The Empty Horizon (short story)
Posted September 5th, 2023 by ElizieAngelina
in The Deepsea Metro (jk, it's Texas.)
September 5th, 2023
That was how long May had spent in her hometown, the floating city in the sky. Despite common belief that Lesen was a medieval town with a gigantic castle and there were many gods that placed a blessing upon this gorgeous city, May begged to differ. Lesen was nothing like that now. It was an urban city, with impossibly high buildings that were so bright that it hurt to look. It was the opposite of what everyone had believed it to be. And, going against the legends, Lesen wasn't the most peaceful place, neither was it riddled with crime waiting at every corner.
Today was the day. In Lesenian belief, on an individual's 19th birthday, they would have to leave Lesen. It wasn't forever; they could return to Lesen at any time in their adult lives. Unlike most teens in Lesen who wanted out to claim a succesful job on other floating islands and a successful relationship, May was anything but. She didn't know how she could survive out of Lesen. All she had was her suitcase, and this was her last day on the island.
When it was sundown, May and many other 19-year-olds had been placed in a room that was uncomfortably hot. Out of many other teens, May was among a certain group chosen by random. They had been ordered to sit down in chairs before a podium marked with the symbol of Lesen. Apparently, this ceremony was meant to help May "prepare for the challenges that lie ahead," and "be prepared to face a difficult task." No matter what, May couldn't seem to shake the feeling that she was unprepared. It lingered in the heat of the room. It lingered in the air. May's eyes darted around. Some teenagers looked happy, some looked normal, and some had a contagious fear that was passed on to May.
She gulped. She was definitely not prepared.
A straight-faced man walked into the room as if this preperatory session had just turned into a business meeting. The murmurs and whispers died down as he ascended the stairs to the podium and picked up the microphone resting on it.
"Good evening and salutations, future adults of Lesuwin. I will serve as your escort to different floating islands. As of today, you should have taken your Lesen Preperatory Interview, which clarifies which island you will be traveling to. Before we begin, has anyone not taken the essay?"
One of the girls raised her hand a few chairs back from May.
"Don't worry," the man continued. "There are still some remaining sheets. I reccomend that you take your interview quickly, however. Our meeting will be scheduled to start soon. Answer your questions with the best of your ability, and remember-coexist with others."
May's stomach hurt as soon as she heard the motto of their island-coexist with others. That would be one of the last times she'd hear that, at least for a while. She no longer felt bad for herself. She felt bad for the others, the ones that were more unprepared than she was. The ones with an easily contagious fear. The ones with shaking hands. Messy hair. Crooked accessories.
The room was still as the teens answered the interview. Everything was so quiet that May could have heard a pin drop. She bit her lip and looked at the ceiling, hoping for the loud silence to end.
Finally, the man spoke. "Now that all of the responses have been turned in, we can begin." He inhaled and exhaled. "As you all know, today is your 19th birthday. Whilst some people believe that adulthood begins at the age of 20, in Lesenian culture, this occurs one year earlier. The Book of Lesen says this, and thus, adolescents must follow. You have lived a very long time here, however the quality of your childhood may have been. Appreciate your ancestry. Remember that no matter where you go, you will always be Lesenian. Please rise for the anthem."
The rows of students, including May, stood and placed their hands together. The national anthem began to play, but unlike any other time, this one sounded different to May. More solemn, much like the motto. Both of which would not be heard for a while.
As the anthem played, May couldn't help but whisper the lyrics. Considering this would be her last time hearing it, it would be informal to not revel in it. May tried to choke back tears as soon as it ended. Then, she and the rest of the students sat back down.
"Appreciate it," the man reverently said. The room, once again, went quiet before he continued on with his speech. "Anyways, continuing on. You all young women, and men, are about to enter a new chapter of your life. Friends have come and gone. Memories have been made. The halls of the schools you have entered are now laced with nostalgia. You can no longer depend on those who are higher in rank or class than you are. You can only depend on yourself, for the decisions you have made have left a mark on you. In a few seconds, you will say the oath. Hold up your hands. Repeat after me: I have moved on from the comforts of Lesen and have chosen a greater path in life. I will never forget where I came from, but I will remember where I will soon embark."
May held up her hand and let her voice mix with those of the other teenagers. "I have moved on from the comforts of Lesen and have chosen a greater path in life. I will never forget where I came from, but I will remember where I will soon embark."
The man nodded slowly. "Coexist with others. Once I am finished speaking, please walk down the hallway until you find the Embarkation Room. You will be selected at random again from the pool of teens by an aircraft. You are dismissed."
May and the teenagers stood up and began shuffling out of the room. She wrapped her arms around her shoulders, vision blurry. The room's door slammed shut behind her as she trudged down the hallway and was lost in a pool of young adults. She saw their shouts of excitement, mumbles of worry, thudding of their footsteps. They led up to the Embarkation Room, where the doors were wide open.
Surprisingly, it took no time at all for the line to pass and for May to enter the room. She first checked in by signing her name, then walking into the room. It was gigantic, almost resembling a garage with a few lights hanging overhead. The floor was made out of concrete, marked with yellow lines. May had been assigned Group B4, a group with the fourth aircraft. Their B4 leader, a young woman with a tight bun, was waving her arm in the air and signaling for other B4 cantidates to come forth.
She absentmindedly followed a teenager walking towards the B4 section already. The woman's shouts were much clearer now. "If you have been assigned to group B4, please come to this area! I will be the one to lead you to the aircraft!"
Minutes later, May heard a loud slam. The doors had just closed, and the last teenagers were gathering in A1, A2, B3, B4, C5 and C6. Unlike how it had been earlier, the room was just as quiet as the room May had just been in. Someone-May presumed this man was a general-walked towards the center of the room. "Young adults of Lesen!" he shouted. "The aircrafts are now ready and prepared for departure. Group A1 and A2, please enter in an orderly fashion! Depending on which floating island you would like to go to, the ride may take 30 minutes to a few hours! Your clothing and belongings have been taken by Lesenian soldiers and placed into a luggage which you will recieve upon arriving at the island! When the garage opens, step back!"
Then came a loud rumbling noise. Every inch of the garage shook as the gate lifted, revealing streams of sunlight beaming in. The aircraft's engines roared as it laid on the extended runway. It was huge, with the doors at the sides extending stairs to enter. May gasped at the sight-despite her living on a floating city, this was still a shocking sight. Maybe it was unique because May had never seen anything like this before, or this was the last time she was going to see it.
The A1 and A2 group walked across the runway to the doors. May could see that below the runway, the downtown area could be easily seen. That was the moment that she felt a lump in her throat. She gave up trying to hold back a tear, and it effortlessly ran down her face.
May remained as still as a Michelangelo statue, staring ahead at the aircraft. She didn't react when the doors slammed when all of the groups were in, and she didn't react when the aircraft took off, sending gusts of wind into the garage and then...nothing. She stood there in a loud, defeated, quiet silence that not even the roar of the aircraft could drown out.
And in no time, the second aircraft came and landed. "B3 and B4, please enter the aircraft in an orderly fashion!" the general yelled. The woman with the tight bun and another leader from B3 began walking towards the aircraft. More tears slipped down May's face as the thud of the runway echoed across the garage. She waved solemnly out to the city, and then whispered a quiet "Goodbye" as her voice cracked.
She ascended the steps to the aircraft and entered. Seats were lined across the walls, a harness and buckle above the seat. Half of the seats seemed to be already taken. May decided to grab a seat closest to a window, then pulled down her harness and clicked the buckle. Her hands were shaking, and she placed them on her lap to find relief. The students loaded in, and soon, every seat was full. The B3 and B4 recruits pulled the harnesses to make sure they were secure, and then took their own seats. Then came the rumble, the lift, the lightness of air underneath her legs. May was free, yet she still felt utterly trapped.
She looked back, a tinge of regret recently sprouted and tears pooled in her eyes as the aircraft sailed far, far away from Lesen into the empty horizon.
See more stories by Agent 4