Once There was Life

Chapter 4: Not to be Determined

The sound of the sparrows followed him in his sleep. In his dream, Cecile stood by the edge of the blooming forest and the ravaged shell of a city was behind him. He had been watching the forest for weeks through the windows of the biology lab at C.R.A.V.E.

It was a dreamland where the immortals laughed and ate, chatted and sang.

“We would like to close the door now,” Fina told him.

Turning back towards her, Cecile looked at the young scientist who had kindly taken care of him despite his unexpected appearance in the center all those years ago. She had kept her face innocent by keeping her hazel eyes open, allowing her expressionless smile to relax, and letting her blond hair fall loose down her back. But Cecile perceived her tension in the way she stood with her hands in front, fingers clasped around a clipboard.

“Sorry,” he said honestly. Out there was not the world for him.

The clipboard tilted as she gripped it more tightly.

“But you have to.”

He knew it was a plea. If he didn’t join the other experiments in the yard, he would be deemed a failure. He would be disposed of and Fina would lose her reputation as a researcher. Yet she had refused to force him out. She had wanted their relationship be genuine because in that place they could only rely on each other. He had been her second chance at a career and she had been his teacher and savior when he was lost beyond the wall.

“And I’ll be right here,” she told him.

As a consolation, his dear Fina had promised that they would meet often. He wasn’t like the others who idled along. Cecile had held on to his intelligence and preferred to have meaningful conversations with other people, but he also knew that she would not visit often, that her life was tied up in papers and spreadsheets. In this case, setting him free was a more inhumane act than when he had been asked to be a subject. He looked up to the dizzying blue sky.

“No,” he told her.

Now he just had to wait to die. Instead he woke.

“What a bad lie,” he said putting his hand up over his eyes.

Through the spaces in his fingers he saw for the first time that Dominic Odalas was standing over him. Cecile moved his hand.

“Do you wonder what immortals dream about?” Cecile asked.

“No. Do this please,” Mr. Odalas said, holding the slip of paper above him.

Cecile regarded it disdainfully. He had thought they had come to an agreement.


“Do you really think I forgot you? Who do you think bought that couch?”

“It’s terrible leather.”

Mr. Odalas pulled the list back. Cecile sat up ready to argue his point, but Dominic Odalas had already reached behind his back with his free hand and brought forward a pistol. Cecile quieted, but Mr. Odalas didn’t point to shoot. Instead, he held the barrel and offered for Cecile to take it.

“You were asking about this right.”

At first Cecile only looked at it. He recognized that the gun belonged to the boy called Oliver.

“He’s dead then,” Cecile concluded.

“No. Not dead. Oliver was costing me money so I let him go,” Mr. Odalas explained. “Now you get to take his place. Are there any more questions?”

Questions? Cecile was confused. This wasn’t how it was supposed to go. Oliver dead and himself not listening, wasn’t that it. It was as he examined Mr. Odalas’ sure expression that Cecile understood that his emotions were being played with. Somewhat in awe with his new emotional understanding, he reached out and took the gun.

“No,” he responded.

“Good, you start tomorrow.”

Mr. Odalas placed the list on the armrest and was gone as suddenly as he had come in.

“Tomorrow,” Cecile repeated, attempting to bring back the greatness of his task, and failing.

What had happened? How was he to feel special and relied upon for a task that didn’t need to be done until tomorrow? It was such a waste. Cecile turned the gun over in his hand and slid open the magazine cartridge. It was loaded with a single bullet. Maybe he could clear his head of that morning’s ridiculous dream if he got it over with now.


Chapter 3: Groundless

Chapter 5: Shatter Call