Sustaining Utopia Excerpt
The following is an excerpt from Sustaining Utopia (Book One in The Pavfarah Utopia Series). This has not been edited yet, so it is subject to change between now and publication. In this segment, we get introduced to the main character, a young human man named Jazen.
Jazen wasn’t sure what time it was when he awoke. Sunlight was streaming across his bedroom ceiling. His arms and neck felt stiff. I musta slept too long on my side, he thought. The air conditioning made the air especially crisp, but he liked it that way. He blinked a few times and tried to focus his eyes. He heard the railway train zoom over the bridge a block away and the soft hum of his upstairs neighbor playing music.
“Alisto, what time is it?” he finally said groggily.
“It is fourteen twenty-seven hours,” his apartment’s male-sounding artificial intelligence system replied through speakers built into his night stand.
“Geez, when did I go to bed?” he mumbled to himself.
“You fell asleep at five forty hours,” Alisto replied.
“Oh, that explains it,” Jazen said, unbothered. He was used to these little conversations with the computer system. “Alisto, I’m gonna need some coffee.”
“I will prepare it to your specifications, and let you know when it is ready.”
“You are welcome.”
Jazen forced himself to sit up and got out of bed soon after. He shed his tee shirt and boxers to go take a shower. The hot water and steam chased some of his sleepiness away. The eye-level, waterproof digital timer informed him he had just over eight minutes to finish cleaning himself before the water would automatically shut off.
“Your coffee is ready, Jazen,” Alisto informed him through the built-in speaker in the bathroom ceiling.
“Thanks, Alisto,” he said, speaking over the splashing water.
Five minutes later, he had dried off, brushed his teeth, and was wearing fresh clothes. He decided to take a minute to style his short blond hair before heading into the kitchen to retrieve his hot beverage. On his first sip, he smiled. Alisto had made it exactly the way he liked it: extra-strong and extra-sweet. He took several gulps’ worth and savored the taste. “Thanks again, Alisto.”
“You are welcome, Jazen.”
Jazen walked into the medium-sized living room and looked towards the forty-inch flatscreen television mounted on the beige apartment wall.
“Do I have any new messages?”
“You have two new messages,” Alisto answered. “One from your mother and one from the Office of the Leikala City Mayor.”
Jazen was startled to hear that. “The Mayor’s office? Play that one first.”
The television automatically turned on and a slender human woman in her upper forties appeared. Her dark brown hair was pulled back into a bun, she had a kind expression, and was wearing a gray pantsuit. “Good day, Jazen. This is Olzai from Mayor Relit’s office. We need for you to come to our office tomorrow morning at ten hundred hours. We want to offer you a unique opportunity. And once you hear the terms, I’m positive this will please you a great deal. I apologize that I cannot discuss the details over vidchat, but our team will explain everything to you in person and help you fill out the necessary paperwork.” She had been fairly businesslike up until this point. Now she smiled. “Needless to say, your attendance is mandatory. So, we look forward to seeing you at ten sharp tomorrow. Have a great day!”
The screen went dark again, leaving Jazen to wrestle with this revelation. “I wonder what they want?” He took another sip of his coffee. “What kind of special opportunity would the Mayor’s office have for me? I mean, what makes me so special?” he considered aloud. “I just volunteer part-time at the park. I don’t even go to school anymore.”
“Do you wish for me to play your mother’s message, Jazen?” Alisto interrupted.
“Is it marked ‘important?’”
“Then I’ll see it later. Just save it, okay?”
“Very well. Saving the message.”
After finishing breakfast — a ham and cheese omelet with a side of toast and tall glass of orange juice — prepared by Alisto’s six-foot-tall robotic avatar, Jazen put on a light bluejean jacket and his favorite gray baseball cap. Then he left his apartment to venture outside. It was late October, filled with blustery cool winds and falling temperatures in this Northmost Carolak region. The sun was shining overhead, and a number of people were out this afternoon either walking, offering food and services from sidewalk stands, or doing maintenance on the plants and greenery. Everyone looked happy and content as always.
One of the giant electronic billboards on the side of a building read, “Prior to the Arrival and Great Rebuilding, Northmost Carolak was part of a union of territories called The Disparate States of Americana. That union was dissolved during the Cessation, and Pavfarah was redefined by its current territories becoming the truly united world we have today. October 31st will mark the fifty-fifth anniversary of the Cessation.”
Jazen read it, recalling some of those history details from his time in school, and continued his stroll toward Leikala Park. His mood had brightened since breakfast, and he was looking forward to trimming hedges and watering the autumn encore amethysts and other azaleas. He found it both relaxing and productive. It was an activity he could do with his easygoing coworkers, Farben and Jela, or by himself.
When he arrived at the Park Headquarters building, a long one-story office building with a storage unit for supplies in the back, he went inside to his locker. There, he replaced his jacket with the bright green and yellow one that identified him as a park volunteer. He also put on his gardening gloves.
Jela opened her locker next to his and looked his way. “Hey, Jazen!”
Jazen was friends with Jela. She was short, plump, and had long brown hair that she always kept in a ponytail for work. “Hey Jela, what section of the park needs attention today?”
She shrugged. “We’re still working on Beta-Five.”
He nodded. “Okay. You heading back there now?”
“No, I’m done for the day,” she replied. “Vono and I are getting married in a couple of hours.”
He grinned. “Already? You two were only pledged through the system a few months ago, right?”
She blushed. “Four months, yeah. It takes that long for the local government to process the records and assign a local official to perform the legal acknowledgement. But we’re ready!”
“Happiness! Really, I’m glad for you two,” he added. “Give Vono my best!”
The next three hours passed surprisingly fast for Jazen. He and Farben had trimmed hedges on opposite ends of the Beta-Five section without much interaction, but that was normal. Jazen deposited his gloves and volunteer jacket in his locker and was glad he’d brought his bluejean one. It was starting to get colder.
Along the way home, he stopped at a food stand. A young tan-skinned woman with short blue hair wore a white uniform and cap as she took orders. Someone else was doing the cooking behind her.
“Fried potato bowl or meat snack sandwich?” she asked Jazen enthusiastically.
He looked down at the pictures of their offerings on the wooden counter and nodded. “Meat snack sandwich.”
She smiled. “Great choice!”
The older man behind her lifted a metal basket from the fryer and shook it over the hot oil a few times before tossing the toasty, rectangular light brown concoctions into a metal tray. Then with his white-gloves hands, he grabbed a small plastic plate, two pieces of bread and placed them on the plate. Finally, he took a pair of metal tongs and put one of the fried meat squares onto one piece of bread, squeezed some mayonnaise in a circle on top of the square, and placed the other slice of bread on top of it. He handed it to the young woman with a barely noticeable smile and she handed it to Jazen with an unmarked bottled water.
“Thank you!” he said graciously as he received the small meal and water.
“Enjoy the rest of your day!” she beamed.
He took the food and sat down nearby on one of the mustard yellow public benches. The water was lukewarm but fresh. The sandwich tasted like fried fish. Catfish, tilapia, or cod? he wondered. Then he shrugged. Doesn’t matter. It goes pretty good with the mayo.
Realizing he’d taken a while to eat his meal, and that the sun was setting, he looked up at the closest streaming billboard for the time. “Nineteen oh two hours?” he considered aloud. “I’ve got less than an hour till curfew! I better hurry back home.”
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About the author
Allen Steadham is a nondenominational Christian. Happily interracially married since 1995 and the proud father of two sons and a daughter. He and his wife have been in the same Christian band since 1997. He plays electric bass, she plays strings, they both sing. It's all good.
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