Sunshine filled the room. Adam stood in its light basking in the warmth and the happiness it brought. He turned to his Lincoln Logs sitting in the corner, to the small black and white television sitting in the other and the soft bed, made with pressed sheets and gentle blankets, and he giggled.
“I want to go out today,” he said. “Out there, in the Wastes.”
The door opened and she walked in. She had the soft face he was used to; the beauty mark in the corner of her eye disappeared when she smiled.
“Do you think that is a good idea?” Bekah said. She wore a white dress, short and covered in red flowers. It was tight to the bodice but Adam didn’t notice. It was soft and pleated and it flared out in a flattering way. It was a simple dress, a caretaker’s dress, a dress that invoked no strange feelings in him. He turned to the window and looked out at the dark world beyond. He leaned forward and the window slid open without his help.
“I want to go there.” He pointed to a dark patch of earth where sat an army dug in and camping. The moon that shone down on it colored it in blues and silvers. Fires littered the ground, and in the far west, a grouping of siege engines made a grisly landscape of the camp.
Bekah looked out at the camp and Adam could feel her excitement.
“That would be fun,” she said.
Adam turned to the east where twisted trees rose from the ground and he pointed with one chubby finger. “Can we go there? I want to see what is in there. I have never been that far east.”
Bekah shuddered in her fear. She looked down at the spot of ground that held the swamp. Fungus grew everywhere. Mosses draped from trees, and from within, the occasional belch of gases colored the swamp in greens and purples.
“Well dear, we don’t know what is in there. It might be dangerous.” But she didn’t mean dangerous. There was no real danger here, not for Adam or any of the other children. What she meant was fear. What she meant was that she did not know what secrets could be found there. She knew a darkness lived in that place, but she did not want Adam to see it.
“Can we go see Shadow? I like throwing bottles with him.”
Adam looked out past the camp to a dark skyline, twisted and broken, a shell of a place that spoke of a ruins that housed, what? Bekah did not know. She had never been that far in the Wastes, had never gone to visit the Shadow or his domain.
“How about we play with your Tinker Toys? Last time you built a creature like I had never seen before. We could try to do it again. We could add to it or take from it, try to make it bigger and better.”
Adam thought about it for a while and realized she was trying to stop him from seeing the others. He grinned at her and laughed. “Beat you to the camp!” He threw a leg over the window sill and leapt. He hit the air and felt the rush of the wind. He thought of the fall and the way his body would hit when he had fallen all four stories of his domain, but he knew better.
When he had fallen three, the air caught him and made him drift to the ground. He landed softly on the grass, and he broke out into a run.
From his neighborhood he ran, dodging cars that held no people and jumping fences built low to the ground so he could manage them without trouble. He grabbed a bike that some kid had dropped, and he pedaled his way to the camp. The air grew cold as he broke free of his final block, and he shivered with the chill and the excitement.
A ray of sunlight followed him as he moved through the black night of the camp, and wounded men looked up at him, their eyes haunted with pain and trauma. He moved past all of them and into the center of camp, where Guardian sat.
He passed Charles, and the man waved his big hammer in the air in salute. He rushed past the triage, where men screamed as they lost limbs and had arrows pulled from their bodies.
Adam kept riding until he reached the central fire, where Guardian sat poking at the fire with a stick. He saw Adam and jumped to his feet.
“Boy, what are you doing here?” he asked. He extended his arms and Adam ran to them, jumping into them and feeling the armor hard and comforting against his chest.
“Wanted to come see you and your Bekah,” Adam said.
He looked at the fancy tent behind Guardian, and he smiled when Bekah walked out of it. She wore a red wig and a flowery dress. She carried a fan, and her face had been painted white. She had a star painted on her cheek, and again her beauty mark disappeared when she smiled.
“Adam,” she said. “How long has it been since I saw you?”
Adam had no answer. Time did not exist here. It made no sense to try to keep up with it. Where sunlight shined, it never went dark. Where night reigned, it never fled.
“Will you come over if I go out?” he asked. “I want to see you tonight. I got a new movie I want to watch with you.”
“What movie?” Bekah asked.
“It’s called the Iron Giant. Got big robots and tanks. Wanna watch it?”
She smiled a warm smile. She looked at Guardian and nodded.
“I’ll call her,” he said. With a shudder and a sigh, he was gone.
Adam turned. “Bye, Bekah. Love you.” He did not hear her if she said the same. He was gone already. The camp was falling behind him now. Charles boomed out a laugh as Adam biked through his camp and jumped the fire. The men got out of the way for him, and he kept moving.
He went east. Riding past the sands of Assassin and the graveyard where Zombie rested. He moved past the borderland to the very spot where the swamp began, and he stared into its darkness with wide eyes.
Fear lived there. It was naked and powerful. A boisterous thing that would scream at him and cry mournfully. It had claws. It had a plotting mind. It was patient and it wanted to touch him.
He had no idea how long he stared into the maw of the swamp, but after a while, a long while, he heard the voice of Bekah in the sky around him.
“Adam, I am here. Do you want to watch the movie? I brought ice cream.”
Adam shuddered and sighed and was gone.
He came to in Job’s living room. He saw Job looking at him, and Bekah in the kitchen putting ice cream away. Adam jumped to his feet and rushed to her. She turned and hugged him and he pulled the box out of her hand.
Snickers ice cream cones. They were his favorite. He took two. He ran to jump on the couch. When the movie began, he laughed. When the movie began, he was happy.
But then again, Adam was always happy.