“Run John! Run!”, a high, shrill voice calls out. It sounds so familiar. I can feel the name on the tip of my tongue. Where is this voice coming from? I don’t understand at all. It’s so dark and so cold. My vision is hazy. I can’t make out the objects around me, but I feel a tiny hand grasping at my fingers. “Hurry John! We have to run away! They’re going to get us Johnny!”, the voice cries out and the tiny fingers grip tighter, trying to tug me along. This person is so small.
The darkness starts to brighten as I shuffle along. My feet feel like they’re getting sucked at by mud. It’s hard to move. My legs are weak and the air is like jello. I can barely make out the child before me. I feel the need to hurry, but I can’t run. The black ooze grips my soles so that I must jerk my legs to free myself with each step.
It’s light enough to see the girl’s face now. Tears and snot are running down her blushed flesh. I can see the frantic fear warring in her pale green eyes. I know this face, but what is the name? We are almost to the light when she stops mid step. Her eyes bulge with shock and terror. “John. John, I see them. They’re close. They’re going to catch us.”, her voice is barely audible as her breath hitches in her throat. She tugs harder at my wrists, but I can no longer move. Her wide eyes move back and forth between me and the unknown enemy behind us and my heart lurches with fear.
Why am I afraid? I don’t understand… “I’m sorry John”, she wails as her hands fall from mine. I want to grab her. I want to get away, but she leaves me alone in the dark. The air is thick, I can’t breath. I’m clawing for the girl who has already left and I want to scream for her to come back, but no sound comes out. I can feel knobby hands grasping at my back. Feel the coarse flesh of their palms pulling at my skin. Crushing my lungs. The light is gone. It’s too dark. I can’t breath.
I jolt forward in my bed with a start, grasping at my chest waiting for the air to fill my lungs. My heart beats frantically against my palm and I shut my lids tightly to try and calm my stiff muscles. What was that? The images seemed so real in my head and even in reality it seems harder to breath the synthetic oxygen. I can still feel an arm wrapped around my abdomen.
Pausing, I slowly open my eyes. There was an arm there and I have to stop myself from screaming. The skin is a cream silk against my flesh and looking towards my left, I find myself staring into deep violet pools. “John”, her pearly lips part slowly around my name,” you’re a minute late to crow call. I didn’t know you could go that long without oxygen.” Her delicate hand reaches up from my waist and begins to unstrap the the sleeper mask, pulling it away so that I can take in the fresh air. “Silly”, she snorts as I gulp in oxygen,”you don’t work hard enough to indulge yourself. If you want resting oxygen then work overtime or something. Don’t be one of those fools that suffocate or get carbon dioxide poisoning from breathing in their respirations for too long.” Shaking her head, she pulls away the covers and trots towards the restroom. The muscles of her legs pull and stretch with each bound and I hear her sigh as she steps upon the cool tile.
I feel like I should ask what is wrong, but we were barely joined last week. The only thing I knew about this woman was that she was my new spouse and that her name was Claire. I did not know her interests or hobbies or even her life prior to our binding, I only understood that we were to be partnered for life. It was normal of course. Everyone was given a partner around the age of 23. It was the same with everything in life. Learn to walk at 13 months, go to school at 5 years, graduate at 16 years, go through training for your future career until you are 18 to 20 depending on the job you received at the graduation ceremony, relocate after you have finished training, receive a partner around 23 years of life, and then produce sex cells for artificial insemination in the first year of partnership for the future generations. By next month I will donate my cells to the Facility and a child will be produced within a breeder. If I were to train and test correctly then I would, in turn, receive an infant to care for and teach.
Now, the question was whether or not I would receive one. Sure, it was still required to go through the training, but it was never a sure thing whether or not you would receive a child on the first year of partnership. Many of the offspring produced were defective and discarded. All infants ranging from ones who cried more than normal to ones with physical and mental disabilities were all defective and therefore destroyed. Just as any adult damaged beyond repair or who had grown too old to contribute to society were discarded. It was the correct way of living. With conformity came peace and the old ways of the human race died. The laws were relatively simple. Contributing to society meant food; oxygen; clothing; shelter; luxuries like toiletries, furniture, heating, and cooling; water for bathing and washing your hands; and, if you worked hard enough for it, you could receive extra items and allow yourself more leisure time.
Everything you need is achieved with tributes earned from contributing. Without them a human would inevitably cease to live. Mental stability and peak physical health were all a person needed for survival. If even a little damage could not be repaired or overlooked then a life was null. To contribute to society was to contribute to balance and by jeopardizing that you lower to quality of life.
I can hear the the water stopping in the shower and look up questioningly. It had only been 3 minutes of water use. Was that all the time that she needed? The banging of the sliding door answers my question. “I’m going to have to work long hours tonight if I want a sufficient shower in the morning.” I hear Claire muttering to herself, “I didn’t even finish rinsing away all the soap.”
She steps out with a towel around her waist and looks me in exasperation, “How many more minutes do you have on your water tributes?” I feel awkward staring at her dressed in such a way and I have to look in another direction as I speak.
“About 30 minutes or so.” I can almost hear the annoyance oozing from her pores as I talk,”Since I’m in Cleaner Resources I don’t see the need in showering every single day, so it just sort of builds up.”
“Why don’t you use your tributes on extra Rest Oxygen then? It seems like you can’t get enough of that.” I raise my eyebrow at her snapping tone and look her in the eyes.
“If you’re going to act like that then why don’t you just shower with me?” I want to laugh at her shocked expression, but hold my face still. A partnership was simply companionship, nothing more. There were no advances outside or inside of a relationship and because of that many diseases were abolished and children were produced healthier, stronger, and more mentally stable. A binding was meant to promote teamwork and keep the social aspect of the mind healthy and nurtured. Nothing more, nothing less. All of these reasons are why there are no choices in a partnership. From birth to adulthood, each human being is monitored and tested to find their ideal partner to make a binding work. Sexual orientation is non-existent because it is not needed, Desires are taken care of with hormone supplements, and there is no need for partners to reproduce as one because there are breeders to hold the growing fetus until birth.
“Really?”, my brows furrow at her bright face, “You would do such a thing so I could finish my shower?” I can see her eyes widening in excitement and a frown pulls at the edges of my mouth.
“No, not really.” It comes out flat and I can feel all expression go dead, “That is inappropriate and immodest. Now, I’m going to go take a shower-” I pause to look her right in the eyes as I emphasize,”-by myself.” As I shut the door I hear her call back, “I was kidding too!” a few seconds too late…
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