It was strange how sleeping assignments were set-up. There was a large board in the main building that listed where each person had a bed for the night, and Kya noticed that she would end up floating from house to house based on what was available.
She scanned the board for patterns, and it looked as though only the people in charge of maintaining a house stayed in the same spot. Another thing that caught her eye was that the strangest names, which she determined must be Shadow Striders, weren’t always on the schedule each night.
Everyone shared rooms, and bunk beds were in nearly every spot that could fit them. Despite the lack of privacy, and the idea of ever changing roommates, Kya somehow felt comfortable, and had no trouble falling asleep.
In the morning, Kya stumbled down the stairs to the kitchen, and was greeted by a kind looking older woman, with round and gentle features. She stood a full foot shorter than Kya, and wore some of the most vibrant clothing. It was as though she was the opposite to the Shadow Striders, and wanted to be noticed. Her hair was white and done up in such a way that it framed her apple cheeks. She smiled and handed Kya a cup of coffee.
“Hi, Kya, I’m Helen. I am one of the original First Gen mothers, and I was among the first to come to New Eden.”
“Nice to meet you.” Kya said in a gravelly voice as she accepted the cup of coffee. “What time is it?”
“We don’t really look at clocks around here, but it’s just after sunrise.”
“I’m never up that early.” Kya mused.
“The commotion must have woken you.” Helen smiled and spoke gently. “And that’s a good thing. While you’re here you’ll be expected to act as a part of the community, is that okay?”
“Excellent. Thank you. Everyone in the community is responsible for some part of the communal meals and everyone, from child to adult, is responsible for helping tend the gardens. One of your chores will be to assist with dishing out supper in the mess hall.”
“The mess hall? I have only ever eaten in houses here. Last night-”
“Last night you got in late.” Helen said in a gentle but matter of fact tone. “You ate with the last of the Shadow Striders.”
Kya nodded though she was still confused.
“We make two communal meals in the mess hall three times each day. Aside from that people may choose to eat alone or in a small group in one of the houses, and there is always a warm meal made for the last shift of Shadow Striders. But most of the time we eat together in the mess hall for those two meals.”
“Okay.” Kya said. “I get it.”
“Your other chore will be weeding a small section of the garden.”
Kya smiled, despite the fact that she had never had to weed anything before. “Sounds great.” She took a big swig of her coffee and grinned again at Helen. It was hard for her to be frustrated about the work she was assigned while being provided with meals and a bed to sleep in.
Two days passed quickly, and Kya felt like she was already making some close friends. She had spent almost her entire afternoon in the garden, chatting and weeding far more than the little patch that she had been assigned. As she walked back down the main road through the village, and heard the familiar sound of music wafting through the air, she was struck by how tired and how good she felt. It helped to have Henry by her side, carrying the heavy tools, after insisting multiple times.
He was strong, tall and easy to be around. It didn’t hurt that he had piercing blue eyes, and fiery red hair. The day old stubble he always had on his face only added to his masculine charm.
“Thanks again, Kya. I really appreciate the help.” Henry said. He tipped his baseball cap towards her, nodding slightly.
Kya enjoyed Henry’s company. Helen had made sure that Henry and Kya would meet, and it had been an awkward set-up. Despite the rough beginning, their friendship only served to make it harder for her to imagine leaving the community she was now a part of.
“Will you be coming to first supper this evening?”
Kya knew that the first supper was usually the better of the two. The food was fresher and she was assigned to help serve on second supper. “I hope to. I have to clean-up and then I’ll try to make it.”
Kya wiped dirt from the garden off her hands onto an apron she had tied around her waist. Her hair was tied back with a piece of string, and she could feel the warmth of a slight sunburn across her nose and cheeks. She felt like she had been in New Eden for ages, and she thought she was beginning to look the part. She smiled at Henry.
“I’ll save you a seat.” He said, grinning back at her, and Kya noticed a smudge of dirt on his cheek.
As she went off to clean up at a nearby house, she reflected on what she had experienced. Everyone was so sincere, and always so complimentary, and polite. Being away from the outside world hadn’t seemed to do much harm to those trapped within the walls of New Eden.
The house had three large bathrooms, and while they were always in high demand, they were also the one place in New Eden where you could get some privacy. Kya looked in the mirror, and saw some dirt from working in the garden had been smeared on her forehead. She noticed the same dirt still caked on her hands. It was easy to tell that she had transferred it when wiping her brow, but felt a little embarrassed that Henry had never mentioned it. Then she laughed remembering the dirt on his face that she had also said nothing about.
Her phone, which always seemed to have a nearly drained battery, thanks to the lack in cell coverage, buzzed in her pocket, rouzing her from her thoughts. Despite always having it with her, she had almost forgotten about the device. She didn’t recognize the number but accepted the call immediately and placed it to her ear.
“Hi, Miss Roberts?” A man’s voice came through loud and clear.
“This is her. Who’s this?”
“This is Detective Harrison. I have been asked to call you regarding an update on the status of your case.”
“Okay.” Kya, uncertain of what they were going to tell her, was unsure of how to respond. In an instant, her mind imagined dozens of different scenarios.
“We have arrested Mr. Georgetown. He is currently sedated pending a trial.” The officer spoke in a firm monotone. The timbre to his voice was almost relaxing. “We will contact you if we need anything further from you, but I doubt that will be necessary.”
“Um, okay.” The world seemed to dance around Kya as she processed what the detective had said and relief washed over her. “Thank you.”
“If you need anything else, please feel free to contact us.”
The call ended without another word. Kya took in a deep breath and let it out slowly. She didn’t feel like the same person who had been hunted in the alley, and then gone to the cops just a few short days ago. She turned and stared at herself in the mirror, she didn’t look the same either.
Her phone still in her hand, Kya texted Sam.
>Sam, they caught DG. Everything is safe, I’ll see you back at the apartment tomorrow. I’m so sorry again for all of this.
After sending the message, she checked the date on her phone and realized that it was Monday, her orientation for her new job started in two days.
Her phone buzzed as Sam replied.
>Thanks for the head’s up. I’ll make sure I’m home tomorrow. I really think we need a chance to sit down and have a real chat. Just the two of us, if that’s cool.