The future is something which everyone reaches at the rate of 60 minutes an hour, whatever he does, whoever he is.
C. S. Lewis
Jaen recognises Theta as she steps onto the transporter. She glances at him, wrinkles her nose but does not acknowledge him or her connection with him. He looks down at his red and silver overalls and wonders if he could ever escape this life. He thinks about his twin brother who has managed but through luck and quick thinking of their beloved mother. His thinks of his brother who now does not contact him – it is not permitted – but who he sees in the pendant around Theta’s neck.
He leaves the transporter at the first hub in the ergates zone. He walks, surrounded by swarms of others to the Residence. The building is 30 storeys and but he lives on ‘level 31’. He often jokes to his fellow workers that one day he is going to wine and dine the woman of his dreams in his penthouse. The reality is that his ‘penthouse’ is a converted engine room. It contains a single bed, electric cooker, a fridge and a sink. All standard issue for the workers of the Ybur Mine. In one corner of the room is a shower stall. On one wall are two cupboards – one to store food and one to store cutlery and crookery. His clothes were folded in a pile next to his bed. The remainder of his personal effects are stored in a box under his bed. He had no table or chair. His one pot meals were eaten on his lap while sitting on his bed.
He opened his front door, and smiled to himself as his familiar scene greets him. “What girl would ever come here?” he mused to himself. He rubbed his neck – it did not matter anyway – he was not one of the chosen ones – it was not his birthright. He had at best another 30 years of his miserable existence and then he would reach his expiry date. He shivered – he remembered the expiry day of his uncle. His aunt weeping inconsolably as he was lead away from the Residence. His mother, tense and pale, held her sister’s hand with “It will be my turn soon” written all over her face. He brushed this memory aside and brought himself back to the present. Opening the cupboard door he took out a packet for Thetaday. He fills a saucepan with water from the sink under the cupboard and places it on the cooker. While waiting for the water to boil he washes last nights bowl that has been left in the sink. Theta’s face flashes through his mind – tomorrow is the presentation. The water bubbles and spits, he pours the grey powder from the Thetaday packet into the pan. 10 minutes later he pours the now thick broth-like liquid into his bowl. He places the pan in the sink, switches off the cooker and sits on his bed. The soup is relatively tasteless. It is finished within 5 minutes while he stares at the wall. He puts the bowl on the floor by his bed and lies back on his bed shifting his focus to the ceiling. Theta’s face floats into his mind again – he remembers her strained face on the transporter today. He rolls onto his side in an attempt to make himself more comfortable. There are 18 hours to go. Will she do it? Will she save us?