By: B.A. Ceradsky
Note from the Editor::: All measurements presented in this novel have been converted into the standard units used in America to avoid confusion with new terms used on Malintoah
I took a final glance around the room to make sure that I hadn’t forgotten anything; checking if any spare storage boxes were left under the bed, making sure that I didn’t leave anything embarrassing in the closet, but I had everything packed away. What I needed was in a small trunk-lift, waiting for me by the door, and the rest, thrown away. As I stood in the center of this now barren room, something hit me, hard. I thought at first that it was how different the living space was now. The grey paint on the wall was bleak and unimpressive. One metal dresser stood faithfully across the room from a small, metal bed frame, pushed against the far wall, with a half-inch mattress on top. To the side of the uncomfortable bed, sat a short, again metal, dulled from its once lustrous and gleaming silver, nightstand, which previously held a digiclock, and a small lamp; all three pieces of furniture did nothing to give the room any expression at all. I thought then that if I ever invited anyone over they would get the impression that I had no personality, no flavor in my life, even before I packed everything away.
For nearly my whole life, one of the things I hated the most was leaving. Leaving to go to a new place and staying there was about the scariest thing I could have thought of when I was a kid. Maybe that’s what hit me so forcefully that day, maybe a part of my mind, a part of my unconscious mind, remembered the mental pain I went through of leaving the home that I knew for years. Maybe the forgotten feeling was speaking to me somehow. I think it was then that it came to my realization; I was leaving, and I was not coming back. The small apartment had been my home for the better part of four years while enrolled at the University, and while I grew quite fond of it over that time, despite the blandness of it, I knew I had to leave. Graduation day had come and gone, I needed a job, a real one, and I had to leave. I breathed in deeply, and exhaled.
Somehow, that little routine helped me let it go. As if that last breath contained the last chain anchoring me to the small bleak room, I turned away, activated my trunk-lift, closed the door, and took my first steps to my new life. It wasn’t the first time I used that technique. Over the four years I was in the University, there was always some new assignment challenged me. I found the breathing helps calm me down, and I can think about what I need to do. For the first time in my life, I knew what I had to do, and was determined to do it. The front desk clerk smiled at me as I appeared behind the door of the elevator. I handed him the key to my room with a reciprocal smile.
“Take care of yourself, Mr. Rookton.” He looked sincere.
“You can call me John, and the same to you.” He seemed a little nervous to converse with someone so casually.
“Right, sorry... John.” He seemed to be testing my name out, almost seeing if he liked it, and then quickly composed his face. “Will you be leaving immediately?” he asked.
He looked confused. “I’m not sure I understand.”
I smiled, “I just have one thing I need to clear up before I leave.”
“Well then, by all means, clear away.”
“Through all the four years I have stayed here, you are really the only person I talked with.”
“Really,” his dubious expression was obvious, “You never talked to anyone at the University, not even any girls?” Giving me a slight wink, he looked expectant for an answer.
I sighed, “No, not really. I stayed my distance from everybody, and they didn’t even notice me actually. I kind of liked it that way, to be honest.”
“But sir... sorry, John, what does that have to do with clearing things up?”
I chuckled, “Your name. Four years I’ve lived here and never learned your first
name, it was kind of bugging me, and I hate it when I bug myself.”
“Well, that’s because you didn’t ask.”
“I know... the point is I’m asking you now.”
“Well, it’s just that...” He seemed hesitant to tell me his name. I had no idea why. He just stood there with his head down.
“Yes?” He looked up, almost surprised I was still there. He seemed to have made up his mind
“Jordan. My name is Jordan”
“Well, Jordan, I’m glad to have met you. You seem like a very interesting man, and wish I could have known you better.” I shook his hand and smiled sincerely. I looked at his face, and recognized the confusion. It was obvious he had never had a paying customer say good-bye with so much sincerity. I smiled once more, and walked out the door for the final time. It always amazed me how far a little kindness could carry.
I did not have a grav-car, so I walked. It wasn’t a particularly long walk, but it was a fair distance, which gave me time to try to clear my mind for the task ahead. One of my largest flaws was my thought process. Not that it is illogical, just... not logical. I try to focus in on one thing, but soon, my mind becomes a steam engine knocked off its rails. Me being the conductor, I finally get it to stop, but realize I have gone so far that I do not know where I was derailed, or by what. Sometimes, I realize I have gone farther than I would have thought possible and do not remember where I began. I forced myself to remember what I had to do, and why I was going to do it. I thought about other things, of course, and soon got distracted. One of the most prominent secondary thoughts was the people around me.
I did not know anybody, not one person. I spent the last four years of my life in Frostpoint, and I didn’t take the time to get to know anybody. In High School, I was anti-social, I know, but I never thought about it when I went to the University. It should not have come as a shock to me, seeing as I just talked about it not five minutes ago, but it somehow surprised me. Citizen after average citizen passed me by, not caring at all about me; in fact, it felt as though they were ignoring me. I quickly banished the foolish thought from my head, the dangerous fantasy was not likely and would soon lead me into a feeling of isolation; I’ve been there before and didn’t want to go back. I quickly came to my senses, "Why would anybody here want to ignore me if I don’t know them, and vice versa?” I thought. The rest of the trip continued forgotten from memory. I remember briefly thinking about how life would be different when I left Malintoah. I distinctly recall a brief sense of “where the hell am I?” After which I realized I missed my turn a block ago.
The Frostpoint Department of Government Drafting was an impressive building, actually. Not that it was overly intricate or obsessively tall, in reality it was quite simple. Though it was arguably the simplest building on the block, the modest three story building held elegance, as if every strengthened titanium girder was perfect in shape and design, and in the absolute perfect place. The building had no paint; the only coloration came from the gleaming metal of which it was constructed.
A near empty room awaited me on the other side of the heavy and double-sided door. I don’t know what I was expecting, but the inside of the building felt out of place. The interior was bland and tasteless, and did nothing to support the expectancies of the exterior. Maybe it was because there was a psychological expectancy that failed to follow through from the outside; maybe the metal just did not look as impressive without three suns shining down. Whatever the case was, the first word that came into my head, but luckily never left my mouth, was ‘bleh’. The color scheme stayed the same, being no paint. However, it did not look quite as good as the outside of the building; actually, it did not look good at all. A bored looking intern sat behind a large desk. The woman was not particularly of a small build, but the effect of the giant desk was overpowering. Other than a few rows of uncomfortable looking chairs that served as a waiting area, and two high-speed computers on the far wall, the room was bare. I deactivated my trunk-lift in the nearest corner, and strode casually towards the desk. I tried to call forth the most confident yet still friendly expression. I hoped I achieved it.
“Hello,” I took a quick peek at her nametag sloppily pinned onto the front of her work shirt, “Ms. Mayborn, I-“ She cut me off with an indignant scoff as she held up her left hand, palm facing her, clearly displaying her ring on her finger. “I’m sorry, Mrs. Mayborn.” I put special emphasis on the title to make up for the lack of it before.
“Take these forms, fill them out and bring them back to me. You can sit over there.” She indicated the waiting area and handed me a stack of vid-papers for me to take.
I frowned in confusion at this, not knowing how she knew what I wanted before I even mentioned anything about it. “I’m sorry… I am not sure we understand each other, or maybe we do, I don’t know. How do you know what I’m here to do? “
Mrs. Mayborn just looked at me with an over-exasperated glance, “Mister, you are in the Department of Government Drafting. It was obvious to me that you were applying for the Military, not a lollipop. Take these forms, fill them out and bring them back to me. You can sit over there.” She repeated the instruction harsher and with more conviction this time. I almost began an argument stating that I could have been there to apply for a political position; I thought better of it, she was right, after all.
I made my way over to the waiting area and eased myself down into one of the vacant (not that there were many, or any, filled) chairs. ‘You know?’ I remember thinking to myself, ‘these chairs look uncomfortable, but they are actually very uncomfortable’. I picked up the first of the sizeable stack of vid-papers; a small camera quickly snapped the photograph and after a second of processing my picture appeared as a thumbnail in the top left corner, and I began filling out all my basic information: John Rookton, age 22, 5 feet 10 inches, 180 pounds, etc. The list went on and on, and I got the sense most of the ‘paperwork’ (as it was not actually paper) was only there to sort out the people who are just looking for something stupid to do and the people who actually want to be part of a commitment.
It took me the better part of an hour to finish every form and sign and initial every spot required. Finally, after letting out a relieved sigh when I realized I had no more forms to fill out, I gathered all of the thin tablets up, shuffled them into a presentable fashion, and handed them to the desk clerk who seemed to be passing the time with a computer game. I glanced over at her screen to see it was a popular shooter game.
“Do you enjoy shooter games?” I asked innocently.
Mrs. Mayborn only spared me a glance that lasted a fraction of a second, “I’m busy, please make it quick.” She said snappily. ‘At least she said please,’ I thought.
“Anyway… um, I finished the registration forms… and I was wondering where I, you know, should put them?”
“Set them down there,” the woman hastily pointed to a spot on the massive desk with a quick swipe of her hand and returned it to the keyboard, frantically making sure that did not cost her a life, “I’ll put them in the system and you should hear from the department you applied for in two or three working weeks.” The woman rambled off the rehearsed speech as she took a high-powered pistol and fired three times before the avatar in front of hers dropped to the ground in an exaggerated fashion.
“I’m sorry, what?”
She sighed, once again exasperated, “Are you stupid or something? I said you’ll hear from the-“
“I heard what you said,” I started, then realized I was snapping at her. I tried to calm myself down enough to construct my point, “two or three working weeks? It will take that long?”
Mrs. Mayborn cried out suddenly and as I looked at her in alarm, the words ‘Game Over’ were flashing on her screen. Annoyed, she turned to me, “Yes. It will take that long. Since I have time to do so I will go file your paperwork now and it will take two or three working weeks. Don’t leave the planet or anything in case they contact you. Have a good day… sir.” She clipped off every statement to put venom and malice into it to make sure that I knew she was annoyed. Grabbing the stack of forms, she hastily made her way to a back room and I took that as my cue to leave. I started up my trunk-lift and headed out the door. I needed to see a certain man about an old room.