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I walk along the white fence surrounding a polished light grey residence, inhaling softly. The dull shine of the round posts reflects my movement.
A soft breeze ruffles my tame hair. Everyone hovers above me, some slowing down to say a quick hello to others. Some of the young kids clutch hands tightly, nearly making a fist around the hand they are holding, as they wobble. As I walk, I feel a light rush of air behind me. I bat behind my head, and feel a whiz of breeze picking up speed. A standard gray shoe falls in front of me.
“Keeva!” my neighbor’s granddaughter, Saoirse Woodboro, scolds. My parents had been trying to convince me to become friends with Saoirse ever since she moved in with her granddad, “Old Man Sandy.”
My mom would always try to convince me to become friends with Saoirse. “She’s about your age, and she lives close to us. Plus, it would please Those in the Council, Keeva,” she often reasoned.
Saoirse is still glaring at me as I looked up at her, and she glances down at my feet. At first I think it is because of my battered black lace-up sneakers, but then I remember that while my feet are planted firmly on the white street floor, hers and everyone else’s are reflected blurrily in the floor as they drift toward their destinations. Saoirse gracefully sticks out her foot to let me put her shoe on for her. Her gray sock with tiny white polka dots peeks out from her black pressed slacks, which slightly billow from the pleasant breeze. She tsks and turns around. I watch as she get smaller.
My feet click against the plastic pavement louder and louder, drowning out my thoughts. Soon, the tap sound booms in my ears, quickening with my heartbeat. Around me, the subdued wind whistles.
I see myself in the reflective calm grey residences as they swirl around me. I clutch my head and squeeze my eyes shut. I crumple to the floor and slide about a centimeter. Resting my elbows on the floor and holding my hands on the back of my neck, my tears plop onto the plastic ground covering. The empty horizon tilts, and I shut my eyes again. The quietness almost feels eerie. Everyone is inside their residence or the city buildings. I inhale shakily, and wobbly get my feet. Loud mechanical chirping fades to a stop. My feet click against the floor and it echoes through the street.
Shuffling my feet and looking down at the white street floor, a little medium gray dot, disrupting the blank pattern of the floor, startles me. I squint my eyes in confusion; the dot is alive. I crouch down to the floor. I reach out my finger, and the spot scuttles around, six legs maneuvering it. I let it crawl over my finger - the contact makes me shudder a little. I put my face closer. On the gray dot I see even tinier black dots. My face is a mere inch away when suddenly the living dot flutters and disappears. I gasp a little. There are no living creatures besides us and the birds. And this small, spotted dot.
“It was so tiny!” I exclaim, causing several people to look down at me. I don't like all the eyes on me, so to satisfy those around me I say, “Activate Hover,” and give a general glare, which calms them enough so they go back to their mundane tasks. “Deactivate Hover,” I almost whisper. I turn and see someone who didn't react to my scandalous walking.
“Good morning,” I cheerfully greet “Old Man Sandy.” He looks up from his book How to Travel without Getting Brain Damage: a legally obligated guide. Maybe I'll ask to borrow the book; I hate the brain freeze feeling.
“What are you doing?” he asks as he looks up frantically - alerted by unnerving echoes.
“Going on a walk,” I say innocently, “The air is so refreshing.”
Shaking his head, Sandy tries to slow down his breathing as he wipes his brow and shuts his eyes. In an instant, he is reading from inside his house. His face slightly darkens and I can hear his heavy breathing through the opening.
Beep, beep, beep. Suddenly, my stomach drops. My feet leave the ground. “Hover Activated,” comes a small voice from my head as the sensors in my feet make my toes tingle. It’s hard to believe I was on the street floor that long before getting caught - are they getting sloppy? “Disruption Recorded,” the automated voice recites. Beep, Beep - the screen shudders on. An ageless clear skin woman with soft, warm caramel hair which cascades to a sharp angle - Amháin, our leader - smiles reassuringly.
“Keeva Connors. How are you?”
“Good, honey.” Amháin’s voice is that of a sickening motherly sweetness, but her presence demands an unquestionable obedience.
Sighing, she purrs, “This is your last warning. Acquire a vehicle.”
“I know - walking - what was I thinking?” I feel a blanket of relief that she cares.
Leaning closer, she cocks her head slightly and sighs again, her voice lowering, “Do not test me, Keeva- you will regret it,” Amháin’s smile fades as the screen darkens.
She's right. I shouldn't be--- wait. I suddenly don't understand what I’m being scolded for. I see nothing wrong with walking, especially since the ground has been fixed. At least, I hear my dad use that word a lot and I trust him. I don’t know what he means by fixed because the street floors have been like this as long as I can remember, but as my dad constantly reminds me, “of course you don’t remember. The “ground” is something from back l when I was young. But don’t tell anyone I remember.” But even then I don’t know what he means, and he never says anything more.
I jolt out of my thoughts. “Deactivate,” I order - a flash of rebelliousness - and, like Dad, I feel angry. I’m sure Those will understand my reasoning. “Deactivation Granted.”
As I touch the road, I realize Those can’t read minds. And even if they did, Those aren't exactly the understanding type. Should I keep running? Will Those be more lenient if I stop now? I wish I had time to list the pros and cons. A shuddering swoosh sound fast approaches. The glaringly bright Chopper swirls the created wind through my hair. A figure in dark gray attire floats down, completely still and completely menacing. My stomach drops again but my feet stay glued to the floor. He steps lightly on my foot and shuts his eyes.
I clench my tired jaw. The swirl of white fades in and out of jarring gray splotches. The pain is peeling and stretching, stripping away, gaining any power I may have. The whiteness becomes darkness; we have reached our destination. I feel my face heating up like a computer trying to process information. I look around. The sharp lines of the walls shift into each other, giving me a headache - although that pain might just be from earlier. At every corner, a statue-like guard in dark gray stands alert. A slightly hazy figure looms over me. An artificially sweet scent invades my lungs. I blink and rub my eyes and find Amháin towering over me. She looks way taller than I anticipated until I realized I’m crumpled on the ground - cast aside like a disregarded piece of unwanted paper.
Amháin explains, “I told you that last time was your only warning. But even after I graciously let you know that you will regret doing this again, you disobey me. Me!” She seems disappointed and surprised - she clearly expected more from me.
“After all, who else can you turn to; who else can dictate or authorize you?”
I almost feel like screaming - she doesn't deserve to be disappointed in me. “What about my aunt ,and my parents, and---”
“Not for long,” she purrs maniacally. She whispers something to the officer who brought me here, and he motions toward a window to my right. An image flutters on the screen. My eyes widen. I can see Dad and Mom in an argument. The image moves closer and closer as Dad’s eyes start to water.
Amháin tsks, “what a bad ending,” and pouts.
“What are you threatening?” This time I scream.
“I warned you, child.” She walks closer and pulls out something unfamiliar - a syringe with an iridescent translucent white liquid. She lurches toward me in slow motion and grabs my wrist and plunges the syringe without fail.
“Goodbye,” she whispers.
If only I had pulled away fast enough. Time ticks slowly as I feel a slight pressure in my right foot. I again swirl into the splotchy whiteness, but the colors are much more structured, and I stiffen, my arms resting tensely at my sides. I remember traveling, but not the past destination. If Amháin thought I needed to know, I would know.
“Activate Hover,” I recite automatically.
“Hover Activated.” The back of my neck is throbbing. I clutch my head and bend over. I straighten my back within an instant - snapping back into place. I raise my arm and wave to Old Man Sandy. He first looks up at me then to his left and right. He has always been a little slow; once he finally realizes that my feet are unattached to the floor, his shoulders ease. “Hello!” he turns back to his book.
I take in my surroundings, looking down the familiar, straight white lines of the streets, and look down at the even terrain of the shiny floor.
A thundering rumbling in the background is at first is a mere disturbance which I am programmed to fix. I pause; something clicks. The rumbling is more than some little annoyance. My neck burns. My family is in trouble. “Deactivate. Deactivate. Deactivate!” I nearly scream and hit the ground running for the second time today.
“What are you—”
I miss the end of that old man’s sentence and all I can hear is a roar as the rumbling sound booms closer and closer. Maybe I can make it. Maybe I’m not too late. But I have barely even broken a sweat when a paced circular sound approaches.
“Activate Hover!” I blurt. Maybe if I follow these rules, Those and Amháin will leave me alone. But Those are not concerned with that anymore. The Chopper swerved in front of me, causing me to gasp and stop. Amháin herself glares down at me. The Chopper is now between home and myself. My family is still in danger. On last resort, I close my eyes and gasp as —nothing happens. I look down at my feet solidly planted on the street. Amháin steps out of the landed Chopper. The sound of her footsteps echo. A drumming feeling - my heart - picks up speed. “Activate Hover. Please.” “Activation Granted,” comes a voice I welcome. Amháin reaches out her arm and my heart thumps faster than ever. She scowls, but as her delicate fingers make contact with my arm, I shut my eyes.
My brain freezes momentarily and suddenly I am staring at my wide-eyed parents. Before they can speak, I lightly step on both their left feet and shut my eyes. We instantly find ourselves in the cockpit of the Chopper. Without hesitation, I steer it toward the rocks and transfer my stunned parents away again. I don't feel guilty as I gaze at the destruction; I feel empowered.
“Goodbye,” I whisper.