by Anthony Lindsay

The snapping is heavy this morning. I can hear it hitting the ground and I sleep on the sixth level. I should have laid at the other end of the strip, away from the solar shield, it's closed but the air filter vent is open, allowing the noise from the street enter. The snapping woke me up.

I rarely sleep late, but this morning I'm tired. It was a busy day at the mart yesterday and I fared well. Eighteen thousand dollars in one day, not bad for a Darker One, matter fact that wasn't bad for any one, Whites included.

The work at the mart is not easy, and it's even harder perpetrating as I do. The mart is for those of privilege, I was born far from privilege. I should wear a dome on my head, like others of my class sect but I do not. I walk and breath the air as if I am of the privileged sect. I perpetrate.

If the air doesn't kill me first, I'll get rich and after I'm rich; I'll fix my breathing parts. I have to be careful, fatigue is the first symptom of air poisoning. I can't afford sickness, not now; I am finally starting to make a name for myself at the mart. Six a.m. the clock reads, forty-five minutes to open mart. I force myself out of the strip and onto my feet. "Laying on the strip all day does not a billionaire make", that's a saying I modified from one of paper books I read last month.

My plans are to earn my first billion before I am twenty five. I will be rich before any serious damage is done from air poisoning, and whatever tissue is damaged I will have replaced with cloned tissue. Besides, serious damage doesn't happen until after thirty, and who cares what happens after thirty if your not rich. I certainly don't. Health and wealth are parallels, neither are the worries of successful mart men.

At eight teen I live on a six level, no one else of my age group lives this high, and none of my class sect. My true sect are dome heads and dwell on sub-levels. Dome heads, I don't know why one could accept that existence, better to breath poison air than live life with your head in a dome. Being a Darker One is burden enough but being a Darker One and a dome head, is hell.

My father a White was born to privilege, his first day of life the bio-breathers were placed in his head, my mother born to a maid's aide was a Darker One of the unskilled class sect. She never became a full domestic and lives her life with her head in a dome. Birthing me was probably her greatest accomplishment .

"Damn!", the showering glycerin is over heated. I love hot showers but I do not wish to blister my skin. The display reads 103 degrees, it has to be wrong, when I'm done I call maintenance. All necessities should operate to perfection on the six level. The glycerin temperature is to match one's body temperature. Could I have a fever? "No." The gage is wrong, I'm fine.

Toasted fruit fiber is one of the few dietary luxuries I allow myself. Everyone knows over eating is an indicator that one is from a lower sect, especially the eating of flesh. My mother was not a flesh eater but she was fond of fruits and breads, I guess it is that early exposure that

is responsible for the indulgence I allow myself. Usually three ounces of dietary paste and eight ounces of American filtered water is breakfast.

The snapping has me thinking of my mother. She made jams and such and would spread them across the surface of breads she baked. She baked on days the snapping held us in our sub-level dwellings. It's a nice memory, actually it's one of the few good memories I have from life with my mother and her sect.

I do not wear a dome on my head, I use micro sponges to breath through. I am not ignorant, I know they do not stop the toxins in the air, I place a new pair in my nasal passages daily, knowing they do nothing. I perpetrate in this manner because it's better than wearing a dome and besides, who knows, the filters might catch some toxins. I first got the idea watching my Uncle Ray filter water through sponges for drinking. I was ten and had been wearing a dome since birth.

That morning I went to the store with Uncle Ray to buy water, I was waiting in the car for him to come out of the store when a group of privileged kids walked past our car. They stopped and stared at me, one walked up to my window and asked me to take off my doom, I told him I couldn't. I remember how sincere and curious his eyes were when he asked why. I told him I needed the dome to clean the air I breathed.

He was Darker One like me, he was about to ask me another question when his friends starting chanting. "Homely domey your mama eats bologny. Homely domey your air is phony. Homely domey. Homely Domey." He joined in the chant and ran away laughing with his friends.

My uncle exited the store hearing the end of their chant. I asked him why we wore domes and others didn't. He told me it was the same reason we filtered our water and others didn't, the same reason we drove cars while others drove air mobiles, the same reason we lived in sub-levels while others lived above, the same reason a cold could kill us and not have others miss a days work, the same reason our class sect worked sixteen hour days six days a week, while others worked ten hour weeks; money, those that have it he told me, live better.

"Money makes men of this world privileged, but it is only the privilege of this world Luke, in God's Kingdom good deeds build your fortune." My uncle a tall man with his silver dreadlocks often spoke of God's kingdom, if I was in touch with him now, I'm certain he still talks about God's kingdom. At ten I realized I wasn't living in God's kingdom. Where I lived money got you a life without a dome, and that life looked a lot better than mine. My Uncle asked me if I knew the kids that teased me, I told him no. He said it was a shame they had nothing better to do than to tease one with less. One with less.

I don't know whose words I repeated more in my mind during the ride home, the kid's 'homely domey' or my uncle's 'one with less'. Neither fit well in my ten year old mind. I didn't think of myself as homely or one with less. However, I did wear a dome.

When we got home my uncle pumped the water through his filtering system. I watched the boiling water being forced through filter sponges and the idea formed. In my room that night I cut two small pieces off of one of his new sponges. I rolled them into tight cones and stuffed them up my nose. I had to inhale harder but the air came through.

I'd never gone outside without my dome, never; but that night I climbed the stairs and stood before the release mat, domeless. If I stepped on the mat the door would revolve and I would be outside the air cylinder without my dome. The worst thing that would happen, I told myself would be that I would gag and choke, but if I got right back on the mat I would be fine.

I thought about the Darker One from earlier, I thought about how he and his friends ran and played without domes on their heads. I thought about how great it would be to run and play with them. How great it would be to show them I wasn't homely.

However; I also thought of the stories I'd heard all my life, about the suffering death that came from melting lungs, about blood running so hot inside a person their skin blisters and eventual the blood burns through, all my life these stories had kept my head inside a doom. That night the stories stopped me. I was seventeen when I put the warnings aside and stepped onto that mat.

Uncle Ray would love this air mobile. Most American made mobiles hover ten inches off the ground, the '31 Falcon I drive hovers at fifteen inches and goes from 0 to 180mph in three seconds. It's the fastest American air mobile in production, the Saudi's make one faster and so do the Mexicans but both are out of my price range, at least for now.

The snapping will have those driving cars sliding across their battered road ways, the only affect it has on an air mobile is the grayish build up on the windshield. Uncle Ray said at one time the snapping was a source of water and it was called rain. I find that hard to believe, the amount of H2O pulled from the snapping is minute, how snapping was ever a source for water is beyond my understanding. Gray gaseous droplets that explode on contact with any hard surface. In China and Africa the snapping burns the skin.

Squeezing the hand held accelerator for a quick take off often reminds me of taking that step on the mat. The rush isn't as strong but it definitely lites the same jets. Other than the murky gray mess the snapping leaves it doesn't cause a problem here in the city, I've been told in the rural areas were there are some sparrows, the snapping kills them, and the birds carcasses often interfere with maneuvering air mobiles.

We have no birds in the city, other than those in the zoo habitat, so it is not a problem that interferes with city maneuvering. The only problem is the ancient cars that occasionally wonder onto the air path that runs along side their battered road ways.

Uncle Ray often drove his car on the pathways when no air mobiles were present, the rubber surface is smooth and as a child I enjoyed the better ride and looked forward to his spurts of civil disobedience; but now that I own a air mobile, I understand how dangerous and foolish his acts were. I cruse at a hundred and twenty miles an hour, when I have to reverse the airflow to slow my mobile down for a car, it infuriates me beyond measure; and every time it happens; it's a Darker One in a dome. They have no concept of how irritating their presence can be at times.

There are none on the pathway today, I'm squeezing it up to 160 mph, nothing feels this good, either real sex or even simulated sex comes this close. My speed is so high the thick gray snapping residue is forced from my windshield. I've been in my Falcon less than seven minutes and I see the mart on the horizon, I reverse the air flow, blowing the mart exit would make me three minutes late, a blemish even a privilege Darker One could not afford.

My trainer the only other Darker One working at the mart had been a mart man for twenty years, his first tardy came a week after he trained me, they wouldn't even let him in the mart. Borris, a white age mate of mine, who lives on a second level said the ratio is one Darker One at a time at the mart. He said my trainer was doomed as soon as I walked through the gates. I don't know if that's true or not but, I'm never late.

New to air mobiles this year, is the constant hover feature, my air mobile never touches the ground, it lowers to four inches and settles. I love it and at the mart, where image is every thing; I paid the garage attendant two hundred bucks for a park on the second level for a week. Management likes it when mart employees appear to be prosperous consumers. On the second level I am sure to be noticed exiting my new Falcon. Next week I'll be back on twelve unless my good luck continues and I can purchase a lower spot on a regular basis.

While I am On the second level however, I am going to walk as slow as possible and be seen by as many managers as possible. One advantage is my high visibility, they can't mistake me for anyone else. Good thing I didn't miss my exit every manager I can think of is in the garage this morning. I'll display smiles and nods from here to the mart floor. Mr. Kuhn, my section manager is walking in my direction. He drives last years Falcon Elite, a year old it's still worth eight times more than my base Falcon, but mine is new.

He returns my smile and nod and briskly walks past me. I surrender the lift car to him and his assistant. His assistant smiles a knowing smile at me. Months ago the assistant's knowledge of my perpetrating disturbed me. He is a friend of Douglas, the Darker one of privilege who I met as a child.

Inside my work cube on my desk are twenty new order request, it's going to be another great day. Last week I met a provider of melon pills who was trying desperately to bring his product to mart. Being a dome head he is not allowed to trade, none of the other Mart rep were interested in working with him; thinking he could not possible deliver quality melon pills.

Quality melon pills offer protection from the sun's rays without darkening one's skin. Seeing his desperation and knowing how futile all his efforts would be to get mart approval I offered my help only with: complete control of distribution. He agreed and I got the product approved for trade. The pills were licensed he only needed a mart rep.

How he, a Dome head got them licensed was not my concern, the pills work and I have complete control of distribution; which means all money comes to me first. His percentage is minor, but minor mart money will allow him and his donors to live better. This I know because I send my family a small percentage of the money I earn and I am certain they live better, eventhough I haven't went seen them since I stepped on the mat. One can not be in the company of those with less when aspiring for wealth.

Many of the sect I was born sell melon from their backs and lower thighs. My Uncle Ray would never allow anyone from our family to do such a thing. I don't see the problem with it, it's better than selling organs; which has become a booming market at the mart. Dome heads who can't afford cloned organs often buy organs from other Dome Heads. I personally don't trade in that market. I prefer the pharmaceutical market.

The buzz is out, in less than forty-five minutes I have doubled last week's melon pill orders. Pharmaceutical technology is wonderful, with it my Dome Head supplier can march Darker ones to the manufactures sites and have melon extracted and in pill form in less than twenty minutes. My day at the mart is done.

I call the Dome Head to put in a new order, my warehoused supply is not gone but the demand is great; with a couple more days like this one; it will be emptied. I feel unusually drained, which is strange because after good days I'm full of energy. The Dome Head on the other end of the monitor looks stressed, he's telling me a Darker One Preacher is stopping people from selling melon.

I hear him but my mind is calculating how much money can be made from the supply I have. If he can't deliver I won't be bothered with him, my time cost. He says something that pulls my attention back to the screen. He wants me to come to the site, he thinks if the Darker Ones see me; a Darker One who is a successful mart man, they would be motivated to continue to donate. I laugh out loud at his ridiculous idea, but the desperation in his face, along with the possibilities of getting another shipment causes me to agree. This will be my last dealing with the Dome Head. This morning I read about a new fat cream that could be spread across a penis offering added sensual girth. This will surely net me huge profits.

In my new Falcon cruising at 140mph, my mind goes back to taking that first step onto the mat without my dome. Life as a Darker One in a dome had become too much to bear. I was seventeen, a graduate with honors from the primary education system. No further schooling was offered for one of my sect.

Douglas my privileged assailant had become my friend of sorts. We met again at the store and our curiousness about each others existence fostered a friendship. I met his family and he met mine. He tried not to act shocked at what we called a home.

He drank our home filtered water, ate my mothers bread and sat with us in our large gathering room listening to Uncle Ray's biblical stories and his preaching of the return of the Lord. I was embarrassed for my family and much preferred spending time at his home.

Within his family home I took off my Dome and showed them all that I was not some hideous robotic creature but a human, a Darker One much like them. I too had aspirations and desires for wealth. My wanting confused his mother who tried to console me by telling me it was foolish for one so restricted to request so much from life. His father offered me a mechanics aide position at one of his shops. His parents didn't anger me, they motivated me.

I spent many hours with his family longing to live as they did. To come and go above ground and breath the air. To go anywhere within the city and not be restricted. His father told me if not for the dome it would have sworn I was a born mart man. Only mart men craved wealth so. He said it jokingly, but the seed was planted.

Douglas who was going on for medical training after primary education had no interest in the mart; despite his father's urging, he was not interested in wealth for the sake of wealth, he wanted to do some greater good with his life. I thought him foolish and told him so. In response he gave me his fathers endorsement letter and dared me to go get the position.

Mockingly he said the letter was all I would need, a letter from his father could move mountains, certainly it could get a 'homely domey' a position at the mart. I took the letter and never spoke Douglas again.

A week later dressed in one of the hand me down suites Douglas's father gave me for church, I stood in front of the mat with my nosed stuffed with water filters. My heart gushed blood to my head. I was certain death was on the other side of the air lock, but I also knew that for me death was also on the sub level behind me.

It was over before I knew it, the door had never revolved as fast. I was outside, above ground; breathing the air. To nervous to take a step. I stood in front of the air lock. It was children behind hurrying to school that forced me out onto the walk. They brushed by me not noticing who I was.

I expected the air to at least sting, to stink, to make me dizzy; none or that happened. A public airmobile carrier stop and I boarded. On it where people of privilege on there way to the business district to work, the dome head driver asked did I schedule the stop, I told him no, he said not to worry he would add it in the morning. I took my seat next to others who had the conveyance of a scheduled air carrier picking them up for work.

The letter worked like a charm. I was assigned a training schedule and living quarters. The only glitch came a day after training ended when Mr. Kuhn's assistant came to my living quarters. He informed me that Douglas called to nullify the letter of recommendation his father wrote. The assistant stood at the door silent. He began to unbutton his shirt and I saw a scare the went from the nape of his neck to his waist line. "What you want cost young mart man, be sure you are ready to Pam the price." He le ft with my secrete with him. I assumed the scare was left from new lungs brought.

That was three years ago, before I proved myself as a mart man. I have made Mr. Kuhn more money than any one in my age group, I have been top producer in my group since day one and have surpassed many of those with senior standing. I am valued, of that I'm certain.

I bring my Falcon to a stop across the path from the manufactures site. I watch a group of dome heads Darker Ones come to door, a man also wearing a dome stops them, he talks, waves his arms and they leave. I see the dome head I have the distribution deal with, run from the site to the man who persuaded the darker Ones away. They argue, he pushes the man, the man does not retaliate, he walks away slowly to a parked car in front of the site. I know the car.

I haven't seen Uncle Ray in years. I haven't seen my mother in years. I send money and brief notes. They are not part of my world. I don't want to see him today. They dome head will have to work out this situation out himself. When I reach to initiate my Falcon I notice my hand is covered with sweat.

At home in my shower, I calculate that with today's earnings and my savings; I have more than enough to get the biobreather implants; the shower glycerin indicator reads 101. I have a fever. I should not have waited so long for the biobreathers but I have felt fit until today. Buying good clothes and the new Falcon seemed like priority at the time.

I lay naked and sweating across my strip. By voice command I dropped the temperature in my sleeping area to 65. My mother would always wrap me in heavy covers when I got sick as a child. Sweating as I am now she would have me wrapped in blankets. I'm shivering; but my thinking is it's needs to be cold to lower my temperature.

My mother would have me by her warm stove, with fruit pastries baking. The pastries were a reward if I laid still and didn't complain while waiting for the fever to break. Umph, for a second I almost smelled the sweet heat of her stove.

Tomorrow I'll go to Mr. Kuhn's assistant and get the name of the doctor he used. At the very worst I'd may have to secure financing for cloned lungs but it couldn't be any worst than tha , , ,

2041 by Anthony Lindsay

© Copyright 2003. All rights reserved. No portion of this work may be duplicated or copied without the expressed written consent of the author.

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