Our stay on Artemis was a one-dimensional experience that gave us plenty of time to reminisce about our life on Earth. We were still laughing about the time the TNP broke into the Vatican and how it affected the rest of the world. It was a real shake-up with the usually quiet Jehovah’s Witnesses coming out vocally against the conspiracy to debase their church.
One moment we were reminiscing about home and the next we were wondering if Artemis had anything to offer.
“Has anyone seen any churches around here?”
“Well, how would we recognise a church. Everything here is so different. I wonder if we should ask.”
We called the hotel reception and asked if there was a church nearby. She had no idea what we were talking about and kept asking, “what is a church?” When we eventually asked if there was a chapel. She knew what a chapel was but it was nothing like we were us to.
We went where we were directed and found a place that was open twenty-four, seven, filled with digital display screens where we could sit anytime to watch motivational talks by various speakers dressed in navy blue one-piece, body-hugging suits, perfectly groomed hair and pearly white teeth. We sat for a short while before being overcome with ennui, then left feeling strange.
On returning to the hotel we had many questions.
“Were those real people or were they computer-generated?
“That’s exactly what I was thinking. They seemed so perfect. They all had the same hairstyle and exactly the same complexion. It was uncanny that their bodies were all perfect and they spoke with an American accent, or was it Canadian?”
“Did you see their teeth? I swear they all had false teeth.”
“....And their backs were remarkably straight. Could they be doing yoga?”
We couldn’t decide if we were longing for the unrest of our home planet or just afraid of the perfect Artemesian society.
“Yes, earth has many challenges but at least we have choice, don’t we? It seems here, everything is programmed.”
“Our choices are also being curtailed remember? People are being forced to do terrible things to each other to survive. Trust is non-existent. Families no longer care about each other....”
"There are just too many issues for my liking back home. It seems our civilization has regressed and I fear for our survival. If I had a choice, I wouldn’t return.”
Everyone was stunned by my admission, looking at me wide-eyed.
“Really? Are you sure? Wouldn’t you miss your family?”
“Maybe but it would be a small sacrifice for peace of mind. They could always join me at some stage.”
“I don’t think I’d be able to stay,” was Su-Len’s retort.
Everyone else agreed with her. They already longed for home and I suspected that we had a long stretch ahead of us. We had no idea if we were any closer to manufacturing water. We were only still on basic training and there were so many protocols to get through.
The training centre had been closed all week for an upgrade which we didn’t understand. It seemed that we were not allowed to ask questions; either that, or we were being treated like we were imbeciles.
My longing to go to the beach was promptly quelled in case it caused emotional issues. I had to remain clear and focused if I wanted to minimise the challenges. There were no parks to visit, trees to sit under to enjoy the shade or grass to lie on. Lying on grass always recharged my energy.
I missed nature as I knew it. The sound of birds would have picked up my mood at that moment, or even the cuddle of a puppy. It made me realise that perhaps earth wasn’t so bad after all and perhaps it would improve once we’d find a way to accept the one world government.
The question we most wanted answered was, would our trip to Artemis improve our status once we returned to Earth? Would we enjoy special privileges? If so, then I would definitely return to earth.
We remembered when the seed bank went up in flames the day Mansour Liddell became world president. Promising nothing but control and manipulation, he abolished halaal practices when the pig population survived all others. Many Muslims were seen crying as they watched in despair at their children starving to death before their eyes, while others succumbed and ate whatever was available.
Heated debates became open public skirmishes, while they waited for permission from their local Imams to consume the unhalaal meat. Those who succumbed were openly ostracized and those who didn’t, suffered along with their families. Many gathered in homes waiting to die while praying and worshiping.
“If I were Muslim, I would eat the pork,” was Farlane’s response. Why wouldn’t anyone want to survive? Why wouldn’t they want their children to survive?”
“They believed so strongly in their prophet’s commandments that they feared punishment if they disobeyed.”
“So where do you draw the line? Refusing to eat is akin to committing suicide which is also against their teachings, so which is the lesser of the two evils?”
We were wondering about the origins and history of Artemis but didn’t think it important enough to care at the time. We would have plenty of time to explore.
It was surprising that we never tired at the end of each day, electing to talk all night. Even when I lay down to sleep I found that I couldn’t close my eyes and would just as soon be up to read a book, one of many I was allowed to take with me. Despite not having slept for many nights, we were all energetic, always looking for something to do.
The food we ate didn’t seem unusual in the least. Earlier we’d had delicious grilled salmon with vegetables and a fruit juice each. The water was always cool and refreshing, a lot like flavored sparkling water only better. We couldn’t make out the flavour which was sweet yet not fruity. We thought we had nothing to compare it with, but then Donny remarked that it tasted a lot like the water at the training base.
‘Yeah, it does, doesn’t it?’
‘Can’t be. Where would they get it from, unless they’ve been in contact with the Artemesians all along and now want to get acquainted with their technology.’
The water refreshed us instantly. We were pleased to discover that it also enhanced our concentration. Despite my best efforts I couldn’t go thirty minutes without water, which I suspected was keeping us all awake. We only realised afterwards that we could smell its cool fragrance as we passed the water dispenser at the Artemesian training centre.
We only slept the first night after our tiresome long flight but thereafter, it was impossible to sleep. We weren’t restless, just awake but not in an inconvenient sort of way. It was great to be able to do more, especially in my case. I’d always wished that I could read all night and now I could.
Farlane was able to research building a new generation of computer that would respond to one’s aura. It would be able to switch on as one entered the room.
Su-Len was a problem as she wanted to talk all the time. We would ignore her when we needed to do things but she was an irritation at the best of times, always wanting to talk about home, wondering what was going on, while we were trying our best to focus on our studies.
We found that our ability to remember was markedly enhanced. Reading something just once and remembering verbatim was a joy to discover. It would have been useful in high school, that’s for sure. University was a lot better because by then I was more practiced at retaining information.
We had resorted to wearing the customary navyblue one-piece jumpsuit in order to blend in. Not that anyone else cared. No one seemed interested in us. We expected that people would approach us to find out where we were from and what our purpose of the expedition was, but disapointingly, that never happened. They walked past us with not so much as a glance.
No one even approached us to offer assistance, knowing that we were strangers to their planet. They were not in the habit of introducing themselves like we were. Once I tried to introduce myself to someone in the mall, but the person just gave me a cursory glance before walking on. I felt embarrassed and never tried it again. People on Artemis didn’t talk much. Their world was quiet, except for the many computers offering information on a variety of topics, many of which hardly interested us.Even this was at an acceptably low, yet audible volume. Just like I preferred it.
The vehicles emitted a low-pitched whirring sound much like a vacuum cleaner but other than that, there wasn’t much noise. No hooting, jaywalking or shouting where taxis were heading. If fact, taxis didn’t exist. Everyone owned a vehicle of some sort, the most popular being the one-person pod car which was capable of driving on the road and flying overhead. There were also two-person or four-person vehicles all capable of flying.
Many people walked only very short distances, usually from a parking spot to a building closeby. Public transport was non-existent. One could thus not expect to find bus stops or taxi stops anywhere, unless we hadn’t found them yet.
The underground metropolis was air-conditioned at a cool twenty-two degrees centrigrade.
I was curious about whether there was an ocean or even a beach but no one would answer my question. I searched the computers but came up empty. Perhaps they called it something else. I entered the words ‘big water’ and still came up empty. Next I tried ‘large body of water’ but still there was nothing. Only much later on did I learn that ‘retention facility’ was what they called either a lake, a dam or a well.
The noticeable absence of aesthetic features such as fountains and rivers also worried me. Where was the water? We hadn’t seen any except in water dispensers. My curiosity piqued at the idea that it must rain at some point and if it did where were the storage dams?
We couldn’t find anything on Google regarding Artemis but that was not surprising, just frustrating. Where was the water? That was my constant question. I was longing to swim. Even a swimming pool would suffice but I couldn’t find one.
Our shower emitted just a cool mist that left us instantly freshened and perfumed but the longing to wet my body became an obsession. I also worried that I might be smelling by now but I needn’t have worried. Our bodies were not performing as usual. We were not using a toilet and only noticed this about a month into our stay. We experienced no discomfort or desire to pass water. Once more, it was a water issue.
We were drinking from the water dispenser three or maybe four times a day without having to urinate.