New Eden

Scene 2

This shit was not right. And, as usual, there wasn't a damn thing she could do about it. So Keidra Johnson spent her time wandering around the made-up park, nibbling on a strip of purple papaya, keeping an eye on the white people, chattering like sparrows over a pile of bread crumbs.

And these white people were crazy! Stuffing their faces, eyes gleaming, talking about the rescue like Jesus was coming for them, personally. Some splashed in the pond like they were on vacation. They chattered to each other, speculating on their saviors. Would it be the Coast Guard? The Marines? Would they come by helicopter? Or by boat?

"Ship," a blonde woman corrected a redhead. "On the ocean, it's correctly referred to as a ship."

Keidra finished the strip of fruit and wiped her fingers on her sweat pants. She pulled her braids off her shoulders and wished for a rubber band. These people were stupid: but Keidra knew. No-one talked about how they all got there. Before didn't matter; only that they had what they needed now--until they all got rescued in the future. And if asked about before, the answer circled vaguely around a plane crash or something, until it went back to either now or the future.

But life lessons told Keidra that where you started had a lot to do with how things went for you in the future. And it bothered her that she didn't know where this started. She knew it wasn't a plane crash. She'd never been on a plane in her life, and wasn't likely to have the money for a plane ticket working the fry station at the local BK.

She knew that the clothes she wore were her gym clothes. That meant her last moment, before here, was night; because she did her workouts after her nieces and nephews were in bed. Auntie was too old to get all five of them in bed by herself and still keep an eye on Gramma.

Keidra also knew that she'd been out running, not going to the gym to box, because she had on her runners. Which meant her last moment was at night on a Tuesday or a Thursday. Those were the days that her trainer took off from practices.

In spite of all she knew, she still didn't know where they all were, or how they all got there. She just knew it wasn't no damn plane crash.

As the sun began to set, and busy worker bees gathered a huge pile of fallen deadwood from the jungle fringes, Keidra found an out-of-the-way spot and sat down on the grassy fringe. She rubbed the tips of her fingers on her thighs again, trying to get the fruit-sticky feeling off.

"Hey," said a white chick with a thick cluster of black dreds and blue squiggles drawn all over her chin. She squatted next to Keidra, looking out at the crowds of busy bees acting like they were all on a camp-out.

Keidra drew her chin back to look at the woman, her face pulling into a frown. Barefoot, the woman wore cut-off jeans and a big white tshirt with a picture of the Earth in the shape of a heart. "Hey," Keidra returned grudgingly.

"Can you believe these people?" She nodded toward the others.

"No, I cannot." Keidra said, including this weird hipster woman in her glance. "What's all that on your chin supposed to be, anyway?"

The woman barked out an honest burst of laughter. "You're raw. I like that," she said, sticking her hand out for a shake. "I'm Echo Wright. And I'm Maori. All that on my chin is my ta Moko. It's a cultural thing." Her voice did have a foreign lilt to it, when Keidra listened closely.

"Oh," Keidra smiled. "So it's like those guys who have it all over their face." She shook hands, finally. "I'm Keidra Johnson."

"Yeah. Like those guys." Echo chuckled, adjusting her weight on her haunches.

"I didn't know girls do it, too." Keidra looked closer at the markings, which colored the woman"s lips and swirled intricately over her chin.

"Some do." She gave a smile that Keidra recognized as the same one she gave when white people wanted to touch her hair. "So, where you from?" Echo changed the subject.

"Chicago. You?"

"Well," she chuckled, "New Zealand. But more recently, Biloxi. Going to school." She reached down by her feet and plucked a few longer strands of grass, and then began fidgeting braiding them. "You want to hear something weird? Everyone here, everyone I talked to, is from the States. When's the last time you ever got on a plane with only Yanks?"

Keidra shrugged. "I ain't never been on a plane." She watched as the people in the clearing became shadows.

"Interesting," Echo said, stressing each syllable. A spark reflected in her dark eyes from the bonfire the busy shadow bees started. She scooted forward, the maniacal grin on her face highlighted by the blooming fire. "Want to know something else interesting?"

Keidra shook her head, she did not, but her mouth didn't move.

"Look at them. They all speak English. All of them. Fifty people, I count. And all of them speak English. So we can communicate."

Keidra looked at them, already forming little cliques: the leaders sat near the fire, heads bent; the partiers, forming a congo-line around the fire; and straggler groups of twos and threes sat fringing the crowd, worrying.

"There aren't any old people. The youngest I found swears she's 18, but I'm guessing closer to 16. The oldest is 40. No one here is sick, or hurt." Her voice took on a wild cadence. "What does all this tell you?"

"There are two moons," Keidra whispered, her hand pointing at the sky.

"What?" Echo fell forward, barely catching herself on her forearms.

Keidra stared up at the night sky. The moon rose, as expected, scrolling slowly through the sky, looking a little more purple than usual, smaller and farther off than usual, and with a more quizzical smile. And following it, the leading edge just spilling over the jungle canopy, came its twin. The face on this moon looked like the emoji for surprise, which seemed oddly apt. Someone screamed, it may have been Keidra, her brain was too busy running through rat mazes to be bothered with such a trivial detail. The Maori woman next to her had fallen to her knees, sobbing. A few people stood screaming, pointing at the moons, and pulling at themselves. Some ran off. A few brawls broke out.

In the middle of the hysteria raging all around her, Keidra had one clear thought repeating in her mind: what was was no more, what is was up to her. She wasn't trapped by the choices of others, she could be and do whatever she wanted. If she survived. Suddenly, their survival became intimately and urgently important.

Across the clearing, the Asian doctor yanked a fat branch out of the bonfire and waved the flaming end in the air. The white guy with glasses stood behind him, banging two big rocks together. "Hey! People! Stop it! Listen up! Hey! Everyone!" the doctor called.

Most people, some in mid-punch, stopped at this new spectacle. Slowly, they gathered around, a loosely corralled audience only too willing to fall back to violence.

"This doesn't change anything for tonight," the doctor crowed, a tingle of fear hiding behind the authority in his voice.

The skinny old guy who'd tried so hard to convince everyone what a nice guy he was earlier in the day, stepped forward. He dropped the small, delicate man he'd been pummeling and pointed up at the twin moons. "How can you say that nothing's changed, Guy? Or are you suddenly blind?"

Guy shook his head, a sad expression on his torch-lit face. "That's not what I said, Ted. But you tell me, how does that change what you need tonight? This moment right now is changed how?"

The energy in the crowd built, almost humming. Keidra could feel her chest thrumming an echo of the crowd sounds rise. Her lungs filled with air, ready. Her eyesight grew sharp and clear, waiting.

"Do you even know what that means, boy?" The old man barked a laugh husky with fear and anger. Behind his tone, Keidra heard that age-old hunger for power. That quenched a little of her own heart fire. He was just another old white guy who wanted to be the bossman.

Disenchanted with the moment, she crept off the sidelines, to see the doctor's face and hear what he would say. These folks had one more chance, or she was heading out on her own.

The doc shrugged. "That means we're not on Earth anymore. That means this isn't some deserted designer island." He handed off the torch to the redhead girl and walked forward slowly.

"That means we aren't getting rescued. Wherever we are and however we got here, mankind doesn't have the technology to find and fetch us." He continued, walking toward his challenger as he spoke simple truths in a calm manner.

"That means we're on our own. Struck back in time and technology with nothing but the clothes on our back. That we have to work together to rebuild a world here for ourselves. Or die." He stopped, just far enough away that he didn't have to tilt his chin to meet Ted's eyes.

"But that doesn't mean that our basic, immediate needs have changed. On an island or on a new world, we still need food, water, and shelter." He glanced down at Ted's bloodied knuckles. "We still need to act like civilized humans."

Guy turned his body away from his defeated challenger, to address the crowd. "So, here's the deal. If you want to be a part of rebuilding our civilized society here, then go to bed. We'll start figuring all this out in the morning. Through a democratic process." He took a deep, disappointed breath. "If you prefer something more monstrous and barbaric, you're welcome to leave. And not come back."

Guy turned slowly and purposefully away from the crowd, heading back to his little group of early leaders. It was a brilliant move, a passive challenge between two potential leaders.

Keidra watched as the skinny old white guy balled his already battered fists, the muscles in his jaws working like grave worms. He would respond to the challenge with violence. She could sense the muscles bunching, waiting for his brain to command the strike.

Normally, Keidra would back off and play silent witness as the titans fought, over territory, privilege, honor, or whatever. But this time, this fight, had the tingle of fate to it. She didn't have to sit around as a flaccid witness anymore.

Just as he moved, his arm starting to cock back, the elbow bending, she grabbed his shoulder and yanked back while popping her knee into the back of his. She bounced clear as he crashed back onto the grass.

"You!" Ted snarled, as hands from the crowd helped him stand back up. "You don't touch me, you filthy bitch." He stepped toward her, his hand raised for a backhand.

Balanced on the balls of her feet, her arms came up into a loose, ready stance. She gave him her best crazy black woman smile.

He paused, and tried another tactic. "Do you know who I am, little girl?"

She laughed. "You're no one. Same as me." Keidra looked around at the crowd. "Same as all of us. Whatever you were, is gone." She splayed out her fingers like an explosion. "What you will be ain't figured out yet." She shrugged. "Total do-over."

In the faces of the shell-shocked crowd around her, she saw a lot of resignation, but a few bright spots of determination gave her hope.

Keidra turned back to Ted, dropping her arms with a shake of her head, her braids rustling on her shoulders. "But I know in this new world, I don't want some tired old bully of a white guy telling me what to do."

They stared at each other, as the crowd began to mutter uncomfortably. She smiled, he snarled. Finally, he looked away. Without saying another word, he stomped off, slamming his shoulder into as many as he could on the way.

The doc and his clique of popular people surrounded her, buzzing vicariously with her victory. The little redheaded girl bounced next to her with big, wide blue eyes. "What would you have done if he'd hit you?"

Keidra reached behind her and grabbed Echo's arm, dragging her with as they shuffled everyone back up near the fire and the front of the cave. "I'd have knocked him on his boney white ass again," she answered.

The doc looked at her with a raised brow. He sat on a flat stone as others crouched to the ground around him.

Keidra shrugged. "I'm an amateur boxer, in addition to flipping burgers."

Doc blinked and laughed. "Okay, then. Guess we have a new head of security. I'm Guy," he pointed to his chest, and then around the circle. “This is Alison, Marny, Ethan, DeShawn, Leslie, and Haya.”

Keidra nodded at them in turn, a little surprised to see it wasn't just white guys. Women, Asians, and even a black guy. "I'm Keidra. And this is..." and she drew a complete blank of the tribal chick's name.

"Echo." She stepped forward with a wave.

"And Neo," said a well-dressed Hispanic man who had apparently tagged along.

"So," Echo asked, settling down in her spot in the circle. "What do we do now?"

The blonde woman - Leslie? - answered. "Now, we wait for morning. See what we're left to work with." She shrugged, like she really didn't care; but firelight danced in her teary eyes.

The tiny Asian woman - Haya, Keidra thought - hugged her arms around herself as the sounds of the crowd rebuilt their frenzy. "I wish the nurses would come back. Their knowledge is too valuable to squander."

Doc gave an absent nod. "They'll be back soon enough. And then we'll patch up whoever's left in the morning."

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