Sunday, December 28, 2014

The Path to Eden I - Ellie

The white sky burst open, revealing the milky layer to be thick clouds, with a clear azure sky above. A large, burning thing descended. An eye with wings of flame, that’s how I’d describe it. It stared down at my with its rainbow-colored iris, a burning blue silhouette of a person seemed lodged within the pupil. I was compelled to gaze at it, transfixed, paralyzed. The eye felt like it was piercing my brain, probing me, trying to fish out something that I was sure was not there. Leave me alone, I whispered in my mind, hoping it’d just leave me alone. It didn’t. I felt something surge down my body, ripping it all apart, limb by limb. I felt the need to scream, but I had no mouth. I needed to run, but no legs would take me anywhere. The feeling was nauseating.

I woke up in my bed and instantly threw up on the floor. I glanced around – everything seemed normal. It was the middle of the night, my bag lay as I had left it in the evening. It was all a dream, I thought. I got up and glanced at my phone. It was five-thirty. Not much point going back to sleep, huh. I slipped on the same stuff I wore yesterday – a pair of tattered jeans and a khaki top. They were clean enough. I made my way to the bathroom, making sure that I wouldn’t wake up Angela. For some reason, I felt really weak. Every step towards down the corridor felt like an enormous chore, my feet dragged behind me. But still, I pressed on.

The light bulb flickered as I turned on the light in the bathroom. As it illuminated the mirror, I gasped. There was something wrong with my face. I couldn’t really tell what, but I had the feeling I was looking at a stranger. Even though everything seemed okay – my face was the right size and shape, the skin was also pretty much normal, if a bit pale, but that wasn’t strange. My hair was still long and brown, and my eyes were still green… Too green, somehow. That was it. There was something wrong with my eyes. I leaned in to look closer, but then my head spun again. I could feel the contents of my stomach run up my esophagus. They soon landed in the sink. My vision became a blur and for a moment I felt like I wasn’t in control of my body. I saw myself run out of the apartment and down the street to the monorail station, the streetlights speeding by, forming luminescent line against the pale sky.

When I was finally in control again, I threw up another batch. I was huddled in some corner, my hands were shaking. My whole body felt limp, I could barely stand. What the hell is happening?!

“Ellie?” a female voice called from behind. I turned around, my head pounding mercilessly. I first only saw a blur, but then everything came into focus. I saw a girl, she was probably just a bit older than me, though it was hard to tell due to her attire. Her black cloak with a big, furry hood was unzipped, and there barely anything else underneath. A tight black top that seemed to be little more than a corset with straps, an equally black ruffle mini-skirt, showcasing the stockings on her long legs. Her hair was a weird shade of blonde, a fiery shade, almost ginger but not quite, separated into an impressive pair of twintails. She stared at me with big blue, almond-shaped eyes, her face was covered in heavy make-up with her lips gleaming in the light, dyed crimson with lip-gloss. Black crosses dangled down her ears and from the choker on her neck. I had no idea how she knew my name. You don’t forget a presence like that.

“Do I know you?” I asked her. She stared at me for a second, the wide smile she’d had on her face fading. Seeing her so disappointed made me feel bad for her, even if she was a total stranger. She gave me a sad little smile and sighed.

“No wonder you can’t recognize me,” she said. Her voice seemed to match her appearance perfectly, despite sounding very normal, natural, which couldn’t be said about her clothes. “I guess I do look a bit different. I’m Candy. Ring any bells?”

I stared at her, doing my best to ignore the throbbing pain in my head and dig through my memories, in search of this poor soul. Candy… I guess it does sound a bit familiar? But I’m pretty positive I’ve never seen this person before in my life. “Uh… Sorry. I can’t really remember.”

“That’s alright,” she smiled and went up closer. “Well then, it’s good to meet you stranger. You need a hand there?”

I was about to tell her I was okay, but then I lost my balance and would have hit the ground pretty painfully if it weren’t for Candy. “Thanks. Guess I do need a hand.”

“Alright, where should I take you then?”

“Home,” I heaved. “It’s nearby. I’ll tell you where to go.”

It was good to have someone to lean on. We were quiet for most of the walk. I couldn’t help but wonder, though. She wasn’t just a stranger who just happened to help out another stranger. This girl clearly knew me. I tried looking harder at her face, and while she did look more and more familiar the more I looked, I still drew a blank.

“Can we stop here for a second?” I asked as we reached an alley. I was starting to feel worse again. I felt like I’d need to throw up again soon.

“Sure thing,” she said as she let me go. I slid to the ground. “You okay?”

“Yes,” I said as I squatted, grabbing my head, trying to breathe properly. “Hey, you said you know me, right?”

“Well, I guess you could say I know you a bit,” she said.

“What do you mean?”

“Well, we never got to talk much. It was mostly through Angela that I know you.”

“And how do you know Angela,” I looked at her. She went silent for a while, visibly pondering where to start what she was about to say.

“Well, I guess you don’t remember anything from it, huh,” she squatted beside me and looked me in the face. “Do you think you could try and recall something from ten years ago?”

Ten years ago… I thought. And in that instant, everything started spinning again. Another blow pierced my brain, just like in the dream. All was red, and I was falling. In the distance I heard Candy shout. Then there was nothing. I floated in a black abyss, silent and still. The last thought I remember was Great, I fainted. Knowing my luck I’ll wake up in five days.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

The Path to Eden I - Hope

It made no sense. Chance was right there, putting his shirt back on, his chest smooth, white and spotless. Not a single hole, not a stain of blood, even though yesterday night I saw him get punctured by real bullets. I saw him lose his balance as dark red splotches appeared on his bright red leather jacket. I saw my love die. And yet, here he was now. Unharmed, alive, my new fiancé. Though I couldn’t even get myself to celebrate the fact that he had popped the question. Words could not express how grateful I was that I hadn’t lost him after all, but I could still not calm down. There was the fact that Chance had gotten himself in some shady business, all for my sake. Then there were the gun wounds that seemingly healed themselves up. And then there was the vision we shared.

Chance’s shirt was still covered in blood, although the holes were gone and the stains were much smaller than I remembered. He put on his jacket and sat down next to me and turned his deep-set, dark brown eyes to me. His compassionate gaze would usually soothe me, no matter how bleak things would seem. Not this time, however. I put a hand on his cheek and stroked the scar above his left eye with my thumb. I gave the most genuine smile I could muster. But I could tell that wouldn’t work either. We both knew no looks, smiles, or kisses would save us from what we had to do. He grabbed my wrist and leaned in closer. His chinstrap beard tickled, but I soon stopped noticing it. The kiss we shared was long, deep, as if it was to be our last. Though it made me feel sad, in some strange way it reassured me that we would be okay. Once our lips parted, I brushed my fingers through his hair, through the prematurely white streak just above his forehead that stood out like a sore thumb against his regular dark brown shade.

“I think we need to find Angela now,” I said to him.

“Yeah,” he sighed. “I feel it too. We need to pay her a visit.”

“Do you have any clue as to what it is we’re supposed to do?”

“No.” He dropped his gaze to the floor. “But I don’t think anything’s going to be the same anymore.”

I knew that he was right. The thing we saw was out of this world, and whatever it was that we were supposed to do, things would be different for the whole world from now on. Surprisingly, a part of me was glad. And here I thought a medical career was what I really wanted.

“Let’s go see her then.” I grabbed his hand and stood up, pulling him up with me. “She was in the center of it all. Perhaps she knows something more.
Holding hands, never letting go, we made our way to the elevator. The warmth from his hand made me feel as if I was in another world, somehow suspended in an otherworldly moment, somewhere beyond time and space. The hum of the elevator seemed to be coming from miles away.

“Just so you know,” I said to Chance in a light tone. “No matter what happens, I hope you realize you’re not breaking off the engagement anytime soon. Even if aliens tell us marriage is wrong, I took a chance on Chance. Don’t you dare lose Hope.”

“I wouldn’t dare,” he chuckled and squeezed my hand tighter. I found myself feeling much better after that.

The people stood outside, their eyes fixed upwards, their jaws agape. Everyone gathered to admire the magical lightshow. We’d already seen enough of the lights through the window, so we didn’t care to stop and admire them again. We went straight for the monorail. When we got off, we didn’t really need to look very far. Outside the station we saw Angela walking around frantically, her face flushed, as if desperately searching for something. I felt a tug within me, and I could tell Chance felt the same. I guess we really were meant to find her.

“Angela!” Chance called and we ran towards her. At first she didn’t hear us, but after he called her a second time, she noticed us and ran up to us. She was out of breath. That moment, we all spontaneously went for a group hug. It was a pretty strange feeling. I could feel tears run down my cheeks. I didn’t know if I was so glad because I wanted to see her so badly, or because we were programmed to feel relieved when we found her. “We’ve found you. We’re here for you now.”

“Are you okay?” I asked as I broke away from her, still holding Chance’s hand. “You look really shaken.” As if you don’t have a reason to feel shaken yourself.

“It’s hard not to be,” her voice was shaking. She wiped a single tear from her cheek. “I have no idea what we’re doing, but it feels a bit reassuring that you guys are in this with me. I think we’re supposed to be waiting for someone now…”

“What do you mean?” Chance demanded.

“I… I have this feeling that… I can’t really explain it. But I think that whatever it was that’s bringing us together has a pretty firm grasp on what it’s doing. Now it makes me feel compelled to sit and wait. But I just can’t.” Her voice shook once again.

“What happened?” I asked her as I put a hand on her shoulder.

“I can’t find Ellie anywhere,” she said, doing her best to stay calm and collected. That’s right, I thought. Ellie was in part of that dream too. “I woke up this morning and she was just gone. I have no idea where she went…”

“Well that’s weird.” Chance’s brow furrowed as he said this. “She was there with us when we saw that eye thing in the dream, wasn’t she? Both Hope and I had this urge to find you. She should have it too, right? She had you around anyway.”

Angela looked at us both with a puzzled expression.

“I think what Chance meant to say is,” I said, “she’s bound to come looking for you as well, right sweetie?”

“Y-yeah,” Chance hesitated.

“Don’t lose hope, Angela,” I gave her another tight hug. “If we don’t find her, she’s bound to find you. Now, let’s all go look for her, alright?”

“Right,” Angela smiled and wiped her eye with the sleeve of her coat. “I’ve already checked the station and the park, but I didn’t see her. I was going to check the mall, but then I bumped into you.”

“Sounds like a plan,” I said. Logically, it seemed wiser to split up, in case Ellie showed up somewhere Angela missed. But I felt that we shouldn’t split up. I could tell the others felt it too, as they raised no objections.

The mall was bizarrely empty. It shouldn’t have been a surprise, considering the most interesting stuff was happening right outside the front door, yet I never could have anticipated to see something like this. The lanes between the shops, usually lined with people of all shapes and sizes with bags of clothing and groceries, were now vacant, and only a couple of individuals still trotted on the marble floor.

“Okay, so,” Chance turned to Angela. “You have any idea what places she likes to visit here?”

“Not a clue,” she said, exhaling quite a bit of air upwards, causing her bangs to dance erratically above her forehead for a second. “I don’t think she visits the stores. She rarely buys stuff, she mostly just comes over with her friends. So… the food court, I guess?”

“Okay,” I said. “It’s also pretty much in the middle of everything, so even if she’s not there, there’s a big chance, we’ll get to see her from there.”

As we walked towards our destination, we passed several people. They had confused look on their faces, glancing around the building, obviously shocked by the place being deserted. When we reached the food court, almost all the restaurants were closed, and the tables were all abandoned. Save for one. There were two bags laid on a table on the other end of the hall. Someone was sitting there, but we couldn’t see who – a fountain was in the way, obscuring the person from view. That didn’t stop Angela from running there so fast that she flipped over half a dozen chairs in the process. Chance went right after her, so I ran after him. When I saw Angela stop by the table, he shoulders suddenly slouched, the color draining from her face, I knew that I had been right in remaining skeptical. The person sitting by the table was an older gentleman. Tall and slender, with well-groomed blond hair and goatee, thin glasses, and a crooked smirk on his face that was quite handsome even now – the man was quite dashing, and yet, there was something a bit off about him.
“I’m sorry about this,” Angela heaved. “I thought my sister was here.”

“Don’t worry about it, Angela,” he said to her. I glanced at Angela. She looked at him puzzled, her brown eyes narrowed. Then, suddenly, realization came and I saw her eyes widen again.

“You’re that guy from yesterday,” she exclaimed and pointed a finger at him. “Sergei, was it?”

“Indeed, that is my name,” he stood up and glanced at Chance and me. “I see that you’ve already gathered three, then.”

Three…? What do you mean?”

“Oh!” I suddenly shouted out, surprising even myself. Perhaps the pitch I used was too high – even Chance flinched. All eyes were now on me. “You were there too, weren’t you? In that white space, with us. You saw the eye too, didn’t you?”

A cat smile appeared on Sergei’s lips. “Yes. I too have witnessed the spectacle and I too felt the urge to find the Contact. I am one of you. Pardon my manners,” he suddenly broke off and went up to me, extending his hand. “My name is Sergei Volkov. It is a pleasure to meet you.”

“Hope Beaumont,” I said as I shook his hand. It was very warm to the touch.

“I’m Chance,” said Chance as Sergei shook his hand. He didn’t seem too comfortable holding his hand. Chance had always been very trusting and open towards people. Seeing him intimidated like that sent a chill down my spine. Who even is this guy?

“I hate to interrupt your introductions,” Angela said, her voice carrying a hint of irritation. “But we really need to find my sister right now.”

“Maybe you’ve seen her?” I turned to Sergei. “She’s about sixteen, long brown hair, green eyes.”
“I’m afraid not. Not today, at least. But I’ll help you search for her, if you’d let me.”

“Sure,” Angela said. “I guess another pair of eyes will come in handy. So let’s go.”

“Hey, Angie,” Chance called as Angela turned on her heel and took a couple of steps away from us, Sergei following close after. He suddenly grabbed my hand as well. “And where are we going now?”

Angela turned to face Chance and dropped her gaze. She placed her hand on her chin, lost in thought.  She then lifted her head, an expression of desperation coming on to her face. “Well, we-we could check out the, um… Well, there’s some, uh, boutiques here, I guess.”

She was about to add some more options, but something startled her. Footsteps, quite a lot of them, from all around the mall. I glanced around – we were surrounded by men in suits.

“Angela Morgan,” one of the men stepped out of the circle, pulling something out of his pocket. It was some kind of badge. “Chance F. Donovan, Hope Beaumont, and Sergei Volkov – the four of you will follow us. We will take you to the seat of the Federal Government, so that you may fulfill your purpose as the Contact.”

“No!” Angela shouted. “I can’t go without Ellie!”

“Your sister is safe,” the man reassured her. “We found her this morning. She’s waiting for you on the plane.”

I could the relief come over Angela’s face. It made me smile, just a little. I turned to Chance, at the exact same moment he turned to face me. His smile was broad and warm, reassuring. Everything is going to be fine, I thought. We’re all in this together.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

The Path to Eden I - Michel

WARNING: The following chapter constains graphic descriptions of violence and sexual acts, which may be unsuitable for minors and triggering content for some. Proceed at your own discretion.

The meticulously crafted columns reached all the way to the firmament of the cathedral. As they reached the ceiling, they split into small branch-like formations. The overall impression was similar to that of sitting in a quiet forest, surrounded by these monumental beings much older and more dignified than anything we humans could ever hope to achieve. They were so tall that simply cocking my head to look at them was painful. The stained glass covered all the windows, bathing the gargantuan hall in splashes of multicolored light. This temple, with all the care and attention paid to little details, and the near century that was put into building it, not to mention all the money that went to it – all this was done to praise God in his everlasting love. How ironic then, that the Sagrada Familia cathedral had, contrary to its designer’s wishes, become nothing short of a tourist trap, and it had been that even before it had been finished.

I could feel a broad smile suddenly appear on my face as I sat on the bench, the people river flowing in a lazy current all around me. Which was more ironic – the fate of the cathedral, or the fact that I was praying in it? What does a heathen seek at a temple? Absolution for his sins? A short laugh came out of me, turning a couple of heads around, but those quickly forgot about that and returned to their businesses. Oh, the sins I had committed were plenty and they were despicable, but I never wished for any absolution. My sins were my own. They were my life and reason to be, and there was no God that could ever take that away from me.

Barcelona had been to my liking so far. I bade goodbye to Paris as if it were a former lover. I knew that in her heart of hearts she felt that I had overstayed my welcome, but could not bring herself to throw me out. So I threw myself out, to save us both further pain. Though I missed my city, this separation felt strangely… liberating. Barcelona was fresh and new, with surprises around every corner, each more beautiful than the last. She was like an adventurous, exciting paramour, and I got to savor every inch of her body inch by inch. Her streets were like the silky velvet of her thighs, with the striking buildings by Gaudi being new tattoos and birthmarks that she presented to me so eagerly.

There were streets that revealed much more than Gaudi’s architectonic endeavors. As a lady guards her most private areas to tease and entice the voyeur, the city will obscure its most treasured secrets with a veil of darkness. It was in a dark, dank corner that I have ripped a captivating from the ground. After a particularly daunting orchestra rehearsal I found myself… thirsting. For many things. A fellow flute-player recommended a certain place where he said I was sure to find something that would satiate me. And so I did. In a dark corner of a narrow street, I found a café of sorts. The heady perfume obscured what was most likely the stench of vomit, semen and other basic human excrements. Calling it a café was perhaps a wrong choice on my part, but I daren’t call it a whorehouse. I always treat my prey  with the utmost respect. My flowers, my angels, my Dulcinea, is how I would call them, for no matter how frightening their faces may have been, they knew very well how to use their charms.

But Dolors was different. I knew she wouldn’t escape me as soon as I laid my eyes on those legs long and slender as the columns in the Sagrada Familia, those large, innocent doe eyes hiding her much less innocent nature, her curvaceous frame further emphasized by the dress that embraced her robust hips and bust so tightly. She followed me to the apartment I was renting so eagerly. Who could blame her? I had enough money to afford her, and I knew I had my share of charms as well. I had always been told that I am devilishly handsome, and they say the middle age is the most flattering age for a man, so I have always attracted looks, even despite my missing eye. Not that anyone noticed it. I had my ways to hide it. Yes, I could tell she would gladly pay for what she thought she was about to receive herself. Oh, how wrong she was.

“Undress me,” she commanded me in Catalan. My smile broadened as I unlaced her dress and laid her secrets bare before me layer by layer, her body quaking with anticipation with my every touch, her skin burning up, as if nudging me ever so impatiently: hurry up. She couldn’t wait. She began undressing me while her dress was only halfway down. She then kissed me, bit me, and threw me to the bed. Saying I took her would be a bit inaccurate. She incited the passion, but the initiative would soon be mine. You could say we took each other in turn. Her incessant thrusts, my fierce pulls, our synchronized breaths – it was hard to believe she was a prostitute and that I had only hired her. Her passion was so authentic. So real, so pure, so… primal. She was on top of me as my excitement started reaching its peak, and I could see she could hardly handle her own pleasure. Now, do it, I said to myself. My hand reached below the pillow, my fingers slid down the sharp, smooth metal surface of the object. With one swift swing, I plunged the knife into my Dulcinea’s breast. She gasped, the blissful smile fading from her face, shifting into an expression of terror in its purest, most beautiful form. I struck her again, and again, the crimson river streaming down her firm breasts, splitting at their base, only for the two streams to come back together at her navel. At that moment, I had reached my peak. I sat up and kissed her in her trembling lips.

“Shh, my darling,” I whispered  into her ear in that beautiful, beautiful language of Catalonia. “It will all be over soon. I’m glad I could pleasure you in your final moments.” With one last tiny gasp, her body fell limp, its entire weight shifted to me, staining my body with the thick blood.

It was for this reason that Paris had enough of me. A little longer, and my little habit would have dug me an early grave. Even though my dear friend had  prepared for me a specialized nanobot colony, built specifically in order to leave no trace after such acts, I could not feel completely safe. Who knew how long I could stay in Barcelona like this.

But no, that was not the reason I had come to the cathedral. I lived for my art. I gave those poor little souls a magnificent sendoff. For those who must die, will die, those who must live, will live, and those who kill, will kill. That has always been the order of things. Sooner or later, the prostitutes would be killed. I was a strong man, but not uncaring. I gave them the greatest pleasure before properly disposing of them. Some would call me a sinner, a criminal, a psychopath, a monster even. I call myself a human. For what is a monster but a human who’s cast off the shackles of society and rules brought on by a false God? If following the very call nature has given me is a blasphemy against that God, if it makes me a monster, so be it – I can be a monster, and I will regret none of it.

No. I had not come to the cathedral to be absolved of my sin. I had simply found myself lost. I daren’t say afraid, but it may be quite an apt statement, actually. Today, I saw a vision. I received a call from a higher power, one that I never imagined could exist. They had called me, I could still feel their pull in the cathedral. And yet, despite this overwhelmingly strong pull they had ingrained in me to find this Contact and do God-knows-what in the name of these eye-beings, my instinct to defy that pull was even stronger. So strong, that it made me brave the streets of Barcelona, crowded with people staring at the lights in the sky, to get to Sagrada Familia. To pray. And here I sit, in a church built to praise God and yet none would hail him here, an atheist begging for forgiveness, even though he does not regret his sin. How pitiful.

Having grown sick of my pathetic actions, I got up and rushed out of the church. I could not just sit there and wait for… What was I even waiting for? I knew I needed to find this Contact, so I did as my body told me. I let go, trying to embrace this new fate that I had been bestowed with. No sooner had I left the cathedral as two tall men in suits approached me.

“Mr. Desrosiers?” the taller one asked in a silky baritone. He was clearly an American, judging by how he’d butchered my name.

“Oh, so you have found me,” I grinned at them. They exchanged gazes and pulled out federal badges.
“On behalf of President Nguyen, we have come to escort you to your plane. You will fly to Washington to meet with the Contact.”

“Ah, finally,” I pretended to give out a sigh of relief. “The wait has been unbearable so far.”

They took me in to a very fancy, black, self-driving car. I tried to engage in small-talk with the two gentlemen, but they were not of the talkative sort. Thus the drive seemed very long and, dare I say, boring. The moment we reached a small, unmarked airport was one I welcomed with open arms. I got out of the car and lit a cigarette. I could see a single black speck fly across the sky that looked so unfamiliar to me because of all the lights. I could hardly comprehend how it was possible that all this was really happening, and yet I found that I was completely calm.

The plane finally arrived. The interior was simply exquisite with all its expensive furniture and well-placed lights. Two people were sitting at a table playing cards. One was a rather unattractive man about my age. His big blue eyes made his fat face look like that of a baby, especially coupled with that thin blond hair. But across of him sat a real gem, though a diamond still in the rough. A slender Asian beauty with silky black hair tied in a loose sideways ponytail. A woman in her thirties, her skin was fair and very smooth, from the looks of it. Her lips were full and inviting. Her breasts may have been small, but that didn’t make them any less firm and sensual. At least, that’s how they worked in my imagination. The sweater she was wearing was quite loose, though I often found that those who would choose to hide behind loose clothes turned out to be the wildest ones in bed.

The fat man got up and extended a stubby hand towards me. “Hi, I’m James. It’s nice to meet you.” His was from somewhere around London, from the sounds of it. I smiled. Of course he’s a Brit. You can tell from a distance.

“Michel,” I said as I returned the handshake. “Michel Desrosiers. It’s nice to meet you too. And you as well, Ms.” I turned to the Asian woman, extending my hand as if to hold her hand up to my lips and kiss it. She measured me with a mistrustful look and refrained from giving me her hand. She saw right through me.

“I’m Atsuko,” she said in a voice cold as ice.

I sat on the couch next to Atsuko and kept smiling as I watched them play war. I later joined them. Though James seemed like a dumb oaf who wouldn’t shut up, I would be lying if I said his conversations weren’t entertaining to me. Well, I thought, looks like this adventure may not be such a bad idea after all.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

The Path to Eden I - Candy

The lights in the sky woke me up. I lay on the hard surface of the roof, his lean body sprawled next to mine, naked, unaware of the magnificent spectacle I had just witnessed. I have encountered angels, my dear companion. And they have chosen me. I stood up and put on my cloak. Though it did little to shield my bare thighs from the chilly wind, I wasn’t bothered by it. Entranced with the glittering orbs, I paid little attention to my earthly body. I always knew I was part of something bigger.

I scanned the surface of the roof in search of my clothes. They didn’t fly very far away, which was pretty disappointing. Usually nights like this ended with me having to go home with nothing but my cloak on. I got dressed and did my hair up in twin tails, as I usually did. Not wanting to wake up the man with me, I just lay a kiss on his cheek and placed the ribbon he untied from my skirt yesterday in his hand, as a little gift. His face wasn’t nearly as cute as I remembered, but who cares? Everything has changed now.

The stairs leading down into the building were littered with all sorts of junk and quite a number of people. Some alone, some in couples, others yet in larger chaotic bundles of a non-descript shape. How beautiful it was to see such pure love and freedom. People free of their inhibitions, intoxicated by the raw sensuality of a party, letting loose, giving in to their most basic carnal desires. Absolutely marvelous. That reminded me of something I had to do, however. I entered the elevator. It was occupied, but I could still fit. I pushed the panel, ordering the elevator to reach the ground floor. I put on my glasses and as I waited for the OS to boot up, I glanced at the couple sprawled on the ground. Either of them could be male or female, it didn’t really matter. They were both topless, cuddled in a tight embrace, the tattoos mapped on their bare bodies blending into one another, as if they had been sown together from birth. In that little split second, I was wishing I could be another part of that perfect unity.

And then the glass OS UI showed up in front of my eyes. My message box was overflowing with people expressing their eagerness to  see me, or their shock at all the lights in the sky. I asked the glass to clear it all for me, as I didn’t have too much time. I needed to notify everybody that I wouldn’t be available tonight, or ever, for that matter, but that they shouldn’t worry. Your dear Candy is going places, the ending of the message read. Send, I thought, and the glass obeyed, sending the message to all the recipients.

The cool air hit me again when I exited the building. I covered my head with the large, furry hood my cloak came equipped with, but the real problem were the legs. Stockings were not the best idea at this time of day and at this time of year. My heart was still racing, though, and I really couldn’t care less about the cold at that point.

For all these years, all I had to go with were some hazy memories. Shady glimpses of a long hallway, strange lights, and lots of pain. I often forgot about all that and thought that it was all just a bad dream. That aliens didn’t exist. But my body knew. They changed it. And they did that for a reason that I might soon find out. And the most incredible thing about that vision last night? I saw her again. Angela. My hero. The one who drove us all out of that hellish place, who made it possible for me to survive all the hell I had to go through later on. I knew that wherever we were all going, we were following her lead, and that was enough for me to feel perfectly fine with that. Needless to say, I was pretty stoked to find out what all this Contact business was about. So I made haste and made my way to where my gut was telling me to go.

I got on the monorail. The train was deserted and the city looked pretty bizarre in this light. The pale sky dotted with white orbs in the background made it look as if the whole city had a halo above its firmament, as if it had transcended into a higher being itself. I got off at the completely empty station. There wasn’t a soul to be seen in the pristine hall, shimmering like glitter after the night staff had polished every last tile. There was no soul save for one, I noticed. A girl was squatting in the corner, coughing a very nasty cough. She looked a tad younger than me. A high school student, perhaps? Her brown hair was done in two very nice and thick braids. Concerned, I walked up to her. She turned around, startled, and stared at me. At first glance I thought that I had found Angela. Her face was almost identical, if too young for how old Angela should be today. Then there were the eyes – instead of Angela’s deep brown, I was met with a forest green. After a moment of silence and an awkward stare-off, I knew who I was looking at.

“Ellie?” I asked. The girl put down the arm she was covering the lower part of her face with. She was very pale, with big shadows below her eyes. She stared at me with a puzzled expression, for what seemed like an eternity. Then, at last, her voice, weak and trembling, reached me.

“Do I know you?”

Saturday, November 29, 2014

The Path to Eden I - Noah

I have been feeling pretty queasy for the last couple of days. I couldn’t really explain it. I knew it couldn’t be something I ate, so I just blamed it on the stress. The problem is, I didn’t really have a reason to feel stress. Retiring in your thirties is hardly a reason to feel uneasy. Still, I managed to keep that sensation at bay as I drove my car up to the hospital.

The door slid open with a barely audible beep. Someone should take care of that, I said to myself. The tall walls of the hallway were lined with huge windows. Screens with paintings of nature filled out the spaces that were not made of glass. The overall effect was pretty tacky, but at least the atmosphere was warm and welcoming. Gentle jazz was coming from the wall-mounted speakers, the nurses talking to the people waiting for their turn were all smiling and speaking in pleasant tones. The tall, busty Latina woman at the reception sounded no less pleasant.

“Good afternoon, sir,” she said in a very smooth voice. My eyes caught her large, deep chestnut ones. What little make-up she had on was used to emphasize those eyes and her full lips – and she used it to great effect.  “How may I help you?”

“Hi,” I stuttered a bit. “I’m here to pick up my father. His name is Flint Eldridge.”

“Just a moment,” she said as she turned to her holo-screen. “Yes, it seems Mr. Eldridge is waiting for you. You must be Noah, then. Can I see some ID?”

“Sure.” I pulled out my phone and placed it on a panel she held out. A flash later, I was admitted into the waiting room.

He sat there in the middle of the room, the sun illuminating his bald, spotty, brown scalp surrounded by a wiry halo of white hair. When he heard me come in, he turned around his wheelchair and scowled at me.

“You sure took your sweet time,” he grumbled. Several of the folks in the room glanced at him.

“Yeah, it’s good to see you too, dad.” He extended a hand to me. I went up to him, shook it, and hugged him. “How’re you feeling?”

He scoffed. “We can talk in the car, eh? I don’t really feel comfortable around these people.” He made no effort to lower his voice. The people watching him started to turn their gaze to me. All that was left for me was to nod in an effort to silently apologize for his behavior. Why would they care so much, though?  Is this really something I should be apologizing for?

He went ahead of me and waited for me to open the car for him, which I promptly did. “You need help?”

“I still know my way around a car, thank you,” he said as he pushed the panel next to the window. The back seat folded and moved away to the back, leaving behind only a space that would allow the wheelchair  to attach to the floor.

“Just wanted to make sure you got everything you need,” I sighed and got behind the steering panel. With two pushes, I set the course for home. “So, did you have fun?”

“Oh, loads,” I could see him roll his eyes in the rear-view mirror. “You know how perky all those old folks are. I was half afraid you’d leave me there with them till I die. Now there’s a thought…” His tone suddenly got much softer. “It’s good to see you, son.”

“Yeah, I know, dad,” I turned my head and smiled at him. “So how’re you holding up?”

“They printed me a new heart,” he said with a shrug. “I’m actually surprised at how well this thing works.”

“Yeah, well,” I turned to him again. “You know it’s all still pretty new stuff, so don’t you dare try to push your limits now, you hear?”

“Well, that’s why I’m moving in with you now, isn’t it? You’ll be babysitting me 24/7.”

“Now that I have the time, I’ll gladly do just that,” I said with my eyes fixed on the road. It’s the best I can do now.

“Any word from Bianca?” His gaze was fixed on something outside the window. The question seemed half-hearted, as if he asked it more out of obligation than genuine curiosity. That, however, was hardly a surprise.

“No, and I want it to stay that way. No reason to dig up the past.”

“Mhm.” He would kill me if he knew I noticed it, but I could see it. Somewhere deep in those chocolate eyes lay buried a deep sadness, concern, that he harbored for all this time, but wouldn’t let anyone know. I knew. If only because that sadness was so much more deeply rooted within my own soul. “So,” dad tried to change the subject, though his bored monotone made it seem like he had little interest in it. “They announced it today, huh?”

“The disarmament, you mean? Yeah, they did. That’s no news to us, though, is it.”

“Kind of a pity, don’t you think?” he turned his eyes to me. I could feel his gaze pierce me through the mirror. “You never even got the chance to prove yourself, did you.”

“Look, dad. Just because I became a soldier too late to take part in any serious conflict doesn’t mean I didn’t do anything important during my service. I’m more than happy to know that whatever small part I played in the grand scheme of things, we now finally have peace.” I could feel my jaw clench. Calm down, Noah. He doesn’t mean it that way. I took a deep breath. “Well, at least I get enough money to live by for the rest of my life now, even if my service was short.” I smiled. I was trying to laugh it all off, but dad seemed concerned.

“You know what, Noah,” he began in almost a whisper. “Part of me is happy that you never had to witness the things I did. You never had to murder innocent children in the name of your country. You never saw your friends turn into monsters or die the most senseless deaths imaginable. That part of me is overjoyed. I am so happy that what I did – and what you did – has helped the world reach the state it is in now. A state when we are actually at peace.” He took a deep breath and closed his eyes. “But there’s another part of me. This one says that it’s all a ruse. We’ve taken over the whole world under the pretence of world peace. We claim war is over. But when is it really over? Noah,” he said as he opened his eyes and turned to me. “I don’t think there is such a thing as eternal, world-wide peace. I know not everyone is happy about the state of the world now, and it’s only a matter of time before uprisings start. And then, with no weapons, and no army, who will defend the defenseless?”

The rest of the ride we remained silent. I didn’t really know what to say. You’re wrong, I thought, so many times. We need peace and we should fight for it, and now that it’s finally here, we should embrace it. But then I remembered so many things. And in that instant, as we stopped the car in front of the house, I found it in me to say: “You’re wrong.”


“I wasn’t spared all of those things,” I said. My voice shook as I spoke of things that I would spend night after sleepless night wishing  that I could forget. “I saw people turn to monsters. Ten years ago, in that project. Remember?”

“Don’t talk about that, Noah,” dad said as he opened the door of the car. “Talking about them won’t make falling asleep any easier.”

“No, wait, it’s just,” I clenched my fist. “I think you’re right on one account. I think this disarmament may be premature too. But maybe, just maybe, they did that as more of an incentive, so that we would actually get that peace now?”

“Why would we need a fake peace now?”

“I-“ I started, but found myself at a loss for words. The memories from ten years ago came floating back. The agonizing screams, the patients tied to the beds. And all I could do was watch and make sure they wouldn’t run away. And I did just that. But none of that ever made public knowledge. And they didn’t let me tell anyone about it. “Maybe, they just need to make peace official now?”

“But why? It’s the damned federal government we’re talking about. They are the ones who decide what needs to be done.”

“Well, what if someone’s watching us-“

“Don’t you be going all conspiracy theorist on me now. Looks like you need the rest now more than I do.”

“Yeah, I guess you’re right,” I said as I stepped out of the car and locked the door. I looked at the evening sky and did my best to remember those words that kept haunting me in my dreams but that I could never really recall when awake.

“Crap,” dad hissed. I turned my head towards him. He was in front of the door, fidgeting with the control panel. “Your panel’s busted. You’re gonna have to contact a handyman.”

Contact. That word hit me like a brick. That was definitely one of the words in my dreams. One piece of that sentence that got repeated over and over. The sentence that I kept hearing in that base, echoing through the hallways and the rooms with the patients. The contact…

What does that even mean?

Saturday, November 22, 2014

The Path to Eden I - Laura

The cafeteria was filled to the brim with inmates. As they were all lining up in front of the food dispensers, we were making our rounds around the place. The tall white walls made for a pretty crushing feeling. Then again, perhaps this was why we never had any discipline problems.

They all look so normal, I thought. If they weren’t all wearing uniforms, I’d say these women were completely ordinary citizens. And yet, they all deserved to be there, there could be no doubt. The legal system had at that point been refined to a degree that there was no possibility of a mistake. These women were all thieves, bandits, murderers. Yes, they looked like normal humans. But deep down, they were anything but. This white box contained the very scum of the Earth. And I was its guardian.

My job was to make sure all the automatic functions were implemented properly. I was in charge of checking if the doors locked the way they’re supposed to, if the bots guided the inmates to their proper cells, or if the food was delivered to the proper cells. The higher-ups always made a big deal over the health of the inmates, so we had to make sure the people didn’t get any allergies. What a waste of money.

This week was also my turn to patrol the West block in the evenings. No one ever wanted to do that – that block was the one where all the people with a life-sentence were. It never made a difference to me, however. The prisoners were all very quiet, regardless of the wing they inhabited. They were all criminals, sinners anyway, no matter how you looked at it. I just found patrolling extremely boring.

My first patrol night started pretty normal. The hall was two stories high, with two rows of cells with glass doors on one wall, a large glass window on the whole of the opposite wall, with a beautiful view of the forest and mountains, engulfed in a thick fog. They don’t deserve this kind of view, I would always think, but that’s just the way things work now. The cells in this block housed one person each, so they were quite tiny. Barely anything more than a bed fit in there, and yet the inmates still found enough space to clutter them with their own stuff. One cell was filled to the brim with abstract drawings, the walls of another were lined with books, and there was one that was filled with toy cats – probably presents from a kid or something.

And then there was a room full of crosses and other Catholic iconography. One picture that drew the attention in particular was a very ornate painting of the Black Madonna. Such a waste, I said to myself as I looked at the room. No amount of prayer is going to save you from going there.

“Hey,” I heard a voice from the cell. The person that up until that point I could’ve sworn was fast asleep turned to face me. Jennifer Stone, sentenced to life for the murder of her sister. Up until the last minute she swore she hadn’t done it. But the evidence never lied. The brown eyes of this forty-something white woman radiate gazed at me. Had I not known I was looking at a cold-blooded killer, those eyes would’ve definitely made me trust her. “You’re Laura, aren’t you?”

“Didn’t think inmates cared to remember our names,” I said. “Go back to sleep.”

“No, no, you’re Laura!” she stood up and approached the glass door, placing a sweaty hand against the door right in front of my face. Thank God for the glass.”I remember you! From back then.”

“Excuse me?”

“You were there with me when the angels came, a long time ago… Ten years or so, I think.”

“Angels, huh?” I smirked. “Go back to sleep, Ms. Stone.”

“You don’t remember?” her eyes went wide in disbelief. I thought she was about to cry. “All those years ago we were taken, remember? There was so many of us… And you helped me get out.”

“That’s good to hear, thank you,” I smiled at her and wanted to keep going, but she kept talking to me.

“Please, you must remember,” she was almost sobbing. “They came to me in my dream. They’re coming again. The end of days is upon us.”

“Please go back to sleep, Ms. Stone.”

“You don’t believe me…” she whispered. “Check the mark below your left breast then. You surely have it. A small red star.”

“That is quite enough,” I said a bit too loudly. The prisoners around me started to emit irritated noises. I slammed the green button hidden next to the door and shutters fell down on Ms. Stone’s cell entrance. She wouldn’t bother me anymore that night. Or so I thought.

I couldn’t help thinking about what she said on the way home. I knew I had no mark there, I was certain of that. And yet, I had to check. Something about what she said stirred something bad in my mind, something I was supposed to forget. Something I couldn’t understand and that I knew would bring me pain. Ten years ago… Angels...

Amos, my faithful German shepherd, greeted me as he always did when I finally came home. I had not time to say hello to him, however. I rushed to the bathroom and stripped in front of the mirror. For a moment, I held my breath. Lifting and stretching any piece of skin I could grab, I scanned every inch of my torso. Then, finally, the breath came back. I felt so relieved. There was nothing there. And yet, for some reason, tears came rolling down my eyes, and my body wouldn’t stop shaking. Amos came to my side and started licking my face. I hugged him as tight as he would let me. The empty feeling seemed to slowly go away.

“Thanks, buddy,” I said to the dog once I was feeling better. I then dressed again and went to the kitchen to give him some food. I then took him for a long walk in the fog. That really helped ease my nerves. The lake was so close, and yet it was barely visible in these conditions. Still, just the smell and sound of it made me remember my childhood and how happy I used to be back then. For all the complaining I used to do, I now wished there was somebody who would nag to me about how I should be getting married and having kids.

For the next couple of days, I asked Maria Velasquez to take care of my patrols for me. I offered to take her shift next time. She agreed after I told her I wasn’t feeling that well. Though we didn’t talk much, I always felt a kind of bond with Maria. I knew that I could always count on her, and despite her cold expression, I could tell that she always cared deeply about other people.

I quickly forgot about the whole business, but was soon reminded of it. The other guards started talking about Ms. Stone. Apparently, something happened and her health was deteriorating rapidly. The doctor couldn’t find anything wrong with here. She wasn’t sick, she didn’t seem to have any physical injuries. She was just dying. Just like that.  Even though there was no death penalty, we still had a policy of allowing dying prisoners to have one last wish fulfilled. As luck would have it, Ms. Stone’s dying wish was to talk to me. And thus, on the day she drew her last breath, I was called to the infirmary.

“Laura,” she heaved. “You came.”

“I’m sorry, Ms. Stone, but you must have mistaken me with somebody,” I told her. “I didn’t find any mark. I wasn’t there with your angels.”

“I see.” Her voice was faint. Barely a whisper. “That’s why you aren’t dying. Your surgery was successful.”


“Listen to me, Laura, and listen closely,” she whispered as she grabbed my hand. Her grip was tight despite her state. “The angels have chosen you. It is up to you. You are the one who will bring justice to this world and punish those who did this to us.”

“Ms. Stone. I’m sorry, but this all really is a bunch of nonsense to me.”

“The angels will come to you in a dream, as they came to me. They will take you. I was unworthy. For my crime, I was deemed unworthy. I couldn’t go with them… But you can go and you can make this right…”

A single tear rolled down my cheek. But she’s a murderer, I said to myself. She may regret it, but she still deserves all this. So don’t cry. Don’t cry for her, she’s doomed anyway, don’t mourn her.
“Goodbye, Ms. Stone,” I said. She nodded and closed her eyes. I left the infirmary and continued my duties like nothing happened. Because  nothing happened. It was all a bunch of nonsense.

But then why did I feel like I needed to scream?

Saturday, November 15, 2014

The Path to Eden I - Mara

The final bell rang. With a sigh of relief, I told the kids they could go. Unfortunately, the excited whispers that arose were killed by my last-minute announcement of homework. It was only two exercises, and yet they still moaned. Always moaning, always tired, devoid of any drive or ambition. The holoscreens on the desk turned off one by one. I still had to turn off the board, as I was the last teacher to have classes in this room.

“Bye, Mrs. Chapman,” a girl’s voice called to me from the exit.

“Goodbye,” I called back. I glanced up from under the desk to look up at the student. I smiled back at her, one of the few faces that actually showed some enthusiasm about learning something. Ellie Morgan was still a kid, but I could tell that with that kind of brain, she could do something great in the future. She looked a lot like her sister, too, except for the eyes. Ellie had much better grades in my class than Angela ever had, but the memories I had of her older sister were pleasant.

After locking up the class, I made my way to the teacher’s lounge. The look of schools in general has changed considerably since I was a student myself. Almost all the walls were made of interactive glass that would let in all the sun when on standby, but could be manipulated to block the view if need be. Even the classrooms were much more open and separated only by segments, never full walls. The atmosphere of the building, with its warm hues and abundance of natural light, made it feel like the perfect nurturing environment. Logically, the kids should want to take in knowledge gladly in a place like this. Yet most students would still approach learning with the enthusiasm of a zombie. There must be something fundamentally wrong with this system.

After leaving the key and grabbing my coat, I left the teacher’s lounge. I didn’t see anyone there, which wasn’t surprising. At this hour, there’s hardly ever any teachers left. Outside the school my lovely green car was right where I parked it. I took control of the wheel, as usual. The self-driving system was working just fine, I just never thought I needed it. I felt fine being completely in control of my car. Plus, there was no way in hell I’d let my supreme driving skills get impaired by lack of proper training. I rode out the driveway and into the street.

In an instant, I forgot all about the zombie teenagers and broken education system. The tall trees, with their leaves a collage of browns, oranges and yellows, with only the occasional splash of green, formed a tunnel over the street. It was rush hour, but you couldn’t tell it by looking at this street. One of the biggest perks of living and working in the suburbs – you were never stuck in traffic. That, and the beautiful houses built in the style of the 1950s. Both Jerome and I agreed – this is as good as it gets.

Before going straight home, I had to pick up Ivy, as usual. The elementary school was just a few blocks away. As I got there, I noticed my little girl stand by the metal gate on the red brick wall separating the school grounds from the street. Once she spotted my car, she ran up, a multitude of tiny braids bouncing on her head.

“How was school?” I asked her as she took the front passenger’s seat.

“It was okay,” Ivy shrugged.

“Lots of homework?”

“Mhm,” she nodded, her little eyebrows furrowed.

“What’s wrong, honey?”

“Well, there was this thing today,” she began. “We had this really difficult math equation to do in class today. And Mr. Green asked Sophia to come to the blackboard, which she did. And she even gave the right answer, but the teacher said she didn’t do it right, because she didn’t solve it the way he showed us earlier. So she didn’t get a star even though she’s really smart and deserved it. I think it’s unfair.”

“You do?”

“Yes,” she nodded again and turned her large brown eyes to me. “What do you think, mom?”

“Well, I think Mr. Green had a reason to say you have to use his method,” I told my child, but there was doubt in my head. Was this one of the fatal flaws in our system? I understand how students need to know certain processes before they move on to bigger things, but is this really the way to go about it?

We soon reached home. As we entered through the front door, I heard a pair of tiny footsteps rushing in my direction, as usual. I was wondering how Micah never got tired of it.

“Mommy!” a sweet little voice called. I lifted the boy and gave him a kiss on his round little nose. His thick curls were a tangled mess.

“Hello, sweetie,” I smiled at him. I noticed Jerome come out of the kitchen wiping his hands on his apron that was tied pretty tight around his large belly. His thick glasses were a bit askew, lips twisted into that smug little smile of his.

“Come on kids, dinner’s ready, give mom some room to breathe,” he said as he took Ivy’s backpack from her. I let Micah go and both he and Ivy ran to the dining room. Jerome approached me and gave me a gentle kiss on the cheek, his beard itchy as always. “Hey, honey. How was your day?”

“Ugh,” I groaned. “Same old zombie business. What’s for dinner?”

“Lasagne,” he said as he made his way back to the kitchen. “Just hurry up or it’ll get cold."

We all sat at the dining room table, recounting the events of the day. Jerome got pretty upset over Ivy’s story, or at least acted upset to make his daughter feel better.  I was really impressed by how well Micah could use the fork and knife already. Looking at both of our kids and how they were turning out, at that moment I could safely say that Jerome and I were doing a pretty good job at parenting.

I offered to do the dishes, as Jerome still had a lot of work to do. Not that that was a particularly time-consuming task, as we had recently purchased a new dishwasher. I didn’t even need to do anything, just put the plates in it. It all worked like a charm. I then sat down with the kids, helping Ivy with her homework, while Micah filled out his new coloring book. Then evening came and I put Micah to sleep. Ivy was still playing some games in her room, so I just told her not to stay up too late.

I went to check up on Jerome in his study. The room always looked a mess, but there was no helping it. Batches of paper lay sprawled on the floor under piles of cables and wires. In the middle of it all stood a chair, and in it – my husband, a metal helmet on his head so big it covered half his face. I went in as quietly as I could and jabbed him in his flabby belly.

“Whoa!” he screamed. “Jesus, Mara. How many times did I specifically tell you not to do just that?”

“Sorry, Cerebro,” I chuckled. “You’re just such an easy target. You done for today?”

“Yeah, I think I can go to bed now,” he said as he put away the helmet. “I was correcting this super important document today. Now, this is classified information, but they’re going to announce a global disarmament tomorrow.”

“You’re joking,” I said in a flat tone.


“Huh,” I said as we made our way to the bedroom. “Well, when you said it’s classified info, I expected something… bigger.”

“Oh, come on,” he looked at me with his brown eyes, his dark forehead wrinkled from all the furrowing he always did with his brows. “This is literally the most important document I have ever worked on.”

“Yeah, I guess,” I ended that conversation there. I still thought about it as I took a shower, however. It was a big change, and yet, it really seemed like something obvious. I knew there was something wrong with the way things were run, and I was really starting to doubt gradual changes like these would really be enough to set everything right.

When I got out of the bathroom, Jerome was already in bed, reading a book. Our bed was really wide – it had to be if it were to accommodate both of our bodies, neither of which could be considered a size 0. Still, I stood there for a moment, just taking in the way the man I loved looked as he read that book, his face focused, eyes darting back and forth. Even though neither of us were exactly young anymore, I still felt we were both very attractive. Even if not by everyone’s standards, I knew we were still attractive to each other. That night, in a surge of spontaneity, I got on top of him, threw his book away, along with glasses both mine and his, and made sure we wouldn’t sleep for at least a couple of hours. We made sure to stay quiet so as not to wake the kids, though.

The next morning, I barely managed to go to work. Not because I didn’t want to or couldn’t get up early enough. Once he saw me, Micah decided he needed to cling to my leg and not let me go anywhere.

“Come on, buddy,” Jerome said to him as he forced the boy to release his grip on me. Micah instantly broke into tears. “Shh, there now. Mommy’s gonna come home from work soon, okay? Don’t you worry. We can have fun without mommy, right?”

“Don’t go!” Micah wailed. “Don’t leave, mommy!”

“Don’t worry,” I said as I laid a kiss on his little forehead. “I won’t be long.”

The day did seem long, however. I was growing more and more frustrated at how similar all the days looked. The same zombies roaming the schools, the same complaints from my kids. Yes, we got a global disarmament. That is fantastic. Too bad so many things are messed up anyway.

“You know,” I told Jerome as we lay in bed before going to sleep. “You’d think after all the changes the education system had, things would be better.”

“Well, aren’t they?” he asked. “I mean, at least schools are safe, and our kids don’t have to worry about getting different treatment just because they’re black. Plus, according to statistical data, kids are scoring better and better every year.”

He has a point. “I know what you mean, but what does it all matter in the long run? Everyone hates school anyway and it’s only a select few that want to gain knowledge for their own benefit. Imagine how much more people would actually consider higher education if the system let them spread their wings better?”

“Of course that would be good. But how can you do that? The system’s constantly evolving anyway. Maybe someday.”

“That’s just the thing. I don’t think this evolution is the right way to go. We need a drastic change, and we need it now.”

Jerome kissed me right in the lips. “Don’t you be going starting revolutions now, okay? I know something needs to change, and maybe it will someday. But for now, I think we have more important things to focus on.”

“You’re right,” I said. We both went to sleep.

I wouldn’t consider the state I was in sleep, however. The only word that comes to mind is vision. I saw Angela suspended in midair, surrounded by eleven people, me among them. The entire space was completely white, with an eye in the sky piercing through the white layers to reveal a blue sky beyond. The Contact the eye called the girl. I woke up from the vision horrified and ran straight to the bathroom to vomit. The feeling I had wouldn’t go away, though. Through the bathroom mirror, I saw lights in the sky. I felt a numbness fill me. It was all true. I went back to bed and hugged Jerome as tight as I could. The feeling inside my body was pushing me to find Angela as fast as possible, at all costs, but I fought it. I wouldn’t leave this place for the world, ever. I needed to be here, with my family. I had important things to focus on.

This change was too early for me.