed him so much.I could feel the thump of his heart, the soft movement of his breath, the small electrifying jolt of his cells until it seemed we were two halves of one being, joined through the simple threading of fingers. I had worried every moment he was gone and even though I was concerned over his appearance, the dreadful feelings melted away with each step, released through happy tears that quietly streamed down my face. I felt my heart beat speed up to match his.
When we reached the door he tried to disentangle his fingers but I held fast pulling him into the darkness. The door closed behind us as his lips closed on mine.
Saturday, October 22, 2318
Nausea wells up inside me as I write. I learned today, almost by accident, something that I cannot accept. My father was a monster.
Lordain gifted me with some of my father’s journals, these, he said, were this private notes, things I wouldn’t have found in the Library. I think he gave me them so I would find this. His work with nano-techonology didn’t end with those pages I so eagerly read. No, they continued in what I would call ethically removed ways. The work with plants failed but he never let that stop him from moving into living beings, first small animals and then, God, I can barely write it, humans. He worked on humans, women, men but then children, then…embryos.
My brain is revolting against this knowledge but it’s right there in his handwriting. I can see these are his words. I can see he is disconnected from the horrific things he has done.
Tybal came to fetch me and saw my tears. He brings a comfort to me that scares me at times but this time I needed him. I showed him the things I found and asked him if he knew.
“Sweetling,” he said gently, “why do you think I am here?” At those words so many things fell into place. Tybal, Aaron, how many other nameless faces were here because of him? How many children had he experimented on throughout the years, grown adults now? But my father wasn’t alone in his research, his experiments. Grifkin’s name popped up more than once.
“I want to speak with Lordain.” I told him. I didn’t know what I wanted to say but I needed to say something. I couldn’t sit in silence, knowing the kinds of things these people, these “scientists” were capable of.
He was sitting behind the desk in the room I had never been in before but knew of from eavesdropping. The stark furnishings, the walls lined with large metal filing cabinets were different from the picture my mind’s eye had created. It took me a moment to adjust to reality. Lordain looked up at me, a haggard expression marred his face. Papers were strewn everywhere, spilling over the edges of the desk to pool around it’s legs. The flourescent light above flickered in that way that makes you question your sanity.
“You have read them, then.” It wasn’t a question so I didn’t answer. “I won’t justify what Johnathan has done. And I won’t speak ill of the dead. But I will say that he did things that others weren’t willing to for a greater purpose. The Earth is dead, Faylinn. How much longer do you think it can support billions of lives? Lives that still take it for granted, that still do the same things they’ve always done thinking themselves invincible. That the world will just be here because they want it to be. Yes, what he did may seem horrific to you but there is a greater horror that awaits us all if we cannot find a solution.”
“I don’t see how experimenting on babies will help.”
“That is because you have only been shown one part of the research that we do here.”
“I don’t want to know what other atrocities you’ve done!”
“What do you feel for these children, these beings?” His head tilted as he looked at me, narrowed eyes assessing. The worn expression was replaced with curiosity.
“I am sad for them.” My anger not forgotten but held in caution. I gripped Tybal’s hand.
“You have wept for those you have never met.” He said as his gaze brushed over the dried salt-water on my cheeks. He smiled. “This is good! You’ve made some progress.” He stood up knocking more papers to the floor, walking across them as he came to stand in front of me. “Why do you think you are important to us?”
“I…I don’t know.” I stammered thrown off balance, hit by the swing in his demeanor.
“Still? I think it would be obvious by now.” He looked pointedly from Tybal to myself many times. Each movement of his eyes was like a sledgehammer to the gut bringing with it new threads of enlightenment. Tybal. Bang. Me. Bang. Tybal. Bang. Me.
“I’m not his daughter.” I choked out.
“Yes and no. Think harder, allow yourself to accept the unacceptable. Bring down those walls you’ve erected in your mind.” He focused on me but I didn’t really notice, my mind was swimming in a sea of broken pieces as they snapped together, the puzzle was quickly being completed.
“I’m his experiment.” He smiled wide as Tybal squeezed my hand. My throat, so tight, the words barely scraped through. “You need me, what he’s done to me, to save the Earth.” The smile got wider. “But I don’t know how!”
“Read his books. Look beyond what you deem horrific, you will see. It’s important for you to accept this, it’s important for you to want to do this. It’s part of the reason Grifkin kept you in the dark, he felt that you didn’t need to know to be effective, that fear would be a better motivator. I, and the others, don’t feel that way. We need you to cooperate because you feel compelled to do so. We need your compassion just as much. You need to know what the future holds for you but we cannot pressure you into the knowledge. While time is growing shorter, we do have the time you need, I think, to see how this is the only solution.” He looked at Tybal, “Take her to her room and help her find the answers she needs. I’ll be waiting when she’s ready.”
My mind was still lost in that ocean of puzzle pieces as Tybal brought me back to my room. Had Jonathan ever loved me? Was it only a game to him, an experiment? I remembered the games we played, the ones so like the tests here. The books he read me as I snuggled in his arms. Was it only a rouse? Was he merely training me? I tried to remember my mother and him together but they were separate. As though one came after the other. Had they ever been married, true husband and wife? Tybal urged me to rest but I couldn’t. I flipped to the middle of a book, the one with the least amount of wear.
The subject is showing increased attachment. I feel I have successfully integrated myself in her mind as her father. The subject doesn’t consider herself any different from the others around her. This may be a positive step, something we have neglected with the others. Only time will tell…
No, I won’t rest again until I understand it all.