It was happening again. She was walking on water. She was like a god walking on the water. But then her foot was swallowed up. And then her leg. And so the water swallowed her up again, just like it always did. But just as her head was about to be sucked under the waves, a voice sounded from the sky. “And One!” it screamed. “And One!”
“And One,” George whispered into her ear. “And One wake up.”
Zoey awoke with a jerk. She checked the clock. She had only been asleep for a few hours. “What is it?” she asked, groggy.
“Did you find your name?” George asked. He was shaking with nervous energy. Deep circles were under his eyes.
“Why are you asking this now?” Zoey asked, trying to pull herself back under the covers.
“Because I can't sleep knowing you've got one,” George said, obviously struggling to whisper with his excitement. “And besides, I'm sick of calling you And One,” he added.
“It's Zoey,” Zoey said, then buried her face in her pillow and tried to go back to sleep. But then it struck her that going back to sleep would mean going back to the dream. She brought her head back up. “Do you like it?”
George thought for a moment. “Yeah, it's a good name. It fits you.”
Zoey sighed. She'd just been hit with an immense feeling of gilt. “I'm really sorry about yelling at your earlier. I was just depressed.”
George snorted. “We all get depressed and angry. Flaws are part of humanity. No matter how smart we become, we'll still be human.”
It was strangely and unexpectedly insightful. “I'm glad you feel that way, but I still feel really guilty.”
“Never doubt that you're a good person Zoey. And smart too, smarter then me,” George said with a grin.“Do you want to see some of my art?”
The sudden change in subject surprised Zoey. “Sure, I'd love to see your art.”
George motioned for her to follow him, then silently moved over to the recreation area. Everyone else was still sleeping, and would be for some time. He pulled one of the activity pads out and hit the mute button. He then clicked on the drawing application.
“Wait, by art do you mean drawing?” Zoey asked. “But that's just for little kids.”
“Only if you want it to be,” George said, still grinning.
Zoey was about to ignore him and go back to bed, but then she remembered why she was talking with George at all. She decided she would rather spend her night talking to an idiot then have another nightmare.
George brought up a drawing, and Zoey had to hold in a gasp. It was just the ocean, something she had seen every time she stood on the ships deck. But it was so much more. Each individual wave was sharpened with detail, and completely different from all the others. Each ripple had it's own color, each drop of water it's own feel. And there was not a single person in it.
Zoey had seen artwork before, the fleet had artists just as it had every other profession. But in all of that art, there had always been citizens and citizenesses working hard in service of The People, or fighting the Enemies of the People. It was always praising their devotion and their hard work.
But George's art wasn't praising anything. It wasn't symbolizing anything. It simply was, and it was beautiful.
“That's... really good George,” Zoey managed to say.
“Oh come on it's just the ocean,” George replied modestly. “I'm not a really good artist. If I was then I would have gotten 'artist' not 'cleaner' on my society test.”
“No, no you're really good,” Zoey said, still in awe. “You're the best I've ever seen. Way better then any of the professional artists who have their art in the gallery. It's unbelievably good.”
“Na, it's not that good,” George said, and a smile crept up his face. “It's nothing compared to the real thing. I'll show you, follow me.”
Before Zoey could protest he had gotten up and went to the door. He made sure the lights in the hall were off before opening it, so that he wouldn't wake the others. Then he grabbed Zoey by the arm and pulled her out, and they were running down the hall.
The ship operated on a skeleton crew a night. The halls were almost totally empty. They got to the elevator without meeting anyone except a security guard who gave them a suspicious look and then continued on his way. Night guards were often in a bad mood, but they had to stay up to make sure the ship wasn't surprised by an attack by the Enemies of the People.
They entered the elevator, and got very quickly from the cabins to the deck, only stopping once for a exhausted doctor to get on. “I've spent all night amputating a leg,” he mumbled. “I wish he'd stop screaming.”
“Nobody's screaming,” George said tentatively.
The doctor gave George a sour look. They traveled the rest of the way in silence. The elevator stopped at the doctor's cabin, and he got off.
“Wonder what's wrong with him?” George wondered out loud.
“Probably just tired,” Zoey answered.
They finally reached the upper deck. The doors opened, and a wave of cold air hit them. Zoey shivered. Cleaners only wore leather aprons and a bit of tough clothing. They weren't supposed to be out on the deck at night.
George seemed unaffected by the cold. “Come on!” he shouted gleefully, running out onto the deck. Zoey followed him, doing her best to keep up. He ran strait towards the railing, and for a moment Zoey thought he would fall off, but then he stopped himself at the last moment. She caught up with him and they gripped the cold railing, look out across the dark ocean.
“I told you the original was better,” George said, smiling.
“Maybe you're right,” Zoey said. The ocean was moving and rippling as the ship cut through it. A thousand different drops of water went their thousand different ways.
“Of course I am,” George replied. “You can't beat the ocean in beauty. People will always try, but it can't be done. It's even better at dawn.”
They starred out across the ocean for who knows how long. At one point George put his army around Zoey, and she didn't really notice. She felt the lack of sleep catch up with her, and her eyes closed. The waves beat against the ship's hull, creating white noise that slowly lulled her towards sleep. She could tell George was falling asleep too. She drifted into a half sleep, one in which you were aware of the world around you, but could still dream.
And dream she did. She dreamed of a strange, voiceless shadow creeping up around her, scraping around her, and ensnaring her in a cold grip. She dreamed of a man without a soul playing the violin, his hopes dreams and ragged thoughts spilling from the instrument. She dreamed of a cyclops, laughing as it beat innocent lives to a bloody pulp. And she dreamed of falling into water, the water that ate her, swallowed her up.
“Hello!” the cheery greeting woke Zoey. She turned and saw a man walking toward her, his arm raised to say hello. He had shaggy, dirty blond hair, along with big bushy eyebrows. What he was wearing was unlike anything Zoey had ever seen. It was a worn black suit, although not very fancy or elegant like the ones some Primary Citizens wore, and the undershirt was black, not white. Around his neck was a very tight collar, that looked very stiff. It was black, but there was a white square right under his adams apple.
“Hello!” he said again, still very cheery. He was holding his arm out, expecting to shake hands.
“Who are you?” Zoey and George said almost simultaneously.
The man laughed. “I'm Reverend Jack Clooney, although you can call me Jack. Who are you?”
“George,” George squeaked out.
“And One,” Zoey said, not thinking. She caught her mistake a second before George opened his mouth to correct her. “I mean Zoey.”
Jack looked taken aback. “You have names? I thought that no one in the fleet had names.”
“We're unique,” George answered, with a tinge of pride in his voice.
Zoey picked up on what Jack's name meant. “You're not from the fleet?”
Jack smiled. “No. I've actually been hired by the fleet to do some maintenance. I'm quite skilled in electronics you see.”
“Is that what your title means?” George asked.
Jack laughed again. “No, no, of course not. As a reverend I operate as a sort of middle-man between normal people and one very powerful person. It has nothing to do with electronics. I just do that to earn a living.”
“The one powerful person... is he a Primary Citizen?” Zoey asked.
Jack sighed. “I don't think you're gonna to get it,” he said, and joined them leaning on the safety rail, gazing out into the sea.
“Why are you out here?” Zoey asked, eying him suspiciously.
“Why are you here?” Jack asked back.
“I asked first,” Zoey said, a bit annoyed at the lack of a strait answer.
Jack looked down at her. “I'm only allowed to walk out here during the night, so I don't disturb the day workers. I think that the Primary Citizens don't want me giving them any ideas. I rarely get to talk with anyone, so I jumped at the chance to have a conversation. And with such very interesting people too. Now, why are you out here?”
“I wanted to prove to her that my drawing of the ocean wasn't nearly as good as the ocean itself,” George said in that friendly way he always talked.
“Is it?” Jack asked.
“Not really,” Zoey replied.
All three of them breathed a collective sigh, and looked back out across the water. They gazed for a little while. “The sun will be up in a few hours,” Jack said. “You should get back to bed.”
“Yea we should,” Zoey said. “Bye.”
She started to turn, but George stopped her. “Just a few more minutes, ok?”
Zoey nodded an they remained there for a little while more. And a little while more. And a little while more. The thought of returning to the cold metal of the cabin kept them on the deck. It was when the first rays of sunshine poked over the water that they heard it.
It started off small, but rapidly became more clear. A rhythmic clanking of metal. Someone was sprinting across the deck. Sprinting towards them. It grew louder, and when the sprinter wheeled around the corner the three of them were looking in his direction.
He was a tall man, and so thin he seemed to be little more then skin stretched over bones. He had fiery red hair, and a beard to match. On back was a large backpack, that rattled and clanked as he ran. He had a pistol in a quick draw holster on his waist.
“Eh Jack!” he yelled as he ran towards them. He spoke in a strange accent. “Ve haze about sixty secondz until ze security overtakes me!”
Jack suddenly looked very angry. “What did you do now Kurt?”
“I'm zorry,” Kurt said as he slid to a halt in front of them. “It vas so shiny I couldn't resizt! But zats not important. Ve must get out!” He opened his backpack and took out two awkwardly large, metallic face masks, the first of which he put on himself, and the second he gave to Jack.
“What's going on!” Zoey shouted.
“Shoot the camera!” Jack ordered Kurt before putting on his own mask. Kurt instantly drew his pistol and shoot the black sphere that was always in the corner. Zoey felt a strange feeling run through her as it fell onto the deck in a shower of sparks.
“What's going on!” Zoey yelled again. She heard shouting and yelling and the clank of a hundred boots on the metal deck.
Jack looked at her. He looked her right in the eye. “They've seen the kids with us Kurt, they'll assume they were in on it.”
“So vhat!” Kurt shouted. “Zey're just drones anyvay. Zey don't matter!”
Jack turned and slapped Kurt across the face. “Haven't I taught you anything? They'll kill them! We have to bring them with us!”
“What's going on!” Zoey screamed for a third time.
“No time to explain!” Jack yelled. “Kurt! Get the extra mask and give yours to the boy!”
“Vhat?” Kurt screamed back. “You give him your mask!”
“You can swim like a fish Kurt! Give him your mask!” Jack yelled.
Kurt let loose a feral sounding growl and grabbed another mask from out of his backpack and slipped his own off. He gave the extra mask to Jack, and fit his over George's face. George was too stunned by the sudden change of events to resist.
Zoey, however, moved to stop Jack as he fixed the spare mask over her face. When he realized she was resisting, he tried to explain. “It'll help you breath in water! It'll save your life!”
His explanation was interrupted when a bullet whizzed past his head, missing it by an inch. Three security guards had come around the corner, firing off their rifles. Zoey had never heard a rifle fired before. Each shot was like and explosive going off. BLAM! BLAM! BLAMBLAMBLAMBLAMBLAMBLAM! Someone had an automatic rifle.
“Help u-” Zoey managed to say before the mask slipped over her mouth and muffled her. Jack wrapped her in a big bear hug. She tried to fight, but his muscles were like iron.
“Hold on!” Jack ordered. “We're going over the edge!”
Then heard someone, it sounded like George, scream in pain. The next moment later the skinny man named Kurt jumped over the railing and down into water. Then Jack braced his foot on the railing and heaved himself, and Zoey, over as well.
It had all happened so fast. But now she was falling toward the water that had seemed only a minute earlier to be beautiful. Now it looked dark and evil. In one minute her life had suddenly changed. And all she could do was wonder why.