I watched as the rain pour from the sky, washing dirt off buildings’ windows, pavements, and hitting humans as they scurried to escape the downpour. The window of my room had water trailing down its length, and like a lost puppy, I followed the trail; I was lost in its movement. I tried fighting an unnerving feeling clawing at the back of my neck and causing my skin to prick. It source was unknown, but I was sure it was not from the cold air accompanying the rain, it was something different, something that left it mark on my mind. The mini waterfall blurred the view of the outside world, confining my sight to obscure images. I listened intently to the echoes around, hoping to hear anything aside from the thunder clashing or the pitter-patter of the rain as they hit every hard surface.
The orphanage was quiet despite the noisy wind making the windows rattle. Many of the kids were either in their rooms snuggling their blankets or in their friends’ rooms playing board games to ease the boredom of having to stay indoors. The silence was suddenly disrupted by the sound of doors closing and footsteps shuffling around, followed closely by whistling voices of occupants in the building. The process for the adoption was complete, one of the orphans would be leaving today with a new family.
I heard the sound of footsteps hitting the stairs, dragging along with it luggage, or whatever belongings they had with them. I gripped the book I held tightly till my knuckles turned white, my heart pounding hard against my rib cage and a familiar sadness washing over me, helping me register the reality of my situation; another one is leaving me again. A kid I know since he walked through the orphanage front door was leaving, but I am still stuck in this piece of shit for a home. It hurt to know that while some of them left the orphanage for a nicer home, I was to move out in a month’s time and start living like every normal adult.
I slid off the bed and stood next to the window, rubbing my hand against it pane to remove the fog that clouded it. A man dressed in gray raincoat and was loading luggage into the trunk of a car, a woman standing under an umbrella held a girl close to her side as they both waited for the man to finish his task. I knew the girl who stood beside the woman, her parents died when she was nine and she got admitted into the orphanage soon afterwards. When she first got in, she cried all the time, and sometimes ran away from the orphanage only to be brought back by the cops. I was the first person she opened up to, the first person to become her friend and her confidant. She told me where she ran to when she could not handle the taunts from her peers in school or when some other kids bullied her. Yet, I had to watch another person I held close leave.
She turned towards my window smiling and waved as the woman led her into the car. I turned away from the window as she waved, throwing myself on my bed, and letting my mind run free.
I am Mike Divine, a seventeen-year-old boy stuck in an orphanage in Area 2, formerly known as the United States of America. Due to an asteroid hitting the planet about a hundred years ago, the world is now divided into areas and not countries; the economic situations of things have changed and money is of no value to humanity. The new currency is ‘memories’ and they define the world’s profit and deficit.
Every child is given a sum of fifty thousand good memories in the chips they insert into their brain at birth; it could be good memories from the womb or past lives, and they are to build up the memory bank with good memories. No bad memories are deposited in the chips at birth, but when a child experiences a traumatic event, their negative memory bank begins to develop. No one knows how this system came to be, but to live a happy and distinguished life in the new world, one must have lots of good memories that outweigh their bad ones.
Until the age of eighteen, children’s memories do not go below 50,000, but after their eighteenth birthday, they have to start getting jobs, gain experiences and make purchases in the real world with their memory bank. Salaries are paid with memories which are deposited into the memory bank via the chip from the Memory Bank headquarters.
I tossed around as I remembered my childhood; it was not pleasant like most children. My father was a deadbeat, a waste of a man and my mother died at child-birth. I spent most of my childhood at the orphanage; so watching people leave while I was still here were bad memories for me. I blame it on the quarter-sized birthmark on my cheek. Aside from that I was a fine young man with an athletic physique and tall for my age. I had friends, went to school and played sport, but still something was left out within me, something I knew I never had as a child; family.
I jerked up when I heard a knock and the sound of it creaking as it opened. Mr. Fredrick poked his head and smiled gently at me; he had been the head of the orphanage for as long as I could remember. He was a nice man and took great care of every child that walked through his door, helped them with their personal traumas and tried to give them many good memories.
“Hey there, Mike,” he said gently. He walked in and closed the door, taking in the decoration I had done to the room from behind his glasses. My books were arranged orderly on the shelf, my clothes properly tucked in the drawer, and everything was in order, except the bed which I scattered with my twitching body.
“Hey, Mr. Fredrick,” I responded with a sigh, sitting up to listen to what he had to say.
“How are you holding up?” Mr. Fredrick sat close to me on the bed and ruffled my hair a little.
“I guess I am okay.”
“Susan sends her goodbye. I am going to miss that girl,” Mr. Fredrick said with a laugh, his eyes twinkled as he recalled the mischief of Susan. Everyone knew Mr. Fredrick was always worried about her and made it his obligation to make sure she was okay.
“Oh, I am sorry I didn’t come down” I replied.
“I am sure she understands how hard it is for you”
“Still, I should have tried harder or at least come see her one final time” I countered fiercely. Awkwardness surrounded the both of us, and we chose to listen to the noise of the rain, it was much easier to avoid the reason Mr. Fredrick came to see me for. I did not want him to say it because it made it more real.
“Do I really have to?” I said finally as I stared intently at the pale wall in front of me. The walls were cracked and a spider ran along the lines; my eyes following its black back.
“It is alright, son. I am sure you would find something more out there,” he said with a sad smile and patted my laps.
“Is there really no way for me to stay? I don’t think I am ready to leave the orphanage,” I spoke gently, looking at him straight in the eyes; I wanted him to see my fears and the pain I was going through.
“Son, it might be tough at the beginning, but you would get through it,” he said in a soothing manner, his eyes kind as he looked at me.
“I want it to continue this way; I want it to be smooth now. I am tired of feeling this way, Mr. Fredrick.” I stood up and paced the room agitated, my footsteps echoing against the floorboard.
“Calm down, Mike. I know it is not easy, but it is what it is. You have to start planning on what to do next before next month.”
“I can’t calm down!” I shouted as I slammed my fist into the wall. My breathing was hard as I tried to calm the raging inferno within my nerves, every breath was difficult to take and I knew I had to get out of there before I did something drastic. I quickly wore my boots, my hands moving at lightning speed.
“Wait, Mike, sit down and let’s talk.” Mr. Fredrick reached out to grab my hand, but I moved out of his reach. I opened the door and suddenly stopped, the hallway was silent as some other children poked out their head from their rooms to understand the commotion.
“I am sorry. There is nothing to talk about,” I said, looking at Mr. Fredrick with my peripheral view. He sat dejected, his hands still hanging in the air. I closed the door and stumped down the hallway, walking past the children as they starred wide-eyed at my action. I was always the controlled one among them, bottling up everything and just smiling through the pain. I ran down the stairs, out the door and into the rain.
The rain hit me hard, the cold soaking into my bones as I ran around the park. It was late in the night and no one was around. My eyes were clogged by the rain that I could not see what was in front of me, I wiped the raindrops from my eyelids, blinking multiple times to clear the fog in them. I did not stop running, I could not stop running, and this was the only way for me to avoid everything, even if it was for a little while.
Suddenly, I jerked forward, my hands failing as I crumbled to the floor. I had hit my leg against a rock and lost my balance. This stopped me from continuing running; so I sat right there, my shoulders slumped and let the raindrops pelt me continuously. The cold eased my anger, and I was able to think, I could not change the law or stop it from happening, I had to accept it and plan towards it. Mr. Fredrick was right, it was high time I started planning and stop allowing myself to be thrown about by the torrent of events.
Area 2 was not for me anymore, I had to make a choice before my eighteenth birthday: should I continue my life in Area 2 or move to another Area? I’d read about Area 3 on the Web sometime ago and it seemed like a promising place to start my adult life. The geographical location was good and there were bigger opportunities than in Area 2.
Area 3—modern Asia—was bigger, and I could start afresh, live my life and do the things I want to do. A smile fell on my lips as my thoughts ran wide, breathing in the first rush of ideas and getting intoxicated in the prospect of a brighter future. I needed to make transaction, get a ticket and I would be out of here.
“Maybe, it would not be so bad,” I said, spitting out the rainwater that gathered in my mouth. I stood up, spread out my hands and turned around, my eyes closed and my face to the sky; I was starting a new phase of my life. Feeling better about my choice, I ran back to the orphanage, I had to start preparing for everything and Mr. Fredrick would want to know everything.
“I have found a way,” I said as I burst into Mr. Fredrick’s office, my clothes dripping water on his rug. He scowled at it, but was relieved to find me back home safe and sound.
“And what might that be?” he asked, his face calm to listen to my idea which I was certain he would find absurd and rash.
“I intend to leave Area 2,” I declared.
“Why is that?” he asked again calmly, waiting for me to open up while he listened as he has always done to others. Mr. Fredrick was our listening ear, someone we could run to when we had problems.
“I have only known Area 2 …” I started, “… I have lived here my whole life and would always be reminded of my pain if I don’t leave.”
“That’s true. But what do you plan to do?”
“I would move to Area 3, find a good paying job and just live happily,” I said.
“Living happily takes more than finding a job; you know how things are in the world. You need to have good memories and to live fine, helping others to also get good memories.”
“I know, Mr. Fredrick. I intend on doing all that, but I need to leave this place first,” I countered.
Mr. Fredrick sighed and said, “I understand.” He stood up from behind the chair and walked towards me, when he was close enough, he pulled me in a hug and patted my back. “I trust you can do it,” he added.
“Thank you, Mr. Fredrick, for everything.” I hugged him back. He was a father figure to me and the thought of not getting this warm hug or seeing his face broke my heart.
“Now off to bed and take off those clothes,” he ordered and sent me to my room. The others were already fast asleep in their rooms; I tiptoed down the hall, not wanting to wake them up with the loud squeaking of my feet. My bed was made when I got into my room, I turned on the light and took in everything in there. My books, my clothes, my shoes and the posters I hung on the wall, everything would have to go with me when I leave.
I took a hot shower to chase the cold from my bones, my teeth clicking together as I got under the cover of the bed. It was nice been back there, the softness caressing my skin and lulling me to sleep. I closed my eyes with a loud yawn, the sound of the rain against hard surface the only reminder of the ordeal of the day.