Some Fresh Air

Some Fresh Air

The distillation room distills water, not so much for drinking but rather, in the service of providing the synthetic rain within the orbital, which orbital researchers soon found to be not-synthetic rain at all. Being, essentially, a large-scale greenhouse, constructed almost entirely of glass and carbon-fiber-type materials, the orbitals, the researchers found, were actually quite proficient at condensing the moisture out of the air into a sort of mist. How to then turn that mist into rain as opposed to simply humidifying the place, Terraces were built with a sort of vacuum room to attract the moist air where the moisture would condense into a form that would then, ever so rarely, be cycled through the orbital as rain. Compared to the rest of the orbital and the Terraces themselves, the distillation rooms are quite noisy. Nevertheless, the room, if its function is unknown to a person, suggests nothing more than a storage closet, perhaps for a water heater or the system that waters and nourishes the foliage within the Terrace. The walls are of an opaque, frosted glass, where a person standing within the room could make out the shadow of a person standing outside the room, but the person standing outside would most likely not see the soft, grey cloud of a human form inside the room. And it is precisely within this type of room that the older woman stands and waits for [Staffer] and the Earth-man while the remaining three escorts, whose shadowy figures the older woman can see through the glass wall directly in front of her, stand in wait as well.

A gentle whirr of the distillation system rings within the older woman’s ears. The older woman, surprisingly, feels a slight discomfort from the sound and closes her eyes to focus the mind on the task ahead. What the older woman will speak to the Earth-man is already known well within her, of course, but no matter, the older woman considers a second option. The muffled voices of people speaking calls the older woman’s attention back into the space. A gentle knock. “Enter,” the older woman speaks aloud. The glass door puffs a puff of air as it glides off between the two panes of glass that make up the wall within which the door is framed. “Ma’am,” [Staffer] greets as he begins motions to introduce the Earth-man to the older woman. “Thank you,” the older woman cuts; “You may leave us [Staffer].” [Staffer] genially bows his head in recognition of an order. The Earth-man stands barely within the space. [Staffer] makes his way around the Earth-man and as the door slides to close the room off from the rest of the world, the Earth-man stumbles a step forward out of fear that he may be standing within the door’s way. Shy, a bit hunched, each hand clasping the other at about belly-button height, eyes darting throughout the room, slightly rocking back and forth from side to side on one foot then the other, the Earth-man looks certifiably uncomfortable.

“Relax,” the older woman suggests in the nicest voice possibly conjured for this moment. “I, ah, uh,” the Earth-man mumbles. “Hello, I am Kevin Voss,” the Earth-man speaks. “Yes, that is right, Kevin,” the older woman responds, and continues, “Am I pronouncing that correct? Keh-Vin Vah-Ss?” “Uh, yea, and you …” Kevin attempts to ask. “It doesn’t matter,” the older woman squints. Still obviously nervous, Kevin continues to rock from side to side. “Do you know why you are here?” the older woman begins. “Uh, I, I think so,” Kevin responds. “You think what, Kevin?” “I think I know why I’m here, but like, you know, it’s a little tough these days.” “Why is it that you are here then, Kevin?” “Well, I mean, I guess like, I thought that I was just like being asked about a really crazy thing that I saw happen, but now I think that I like definitely saw like something I shouldn’t have, like, you know, I saw something I shouldn’t have. You know?” Kevin blurts out a little anxious but with an overwhelming sense of confidence. This sense catches the older woman in a strange way that cannot be pinned down so easily. A whistle of a small wind. The older woman tilts her head slightly down and slowly closes her eyes to the sound. “Uh, Miss, or like Madam?” Kevin attempts again to ask. “Quiet,” the older woman conjures her nicest voice again, “Please.” Laughing. A warm breeze fills the tiny room. “Uh, wait, what is this?” frightened, Kevin asks; “Uh, Madam, or Ma’am, I really don’t like want to go through anything like weird or anything.” The older woman does not hear Kevin, of course. Instead, the sounds of a message ring through the older woman’s ears. When you live in the dark, there, much less is seen. The breeze ceases, Kevin, green in the face, about to vomit, begins to breathe heavily, one hand on each knee, bent in distress. “Please, Kevin. Calm down,” the older woman commands in a less-nice voice, albeit still pretty gentle. “Ma’am, I’m sorry, I just,” Kevin starts again. “Understood,” the older woman sternly responds. A strange moment goes by while Kevin suddenly appears to feel much better. “Yes,” the older woman speaks. “What was that?” Kevin asks. “It doesn’t matter,” the older woman informs. “What doesn’t matter?” Kevin asks again. “Your feelings, dear,” the older woman obliges.”But I feel fine,” confused, Kevin answers. “Excellent. Kevin,” the older woman calls; “Why don’t we take a little walk.” “Uh, okay,” Kevin agrees.

The two exit the distillation room, into the presence of the older woman’s three remaining escorts. To the escorts the older woman directs, “We will take a short walk through the hillside. Your accompaniment is unnecessary. However, please do follow us through the stream, and then wait for us there.” “Yes, ma’am,” escort V responds for all three. Kevin, feeling nervous again, states an awkward, “Uh, hello,” to the escorts who promptly ignore him. The five, now, walk through the arboretum toward the hillside-themed wildlife of Third Corridor’s Terrace. Silently, they make their way around a bustling group of facilitators who seem to be tending to an unruly bunch of vines that stalk an unwanting population of bamboo. Kevin seems in awe and asks, “Where the fuh-, uh, hell am I? I have, uh, like never seen any place like this before.” The escorts look at each other amongst themselves. The older woman, who leads the group, says nothing. Kevin, assuredly in awe now, continues to speak aloud, “Wow. Well, I’ll be. No, that can’t be. Is that a? Jeee-sus. Phew! What is that? This place is huge? How did that get here? Where did you find that?” For about fifteen minutes they walk through the arboretum until they reach a wide shallow stream, easily crossed upon stepping stones. U and W cross while Kevin follows. The older woman gently grasps the arm of W and instructs, “Kira ought to find you soon.” W understands this instruction and simply nods in acknowledgement. The older woman crosses the shallow stream to meet with the others.

On the other side now, the older woman instructs U and V to stay put, “After some time has passed, a return will be imminent.” “Where are we going?” Kevin interjects. “Up to the hillside,” the older woman entertains. “Why?” Kevin asks, a little indignant. “To get some fresh air. Doesn’t fresh air sound nice, Kevin?” the older woman placates. “Uh, I guess. Yea, sure,” Kevin resolves. “Excellent,” the older woman states with all her might to stay calm and pleasant while turning to begin the walk toward the hillside. “Ma’am,” V speaks aloud. “Yes?” the older woman replies while turning back toward the stream where Kevin, V and U still stand. “The path that breathes is the way that leads?” V asks. “Of course,” the older woman responds and then looks at Kevin; “Come along dear, you do not have all day.”