"Who are you, anyway?" asked a young woman. The little girl in front of her simply smiled, turned around and ran. Without another thought, the woman followed her down a golden strip that winded through the universe. Suddenly, the child cried out,
"Come on, faster! I want to show you this really great place!"
The child was fast. Very fast. The young woman was amazed by the lightning quickness of the child's feet. She ran as hard as she could to catch up, but never could. The two passed stars, distant galaxies, planets, and infinite nothingness as they dashed along the one-lane, interstellar freeway. After what seemed like forever, the little girl stopped at what looked like the end of the road. She looked on amused, as she waited for her pursuer to catch up and make up for the breath she had lost during the chase. The woman gazed at the child. She seemed to be just as sprightly as she had been at the beginning of the road. Her long chocolate-brown hair waved in the air despite the absence of so much as a breeze. The one feature about the girl that dug the deepest impact in the woman's mind was her eyes. Two large pools of blue stared straight back at her, glittering like sapphires.
"Great! You made it. Now, we just have a little more to go!" the child chirped.
"What does she mean? There's nothing here. Just a hollow universe," the woman thought.
Suddenly, there was a flash. Two gigantic, white wings sprouted from the girl's back, and before the woman realized it, she took off soaring into the silence. The woman looked on incredulously, her mouth gaping open, as the child made her way up to an opening in the universe. It was some sort of portal, engulfed by a bright green aureole of light. When she floated in, she beckoned the woman to follow.
'I can't jump that...no way! I don't have wings. How does she expect me to get up there?' she thought. 'Wait! Is the portal starting to close? Oh no, please...not yet! It is! And fast!' As the portal began to fade from view, so did the winged, blue-eyed girl.
"I'm sorry. I can't do it," the woman muttered hanging her head in defeat.
Foi's eyes bolted open, fixed on the ceiling above her. She recalled the dream clearly. It was the same one she had every 'night'. When her pupils dilated and adjusted to the darkness, she wriggled over in her sheets and looked over at the time. 8:46 AM. Sunday. Those three digits, as if they had some divine meaning, reminded her that church commenced in fourteen minutes.
'Sunday already?' she wondered. She sat at the edge of her bed, grumbling incoherently while slipping on a sock. 'I wonder whose bright idea it was to create time on a space colony anyway. There's no day, no night, no Sunday, no CHURCH to crawl to on Sunday! It's so stupid how a few numbers can have so much impact on our lives...'
She looked in her mirror and quickly combed her short hair with her fingers.
"Hmm...the lavender dye's starting to look pretty shabby. I can see some of my brown hair showing through. Maybe I'll try light blue next time." Haphazardly dressed and her hair still quite disheveled, Foi made her way out of her room. Still drowsy, she smacked her forehead into the frame of the door, clutching her head in pain. The door was not tall enough to allow her height of six feet and two inches to pass under without a little crouching on her part. She stumbled into the kitchen where her mother had left her breakfast on the table.
Foi blundered through the church doors, realizing her tardiness. They had already begun singing hymns. She spotted her parents in the pews of the third row, secretly cursing them that they could not sit closer to the back. As she made her way between the aisles, she distracted the attention of the chorus and even the priest. When she got to her parents, she tried to pick up where everyone was in the hymn. When she decided she couldn't, she pretended she knew what was going on and mouthed it.
At the end of the hymn, everyone sat down. Foi sleepily eyed the titanium cross looming behind the pulpit, totally oblivious to what the priest was saying. She wondered why she was sitting there in the first place. There was no reason for her to be at church; she had stopped believing in God a long time ago. If he had loved everyone so much, how come he let the world turn into a barren wasteland? Why couldn't he save his children? No thanks to him, the earthlings had to milk the Earth of her last resources, so that the five space colonies could be created and thus ensure the survival of the remaining humans.
For a long time, people knew that the Earth wouldn't last forever. The planet provided them with incredible beauty to gaze at and everything else they needed. In return for her acts of kindness, the people who walked on her polluted her air, her water and her soil. Forests became deserts, ice caps melted into warm seas, and every pristine area the humans thought they could conserve was eventually transformed into a city, grounds for a skyscraper, or maybe a power plant. Animals and people alike died of the pollution and the Earth, herself, was growing weak. The people decided they would have to move on soon.
Luckily, the scientists, after centuries of study, knew enough about the universe and ultimately discovered another planet in another solar system able to sustain human life. In the years following its discovery, a few intrepid men and women ventured there and after ten long years, made it. They called the new planet Neo Terra and paved a dream that the rest of humanity could rise up to achieve. With a newfound determination, the remaining humans used what they could to create the five space colonies, gigantic pods capable of holding up to vast amounts of people. Their mission was to launch the survivors to Neo Terra. Many were tentative about the voyage across the solar system and some were even adamant in their position to stay and die on the Earth. However, most of the survivors were more than eager to leave.
One of the colonies a little after take-off had already exploded due to engine problems, throwing the other colonies into panic. To boot, the humans had been floating around in space for twelve years. They should have arrived at Neo Terra two years ago, according to earth time. Most still held on and prayed that their dreams would come true, but some were starting to lose hope of ever reaching their destination. Foi was no exception.
'Heh' she thought. 'And of all the names I could've been given, I had to be called Foi, the French word for 'faith'.' She chuckled at her own ironic comment, but later sighed at the hopelessness of the situation. Slowly, her mind drifted off into an unfriendly memory.
"Mama, why are you crying? Don't you want to go?" asked a seven-year old Foi. Her teary-eyed mother set down a compactor suitcase. She dried her eyes and looked back at her daughter who curiously gazed around their new quarters on the colony.
"Of course, dear. It's just that, well, I'm crying because...because, this is the only home I ever had. This'll be the last time I ever see it. Do you think you'll miss Earth, Foi?" The girl shook her head in response. "No, I don't think so. What's here to miss?"
Foi's mother continued, "Well, maybe you won't understand now, but later..."
"Mama? Why did God let this happen? You said He would protect Earth. You said He loves us. Mama, does He?" Foi sat at the edge of her bed dangling her feet uncomfortably.
A little surprised by her daughter's question, she rubbed the back of her head, struggling to think of the best, most tactful answer. She sat down next to Foi and said warmly, "Yes. Yes, He does. And that is why He's going to watch on us and make sure we reach our new home. We just need to have faith in Him and hope for the best."
All of a sudden, her mother poked her shoulder to stand up. Foi jumped back to reality and with the rest of the people in the church sang a culminating hymn to end the service.
Foi and her parents exited the church and walked down the long corridors to an elevator.
"Foi," said her father pushing the elevator button. "Your mother and I have some important business to take care of at the shopping center, and we know you'd probably get tired.
"So, go home and see if you have to finish up some of your studies." Your mentor's coming back tomorrow, remember?"
"Oh, yeah," said Foi perfunctorily, "tomorrow is Monday already. Okay, I guess I'll go check up on that."
"You're going to be on your own for several hours, so be careful and use your head, alright? We'll be back at hmmm...5 or 6-ish," continued her father.
Foi nodded in response. The elevator arrived and before they stepped in, each parent gave their daughter a short kiss and the daily 'Love you'. She smiled and said 'goodbye' as they entered the elevator and the doors began to close.
When the young woman returned to her family's living quarters, she was cheerfully welcomed back by Johann, the family android. He was only one of the few hundred androids on board and programmed to help Foi's family perform many arduous tasks, which he always took to with unbelievable enthusiasm.
"And how was church today, Mistress Foi?" he asked.
"Long, as usual..." she murmured, "Mom and Dad went to the shopping center so they won't be back for quite a while." She promptly flopped on the open-torus-shaped couch.
"Is that so?" said Johann as he entered the kitchen. "Well, I guess that gives you some time to yourself. Would you like some tea, Mistress Foi?"
"Sure, any kind will me fine. Thanks, Johann."
"My pleasure," he smiled.
The only sounds in the room were the clicks and the beeps emitting from her laptop. While she typed up her notes, Johann came in and set down a tea tray in front of her. He sat himself down on the couch opposite of her, and watched as if he were expecting some sort of reaction.
"Oh," Foi said as she closed the laptop, "Thank you." She took the warm teacup to her lips, blew softly, and sipped. She grinned at Johann to convey to him that she liked it. The little android always took her satisfaction as a sign of acceptance and friendship and began to speak.
"Still haven't figured out that dream yet?"
"Nope, it's so weird. It almost seems like something that could only happen in a movie or a fairy tale. You know, I don't believe dreams are premonitions in disguise, Johann, but it still troubles me. Problem is, even if it is a foreshadowing of something, I can't make sense of it at all. The little girl, that yellow strip, and that portal; I just don't get it."
"I'm sorry," Johann said thoughtfully, "We robots do have dreams, but they're much more straightforward and concrete. Abstract ideas aren't even comprehensible for me."
"I know. Don't sweat it. I don't think that dream's any big deal anyway."
"You know what? I think you should go to the bio-dome for some time. Get some fresh air to clear up your human mind," suggested Johann with a chuckle.
"Hrm, that's a good idea. I hope it's not totally packed in there. Meditation does require serenity."
"Go on," continued the android. "You deserve a break! If your parents come back, I'll go fetch you, okay?" Foi gazed at her mechanical friend. He was modeled to look like a twelve-year old boy and even frighteningly humanoid. Though he could not make up his own decisions, he was very capable of emotion and adept at speaking even with an informal tongue. His milky-white synthetic skin was faultless like his jet black eyes and hair. Only something man-made could have such perfect features. However, that's where the differences between them started. He only existed in a physical plane; whereas Foi had a 'soul'. He was programmed with emotions; she was born with them. Like he said, machines weren't capable of digesting abstract things. Suddenly, an unfamiliar feeling came over her.
'Perhaps humans,' she thought, 'are a little bit more than we know.' She paused and cogitated on it for a while. Realizing she was staring into space past Johann, she immediately cleared her throat and tried to look dignified. The android eyed his mistress with innocent curiosity.
"Geez, why do you have to be so adorable?" Foi said as she rustled his hair. With a warmer mood, she left the quarters.
The bio-dome entry rules were simple: no weapons, no chemicals, no machinery or devices, no fighting, and no more than 200 people at a time. The scanners at the entrance analyzed Foi for a while, then flickered green to show that she was permitted to go in.
She breathed in the pure air. It was refreshing, comforting, and almost sweet. The bio-dome on each of the space colonies was all the natural beauty the human race had left. In front of her lay a gigantic paradise of emerald-green grass, sparkling streams and trees with large, sturdy trunks. Fluttering above the treetops were several species of chirruping birds and below were fish and small mammals. It wasn't her first time there, but one word always crossed her mind...
"Beautiful," she breathed in awe.
Luckily, the rotunda was not packed at all and the only people she could see were some frolicking children, a young couple, and several elderly people sitting on the green lawn and chatting. She plopped down on the soft grass and brushed her lavender bangs out of the way. She lay flat in the grass, on he back and her arms spread wide open. Then she looked up at the sky. Or at least, it was a hologram of the sky. Behind it was just a thick glass covering and beyond that was stars, space, and whatever else was out there. Foi wondered how wonderful it must have been to live on Earth when it was still mostly untouched. She recalled her years back on the Earth. She lived in a crowded city with tall, unsightly skyscrapers and heavy pollution. It was considered a very special event to see a blue sky--ever. As a child, Foi would look in books, staring at the photographs taken by people in the 20th and 21st centuries. Some of them were of the most beautiful places on Earth that she could only dream of seeing. Thus, it did not seem all that bad to have left her hideous and sin-ridden home planet at all. She was only seven years old at the time her family boarded the colony and bade the planet farewell.
Twelve years had past and there was still no news given to the public about how close they were to Neo Terra. Maybe the colonies were lost and the captain and the navigators were uneasy about telling the people. They couldn't remain in space forever. Sooner or later, the colonies would malfunction and be destroyed like one did after takeoff and drag many lives along. Otherwise, supplies would be depleted and the humans would have no place to refuel. "We'll never get to Neo Terra. Never..." Foi sighed.
"Hey! Look at her Bennett!"
Foi suddenly sat up to see what the children were raving about. One little boy pointed up to the top of a tall, tall tree. Climbing almost to the top was a small girl. She was very high. Dangerously high. For a while, Foi watched the child ascend with amazement and somewhat amused admiration. After the girl climbed a few more branches though, Foi started to worry about whether she would be able to get down. She glanced over at the old people. One man was holding a pair of binoculars. She dashed over and asked, "Sir, may I use those for a moment?"
"Just a second, young lady. I just need to..." the elderly man started. Before he could finish, Foi snatched the binoculars from him and focused them on the tree. She found the girl, still climbing. She tried to get a good look at the girl, but the leaves obscured her face from view. She lost her footing. It was then that Foi could finally see her face. Long brown hair fell to her waist and framed her round visage. She had blue eyes, bright blue eyes, captivating sapphire-blue eyes. A vision rushed through Foi's mind...
After what seemed like forever, the little girl stopped at what looked like the end of the road. She looked on amused, as she waited for her pursuer to catch up and make up for the breath she had lost during the chase. The woman gazed at the child. She seemed to be just as sprightly as she had been at the beginning of the road. Her long chocolate-brown hair waved in the air despite the absence of so much as a breeze. The one feature about the girl that dug the deepest impact in the woman's mind was her eyes. Two large pools of blue stared straight back at her, glittering like sapphires.
Then, it hit her.
"Oh my God...Oh my GOD!!" she dropped the binoculars and fled to the tree as fast as she could, her heart racing as fast as her feet.
"My God! Somebody save her!" Foi screamed. It was too late. The girl let go.
"That must have been at least a 40 foot drop. WHY!? Why did you have to climb that tree? Damn it, WHY!?" When she got over to the base of the tree, Foi looked over the little girl, hot tears in her eyes. The child was obviously unconscious and her legs were bent wretchedly out of shape.
There was no time to lose. This young enigma she did not know and yet knew so well, needed medical attention immediately. She scooped the girl up in her arms, ran out of the bio-dome, and bowled her way through the busy hallways to the nearest infirmary.
It seemed like hours before anyone came back out of the emergency ward. A tiny old man with a white medical coat stepped out, an anxious expression stitched on his wrinkled face.
"Doctor, will she be all right?" Foi asked. The doctor sighed with a hint of despair. His android assistant spoke up for him, in a strictly business tone. "I'm sorry. It doesn't look like she will make it."
There was a long silence.
"Still, " the android continued, "we are doing all we can, but know that her heart is very weak. Please understand."
Another long silence ensued.
"May I see her?" Foi asked grimly.
"Of course not. She is still..." That's as far as he got. Foi could not take his apathetic demeanor anymore. Dissatisfied, she rose from her seat and stood up to the android. Slightly intimidated by Foi's looming height, he reconsidered.
"Well, I do not see the harm, but do not touch her or try anything that could harm her any further. She is in a very critical state," cautioned the android.
She came in softly making her way to the bed the little girl was placed in. Wires and bandages covered all parts of her body, but sure enough this was the girl from her dream. The child that she could never catch was right here in front of her, and for a moment, her life was in her very own hands. Foi knelt down next to her.
"So my dream was a premonition after all. But what does it all mean?" she whispered softly, as if hoping that the girl could hear her. "I don't know you in real life, but I swear to you, you'll be okay. You know, it was really stupid to climb that big tree. Heh, You sure impressed your friends, I'll give you that. I can't be here the whole time, because the doctors say you need your rest and my parents are probably worried about me, but I'll be back tomorrow. I promise..." She slowly got up and walked out of the emergency room, taking one last glance of the girl before she closed the door.
She arrived back home, only to be met by a scowl from her mother.
"Foi!" she called. " Where have you been all this time!?"
"Indeed, what were you thinking, running off like that for so long and not contacting us?" her father scolded.
Foi said nothing.
Johann approached his exhausted mistress. "I went to the bio-dome, but you weren't there. I was worried sick about you. Is something wrong?"
"I'm sorry, Johann. I'd really rather not talk about it. Right now, I'm beat. Good night."
"Uh...well, good night, then."
"Who are you anyway?" Foi asked. As usual, the girl only smiled and ran. Foi didn't wait. She chased her faster than she ever had before.
"Come on, faster! I've got this really great place to show you!" the girl cried out.
"And I'm gonna see it. There's no telling what'll happen if I let you go this time," Foi muttered to herself. They reached the end of the road as they always had, but this time, it didn't take Foi as long to catch up. When the child's wings had come forth, she flew off into the portal with the green-halo. She beckoned Foi to follow.
'I gotta make this jump it's far, I know, but I gotta try!' Foi gulped. She closed her eyes and without another thought, heaved herself into space.
What happened next all seemed quite hazy and vague. When she opened her eyes, she found herself in a grassy field, long green blades surrounding her on every side. And then she sat up to check her surroundings. What she saw took her breath away. For miles off in the distance, she could see what geographers back on Earth called mountains. Closer by, she saw things that resembled large stone mushrooms and trees. And almost all around her, she could see clear water. All underneath a blue sky.
"But, this isn't the bio-dome...it's new." She heard a soft giggle. She whipped around only to see the little girl, grinning even bigger than before.
"I told you it was great. Don't you think it's beautiful?"
"Where are we?" said Foi, still a little disoriented.
"Yeah, I thought so. Is it, really?"
"By the way, you never told me who you are. Are you going to tell me now?"
"Well, I may as well tell you. I don't have a name; I'm simply 'hope'. By actually leaping across and having 'faith' in yourself, you've discovered 'hope' as well. If you hadn't leapt, you may have never found me. And if you never found me, you may have never seen this place. What I'm trying to say is that faith and hope go hand in hand. Do you understand, sort of?"
Foi woke up and without checking the time, slipped a robe on and left her family headquarters. The colony was already awake and bustling with swarms of busy people. She pushed through the crowd edging closer and closer to the infirmary. Finally, she had reached it.
"How is she?" Foi asked as she thundered into the waiting room.
"Oh, it's you! We were just about to contact you!" chimed the lady at the front desk. As if on cue, the doctor and the android assistant entered just then.
"Oh, perfect. She's here. We have great news! I don't know how it happened, but that little girl's heart just didn't give up. She has strengthened and she was even able to speak quite easily for us. It's a miracle!" The doctor looked relieved and a lot more roseate than he had the day before.
Foi almost screamed. "You mean?"
"Yes, she's going to live. Of course, she still needs to stay here. She has a number of broken ribs and bones in her legs, but it'll be just a matter of time."
"Oh my God! I-I-I love you!" This time, Foi really did scream and she hugged the little man of a doctor, almost squeezing the life out of him.
"I've gotta see her," she jumped.
"Right this way then," said the android, a warmer sound in his voice.
The girl was awake when Foi rushed to her side, along with a few doctors and nurses.
"Hey, how are you?" the young woman asked.
"Who are you? Did you bring me here?" the girl asked right back. 'Man, her eyes are blue,' thought Foi, hardly able to contain her excitement.
"Yes, I brought you here. And I'm going to stay at your side until you're able to walk out of this place? Is that okay with you?"
"Mmhmm," the girl replied slowly. A nurse quickly burst in.
"Everyone! We just got an announcement from the captain. He said they've spotted Neo Terra. It's estimated that we'll get there in two months approximately."
"Well, that certainly is something to celebrate," roared the doctor. The nurses and everyone else started to embrace one another, crying with joy, laughing, and patting each other on the back.
"That's TWO miracles we've had today," Foi said to the child, holding her small hand firmly in hers.
"Does that mean we'll have a new home?"
"Yup. And we're all gonna go there together, hand in hand."