The highly-addictive EnRapture fulfills every desire yet blurs reality. Ashyr Harmon, the man behind the invention, discovers a fatal flaw and now the ruination of his society is imminent.
I watched the nurse’s thick, calloused hands intently.
Her grainy, sweet voice sent an alarm to my head.
“You’ll need to give yourself a shot twice a day.”
With those hands, she produced a long needle. “When
the calendar tells you to begin administration, you’ll
need to do this…” She inserted the needle into the
vial, then filled the syringe to the 10mL level.
With her flowery scrub top raised, she
pantomimed inserting the needle into her hairy
stomach. “You understand?” Her head lifted. Her
asparagus-colored dreadlocks nodded at me. Before
I responded, she straightened and approached me
with her needle raised high.
I pulled back. Sitting next to me, Yam placed his
hand on my knee. I touched it, covering mine over
his, and our fingers interlocked.
The nurse cleared her throat, a scold was there.
Yam and I both withdrew. “It’s okay,” she said. I
met her eyes and she nodded at our hands. “You can
comfort her. I will allow that touch.”
Yam slid his hand back into mine. For a moment,
I closed my eyes, picturing his hand strumming the
guitar strings, him singing, us laughing. Since our
first kiss, back home on the island, I had hoped we
might kiss again, but such contact was not allowed
while we were in Ashyr’s care.
“Leilani.” I opened my eyes to find the nurse
staring at me. “Can you give yourself these shots?”
My fingers tightened around Yam’s. “I can.”
Without asking, the nurse raised my tank top high,
revealing my belly button and the lower edge of my
bra. Yam turned away, as if giving me privacy. But as
his hand felt like it might leave too, I gripped it firmly,
leading him back to look at the large needle with me.
“You will go like this.” With a mechanical
motion, the nurse drew her arm back and then
moved it forward toward my belly.
Unintentionally, I gasped. My body pressed
The nurse laughed. “I didn’t do anything.”
I protected my belly with my free hand. “Well…I
thought you were coming at me, like you…” There
was too much panic in my voice. “Like you were
going to do it now.”
“I’m not.” She laughed again. “But I need you to,
so I know you can.”
I closed my eyes, wanting the needle to disappear.
I pictured myself back on the eighth floor of my
secure living quarters. Since I’d been in Ashyr’s care,
each evening, around the same time, I watched the
colorfully attired people on the gray streets below
pairing up through some ritual between them. As
night came on, they disappeared. Lights spread out
like a fan through the city. Their ritual served as my
daily entertainment, watching their bright specks
dance below me. People living, while I waited.
Waited for this.
“Leilani.” The nurse called me back. “If you
can’t give it to yourself, Jate will.”
I realigned myself in my seat and tensely dropped
my protective arm to my side. “Let me see it,” I said
strongly. While my other hand stayed locked on
Yam’s, I reached for the syringe. “I can do it.”
My handler, Jate, smelled. On first meeting her, the
foulness made me want to lose my first meal in L.A., a
tasteless lunch of soda crackers and bland cheese. Yam
had warned me that the food here was not good. What
he hadn’t warned me about were the smells.
I stared at the needle now. On that first day,
when I had asked Yam if he had smelled Jate, or his
handler, Kandi-Greene, who also made me hold my
breath when we met, Yam had only grinned. “You’ll
get used to it.” Later he explained, “It’s the perfumes.
Hairspray. Deodorant. Those are the smells.”
“It’s horrible,” I said.
“It’s how everyone smells here. You’re going to
see a lot of new things. Smell a lot of unique smells.
Everything is different here. You lived in a bubble.”
In my imaginary discussion with Dad…in a
fantasy world where I had forgiven him for lying
to me…where I magically understood why he had
kept the truth from me, letting me believe the island
we resided on was on Earth and not his invention
floating in its own orbit in the sky, he would explain
by saying, “We know how to keep clean with little
impact to our sphere. The island has a huge impact
on us and we on it.” Something like that.
“Show me.” The nurse nodded at the syringe in
Yam had explained I would get used to the
smells but as I stared at the needle and thought of
Dad, and the island, and what he would say about
the smell, between the nurse’s odor as she hung over
me and the needle in my hand, nausea stirred up the
bland roast beef sandwich from lunch. “I thought
you said we weren’t doing it now,” I said, trying to
push down the fear.
The nurse’s eyes shifted to the hand-holding;
a scowl formed around her lips. Then her eyes
returned to the needle. A look of sadistic glee spread
over her face. “Do it,” she said.
Between the syringe in one hand and Yam’s hand
in the other, I felt she was now punishing me for
our touch. “You said….” the fear kept resurfacing
in my voice, “I needed to wait…until the time on
the calendar…” I cleared my throat. “Wait…until
I start this.”
The nurse nodded. “That’s saline solution.” The
gleeful look was still there, tight against the extra
makeup on her face. “It won’t hurt you. But you
need to show me you can do this. Can you?”
I tried to laugh it off, like of course I can. But
the sound, hollow and disgusted, turned against me.
“Do it.” The nurse’s large arm touched me, right
around my forearm.
I pulled back from her, letting go of Yam’s touch
too. He shifted to look at me directly.
“Can you do it?” he asked.
“Sure. Sure.” I couldn’t quite meet his eyes.
His hand pressed against my knee. “I can come
give them to you. Every morning, every night.”
“So can Jate,” the nurse replied.
“I can do it,” I said, speaking to the floor.
“Then,” the nurse cleared her throat, “go ahead.”
I touched the spot directly below my belly. Three.
Two. One. I jabbed it in and tried not to wince at
“Very good.” She took the syringe from me.
“Begin once the calendar tells you to.”
* * *
Yam’s pacing reminded me of my dog, Huck. He
looked at the window like Huck looked at a fence:
a challenge that needed to be conquered, an exit to
somewhere else. I kept my voice level and cool. “A
He turned. “Just…”
I finished for him, “…ready to be out of here?”
After a short nod, he headed for the corner, for his
guitar that had saved us. Our daily ritual, him playing
for me, me singing along sometimes—even though he
sang better than me. A few days ago, he said he was
writing me a song that he wasn’t ready to share yet.
So I changed the mood with a teasing tone. “Is today
our day?” I asked over the strumming. “You finally
ready?” I gave him a hopeful smile.
But he didn’t smile back. “Ready for what? To
keep sitting here, doing nothing while Ashyr forgets
These weren’t Yam’s words. The impatience, the
frustration—these had been my words countless
times. Other than our handlers, we saw no one else.
Other than my first visit to the clinic, we had never
left the building’s floor that housed our two little
I tried to soothe the moment like he had done
for me countless times. “Play me your new song.
In the oversized chair, with the black coffee table
between us, he shared no smile, just shook his head.
Usually I could spark a smile from him, but not
today. A few more strums from his guitar then he set
it down with a heavy sigh. He leaned back against
the chair and stared at his hand that bounced up
and down on his lap.
I missed holding that hand. Soon after our first
days, right after my lesson on administering my
own shots, we sat on the couch holding hands until
K.G., short for Kandi-Greene, saw. Then a long
lecture ensued. No touching! Jate was called in.
Immediately, I was put on birth control.
“In case you fall into archaic ways,” she had
said while her ankles bounced up and down. Jate
was like a dark purple bean. She was tall and her
limbs seemed to bend and curl constantly. Elbows
extended while wrists bent at her waist. Or a knee
folded to create an L-shape with her legs. Or her
moving ankles, up and down, like a human jumping
bean. Meanwhile, her face remained covered by her
dark purple hair. She hardly said anything and when
she did, it seemed more out of exasperation, like I
was a babysitting job that was taking its toll.
“We have strict instructions.” K.G. cracked his
knuckles while he spoke. Yam’s handler was a block:
a four-point square from shoulders to torso. He wore
a bright pink polo that fit tightly against his chest,
although it looked like he had a thin pillow shoved
underneath. Copper-colored bangs formed perfectly
looped curls against his forehead. More hair curled
around the chains that attached from the tops of his
ears to the gauges in his earlobes.
“And,” K.G. added, “we need to make sure
nothing goes against those instructions.”
“They’re worried,” Yam whispered, “that we’re
going to have—”
“Don’t say the word.” K.G. covered his ears.
His face cringed as if Yam had offered an obscenity.
Then he pointed back and forth between Yam and
me. “Do you understand? There is no touching!”
Yam shrugged as if K.G.’s words meant nothing
to him. So I nodded back. From then on, Jate made
sure that with every morning meal, a tiny pill was
waiting for me. When she first delivered it, it was
the first time I saw her smile through her long,
straight hair. “Once your cycle starts, there will be
more meds…plus the shots. But for now, we have to
ensure your cycle indeed begins.”
I didn’t like the way her lips curled up at me,
or the tiny little pill, or what was still to come—the
process, the huge demand on my body to create lots
of eggs for Ashyr.
Now, as I watched Yam’s hand bounce against
his knee, I hunted for our day’s conversation
topic. “What do you miss most right now…about
He shook his head like he didn’t want my help
over his grumpy mood. “You first,” he finally said.
I nodded. It was my job today to bring some
positive vibes, but as I started to answer a longing
grew in intensity. “The water. I miss the water,” I
said. “And my time of being with it every morning.
The smells in the air.” Even though Yam had been
right, because once I started using the soaps, lotions,
shampoos, conditioners, candles, air fresheners, and
everything else that existed in my secured living
quarters, I not only got used to the smells, I stank too.
And that was what I missed, the breeze of fresh air.
“They can’t fix it.”
His words cut right through my memory—
me standing in the water, the waves lapping over
my calves, the feeling of awe rushing through me.
Instead, his tone brought the fear, the wrong note,
the unfixable state of the island.
“I thought you said they could?” I asked lightly.
“You said Ashyr gave our dads what they needed to
repair the oxygen levels, right?”
“Something keeps happening, so they can’t keep
the levels balanced long-term.”
“They built the islands.” It still felt funny to say
those words. “They’ve kept both our homes running
for all these years.” In secret from me…but I left out
the self-commentary. Instead, I remained calm for
Yam. “They know how to make it work, so they’ll
get everything working again.”
“This is different.”
“How do you know that?”
“I talked with Baba today.”
My eyebrows shot up. “When?”
“Earlier this morning. I haven’t been able
to reach him for days.” Yam spoke as if his focus
had turned somewhere else. “He’s been too busy
“How did you talk to him?”
“Just…” he shook his head. “Let me relay the
Once before, he had said that. He asked if I
wanted him to relay information to my dad—just
like that, so matter-of-factly, like he had another
phone with him that was different than the device
he’d first given me, which died after our second
Apparently, that phone required a special charger
that was in his drone, which our dads were currently
using to fly back and forth between their islands. So
now I had silence, no communication with my family.
But he still had a working one. When I asked to
see it, he dismissed me. “It’s just something my baba
made for me.”
“Can I use it to talk to my dad?”
“Not yet. Besides, they’re busy.”
“Just let me talk to my dad.”
“I’ll let you know when you can.”
And that was it. Once before, when I had asked
why Jate and K.G. looked so odd, Yam had dismissed
me, saying “Everyone looks different here.
It’s the accessories. Just accept it.” It was this same
tone, this attempt to silence me. He used it whenever
he mentioned communicating with his dad. So here
it was again, another moment where that unrest
inside grew—at Yam, at my dad, at all the people
who wanted to control my life.
Before I even knew I was stuck inside a giant
bubble, I had felt trapped. But now, outside the
bubble, I felt even more trapped. Like I’d been thrust
inside tight, lead-laced shoes, trapped and bound.
Ashyr handing me off to Jate, forcing me to wait
until I gave him my eggs. Me waiting for Yam to let
me talk to my dad. My parents not reaching out to
talk to me and make sure I was okay.
“I should be there with him. Helping him,” Yam
“Not here,” I said quietly, the unrest growing
“Yeah,” he said.
“Waiting,” he said.
He looked around my living quarters. I did too, at
the gray tones on the cupboards, walls, ceilings, sofa.
Other than the black coffee table and the white drapes,
as well as a white vase and a black table and chairs, the
room just held a palette of grays. Color came when Jate
or K.G. entered the room. Same with when I looked
out the window in the evening. As the dusk settled on
the people, the gray streets and gray buildings were
offset by the brilliant colors of reds, blues, oranges,
greens, pinks, magentas, teals, turquoises, peaches, and
yellows that moved through the streets.
“Something isn’t right. I can tell,” he said.
“So let’s get out of here.”
His eyes questioned what I had just said.
I turned my head. “Or…” I focused on the black and-
white checkered board on the gray end table.
“Let’s play chess.” How sick of this game I was. As
I moved the board onto the coffee table, I redirected
the conversation again. “Have you noticed there
aren’t children here?”
“Leilani,” he said slowly. He waited until I glanced
at him. “We finish what we came to do.” I looked
back at the board, turning it to give him the white
colors this time, only to hear, “Then we go home.”
I jerked my head toward the outside window and
kept focused on my new conversation. “Whenever I
watch the people, I never see any children with them.”
“They are at the nursery.” He picked up a pawn.
It was his turn to go first. “Or the care center, or
whatever they call it.” He sounded so frustrated.
After he placed his pawn, I moved mine. “I want
to see the children.”
“Yes. Let’s see the reason we are here.” His frustration
shifted to sarcasm. “Let’s see the ones we are
“Maybe I’ll ask Jate or K.G. to ask Ashyr. Maybe
he’ll let us see the children.”
“Sure.” He moved another pawn. “Maybe he