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Everything was nothing for a very long time until the world came rushing back in a roar of murmur, pain, weariness, light, color, and finally order. She opened her eyes. The light in the room hadn’t changed--it never did----the clock said six thirty--someone was in the kitchen---God her feet hurt---(off she kicked the heels)---and what a headache----it was like her brain had gone all miscemental and flung itself at the walls of her skull, desperately trying to escape the prisonous hell in there. She laid a cool, slender hand against her forehead.

Footsteps. She peeked out under her long eyelashes.

Red hair.


Nervously she folded up her legs. He sat down. Neither said a word.

After several minutes he held out a long dark bar. Chocolate. She broke it in half, returned half to him; they ate together in silence. Something strangely like peace overtook them. When she had finished her half, Aerope stood and dusted her hands off. A hydrobot scuttled out suddenly from the wall to clean up the crumbs.

“Going?” Periscus said without looking at her.


“Be back when?”

“Nine or ten.”


She stepped awkwardly over his legs. “Well, bye.” She picked up her shoes.

The hydrobot retreated to its wall-hole.

She pulled the stillettoes on.

“Bye,” he said flatly.

The tone cut. Wincing, she picked up her Intuor and left the house. Once outside, she notified the City Unified Railbox Transport System through the Intuor that she needed picking up. The screen displayed the message: “Railbox arriving in two minutes or less.” Ok. She looked up to watch the box--her box--make its way out of the masses so it could come to her.

The railbox system was an enormous web of steel rails drawn out in the green sky. Every hour of the day, single-passenger glass boxes roamed from Morobough to Teshiri, carting citizens to friends’ houses, office buildings, education highrises, stacked shopping promenades, and wherever else they needed to go. Usage was free; the railboxes used heat to individually generate their necessary electricity. As did everything else in the city, the railbox walls had touchscreens and automated vocal companions. CURTISes, the railbox variety were called. For the transport system’s semi-unofficial acronym: C.U.R.T.S. They would have called them CURTSes, but that just seemed ridiculous.

Aerope’s railbox dropped down to street level and the pneumatic doors hissed open. “WELCOME, CITIZEN,” the CURTIS said. “PLEASE ENTER THE TRANSPORTATION UNIT NOW.” She did. “ARE YOU AFRAID OF HEIGHTS.” She knew the toneless words were a question, and answered it in the negative.

The only reply was the railbox’s doors hissing, sealing shut; then the glass box jolted and began smoothly rising towards the sky.

She felt the box jolt as it switched from the entrexit track to the main track. The entry track slowly folded itself away behind her. After that, the ride was smooth.

The city was beautiful from this high up, in Aerope’s opinion. A brilliant green sky arched over clusters of bright white buildings that jutted up from the motley field of houses. Rails crisscrossed elaborate wroughtings above the buildings. Looking down, Aerope suddenly felt dizzy. Only slightly, but CURTIS noticed.


“I’m not.”


She set the Intuor down on the seat beside her. “No they’re not.”

CURTIS stopped, taken aback. Her pulse seemed normal, even if she had grown somewhat cooler. Sullenly it retreated. “THANK YOU FOR YOUR COOPERATION,” it droned.

Aerope looked out the glass wall again. Thank god the boxes vibrated more or less at what looked like 80 beats per minute to a computer, and that the CURTIS manufactuors hadn’t figured this out yet.

Besides, she wasn’t really afraid of heights. They just made her slightly giddy. And it wasn’t fair to make her get out and use the surface-level rails, since she wasn’t phobic. Surface rails went so much slower. Aerope hadn’t taken one in years, but the last time she had, it took her forty-five minutes to reach her destination. It should have taken no more than ten. Twenty, maybe, if the high rails were congested. But really there was never a reason for a trip to take practically a full hour.

The box suddenly jolted. Aerope grabbed the sides, panicked for a moment, then realized she had merely switched over to the entrexit rail. Her grip relaxed slowly. Breathe. Breathe.

The box reached the street.

Submitted: March 02, 2013

© Copyright 2022 Iskah E Shirah. All rights reserved.


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