Gemini is one of the thirteen constellations of the Zodiac. It’s visible between latitudes 90 and negative 60 degrees and is best seen in February, preferably at 9:00 PM. Named stars included in the constellation are Castor, Pollux, Alhena, Wasat, Mebsuta, Mekbuda, Propus, Tejat Posterior, and Alzirr. The constellation itself comes from the story of the Greek twins Castor and Pollux; the Dioscuri. Castor was only a mortal, while Pollux was the son of Zeus. The smallest differences cause the greatest flaws.
They were warriors. Heroes.
But when you think you’re seeing double, don’t forget whose side you’re on.
Once upon a time, there was humanity. Well… maybe. Or maybe I’m just being edgy because I barely got any sleep last night. Anyways, I guess the point I’m trying to make is that we don’t actually know if there’s still people outside, or if they’re all Zeros, or if there’s nothing left. The Bunker has only been up for about two generations, and I should know, because the new generations have only been called one thing; The Generation ZEDD.
Me. My sisters. My best friend. My peers. All a part of what’s left.
I look up as Gray sits across from me, dropping his tray on the table, interrupting my train of thought. Our parents were the heroes—there’s that word again—but everything’s changed since then. Half the people in here now wouldn’t even bat an eye to save the world. But I suppose, in here, what need would they have for it?
He nods to me, chewing on his sandwich.
“Whatcha’ thinkin about?” He says, a piece of turkey flying from his lip. I scrunch up my nose, looking at where it landed on his tray before I raise my gaze back to his.
“What are you, five?” I ask, then laugh when he reaches across the table to swat at my arm. “Zeros, and anything before all this.”
“Dude. Depressing.” He says, going back to his sandwich. I grin.
“Devastation is a pastime.” I say. He nods with a grin and swallows. He gestures to my tray before crossing his arms on the table.
“Do you want the rest of my sandwich?” He asks. I look down at my tray, though I already know all it holds is an apple and a poor excuse for toast. I shake my head, poking carelessly at the half slice of buttered toast. I pocket the apple and push the tray to the side.
“Nah, I’m not hungry anyway.” Gray looks back at me, almost disappointed. “I’ll be fine.” I wait for him to finish, feeling a twinge of guilt as he leaves the rest of his food untouched, then we stand and drop our trays at the front of the cafeteria.
“It doesn’t make sense that they cut rations,” He says—nevermind either of us even finished our share, I suppose he’s just trying to make me feel better—as we walk. “So what there’s five of you. The Bunker isn’t even at full capacity.” I shrug.
“I don’t even know why my Mom had any more kids,” I remark. “But y’know Tink, she says it’s ‘Capitalist Propaganda’.” I say. Gray barks out a laugh.
“You know she’s right though,” He says. I roll my eyes, both of us slowing our pace as we reach a forked hallway.
“Don’t encourage her. God knows how she’s seems to attract anyone with two balls and half a brain.”
“It’s because she’s hot,” Gray replies with an easy grin.
“Ew no! She’s like sixteen!” I exclaim, laughing as Gray dodges my punch.
“Bye!” He calls with a lazy wave.
I watch as he jogs down the hall, only beginning to turn away after he disappears from view. I walk straight, stuffing my hands into the pockets of my jeans. I keep my eyes trained on the ground. On all the same tiled floors.
All the same white walls.
All the same fluorescent lights.
All the same vaulted ceilings.
My thoughts wallow distantly as I walk. I look up to the wall. It’s bland and pale; too much like its inhabitants. I pull my key from my pocket as I jog the inclined ramp to the first floor of apartments. Most apartments come with a maximum of three keys, I carry one on me, then Juliette and Kate swap with theirs. The third stays with our Mom. I move to the left side of the hall, standing in front of the fourth door. I look down and to the right, seeing a pair of small pink shoes. I shift my gaze to meet the eyes of my neighbour and childhood friend, Melissa, she smiles politely at me, and I give her a reciprocated nod. I almost open my mouth to say something like ‘How’s it going?’, but instead, there’s a small croak at the back of my throat. Melissa stops in her doorway, her face still and eyes wide at my croak.
“Are you okay?” She asks me, and I nod feebly, my hand gripping the doorknob as I pull it open. She lingers. “Okay then.” She waivers, gives me a small wave, and steps into her apartment. I groan once she’s out of view, my face flushed red as I step into the apartment, kicking the door closed behind me. I stalk towards the surplus of laughter from the kitchen. I turn the corner, crossing my arms as I see the three of them gathered around the kitchen island. Juliette and Kate on either side, and Artemis sitting criss crossed on the counter. Juliette holds a bright smile, and Artemis’ shoulders are bouncing with laughter. Kate raises her eyebrows over the thick rims of her glasses with a smirk. Then the three of them make a croaking nose, Juliette even bangs on her chest, and my face burns again.
“I hate each of you,” I say, and they burst out laughing again.
“Let them have their fun,” My Mother chuckles as she passes the kitchen, stray blonde curls framing her face. She kisses my cheek before she goes to take her pills. I sink into her touch as she kisses me and watch how she moves towards the sink.
“How’s your knee?” I ask. She shrugs with a slight grimace, filling a glass with water.
“It’s been worse,” She says, tipping her water glass as she drops the pill onto her tongue. She swallows and waves her hand at Artemis. “Off the counter.” She says and Artemis pouts, sliding off. I wink to her and pull the apple from my sweatshirt pocket as Mom walks back to her room. Artemis brightens as I toss it to her. She leans against the island and stands beside Kate, sandwiching herself between her and Juliette. The three of them are carbon copies of my Mother. Oval faces, petite noses, and brown eyes. Except for Artemis’ hair. Her’s is brown like mine and Dads, only he died when she was about eight.
Out of my sisters, I remember the most about him; being the oldest, and I think it had something to do with me being the only boy out of my family. The biggest thing I remember was when he died. He’d had cancer for two years, and we were in the medbay. My Mom had taken my sisters out to get something for lunch, and my Dad started coughing. Being the only one in the room, and only thirteen, I didn’t know what to do, but my Dad grabbed onto my arm, pulling me down close to the bed.
‘Oscar,’ He had said. ‘I’m dying.’ I remember shaking my head. Him telling me he was tired. Me telling him that he had to keep fighting. He’d shaken his head with a teary smile after that.
‘Oscar, just because I’m dying doesn’t mean I’m gone forever,’ He said. ‘You’ll remember me. So will your sisters. And your Mother. And one day we’ll all see each other again.’ I’d shaken my head again. Saying “I don’t want to.”
But I didn’t have a choice in the matter, and I don’t have a choice about my Mom’s arthritis. And I definitely don’t have a choice about the Zeros.
I mirror Artemis, leaning beside Juliette. Artemis rolls the apple to Kate.
“How’s her knee.”
“Getting worse,” Kate says, taking a bite out of the apple before handing it back to Artemis.
“But she’d never say anything,” Juliette adds.
“Then we’ll get her more pills,”
“She barely gets anything for rations as is, if she applied for more they’d just cut hers down again.”
“I’m nineteen, they can cut mine.” I say. There’s no discourse. Kate is shaking her head, thick blond curls brushing her shoulders. She opens her mouth.
“It’s ‘Capitalist Propaganda’.” We chorus, and Juliette giggles. Kate just rolls her eyes. We sit in a comfortable silence, Artemis giving the apple to Juliette to finish. I watch her eat. She narrows her eyes after a minute or two.
“Whatcha staring at?” She asks. I shrug.
“It’s just the funniest thing,” I ponder, crossing my arms on the island. “Just the way you looked just now, really reminded me of this book I read last year. Something about trolls—” I’m cut off when Juliette throws the apple at me. Artemis giggles.
“I hate you,” Juliette says. I grin.
“See you guys at breakfast.” I say, pushing myself away from the island, and I go to bed for the night.
I often dream of a dark haired girl. One who speaks in Latin and sings in Greek. That would be my Perfect Life. It’s something I bring up with Juliette a lot of the time. We really started doing it after Dad died. Then again, this Perfect Life was imagined a few decades back in time, because for some reason I’d fantasized historical fiction for two years.
I’d found Juliette in her room, she was crying and my Mom was already asleep with Kate and Artemis, and since my Dad was… well, dead… I was the only one there. All I did was stand in the doorway at first, Juliette and I staring at each other while she cried. She sniffed.
‘What do you want?’ She asked, and I faltered. I didn’t know what I was doing, just that I was the only one for her.
‘I just thought I’d come see how you were doing,’ I said, and Juliette had sniffed again. ‘Are you okay?’ I asked. She wiped at her face, having been crying. She shrugged.
‘No,’ She said, and she was crying again. ‘It was perfect. Why can’t everything just go back to what it used to be?’ She choked, and I grimaced. I remember shrugging again.
‘Nothing’s perfect,’ I told her, but that hadn’t seemed to make her feel better. She sniffed.
‘That’s stupid,’ She said, and I smiled a bit.
‘Yeah… but y’know,’ I said. ‘If there was such a thing as a perfect life, I’d probably be six foot and have a girlfriend.’ Juliette had chuckled.
‘That would never happen,’ She said, which made me smile too.
‘You give it a try,’ I remember telling her, and she had. Since then, it became a thing of ours.
A Perfect Life would be one where we wouldn’t be in the Bunker. Where I could actually see the stars and point out constellations instead of memorizing them from books and drawings.
Juliette tells me hers would be she and her future wife sitting on the porch of a white farmhouse.
I think there’s one thing that remains a constant between us though; in both our Perfect Life’s, we wouldn’t be the Generation ZEDD..