We agreed to sign the papers. No more trying to heal us. Fixed on our poker faces and met at his house. By nightfall, we were wrapped in each other’s arms.
The sun boiled his sweat. Air was like a thick mass in his lungs and if it weren’t for its necessity, he would’ve expelled it like a lump of mucus. Tendrils of heat wafted from the ground and tickled his exposed, cut legs. Everything around him was alight except for a distinct shadow.
He focused on the clank of his pickaxe as he drove it into stone.
The shadow shifted as if aware that he’d taken notice. “Have you thought of my preposition? I can give you whatever you desire,” it said as it had for the last twenty years.
Has it really been twenty years?
The pickaxe droned on–clank clank clank–pieces of sediments tumbling to the ground.
“Warm bed, not the rock,” it continued. “Your enemies to take your place. All you need do is say you’re mine and I’ll free you from here.”
The pickaxe stopped mid swing. Twenty years toiling. Twenty listening to the shadow’s promises.
And it was all beginning to sound more promising.
It takes a special person to be the failure of one’s lineage. To not only be the disappoint of ones current family, but also that of one’s distant ancestors.
Gregor would have to face all of them at the arcanum. He’ll have to stand there and let their digitalized minds know that the business they’d erected in the late 3000s and carried for a century, was going to die.
The particle wall to his office hummed to life as his robot assistant rolled in. The whirl of its inner parts were deafening. “They’re waiting for you sir,” it said.
“Here we go,” he breathed to himself.
Her headphones spilled music into her.
She closed her eyes and watched her thoughts shoot across the blackness of her mind, but the music stood in their path like a slab of concrete. They shattered against it, exploding into shiny bits and fading as if never there.
There was the flap of wings and then a thud on the bench beside him. “It’s been a while,” a voice said.
Viz shrugged. “Only a few centuries, brother.”
“Because you do your job poorly,” his brother snapped. “Speaking of which, where is your ward?”
He gestured towards the woman he’d been staring at. She was sitting at a ragged park table, crying. “There.”
His brother scoffed. “At least it’s alive this time. Do you know how annoying it was to wait—what was it again—a few centuries for it to reincarnate?”
A man approach his ward. She wiped her face and stood, mumbling an apology. The man embraced her. “It’s all right,” Viz heard him say. His ward went rigid. Then, sobbed on the man’s shoulder.
His brother groaned. “Well, that’s finally done.”
“Yes. Yes, it is.”
Picture by: Jodi McKinney
He passed her crossing a busy intersection on his way home. Her arms clasping her sides, shielding herself from the night’s air. Her dark eyes peered from under the sweater’s hood when he mumbled, “Hello.”
She looked away and walked faster. Rude, but he understood. She was probably like him, retreating to her sanctuary after a day of dealing with the world.
He saw her again on the balcony across from his. She was sweaterless, but the frigid cold didn’t seem to bother her. She was simply watching the snowfall. Vulnerable to the icy wind around her, yet beautiful.
Photo by: Filip Gielda
In winters like this—where the wind was a silent enemy that blistered everything it touched—his tribe would hunker in the belly of the White Mountain. Families drawn close and circling small fires never expecting to lose each other.
At least that’s how he felt before the exile.
This dangerous train of thought faded as his silent enemy shook his makeshift home made from branches and thickets. His body, numbed from the cold, protected a waning fire.
I stepped into a sterile glass box that whirled as it carried me into the computerized brain of the Ancient One. Red lights ran the length of my body, gathering data for the algorithm that would determine my life’s purpose or, as the Ancient called it, Life Assignment.
A disembodied voice told me this was the day I’d truly begin living my life, but what the machine considered living…wasn’t living at all.