THE EMPIRE OF ION

/ / / /

The old city engines were on fire again tonight, and I couldn't have been more happy. This meant Christine and I could finally sneak out and go to The Field, once every single one of the guardian droids was gone from it and busy with stopping the flames from reaching the outskirts of our camp. We had been readying for this a long while, and we knew this was probably our last chance to do it too, because next week or maybe even sooner all the people would be leaving this place and heading to the dark skies for the transfer back to Earth, just like every other last Empire of Ion. And yes of course, I wanted to finally be able to see the home of our Mothers and Fathers hugely, I really did, but the craving to get a good look of The Field beforehand was even mightier, twisting my guts and making me jumpy, and prickling my skin with tiny bursts of excitement every time I looked to the side of the wide dusty road where The Field began and didn't appear to end.

As I was creeping silently towards it through the dark maze of our camp town, I kept thinking: what was it that made The Field such a magnet for us two? Was it the distant thrumming of metal and glinting of foreign green lights, or was it the big secret of it all, making the place seem like honey for every curious little soul out there? I think it was both of these things, but the only one that really mattered, the one thing that I couldn't keep out of my dreams, night or day alike, was the air. The air seemed different, like it was alive and shifting inside your very own chest, whenever only you happened to get a whizz of wind, blowing into your direction from across The Field. Nobody would say anything about it, no mentions from the elders, and no whispers in the stark of night between others of my age, no anything. Just a gut feeling, that grew stronger and heavier and more unrelenting every ticking minute of my being here.

I know Christine had the same feeling about it too, I just knew it. Her eyes always appeared to shine brighter when I talked to her about the unexplained mystery of it all, and I honestly loved her for it, even if I hadn't ever said that out loud. We were always both outcasts, living in a world of our own since I can remember. It seemed to be forever like this – me and her, together, playing silly mind games and charades, running in circles with our arms spread wide, or begrudgingly keeping an eye on the brown goats of the elder ones. Right now the knowledge that we most probably would be separated on our arrival to Earth and would never find each other's eyes or hands again, living in different hemispheres across the blue oceans of our ancient old home planet, was killing me slowly inside. I bet it did that to her too, although as always she covered her emotions well.

I think we both had been living in denial of what was to come very soon, ever since the news about our voyage destination arrived. We kept up the strong and the calm as an invisible barrier against the inevitable. I actually think that's one of the reasons we were seeking to disclose the secret of The Field with such agility as well. The fact that it was always so closely guarded by the droids didn't help the case of curiosity all the more of course. For all we knew, there was a reason the elders mentioned the name of The Field with such seemingly cold respect and not very well hidden distaste in their voices. So we wanted to find out what it all meant. Maybe we wanted an escape from this reality, I don't even know. It wasn't important, what mattered was that we would do it together, just like we always did, and if that was to be our last act side by side, so be it.

/ / / /

The calm before the storm. I think that was the old Earth saying. Well, that was what it looked like now, and by that I mean the storm part. Everyone had been living in the false sense of peace and security for over two years, although there was no one who didn't know for sure that it wouldn't last long. Now, after getting the call from our old planet, people had been on edge for days and weeks, preparing for the upcoming flight, making sure nobody's names were forgotten from taking up the slot in the long list of Earth placement for when we got there. Machines were whirring in the dark of the tents, spitting oils and clouds of dirt and dust, and making everyone's eyes and nose itchy and red. It wasn't all that easy to sleep at night and it wasn't that much easier to breathe clearly at day either, because the heat and the emotional turmoil weren't adding up too nicely, playing on people's nerves up to the point where everyone looked and acted angry and grumpy and outright miserable all the time. Everyone except for Michael of course - he and I were as inseparable as ever, no matter what, keeping each other sane.

I knew, when the night of the fire came, that it was the time to act at last. We'd been dreaming and thinking, and wondering and waiting for The Field for such a long time that when the moment came I didn't know what to feel. I wasn't fearsome and I wasn't excited either, it was actually more of a resigned acceptance of the fact that this, this going into the unknown against all the rules and logic and reason, was the only choice I could've made myself. Everything else was decided for me, for all of us here, as if we were criminals for being born to the empire that wasn't needed anymore or the land that couldn't feed us any longer. We were all damned in here, one way or another, and the call from Earth should've been a chance for salvation for me, only it wasn't, not really.

Whatever brilliance or new shiny future the old mother planet held for us, I didn't want any of it, as it came with a price much too high to pay. The situation was clear – everybody that was going to become an Earthling again had to step into their place. It was, as it always had been for me, written beforehand, written in stone, as another old Earth saying goes, or in our case – marked through our blood. I already knew that mine and Michael's ways would be separate in the most profound meaning of the word, once we were to come to Earth. Bloodlines were the only thing keeping the Earth from splitting apart, although not in the literal sense, and after all the catastrophies of gene splicing and experiments, there stood time when everyone was bound to their blood, as it was the only thing that kept people just that – people.

So no wonder I ran from the truth of it all, when I came to know about how very different me and Michael were in that aspect, which meant we were never to be near each other again after getting to Earth. I didn't want that and I chose to hide all the anguish and the anger and all the other dark forces streaming through me in the name of one, possibly last act me and him were going to do together. And that was The Field – entering it and, in my case, never leaving it. Sharing every little piece of thought with Michael had been always been one of my strongest instincts, but right now I deliberately decided against saying anything to him. I just wanted to be sure, exactly sure, that he would follow our plan to the end.

Now it was up to him to show up and make a little trip to the right side of the road, where our new life would start with a definite end of the other one. As I was taking my last steps up the hill to our secret meeting point, I couldn't help but wonder how any of this life could've ever seemed true, while now, as I knew what I hadn't known before, all the things had been inevitably changed so rapidly that it made my heart hurt with a deep insatiable ache. How no one ever dared to ask, where all the colours were? Why wasn't anyone smiling anymore, and if they did, it didn't really find their eyes. How the music didn't even float through the air, it was barely moving, hardly ever reaching our ears, and even then it felt like it wasn't exactly there, like the air was stale, and the water dry somehow? The sun was just a light and not a source for heat or something to look forward to in the dark of early mornings.

No feeling of belonging or of being somebody more than an organism. There were days that my own flesh seemed foreign to me and I couldn't stop from scratching it, but the blood that welled up wasn't alive either, it just ran silently down my arm and dropped without a glimmer of hope to the ground. That was when I knew that nothing of this was real. I wasn't real, and the world around us most of it. There was only one fix to it. What do you do when you're not alive? You can't die then, can you? So you need to be reborn, as simple as that. In the one memory that felt real, the only one I'd been reaching up to, since I'd come to this plain meaningless world, I was in The Field and I felt real. I can't explain to myself, how I knew that it was that place, or why and how – any possible question that could occur – but I just knew, stronger than ever before about anything other than how much I loved Michael, that it was it, the way out - the salvation, if you want.

Behind the machinery and the grey skies and the whirling dust, and the absence of anything that's mechanical at its core and not alive was The Field – the one place that was guarded from the outside, that was feared and avoided, yet kept and protected. Or were we being protected from it? Either way, there was no stopping the process I've started, when that memory, or dream, came to me, and suddenly all of the weird lights and noises and static in the air started to make sense, without actually making any sense at all at the same time. Once I shared this with Michael, he joined me in this quest to seek out what was purposefully kept from us, to enter the unknown, which, I suspected, was actually the long forgotten and lost. Any minute now we will go there and step into what's waiting for us. I can almost sense a blip deep inside of me, of something more vivid than I've ever felt in my entire life. That surely means it's worth it and the path is right.

/ / / /

We are here. She is and I am. And no guards or barriers to keep us away. And she smiles now and I finally can see that her eyes are smiling too, as we jump on the other side of the fence and the frantic pulsing begins somewhere under our skin, rupturing our synapses. What's surrounding us isn't The Field, not anymore. It's us in here, the real us, and we join the togetherness of it all with gulps of life rushing wildly through it all like a tidal wave, and it's nothing words can describe, but I know that me and her are both just so happy we could die. I think we will, here, where we are born again, under the timeless sky in the ageless field, one and only that's high and loud and bold and blindingly real.