Allow me to introduce myself.

I’m Alexis, my middle name is Fraser, I’m distantly of Scottish descent but not the Fraser clan side, and my last dog was named Fraser, but that has nothing to do with anything except that he’s positively adorable.

Welcome to The Fraser Journal!

Since I was about 11 years old, I started writing stories. All fiction. All adventures. And all wonderfully unbelievable.

I love pushing the boundaries of what we think is possible, and recently I’ve found that while fact and fiction may be polar opposites, truth and fiction aren’t so different.

The Fraser Journal is a place where truth and fiction collide.

Here you’ll find scripture studies, fictional excerpts, poetry and songs, personal journal entries – all the good stuff.

Take a look around!

The Dome

Episode 10: The End

Well. This is it, I guess.

Nathon showed me and Evie around the Outside yesterday. It’s so big. Way bigger than I thought anything could be. A million Domes could fit in this world. How did we miss it this whole time? Hardly anyone in the Dome even knows this exists.

I think that’s one reason Nathon says we need to go back. Other than our parents. But how are we supposed to live in our own world again, when we know this is here? It’s a weird feeling, but I don’t want to leave. Things won’t be the same back home. I’ll never think of our world the same again. Past the Wall, the World is only beginning. It’s alive and colourful and good. There are no towers, no power plants, no electric lights. No Pretenders, no Workmen, no Scraps. And no Caretaker. Instead, there are trees and mountains and sunlight and people who smile and laugh and help each other. And Nathon.

Nathon. At first, I thought he was just a gardener. But he is a lot more than that. I can’t really say what he is yet. I think he is good. Very good. But it might take me a while to really believe it. I’m finding it hard to even believe I’m here, now. For all I know, I could wake up in my bed and hear Mum and Dad yelling at each other. Evie will be across from me in her bed, covering her ears and waiting for me to wake up.

The thing is, I know I’m not sleeping. For the first time in my life, I feel like my eyes are wide open and I’m fully awake. Like this place, everything I see, hear, and feel, is more real than the world I grew up in. Like the Outside is the way things truly are. Like this is reality… and the Dome is the dream.

It’s time to go. Not sure if I’ll ever be allowed to come back. Dad probably won’t let us leave the house after this. Evie will try to tell him the truth, but he won’t believe her. I won’t try. He’ll probably dump us in the quarries to work for a while to “straighten us out”.

I don’t know what he’ll do, but it doesn’t really matter. I know we won’t be coming back soon, if ever. This has been nice while it lasted, I guess. I’d say I wish we never found this place, never seen what life can be like, what the world looks like, how big it is. But I can’t. Because if we never crossed the Wall, then we wouldn’t have met Nathon.

Somehow, I think he’s the point of all this. And even if I’m stuck in the Dome the rest of my life, I’m determined to find out why.

The Dome

Episode 9: The Bright One 

“Oh, a garden!” Evie gasped. They were nearing the summit of the first mountain when the path leveled and a beautiful scene opened before them. Cocooned by the mountain face was a garden. Slender trees rose from rich black soil, extending delicate boughs over beds of wildflowers, primroses, geranium, rosemary, mint, strawberry patches, lemon trees, pink and red roses, and many more plants they had never seen before.

The girls were enchanted. Evie reached out to pluck one of the leaves from a tree. “Gil, what colour is this? I’ve never seen it before.” The foliage looked as though it had been painted with light.

Gil didn’t answer. His eyes were fixed on something beyond her. He was smiling. Then he bowed deeply. Evie turned and from somewhere within the greenery a voice spoke:

“Who visits my garden today?” The sound was pleasant and warm, seeming to fill and surround them at once. Then Corin and Evie saw a man kneeling in a bed of flowers and shrubs. He wore gardener’s overalls and gloves, both generously dusted with black soil. He gripped a wide-brimmed hat in one hand and wiped his glistening forehead with the other. Even as they observed him, the man rose from his work to meet them. He smiled as he approached and Evie noticed there were dimples in his cheeks. He was an older man with dark grey hair, tall and broad shouldered, strong in bearing and kind in countenance. His face showed little signs of age except for lines around his mouth and eyes from where he had smiled. Then Corin noticed his eyes. They were like Gil’s but… deeper. As though they housed the memory and experience of a thousand lives.

Evie clutched Corin’s wrist and whispered, “He’s glowing!!”

“Gilad Diggamon!” The man’s smile grew bigger as he threw his arms around Gil. “Glad you decided to visit! And you’ve brought two guests with you!” He turned to address the girls. “Your first time here?” Evie nodded. He dipped his head in welcome. “It is my pleasure to have you. I am Nathon. What are your names?”

“I’m Evie,” the younger said shyly, admiration plain in her eyes.

“Corin,” the elder said quietly.

“Welcome. Always a pleasure to have visitors from the Dome. Gilad came from there about three years ago. Wasn’t so eager at the time,” Nathon slapped him on the shoulder with a chuckle. “Everyone responds differently when they first see this place.” He smiled as he noticed Evie admiring a bunch of gerberas. “Take a look around. You’re free to stay as long as you like.” As Evie scurried away, Corin watched the gardener speak to Gil. As he listened to him. As he encouraged him. What was it about the man that intrigued her? And why did he seem so familiar? It was only when he looked over at her that she realized she had been staring at him. She quickly dropped her gaze as heat poured into her cheeks.

Corin.

The inaudible word resonated in her chest. It was deeper than sound. She felt it. She ventured a glance at the gardener. His smiling eyes looked into hers and a warm sense of wellbeing filled her. And she knew the words he didn’t speak.

I’m so glad you came!

The Dome

Episode 8: The Caretaker

The Caretaker stood, tall and menacing, before the Wall of the Dome. He was an extremely handsome man, muscular, youthful, and able-bodied. Ice blue eyes looked out from sharp, hawk-like features. His hands were clasped stiffly behind his back as he stared through the glass barrier into the Outside. A great mountain towered above him, sheltering a forest of trees from the wind. A nearby lake glittered brilliantly in the afternoon sun as bright-feathered birds dipped and splashed in its cool water. The Caretaker regarded the scene with bitter disdain.

He hated it. Hated it all.

Faint, gauzy ribbons of light reached through the Wall from the Outside. They didn’t get far. The Grey Strip was dim at best, like an eternal dusk. Days there were grey and hazy, but slowly they were getting dimmer. The Caretaker despised natural light. Electricity was much more to his liking. It could be manufactured, distributed and, most importantly, turned off. It was also the primary means by which he exerted influence over the people.

There were electric power plants throughout his World, the largest of which stood just outside the Capital. Grubbers managed the plants while Workmen harvested the coal. Deep quarries littered the majority of the Grey Strip. Many were deserted and empty, but many more were full.

The Caretaker licked his lips and savoured the grainy, metallic taste of the air. The mark of a quarry, one of which lay only a short distance behind him. This site was particularly close to the Wall, but that didn’t concern him. Workmen kept their heads down, broken like beasts into mundane habit. They had no spirit left. They were the only men the Caretaker would risk positioning so close to the Outside.

Soon he wouldn’t need to worry about that. The Black Strip was rapidly expanding as people remembered less and demanded more. They wanted light and he gave it to them. Soon they would huddle like mindless moths around a streetlamp, greedily pushing and grasping for his light. His artificial, toxic light.

But what about those blasted Outsiders?

He had made them social outcasts. They were mocked, spat on, shunned. But it wasn’t enough. They shone like bloody lightbulbs in the dark! People who had formerly been repulsed and offended by them were becoming curious. The glowing freaks drew people away from his light toward their own. More ventured through the Wall. And many returned to tell people what they saw.

His mouth tightened into a grim line as his pale blue eyes scanned the outer fields. Though he couldn’t see the Gate, he saw several trails curving into the heart of the forest, all of which he knew led to the entryway. He would go after those girls, but not yet. He turned his gaze back toward the grey vista of the Dome around him and growled.

First, he needed to break a few lightbulbs.

The Dome

Episode 7: The Gate

Gil sprinted through the forest until he saw the familiar archway gleaming above the trees. The Gate stood open, resplendent and glittering in the afternoon sun. Jered, his fellow doorman, was leaning back against one of the stone pillars. Gil chuckled seeing his friend’s mouth hanging wide open and his eyes shut.

“Jered, come on!” He gave the young man’s head a quick shove as he raced by, answered shortly by a groggy “huh?”. Jered shook his head and eyed the empty road. He blinked a few times.

“Where?”

“Coming straight from the Wall.” Gil reappeared, tugging on a pair of boots as he threw a comb into Jered’s hands. “You look like you just woke up.”

“I did!!”

Gil grinned and turned to look down the dirt trail that meandered into the forest. A voice, high and distinct, traveled up the road. Gil straightened just as the two young girls appeared through the trees. Upon spotting the Gate and its keepers, Corin hesitated. Evie however, shrieked with utter delight and continued up the road. “Have you ever seen anything so beautiful?” she marveled.

As they neared, the doorman smiled and bowed with a graceful sweep of his arm. “Gil Diggamon, at your service.” His smile spread from ear to ear, which made Evie laugh. “I am Announcer, Guide, and Greeter here at the Gate. So is my friend Jered,” Gil turned to address his friend, but the young man had resumed his previous dozing position and the comb he’d been given hung stiffly on one side of his head. “He, uh. He seems to be taking a break.”

Evie regarded the comb with a giggle. “How odd.”

“Everything is odd,” Corin said under her breath. She felt the man’s gaze on her but didn’t return it. Instead she looked at the sharp incline of the hills beyond the Gate. Points of green and white flecked the broad surface of the range of rocky outcroppings. What was over there? Her eyes strained but she couldn’t see anything particularly out of place. Really, to her, everything was out of place. Silence suddenly reached her ears. Turning, she realized the others were looking at her. Evie was smiling.

“Gil is going to take us to the mountains, Corin! Those tall white and grey rocks over there. He says you can see the whole land from the top of them.” Corin glanced up at Gil, who simply smiled. He did that a lot. It was starting to annoy her.

Evie looped an arm in her sister’s and followed their guide. Gil told them about the land and its people. Evie pointed and marveled and asked questions, which Gil answered with equal enthusiasm. Corin wanted to disregard him as a Pretender (her least favourite people in the Dome, feigning happiness when they lived in a dung pit). Their faces were like masks. But when she looked at Gil, there was something different about him. He didn’t seem to smile to pretend or make people like him. The smile wasn’t just on his face, it was in his eyes. With a furtive glance, she realized she could see into them. They were open and deep. Not at all like a Pretender.

Suddenly she became very uncomfortable and hugged herself as if it was cold. Why would anyone allow themselves to be seen so openly? That was… dangerous. No one was who they were in the Dome. You were a Pretender, a Grubber, a Workman, an Outsider, a Scrap (that was what they called anyone younger than sixteen), but never yourself. Never Corin.

She didn’t want to know him. She didn’t want him to know her. And that was how things were supposed to be.

They reached the base of the mountain and Corin glanced back. She couldn’t see the Dome from this point. It was amazing how small and afraid she felt. She shivered inadvertently. Evie took her hand and smiled up at her. Corin barely resisted the urge to flee as they began their ascent. She tuned out Gil’s voice and peered hesitantly up the bright mountain face. Part of her, the part she had learned to hide and ignore over the years, seemed to shake itself awake. And before she knew what her mouth was doing, four quietly uttered words slipped through, “I’m coming at last.”

The Dome

Episode 6: The Wall

Gil sat with his back against the tree trunk, perched on a high branch with one leg dangling down. He had a good view of the Dome from this spot, still near enough to the Gate to show people through.

He liked to watch the Wall sometimes, to see new people come through and watch their faces as they first glimpsed the real World. Most were excited, joyful, bewildered, full of awe. Others would stop. Stiffen. Pale. And spiral within seconds into utter terror. Really, they were the ones he watched for. These ones normally turned around and went straight back into the Dome. He understood. That had been him. His friend had all but dragged him to the Wall of the Dome. He had wanted nothing to do with “crazies” and their outrageous stories of “the end of the sky” that led to another World. He had been the most resistant. And now he was here.

Something shifted in the distance and he leaned forward, eyes fixed on the Wall. Someone was coming through, and he knew instantly by the look on her face – she was one of them. Her small frame was rigid, her face pale.

Gil lowered himself easily to the ground and stopped at the tree line, watching and waiting to see what she would do.

Corin froze. Where was she? Had she fallen asleep? Her dreams were never this… bright. Or warm.

Or real.

The sky caught her attention. It was blue. So blue. She had never seen so much of it. Only eyes were blue, and that was rare enough. Then she felt something touch her gently, like a breath. But nothing was there.

Reaching tentatively behind her, she pressed her fingers against the exterior of the Dome. Paralyzing fear swept through her like an electric current. Her mind screamed at her, “Go back!!!” as every inch of her body shook in panic. But her feet wouldn’t move.

Corin.

Her name carried quietly on the air as she shook. Where had that come from?

Corin.

It seemed to come from the forest. No. Further. From those white-peaked hills far beyond.

Beloved…

She knew that sound. Like it belonged to a close friend… or a vital part of herself. Like she had always known it. Her anxiety began to ebb slightly, then another voice bombarded her ears.

“Corin! Corin!” Her sister was suddenly there, breathless, eyes bright, cheeks flushed. “You’re here!! Can you believe it? Isn’t it wonderful?” But the little girl’s enthusiasm was met with a vacant stare. Corin looked as though she would faint. Evie gently touched her elbow. “Corin?” She reached out to steady her as she started to sway. Then Corin crumpled to her knees. Tears were in her eyes and words stumbled weakly out of her mouth.

“We need to leave! Please! We need to go back!” Evie, confused and frightened, knelt beside her and waited for her to stop crying. Corin clamped her eyes shut and covered them with her hands.

Beloved…

She quieted. It spoke again, washing through her like a gentle wave, calming her fears and depositing a sense of wellbeing. And deep longing. She opened her eyes. Evie watched her. Corin steadied, her breathing slowed. She seemed to be taking it in. After a moment, Evie reached out and took her hand. “Come on, Corin. Want to have a look around?” Corin took a breath, nodded slowly and allowed her sister to lead her away from the Wall.

The Dome

Episode 5: The Visitor

It had been a week.

Jacob was in a dark mood. Corin escaped to the back porch of the house and stared bleakly at the muddy vegetable garden. She cringed at each yell and shriek of her parents’ arguing inside, quickly swiping away a tear that found its way to her cheek. Glancing up at the bare copse of trees beyond the garden, Corin felt a pang of fear. Had Evie really disappeared? Life already felt like a bad dream. She had the nagging feeling that she needed to wake up somehow, like this wasn‘t her life. It was a nightmare. A cruel joke. She pinched herself. Wake up!!

As she stared grim-faced at the garden, two people appeared round the side of the house and entered the backyard. Corin blinked then stood with a frown. Gauging from their black jackets accented with bright silver buttons, they were Grubbers from the big city, Reality. The taller of the two was a spitting image of her father, dark hair and eyes with a firm jaw and strong hands. His look was stern. His companion had light hair and dark eyes. He was lean but well-built and his face, though unsmiling, physically glowed. Corin caught her breath. Oh no. Not one of them.

The first approached and stopped before Corin. His eyes locked on the back door, which was shut but failed to stifle the quarrel within. Something like remorse appeared briefly on his face, then disappeared. The young man looked down at her.

“What are you doing here?” she asked.

“I heard about Evie.”

“Dad doesn’t know you’re coming, does he?” He shook his head grimly and looked again at the door. He appeared to reconsider. “And you brought an Outsider with you,” she said, glancing at his friend. “You’re really trying to make this hard, aren’t you?”

“He’s my friend and he’s here to help. I don’t think Pop’ll say no to that.”

“He can and he probably will. He doesn’t hate you any less now.” He grimaced, but Corin didn’t regret her words.

“It doesn’t matter,” he replied. “I’m still going to talk to him.”

“Go on then.” She folded her arms. He hesitated, then went up the porch steps and into the house. His friend stayed behind. Corin ignored him and sat back down. It was a few moments before the voices within suddenly quieted. Corin held her breath as she heard her brother speak. This wouldn’t end well. She tried to think about something else.

Her brother’s friend, the Outsider, had taken a seat on the grass and leaned back on the palms of his hands. His whole body seemed bright, like a light was shining from inside. She crinkled her nose. Crazies were odd. She didn’t hate them like her father did, but she didn’t understand them either.

He caught her eye as she observed him and smiled. That was a smile, wasn’t it? It wasn’t like any she’d seen before. It looked strange. Like… it was sincere.

“What’s your name?” she asked.

“Matthew. What’s yours?”

“Corin.” He laughed suddenly, nearly making her fall over in shock.

“Sorry, the way you looked at me made me laugh. I’m guessing you’ve never seen an Outsider before?” Corin scowled, but after the week she’d had, she realized she didn’t have the energy to throw his laugh back in his face. With a disgruntled grumble, she shook her head and looked away. “What do you want to know?” His question surprised her. She glanced at him warily and saw that he was really asking her. She shrugged in nonchalance.

“I know you believe some pretty ridiculous things. What else is there?”

Matthew was unconvinced by her show of disinterest. “Ah,” he said, “so you’ve never wondered why people call us Outsiders.”

“Because you’re out of your mind. Obviously.” It was a gutsy thing to say for a Scrap. Corin half expected him to throttle her on the spot. Instead he chuckled.

“I guess that’s true. You’ve gotta be pretty crazy to be an Outsider. Not an easy gig.” He was still smiling. What did it take to upset this guy? Corin was getting frustrated. And curious. He had a look in his eyes, a brightness and excitement, like he had great news he couldn’t wait to tell. And there was something else in his eyes. It was like… they were really open. Like he was really looking and seeing. It was a strange thought. Weren’t everyone’s eyes open? There was that feeling again, like her eyes were closed and she wasn’t actually seeing, only dreaming she was seeing. But he saw. Like he was awake…really AWAKE.

She shifted uncomfortably, amazed and somewhat frightened by her thoughts. Her brother, Benjamin, returned a little paler than when he’d gone in. Corin watched them leave and a strange feeling settled in her stomach. She looked out to the little wood behind their house, to the path Evie had last taken, then back to the house where her father had resumed his railing. That was it.

Before she could change her mind, Corin jumped up and went to look for her sister.

The Dome

Episode 4: The Tower of Heaven

The Tower of Heaven was an ominous and beautiful sight. As a monument to the Caretaker, most steered clear of it out of fear and respect. From below, its sleek, black surface glistened in the glow of electric streetlights. The structure was impossibly tall, rising out of sight and disappearing into shadow. The Capital was the darkest part of the Black Strip, after all. The only illumination came from electric lights.

It was early morning, by the clock, and the Caretaker stood on the uppermost balcony of the Tower of Heaven, entirely obscured as he drew on his cigarette and puffed thoughtfully. The surrounding buildings stood erect and black, like a thousand sentinels leering, gaping, watching. Beyond them, past a great stretch of barren landscape, a faint glow could be seen coming from Reality. Below, the Capital’s inhabitants strode bleakly through the grid-lined city, quiet, detached, reclusive.

He leaned on the balcony railing and flicked his cigarette into the air, watching the hot stub drop into oblivion below. He raked his hands through his blond hair with a groan. The Voice was speaking again. Even from the tower, he could still hear it. Gentle. Warm.

Infuriating.

He spat and gripped the railing as though he would crush it. That Voice!! Was the darkest pit of the World still not deep enough to escape that wretched noise?! He peered down into the streets and watched the people mill about dully. They had no idea where they were. They had cheated, competed, grovelled, killed, and bled to be here and still had no idea what it had all been for.

Nothing. That’s what it had been for. Absolutely nothing.

He smiled in wicked pleasure. He’d promised them distinction, praise, promotion, and had given it, given them all they’d wanted. But they could not be satisfied. They always wanted more. And “more” was a precious commodity only he possessed.

“Idiots,” he said with a broad smile. Then he heard it again, the faintest whisper. Someone stopped in the street below and glanced around. “Shut up!!!” he fumed, spewing curses at the sky. “This is MY city! These ones are MINE!” Suddenly, like the furious crash of a waterfall, the Voice cut through his rage:

Even in the pits of hell, they are still mine!!

A great *CRACK!* tore through the air like a terrible gut-wrenching cry and the Tower of Heaven swayed dangerously.

“You can’t touch my city!” he roared. “The Dome is under my name!”

That is true, the Voice allowed. But they are not.

“You challenge me?” he said, his voice low and dangerous. “Do you see them? Do you see what I’ve reduced them to? Refuse! The Dead and damned! They worship me,” he said in mockery. “I am god to them. I tell them to hurt each other, to work and worry and strive for the things they once had. But they don’t remember. They see what I want them to see, believe what I want them to believe. They don’t remember who they are. They don’t remember you. I’ll make sure they never do.”

If you press too hard, something will break.

“Believe me,” he said, “they’re well past broken.”

The Dome

Episode 3: The Wild

Evie gaped at her surroundings. A vast expanse stretched before her. Wide-spread plains of yellow and brown and green grass shifted and danced, moved by an invisible force. What made them do that? She felt the force catch her hair and toss it around her face until she couldn’t help but laugh. It was the air. The air was moving! Beyond the plains were trees, though none like Evie had ever seen before. They were bright and tall and their leaves shimmered in the light, displaying an endless palette of hues, colours she couldn’t identify. And the light! What light! It was warm and though she couldn’t bear to look straight at it, something about it made her feel good.

What a strange place! Where the land moved, warmth came from the sky, and everything was more than one colour. It was… alive. Somehow. The land was alive. Evie didn’t know any other way to put it to herself. Then she noticed the dark outline behind the trees. At first, she had dismissed it as a murky patch of sky, much like she was accustomed to at home. But this was grey and blue and white, uneven along the top and jutting up and down at different angles. Like a very great hill, she decided, but rough. Like tree bark, or rock. The rough fence encircled the plain and came to an end immediately to her right, beneath the light in the sky. It was closer to her on this side and she decided it must be more like a rock, though she had never seen one so immense before. It was beautiful and imposing and striking all at once.

She began to walk toward the forest and leapt with surprise as the grass tickled her legs. Something like a shriek and a laugh tumbled from her mouth and she took off across the meadow, sweeping her hands through the green waves and feeling the air move on her face. Her eyes roamed and admired each new vista, drinking in the newness, the life that was all around her. As her eye snagged on each new thing, she turned around to discover what was behind her. Then stopped.

Stared. Realization came.

Her eyes widened.

“Oh.”

It was the World, her home. Enormous and dark and bleak, there, spread out on the endless plains.

Inside a perfect dome of glass.

The Dome

Episode 2: The Green Trees

“Evie, time for lunch.” Corin, fourteen years old, leaned against the frame of the back door as she watched her younger sister in the vegetable garden. The nine-year-old puttered barefoot through the soil with a little watering can and looked up with a smile.

“I’m just going to water my trees!” Corin rolled her eyes and ducked into the house. Her mum, Audrey, was wiping her hands on a towel and gestured for Corin to set out the plates. She grabbed the small stack with a huff.

“So?” her mum said. “Where’s your sister?”

“Watering her trees.” At the question in her mum’s eyes, Corin said in an annoyed tone, “The green ones, Mum. She talks about them all the time.”

Audrey frowned. “What’s up with you?”

“‘Nothing’, I bet,” a deep voice interrupted. Corin winced as a tall, broad-shouldered man stepped through the back door. “That always seems to be the answer.” His tone held a warning. Corin quieted. Dressed in a workman’s coat, mud-encrusted boots, and a wide-brimmed hat that sagged across his eyes, Jacob stood a head taller than most men. His presence, hard and imposing, filled the room.

He shrugged out of his jacket. “Help your mother.” Corin quickly obeyed. With his boots on, he sat at the table and pulled out a pipe. “The Caretaker is coming to the Grey Strip in a few days,” he said as he lit it up and stuck it between his lips. “He’ll inspect productivity at the quarries. If it’s not good enough, he’ll start pulling Scraps in to do the work.” Audrey looked anxiously at her daughter. “That’s what they’re for, Audrey. Don’t pity them.” When the food was laid out and they sat down, Jacob’s eyes flicked to the empty chair. “Where’s the other one?”

Audrey peered over his shoulder out the back window. “I don’t know. She ought to be back by now.”

Jacob jerked his chin toward the back door. “Go find your sister.”

Corin groaned. “I’m not her babysitter. Can’t we just eat without her?” Jacob’s head came up swiftly, fury in his eyes, and Corin was out the door in a second.

Behind the house, Evie’s muddy footprints made a staggered trail toward a small wood. Tall, pale trees posed stiffly in the windless day, squarish brown and grey foliage drooping from thin branches. After a few moments, Corin came to a little clearing where two trees stood. They were slightly smaller than she was with sturdy stems and full crowns, blooming with broad, five-fingered leaves.

Green leaves.

She stared at the plants and blinked a few times. They were really green. She’d thought Evie had been making it up. Then her eye caught a small watering can tipped over on the grass. “Oh brilliant. Evie! Come on, I’m hungry. Evie!” She took a few steps past the trees and squinted. The horizon was grey and murky and flat. She thought she saw something move. “Evie?” As she moved forward, faint ribbons of light touched her face. She looked up, around, then shaded her eyes. Where was that coming from?

Corin.

She stilled for a moment and peered into the grey horizon. It was that voice again. She must be going mad. As she looked, she thought she could see something swaying in the distance. But it didn’t look like Evie.

The Dome

Episode 1: A City Called Reality

Name’s Maddox, one of the only Guides around here. I’ll be as pleasant as I can, since it’s your first time. Might as well be direct and say you’ve come to the wrong place if you’re looking for a leg up in the World. Reality is probably the worst of the cities in the Black Strip. You came from the outskirts? That’s alright, I guess. But you know what they say – that’s where the “crazies” come from. Sure hope you’re not one of them.

Watch your step. These dirt mounds are everywhere and they can crumble away if you step on ‘em the wrong way. Reality’s dirty and the smell of sweat is pretty much everywhere. I don’t notice it anymore. Out-of-towners like you tell me it’s strong. Ah well, when you’ve got a million people stuffed together, it’s gonna get hot.

Man, the sky feels close. It’s normally murky, but today’s bad. Huh? Course it’s dark. What else would it be? Ah yeah, you’re from the Grey Strip. The dark’s not so dark there. What’s that? Ha! You’re lucky I can laugh at that. The sky’s never clear. It’s never anything but grey or black. Only crazies say stuff like that, and if you wanna last more than a few days you’d better forget it. The Black Strip is the best and worst part in the World, and you’re right in the middle of it.

Forget what you’ve heard on the outskirts. They say the sky comes to an end and there are amazing things on the other side of it. Let me un-confuse you. People who say that are fed up with their lot in life and aren’t happy unless they whine about it. You don’t like your life here? Fine. Admit it and move on. Don’t make up stories to make yourself feel better about the World. This is it. Yank your head out of the mud and get on with life.

It’s starting to get darker. Better get you to the city before lights out. Hurry up. The bridge pulls up at seven o’clock, unless you wanna walk through the canyon of swamp-water, ha ha! Just clear the trees and you’ll see it. There. That’s the West Bridge, and 3rd Street next over. Lucky you’re so close. Might wanna plug your nose till we’ve cleared the bridge. I’d guess you can’t stomach the swamp-water fumes yet. When you get in, just follow 3rd till you see the old man sitting on a brown sofa. Don’t know why he put it on the sidewalk, but he’s there till nine o’clock most nights. He lives on the bottom floor, so just go upstairs and find the room with your name on it. Key should work.

I’m heading this way. Good luck. You’ll need it.