They tangled and untangled themselves, in each other’s waking moments and in each other’s dreams, hungrier and thirstier for each other than for food or water.
The light through the glass door was beginning to wane. The sofa and table made long grey shadows against the walls of the cave. He sat on the chair across from her, watching Ellen intently as she slept.
Ellen opened her eyes and looked at him silently for a few minutes. “What are you doing over there, so far away from me?”
“Watching you,” he said, “making sure nothing about you changes.”
She was quiet for some time and then said, “I was afraid I dreamed all of this, and now I’d wake up and find that …”
“And if it were a dream,” he said, “I’d wish I’d never wake up.”
“We really must get up and do something with ourselves,” Ellen stood and stretched her beautiful body.
“Come,” the young man said, getting up from his chair. “I’ll take you to my room. We can shower and change our clothes there.”
He took her hand and they walked through the labyrinth of the cave. They passed the kitchen and Lem’s and Yani’s bedroom. Lem and Yani were nowhere to be found. They came to the young man’s bedroom and the ambient lighting switched on.
“It looks like Yani laid out some fresh clothing for us to wear,” he said.
“Who gets to shower first?” Ellen asked.
“I was hoping we could shower together,” he smiled.
“Whose dream is this anyway?” Ellen winked at him.
“Yes, that is the question,” he said.
After their shower they dressed in the clothes Yani had set out for them. The clothes were simple and unassuming, but fresh with the smell of sunlight.
They found their way to the kitchen. “I’m ravenous,” Ellen said.
The young man opened and closed drawers and pantry doors looking for a reasonable facsimile of coffee. He opened jars, one after the other, sniffing for that special smell of roast coffee beans. He found some pranges and other things that looked like fruit in a bowl on the counter. He put the bowl on the table in front of Ellen. He found some oval white things that looked like they might be eggs. He took a few out of a box and laid them carefully on the counter.
Then he looked for a stove or oven. Unfortunately he did not see anything that looked like one of those things.
Suddenly Yani popped her head into the kitchen. “Do you need any help?” she asked.
“We’re hungry and I don’t know what to do,” he said, somewhat embarrassed.
“Don’t worry,” Yani laughed. She walked over to the counter, picked up the oval white things, and put them back in the box in the cabinet. “These are not what you think they are.”
Yani opened another cabinet and pulled out a large glass jar. She scooped out some powder and put it in four bowls. She waved her hand over the counter in front of her and the surface turned black with red rings. She put a bowl on each ring and waved her hand over them again. After a few minutes Lem walked into the kitchen and said, “I smell something good to eat.”
Yani set the piping hot bowls on the table in front of Ellen and the young man. Then she set two more bowls on the table for Lem and her, and sat down.
The young man could not believe his eyes or his nose. Everyone had something different in their bowls. The young man’s bowl was filled with scrambled eggs, mashed potatoes, and strips of bacon. Ellen’s bowl had carrots, tomatoes, cucumbers, and cream. Lem’s bowl had pranges, some other fruit, and fresh bread. Yani had some sort of steaming noodles and vegetables. When the young man tasted his scrambled eggs and then the bacon, he could not believe his taste buds either.
“This is delicious Yani!” he exclaimed with his mouth full of food.
“Yes,” Ellen said, “it’s quite tasty, just like from our garden when I was a little girl.”
“But how did you do it?” he asked. “I saw you just scoop some powder into each of our bowls. This doesn’t taste synthesized. It tastes natural.”
“It’s really easy to do,” Yani answered between bites. “The powder is made of stem cells and I just put it in each person’s bowl and let everyone think what he wants to eat.”
“Isn’t she great?” Lem asked everyone and no one in particular between mouthfuls.
The young man was forlorn, looking down into his bowl. “I guess I’m going to starve here.”
“Don’t worry Father,” Yani smiled. “I’ll cook for you.”
After they all finished eating the young man asked Lem and Yani, “what time is it?”
“It’s nearly dusk,” Lem said.
“You slept all night,” added Yani, “and most of the day.”
The young man looked furtively at Ellen. “We didn’t sleep all that much.”
Yani smiled at Lem and said, “Yes, we know.”
The young man asked Ellen, “Would you like to go for a small walk?”
She looked into his eyes and said yes.
“Don’t get lost,” Lem warned.
Taking Lem’s advice they walked together in the valley between the fields and orchards. The dying light crowned the hilltops with deep purples and blues. There were few stars in the darkening sky in this galaxy and no meteors to wish on.
A slight breeze wafted through the tree tops in the orchard. Ellen leaned against the young man against the slight chill in the air as they walked. Their eyes adjusted to the dark shadow that carpeted the valley. To their right was a faint murmuring of a creek and a glint of light played on the wavering surface.
The hills on either side of them were bejeweled with the artificial lights from the caves. “It’s so peaceful,” Ellen said.
He put his arm around her waist and felt the reality of her skin underneath her shirt, and it thrilled him.
They walked along the creek lost in each other’s thoughts.
“Are we still in a story?” Ellen asked him in a whisper.
“Probably yes,” he answered, “but not in a story of mine.”