Despite the familiarity of our daily commute, it feels different between us, as if we cleared a long table of refuse between us, and put out fresh wildflowers. Swinging our clasped hands together, it occurs to me I feel loved. The night is quiet except for the rhythmic sound of waves slamming against our crumbling sea wall, a soft whoosh mixed with continuous long crunches, windmills grinding and filling intervals when the lake/sea recedes. The Eudaimonia Center, where Haff grows embryos and I oversee culling, is our most essential structure. Threatened by the rising sea, it currently sits with one corner touching the rising lake, solar windows 2 floors above the waterline. Once-sprawling gardens complete with an intricate hedge maze and baby animal statuary had separated the scientific center and school from the shoreline a few miles away. A sea surge claimed that parcel not long after most of the population, including our families, left for Parnus. Now, it’s difficult to remember Eudaimonia 20 months ago, before blast off day and their betrayal. Dusan’s broken promise, especially. I think responsibility for the others helped propel me and Haff forward, numbly in survival mode, our days melting into one long slog. We woke one another up last night. Had it really been less than two years? We’d both trained for Gene-Culling, a healing modality necessary for evolved humanity on a “new earth”, but fate had other plans.
“Can we stop for a minute?” A floral briny sea breeze reaches us after it winds among rows of closed sunflowers and bushes of dessert chicory dancing in the shadowy moonlight. “It’s beautiful, isn’t it?”, I ask Haff, loathe to give up this rare satisfaction. Yellowing tomato plants, eggplant, and squash are heavy with fruit, all bathed in moonlight. Haff spent almost all of his free time here, as did my assistant Preeky Kala, the two becoming close.
“I think the worms might’ve multiplied and soapy water worked better than milky, just like Garvey said, but the bone meal is what increased the crop”, he replied with enthusiasm, “Not the best timing with bio exams breathing down my neck, but I’m sure I can squeeze in a half hour before sunrise, pick for us and Mrs. K. Mmmm… I can almost taste your eggplant and sauce, Sco”, Haff gushed, grinning and entirely ignoring dusty empty patches where melons and cucumbers grew only once, seeds not germinating this season.
“I’ll make it for your birthday dinner since everything is in so early. Can’t wait to make a big batch of salsa with Mrs. K again, maybe we save some for summer if we can show some restraint”, I replied gamely, intent on keeping our bubble of contentment afloat as long as possible.
Haff let go of my hand and turned to look at me, his eyes reflecting a more serious bent. “Yesterday you reminded me…”, he paused and looked down at our bare feet for a second before looking up again and finishing with, “of everything I love about you. I remembered how I felt, how WE felt, before they took Zehmy. This place… it wears me down, but you”, he took my hand, spun the titanium circlet identical to the one I gave him at our hand-fasting, “with you, I can be who I’m meant to be”.
“Wait a minute… did you just…”, I thought, and couldn’t help laughing nervously when Haff nodded slowly, his bushy russet eyebrows raised and wrinkling his forehead, eyes wide in utter shock. “This is our proof!”, his thrilled thought is translated by newly-active neurons in my claudate nucleus, or the center of my brain, a buzzing sensation accompanying his message. “We told them we were meant to be!”, he said silently.
“Good Goddess! I can’t wait to see the looks on their faces!“, I skipped a few feet then back, unable to contain my feelings. Throwing my arms around Haff’s neck and kissing him anchors me in reality, here on old earth, where I can not see the looks on our parent’s or any of our friend’s faces. “Ok, what do we know?’, I say aloud, knowing he’s in possession of facts.
Looking up at the sky of stars then back at me, he recites “Evolved genetic pairings create telepathic sensitivity, an evolutionary quirk in our DNA.” Haff memorizes everything he reads, one of his many cerebral talents. “This evolution has been found among families who’ve been acquainted for multiple generations, a new development barely studied due to an extremely small sample of only seven pairs”.
Many of our parent’s peers in the science community considered it unworthy of further exploration, likely because most of them had purchased genetic culling for their family trees, and in so doing, disqualified their kin’s DNA from evolving. “From what I remember, it’s theorized prolonged exposure to my DNA triggers your higher mind abilities and vice-versa…, but none of the investigators actually had the ability to document it First-Hand”, Haff explained with emphasis on the last part. Personal experience of any hypothesis is the gold standard. “Beyond telepathy, enhancements are unknown, but with what we know-they could’ve buried it”, he speculated.
“I love you, Haffney”. I felt a slipping sensation at the base of my skull as my message sped to my lover in a nanosecond. Reaching for my hands, he disappears them in his, and thinks, “Let’s go home for another hour. We’ll still be early enough”. I let my apprehension surface for just a moment before deciding I’d rather lose myself in him. The truth is, I’ve already decided the crier needs to be culled, as will anyone else who exhibited emotional weakness during their sacrifice, per the First Law of Eudaimonia. The seal my parents left me will stamp their expirations heroic, for the greater good of our dwindling numbers. “Race you there”. I pulled my hands away from him and ran, imagining the wind blowing away my worry about the aftermath. Reaching the door first, I sent a thought to Haff, “Meet me in the loft”.
While we telepathically planned distance and interference tests of our newfound gift, three re-entry capsules blocked the garden from moonlight with their mammoth parachutes. During the capsules’ splashdown, we decided to keep yet-another privilege of our birth a secret.
Their resentment was understandable. While billions scattered across the planet during climate migration, our families and friends’ families built secure estates and social clubs where resources such as energy, meat, and linens were more plentiful. Most importantly- this elite class rarely knew the pain of homesickness most people endured. Three generation of this “let them eat cake” mindset had turned the populace bitter, yet weak and less intelligent than those eating “nutritious food”. By the time the Elite Eudaimonia Center practitioners left for Parnus, including the ship with their parents and son, the only crops growing were millet and sweet potatoes. Iron supplements were provided without disclosure of source, most assuming they’d been created in The Eudaimonia Center’s labs. They were correct, but now they know the blood capsules are created from plasma, and exactly how it is sourced. They may have forced me to be a Culler, but they couldn’t control how I survived while doing it.
Haff and I were the first ones to join Garvey at the sea wall after he raised the emergency alarm, his panicked voice projecting a booming and almost unbelievable message about splashdown capsules. Container doors automatically unlocked for all leadership, a group of fifty three scattered throughout Eudaimonia. “Did you see any markings, Garvey?”, Haff shouted.
Still leaning his lanky form into the wind, Garvey replied, “Pretty sure there was a globe on the ‘chute, Haff!” The top of one capsule rose, then slid backward. Who returned to a dying planet?