Almost funny, in a sad way, to think that futurists centuries ago could not see that mankind had rushed headlong to this world from the beginning of time. Almost funny, in a perverse way, that the differences of man were not a celebration, but was cause for hatred. Man learned somewhere to fear and despise and enslave himself based upon only the most cosmetic criteria. And so, he devised another way. But by erasing our differences we committed the greatest injustice because it masked our greatest weaknesses and blamed our truest blessings. In our blindness to suppress those who hated on the basis of skin color we achieved their ultimate goal.
Looking around, this seems hardly the place to begin a revolution. My room is as small and inviting as a tomb. That may sound melodramatic, but suppose a world without art, without culture and individual character. Suppose the final days of the species, and the reawakening of a new era, a changing consciousness that compels the hordes to act less as individuals and more as cells that combine to activate a free and autonomous body.
Except this is not a supposition. All of society has been redrawn to annihilate the individual. It is nothing short of a purposeful exorcism of the blessed tumult of the human heart. Only by chance, by my difference and solitude, and the prick of a finger has that tumult been reawakened.
The press of the pencil against my bloodied finger brings a sudden sting of sharp pain. Pushing aside the papers for a moment I pause to study the image of my father. I scratched it into the table with a thumbtack and colored the face to a warm brown with drops of my own blood. It is not my real father, of course. It is a fiction. But the fiction I choose to believe becomes my truth and my lie. My real parents were like all the rest, and I can only imagine the horror on my mother’s expression when they pulled me from her belly. I can only imagine her shame, as if it was her fault and not the random lottery of DNA.
My boots stand beside the locked door. No worries, it is locked from the inside. I am free to go, just not free to be. On the wall above them a small blue light reminds me that Sentinel is watching. Sentinel is always watching, searching every thought, every movement in hopes of uprooting some suspicious intention or an indication that a body is no longer viable and must be removed from proper society.
Sentinel spies. Section Twenty-one punishes. The Corporation decides.
Let me be clear. This is not a prison. Well, perhaps for the mind, since my body is free to come and go as it wishes. But I don’t go out, except to court. Where would I go? I am trapped, not by Sentinel or Section Twenty-one or even the Corporation, but because of this cursed flesh!
The Reclamation center is working overtime today. Two massive smokestacks rise from the center’s massive structure. Thick, boiling plumes of acrid smoke billow high into the atmosphere, where the trade winds thin and stretch them to the horizon. It looks like rain falling over the city, a brown and gray rain. Instead it is all that remains of fellow Associates, the grist ground by the Corporation’s relentless mortar and pestle.
Don’t misconstrue. This is not some sort of lament, nor an accusation. It is what it is. It is the reality of existence that we produce for the Corporation, and when our bodies are no longer useful in that regard then we are waste, burdened and shamed at falling behind, by not carrying our load, by becoming an impediment. Well, maybe them, but not I.
The haze clears enough that I can make out the ruins of the old city far out to sea. The ruins stab from the gray-green waters like rotted pilings or melting candle wax. Sentinel isn’t there, and the fires burning in windows cause me to wonder of the people there. I imagine that they are like me. I imagine that they, well, it is important not to get too far ahead of myself. To properly tell the story I must go back to a time before I was born, and so that is where I will begin.
It is wrong to assume anything akin to love between my parents. They were like the others, simple Associates and nothing more. They were free to meet and to procreate, and to eat or not eat if they chose. Beyond that, every civilization defines the limits of freedom, and the individual becomes free to refrain from resisting that definition or abiding by it, for the real key is for a culture to allow its citizens to fully accept that definition on their own. The equation is a pragmatic one, for only the solitary man can truly be free.
And so I was conceived by a man and a woman, but I cannot even tell you their names. Their faces I know only from the case file, small two by two inch images without names or traceable numbers. Not that it would matter. There was no more thought to their coupling than a sneeze or a yawn, or the evacuation of a bladder. It was a release, the chemical fusion of egg and spermatozoa. It was a mandate, reproduction and production, the only measurable criteria for avoiding reclamation. There are only two things certain in life, they say; reclamation and the Corporation. I am certain they were reclaimed long ago.
It is amusing to imagine the horror on the faces of the doctors as I was pulled brown and glorious from my mother’s womb. I can well imagine her horror as well. As if she was guilty of some misdeed, or felonious affront to society. There is no way of knowing, of course. There is nothing in the file. But my sense is that she and my father were sent to reclamation after that. Their files end abruptly the day I was born, and nothing more is heard from them again.
And so I charged headlong into the world, a stain on the conscience of man, an aberration that becomes the accusation. Of course that assumes that I was intended to survive at all. In a world where aberrations are extinguished, removed from the world by Section Twenty-one, reclaimed for spare parts and recycled bio-mass, I was saved. I was saved because of the color of my skin. I was saved to further the frontiers of genetic science, and , so it would seem, for the curiosity of Section-21.
A child must learn that the world is a dangerous place, and that life is always a fatal condition. The child evolves into recognizing the differences among people alternately as threats and blessings. Such things are taught as much as learned. From the youngest age my recollection was one of being segregated from the other children. Where they were channeled into conformity, parceled into channels and skills to benefit society and the Corporation, I was left alone. While they found community, I found that these thoughts, running so deep, were all that I could rely upon, thoughts that always asked why. While I as different was eschewed, they as the status quo were embraced.
I am certain, though I cannot prove, that I was slated for reclamation a hundred, perhaps a thousand times. The hidden hand of the Corporation was impotent in the face of the arrogance of science. And as I, by merely existing, had humiliated science, its pride could only be saved by proving I was a freak aberration and not something more. After all, the mere thought of individuality had been bred from humanity, and that which could not be bred out was socialized and marginalized. I should not have existed, and yet there I was, and that is what ultimately saved me.
But life is not merely survival. To survive, to truly survive depends upon so much more.