Adina finished writing her 40th script of the day when the final bell rang for release. The manager's award ceremony had already happened, which, she opted to skip out on. She knew Aser was right, about why she would never be promoted.
Aser jumped across the hall in one leap and poked Adina in the boney rib.
“Ah! Why?!” Adina snapped.
“Because you need to wake up” smiled Aser, “Come on we’re free!”
Adina laughed, “Free?”
Aser shrugged, “Well you know, free from writing, for the day.”
They strolled out with the throngs of other writers. The herd was headed straight to the assigned cells for rations and resting. This was the only time for anyone to socialize between writing and resting. Aser looked inquisitive at Adina and asked, “What is your story? How did you end up here?”
Adina squinted, “The last thing I remember was playing out in my father’s corn field. The corn was at least twice as tall as I was. I was running towards my house, I saw the scarecrow on the ground in the garden. I bent down to stuff the straw back into his body, when a giant Eagle landed on the cross. I looked it straight in the eye. I felt fear tear through my body, I knew it had come for me. I had this rock in my pocket. (Adina pulls out of her pocket a deep purple palm size amethyst stone). As soon as I reached for my rock, the Eagle grabbed my shoulders, piercing through my collar bone. I beat it as hard as I could, with my rock. I cried, I screamed, no one came to save me.
“Damn. How old were you?”
“Five years old”
“And you have been here, in The Cloud ever since?”
“Yep. Started the writing academy as soon as my wounds from the Eagle's talons healed over”
The long walk through the tubes, from the writing compound to the resting cells was nearly over. Traveling through the tubes felt like fish swimming together in a school and it took about the same amount of time every day. However, today with Aser, everything slowed down. The normal sites and sounds faded away and all there was, was Aser and his eyes, piercing sea green eyes.
In this moment, she noticed, that his writing uniform was altered. From the buttons on his cuffs to the color stitching inside his jacket. Were those pineapple socks he was wearing? He obviously had planned these little protests but also camouflaged enough to not get in trouble for them. All of Adina’s body responded to that thought, who was this boy? And why was he so interested in her?
Aser noticed the the physical change in Adina, he disconnected his gaze from her and lead both of them towards the elevator, which would take them to their cells.
They packed into the elevator like sardines into a can, they would be in here for awhile. Adina lived on floor 500, and Aser on the 700th, stopping at each floor, all the way up. Before the elevator tubes departed, an orange foam was dispersed. This cleaned the clothes and bodies of those housed in these massive units.
Aser looked good with orange hair, which quickly faded to the standard bleached white in just under 60 seconds. The elevator started the upwards journey, and as much as Adina wanted Aser to listen to her, she felt she couldn’t talk in this close quarters. Walking and talking in the tubes was fine, because the movement muffled the conversation, plus other people were talking too. In the elevator, everyone was quiet as if they were already asleep.
Adina’s eyes grew heavier with each floor until her head fell over onto Aser’s shoulder, and everything went black.
“Adina....Adina...hello? Can you hear me?”
“Where am I?” Adina thought to herself.
“We are in The Mandala”
“We? Who are you?”
“It's me! Aser. Can you see me?”
“Aser! No, everything is black”
“Open your eyes silly”
Adina struggled with this concept, she knew she was asleep so how could she open her eyes?
Then two green lights appeared in the blackness. They glowed, until they turned into Aser’s eyes. His face started to lighten up, orange hair appeared and he was wearing a green jacket. His pants were extremely tight as if they were his skin. His shoes the last to appear, but the most impressive. A flat bottom sole that traveled past his ankles with laces and buckles.
“Where are we?”
“Depends what you mean... Literally, you are slumped over on my shoulder, we are probably somewhere between 50 and the 100th floor”
“I mean, where are we right now?”
“We are in another dimension. A universe I created, I call it The Mandala. It's where I escape The Cloud. I create my designs here. We can see, do and be anything we want. A place we can be free.” Aser’s eyes glowed an intense neon green.
Adina couldn’t break eye contact with him, “Aser, you look different”
“I am allowing you to see me as I truly am. Out there, in The Cloud, we cast an illusion of what we have to be. Uniforms. Bleached hair. I hate it. In here, this is who I truly am, who I see myself as”
“Your clothes...are different.”
“I design and make them all” Aser professed proudly.
“They are... interesting” Adina hesitated
“If by interesting you mean, awesome, cool, and you your own; I created something for you.” he smiled smugly.
“But we can only wear them here? In this dream world?”
“No. They are real too. Well, sort of. They are not quite the quality I envision here in this universe but I am getting close. I have never shown anyone my designs.”
“Have you ever brought anyone here before?”
“No... I have only ever come here to create by myself. I wasn’t sure anyone else could come here! However, I was in here creating yesterday when I saw you in here with me”
“Yes, I saw you wearing these pants” Aser held up a colorful pair of gemstone pants.
“Aser! They are beautiful!! They look just like my amethyst stone!”
“Yesterday, when you were wearing these pants, you transformed,”
“Transformed? Into what?”
“I cannot explain. Which is why I needed to see what would happen. I had to see if we could get together in here. I needed to see what would happen when you put them on” Aser handed Adina the Amethyst pants.
There was no place for Adina to change, the dream world looked like a never ending cube. There was a sense of a ceiling, floor, and sides yet they went on forever, no doors, no windows.
“There is no place for me to change”
“Really?! You are concerned about being shy, right now?!”
“Yes! I don’t want you to see me naked!”
Aser smirked and then chuckled, “I already have imagined you naked, so many times”
Adina blushed then looked down to realize she was completely naked! No where to run, no where to hide, she covered what she could with the leggings. Aser glanced very innocently, and smiled. He slowly turned his back to her and raised his hands in the air as if to conduct a invisible symphony. Adina watched with curiosity. He was sewing and painting at the same time until a full body suit was created. He grabbed it out of the void, faced Adina and walked toward her. Adina had to drop her hands from covering herself to take the bodysuit from Aser. As soon as she touched the suit, the silky essence calmed her entire body.
The fear of being naked, the vulnerability, fled her body. Just holding the fabric gave her a sense of confidence and wholeness that she had never experienced before. She felt a sensation in her lower body that traveled all the way to her heart, from her heart a green light shot out and zapped Aser in his chest. They both watched this bolt connect and vibrate between them. They looked up, locking on to each other eyes, when the entire green connection expanded enough to encompass both of their bodies. This green light continued to expand, filling up the white void until the whole space was filled and they existed in a green room.
They stood silently with each other, in awe of what just happened. Adina started putting on the suit, one leg in, pulling it up and over her knee, then the other knee, over her butt, she put each arm in and pulled the fabric away from her skin, then released it, until it fit perfectly over every curve, muscle, and bone. There was an opening in the back, she could not reach to close. Aser stepping in closer, smoothing the fabric, touching it. Adina wondered if he was admiring his creation or her... He touched the small of her back, on accident? He zipped the suit all the way up, turned her around, and took a few steps back. His eyes were radiating neon green again. Under his breath he muttered, “Arkeo”
Adina heard Aser say something, when suddenly everything went pitch black. Aser was gone, the mandala was gone, all that remained was black, nothingness. She felt her arms and legs flailing, like she was trying to fly, but she was falling. Falling from The Cloud towards Earth. The air was piercing cold on her face, her bleached blonde hair whipping to and fro. The bodysuit, the same color as the sky now, a iridescent blue with purple and pink shine; kept her warm, no wind penetrated it. She could see green now, a field of corn, was that her childhood home?
Closing in fast, Adina became afraid of the impact. Would it hurt? Would she die? Just then she saw the scarecrow on the cross. She thought to herself, land there. Arms open, she collided into the cross, the scarecrow caught her and they both fell to the ground. His straw body landed first and partially exploded, which cushioned Adina’s impact. She was fine, uninjured, but feeling guilty for knocking him down. She looked up and realized she was home, on the farm. Dusting herself off, she walked toward the house, the front door was ajar.
The suit made her feel very light, airy, as though she was invisible. She drifted through her childhood home, searching every room for her sister, her mother, her father. They were not there. Adina stood in the kitchen looking out the window towards the barn, where the garden plot was. Where was everyone she wondered? At exactly that moment a child ran toward the garden and crouched down next to the scarecrow. Adina’s body froze, ice surged through her veins. A gigantic eagle appeared out of the sky, swooping down and landed on the cross right above the little girl. Adina realized she was watching herself, moments before being kidnapped by the Celestial Taskmaster’s Eagle. Adina heard the piercing screams of child’s skin being ripped by the sharp talons. Adina watched, paralyzed by fear, as the child screamed and cried, hitting the gigantic bird with the amethyst stone, while it drove like a bullet, straight up, into the clouds.
Tears streamed down Adina’s face. The tears sat on top of the amethyst bodysuit Aser created, like drops of mercury. Adina could push the little drops together and make a puddle in the palm of her hand. The suit was composed of some sort of material which isolated water. Admiring the suit, remembering Aser gave Adina a sense of gratitude, which seemed to fix the busted pipeline, otherwise known as her face. Adina no longer felt alone, or afraid.
Adina walked outside to the garden plot where the scarecrow was sprawled on the ground, it looked like a murder scene. A pile of feathers stuck to the pooled blood. The child must have knocked them loose while fighting for her life. Adina picked the feathers off the ground and wove them into a crown.
There at the scene of her childhood trauma, Adina stood tall, in the amethyst suit and crown of feathers; looking straight up to the sky. From a distance she looked possessed by strength.
Artwork by Alex Kmeto Color and Composition by Zon Carvalho
"Floor 499. Please exit now. The doors are closing, keep all arms and legs inside the elevator” All of Adina body jolted awake, which disrupted Aser from his slumber.
“Ugh” Aser rubbed his greyish eyes.
“Aser, I...you..I had a dream!”
Aser quickly put one finger over his lips and with the other hand, peaked the green beetle out of his pocket.
Adina felt sick to her stomach, like she had fallen from the sky too fast.
“Floor 500. Please exit now. The doors are closing, keep all arms and legs inside the elevator” Adina pushed her way out of the elevator then quickly turned around to see Aser’s neon green eyes staring right back at her.
Aser noticed a physical change in Adina, she stood taller, looked stronger, and determined. Her eyes had changed too, now a piercing sky blue with intense light beaming from behind the Iris. They held this eye contact, just like the had done in the dream world, until the metal elevator door cut their physical connection off completely.