CHAPTER 1: I know why the caged bird sings
February 20th, 2022
Don’t kill people.
Don't ditch a friend.
Don’t fall in love.
These are the rules I live by. You might be wondering why I don't want to fall in love. Well, that is kind of a personal story, one I'm not fond of telling people I've just met. I mean, those first two rules are pretty self explanatory, I guess. I'll see how I feel about you after we spend some time getting to know each other. I'm just going to leave it by saying the world would suck less if procreation and love were two separate affairs.
A knock sounds on my door. I'm sitting back in my room is my small home in Aurora, Colorado. The frigid temperatures bid me to stay in my bedroom, they're like a cold curse waiting to drag me outside. “Come in!” I call out.
My mom walks in, a pretty face covered with an ugly look, a sign she didn't come in here just to say hi.
“Hey Andy, I’ll be taking Jen to her soccer game. Should I even ask if you want to come?”
I lean my head back on my chair, my arms resting at my side, “I really would, but I’m expecting a package. You know how stiff Trevor gets if nobody is here to receive the mail.”
“Hey are we going yet?” I hear from outside.
My mom turns her head, “Just a minute, dear,” she then turns back to me, “You're absolutely sure?”
I nod my head, “If he comes early I'll make my way there,” I say, leaning back in my chair, balancing on the back corner leg.
“Keep the chair on the ground, please. I don't want to see you in the hospital because of your carelessness,” she says.
“Okay, if it comes I want to see you there, I've got to get going.” She says, walking close to me.
I stand giving her a hug and a kiss on the cheek, “Love you.”
“I love you too. Now, don't forget.”
“I won't, I won't.”
She closes the door and I can hear her footsteps click down the stairs. Jen's probably been counting how long it actually took for her to come down, she's a bit weird like that. I mean, I guess all sisters are like that, but she’s something else. Her dirty blonde hair is a sharp contrast to both mine and my mother’s hair, it's pulled up so tight sometimes it looks like it's a mile off of her head. My own hair is dark black and kept short to my head, just the way I like it.
“Hey Andy, are you coming to see me win?” I imagine a sort of vision of her standing right in my doorway, geared up in her jersey carrying the rest of her equipment in a bag on her back.
“I’m sorry. I won’t be able to today, maybe next time. Okay?” I'd say.
The apparition turns away, cold. She turns to walk out of the door but ends up walking through it, disappearing along the way. I feel bad, I really do. I'm not sitting here because I want to, but I really was serious about that mailman, Trevor Belmonte. If I don’t get the package the exact second he drops it off he takes it back to the post office and it’ll rarely see the light of day again.
The guy is a real jerk.
I hear the car start up and take off outside. I walk out into the family room and swipe the remote into my hand. I scroll through the six channels we can receive, the same six. Two are based on reruns of old cartoons, two are sports channels (re-runs again) and the last two are news stations for the different parts of Colorado, East and West.
Each state's got their own separate broadcasts. We're a bit more standardized than some of the other places out here. I'm lucky to be here. I change the channel to Colorado East. Reporter Jessica Taft is on the screen. She's the most frequent reporter for Colorado East. Her brightly colored bangs hang low in front of her eyes, she looks like a mess. She's standing in front of a building I recognize, the Technodome. It's owned by Technodome Entertainment, one of the fastest growing business chains in the city. It's full of all kinds of gadgets of almost any variety that still work. There aren't many of them around the country, they don't see a point in installing pieces of a franchise in places that aren't going to make them a profit. It's funny, even in times like this there still seems to be a profit motive. Nine years and people don't care that we're lawless creatures. I was only eight when it happened back in 2013, when it all came crashing down, I mean.
“It wasn't supposed to happen,” my mother always said. She said that it was supposed to stay strong for us kids and our kids and eventually grandkids. She said it was supposed to be our country's wall that kept us together. Turns out every wall has a few cracks that are waiting to be ripped wide open. The American Government, without it you might say the country might burn into chaos. That happened in some places, not here.
“Hundreds are lined up for today's release of the popular new title, Elysium. It's the Technodome's most successful business ventures with partner and producer of the popular virtual reality video game, Adata!”
Here, we rebuilt and try to have a sense of normalcy.
“The popularity for this title is a first for many things, it's bringing the dormant gaming culture back to the forefront, an attempt at escape, would be my guess,” she laughs, looking at the people waiting in line behind her. “My guess is also that people need to get themselves some real work, but I can't really control others, can I?” she says, looking back again. “Waste of time or not, this game is heavily sought after for another reason, it the first technological invention compatible with Adata technology, the Adatech. Now I guess these people can truly escape into their fictional worlds.”
That is the package that I am waiting on. I would have been there, in that crowd waiting with those people. I'm not is because I'm not stupid. Getting caught up in all of the hassle of going to a launch of something like this would be the case for certain headache and irritation. I got a notice that I won a copy of the game from some sort of contest as I was going to order it. It would suck going all of that way and wasting all of that time to not get a copy. This isn't the economy of yesteryear.
“We've had word from one of the developers of the game located right in this Technodome that only about five thousand copies of Elysium have been created. This is a staggering number, indeed!” Jessica Taft says, the excitement apparent on her face.
Certainly not the economy of yesteryear.
“Oh, what's this? We're hearing reports of...what's that? A robbery?” She calls into her earpiece, “What? Are you freaking kidding me? It's just a stupid game...okay, fine.” She looks back to the camera, an annoyed look crosses her face, “We're receiving word that an Adatech helmet has in fact been stolen...there's an eyewitness that is placing the perp as a caucasian teenage girl, probably seventeen or eighteen years old. We're asking all to keep an eye out, especially in our condition...” she finishes with a frown.
It's kind of sad when people have to resort to stealing. It is something that is going to happen regardless.
I guess I want this game because of what she said about an escape. Things were kind of bad, Mom took to drinking and we were low on money. It was hard for her to find work with her alcohol problem rising and the whole “government falling” thing. I needed an escape, sort of how everybody else gets in, I guess. Now I'm here for my biggest and best escape, Elysium.
I hear a faint noise coming from outside. I see a truck sitting outside. A man walks from the porch after I realize what the sound had been. A knock. I look out of the window, there is a man walking away from the door, under his arm is a box. It is the mailman.
“Shit!” I bolt towards the door. “Please stay. Please stay, just one more minute,” I repeat it to myself like a mantra. I throw the door open and the truck is driving off, my package inside. My escape inside. I chase the truck halfway down the street before I quit, the cold winter air catches up to me, gripping me in its embrace. I'm wearing clothes fit for summer, and instantly regretting it. I curse under my breath as I shake my head. Well, I guess this doesn’t give me an excuse to miss the big game, huh?
I run back inside the house and shut the door behind me, my body gripping the hospitable warmth of my home like a magnet. I leap up the stairs and throw open my door at the end of the hall, slipping on a sweatshirt and changing my shorts for a nice pair of blue jeans. I'm flying out of my room and jumping down the steps, slamming the door shut on my way out. Outside I head towards my garage, I struggle with the latch on the door. It takes some effort, but I finally yank out my old bike and hop on.
It’s been about a good chunk of years since I’d ridden it. It’s slightly too small for me. I begin pedaling down the street, it's a good thing the school's only about five miles away, not too far. I don’t go out riding much anymore since the public curfew kicked in. Police aren't mandated by anyone anymore, there isn't anyone higher than the chief of police here in Colorado. I've come to notice that people don't really like cops. They can learn to tolerate them, but never truly like them. Cops are the thing that stop people from doing what they do best, doing what they're told not to. Even in a lawlessness land there has to be some order. My order comes from my three rules. Don't kill people, don't ditch a friend, and don't fall in love.