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But She Smiled

By @CharlieWrites

The Dreamers Have Died.

They had fought, as any species would, seeing their existence waning, but their violence was futile. And anyway, the world was better off.

The Creators had taken their place, and the world had finally achieved a total utopia. Technology was at its peak, and nobody had to work, nobody had to learn, not if they didn’t want to. People could do what they loved, all day, everyday. Their technology was absolutely perfect, and any illness could be cured. When it was time for people to die, they did so peacefully. And the Creators entertained them through it all.

Darwin’s Creator played some movie about aliens. What they were doing, he wouldn’t know. He wasn’t really watching. Darwin lay on his back in his little pod, staring at the images as they danced across the dome, the floor shaking with impact, the programmed smells coming when they were to come, the wind blowing when it was to blow, the noises coming from the direction they would’ve, as if the story was real life. And for many, their little Creator was all they had. For many, their Creator was their real life.

Darwin sighed, getting up. He didn’t bother to turn the movie off as he exited his pod. It paused for him automatically.

“Don’t forget to drink some water, Dar,” His Nurse called to him as he walked past the scanner.

He walked past the other domes, the white walls and floors around him occasionally shifting to other colors and images in order to meet whatever aesthetic the majority of the people around him were into at the time.

It was messy at first, the Final Automation. People were rioting, wanting their jobs back, people were trying to ‘escape’ people tried to rework the system to gain more power over others. There were food shortages and medicine shortages and outbreaks and power outages. The world heat up around them, then flooded, the caught on fire. But eventually, everything balanced out. Eventually, everything was perfect. No money was needed, so there were no social class issues. People never had to work, and nobody needed power, or to worry about each other to survive. There were no weapons- none were needed. Energy was all clean, and the world outside began to flourish- except for the mines, the energy fields, the agricultural fields, and the spiderwebs of domes. But that only took up a small amount of space compared to Old Society, with its overgrown ruins sprawling about for acres and acres and acres, their landfills and oil rigs, and concrete abandoned to mother nature.

There weren’t laws, or state tied nationalities- people found their identities online, their communities, and created their own rules to live by. If you didn’t fit the rules, you’d leave and find your own community. Some didn’t find their community, and became drifters, or they became sick. Some communities killed, or hurt, or harmed. They were taken out pretty quickly by the others.

Darwin was part of a few of the more vague identities, but over the years he’d lost any close personal ties he’d had before. He might’ve been a drifter, but he gave up looking for another community a long time ago.

Lucky for Darwin, he was born long after the Final Automation, even after the Dreamers died. He’d heard of a few here and there, people who’d tried to live with the new system, but they’d all died off, gone mad, killed themselves. Darwin stopped studying history after that.

He stopped at a window in the hall, his eyes caressing the misty cliffs with their lush jungle tumbling off of their surfaces, the tall columns disappearing into the distance, into the sky. He stopped and he stared and he decided. It was his time to go, to join them.

For Darwin was a Dreamer. He always had been.

He didn’t know how he knew, but he knew. He knew when he looked into his sister’s eyes, eyes that never worried for him, in a world where there was no need for worry. He knew when that coat of apathy concerned them. He knew when he’d rather her be anguished then meet him with an empty stare. He knew when he told his creator a dream, only for it to spit up millions of versions of that very story, when he’d rather the story stay tucked in the folds of his mind, when he’d rather the story be his. He knew when he’d hum to himself, only for his Creator to play the song, announcing the millions of listens it had gotten. He knew when he stared at the images on his dome, wishing he’d felt something, wishing that he did have a purpose, despite how offensive the ideas of expectations had become. How could this not be enough for you? You have everything you could ever want, why are you upset?

He’d sit there in his dome, in the dark, curled up under his blankets, knowing that he wasn’t allowed to complain. He’d sit there, tears streaming down his face, wondering why he hated the apathy, wondering why he had to be different, wondering why he was broken, why the medicines his Nurse gave him couldn’t fix him. He didn’t want to sit anymore, with his legs and his arms twitching, unable to control himself. He didn’t want to sit anymore, his Nurse giving him pill upon pill upon pill.

What’s worse was how. How would he join the Dreamers? His Nurse would stop any attempt. He’d be trapped here.

He’d be trapped, in a world where he could go anywhere.

He banged his head on the window.

Once. Bang! His body shook with the pain, his hands braced on either side of the spot where’d he’d thrown his forehead.

Twice. Bang! The dank clang echoed around the hallway, where everyone was doing whatever they pleased- watching movies, reading, listening to music, studying, learning.

Three times. Bang! The glass didn’t even shutter, the screen didn’t even crack.

Four. Bang! Five. Bang! Bang! Bang!

After a while, he stopped, stumbling back slightly, his head aching. There it was. But he didn’t just want it in his head, he wanted it in his hands, he wanted it all over his body, like a shower. He stared at the strange cliff jungles and lunged, as if he’d fly to them, slamming his body into the wall, punching with his fists.

He began to feel his heart race, pounding in his ears. He stepped back and threw his body into the glass again, and again, and again. He finally gave up and threw himself backwards instead, onto the floor, the pain of the impact spreading like warm cocoa through his body. He sunk into the feeling, welcoming it with pleasure. But the pain was gone too soon.

He hadn’t even bruised.

He lay there on the floor, eyes closed, lifting his head and dropping it over, and over, and over, creating a sort of musical dance with the throbbing and the rest of his body. Maybe if they found him here, banging his head on the floor like this, they’d try to cure him. And if he was cured, great! He’d never hate this horrible ache ever again. Or maybe they’d decide that he was better off in an asylum, where he’d go insane as they’d try to fix him, until eventually he’d just… die. Either way was a win-win. It was always a win-win here.

“What are you doing there?” a woman’s voice broke through his thoughts like waking from a dream. Probably a Worker, cleaning the halls. There they were. They found him.

“Are you alright? Hey,” The voice came closer, and he felt hands shaking him.

He stopped banging his head, looking at the woman.

She was unlike anything he’d ever seen. Had to be at least 12 years older than him, with wild hair piled around her shoulders, wrinkles all around her blazing eyes. She smelled like dirt, or at least the kind they have in the movies, and like sweat. Maybe she’d been working out? Darwin didn’t know. Nor did he really care.

I’m sorry,” Darwin sat up awkwardly against the wall, pulling his knees into his chest.

The woman looked at him with those stormy eyes.

She didn’t stand. she didn’t leave. She didn’t call anybody to take him away.

“Mind if I sit here?” She asked.

“It’s okay, you don’t have to,” he murmured. He didn’t think he could handle small talk right now.

She sat down anyway, leaning on the wall opposite him.

“I’m-I’m okay, really. I’m sorry,” he stumbled through his words. He should go back to his pod. He’d rather be alone, anyway.

“Don’t be sorry, and I’m not going anywhere. And it’s okay, y’know,” She was still looking at him.

He shrugged, not able to care enough to be confused.

She explained anyway.

“Not being okay, laying here. We’ve all been there, us Dreamers,” She sighed again, leaning her head against the wall.

“Not all of us make it,” She mumbled.

It was his turn to stare at her.

“Okay. Such a funny word. How many times have weused it in our conversation so far? You told me you were okay. I said that you weren’t okay, and that was okay, which is basically what you said. Where did the word even come from?” She rambled on, the wrinkles that clung to her face rippling with every syllable. “you know, in a world where you can witness every possible combination of events, someone is bound to be witness this exact situation, this exact conversation. Then again, maybe not. With an infinite amount of stories to witness, there are an infinite amount of stories that will remain unwitnessed,” here she smiled, and tilted her head at him. “To bad they don’t get to witness it like we do.”

He must’ve looked ridiculous, staring slack-jawed at the woman like that. Staring didn’t help him wrap his mind around what she was saying, but he still felt as though she knew everything.

“You… you’re a Dreamer?” he got out eventually. She laughed.

“Yeah. I’m a Dreamer.”

“But… how? I thought they were all dead?”

Her smile faltered a bit, as her blazing eyes regarded him solemnly.

“We aren’t something you can kill off. As long as you have an intelligent species, you’ll have dreamers. This might not be our kind of environment, but that doesn’t mean we don’t exist. Unfortunately, we don’t survive, not usually.”

“But you did,” Darwin pointed out, gesturing to the woman sitting across from him.

She smiled.

“I tried overdose. I took the pills from my Nurse and hoarded them. But they figured it out. they saved me. I hated it. but eventually I thought, there have to be others like me. Maybe we can leave this place, try to live on our own, try to escape. start our own world, where we can make whatever art, music, movies we want. Of course, it would be hard. We wouldn’t have endless medication, or protection, or food. We wouldn’t have a perfect climate, or perfect equality. We might be lonely, too. and we wouldn’t be able to save us all.”

Darwin frowned.

“Leave?” He let the word roll over his tongue. “Why would we leave? Everything is perfect here.”

“Maybe, but Dreamers don’t dance with perfection. We want to dream our own dreams, to love each other under a sky we don’t own, to battle forces we can’t control. We want to fight.”

Darwin shook his head, his hands shaking as he rubbed his temple.

“I don’t want to fight.”

This time, she didn’t say anything.

He didn’t remember her moving, he didn’t remember her getting up and scooting closer, and he didn’t remember her pulling him away from the wall. All he knew was that suddenly he was in a strangers’ arms, sobbing into her hair as her old arms encircled him, trying to squeeze the ache out of his body.

“It’s Okay,” She mumbled, stroking his head, which clung with the ghost of his self inflicted pain. “It’s Okay.”

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