Author's note: Enjoy this little stepping stone of mine. Yet another that I'm not particularly fond of, actually, not fond of at all, though there are some aspects of it that I think might have potential if worked on. Basically if re-written entirely, which you might say 'yes, why don't you then?', and I would say... eh. I think it's the stiffness in the characters; it's just not 'there' and I never found the thrill to bring it around.
Sun Side Boy
By Kai Calo
At certain moments he was struck with the terrible realization that every action in his life was premeditated, determined by a system inherently flawed. He tried not to dwell on it. The trap itself was nice. It was warm and safe. But was it truly good? Was it what he really wanted?
The sun blinded them.
In the year 219, 2nd Cycle, the metropolis of Sun Side covered near one fourth of the planet’s surface. Years later, the city sustained its growth by expanding in every available direction, each building seemingly larger than the last. They began to multiply and migrate. The side of Dimidium forever facing the sun was almost entirely urbanized save for the few areas left untouched due to historic or religious reasons, such as the site of the first landing and the lush gardens of the Great Museum.
Nox Side did not have gardens. Theirs was a world of pitch-black.
Forty-four years later, during the Progressive War of 263—a conflict that polarized the sides of Dimidium and gave rise to Sun Side’s political and financial control by way of Nox Side surrender—a vital law was instituted worldwide. It stated there would be no mothers, no fathers. When an individual died their place in society was given to a tubie, which was nothing more than a synthetic human ovary installed into a glass cylinder and attached to an insemination machine. Each separate egg was fertilized upon activation, and would thus create a tube child to meet the maximum legal population quota.
This law read FORFEITURE in bold letters on every code of regulations and printed rule known to Dimidium. Population control had become essential; the tidally locked planet was too small a place for unauthorized births occurring without a forfeiting party.
Wiping a hand across his sweating face, Executioner Aiden Warrick watched the sun disappear behind his vehicle. It did not set but stayed ever present in the vast sky, a permanent orb of brilliant light. The city became a fuzzy blur in the rearview mirror, the skyscrapers eventually swallowed by the horizon. Unlike the squat, compact municipals of twenty-first century Earth, the enormous buildings of Sun Side were supported above ground with hollow, web-like structures, resembling trees whose roots were raised and visibly linked. If one were to lean to view the highest part of these buildings their head would arch back until they toppled over.
Nox Side was very different. It was harsh and barren, a flat expanse with scarcely any cover. Rowlies prowled the open land, their necks like stems splitting off into two parts, their triangular heads bobbing as they lumbered along on short legs attached to serpentine bodies. Aiden could remember touching one’s skin once. It was like caressing crumpled sandpaper.
He drove in silence, focused, his vehicle racing across the Dusk Zone border. The sun gradually vanished behind him.
It was hard not to let the dark intimidate him, but Aiden had traversed Nox Side before and was accustomed to its gloom. He pressed a button and the sphere switched into auto-pilot. With his hands freed, he crossed his arms above his head and reclined against the sleek seat of his vehicle to study the dark world on the other side of his window. He took in the size and character with a macabre curiosity bordering on wonder; much the same way he had examined the photo of the woman.
The image was clear in his mind—a high-resolution shot. Long range. Night scope. Nox Side. The woman’s face and torso a green so verdurous it could shame a lime. She sat inside a decrepit house, outlined by a window, partly turned, mouth opened as if to speak, her eyes focused on an individual beyond the left edge of the frame.
At first glance there had been nothing strange or alien about her. She was an average Nox Sider, a woman who had no doubt lived a harsh life under the perpetual night of her native land. Her face was drawn, her lips thin, her hair drab and her eyes despairing—though, in all truth, she was pretty even in that state. But when Aiden took note of her whole body, when he saw her in full, his heart sank as it always did when handed such warrants. Towards the bottom of that image, above the pane of the window, the woman’s stomach presented itself, a large mass protruding outward like a ball. She was pregnant.
As damned as he felt he was, he couldn’t escape his duties. She had broken the law and she had to face her sentence.
Aiden rubbed the bridge of his nose as the sphere eased itself to the left. Beyond his vehicle were shadows layered upon deeper shadows. Nox Side was ominous, the flora lifeless, scattered about the ground. What was once greenery in his path became murky undergrowth below the hollowed stars, short shrubs and blackened, curling things stretching out for nourishment to find naught, a neglected toddler reaching for their parent only to be met with indifference. Everything seemed so dead.
Yet, there was something in the essence, in that darkness, that brought to him the sensation of freedom, as if he were now outside the prison cell looking in.
It didn’t much matter to him that this woman had decided to admit impregnation, whether by traditional intercourse, injection, DNA/Chromosome isolated-touch manipulation, or any other method previously available before the prohibition of natural reproduction. He saw in her a liberty of self. He viewed her in a different light. Maybe, since she was from the darkness, he saw her with no light at all, and he was secretly proud to think she was strong and beautiful because of it—that she was free.
The sphere veered to its immediate right, jerking him. A slow moving blip showed on the navigation screen. He let a long breath exhale from his nose. The blip was her. Bip, bip, bip, it said.
‘Rarida Van Veen’. That was the name from the warrant. She could have already named the child as well.
For a moment, Aiden wondered if this fugitive girl thought herself justified in her actions. Did she think she could get away with her crime? Did she not know what befell those who had tried before her? Perhaps she didn’t care. Regardless, at the first sign that he was following her she had fled like a frightened fox, and he—the relentless blood hound—pursued her as he had the others. She would ride her rowlie until the fast and ugly creature died, wheezing it’s last snaking breath through the separate mouths on its two heads. True, the animal was swift, but it would inevitably collapse from exhaustion.
There was nowhere to hide; for either of them.
As the sphere droned on, speeding towards his goal, Executioner Aiden Warrick’s thoughts folded inward, seeing himself as a young boy in the sphere’s front view window. His mother had been long since dead by that age. His brothers and sisters surrounded him in the Home, the one where tubies lived and grew, though he had been the exception. He was nine by the time they were able to find him and his mother. She was killed, but since he was almost ten he was placed in the facility, forced to age into adulthood the same way all the other children did. The mother in the home for the tubies was very different than his. She never hugged them.
There was one lesson he could recall in particular—about natural birth. The lesson stated that ‘Biologically, the mother is wired to do anything for the safety of the child, whether born or unborn.’ This statement was of course punctuated by cases where said fact was untrue. But it made sense. It was a powerful thing. Aiden could remember his mother fighting to keep him, hiding with him in secret shelters, abandoned buildings, junk alleys, scrimping to get by. They were going to flee to Nox Side as soon as she had overcome her abhorrent fear of the darkness. But none of this happened. They did not make it to Nox Side. He remained a Sun Side boy, and life for him was made warm under the daylight.
The blip from the sphere became louder. Aiden blinked, the vision of himself as a child fading away. He sighed and put his palm beneath his chin. The sphere slowed as he took the wheel and switched off the auto drive. He cleared his throat. The closer he came to Rarida’s location the louder the blip sounded. Their chase was coming to an end. It was comforting to know he could finally see her in the flesh for the first time, this wandering, evasive woman who made his heart flutter behind his rib cage. His brow creased. She was a spirit, an elusive fairy, an apparition he was slowly starting to see. She was freedom personified. He wanted to touch her, to know her, though he had to confess, the desire he felt for her was different—more intensified—then it had been with his other warrants. Her skin had looked so soft in the picture.
With that thought, a horrid, uncontrollable anxiety gripped Aiden like a vise. That thought was not okay to have, and yet he couldn’t avoid it. He wanted to save her.
He inhaled deeply. More breaths ensued, great and rhythmic. He secretly wished to be done with his appointed task, to be striding away towards his apartment space with its stark walls and narrow hallway, the lonesomeness enveloping him like a familiar blanket. He had the chilling knowledge that he did not want to do this, and that disturbed him even more. The blip was nearing its highest pitch.
Keeping his resolve, Aiden made the sphere decelerate and lower to the ground. The engines died with an abrupt whirring noise, decreasing until suddenly there was nothing but the cold blow of the atmosphere outside. Nearby was a dim light that shone from the metal roof of a small, rundown residence. He exited the silvery sphere, his mind pushing at him, attempting to run wild against his will; though he was able to fight it back to gain a moment’s reprieve. To his left lay a dying rowlie. It made its characteristic call.
“Rrroooowwww,” one of the heads let out.
“Llliiieee,” the other followed in a higher pitch.
He watched it for a few minutes, letting it go on its own. It stopped moving and lay still.
With nothing else to keep him, Executioner Aiden Warrick strode onward, following the slight tracks that led away from the dead animal. The throb of an awful headache swept him into a whirlwind of pain. Was there something he could do? Was there some way to save her? Why did he care so much?
Wired to do anything for the safety of the child.
The shuffle of his dark boots could be heard against the dirt, normal to others, but loud and booming to himself. In less than a minute he would be there in front of her, Atropos incarnate, the scissors to her thread of life. His head sang to him every step he took.
Wired to do anything.
He did not want to do this.
He paused sharply, his footfalls ceasing before starting again with new purpose. With the determination of a foolish man, he decided to save her. He wanted to feel the brief sovereignty she had taken over her own life for himself. Her bravery inspired him. He could go to her, pretend to do her in, console her, let her lean against his shoulder, pick her up in his arms, take her away from all the thoughts and confusion brought on by their grotesque worlds, of Sun Side and Nox Side both. To him she was different, and not everything different was bad. To her, he was something more, with so much potential, so much from him to shine.
The systematic hive was not his choice, nor was it hers.
In the scant glow from the nearby roof, he approached where she sat slouched, her stomach stuffed with new life. His hand floated to his weapon, just to look the part. He thought about her being in his arms, thought about her face and how pretty she had looked in the photo, with her thin lips and her long lashes. He thought about a life he could have with her, silly yes, but so fulfilling and uncontrolled.
He stepped in front of her figure, stood waiting
She glanced up. Her face was suddenly full of hopeful.
He shot her. Straight through one of her beautiful eyes.
Swallowing, he looked down at the limp body of the woman. His eyes were glossy, glazed over and dull and very dry. The sound of the shot rang out across the desolate range of nothingness, unheard. Rarida Van Veen was very, very still. The child would die inside her womb.
Executioner Aiden Warrick turned and left, noting the hollow in his chest, how easily his heart remained pumping, and how his world remained in motion.
©Kai Calo 2012