Crys wasn’t sure what she meant, but he knew telling the truth was his best and would be his only option.
“I couldn’t sleep at home,” He answered.
She refused to let the intensity of the interrogation lessen.
“Trouble with the missus?”
Crys almost felt as if he did something wrong. All he did was fall asleep on a patch of grass. By what authority did she interrogate him like this? Instead of asking questions, he complied by answering her question.
“I’m not married.”
“Hmm.” the woman huffed. Raising one brow she asked, “What building do you live in?”
“Two hundred and forty,” he answered like a reflex without question.
Crys’ continued, “The forty-fourth.”
“C,” Crys said.
The woman huffed another, “Hmm…” as she stood up. She reached inside her jacket and pulled out a black, paper thin tech-pad. The purple light flashed in the right corner. It was already on. She pointed the back of the pad at him. Again Crys’ eyes locked onto the tiny lens. “State your name and occupation please.”
Blankly staring at the lens, Crys said, “Crys Al-in. Apple-berry Harvester.”
Unlike his encounter with the official three months ago, back in Sector 10, a neon rainbow of beaming light shot from the tiny lens into his eyes. The light wasn’t blinding. Images rapidly flashed before his eyes, and his eyelids grew heavy. He passed out within seconds.
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.
The same dream has reoccurred for the past three months, and has raised grief and terror in Crys’ heart. Every few weeks the dream gets more in depth and feels more like a memory than a dream. Crys hoped his move to Sector 1 would stop the dream. He liked it best when he didn’t dream at all. However, the dream has yet to quit. He’s been in Sector 1 for three weeks now.
Crys enjoyed his life in Sector 1 as an Apple-berry Harvester. Apple-berries were poisonous, yet scientifically wonderful fruits. He worked every other day, four days a week. He looked forward to working three days and then getting four days off in a row, but he wasn’t ready for that shift yet. He especially couldn’t wait till the fourth month, to see if he would get a bonus for all his excellent apple-berry harvesting. For a fruit that grows year round, on a nightly basis, he sure worked hard.
The only downside to living in Sector 1 was that Crys was made aware of his loneliness. Unlike Sector 10, Sector 1 had families. There were husbands and wives, who were dads and moms to children: children who start out as babies, and babies are conceived through an act known as sex− which Crys didn’t learn about until the Voice gave him a private lesson in his new apartment. Crys learned that when Pearl pressed her lips against his that was known as kissing. And kissing usually happened on dates. Crys desperately wanted to find one special woman to take on a date, and after their first kiss together, to never kiss another woman ever again. He wanted that one special woman to become his wife, who he’d be fully committed to until he died. Until he found that woman, he could tolerate the loneliness.
He avoided the lonely feeling best by eating in public for breakfast and dinner at Ned’s Diner in the Square. He never shopped at the vendors that lined the outer edge of the Square, or the toy shops, gadget shops, and clothing stores inside the Square. Occasionally, he went to the grocery store so he could pack lunches for work. He never went inside the dance clubs and game rooms. Though he’d eaten at all the restaurants in the Square, he liked dining at Ned’s the best. A lot of young and old couples went there; especially ones that brought their families so they could all dine together. Watching the happy, non-lonely people around him made him feel less alone.
Crys was amazed he managed to endure his nightmare until seven o’clock in the morning. Usually, he woke up at three when the stars were still on display. He got out of bed and showered. When he stepped out of the shower, Crys’ tattoo caught his attention. The armband on his left bicep puzzled him. It looked like a black-lined circuit board, similar to a motherboard. He couldn’t remember where he got it, how he got it, and when he got it. He asked the Voice.
The Voice answered like it always did.
“When you first moved out on your own, you rebelled and a man named Hank, who had a tattoo shop underground, gave it to you in exchange for free clothing for as long as you worked at the clothing factory.”
Crys couldn’t recall the memory exactly, but somehow he knew the Voice was right. He knew that Hank missed out because the next day Crys got removed from factory crew and put on patrol crew. Crys left the bathroom and walked up to his closet in his room. Six inches from the closet, the door slid open. Crys put on his kitchen crew jumpsuit. The thought occurred that he should buy new clothes, but he liked his old ones. Women thought he was mysterious and ‘sexy’ and he had many opportunities to go out on dates with those women. Yet, those women never wanted anything serious. They just wanted sex. He wanted more and he knew none of them could ever be the special woman he was looking for.
As laced and tied his final boot, Crys considered going to a clothing store today. It was his day off. Perhaps after breakfast he would go.
Crys told the Voice he would be back around sunset. A day outside the home would do Crys good. As the door closed behind him, in the hallway, Crys saw something he hadn’t ever seen since he arrived in the building. The tenant of apartment E, at the end of the hall, walked out. She stole the breath right out of Crys’ lungs. Her caramel skin had the red-orange undertone of peach velvet. Her brown hair, with a red tint, had big waves and ran down the length of her back. She had thick, yet delicate eyebrows. Her exotic shaped, coffee brown eyes nearly hypnotized him. Her body seemed to be sculpted by an artist− well-proportioned with plenty to admire. She wore tight, dark blue pants and a white, form fitting T-shirt. She toted a huge hemp, grocery bag over her shoulder.
As she walked past him, she smiled at Crys. She smelled like warm cinnamon. Crys found that exhilarating and enticing. He wanted to chase after her, beg her for her name and ask her to marry him. Then his common sense grabbed a hold of him. He didn’t know her. The two were strangers. He had to get to know her first, to see if she could be the one special woman he was looking for.
Unintentionally, he ended up following the tenant of apartment E. They had the same destination: the Square. Like him, the woman was smart. She took the shortest route, through the park. Taking the monorail took an extra ten minutes surprisingly. All through the walk, the woman hadn’t looked over her shoulder until they reached the end of the park, near the fishing pond.