Along a narrow strip of a land, no secret was safe from the prying eyes that cast their gaze throughout every house of glass. Fearing their neighbors, most people stood around watching one another, never living life, or carrying a conversation. Upon daybreak a bell chimed throughout the sky and people pulled their faces from the windowed walls. Wearing white bodysuits with barcodes across their chest and seamless masks, the people scurried into the street like silhouettes in a busy station.
Outside, everything was covered in a stark white gloss, except for the shadows cast by the sun. Children quickly formed lines like ants and walked towards their schools in rows of three. Others went about their day, like mindless drones or gathered at the corner of their houses or at the ends of the street to spy on those nearby. One after the other, they peered through each other’s homes, inspecting any oddity.
A lanky young man came stumbling outside with his mother. The barcode along his chest ended with the number eighteen, showcasing his age. He mumbled and groaned in a nasally voice as he yanked on his mask. It stretched like rubber until the mask snapped into place. “I don’t see why I need to wear this thing when it’s so hot out. I hate it!” he said.
His mother shushed him.
“What? All I’m saying is…” A tiny yellow flower caught his eyes, it had broken through the paneled ground beneath him, and no one noticed. He was in awe and drew closer as others walked around him. He fanned himself as he tried to shield the plant from the harsh sunlight. He felt a nudge at his side when a dark shadow spread across his body. A chill rippled throughout his skin, making him tremble.
“Evalieh Lassoy,” said someone.
Evalieh looked up and found a large shadowy figure looming over him with angry glowing eyes. The crowds on the street had all gone silent and bowed for a group of individuals known as the Cloaks of Adam. They were dressed in solid black and moved as if they were a spectral shadow creeping along the ground.
“Is it beautiful?” asked the looming figure.
Evalieh remained silent and tensed up.
“Do you find this thing so fascinating that you allow it to distract you?”
Evalieh shook his head in disagreement. He tried shifting closer to his mother and she grabbed him by the arm. She was paralyzed with fear and wouldn’t let go.
The figure cocked its head.
Evalieh cleared his throat and tried to muster up the courage to speak. He felt a queasy feeling rising in his stomach. “I think it’s beautiful.” He tilted his head and looked down at the plant in admiration. “It’s different, otherworldly— something interesting and magical.”
The figure’s shadowy form bled into the ground as if it were sinking. “Humanity’s magic has long since faded. Things that were different and things that are interesting—do not belong.” It then covered the plant, causing its color and life to drain away, leaving behind a white husk.
Evalieh’s lip quivered as he shuffled forward. “W-why? What’s wrong with having something different in our lives?” Evalieh kneeled over at the plant husk and poked it. “I know I wouldn’t feel so bored and lifeless if something like this could make our lives more exciting.”
The nearby crowds gasped.
The figure narrowed its eyes and reared back. “Is it your place to question whether or not you are bored?” The figure swooped towards Evalieh’s face; its empty white eyes stared back at him. “Individuality is not of your concern, there is no magical difference to be had.”
Then, the figure dissolved into the ground. “We look forward to your evaluation.” One after the other, the other Cloaks of Adam vanished along the ground. When they were out of sight, the crowds gave a sigh of relief and went back to their tasks.
Before he could relax, Evalieh’s mother wagged her finger in his face. “Listen, you’re eighteen now, you’ll be joining Adam’s exploratory group. You must follow the rules or else.” She looked back and forth at all the others walking past them. Then, she dragged Evalieh off to the side where less people were watching.
Evalieh tugged at his suit and fanned his face. “Why do I have to keep following the rules—they don’t make sense! I want to do something exciting.” He scoffed and folded his arms.
His mother covered his mouth. “Follow the rules or I can turn you in for bad behavior! Others are watching us.”
Evalieh nodded as he looked around at all the faces looking their way.
“We live a perfect life; we must uphold this perfect life—do you understand?”
Evalieh groaned and looked back at his house of glass. He twitched his mouth around, wishing he was still in bed. Then, he looked along the street where all the other glass homes sat, seeing every inch of their privacy exposed made him want to hide. After all these years, he still squirmed at the thought of neighbors watching him sleep and use the bathroom. The thought of being caught for the slightest imperfection made him uneasy.
His mother shook him. “Evalieh!” She shook him again and plucked a heart-shaped broach from the back of her mask. Unlike the others, she was classified as a nursing unit, someone who’s meant to look after ailing individuals. She placed the broach in his breast pocket and shoved him away. “Go with your group and don’t get into trouble.”
Evalieh clenched his fist and hurried off into a group of other recruits. He hid in the back as they made their way through the village. Everything was bleached of its color, from the chalky ground that clanked like metal, to the wavy hills that surrounded them. Evalieh and the group passed one glass house after the other until they arrived at a marble plaza. Warm bright lights surrounded the center area and illuminated a towering black building.
It looked as though the Cloaks of Adam were looming over the land itself and it made Evalieh feel uncomfortable. He was tired of being told how to live and felt like there was nowhere to hide or be himself. He hated wearing his mask because it was so uncomfortable and hot. The heat around him grew stronger, making his body feel pasty with sweat. He tried fanning himself but every time someone would turn, he would pretend to stand upright and match them.
One by one, a recruit entered the tower, but no one came out. By the time Evalieh was called, the elastic in his mask had come undone and he was gasping for cool air. He wiped his forehead and entered. Immediately, the door slammed shut and the walls turned into a solid white abyss. Twelve towering desks then rose in a circle around Evalieh.
“Ah…the one who’s bored,” they said.
The Cloaks of Adam stood behind each desk like shadows against the wall. With a crash, they ground their hands into the desk and pulled themselves forward. Halos encircled their heads from the lights above and shadows formed around Evalieh. “Speak!” they said. Their voices echoed and rumbled across the room. The twelve whispered among themselves.
Evalieh squirmed and twiddled his fingers around.
The centermost cloak slammed his gavel down, cracking the desk. “Explain yourself, Evalieh! Why do you tug at your mask and worry about unnecessary things?” he said.
Evalieh flinched and clenched his abdomen, his anxiety rose like a burning acid. He didn’t know what to do and felt so uncomfortable he closed his eyes tightly. “This doesn’t feel right.” He took a deep breath, caressed the ridges of his face, and swiftly yanked his mask off. Waves of brunette hair fell across his porcelain face. “I don’t want to live like this anymore!”
The shadowy twelve gasped and reared back in their seats. Silence fell across the room as they gripped their desks, nearly breaking them.
Evalieh flung his mask onto the ground and squinted against the light. He cupped his hands over his sapphire eyes and looked up at the others. “This is suffocating! It’s not only boring, but I don’t want to be told how to live any longer—it’s my life!”
The twelve groaned in disgust.
“Unacceptable!” one said.
“Disgusting!” another said.
Unable to tell the voices apart, Evalieh looked back and forth each time one spoke.
The figures leaned over their desks and cast long slithering shadows across the floor. Evalieh was surrounded and tried to avoid their biting touch. “Dispose of the failure,” some said.
The centermost silhouette struck his gavel, silencing the others. They reared back and stiffened into position. “We have no place for those who disobey our order.” Then, the silhouette leaned forward and pointed his gavel at Evalieh. “You will put your mask on—leave it on, and fall into place, like all the others,” he said.
“I will not,” Evalieh said. Trembling, he brushed his hair back. “I want to be more than just another person. I want to experience new things and become someone I’m proud to be.”
The centermost figure gave an endless exhale until he looked nearly deflated. Then, he sprang from his seat and loomed over the entire room, blanketing it like a tent.
Evalieh pulled at his suit, causing it to stretch like rubber and snap into place, making him wince. Angry, he scrunched his face up and started pulling at his hair. “This doesn’t feel okay, anymore…I don’t want you in my head.” He hit his head with his fists. “I don’t want to be told what to do anymore! I want something exciting—something magical and fun!”
“Repulsive behavior!” The twelve said. “Those concepts do not exist here!”
Evalieh turned his nose up and turned away. “Whatever—I’ll find them myself then.”
“Then, we cast you out—into the void,” the twelve said. Their booming voices quaked around the room, causing the floor to collapse beneath Evalieh.
Feeling his feet go weightless, Evalieh yelped and fell into the dark vortex below. The force of the chilly air whipped his body around, causing his cheeks and hair to flap around. Eerie moans and cries erupted around him, crying out for help. Evalieh clawed through the air in a panic, gasping for breath with tears in his eyes. The gusts began to grow stronger, like a punch to the stomach until one knocked him unconscious.
With a jolt, Evalieh flung his eyes open and scrambled to his feet. Surrounded by a world of color, a waft of warm sweet blossoms caressed his chilly pond-soaked skin. Glittering waves of sunlight trickled throughout the vines and bushes that sat between giant flowers and crystals. “Is this what real sunlight feels like?” He held out his hand and basked in the warmth, realizing he’s only ever known the ghostly chill of artificial lights. It made him feel something new, a sense of joy and excitement; two feelings he’s never been able to express or understand. The massive petals, stalks, and crystals were in a rainbow of colors and stretched towards the sky like towering trees. Smaller blooms and bushes cluttered between them. Evalieh was astounded and his eyes grew wide. He touched his mouth and felt it curl into a smile.
With a deep breath, Evalieh looked back at a large pond and gawked at the little animals. He didn’t know what they were, but some of them looked like squirrels, rabbits, ducklings, and fawns. He shook his head in disbelief, he didn’t know this place. He didn’t want to know it, but it was strange, exciting, and frightening all at once. It was overwhelming and different than anything he’s ever known.
Something in the pond caught his eye and he sloshed through the cool water to look. “Can anyone help me?!” Rippling along the water’s reflection was a swirling black dot. Evalieh snapped his head back and saw a black vortex hovering in the blue sky like an inverted whirlpool. His knees began to quiver, and his breath grew shallow. “Wh-what is that? Did they—throw me away?”
He pulled his arms close and sank into the water, tilting his head back and forth at the noisy animals. “What have I done? I shouldn’t be here. I need to get back home.” A crystal bird squawked and flapped its wings around, making Evalieh jump. His heart pounded with fear, and he leapt out of the pond, dripping wet. He tore through the bushes feeling worried about his parents and what might happen to them. “Is anyone there?! I need help—please!” He braced himself against the trunk of a coconut tree to catch his breath. The tree shook, and startled him, it was as if he could feel someone watching him.
Fear shot through Evalieh like a cold chill, and he took off running through the jungle. This wasn’t the kind of excitement he was looking for. His heart pounded and he feared he’d never see his home again. Slowly, the humidity started to make him feel woozy and his surroundings wiggled and wobbled every step of the way. It was exhausting to try and make sense of everything because at every turn, his surroundings grew more menacing. The jungle bushes and crystals transformed into a thicket of needly thorns that picked his body. He felt the pain but saw no blood and panicked. He forced his way through the jungle until a light cut through the thorns.