Worlds for Throng
Author's note: Every one of my experiences and fully formed thoughts went into this, as well as my feelings on... Show full author's note »
2I woke from the couch in their living room; I hadn’t changed the night before, I fell asleep before I thought I would. The place had a weird affect on me. I hate that feeling when you wake up in all your clothes from the day before. I had a blue dress shirt, dress pants and a sweater on and everything, the only thing I took off were my shoes. I guess I didn’t feel very comfortable treating the place comfortably. I couldn’t. The suitcase was right by my side, my cell phone in my hands. I stood immediately when I was awake enough to remember where I was, took some clothes from my suitcase, held them in a bundle, and Mr. Foxx came out and directed me to the shower.
I stepped in and turned on the old showerhead. It screeched as the water forced out. It smelled like the ocean, but it wasn’t a good smell. Everything felt untouchable or dirty or something. Like I didn’t want to associate it with myself in any way, I didn’t want anything touching me. Almost like I’d get dirtier from taking the shower. But I consciously forced myself to do so, and changed and walked back out. Then I felt like I should have taken my suitcase in with me to the bathroom. I’d never been so paranoid in my life.
The two were waiting for me in the living room: “So,” Foxx said, “what do you want for breakfast?”
“Oh, you don’t have to feed me; I’ll go out, I’m sure there are places.”
“No. You don’t remember that’s not how things work here.”
“There must be a food dispenser or something. How do you get it?”
“We all grow our own. But that’s a good idea.”
“And what do you do for meats? I doubt anything could live outside here.”
“I don’t like your tone.”
“We have that. Manufactured.”
“Cloned? By your own chain?”
“What do you mean?”
“You don’t have it flown in?”
“We’re entirely cut off from the rest of the world. Besides you, now. Yes, we have our own ‘chain.’ At the center of town.”
“So people bring back cloned livestock from there?”
“How is it done?”
“It’s set automatically.”
“Who set it up? That’d be a very hard system to keep going automatically.”
“And who are they?”
“I don’t know.”
“Can they be located, or talked to?”
“Generally not. Probably not.”
“Any way at all to contact them?”
“No. Here, let’s go outside. Seth and I will make breakfast, you wait there.”
I headed out back and sat at the wood table. It still felt like it did at 7am. It felt like the aftermath of a war. The grey clouds looked like smoke, and the sun’s rays looked like fire in the sky. The sun itself shined a light yellow, pushing softly through the clouds. Or smoke, or whatever it actually was.
They walked out to me after almost ten minutes, set a plate of scrambled eggs and bacon in front of me, then orange juice. They sat down across the table from me, and had the same.
“Thank you very much you two, it looks wonderful.”
“You’re welcome.” Seth said. The boy was the most human thing I’d seen on the island. More character, awareness and sensitivity in his face. Looking into Foxx’s eyes felt like you were being judged by some great force. He was still a likeable man, but intimidating. Part of what made him an attractive figure. But the boy, Seth, looked wiser. More alive. And it made me want to continue the case.
“So, Seth, I haven’t asked you yet what you want to do with your life. And that seems most important to me, right?”
Mr. Foxx already looked furious, but the boy, sitting next to him, didn’t see it and spoke his mind: “I want to be an artist of some sort. I draw a lot, and I can play the guitar that always sits in the corner of the living room.”
“You taught yourself?”
“I could teach you if you want.” said Foxx.
“But I already know how.” the boy said.
“No you don’t. You can play chords and single melodies. Anyone with a mind can teach themselves that. If you want to really learn, it’d take years. Years you don’t have.”
“Because I have to join the military?”
“At this point in our world, that’s more important than art.”
“One can fight war through art.” I suddenly said uncontrollably. Foxx looked even angrier.
“This isn’t about the War on Terror, or revenge for our country or anything like that. This is about him growing as an individual.”
“Killing him as an individual.” I said fiercely. I don’t know what overtook me.
“It builds loyalty, integrity and merit.”
“Dad, stop.” Seth said shyly.
“This boy aspires to become a great artist, an idea he’s comprised by himself and follows of his own volition, and you want to tear that from him? Is it jealously?”
“I’m on almost all occasions a modest man, but when it comes to what I’ve been through, and what I’ve sacrificed to get to my current position, its truth that should not go ignored. It helps people respect me as I should be respected.”
“And what is your prestigious position?”
“I think it’s time for you to leave.”
“Seth, you can’t take this!” I screamed to the boy, which finally broke his nervousness to a level of ferocity like mine, and he jumped from the table and punched me across the face. The blow’s power startled me; clearly there was something wrong with him; steroids or something. I fell from my seat, scrambled back up, ran in to grab my suitcase and went out the front door. He followed, and I turned to him once more, “you shouldn’t do this, you’re better than him,” and he kept on, “stop!” I yelled, breaking down at his persistence. I stumbled, turned forward and climbed over a large fence to one of the few asphalt roads on the place, I ran across it in the heat and humidity of the strange days there, he relented at the gate and turned back, and I jumped in the nearest cab, “drive, now, just go!”
“Where to sir?”
“By the docks?”
“I mean, why are you so flustered?”
“This is not at all what I expected, this whole thing is like an alternate reality. Just having trouble dealing with it.”
“You new here?”
“I’m not a resident or anything, I’m here from England for a story.”
“The Bardia Foxx story.”
“And what’s that?”
“His parenting methods.”
“Why would England want a story about that?”
“I guess he knows some significant people that don’t like him.”
“And you got him angry.”
“What he’s doing is wrong.”
“We’re a family here on Shetland. We help each other, fight for each other, and in all honesty don’t take very well to newcomers.”
“Well that sounds like a gang to me.”
“But it’s not. It’s a family.” he stopped. “You can get some rest here.” the cab stopped.
“What is this, a bar?”
I stepped out and headed in. It was dark in there. Noisy. The place its self felt real, it was old, definitely had been there before the US bought it, but the people that populated it at that moment made it feel even lonelier. I don’t know.
All their eyes immediately locked upon my entering. It was clear unfamiliar faces startled them significantly. At this point it was painfully obvious something much bigger was going on, but I wasn’t sure if I wanted to risk going all the way to get an amazing story, or get the hell out.
“You need a room, friend?” the man from across the counter said.
“Yes, I guess I will, thank you. Is there a way to get some water or something?”
He pulled out a bottle and handed it to me.
“Thank you sir.”
“Keys here.” He slid them across the counter.
I picked them up and put them in my pocket, “thank you.”
I sipped the water and wandered to my room, now noticing there were an unusual amount of cameras everywhere. I opened my room and there were a few in there too. Those high quality fisheye ones, too. Just right there, not trying to be discreet at all. So I walked back down to inquire about it. I don’t know if I was genuinely in an inquisitive mood, ticked, scared or just trying to unsettle everyone further, which would be incredibly idiotic, but I was not my normal self. I’m usually far more modest.
“There are a few cameras in my room, what’s the deal with that?” I asked the man behind the counter.
“What do you mean?”
“That’s abnormal. An invasion of privacy.”
“You’re on our soil.”
“American soil… what is this?”
“This whole thing.”
“Why don’t you leave.”
“Would you have me turn my back?”
“What are you talking about?”
“Or are you not even aware of what’s wrong here?”
“Bardia Foxx welcomed me here.”
“He would do no such thing.”
“And kicked him out!” yelled the cab driver. I hadn’t noticed he’d come in behind me.
“You were kicked out by Foxx? Then you’re out by all of us.”
All of their focus was on me, a shot was fired and took out a light, someone floored me, then someone picked me up and dragged me underground.
“You’re Timothy Crowling?” asked this well-built, well-groomed African American man, in the light of his match in some small, dirt tunnel as he took the battery from my phone.
He extended his hand and I shook, “Ken Scott, Ex-FBI. They sent me to check out Foxx and cut me loose, same as you.”
“Same as me? I’ve been here one night. How do you know?”
“That ship’s not coming back for you, no bars on your phone, only one way out and we’re going to get ourselves out ASAP.”
“But there’s so much going on here.”
“Look, we have to move.” he grabbed my forearm and dragged me along.
We came to a small underground room that looked like he had all dug himself. A gas light in a corner and a bed and some mats on the floor. He took off his suit jacket, I took off my sweater and we set them down on the bed. He sat down there and I kept pacing, then opened my suitcase and started trying to jot things down.
“A few things you should know.” he started. “Food supply’s at the center of the island, I go there and get that, you wait here for me. If you have to go somewhere, be aware of this network of tunnels I’ve created, I could give you a map I drew up, I got it memorized, and take note of the cameras: Foxx monitors them constantly, but they’re also monitored by the CIA and the FBI and all that so he knows where you are as long as you’re on camera but at the same time he can’t do anything to you. He’s been after me for, I think a year now, I live by this rule.”
“Is Foxx one of the ‘founders’ he was telling me earlier about?”
“What is he?”
“Someone with the right connections, not sure. I know he’s friends with Felix Smyth, your man that moved to America, right?”
“The activist, right. That’s how I got clearance here.”
“Clearance for your execution, that was not a good thing, Timothy. They’re friends, they work together. Against us.”
“So what is all this, Ken? You look into their simple, dead eyes and you know there’s nothing you can say that’ll make them think. Nothing you can say to reason with them. Were they lobotomized? Are they under some massive, psychological and subconscious control?”
“Stop worrying about your story.”
“Why don’t you want me to find out?”
“Tim, the question you asked could be asked about the whole world’s population at this point and I don’t want to tell you because I’m afraid if we get out of here you’ll actually try and publish the story and at that point you’re a dead man.”
“Just tell me. This isn’t about a writing assignment anymore.”
“Then what is that pad and pen?”
“It helps me think, organize.”
“Basically you’re right. This is Foxx’s science project. Genetic engineering, DNA splicing, direct mind control. Synthetic everything. All sorts of things.”
“Sounds like he’s trying to make his own world.”
“Well, modify it from what it already is. A prototype; a Mock II.”
“So what can we do?”
“Save ourselves. Escape. Nothing else we can do at this point. Escape and then forget it ever happened.”
“We cannot just leave it here, how could you live with yourself?”
“I would be killing myself if I were to do anything else.”
“And where do these people come from anyway, the accents?”
“They were shipped from America, of course.”
“So the whole Island was just cleared out.”
“With force, that’s right. It’s his playground.”
“Alright. So how do we get out?”
“There’s a boat at the south end of the island. I’ve barely managed to get these tunnels past the center, and over to the other side but I’ve seen it. Now if you take that horse and go along the outside and I use the tunnels we could meet at the boat, if you keep running along the shoreline you won’t miss it.”
“That’s a ways though. Why can’t I just go with you?”
“In case we get caught, we’re not both done.”
“Should I carry a gun, or something?”
“Don’t know how much good that would do. If you’re confident you can get a clean headshot, otherwise, these guys have bodies of steel, whatever Foxx puts in them works.”
“I’ll take it.”
“Good.” he handed me some sort of simple pistol, and a bunch of clips I stuck in my suitcase.
“When do we do this?”
“Tomorrow. It might take a few days to reach the other side. Tell you what. Here’s the map,” I took it, “you go through the tunnels, they’re safer. I’ll take that horse.”
“Thank you. Is there any way we can communicate?”
“I could make walkie talkies out of our phones, I don’t think they’d suspect something so simple.” he smiled.
“Sounds like a plan. Thank you, Ken. I don’t know what would have happened to me without you. But let me ask you, why haven’t you left already if you knew about the boat?”
“I found out about the boat a few weeks ago, but also overheard Foxx about you, when he was talking to Smyth.”
“You waited to save me?”
“What else would I do? This is your first story, huh? Well I’m sorry.”
“There’s going to be a part when you’re in the tunnels,” he started, “when you get a straight shot to Foxx’s main laboratory slash observatory, whatever it is. It’s ridiculous. It’s also incredible and beautiful and beyond anything you’ve imagined. It’s terrifying and humbling and wondrous and infuriating that you know he could come in at any moment, otherwise you’d get lost in that stuff. I wouldn’t tell you unless it weren’t painfully obvious when you get there, which it is. So just, keep on the path, alright?”
“What’s in there?”
“The grandest things, the most magnificent ideas. The art of Life and the immense and beautiful creativity behind it all. But what he’s doing is evil.”
“If we could take this information…”
“If we could take this information we wouldn’t know what to do with it. And I guarantee you there is no one on this Earth with enough willpower to have this knowledge, and not do anything with it. It’s like playing God, literally, making people. Editing people. No person should have that knowledge.”