Author: Lily Shen

Zayla lies down in bed beneath her blankets. Her plush down comforter feels like a warm bath. She listens to the soothing voice on her cell phone, guiding her meditation.

The soft, furry darkness envelops her like a cocoon.

Just let go, Zayla says to herself as she breathes in, and tries to silence her thoughts. Her judgments of each moment slip through her fingers. She imagines a warm, yellow healing light around her, as comforting as a feathery blanket.

Suddenly, Zayla is floating in utero, drifting inside her oceanic sac. She stares at her pink, translucent hands. They have not yet been wounded with purple bruises or bled with smarting, red cuts. Zayla has not yet laughed or cried.

Zayla drowns deeper and deeper until she opens her eyes again. She looks down at her hands, and they look as if they have been dipped in silver. Yet she can flex her fingers easily. The mirror-like gloves on her hands are light and yielding as a whisper. Zayla’s reflection on the back of her hand gazes back at her. She has a smooth, dusky-skinned face and tawny, orange eyes with velvety, dark lashes. Zayla smiles at herself, pleased with her face. Her hair is wrapped in a gold turban, which makes her orange eyes even more fiery. Zayla is wearing a thin white tunic that reaches the floor. She lifts up the hem of the tunic to reveal silvery, reflective boots. She saunters over the soft, baby blue carpet and opens a door. Moss green rocks fill the landscape, and she smells a burning stench. Zayla slams the door shut.

Where is everyone? Zayla pads down the carpeted stairs. There is a room full of people wearing gold turbans and white tunics like herself. They are sitting in rows of silver chairs with their eyes closed. There is no urgency to go anywhere, and not a computer or cell phone in sight. Perhaps the brain and technology have melded into one. Zayla cannot tell if they are sleeping or being endlessly entertained.

She opens her mouth to speak.

“What is today’s date?”

Slowly, a bearded man turns his head and looks at her with sad, purple eyes. Suddenly, December 3, 2205, flashes before her face, and then disappears.

Today is the day, not tomorrow! I must find David and warn him to leave before this pod is invaded, Zayla tells herself.

She looks frantically at the rows of drowsy faces. Darting around the room, Zayla finally sees David’s slumped face in the back row. She shakes him awake and points at the door. He stands up from his seat.

The room goes dark, and a tornado swirls around Zayla. Her body is twisting around and around with nothing to grasp for safety. She braces for a sickening painful impact and then dark oblivion. When she crashes through a wall, she screams.

Silence.

Zayla slowly opens her eyes. She is back on her bed lying down. Turning her head on the pillow, Zayla spots her cell phone on the table next to her. Squeezing her eyes shut, she takes several deep breaths, trying to slow her hammering heart.

“David, I hope you had enough time,” rasps Zayla.

She peers at the glimmering screen of her cell phone and reaches for it.

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