Like almost every evening, Cara was standing on the balcony and admiring the sunset over the Earth. It was her only addiction, that sight which made her smile while tearing her heart apart. She couldn’t believe the best part of humankind have willingly abandoned such a jewel and moved to an artificial planetoid, known as Eden. If they asked her, she would call it rather Hell. She knew she should be glad – she was the priviledged one, you had to be very influential and wealthy to get a visa and a ticket. Plenty of her friends have envied her that opportunity and said openly so; at first she also considered herself rather lucky. Still, she couldn’t help missing the Earth every single day.
The villa of her husband was situated right on the shore of an artificial ocean called the Cerulean- a prime location here, on Eden, as it would be anywhere else – but the view made her even sadder. She remembered the Pacific Ocean she used to swim in with her parents and her little sister. The Cerulean was certainly cleaner and less dangerous than the Pacific, fully controlled by computers and meteorlogists, swarming with fish and crustacea long gone and forgotten in the Earth’s polluted waters and yet…it lacked something important to her. It didn’t feel right. She never swam in this one, she simply couldn’t force herself to immerse in those alien, artificially blue depths. She didn’t trust them.
Tonight her husband was attending a party organized by one of his important friends. Cara, as usual, excused herself from it, claiming she was having a really bad headache. Bad headaches became her weapon of choice since she arrived to Eden and her husband didn’t seem to care enough to investigate them further – usually he just nodded, told her to take a pill or consult a doctor and went his way. It suited Cara fine. When he was present she felt obliged to pretend she was cheerful and happy with her lot, like a good, dutiful wife should be. It took a lot of energy and effort, the whole pretending act, and she betted she wasn’t good enough to fool anybody but he seemed satisfied.
Suddenly her portable assistant buzzed on her wrist and blipped delicately. She got an instant message, most likely from her husband. He usually texted her if anybody important at the party cared to mention her name or asked how she was doing – pure courtesy but it would be rude not to answer. She mentally told the screen to activate and stream.
This time it was a VIM – video instant messaging. She saw a dark face of a stranger. He was young but looked pretty haggard, with five o’clock shadow and bruised, half-shut eyes. The man blinked several times, as if unsure whether he should speak or not. For a moment she was certain the server made a mistake and connected a wrong call but then the man asked: “Cara Serena Tomlinson? Nee Bartolli? Born in San Francisco, USA, the Earth? Wife of Roger Aidan Tomlinson?”
She nodded silently. So it was neither a coincidence nor a mistake. Hardly anyone of her Eden acquaintances knew her second name, her place of birth or her maiden’s name for that matter. This man was very well-informed. His next question made her dizzy with excitement.
“Do you want to return to Earth?”
“Who are you?” she asked after a while, her throat painfully constricted.
“It doesn’t matter. Answer, please – do you want to return or not?”
“Yes I do”, she told him, feeling as if she was getting married for the second time. Meanwhile she sent a mental probe to her assistant asking for the ID of her interlocutor. The device blipped and shown the unexpected message: ID withheld. The man on the screen smiled while observing her shocked face. Only the highest government officials were granted a possibility to hide their ID if they wanted or needed to. Still he was far too young and looked too scruffy to be one of them.
“Don’t bother about finding out who I am. Perhaps it is possible but, with all due respect, also completely out of your league and out of the league of your little toy. If you want to return to Earth…”
“I thought it was impossible. Everybody has to sign a ‘non-return’ clause before the departure,” she interrupted hastily. The man smirked. One of his incisors was missing, making him look a bit like a pirate.
“It is possible but illegal. Still plenty of people have already returned. Of course the data are kept secret if there are any data collected at all. Now then, if you really want to return we must cooperate. In my next stream I will tell you what you should do to earn your ticket. Goodnight Mrs Tomlinson. I’ll keep in touch.”
The connection ended. She looked back at the Earth, feeling happier than she thought possible even a few moments ago. Soon she will return where she belongs. Home.