Search for the Sun
10:30 AM "...you are late for school. It's 10:30 AM, wake up Vivian, you are late for school. It's 10:30 AM, wake up Vivian, you are late..." Vivian Lenany shut off her alarm clock and sat up in bed, waiting for her eyes to get used to the darkness. She dressed in silence, trying not to disturb the quiet flow of thoughts through her brain. She didn't always know what she was thinking; occasionally she caught herself asking questions to which no one knew the answers. Grandpa knows; Grandpa knows the answers to all your questions. She blinked, once, twice, and stared, wondering why that suddenly she thought of Grandpa again. Deciding to ignore the thought, she picked up her bags and left the house, entering the outside world. For as long as she could remember, she had been living in the eternal night, her world forever blanketed in darkness. The streets she walked on were bathed in an eerie glow, the artificial light from the streetlamps. A sudden chill passed through her; she shivered, pulling her jacket tightly around her body. The streets weren't really streets at all; they were artificial pathways that branched out like vines, connecting all the structures inside the artificial dome 'colony' on the dark side of the moon, which she called her home. Everything here is artificial. She caught herself thinking again, and paused, wondering what she could have meant by that. The dome colony had been built by the scientists that had claimed the moon. Their faces were everywhere, immortalised in every sign, every vehicle, every building, every piece of clothing and every logo on the planet. Frozen, dead faces. Faces of people lost in the past, whose little achievements everyone had already forgotten the significance of. Everything in the colony was regulated by a central computer located somewhere out in space - the air pressure, gravity, oxygen, electricity, security. People's lives; their artificial, insignificant little lives. She thought about her own life, her family. Her mother and father worked in social relations; although she didn't know exactly what their positions were, she knew that it was their jobs that kept them away the whole day, leaving only blank, soulless creatures to crawl home into bed every night. She tried to picture their faces, what they looked like, but realised with a shock that she couldn't remember. Her brother Chris was ten years older than she. At twenty-five, he was trying for a position in the government, the way he had been taught. He had left home over five years ago, and she rarely heard from him, except for the fact that he occasionally called to tell them that he was being shifted to another position, or to ask for more money. Her parents agreed of course, and sent the money. They knew that he would be a benefit to society, if he ever succeeded and got the position. Their weary faces showed that he was their last hope. She continued walking, knowing that she was already very late, but not really caring at all. All she could think of was that she lived in a family of strangers - people who didn't mean anything at all to her. Are they supposed to mean something? Her classmates all had perfect families, and perfect lives. They never fought with their parents, never had any disagreements, or any punishments, the way the history books say that families used to be. Yet she wondered, was it only because they had nothing to disagree about, because they didn't know each other? I suppose my family would be considered perfect too? Why did she even care, why did she look for what was important, when she knew that her own life was unimportant. What do you consider important then, what are you searching for? She didn't know. She finally reached the gate of the school. The entire school was surrounded by high security laser sensors that immediately cut through any unknown object that tried to touch or pass through the boundaries. Eight hundred squat grey four-story buildings were lined up in eighty rows next to each other. The air that surrounded the school was still, cold and lifeless; silence filled the atmosphere. She dreaded entering the buildings, which to her seemed like the prisons she had heard about, where rebels were kept under the watchful eye of the government. She entered anyway, knowing she had no choice, that if she didn't, sooner or later the government would track her down and label her an "uncooperative member of society." She signed in at the classroom with her student number, 325, and was immediately directed by two robot assistants to her class. Extra time was scheduled to make up for what she had missed. Everything is planned out so perfectly, so neatly, nothing is ever permanent, things can always be done to change it. The hours passed by quickly, before she knew it, school was over. Again she was thrust into the darkness outside, although when she thought about it, the classes weren't any brighter in comparison. She glanced over at the girls at the other end of the building. They saw her but ignored her. They were busy with a game of virtual combat, an old-fashioned game that has supposedly come into style again. It is an excuse, a reason to escape from the reality and the boredom that has settled into every one of our minds. Building up dust where there used to be livelihood. She used to know those girls; she didn't recognise them anymore. No matter what Vivian did, she always felt cold. The windows, the doors, the heater and the heavy curtains couldn't shut out the chill. It always settled like dust in the hard-to-reach corners of her being, gradually building itself up until she was completely submerged in it. That's one thing they can't control. They can't control the light. She did remember a time, though, when she had forgotten about the chill, when she had sat for an eternity in a room where the dark couldn't penetrate and the chill couldn't enter. This was at Grandpa's house. He had told her stories of a time when all people lived on Earth, and it was a beautiful place, full of trees and animals and livelihood, unlike the barren, wasted planet where warring games and competitions were held today. People could choose to travel and live where they wanted to, and the sun shined brightly and gave people warmth. People could express themselves in extraordinary ways with only pictures, words and sounds. They had called this art, literature and music. They had emotions; they could talk about things freely and not be condemned by the government. Vivian could only imagine this paradise, but she wondered why it had ended. She had asked Grandpa, but he only looked at her darkly and said that humans were foolish - they asked for too much. She didn't know what he meant, but she felt the silence creeping in, and all the warmth and life creeping out of the room. Now Grandpa was dead. She remembered the flames all around, engulfing his body, his house. They were dancing, skipping - almost mocking her and daring her to do something. She remembered staring into the flames in shock, feeling for the first time in her life a violent surge in her emotions, a mixture of anger, hatred and sorrow. She saw all of Grandpa's books being tossed into the flames, and felt all the characters in the stories he told her begin to fade away, as if they were dying along with the books, along with Grandpa. She had pleaded for them to stop the burning, had asked her parents why this had to happen. They just said that Grandpa was different, Grandpa had ideas of his own that couldn't be tolerated; he had turned into a rebel, so he had to be burned. She remembered their blank, cold faces - emotionless, and staring into the flames as if mesmerised by them. The shock jolted her into reality, these weren't people, they didn't have minds of their own; they were nothing more than puppets of the puppet-master, helpless creatures controlled by the government. She pitied them, she thought she would cry for them, but she couldn't. She didn't love them; rather, she was angry with them for letting Grandpa die. She secretly made a vow to herself, that never again would she be so blind, and let herself lose things that meant the most to her. But she couldn't help remembering that the flames were warm. Now what? She still lived the life she did before, did the things she was told to do, went places she was told to go, but something was different. She had started thinking. Sometimes a teacher would stop to ask her what she was doing, when they caught her staring blankly into space. She noticed the change in herself, and others did too. As a result, they began to stay away from her, and so the gulf between her and the rest of society became bigger. She didn't mind, of course; she needed the space, needed it more and more. Looking back, she noticed that there wasn't any difference, with others or with her - she had always been alone. After she had started seeing, started thinking, she had found others' company annoying, and a waste of time. She became more and more interested in the rebels, the 'anti-social' groups of people. She was fascinated by them - the ones who dared to challenge the government, who seemed to know more about the world than others did, the ones whom the government could never completely eliminate. They always generated so much fear, but no one knew much about them at all. As Grandpa once told her, "People are afraid of anything different, so they cower in their own little organisations and their own little groups and hope that they will never have to change." What if... What if I could find these rebels? Could they answer my questions? It was a radical thought, and she was surprised that she could have thought of such a thing, but she decided to try it. She typed in the passwords and entered the house. As expected, the house was empty, silent. She dropped her bags and sat down at her desk. She performed a search for the girl she had met at school, the one who had always stood alone. She had seen her very often, and the girl always looked like she wanted to talk to someone, but was afraid to do so. One day, she had gone up to the girl. The girl was very thin, with pale skin and long, dark hair. Still, her eyes were shining and bright, and it was only after Vivian had looked into her eyes that she had realised the girl was actually very beautiful. The girl had been nervous; her eyes were shifty, as if looking for an escape route, and she kept brushing her hair out of her face. After a while, though, she had become more relaxed, and she had confided in Vivian that she knew some of 'them.' The girl had said that 'they' were actually very wise, not at all like criminals or radicals. They called themselves the 'seekers of spirituality' or the 'naturalists.' To her own surprise, Vivian had found that she believed the girl, and liked her very much. The girl seemed soft and graceful, but full of life, and had no reason to lie. The girl had said that Vivian was different, not like the others, who would immediately jump at her words, label her a traitor, and refuse to hear any more. It was because of this that Melissa and her family had to move so many times; because of this that she was afraid to trust anyone anymore.
"Hello? Melissa?" she asked. "Who is this?" The monitor flickered on. "It's Vivian, remember?" "Yes... What do you want?" "I would like to meet them... The rebels I mean." "I don't know." "You know them right? That's what you told me!" "I'm sorry... I don't know what you're talking about... I really have to go." "Wait, Melissa! Please, you have to trust me!" "Why should I? How do I know that you're not spying on me, that you weren't sent to ruin me, to send them and my family to prison?" "Melissa! You once said that I was different, and I didn't know what you meant, but now I do, and I just want to know what's out there. There are so many questions I don't know the answers to, and others don't either, but maybe... maybe they can tell me what I need to know!" "Look, I have to go. I'm sorry, I just have to go."
Vivian put down the receiver and turned off the monitor. She couldn't believe Melissa was afraid of her - she thought that Melissa trusted her! She wasn't about to be put off that easily, though. She changed out of her uniform and put on something casual. The streets were completely silent, though the eerie glow was still there. As a feeble attempt to banish the dark, the lights were kept on all the time. She jogged over to Melissa's house as silently as possible. She let herself be scanned by the security scan before she rang the doorbell. Inside, the speakers rang out, "Someone is at the door. Someone is at the door. Someone..." The door opened and a pale-faced Melissa appeared. Melissa looked nervous but not surprised to see her. "Are you going to report me?" she asked. Vivian shook her head. Melissa sighed and let her in. She said, "My parents aren't home right now... We don't want to have to move again." She spoke in fragments. She took Vivian by her shoulders and looked into her eyes. Vivian's expression was firm. A brief moment passed, and Vivian lowered her eyes. Melissa let go. Without saying a word, she took Vivian by the arm and led her out of the house. They walked on slowly - each afraid to say anything to break the silence. They walked through the streets to the park. In the centre of the park, four trees shot out from the ground, their trunks were thick and solid, their gnarly branches twisted together until it was impossible to determine which branch belonged to which tree. It was here that they stopped. Melissa climbed halfway up a tree and pulled on a branch. A panel shot open, inside this panel was a switch. Melissa pressed on the switch and a door to a secret passage opened. Vivian stared open-mouthed at the passage into which Melissa was already disappearing. Melissa stuck her head out of the passage and beckoned her to come. She followed blindly inside. Melissa answered the question that Vivian was afraid to ask, "Just because they're outcasts doesn't mean they're stupid. They know a lot about technology, probably more than the government does. They could take over the government if the really wanted. A lot of them are geniuses, so much so that the government was afraid of them, their different views, and they're knowledge. That's why they had to hide." They walked down the passageway into a large open space. There were many houses there, quite simple and yet nicely built. A group of children were playing with a ball in the centre of the camp. Their voices rang out shrilly as they chased the ball; their laughter filled the air. To Vivian the laughter was beautiful, so natural and full of energy. A smile crept across her face. "This entire camp was built underground," Melissa explained. "It serves as a good temporary hiding place for the people, almost like a home." A man came walking out of a building. He looked sharply at Vivian, then at Melissa. Melissa walked over to the man and they started talking. Vivian watched the children playing; from a distance, she could hear snippets of their conversation. "...endanger the community...but she wants to join...could be a spy sent by the government...I know her...can't be trusted...just wants to know about you...get us arrested..." Melissa came walking back with the man. Vivian forced herself to smile, although her body was stiff with apprehension. She looked at the man, he was quite tall, his arms and body looked strong and his dark brown eyes were fixed on her. His faced was lined and aged from experience, even though he couldn't have been more than thirty-five years old. Vivian fought to keep her cool and told herself not crumble under his steely, unwavering gaze. She met his gaze with her own, determined one. After a lengthy silence, Melissa started to speak. Vivian turned her gaze to Melissa, glad for a distraction. Melissa introduced the man as Bryan, the leader of the camp. Strange, he doesn't seem like a very strong or tough man, but I feel so intimidated by him. Bryan called another woman over and told Vivian to follow her. Vivian did so without hesitation, she felt that if she wanted to know anything, she had better follow his orders well. The woman led her to a small house near the edge of the camp. She introduced herself as Claire. Vivian was immediately drawn to her friendly, smiling face. She was a pretty woman in her late twenties, with a cheerful countenance and a friendly, inquisitive nature. "Don't worry about Bryan," she said, "he's my husband. He may seem scary at first, but when you get to know him, you'll see that he has a softer side." She asked Vivian many questions about herself, where she came from, and why she came to the camp. Vivian was more than happy to answer her questions, but when she was finished, she asked many questions of her own. Claire laughed. Her laughter was soft and warming, "I see you're going to fit right in," she said. The conversation went on for hours, but it seemed like minutes to Vivian. She had never met anyone with whom she could have so much fun with in her life. Already she felt like she was part of the family. Claire looked up at the door, so did Vivian. Melissa was standing there, smiling. She said, "We have to go now, but don't worry, we can come back later. I have convinced Bryan that you are trustworthy." Vivian was in a good mood when she returned home. Silently she sneaked back in the house and crept into bed. She hadn't the answers to any of her questions yet, but already she had found something that was meaningful, and that was the most important thing to her at the moment. Her parents weren't home yet and probably wouldn't be for another few hours. It gave her a lot of time to think about what happened. She wasn't afraid of anything anymore; she felt that she finally understood the meaning of happiness. Vivian and Melissa became good friends. Every day after school they went to the camp. Gradually Vivian became friendly with everyone in the camp, especially with Claire. As Claire had predicted, Vivian grew fonder of Bryan every day, and Bryan treated her like a daughter. Claire was also like a mother to Vivian. They talked quite often, and Claire would make Vivian laugh with her quick and witty sense of humour. She confided to Vivian that since the death of their daughter and only child, Bryan had never been as friendly and open to anyone as he was to Vivian. At school, people were beginning to suspect that something was going on. They were surprised to see Vivian and Melissa getting along so well. Vivian noticed the rumours, but ignored them. After getting to know the people in the camp, she realised that she didn't care about what other people thought anymore. She was bolder than ever and continued going to the camp. Melissa was more conservative, and more than anything, she still held fears about being relocated by the government. She warned Vivian to be more careful. Vivian accepted the advice, but still found it hard to take it seriously. She felt that she had finally found whom she was and she didn't want to let it go. One day, Vivian came home from school and was going to leave her bags to go to the camp, but she noticed that something was strange. A man and woman were sitting in the kitchen waiting for someone. As soon as she went in, the two people stood up and greeted her formally. "Vivian," they said. "Please sit down." She did as she was told. Their faces looked familiar to her, but she couldn't remember who they were. They started talking. "Vivian, there have been some problems with the school related to you." Suddenly, she remembered who these people were. They were her parents! The last time she had taken a good look at them was seven months ago, and she could hardly remember them. "We've heard that you've been friendly with a girl name Melissa," they continued, "and we think she's a bad influence on you. You do know that there have been rumours about you and her relating to the rebels. Although we know that you do not have any relation to this situation, your teachers have told us that you have been behaving strangely. As a remedy to this situation, we are relocating to another part of the galaxy where you will be sent to a special rehabilitation school. They will have you back to your normal self in no time. We'll give you time to think about it. Pack your bags, we're leaving in the morning." Vivian was in a state of shock. Sitting in her room, she thought about what her parents had said. She remembered their faces - not angry, not irritated, not worried, and not even frustrated. They were just so matter-of-fact in their way of speaking, that one would have thought that her life was just a minor problem that could be fixed easily by relocating. Her mind refused to take it. She wanted to scream, but all she could do was just sit and stare. How could they? They didn't even ask me what I thought, what I felt. They just assumed and expected me to take it! They didn't even know me! She climbed out her bedroom window and sneaked out of the gates. Once out, she ran in frustration all the way to Melissa's house. Her anger and fury was hidden behind her tears. She rang the bell four times and knocked on the door. Melissa came to the door, prepared to go to the camp. She caught Vivian's distressed face and asked what was wrong. Vivian was led into the house and seated on a chair. Melissa gave her something to drink and comforted her while she blurted out everything. Melissa paused for a moment after Vivian finished, then said, "I think we should go to the camp and tell them. They will know what to do." Vivian repeated her story to Claire and Bryan. She asked them what to do. Bryan replied, "There is something you can do, but you will have to make sacrifices. This situation means that we will have to leave soon, because the government probably suspects us." Vivian stared. She didn't want them to leave, but she couldn't do anything about if her parents were going to take her away anyway. She managed to ask, "What sacrifices?" Bryan replied, "You have two choices, one of them is to leave with us. You won't have many luxuries like you do here, and your life wouldn't be nearly as comfortable. You won't be able to contact anyone outside the camp and we'll always have to be on the run. With us, though, you will have a family, and real friends to whom you can talk. You will be able to think for yourself and make your own decisions. The other choice is to go with your parents. You will have many luxuries, be able to go out, talk to other people, go to school, but you won't have us, and you probably wouldn't see us again. The choice is yours." Bryan spoke firmly, but there was a quiver in his voice, and Vivian realised that Bryan didn't want her to leave. She wanted to go with them, and make him happy, because she loved him like a father, but she was afraid of making a decision. I can't leave; it's crazy! What will I do? I don't want never to see Bryan and Claire again. With tears in her eyes, she turned to Melissa. "Go," said Melissa, softly. "Come with me." "I can't." "Why not?" "My parents. They've worked so hard. I can't leave them now, they love me." "Tell them to come with us!" "I can't, I'm sorry." "Please." "You go. I'm happy here, because I know my parents understand me, they are my family. Bryan and Claire are your family, you should go with them."
Vivian nodded. "Will I see you again?" she asked. Melissa shook her head. There were tears in her eyes, but she smiled. "I will never forget you," she said. "Neither will I," replied Vivian. Reaching to the back of her neck, she took off a long gold necklace and put it in the palm of her friend's hand. Vivian closed Melissa's hand over the necklace, saying, "It was given to me by my grandfather, remember me by this." The friends parted, their hearts overflowing with friendship and love for each other and a promise never to forget each other. Vivian turned to Bryan and Claire. They were smiling at her, and she smiled back.
As the ship landed, Vivian looked out the window and saw their new home. It was a beautiful place, full of trees and rivers and life. She thought of Grandpa and smiled to herself. With the rest of the group, she got off the ship. She squinted at the sun, and felt its warmth pulsing through her body. To think, I could have never seen it. She looked at the group - her new friends. She looked at Bryan and Claire - her new family. This is the beginning of my new life.
The group gathered in a clearing, but Vivian begged Claire and Bryan to be allowed to explore. It's just like the stories in Grandpa's old books! They laughed at her childishness and agreed. Vivian found her feet carrying her faster than she thought she could move. The colours fascinated her; it was as if she had never seen them before. The leaves were deep green, the water clear. She tried to touch it and smiled at the ripples she caused. She didn't mind the branches tugging at her hair or the uneven ground under her feet. A faint rumble started in her stomach and worked its way up her chest, exploding from her face as laughter. For the first time, she was not plagued by suppressed thoughts; each of her actions flowed from one to the other as if they were destined to happen. Destiny - what a funny concept. She could believe it now. The laughter continued to ring around her until suddenly silenced by what she saw before her. She stared in awe at the waterfall. I didn't realise that this was the power of gravity. A kind ecstasy overcame her and she climbed the slippery rocks, working her way up steadily. She had never climbed before, but her nervousness only fuelled her on, making the ground seem firmer beneath her. Behind and within the curtain of water her laughter seemed insignificant, yet part of something greater; she no longer cared what that 'something' was. She was soaked, and her legs carried slight bruises. Somehow she dozed off leaning against the rocks. She woke to a familiar voice. Claire! But to her surprise it was Melissa.
"What are you doing here?" "I missed you. I couldn't let you go alone."
Vivian didn't need to question her friend. She simply walked, Melissa with her, through the forest. They didn't speak, this time not because of fear or uneasiness, but because they had no need. The sounds gradually shifted, and Vivian noticed the settling of the night, only because the light had been so intense. The two friends lied in the roots of a tree. Everything Vivian had imagined from Grandpa's stories seemed exaggerated there. The bright blue glow of stars held her in a trance until she forgot Melissa's and her own presence. When her friend grasped her hand, however, she remembered the camp. "We should head back," she said to the sky. "No. Let's stay here." "They'll be worried." Vivian turned to her friend, noticing that Melissa seemed older and more beautiful. "I don't care. Why should we go back? We don't need them. We don't need anyone."
Vivian stared upward for a few moments, pondering Melissa's words. Uneasiness slowly settled upon her, but she couldn't understand why; they were such simple words. She needed to breathe. She stood up as silently as possible, as if Melissa was asleep, as if the softness of her movements could let her pass unnoticed. But her feet were ahead of her, and again she ran. They knew the way before her. They led her back to the clearing and she was met with silence. Where did they say they were going to set up camp? She reprimanded herself for not paying attention, and laughed off her uneasiness. But it clung to her like the cold had back on the dome colony. "Why were you running?" Melissa's voice rang out sweetly and innocently from the stillness. Vivian turned and saw the beautiful figure of the young woman bathed in dim blue light. She did look older. She tried to pull back what she remembered of Melissa from the dome colony, but the figure before her blocked out the memories. It is undoubtedly her, but... "I'm not afraid of you," she shouted, not knowing the reason behind her words. Then she whispered, "What have you done with them?" Melissa's smile rung out before the light laughter. "Does it matter? You won't find them." She strolled over and stroked Vivian's face, where a tear began to form and roll down her cheek. Leaning in, she covered Vivian's mouth with her own. Shocked by the kiss, Vivian pulled back and slapped Melissa across the face. She tried to run, but stumbled over her own feet. Melissa strolled over and watched as Vivian pulled herself up from the ground. Vivian tried to lunge at Melissa, but Melissa caught her around the wrists, and spinning her around, held her arms and neck so that she couldn't move.
"Why?" "Must there be a reason?" "We only wanted to be free! That's what you wanted too! You said yourself that they could have taken over the government if they wanted to, but they didn't. Why would you destroy such beauty?" "Please! Tell me you knew about beauty and freedom before you met them! If you'd never had them. If I hadn't told you they existed. If Grandpa didn't fill your head with stories." "How do you know about Grandpa?" "The same way I recognised you before you came up to me." "Why?" "It's that question again! You had everything you could need, dearie. You had everything you could want, but you filled your head with stories of the unattainable." "You could have just left us alone. Did the government tell you to do this?" Melissa laughed. "Nobody tells me to do anything. I am whoever I want to be, and I take whatever I want. But I believe in balance, and a few of you running around keep things running smoothly. But when we get younger passionate ones like you, who know nothing about freedom except that you want to be different from everybody else, you upset our balance. It's you who run around with these wild notions that keep the rest of us from enjoying life. It's you who needs to leave us alone to our contentedness. Why is your so-called 'freedom' better than our routines? If we could have everything we needed without fighting, why should we fight for some ideal? Why destroy a working system by drawing people to go against it?"
Vivian struggled out of Melissa's grasp and punched Melissa in the gut. She needed to leave. She felt Melissa's words strangling her, and all the old questions without answers came back to crush her. A fist came to the side of her face, however, and she fell, half-blinded, as the heat rushed to her skin, mixed with a tingling numbness. She saw Melissa's face hovering above her, looking down on her tenderly as she stared back up through tears. Then, she saw the face morph with a ravenous ferocity as Melissa's mouth came back down on her again. She could feel bruises forming at each touch against her skin as she struggled. She knew the blood was trickling down her arms, where she had fallen and been scratched too many times, and forming on the edge of her lip. She couldn't tell the difference between the ripping of her clothes and her skin; she didn't understand what was happening to her, except that now she could believe every word of what Melissa had said. Melissa couldn't know to do this if the government had sent her. With one final surge of strength, Vivian reached up and tightened her hands around Melissa's neck. She heard Melissa gasp, and the escaping of a muffled noise that sounded like laughter. Three more blows struck her. Something sleek cut into her hand and she grabbed it, pulling it against Melissa's delicate skin and further into her own. When Melissa finally laid still, she fell, exhausted, to the ground.
Vivian woke to the heat on her face. She stared up at the sun and felt the dull, aching pain in her body increase with each movement. She crawled over to Melissa's body and sensed the heat and the weight travelling up to her face. She couldn't cry, but she choked until she began to cough; only then did the tears come. She turned the body over and turned away, toward the warmth, running her left hand through her hair; the blood was caked with dust in her hair and along her arms. She noticed the pain in her right hand and that it was still clutching something tightly. Angry red lines ran across it. In the centre of her palm was the gold necklace.