Shayla pressed her hand against the silver pad. The door slid open silently, closing behind her. She walked into the room issuing commands, “Room temperature 68o, lights 75%, music- #7, volume 3.” Pressing a button on the wall, she ordered, “Pepsi and chips.” Moments later they appeared in a cubicle in the wall. She curled up in a cushy chair and opened a book.
Tomorrow she’d arrive at Xyron. She was reading about the Xyroneans. They were humanoid in physiology, but different spiritually. Xyroneans couldn’t choose. “Maybe God got tired of making beings who always chose against Him,” Shayla thought. Xyron was a perfect planet - sinless, peaceful; a place where everyone loved God because they had to; they had no choice. The only sin on Xyron came with the colonists from earth. Wherever people went, their sinfulness went with them.
What would it be like to never have to choose? In her 18 years, Shayla had made her share of wrong choices and suffered the consequences. She always seemed to be breaking the rules. But if you couldn’t choose to break them, why have rules? A place with no rules! Shayla wondered how her friend Rita liked that? Rita moved to Xyron a year ago, but they’d kept in touch. It was going to be great seeing her again.
A shuttlecraft took Shayla down to the surface. Rita met her and later introduced her to Lexy, a Xyronean friend. Shayla asked Lexy about the rules, just in case she got the urge to break some. Lexy looked at her blankly. “Isn’t there something you’re not allowed to do? Someplace you can’t go?” Shayla probed again and again.
Lexy finally capitulated, “Yeah, we’re not supposed to go across the river.”
“Why?” Shayla asked.
“I don’t know. We’re just not supposed to.”
A tingle of thrill ran through Shayla. “Don’t you wonder why?” she tempted.
“I never thought about it,” Lexy answered. “We just don’t go there.”
“Rita, you want to go to the river with us?” Shayla asked.
“Sure!” Rita agreed.
Lexy stared at them, “I just told you guys, we don’t go there!”
“No one’s going to know,” Rita encouraged. “We won’t go across. We’ll just go to the edge. That’s OK, right?”
“I don’t think so.”
“C’mon Rita, let’s go,” Shayla called eagerly. They hopped onto Lexy’s airpod. She gave instructions and soon they were at the river with it’s clear, cool, lavender water. Shayla kicked off her shoes and waded in.
“NO!” Lexy yelled, “We’re just looking.”
“Rita, come in!” Shayla called. “Lexy, they don’t really mean you can’t come in the water.”
Rita joined Shayla, “Nothing’s going to happen, Lexy. It’s going to be great over there, that’s why they don’t want you to go.”
“It’s really shallow,” Shayla called, “We can walk all the way across. C’mon!” Lexy remained unmoved by their cajoling.
At the far shore, Shayla and Rita collapsed on white sand. Later they walked among the trees further in. “We should go,” Rita said. They ran to the sand, then stopped suddenly. “Where’s the river?” they questioned simultaneously. “Did we come out a different way?” Rita asked.
“I don’t think so,” Shayla answered uncertainly. “The river’s gotta be here.”
Lexy watched them disappear into the trees. The river seemed wider now. What happened? She squinted across the water. The river was so wide she couldn’t see the other side.
Shayla and Rita trudged through the hot sand, “We can’t just keep walking! We need to stay near the trees,” Rita cautioned.
“This is crazy!” Shayla yelled angrily. “How can a river just disappear?”
“Let’s walk a little further. We’ll find the river and get across to the other side,” Rita reassured.
“Rita, there’s nothing here! Nothing over there! There is no river to cross, no other side!” Tears filled Rita’s eyes. “Stop it!” Shayla commanded. “We’re going back to the trees.” It wasn’t any cooler by the trees. There was no water for their parched throats.
“Where is everybody?” Shayla yelled. “There’s gotta be somebody else here.”
“No, Shayla, there’s not! There’s no-one else here, ‘cuz they aren’t supposed to come here, remember?! They don’t do what they’re not supposed to,” Rita reminded her.
“But, they’ll come save us.” Shayla spoke bravely.
“No they won’t! They don’t know we’re lost! They’ve never been lost. They’ve never needed to be saved. There isn’t any savior where no one is lost! We weren’t supposed to cross the river. We had a choice.”
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