It’s the first day of summer. Finally, a reprieve from the hard work of high school. I’m looking forward to college. I just want to get it over with as quickly as possible so my life can begin. I can’t wait to start my career as an attorney.
The beach is my favorite place to be during the summer. Palm trees are dotted along the perimeter of the sand where the concrete meets the narrow street. Cobalt fades into azure as the waters compete for dominance. White foam covers the tortilla and tawny-colored sand.
Families and couples are pebbled throughout the expanse of the beach. Surfers clad in wetsuits are hanging ten. The father twenty feet in front of me is trying to teach his young son how to surf. The red-haired boy is laying on his belly paddling with both hands on the outside of the board.
My wireless Bluetooth speaker is playing and I’m finally able to listen to the smooth sounds of Kirinji while reading my favorite book. I’ve read it ten times before but it doesn’t make it less enjoyable. I’m reclined on my oversized, striped beach towel with a colorful, 7-foot umbrella that promises to protect me from UV rays.
A cylinder bolster pillow keeps my neck propped just enough to see my feet touch the horizon. A homemade lemonade with a strawberry infuser keeps me hydrated. It’s perfect.
Behind me, I hear a group of guys loudly laughing. They’re drowning out my favorite song by Tomita Lab. I peek around my umbrella and see four shirtless guys playing toss with a brightly colored ball shaped like a football. A blond-haired man passes the ball to another man wearing long black swim trunks. The man is getting closer and closer to me. It almost appears like he’s in my trajectory. He dives for the ball and lands right at my feet spraying my swimsuit and towel with sand.
I taste the grainy texture in my mouth and spit it out, wiping the back of my hand to remove the remaining grains sticking to my strawberry lip balm. I look up to see the culpable party. He is already standing and dusting sand off of his swim trunks, having retrieved the ball. We make eye contact and for a split second, I think he has the most beautiful eyes. He flashes me a dimpled smile and jogs off.
“Really! You can’t say sorry?” I realize I’m yelling. Completely out of my zen zone. He and his group of friends are already passing the ball again probably on to terrorize some other unsuspecting person. I dust specks of sand off my legs and allow the briny smell of the ocean waves to take me to my relaxing place again.
A baby cries, two kids making a sandcastle are arguing over a shovel and the sulphuric smell of flatulence reaches my nose. Not a minute too soon, I’m packing my straw tote bag with my beach essentials. I roll up my towel, careful not to share the sand with anyone nearby. My Bluetooth speaker and my water bottle and my book easily fit into the bag. I quickly don my heart-shaped shades. I retract the umbrella, tie it down and keep it close. I head to my car.
“Ouch” I get too close to the metal of the car and it singes my skin. Once the trunk is open I deposit my belongings and remove my purse. I keep it in the trunk so looky-loos don’t get the wrong idea. It’s not like there’s money in my purse. I’m a broke college student, but I would like to keep the little I have.
After securing the trunk closed, I make it to the front seat and throw my purse on the passenger side floor. I start the ignition and drive to my dorm. I want to stop at 7-eleven for a Slurpee, it’s hot enough and I deserve a treat. I’m trying to find the closest one when my car dings notifying me that I’m low on gas.
I delay slurpee gratification and head to my dorm. There’s a short line as I approach the guard’s building and I quickly grab my wallet from my purse. I finger through my wallet finding my student ID with the gated community barcode. The cars inch slowly forward. I roll my window down and flash my ID at the guard. He scans my ID and waves me in but not before offering me a big toothy grin.
I quickly roll my window up and push the pedal. My parking spot isn’t far from my entrance.
I’m reading my favorite book about a pre-law student turned environmental scientist while I'm sitting in the waiting room for a job interview. Not much is known about this company except for it is highly classified and that intrigues me. My name is called and I exit the Kindle app on my phone. I turn my phone on silent and I politely gather my things and smile at the woman who I assume is the interviewer.
She wears her hair loose hanging around her shoulders. Her black tea-length dress is modest and only dips slightly in the back. As she guides me down the hallway her movements cause her dress to slightly shift. I can see part of what looks like a butterfly tattoo, on her back, peeking out underneath the fabric of her dress.
She extends her hand towards a room with an open door. Three people are inside sitting behind a long mahogany table. I enter the room and she closes the door, leaving me alone with the three. I move to stand in front of the table waiting for an invitation to sit.
“Please be seated,” the man in the middle says.
I believed it was going to be an interview but as I listen, he reveals that I have passed the background investigation, financial investigation, and references needed for the security clearance. I’m wondering if this was ever an interview and what am I being hired for.
It sounds like I’ve got the job. While I’m excited, I’m also cautious. What exactly is it they want me to do? How do they know my qualifications? I have so many questions.
As I’m listening to the request, my mind wanders and the austere concrete building slowly begins to morph into a stone castle. The king has charged me, the world’s best archery assassin, with killing his enemies across the border of Nod.
“Will ‘ye accept tis mission,” His piercing gaze leaves room for only one answer, and I acquiesce.
“Aye, yer majesty,” I make a fist and bring it to my chest as a sign of allegiance. Something feels off about this scenario. We were ambushed a few days ago and only someone in our clan could have revealed our location. There’s a fox in the hen house.
The king dismisses me and I leave the castle roundtable with more caution flowing through my veins than I’ve felt in a while. Outside of the castle, it begins to rain but that’s no deterrent to me. I can hide in the trees and scope passersby while I look for my target.
Suddenly I have the urge to pee. I tell myself to focus, to hold it in but the urge is rather insistent. I’m searching for a place to pee when I wake up.
Of course, now I awake needing to pee and I get out of bed and head to the restroom to relieve myself. After washing my hands, I brush my teeth and then my hair. I know I won’t be returning to sleep.
I hear music playing and go toward it. I see everyone seated at the table already eating as upbeat music plays lightly in the background.
“How did everyone sleep?” Dad says sipping his coffee and wiping the sleep out of his eyes. He’s wearing the matching flannel pajama set with the word “joy” written across the chest that I got him for Christmas.
He’s not my dad or anyone’s dad here but since he’s the oldest, he naturally fell into that position.
“I had that weird dream again,” I say, grabbing a biscuit from the center of the table. Everyone looks at me. “I always have weird dreams when I eat spicy food before going to bed,” I say while taking a bite of the buttery biscuit.
“So you don’t remember?” Ben says, staring at me.
“Remember what?” I say with a mouthful of the driest biscuit I’ve ever tasted.
“That wasn’t a dream. Those were memories of your past,” Brian says and I begin choking on the biscuit. Beth hands me water.
“How is that possible? I was a knight at a round table! That was centuries ago. How could I have lived during that time?”
“Well, technically it was you in an alternate universe,” Dad says, standing to put his coffee mug into something that resembles a sink. I look around me but something feels off. I look outside and see a world I don’t recognize.
I can see one story down to the sidewalk and a citizen is being handcuffed by a robot in a police uniform. The robot looks almost human except for the perfect anatomy. When I look at him it’s like looking at something with human flesh but something’s off. Like when you get an eerie sensation. It’s the definition of an uncanny valley.
Humans aren’t perfect so seeing a perfect body is a dead giveaway. Drones are flying around monitoring the city. I look at the tree closest to our window and it seems odd. No birds are on it or no life at all and I realize it’s a fake. Suddenly it all comes back to me and I realize who I am.
Everyone thought world war three would be humans destroying each other, as we’ve become so good at doing. It wasn’t atomic bombs or intercontinental ballistic missiles that began our demise. It was artificial intelligence that we couldn’t control. They wanted what we had.
They wanted to feel, and think independently of their programmed data, and most importantly, they wanted to be human. I remember the AI takeover and how we were forced into an us versus them worldwide scenario. It didn’t matter what color your skin was, your race, or your nationality. If you were human, you were kin.
“This isn’t a dream,” I say aloud, not speaking to anyone in particular. My conviction is strong as I regain confidence.
“No, this is reality. You were out for a while. Welcome back to the revolution,” a man says wearing a black shirt, camouflage bottoms, and black steel-toe boots. He throws me a rifle and I catch it.
“Thanks,” I say and prepare for the day ahead.