​​My face is leaking. It’s cold towards my right eye, the slobber pasted there by the wind of the air mattress. I slip out and shuffle for-ward on my toes like a bird, my wings struggle to swing the door open. I pitterpatter to the bathroom to take a morning shower. I si-phon fluoride, water and lye from the well in the wall. I pepper my teeth with the fluoride levitating from my fingers. The water flows in a line to my body and bubbles at my creases with the lye. I feel slippery but proud. I flap my wings; a miniature storm rages around my body. I am ecstatic. I let the deluge slow to a drizzle as I settle down, blowing the water and paste from my flushed body. Before I exit, I select a scent and clothes from the database. 

The living room is empty. So is the other bedroom.


“Outside, Jess! You’ve got to see this!” his croon penetrates the port wall.

I step outside. The view is breathtaking (get it? because the air is pure . . . never mind). I’m in a pasture of green grass and little yellow flowers standing in awe next to my dad. Now this is a sight to be excited about. I hear birds chirping. A few dance high above among the sparse clouds. I take off my shoes and fondle the grass with my toes, the grass tickling my bare skin, flowing like water. I feel bad; I see a small clump I must have ripped out stepping out of the ship. 

To the left mountains capped in pure snow, resolutely painted lilac in the morning sun, rest like stalwart sentries of the king’s court. I smell the air without compression. I’m so used to maintaining the oxygen levels around my head that I gasp, the air is so sweet. I hear gurgling streams to the right. I can’t get a glimpse of them, but the hillocks there are clothed in dwarf trees hanging low with citrus fruit. 

“I was waiting for you to wake up before going anywhere. We’re in no hurry,” dad whispers.

I want to take off and fly to see everything, but I know dad will want to walk. That means we might have to hike, ugh! Dad requests a feed from the ship.

“Now there are three neighborhoods in the vicinity which fit our cri-teria. There’s Skyton up in the Reas mountains. There’s Atlantis in the lake — must be behind those hills, and New Norwich is a few kilometers just ahead of us. Which do you want to see first?”

“Let’s get over with the hike first,” I complain.

Dad sets off in the direction of the mountains, sucking in large quantities of the sweet air.

“No oxygen doping, Jess, just make sure the air pressure doesn’t make you elevation sick,” he orders.

I push off at a slightly faster pace than him. I know he let me go to sleep last night without exercising because we’d hike this morning. The air pressure feels sublime. I can breathe in normally and exhale normally. I don’t have to package the scents and the oxygen in the correct compression, I can just breathe. The air feels light on my skin, lighter than Zhao’s, which means it is nearly identical to Earth’s. We arrive at a path starting at the base of the mountain. 
“The grass’ll grow back, right?” I ask tepidly. 

“Don’t tell any environmentalist I said so, but yes,” dad assures me.

The temperature is around fifteen degrees, but as we head up the mountain I begin to sweat. The motion of stepping on the uneven ground is unique to me but manageable: I trip slightly on the rocks, slide on patches of dirt, and struggle to jump the gaps. The path takes a straight course up, but to the left and right incisive cre-vasses enlarge into chasms. Inside the mountain, in the crevasses, the rock is pinkish and blue. I feel my heart pounding on my ribs. 

“This is why we exercise, huh?” I ask exasperatedly.

“We should be able to do it,” dad breathes deeply.

The lilac color of the mountains splotches into platinum and tan as the sun peeks over the curve of the mountains to the right of us. The green of the grass behind us shines. The yellow in the flowers begins to really pop, especially in the few bursting from the rocks. By now I’ve timed my steps into a rhythm, controlling my landing onto bigger rocks and pivoting off. I lunge up the boulders with the better grip of a solid surface. I sense my breath shortening.

We reach the snow, but I don’t feel cold: The sun warms up my skin and hiking warms me inside. The wind feels a little crisp, but it isn’t brisk. Behind a large outcropping Skyton emerges, sitting low and horizontal along the ridge line. It’s a prairie style form with a form-alist overlay in grey. The grey at first looks uniform, but as I observe the curved corners and the colonnade I see many shades of grey translate from one end to the other. 

“The realtor knows we’re coming so we should be able to walk right in,” dad decides. 

We walk past and behind the first row of apartments. The back of them have little courtyards with gardenelles and cute pathways, the plants springing up and out from the snow in the energy of the sun. The complex does not connect with the rock, so I assume it’s sustained by gravitons. We stop to go inside an apartment the database says is for sale and walk in. 

The inside relies on a design that is too intricate for me — dark colors dominate — mahogany, tanned leather, mica lamps. I can’t imagine how dad feels; I feel about right with the low ceiling, but he must feel claustrophobic. The floor plan centers on the porch, per-mitting you to view the bellavista from any part of the home. The colonnade stands just a few meters from the balcony and frames different parts of the valley like paintings in a museum — from here I can see the lake — it’s quite large and looks kind of like a hare with thin, muscular legs and fluffy ears. 

“Are we two bachelors or not?” I ask.

“You’re right, it’s a little homey. What of the view, though?”

“I’m checking out Atlantis,” I retort.

I jump off the porch. Dad doesn’t argue and jumps off as well. We are falling. I dive towards the incline of the rock, letting natural gra-vity force me down swiftly. Adrenaline pumps through my veins. But before I dash my head on the rocks, I gravitate, I use the gravitons in the space around me to negate the force of my fall. I stop com-pletely in mid-flight before pushing myself forward towards the lake. I accelerate to a brisk pace and then lie down as if reclined on a bed. Gravitation gives me full control over the forces of gravity from the surface of my body to my proximity, about three meters. 

I fly from the mountains to the lake. I am flying! The sun reflects mo-mentarily from the transfer ship in the pasture. Dad gives me a slight push with a smile. 

“You’ve been such a good son, Jess. You know we just discovered Antury, it’s really an honor to live here. I hope you do realize that,” dad lectures. 

To my dad’s point, there’s something really fragile here. This colony — a bountiful, newborn Earth — is shared among privileged few who transfer here, which, by the way, apart from the xenobiologists (and even they serve an important role), are sure to be pleasant. Real food is grown on planet. The air is pure. Do I dare say utopia? And we all know what happens to utopias . . .

By now I notice that Atlantis sits on the deeper end between the hare’s stomach and head. A circular aperture sits just under the surface of the lake, the beginning of a long pipe that channels to the lake bed. Its treated metal shines a deep aqua. I’m surprised the water doesn’t splash when we enter and descend the vertical hallway. I thought it would be dark, or at least lit in deep blue, but instead the water above us acts like a bright, green sun. 

I immediately feel dry and exposed when we pass into the air bub-ble and a few faces seated in couches and armchairs glance in curiosity at us and then continue their conversations. The furniture is set in half-circles on the yellow floor, hard to tell exactly because the reception mimics the color of the water through the vaulted ceiling, now glimmering like green fire. There's no bracing though.

“There’s no ceiling, gravitons you know,” we are informed by a wo-man with nice eyes and a roman nose seated in an armchair. 

Dad thanks her and then we walk across the floor following some markers down one of the hallways. They indicate that apartments nineteen, thirty-four, and thirty-six are open for viewing. In apart-ment nineteen the same aqua steel gilds the walls and diodes pop through the finish like crystals in a mine. The bathroom has no wa-ter in the well, implying you use the water right above to take your shower. I watch shadow and light waltz lazily on the floor. I’m some-where in between. I don’t want to seem selfish so I suppress my ex-citement to live here, but dad doesn’t look incredibly impressed. 

“C’mon, let’s go look at New Norwich,” he gestures.

Outside the sun is a light pink and the sky, a blueberry, like Earth’s. By now the temperature has also improved. As we approach New Norwich, it is at once clear that it is a cushy and habitable neigh-borhood to live in. Boys play ball in the grass between trees and shrubs. Girls picnic next to rocks and flowers. Adults sit on knolls and converse happily with one another, overlooking their kids at play. I don’t see any houses, but then I realize the knolls have doors among the rock overhangs and crystal prisms atop, which must be skylights. A whimsical woman approaches us from the knolls — thick blond hair, a bit too much makeup on — a welcome sign for sure, though unwarranted. She must be the realtor.

“I could’ve sworn you were going to come here first that I did not bother to alert you I was here all along. I could have met you guys wherever you wanted to go, you know,” she concludes.

“We know,” dad responds.

Ditto, I want to say. She turns and waves us to follow her. She leads us two rows in, third hill to the right and behind. The doors are a light rose color.

“They all look the same from the outside, but I already fit this unit with your request, Mr. Fens,” she opens the door.

It’s at first a little dark, but there’s absolutely no strain on my eyes. The room is spherical and feels like the inside of a golf ball. It’s cozy, but it’s an illusion created by the colors. A pink-orange glow like a flame flickers back at a cubby bar. The database lights the walls and floor in aquamarine. A light-colored wood interlace lines the walls until about half a meter from the ground, where a green moss starts and continues onto the floor. The deep green moss also co-vers the table and the stools set in the middle of the ball.     

On the table, making me drool, waits crispy bacon, buttery casse-role, steamy coffee cake, fresh-squeezed juices, and chocolates. The smell is intoxicating, just as rich as any food I’ve ever eaten. I would walk around but I’m transfixed, protecting the goods, you know. I see dad opening a door with some stairs going down into the exercise room we requested: wood panelling on the floor in a Japanese crisscross design, walls bare save a Daoist painting, and a bonsai tree on a stone bed in the corner.

“The wind mattress is invisible and sits just below the skylight here,” she points above the table, “And the other is tucked above the bar where there’s another skylight. No need to sleep with a covering with a view like this!”

“I agree, it’ll do us well. We’ll take it,” dad smiles.

“I knew you’d say that,” she opens the front door to leave, “I’ve already sent you the information, good day!”

When she closes the door, I can tell dad has the same crazy notion I do, so we both sit (very soft) and begin to eat. We fight for the ba-con. I win! I nibble into succulence. Natural food is gloriously messy, a mixture of flavors in little packets, a magnificent journey of twists and turns with every mastication and lick. There’s such an inexplic-able contrast to artificial food that is a little too mushy, a little iron-strong, a little too uniform, or just plain. That’s why I pop the food pills if I cannot have the real thing. I down a little casserole, siphon a large drink of juice — tart but sweet and smooth — I munch on the spiced coffee cake and let the choco-lates melt onto my tongue. Then I’m full. 


I look over at dad pensively. His eyes tell me he’s serious. What now? Why now?

“I’ve been meaning to tell you something. Several somethings act-ually,” dad says soberly in the glow of the feminine, peach flame. 

I shift on my moss stool (warm and silky) as if I am actually going to listen this time. I know what it’s going to be about: the incredible wealth he accrued before I was born. He had some job that paid him so much money (or continues to pay him loads) that he hasn’t worked in my living memory, and we vacation all the time, fly ex-pensive ships, and buy expensive condos. This was also before my mom's death. She died before I can remember, which is highly sus-picious, but I don’t believe it was in childbirth. She must have been terminally ill, like cancer. But cancer rarely kills people these days. He’s going to say he’s worked hard for many years with long hours, which is why he’s retired and why he regrets not being home while she was still alive. He may even try to explicate why he’s never remarried, as he’s in his early forties, still dressing stylishly, still fit — I don’t know the details and I honestly don’t ever want to know — but I’ll start with the last and work my way up to the first.

“Dad! I don’t want to hear about you and the realtor,” I blush.

“Mom just died yesterday!” I exclaim ashamedly.

Dad is perturbed but stops to see if my cathexis is complete. He may leave it at that if he sees that I understand the issues. 

“And I know we’re poor and you’re a struggling artist and all —death is just another subject for your creations, but — must you abuse mom barely in the grave, tossing, just so you can do an in-tense study of death versus love?” I joke devilishly.

“Let’s exercise, then,” he concedes, rising from his seat like a bear from hibernation. 

More than a little excited by the prospect of exercising, endorphins already beginning to enter my blood stream, I follow dad into the Japanese room made just for us. The bonsai tree is gnarled and ancient just how I like it and the painting is amorphous just how I like it. The crisscross flooring has been buffed smooth; I feel it on the bottom of my feet. I balance my whole body on to my right heel, starting low. Then I slowly raise my center of gravity until I am in a false-reclined position, stretching my groin, abs and shoulders. Af-ter a count to one hundred I jump over to my toes into a T-form, changing my stretch to emphasize my thigh, biceps and forearms with another hundred count. From there I bend down, fetal position, stretching my gluteus, back and neck. After another one hundred I explode off my leg, performing a double kick and land in a one-handed stand, stretching my quad (100 count). I bend down, str-etching my tricep and then explode off my right hand onto my left heel and repeat for that side. 

After one round, we usually just continue on to a set shortening the stretches and applying gravitons when needed until we can’t do it anymore. This time I go until I am a ball of dynamic aggressivity, sweat dripping from my face profusely. Anyone looking at us would see two balls of clothes and limbs flipping, girating and panting li-berally. I pump oxygen and cool air into my proximity from the well in the wall, hoping to stem the heat. When I look over to see if dad is still exercising, I slip. He was! I catch myself before I hit the ground and float back to standing up, but my legs feel like oily pistons that need new pneumatics. I fall back and sit, trying to break my uncon-trollable breathing, until, shortly thereafter, my heart speaks peace to my lungs.