Crys stared at the blue sky, which gleamed without a single cloud. The sun shined bright, as if the day sizzled with the heat of summer, but its rays gave no warmth. Like every day in the city, except for crop nourishing periods, the indoor and the outdoor temperatures were constantly at 22.22°C, morning and evening.
The city life was all Crys knew, and the only life he would ever know. He didn’t think about anywhere else because he didn’t know there was anywhere else. It wasn’t until his good friend, Brad Leigh, told him otherwise.
They were both assigned to cleaning crew for the month. Cleaning windows of skyscrapers isn’t a fun job. Hoisted on a hover raft 40 ft. in the air, they squeegeed clean already streak-free windows, which were coated with a special tint. Crys and Brad couldn’t see in, but people from inside could probably see them.
Brad talked about a man he met in the square; a tall, black man with a calm, raspy voice. His cool gray eyes were filled with stories. Crys didn’t understand what “eyes filled with stories” meant, but he was too self-conscious to ask. The man’s name was Thatcher Tate and he helped people escape the dome enclosed around the city.
The reason that the temperature was always perfect, the clouds stayed out of sight except the dark, gray ones during crop nourishing periods, and the sun’s rays lacked a punch of heat was because the city was encased in a dome. The inside of the dome’s roof had special technology that controlled the appearance of day and night as well as the temperature. The technology had the capability to change the weather at any time to any type, but the officials of the city liked sunny blue skies at 22.22°C.
“And have you ever noticed that people go missing?” Brad asked, itching to soon reveal the answer why.
Crys answered honestly, “No.”
“There are three reasons people go missing: they get moved to another Sector, they run away or they get turned into an official and transferred to another city.”
“What’s a Sector?” Crys asked.
“Another part of the city.” Brad answered.
He explained each city had 10 Sectors. Every Sector served a purpose for the city. The people in a Sector don’t have access to other Sectors, unless a person is transferred by officials. Crys understood the red hologram walls now; seven foot, red hologram force-field-like shields blocked off certain walkways. Crys never tried to walk through. Green meant proceed. Red meant stop and walk away. The monorail never crosses the hologram barrier when he’s on it. He can only cross between one side of the red and the other. On the ground, and up on the monorail level, the red force-field-like walls outline their Sector− Sector 10.
“And do you notice how we’re not allowed to talk with women?” Brad questioned, anticipating the moment he could explain why Crys said hello to plenty of women. They say hello back. Brad clarified that it wasn’t a conversation.
For lunch, men and women ate in separate dining halls. Apartment buildings were designated for each sex. Children had their own apartment buildings; the boys were kept apart from the girls. Officials of the same sex as the children tended to their needs. For every six kids, there was one official assigned to care for and raise them.
Crys hardly remembered his official caregiver. He did remember a light blue room with egg shell tile. On the wall across from the automatic sliding door, on the right, there was a curtain-less window three feet by five feet, hung four feet off the ground. By that window sat one of six beds, dressed with white cotton linen. Three beds, five feet apart, were aligned on each side. In the center, an aisle in between the beds was about four feet wide. Crys lived in room 213, in building 2100 with five other boys: Brad, Tuck, Finn, George, and Archer.
The caregiver came in every morning and took the boys to shower rooms. After the boys were clean and dressed, he took them to the dining hall. He stoically stood watch over the boys as they ate. Then once breakfast was finished, the park awaited the group of seven. The boys would play tag or race in circles around the jungle gym. The park was the only place the boys could be kids. School followed immediately after the park. They were in a class of nearly a hundred, all gathered in a huge virtual assembly room. The Voice led the class. Crys didn’t remember what happened in class, it was always a daze. Lunchtime was next, back in the same dining hall. A serene trip to the library not only enriched the boys’ knowledge, but also allowed lunch to settle in their stomachs. Afterward, they had combat lessons in various types of martial arts, then another trip to the shower rooms to wash off the stench of their intense workout.
Dinner was back at the dining hall. Occasionally, the boys got to play in the game room, but most nights they went back to room 213. Ready for bed, they climbed underneath the covers. Their caregiver would tell the Voice, “Night Mode” and leave. The room would darken and on the ceiling, a starry night appeared. The Voice would soothingly tell a story and display images on the walls to bring the tale alive. Finn and Tuck were always the first to drift asleep. Crys was the last.
At 16, the boys were separated and given one bedroom apartments of their own. Brad and Crys were moved to building 1004, and given apartments on the same floor next to each other. As for the others, they haven’t seen them. Not on the walkways, or on the monorail, in the dining hall, or in any occupation crew that Crys has been assigned to. They disappeared. Questions swarmed like flies in his mind. Each thought fluttering around one central idea− escaping. That was Brad’s plan− to escape and begin a new life outside the city.
Brad wanted Crys to attend a meeting with him after dinner, but Crys feared the unknown. Crys could only speculate what that meeting had in store. He worried about getting caught and didn’t want to imagine what punishment officials would bestow. After work that day, on their way to the dining hall, Crys told Brad work exhausted him and that a night in seemed to be best. Brad laughed at Crys and playfully called him a wimp, but he said there would be another meeting for Crys to attend with him. If there was another meeting, Crys never knew about it, and if he did, there was no Brad to take him.