Fantasy / Sci-Fi
Date Published: 2/22/2016
Our world now is known as the Old Times. In the New Age, a young man comes of age, where one global sovereignty rules in a gender and class defined crumbling society, and discovers that its survival is in his hands, as he embarks on an exciting and dangerous adventure.
I lie in bed and blink my eyes open. I suffer too many sleepless nights and not enough material to tire my mind. At night, when I lie in bed, my mind tends to wander. After the usual subjects of school, work, friends, and family have been exhausted, it hungers for something more substantial. I’ve tried reading before bed, tried drinking, tried drugs, nothing helps. The doctors tell me it’s the other way around. I’m thinking too much and that’s what’s keeping my brain awake.
I blink again, trying to determine which plane of consciousness I currently inhabit, when something on the ceiling of my cubby catches my attention. It looks to be a butterfly. It’s an odd-looking thing with folded paper wings. It grows bigger, the fluttering stops and I watch in amazement as the wings unfold. Of all things, there is a message inside. “The sleeper is awake,” I read aloud. Curious thing. I ask myself, What does it mean? And, just like that, the butterfly folds back up, disappearing as mysteriously as it appeared.
A cold spreads over me, coursing through my veins, leaving a tingling in my toes and fingertips, numbing my senses. My heartbeat accelerates, a vain attempt to keep my blood from freezing, causing me to sweat a cold sweat. I’m having a ripple. I call them ripples simply because I can’t think of a better way to explain the fluctuation I experience when I transition between planes of existence. The ripple washes over me, carries me from the threshold of the present to the plateau of a vision.
I can’t explain what the visions mean or why they are coming to me. All I know is...
I’m lying on my back in a field of freshly mown grass. I’m looking up at a star-filled sky. Jonyo is lying next to me. Jonyo passes me a joint. Here we are, just the two us blowing smoke rings and getting high. Silver streamers rise up to the sky through our rings as they go by. The moon is full and the Man in the Moon is smiling back at me.
The Man in the Moon speaks. “Thank you,” he says to me. He jangles his new jewelry, a hoop earring, for me to see.
“You’re welcome,” I reply, though I know not why.
“It’s good to have you back,” he says.
Jonyo nudges me. “Man, do you hear the music?”
I do. It’s low and far away. Off in the distance a band is playing. I stand to see where the music is coming from and find the man in the purple cape standing in front of me.
“Where have you been?” I ask.
“I’ve been here the whole time,” the man says.
“Why have you come?”
He replies, “It is time for the sleeper to awake.”
“Why can’t I see your face?”
“In due time,” says the man before fading away.
Before he goes, I ask, “Who is the sleeper?” The question falls off into thin air, for the man in the purple cape is no longer there.
The field changes and I find myself on a stage. Jonyo is pointing to the audience. “They want you to play.”
Night has turned to day. I look out over a sea of faces. The crowd is chanting, I strain to hear, but I hear only silence. “Why can’t I hear them?” Then I remember where I saw this before...in a vision. “Wait.” I’m looking about. Images of crisp and vibrant colors, darkly outlined, like a cartoon. “Am I not in a vision right now?”
“You are.” The man in the purple cape is back. “You will hear them clearly,” he adds, as his cape ruffles in the wind. “In time.”
“Who is the sleeper?”
He’s fading away again until only his smile remains. “You are.” And, POOF the smile is gone.
My attention is drawn to a young girl in the crowd holding a pink flower. The flower hides her face. She holds the flower out to me. “Will you take my flower?”
I desperately want to see behind the flower. Exasperated I ask, “Why can’t I see your face?”
Jonyo nudges me again. “Dude, they are waiting for you to play.”
I look around the stage. Leni is on drums and Beni stands behind the mic. Scottie strums guitar. Jonyo plays his twanger, feet dangling over the edge.
“They got the old band back together,” I say, taking Juliette out, I begin to play. I’ve been neglecting her of late. My mind is filled with distractions but once I bring the harmonica to my lips, it’s as though we have never been apart.
The flower girl is on stage with me. Her hair is on fire but she does not burn. “I am the one,” she says and wraps her arms around my neck. Playfully she pulls me in and bites my lip. Our lips lock and I part mine to receive her...but she is gone, leaving only Juliette at the tip of my tongue. So I play. A sound so clear it resonates like a bell, echoing down the valley.
The music calls forth a parade. Couples walk by holding hands. There are others, men and women running alongside, waving flags and banners; the band plays on. “We are the children,” the couples sing. Clear as day, I hear them. “Lead us, young lion. Lead us, Boy King.”
What on Earth do they mean?
People are dancing to my song. The music gets louder, more frenetic. The dancing becomes an orgy. Sex fills the air, the smell, the sound, the feel, so intense it lifts me off my feet. I’m light as a feather as I float over the crowd. I’m being drawn like moth to flame. Suddenly someone grabs my leg and pulls me back. It’s the man in the purple cape.
“I just want a sip,” I plead with him.
“Trust me. That is not the wine you seek.” He points to the flower girl. “Your wine is over there.”
I thirst so. “When can I drink?”
“Your time will come,” he says. “And when it does the taste will never be sweeter.” He disappears again, leaving me in a thither.
“That is most annoying, “I say. Distracted, I turn around to see — the Great Father is standing before me. The Great Father reaches out to shake my hand. “I’ve been waiting a long time for you. Call me John.”
I recoil in his presence, stagger away; I lose my footing and fall off the stage, brace for impact, and expect to hit the ground hard. I find myself landing in a sand dune soft as a pillow. Brushing the sand off, I sit up. Before me is an aqua blue sea. The air is salty, gulls cry out overhead, the dune grass gently waves in the breeze; a school of fish swim by, pretty as you please, shimmering in the cartoon sun.
I turn to the Great Father. He stops me before I speak, insisting, “Please, call me John.”
I feel uncomfortable calling him by name. “It is not how I was brought up. I was told to respect...”
He holds out his hand, politely, to stop me once again, smiling as he says, “Please, it is I who should be bowing to you.”
“I don’t understand,” I start to say before noticing the beautiful mountain behind the Great Father. On the side of the mountain is a seashell. “Where am I?”
“You are back at the beginning,” John Kyser says and hands me a set of keys, three in all.
“What are these?”
“They belong to you. They are the keys to unlock the future,” John says. “They belong to the one who answers the question.”
“How is it they belong to me?” I am confused. “What question?”
The Great Fath--John disappears. The sand, the sea, and the mountain all fade away.
“Call me John.” I hear an ethereal voice say. I am sitting in front of a computer screen. There is a question on the screen. The words are blurred but the question mark is clear. Next to the question mark is a blinking cursor. My fingers hover above the keyboard and I wonder what I am supposed to type. I ask the ethereal voice, “What am I supposed to enter?”
I get a reply. “The word that means everything,” says the voice, “but has no meaning at all.”
The vision ends and my eyes flash open. Those words ring familiar and I know why. My friends and I have our own language we call kaberky, a made up word that we use when we forget the name of something, or the name doesn’t come to mind fast enough. It’s silly speak, something to keep us laughing.
The visions started about a year ago. It took a while for me to understand that the visions are of the future, my future. It’s all confusing and very frustrating.
I toss the sheets away and sit up in bed. It’s useless to try to sleep. Checking the compad on the night table, I see its only 5:10. I run fingers through my hair and use my nightshirt to wipe the sweat from my forehead.
I get out of bed, and head to the back door. I’ve lived here my whole life. I exit onto the deck built by father in my eighth year.
The morning sky is clear but I don’t know it. The moment I take a step out the door, a thunderclap strikes me followed by a bolt of lightning. I cover my eyes to protect against the flash and in the bright light I see the butterfly message appear again. This time the paper wings are held between two hands. A raindrop falls, smearing the word, awake. I shake my head and the image vanishes. I look up expecting it to rain, but there isn’t a cloud in the sky. The stars are fading in the indigo light. There are no clouds, no thunder, no lightning. So what is it, then? I wonder as I lean on the rail and light a joint to clear my head.
Today is my birthday, a very important day in the Kyser Society. It’s my eighteenth birthday. I am a man today, ready to sign the Social Contract declaring which service I’m willing to join. It’s a major decision all boys my age go through. I have to choose between joining the Military or the Civil Service. It’s probably the reason behind my sleepless nights.
Based on my Martial Arts score in school, the military is the logical choice. I find that funny because I’m a pacifist at heart. The Civilian service appeals to me more, but I lack the skills to be a civil servant. Both services have their pros and both have their cons and I have all day to make up my mind.
Today is going to be the last day I wake up in dome #3 and look up at the hometown sky. It’s sad. Unlike my friends who couldn’t wait to sign up, I’m in no hurry to leave home just yet. This is the only home I’ve ever known.
I take a drag from the joint. What really makes turning eighteen so special is sex. I can legally have sex now. I can choose to wait until the next Draft where I hold a rank of 79, or I can visit a LaSalle House. To be honest, I’m about ready to burst. The LaSalle looks like a good option. No, not really—I would be foolish to throw away a 79 rank.
Being so highly ranked, I’m looking at getting an 8.5 or a 9 as a mate. If I have sex before Draft Day, I would drop so low in the rankings that I’d be grateful to end up with a 5 or 6 at best. Don’t get me wrong, 5 or 6 girls are still very attractive. I can honestly say that I have not seen one Kyser girl that isn’t attractive regardless of rank, but why settle for merely attractive when I can have near perfection? It all boils down to abstention.
If I was to join the Military, with my MA scores, I could go into the officer-training program. The minimum rank I can receive in officer training is a 9. If I was to join the Civilian service as just an ordinary woodsmith like my father, I would get no less than an 8. That’s heady stuff and definitely worth consideration.
Thinking of sex and objectifying women is something I do twenty-four hours a day. I’m eighteen, after all. Sex is everywhere. In everyday conversations, in publications and in decorations hanging on walls, there is no escaping it. I could be walking down the street and see lovers in the act. I could stand on my deck in the backyard, as I am doing now, and listen to my neighbors having sex—as they are doing now. In the yard next-door, there is a couple having sex. I think, because of the hour, it may be the gardener and his wife. I’m not sure. I could go over to see but don’t feel like getting myself riled up.
It doesn’t help to have two sexually active parents. The open-floor design of the dome I live in, with its air vents and steel grating between floors, leaves very little to the imagination. They are in the room directly above mine. As a small boy I used to try to block out their sounds by putting a pillow over my head. It didn’t work. When I first heard them together, the way mother was yelling, I thought father was hurting her. I was naïve. I wanted to run upstairs and help her. That naiveté went away the moment I started learning what the noises meant. That was during my tenth year when Sex-Ed really kicked in. That’s the year we started watching video with sound. Towards the end of the year, live instructors would come into the classroom to put on demonstrations for us. My eyes and ears were opened that year.
As I grew older, so did my curiosity. Instead of running upstairs to rescue mother, I started to peek through the grating to see what they were doing. I thought it vulgar at first, because I didn’t understand, but the more I watched the more fascinated I became.
From that moment on, I saw my parents in a different light. Mother, especially. Mother is tiny compared to father. She is 5’9” while he is 6’8”. She is a very attractive woman. I have seen her nude my whole life. Nudity is a way of life but I never put it together with sex until tenth year. Prior to that, seeing pictures of nude women was equivalent to going to Stadium Marketta with mother on her shopping days and looking at the lovely women half-dressed in House colors and never imagined them in positions or performing certain acts as portrayed by the class instructors.
I live in a world where the women are beautiful, the men, big and strong. You put those two together in an open society and the results are remarkable. The Society looks upon sex as natural as breathing. I still hear the couple next door and part of me still wants to go over and peek at the couple, but I can tell they are winding down. Funny thing, it would be perfectly normal for me if I did go over. Sex is not reviled. It’s not consigned or confined to the bedroom. To look at or watch other people having sex is not considered a perversion. In fact it is considered a compliment. Of course if I was underage it would be a different story. Children are forbidden to participate in any sexual conduct.
“Enough of that,” I say tossing away the roach and head back inside.
Back in the house, I hear the compad buzzing on my night stand. I run to get it before it stops and wonder who could be calling me at such an un-godly hour? I pick up the compad. It’s father. I scratch my head and rub the fog from my eyes. I must be reading this wrong. The icon showing father’s picture also displays the origin of the call. I have to read it again because I can’t believe what it’s telling me. He’s calling me from the store at Stadium Marketta. “It doesn’t make sense.” I scratch my head again.
Mother comes down just as I am speaking to myself. She’s wearing a silky nightshirt in House colors of green, blue, yellow and black. Still groggy from sleep, she walks passed me with one eye open. She squeezes my shoulder. “Morning,” she says. “Aren’t you gonna answer that?”
“Mother, why is father calling me from the store?”
“I don’t know; try asking him.” She yawns, disappearing behind the screen to use the toilet. I stare at the compad afraid to answer it. I worry that this is a dream, and answering it will cause me to wake up in some alternate universe from which I will never come back. Mother comes out of the toilet and washes her hands at the sink. I let the call go to voice mail.
“How could he leave here without my knowing it?” I look around, trying to figure it out. How long was I outside? I look at the time. It’s only 5:25.
She sounds surprised. “He didn’t wake you?” She slips out of her nightshirt and steps under the showerhead turning the water on. She squeals as the water hits her.
It doesn’t even faze me anymore to see her in the shower. “I didn’t see him,” I reply, still scratching my head. “I’ve been up all morning.”
“Couldn’t sleep again?” She asks over the sound of the shower.
The question is irrelevant. “Why is father at the store so early?”
“He was supposed to take you,” she says, her back to me. She turns around. “Hand me the shampoo.”
When I was a kid, just learning about sex, I would not be able to stand here without showing signs of excitement, but now I have become so desensitized to it, I hardly bat an eye. I dig the shampoo out of the cabinet beside the shower and watch as she lathers up. I’m not sure how to read her right now.
“Why would he take me? Today is my holiday—my birthday. He knows I have the day off.”
“You don’t have to remind me,” she says and rinses her hair, wringing out the excess before turning off the water. “Hand me a towel.”
How can she be so ambivalent? This is really bothering me. Something is wrong and she is acting as if it isn’t. I fetch a towel from the same cabinet and hand it to her. “It’s not for work,” she says and proceeds to wrap the towel around her head. She steps out of the shower onto the drying screen. It’s pointless trying to talk to her now; she will not hear me over the dryer. The grate activates once both her feet step on it. Hot air bursts from vents in the floor and ceiling to dry her off instantly, except for her hair. The towel protects it. When she is finished, she goes into the kitchen to prepare breakfast.
I waited patiently for her attention. “Then why does he need me at the store?”
“I’ll let him explain,” she says and points to the buzzing compad in my hands. “Why don’t you answer it and ask him?” She asks and bends down to take out the coffee pot.
I answer the call, while watching mother fill the coffee pot with water. “Hello.”
“There you are, son.” Father’s image appears on screen. He looks worried. “I looked for you.” He sees behind me. “You’re still home?”
“I was on the deck out back,” I say. “How did you leave without me knowing?”
“You mentioned last night that you might go for a bike ride in the morning, so I just assumed that’s where you were.”
I remember mentioning that I might go for a bike ride in the morning. I didn’t mean this early. “What’s going on, father?”
“I have a very important meeting and I need you to come to the store right away. I’ll explain when you get here.”
Every birthday is a mandatory holiday in the Society. That means no work or school. “Today is my day off. What do you need me for?” I didn’t want to spend one iota of the day in or near the store. Meanwhile, I watch mother busy around the kitchen, readying breakfast, while pretending she isn’t listening.
“Come to the store and I’ll explain. I promise it won’t ruin your day.”
Mother raises her eyebrows, which tells me she knows something. It doesn’t matter. I can’t refuse my father. “I’ll be there as quickly as I can.” I hang up, and ask mother, “Is this some surprise you guys have cooked up for my birthday?” I try to probe her mind, but she has learned to block me out.
My compad buzzes again. It’s Regan, my life-coach.
She’s in a good mood. “Hello Anthony.” The icon tells me she is calling from her house. No location, just house. I open the icon so her face fills the screen. Regan is in her mid-twenties. I venture to guess she was an 8 during her Draft. She works for the Census Bureau in their Central Monitoring division. She is dressed in CB gray which isn’t flattering. “You’re up early this morning.”
I wonder if she is in on it. “Yes, I am,” I say, feeling grumpy. “I didn’t sleep last night. And now, apparently, I have to work today.”
“Not today,” she frowns. “Today is your birthday.” She doesn’t even comment on the sleeping problem.
“Father doesn’t think so.”
Regan sees mother in the background and gives her a shout out, “Hello, Eliza.”
Mother answers, “Hi, Regan.” Mother is hovering. Very strange, I thought.
Regan keeps talking. “I’m sure your day will not be ruined. I have your schedule right here.” She pulls up the calendar. “You have plenty of free time this morning. I’ll update it with this new development.”
I don’t want my schedule updated. To argue is childish. “Thank you, Regan.” I sit at the table. Mother puts a plate of eggs, and a cup of coffee in front of me, then kisses the top of my head.
Regan goes through the daily briefing starting with the weather. “Showers in the south valley, sunny in the north with temperatures in Meadowbrook reaching a high of eighty-two.”
She finishes the news. I can see there is something on her mind that she is dying to ask before continuing, “What is it?”
Regan is supposed to act stoically, professionally with no emotion; conduct dictated by the Census Bureau that Regan and I dispensed with years ago. Regan is more like a big sister to me. “Have you made a decision yet?”
I look over my shoulder to see mother has moved a little closer. I play it coy with a nod in her direction. “I have until midnight to declare.”
Mother slouches away. “Ugh!”
I laugh as she walks away. “I intend to enjoy every minute,” I say.
“So I take it that means no,” Regan says sarcastically, the way a big sister would say it. In reality, I don’t know firsthand what it’s like to have a big sister. I’m an only child. The only way I do know anything about how sisters treat their brothers is through Jonyo and his two sisters.
“I’ll tell you,” I snark back, “when someone tells me what’s going on.”
Reagan shrugs and continues with her morning brief.
I drink my coffee and listen. When she is done, I get up from the table and wash my face. I look around the room at the eight empty cubbies where the other children of a C4 House would sleep. When I was young, I asked so many questions as to why I was the only child. Those questions were avoided. Now I don’t even bother to ask. I go to my cubby and dress for the day.
I am going to ride my bike to the store; I am permitted to wear shorts when I ride. I put on a yellow and black t-shirt and blue and green biker shorts, tossing a kilt of the same colors along with the compad in my kit bag. Mother walks by on her way upstairs, carrying nightshirt and towel in one hand and mug of coffee in the other. “I have to get ready for the day.” She kisses my cheek and continues on the way. “Love you, son. Happy Birthday.”
I remind her, “Don’t forget, we have a lunch date.”
She doesn’t respond, just continues on her way, humming as she goes up the ramp. She’s acting very peculiar...
Kyser is Anthony Polinice's debut novel, first of a trilogy; Book II of Kyser will be available in Fall 2017; Polinice is a Network Engineer, and resides on Long Island with his wife, Lori and their two daughters, Madison and Taylor.