Echo of Chaos: Ch. 3

Saturday, June 15, 2019



I dreamt of Earth.

At least, what I knew of it. 

In the history lessons, Earth was a source of chaos and destruction. The years before the Flood, humanity was at its worst. Submarine ecosystems were built with expectation of failure. The Program was determined to be the only way to escape the rapidly rising sea levels, and it’s standards were rigid and vastly excluding. 

Captain Bright had to recruit his own army to keep his Program safe from the thousands of bomb threats received in the weeks leading up to the Flood. He promised freedom from disease, destruction, and drowning, but only to those with a certain intelligence quotient. The rest of humanity was doomed to drown, and they went crazy with fear, destroying entire cities, countries, and each other in the frenzy.

Earth was far from a pleasant utopia.

At least in the history books.

In the memories of my parents, Earth was once a peaceful planet, a comfortable home. It was a place where families were created out of love, and lives were not dependent on a single test score. The success of a life was dictated by the memories others had of the person, and not the person’s own mental capacity and function to society.

It was a life I’ve never known, and thus, in my dreams I often idealized humanity’s old home. I'd see lush green landscapes, and powerful mountains just like the ones in the paintings my father used to keep. 

Sometimes, I wondered whether I would ever get the chance to see what it’s like for myself, if Earth will one day return to it’s habitable state and allow us to create a new home there again. 

The Program wasn’t built to last forever, though it’s certainly capable of doing so if found necessary. Every day for the next hundred thousand years had been planned for, every situation and problem anticipated, fixed before it could take place.

Like prisoners, my father had said once. Like rats in a cage.

We’re safe. My mother had responded, that’s all that matters.

And she was right. We really didn’t have a right to complain. We were alive. We hadn’t drowned. 

We were all humanity had left.
***

“MOMMY! HURR-EEEE!” Max shouted the next morning.

I rolled over in my bed, and lifted my wrist to check my watch. It was only hour four, an hour before Max usually went to school. He didn’t know he didn’t have school anymore. He didn’t know he wasn’t supposed to exist.

“MOMMY, MOMMY, MOMMY! WAKE UP!”

I groaned and sat up. I didn’t go to work until hour six, but there was no way I was going to be able to go back to sleep. Not if Max wasn’t going to school, and my mother wasn’t going to work.

I heard the door to my mother’s room open up, and her tired footsteps traipse down the hall. I heard her voice, soothing, as she spoke to Max. I squeezed my eyes shut, trying to block out what she might be telling him, what he’ll never understand.

Your sister was supposed to kill you yesterday. You aren’t supposed to exist anymore.

I hear his voice pounding down the hall, and he bursts through my door right as I stand to stretch.

“Echo! Echo, guess what?” Max asked. “School’s been cancelled, and Mommy doesn’t have to work! We get to spend the whole day together! Isn’t that great?”

His wide blue eyes held excitement, and I swear his smile was glowing with happiness. But when his face collided with my stomach as he wrapped his arms around my waist, it felt like a stab wound.

“That’s wonderful, Maxi” I said, speaking through the lump of pain in my throat.

“Do you have to work today?”

“Yes.”

“Aw! That’s no fair! How come you have to work?”

“That’s a good question, Maxi.”

“Max!” my mother called from the kitchen, and Max immediately flung himself toward the door.

“Coming, Mommy!” he said, barreling toward my mother’s voice.

I stretched my arms over my head, and leaned to the side, stretching away the last few signs of sleep from my body. I had a feeling it would be an intense day of drills for me at work. Surely, Felix had heard about my brother. Maybe everyone had by now. I’d definitely be punished. Stretching was my only protection from the day ahead.

“You’re up early,” my mother said when I joined her and Max in the kitchen for breakfast. “Did you sleep well?”

The tone of her voice and the expression on her face implied she knew exactly how late I came home the night before, and why. I felt my skin burn red, and took my usual seat across from Max at the glass table. Max was playing a virtual chess game on the table tablet, one of the few luxuries we were allowed for leisure.

“Yes, thank you,” I said. “Did you?”

“I can’t complain,” she said.

An awkward silence fell over the room. I listened to the sound of the eggs cooking on the skillet. Sunny-side up, is how my father used to describe them. Because that’s how the sun looked from Earth, a white glow with a big yellow center. 

“What time do you work?” my mother asked after she served our plates, and took a seat at the head of the table.

“Hour six.”

“Hmm.”

She was looking at her plate with an unreadable expression on her face. I wondered if she thought of my father every time she made the eggs this way. 

I wondered if she missed him. 

I wondered if she believed he had left us on purpose. 

There were so many things I wished I could ask her.

“Mom?” I said, and she looked up, her expression returning to normal.

“Yes, darling?”

“Thank you,” I said, and I noticed her tense. “For breakfast, I mean. Thank you for breakfast.”

She smiled, visibly relaxing a bit, but not fully.

“Of course,” she said.

One day, I would get to know my mother. One day, we would share all of the parts of ourselves we left unspoken out of fear.

One day, but not today.

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