Tonight, I write to you from a room without escape.
My name is Reks Twelve and I don’t know how I got here. All I remember is going to sleep the night of my 18th birthday, and now I’m in this strange place. As though it is a dream, but, I can touch things. I can interact with this machine to speak to you, I feel breath escape my lips, I feel the air on my skin, I know I am alive in here. I can feel the sun on my face.
THE SUN! It’s coming through the window on my right. Damn, it’s not big enough for me to climb through, and there’s nothing in this room I can use to break it.
There is a desk fixed to the wall and ground, perpendicular to the tiny window; upon it is this device, this window to an internal reality of communication. I’ve managed to decipher the control mechanism well enough to record my plight. I am only lucky it is in my own language, or perhaps we share this language somehow. This is weird though, I can only access a limited amount of controls, and all my information has been documented by someone calling themselves “My Benefactor” I don’t know what to think. I can’t even change any of this, and the photo… It’s me, but the clothes are odd, and I’d never pose like that. How is someone able to do this?
“Path of inevitable danger” What does that mean? My benefactor must be talking about the Sovereign Stride, but it seems grander than that. They mention a place called Earth. Maybe that’s where this room is, maybe that’s where I am now.
I ponder as I look around.
To the right of the desk is a book case; it’s empty. Behind the stationary stool I sit on, is a blank wall. I’ve scoured this place for clues, but I have nothing to give me any Idea of how I arrived here. The walls are hard and my bones ache from fruitless attempts to break through, or at the very least call for help. So, I’ve set myself on another task.
I’m here now, I may as well tell my story.
I live on what we call The Sphere; in one of only two cities in existence, Tor. The other is Sovereign City. In between the two cities at each pole, is a grand and dangerous wilderness, a mash of jungle and forest, desert and darkness. The current law of the land dictates that everyone born on the sphere has the right to take what we call; the Sovereign Stride. That’s where a person leaves Tor through the diamond gate and must travel through each of the other 8 gates in order to make a legitimate challenge to the current sovereignty.
As it stands there is no sovereign leader, and so, these laws take the leader’s place, until a new leader is crowned:
No killing unless striding.
No striding over the age of 19, nor before 18.
If you stride you must produce an heir.
If you stride you cannot return to Tor.
The last sovereignty was 70 years ago, and well, things were good for a while, but after a few people came close to challenging him, the king got scared and in his paranoia, he ordered his personal guards; the 50 metre men, to dig a trench into The Sphere. What we call the Sphere Scar is 1000 metres across, spanning the entire circumference of The Sphere.
My great grandmother, on her final day of eligibility to take the Sovereign Stride, just 5 days after giving birth to my grandmother, ripped a path through the jungle in record time to challenge the paranoid king. She beat him, but died in the process, leaving The Sphere without a king or queen.
People still stride to this day, but most either give up when they reach the gargantuan chasm of The Sphere Scar, or they die in the process of climbing down. Those who return to Tor; unable to return to the safe confines, have built a second city within the surrounding 2 kilometres. We often hear them in the night, celebrating the moons ambient green glow.
Tonight, I am 18 and the reason I’m in this room has to be linked to my decision to take the sovereign stride. Initially I wasn’t going to go, I was going to continue my schooling, become a clockmaker’s apprentice, do some minor guard duties, and then apply to be a watchman like my father. He said the watchmen have the most important task on the sphere. They keep their eyes on the stars, because one day the Sovereign Star will ignite in the sky and we’ll know someone has completed the stride and claimed the throne.
But something happened today that changed my mind. A boy I go to school with; Victor. He’s the school’s self-proclaimed alpha male, and he’s always besting the other students, myself included. Any record that gets set, he goes out of his way to break it, just so he can gloat about how much better he is than that person.
He approached me today on my way home. He’d never spoken to me without an audience before, and I was worried. Prodding my chest each time he said ‘I’m’, he began “I’m going to end the Sovereign Stride, I’m going to end our family’s feud, and if you stride, I’m going to end you too.” He told me.
This was the most serious I’d ever seen him, even when beating my latest achievement there was a comedic demeanour, as if it was all fun for him. I was scared, and when I went home that night, I told my mother all about it. She reassured me that Victor was all talk “He’s just bitter that his great grandfather was dethroned by a woman, his family has always been about power, and it has always gotten the better of them. I bet he won’t even make it to the Sphere Scar” She smiled, and I returned her one. “Thanks mum” I said, and before I could even get to my bedroom to stack my books, my father called out to me from upstairs. I left my books by the stoop and ran up to meet him. There was something odd about the way he called for me that made me worried.
He was sitting on his bed when I entered the room. “Reks, you know how when you decide to take the Sovereign Stride, you must leave an heir?” He gulped as I nodded “Well…” My father broke down, crying into his cupped hands. I’ve never seen him like this.
He coughed through his choked throat, and yelled away his tears just long enough to blurt: “I’m not your real father.” His tears returned with the force of contrition squeezing them from his ducts.
I wasn’t sure what to think, let alone what to say. So, we sat there for a few minutes, just absorbing the information, neither of us brave enough to speak, but just courageous enough to stay next to each other.
My mother walked into the room, she hugged me tightly. At the time I didn’t realise, but she must have been waiting for my father to say his piece before coming in, as though they had talked about it extensively prior, and he made a point to have the knowledge pass directly from him to me.
At first my mind was numb, blank, but I forced thoughts through the hollow space between my ears, and eventually I said: “I’m striding this year” And thinking of it now, my words were probably not the best for that moment. They didn’t reply, instead they squeezed me tighter and as they did I had more to say “I’m glad you stuck around, both of you, together. There are too many broken homes in Tor and even though ours is somewhat fractured, it has held together, because you two willed it to.”
My mother let go “Wait here, I have something for you” She said. My father released me but kept his hand to my shoulder “Be brave…” He hesitated, only briefly, but with a hopeful smile he continued “…My son” I smiled too “I will dad, don’t worry.”
We both knew he was my true father, the only one willing to stay, willing to teach me how to be who I am, for me. In no selfish way did he want me to become like him or deliberately unlike him, he just helped me chase all my dreams, regardless of how unrealistic they were, and that’s what made me want to be the most like him; his unyielding acceptance and nurturing, his unwavering patience and perseverance in the face of adversity.
My mother returned with a large item wrapped in leather, she placed it on the bed and unravelled it. My father wiped his sorrowful tears from his face, but they were quickly replaced with tears of joy when the item was revealed to me “A gauntlet?” I queried “I made this in my last year of school…” My father began “…I was going to stride with it, but I fell in love with your mother, your biological father had left the year before and your mother decided to stay with you, so I promised her I’d stay with her, she found it admirable that there was someone who would stay to raise her son, she told me I was braver than any strider, and any king…”
They smiled at each other and held hands. I could feel their energies ripple around the room; theirs is love of solidarity, of honesty and promise. Something I wish to have one day, to hold and ripple around my own room.
“And what’s this?” I asked pulling at a leather strap coiled around a long thin object. The item plonked onto the bed, its looked as if it were some sort of crystal, it had a handle and the point of it sat out of the bottom of a belted sheath. It was covered in rust or dirt; my mother picked it up and rubbed off a small area of it with her thumbs “This, Reks, is a diamond dagger. When my father was a guardsman, managed to chip off a loose chunk of the diamond gate” “Now you be careful with that Reks, if anyone catches you with that you could get into a lot of trouble.” My father warned. “Thank you mum, dad, I love you guys.”
“We love you so much Reks.” They said. “When do you plan to Stride, my son?” Father asked “I don’t know yet, I mean, well I haven’t even produced an heir yet”
“Well when the girls find out you’re striding, you’ll need that dagger just to keep them at bay.” My mother said and they both laughed.
Wait! Something feels weird, I, I think I’m waking up from this place.
The room is blurring.
I’ll continue if I return.
Wait for me.