If you’re just tuning in, this is the third part of a story I’m writing called Floating to the Ground. If you want to catch up, use the tags at the bottom the posts. The first part is called Prelude. Next, is Measure 1. If you’d like a little background on how this story started, check out my first post (It’s also where Prelude is located). Happy reading! (Hopefully there’s no typos, but I’ll fix ’em if I find ’em!…Yes, I intentionally said, “…there’s no typos…,” my grammar freak friends. Let me know if you find any typos too.)
It’s hard to know what to do when it feels like you’re living with an hourglass relentlessly reminding you that this measurement of life we call “time” is rapidly running out. After that moment when we knew how the other felt, it seemed like I had a thorn lodged in my skin, always tinging with the pain that shouted its presence because of Norman’s impending deployment; Norman was worth it, though. His leaving in less than a month meant that I would be alone, but it wasn’t the idea of being alone that harassed me; I hated the thought of life without him there sharing it with me. I know leaving under those circumstances is not the same as death, and I know that deployment is temporary, but when you’re used to the regular company of your closest friend—and you realize you love him—it just feels like too much.
To pass the time, we did whatever we could to prepare him for his deployment, and seemingly every conversation centered on The Assignment. Norman would be going to a land state called South California, and apparently it’s supposed to be warm there most of the time. He would be able to pack one suitcase for his civilian clothes and other personal items, but that was all. Everything has to pass Confed. 7 inspections before leaving. No weapons, of course; no food; and only two pictures would be allowed from home.
“I can’t leave you, Marcia, but I can’t get out of this either.” Norman’s voice was starting to taper off, but gathered strength as if enlisting his own inner troops. His eyes were intense, almost productive, like he could accomplish anything by simply looking at it. His forehead and cheeks were no longer soft, but rather taut like a drum. Slowly the color of near rage was filling his face, and his lips pressed together like a body builder under the stress of a dead lift. He’s seriously considering how to get out of this, I thought. Confed. 7 and its mother government, The Dominion, do not treat lightly potential dissenters. Anyone labeled a dissenter is seen as hating The Good, which is, in simple terms, the equivalent of hating human happiness, so we’re told. Don’t disrupt the “happiness,” Norman; we can’t afford the payment, if you do.
“Babe, you seem upset. Let’s go for a walk and talk.” That was the best I could offer at the time, and I thought a walk would be a good way to relieve some stress while we talked things out.
We walked side by side down a tree-lined sidewalk. “I can’t do this. I can’t leave you,” he said as he looked me in the eyes; he was resolute. Then we turned our eyes away and walked, looking out as if our future was in the distance, down past the buildings looming in our craft-framed horizon. I had to talk some sense into him.
“I don’t want you to go; it’s killing me too, but Norman, you have to go. You know you don’t have any other options, unless you like death or mysterious imprisonment on a floating city.”
After that, his laser-straight gaze was focused out there somewhere. Silence was our arbitrator in a disagreement we knew inside we really weren’t having. We continued walking like this for several minutes, hand in hand, gripping firmly because this wasn’t the place for nostalgia.
Norman finally broke the frustrated silence. “You’re right. If I tried anything, it would be suicide.”
“I don’t want to lose you…permanently,” I added, just to confirm my rationale, not only to him but to myself. “A year is better than forever.” It sounded so logical, so devoid of emotion, but everything in me was screaming. “At least we have DTC.” That wasn’t exactly comforting, but I was trying to look for some shard of good in all of this. DTC was the acronym for Direct Technology Communication. When we’re not face to face with someone, we use DTC, which is a device about the size of a thumb tip. We can carry it anywhere we want; most people prefer to mount it on a bracelet or wrist band. It projects a life-size 3-D image of the person you’re talking to, and you can both see and hear the other person. Aside from the lack of touch and smell (since it’s just an image) it feels like the person you’re talking to is really next to you. It’s nice in theory, but there’s no real privacy. Not having privacy with DTC never bothered me until now; I guess I never felt like anything I said might upset anyone. My thinking was, “Why worry about it?” It sounded like a positive approach, but I guess it was a bit naïve.
Confed. 7 doesn’t want to look bad by having its citizens secretly opposing The Dominion, and Confed. 7 can’t afford to appear rogue in any way because five years ago in Confed. 7, there was a growing group of citizens opposed to a world-wide unified government, a.k.a., The Dominion. They hadn’t become violent, but their intentions were dissent and (down the line) possibly secession. When a group of citizens disobeys The Order of The Dominion, then their Confederation pays (withdrawing of some funding from The Dominion and in extreme cases, a revocation of privileges, such as suffrage for its citizens or distribution of basic goods supplied to our food and health or medical stores). If The Confederation pays, you can guarantee its citizens will pay beyond what The Dominion requires. Usually what happens then is that the citizens must pay a Privilege of Death as punishment for typically more common crimes, such as lying in court, theft, arson, etc., in order to restore health to their local Confederation. Once a Confederation feels that it has been cleansed, then the laws are enforced as previously written in The Book of Law, and normal punishments resume.
In the past I never questioned Confed. 7, or The Dominion for that matter, because life had been generally pleasant for me up until then. I had a decent job, my flat was nice, I was educated and still taking classes so that I could get a better job, and my best friend lived near me. I didn’t have much of an opinion about anything political because none of that stuff ever seemed to affect me. But now I couldn’t stop questioning. Why did The Dominion get to define happiness for us? Why couldn’t citizens have different opinions from what the government considered acceptable? What was wrong with people who disagreed and never wanted to hurt anyone? This was the stuff of my bedtime. Instead of resting, I started thinking. I couldn’t stop thinking… ~Marcia