I never got bored of that view. It was simply beautiful. Looking out across the valley, a lush spread of greenery for miles, vines and shrubs that snaked up the rocky cliff faces on each side and the sun shining down, splashing pockets of golden rays across the deep blue sky. It was angelic, it seemed impossible that such a feat could be a product of nature and evolution. And to me it was a paradise.
I followed the land with my eyes, noticing how it stooped up towards the far side, slowly climbing towards a large line of cracked of rock. And there, far out on the other side, barely visible... the Ridge.
For years I had dreamt what life was like on the other side of the Ridge. What the world had become since I had last seen it, not that I could remember it at all. But more so than that, I dreamt what life was like with them. It had been almost seven years now. Seven years since they had left, seven years I had waited for them to return. And I only had one week to go. So as always I sat and I waited.
I closed my eyes and pictured the world. Beautiful, open, diverse and bustling with life, and I pictured them; my parents. I heard my father’s voice, one I had grown to know quite well. And I pictured my mother’s. I pictured lying in bed in a dark, cosy room, curled up in a soft duvet. I saw dark wooden floorboards stretching beneath me and chinks of light spilling through the window, and I pictured her saying my name, calling me for dinner or breakfast.
“Rume...” she said, her voice soft and soothing.
“Yeah.” I whispered, knowing full well she could not hear me, feeling my warm breath against the cotton sheets.
“Rume...” I kept my eyes closed and waited, hearing her footsteps as she walked up the stairs towards me. I felt warmth inside me, a love and excitement that I had not felt before. Then she said my name again. “Rume...” her voice sent a shiver through me, but not the bad kind, it was a kind that made me feel wholesome and safe.
“Rume!” her voice was more aggressive this time. The warmth had gone and the world suddenly felt cold. I felt the sheets being pulled off me, sliding over my feet and off the end of the bed. I went to grab them but as I reached out they were gone. “Rume!” she screamed, I became scared, squeezed my eyes shut as fear swam through me. Her voice echoed forever, as if she were shouting across an empty plain that stretched for eternity. I heard her coming closer, her footsteps now harsh, sharp sounds against clunking metal. The room had somehow fallen away and I was lying on a bed that seemed to exist inside a world of nothingness. I lay there, trembling, hoping that she wouldn’t come in. Praying this would all go away.
My heart was pounding. There was a sick feeling in my stomach.
“Rume!” I heard it again and that’s when I realised. “Oi!” This voice that was calling me, screaming at me from far below. “Hey!” This voice, once soothing, now terrifying… this voice wasn’t her voice at all.
“RUME!!!” I sprang up and opened my eyes. I sat up on my arms, breathing heavily as a cold sweat dripped down my temples. I no longer felt the cotton sheets around me; I turned to my left and peered out the huge glass wall, looking out across the valley again. Suddenly I was out of the dream and back in the Looking Room. The nightmare was over.
“Hey!” I heard a voice; it sounded distant, as if coming from the bottom of a well. I perked up, scouring the room for its source.
“Hey, Rume! Rume, it’s me!”
I got up slowly and walked over, placing my hands over the metal railing and looked down the spiral staircase in the centre of the room. For a moment I saw nothing, I blinked and rubbed the sleep from my eyes and when I opened them again I saw him. It was Zed, looking up at me with that eager expression of his, his mouth wide with a smile.
“Hey Rume.” he grinned.
“Sorry, I was-”
I said nothing.
“Dude, you’ve been up here for hours, another nightmare?”
“I... I just couldn’t sleep.”
“You’ve been like this for the past week, man. You know we’re not supposed to sleep here. What’s up with you? It isn’t about, you know, is it?”
“No, I... I just-”
“Dude, you’ll be fine. We all have to go through it at some point. Trust me, man; it’ll be the best day of your life. One week and you finally get to see ’em, your parents. Consider yourself lucky! I’ve got almost a year to go.”
I smiled in response, not quite sure what to say.
“Anyways,” he said, “stop wasting time. It’s almost nine; we’ve got work to do.”
“Yeah,” I said, trying to sound at least a little enthusiastic, “yeah I know. I’ll be down in a minute.”
“Okay, I’ll wait down here... but if you fall asleep again, next time I won’t wake you up so graciously.”
I watched him skip his way down the stairs, his footsteps falling far below me until he disappeared. I sighed and stood upright. For a moment I was in silence and I looked back up at the window, staring out at the valley one last time. Before going down the stairs to follow my friend.
I never got bored of that view. It was simply beautiful.
“Here he is, Sleepy McSleeperson, everyone!”
“Shut up you little tromp.” I said in reply.
I made my way to the bottom of the stairs and there he was, leaning against the wall with his hands stuffed into his pockets.
Zed was about my height; he was slim, athletic and walked around with a chip on his shoulder. He liked to act like he owned the place; truth is he was far from it. He had dark hair that fell over his brow, small eyes and a face that constantly held a cheeky grin, and a small mole on his chin. Out of everybody in the Nethertower, Zed was the only one I knew who rolled the sleeves up on his overalls. It was what people knew him for, it was his ‘thing’.
“Morning, Rume.” he said, as I reached the bottom of the stairs where he stood.
Without waiting, he stood upright from the wall and walked off, the same arrogant swagger about him. I sped up to catch him.
We did the usual morning routine as we walked, Zed talking, me listening. He spoke about his credit schemes, his plans for when he made The Transition – after almost seven years there wasn’t much else to talk about.
Eventually he paused for a moment and I took my chance to butt in.
“So,” I said, “what’s with the early wake-up?”
“What do you mean?”
“Well I’m well into my quota, why couldn’t you have just let me sleep?”
Before I could finish Zed lifted his arm in front of him, laying his fist flat in the air and pressed the button on his Tech. I jolted my head backwards as the device opened. Suddenly a light shone out from the metal band on his wrist. At first it was just a blue line that shot upwards, but as it got to eye level the line separated, fanning out into an upside-down triangle, and a few seconds later his dashboard was displayed.
“Good-morning-Zed.” a robotic voice came from the microphone on the wristband.
“Morning, Amy.” he said, turning to wink at me.
“Amy?” I whispered. “You’re hilarious, Zed.”
“Shut it.” he sneered.
The corridor was empty as we walked, as if we were the only ones in existence.
“Would-you-like-me-to-inform-you-on-today’s-information?” the robotic voice asked.
“Hit me.” he said.
The bright blue hologram display swapped and shifted and an array of characters appeared in front of us. Then the Tech spoke again.
“Your-current-health-rating-is-positive. There-are still-three-hundred-and-eighty-nine-days-until-you-will-reach-your-eighteenth-birthday-and-therefore-undergo-The-Transition.
Zed nudged me on the arm, raising an eyebrow as if to say, check me out.
“What’s your point?” I said, keeping my voice low as if I didn’t want the Tech to hear me.
“Amy,” said Zed, his eyes fixed on me, “are any special events taking place today?”
“Yes. Today-is-the-twenty-fourth-diversification-period. Please-report-to-The-Chamber-immediately.”
Zed pressed another button on his wrist and the hologram displayed fizzled into a swirling blue pane before sliding shut and disappearing into the Tech the same way it had come out.
Zed placed his arms by his side and walked on, his eyes forwards.
“Wait a second,” I said, turning to him, “diversification? But... that means-”
“That’s right, Bozoe... it’s Newbie Day.”