Shattered awoke in small, round room. The thin, almost transparent, lavender walls soothed him. He could see shapes and figures outside. This wall is pliable. Yes, he’d been in Marin long enough to know a walk-through wall when he saw one, and so he walked through to the outside. On the outside, Dr Olanrewaju, walking back and forth, looked out the clear gel barrier that spanned the entire room, some twenty meters; they were quite high up. Shattered approached the window, and Dr Olanrewaju took no notice. He’s busy having a conversation, or reading something, all these… what are they called biosynthetic integrates. Shattered looked out the window, and noticed a patch of blue: the sea, or was it the Bay? The day held clouds low to the ground; thick fog almost completely obscured any view below. Above, more clouds, dark, thick, heavy. Shattered and Dr Olanrewaju stood as if between two worlds: the soft, foggy land below and the high, altostratus-covered ether above.
Shattered took a seat on a nearby sofa. The fabric of his clothing felt cool, soft to the touch. He noted he hadn’t been clothed in a long time; the white, flax shirt with its long sleeves, small V-shape at the base of his pale neck, and tailored trousers made of the same material created an impulse, which he checked, to touch them at length. To rub his hands along every part of his crisp, fresh linen fittings. He compromised and placed his palms on his thighs, rubbing the fabric from his knee to his waist. Back and forth several times. That’s nice. That’s a nice feeling. So soft. Not liquid.
“Shattered!” Dr Olanrewaju said with an unexpected enthusiasm. Coming out of his sensory solipsism, Shattered rejoined, “Yes. Where are we exactly?” Dr Olanrewaju came and sat next to Shattered on the sofa. His dark, customized, Tyrian purple uniform covered his entire body; except for his bare-feet. Shattered’s eyes again mapped that body. He felt his palms becoming sweaty. Drops of perspiration fell from his armpits, but fortunately the material did not become wet; it absorbed the sweat, a technological enhancement that Shattered desperately appreciated at this moment. His face turned slightly red. He found himself touching Dr Olanrewaju’s barefoot with his own. A toe. A pinky, white toe met a mahogany, hallux toe.
“We are in one of my offices. The lavender space is a place of rest. It counters all sound, all light, and slowly, by degrees, lets in outside stimuli. That’s why you awoke. It’s entirely tuned to your fleshthought physioprofile. You feel better?”
“Yes, actually, things seem more… solid. Less confusing.”
“How long was in the… womb?”
“Seven months, two days and thirty-seven minutes. And now, I understand that you need to be briefed. I have taken the responsibility. Morph Zed is off with Dr Smithson, Marianne; you call her Mar, right?”
“Yes, I do. Where did they go?” Shattered loved the way the good doctor said, your fleshthought physioprofile. He kept remembering the sound, the words, sipping them in, while trying to maintain a conversation he needed to have. Many thoughts, like the clouds outside, floated nearer to the surface of his awareness, some further up, some obscured by other thoughts. He almost missed the answer to his question.
“Off world.” Dr Olanrewaju moved his hallux toe so that it was now firmly against Shattered’s pinky toe.
“Yes, I will explain that later. For now, the basics. As a citizen of Marin, and as someone authorized with a level A-clearance, you need to know certain things. These things you must not tell anyone without the same clearance. You must not talk about them with anyone you are not entirely sure has the clearance to know about them. They are sensitive. This place still boggles my mind! The hypocrisy! But that’s another matter.”
“I really like it here. Everyone is so kind, healthy…”
“Shattered,” Dr Olanrewaju put his around Shattered’s back, and placed his hand on his shoulder. The doctor turned his head, looked him directly in the eyes, “that is all true, yet there is more. This place was founded by the most privileged people. Forged by the elite, they knew something like this could happen, just not on the scale… No one from Earth predicted that. The pandemics that raged through the 2020s, they kept people in fear. So the most powerful, meaning the richest, people bought up this land en masse. By 2027, it had been completely altered. The original residents, who were rich but not rich enough, moved out. They received huge sums of money… They thought they’d be safe living in Montana or Canada. Some stayed, they worked, and the scientists came, as money for research dried up in most of the world, except China. And Park was established as a resettlement zone; a kind of place to reset what was then called the United States… you know that part, of course. But the high-speed electric train had only three stops, Oakland, San Francisco and Eureka. It ferried thousands of people to Park. The citizens here could say they were helping evacuate refugees, near the end, in 2031, that’s what the train was for. Moving the last people, the left behinds, out of the Bay Area to Park. After the C2 Event, the gravivector line opened, moving fewer people faster. After about two months, no one came through. The Nexus Directives prohibited the great Technocratic Republic of Marin from interfering. They proclaimed themselves non-interventionists. Preservationists even — ‘oh, look we preserved the Golden Gate Bridge’ — a bridge to nowhere! San Francisco, so vibrant when I first visited it as a younger man, desolate. Nothing. Morph Zed and his inner circle wanted to make this place… I remember when I came here, one year before the calamity… ‘a shining city-state among the hills.’ I reminded him that this serene imagery had been born out of bellicose militarism. John Winthrop, who also founded a new society, had evoked an earlier text, called upon his followers to make a shining city on a hill. They went on to kill the First Peoples of the Americas, celebrate it; one of their massacres even became a day for celebration, thanksgiving they called it! The tradition lasted well into the 2020s. When the viral hemorrhagic pandemic started, a new mutation that spread quickly, things became worse and worse. A vaccine came, yet millions had already died, governments were weak, and the wealthy wielded more power than ever. So, most celebrations ended. I was invited here; a molecular biologist with training in nano-technology, virology, psychiatry and more, and I never held back from speaking my mind. Sorry, I am digressing now. But the main thing I want you to know is that this place is wonderful and hypocritical. They use the Central Valley alt-right steampunk white nationalists as a buffer zone.”
“Yes, slang from a time long ago. Apologies.” The doctor gave a hearty laugh and placed his arm back on his own leg. Shattered placed his foot, now firmly pressed against his companion’s, on top. He let the sole of his foot rub back and forth against the top of the doctor’s foot. He looked over for a second at Dr Olanrewaju. He looked down again at their feet, touching. He knew the doctor was older than he looked, and he didn’t look a day over forty. Or even thirty-and-five years. But he had to ask for a number.
“How old are you, exactly?”
“I have circled the Earth one-hundred and fifty-seven times.”
“Dr Olanrewaju, may I call you something less formal.”
“I was going to ask you to, actually; William is first name.”
“Nice to meet you.” Shattered put out his hand and William did likewise, they both shook hands and laughed. Shattered moved closer. “William? Why do I feel like I know you, love you already?” He tucked into William’s large, muscular torso. William held him gently, his arm wrapped, now again, around Shattered. “I mean, do you believe in past lives?”
“Yes, and future and present ones!” They both laughed. Their laughter felt so familiar to Shattered. Felt so whole. Felt so rounded.
“William, will you…?”
“Tell me how I know you already? Are we lovers?”
“We will be, and have been, but that occurred in what we call the future. Dr Smithson is more acquainted with these paradoxes…” He began to get up.
“No, don’t leave. I think I understand. Even if I don’t, I know I love you.”