When I woke up I felt strange; not emotional anymore but the sort of numb that I could feel, like a dull ache in the back of my skull, a sense of fuzziness in my gut, and I could tell there was a strong feeling of shame hiding there somewhere, ready to wash over me when I next saw Zephyr. Strangely, I felt ready for it; she didn’t make me feel afraid. Hesitant, certainly, how could I not be? With every time I saw her my capacity for curiosity grew, but I was not afraid of her or the things she did to me. I was… How to describe it? Excited? If slight nausea was a side effect of excitement then that was what I was. The whole idea of coming to terms with real emotions and really feeling them instead of just reading about them was mildly terrifying, I’ll admit, but it was fascinating at the same time, and I was becoming more comfortable with it every day. Throughout school we had been reading and critically examining the ways in which emotions had made people do terrible things in history and in literature. The main point of our learning was to be shown that life was better lived without emotions, and of course I had been happy to accept this, but I wasn’t so sure anymore.
I thought a lot about what Zephyr had said the night she stood outside my window, and I thought a lot about the way her voice sounded, and the way her whole face had softened as we’d talked. I thought about why it was just me she seemed to be affecting. I thought about the way my mother had looked at her that day in the courtyard, but how I’d never really seen anyone else pay her attention at all. I thought about her a lot, in general, which naturally led to asking myself a lot of questions that I could not answer. At first, I felt badly about this, but after a while I relaxed: nothing had happened. No armed guards burst into my house in the middle of the night to take me away and the world was not crumbling around me. Life as it always had been went on, and for the first time my mind was not something I had to keep in check, but something that allowed me a safe place. During school, dinner and weekly check-ups I was as perfect and monotonous as I always had been, and I pretended with ease to live in the same monochrome world as my family and friends and strangers on the street, but I could feel new colours exploding within me every single day. Even when Zephyr wasn’t there, the kaleidoscope could not be subdued.
It was as though Zephyr knew the exact times I needed her to come along and give me a boost; on days when I was feeling overwhelmed with emotion, or was unsure how to handle everything, or was feeling guilty, she came along as if to remind me that everything I was feeling was legitimate, that it was okay, and that was what I appreciated most of all. I had always had the sense that she was looking out for me, and at some point I made the decision to let her, and to trust her. She met me after school most of the time, leaning her tall frame against the rusting metal railings that ran all around the perimeter of the school. Compared to the people standing rigid and uptight around her, Zephyr looked out of place being so at ease. At one time this would have made me feel uncomfortable, but now it was hard to suppress a sly smile as I made my way towards her. Most of the time we would walk together, our hands buried deep within the pockets of our winter coats, feeling the sting of the cold on our rosy cheeks and chapped lips.
She was fascinated by my life, the way only someone who was not from this place or time could be. My life was, to me, as boring as everybody else’s; I know that lots of people view their lives as average and mundane, but in my case this was a fact. I had been raised to be boring and average and to blend in just as naturally as pigs are raised to be slaughtered, just like everybody else was. Unless you were born into a governing family, the deal was that you would go about your perfectly planned out weekly activities without question, or you would be taken. The point of this regime was that this way the people remained still and restful. We were taught in school that at first, hundreds of years ago, the people had refrained from rebelling due to fear, but that over time the people had realised it was a fine way to live, that obedience was the greatest quality a human being could possess, and that the government was merely protecting us from the sinful things the human mind is capable of if it is allowed to be free. This was accepted as the norm, nowadays, and I had never heard anybody question it. Of course, the stories in the newspapers we were required to read each day kept everything fresh in our minds. But I was careful; I answered her questions but asked none of my own. For a while, at least.