“Crying over what’s gone won’t find the present.” – Edwin Louis Cole
I spend the following week, sleeping and crying in my bedroom. On the fifth day, Mason came to check on me – but I’d been sleeping – he left a note behind to “come over whenever, if wanted”. The same day, I did not call my father and he left a short voicemail. When the next day came, he did not call at all.
Today is the first day that I wake with the sun. Walking out in my robe, I go to the fountain and admire the vibrant pink sky beyond the forest trees. Despite my sorrow, it is beautiful. Relaxing at the sight, my heart nearly stops when Isaac appears from one of the houses.
“Happy day!” He greets with a smile.
“What are you doing here?” I gasp, pulling my robe tighter to my body.
“Nice to see you too.” He wears just a pair of comfort pants. With his torso exposed, his nipple rings – two iron studs – are plainly visible. Heat gathers in my cheeks.
“Tell me you’re not living here.” I manage to speak, “Please.”
“Ha, I thought about it actually.” He laughs, sitting at one of the stones, “I’ve got a good three years before I can file a Citizenship transfer though.”
“Then why are you here?” I point at his attire, “In that?”
“Oh!” He looks down, as if just now realizing he is barely dressed, “Yeah, I got here a while ago, but I didn’t want to wake you so I thought I’d take a quick nap in one of the houses.”
“Really?” Something about how he says it, I can’t believe him.
“Anyways,” He slaps his hands upon his knees, “I came to get that thing I gave you.”
“Thing?” I squint at him.
He leans closer, voice lowering, “The box?”
My binge week of sadness had made me forget entirely about the metal box, “Oh, right!” I shake my head, sniffing and heading towards my home to retrieve it. As I walk into the main room, I realize Isaac is following at my heels, “Are you going to tell me what’s in it?”
“Do you really want to know?” He retorts, looking around as we go to the bedroom.
My bedroom is filled with tissues, and I’m running low on them, but I’ll just grab tissues from one of the other houses if I need to. From days and nights of careless sleeping, my blankets are strewn about and a few pillows lie on the floor.
“Woah.” Isaac looks around the room, “It is dense in here.” He laughs dryly, “Are you doing okay, kid?”
I want to say yes. I want to say I’m fine. I don’t want to go into it. I don’t want to talk about it. If I keep them to myself, my emotions will settle on their own.
Despite this, when I look at him to answer, the words die in my throat. Tears escape. I start to bawl.
“Woah, hey, hey,” Isaac hurries forward, quickly drawing me into a hug. I’m dangerously close to his studded niipples, but I can’t bring myself to care. He smooths my hair, “Alright, alright, let it out.” He murmurs in a softening voice.
When I’m finished, he gets me a glass of water and some clean tissues. Wiping my nose, I try to apologize for having just done that, but only end up crying more.
Finally, I gain composure and sit on the bed. I feel weak, but better in a way. There is a lightness in my chest where before there had been a heavy pressure. Isaac sits at the edge of the bed. He seems concerned, watching me as if watching a wild animal that might bite him at any moment.
“Better?” He asks after I successfully drink the water without crying.
I nod, “Kind of.”
“So, what’s this about?” He takes the empty glass from me, “Not liking your new Citizenship?”
“No,” I shake my head, “It’s not that.”
I bite my lower lip, looking away from him as I try to figure out how to word it, “Well, I guess I miss my dad.”
“That makes sense.” Isaac says, “Your dad is a cool guy. It’s not like you’re never going to see him again though.”
“Yeah, I know.” I admit, sniffing, “He hasn’t even come to visit though.”
“Well, he does do a lot of work for the Bureau and it’s a long trip from A-Utili and Transcendi.”
I glare at him.
“Not that I’m defending him,” Isaac quickly amends, “I’m just sure he’s planning to visit eventually and hasn’t gotten around to it yet.”
“Yeah…” The thought doesn’t make me feel better.
“Are you sure that’s all that’s bothering you?”
I shrug, “I guess I just didn’t think that changing my Citizenship would make this much a difference, so soon.”
“Well now you know.” Isaac murmurs, “Maybe you should join one of those support groups?”
“Huh?” I look at him.
“You know, if you go on the Net, there’s a lot of support groups for first-time Citizen transfers and I’m sure Transcendi has a few people that’d be willing to help you out too, if you need someone to talk to ever.”
I squirm at the thought of joining a group centralized around such a theme. Since I am from A-Utili, I always considered myself above all that heart-center, emotional nonsense. Especially since Citizenship transfers were for the health of our world, I should be happy that I got the opportunity, “I guess I should have studied a bit more about it.”
“Well, nothing to be done about it now.” Isaac pats me on the shoulder, “You’re a Transcendi citizen for the next ten years, better find something you like about it.” He smiles, “Now, where is that box?”
“Oh,” I groan slightly, realizing I had forgotten the reason why Isaac was even here. Of course he wasn’t here to take care of me. I point towards the closet, “It’s in the bottom shelf.”
He opens the closet, kneeling down and finding the box under the clothing. As he stands, he looks over at me with a worried expression, “By the way, you should probably take a shower or something. Your hair smells, really bad.”
My cheeks flush brightly and I quickly look down, ashamed.
“Thanks for holding onto this.” Isaac walks to the door, “So, hey, look, I have to get going, but a pretty girl like you shouldn’t be so sad about something like this. You’re going to miss your dad because you love him, maybe even the city since it’s all you’ve known, but you know what?”
“What?” I barely whisper under my breath, unable to look at him.
“You’re strong and this is only going to make you stronger, kid.”
“You think so?” I glance at him.
He smiles, “I guarantee it.”
Wearily, I smile back as he leaves. I wait, frozen still with the tired smile on my face, for a couple minutes until I let my face fall and collapse into my bed. I go back to sleep, exhausted already.
It is afternoon when I wake and the lightness that occurred after my breakdown persists. I still feel better, though there is an odd sensation in the back of my mind. Numb is the best way to describe it, though how could one ever feel being numb? I shake my head, not analyzing it as I walk out of the room. From the main room openings, I can see Mason sitting at one of the rocks. Yona, the dreadlocked neighbor, is sitting next to him. They aren’t talking, but instead, they sit still with their eyes closed.
Walking outside, I am careful to be quiet, but I’m also curious, “Hi,” I whisper to Mason as I approach.
“Hm?” He looks over his shoulder at me, then smiles, “Oh, how are you?” He asks, leaving his meditation to stand. Yona remains still, not looking at either of us.
“Uhm,” I keep my voice to a whisper, “I’m okay, I was wondering, do you know where a shower or bath place might be?”
Mason nods, “Yeah, you have to go that way.” He points towards the trees, the opposite direction of the landing pads. I look, nodding slowly. “Did you want me to go with you?” He offers, then a second later, he quickly adds, “I mean, show you the way.” His freckled cheeks turn a rosy color.
I smile. His blush is cute. Glancing at Yona, I murmur, “If you’re not busy?”
“No, no.” He doesn’t say anything to Yona as he begins to walk down the path. I follow, wondering if the woman was just sleeping while sitting up.
“So,” As we move into the forest, walking away from the ring of homes, Mason looks at me as if he is frightened, “that guy that was here earlier… he’s your friend?”
“My friend’s brother.” I quickly correct him, “Isaac.”
“Right, him,” He nods, “Is he going to be visiting often or?”
“Oh, uh,” I am surprised by his question, “I don’t know, I wouldn’t think so.”
“Okay.” Mason clears his throat and looks away.
An awkward silence grows between us. It makes me nervous. I scratch at my wrist.
“I’m going to meditation this evening with Yona,” Mason suddenly says, looking at me with wide eyes. I notice they are not brown – like I had first thought – but a brilliant hazel color. “Would you like to come?”
The offer takes me by surprise as well. I hesitate, looking ahead as we approach a clear dome. Inside the dome was a giant circular pool, built by man, but clearly working with the land as a waterfall similar to the fountain gurgled on one side. Outside the dome were thin tubings that led to areas behind trees and rocks. The infrastructure distracts me as I look around.
“The bath is pretty warm, dunno how they do it yet.” Mason speaks up, “those tubes, they go to shower areas.”
“Very, uhm,” I struggle to find a word, “Exposed.” It is not the right word, but I say it anways.
Mason laughs shortly, “Yeah, at least we’re not in a city here, huh?”
“You think all their baths are like this?” In A-Utili, baths and showers were extremely private affairs in box-shaped cubicles.
“So far from what I can see, they are.” He shrugs, “So, uhm, I’m going to head back, but that meditation?”
“Oh, right, sorry,” I apologize for forgetting his offer so readily, “Uhm, sure.” It was that or sit at home crying another night, I figure. The grin on his face makes my answer worth it, alone.
“Great!” He snaps his fingers and points at me, “I will see you later then. We’ll wait for you to be done before we head over.”
“Thanks.” I smile. I wait until he’s out of sight before turning to tackle my shower… or bath… I try to decide whether to choose between the domed pool, where I’d be protected from wildlife, but centrally exposed to anyone that would come by – or the vulnerable shower spots, where there was a higher chance of privacy, but what if some animal came by? Surely, there were predators I should be wary of. I mentally note to research what animals are in the area.
Yona and Wawack’s home is located about a five minute hover from ours, next to a dip in the landscape which leads from the forest into a valley that is cut in half by a river. Their home sits in a ring as well, but far more expanded than ours, with nearly seventeen homes attached to one another. Each home is shaped differently than the other, rather than the identical spirals. It looks as if they might have started as spirals though, but then were reconstructed into unique, organic shapes over time. On top of Yona’s particular home was a patio instead of a roof with a Celestial Map Sphere placed in the center. From it, the current placement of the stars – in reference to the Earth – gleamed, following orbits that could not be seen in the still-day sky.
The meditation group started at the fountain – identical to ours, sitting stones and everything – but Wawack decided that tonight, they would go down into the valley to meditate.
As we walk, Yona talks to the entire group, “I’m sure you all remember the newcomers, Mason and Avery. We’re all very happy to have you both with us.” She smiles brilliantly at us and for the first time since meeting her, I notice she is missing a canine tooth, “It’s been two years since we had new citizens here and it brings such joy to our hearts to have your energies with us.” Placing a hand to her chest, she sighs happily.
“You would not be here,” Wawack spoke, focusing on leading the large group through the forest with his eyes trained forward, “If you were not meant to be here at this time. Love unites us, but it also binds us. You have a purpose, and it’s time you found it.”
I shiver, involuntarily, and wish I had brought a coat. My short-sleeve dress was not warm enough. Hugging myself, I glance at Mason and say nothing. He looks cheerful, watching Wawack.
To my other side, I feel something soft glide against my arm. Looking over quickly, I see a blonde girl with such pouty lips, they remind me of the clouds back home in the city and I sigh softly. They were the same shade of pink as a summer sunset. I realize I have drawn my own lips up into a crooked smirk. Quickly, I get rid of it – falling my face into a neutral expression – and clearing my throat.
“Hi.” I squeak.
She smiles. It’s brilliant. Her wide eyes glisten with the blue of mercury. Gentle blond-and-pink curls are spread out from two pink clips, carefully angled to present her cheekbones and delicately-pointed chin forward. She has the smallest diamond piercing on the crest of her chin. I realize I’m not breathing.
“Cold?” She asks. She is placing a fur coat around me. It is a silky fur, I don’t know what animal. I am having trouble thinking. I nod, dimly. Ahead, Wawack is talking more, but I can’t hear. I’m listening to this strange girl. “I forgot a coat the first time I came to meditation too.” She smiles, then from a satchel, she pulls out a ceramic bottle with a cork, “Water?”
I nod, accepting the bottle. Hesitating briefly, she smiles at me again. I drink.
The water is so fresh.
It is the best water I have ever tasted in my life.
I hand the bottle back to her, “I’m Avery.” I blurt out.
“Avery,” She tries the name out slowly, as if feeling it with her tongue.
“I’m Mason.” Mason tries to join the conversation.
“I met you last week, Mason.” She says, winking at me and turning to face forward as she walks past us, “You know, I’m starting to get used to this temperature though.” Laughing, she primps her hair, “Wait until you see the winters here!”
“They’re pretty brutal.” One of the group members comment from nearby.
“Aria.” Wawack spoke loudly, so the whole group would hear, “come here, you’re practicing silence this meet, remember?”
“I’m Aria.” She smiles at us, pointing at herself before jogging to walk beside Wawack, “Mmhm.” She nods, pretending she holds a key and locks her mouth shut.
Mason nudges me. He doesn’t say anything, but his look says everything. I follow it to look back at Aria. She was taller than me, most definitely older, but I couldn’t help watching her as she skipped with a bounce in her step and swayed with an inner music that I wanted to hear.
“Silence is a wonderful way to find stillness.” Yona interrupted my reverie. “Stillness is what brings us into Being. We must practice stillness to know true peace, and hold that within our hearts.” She takes a deep breath, quite loudly, “Please, feel this. Do this now. Breath. And.”
“We’re here.” Wawack announces as we reach a grassy meadow next to the river in the valley, “Everybody, sit down.”
Aria spun on the ball of her foot, then quickly sat down with a smile. Quickly, everybody fell around her – forming a circle – facing inwards. I sat beside Mason and when I glanced to see who was to my left, I realized Ara had been there all along. He pointed towards Wawack, so that I would look there instead of him.
Wawack sits down last, taking a deep breath – which everyone mimics – I do so too. I’m not sure what we’re doing. I knew meditation in theory, but never practice. It was weird doing a posture I had seen so many times on the screen. Everyone else seemed so natural at it.
“Focus.” Wawack whispered in a low voice, “Focus. Feel your third eye.”
The statement excited me. I, instantly, thought of my third-eye make-up. Why hadn’t I done that for this meet-up? Instead I was just plain. At least I am freshly washed though. My shower cleaned me up a great deal.
“Feel the wind.” Yona added in a soft voice. Someone started humming. It made me uncomfortable. I couldn’t just get up and leave though. Settling, I take a deep breath and hold it. There is a light breeze against my face, but nothing to notice really.
“See the wind.” Wawack continues. There was clicking going on somewhere, or is someone snapping their fingers? I struggle to keep my eyes shut. “Aria, silence.” A faint hissing sound responds.
I take another deep breath, and lose myself to relaxation as a strong breeze draws up my hair and lifts it off my shoulders. For the first time, in a long time, I feel light. Is this… free?
I am not in the valley.
There is no river next to me.
As I open my eyes, before me, I see a room that shines gold.
“What on Earth?” I ask, standing as I look around. There are odd symbols, squiggles and geometric shapes wiggling all over the place. What is this? I go to a wall and press on one of them. It glows green.
I feel an overwhelming urge to cry. Turning away, I slump down and close my eyes. Why am I here?
“I want to go.” I say. When I open my eyes, I am back in the valley, looking at the rest of the group – all sitting, silently, with their eyes shut. Biting my lower lip, I stand up. Aria looks at me. She shakes her head. I turn and quickly start to walk away, back the way we came.
No one follows me. I can’t decide if I’m happy with that or not.
I think of the green symbol and try to remember it as I walk back into the forest. I still have Aria’s coat. I hug it tight.
“I’m sorry, I was totally gone.” Mason apologizes, “If I had known you had actually gone, I would have come. I didn’t mean to have you waiting.” We had taken the same hovercraft to the meditation group. So, once I arrived back to the launchpad, I realized I couldn’t just take his hovercraft out. I didn’t have his code.
“It’s okay.” I mutter, tired and just wanting to go home to sleep.
“You could have come and gotten me, too. Just so you know.” He adds, inputting the code and turning on the craft.
“Whatever.” I grumble, turning away. He leaves me alone. I feel bad briefly, so I say, “Did you have a good time?”
Mason nods, “Yeah.” He smiled, “I’m trying to get Aria to come live with us.”
“Really?” I try not to give anything away when I say it.
“She’s thinking about it!” He says, proudly, “She’s only sixteen.” He adds with a smile, fluffing his red-orange hair up so that it is fuller, “Just two years.”
I clear my throat, turning to look at him with exasperation.
“Anyways, she’s doing research in the Astronautical field, something about space debris calibration or something like that.”
“Fascinating.” I murmur, scratching my neck.
“What about you?” He asks as the hovercraft begins on it’s programmed path back to our home.
“What field is your research in?”
“Promise you won’t laugh?” I ask, looking at him with a serious face.
“Promise.” He says with a smile.
“Really?” He seems excited, turning away from the dash to face me, “What’s your thesis?”
“Oh, I don’t have one yet.” I admit, “I figure I’ll decide it when I get closer to publishing. I mean, who knows what is going to come out in the time from now and eighteen.”
“Eighteen, huh?” He shrugs, turning back to the dash, “I’m planning for twenty.” He smiles, looking over the map.
“What’s your research in?”
“Water generation and cycling.” He clears his throat, “Space-related, though. Mars, specifically.”
“Mars?” I ask.
“Yeah, my sisters are up there. Mars Fifty-NineX colony.” He nods with a smile, as if sentimental about the fact, “I promised them I would come after my first publication.”
“Aw,” I smile as well, “That’s sweet.”
He blushes, “Yeah, oh, we’re back.” He lands the hovercraft and quickly ends the conversation.
“It won’t be the same when other people start moving in.” I mention as we reach the houses, “It’s been so quiet.”
“Oh, I’m sure it won’t get louder or anything.”
I shrug, “Well, enjoy your night.”
“G’night.” He waves as he heads into his home.
I sigh, going directly to my bed and falling asleep.
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