She felt the fear crept into her again. She knew she was dreaming. She knew it wasn’t real, but she was still afraid.
The dream started differently than other nights. She saw a girl with a blue backpack lying face-down on the bloody street. Then, she saw his brother talking with Jade. He was nervous and she was smiling with a pony tail. She was asking him to go together to Alpha Zone One on Evolution Day. He coyly said yes.
That was when the dream changed, like somebody changed a channel.
She saw herself inside the highest floor of a building. The building had to be made of material similar to crystal, because she could see outside. The sun was slowly getting down the horizon. She could still see the city, but she didn’t recognize where she was. She tried to move, but something was detaining her. She looked down and saw a white chain holding her from the left wrist to the floor. It was heavy and she couldn’t move. She screamed but nobody was there. She knew what it was coming, and true enough, darkness emerged from the horizon.
It was different almost every night. In some nights, there were explosions destroying the city. In others, she saw people disappear into nothingness, but the darkness was the most common version of her nightmare. A dark blanket emerged and covered all the buildings. It grew and grew so tall that it reached the tower she was in. It transformed into a wall, covering the windows so she couldn’t see anything anymore. Then, it broke the glass, but instead of swallowing her like it did the city, it surrounded her like if it was making the room smaller.
Her breathing was hard. Then, she heard it again.
It was a cruel laughter. She focused in one point of the darkness and then she saw them again. She saw the eyes with a different color, one hazelnut and the other brown. She also saw the broad but uneven smile. The darkness was looking and smiling at her.
Suddenly, shadows emerged. They formed arms. They were dark arms, and they were coming at her.
That’s when she screamed.
Adaru heard the screams from his sister’s room. He stood up groggily. He almost fell when he tripped on his tennis shoes.
The screams were getting louder. Adaru got angrier at his mom. She was either too drunk to hear or she didn’t care.
Or she might even not be at home, spending the night somewhere Adaru didn’t want to think about.
He entered Faith’s room and saw her moving in her sleep from one side of the bed to the other. He held her by the shoulders and told her to wake up.
“Faith, it’s a dream. It’s only a dream,” Adaru told her softly. She got calmer and hugged Adaru when she woke up. Adaru touched her long red hair, passing his fingers through it. He was trying to get her back to sleep, but instead, she opened her eyes.
Adaru could see her green eyes, those beautiful green eyes that only she had in the family. Adaru remembered she used to have the same brown eyes and dark hair like him when she was a baby.
She was barely twelve, only three years younger than him but she always seemed fragile and she was not getting enough sleep. Neither was he. This was the fourth time in a week that Adaru came to her bed to comfort her from the nightmares.
“Hi tomato head,” Adaru said. “Same dream?”
“Yes,” she said. “I was in a middle of a city and then everything got dark. Then, someone was inside the darkness. He was laughing and trying to get me.”
“Hush. It was only a dream,” Adaru said.
“It was very real,” she said.
“No, it wasn’t. Could you feel like someone was grabbing you as I am doing right now?” Adaru said while hugging her tightly.
“No,” she said.
“This is real. Dreams are like what happens in the movies.”
“I know that!’ she said.
“Good. Get angrier instead of being afraid,” Adaru thought.
“Will you always be here to wake me from these dreams?” Faith said.
“I will never leave you,” Adaru said.
They both fell asleep.
The bed was too small for Adaru. In a couple of hours, he awoke with tightness on his back and shoulders. Faith had turned away from him and was deeply asleep. The faint light at the window told Adaru that dawn was approaching. Adaru decided to rise and get ready for school.
He went to the kitchen where dirty dishes from last week still filled the sink. Adaru killed two flies with an old comic book he grabbed from the floor. He opened the fridge to get the milk.
There was none.
He took his mother’s purse but couldn’t find any money or food stamps.
He grabbed some slices of bread and put a slice bologna on top of each one, placed them inside a plastic seal and grabbed two cans of juice.
He picked up a heap of dirty clothes from his room and chose the shirt that smelled the least. After taking a shower and getting dressed, he took out the trash and came back to the apartment, to carefully wake Faith.
“It’s time to go to school,” he told her.
“Five more minutes.”
“No. Get up now,” he ordered.
When she was bathing, Adaru knocked on the door of his mother’s room. She didn’t answer, but Adaru could hear her snoring.
“Well, at least she’s alive,” Adaru thought bitterly.
He grabbed Faith’s uniform from the dryer. He was ironing the blouse when Faith got out of the bathroom covered by a towel.
“Is there something to eat?”
“No, but I will give you money to buy some cereal at the school,” Adaru said. “Go watch some TV while I finish.”
Adaru could hear the TV from the next room. The anchors were talking about the preparations for Evolution Day. Adaru hated that day. It was just a reminder that he had been left behind by just being a normal fifteen-year-old boy and instead, weirdness and abominations were praised. He went to the room and gave her the uniform.
“Are we going to Alpha Zone One tomorrow?” Faith asked.
“Yes, we are. Mom has not given up,” he said without disguising his disgust.
“You can still make it. You are very agile. You were the best at your gym class,” she said after he left the room to let her change.
“Yeah, but I am not as good as the people who live in the zone. I saw an 80-year-old man doing more flips than I was able to do.”
“Mom says life would be better if we had an ability,” Faith said. Adaru heard the zipper of her jumper being pulled. “Is that true?”
“No. Just remember what dad used to say,” Adaru said. She got out of her room with her backpack on her shoulder.
“What matters the most is what is inside your head,” Faith said with a smile.
The siblings got out from their apartment. It was a very windy day. They lived at the third level of a 5-floor apartment complex in one of the poorest neighborhoods of the city. They had to get down stairs and small hallways to get out on the streets. Adaru looked down at her sister. He smiled and she returned it with her own. People say they had the same smile. It was the smile that proved they were related.
“I had more dreams last night,” she said.
“No, I dreamed that Jade asked you out.”
Adaru felt his face turned red. Jade had been their friend for years but he had been attracted to her for some months now.
“You are joking,” he said nervously.
“Nope. She was in the hallway of the school. She was wearing a ponytail and was asking you if you wanted to go to Alpha Zone One for Evolution Day with her,” Faith said.
“Cut it out.”
“She did. But it may not come true since I told you, right?” Faith said. “Mommy said that if you told your dreams, they won’t come true.”
“Then why did you tell me?”
“Because I also dreamed that a girl with a blue backpack got hit by a car,” Faith said timidly.
“Did you know the girl?”
The siblings crossed the streets that were filled with cars and vendors. They were just two of hundreds of students on that Thursday morning. The neighborhood was congested at this time because there were one high school and two middle schools on a three-block radius. It was not odd to hear insults from parents that were late and the multiple crashes caused by drivers who had not enough coffee to be fully awake.
Adaru dropped Jade near her middle school. He gave her some food coupons that he had hidden from her mother so she could buy breakfast. She also gave her one of the sandwiches and a juice can.
“See you later,” he told her.
“Could you do me a favor?” she asked timidly.
“When Jade asks you out, please say no,” she said looking down. “I don’t want to be in the Zone without you.”
Adaru smiled. Since he knew it was impossible that Jade was going to ask him out, he said he would do that.
When Adaru got to his school at the other side of the block, he said hello to his friends, Joe and Nathan. They were excitedly talking how they were going to visit the Alpha Zone, which was a tradition for all people living in New Haven.
“I so want to see people flying. They say the sky is filled with people who can fly!” Joe said.
“I can finally enjoy the day since my parents have given up on me showing an ability,” Nathan said. “They have finally agreed that I was a normal boy. I think they are disappointed.”
He and Joe laughed at the joke. But Adaru knew they were also disappointed, because everyone wants to have an ability. Sometimes he felt he was the only one who wanted to be stay normal.
“So are you going to be part of the auditions?” Nathan asked Adaru.
“Yes, my mom enrolled me at the agility test. She has not given up yet,” Adaru said.
“Well, you are a good gymnast. Are you still practicing?”
Adaru didn’t respond. He got away from them and he then started doing some cartwheels. When he finished, they were clapping.
“Showing off to us, who are just mere mortals?” a female voice said.
Adaru turned to see Jade smiling at him. Her smile always made him nervous. She had her long blonde hair loose so Faith’s dream was wrong.
Adaru didn’t know if he was relieved or disappointed.
“So this means you have an audition tomorrow?” she asked Adaru.
“Yes. Mom is not giving up on living in the zone,” he said again.
“Well, I actually wanted to talk to you about tomorrow,” Jade said. Adaru started to get nervous.
Then, the wind started to pick up. It was too strong that Jade’s hair was blocking her face. That’s when the bell for first period rang.
“Oh, I’ll tell you later,” Jade said.
Adaru’s first class was History. It was his favorite subject and that day, the teacher was focusing on the Second Mexican American War that happened a year before the North American Republic was created.
“When people started waking up with the ability to heat things without fire, it didn’t matter how technological advanced your country was,” the teacher said. “You could have one regiment’s worth of firepower in one person. Not only that, there were people in Mexico that could grow fields of crops in one week, so it didn’t matter if you had the best agricultural practices as well.
“What mattered at that time was having the biggest population of people with abilities that you could have. That’s why countries started making treaties with its neighbors to increase population in one big swoop. Asia had the greatest advantage with India and China quickly forming with other countries. That’s why the Asia Empire is the strongest block in the world.”
The teacher signaled a global map in front of class with all the countries. He pushed a keyboard on his computer and the countries changed colors representing the five blocks the world was divided.
“Some annexations were peaceful because they were made through decades of interdependence, migration and treaties. Of course, there were ideological wars because not all the people wanted to shed its national identity. Mexico was one of those countries that at the time, it didn’t know what block it should join. It had two options: the republic or the South American Confederation.”
Adaru was looking at his electronic book. There was a picture of the Battle of El Paso that showed a street filled with rubble. Adaru read it was one of the most devastating battles in the war on United States territory with deaths reaching in the thousands.
Adaru looked at another page and saw a photograph of the Mexican President shaking hands with the American President. The Canadian Prime Minister was smiling behind them.
“So this conflict was one of the biggest wars at the time, but when it was over, the North American Republic was created with the three countries in a fragile alliance,” the teacher said.
“So for homework, I want you to read the next chapter. Next time we will discuss the how and why Europe decided to isolate itself from the rest of the world,” the teacher said just when the bell rang.
Adaru’s next two classes were boring. He didn’t pay attention to them. He was mostly concerned what Jade was about to tell him.
At lunch time, Adaru was surprised to see Jade at the bottom of the stairs.
Her hair was now in a pony tail.
“Hi Adaru. I don’t have much time,” she said smiling. “I just wanted to know, are you going to have some time to spend on the zone tomorrow?”
“Yes, I am,” he said nervously.
“Great! Do you want to come with me before your audition?” she asked.
“The two of us?” Adaru said now more nervous.
“Yes and with my parents. I have also invited Joe, Nathan and some of my friends,” she said.
Adaru didn’t know what to say except a low “yes.”
“Great. I’ll pick you up at 10. See you later,” she said smiling.
Adaru almost jumped when someone patted his back.
It was Lester, the class president.
“It looks like someone has a date tomorrow,” he said.
“No, we are going as a group,” he said while getting away. For some reason, he disliked Lester even though he was the most popular kid of the freshman class.
“Hey, I just wanted to congratulate you,” he said with a grin. “But I don’t think you guys are a couple yet, are you?”
That made Adaru blush.
“We are just friends,” he said and Lester smiled.
“Well, see you then.”
When he saw his back, he remembered the promise he had made to his sister. He tried telling Jade he couldn’t go, but he couldn’t find her for the rest of the lunch hour.
In reality, Adaru wanted to go with Jade. He hoped Faith would understand.
The teachers were leaving extra homework since they were going to have a Holiday the next day. All the students complained since they claimed Evolution Day was a three-day affair. They will not have time to do their homework, they said.
At the end of the day, he walked to the school to pick up Faith, but the human and car traffic delayed him. It was worst than other days at that time of the day.
The day became grimly with gray clouds and constant winds. Faith was already waiting for him at the entrance. She was quiet.
“Are you OK?” Adaru asked.
“You said yes, didn’t you?”
“How do you know?” Adaru asked incredulously.
“Whatever,” she said and started walking away. She stopped and it was at that time an ambulance was heard from the other side of the school. People were walking toward a spot where cars had stopped moving.
“What happened?” a woman said to a couple who was walking from that spot.
“A girl was hit by a car. It was very serious,” the man said.
“Oh my god. Is she badly hurt?” the first woman asked again.
“I don’t know. I only saw her backpack on the street,” said the man.
Adaru then remembered the other part of Faith’s dream.
“Excuse me,” he said to the man. “Do you know what color was it?”
“Well, that’s not important, but I think it was blue,” the man said somewhat annoyed.
Adaru turned to talk to Faith, but she had not stopped and was very far from him. He ran to catch up to her, but she didn’t want to talk.
He thought she was really mad at him, but in reality, she was only thinking of her dream, the uneven smile and the eyes of different colors.