The Serenity Development

The Serenity Development

The clustered apartment buildings seemed to almost grow out of the forest hillside, reflecting a mass of green jungle in their windows. As I looked up, my eyes couldn’t find the top ledges of the buildings. They simply faded into thick layers of forest mist, interspersed with lush treetops. 

I was here with college friend Joseph, who had  attended the same STEM university  as I had, years ago. Now I was 33 and a scientist, and he was 36 and…I didn’t know exactly what he did. But here I was at his new apartment, finally visiting.

“I can’t believe they were able to integrate it into the forest so well,” I said, turning to Joseph. He chuckled.

“Yeah, it’s pretty amazing. They wanted it to have a very…organic feel. Once we set our stuff down in my room, I can take you to the roof of my building. They staggered all 13 at different heights, so the roof gardens look like…parts of the hillside terrain, almost.” 

He was right, as I craned my neck I could see thick layers of jungle that seemed to melt onto the roofs of the two lowest buildings. 

“C’mon!” He led me onto a cement walking path into the forest. The sound of birdsong was like scratches on the strings of a violin, and the smell of cold rain filled the air as we walked deeper. The tall buildings disappeared beneath an under-layer of canopy, but we soon came to an open, paved clearing. The path branched off in multiple directions, leading the base of each of the 12 buildings. A sign near the frontmost one read, “The Serenity Development. Completed by TerraTech in 2047.” 

“You got a room in such a new and fancy development, but I can’t even imagine the prices of something this luxurious,” I laughed awkwardly. In truth, I felt uneasy. Where did the buildings’ waste go? The gas lines? We were so far from the heart of the city; there was no choice but to run pipes through the soil. And yet society was supposed to be moving away from construction that polluted the earth. 

“To be honest with you Rosemary, it wasn’t actually that bad,” Joseph said. “I’m friends with the owner of TerraTech. He was able to, uh…pull some strings, and get me a room!”  He waved to a passing neighbor as he led me along a path to the right. We crossed behind the frontmost buildings and came to one in the middle.

“Here we are, building 6. It’s the tallest, you know,” He said with utter pride.

Joseph’s top-floor apartment was clean and illuminated by massive windows that looked out onto the balcony. Joseph locked both of the bolts on the door.

“There…nice and safe,” He said. He turned to me, saying, “Take a seat!” while he gestured to a row of bar stools along his kitchen island. “I prepared some salad before I picked you up, it should still be good…” As he methodically looked through fridge drawers, I took in the feel of the place. For somewhere so expensive, you would expect a warmer, more cozy atmosphere. But the smooth countertops were ice against my arms, and the view of the other buildings’ green roofs from out the windows made me long to be back on the forest floor. 

“Boy, it’s been quite a while, huh?” Joseph filled ceramic bowls with an assortment of salad greens. 

“Yeah, how’ve you been? Besides the apartment?” I asked. 

“Oh I’ve been great! You remember Douglass from college? He and I got together for lunch the other day, and did you know he’s married? It totally shocked me! not that I didn’t think he would ever get married, but because I just didn’t picture his girlfriend becoming his wife if you know what I mean…” As I slowly took bites of salad, Joseph droned on about old friends who became rich, stock market gains, gym memberships. I felt a twinge of guilt not listening, but I was beginning to truly realize why we grew apart over the years. Joseph just wasn’t the same down-to-earth person he used to be. His bragging made my head hurt.

Suddenly there was a loud banging on the door. Joseph jumped, instinctively clutching his salad bowl towards himself. 

“Should we…see who that is?” I asked, standing up from my seat. I turned back towards him, and his face was pale as he set down his ceramic bowl. He slowly stood up and slunk behind the counter. I felt my stomach turn. 

“Joseph…? What’s going on?”

There was a loud crack as the door splintered and broke. Someone behind it had kicked it down, and it fell flat onto the floor with a wham! A man clad in all black with an obscured, goggled face stormed into the room. He held a handgun. 

There was a gunshot as Joseph’s salad bowl exploded and shattered. He shrieked and ducked behind the counter. I scrambled and dove behind the counter next to him, but there was no real way out. The armed man blocked the door and would momentarily stomp around the counter to us. A lightbulb went off in my head. I turned frantically to face the windows, and grabbing Joseph by the wrist I dragged him towards the sliding glass doors onto the balcony. There was another gunshot and the glass shattered next to me. 

We jumped out on the balcony, Joseph hyperventilating and shaking. I pulled him to the side as the armed man unleashed a barrage of gunshots. Out of the corner of my eye I saw a large potted plant on the balcony. Instinctively I climbed on top of it and onto the balcony railing, peering up at the roof of the building. The green roof had been designed to model a jungle in its array of plant life, and vines spilled over the edges and down towards our floor. 

“W-what are you doing?” Joseph said. 

“Getting out! Come on, that guy’ll be here in like a second!” I grabbed a vine and hoisted myself up, clamoring up the thick foliage towards the roof. I used the small metal ledges built into the side of the wall to push myself up. I could hear gunshots behind me as I turned back toward Joseph. He was standing on the balcony below me, staring up in shock. 

Come on, follow me up here,” I said quietly. I turned and heaved myself onto the roof. I climbed over the short fence around the edge and fell onto the lining of moss and undergrowth. It smelled moist and comforting like the jungle below, but still…off. My senses could tell it was beautiful, but fundamentally as fake as the building itself. I leaned down over the fence and held out a hand for Joseph to grab.  I had pulled my many thin braids into a ponytail this morning, but now they were escaping the hairband and cluttering my vision. Joseph was physically strong, but still only managed to scramble onto the roof unskillfully and tumble into the floor of the jungle-garden…

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