We dreamed a dream, woke up and lived it.
For as long as she could remember, Elisha Smash only ever had the one dream. She was in a desert, but she wasn’t, not in any physical sense. It was as if she were a ghost, invisible, unseen, and unheard. Able only to watch and listen, a voyeur in her own dream. An insignificant afterthought, the same as in her waking life. Though somehow, there, in her dream desert, Elisha felt content, a sense of belonging. As if that was her true home, forever non-corporeal, there amongst the gold and black sands of the forever desert, dunes in some areas standing taller than any human-made structure or mountain ever had or ever would; and the shattered sky of intersecting, overlapping, and branching-off cracks, no two the same in shape or color. Like lighting bolt snowflakes, each unique in its own way. - And then there was him.
Elisha did not know him, not her dream, nor her waking life, but every night he was there, naked and near dead, staggering aimlessly across the desert. Severely exhausted, dehydrated, and malnourished but always moving. If time existed there, he would have been there a long time. Long enough that Elisha had watched as the hair of his head and face grew long and tangled, and his rotund figure wasted and withered, so he more resembled a living skeleton than a man. Sometimes she could hear him, faint, nonsensical babblings. The ravings of a madman lost and alone in a place not meant for existence. - Elisha only thought she belonged there in her dream desert, but Elisha knew beyond any doubt that that man did not. Where he belonged was as much a mystery as to how he got there or who he was.
Perhaps if she had had a voice, Elisha would’ve asked these things. Though not likely as she somehow knew he did not know. Somehow Elisha knew a great many things in her dream desert, from the infinite beginnings and endless ends of countless realities, yet that man remained an unknown. - Every step threatened to be his last. The little strength he’d gathered from the blood of what Elisha could only describe as “scorpions” all but gone. His knees would begin to buckle under his minimal weight. Every tired, worn muscle of his broken body screamed in agony, a horrible cry of unbearable pain only Elisha could hear. He struggled to remain upright and walking, fighting with all he could and then some, but as Elisha knew, it wasn’t enough. It never was.
He always collapsed. First to his hands and knees, and even still, he continued to try. Crawling; until even that was too much for his frail body. But still, he fought onward. Clawing and dragging himself over the sands, the grains slicing his rice paper-thin flesh, a million tiny cuts covering his chest and his belly and his genitals. His suffering was her suffering. It radiated from his very being and into her. The closer he came to Death’s door, the worse it got for Elisha. All his pain and fear and frustration and anger and confusion flooded everything that she was. If she had had a voice then, Elisha would have used it to scream. - Then there’s a flash of light, hot, blinding, and white.
A pleasant, cheery melody steadily increased, stirring Elisha from her slumber. A friendly, gender-ambiguous, almost human-sounding voice, accompanied what Elisha felt, was an unsettling alarm tune. The voice repeated itself, given only a brief reprieval between its “Good Morning” spiel. She didn’t need to hear it, she already knew most of what it had to say, and the rest she didn’t find all that prevalent. - She knew what time it was; it was time to get up. She knew what date it was, Wednesday, November 21st, 2525, her twenty-first birthday. The last day of the rest of her life. Not that she had had much of a life, to begin with.
Elisha was an orphan, raised by a distant relative, whom she could never remember showing her any sort of warmth or compassion or love. Much of her youth was spent on her studies. She remained home-schooled until university, but much of that was done via “The System” and its Uplink connection. She excelled in mathematics and computer science, though history always proved a struggle. It wasn’t that she didn’t understand it she just couldn’t accept it. Things didn’t always seem to quite add up, at least not with the narrative The Agencies presented. Not that it mattered, not that there was a thing anyone could do about anything, The Agencies controlled the world. And they had since that day in 1999, “The Day The World Was Saved.” - Elisha thought it best not to think; when it came to those things. Besides, the world was a better place now thanks to the Agencies and the Capes; Elisha knew that. She knew that because they had told her that, just like they had told everyone that.
Above her bed, a holographic screen provided by The System floated. Helpfully displaying all the same information, its AI serial killer voice kept chanting like a mantra. Tossing back the covers, Elisha sat up, wiping away the projected screen with the wave of a hand, silencing the alarm with it.
Nowhere near awake, the dream still fresh in her mind, Elisha dragged herself from bed, stretching and yawning, in no real hurry to begin her day. She was twenty-one now, an adult in the eyes of society and therefore ready to contribute to it. - She stripped her grey pajama shorts and tank top from her rail-thin frame, carelessly discarding them on the floor before exiting the room.
Elisha walked to the bathroom directly across the hall. Naked and; despite living alone on the 27th floor with no chance of being seen by anyone other than herself, censored, courtesy of The System’s Decency Filter. Her pert breast and more southern regions blurred even to her eyes by The System’s manipulation of the light and air around the offending areas. An extremely invasive practice Elisha felt, though she’d never heard anyone else complain, leaving her to believe the problem was more with her than the world at large. - She took her time in the shower, keeping the water temperature clod. Colder than any warm-blooded creature should enjoy, but Elisha loved the icy sting as the water splashed her bare skin. It was one of the very few things she’d ever found that actually made her feel somewhat Alive.
Sat cross-legged on the shower floor, letting the freezing water rain over her, the last remnants of sleep washed away. Even fully awake, she felt sluggish and drained. Much of her life had been about preparing her for that very day. And just as much of it had been her dreading its inevitable arrival. It might not have been so bad if her dictated career had been something interesting or exciting. Something like anything at, Agency 01 (Security/Defense) or Agency 02 (Research/Development) or even Agency 05 (Environment/Sanitation), she’d have given anything to scrub sewers and toilets instead of having to pull on the dark blue jumpsuit of Agency 10 (Education/Information). The rest of her life was to be spent inputting information, that’s all. She wouldn’t even get to sort or distribute it; those assignments were, reserved for people that actually mattered.
Elisha took her time in the shower, and as a result, was running a bit late. She’d barely have time to brush out her stringy, straw-like yellow hair or scruff down a piece of burnt toast and cup of coffee, but she still did those things before venturing out to face her destiny.