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Return to Paradise: Chapter 9


Sitting on a metal bench at monorail station 42, Alexis pondered her next move. Something inside her told her that the lasers weren’t broken. That inner voice became suddenly stronger and she realized she should see Wynn. It has been years since she’d been to the spot, but she knew she could find it. Getting hungry, she headed to the food station and hoped it would release a pellet. Nothing. She attempted the monorail one more time. Again, the door remained shut when she stood in front of it. The people inside looked on blindly as she signaled for them to let her in. The tram took off without her. The people hurrying along on the cement sidewalk practically knocked her over, not seeing her as they passed by. As night fell, Alexis, worn and weary, curled up on a bench and willed herself to sleep.


Return to Paradise: Chapter 8


Lexy went on smiling and looking people directly in the eyes, or as directly as she could through their dark sunglasses. I won’t act invisible just because people are acting like I am. Finally, she reached the laser station. The ominous gray cement structure housed the lasers where people could add money to their CHIP. All monetary transactions operated through the laser system. Bills were paid by entering expenses into the home computer and scanning the CHIP to automatically withdraw funds. This information was sent to the laser and then those owed money could receive it via their CHIP either from a visit to the laser or through their home computer. No paper cash was needed.

Alexis figured she had about $10,000 in her laser bank. She decided to take it all, as she wasn’t sure where she’d find her next laser station or how soon she’d need it. She wanted to be prepared. When she approached the laser, the glass shield in front of it did not raise like it was supposed to. Shoot, she thought. It’s malfunctioning. She went to the one next to it. Still nothing. Weird. Two in a row? Is the whole system down? As she stood to the side, she watched a man walk up to the shield. It rose and he entered. He spent a few minutes filling up and then turned and the shield closed behind him. That’s funny, she thought, leaning against the wall. She waited about 10 minutes, though it seemed like 10 hours, until another person walked up to use the laser. As a young woman walked out and the shield lowered, Lexy ducked in before it closed. She put her wrist under the laser beam hoping the fill up would be quick in case her parents started to search for her. She waited anxiously for the beep, preparing to enter her request for all of her money. Nothing happened. She felt her skin flush with panic and her mind raced, wondering how she would get her CHIP filled. Just then, another woman walked up to the shield and it rose. She started to enter and Alexis brushed by her.

“I think it’s broken,” she told the lady, who sailed right by her as if she didn’t hear or see her.

Alexis was baffled. Why is everyone ignoring me? Do they all know I’m running away? Or that I’ve committed a horrendous writing crime. She knew the mind waves could be altered to affect everyone’s thinking at once–she had overheard her parents talking about setting public opinion. But could they really get that information out to everybody so quickly? she wondered.

Maybe they could. Since the laser hadn’t read her CHIP, Alexis didn’t know how much money she actually had. Maybe enough to ride the monorail out of town and to get a food tablet. She decided to catch the monorail to the next laser fill up station five miles down the road.

She felt a little woozy standing at the rail stop. When the train pulled up, she waited for the door to slide open. But it didn’t. A second later, the sleek gray monorail zoomed down the track, leaving her standing alone.

What do I do now? she thought to herself. Looking around, she saw people scurrying around like little mice trying to get through a maze. But I’m the one who feels lost. The city was swimming with people leaving jobs or starting the night shift. She decided to try and walk to Dan’s house. It’s about two miles from here, but what else have I got to do? thought Alexis. A nice walk will do me good. Plus, I’ve got to apologize to him for not waiting after school today. Was that today? It seems like a week ago. She had been so eager to get home and finish reading the mystery manuscript that she had actually forgotten to wait for Dan. It was the first time in the two years they’d been dating that she’d left school without him. And he hadn’t called her either. He must be mad. Now would be a perfect time to talk to him and tell him… what? She couldn’t tell him about her discovery–not yet anyway. She didn’t know what to say. She only hoped her parents wouldn’t be there.

She was distracted from her thoughts by a group of people she spotted in an alley between two tall brick buildings. Some were sitting in cardboard boxes and others stood around, leaning on the building or in groups of two or three. Mismatched clothes adorned a string hung from one box to another. Somehow these people appeared to be living there. She had never noticed these people in the alleys before. She looked down another alley as she walked further down the street. More people. Alexis couldn’t believe it. Where did these people come from? Who are they? As she continued on, a tall man with gray eyes approached her and asked her for pellets.

“I don’t have any.” She shook her head, hungry too. She kept walking, unsure about what these people were doing living in the street. She was a little scared. As she kept walking, she saw bodies lying motionless on the ground. Two men in black clothing were picking them up and piling them into the back of a blue pickup truck.

Lexy ran the last two blocks to Dan’s. She was out of breath when she rounded the corner to his house.

Alexis didn’t have to worry about what to say. When she finally reached his front door, she knocked. His mother opened the door and looked around. “Hi Mrs. Price. Is Danny home?” Alexis asked.

Mrs. Price didn’t answer her right away. “Hmm, that’s funny,” Dan’s mother said, seemingly to herself as she looked past Alexis and then to the left and to the right of her. Then she slammed the door. Alexis stood stunned, alone.

Return to Paradise: Chapter 7


“I always knew there was something going on with that girl!” yelled Sid irately. They were at Central Headquarters and Sid stood in front of Cynthia and Jerry, who were seated after telling Sid about their daughter’s disappearance.

“What do you mean, Sly?” pressed Jerry.

“Oh, she had a certain twinkle in her eye. Seemed like she knew something the rest of us didn’t.” Cynthia and Jerry exchanged glances. Cynthia nodded, almost imperceptively.

“There’s more,” Jerry began. Sid turned his head at an angle and looked at Jerry sharply.

“Go on,” he said evenly.

“She learned how to write,” Jerry blurted out.

“I don’t know how I never noticed,” Cynthia cried before Sid could say anything. “When would she have had… the, the.. time for this…. activity? She’s either at school, with Dan, or in her room on the VR.” She stood, crossing her arms. Jerry looked grim. Sid took action.

“I’ve been an advocate of stricter controls to avoid situations like this,” Sid told them, as he turned toward his computer. “There’s only one thing to do. Murphy, find Alexis Roberts,” he spoke to the computer. “Birth date?”

“January 15, 2030,” Jerry answered.

“Birth order?” drilled Sid.

“Seventh of the day,” Cynthia told him.

“11520307.” He spoke clearly into the computer. Within seconds, Alexis’ face, code and vital statistics appeared on the monitor. “Modify CHIP status,” Sid directed.

“CHIP status currently active,” the computer reported.

“Disengage active status,” Sid said to the machine, as he had done many times in the past.

“CHIP disengaged. 11520307 now inactive,” responded the computer a second later.

“Terminate status modification program.” The machine turned itself off. “Done,” Sid announced. “She has no choice but to come back. Nobody will recognize her,” Sid said matter of factly, his wrinkled hands folded in front of him.

“She’s as good as dead,” muttered Gus from the back of the room. Gus was Sid’s sidekick, always lurking in the background somewhere near Sid.

“My baby!” cried Cynthia. “Out there all alone,” she moaned, her brown eyes full of sadness.

“Don’t worry, Cyn; she’ll be back,” Jerry assured her, his forced smile making Cynthia wonder if he really thought they’d see her again. “Sid’s right. Who knows what kind of damage she could do if she starts communicating with people about this forbidden information. It’s better like this honey. She needs to learn a lesson.”

Return to Paradise: Chapter 6


For I have seen violence and strife in the city.

Day and night they go around it

on its walls,

Iniquity and trouble are also in the midst of it

Destruction is in its midst

Oppression and deceit do not depart from its streets.

–Psalms 55:9-11



Alexis waited for the metro rail to stop. She had a vague sense of what she needed to do. Get to the laser and fill up, for starters, then maybe find Wynn. She didn’t know who else to turn to; she knew she was in big trouble. The door automatically opened and unloaded a crowd of people, intent on getting to their destinations, faces down and paces quick. Alexis tried to make eye contact with someone in the sea of faces that swam past her as she slipped onto the monorail. Nobody smiled or said hello. Lexy noted that nobody seemed to be talking at all. The only sound was the beep-beeping of the open door and the sound of it sliding shut.

“All aboard,” the computerized voice came over the loudspeaker. It sounded eerie to Lexy. She wondered why she had never seemed to notice it before, even though she rode the monorail everyday. She felt cold inside, although the sun was still shining. She elected to stand rather than take the only open seat next to an older man with downcast eyes. She grabbed a pole as the train sped off toward its next stop. Get out of my section of town in case my parents come looking for me, she thought. I’ll fill up at the Charleston stop at the edge of town. An hour later the train stopped and the doors slip open for a crowd of people. The crowd pushed past Alexis and she moved aside so as not to get trampled. They seemed to be moving so fast, and one man bumped into her. She was the last one out.

“Ouch!” she cried as the door almost shut on her. “My foot almost got stuck in the door!” she told the woman beside her. The woman paid no attention to Alexis and walked off in the opposite direction.

Am I invisible? Alexis thought.

Everyone seemed to look right through her; most people wore dark glasses and didn’t even glance in her direction as they hurried down the streets. Well, I am here and these people must see me, even if they are pretending they don’t. People are just too busy to stop and be nice to each other. How sad.


Return to Paradise: Chapter 5


Lexy’s mom was sitting on the sofa when Alexis entered the house. “Hi Mom,” Lexy said easily. Glancing at her mother’s face, however, was enough to tell Lexy something was wrong. “What’s wron–?” she started to ask before she spotted the object in her mother’s hand. Lexy’s face blanched.

“Where did you get this?” her mom demanded, holding up the pencil. Lexy didn’t know what to say and just stood there dumbfoundedly looking at the piece of wood that would change her life. “Alexis!” her mom raised her voice. “What is this about? I want to know where you got this.”

“Calm down, Mom. I can’t tell you where I got it, but I can show you what to do with it.” Feeling bold, she picked up the pencil from the table and wrote slowly and purposely. “A-l-e-x-i-s. Alexis,” she said. Her mom was incredulous.

When she found her voice, she yelled, “I demand an explanation Alexis Ryan! You must tell me where you got this. I’m not asking you.”

Alexis stood her ground. She shook her head. “I’m sorry, Mom. Please understand–I made a promise. I can’t tell you.”

“A promise?! To whom?” shouted her mother. “You tell me, Alexis. This is a serious offense. I need to know what’s going on. It’ll be easier for you if you just tell me how you got this.”

“I really want to Mom, but I just can’t break my promise. I’m sorry.  Please try to understand,” Lexy pleaded.

“Hmmphf,” her mother grunted. “I’ll talk to you father about this. We’ll see about a promise.” She left the room in a fury. Didn’t her daughter know the seriousness of her crime? She could put the whole family in jeopardy. Breaking the rules was considered a family problem. How could she have learned to write? Cynthia wondered. She’s been monitored since birth, never been exposed to anything from the old times. And now this. Her head pounded. What were they going to do?

Alexis bolted upstairs and checked for her book. It was still there. Then she sat and thought. She was sure something major was going to happen. She didn’t care what happened, no matter what, she would not tell them about Wynn. I just don’t see why it’s so bad, Alexis thought. Why such a big deal? So I learned how to write. She lifted her face from her hands and listened. She heard her parents arguing downstairs. She moved closer to the door so she could make out what they were saying.

“A pencil!?” she heard her dad yell. “Where would she have gotten a pencil?”

“That’s what I asked her, Jerry, and she said she made a promise to someone that she wouldn’t tell us where she got it.”

“This is crazy, Cynthia! What kind of a mother lets her child get involved with this?!”

“Why are you blaming this on me? I’m just as surprised as you are!” Cynthia shouted back at him.

“Well, you’re her mother!”

“And you’re her father!”

“Yes, and I’m going to do something about this. That girl will tell me where she got this damn thing.”

“Jerry, that’s not all–she knows how to write with it too,” Cynthia told him in a quiet, serious tone.

Jerry looked sick. “How could she? How? When? Let’s get to the bottom of this right now. Get my belt!” he ordered. “We’ll do this the old-fashioned way,” he declared.

“Now Jerr–wait a minute! Let’s remain in control.”

“Shut up Cynthia–go get my belt. Now!! Alexis!!!!” he screamed.

Alexis grabbed her duffel bag and stuffed her book inside; she didn’t notice one of the pages fall to the floor. She lunged the window open and hastily stepped through it onto the roof. Inching carefully down on her butt, she reached the edge of the roof and stretched her leg down to the drainpipe. Swinging herself around, duffel bag around her neck, she quickly climbed down, being careful not to tear the pipe from the side of the house or to make too much noise. She half slid, half jumped down the pipe and touching the ground, she ran through the backyard and cut across the neighbor’s yard, hiding herself from view and ducking behind the garage before her dad could spot her. She could hear him calling her name. “Alex—isss!!! Lexy, come back here right now!” he yelled out the window.

“Damn!” Jerry cursed. He couldn’t believe his daughter had jumped out the window and was now running across the neighborhood. No sense chasing her, he thought. Eventually she’ll be back. Deal with her then. Cynthia came into the room with his brown leather belt.

“You’re too late. She took off out the window,” Jerry told her. “For now, we’ll search her room. Maybe we’ll find some answers.” He flung open the closet door and started digging through boxes. “You look under the bed, then check the dresser drawers,” he directed Cynthia. She silently obeyed.



Return to Paradise: Chapter 4


“Mrs. Roberts?” Martha poked her head in Cynthia Roberts’ office. “Excuse me, Mrs. Roberts? I know you’re busy,” began the stout and sturdy housekeeper. “Do you have a minute?” Cynthia turned from her computer screen to face Martha.

“Yes, what is it Martha? Come in.”

“Well, I thought you might be interested in this,” she said, handing Cynthia a long round piece of wood with lead at the tip. Cynthia’s eyes widened.

“Where did you find this?”

Martha glanced behind her. “I found it in Alexis’ room,” she said in a hushed tone. “I was changing her sheets and I heard something fall onto the floor. When I bent down to see what had fallen, I found this.”

Cynthia didn’t say anything at first. as she contemplated the old writing instrument in her hand. She wore a pained expression. “Well, I’ll have to ask Alexis about this. Thank you for bringing it to my attention, Martha,” she finished with a nod.

“Okay, Mrs. Roberts. I’ll get back to work.” The muscular woman turned to go.

“Oh, and Martha?”

“Yes, Mrs. Roberts?”

“Let’s keep this… discovery between us, shall we?”

“Of course.”

“Thank you Martha. That’ll be all.” Martha disappeared out the door and bustled down the hallway while Cynthia sat staring at the offending object. She couldn’t imagine how her daughter had ended up with this ancient tool in her bed. One things was sure–she needed some answers, and fast.


Return to Paradise: Chapter 3


The clock on the computer glowed 3:33. Alexis lay on her back, eyes wide open and thought about the book and the words it contained. She wondered about people being upset about a microchip. Society needed it. It made doors open when you walked through, worked as an ID when scanned and even added to and subtracted your value automatically as you bought and sold or were paid. So why did people in the book say they weren’t told about a microchip in a flu shot? Why would it matter? She wished she could ask her mother; she must have known what was going on–she was alive then. What would she think about this book? Alexis sighed. She just couldn’t ask her. She would get too suspicious and start asking Lexy a lot of questions she didn’t want to answer. She’d have to lie and say she didn’t know what made her ask about a time before a microchip. Instead, she said nothing. She leaned over the side of the bed and found her pencil and notebook under the bed and began to write. It somehow made her feel better to write out her thoughts and feelings. It helped with her confusion. She thought it would be a good thing for everyone to do, really, but there was no time, or reason, most people felt.

Alexis wrote about Isabella. I shared the book with Isa. I would have died trying to keep it from her. I wish Wynn were around. I can’t talk to Dan. He hates wasting time and I know he’d tell Mom and Dad, because he’d think it was helping me by ensuring I don’t spend my time on such things–I’m really curious about the people in the book. It said they escaped. I wonder what that means. Where did they go? Are they still there? I’d love to go there. I feel a strange need to be with them. VR is the only way I’ve ever seen places that are different than here. The trip always ends and I take off the headphones and I’m back in my world. Could life be better than this? Am I the only one who asks these kinds of questions? All people want to do is work. Well, not me. Maybe I will go and try to talk to Dan, at least about my feelings. 

Alexis was so into her writing she didn’t hear the tapping on the door.

“Honey, are you awake?” her father whispered, opening her bedroom door a crack. Alexis gasped.

“No Dad!” she called, shoving the book under the covers. “I just turned on the light for a second.” Her dad peeked in the room.

“I saw your light on. I wanted to check on you. Go to sleep.”

“Okay, Dad.” The door clicked shut. Another close one! thought Alexis, now totally wide awake with the adrenaline rush of the scare. She clicked off her light and returned her notebook to its hiding place stuffed way down between some blankets in a box in her closet. Flopping back into bed, her mind wandered to Wynn.

His warm, loving eyes and thick, shaggy beard lit up the movie in her mind. She had met him one day when she was 10. Her parents had told her to wait in the car during one of their classified meetings. “You can get out of the car, but don’t get out of its sight,” her dad had instructed her. Bored of waiting for a particularly long meeting to end, Alexis had gotten out of the car to take a little walk. Her curiosity led her to a colorful yellow thing on what her parents had called a tree. She had not seen anything like it in the city where she lived, but out here in the country, there were lots of them. She successively wandered around to every different color she saw, walking farther and farther from the car in search of the next splash of color. Reaching out to pick a curious red flower, Alexis detected some movement in the bushes. She looked behind her and saw she had walked far from the car. As she turned back around, she met his wide, clear blue eyes. He walked out from behind the bush and she saw his huge stature and long, white beard. She must have been staring. “Hello,” he said gently. “Don’t be afraid,” he told her, needlessly.

She was not scared of this strange-looking man with unusual hair streaming down his back and hanging from his chin. His warm, wrinkle-lined eyes gleamed with magnetic delight, drawing her to him. “Hello,” she’d said. “Who are you?”

“I’m Wynn Elias,” he’s said. “Nice hibiscus.” He pointed to the flower in her hand.

“This?” She held up the flower. “A hi–what?”

“Hi-bis-kiss. It’s very high in nutrients. Did you know that one hibiscus gives enough vitamin C for a week? Tastes good too.” He popped a big red hibiscus flower and then an orange nasturtium into his mouth and started chewing. Alexis stared at him. He swallowed the flowers.

“You ate that?” Alexis couldn’t believe her eyes. This man was very interesting.

“You can eat all of these flowers. That’s why I planted them,” he explained.

“You made these?” she asked in disbelief.

“Well, I planted them. A force higher than myself actually makes them grow,” he said. “Here, try one,” he offered, handing her a small orange flower.

“I don’t know. I eat pellets. You don’t have to plant them. Just swallow them.” She reached into her pocket and pulled out a small plastic bottle filled with multi-colored pellets. “Here,” she held it out to Wynn. He regarded her with a wistful expression.

“Okay, I’ll try yours if you try mine,” he agreed, giving her a nasturtium and taking the pill. “This is a nasturtium,” he told her. She hesitated, then nibbled on the flower.

“Hmm, strange. I might like it.” Alexis decided. He nodded. For the next half hour, Wynn showed her around the gardens, letting her sample hibiscus, gotu kola, watercress, basil and other herbs that she couldn’t remember the names of.

“You’re different than most people living in the city,” he had said. “Stay that way, Alexis. Please don’t tell anybody you met me here.”

“I won’t,” she’d said when a loud yelling in the distance startled them.

“A–lexxxx–isssss!!!” her father called.

“I’ve gotta go, that’s my Dad! Don’t worry, I won’t tell anybody about you. Bye!” She ran off toward her parents. “Over here, Dad!” she called, waving her hand at her father. “Here I am.” She remembered the relieved looks on her parents’ faces when they’d seen her. Relief exploded into anger.

“I told you to stay near the car, Alexis!” her father yelled at her. “Where were you? What were you possibly doing?!”

“Nothing, Dad. I just got bored sitting in the car and went for a walk, that’s all,” she answered, trying to sound convincing.

“Alexis–we were worried about you! Don’t wander off like that anymore. Next time stay in the car and use the computer while you wait for us,” Cynthia told her. “Now come on, let’s go!” Her mom’s take-charge attitude silenced her father. On the ride home, Lexy was glad her parents’ minds were elsewhere. She shut her eyes and tuned out their conversation as she pondered the man she’d just met. She was intrigued and instinctively understood the need for secrecy. From then on, she looked forward to those long, boring rides to the country. Had her parents not been so involved in their own affairs, they may have thought it strange the way their daughter seemed to light up when they mentioned a trip to Central Headquarters and how she stopped complaining about the long trip.

While her parents went into their meeting, she would sneak over to Wynn’s underground house. She knew not to stay for more than an hour. She remembered the day Wynn gave her a thin, round stick with a sharp gray point at one end. She’d looked at it wondering what it was and then watched with fascination as Wynn held it in his hand and moved it over paper, making symbols called letters. “This is the written word, Alexis. And I’m writing with a pencil. Writing and reading used to be required learning in school and now, people don’t even know what it is. It’s become obsolete and outlawed, replaced by high tech devices that communicate for you.”

Wide-eyed at this new discovery, Alexis determined to learn how to write. She soon found herself creating letters. The fact that she had to keep it a secret made it even more fun for her.

“Writing helps you discover who you are,” Wynn had explained to her when she asked him why people should write. Whenever she found time to be alone, she found joy in pushing the pencil along and watching the lines. She remembered Wynn telling her that by writing, she was keeping an ancient ritual alive. Whenever she felt confused or upset, she wrote, and when she was finished, she somehow felt better–clear and less muddled. Why did it need to be a secret? she wondered. What’s so bad about it? she questioned. She couldn’t understand the harm. Wynn had told her stories about a time when everybody had to write as a part of life. Today, it would be considered a waste of time–the slow, old way. Authorities cared so much about peoples’ time that they outlawed handwriting and writing instruments and required citizens to communicate using the more efficient methods of voice recognition programs and video via the World Wide Web. Wynn called it the spider web. “They’ll never catch me in their web,” Wynn had declared to her.


Alexis figured it had been about eight years since she’d seen Wynn Elias. I was 12 years old when Dad decided not to take me with them anymore. There was nothing I could say. A lot of things changed during that year, remembered Alexis. My parents began arguing all the time and my father was gone most of the time. We hardly ever talked like a family anymore. What happens to communication? We grow up and forget how to relate to each other.

“The world’s changing,” Wynn had said to Alexis the last time she saw him. He’d given her a blank book he called a journal. It was almost as if he’d known they wouldn’t be seeing each other anymore. He’d hugged her and kissed her head and told her to “Keep the faith. ‘Stay together, go light and know the flowers,'” he’d said, quoting one of his favorite sayings he said was from something he called a book named Turtle Island. “God bless you, Lexy!” She wasn’t sure what he had meant, but she often remembered those words when she felt sad and alone, which was usually when she opened her journal to write. By now she had added her own pages because she had long run out of room. She used whatever she could find to write on. Old pieces of thin cardboard and labels peeled from pellet bottles. It was when she was adding more pages to the journal that she ripped off the torn paper from the back cover.

She was astonished when an envelope slipped out. What’s this? She opened the envelope carefully. Inside were pages of writing. These must’ve been written by Wynn’s friend, Lexy thought to herself as she sat down to read the pages. It was that writing she was re-reading when Isabella came over. That same writing was keeping her awake now. She felt she had to see Wynn. She had to know the answers to her questions, even though he told her not to come. Had he meant for her to find the pages?

She looked at the computer clock for the tenth time that night: 6:00 a.m. Somehow, she didn’t feel tired, even after not sleeping all night. Overwhelmed by the letter and filled with questions, Lexy reluctantly climbed out of her bed and put on her school uniform–a white shirt and black pants. A loud ringing made her jump. It was her dad’s alarm, announcing the beginning of a new day.

Return to Paradise: Chapter 2


Pausing just long enough to take a breath and glance up at Isabella’s intent face, Lexy turned over an old, wrinkled page and continued reading:

“It happened gradually, but suddenly–slowly, but surely. Government progressively obtained more and more control–financial, emotional and finally, physical, of its citizens. Near the end of the millennium, people were squeezed financially. Everyone owed money to cred cards, which were owned by banks, which were given money by the government; many people lived on loans and credit cards. Even students, encouraged to attend college at any cost, took out educational loans; some students were initiated into the “real” world owing a lot of money–it’s a lifelong pursuit–to earn enough not just to live, but to pay off debts, too. Nobody could really relax without the constant nag of needing to earn to pay. They were always anxious and worried about having enough money, and they worked nonstop. People did not have a choice about what to do with their lives, as they were forced to work to pay bills and make a living, the way they were told people lived–going to work every day to pay to live in a house and have cars and lots of toys. What a vicious cycle. Undoubtedly, this bleak cloud over our heads affected our emotions.

Being responsible and upstanding citizens, people spent the majority of life uptight and stressed out, working, sitting in an office or driving on crowded roadways. Needless to say, people weren’t as healthy as their ancestors were, who used to run and play in the Earth’s jungles and forests. In this fast-paced world, there was never any time for resting or relaxing. Today’s children ate convenient, processed food, worked indoors and breathed A/C dust and asbestos and lived in smog-laden polluted environments caused by technology. Cancer was the norm and almost expected by lots of people.

It’s no wonder when the bulletin hit the streets that one shot would cure all disease and ensure good health and increase one’s resistance to his unhealthy environment, everyone was eager to be first on the list to get injected.

‘Everyone should get a flu shot to protect themselves,’ read the propaganda. Many of the elderly and the children were given the shots, although some didn’t take the bait.

A few years after the initial bulletin, when it became apparent that not all mankind placed their confidence in a shot, another announcement was made on the radio and TV. This one strongly suggested that receiving the shot was a life or death situation–due to an airborne disease. Some still resisted and decided to leave the cities, suspicious of the shot the government was all but forcing them to accept. Instead, they relied on their God to save them from whatever evils the shot was concocted to ‘protect’ against as they fled, escaping their current realities. It was a weird society, but what culture (cult-ure = your cult?) isn’t a bit strange?”

“Hold on a minute! Wait!” interrupted Isabella. “What are you saying? Escaped? To where? From us? Is this true? Where did you get this? Alexis?! Start talking!” Isabella demanded, excitedly. “And Alexis–Lexy, you’re reading?! How are you reading this?” Isabella looked puzzled and upset.

Alexis was enjoying her friend’s amazement. “I don’t know exactly what this means,” she answered slowly, getting serious. “But I don’t think we were meant to have this.”

“How did you get it?”

“I found it. In Mountain View. When my parents used to take me up there for their meetings. I always had to wait in the car. I found it while I was exploring one day.”

“But how do you know what it says, Alexis?” asked an astounded Isabella.

“Oh, I learned how to read,” answered Alexis nonchalantly, as if she weren’t aware that people didn’t read in today’s times. It was considered an ancient art to Lexy and a waste of time to most of the members of today’s computerized time-saving society, who needed only to listen and speak, not read and write. Computers took care of that. Writing and reading were forbidden. There was no need for the written word, quashing the power of the pen.

Isabella shook her head. “You never cease to amaze me, Lexy,” she said. “When would you have time to learn to read, not to mention how? Do your parents know?”

“Of course not Isa! Only you and I know,” said Alexis. And Wynn-Elias, she thought to herself. “And it’s got to stay that way! My father would flip out! You promised me, Isa. Don’t breathe one word of this to anybody!”

“On my honor,” Isabella said, crossing her heart.

“Do you want to hear more?” Lexy asked, eyeing her friend with a steady gaze. Isabella nodded, saying nothing but still wondering how her friend had learned how to read. Eyebrows raised in curiosity, she leaned forward as Alexis began reading again.

“People slowing began separating themselves from the mass ideas about how one should live and began drifting into an independent and more harmonious way of life. Certain people and their families left the crowded cities and moved to the open quiet of the countryside. Mainstream individuals (an oxymoron) worked a minimum of forty hours every week and thanked their bosses for allowing them two weeks a year to be free (after a year of uninterrupted labor, that is). Weekends were also part of the deal, sometimes, and this schedule occupied people’s time well into the ripe age of 65, when they would stop work and often pine away because their work was the only way they knew anymore to fill the hours in the days.

Convenience was a major concern, as these busy people, with their waking hours centered on working and getting to and from their workplaces, didn’t have time for inconvenience. Fast food and email were highly regarded. Maybe that’s why when given the choice to dispose of the cash currency system and replace it with a scanning device that slipped right into one’s wrist and could be slid over a scanner to purchase things, people lined up in droves to get them inserted. Even more, the personal computer interfaced with the scanner also as a way of communicating, shopping, talking and even vacationing. Virtual reality tapes of places did away with the need to ever really leave one’s area of residence to vacation. Everything became computerized for convenience and saving time. Gradually, stores converted to the scanner method and people clinging to carrying cash had to search out other avenues or resign and make an appointment for the installation.”

“Girls!” Cynthia Roberts called as she turned the doorknob.

“Coming!” Isabella yelled, jumping up for the bed and motioning like crazy to Lexy who slid the book under the desk and grabbed the VR headphones. Isabella opened the door. “Sorry, Mrs. Roberts. I didn’t know I locked the door,” she said as innocently and convincingly as she could, but her heart was pounding so wildly, she was sure Lexy’s mom must have heard it.

“That’s okay, but Lexy needs to take these capsules,” she said, handing Alexis a handful of multi-colored pills. “You forgot to come and get these Alexis.”

“Thanks Mom.” Alexis tried to sound casual. Her heart was fluttering in her chest as she envisioned her mother discovering her secret. Her own mind was still reeling over what she had just read. “We got so involved, I guess I forgot.” Well, at least that was the truth, she thought. “Je suis desolee,” she apologized in French to remind everyone about the Paris VR adventure.

“D’accord mon cherie,” answered mom with a smile. “Aimes-tu des pellets?” she asked about the new food pellets she had ordered for her daughter. They were made especially for focus.

“Oui! Ces sont tres bien!” she laughed, making a muscle with her arm. The three women smiled.

Return to Paradise: Part I

“The fool has said in his heart,

‘There is no God.’

They are corrupt and have done abominable iniquity;

There is none who does good.

God looks down from Heaven

upon the children of men

To see if there are any who understand,

who seek God.

Every one of them has turned aside;

They have together become corrupt;

There is none who does good,

No, not one.

Have the workers of iniquity no knowledge?

Who eat up my people as they eat bread;

they have not called upon God.”

Psalms 53:1-3


Part I

“Just a second!” Lexy yelled, jumping at the knock on the door. She quickly slid her papers into her top desk drawer and brought the Virtual Reality screen into view on her computer screen. “Okay, come on in!” she called just as her mother, looking concerned, opened the door.

“Isabella’s here, Lexy honey,” said Cynthia to her absorbed daughter. “Is everything okay?”

“Sure Mom, why?

“Just making sure Babe,  You seemed a little startled when I came in.”

“No, I was just exploring Paris. Your knocking made me jump. Nothing big.”

A second later, a tall, slender, kimono-clad Isabella popped her head into the room.

“Hi Isa!” welcomed Lexy. “Nice outfit. Trying to start a new trend again?”

“I’ll have you know this is all the rage in Japan,” Isabella told her. She spun around with her arms outstretched, modeling the kimono. “Daddy picked it out for me on his last trip to the Orient. And guess what Lex? He said next time I can go with him! Can you believe it?!”

Alexis smiled. “Sounds fun–ever been to Paris?”

“Paris! You got the new European VR disk Lex? Lemme see!” Isabella plopped into the velvet armchair next to her best friend.

“Have fun you two,” said Cynthia, closing the door. A second later she opened it again, poking her head through the opening. “And Lex? Lexy? Alexis! I’m talking to you. Show some respect!” Cynthia commanded.

“Sorry Mom.” Alexis turned toward her mother. “What?”

“Come and take your food pellets. It’s been five hours since your last supplement. You know how important the schedule is.”

“Yeah, okay.  Thanks Mom… be out in a few minutes, okay?”

“A few minutes,” Cynthia confirmed, shutting the door.

“What’s up?” asked the green-eyed beauty, Lexy’s best friend of 11 years, since they were 4 and Isabella’s family moved down the street from them. “Comment-elle est vous?” she asked.

Alexis gave her a puzzled look. “Hmm? Whatever you say.”

“Paris?” Isabella looked hard at her friend. “Lexy, what are you doing? I know you too well. You’re keeping a secret! Aren’t you going to tell me?!! I’m waiting,” Isabella said impatiently.

Lexy couldn’t hide the sparkle in her eyes. “The Champs-Elysee is so beautiful,” she tried to be convincing, but one glance at Isabella was enough to see that her perceptive friend wasn’t buying her feigned interest in the city of romance. “Okay, between us?”

“And only us,” agreed Isabella, with words spoken countless times before.

“I found something–nobody can see it or know about it. I really mean it Isa. I can’t even believe I have it,” started Lexy.

“I’m intrigued. And you know I won’t tell anybody else. Okay? Now let’s see it! What is it?” prodded Isabella.

“Still hesitating, Lexy thought that this may be one secret worth keeping to herself. But surely her best friend in the world could be trusted with this, she thought. She shared everything with Isa; they were like sisters, without the sibling rivalry.

“Lexy, I know you’re dying to tell me and I’m dying to hear. So go! Let me in on this! Who would I tell, anyway?” pressed Isabella.

“You’re right,” answered Lexy. “Is the door locked?”

“It is now,” Isabella said, crossing the room in two strides and pushing the lock shut with a click that echoed in the still silence.



Return to Paradise: Prologue 2


Ed Blitz and Sid Lawler grew up knowing they’d be in positions of power. Both came from a line of government officials and leaders who placed high emphasis on the duty to uphold the family name by assuming positions of power within the ruling class. Ed’s father, Edward Franklin “Frankie” Blitz II had been responsible for CIA public relations, which required him to make even the darkest deeds of its employees and associates as innocent as a newborn baby. Through his public relations service, he became well-acquainted with several international businessmen, not a few of which contracted him for their own PR-related concerns. Jackson Lawler, overseer of UN affairs and owner of a computer manufacturing plant in China, came to know Frankie Blitz quite well. The Lawlers and Blitzes raised their children to maintain the positions of power and esteem upheld by their families. Control had been bred into their beings.

It was at such a juncture in his life that Sid Lawler met Edward Blitz. With his father now dead and gone for just over two days, Lawler was already making plans for changes he would make in his inherited position as head of his father’s computer manufacturing empire in China. He knew just the guy to contact–Jerry Roberts, inventor of a new high-powered laser that transmitted high frequency signals. Roberts was smart–he’d already gotten a patent, which was why Lawler needed him, and he knew he wouldn’t refuse the big money offered in the deal. With a little research, he’d learned that Roberts had always dreamed of making it big–despising the blue collar laboring his parents did to pay the rent, which they didn’t always do. Roberts had spent his life moving from place to place, escaping his parents’ debts. Instead of making friends, he’d become involved with reading books about computers and lasers. His obsession paid off when he invented the new laser that used electromagnetic radio waves. He’d found a way to use the radio waves to read, change and implant thoughts, and everybody wanted it. Hence, the birth of Lasertech, and Jerry Roberts’ service to Lawler. The biggest problem was keeping the whole operation quiet, with no media involved, at least not in the crucial beginning stage… coincidence, or the synchronistic intermeshing of events, showed its face just then.

“I knew your father quite well. Brilliant man,” stated the aged well-dressed gentlemen who appeared in front of Sid. “I’m Frank Blitz, worked with your father; call me Frankie.”

Lawler shook his hand, his reverie interrupted. “Sid Lawler,” he offered.

“Please, anything I can do, call me.” He handed him a card which Lawler stuffed in his jacket pocket without looking at.

“Thank you,” he managed to say and nodded to Frankie who shuffled off surrounded by a couple of men in dark suits.

Weeks later, Sid sat looking at the card–Confidential Public Relations Services, it read. F.B. were the initials in the bottom left corner, with a pager number. Why not give the guy a call? Sid thought. He did know my father. 

Although Frankie wasn’t interested in Sid’s proposition, he referred him to somebody who would be–his son. Edward Blitz III. Young and energetic, the third Blitz had the endurance required for such a massive campaign. Sid agreed to a meeting with the younger Blitz.