Too Bright the Sun
Too Bright the Sun
In the dream, the little voice had chosen the first corridor on the left.
"Good choice," the high voice said.
The little voice arrived at a rectangular portal, actually more like a secret hatch and pushed it open. Beyond was a fallow field of green grass and meadow flowers. The little voice knew that he had been happy here but he didn't want to step through the hatch. Though there was joy beyond, he didn't trust it.
"Go on," the high voice said.
"No," the little voice said.
"Where are you going?" Jena said sleepily, casting an arm over my waist to trap me as I rose from the bed.
"It's nine," I said, padding into the bathroom.
"So? Come back to bed."
I had often chided J about the extravagance of the bathroom, most people used a sanicube to save space but the real reason I didn't like it was the mirror there. I had a thing about mirrors. There were none on the MCS or on any other MCS. When I had asked about it, I was told it was to save weight but I thought it was to save introspection in the men. It was one of the reasons I liked the MSC so much. I was most comfortable there. I avoided looking in the mirror and noticed two toothbrushes in a glass on a shelf to the right of the sink. I had recognised them before from old films, one red and one green. The green one was worn, the bristles all splayed. It was Jena's and she had bought a red one for me but I had never used it.
How does she find these things?
I smiled to myself. She must have found them in some old stall somewhere. Momentarily my attention was caught by an image in the corner of my eye, the man in the mirror. I looked at him. I didn't like what I saw. For the first time, I thought I looked old. It wasn't just the lines around my eyes or flecks of grey in my military haircut; there was something worn out about the face in front of me. I'd had a very bad night's sleep, if I had slept at all. Images of the recent battle had played across the darkened theatre of my mind. I looked into my grey-blue eyes and saw the specter of fear. It had been growing in me over the years and now it was a larger-than-life companion, seeking me out throughout each day when I had time to think. I was only twenty-eight but I looked thirty-eight. I looked down at my hands. The skin on my left hand looked parched, like paper. A flake of porcelain hung from the edge of the sink, trapped under the index finger of my mech right hand. I wondered what it felt like to Jena; touching papery skin. She was thirty-two.
I was having difficulty thinking straight. I ran some water into the sink and started to wash my face.
Ten long years I had been chasing Gary Enquine, now Major Gary Enquine, through the ranks of the army. It seemed like an eternity and I felt like I was trapped in time, a being whose, almost sole waking thoughts were to fight, vanquish and survive. Enquine and I had been trapped like this for most of our adult lives and yet I never knew that he even thought of me. Perhaps it was only my trap. Perhaps he was oblivious of my pursuit. All I wanted now was that one promotion which would take me above his. I had been given the temporary rank of Colonel during the Ruwa Patera operation and I'd had wind that I was to be promoted to the position permanently. Would it be enough? I just had to hope that it was. Then I could get out of this whole game; get out of the army and start a farm somewhere.
"Colonel," I said to the man in the mirror, my eyes blurry with water.