[I sat down and wrote the first chapter on the story I talked about in this post]
The last day of Davie’s old life was just like every other day of Davie’s old life.
The concrete shelter that they called Bird House sweated at dawn, the cool smooth walls growing damp. The floor of the sleeping alcoves didn’t get wet, it was something soft and black and spongy; the water soaked into it and vanished. But there was a feel in the air, a kind of wet feel, that told Davie the sun would be up soon.
Crissie had curled up beside him when the lights had started to dim the night before. The lights were still dim, a faint blue glow that let Davie make his way to their piles of clothes. He left Crissie sleeping there—a lean and angular shadow in the corner—and pulled on his shorts, tied the drawstring, shrugged into his shirt and ran his hand down the front of it to make the edges stick together. He stepped into his sandals and was dressed.
The front of the shelter was open and faced the beach. Davie walked out of the alcove and watched the surf rolling in, shades of dark gray and dark blue. The sun was rising behind him, but here in the shadow of the Bird House it was still night. Under Davie’s sandals the tile floor was gritty with sand, the mosaic of sandpipers that gave the house its name lost in the darkness. The lights wouldn’t begin to brightening inside the shelter until the sun was all the way above the horizon.
First he went around the side of the Bird House to the men’s room and used the steel toilet. He left his clothes on the tile floor and stepped into the showers, waved his hand in front of the black eye to turn on the first one in line. The water came out soapy and warm, then cleared, then started to cool. It shut off when he walked away from the spray. He put his clothes back on, his skin still damp. He would dry quickly. It was summer.
It was always summer, here.
Davie was hungry, so he set off down the beach. He liked being awake when the others were sleeping. It made him relaxed to walk alone on the beach. He loved his friends, they were a great bunch. Still, it was nice to be alone in the mornings. It was relaxing.
The sun was all the way up by the time he made it to the food shop. Like Bird House, the food shop was concrete, a cube with one open side, faced away from the beach. The lights inside were fully bright. They stayed bright all the time. There were three food machines and three machines for drinks.
Davie put his left hand on the machine, flat against the metal, inside the hand shaped outline. In front of him the screen lit up and he used his right hand to make his selection, touching the picture of the breakfast wrap and dragging the sliders below the picture to set the flavors.
The smiling face came up on the screen to let him know that the machine had accepted his order, and a little while later the wrap dropped into the opening below the screen.
At the drink machine Davie selected the picture of the red fruit and collected a bag of juice. He took his breakfast outside and sat with his back against the shop, watching the surf in the sunrise. It was going to be a good day for swimming.
Looking down the beach, the other way from Bird House, Davie could just see the square roof of Dolphin House in the distance. There had been trouble with the boys from Dolphin house. Three of the Dolphin girls had gotten pregnant and went away to have their babies, all at once. So the boys had come down the beach to Bird House, looking for girls. There had been fights, and one of the Dolphin boys had gotten hurt bad enough that he had to go away, too.
There wasn’t any movement on the beach over there, though. It was still early. Later in the day Davie wouldn’t want to come to the food shop by himself, just in case there was more trouble.
Davie ate his wrap and drank his juice. He threw the empty juice bag into the ocean. It would get soft and fall apart in the water, and fish would eat the pieces.
Walking back to Bird House Davie met Kev and Tuck with Lissie and Fran.
“Did you see any of the Dolphin boys?” Kev asked. He was big, and he liked to fight.
“Nobody,” Davie answered. “They’re still asleep.”
“Good,” Fran said from behind Kev, “I just want to get some food.” She was small, and boys fighting scared her.
Lissie peered up the beach. Her shirt was open. She’d had three babies. Tuck put his arm around her shoulders.
Davie kept walking. He didn’t want to fight, he wanted to swim.
Crissie was still in the sleeping alcove back at Bird House.
“Did you bring me any food?” she asked.
“No,” Davie said simply. He liked Crissie, but she could walk down and get her own food.
Crissie pouted. “Kev always gets me food, if I stay with him.”
Davie doubted that was true. “I didn’t know you were hungry,” he said.
“I think I might be pregnant,” Crissie said.
Davie looked at her. She was very thin, and didn’t look pregnant to him. “Did the machine tell you?” he asked. There was a machine in the woman’s room that could tell a girl if she was pregnant.
“No,” Crissie admitted. “But maybe it’s broken.”
“If it’s broken someone will come fix it,” Davie said reasonably. He sighed. He didn’t want to walk down to the food shop again, but asked anyway. “Do you want me to get you some food?”
Crissie frowned, then rolled over, facing the wall. “No. I think I’ll go back to sleep. I really might be pregnant.”
Davie shrugged. Maybe he didn’t like Crissie so much after all.
He went swimming until the sun was high, and then came back up on the beach. Tuck was there with the youngest girl, Tannie. Tannie had only come to Bird House from the Children’s House a little while ago, and Tuck wanted to walk with her down to the clothing shop for some new clothes.
“Can you come with us, Davie?” Tuck asked. “Just in case there are Dolphin boys there?”
“Sure,” Davie said. He liked making new clothes. His shirt was starting to feel soft and thin, the way clothes felt just before they started to tear.
The clothing shop was inland. They walked across the sand and through thick patches of beach grass until they reached the road. The road was concrete, but it was old and broken, slabs with corners rounded off with grass growing up between them. It was very wide—maybe a dozen people could walk down it without touching.
“Why doesn’t anyone fix the road?” Tannie asked.
“Maybe they don’t need to fix it,” Davie suggested. “It’s okay for walking like it is.”
“Then why did they make it like this in the first place?” Tannie wanted to know.
“I don’t know,” Davie admitted. “I guess somebody wanted it once.”
The clothing shop was a long walk. There were other things there, too, a bunch of big concrete buildings, but most of the time those were locked up. When they got there there was a big black hovercraft sitting beside one of the locked buildings, and the people who fixed things were taking a bunch of boxes out of there and putting them in the hovercraft.
Davie waved at them, and one of them waved back.
The clothing shop was like the food shop, but a lot bigger. The screens on the machines were bigger, too. Tuck explained to Tannie how to work the machines, standing close to her and taking her hand to guide it to the screen.
“See,” he said, “you can draw with your fingers. You can make pictures, and the machines will make the pictures on your new clothes.”
Davie made himself a new shirt. He liked red and yellow, filling the screen with red and then making bold slashes of yellow across it. When he got his new shirt he took off his old shirt and looked at them, side by side. They looked a lot alike, and that pleased him for a reason that he couldn’t name.
Davie put on his new shirt and put the old one in the slot for old clothes. Tuck and Tannie were still playing with the clothing machine, standing close together and giggling at the designs they drew.
Davie went outside. He was getting hungry, but he didn’t know of any food shops except the ones on the beach. He wanted to get some food and get back home to Bird House. It was hot, and he wanted to swim again before night. There weren’t any boys from Dolphin House here, and if they did show up the people who fixed the machines were still around, loading boxes and doing things with the locked buildings.
He leaned back into the clothing shop and called, “I’m going home,” to Tuck.
Tuck called back, “Okay.” He had his arm around Tannie’s waist and didn’t look around.
“Is that your new shirt?” somebody said.
Davie looked around. It was one of the people who fixed the machines.
Davie nodded, shyly. The people who fixed the machines didn’t talk much, and usually it was just to ask if anything was broken.
“It looks a lot like your old shirt,” the person said again. It was a woman, and she wore what they all wore, long pants and long sleeves and boots, all of it in dark gray.
“I like this pattern,” Davie said. He couldn’t tell if she thought that was a good thing or not. He wanted to get home, so he turned around and kept walking.
The woman didn’t say anything else. Not then.
That was the last day of Davie’s old life. It was just like every other day of Davie’s old life. Before he slept again everything that he thought he knew about the world would change. He would become someone else.
My name is David Huntington, and this is where my story begins.