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3 lovers. 2 species. 1 way to survive.

The Hunted of 2060

http://amiblackwelder.com




Metamorphosis



I am torn. Two halves dividing. I feel it deep inside. There is no escaping it, no denying it. My body aches with a pain too familiar.

My hands clutched the metal student desk in sophomore Biology class at Alaska University. Sweat dropped from my forehead in the air conditioned room. Chills rushed up my spine and I shivered in a brief moment only noticed by me. My long nails scratched the surface of the classroom desk. My class schedule appeared on the square shaped electronic device on my desk, beaming in and out of focus as my vision blurred:


Biology

English

Humanities II

Lunch

Calculus II

Ethics



The pain as sharp as a knife carved into my sides, my muscles, my bones. My mouth opened in silent agony. I didn’t want anyone to know. I cried out in a quiet prayer inside my own mind. Make me whole. Make me not think. Make me not hurt.

Robert’s athletic build filled his seat one desk away from me in the back row. ‘Are you alright, April?’ he whispered. His brows formed crooked angles over his intense stare. I wiped the sweat as it slid down my jaw line. I felt the color fall from my face.

‘Yeah, I’m fine.’ I forced a smile to hide my pain.

‘You sure?’ he insisted. ‘You look kinda pale.’

I excused myself and walked to the restroom. The ceramic tiles of the bathroom walls swirled in dizziness. I fell to the hard floor, hitting my knee and then my chest before everything went black.

In the nurse’s office, I awoke lying on top of a clinic bed two doors down from the dean’s office. Not a room I wanted to be so close to. Not a room I wanted to visit again. His office made me feel claustrophobic, and excited a certain angst inside of me, something I didn’t know how to control. I heard chatting above me, next to me, only I couldn’t see anyone.

I turned my head toward the wall and listened. I heard the sounds in the next room, every word, every movement, every sigh. Turning my head away from the unwanted reality, I curled up on top of the crisp white sheets. I stared at the ceiling and talked myself into believing I just needed more sleep. I didn’t want this. I didn’t understand this.

‘April?’ The nurse’s warm tone called me. She swung the door open and in maternal instinct, stood by my side. ‘Are you feeling better?’

‘How did I get here?’

‘A student found you unconscious in the bathroom.’ The nurse considered her words. ‘Have you been taking anything, prescription drugs, anything illegal that I should know about?’

‘No,’ I shook my head vehemently, ‘no.’

‘Are you sure? I need to know so that I can help you.’ She sounded so genuine. I could hear the sincerity in her voice, in the thumping of her heart. She meant it.

‘No,’ I said plainly.

‘Ok.’ She smiled like she believed me. ‘I’m going to run some blood tests to find out how I can better help you.’

‘Help me? I don’t need any help. I don’t need any tests.’ I pushed myself off the bed. The palms of my hands grasped the clinic sheets covering the plastic cushion. The sound of it crinkling irritated my ears. I don’t need needles in my skin, my blood. I know I need help, but not the kind she can give me. Somewhere inside of me I knew what was happening, but my rational mind could not make sense of it.

I pushed the clinic door open as the nurse tried to grab my shoulder and pull me back, but I turned the corner and disappeared down the hall. I moved fast. My fragile mind could not understand the pace which I took. In a moment, I stood at the door of the main office, leading outside. I couldn’t fathom how the spaces below my feet disappeared underneath me.

But I am safe outside. The fresh air feels right.

Robert nudged me from behind. ‘April, how are you feeling? After Biology, I didn’t see you. I was worried.’ He raked his fingers through his chiseled blond hair that could be modeled for a shampoo commercial. I shrugged, not knowing how to explain this to him. I didn’t even know how to fully explain this to myself. Pulling my long wavy chocolate hair over my left shoulder, I fluttered my lashes fringing hazel eyes.

Distraction is easy for me. Deception is like second nature.

‘I’m fine,’ I said, almost convincing myself. ‘Did I miss anything important in class?’

‘Not really.’ We began to walk down the university campus sidewalk. ‘The same topic from Monday.’

‘Metamorphosis,’ I ascertained.

‘So, what are you doing tonight?’ Robert brushed his crimson sweater against the sleeve of my black silk blouse hanging over a pair of faded blue jeans.

‘I’m not sure.’ My lips tightened and I glared at the cobblestones below us.

‘Plans?’ Robert concluded and I could feel the drop in his enthusiasm. He always jumped before I told him how high. I opened my mouth to say something, something I wasn’t even sure of. I wanted to ease his insecurities, but then I closed my lips and nodded. It’s better if he doesn’t know. ‘Maybe another time?’

‘Maybe.’ As our eyes parted from each other, a few players in Robert’s hockey team, huddled over the lawn, called to him.

‘Robert, over here!’

’‘Look, I gotta run, but call me if anything changes. You know I’ll be there if you need me,’ Robert said in a loyalty I knew only he afforded me.

‘I will.’ Alone on the campus lawn, I lay on my back. I heard the laughter of the hockey team fade as they drew away from me and entered a building. The grass squished up against my skin as I glanced over the stars hidden so well in the late afternoon sky. I miss moments like these. Moments of peace. The knife had been removed and I felt no pain. The vibration of sounds around me vanished. I could almost feel the cold of Alaska again.


* * *


At my apartment I thought I was safe from it, from myself, but my arms began to itch. I scratched. The tingling returned. I knew what to expect — sharp, intense pain. Unbearable. I threw myself onto my oversized bed propped up on steel bars and held myself. My hands clasped my shoulder bones. My head pushed into the pillows. My teeth gritted into the sheets. My fingers raked my skin as if I were an addict in need of another fix. My body shook with convulsions. My eyes shut. Instinctual, not of volition. It will pass.

A sound bellowed from my lips, a sound I’d never heard before tonight. I curled up like a baby in need of her mother and let the aching pass. It always passes. It always takes too long. Every minute felt like forever. I need him. I need him to help me get through this. When the violence inside my body soothed, I called him on my phone. He will come. He always comes.

The knock at my door drew me from my bed and to him in one fluid motion. He stood at my doorway with an orange tulip in his hands, my favorite. But I didn’t even have time to thank him for his thoughtfulness. My pain needed his comfort. My mind needed his words. My body needed his touch. He hurried through my door to the foot of the bed. He sat in his dark blue jeans, still wearing his crimson sweater. Too desperate for games, I just told him the truth.

‘I need you.’ The words flowed so easily. He drew close to me and I rested my weary head on his chest. The chill from his skin cooled my warm temperature.

‘What happened?’

‘I don’t know.’

‘Tell me where you hurt. Let me help you.’ The fine lines breaking in his forehead revealed his fear for me.

‘Everywhere,’ I grimaced.

‘Tell me what to do.’ The longing in his words mirrored the longing in his heart. He wanted more from me than I could give him right now.

‘Nothing,’ I said shortly, looked up into his pleading blue eyes and then gave him just an inch of what I knew he wanted. ‘Just be here.’

He smiled and didn’t question me more about it. Robert had seen me hurt before, twice, and learned not to ask me questions. They brought out the agitation in me. With his lips closed, his gentle hands took care of me. I abhorred hospitals. He held me in his embrace. His heart beat fast, too fast. I heard it too well, better than I should.

Never mind. He’s here with me now. Everything will be fine.

I rested on his chest, wrapped up in his arms, his large toned arms. He fell asleep, peaceful. I never sleep so still. Every sound, every motion usually kept me awake. But with him near me, I slept soundly.


* * *


I covered my eyes in the bright daylight at first. We strolled out of my apartment and down the block over the chipped sidewalks. The sky cars in various metallic colors flew past us like birds overhead. Their revving sounded like whistles blowing. The black apartment walls stayed in the shadows of the day and the windows glowed in fluorescent lights laced around their borders.

The electrical newspapers beamed in and out against the shop walls and displayed current events. America clones President Strossey in an attempt to derail assassination attempts. The news faded out while the next page faded in. A trip to Mars is scheduled for next weekend: September 14th, 2060. NASA says the highly anticipated Anti-Matter Propulsion is ready to use for distant travel. On the next slide of news, another space-related event emerged onto the screen. The RAM Jet Fusion Engine will reach the Space Walker today to transport food and water to the Moon Station. Go Green, Go Hydrogen!

The gray clouds rolled in like a tumultuous sea about to storm. The thunder crackled and a few rain pellets began to fall. Robert took out his compact umbrella stashed inside of his front jean pocket. He wrapped his hand around the miniature, rectangular tool and hit the silver button with his forefinger. The shape of the umbrella unfolded around us and clicked into place. People on the busy streets brushed past us in dark raincoats and silver radiated umbrellas. The silver color lit up against the lightning. I wrapped my arm around Robert’s and fastened my other hand over my waist.

‘Are you…’ He stopped his sentence. I knew what he wanted to ask, …alright today? He knew I didn’t enjoy those questions. He cleared his throat, ‘…hungry?’ I smiled at him and shifted my eyes to the chipped sidewalk like a coy animal.

‘Sure, I could eat something.’ In truth, I was famished. I hadn’t eaten dinner last night even though I’d been feeling more hungry than usual.

‘Where would you like to eat? We have the whole day to ourselves.’ His strong blue eyes shone lighter than the sky. ‘Thank God for Saturdays,’ he smirked with a scar over his wrinkled chin from playing hockey. We ambled to the end of the sidewalk. A sky car slowed down, dropping out of the sky in front of us. Its wheels, in mechanical precision, lowered out of its body and hit the aluminum street. The car’s angular tip and short rounded frame propelled down the road and disappeared after turning a corner.

‘We could eat at Uro’s Deli,’,I suggested. ‘I’m craving a roast beef sub.’

‘Uro’s it is.’

The silver, black and white checkered walls of the deli stood out between two buildings. The low brick building to the left reminded everyone of designs long gone. The spiraling crisp white tower to the right reached into the clouds. Music somewhere between disco and techno permeated Uro’s (a name based on the monetary exchange of America since 2025) and the sounds seeped out the deli door and onto the city as we approached.

Robert pointed to the spiraling tower with his forefinger. ‘I would’ve positioned the base more to the left and the tip more to the right, placing the spiral off center.’

‘Crooked?’ I arched a brow. He loved architecture, he studied architecture, but his ideas could be grandeur.

‘Interesting,’ he corrected. I grinned. Robert tripped over cement on the other side of the street.

‘Damn sidewalks. Do you know when they’re going to rebuild them?’ he asked, agitated. I don’t have answers. I can only think of my own pain. I can think of nothing else.

‘No.’ I walked ahead toward the door.

‘They’d better reconstruct them with nano-ceramic soon before someone gets seriously hurt.’ He followed. The entire city began to look like one large piece of nano-material, a substance that wouldn’t bend or break in chaotic weather or over extended periods of time.

Robert sat across from me in the oversized black booth with his concentrated expression. We punched our orders into the Electric Order Form, an efficient device, much like the internet fifty years ago. Square, about the size of a book, it fit into the table on each side near the end. It eliminated the need of waiters.

Robert fiddled with his projection watch. He looked like a budding professor playing with the technology in his hands. Despite his strong body and model-like appearance, he maintained a 3.5 GPA and tutored some of his buddies on the hockey team. He hit the silver button on his watch and the hologram of our Biology textbook appeared over the table. He clicked the arrow button and it turned page after page until he stopped at page ten.

I brushed my onyx hair away from my face. ‘You want to show me something?’ I placed my elbows on the table and nestled my head in my left hand. My palm cupped my chin and my hazel eyes shot up at him.

‘I forgot to mention, Mr. Crougar said this was going to be on the quiz Monday.’

Monday? I can’t even think about tomorrow. I have to take this one day at a time…whatever ‘this’ is.

I nodded like I cared about a quiz, like I wasn’t thinking about something else over every word he read. He hit the arrow button again and the page turned. As he finished highlighting the important parts, the Intelligent Service Robot, dressed in the deli uniform of silver, black and white checkered shirt and pants, carried our orders on its metallic arms. Its back squeaked as it bent over to place our plates before us.

‘Do you ever miss it?’ I said in almost a whisper to Robert.

‘Miss what?’

‘Actual people serving food?’ The ISRs were manufactured and found in every business by 2050 and in most homes by 2055. They brought a great relief to the extra workloads carried by most people, but they also took away many jobs. People were angry at first, until new employment opportunities for the manufacturing and upkeep of the ISRs became available.

‘Sometimes.’ Robert winked and began to eat his chili sandwich, one of his favorites at the deli. The smell of roast beef spun my head in a dizzy frenzy and I began to feel the aches in my bones again.

All I can think about is the meat.


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