Adam quickly threw a towel and water bottle into a waterproof bag and slung it over his shoulder. He walked out of his little apartment and down to the small stream that ran out back of the west wall. The wall was arched on the bottom to allow for excess water to pass through when the stream was swollen with extra rain water during the rainy season. It was not a secure location, and that’s what Adam loved about it.
Adam quickly stripped down to nothing, putting his clothes in a bag with the towel, closing it up tight. He then slipped into the cold water and floated on the small amount of water under the wall and out into the forest beyond. There he climbed out of the stream and dried himself before getting dressed again.
He could have just walked through the gate and into the forest, but there was something about not following the rules that made Adam smile. He knew they watched his every step while in the compound. They knew he had just slipped under the west wall. Out here, though, he had a small bit of freedom. At least he could fool himself into thinking it. Who knew what satellites they had in place watching, but Adam didn’t care at that moment. All that was important was the illusion of freedom, that and some solitude. He began to hike into an area he hadn’t traveled to before. He kept track of his progress with his wristcomp, dropping virtual breadcrumbs along the way that showed up on his retina display on the back of his eye. No need to get lost in reality.
After about an hour, Adam stopped to drink from a tributary to the stream he had used to make his escape. He bent down and retrieved some water with his water bottle and began the purifying process.
“Hey, who are you?” asked a male voice.
Adam closed his eyes and counted to ten, hoping whomever it was would just move on, but he was not so lucky.
“You new here?” asked the male voice again.
Adam opened his eyes and turned to face the voice. The voice belonged to a man in his late middle age that was built like a man barely out of his prime. Black curly hair ran down his back and the man’s ebony skin glistened with a fresh coat of sweat. The man held a long tree branch with both hands. He began swinging it through a series of very practiced motions, at times spinning it so fast that Adam could hear the branch whistle through the air. Abruptly the branch stopped moving.
The man smiled at his audience. “Do you ever speak? Me, I speak all the time.” He held out his branch in his left hand then chucked to his right. “Sometimes in actions instead of words.” The man waited for Adam, but when Adam didn’t respond the man continued. “I thought you might like my joke. I guess not. Did they remove your vocal box, your humor, or both?”
“They definitely left my vocal box,” Adam said. “Now if what you did there was humor, well, I better go complain about cruel and inhuman punishment.”
“Got you worried about what they did to you?” asked the man with a smile on his face.
“No, for you. They must have ripped out your funny bone before dropping you off here,” Adam replied. He noticed the man frown for a moment and that made Adam worry. Adam knew he would provide less trouble than that tree branch. He felt relieved when the frown flipped upside down and the man began to laugh.
“You’re funny there guy,” said the man. He walked through the underbrush and thrust out his hand. “The name is Hannoush Liszt.”
Adam took the offered hand. “I’m Adam Durst. I’m the resident xenobiologist.” Hannoush didn’t crush his hand, but Adam knew Hannoush could have yanked Adam’s arm right out of its socket. While he couldn’t match for strength, Adam never lost eye contact.
“I’m the resident head lifer,” said Hannoush. “And last I checked you are one of us, but you live on the other side of the fence. I’m not sure how I think about that” Hannoush let go of Adam’s hand and folded his arms.
“Like I said, I am the resident xenobiologist. And I am a lifer. They let me do my work for my supper,” Adam said unapologetically.
Hannoush nodded. “That’s good. You work for your supper.” Hannoush walked back to his branch and picked it up. Adam waited, not knowing how to respond to that. Hannoush turned back to Adam. “I work for my supper too. Oh, and also my lunch and my breakfast,” Hannoush broke the branch across his knee. He pointed one of the splintered ends at Adam. “We are making everything from scratch and the scraps from your side of the wall, so don’t tell me about working for your supper.” Hannoush dropped the two pieces of wood and began to walk away.
Adam felt extremely guilty, and it was equally extremely unusual. “Yeah, you’re right. I overstepped there. I seem to have a habit of that.”
Hannoush stopped mid step and laughed. Hannoush turned and looked at Adam again, as if for the first time. “I honestly think you mean it,” Hannoush said. Adam was about to speak up, but Hannoush held up his hand to stop him. “Reading people is my gift and my curse. That and having a perfect memory.” A loud whistle sounded in the distance. “That is my warning. I get to play by myself for a bit every now and then, but most of my time is devoted to our side’s survival. Remember that if you run into anymore of our kind. They won’t take kindly to anyone who is not with us.” With that Hannoush took off at a full run in the direction of the whistle. Soon Hannoush was out of Adam’s sight.
Adam suddenly had a case of not wanting to be alone. He brought up his digital bread crumbs and began picking his way back to the fence. After a bit of hiking, a large boom, sounded from the direction of the whistle, reverberated in the forest. Adam broke into a run of his own. Those walls never looked so good when they came into sight.