It was the first day the door to my house had ever opened.
The air that morning smelled like a sea breeze. Gulls cawed and waves crashed in the distance. I rose from my bed, stretching and beginning my daily routine: shower, brush hair, brush teeth, the usual. I dressed and headed to my kitchen. The fluorescent lights were bright, compensating for the lack of natural light entered my house.
After a nutrient scan and a quick breakfast, I headed to my office to begin work. As I entered, my walls changed to a beachside cabana. Once again I could hear and feel the seaside. I sat down in front of my computer, pulling up files and The Daily News, the newspaper I work for. As the waves crashed around me, I got to work on my current stories.
Nine hours later and my workday was done. I left my office, content on finding some entertainment until I was tired enough to sleep, when I heard a peculiar knocking at my government-mandated emergency door. I blamed it on my ears, believing myself to be imagining things, when I heard it again. I moved towards the emergency door and put my ear against it. It was quiet. I stepped back, shaking my head, when the door burst open. I fell backwards in complete surprise. The door had never opened in my life.
In five seconds it had closed again, but now there was a man in my hallway.
I stood up quickly, grabbing a nearby chair as a weapon. My heart was racing so hard that I thought I was going to puke.
The man threw me a blinding smile that made me want to trust him, “Hello. Sorry about that, I needed a place to hideout.”
“I-but-you were outside.” I stuttered, watching as the man smiled and replied with a curt “yes”. “No one has been outside in years. It’s pitch black and completely inhospitable.” I continued, starting to believe that I was hallucinating the entire thing.
He smiled wider, “Well I have plenty experience moving in the darkness. I’m legally blind, but I would appreciate if you would stop pointing your furniture at me. I’m not going to hurt you.”
At this point, I was confused about everything. “What were you doing out there? And how do you know about the furniture?” I asked, keeping the chair between us.
“Yes, sorry, I was running from the deputies. You see, there are actually a lot of people out there, at least in the city borders where they regulate the environment, but you just don’t see them. I don’t either, if that makes any difference.” he quipped. “And I can sense the chair, which you still haven’t put down.”
“So,” I started, not believing this guy’s story or his guile. “You expect me to house a criminal?”
He scoffed, “Woah, hold on. I never said I was a criminal. I said I’m running from the law. I haven’t done anything but search for the truth.”
I was going to answer, but was cut off by a monotonous voice: “Katherine Romanova, the government has ordered a scan of your living quarters based on recent elevation in heart beat and possibility of potential threats.”
My eyes widened, and though I should have reported this man and let the government take care of him, I couldn’t bring myself to. “No! It was a false alarm. I’m just quite tired is all and I wasn’t paying attention and fell over.” I answered quickly.
The announcement disappeared and I lowered the chair. I was in it for good now.
I looked at the man. “How long do you need shelter?” I asked while examining his face for signs of trouble.
He smiled, “Thank you. Only until the morning. They’ll expect me to have gone home by then.”
We stood at a standstill, me wondering about him and him almost certainly wondering about me. How did a blind man find his way away from the police and into my house? I had so many questions, but was too afraid to ask any of them.
I spoke coldly, “You can stay in my office until the morning. Then, we never see each other again. Got it?”
He nodded, and I started to walk to take refuge in my bedroom when he spoke again, “Wait, would you mind leading me?” He held out his arm.
“Oh, yeah. Sorry.” I took his arm and led him to the office, completely wondering what I had gotten myself into. I left him in the office, listened as he said another thank you, and returned to my room.
The next morning he was gone before I woke up.
I put the entire thing behind me and moved on.
Two months later, it happened again. Except this time, he greeted me with a cheerful “Hello again” and an out-of-breath explanation that he was never planning on coming back, but “it’s getting worse out there.”
“Alright, enough.” I started, anger boiling over. I pulled the man onto my couch and spoke again, “I have questions, and you are going to give me answers or you will be back on the street.”
We stayed up for hours. He explained that his name was Alex, he lived in a flat not far from mine, and he worked with a news company on the outside, often chased down by government officials who don’t want news of the outside getting to the people. I asked him about the government’s motives, but he said he didn’t know.
“The world has gone to trash anyway, so it doesn’t really matter.” I answered decidedly.
He shook his head, “I wouldn’t be too sure.”
“How would you know? You can’t see anything!” I replied.
At this he became quite somber. “It’s true that I can’t see what I’m reporting on, but that’s no different from how you live. The Daily News feeds you government-mandated information and you spin it into stories. You don’t see anything either. But unlike you all, I have been outside. You don’t need vision to know that the world is not what they say it is. I’ve been to the outskirts of this city, and there, and only there, I can smell the grass, hear the birds sing, taste the salt in the air, and feel the sun on my skin. There is a living, breathing world out there, but you are being kept from it.”
“No. No, you’re absolutely crazy. There is nothing out there! The government is keeping us safe from the post-apocalyptic world! Why would they lie to us?” I yelled back, anger and fear flooding through my veins.
He opened his mouth to speak again, but I continued on my tirade, “I don’t want to hear any more of your revolutionary crazy talk.” I wanted so badly to throw him out, but I couldn’t, so I continued, “You can stay in the office again, but be gone in the morning.”
I stalked off towards my room, not bothering to show him where the office was again, and only stopping at the door to my room. Here, I spoke again, but much softer, “I don’t know what you’re playing at, but I don’t want any part of it.”
Once again, he was gone in the morning. My head reeled the next morning and I decided all I could do was push his insanity out of my mind.
The next time it happened was the last. He came in again, and at this point I was almost expecting it, but I wasn’t expecting him to limp in, bleeding and broken.
It took me three hours and a copious amount of gauze to treat all of his wounds. It was the most use the med-bay in my house had ever gotten. The room was stocked full of any supplies I could need as well as videos on how to treat burns, stitch wounds, perform the Heimlich on yourself, and on and on. I had never understood the use of this room until that day.
As I worked, he told me what happened. He had been running a story when the government had finally attacked. They had bombed the flats he and the rest of the staff shared, and he had only just gotten out in time. Running while blind and injured, he told me, was not the best arrangement.
That was the night that the first human I had ever met convinced me to leave my flat. Funny enough, that achievement also coincides with the first time we kissed.
A week and a half later, when he had recovered enough to move and his stitches had completely dissolved, I left my flat for the first time. I packed a small bag as Alex said he knew of a place we could stay past the borders of the city. As soon as I stepped outside, I noticed the darkness.
“It’s pitch black out here.” I whispered.
He squeezed my hand, “Welcome to my world.”
As we walked further on, the irony of a blind man guiding a sighted woman dawned on me. The more I looked around, the more I wondered if he had been wrong the entire time. Everything was black and the air was thick and barely breathable, until we reached the outskirts of the city. This feat only took fifteen minutes. I noticed the air clearing up first, and saw the edge of the city not soon after. Everything past the edge was still pitch black, and I asked Alex about this in worry, but he told me to wait until we got there. As soon as we passed the edge, the world lit up like fire.
I stopped immediately, taken aback and momentarily blinded by the change in environment. As my eyes adjusted, I felt as if I wanted to cry in rejoice. What I thought was fire was sunlight.
On the horizon, rolling hills of green grass painted the landscape, and a gravel path lead towards them. I bent down to feel the ground, savoring its coarse texture and earthy smell.
Alex noticed my pause, and asked me what I was seeing. I stood up, eyes wide in wonder, “Everything.”
I fell in love with this idea of a story, but it still needs major editing so feedback is welcome!
Photo used under Creative Commons from Georgie Pauwels