The sun shines high in the sky in the early afternoon. A cool, soft breeze passes through the air, as if the earth breathed like a living being. Beautifully crisp, puffy clouds sailed across the sky slower than the fastest slug in various shapes. The rays of the sun actually heated the surface of Crys’ skin. He felt calm and relaxed under it.
Crys looked at his surroundings. He stood on a high boulder with a flowing river beneath. The river was centered within a village of trees. Moisture hung in the air. The aroma of bark, soil, leaves, and freshwater swirled in his nostrils. In one direction, in the distance, he heard a structure being built with hand tools and teamwork. In the other, he heard footsteps with purpose approaching him.
The joy in his heart was robbed by jabbing feelings of frustration and panic. He knew he did something wrong, but wasn’t sure what. He heard his name being shouted.
Fleeing for safety, he jumped off the boulder and into the river. The current was ferociously strong, but he was stronger. Effortlessly, he swam across the river to the other side and began running through the forest. He was barefoot, but the twigs, sticks, rocks, and dirt didn’t bother his feet at all. Breath didn’t escape him either. Running wasn’t strenuous in the slightest way.
Abruptly, in the direction he ran, a loud, earth shattering explosion occurred. Crys stopped running. He stood and listened. Whoever was trailing him didn’t scare him anymore. The hum of the marching fleet that sprang of the point of the explosion scared him. Another explosion occurred, followed by two more. Crys couldn’t tell where any of the explosions came from anymore. People began screaming as if their lives depended on prayer.
A thought rose up in Crys. As he turned around to run back to the river, a black sphere plopped at Crys’ feet. Seconds later, an explosive force swept Crys off his feet and plunged him across the forest. As he flew through the air, Crys jerked awake, sweating profusely.
Crys’ pillow cover and sheets were drenched with his soaking, warm sweat. That reoccurring dream always evoked immense fear in Crys’ heart. Every few weeks, the dream became more detailed and felt more like a memory.
Crys hoped his move to Sector 1 would stop the dream. He liked it best when he didn’t dream at all. The dream started three months ago. He’s been in Sector 1 for three weeks, and the dream hasn’t ceased.
He enjoyed Sector 1 far more than Sector 10. Crys was now an Apple-berry Harvester. The Apple-berry is an interesting fruit. It’s shaped like a strawberry, but it’s as big as a red delicious apple and the color of kiwi innards. The exterior texture of the fruit is a hybrid between a granny smith apple and a blueberry, and the color of the pulp is like that of a grapefruit. The center is pitted like an avocado but isn’t rock hard. It can be cracked like an egg shell. Inside are burgundy, fruit-like pebbles, such as those found at a pomegranate’s center, strung together like the gooey stringy-ness of a pumpkin’s innards. Crys wanted to try it, but it’s deadly to humans. The city uses the fruit for research and dye. What truly fascinated Crys was that the fruit grew overnight, and every day it must be picked from its vine in order for new fruit to grow.
Life in Sector 1 greatly contrasted that of Sector 10. Women and men interacted daily and lived in apartments next to each other. Men and women were allowed to date. That’s when a man and woman are attracted to each other like Crys and Pearl were, and they choose to go out and spend time together. At some point during dating, it could happen the first night or a month later, the pair press their lips to each others’− also known as kissing− and everything goes from there. Some pairs remain together after their first date. Others split up and date other people. For the pairs that stick together, they get married− in other words they make a lifetime commitment to each other. Then, unlike in Sector 10, the married pair has babies− babies are what children start out as. Everyone knew that in Sector 1, but it was news to Crys. The Voice gave him a private sex education lesson. Crys felt outrageously uncomfortable throughout the entire lesson, but he knew it was important that he learn the facts of life.
For the first time, Crys understood loneliness and experienced it too well. He hated eating at home alone. For breakfast and dinner, he went to Ned’s Diner at the center of the Square, which was a place to shop, dine, and find entertainment. Vendors lined the edge of the walkways outside the Square. Inside the Square, there were boutiques, other clothing stores, toy stores, gadget shops, game rooms, dance clubs, a grocery store, and several restaurants. Restaurants completely amazed Crys. Like in the dining halls, food was served, but there were options as to what to eat. A plate wasn’t handed to him; he could order what he wanted. He tried all the restaurants in the Square: all had quality, well prepared food, but the only place he enjoyed was Ned’s Diner. The food reminded him of something. At first he thought it was Pearl, and though he knew now that the reminder wasn’t of her, he still didn’t know what. He mainly ate out to avoid the loneliness that awaited him at home.
It was three o’clock in the morning and Crys didn’t dare fall back asleep. He knew there was no pressure for him to sleep. Today was his day off. Since the Apple-berry Harvesters work year round and the work is strenuous, Harvesters work every other day for a total of four days a week. Occasionally, though Crys has yet to get such a shift, Harvesters will work three days in a row and get four days off. They all get paid the same amount no matter how much they harvest. Every four months, their harvest amount is tallied and the harvesters that exceed a certain amount of Apple-berries plucked receive a bonus.
Crys only used his earned merits for eating out. He still wore his clothes from Sector 10. Some women find his wardrobe mysterious and ‘sexy’, which had given him many opportunities to have sexual relations with no intentional emotional attachment, which would feed hope for a future relationship. Crys wanted a first date with a woman that would lead to a committed lifetime with her. He did not take a single one of all the opportunities he had with beautiful women. He couldn’t see himself with any one of those women for the rest of his life.
With a fresh lime-peach, Crys sat in his white living room on his white couch. He stared at the blank white wall before him under the blue hue of night. He meant to ask the Voice to put on a movie or to tell him a story, but exhaustion prevented him. After he finished his lime-peach, he got up and threw it out underneath the sink.
Leaning on the counter on his elbows, he asked the Voice to put fresh sheets on his bed. His white bedroom door turned a bright red and the Voice told him to patiently wait a few minutes. A little over sixty seconds later, the red door flashed green and faded back to white. Crys stood up straight, dreading going back to sleep.
Crys went to his room and walked straight past his bed. Six inches from his closet door, it opened and he took off his sweaty, gray T-shirt and baby blue pajama pants. He clothed himself in his old gray, white lined kitchen crew jumpsuit. He stepped into his boots and tied each one, one after the other. He informed the Voice he was going for a walk to clear his mind.
Once outside, he immediately glanced at the night sky. The panic that had begun to rise up in his heart was extinguished by stargazing. For whatever reason, looking upon the dark blue midnight sky brought Crys inner peace, as if looking at the stars made him feel like he wasn’t alone anymore, like something or someone up there was looking out for him.
Crys walked toward the Square. On the way was a park that reminded him of when he was a boy. He had no actual memory of playing tag or playing with Brad at the park as boys, but he knew he must have. The idea sounded right in Crys’ mind.
The park was enclosed in a ring of woodland trees. Walkways swirled around and throughout the park. On one side of the park, there was a jungle gym, a swing set, and fun obstacle course for kids to play like monkeys on. On the other side of the park there was a fishing pond. The best part was that it was the only place in all of Sector 1, and perhaps the entire city, where the public had access to lush, bright green grass.
At the park, in the shadow of a few tall trees, Crys lied on a patch of soft, moist, frothy grass. He stargazed until his eyes were too heavy to keep open, and he drifted off to sleep. For the first time in three months, he didn’t have a dream, or at least not one he could recall.
Crys was abruptly awakened by a foot being wedged in his side, followed by a body collapsed on top of him. The shock of someone tripping over and then falling on him was more striking than the pain. Embarrassment embodied him when he discovered that that someone was a woman. Naturally, Crys observed her body and was attracted to what he saw. He knew she was in excellent physical condition by her leg and butt development. As she lifted herself off him, he noticed her breasts were well-endowed. Shame lathered him when he realized he was ‘checking her out’. Once she sat on her knees at his side, he locked focus on her face.
Before her, he’d never seen such a beautiful woman. Her skin looked delightful, like caramel with a reddish-orange, peach-like undertone. Her exotically shaped eyes were a dark, coffee brown; bold and beautiful. Her long, big and wavy dark brown, but red-tinted, hair made her all the more breathtaking.
“What are you doing out here?” She questioned Crys with a gaze that could kill.
She breathed heavy like she’d been running a long time for a long distance. Crys knew she had suspicions about him. She didn’t look clothed for jogging. She wore black cargo pants, a black tee, and a thick black jacket. She wore a utility belt, but Crys couldn’t tell what the belt hoisted.
Crys was honest.
“Sleeping,” he answered.
“Did you fall asleep waiting for a no show?” She followed up, looking around cautiously.