I had noticed it my first night. After I had woken that morning I felt like I had slept for years. When it got dark and everyone had wondered off to their own sleeping quarters, I had sat in my window just looking outside. Not long after all was quiet it had started to rain. It was a quiet gentle rain and lasted about an hour and then stopped. The sky cleared up almost immediately but then about two hours later it happened again.
That first night it didn’t mean much to me. I didn’t sleep much, though, not more than a couple of hours a night, and I had noticed the same pattern night after night. I also noticed that in the days that I had been here it had never once rained during the day.
After evening meal I went in my room and closed the door. I started pacing the floors waiting for the rain to start. In one respect my mind was running wild. Something had felt off since I had arrived here. Now there was something that could confirm what that something was. In other respects my mind was blank. Try as I did I could not remember ever having seen Paul before I met him here. I could not remember anything about myself or why he might be calling me “Sir” and me calling him “soldier.” I did not even know what a soldier might be. None of it made any sense. I felt like I was in some crazy dream that I couldn’t wake up from.
Vann slept in one of the rooming houses on the North end of the compound. Not long before all the lights started turning off for the night I saw him and the two tigers make their way in the direction. I hoped that they would stay with him there.
What seemed like an eternity later the rain finally started. I looked at my dark reflection in the mirror. Even with no lights on I was clearly visible in the mirror with my white shirt and pants. Everyone wore white. When the moon came out I would be easily seen running across the compound toward the wood barns. I decided to head outside right away.
Near the door at the entrance was the shelf where everyone stored their leather flip flops. I decided it would be too hard to run in them if I needed to run and I didn’t take a pair. The grass outside was just as plush beneath my feet as the carpet in my room. I made my way around the house to a little shed. I was hoping to find something to cover myself so there wouldn’t be quite as much white showing. The shed was disappointing. There were yard tools and buckets and a few shelves with jars of seeds and such but nothing I could cover myself with.
I could already hear the rain slowing. In the corner there were small bags of grass seed. I decided it was my only option. I ripped three of the burlap bags open and dumped the seed out on the floor. I turned one bag inside out and stripped off my shirt and pants, folding them neatly and placing them in the bag. With some ingenuity I was able to fashion a sort of loincloth from another. I took the third in case Paul might need it.
My pale skin would hopefully be less noticeable running across the compound as the white clothes would have been.
The rain stopped and I stepped quietly from the shed. Everything was silent except for the sound of the rain still dripping from the trees and the eaves of the buildings. I cautiously crept out about some distance from the buildings and carefully looked around. I hoped that the tigers would show up as brightly as my clothes had. After turning around several times I broke into a full run in the direction of the wood barns. Halfway there I felt a sharp rock cut into my left foot but it didn’t even slow me. I amazed myself that I could keep running in spite of it.
I made it to the barn and peered back out over the compound. Nothing was moving and I was sure I hadn’t been spotted. I made my way to the back of the barn to wait for Paul. It was nearly pitch black as I waited.
“Sir,” my heart leapt out of my chest as I spun around but I saw nothing.
“Paul, is that you?”
“Yes, Sir.” He moved closer and I could barely see the whites of his eyes as he blinked. Evidently he had had the same idea I had and chosen to come not wearing any clothes.
“Is it safe to talk now?” I asked him.
“Yes, I think so,” he told me. “As long as we are very quiet.”
Reaching out to offer the empty burlap bag to him, my hand quickly connected with Paul’s chest. He was closer than I first thought.
My eyes were adjusting some to the darkness, and I saw him look down at the bag and back at me. He said nothing, but the implication was clear. Paul was too large of a man for the small bag to accomplish anything.
He moved closer to me and I could almost feel the heat from his body. “That’s close enough, soldier. This is awkward enough.”
“There is no room for modesty in war, Sir,” he said flatly.
“I’m sorry?” Now that Paul was talking I felt like I understood him even less.
“There is no room for modesty in war, Sir,” he repeated.
“Who told you that?” I asked sarcastically.
“You did, Sir.”
“Me?” I asked him. “We hadn’t even spoken before today.”
“Not here, Sir. We have known each other for many years.”
“Why don’t I remember that?”
“It’s the conditioning, Sir. They steal our memories from us to use against us.”
“Steal our memories? To use for what? And How?” I was dumbfounded.
“In the war, Sir. We are the last resistance.”
Paul then started to tell me what he remembered of me. We had known each other as kids. Paul was younger than me and his brother, Mical, had been my best friend. Paul said that his real name was Peadar. They changed our names when they brought us here but they tried to keep something similar so that our brains wouldn’t reject the name completely.
“Is Mical here?” I asked him.
Even in the dark I could see him look down and his shoulders drop.
“No, Sir. Mical died many years ago when we were all still quite young.”
“I’m so sorry.” In my heart I felt his sadness even though I didn’t remember Mical.
“And my name?”
“Your real name is Roman. Roman Pierce.”
I let the name roll around in my head for a minute. I didn’t remember it, but somehow I knew he was telling me the truth. It felt right.
“Where are we?”
“I’m not sure. I’ve been here 385 days, but I have never been outside of the compound. If we could get to the mountains maybe we could get an idea of where we are. There is no easy way there and they would look for us as soon as they found us missing.”
“That’s probably not the best plan as long as I don’t know who I am.”
“No, Sir, I agree.”
“You don’t have to keep up the whole ‘sir’ thing.” I told him.
“I do, Sir. It is programmed. I cannot change it.”
“Programmed? Are you not human?” So much made no sense to me.
“I am very human, Sir. When the war started I was taken. The Hyatt altered me on a genetic level. I was programmed to fight for them and follow orders.”
“Yes, Sir. The Hyatt is the group that controls the water and food. They want everyone to slave for them.”
“Am I part of this Hyatt?”
“But yet you report to me?” I didn’t know how I knew that.
“Yes, Sir. You rescued me from the Hyatt programming facility. You couldn’t undo what had been done, but you got to me before I was complete.”
“How is it you remember this and I don’t.”
“My brain was upgraded,” he told me. “My brain automatically segments and backs itself up. They tried to recondition me when I first came. They don’t know it didn’t work.”
“And my brain?”
“You have a normal human brain, Sir. It is much easier to tamper with.”
From there Paul gave me a quick overview. There had been a cataclysmic time. True to some predictions, much of the polar ice caps did melt and the oceans rose substantially shrinking the amount of habitable land. Things happened so quickly that the infrastructure couldn’t keep up and power plants were destroyed as well as communication systems. Then the volcanoes started, dozens erupting at the same time and in places that had never seen volcanoes before. So much ash poured into the atmosphere that the sun and moon and stars hadn’t been seen in years. A vision appeared in my head of a dark red sky.
With the sun gone it became much harder to produce food. Factions developed and each tried to control the food supply. Ironically with the abundance of water now covering the planet there was less and less fit to drink. Water became a lure to catch those who were starving and dying of thirst so that they could slave for the ruling faction.
“That explains my reaction to the pool water,” I mumbled to myself.
“Yes, Sir, I’m sure it does.”
Although it was the smallest faction, the Hyatt had somehow come out on top. No one was quite sure what had happened but suddenly the Hyatt had the power, the food and the clean water. They started snatching up people left and right and those who were caught were never seen or heard from again.
Resistances were formed, but they were disorganized. The general populace was beaten down and exhausted and many near death. He told me that I had been part of a small resistance and I kept insisting, much against popular opinion, that the only way to turn the tide was to fight from underground. I had gathered more and more people and brought them to a place that seemed to be safe. As we tunneled deeper and deeper we dug into a bunker full of scientists. They knew how to recycle the little clean water we had and how to get crops to grow without sunlight and without being on the surface.
Reaching those scientists changed everything. I became famous overnight as I was credited for finding the scientists and hopefully salvation from both a world that was destroying itself and from the Hyatt.
Paul had been captured 400 days ago. From what he knew it typically took 14 days to recondition someone which meant I had only been captured about three months ago.
The second rain storm was ending.
“This is a lot to take in,” I told him.
“Yes, Sir, it is. But it is also only the start. We must head back, Sir. Meet me again tonight and we’ll talk more.
I made it back to the little shed and put my clothes back on. Even though it made my heart race I went and washed my feet, face and hands in the little pool before going in to bed. It was the first time I had been truly tired since arriving. It didn’t take long and I was sound asleep. It turned out that that was also the night the dreams started.