Inspired by Alice Brook’s blog entry.
Do you remember the first time you saw a tree? Or a rosebush? The entire garden, perhaps? You probably don’t. But I do.
I lived a very scheduled life back then; we all did. Each day was exactly the same as the day before and the day after. I did not know what a weekend was then, nor had I any concept of a week. The only measure of time was the daily schedule to which we were held, and even then the day was defined only as one full cycle and then sleep.
We woke by schedule: showered, dressed, ate, and engaged in early exercises all as a unit. The first half of the day was spent learning the sciences and mathematics. After lunch was instructions in music, arts and languages. Then we had weapons training and the theory of warfare before dinner, late exercises and another shower. It was only then that we had any personal time for relaxation or private pursuits before the lights were out and it was time to sleep.
I had been in my quarters reading, one of my favorite ways to pass the time. My guardian – we all had one – came in and told me he was sorry to interrupt my off time but that there was something he had to show me. He told me to take nothing and follow him. There was a heaviness to his voice that I had never heard before, but I obeyed without question.
I asked if I could inquire as to where we were going; he said he was going to show me ‘outside.’ I thought that strange so I further asked which wing we would be in and he replied only with the assurance that I would understand soon. We left the dormitories, beyond the mess and passed through the classroom wing, then he turned down a hallway that I had never been in before.
Several more turns, but I was not disoriented: my training kept me right even in the unfamiliar surroundings. I asked if this was the ‘outside’ wing, and he smiled but did not answer and so I did not question him further. When he stopped in front of a door, I looked at him inquisitively. Then he opened the door.
I looked into a room the likes of which I had never seen before. It was very bright and I had to shield my eyes at first, though I could not see any lights overhead. The ceiling was higher than I could perceive, no seam or fixture visible from where I stood. It was painted blue, but the paint had flaked in some areas, leaving large white gaps. It must be too tall to repaint, I thought, though wondered how anyone had managed in the first place.
Around the perimeter of where I stood were large, oddly-shaped pillars. I would have said they were to support the ceiling but none of them seemed to go all the way up, and I was left curious as to their purpose. Some were rounded, some conical, and all had protrusions all around them. Some were covered with what looked like green fur, others green papers.
The concrete floor extended out from the door a short distance, then stopped, transitioning to a kind of flooring I did not recognize. It looked sharp, like millions of little green nails protruding upward. He lead me through the door and I gazed in wonder at sights I could barely comprehend.
“What is all this?” I said at last when I found my voice again.
“This,” he said, holding his arms out to indicate all around him, “is outside.”
I looked back at him, uncertain. “Why are you showing me this?”
“Because… we’re leaving.”
For the first time I can recall, I felt true fear.