Where Here Is
The greater the illusion of freedom, the finer the cage.
Ren checked her cards. All there. She slid them past her v.reader and saw they were amply full. She slipped them in her shorts. You never knew.
She ran out of the compound in a jogging that would satisfy the cameras. She had been running now for weeks. Ever since she had seen the break, the seam, the gap, she had kept her thoughts carefully coded.
Had they suspected? They would have registered only a sudden surprise reaction if stats were reviewed. It could easily be explained away as a mosquito bite, or a sneeze. No one had brought anything up. She was a model employee now three years in a row.
When she had checked the spot the second and third times she carefully focused on fan fiction allegories, as per her character. It was this character’s aimless meandering that had led her to the place to begin with. Once she was sure that it was a fixed local she began to plan her approach.
For several weeks she had taken to jogging at various times. She had spoken to her case cohort and had actually led them to suggest her character would engage in some physical activity. So, to their approval, she had begun to run. She ran at odd times. This was, she claimed, in keeping with the whimsy of her character.
She had been careful to leave her cell in the compound slightly unkempt, as always. As usual, she’d be expected to hurry back and set it right before meeting the peer group.
Carefully she kept her head casually turned away from the cameras. She made it a point to run slower past the peer hall so that she could be spotted by others. She waved and did a half turn at a few who called out the lateness of the hour.
“I will be there!” She huffed, smiling and shrugging. “Save me a spot.”
But she was not going back. She had seen that gap in the folds of sky and treescape. She knew that this was the seam. She felt the rush of excitement. Here, then, was what the rumors spoke of – a parting of the perfect idyllic set that held her life. Despite the cleansers, rumblings of exit ways continued to hum beneath the surface of daily life.
There. She passed the last camera she ever would. Now she picked up speed. Now she was running three times as fast as before. From her sight calculation she had the speed she needed. There it was, approaching. The breach, the seam, the gap.
Two more minutes before that next camera failed to log her image.
An enormous heat blasted her face. The seam/gap now felt half tunnel, half goat trail. How did she know what either was, she wondered, as she hurried on. Then her feet failed her. Her body felt void of gravity. She felt movement without sensing any resistance.
She had lived in the compound as long as she could recall. What was this sticky substance that covered her? Never had she encountered such a thing. She felt as if she were a tooth in a giant mouth. And someone had just made a joke. The mouth smiled.
In the compound there were harvested lives and then, erased memories. When a download was rich enough to export to one of the ThoughtBanks, peers were allowed a few weeks of mindfulness training and relaxation. Spa vacation. Then they were reassigned. New faces, new hobbies, new lives lived 8am to 5pm.
Something tripped Ren, and she fell. She dropped onto a ground harder than she remembered ground to be. As she rolled down a hill small granules of rocks stuck to her skin.
When her roll stopped she recalled a fall from a window. The memory was sharp. Salt water splashed against her lip. A woman screamed. Bright lights and green gowns, masks on faces. A drip in her arm and heavy sleep.
This was it. She was transgressing the memory bar of the Axis Group Compound. This was a true memory. She had her first glimpse of life as it had been prior to the capture. She felt the ground now. She felt the weight of her body again. She shuddered.
“Hey,” a baritone voice said. “Are you alright? You okay? Hey.”
She opened her eyes on purple sneakers and plaid pants. So much color in one place.
Oh! She’d made it. She was there. It didn’t matter where. Not yet.
“Let’s get you out of here,” he said. “Quick.” He draped an arm across her shoulders and led Ren to a corner coffee shop. The smells and sounds were rich. There was dust in the corners.
A woman joined them at the table. Ren’s heartbeat picked up. She felt her skin flush.
“You made it, thank you. I knew you would. Our time is short. Eat up, and then we’ll hit the sheets.”
“How much time do we have, Bullet?” the man asked.
“Enough, if we keep to plan, Sash. We just need to go over the details.”
Eggs, toast, potatoes. All covered in the smell of the place. Ren ate while the other two talked. Their words were familiar. She knew them though she didn’t know from where she knew them.
A weariness came to her now. She looked up at them. They stopped their talk.
“I’m not going back,” she said. “Let someone else do it.”
She signalled the server for some more coffee.
Poonam Srivastava surfs the edges of society, sexuality, politics and existential angst. She is lesbian, disabled, a healer, anarchist, and spiritual atheist based in New York City. She has found community with Women Writers In Bloom, and A Gathering of the Tribes. She writes on gender, race, and class, and the corporotocracy that is running planet Earth.Speculative resonates. She reads widely and writes poetry, short fiction, and creative non-fiction. A first book of poems is soon to be published by Fly By Night Press, Spring 2016, A Different Kinda Backbone. You can follow her on twitter @poonamtowits or contact her at email@example.com. She is both publishing and perishing as we speak.
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Picture derived from Jellaluna’s image