On the hilltop, so far removed from the underground caverns, Sozwik found himself reluctantly relieved.
The landscape exhibited an intense openness. The fresh air, running smoothly through his hair, felt like being birthed into an entirely new world. For Sozwik, leaving would have been more difficult if he actually had a choice… But his hands were tied.
Sozwik had earned his ‘freedom’.
After a lifetime of forced slavery inside the zapixion mines, he had achieved what so few had been able to do. Sozwik tediously toiled his way up to Top Rank, the highest position a Jyoti could obtain, and was the youngest yet to do so.
Just seven Jyoti of each generation were granted freedom. And only those of Top Rank were even eligible. Freedom was a fleeting dream that so many clung to, yet such a small number would ever taste. The leading theory was that this was done for two reasons… The first, to provide desperate, (almost) unattainable hope for the masses. The second was to stifle any possibility of rebellion by shipping the potential leaders off.
The craft appeared out of the peaceful purple sky, silhouetted by the omnipresent rays of the Great Star. It landed on the square, dull metallic platform, mere meters from the group of seven.
The group bowed their heads, joining the entire Jyoti race in a final goodbye. A soothing invocation that was unspoken, yet directly experienced, connecting thousands of kindred spirits in reverence.
An abrupt bark snapped the silence. “Move!” The gold-armored guards grunted through their gnarled, steel blue jaws. Their staffs were as menacing as their eyes. And both were bitterly fixated on the Jyoti as the seven began to walk up the gray loading ramp and onto the ship.
“Until next life… fuck heads,” Sozwik jokingly communicated. The other six produced a slight smirk because, of course, the guards couldn’t possibly hear it.
Aboard the craft, they were greeted by the all-too-familiar hostile presence of another gang of guards. The Jyoti had learned to live with it and became comfortable with being constantly uncomfortable.
It was Sozwik’s first time in a craft. The metallic hull was like the insides of a monstrous beast. Curved beams lined the sides and looped around an immense, concave ceiling. The floors were smooth, solid silver, giving the interior a cold disposition. There were eight authoritatively red security doors, laid out symmetrically, that led to the more comfortable rooms and the pilot station. The Jyoti could only imagine the extravagant luxuries that these rooms held.
After a short stint of standing in the hull, Sozwik felt a sudden pressure in his legs. The craft had left the ground. For the first time in his life, Sozwik ascended out of the blanket-like atmosphere of Seren, his home planet.
Time and space seemed to do funny things. Sozwik felt a chronological slowing, similar to the times he and his friends would play the game of Downhill… Where they would race down steep inclines at breakneck speed, dodging immense trees and hopping over boulders. Sozwik’s feet would be moving too fast to even think, but he was in a different zone, where he had an eternity to pinpoint each step. Now he had that feeling again within the craft.
Before he could even metabolize the experience, they were overlooking the most captivating planet: a blue-green orb, with white swirls that looked like paint strokes, hanging in suspended animation amongst the brilliant blackness of the universe.
“Earth,” the seven Jyoti communicated in unison, almost unconsciously.
Their eyes were utterly infatuated, in awe of the heavenly body that dominated the view from the craft’s window.
“Enjoy your freedom.” The guards snickered in a sarcastic, brutish tone, as the Jyoti were beamed to different remote areas on the planet.
In his consciousness, Sozwik revisited his last night on Seren as the blue-white light engulfed him…
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