Chainlyn loved going to the Tree Museum. It was the only place she felt free. The pod she’d been assigned was full of machines whirring all day and night. Of course, she supposed all pods were the same. But she wouldn’t know. She’d only ever been to her own pod. She’d been tasked as a programmer by the time she was two. She’d been programmed in-vitro to be one. And that was that.
Each pod was connected to five museums and those museums were connected to other pods, so technically she could go to another pod, but it was frowned upon.
Her pod was connected to the Tree, Flower, River, Desert, and Lake Museum. She’d heard of one pod on the outer ridge that had an Ocean Museum. She dreamed of going there one day, but it was impossible. She’d have to get permission to enter at least five different pods. No way they’d grant that.
For now, she’d be happy with the Tree Museum. It was her favorite because in order for the trees to grow to their full height the domes that protected them from radiation had to be twice as tall as a normal dome. And that made it seem like she was outside. Not that she’d ever been outside, but she loved to daydream about what it would be like to go outside without a hazsuit.
Trees, flowers, bushes, basically all nature was quartered off into sections and allowed to grow for nostalgic purposes—nature museums.
Today everything was bioengineered to perfection. Farms were no longer necessary. Technically eating wasn’t necessary—a pill supplied all a person needed. They were required to chew gum twice a day to prevent jaw muscle atrophy.
It was supposed to be better this way. Chainlyn wasn’t so sure.
Once she stole an apple from an apple tree in the Tree Museum, and to this day she could still taste the sweet yet sour burst of flavor on her tongue. That first bite had been so jarring that she’d almost spit it out, but she fought the urge to spit the foreign taste and chewed. Chainlyn used to think it was weird that back in the old day’s people actually liked chewing their food. Now it was just another chore they had to do twice a day for jaw health. But after trying that first apple, she began to understand why people liked the real thing
Today especially, Chainlyn needed a break from the hum of machines. She’d turn eighteen tomorrow and that meant she had to decide whether to commit to a H.A.G.R — Holographic Automated Graphic Relationship.
Nowadays people didn’t have children the natural way, so marriages and relationships weren’t necessary. But years ago, the Engineers discovered that people were more productive when they had relationships. The problem was that people were too busy to meet their perfect mate, so the Engineers decided to engineer them—the H.A.G.R.
Although they are technically just holograms they respond and interact with their mates as though they’re really alive. People assigned a H.A.G.R have a chip tattooed to their temple. It is used to activate the holographic world. From what Chainlyn heard, it’s totally realistic. You go to work at your pod station then go home to the perfect marriage.
The Engineers haven’t outlawed marriages between humans, but it’s highly discouraged. The outcome of those marriages was unreliable and it was unlikely that a human mate would ever be found.
Everyone is required to decide if they want a H.A.G.R by the age of eighteen. After eighteen, the match between the human and H.A.G.R dips dramatically. Therefore, the Engineers determined that all H.A.G.R’s must be assigned at eighteen or not at all. And one other thing, there was no such thing as divorcing a H.A.G.R. They were permanently entwined in your brain. Chainlyn had heard a rumor that somebody changed their mind and ripped out their chip. The damaging effects were irreparable. They spent the rest of their life in the Mental Pod. Though from what everybody says, people are perfectly happy with their H.A.G.R. Life was simpler and more fulfilling with a H.A.G.R.
All Chainlyn’s life she’d planned on getting a H.A.G.R. just like everyone else. But a couple years ago on her sixteenth birthday, she’d met a woman in the Tree Museum who she found out later was named Bronwyn. Bronwyn had caught Chainlyn eating an apple. Chainlyn’s heart leaped in her throat when she saw Bronwyn walk toward her, but it was Bronwyn’s kind smile that told Chainlyn that her secret would be safe.
Chainlyn learned that Bonwyn was from an adjacent pod. She had long, wavy brown hair and looked to be in her forties. Her smile was genuine and her brown eyes sparkled with warmth. As a matter of fact, Bronwyn’s eyes had something that Chainlyn had never seen before. Chainlyn’s eyes had flicked to Bronwyn’s temple. No tattoo. That was odd. Bronwyn was a Single. Single was the name given a person who chose not to have a H.A.G.R. Chainlyn had never met one before.
For weeks after, Bronwyn’s joy-filled eyes haunted Chainlyn. She wanted that kind of true joy for herself. She’d never seen anyone before or after with that much life in their eyes. Chainlyn thought that maybe Bronwyn’s joy was because she’d found real love with a real person.
Maybe real love was like eating a real apple, full of flavor and so much more satisfying than apple flavored gum.
Often, Chainlyn had come back to the Tree Museum hoping to find Bronwyn, but she never saw her again.
So here Chainlyn was on the eve of her eighteenth birthday and she had to decide—have a modicum of happiness with a H.A.G.R or risk being alone forever for a slim-to-none chance at real love.
Five Years Later
It had been five years since Chainlyn sat under this very apple tree and made the decision that would change her life forever.
She wondered many times if she’d made the right decision?
And at those times of uncertainty, she’d visit her trees.
Chainlyn stood and brushed off her pants. She pushed up on her tiptoes and plucked a bright, red apple from the branch above her. She sunk her teeth into the apple and relished the sudden burst of flavor.
The real thing was so much better than gum.
“I should write you up,” A male voice pulled Chainlyn out of her apple-induced fog.
She twirled on her feet and wiped the evidence from her chin. She hid the apple behind her back and looked into the brown eyes of a man about her age, maybe a couple years older. His lips were set in a stern straight line.
Chainlyn’s mouth was full of apple, so she couldn’t speak.
His eyes pierced her as he walked closer and stopped in front of her. Chainlyn’s heart pounded.
His piercing eyes wavered, and a glint of kindness shone through as his stern mouth curved into a smile. He reached above him, grabbed an apple, and sunk his teeth into it. After a few seconds of chewing, he said, “I prefer the green apples, but these are good too.”
Chainlyn swallowed. “I haven’t had a green apple before.”
“I’ll show you where to find him.” The man winked.
And with that wink, Chainlyn noticed one very important detail—this apple loving man didn’t have a H.A.G.R tattoo.
At that moment, she knew that she’d made the right decision. She’d finally have a chance at true love.
At that moment, she knew she’d regret her decision for the rest of her life. She should’ve been patient. Now she’d lost her chance at true love.
***Which ending did you like? Comment below with your opinion, pretty please. ****