Leaving behind a deep imprint of my heavy boots into the mire of garbage that littered on the 22nd century city floor, I heaved myself to the front of a rusty steel door, a paragon of dwindled hopes, like the thousand others that I have passed on my pilgrimage here. Peering across my dusty shoulder, sighing out loud the shame that brought me here, I knocked.
A slanted billboard dazzled glaringly on the slum block behind me, doubtlessly flaunting one of those inauthentically cheap fast food, and I scoffed out a cough, as the vault door shrieked over the hubbub of the city above them, it flung open, and steamy air gusted against my wrinkled face and my long grey hair, and I promptly entered the narrow pathway which was constructed decades ago, all behind the vault door.
Lumbering pass hooded figures and shadowed silhouettes leaning against the plastered wall, cowering myself over the din of people mumbling, I waddled my way through the dimly lit room to a caged counter, all the while the squelching noise of my soggy boots incessantly echoed around my own bubble of discomfort, as I tugged my leaden wool jacket closer to my pounding, heaving chest, as I quivered of both the cold and indignity.
“The usual package.” I muttered over my hushed voice as I placed myself once again at the mercy of the despicable counter.
The gaunt teenager behind the counter twirled his head lethargically towards me, dark eyes woven with threads of prominent fatigue, monotonously announced: “That would be 4000$, ma’am, a discount to you, the loyal customer, as a token of appreciation.”
The juvenile paused, blinked, before continuing in a drab tone, “The theatre is at the very back of the hall, and I bid you to have a pleasant Aspiration. In case of emergency, please take the exit chute located in your respective theatre. Proceed at your own caution.”
I patted down my shabby jacket, as a glimmer of a grin rendering the taut and grim visage of mine, clearly appeased with the offer of a promotion, and finally found the coins I needed to pay to the boy. I began walking, reminiscing the halcyon days of yore when I was still a young lass, where 4000$ can be used to purchase a low-cost palm-phone.
“You are familiar with the procedures, I presume. Please lie on the chair as we prepare you for your first session of Aspiration today.” The physician declared with a trembling pitch, donning a yellowed apron, boots squeaking in the waterlogged floor, with sewage water dribbling ceaselessly from the roof of the room. There is naught here which is out of sorts of the natural outside world.
The dentist chair hollered as I laid down upon it, resting my clammy palms its bent armrest. The physician took no notice of my anxiety, went on with his business, as he had done it countless times before.
“Nature, eh? Odd choice, considering the fact of all imaginative possibilities, you have chosen to dream of it. I rather say it’s a waste reckoning of lost history, they are worthless to us anyways.” He stood next to me, callously peeling my eyes wide open before administering a green gel into it, which was to be a channel for me to enter my Aspiration.
It is a green world, a lush one. Or at least, that is what Earth was supposed to be, according to what the history books had taught me. An Aspiration, I thought to myself, is the only place where imagination came to life, the sole realm where paradise can segregate itself from the poisonous, industrial, mechanical, choking world I live in. How free I am now! Good riddance!
I pivoted myself around the top of the green hill, taking in the vista of a pristine Earth, as penguins chirped and glided through the air, with such merry grace. Birds do fly, do they not? A scowl embedded deep on my forehead, as I pondered on the reasons why people have forsaken these majestic creatures by letting the polar ice caps melt itself away to our own avarice. Flying penguins, which is exactly how the history books would have described.
“Are you done gawking at your own creations? Great, I need to inform you that as much as you wanted to pride yourself as a keen and brilliant naturalist, you have done as much desecration to the natural world as the person right next to you.”
Startled and alarmed, after hearing his cynical voice once again, after so many months of abandonment.
“You do realise that there is no one here other than you and me, here, in my Aspiration? Leave me be.” I retorted, facing away from him, not even investing a drop of effort attempting to mask my annoyance.
“Hah, old wife of mine, you are a hypocrite yourself, even when I’m dead, millions of lightyears from you, you still can’t let go of me, can’t you? Heh, pathetic.” He snorted in disbelief as he inhaled another bottle of vodka.
Overcame by fury, I slapped his cheek with the back of my palm, but he did not even flinch as I did so. “GET OUT! I SAID GET OUT OF MY DREAM!”
He said nothing, and I rendered myself feeble on the woolly blue grass, as the sky darken to turn black and white, I mumbled: “You discarded me, an old woman, just to work on a damnable smuggling spaceship, away from me, all the while drinking your life away! I told you, time and time again, I nagged you, I begged you never to board that ship, but still you still waved me off akin I’m nothing to you! The spaceship was too old, I told you, that the Federation would just swatted it out of the sky. Am I that worthless to you? Why did you have to go? Why did you had to drink your life away? I asked you to stay…. I asked…So many questions left unanswered…I…”
“I still needed you, but you just had to … die somewhere in the middle of nowhere, where I cannot reclaim what I have lost… I have lost you…”
He stood up, and uttered calmly: “You cannot keep visiting me like this. I’m not real. You must let me go. You have to make peace with yourself. I was the anchor of your life, but it now tethers you to the ocean floor, suffocating you, you have to let yourself out of these manacles, promise me that. At least I can do this for you, peace. You have to go. You have to —- “
A deafening roar shook me up from my Aspiration. I heard the rattle of guns. I smelt the stench of kerosene being ignited. I opened my tearful eyes to the petrified face of The Physician.
“I don’t care about you, but I’m definitely out of here!” He bellowed over the raging yells of flame that flourish all over the theatre, completing the compilation of every dreadful sound there is.
I trailed him, albeit my footing unsteady and my vision murky, and jumped down the escape chute. I ended up on the harbour side of the city. Drenched in sewage and reeking of both agony and regret, I wrench the shoulders of The Physician as I landed after him.
“IS THERE ANYMORE OF THE ASPIRATION GEL? I’m not finished yet, please tell me you still have some, I need it…”
“Get your hands off me! I have just lost my job, while the only matter on your mind is the darn gel? Snap out of it, we are being pursued by authorities, some things are just better to leave behind, there’s nothing more you can do about it!” snapped the physician. He peered over his shoulder, eyes manic, before continuing, “Sometimes, you just have to give up.” He ran the other way without waiting me to reply, leaving me stranded, alone once again, to ponder.
My eyes glazed over bright advertisements, and the balls of my feet sore, shoulders sloughed, I walked the endless and familiar corridors. A left here, two rights there, and I wandered, and found myself back again at where I found myself every night.
I went into the morgue, and walked my way to a tiny unclaimed gravestone, unmarked and untouched, stained of soot.
They have depicted the likeness of my husband, among countless others who lost their soul to this unceasing world of madness. On the gravestone, all there was to commemorate his living, was his name.
“Lothar Weiß, German, husband of Dinah Amos, Jewish.”
Maybe, Aspirations, are not what it seems to be, sometimes, for hope to come, we just let our history go, and surrender ourselves to the what we have now.
A mute robotic attendant stood there, waiting patiently, then I said: “I wish to certify my husband’s conclusion. I’m ready.”
“I’m ready to let go.”