Eve chose one of the last empty tables in the refectory and sat down with a sigh. She was exhausted and it was only midday.
Resting her wrist on the table caused the smart implant nestled under her skin to activate the virtual menu which opened up on the table in front of her. She eyed her food choices with mild disdain. What she really wanted was a sugar filled, energy rich chocolate drink but she didn’t have enough points for that. She opted for an apple instead.
By the time the digital hovered over with her order, her table had filled up. Eve recognised Katyln and Jasper from her Advanced Biology group but the others were just random faces in the crowd. A very noisy crowd. Eve’s head was starting to ache.
A slight tingle on her wrist alerted her to an incoming message. Sliding her finger over the smart implant opened the projected screen along her forearm displaying the reminder she had set for herself to talk to Professor Salvamer about getting another extension on her essay deadline. A squirmy bit of dread wriggled in her stomach. Rubbing her now throbbing temple with one hand she turned over her K-smart tablet. The action opened up the screen on the last page she’d been studying in her Physiology talkbook. With a grimace at the reminder of the work she needed to finish for that afternoons class she slid her gaze to the right quickly a few times, closing the open app and accessing the school map. With a slow blink she chose Professor Salvamer but the “Not found” symbol flashed up indicating that she was not currently on school premises. Still, no going back now. The Professor would have received an alert telling her that Eve had looked up her location. Eve highlighted the “request a meeting” option flagged next to the Professors name but was interrupted by three loud, sharp blasts of the lockdown siren.
A general moan went up around the room.
“Again?.” Katyln rolled her eyes and started gathering up her things angrily. The whole refectory filled with exasperated sighs and mumbled complaints as they began receiving and reading their smart alerts. Eve felt she was probably the only one happy. Saved by the bell – at least temporarily.
Eve felt her wrist tingle a few more times but she didn’t bother checking what they were. Around her people were checking on family members and tagging their locations but Eve knew her notifications would be purely news related and right now she really didn’t care about the details.
The school heads hologram appeared in various places around the room. “Students of Eden College, this is not a drill. There has been a level 5 global virus alert. Please make your way to the lockdown pods calmly and safely. There are more than enough pods for all students on campus so there is no need to panic. I repeat this is not a drill. Please make your way to a lockdown pod. Thank you.”
Eve grabbed her things and joined the herd of study body flowing out of the refectory. Snippets of conversation caught her attention.
“My mum said that when she was our age she only ever had one of these lockdowns”
“Really? Bloody hell feels like we’ve been in lockdown more years than we’ve not.”
“I’m actually 27.” Laughter.
“ This one is airborne. Contagious. 72% mortality rate so far. Only 2 days incubation before symptoms though so not as sneaky as the last one.”
“Wonder what weirdness is going to be going on when they wake us up this time. Big foot again?” More laughter
“The digitals need to be programmed to do a better job when we’re out.”
“The space station will keep an eye on things better than the digitals ever could. At least they’re people.”
“That’s what they want you to think. We are all just sheep being herded to our culling.”
“Hey Jackson, you dropped your tin hat.” More laughter.
Eve approached a free lockdown pod. The solar panels and shape reminded her of a cockroach egg. She ran her wrist over the lock and it sprung open. She began taking off her jewellery and her shoes and socks and putting them away in the provided pockets. Eve was glad of the privacy of these pods, she spared a small thought for those caught in public spaces having to use the electric communal pods.
“Eve’s family are key workers.”
Eve hadn’t been listening and was shocked to get dragged into the conversation going on between the people choosing the pods around her.
“O.M.G. Really?” A young looking man, probably a first year, asked, looking at Eve in awe.
“Um. Yeah. My dad and my little brother, although he’s about 7 years older than me now.” Eve laughed awkwardly.
An intelligent looking man about her age reached over to shake her hand. “Well, when this lockdown is over tell them both thank you from all of us. We appreciate the risk and sacrifices they make to look after us all.”
A murmur of agreements and a spattering of applause from the people within earshot had Eve’s cheeks burning in embarrassment.
“Thank you.” She mumbled. “Erm, but you can tell them yourselves. Both their tours are over this year. They’ve both reached the maximum space time allowed for their age groups. Dad is coming down in the shuttle next month and John in about 6 months.”
“If we are out of lockdown then.”
Yes. If they were out of lockdown. A shiver of fear snaked its way downs Eve’s spine as she settled herself into her pod. She slid her hand into the removal zone and winced at the sudden stab of pain as her implant was removed and stored within the pods systems.
If this lockdown went on too long then her family would go past the maximum allowance for space living and would suffer terribly because of it. As the pods began to seal and the lockdown procedures started Eve had to admit that as much as she wished they had chosen a different path to follow it was a comfort to think of them up there keeping an eye on the world as they slept. And her eyes closed.
Sound, light, air, sensation all rushed in on her at once leaving her gasping in panic and blinded by the brightness.
“It’s okay. It’s okay. Just breath. You’re okay.” She didn’t recognise the voice but it had a soothing deep timbre and seemed friendly. Eve decided to take his advice and gulped in lungful’s of sweet air. It smelt peaty and floral. Something wasn’t right.
Her head was throbbing. Memories eluded her. She chased thoughts around her head but couldn’t seem to pin anything down.
“What’s going on?” Her voice was dry and broken.
“I don’t know. I just woke up a few days ago. I’ve been looking all over but yours is the only pod I found still intact so far.”
Pod? What? Where were they? Who were they? Eve’s mind felt like mashed potato. Pod? She couldn’t seem to keep a thought in her head. Her eyes began to adjust and she sat up slowly with the help of the man. Every part of her ached.
“I think we were in there longer than we should have been.”
He seemed to know what he was talking about. “Sure.” She replied. In there? In where? In here? How long should they have been in there? And why?
Looking around Eve saw that her…pod? was balanced on a ridge. A straight drop down into vines and foliage with no bottom in sight on her right. All around her grew plants, flowers, trees and vines teaming with birds and insects.
Careful of her bare feet they clambered up to the top of the ridge. The sun was rising to the left of her, bathing the vista in front of her in a plethora of colour that stole her breath away. The undulating landscape was covered in colourful flowers and birds, chattering animals and majestic trees.
Had it always been this way? A memory of something else skittered through her mind and disappeared. The man handed Eve a fruit from an overhanging branch. She sank her teeth into it gratefully. The explosion of sweet flavour and cool liquid was like a balm on her throat.
Looking up into the sky something tickled Eve’s mind. Someone was up there. Someone always looking after her, looking down on her, keeping them safe. A father. A son. One day they’d come back but for now they watched over her, over them, over everything.
That felt right to Eve.
“What a beautiful garden.” She sighed.
The man nodded. “By the way, I’m Adam.”