04 Dec Norstu Desert
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"Norstu Desert"Written by
Estimated reading time — 6 minutes
The flawless white of the perfect snow stretched ambitiously towards the amber horizon. The immense glass walls seemed to amplify the majesty of the Norstu desert. I’d have been struck down by awe if perfection were not now a staple aspect of everyday life. The ochre support panels of the place of worship were delicately adorned in an array of winter flowers; Blue Bells, Snow Drops and Christmas roses alike had all joined together on this special day. Sometimes it felt like an exhibit; an artificial display of humanity designed to delight a higher power who could point and laugh at us and rub their face on the smudgy glass of our enclosure. However, today it was the chosen venue for a triumph of modern genetics. A few mumbled words and a week of feasting later and I’d be the father-to-be of a genetically ideal child. And yet the feelings that gripped my heart were a world away from joy.
Please don’t misunderstand my reservations; Cade was my complete ideal. She was warm, resilient, intelligent, laid back… she is quite literally, my biological match. On paper. It is not that I felt in anyway unworthy of her; I could easily provide her with a happy life that would allow for the furthering of our society- that is if it were possible to improve upon perfection. But as I stood there in my formal fur Konskt looking down the idyllic aisle across the glacial plane, the sterility of the whole charade hit me right between the eyes. I took a few quick strides into the bathroom under the guise of wanting to go over my vows once more. When hidden from prying eyes I set my own gaze on my unchanged reflection. I wondered at the peculiarity that my mind could go through such a vital transition and not a modicum of it would be expressed on my face. My miss-matched eyes provided the same unsettling stare the designers had decided upon when selecting my parents. One green iris, one black; the summer and the night. Well, at least that was what my mother had whispered into my ear on one of her fleeting visits to the GenTech Building.
When in doubt, rationalise; the party tag line played in my mind. I closed my inharmonious eyes and attempted to do just that. This marriage would only last a year; enough time to provide offspring then I’d be free of the restrictions of monogamy and the child would be rushed off to the GenTech Building to receive the highest standard of education and upbringing. A light knock on the door called my attention. Cade didn’t wait for a response before slinking in. She delicately patted her immaculate silver blond hair back into its intricate braid. It was a mechanical gesture.
‘I do not recall seeing tardiness as a listed aspect on your genetic profile.’ Her soft voice was inflectionless. She fixed me with her pale, nearly colourless eyes. They seemed almost reptilian when showered in the fluoro lights of the rest room. I raised the left side of my mouth up by way of response. She tilted her head to the left, her face impassive. ‘You know, Tevje, I have had 4 children by 4 different men so far, yet you are undoubtedly my most interesting pairing.’ A wave of something close to compassion lapped over my frontal lobe while I wondered at having 4 children before the age of 22. This child would be her fifth and my first. Everyone from the local area had gathered to view this important, yet routine event. It appeared that I was the only one experiencing a sense of crazed unwillingness. Cade read my face with laser-like precision. She changed her conversational track, her hand once again finding its way to smooth back her hair.
‘I wonder, Tevje, do you hesitate before stepping into the shower? Do you pause before drinking a glass of Gohne?’ She continued in my silence, logic spouting from her perfect face, she was the epitome of genetic perfection, a lovely little party clone. My blushing bride. Her eyelids fluttered down and back up again in a carefully planned blink. ‘I was wondering about the name Idun for a girl; it means…’
‘…To renew nature.’ I cut in, ending her sentence. She nodded, walking towards me in slow measured steps. I could almost see her put on her seductive persona like a well-fitting sweater. She smoothed my shoulder-length, corn blond hair behind my ear and whispering intimately. ‘You know that this is the natural way; it’s how our species survives in this… hostile environment.’ I turned my neck slightly to really look at her exquisite face, a muscle in her cheek twitched, no doubt from the effort of holding that smile in place. I could see the contempt so close to the surface, it was then that I realised; she didn’t want this anymore than I did. The geneticists were walking her down the aisle just as surely as they had trapped me.
‘Cade,’ My voice was softer. She covered my mouth with her hand, fear breaking her façade. ‘You’re going to get us killed,’ She directed the words into my ear in a malicious whisper. All off a sudden she broke away, feigning a girly laugh and hitting me lightly on the arm; ‘I’m afraid you’ll have to wait for tonight to do that with me Tevje!’ I read the fearful warning in her eyes. It all clicked. We were being watched, that’s why the church was entirely glass. Every cell in my body urged me to lean back and look through the transparent roof to see if I could locate the drone. Leave. My brain was pushing me towards the door; out of it; out of the church; out of my allotted life. I couldn’t resist the pull for long. I walked big, loping steps past Cade, out of the bathroom and under the arch of winter flowers. The door handles felt cold on my hands when opened them.
My Konskt fluffed up as I exited the splendid church. It was only charged for 7 hours of warmth, then it would shrink back down to thin indoor material and the shivering would start. Why on earth would anyone want to go into the desert for more than 7 hours anyway? I walked out into the vast expanse of snow realising that I had outgrown my wilful ignorance and gilded cage. I would not, could not, subject an innocent child to a parentless falsity of an existence. The rhythmic sound of my steps crunching on the ice brought my GenTech education to the forefront of my mind. Never go out onto the frozen tundra. Nothing survives out there, including you. How are you going to further our elite society if you’re dead? I could still smell my sexless GenTech teacher’s herbal cigarette. The pressure of her hand on the top of my head was almost unbearable as she patronisingly ruffled my hair. She laughed at my suggestion that I would be an explorer when I grew up; from that moment onwards I was a sullen, quiet student.
Stage One: Uncontrollable Shivering.
Five beads of sweat made a gallant attempt to cross my forehead before being welded to my face. There they remained like a glacial crown. All hail the king of this wasteland of humanity. My Konskt had run out of charge 15 minutes and 21 seconds ago, my fingers trembled, unbidden, a constant reminder of that fact. The wind howled maddeningly in my ears, as if a thousand voices were screaming at me in a language I couldn’t understand. My feet strode dutifully forwards, always striving for me to return to my kingdom.
Stage two: Numbness
My blinks became increasingly inefficient, only occasionally managing to remove the build-up of snow from my eyes. I watched a snow flake fall slowly down, it’s perfect individuality being lost amongst the homogenised snowfield. What did it matter anyway; are we not all going to fade out of existence eventually; as separate as we are, are we not all united in our inevitable end? My mind was slow, spinning off on tangents, floating and soaring with the gentle snowdrift. Only one thought had clarity; I regretted that there was not a single individual to hold me down to this Earth. No ties to keep my soul housed in my body. I was unbound. I was free.
Stage Three: A feeling of warmth spreads through your body
I was alone.
Stage Four: You enter a period of semi-consciousness
I smiled a sardonic smile on frozen lips as my lethargic mind jammed the puzzle pieces together; I had, through some horrendous genetic accident, developed my own brain. Worse still; it was untainted by the party bullshit. The desolate expanse of the Norstu Desert had never felt more like home; for it was as alone as I. For just as the frozen expanse was unequipped to sustain life, I was unequipped to live out a foolish lie. I suppose there’s a grim glory in being a martyr for your cause.
Stage Five: Unconsciousness
The snow was piling up on me, a comforting blanket pressing me into sleep. Ice had cemented my eyes shut. When in doubt rationalise. Never mind, there was nothing more I wished to see anyway.
Stage Six: Death
Credit: Lydia Marshall
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