The pain had, for the most part, dissipated, but the lingering effects were still present. My thinking was definitely a bit slower, but I remained perfectly conscious. The walk home was treacherous, and while I got some funny looks, no one reported me for being a drunkard in public.
My run of the mill white home greeted me, with it’s uncharacteristically homey charm. It wasn’t a particularly unique home, being that every other home around it was exactly the same, disregarding minor yard decorations and vehicles.
Vehicle use in Triton was odd. Motor vehicles were entirely allowed, but the roads and pathways were built with pedestrians in mind. Everything was generally within walking distance, and there was public transportation for those who wanted to go farther distances. Some of my neighbors had motorbikes, and some even had cars, although it was rare to see the cars actually used. Cars seemed to be a remnant from the times of land, so I never really thought of getting a license.
In terms of decorations, my yard was pretty plain. I wasn’t the biggest fan of the carbon copied homes, but I wasn’t so annoyed by it that I felt the need to make my home unique. My yard was well maintained, and the artificial grass felt nice to lay on, and was quite easy to maintain, as are most fake things. I thought of my home as a clean and professional, but in reality it was just boring. I didn’t interact much with my neighbors, and admittedly the concept of neighbors kind of died during the transitions into the Colonies. Your neighbors were decided by your rank and placement, rather than by your personal economic choices.
As I approached the door to my home, it opened by itself, recognizing that it was me. I was greeted by a rather loud, “Welcome back,” clearly coming from Alicia. The voice seemed to be coming from upstairs. I removed my jacket and placed it on my coat-hanger, before dragging myself into the living room and plopping onto the couch.
“Alicia, could you make me a cup of coffee?” I yelled out drowsily.
“In a minute, just let me finish cleaning your bed!” she replied charmingly.
Alicia was a nice thrall, even though she was definitely a bit controlling. A lot of people treated their thralls as pets or robots, rather than as equals. There was equality laws for thralls and those of higher ranks of course, but not everyone followed the laws. Obeying the government was an important part of life, but they didn’t go so far as to constantly survey you. Thralls were allowed to report if their masters were being abusive, so situations never got too heated.
She was extremely independent, in a way completely opposite of myself. While not the most intelligent or strong person in Triton, she held her head high with confidence. When I first met her, I was taken aback by her cheerful disposition. As an appeased, I would formally received my thrall at my coming of age ceremony, but in order to ensure that I (and others) would receive compatible thralls, there was a selection process.
Colony culture seemed to consist of very many selection processes, but satisfaction with life still remained high, even if these tests determined your destiny from early on. A group of five potential thralls, all the same age as me, were presented to me for interviewing purposes. The other four were all very professional, and some of us even shared interests in the sciences. Alicia however, was different.
The other thralls were all disappointed that they were thralls. None of them came out and said it, but I could feel it in their stingy words. Alicia however, was all smiles. I wasn’t sure how to react. Right off the bat, she tripped and fell coming into the interview room. I was ready to let her go, but she quickly apologize with a grin and sat down before I could say anything.
We went through the basic questions, discussing her past and goals. She said that she never really cared about ranking, and just lived to be happy and make others happy. Her altruistic personality confused me, a lonely, bitter person. Thus why I chose her. She’s managed to cheer me up on innumerable occasions, although sadly, she was never able to cure my social problems.
Not that it’s surprising, but admittedly, I was hoping that her cheerfulness would rub off on me. Sometimes she gets me into the mood and I look forward to the day with gusto, but as soon as human interaction comes into play, said enthusiasm died out. Nevertheless, she was always a loyal thrall and kept me a good diet and didn’t allow me to do bad things.
Normally a thrall simply did whatever their master told them to do, and didn’t worry about the problems that would come along with it. Alicia however, was the true definition of loyalty. Rather than simply obeying me, she thought about what was best for me. I knew Alicia would never let 2,600 stay over, not because she was a fugitive (although that would also be a deal breaker), but because she didn’t want me to fall in love with the wrong person. Whenever I talked about possible lovers, she would always chastise me, telling me that I was simply infatuated. I eventually came to the conclusion that she was in love with me, but I quickly trashed that idea, as there was no one someone like her would fall in love me.
Alicia was different from me. When she wasn’t doing work for me, she actually had a social life. She had friends that she would talk to online, and constantly had plans. Of course, if I needed her for something she would cancel her plans, but rarely did I actually need her. She had invited me to hang out with her and her friends many times, but I simply couldn’t. It just wouldn’t work, and a thrall bringing her master to a hangout would be awkward.
Alicia walked down the stairs, wearing a white blouse and a simple, brown skirt. She shot a befuddled glance towards me, noticing that I appeared to be dead on the couch. “Are you alive?” she asked jokingly.
I rolled over onto my back, then sat up straight, finally realizing Alicia had come downstairs. “Yes, I’m alive. Where’s the coffee?” I said.
“I’ll go make it!” she replied cheerfully.
Alicia walked over into the kitchen and began preparing the cup of coffee, still visible form the living room. She was just a few inches shorter than me, making her a bit tall for a girl, but nothing too noticeable. Her long, auburn brown hair came down to the middle of her back. She had brown eyes, complimenting her hair, and providing yet another contrast between the two of us.
She hummed a popular tune whilst making the coffee, before interrupting herself. “So, why are you so tired?” she asked.
“Long day at work,” I said. There wasn’t much I could do other than lie. If I told Alicia that I just learned about a secret government project from an undesirable who I’ve been talking to for months, she’d probably kill me in the most loving way possible.
“Sounds fun,” she replied, walking back over, cup of coffee in tow.
“Very much so.” I said.
Alicia handed me the cup of coffee, before saying “It’s decaf. You should probably take a nap after this. Staying awake when you’re this tired isn’t helping anyone.”
“I guess you’re right.” I replied. I grabbed the coffee and took a sip, and was instantly comforted by the warm taste. It was definitely too early to sleep, but considering my day, I’d probably need two days worth of sleep tonight.
“Why don’t you tell me about your day?” asked Alicia, clearly trying to help my social skills.
“Nothing special, really. I just did a lot of grading during the day and had to stay after school to talk to a few students. My body just wasn’t ready for the workload, I suppose.”
Another lie. Luckily for me, being socially active didn’t automatically make you a psychologist. She just accepted my word. There wasn’t much reason for her to be suspicious, after all. I sipped the coffee again, taking in the nice flavor.
“It’s kind of a waste that I just prepared your bed considering you’re about to go back to sleep, but it’s fine!” she said.
“That sounded a bit bitter,” I replied.
Alicia squinted her eyes and grinned, before getting up and walking towards me. “You know I’m just joking! Now, let’s bring you back upstairs.” She held out her hand towards me.
I played the coffee on the stand next to me and took her warm hand, before slowly lifting myself off the couch. “I’m not a child you know, I can get up myself,” I said.
“And you say I’m bitter,” she said.
We shared a laugh before I began my lazy trek upstairs. Upon arriving in front of the door to my bedroom, I looked at Alicia, who had followed me upstairs. “I’m going to go to bed now, you can go do whatever you do.” I said.
“I’m just making sure my loving master isn’t going to fall down the stairs and die in his daze.” she replied.
“How caring of you.”
She sarcastically pet me on the head, before turning her back and saying, “Good night sleepyhead!”
I entered my room, and immediately rolled onto the bed. My desk sat opposite my bed, with my computer proudly sitting atop it. The room was quite plain, with the only real decoration being a periodic table poster next to the window -- standard issue for followers of chemistry.
One by one, I slowly removed my work clothes. I removed my cell phone from my pants, and tossed it onto the nightstand. After closing the curtains and turning off the lights, I rolled back into bed, attempting to get comfortable.
Thoughts stirred within my mind, keeping me awake even in my apathy. Images of 2,600 kept appearing, and I couldn’t keep my mind off of her. 2,600 and I had technically been lovers, and while I had thought of her in a loving way before, I never had a truly sincere thinking session about her. After todays events, I wondered if I truly loved 2,600. If she really was to get taken away, what would I do? How would I react? According to 2,600, this fateful event would be happening soon. And this event would be the first test of my love.