STRATOSPHERE

By Hilda M. Diaz

Art by Ramos Fumes

Look to the upper reaches.

 

 

     TEMPTATIONS. How do you stop them? They seem to exist all by themselves—following everyone, me included.  Testing us to define their existence as real or imaginary.

     My hands trembled terribly, almost as though begging me to think again about the action that I was about to take, about the decision that I was going to make, which would change my world—not to mention all those involved as well.

     The letter pinned to my front door read clearly, in bold letters and in script, DON’T GO THERE. But I had to. It’s the only place I knew of that made me feel as if I was finally there (at home, I mean).  A feeling that lingered within me throughout my childhood. My youth was a wonderful one, don’t misunderstand me.  My father and mother struggled for every penny they’ve earned.  My commodities today are greatly due to the foundations of their knowledge and contributions.

     My being an only child was quite helpful to them. I was rarely in their way. I dared not be. Yet I was always present in every one of their dealings or at the most I’ve managed to be—even when uninvited or unannounced—by hiding behind closed doors or behind my mother’s dress.

     The year is 2027.  I’m now confined to a prison.  I’ve seen too many horrors and atrocities among every living being here. Threats were continuous and every move made a picture in motion inside hidden and commanded offices. Nothing was private. How we managed to escape I’ll never know. My name is Johnathan Steep—the son of the commander in chief of Galactic Warfare at Lexington, Missouri (a department of military soldiers who wear blue uniforms and who mandate from space stations above in the Earth’s stratosphere).  This, I am told, is what saved me.

     “Steep?! You’re out of here!!” I heard a security guard yell at me from behind my metal railing door. I was sitting and staring at the wall again. The yelling shook my entire body. I was fifty-five years old. My father and mother passed away, I was told, believing that I’d vanished to assume another life without them. I know they knew better.

     “Why?” I asked, then. “Why now?”

     The guard opened the door, staring directly into my eyes as I stepped out. I could hear him laughing softly.

     “Your father was a great contributer to the planification for the survival of the project Galactic Warfare. Is this enough information? Or do you need more?” He said this with a smirk, as though saying that the institution won and that I’m no longer a menace to them because my father had brought their plans to a final success.

     You see, my father was one of several men who decided that control over mankind can only be done dominantly and with precision if the authorities were beyond reach. So, a space station was created—with scientific wizardry it came to be. It hovers directly above the planet. A weigh station, a city of warriors.

     I disapproved of this from an early age, only unable to do much then except to form minor battlefields on the Earth’s surface to war against these barrens…one day, for they believe that if one didn’t have the capacity to create anything far from the imaginable, then one would simply be considered cattle and separated from certain locations—that means that the masses were for their entertainment.

     Apparently they’ve located the two stations underground that my fellow comrades have built, but they’ve forgotten something. My mother Jennifer, not Commander Harrison, was with whom I spent most of my life and she was never unaware of Harrison’s doings. She kept this to herself (her ideas of this space station observatory city), for we lived there. Undoubtedly I was a quick learner and she knew this and being my father’s only son and favorite, I was privileged to know his acquaintances and working environment.

     I now know how the stations function and their weaknesses. Try to understand that anything that sustains itself aloft must eventually have to make contact from the point of destination. The materials in the space stations are apparently Earth-manufactured, therefore; Earth-defined (or should I say Earthbound), for the heavenly bodies of outer space haven’t yet given man the delight to probe space for encounters. So, his determined faith still rests on Earth’s planetary surface.

     On my arrival to my home, I realized that everything wasn’t the same. It looked abandoned. Weeds have grown everywhere and the trees and plants have long died. The grass was still partially in growth. I lived poorly despite my financial advantages because I thought that my money should be put to a better use, such as now.

     My memories have not led me astray; on the contrary, they’ve grown in number. My voice as an orator has not stopped since my time in prison. It has flourished globally. I knew what the words DON’T GO BACK meant, and it wasn’t from any of my kin, either.

     “Welcome home,” I heard from behind me. A voice that sounded soft, hesitant and emotional (almost as if crying). I’d recognize it anywhere. It was Peter. My right-hand defendant as I referred to him, because he would guard me directly in any combat. I turned hurriedly. We embraced quickly, hoping not to be noticed by any passersby.

     “I almost didn’t recognize you. You’ve changed,” he said, looking at me, observing my worn clothes, my ripped shoes and my now-matured features.

     “I know.  I’ve changed,” I said.

     “In what way? Should we be cautious?” Peter requested of me.

     “Yes….” I answered, looking back at my house and staring straight at the paper that hung on the front door.  Then I added, “Because I’m now more determined that this star wars must take place.”

 

 

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