the boy from the other
Dusk settled over the city of Aeon in a bright swathe of pink and blue. Stars began to peek out as the sun relented its great dominance to the moon, and the shadows it cast across Aeon dimmed into a greater darkness. In the Alpha district at the northern head of the city, people slowly began to filter indoors from their daily activities to prepare for the curfew at dark. Eventually, the sun sank below the horizon of the Taiman Wall, but still it threw its rays to the heavens as it neared the true horizon that Aeon’s people would never see.
Paintbrush in hand, Alpha 23 Adam transferred the great scene onto the canvas before him. His sharp eye caught each puffy pink cloud, each subtle accent in color, each star, which his practiced painter’s hand carefully transferred to the canvas in front of which he was situated. It was a particularly gorgeous sunset, Adam decided, leaning back on his palm to admire his handiwork in the last of the receding light- perhaps his mother would like to hang it.
Adam watched as the Alpha district became emptier and emptier, but just east of the district, the Omega district was still alight. It was something he had observed before, but never had he sated his curiosity as to why. Did Omegas roam the streets at night like nocturnal beasts? Were they violent and greedy like the savages from the Prior Time that children studied in school?
I wonder what it would be like to walk around at night.
The sudden and unwelcome thought snapped him back to reality, and he pushed it from his mind hastily. If the Officials caught him thinking like that, he could be in serious trouble. Besides, he was already blessed to be an Alpha, what more could there be out there in the city?
Inside, evening activities commenced normally in the Alpha 23 residence. After dinner, his mother, Alpha 23 Ada, took a dose of Serenity and excused herself for the night, and her husband, Alpha 23 John, followed soon after. Adam went to the study room with a copy of a novel he had been given by a schoolmate. It was a well written book, and indeed there were no discernible faults yet nevertheless it struggled to maintain his interest.
The thought from the rooftop pressed insistently at his mind, even as he tried to push it down. He closed the book with an annoyed snap at last, and found his eyes drifting to the window across the study. He got up and crossed the room to it, looking out into the night and up at the twinkling stars peeking through the gray clouds. The night seemed to beckon to him, and something in his mind urged him to take it.
Without thinking, his hands were on the window latch and he threw open the window. The night air was cool and refreshing, breathing more desire into him and begging him to come outside even for just a little while. Finally, he relented.
He swung his legs over the windowsill out into the night and slid himself carefully out the window and landed in the soft grass with a muted thud.
A thrill rushed through his nerves like electricity as he breathed a new and foreign freedom. He looked back up at the window once before turning away with a smile.
The streets in the Alpha district were still and silent, and each sound he made seemed to bounce across the flat surfaces around him. Adam had never before felt the feeling of being completely alone before; he felt as if in that moment, he was the only person in the whole city. He neared the edge of Alpha district, he hesitated.
Eventually he found himself in an area where others were wandering as well. Adam avoided them, seeing glimpses of red implants. Being an Alpha, he didn’t want to risk being seen speaking to an Omega. He fixed his hair quickly so that it fell more concealingly over the gold implant beside his left eye.
Suddenly, he rounded a corner and nearly stumbled into a figure sitting against the wall. He saw that the shape was a young boy- sitting on the ground appeared to be well kempt and quite out of place in the dingy, dirty Omega district around them. Surely this boy was also an Alpha, maybe even one who had gotten curious like him and had snuck out.
“Um, excuse me-“ He suddenly caught sight of something that made him falter.
Beside the boy’s eye was a red implant.
Adam was struck by the sight of this boy, how… normal he looked. The perception of Omegas was one of wild, uncivilized beasts of men, working all day in undesirable jobs and roaming the streets at night. This boy, however, was well groomed and almost startlingly beautiful, and when the boy startled and turned his gaze upon Adam, he saw in his eyes a sharpness and intelligence that caught Adam off guard.
Those sharp eyes darted at once to the implant beside Adam’s eye and hardened. The boy sat up straighter and cocked his head at Adam patronizingly.
“I-“ Flustered by the boy, Adam struggled to find the words to say. “My apologies, I assumed-“
“Assumed I was one of you, yes?” The boy smiled unkindly. “Why would I be, sitting out here at this time of night?”
“Never mind,” The boy waved his hand. He unfolded his legs from underneath him and stood up. On his feet, he was near Adam's height if a little taller, and his shoulders were broad. He leaned back against the wall casually and looked over him once again, eyes flitting back to Adam’s gold implant. “You shouldn’t be out here. Why are you even out here, Alpha?”
Adam knew that being out here was stupid, and that he was going to be in a world of trouble if he was caught, but something about the way the Omega spoke to him riled up an untapped feeling of spite and he squared his shoulders haughtily.
“I’m just walking around,” He said, almost childishly. The boy raised his eyebrows, amused. “And my name is Adam.”
“Abraxas,” The other boy said curtly. It took a moment for Adam to realize that it was the boy’s name. “Do you even know what they’ll do if they find out you’re thinking like this? They’ll kill you.”
Adam furrowed his brows at the gibberish word. He had never heard it before, and certainly didn’t know what it meant.
Adam felt his temper rise. The government of Aeon was good and kind, and never had he seen them do such horrible things as this boy described. “That’s not-“
“Not true?” Abraxas interrupted him. “Sure, believe what you want. Forget I said anything.”
With a shrug of his shoulder, Abraxas turned his back on Adam and began to walk away. For a moment, Adam felt relieved that his encounter with an Omega hadn’t ended in harm to him, but the feeling was overcome by that same damned curiosity that had put him out here in the first place.
“Wait!” He cried out after the other boy, traitorous mouth moving before his rational thoughts could stop it. What on earth was he getting himself into? “Where are you going?”
“Home,” Abraxas said over his shoulder. “I’m not going to get any business tonight with you around, and whether or not you believe me, for your sake you probably shouldn’t be seen here or with me.”
Business? Adam wondered what the other boy did at such a young age.
“Where do you live?” Adam asked.
Abraxas halted, turning to fix Adam again with those perceptive eyes. There was a keen light of interest flickering in them, despite his annoyed posturing.
“You really are intent on your madness,” Abraxas said. “If that’s really the case, you can come back with me for a while, at least until the Officials around here move into another sector.”
Abraxas led the way deeper into the district, making sure Adam stayed close to him and guiding him silently down the dark and dirty streets. They passed a few other Omegas, some of whom nodded to Abraxas and some of whom Abraxas nodded to. The gesture was curt with no words exchanged, impolite by Alpha standards, but Adam knew that it was a sign of solidarity, maybe even friendship.
Eventually, Abraxas stopped at a dingy and unassuming door; if not for Abraxas scanning his implant against the lock, Adam would have assumed the place was abandoned by the grimy and bleak exterior. The scanner flashed and the door popped open and Abraxas ushered him inside a small dark room, lit by the moonlight creeping through a single small window. There was a bed and a small table with a lamp. In one shadowed corner, there was a stack of boxes with no marking.
It looked like a cell, Adam thought, but he said nothing.
“What kind of work do you do?” Adam asked. “What sort of job is done at this hour when all respectable customers are asleep?”
“A job that is done because all respectable customers are asleep,” Abraxas responded. “My services aren’t something that your sheltered Alpha mind would understand.”
“And what would that be?” Adam pressed.
Abraxas paused, seeming to gather his thoughts before responding. There were too many things that those who lived comfortably simply did not understand- even among Omegas, few truly knew the black heart at the center of the city.
“Officials are not allowed to marry,” Abraxas said presently. “They are never assigned a partner, and even at a young age those born to take the Official mantle are barred from romantic inclinations. However, with all their money to throw around, they get curious. They see a pretty face at night and they see a red implant, and they use their money and their power over Omegas in that way. After being manipulated into one too many bad deals, I learned how to turn a profit.
“Obviously,” He continued, silencing Adam’s opening mouth with a hard look. “Unauthorized and unofficiated engagements in this way are illegal, but the government does not wish to bring the issue to light. If an Official was tried and convicted, if the issue were brought to light in front of the public, doubt would be thrown onto the system that operates on this illusion of justice and security. So they turn a blind eye, and it continues.”
Abraxas could not face the other boy, so he shrugged his shoulders and went to sit on the small blanket that he used as a carpet. Adam followed him hesitantly, mind racing with knew and wild information. He did not sit, but stood at the edge of the blanket and stared down at Abraxas in shock.
“You… you don’t Forget, do you?”
“Of course not. We here are not so lucky.”
“Do they hurt you?”
Abraxas shrugged his shoulders, feigned indifference. He finally gathered himself to look at the Alpha staring down at him. “It doesn’t compare to the Alpha district, but this place practically a palace in these parts. My work made this happen.”
Adam looked around at the little room. It was dingy and sparsely furnished- a small bed, the blanket on the floor, and a small table with a little lamp on it. Everything was a bleak shade of gray or brown or white, blank and dingy. It was nowhere near the homes that Adam was used to, and the idea of this being upper end was like a punch to the gut.
Suddenly, he thought of all the paintings he had done in his life. Just that evening he had been on the roof painting the sunset!
“I’ll bring you a painting,” He said suddenly. “You can put it on the wall and add some color. I have one of the sunset, though it’s not my best. I also have one of a great big tree that I saw a diagram of in my history book. I could paint you anything you want.”
“No,” Abraxas said softly. “There can be nothing beautiful here.”
Adam’s mouth moved but no sound came out. Soft as they were, Abraxas’ words struck him harshly. Never once had he thought of anyone in Aeon living like this, never had he imagined being unhappy. Because he could not feel unhappiness, he could not feel pain. He had never known those very things that seemed to weigh Abraxas down in a chokehold.
He reached out without thinking.
As soon as Adam grabbed Abraxas’ arm, Abraxas lurched with a terrible noise that pierced Adam’s ears and shot straight through his chest. Abraxas’ knees buckled and his hands reached up to claw at his implant wildly. Adam stood there, confused and feeling a wave of unpleasant emotion that had had no name for.
“Abraxas, what’s happening to you?”
“Hide,” Abraxas hissed, and his body jerked again. “Quick, get away!”
“Omegas aren’t allowed tot ouch Alphas!”Abraxas raised his voice and another shock of that unnamed emotion rolled in Adam’s stomach. “Officials are coming!”
Almost of their own accord, Adam’s feet were carrying him away, looking for an inconspicuous place to hide. While Adam crouched behind a stack of boxes, Abraxas remained in the middle of the empty space, still overcome by waves of pain from his implant.
A moment passed by. Adam’s heart was beating wildly in his chest, breath caught oddly in his throat when he tried to breathe. As an Alpha, he had no prior reference, no memory of this feeling; Omegas knew it as fear. Crouched and trembling, Abraxas looked wild like a feral animal. Adam had no idea what he was feeling.
Or maybe he had once, and didn’t remember.
Suddenly, with a loud crash, the door burst open and two Officials entered the building. The Officials were dressed in identical uniform, armored in white and faces hidden behind lifeless black helmets. Adam had seen Officials before, standing guard or escorting important individuals through the Alpha district, but he had never feared them until this moment. They towered over Abraxas as they stalked toward him, their power making them seem to loom like giants. Adam brought his hands to clutch over his mouth, terrified of making a noise.
“Omega, you were reported making contact with an Alpha at 10:23 PM,” The first said.
With a wave of the Official’s hand, Abraxas’ tremors came slowly to a halt, and with relief came the ability to take a deep, shuddering breath. “Ah, the little Dove himself. Causing trouble tonight, Dove?”
“It was an accident,” Abraxas snarled, clawing his way to a sitting position and glaring up at the Officials with fierce indignation. The official’s gloved hand leapt out and smacked Abraxas, who visibly fought to stay upright from the force of it. Adam’s body jerked on instinct to help, but he forced himself to stay still.
The Official pulled out an object that Adam had never seen before. It fit in the Official’s hand and the long end of it pointed at Abraxas in a way that was clearly threatening.
Abraxas, on the other hand, had seen a gun before, and froze. The Official knelt, keeping the gun leveled threateningly between them and reached forward with his free hand. The hand trailed down Abraxas’ throat in a way that would seem almost gentle if not for the way the boy’s eyes tensed like an animal caught by its predator and he began to pull away. The fingers landed on the necklace at his throat, and after a moment of almost mocking inspection he pulled it taught against the boy’s throat. Abraxas’s eyes shot wide with panic as oxygen struggled to enter his lungs.
“Since you’re nice to have around, little Dove, I’ll give you a choice,” The Official with the gun said. “Tell us where Alpha 23 Adam is, and I might consider letting you live.”
“I-“ It came out in a strained hiss. “-don’t know-“
Before he could even finish, he was interrupted by the loudest noise Adam had ever heard. A great and deadly bellow of sound boomed out from the Official’s weapon and Abraxas fell to the floor with a spray of red.
“Alpha 23 Adam, we know you are here,” The first Official said suddenly, and Adam’s blood ran cold.
The first Official snapped his fingers, and all of a sudden Adam’s implant flooded his mind with a terrible screeching noise that stunned him just long enough to be taken to the floor and incapacitated underneath the iron strength of the second Official.
The noise in his brain peaked even louder, and Adam felt a terrible sound claw out of his throat like the one Abraxas had made. His implant felt searing hot against his temple.
Adam awoke in his bed the following morning at 6:00 to the gentle mental pulse of his implant, feeling as though he hadn’t slept at all. Strange since he knew for sure he had gone to bed promptly and earlier than usual after struggling to read that boring old book from his schoolmate. He shook his head, and reached into his bedside table for his bottle of Alertness.
The last remnants of what must have been an odd dream faded from his memory as his implant set his mind for the day.
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