She wandered the field when she woke, and wandered again in her dreams. Most days, Sarah wasn't alone on her daily journey. Her longtime friend Idris often accompanied her out there to where the lone oak tree stood in that otherwise empty field. In her dreams, she walked alone.
The world was filled with black, blue, and white when she crossed there in her sleep. Flowers that never grew there bloomed endlessly and the moon was always a radiant fullness. It was breathtaking and agonizing. Her loneliness and emptiness crept up on her there like a pair of demented ghosts. When she dreamt, she was haunted by moonlight fueled shadows. Sunrise gifted her with another pair of cruel twins--apathy and recklessness. She didn't care where the day led her, and she knew very well she couldn't.
At sunrise, her parents yanked her out of bed by the sheets. Her father trapped her inside and tossed her in the back of the car. There was no time to change. She lay in the back seat in her blue satin nightgown, grateful for the summer heat.
The drive up to the lab was short. There had been no time for shoes, so she walked to the building barefoot. Once they were checked in, she went to the usual room. Idris and his parents were already there waiting for today's experiment to begin.
She knew the routine. Undress, lay on the table, don't say a word. She'd stay there until phase two began. Like clockwork, Idris and Sarah followed the procedure in unison. The metal table was colder than usual today.
Her parents hovered over her as she lay there on the table. They wore white masks and blue gloves while they cut away a little here and there. Nothing hurt, not anymore. From the sharp prick of a needle to the smooth blade of a scalpel, each touch was no more than a strange, numb prodding against her flesh. She watched Idris's parents slice him open beside her.
When she watched them work on him, her apathy shrank away from her into a stinging pain in her chest. It reminded her of the way needles used to feel when she was small. He watched her parents work as she watched his, their eyes never meeting. Once, she accidentally made eye contact with him during one of their table sessions. No physical sensation compared to the torture of that one glance. She never let it happen again.
After the table session, they each took turns inside the tank. There, they drifted into dark dreams while their parents worked through the next set of procedures and the liquid filled up to submerge them behind the glass. First, analysis. Then, more experiments, which meant more poking, prodding, and cutting. Afterwards, another round of analysis. Lastly, sterilization and wound healing. Healing was never completely effective. Neither of them ever had infections, but the whole process left the two of them with large scars they couldn't explain to ordinary people.
Idris always covered his body. She didn't care. Sarah wore as little as acceptable to put the damage done on full display. Her body was a museum of horrors, and she wanted everyone outside those walls to question why. It infuriated her parents, and that only made her do it more.
Adults said she was acting out because of her age, but she was always like that. If anything, hitting their teenage years broke Idris into something unlike his old self--something submissive and empty. While the ordinary children they passed in the streets rebelled against their parents and Sarah against anyone from that place, Idris betrayed himself by forcing his weakened spirit into the contorted mold they laid out for him. If she didn't push him, she knew he would drift away from himself entirely until he was no more than a shell of spare parts and fresh blood.
Idris always went into the tank first. His body floated there in the strange liquid, naked and bleeding. When they were done with him, she went in next. Inside, she dreamt.
The touch of the tank's mechanical limbs and attachments always leaked over into her dreams, but she thought little of them. When she dreamt, she hoped for a fantasy. A quiet moment of happiness, escaping to some distance mountains--anything to have a second to breathe. All she ever got were nightmares.
Most of them were of her being trapped in an ever shrinking box or being strapped down to that metal table, unable to break free. Today, she was having one of her more painful ones. Idris was in the tank before her. Piece by piece, he disappeared. She pressed her hands against the glass, but could do nothing to stop the machine's arms from tearing him apart.
When it was done, she woke again. The two of them were free for the rest of the day. Sarah looked at the calendar before she left. June 7th.
She had one month left of freedom.
The two of them left the room and walked on their way back home. Their parents had plenty of work left to do, and had no intentions of driving them back home. The walk down the mountain never bothered Sarah. Her feet were rough enough to handle it, and no one bothered them there.
At the bottom of the hill, a chain fence greeted them. The metal obstacle stretched out around the mountain. Sarah paid it no mind and climbed over it. Idris followed behind her.
On the other side of the fence, there was more woods, but they knew all the shortcuts and paths within it by heart. Sarah led the way to their secret place--the field with the lonely oak.
Today, sun brightened the tall grass and flowers of the field. They rested underneath the shelter of the young oak. Sarah leaned against Idris, humming a song she heard once from a parked car's radio. As per their parents rules, they were forbidden from being exposed to anything from mainstream media. No music, no movies, no books. That was the rule for all the children of the people who worked for the company. The only chances she got to experience anything like that was in passing cars and sometimes at school on the rare day she went.
There was a difference though. Children who weren't used like they were had other books and movies to watch from the company. The two of them weren't seen as people, so they were given nothing at all.
Sarah knew she wasn't humming the melody correctly. She long forgot the words and the song itself was escaping from her mind. Out of desperation, she kept on humming what she felt might be close enough out of defiance. At this point, the melody was so far off from what she heard long ago, the song was all her own and no one could take it from her.
"Eric's going to be starting preschool soon." Idris said. "They're sending him to a private school. They wear a uniform there. More conformity."
"No surprise there. I'm only shocked they haven't opened up their own school already." Sarah watched the wind sway the grass. She thought of waves. Sarah had never seen the sea in person, but she did get to see it a few times at school and in pictures. She wished she could have seen it once in person. There was no time left.
"Sometimes, I wonder if they're already working on sneaking into schools--slowly start changing things from within. It'd be so easy to do with a private school."
"If you have enough money, it'd be easy enough in a public school too." Sarah laughed under her breath. "This world knows only one god, and it's a god the wrong shade of green."
"I wonder...what about the people here? They're not here for the money. Well, most of the higher ups aren't."
"They don't need a god, because they think they are gods themselves. They have no need to worship." Sarah thought of her parents. They often boasted about how much good their work would do, how much good the company would do once it reshaped the world into a deeper distortion of the modern world's current reflection of man. They were saviors, messengers, creators.
Everyone outside of them was a tool.
She looked at the scars on her body. Her fingers ran over her deepest cut, one across her thigh. The full length of it was partially hidden by the lower half of her dress.
Idris pulled her hand away and held it. "I have no need to worship either. I believe in nothing, because I am nothing."
"Nothing. No, we're not quite nothing. We're something else." Sarah laced her fingers in his. "We're dyed in blue. We're ghosts roaming the world of green, waiting for our shells to fall away from us and be free. I know you believe in that--ghosts."
"That is true. I know they linger around us, so many bound. Perhaps, if there are ghosts, there's another world in shades of blue too. Somewhere those who aren't caught between go to and rest in the night with the moon." Idris let his hand slip from hers as he stood and walked towards the field. "We are ghosts, caught in twilight--everything is green and blue and red. We don't really belong anywhere. I hope there's something more, something more than being stuck. But if there's not, if I'll be lost in this place forever, then that's enough. At least if I lose my body, they can never touch me again."
"When I die, I'll wait for you. We'll find that world of blue, if it exists, together. If not, we can wander the shadows and be safe there." Sarah felt the wind on her skin. While she never usually felt any pain, the warmth of the gale stung her deep within. She clutched her chest, not wanting to forget the sensation piercing her there as her thoughts went to a place she was too strong to admit she feared.
Sarah spent the evening and early night alone at home. Her parents came home at eleven. She did nothing interesting at home, mostly laying in her bed and humming the song. As the sun set, she practiced her special gift--the one thing the lab had managed to give her that she liked.
She concentrated on her fears and loneliness. From that, a blue hydrangea formed in her hand. Sarah placed the flower next to the ones in the vase by her window. Idris had a special gift too, but the researchers only knew about hers. In retrospect, she wished she hadn't let them find out. That made it less special to her, though it increased their interest in using her for tests. It didn't matter in the end. Whether they knew or not, she'd always be used. She was only an object to them, no different than the scalpel her father used or the needles her mother shot her with.
At eleven, her parents said nothing to her. They ate dinner and went to bed. Once the house was devoid of light, she opened up her window and left.
She still wore her nightgown from earlier and forgot her shoes. Down the poorly lit, filthy street, she avoided all the streetlights. They reminded her too much of the bright lights that shined down on her face when she lay on that metal table.
Quietly, she tip-toed through a bed of grass to another window. The window was unlocked. She slid it open and stepped in. The room contained two beds, a twin size and a smaller one for a young child.
Sarah sat down on the twin size bed and whispered to the teenage boy sleeping there. "Walk with me."
Idris turned over and looked up at her. He sat up. "It's late. Do your parents know you're here?"
"Does it matter? Let's go."
"Let me check on Eric first." He got up and went over to the little bed. After that, he put his pants on and left the house with her.
They walked hand in hand down the old, cracked road on a fixed path. To those who may wake at night and peek outside, they really did appear to be ghosts moving through. Their bare feet were filthy, a little cut up from broken bits of glass and other trash along the sides of the road, but they felt nothing. Once they were in the woods, they wandered blindly for hours and fell asleep in the long grass of the field.
Sarah's parents would be furious, she knew. More experiments were planned the next day. She didn't care.
In the morning, they scaled the fence and walked up the mountain. Both sets of parents yelled at them for being late. Idris bowed his head while Sarah eyed something new in the room. She snuck a vial and a syringe into her gown's front pocket.
Another day of tests. More cutting, more nightmares, more bright lights and white walls. When they were done for the day, Sarah left the building as fast as she could. The smell of chemicals and disinfectants drenched everything within that place. Today, it nearly suffocated her. She didn't wait for Idris. She ran as fast as she could to get away from there.
Idris ran to catch up to her. He didn't ask questions. He didn't need to.
Once they were in the field, Sarah calmed down. She wrapped her arm around Idris while they sat under the oak tree. Today, the sky was overcast in a dark shade of gray. The big, near black clouds above them made her feel safe for a moment.
"It's going to rain in a few hours. I hope it lasts all day," she said.
"That'd be nice to watch."
Sarah nuzzled her head against Idris. "Tonight, let me sleep with you."
"Not with Eric in the room." He said.
"I don't mean like that. I want to stay the night."
"What about the morning?" He asked.
She clung tighter to him. "We don't have to go to the lab on Saturdays."
"Your parents won't be happy about this."
"What does that matter?" Sarah shifted her position. She sat down in his lap and faced him. "Touch me."
Idris's body glowed a bright blue, showing off his special gift by accident.
"You're glowing. Does that mean you're really excited or you really don't want to?" She laughed.
"I think it's...a little of both?" He scratched the back of his head.
"Haha, what does that mean?"
Idris held her closer. "It doesn't matter. Whatever you want. That's what I promised you."
"Because I'm going to stay in first. What about you? Who's going to hold you when I'm in there?" Sarah ran her fingers through his hair.
Idris caressed her face. "The rain."
From the west, the sky poured down across the field. Idris never let go of her as the water drenched the both of them.
When they left the field, Sarah went back to Idris's house instead of going home. He lent her some of his clothes to wear while her night gown dried. Idris's little brother, Eric, was taking a nap when they arrived.
Idris rung out her gown. "Don't you feel a little bit silly wearing your pajamas all the time?"
"Does it really matter?" She shrugged.
"I guess not." Idris hung her gown up. "Could I ask you a favor? Could you watch Eric for a while. I wanted to take a shower."
"Sure. I'm surprised they don't bring him along or hire a babysitter. He's so young." Sarah said.
"Can't have outside influences. Can't risk more information leaks. At least he'll be treated better at school." Idris hung up his own wet clothes.
"You care a lot about Eric. It's amazing, that after all that's happened to you, you still have the ability to care about anything." She tugged at the collar of the shirt Idris let her borrow. It was big enough to be a short dress for her. Its smell was that of Idris in the morning, when he first came into the lab, before the air of being in that place overwhelmed his natural scent.
"You do too, don't you?" Idris walked over to her and played with her hair.
"Hmm." She looked away from him and smiled.
"I don't think it has to be taught. It's our natural state. To not feel that is a deviance from ourselves." Idris glanced over at the wall. A single photo of his family hung in a shallow attempt at casting an illusion, both for guests and those in the photo. "That place, it takes away what makes people human. Sometimes, I hope I'll be put in permanently soon. With how young Eric is, he'll probably forget me. But I'm sure they'll find a way for him to forget anyway."
"You'd want him to forget everything?" Sarah felt that horrid pain again--the one she experienced that day their eyes met on those metal tables.
"He could be normal that way. They could play pretend and Eric wouldn't know anything--none of the bad things. He could be a normal person with a normal life." Idris opened his bedroom door and looked in at his little brother sleeping. "I don't want him to ever know what happened. He shouldn't have to know that."
"Eric wouldn't want to forget you, no matter what else he had to remember." Sarah said.
"I know that." Idris walked over to the shower. "Thank you for watching him for me."
Once he closed the bathroom door, she said, "I knew that's how you'd think of it."
Sarah got up and grabbed the items from her gown's pocket. She filled the syringe with the solution in the vial. What it contained, she knew exactly what it was. From the recent batch of experiments on her body, a solution that could recover memories altered. The extent to which the company could later memories wasn't clear to her, but she knew they could do it. They'd been doing it for decades. From her, this solution was created to ensure they could undo it if it happened to one of their own somehow. With this, no amount of their memory altering could stay permanent. She didn't know the full details of how it worked, and she didn't care.
She wouldn't let Idris be forgotten. When she was gone, there needed to be someone to remember him once those people erased him from everyone's minds. His parents didn't deserve to know him.
Eric, at least, she could let him keep those memories. Even if they discovered she stole a bottle of the solution, once she got it in his bloodstream, there was no undoing it.
Sarah entered the bedroom where Eric was sleeping. She sat down on the bed beside him and held up his arm.
Eric woke from his sleep. "Hmm...Sarah, what are you doing here?"
"I'm spending the night tonight." She smiled at him.
"Really?! Does that mean we can play together all night?!" Eric hugged her.
"Of course." Sarah hugged him back. "Eric, I have a present for you, but you mustn't tell Idris about it. It's a secret."
"A present? What kind?" He asked.
"Medicine, a special one made from my body." She held up the syringe.
"What's it for?"
"It protects your mind." She patted him on the head. "No matter what happens, you'll never forget Idris or me."
Eric gave her a confused look. "Why would I forget you?"
"There are things out in the world that can make you forget. This will keep you safe from them. It'll never last. We'll always come back to you." Sarah took hold of his arm. "Will you let me give it to you?"
"Okay. Medicine is good, right?"
"That's right. It may hurt a little. Be strong." Sarah stuck the needle of the syringe in Eric's arm and gave him all of what was in the vial.
Eric winced but didn't cry. "Did I do a good job?"
"Very good. You're a very strong boy. Stay strong for me, okay?"
"Now, let's play a game while Idris takes a shower."
She played with him until Idris came out and he fixed them dinner. The three of them ate at the table. Eating dinner with anyone was a rarity for her. She hoped in her nightmares, she could at least remember times like this and when she watched the rain come down over the field. At the very least, she deserved to keep that, she thought.
The three of them spent the rest of the day in Idris and Eric's bedroom, playing made up games until Eric got tired and fell asleep again. Idris tucked him into bed. Sarah and Idris went to bed shortly after, Idris's parents never knowing Sarah was over.
The following morning, there was no lab. They went straight to the field at dawn.
As she watched the grass move with the wind in the field, Sarah leaned against Idris and asked, "When we're gone, do you think the tree will still be here?"
"I don't know. Trees live longer than humans, but humans love cutting down trees." Idris said.
"I hope that oak tree outlives us, all of us. When everything we know is gone, I want that to be all that remains...this tree and the field, these ever changing clouds--I want this landscape to consume everything around it, return it to the ground, and rule on without us." She held his hand.
"That seems peaceful, but lonely. I think the trees might enjoy our company, when we're not being violent." Idris leaned a little towards her.
"Perhaps. I'd like it if someone else got to see this place, someone special who'd see it the way we do." Sarah buried her face in his sleeve. "They'd never know we were here. I doubt anyone could see it as we do. All our thoughts and feelings, our memories embedded into this place are gone when we leave it. I wish I could leave them here and that those special visitors could feel it too."
"The field could remember for us when we're gone." Idris suggested.
"A nice thought, but we both know this beautiful world is alive and empty. When we leave, there will be no one to remember what we felt when we were here. You and I will disappear. We're already ghosts, haunting until someone puts us away properly in our coffins." Sarah stood up. The wind danced around her.
"I'd say that makes us more like vampires, doesn't it?" Idris joked.
"The doctors are the vampires. They keep stealing our blood." She watched gray clouds move toward them. "I wish I could imprint that place on a photograph."
"We could take pictures," he said.
"It's not the same without our feelings. Humans have lived on this earth for thousands and thousands of years, made weapons that can obliterate cities and blow people to pieces, but we don't have a way to share with someone else our memories, feelings, or dreams. What a waste." She leaned down and picked a flower from the field.
"That would be something."
"I'd show you all of my dreams." She smiled. Her words were a lie. If such a thing existed, she could never show Idris how much pain she felt when she dreamt.
"If I could record my dreams, then I could actually see what I dream about instead of forgetting them all the time."
"What do you think will happen after we're gone? When the world comes to an end?" Sarah asked. She let the wind carry the flower out of her hands back into the field.
Idris joined her in the field. "It's not really the world. Just here."
"It's our world."
For a moment, she saw a twinge of blue around Idris. "Are you worried about Eric?"
"I try not to think about the future."
"Same." Sarah held his hand again. "Touch me."
Idris glowed a bright blue beside her, but he quickly hid the color away. "Whatever you want, I will give you."
The days passed on like this too quickly. She woke every day with a sinking heaviness on her that grew as time winded down for her, but she couldn't keep hold of it. Time slipped passed her faster than she expected. Time was up. Tomorrow was her seventeenth birthday. Tomorrow, she would be put in the tank forever.
She met with Idris in the night. They took their usual path out to the field. She asked Idris to show her the full extent of what his power held. When he willed it, and his body glowed bright blue, other lights appeared in the darkness. Shapes of animals and dust floating freely around them. She danced in the field with him in that world of ghosts and darkness, the wind and the moon.
When they'd exhausted themselves, they collapsed in the grass and watched the stars. Tonight, the sky was clear. Stars and moonlight broke apart the vast darkness above them.
Sarah sat up and concentrated. Instead of thinking of her pain and loneliness, she mixed sadness with something warm--her thoughts of Idris. Within her hands, a small, deep blue hydrangea flower rested. She rolled over and placed it in Idris's hair.
He took it out of his hair and looked at it. "It's beautiful. I wish it wouldn't fade."
"It will soon, but it's alright. It'll join the others in that world that matches this shade." Sarah smiled at him. A tear fell from her. "That's where we'll meet again."
July 7th, morning. Sarah woke to the sun and faint clouds hanging above her. The grass was wet from dew. A light breeze chilled her despite the summer weather. All around her, the field was full of sounds--bugs and birds, the wind, branches and leaves swaying. Her body didn't want to move. She wanted to sink underneath the ground and disappear.
There was no place to run to they couldn't find. There was no one to protect her. She reached up at the sky, as if asking it for shelter, but her hands met with nothing.
"Sarah," Idris said as he lay beside her. "It's time to go."
"I know." She kept her gaze on the sky.
Idris sat up. He rested his head on his knees. Neither spoke for a while. The wind swept through and everything swayed. When it stopped, Idris whispered, "You should run away."
"You know it's pointless."
"I could go first."
"They don't want you to."
Beside her, everything was blue. Idris glowed a bright azure. Sarah held his hand. "You've gotta hide it. They still don't know about that."
"I know." Idris's shoulders shook. He lifted his head. For the first time ever, Sarah saw him crying.
"Idris..." She held his hand tighter.
He grabbed hold of her and held her tightly. She hugged him back.
Under his breath, he said, "Touch me."
The two of them arrived late to the lab. For once, her parents did not yell at her. No one raised their voices. Sarah knew what to do. Today, there would be no cold metal. Never again. She ran her hands over the table one last time before she stripped and stepped into the tank. Her parents turned on the machine. The frigid water poured in and her mind started to drift.
With all of her will, she held on as long as she could, her gaze forward and toward only one.
In her mind, she called out to the field and the sky to grant her a single wish.
'In that world that matches us, let us meet again.'
When those words left her, she slipped into a deep sleep.