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On Terraces

begin with the first bit; then you’ll read yourself to this bit

The six escorts stand at attention while the older woman rises from her seat and all walk toward the curved wall directly behind the older woman’s chair. Forming two lines of three, since the older woman detests the “hovering,” as she calls it, of a person immediately behind her, the escorts flank the older woman just behind each of her shoulders. Easily, the older woman may gently glance behind a shoulder and address or look upon any of the six. The lack of importance shed upon the place order of the six reveals the lack of hierarchy among them. Nevertheless, the escort, W, poised just off the older woman’s left shoulder instigates the process of transportation.

For most inhabitants within this orbital, the cost of travel is time. The vast distance between the older woman’s private quarters and the Third Corridor cannot be walked in one day. The distance can be traveled in a day’s sunlit hours by above-ground vehicular transportation or in a few hours by below-ground rail. For a select, unknown to the general population, few, the distance can and may be traveled within a relative instant. Familiar terms such as teleportation, backdoors, wormholes, folding, etc., fail to describe the process accurately. Thus, a specific report of exactly how this method of transport and travel works lacks verification. The exclusivity, of course, accounts for the elusive explanation. Such as it is, the older woman, along with her six escorts stand at the ready in front of the portion of curved wall that sits directly behind the older woman, if she were sitting in her centered chair.

The process begins quickly as the escort W steps forward toward the wall, lifts her left hand. A dim light marks an outline of a door in the wall. The escort presses her hand against the wall within the outlined space, a small puff of air. Separating now from the wall, a door slides backward, away from the group of travelers, then easily slides to the left and opens into a dark passageway. The group, still led by escort W enters the passageway, and as the door closes behind them, the space fills with a soft, dark blue glow. As quickly as the group disappears behind the door, they arrive in a glow of red at the Third Corridor. Of course, still unseen despite their arrival, no one within the Third Corridor takes notice of them, but in another instant, a flash of green reveals the seven travelers to the facilitators as the group appears all at once in the doorway between a greenhouse and a tropical arboretum. Again, much of the arrival process goes unseen by the facilitators with one facilitator recognizing the instantaneous appearance but soon thereafter writing off the improbability of the situation as a moment of lapsed attention, who then immediately calls [Staffer] to notify him of the older woman’s arrival.

Within each of the six corridors resides a place where most inhabitants of this particular orbital give little to no attention. Most, of course, as usual, are unaware of such a facility. Few, not including those who work within the facility, ever visit. Built with the intention to provide solace for the humans now living within a drastically fabricated, synthetic world, the six Terraces house a multitude of former Earth-dwelling plants, trees, flowers and grasses that may be enjoyed by any orbital inhabitant at no cost. Of solid glass, the Terraces each take on the shape similar to that of soapy bubbles piled on a countertop. The tops of each seeming bubble, of course, opens out into the orbital itself, and in some places, the tops of the tallest trees poke out and peer into the orbital. Populated not only by a garden for edible plants, a greenhouse for decorative flowers, a nursery for environmental trees and foliage, a hydroponic garden for medicinal herbs, and a landscaped oasis, every Terrace also houses a specific, themed garden, such as tropical, woodlands, etc.

Each Terrace, obviously, serves a practical, physical purpose of filtering and cleansing the air within the orbital, but they also serve the practical, psychological purpose of filtering and cleansing the minds of the inhabitants. What the Terraces forego is the purpose of education. In a reality such as orbital living, one no longer practices the sort of tangible forms of hands-on learning as was once the standard in days of old. For the first few revolutions, orbital customs required that each inhabitant spend no less than one hour per week within a Terrace. Accessible and sizable, the Terraces can easily hold half of its respective corridor’s residents in spacious comfort all at once. In the case of an emergency, one supposes, every inhabitant within the orbital could reside within their corridor’s Terrace, if only with the slightest bit of personal space. The requirement seemed irrelevant to the mental health of the inhabitants, and so, over time, the compulsory visitation remained law but went unenforced. Soon thereafter, with each new generation pouring in and out of each orbital, the Terraces nearly vanished from human awareness. Nevertheless, for the practical purpose of breathable air, the Terraces continue to do their duty, and their constant, consistent vacancy makes them greatly appealing to the older woman.

The older woman directs herself into the arboretum where she stands at the edge of the bamboo that grows en masse along a path that leads toward a shallow stream, looking beyond the thick forest of ribbed shoots. The six escorts disperse themselves throughout the garden. A few moments pass as a gentle whisper blows by the ear of the older woman. “Who,” the gentle whisper asks, “can see the things for which she does not look?” The gentle whisper continues, “Who can know that which cannot be see?” Unnerved, the older woman calls for escorts X, Y, and Z, “Please, find Kira.” “What, then, would you like for us to tell Kira?” escort X asks. “Upon seeing you, Kira will know what to do.” “Yes, ma’am,” the three respond in unison as they exit the arboretum. Once the three are out of sight, [Staffer] appears in the doorway between the arboretum and the hydroponic systems facility and makes his way toward the older woman who immediately turns to acknowledge him. “My apologies, ma’am, for the wait” [Staffer] begins; “The Earth-man has proven difficult to awaken after the presumably stressful day, yesterday.” “Yes,” the older woman sharply responds. “Shall I take you to him, now?” [Staffer] asks. “No,” the older woman instructs, “bring him to me. I will wait in the distillation room.” [Staffer] nods and excuses himself, “Yes, ma’am.”

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