Flash Fic: Dublex Orb™


Inhabisphere™

Inhabisphere™ – 100 years ago

Of course I’ve had roommates before. Down on Earth™, I mean. Not up here in the Thermosphere™. But the new policy makes double-occupancy mandatory. It’ll be good to have someone to talk to and interact with. Maybe even touch like once a year or something.

It’s ridiculous and kinda pathetic. 1.2 trillion of us crammed into such a small space, yet we all live completely disconnected lives.

All realms of our Inhabisphere™ are overcapacity. Down on Earth™, the thousand-story skyscrapers are packed so tightly over every acre that they’re pretty much a single, sprawling building. The Tunnelands™ have already burrowed farther than they safely can. Even the Sealands™ are filled now: the ghettos on the seafloor and down in the trenches, the upscale topside floaters. In the Skylands™, only two narrow causeways remain undeveloped.

The Housing Council™ started the Thermosphere Development Program© out of desperation. They launched the Duplex Orbs™, like the one I live in, through the northern port of the Skylands™ a year ago. That’s when a billion of us moved up here to orbit like secluded satellite moons. The Resource Restrictions Act© forbids us from visiting one another.

So we basically live in floating prison cells.

The last two ports through the Skylands™ close tomorrow. They’ll be sealed shut to gain the last bit of atmospheric real estate remaining. After that, we won’t be able to directly trade with the Groundlands™ anymore. Tariffs are gonna skyrocket.

My last shipment from the surface will be here any minute. This month’s visit is a bit different than all the rest. Twice as much Oxygen®, twice as many rations. All because my Duplex™ is about to house twice as many people.

Dania seemed cool enough during our minute-long v-Chat®. Kinda quiet and distracted maybe, but I’m hoping she’ll open up once she gets here. She’s a Digi-Designer® like me, so we at least have that in common. If she’ll unplug long enough to give me three minutes of face time a day, I’ll be happy. Five minutes would be even better, but I’m trying to be realistic.

The supply taxi just docked. The recycled Oxygen™ is already pumping into the tanks. Why am I so nervous? There goes the bay door. The rations are loaded. Oh Gods™, the airlock. I think I’m gonna throw up. The first flesh-and-blood person I’ve seen in over a year. The stranger I’ll spend the rest of my life with.

The warning horn blares. The door swooshes open.

Dania stares at the PodPad® in her hands.

“Hi,” I say.

Her left eye twitches a little. That might be a sign that she heard me.

“Which way?” she asks.

“Your room’s on the right,” I answer.

Without looking up, she expertly navigates the furniture in the common area. She places her palm on the KeyPad® and steps inside her room.

I move towards her. “I thought we might interact for a bit.”

She stops, but doesn’t turn. “I’ve been De-egged®.”

“What?” I stare at the soft skin on the back of her neck. “No. Not like that kind of interaction.”

Her PodPad® monopolizes her attention. “What kind then?” she asks.

“You know, talking, eating rations together.” My mouth is so dry. “Maybe even playing a game?”

“I’m busy,” she answers.

Then her door swooshes closed between us.

***

That was six months ago. I haven’t seen Dania since. I’ve stumbled across her username in the forums, so I know she’s still alive. Sometimes, I press my ear to her door, but I’ve never heard a thing.

It’s sad, really. We’re now up to 1.4 trillion people in the Inhabisphere™, and I haven’t seen one in half a year. Haven’t touched one in almost two. There’s no way I’m the only one who’s lonely. There must be others tucked away somewhere in our stuffed-full world.

I keep hoping Dania will accidentally come out of her room, that she’ll forget she has a roommate in the Duplex Orb™ and will stumble into the common area by mistake. Or that she’ll suddenly get the urge to unplug and interact.

Just sixty seconds, once a month. That’s all I need.

There’s a new plan to add more Duplex Orbs™, to link them airlock-to-airlock so they form a massive sphere encircling Earth™. Maybe my new neighbors will want to hang out. But I’m not holding my recycled-air Breath™.

The Sacred Hidden Among the Trees


PineGrove

I remember being worshiped in the sacred groves of Babylon, between the twin sycamores of Egypt, by the figs of Ancient Rome, among the yews and elms in the Celtic lands. My followers understood what many have now forgotten: soaring branches, trembling leaves, and twisted roots make the purest chapels. Tranquility thrives in the midst of growing things. Walls may offer a temporary refuge, but stone cannot breathe. Mortar soaks up the songs and keeps them for itself. Stained glass imprisons the essence of prayers in its too-bright colors.

But trees—trees pass the hopes and heartaches and dreams to one another. And, eventually, those heart-cries make it to me. I breathe them in. I share my bounty. I impart wisdom. Above all, I answer.

There is a spritely girl in the western lands who still hears me. Amelia is her name. In the midst of the evergreens behind her home, we speak. Though a young soul, her beauty runs deep. Deeper than any I have come across in hundreds and thousands of days. She searches for me, giggles with me, tells me her secrets.

Yesterday, Amelia brought others to her grove. They scratched their feet through the pine straw to make way for the earth to show through in patches. Amelia and her friends formed the straw into long lines to create separate rooms in what they called a house. But the children could see over the walls. They could talk, and breathe, and play, and dream. I sent them a soft breeze. I tickled them with sunlight trickling through the trees.

My hope has been dying. I feared, for yes, I fear, that I might pass into the land of things which are no longer loved. Amelia has saved me. After all these suns and moons of waiting and fading, she has remembered me well, when few others would.

This morning, I planted honeysuckle all around her grove. The sprouts sprang up and I carefully wove the climbing vines around the trunk of each of Amelia’s pines. I know she will notice. She will ask me about them. And I will tell her the vines are a gift. She will smile. I will show her how to pluck the blossoms, ease the stamen through the bloom to catch the tiny, sparkling drop of nectar, and to place the drop on her tongue.

She will savor the sweetness. She will taste them all, every last blossom. And I will grow her more.

Amelia has given me much honor. Her willingness to know, to remember the olden things, to seek the sacred hidden among the trees, will be rewarded. Today, once she has tasted the nectar, I will bless her with the full measure of my glory.

And I know my new priestess will pass it on.

Response to the “One Hundred” prompt at http://darcicole.blogspot.com/2013/02/the-entries-100.html

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[I took the photo prompt and imagined it translated to the area of NC I lived in as a child. Hope you enjoyed it.]