A few days later I stumbled across somebody in my spot. It sounded like a girl –she was crying. I crept closer to hear, and heard small bell sounds like a wind chime. The girl cried out in a distorted voice, “what if she won’t believe me?” the bell sounds seemed to answer her. I was thoroughly freaked out and left quickly to let the girl grieve. I needed to find my friend Mel anyway. I’d go look for her.
Mel’s neighbor, Nova, seemed surprised to see me and confessed that Mel had been acting strange lately and disappearing often. Finally, I gave up looking and happened to find her in the “R” lounge with Robin.
“What are you doing here?” my tone bristled involuntarily.
“I’m looking for you silly,” she said lightly. “Robin and I were just talking.” I told myself not to be jealous. I was looking for her, too.
I wanted her to go with me to the clothing pantry and look for dresses for the dance. We were required to exchange clothing that no longer fit us to the pantry and could, in turn, come once a month for new clothes. It was the closest thing we had to shopping. Usually I never cared about my clothes, as long as they fit me and they matched. But this was the first time I was participating in the secondary dance and I needed a pair of eyes. We had one week till the dance. Mel happily agreed and we spent the afternoon in dress bliss.
The week passed in a blur and soon Mel was knocking on my door to get ready. Curlers in one hand, make-up kit in the other. I didn’t even own any of these objects. They were available at our Commerce closet, but no doubt, Mel’s had been gifts from her family. I never earned enough credits for things as nice as hers. Maybe her parents bought her credits. I didn’t ask. Mel helped me with the hot curling iron and I managed a few small twists. I had to trust that she wasn’t making me look like a clown. It was a new experience in reliance. She had chosen a jeweled gown, the color of violets, in chiffon that dipped off one shoulder with a skinny leather belt. I had played it safe with a pale pink, Mel said, silk sheath dress with flowers and delicate butterflies embroidered at the hem, and up a calf-high slit. With our hair pulled high in curls and make-up on, we giggled like the teenage girls we were.
“Why haven’t we done this before?” I laughed.
“We only became friends a short time before you-you went away.”
“Robin says I was re-conditioned. Is that why I don’t remember?”
“Yes. Oh Arienne, I have wanted to talk to you about us for as long as...”
Just then a knock sounded. Our dates were here. By Robin’s gasp, I either looked fabulous or definitely like a clown. He grabbed me and said, “You look beautiful.” Okay, fabulous it is. I laughed. Mel’s date was a boy in our class who must have been very handsome because he turned out to have the personality of a bag of rocks. We danced and sang along to the songs we knew. I have no idea if they were current earth songs or were just whatever they wanted us to know. We all liked the Beatles and Michael Jackson. Everyone said he had the best videos on screen. I really liked a band called Muse and one called The Scream. The cafeteria had been turned into a ballroom, dimly lit with a mirror ball that shot darts of light through my sight. A large screen was set up to play music videos, it was a rare treat for all of us. Radio waves weren’t picked up on our devices, at least that’s what we were told. It could have been the dome, or just censoring. No rebellious ideas allowed here. I don’t know why, but I itched to challenge someone. I had for a while. I assumed it was the information Robin told me I was supposed to forget. Well, if we were going to be soldiers, I was going to enjoy tonight.
Laughing, Mel and I collapsed into a pair of chairs. With shoes in hand she said, “It’s hot in here! Want to ditch our dates and take a walk?” That sounded rebellious enough for the moment, so we left the dance and wandered to the flower garden.
We sat for a while in the dimmer evening breeze. I was contemplating Robin’s heated reaction to my dance with Galen, when I heard the wind chimes again. I was about to ask Mel if she heard it, too, when she began speaking.
“Arienne. I want you to feel something.” A light mist covered my skin and the bells began to form words in my mind.
“Come outside to be healed.”
“What is this?” I asked Mel.
“It’s an alien, I guess. You showed it to me some time ago.”
“You must come out to touch us,” the mist said.
“Are you crazy? We can’t do that!”
Mel said, “Arienne you have to remember this. It’s important. I didn’t believe at first, either. But they’ve been talking to me.”
“They?” I asked incredulously.
“There is a vessel nearby and they can communicate through the mist, but we have to touch them to be healed. Arienne, for a little while you could see! Don’t you remember?” She was so impassioned.
“There you are.” I heard Robin coming.
“Your lame friend can be healed, too,” the mist said.
“What’s happening to her?” Robin sounded alarmed.
I heard Mel explaining the mist to Robin.
“She told me, but I didn’t believe her,” he lamented.
“Will you show yourselves to my friend?” I asked the mist.
“Yes,” and it disappeared. I heard Robin inhale sharply as the chiming sounded.
He answered it. “Yes, I guess I have to believe her now. She was brainwashed, she doesn’t remember.”
Mel explained, “The mist says that war is very close.”
“We are on borrowed time,” I said. “How are they going to heal us?”
“We have to go outside and trust them,” Mel said.
“Mel can you let me out of the airlock?”
“Whoa, hold on there,” Robin said. “Even though I believe there is something there. I saw it, touched it and heard it, you could still die if you go out there. I won’t let you do it alone.”
“Robin, you don’t have to –”
“Yes, I do. Arienne, I couldn’t live with myself. I couldn’t watch you die and know that I helped cause it.”
“When will they meet us?” I asked. I heard a tinkle answer.
“They’re ready now. No one is guarding the airlocks. Everyone’s at the party. They’d never suspect us...” Mel explained.
We ran down hall after hall; the three of us hand in hand. Sure enough, the airlock was eerily unguarded. I touched the cold steel doors. It was -290 degrees Fahrenheit outside. Mel entered the control room that looked in on the antechamber. As Mel pushed the button to shut the antechamber door, I began to panic. What if this was the stupidest thing I’d ever done? What if I had imagined the mist? I panicked, I changed my mind. I yelled for Mel to open the door and pounded against it. She spoke over the intercom, “It’s okay, Arienne. You’ll see.”
I didn’t want to do this anymore. “You just want to kill me!” I shouted. Robin grabbed me and I shook in his arms. I held onto him for dear life and as the alarm began to sound and the pressure changed in the cabin making my ears pop. I screamed when I heard the hiss of the seal breaking as the door opened.
Instantly a mist permeated the space around us and though it was cold, it was tolerable. Robin said, “Oh. My. God... Arienne, reach out your hand.” I felt like I was moving in slow motion. Everything was surreal. Robin made sounds like he was in pain. Instinctively I reached for him. I touched a smooth hand, cold, like marble. Then things around me began to take shape.
I saw the most majestic creatures I will ever lay eyes on. Standing regally before me, they reached out to touch Robin and me. I watched his foot begin to change and form into a whole body part. He grunted.
“Are you okay?” My voice sounded echoey and far away.
He looked at me and nodded, smiling with two rows of even white teeth. He had such a beautiful smile. It was my first memory of new sight. I looked at the aliens. They were so tall. They had alabaster skin, shining light from within. There was so much beauty, it hurt to look at them. Their bodies were long and lithe, and tall. Huge wings hung on their backs, golden feathered, they sparkled from an internal glow too. I couldn’t help but stare. This must be what angels looked like.
“Thank you,” I said. “But why us? Do we get to come with you?”
“We want to heal everyone. They must come out. You have to go back and be witnesses.”
“They are going to send us to war. I want to go with you,” I cried.
Robin walked shakily toward me, letting his crutch fall as he moved. He held me in his strong arms. “Arienne, let’s go back. It’s Mel’s turn.”
“Oh, right. We’ll send more people to you.” I consented. “Wait. Where is your ship?”
“It is here but you will not see it. We are ananga, we are formless. We take form now only to meet you.”
“What should I call you?”
“We are the Omorriga.”
Huge steel gray doors closed leaving the aliens outside and red lights flashed as the air pressure returned to normal. I couldn’t believe my eyes as I watched Robin’s shining face. His hair was tousled, but he looked very handsome in his suit. He kissed the top of my head. “We did it,” he said.
“I know.” I agreed. “I can’t believe we’re healed.”
“Believe it princess,” he laughed. “Let’s go open the doors for Mel.”
When we stepped out into the control room, my heart flew into my throat. Standing there was the most virile young man. His jet black hair fell over his forehead and just touched his left eye. Eyes so clear, they were almost transparent. And so blue. I’d never seen anyone so beautiful. With the exception of the aliens we just witnessed.
I felt hot tingles as he breathed my name, “Ari.”
“I’ve been looking for you everywhere.” He looked disdainfully at Robin.
“Hey! That’s my date.” I scolded.
“How did you see that?”
“Galen, we need to show you some things.”
Mel had run up to hug us both, her face alive with hope. “Is it my turn?”
“Yes,” Robin and I laughed.
“For what?” Galen asked.
“Mel’s going out the airlock but it’s okay. She’s going-”
“She’s going to be killed!” Galen’s face became red and he shook his head.
“We need to move, now, Arienne,” Robin reminded me.
“You can’t-” Galen tried to grab hold of Mel’s arm, but we hurriedly pushed Mel into the compression chamber before Galen could stop us.
“No. Galen. We are trying to heal-”
“I can’t let you do this,” he said and ran away.
“Galen, you don’t understand...”
“I’m going for help,” he shouted back.
“We’d better hurry,” I told Robin. We looked at all the buttons and knobs. Luckily everything was tidy and labeled. I pushed the button to close Mel into the chamber. The door closed with a ‘sshhh’ sound. I could see her through the glass, anxiously awaiting the pressure change so the outer doors could open. Her lovely purple dress draped elegantly around her long legs. Her eyes shined with tears of hope and visions of home.
Robin was about to push the release handle when the warden came running in. “Stop!” he shouted. “Don’t touch that handle!” He ordered us to reopen the chamber door and Mel collapsed to the floor in tears. The warden, misinterpreting her tears as relief, ran to gather her in his arms and told her she was safe from us now. We wouldn’t be able to torture her anymore.
Robin and I just looked at each other, dumbfounded. How did we manage to get in trouble this time? Not counting unauthorized use of the airlock, of course.
“Guards!” the warden called. “Take them away.” He covered a hysterical Mel in a blanket. I willed her to absolve us, to say something, anything, to share the blame, but she sank into his arms. She believed that we’d actually get to go home now and she’d missed her chance. She didn’t realize that her cries condemned us.
We were pulled down the hall and thrown it into what must have been the warden’s office. I closed my eyes and smelled the wood, the books and felt the leather chair. Yes, this must be what it looked like. There were actually two chairs before a massive desk with a green-shaded lamp turned on. All the lights were on “dim” for the evening. I knew they used this system to prepare bodies for day and night and to conserve energy, but I’d never seen it before. It helped with the incredible headache I was getting. I knew we were in big trouble this time. The door opened and a woman in an Emerald green taffeta dress with a matching wrap around her shoulders snuck through. “It’s me,” she said. “Ivy.” Oh. This would take some getting used to –seeing people.
“I heard what happened,” she said. “Why did you shove that poor girl into the airlock?” she whispered loudly.
“We didn’t,” I said. “Nice dress.”
“Wait, can you see me?” she asked incredulously.
“Yes. Mel let us out of the airlock and aliens healed us.”
“That’s what she said.” Ivy shook her head. “But everyone was sure it was trauma-induced paranoia. They are sedating her now.”
“No, that’s really what happened. I know it’s hard to believe, but I can see; and look at Robin foot.” I said.
“We came back to show the others,” Robin said, “Mel was supposed to be next.”
“I should go,” Ivy said. “I’ll try to talk to the warden, but he’s very upset right now. He’s worried that Mr. and Mrs. Delta could press charges.”
Robin held my hand as soon as she was gone. “It’ll be okay,” he said.
It was well after “lights out” and I was about to fall asleep on Robin’s shoulder when the warden finally showed up. “Ivy tells me you two have had an adventure.”
“Yes sir,” Robin said.
“We did,” I mumbled. “How is Mel?”
“She is resting comfortably now. She says you two didn’t force her out of the airlock.”
“We didn’t,” I said.
“Look, I don’t know what happened tonight, but you will tell no one this crazy story about aliens.”
“But how do you explain that we’re healed?” Robin asked.
“We don’t have any answer for now, so you two will go on as usual; just until we have a real story and do damage control with Earth.”
“You want me to pretend to be blind and Robin has to use his crutch?” I asked unbelievably.
“I do not want to cause panic and have children running out the airlocks.”
“But they’ll be fine, they can be healed if they touch the aliens.” I argued.
“You will keep this to yourself!” he said. “And that’s the end of the matter.”
“Don’t you see?” I pressed. “We don’t have to be a dysfunctional lunar colony anymore. We can go home.”
“Enough!” He shouted. “Go back to your quarters and resume life while this matter is discussed among the administration.” He steepled his hands under his chin. “We will inform you of how to proceed.”
“Yes sir,” Robin said.
“Good night,” I mumbled reluctantly.
We had to go past the airlock docking station to get Robin’s crutch and we were surprised to find it heavily guarded already. “Move along,” the guard frowned at us. “It’s past curfew –are you just coming from the dance?”
I’d already forgotten all about the dance. Now that I’d seen Galen, I didn’t wonder that Robin would have been jealous to watch us dance together. I wish I could have seen his face under the mirrored ball. He had been such a sturdy, but gentle dancer. “You look lovely tonight, Ari.” He had said, his hand resting on the small of my back; his other hand pushing a curl behind my ear.
“Thank you,” I cleared my throat.
“I have a gift for you,” he whispered in my ear.
“It’s a token little flower. Really. Here, smell this.” A heady mixture of flowers assaulted my senses. Roses and lilacs mostly. It smelled like the gardens. “It’s just a tiny vial,” he pressed it in my hand, “to take the gardens with you always.”
No one had showered me with as many thoughtful gifts as Galen, and tears gathered in my eyes. “Thank you.”
He kissed my forehead. “You’re welcome.” I tucked the perfume into my clutch. I had forgotten about Galen. What had he seen at the airlocks? What did he think he saw? Did he believe Robin and I had forced Mel into the airlock? Certainly his father wouldn’t correct that notion. What if he thought we were monsters actually trying to kill her?
We took Robin’s crutch back to “R” pod and said good night. I hoped I had the chance to talk to Mel soon... And Galen. I lay down in my bed and heard it: tap tap pause tap tap fist. Everything was going to be all right. Or would it?