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First Four Chapters Of Novel

As promised, I have beneath these very words the first four chapters of my up and coming novel, To Be Free. The title may well change over the coming weeks, and as far as the story is concerned there is plenty of scope for additional content. Anyway, I hope you enjoy what I've written so far and any constructive feedback is more than welcome.

About


Thirty years have passed since 200 children along with their families first stepped through the doors of the Biodome; a self contained environment two miles in diameter, with the capacity to hold a thousand people. Since that fateful day, great things have occurred. The children of the Deity have been waiting in anticipation for the arrival of the great one. Then came the message from beyond, words of hope that served to elevate the excitement among the people.

The cult leaders kept everyone safe from the poisons of the outside world with a warm and loving environment for all. Tyler, now in his early thirties, looked back to the fateful day when he first stepped into the Biodome. It has been promised that the Deity will come down from the stars to take the people away to the new world. The Biodome leaders have made an agreement with the Great one; to keep the people safe, keep them pure, to remain in the Biodome until the Deity arrives.

As the years passed by the people became more agitated, with the environment surrounding them and quite often with one another. Drugs became commonplace, for ailments of the body as well as the mind. Depression spread like a plague, but the faith kept the people strong.

A change happened, one that altered Tyler's sense of reason and because of that he acquired a sudden urge to see the outside world, to taste the air and experience life, the way it should be lived. But there was one small problem that could not be overlooked. How could Tyler leave his people behind and question his religion so easily? And where could such a notion come from?




They will come down from the stars,
To take us by the hand,
Together we will travel far,
A million stars, like grains of sand,
A place of wonder, of spiritual healing,
To begin a new life,
To invoke a feeling,
Embrace your brothers and sisters,
We will escape the fear,
The process has begun,
In time our spirits will be renewed,
Our safe haven awaits us, around a new sun.


Excerpt from The Extraterrestrial Deity (Book Of Enlightenment)
Section 1
The coming of the great one
Chapter 1
The Light Shows


For Tyler the black leather bound diary meant everything. It was an inner sanctum, a place to expel all negative thought, and to be at peace amidst the anxiety. He held onto his mobile phone with a tight grip as he made a note of the ups and downs of the day, problems both major and minor.  Thankfully some space remained on the page to write about the one good thing that occurred that day. And that one good thing was happening at that very moment in time.                                       
“So Tyler, it’s fair to say that your day hasn’t gone too well. . . Tell me. How are you feeling? And please, try and tell me without the sarcasm.”                                               
Tyler snapped the diary shut. “Well, I can tell you this much. I don’t think I’m gonna sleep well tonight. Look. Things happened. . . Things that I couldn’t anticipate.”                 
“Ok. Your mood seems appropriate to the given situation. But Tyler. I have to ask you. Have you taken all the appropriate medication for the day?” The man said softly.
Tyler pushed the diary under his bed.
“Pretty much everything that can keep me on track. Once I’m up and out, the meds kind of hold my hand and guide me through the day. Sometimes kicking and screaming. But then waking up ain’t so easy at times. And the sleeping thing. Not so great either.”
“And those down periods. Are you getting through them ok? Any problems I should know about?”
“Y-yes. I seem to be. Well, I’m trying at least. I really am. Sometimes though, I . . . I think too much. And that’s when I want to . . .”
“It’ll be ok. Just make sure you have the Book of Enlightenment to hand.”
Tyler scratched his head. “Yes. Of course.” With a body that felt as heavy as a slab of lead, Tyler got to his feet and approached a long bookshelf. It wasn’t just long, it also spiralled across the wall like a whirlpool, the books held into place with a series of springs and gears. He pulled out one book in particular, sandwiched in between the Fermi Paradox and The Drake Equation. Of course the latter would fit in well with the religious beliefs of those within the Biodome. The former, not quite so much. In time the Drake Equation seemed to hold more truth as a sea of hopeless souls found hope once more - not quite positive proof of the existence of life in an infinite universe, but close enough. The people thought that a large radio telescope of the SETI variety would have garnered the pleasure of receiving the first message from an advanced alien civilisation. Not so. It was in fact a group of amateur science types who were part of an American religious cult. Tyler first heard the news when he was but a child. Naturally he was both excited and afraid. Ever since that fateful day, Tyler had clung onto one notion; that life in the universe was rife and that intelligent life was willing to not only accept humanity, but to also protect and guide it. A smile crossed Tyler’s face as he stood in front of the books. On that particular occasion he ignored both the Drake Equation and the Fermi Paradox. Neither one held much fascination with him.
With a twinkle in the eye, Tyler held onto the book of his choosing and brought it close to his chest.  
“And the mirrors. How are you doing with the mirrors?” The friendly voice continued.
“Not so bad.” Tyler replied as he drew the book closer to his chest. “I try not to look too hard. I can comb my hair without having to get a full view of myself. It’s . . . easy. It's ok.”
“So you're getting better?”
“I think so.” Tyler flipped the book of enlightenment over and over in his hands.
“Keep the faith Tyler. We can all do that. Cleanse your mind with one thought. The great one. He will come to us. Soon we'll all be cleansed. Trust in that day. And never lose hope.”
“I’ve been doing some thinking lately. . . I probably shouldn’t say this. Tell me I’m wrong. But . . . what if the great one doesn’t reach us? We could wait all our lives. And he might never come.  What if . . . we were meant to go to him? To step outside.”                                                 
A long pause ensued, a moment that could easily have manifested into something of a brick wall between Tyler and the Pocket Therapist. Tyler looked at his mobile phone, his face a shade whiter than before. There was no telling how the therapist would respond. To most people that would create some anxiety. For Tyler it was nerve shredding. He was about to hang up the phone when the unsteady voice of the Therapist spoke to him once more.
“You told me before that you are going to evening worship tonight. That's good. You're keeping the faith. But you should know that It’s coming up to half eight.” The voice on the phone spoke with a gentle yet confident tone.
“Y-yes. I should go. . . thanks. Thanks for the insight. In case I forget, can I book another session with you? Say, for tomorrow night. Same time.”
“Of course. . . I’ll book you in. In. In. In. In-n-n-n-n-n-n.” The voice of the Pocket Therapist took a turn for the worse as it droned on with the last word.
Tyler quickly exited the app on his phone, waited a few seconds and then started it up again. He brought the phone up to his mouth.
“Restore session 351.” After approximately two seconds the familiar voice of the pocket therapist spoke once more.
“Welcome back. I apologise for the error. After a memory refresh I can confirm that everything is back in working order.”
“Erm. The previous session crashed. Could you confirm that the next session has been booked in.”
“Yes. The next session was booked in for you. Can I help you with anything else?”
“No. That’s all for now.”
Tyler ended the phone call with a frown. For a moment, his eyes were closed. His heart was on fire and his mind couldn’t have been further from the realm of rational thinking. He picked a rucksack up off the floor and took in a few deep breaths. The doorway was his next port of call. Was it safe, was there anyone around to see him? The area seemed to be clear so with a clouded mind he quickly whipped up a text.
I accept. I’ve decided to free myself. To find the true way forward. My mind's made up now. I’ll be there.
This time. . . It will happen. Tyler let loose a hopeful smile.


***
The first thought that entered Tyler's mind as he approached the church courtyard was sort of, a sting of guilt. Fear was also evident in barrel loads. It was not a comforting notion, to be outside of his own sector, away from neighbours, away from his live-in unit. But that’s how it needed to be. For the greater good.
Tyler slinked through the church doors and found a seat at the back of the hall, at the end of a long bench. Thankfully it was away from the other people, away from staring eyes. He squirmed nervously as he watched the people around him shift and shuffle their way to the seating areas. In a fashion that looked most orderly, yet casual in the way they moved, the people sat down on the comfy padded benches, ready to listen to the healing words of the high priest. The place of worship was beautiful yet somehow flawed, at least it was in comparison to the surrounding buildings. Several statues adorned the walls on the outside while the interior featured intricate carvings of different humanoid figures as well as photographs dotted across the walls showing exotic looking spacecraft. The photographs were arranged in year order, with oldest dating back to the mid twentieth century - a crashed spaceship, the word Roswell can be seen written underneath the photograph.
Despite the seemingly warm atmosphere around Tyler, he only had one thought on his mind. What the hell am I doing here?  
Once the people had settled down in their seats the standard introductory video began to play. A male voice, optimistic, with a high level of bounce, spoke up. Each word seemed to exude confidence. Text melted onto the screen to accompany the audio.
When I received the message from the great one my first reaction was to look away, to hide in disbelief. After much deliberation I fell inwards, swallowed by their goodness, into the hopeful arms of the great one and his kind. The message was clear. We, the human race had to change our way of living. For millennia we had befouled this planet, helped to destroy all that is good, almost to the point of no return. That should not be the way. It should not be the way of our kind. I still remember that fateful evening. When the Deity from the stars spoke to me. I remember the message well. Take in the air around you, feel the pulse of the world with every breath. Cleanse your soul.  Gather the chosen ones and, shelter them until our arrival. When you, the people, are ready, you will be taken to the Fertile Land.
Many worlds away. . .
Honourable Rev Bernard Thawne


In one uniform motion the people got to their feet, each person held a globe of bright radiant beauty, a glowing orb which they thrust above their heads with a passion that could inspire the darkest of souls. As if holding a candle at a rock concert the people swayed slightly from side to side, the illuminated planet each person held created an afterglow with every movement. An unmoved Tyler remained glued to his seat, a void compared with the show of faith from the people around him. It was more than enough to bare. So bare it he did not. With closed eyes and heart, Tyler simply shut away all those around him, all the feelings, the love, it could just disappear.


When Tyler came back from his own little world, he saw the high priest take his place on the podium. Some of the people including Tyler were used to seeing the same face, week after week, for the standard sermons. That night however, a different face stood before them all. The standard routine was for the high priest to begin with an introductory speech. But that particular night he failed to utter one single word. The explosion saw to that in a heartbeat. A fiery wall of death that seemed to come from nowhere. Tyler shot up from his seat and thanked the almighty that he had sat near the back row. He didn’t quite know where to go, but everyone seemed to be just as disoriented as he was.


Tyler staggered through the church doors and took in a few deep breaths. His immediate reaction was to pat his body down, to check for blood or singed skin. Nothing. All seemed to be perfectly fine, but over and over his brain told him otherwise. Was that blood on the hand or merely a fleck of dirt? No matter, there was no time to focus on that. Another thought occurred to him. Reaching into his coat pocket he pulled out a crumpled piece of paper. He unfolded it and stared in disbelief at the words before him.


We will help you make the right choice. Free your mind. Choose the back row. Be safe. We are here for you.


At last, the words made some kind of sense. Tyler had been carrying the piece of paper around all day, wondering who slipped it into his pocket and why. And the text messages gave no clues away. Just some anonymous sender. Despite all the random thoughts bouncing around his head, he knew that it would be unwise to linger too long outside the church. So with a heavy heart he quickly made tracks away from the area.


***


Tyler found a quiet spot to sit down, a nice pocket of green situated close to the business sector. He set his backpack down and gave his shoulders a rub. It was a heartwarming place to eat during that most precious hour of the working day. But Tyler’s arrival occurred beyond the hours of work which allowed him room to breath without having to face the sting of glaring eyes. Sweat poured from his hairline and trickled down his face. The sirens in the background simply added to his anxious state. In a mad panic he pulled out his mobile phone and opened an app - The Mobile Doctor - His breathing had become erratic so he attempted to gain some control over it by squirting an anti anxiety medicine under his tongue. Through his nostrils he took in a steady flow of air and then he allowed it to exit the lungs slowly. Step two was already underway in his head. He pressed the underside of the mobile phone against his wrist and allowed his breathing to return to a normal state. A few seconds passed by, and then a few seconds more, until he was just about convinced that he could hear the sound of his beating heart. Tyler looked at the reading.


Beats Per Minute - 120, 119, 118


His BPM dropped steadily over the course of a minute or so. Finally he took the phone away from his wrist and checked the reading again.


BPM - 99 . . . 87 . . . 63 . . . 55 . . .  


Slow and steady. Panic over. Everything seemed to be normal again. Tyler pocketed his phone and wiped some of the sweat from his brow with the sleeve of his coat. The next step was clear to him. He took out a blister pack from a pocket on the inside of his coat and popped a couple of pills into his unsteady hand. A couple of seconds later he had downed them and he was ready to think clearly, to focus his attention on new ideas and notions of positivity. He reached into another compartment in his multi pocketed coat and took out a small book. He turned it over in his hands and with a childlike innocence he looked at the front cover.


The Extraterrestrial Deity


Tyler took great delight as he turned the book over to reveal the back cover. His eyes met with a photograph of a rocky formation, covered in vines and moss. A face could just about be seen at the centre of the image, weathered by the ravages of time. There was some writing underneath the photograph.
Authors: Various. See inside back cover for more information


Tyler began to read, to absorb every word in the book, take in each page as if it was a breath of life. With every word that passed over his eyes, he thought about the explosion and the horror surrounding it all. In the end the thinking only served to amplify the nightmarish visions. Not a good thing with the shakes taking over his body. The park was his home that night, the bench his bed, until the following day, when the moon was about to fall, to make way for the rising sun. For Tyler however, that moment was still several minutes away. There was precious time to run, run with focus, towards the possibility of a new life. Before he got to his feet he looked at his phone, just to convince himself that life still existed outside of his bubble.


Patrick: 1 missed call
Rebecca: 3 missed calls


Tyler looked beyond the missed calls and found a voicemail. A second passed by as he shook his head and slipped the phone into his pocket. The time to delay was over. It was all so clear to Tyler. There was only one thing left to do. Run.


* * *


The street lights bared down on Tyler as he weaved his way silently through gleaming back alleyways and past buildings that shone with immaculate beauty. His sure footedness was only heightened by the distinct lack of any kind of debris littering the pavements. His black jeans and matte black coat helped him to blend into the shadows. Even the satchel laden across his back failed to slow him down. All he could see around him contained an air of perfection from the gutters, free of filth and grime, to the immaculate walls - no graffiti, no tipped over bins, not even a urinated back alley. As he ran through the streets he passed a variety of digital signs, some of which offered warnings about spreading germs while others were a reminder that the streets and woodland areas had to remain litter free to retain the serenity of the city. He paid careful attention to one sign in particular as he came closer to it.


If you feel even a hint of a sore throat or other sign of a cold, don’t wait for it to take complete control of you! Visit your GP without hesitation. For more information, pick up a pamphlet from your nearest convenience store, supermarket or chemist. Or from your nearest Medical Centre.
Tyler fell next to a wall and took in his surroundings, only to find that the night sky above him was already beginning to make way for the new day. There was no time to think as slowly but surely the shadows ebbed away leaving Tyler exposed to the new dawn. In his mind he could hear the people around him, shuffling their way into the morning, talking to one another in uniform motion. He could almost see the rushing feet of frantic shoppers searching for something to brighten up their life; an item of clothing or a handy new gadget which might be of use around the home.
There was nothing else for Tyler to do except stop and accept his fate. Soon enough the streets began to come to life as people went about their daily routines. Shops opened to await the arrival of the first customers of the day while small droids rolled out into the streets from their kennel like stations. Their sole purpose - to help keep the streets free of litter. Tyler walked towards the crowd of people that had quickly emerged, as if from nowhere. He watched as a balding middle aged man stood patiently as his pet Labrador fouled on the pavement. One of the worker droids zipped towards the dog mess and in one movement it had cleaned away the leavings. A quick spray and a polish and the pavement was pristine once more,  scented to a high standard of pine like freshness.


Tyler felt trapped. The people were out in force after only a few minutes as if their internal body clocks were attuned to the opening of the retail world. He tried to blend in with the people around him. A law enforcement vehicle rolled silently past to his left but Tyler tried his best to remain inconspicuous and carried on walking in an attempt to hide among the people around him. A deserted side alleyway beckoned him into the shadows. The light from above the city had not quite penetrated all corners.  Quietly he nipped to the right and sped down the alley where he came across three young women, each one with a brightly coloured handbag over the shoulder. The more frail looking of the three took out a tissue from her handbag and blew her nose. The older of her two friends scolded her for not following the correct procedure when ‘Blowing one’s nose’. She apologised profusely to her friends and then to Tyler who just shrugged his shoulders and walked on. He watched as she let loose the remainder of her cold and followed the instructions of her older friend. She wrapped up the tissue into a neat little ball, then popped it into a sturdy metal bin. The writing on the side warned about the dangers of spreading germs. A motor inside the bin kicked into life and through a glass panel the flames of the incinerator could be seen. In a second the tissue was nothing more than a pile of ash.


Tyler came to the end of the alleyway and stepped out onto the side of a busy road. The tense feeling in his chest lifted slightly at the sight of the woodland area just over the road ahead of him. The bright light above the city shone with all of its majesty in the sky, providing a new hope. Another patrol vehicle drove by. Tyler waited to see if it turned towards the park entrance before he made his next move. The sight of the patrol car passing by the entrance to the park was enough for Tyler to take a first step to the safe crossing zone. A young smartly dressed woman pushed the button at the crossing just as Tyler reached for it. He quickly retracted his hand. The woman waited patiently at the side of the road as traffic passed them by. A few seconds later and the beeping noise of the crossing quickly urged them to cross. The other side of the road was just as busy with people finding their way to the next interesting shop or cafe. It was difficult for Tyler to be among the people, almost impossible to interact with them, always a chore. The meds helped, but only for a limited time. Every step taken, every new face was a major strain for Tyler but he had to push on, fight through his natural inability to be among his fellow humans.


The Woodland was only a few metres away and the closer  Tyler got to it the more he could block out the noises around him - the non-stop chatter of the morning crowd, the rhythmic sound of hard shoe on cold pavement. With a new mental state in tow he made his final few steps towards the Woodland. A path led from the gate and stretched far beyond Tyler’s line of vision. A row of trees lined either side. As he walked down the path he began to feel at peace with himself and a sense of freedom began to take hold. Sunlight danced through the leaves of the trees catching Tyler’s imagination, lifting his senses.
He stepped up to a random tree and stood by the side of it. Closing his eyes he brought his open hand to the surface of the tree and slowly he stroked the bark taking in every bump and every crack. It felt so perfect to him, almost abnormally so. He began to close his eyes until he was looking at the world with blurred vision. His head dipped slightly until the ground below came into view. A lolly stick protruded from the soil, with a symbol painted onto the surface, of a star with five exaggerated points. It was most certainly the only piece of litter in the area but to Tyler it was more than a piece of waste plastic. He picked up the lolly stick and popped it into his trouser pocket.
The area around the tree captured his attention and he began to sift through the loose soil with the tip of his shoe. Soon enough the soil around the tree thinned out enough to give way to a sight not commonly associated with trees or indeed anything natural. With another stroke of his shoe Tyler revealed a bunch of very thin wires. On further inspection it seemed that the wires disappeared into the base of the tree. His expression remained the same, a little sad but at the same time calm and collected as if the sight below him was quite normal. The more he kicked at the soil the more he found; more wires became apparent, as well as several insects. Tyler picked up one of the insects and stared at it with a blank expression. A closer look revealed a distinct metallic sheen. He crushed it between thumb and forefinger to reveal the tiny wires and circuits within.
He stopped kicking at the soil and placed his left hand over one of the branches. With a somewhat vacant expression he pulled a leaf from the branch and held it up to his eyes. A couple of seconds passed, then the leaf moved. It moved upwards as if controlled by some unseen force, then fell down again, as if from exhaustion. There was no wind at all, not even a minor gust. Tyler kept his eyes on the leaf. Once again it moved up in the same controlled manner but instead of keeping hold, Tyler let go of the leaf just as the unseen force lifted it away. It drifted to the side for about a foot before returning to the tree. In one clean motion the leaf reattached itself to the branch with no sign to suggest that it had ever fallen away. What a strange sight to behold, but it was a moment that Tyler had witnessed plenty of times previously. He was no stranger to such things. But that particular time he watched the action from a new perspective. It was like his mind was attuned to a new way of thinking, of seeing. What more could there be within a mind so open. Tyler took out his phone and tapped on an entry in the contacts. The entry was marked down as unknown. After a couple of seconds the call was answered.
“Did you find it?” Said a burnt out shaky voice.
“I did. . . I’m beginning to understand. But the trees. I’m aware of how they work. You didn’t need to, point me towards this tree.” Tyler couldn’t tear his eyes away from the blowing leaves.
“Although. . . it helped me. In a way I can see more clearly.” Tyler looked down the path to his left. Then to the right.
“You said you’d help me. Help me to leave. I want to. I’m ready.”
A long pause turned his stomach into a knotted mess pushing Tyler into the belief that he had said the wrong thing. But then the shaky voice quickly erased that thought.
“No. Not now. We’ll help you. At the right time. Everything will piece together.”
“I thought you said I could leave here now. You’d arranged that for me. I'm . . .  I’m ready. . . I told you I was ready.” And that’s when the phone call ended leaving Tyler to ponder over the next course of action. With or without help, there was still time to make an escape.
Further down the path Tyler walked, until he came to a picnic area. A young couple were sitting silently at a table; they both held a book, their eyes fixed on the pages within. There were plenty of benches around and Tyler quickly found one situated next to a large oak tree, not far from the couple in fact. He sat down, taking in the surrounding area as he did so. With a few thoughts to spare he glanced briefly at the couple out of the corner of his eye. The book that was so important to them reached out to Tyler. Of course it did. The Book of Enlightenment was all consuming to everyone inside the Biodome, it captured and captivated the weakest of hearts. The time to stare was over, Tyler could spare no more time to the couple and their moment of peace as the oak tree offered more interest. Once more it was the trees, it was the natural elements, thoughts of a natural world gone by that had captured Tyler’s mind. A plaque at the foot of the tree reached out to him, almost forcing his soul to instantly comprehend a new way of seeing life;


The trees in this park represent those that were found in the world outside. They have been constructed in a safe germ free environment within this Bio-Sphere so as to protect the public from harm. This Woodland was placed in the safety of these walls for future generations to admire. Truly a symbol of purity. Enjoy it at your leisure and don’t forget to say a prayer to our future saviours.
Tyler breathed a sigh of despair as he looked upon the plaque. How could his mind continually fall in line with such nonsense. Over time, slowly but surely, his way of thinking had altered. It was indeed a fallacy to him but he struggled to understand where the change of opinion had come from. Unfortunately that moment of deep thought was just enough time to distract him from a needle to the neck. His blurred vision caught sight of a man in a white coat. His thoughts faded along with his consciousness . . . the image ahead was a blurred mess of colours . . . as if in slow motion he rolled his head to the left . . . and then, his body became numb, and with that he met the ground with a thud.


Chapter 2


The World As It Is Now


A blurred image of patterns and colours spun slowly into focus and it brought with them a room that seemed to focus heavily on the kitsch with  garish decor and odd looking furniture. As the  room came further into focus more of the colours became evident. The first thing that struck Tyler was the flower patterned wallpaper. It almost made him want to close his eyes and cower in a darkened room. But he struggled on, and soon enough his vision adjusted further to the shapes and colours of the room. Eventually the shape of a man became noticeable. The man was laid flat on a bed in front of Tyler.
More details became evident as his eyes adjusted. A small patch, green in colour was attached to the man’s arm. From the patch a thin wire dropped down to the floor. Tyler followed the wire as it led up to a see-thru container, akin to a water dispenser. Within the dispenser was a green liquid and a label with the name Nutri-Stack laser printed to the surface. A list of ingredients was just about visible on the dispenser, but Tyler could only make out a few of the words, something about a list of antioxidants, a smattering of nutrients and a dose of caffeine. Tyler looked at the man in front of him with an empty heart and soon came to realise that the room was somewhere to avoid. But there was nowhere else to go. Nowhere to hide. The person on the bed moved his head a little to the right. Tyler’s vision was just about back to a normal state. The man was coming out of a deep slumber, but still too groggy to notice Tyler who in turn was too weak to stand up. Soon enough the man rolled his head in the direction of Tyler. He rubbed the sleep from his eyes and took in a sharp breath.
“You made it back to us. . . I see that you don’t look so good though.” He mumbled.
A look of sadness swept over Tyler’s face as he absorbed those words. The man awakened rather quickly, perhaps aided by the liquid in the bottle. He removed the wires and lifted his legs over the side of the bed. A big stretch of the arms followed. “Y’know. I don’t know what I’d do without a body boost to start the day.” He glanced over to the container before tuning back to Tyler.
“Y’know, it’s not every day I would allow you, or anyone else for that matter, the sheer convenience of my medical facility.” The man waved his hand at the medical machinery which graced Tyler on both sides.
“So... where do you think you were going the other night?” The man said as he sat there flexing his hands.
Tyler looked beyond the man, to a photograph on the wall. It showed the man wearing a pair of swimming trunks. He proudly held a trophy and of particular note a name was clearly present just below the photograph - Patrick Harding.
“Well. What excuses have you got for me?” Patrick pressured Tyler.
“I wanted to see what was beyond. . . “ Tyler stuttered.
“Beyond what exactly.” Patrick got to his feet and cracked his head from side to side.
“Beyond all this. Outside the Biodome.” Tyler closed his eyes. “Don’t you understand. The Deity will find us out there. It’s the only way forward.”


Chapter 3


Awakening


Tyler stood in the shower with his eyes wide open. He allowed the stream of water to pound his face, to revive, to enliven. Thoughts of the escape attempt raced across his mind. How could I allow myself to be caught so easily. Idiot.  . . I should have made it. It’s not that far to the edge. Just a mile or so.
Tyler’s heart began to race and the more he thought about his failure the more pent up he became. He seemed to be on auto pilot for several minutes after he had finished showering. A swirl of random thoughts swamped his exhausted mind, making him question the very fabric of his conscious state.


* * *


“We’ve decided to give you another chance. . . If that’s ok with you.” Tyler paid little attention to the voice. He was more concerned about how he got from the shower to the living room.
“Erm. Ok.” He stammered.
“You don’t seem overly enthused about this decision.” Said a young woman by the name of Rebecca Harding. Tyler attempted to pull a more positive expression, of course he wasn’t sure how that would look to someone else but in his mind it seemed to be effective.
“Well. Are you interested?” Rebecca demanded. It was clear to many people that she was the type of person to prise the truth out of the most hardened of people.
Tyler knew that better than most so it was important to sound as honest as possible. He rubbed the side of his head in the hope that doing so would stimulate a bout of articulate thought. “Yes. Of course.” He said finally.
“You seem somewhat distracted. Are you sure you’re not suffering any ill effects. I mean, you were unconscious for two days. You are aware of that aren’t you?”
Tyler tried to piece together the events that led up to his capture. It all seemed so distant to him. But he had to give some kind of answer. “Yes. Of course. Well, I mean, that’s what I was told when I left the hospital. . . two days?”
“You had a bit of a melt down though. Right.”  Patrick said with a smirk laden across his face.
Rebecca glared at Patrick and that one look was enough to make him back down. She turned back to Tyler. “You’ve not been yourself. That’s perfectly understandable. Under the circumstances.”
“Yeah. Although, you did have your backpack with you. And a few personal belongings. It all seemed a bit strange to be. No offense.” Patrick said as he dug his heels in further.
“We’re just relieved you didn’t get hurt. It could've been so much worse.”
Rebecca said in defense of Tyler.
“Anyway, we’re giving you another chance to make it right. We didn’t tell the kids what happened. I mean, they think highly of you so that would be just . . . well, a mute point. And I know that you don’t want to disappoint the kids. Right.”
“Wait.  mute point. . . not quite. He’s not exactly a saint.” Patrick intervened.
Rebecca coughed and once again gave Patrick an icy stare.
“Tyler. We know how much you want to be here. With us. And we want you to stay. And we know that you don’t want to turn your back on the job?”
“No. I. . . I don’t want that.”
“Well. In that case. You know what to do.” Rebecca said encouragingly.
“Yes. As long as I don’t let you down. I don’t want to do that.””
“And you won’t. Just make sure you don’t miss a psyche session and you’ll be fine.”
Patrick grimaced and Tyler knew that he was not going to be easy to win over.


* * *


The bedroom was just as ornately patterned as the rest of the house. Perhaps a shade greyer, and slightly less showy compared to many of the other rooms. That didn’t matter too much to Patrick since it wasn’t his room, despite the obvious territorial dominance. He stepped past the door with a bounding confidence that almost pushed Tyler into the corner of the room. If there was one thing that Patrick had in abundance, it was a keen awareness of everything and everyone. The man didn’t miss a trick. He certainly didn’t miss the empty space on the bookshelf.
“You must have been going somewhere important.” Patrick dropped his hand on the space where the book should be. “It’s not a bad idea, to keep the good book with you. . . I just hope your intentions were in keeping with the great one.” He smiled, well, more a sickening grimace.
Once Patrick had secured his position of authority he proceeded to carry out a quick task - to pull several clothes from a well stocked wardrobe. In fact a very large selection of clothing filled the wardrobe which was big enough to invoke thoughts of Narnia.
Even though Tyler felt like a scolded child he still couldn’t hide his disdain for Patrick and the arrogance he projected.
“Just wondering. But Are you getting a bigger wardrobe anytime soon.” Tyler said in as nice a tone of voice as he could muster.
“Huh. Yeah, ok. That old thing. You know it’s not gonna change. The problem is. . . well, the fact is, my need is greater than yours. . . Right? Don’t worry though. I’ll make sure not to use all of your precious wardrobe space.”
Patrick continued to rummage through the ever growing pile of clothes. He stopped suddenly and turned to Tyler with his forefinger pointed in his direction. “Tell me. Did you suffer any memory loss when they put you to sleep. And, remember who you’re talking to?”
There was a long pause as Tyler tried to recollect all thoughts of events prior to falling unconscious. He was convinced that some memory was no longer present.
“I think I remember most of it.” He replied.
“Hmm. Ok.” Patrick picked up a tablet computer and slid it across a desk next to Tyler. “I hope you’re telling me the truth.”
A newspaper article greeted Tyler. The main headline stuck out like a sore thumb.


AN EXPLOSION ROCKED THE FIRST CHURCH OF THE EXTRATERRESTRIAL DEITY . . . 12 PEOPLE DEAD . . . 20 INJURED


“You used to be a test tube and bunsen burner type. Chemistry, it was your strong point at school wasn’t it?” Patrick asked as his hand touched the top of the tablet computer.
“Er, Yes. I suppose it was.”
“Your father was always there to answer any questions. He played his part well in the construction of the Biodome. A small cog, but an important piece of a very large puzzle nonetheless. And his skills rubbed off on you, I’m sure. Like a duck to water. Right?”
Tyler half closed his eyes, and he hoped that action came across to Patrick as a strong hint to end the conversation.
“One final thought for your good self. . . If I find out you played a part in this. . .” Patrick tapped on the news story and furrowed his brow appropriately.
“No. No, I didn’t do anything.” Tyler said firmly.
Patrick suddenly changed his tone, as if someone had flicked a switch. “You were one of the lucky one’s. You must be blessed. Don’t quite know what you were doing at the church though. You were scheduled to do the house cleaning.” Patrick stepped closer. “You should have been here. You could have just watched the procession in the house, performed your duties. Y’know, multitask. Right.”
“Ok. I know. I understand.” Tyler said as he tried not to cower in the corner.
“Decent jobs are hard to find these days. Remember that.” Patrick pushed further.
“Y-yes. Of course. I get that.” Replied a defeated Tyler.
“Good. Then you should return to your duties.”
And with that very final instruction Tyler replied with a nod and turned to walk away.
“Just a moment.” Patrick stretched out his arm towards Tyler and reeled in his hand as if he could draw his prey closer. “I would like your opinion on something.”
Tyler could do nothing else but comply. Very slowly he made his way closer to Patrick.
“Now then. The thing is. I’m going to put on some, er, clothes, something a bit flash. . . and you’re gonna tell me if they possess a bit too much. . . well, er, if they’re a bit too much. Basically.”
Patrick reached into the wardrobe and pulled out several more suits. He laid them on the bed carefully, a little too carefully as far as Tyler was concerned. “Right then. Which one?” He asked bluntly.
“What's the occasion?”
“It’s a leaving do for a work colleague. One of the pioneers. No one you would know.” Patrick said smugly.
Such words would quite easily penetrate Tyler’s skin, like a pencil through tissue paper. That didn’t mean he was capable of hiding his true feelings, so his immediate reaction was to simply point at the middle suit. Patrick looked down at the suit and reached out for it. To Tyler’s annoyance he picked up the suit on the left, a patchwork of colours that would turn the stomach of anyone with a hint of taste.
Tyler glanced at the clock on the bedside cabinet. “Are you going into work today?”
“No. No, I. . . I don’t feel like I can today. Could you let them know I won’t be going in. Tell them I’m in a dark place, mentally. They’ll understand.”
“But you’re going to your mates leaving do? Tonight.”
“Of course. . . I’m sure I’ll be better by then. This feeling I have. . . I’m sure it’ll pass.” With a half arsed manner, Patrick removed the clothes from the bed and hung them on the wardrobe door. He lifted the sheets and sat down on the bed, ignoring Tyler in the process.
“I’m gonna have a bit of a kip. In your bed so that the wife doesn’t catch me.” Patrick placed his forefinger on his lips. “Shhhh.”
And without giving it another thought Patrick climbed into the bed and turned to face the wall, leaving Tyler to complete his first task of the day.


Tyler didn’t seem to mind his first task. Not too much anyway. After all, it was a simple one involving a mind-link phone and a steady voice. He made his way to the study room to begin the process. Naturally every last detail had to be planned in his mind, it all had to connect before making that all important first step.  
The Mind-link phone was an intriguing piece of technology consisting of what looked like a mask connected to the wall by a short cord. It was black all over and on the inside there were two pieces of glass to peer into. The user was then able to make a connection to another mind – link phone. Tyler felt the cold of the glass as he prepared himself for whoever answered the call. His tone of voice was to be one of utter confidence so that his master could be assured a day of complete rest. Tyler cleared his throat.
“I’d like to speak to Daniel Travis. Fit for life clothing”.
A faint humming sound could be heard as the phone connected to the other end of the line. Tyler prepared himself for an answer. An image appeared almost in an instant. A middle aged man was presented to Tyler. He was somewhat overweight with thinning hair and a pale complexion.
“Hello, Fit For Life Clothing, Daniel Travis speaking. How can I help you today?”
Tyler took in a quick breath before delivering his important speech.
“Hello, I’m Tyler Harris, Manservant 232, district 17, house number 212, calling on the behalf of Patrick Farrow. Erm ... I regret to say that Mr Farrow can’t make it into work today as he has come down with a bout of …  depression… He’s been up and down for a while as you know. But today he’s really not in a good place. He’s sorry to inconvenience you and expects to return to work as soon as possible”.
Daniel let out a defiant cough, a cough that Tyler read as ‘I don’t believe you for a moment’. But Daniel could say nothing that might give away his true feelings on the matter.
“I hope he feels better soon. Thanks for letting me know the situation”.
The image disappeared as Daniel disconnected from the Mind – Link Phone.


Tyler heard a shuffling at the door. He turned around, expecting someone to be standing in the doorway. There was nobody in sight, however he could hear the sound of foot steps. He raced to the door to find Rebecca making her way down the stairs. He followed her to the kitchen, to find her sitting at the table. The bottle of medication in her hand was very noticeable to Tyler.
“You were talking to my husband’s employer. I can’t believe what I just heard... I mean, if he’s depressed then what the hell am I?  Her expression projected an inner rage.
Tyler thought carefully for an answer to Rebecca’s question. “You do everything that needs to be done.”
“Rebecca popped two of the pills in her hand and downed them with ease. “I try. But . . . I’m not perfect. I know that.”
“Neither am I. I proved that the other night. Didn’t I.”
She looked up at Tyler with a thousand questions in her eyes. “I didn’t want to dig up that topic of conversation again, but now you mention it. What were you thinking. I mean, Really. Where did you get the notion from to just up and leave like that?”
Tyler stood in front of Rebecca in silence.
“You’ve always been a good guy. When we first met, I could see that. My brother could see that.”
“I know. But things changed. . . the thing is. . . it’s not up to me to say. . . but Patrick should be there for you. He really should.”
“Maybe you’re right about that. Maybe not. But you shouldn’t say it.” Rebecca pushed the bottle of antidepressants to one side.  
“Actually. Y’know what. One of us should bring this out in the open. Right? I should talk. About him. And his ways.”
A discreet smile crossed Tyler’s face, an emotion that Rebecca found to be somewhat misleading. However, she returned his smile in kind.
“He takes time off work. Too much. We all do it every now and again. But there are only so many times he can push his boss. And depressed? N-no way ... I think. . . well you know what I think. He always told me how his parents were a soft touch. They missed church meetings all too frequently. And they allowed him to play music that was a bit too . . . racy. He was too young for that. Keep it pure. Keep it simple. That’s what my parents would tell me.”
The air was thick with tension but despite that, Tyler managed to step through the mess of an atmosphere around him to console Rebecca. Or at least try.
“I know Patrick’s behaviour seems a bit weird, but he thinks highly of you. I’m sure”.
Tyler was trying to be diplomatic but he could tell from Rebecca’s face that his tactic had backfired. And to make matters worse Patrick entered the kitchen, to muscle his way in between the conversation. He seemed to be in a world of his own which riled Rebecca. What riled her more was the fact that he went straight for the pills on the table. He looked at Rebecca briefly then filled a tall glass with water. Rebecca decided to ignore her husband to focus on Tyler once more.
“I would like you to go and pick up the kids from school. You can use my car . . .” She glared in Tyler’s direction but he believed that the look was meant for Patrick. The man in question sat down next to Rebecca to down the pills. That was enough for Rebecca to fume, jets of steam could almost be seen shooting from her ears.
Tyler suspected that an argument was about to commence so he slinked away from the warring couple.  But before he reached the door Rebecca had a final word to say, one more thought to share.
“I don’t know where you thought you were going the other day. . . I just hope you now realise how wrong you were to try.”
Patrick placed the glass on the table and got to his feet.
“There’s nothing for us outside. Remember that.”
For a moment, Tyler absorbed the words spoken by Patrick, but the front door beckoned him onward. As he left the house he could hear the sound of raised voices as Patrick became the focus of Rebecca’s attention once more.


Chapter 4


Life goes on


“I suppose you could say I’m one of the lucky one’s. Since I don’t remember much of the outside world. I’m totally oblivious to the, er, dark period.” Tyler stared at his phone, as if the answer to come would somehow erase all problems.
“Yes Tyler. You are indeed lucky. But you were one of many young children who found safety within these walls. Your parents did the right thing.  They saved your life. However, you need to put aside the bad feelings  you have for them. It’s not healthy Tyler. I’m telling you for your own good. You have to let it go.” The pocket therapist said in an authoritative yet calming tone.
“No. There are no bad feelings. The only thing I feel is . . . well it’s just that I wish could remember the world as it was back then. I have no firm memories.”
“Tyler, back then there was only chaos. You should know that. In my humble opinion, I believe you’re trying to find something that never existed. Take off the rose tinted glasses and look at the old world for what it was. A fragile place, full of hatred and uncertainty. You know that.”


We’re safe in the Biodome, I know that. But, is it a sin to want to leave here. To see the outside world.”
“Before we go any further, I have to digress. The Great one will come to us and take us from the Biodome, to the new world. You should be fully aware of that fact. It is the one true path. Tyler, I’ve told you time and again. You must keep the faith.”
“I know, I know. I’m trying. I just need . . . time. Time to reevaluate my thoughts.”
“That’s good to hear. Is there anything else you would like get off your chest?”
“No. . . End session.”
The school grounds were set back from the main road residing within the confines of a small park. In front of Tyler were other young men and women, all within the 25 to 35 age bracket, waiting outside the School gates. Every one of them held onto a tablet computer. A bell rang out and a second or so later the front doors to the School opened.
Hordes of kids marched forth through the double doors of the school, all of them as quiet as a mouse. They carried satchels and wore grey uniforms. Tyler watched as they marched towards the gates in single file accompanied by several teachers, amounting to two to every fifteen kids.
Before the children could leave the School grounds, the guardians had to go through the usual meet and greet proceedings. It basically meant a quick hello and goodbye and an all knowing nod of approval from the teachers.
Two children, Tim and Sue, made their way to Tyler, walking with a distinct air of obedience.
“Good afternoon”. They said in unison.
“Did you have a good day at school?” Tyler said in return. The children stood either side of Tyler as they approached a busy road. Traffic whizzed past the three of them, as silent as a leaf blowing in the wind, relentless and giving no opening for them to cross. Suddenly a light on the other side of the road flashed red and the traffic came to a dead stop. The three of them dashed across the road to the beep, beep, beep  sound of the timer, counting down until the traffic could move once more. The vehicles shot away accelerating at amazing speed helped along by their sleek designs and ‘Force-grip’ extra wide tyres.
The car park was illuminated by a neon sign, an expensive ornament that looked like it had been snatched from the cheesiest Casino, or a stage prop idea lurking deep within the mind of some Game show host. Tim and Sue remained silent as they approached the gleaming silver car. Tyler placed his thumb on the door handle. A clicking sound was an indication that the locking mechanism had been deactivated.
“So, what did you two learn in class today?” Tyler asked as he opened the passenger side of the door for the two children.
Tim, the younger of the two opened his mouth to speak but before he could utter a word, Sue jumped in with her reply.
“We learnt more about the Biodome and how it func . . . Erm, how it . . .”
“Functions”. Tim shouted, eager to interrupt with his answer.
Sue continued, after leaning forward ahead of her brother.  
“We learnt how it provides us with all the right living conditions and stuff”.
Tim jumped up and down, not wanting to be outspoken by his sister. “They tell us how we depend on the Biodome to survive and how it provides us with perfect living conditions. . . Did you know that there are three thousand trees under our Biodome and that they’re spread over loads of miles . . .I think about . . . four hundred.”
“No, they didn’t tell us that . . .it was more like two miles or something.” Sue protested.
Sue jumped in the car before Tim could utter a reply. Tyler was about to climb in too when a man approached. He was dressed in an official looking suit but didn’t look entirely human. The same could have been said about the way he walked,  unnatural, with a slight flinch every ten steps or so.
“You may not enter the vehicle as you have not purchased a parking ticket. Please pay the fine now or provide contact details so that we may ask for payment at a later date.”
Tim leaned toward his sister and whispered. “I thought those droids had been replaced. I think he’s about to fall to bits.”
“Yeah. So fake.”
Tyler told the kids to hush and then got out the car to meet the droid.
“I apologise for the mistake. . . I have the money to pay the fine.”
Tyler took out a black wallet from his coat and sifted around inside. He quickly pulled out a silver card.
“Here.”
The droid held out a touch screen device and gestured towards Tyler. “Please  tap the device with your card.”
Tyler followed the droids instructions.
“There. Hope that settles things?”
“Have a nice day sir.”
Just as Tyler took his hand away, he found that he could move it so far, but no further. He looked down to find the steely hand of the droid wrapped around his own. Because of the unexpected actions of the droid Tyler could not or would not take action to pull himself away. The droid leaned in towards him.
“There is water outside. Natures water. Perhaps, you should dip your toes in. Try something new.”
The droid spoke, almost in a human like whisper, something that seemed inconceivable to Tyler. But that is exactly how it was. For a few seconds Tyler seemed to be caught in a trance like state. And then, the droid released it’s grip on Tyler’s hand without offering up any more clues, nothing to add. Tim couldn’t help but notice the droids strange behaviour and his naturally inquisitive nature had to spread wings and fly. “Did he hurt you?” He said with a hint of concern.
Tyler shook his head and returned to the car. “I’d better take you two home.”
Tim and Sue couldn’t help but giggle as the droid clumsily turned around and walked away, almost tripping over its legs as it did so. Tim was quick to speak.
“That droid, It's so old. I think it’s out of date. It shouldn’t grab your hand. That was weird. Maybe, we should report it to someone. . . If you see a problem. Report it. That’s what we’re told do. Right.” His words came out like a statement, somewhat cold and pre-programmed.
The car lit up at the flick of a switch and as Tyler prepared to pull away he realised he had initially ignored Tim’s request. But after a couple of seconds of thought he turned to face him. “Erm. Yes. You’re right Tim. We should do that. It could be dangerous to leave that model of droid in operation for too long. So yeah, I should report it. I’ll do it later.”
The kids sensed something cold within Tyler and for the first time in  a while they said nothing more for the duration of the journey.













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