“Halcyon” by Kortney Kochert



The sun glares down in a peaceful smile again today. No puffy white cotton balls to obscure its watchful eye. Tearing away from the bright spy in the sky I instead move to the neatly lain sidewalk with accurately placed faux concrete stones.

 I’ve been told they’re better for the environment but we don’t know what they’re made of. The trees sit in their precise locations planned hundreds of years in advance to protect people from the sun but not give too much shade. Is there such a thing as too much shade? The grass evenly cut to just below a half inch. It’s supposed to be safer at this height but who’re they’re protecting I don’t know. The grass looks more like a child colored a canvas green with no texture just smooth paint dripping into the floor. Dots of color from waist high bushes break the ever-ending emerald but that too has been devised before hand. Everything in this place is controlled and pre-determined. Nothing is left to the citizens nor do the citizens want to question the protective government. It’s all a lie though but I seem to be the only one who knows.

“Do you remember anything from my lecture today?” Sauna’s voice tore into my thoughts. I forgot she’s next to me. I nodded reciting back her entire speech word for word. Smiling she continued her frustrated argument about the teachers forfeiting their jobs, students who don’t understand rationality and her understanding of the genetic make up of the universe. She’s the analytical type that belongs in this protected city, Halcyon. I question too much to belong here but I know enough to never speak them out loud. Again she interrupted my thoughts, but not before a siren from the Garrison Regime sounded warning the public of the on coming report. The Garrison Regime is a glorified police unit that produces unification in this city. They’re supposed to keep the order here so that the peace will never be obstructed and everyone can live in a world guided by the government. At once in perfect synchronized fashion everyone’s phones lit up projecting a holographic image of a young girl that had escaped a reinstating correctional institute. We never give them names so no one has the ability to speak of the institutes freely. The warning next to her image says she has a violent nature already having killed three Garrison Regime elites from the Aegis unit. Her eyes nearly stole my breath before I could breath it in. Piercing red that begged to drain your blood lined with dark eyelashes. Is that her natural eye color? What could cause such blood lust? She’s not albino because she isn’t pale enough but she is on the lighter side. Does she have black or blue hair? The image isn’t clear on her features with the grain texture smothering everything but her eyes. It’s a standard issued ID photo for those admitted to the institute but it’s almost as if her presence is an interference to the camera.

“Scary isn’t it? To think a RP had escaped. Wonder if she’ll get caught.” Sauna reads off her genetics that are listed thinking it is a false alert to keep everyone on guard in case a real defective citizen has escaped. We have those alerts every once in a while so everyone around didn’t question her logic. “Geeze, like someone could escape the Garrison Regime.” The holographic projection disappeared as the phones were turned off so everyone may continue on about their routine.

“Listen Sauna, I have a report due tomorrow. I have to cancel our meeting tonight.” Putting my phone away she growls at me. Her tantrum in full effect, I chose to move on. No reason to waste my time with this now or later. I have my own lie to keep up now that I’ve said it.

An alarm sounds through the whole town silencing the air. Moving to my window I look out to see the Solora Star crying in the distance with its large red lights blinking. A storm of high magnitude is coming finally. A warning for everyone who cherishes their existence in the city would listen to the cry of the Solora Star and move home like herded sheep. Finally clouds shroud the sky breaking apart the illusion of the perfect harmony in this place. Lightning crackling above the clouds creating rifts in the sky sparking my own wish to be set free. The lightning is allowed to strike anyone or anything it likes without consequence, but I am limited to my schooling and pre-determined future. One mistake could result my mother and me to Backlands. The cry from the Solora Star ends with its round head lowering below the roof of its cloaked home. Sighing, I found myself at my desk with a blank page mocking me with thoughts of prejudice. It knows I’m not suited for the structure that is Halcyon but it can’t say anything on its own. It’s my paper I have to write but what do I say about the dust from a lecture about a new light form in the southern regions of space…slicing into my window pulled me away from the paper. The rain has turned into bullets bouncing off the reinforced glass onto my balcony dancing on to the ground below. Smiling I throw open the doors allowing the scream from the storm outside to rush into my organized room destroying it with its blissful chaos.

Grabbing the railing of the balcony I feel like I have been cut free of the chains of this horrendous prison. No one can see me cry, tempt me to talk the truth about this city or what ever you call it, no one can hear me scream and send me away to the reinstating correctional institute. Pulling a wet breath into my dry lungs I felt renewed. Bellowing a scream with the thunder as my time keeper, the lightning as my light show and the rain as my back beat I let fly the frustration, confusion and bleak life I’ve been forced to live for these past thirteen years. I am finally free with no one to judge me, no one to report me and absolutely no one to question my intellect. I can be as loud as I want, I can break the laws, I can break down the walls they have structured around me to keep within their domain.

Opening my eyes I felt the rain stroke my face like a mother telling me I have done a good job. The timer in my room broke the trance of the storm. Snagging my ID from the desk I scan it telling the computer I am still within the room. A new security upgrade given to all residents so the government can keep eyes out for anyone who can’t conform to their rules. If a window is open too long, for example, an alarm will sound signaling that you either scan your ID allowing the system to acknowledge you are still within the home. If you don’t scan your ID within ten seconds of the alarm the house will be put on quarantine shut down until the Garrison Regime can confirm that all is in organized routine place.

I jump from my skin as the RP from the earlier report stands in my room soaked through her blood. Her blood seeping into the carpet staining her bare feet, gushing from her ribs like a miraculous fountain. Before I could ask if she is alright she holds me to the wall nails digging into my larynx pulling apart my muscles. I couldn’t feel the pain. Her wound distracts me from my own her eyes stitching me to the wall with a colder red than her blood.

“Shyn, are you ok? Did you leave the window open or something?” my mom’s voice comes over the computer monitor on the wall. I ask the girl with my eyes if I can answer her, warning the girl if I don’t my mom will come asking in person if I’m ok. Tightening her grip testing my resolve, she loosened enough for me to answer. Scanning my ID to answer the call the click on the monitor registered it was me answering. The ID is your access to everything in this city and without it you can’t even answer the phone.

“Yeah, sorry. I’m closing it now.” Pushing the print scanner the windows close locking the girl with me inside my room. “Sorry, I had left to check on my project down the hall without realizing I had left the room open. It won’t happen again. Also, it’s not going as planned so I’ll have to work all night in my room to create a new report. Don’t disturb me for a while.” The girl releases me from her grip as my mother answers she will start dinner and I’m more than welcome to join her when I find a time to take a break. Watching the girl she seems almost like a fallen angel sent to test me. Her eyes question me but I can’t focus on her words. Her wound hasn’t stopped leaking since she had entered my room. How much longer can she survive with that much blood gone? Basic first aid is the basis for all education in this city although we’re never allowed to actually perform any actual treatment ourselves. Forbidden so the promise of murder is never an option. Simply put, if someone dies it wasn’t murder even if someone had actually committed the crime.

“If you trust me a little bit, I can close your wound.” Hesitation danced in my voice forcing me to go up a couple octaves in my pitch. Glancing at her wound she surveyed me, judging me but her judgment is different than the others. Her judgment meant I can either find freedom outside these walls or be incarcerated for the rest of my life.

“How do you know anything about medical?” her voice stabbed me in my ears. The calmness behind her question was tranquilizing. How can she stand there calmly with her arm gushing out blood?

“Shyn? What are you going to do about the maintenance work?” Tarlon pulls a chair up to the monitor for me. I shrug off his question logging into the system with my refurbished ID. “Oh well, I don’t know either. I wasn’t studying this field when I got assigned here so I have learn everything again anyway. Think you can help out?” I couldn’t help but laugh at him. “Want some coffee?” handing him my cup I move around the internal log system to check that all cleaners are where they should be, cleaning their designated trash and no incidents to report. All reports come back clear which is understandable. What could those robots report anyway? I still have a hard time believing that I have been working at this job for over five years now. Sipping the coffee I ask if Tarlon found anything unclaimed yesterday after my shift had ended. This small room is suffocating enough without unclaimed belongings from the citizens in the park. He shrugs checking the night crew box to make sure that nothing had been turned in after he left. These platinum tiled floors reflect us like polished mirrors. It’s disturbing to think that cameras exist beneath those illuminating floors. The walls a white that’s almost blinding with how smooth it is. This place resembles a reinstating correctional institute the only difference I can leave as my job allows.

“You really should perk up. This world is only as interesting as you think it is.” That voice. My chair flies across floor crashing into the cabinet behind me. There’s no way that voice could belong to her. Her laugh echoes across the monitors as all screens go black with no static or other interference. Tarlon rushes to his station beside mine as we hammer at the holographic keys trying to override the system. A chilling though burns my head forcing my hands to stop. Why am I trying to protect this city? Tarlon cusses next to me while entering override codes with mixing of authorities personnel login and ID provisions into the system but nothing defers the darkness in the screen.

“Come play if you’re allowed.” Her voice the only thing in this void I can understand. Rushing from the office I felt a burning need to find her before the authorities find her. The trees dance around me with the mixing of laughter from the park residents. The whole world screaming in my ears pulling apart my brain forcing me to the ground. This faux ground that I had walked upon five years ago with Sauna, where the report of her shocked the city, the same path I walked upon where I dreamed of meeting her. Where could she possibly be?

“This is hide and seek, Shyn. You have to look to find me.” Her voice comes from the robot cleaner next to me. It’s eyes a red clarifying it’s been hacked but also by her, the only one who’s escaped this place and survived. It continues cleaning as I watch the landscape for any amoralities in this illusion of a city. I saw her laughing behind a tree but no one seems to notice her but me. She mouths that it’s a game before leaving.

“Enjoying your break, Shyn?” Appearing in front of me from a tree high above I feel back against a bush. How did she know I got detained five years ago? How did she know anything about me after she disappeared? Flashback of that night blind me from how she looks now. The flashbacks blur together, me giving her first aid, her staying the night, her eating my dinner while openly criticizing Halcyon without any condolences for the weak. She personifies everything I want to do and everything I want to be back then and now. “Stand up. This city finally gets to live up to its name.” she slaps me so hard I taste blood pouring into my mouth. “Well?” Taking her hand I saw it all, her hatred for this city, the things the Garrison Regime had done to her, the things this city has done to its people. Her smile should be sinister with its need to draw blood from the Regime that had imprisoned her, but to me it’s my gateway to Hell. At least Hell promised me I could die with her and freedom.

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