Feb 4
Oedipus, or hubris of the
great Captain of the Elites

When I come to I’m wet. My head hurts. Where are my arms? I won-der. Shale, shale rock — on my cheek, on my hands. I’m wet. My arms will go numb if I lay on them longer. I open my eyes to grey. Two-tone walls, slightly green, and the water looks milky. Wait. I can't hear. I see silhouettes conversing behind the wall to my right. My ears pop and a rush of sound enters like a wave crashing on a beach. I hear the gurgling of the water on the shale, but I still can’t hear what the figures say. The shadows are animated but it’s silent. Then they leave. 

Why do I keep waking up from blacking out? This can’t be healthy for my frontal lobe. Well, it was feeling a bit cramped in there any how. I shuffle to get my arms out from under me and then I get up slowly, the water dripping from my pants. I fall back when a girl ap-pears at the fuzzy grey wall next to me and exclaims, eyes as wide as dishes. 

“I can’t believe someone survived!” she shouts.

She looks as if she’s been crying for days. Her hair is long and dark-er and her eyes lighter, but I can never tell through the grey filter.

“How long ago did they take you?” I ask tepidly. 

“I got here just a few minutes before you,” she utters. 

Then she sits with a plop back into the water, moaning. I don’t want to comfort her, I can barely breathe myself, but I have to.

“You know, it’s really lucky they just took us two. They could have done a lot more,” I suggest.

I try to find the silver lining.

“You didn’t see did you?! They blew up Antury, but it wasn’t a bomb, one second it was there, I was watching it . . . and then it eva-porated, disappeared!” she turns to me desperately, “It’s gone!”

My heart stops beating. I didn’t see them blow up the planet! The regal mountains, the majestic hills, the stoic lake, all gone? The ro-man nosed lady, the smilish realtor, dad? I can’t take it, I start to cry. The cry causes my whole frame to shake starting from my gut and ending at my eyes flowing with tears. I feel like a little girl and I don’t care. I cry until I realize the emotion is a little more fresh than tears can wipe away. I’m furious. A rage fills me, the kind of rage that or-ders an army of ships to embark and retrieve Helen from Troy, the rage that builds gas chambers and slaughter houses for the Jews. I thrash the water against the walls, filling my cell with a roaring like a hurricane, but then I stop. This is not a red hot anger like a bonfire but the long wick of a time bomb. Its embers glow cooly enough. I resolve to calm the girl.

“I do not know why either of us are here, but I do know that we are. We will just have to make do with what we have for the moment. Everyone has difficulty in their lives. It seems awfully brutal when it is our turn to have it. I wish we could go back in time, or adequate-ly lament our loss,” I force out.

Her cries soften to a sniffle. I stumble on an idea that will make sen-se of all this wrong. 

“Here’s an idea! Maybe we could help each other by telling a little about our lives? That would get our minds off of it for a moment,” I conclude. 

She sits still and doesn’t respond for a few minutes. I shift uncom-fortably in the awkward silence. Her voice then resounds.

“I’m Amanda — ” her voice gives out.

She turns to me languidly. I urge her on. It sounds like she’s injured as she continues.

“I was born on Earth but I did not live there long. I’ve been trans-ferring since I can remember.”

“What for, Amanda? Your father in the military?”

“No, I’m a politician’s daughter. Which means I either was going to be a spoiled mess, an airheaded celebrity, girl-to-kidnap numero uno, but probably all of the above. My dad didn’t want that for me,” her speech calms.

“No mother?”

“I had a mother. I was not an in vitro baby if that’s what you’re infer-ring!” Amanda quickly asserts.

“No! I just meant I lost my mother, too,” I recall.

“And no siblings?” she asks.

“Yeah, no siblings,” I answer.

“Then we are quite alike,” she smiles.

How does she manage a smile? It’s not like the situation has im-proved at all.

“Why Antury?” I ask innocently.

Her face deepens.

“Just transferring from the center . . . going to the newest col-ony though dad said this would probably be one of my last trans-fers if Antury remains a pristine colony. So beautiful he said . . . ” she zones out a little.

“Your last transfer? As in he didn’t transfer with you?” I ask. 

I confess to myself it’s lamentable for their relationship as a whole, but it is better that her dad was not present for you-know-what.

“Yeah he wasn’t . . . Oh my gosh, I didn’t realize — !” she starts cry-ing again.

I try to quiet her with my hand, “It’s alright, nothing to be done.”

“Here I was worried about losing my home, but you’ve lost your fa-mily as well!” she cries.

“There isn’t, hasn’t been time to think about it,” I say.

I let her cry out, just a few minutes of sobbing. Then she picks up again. Must’ve liked my idea to talk about our lives, huh?

“What’s your name?” she asks.

“Oh gosh, my name’s Jess. Sorry I didn’t introduce myself.” 

Maybe my apology can somehow speak subconsciously for this heinous crime, at least to her.

“I transferred to Antury (I think it has been two days). My father and I were just transferring to the next best colony — we were trans-ferring from Zhao,” I clarify.

“Isn’t it really dark and heavy there?” Amanda asks.

“Yeah!” I laugh, ”It’s dark all right, and very heavy.”

We sit still for a few minutes as if waiting for a third voice to chime in. The gurgling water massages the tense strings in the air. Then Amanda breaks the silence.

“Why us, Jess?” 

I’ve never heard such a sincere question in my life. 

“I don’t know, can’t begin to imagine,” I trail off.

“I can’t help but feel like we’ve done something wrong, like this is purgatory or something,” Amanda argues.

“But why just two?” I think aloud, ”Why us two?”

I grasp the air and the ink-stained walls mentally for answers, but, of course, all I get is wisps and ghosts. It is all black and white, both literally and figuratively right now. Problem with that is it leaves you, the grey matter moving among the black and white, without mean-ing and without purpose. Amanda and I have no logical reason to be alive. Our lives are just seeds in the wind, waxed wings too close to the sun.

“Weren’t you the Senior that nearly killed one of your classmates yesterday?” Amanda asks.

“Yeah, I don’t really want to talk about it,” I confess.

She sits up and moves up close to the wall. 

“It’s either fight story or father story,” she jests.

I find it all of a sudden hard to breathe, as if my incident is some-thing I’m not proud of. I realize though that if I don’t open my mouth to keep things going, then we’ll lose our cool eventually. I sigh in deeply the stiff, cool air of my cell.

“I got mad. But not mad like one normally does — frustrated and red in the face. I had to release it somehow and I’m still not quite sure if I had much control over how it unraveled. I don’t know how much of the story you know. There’s a logical explanation for my rage. This kid was jealous of my intellect, as he had little, and he took it out on me the moment I walked in for my first class in my new school. You see, that’s how the bullies get to you, by getting you when you’re fresh and new and confused. They lead you to be-lieve that they create the rules — because for the first few hours they do. The teachers and the deans and the principals all have tons of kids to worry about and so they hope you will fall in line quiet and docile when really you get singled out by those who would like to exploit you and use you.”

Amanda listens intently to my story, stoic as a mouse. I continue so I can forget. 

“And then coincidently the database had to crash while I was over-hauling the update. Now, I see it was caused by some signal in-terference and radiation these giants used, but at the time every-thing seemed to be going wrong for me. Then the kid has the gall to force my lunch from me. Everything went so horribly wrong, but I could not venture to guess what would happen next when I was able to use gravitons to punch him square in the face. I have not heard of such a thing. I’ve heard of kids fighting tooth and nail just like they have for millennia . . . have you ever heard of gravitons used offensively?”

She shakes her head emphatically, “I’ve never heard of someone even trying.”

A sharp realization comes to me.

“What if — ? My dad wanted to tell me something before . . . you know. He’s been wanting to tell me many things for some time now actually. What if he was trying to tell me that I’m special? What if I was given a special military version of the genes? Maybe I am the only one who can use gravity as a weapon?” I ask.

Looking over to Amanda for affirmation, I see she does not agree with me at all.

“Jess, no. I doubt you have any special power or whatever. You are an extremely bright kid, that’s what your father wanted to tell you when . . . ” she cuts off.

“We need to get out of here, special powers or not, so Antury is not lost,” I continue.

“I do not know you well, but honestly we are just two kids who are way in over our heads. You may have been a Senior, but do you honestly think for a second your academic rank will benefit at all here? They just murdered millions of people!” Amanda rebuts.

“No. You wanna know what the truth is? The truth is millions of peo-ple died on Antury, yes. But we are still alive! Do you get what that means? We’re the last of the Anturians! And we’re supposed to just wallow? No. This is our time to shine, Amanda. These giants, they have so much to lose. We don’t have anything to lose. If we died right now no one would judge us harshly. But if we did something, anything, we would be heroes.

“The truth is we don’t know what a life is worth. But we do know that a lack of life is infinitely less than where one used to be! The truth is my life is no longer mine. I am no Superman, yet I have been enbued with the power of a million fallen. I need to be like the sharp point of a spear and account for this loss of infinite worth!” I cry.

She stops to think about it. I can tell she’s discussing the luxury of thinking for oneself in her head. I can also tell though that she gets what I’m saying which is such a comfort. She must realize that in a situation such as this sacrifice is no longer an option or a choice. Whatever we do will be considered a sacrifice, even just sitting in these cells comforting each other. She starts crying again. I as-sume that means she’s agreed. 

“Jess, can we be friends?” she asks.

“Absolutely, what else would we become?” I ask back.

“Enemies forced to play nice in an alien jail on their ship,” she says.

I could use a little drink to wet my dry mouth. I siphon a sip from the water below me. I had the faintest hint of hunger before I drank, but the water seems to be enriched to some degree. 

“You hungry Amanda?” I query.

She stops crying, “Yeah, why?”

“I have an inkling that the water is not just water,” I point towards the pool beneath her, “See if your hunger goes away with a swig.”

She waves the water from the pool to swirl majestically through the air towards her. She sips it like it’s tea at a formal luncheon. 

“I think you’re right. My hunger’s gone, but it could be just drugs meant to remove hunger,” she thinks aloud.

I want to remind her that they took us alive, but there’s no argu-ing with her. Not here, not now. Maybe nowhere and maybe never. 

“Can I tell you a poem I just thought of?” she asks.

“That sounds great,” I shrug. 

She straightens up her back and breathes in.

“Will you be. My friend? 
  Yes, my friend. 
  When all my life is topsy-turvy? 
  Will you be. There? 
  Yes, there.
  When we have no place to even call a place?
  Will you. Speak? 
  Yes, speak. 
  When all we could have talked about is gone? 
  Will you be. My friend? 
  Yes, my friend. 
  When all there is left is we?”

I’m impressed, “You thought of that right now?”

“Well, I thought of the first and last lines before I asked you if you wanted to hear it, but the middle two I made up as I said it. It’s easy once you have the form of the poem down,” she brushes her hair behind her ear.

“Desperation?” I wonder.

“Something like that. Loss, depression, psychosis, yada yada, rom-antic artist’s stuff,” she brushes it off. 

“You’re very smart. Why didn’t you skip any grades?” 

“I wanted to be normal, be part of the crowd,” Amanda blushes. 

We sit in relative silence for around an hour, in which time my mind begins to wander to parts of my brain I’d dare not go in the past. 

I can’t stop thinking about her. Seeing Amanda as a mental whole is disturbingly satisfying, like I don’t need anything else in the world. And my attempts to objectify her into flawed fragments terminate in wavy hair, luminous eyes, perky nose, delicate ears and smart lips. My only escape is to call it infatuation of the pubescent body, for I cannot love as adults do. Yet there’s a pain that I feel with it that won’t go away. I need to shower but she’s right there with a full view of me. Even if I concentrate the washing underneath my cloth-es so I need not remove them, I’ll be so embarrassed.