Lost Dreams, by Jason Lairamore
Ark4523-sec.8a woke with a beeping in his ears. Without opening his eyes he mumbled, “Alarm snooze,” and the noise stopped. He squirmed under his cover and settled down for another nine minutes of sleep only to realize a persistent itch in his left eye. With a sigh he cracked his eyes open and said, “Headlight, Bed, Low.” A soft blue light filled the top of his inset sleeping hole. A red light flashed in the corner of his vision alerting him of a new message in his cranio-computer. He rolled out of the bed and stood in the darkness of his twelve foot square apartment.
“Coffee,” he yawned. “Overhead light.” The room became visible. “Table,” and a 30” X 30” black metal board lowered from the ceiling, stopping at exactly thirty two inches from the floor. He walked to the wall opposite the bed where a twelve inch countertop recessed in the wall. There, he poured himself a cup of coffee by pushing a button and holding a double insulated plastic cup under a spigot. He walked to the table, put his coffee cup on the table and sat in his one piece of luxury, an imitation leather recliner.
He sipped at his coffee for a few moments to allow the life giving liquid to do its magic. As a section 8 genetic sample he was given certain privileges not allowed the rest of society. Coffee was one of the perks he enjoyed the most. He wasn’t taken to cigarettes the way a lot of the other 8s were. He couldn’t imagine smelling like a cigarette all day. He rubbed the sleep out of his eyes, leaned forward in his chair, and set his empty coffee cup on the floor. Then he tilted the black table from a horizontal position to a 45 degree angle and stared at the dull surface.
“Message,” he said and waited for news from government headquarters. It could be nobody else. People didn’t associate with section 8s and he didn’t really get along with others in his section. Maybe he was crazy, even for an 8.
An image materialized on the black table-top, projected from his cranio-computer onto his optic nerve:
Project: Field work – Rocky mountain district
Objective: Retrieval of possible artifacts
Time Table: Skier to pick up at 0800 2/5/14
Return Skier at same location at 1500 2/5/14
It was an easy job, to say the least. He’d been to the mountains any number of times. It was one of the last places the government didn’t have monitored, whatever that meant. There were a few people living up there, but not many. To him, it was insane to live outside the societal norm. Why fight such a great organization in the first place? If it weren’t for the World Government then humanity would surely have destroyed itself back in 21st century, when nuclear warfare reached an all time high. Out of the rubble over a thousand years ago emerged an organization that squashed all rebellion and united what was left of humanity. Since that time humans had made a great comeback in both biological and technological advancements. Humans were now bred in the labs, with genes specifically expressed during key moments in gestation. The results yielded a more efficient society, a human for each and every necessary function. Ark enjoyed being a section 8. He was considered among the elite and got to do various jobs around the world. Sometimes he felt sorry for the general laborers. He’d hate to lift stuff all day.
The clock in the right lower corner of his vision said it was 07:45. He jumped from his chair and ran to the wall next to his bed insert. He pushed a button and the wall slid open without a noise. He pulled out a transparent body suit and donned it. That garment alone would keep him warm enough in the high altitudes of this mission, but he knew better than to wear just his city clothes. In order to avoid suspicion among the outcasts he put on synthetic jeans colored to look like blue threaded linen and a red and black checkered shirt of the same material. Then he donned some imitation leather boots and a knee length jacket of similar make.
Thus attired, he walked to the rear left corner of his apartment where a grooved circle four feet in diameter was on the floor. He stepped within the circle and said, “Roof”. A gray tube slid down from the ceiling, encapsulating him. He felt no pressure during his ascent nor heard any sound from machine works. He always wondered how the elevator worked. Perhaps it was part of his genetic make-up to ask such questions.
No sound accompanied the depression of the gray tube as it went back down into he building. Ark had a clear view of the city and took a moment to take in the area before walking the short distance to the waiting skier. The sky was blue and the air had a freshness quality about it that was totally absent in his apartment. The nearest buildings were over a mile away and clustered like a group of giant gray straws sticking out of the ground. The section 8s were kept apart from the city, for reasons he didn’t know and really didn’t care about. What he did feel was appreciation not to be locked up in the city.
He shrugged his shoulders and ambled up to the waiting skier. An assignment was an assignment and the sooner he got it done, the sooner he could get back home and do some reading. There was another perk of his section he really enjoyed.
The skier was light blue, like the sky, and had but a single seat. It had a pointy nose and a single exhaust in the back. He hopped into the seat and strapped himself down. A black cover slid over the top of his head, obscuring his view, and leaving him in pitch blackness for a second. Then, an internal light came on and he heard the rumble of machines. He was pushed to the back of his chair and clenched his teeth together as the pressure built.
The clock said it was 09:23 when he felt the skier touchdown. The black cover retracted and he jumped out and ran from the ship. It wouldn’t do to have anybody see him. The outcasts were normally pretty peaceful, but not always. If given an easy opportunity, they would destroy both him and the skier. The wind was fierce and cold on his face and he chided himself for not thinking of wearing head protection. His ears would be near frozen by the time the skier returned. He reached a group of huge pine trees and hid within them while he caught his breath. The wind wasn’t as bad within the trees, so he stayed awhile to memorize the lay of the land. He’d have to be back by 1500 or they’d… Well he didn’t know what they’d do. He’d never missed a return ship before.
It looked easier going down the hillside, so he walked in that direction. In truth, he didn’t really expect to find anything new for the government museum. The section 8s had been scouring the area for centuries and he felt sure that anything good would have been discovered by now.
He kept to the rocks and trees as best he could as he traveled. If luck was with him, he would see any outcast before they saw him. He continued down the icy landscape, seeing nothing but raw nature in all its savageness. It made him ache for his cozy little apartment while at the same time livid with a sense of freedom. That feeling drew him to a stop and kept him from bumbling into the path of two oncoming outcasts wearing heavy fur coats. Luckily their heads were down in the wind and he had time to shuffle step behind some big boulders. The weird feeling that he had just felt was replaced by apprehension. He peeked around the boulder and watched the two people pass.
The two outcasts passed him and continued on their way, oblivious to his presence. He let out a held breath when he could no longer see their dark furs. He ducked behind the boulder and brought the collar of his jacket around his ears to warm them. They had already started to ache. While his ears got their circulation back he thought about where to go. It’d be foolish to follow the outcasts. Those two were probably headed toward others and he didn’t want to get captured. He decided to skirt the trees and head in the direction they had come from.
An orange light shone like a small wave up ahead and a little to the right. He decided to investigate, keeping well hidden behind trees and boulders. He wished he had worn his white jacket. In his hurry to leave he hadn’t thought of camouflage. He neared the light and saw that it was a small fire in a little clearing. Two huddled shapes sat across from each other, warming their hands on the fire. He eased himself forward one slow step at a time and was careful not to make any additional crunching sounds.
His carefulness was wasted when he got close. The two outcasts were having a heated discussion and probably wouldn’t have noticed him if he had walked right past them. He squatted behind a tree and eavesdropped.
“It’s my clan’s turn Brin,” one of the men said and pointed to something lying on the ground. “With the death of Maree’s babe I need it for its spirits.”
“I say no, Crag, and I still say it. My time with the magic is not yet passed and you know it,” the other man said, shaking his head.
“You talk like your clan is the only one with hardship. I’ve already told you Dav-id’s fall from the mountainside left him cripple. Leave my land until you’re time is come. The moon is but half full!”
Ark had no idea what the fullness of the moon had to do with anything. He was more interested in what the two outcasts called magic. Perhaps here there was an artifact worth getting for the government.
“Maree is my niece,” Crag said. “I’ll have the token.” He stood and Ark saw a big stick materialize in the man’s hand.
Brin also stood and brought to bear his own stick. “You threaten me Crag? You challenge me in my own land?”
“No threat is needed if you give me what I seek.”
“Enough talk. Get off my land before I beat you to a pulp,”
Crag nodded. “So be it.” He jumped the fire and swung his stick at Brin’s head.
Brin brought his own stick up and blocked the swing, but Crag’s momentum collided with Brin and both men went to the ground with growls and yelps. Ark sat in silence as the two men beat at each other. He had only read about physical violence and the real thing scared and excited him more than mere words could ever hope to achieve. The action was so fast, the yells and blood so real, that before Ark could comprehend what was going on it was all over. Both men lay on their backs, not moving. The mountainside continued it’s wailing wind. The fire continued to crackle. But, for some unknown reason, the whole area felt supremely quiet.
Ark remained squatted behind the tree, acutely aware of his own breathing that sounded so loud in his ears. A minute passed and nothing happened. Then, as if by a volition all its own, his body stood and ran to the fire. He saw a leather satchel laying on the ground half covered by snow and picked it up. With heart racing he ran back to the trees and hid.
His hands shook as he opened the satchel. Inside he found a single piece of old paper with lines on it. The paper had a plastic covering over it. He wondered idly where the outcasts had found plastic. He guessed it was possible that this thing he held in his hands was some sort of heirloom handed down through the generations. Shrugging away the nervousness that caused his heart to pump hard in his chest, he read the paper.
By Kari Ward, Age 17
Mount Elbert High School
March 23, 1997
I’ve always dreamed of becoming a…
His eyes slid out of focus and he lost his balance, falling onto his right side. A piercing wail assaulted his ears and his vision turned red tinged all over. With a moan he croaked out, “alarm off.” The noise subsided, but his head still swam making him feel like he was tumbling down the mountainside. “Message,” he said between clenched teeth. It was a stab in the dark that the redness of his vision meant a message. He had never had his entire sight go red before. All of a sudden his spinning head calmed down and black type filled his vision in large letters. He stared down into the white snow and read.
DANGEROUS MATERIAL IDENTIFIED.
DESTROY MATERIAL IMMEDIATELY.
SKIER IS STANDING BY FOR IMMEDIATE PICK UP.
Ark tore the paper in half then tore the halves in half. He continued until he couldn’t tear through the thin plastic covering the paper. He tossed the shredded paper into the wind and watched it fly in a hundred different directions. Nodding in satisfaction, he stood and started running toward the waiting skier. What did he care about someone’s old dreams? The outcasts were crazy for saving such a useless thing. Thoughts of coffee and a good book filled him as he ran back to safety and society.
Jason Lairamore is a writer that happens to be a medical professional. He is a husband, and father of 3 small kids.
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Tags: future, Jason Lairamore, orwellian, outsiders