The planet of Ganga lived under a blessed star, in the most literal way possible. The citizens of Ganga knew this well, because that is what the Great Eye, which watched over Ganga’s people, taught them from the earliest of years. The Great Eye told them how Ganga was a place where everything existed in perfect balance and harmony. It was the fifth planet of nine, circling the star Plexus in the galaxy that the Gangans called Genesis. This is what the Great Eye instructed the Gangans to call their home galaxy.
The Great Eye had declared to all Gangans, Genesis meant Beginnings. And, that the galaxy Genesis was where all life began, and evolved. There was no reason for any Gangan to dispute this, for life seemed to thrive here on Ganga in a way that it did not exist anywhere else. And here on Ganga, this is where The Great Eye lived, and nowhere else. The Great Eye knew all. It saw all. The Great Eye never blinked.
Ganga was circled daily by two moons, which the Great Eye had named Shadow and Light, their identity interchangeable, depending on whether it was day or night in any part of the planet. The Great Eye had declared that both were in perfect balance and harmony. Because both moons lived diametrically opposite each other in orbit, no part of Ganga was ever without the companionship of a moon nearby. The residents of Ganga had made it a practice to look at Shadow and Light, and remind themselves they were blessed. They were reminded that there was something out there, always watching. Shadow and Light were symbolic of the symmetry of The Great Eye. The Great Eye was both Shadow and Light. No perfect harmony could exist without perfect balance.
Like the perfect symmetry of Plexus rising and falling with the change of scenery between Shadow and Light, Ganga itself was balanced in perfect harmony between Land and Sea. Exactly half of planet was covered in water. Exactly half the planet was covered in land. Mind you, it was not split into cloned slices and segments, like one might eat an orange or slice a pie. That kind of exactness might have been cute and quaint. But that duplication would have not achieved perfect harmony and balance, as some land masses had long coastlines, others hills and mountains. It was just, if one calculated every inch of land mass and every inch of the sea, one would be able to see that the measurements of both would be exactly the same.
Who had undertook such a monumental task to discover this fascinating fact? The Great Eye, of course. All of the five regions of Ganga knew this. And they knew how good it was that they were so favored by the Elements, that they were granted such perfect balance, just for them. All of the five regions of Ganga knew it was good to give thanks to the Elements, for the Great Eye had told them so. They were grateful that the Elements gave them the Great Eye, to teach and guide them, lead them in the ways that they were supposed to go.
Continuing in the spirit of harmony and balance, each of Gangan’s five regions had its own unique purpose, expressly dictated by the Great Eye. So like its geography, Ganga’s civilization was able to maintain absolute balance and maximum productivity. All Gangans were taught from the earliest ages by the Great Eye that a fully functioning society must have agriculture, technology, arts, religion, and commerce. Each region specialized in one of these vital components. In this fashion, each region was interdependent on all the other four regions to have a thriving society.
Because every region was interdependent on the four others for vital services, conflict was nonexistent. In fact, you may be surprised to learn that Gangans had no word in their vocabulary to describe conflict. For in a society such as this, there was no need for argument, or dispute. When everyone learned that they needed one another to survive, that they needed each and every service that each individual provided, why would something like discord or dissent even exist? All people were vital to the vast cog of Ganga’s world. The Great Eye had made it clear to them all. All Gangans knew that. They each knew that no matter how humble their job was, no matter what their status was, no matter how meager their lifestyle was, their lives were exactly the way they were supposed to be. That was true for themselves, and it was true for each and everyone else. In this way, harmony was born on Ganga, and discordance did not exist.
Of course, a regions’s specialization in a particular sector did not mean a full monopoly. It wasn’t as if one region performed one function at the total exclusion of all other sectors. That, of course, would be unbalanced. Specialization meant just that, a particular sector was a specialty or talent of a region, not exclusion. No, not in the least.
Here is a description of what Ganga’s procession of services would be. Take Triton, the region of education. There, the Great Eye had designated which creative brains, called the Omega class, would develop the education plans for the rest of Ganga. That was Triton’s specialty, the Omegas’ only job. Once the Great Eye had determined that their agendas would achieve their highest potential for all Gangans, the Omegas’ plans would then be exported to the other four sectors. In those places, there would be managers, called the Alpha class, to oversee the education plans exported to them. The managerial system maintained by the Alphas allowed the Omegas of their own respective sectors to develop their particular regional specialty.
Because of this webbed interplay of maximum efficiency, every Gangan spoke the same language and thus needed no name to describe it as we might use a name to differentiate English from Chinese, or Mandarin Chinese or Cantonese Chinese. They used the same currency, which was named despite its singularity. It was, after all, used to measure and balance all commodities for barter and trade. How could one measure the economy if the currency had no name? Hence, the cruzon it was for one and for all of Ganga. It was decreed so by the Great Eye, and it had all functioned well for each and every one under its watch.
So it went for religion, which all Gangans practiced. The will of the Elements was conveyed to the Great Eye, and the wisdom it conveyed had made life comfortable for all. There was no need to question one’s faith when one already knew the answers were all taken care of.
Education followed much in the same fashion. You were free to learn whatever you wanted to. No restriction existed on Ganga as we might know in some of our own world. On Ganga, all wanted to learn the best way to be a Gangan, in the service of the Great Eye who knew the will of the Elements, and all citizens learned with this zeal in their heart. They knew all was in order. One only had to look at the heavens, watch the constant reign of the moons Light and Shadow watching over all.
Who could have any doubts about the goodness of the Great Eye’s watch when such harmony and balance had been decreed by the very heavens? Certainly, none in Ganga. The Great Eye had deemed that this be so, and the citizens of Ganga worked to fulfill the machinations and niches that reflected this perfect harmony and balance without question, for why question what is perfect? Hence, the inventions of the Omegas and the management of the Alphas reflected the will of the Great Eye, who in turn, knew the will of the Elements which blessed them all, while the Betas and drones were the final classes that carried out the will that the Great Eye determined. All classes carried out their missions, and all were satisfied. There was no reason for it to be otherwise.
One could easily identify a citizen by class, just by his or her skin color, all of which reflected the colors of the daytime sky. Alphas were blue, Betas red, and drones a deep, dark purple. Omegas were never seen by the general populace, but they were rumored to be a very pale white, just like the daytime moon called Light. The Great Eye told them that Omegas were of this pale nature, to complete the perfect balance that reflected all nature. As each person saw the Great Eye in every public square, every office, every home, every building, watching everything under its care, this declaration of the Omegas seemed to make sense to the Gangans. So if the Great Eye said Omegas were pale white, then it must be so. Despite the difference of skin color, the happy efficiency that the Great Eye so graciously gave the Gangans made it seem silly to make such a superficial thing such as race an issue. After all, conflict was nonexistent here on Ganga.
Besides the universal efficiency and comfort that this process provided to all Gangans, it unified them in such a way that they didn’t even have to think about the issue. Everyone was a Gangan, each and every one. The Great Eye had plans for all of them, so all Gangans were secure in this knowledge of who they were. Separation of duties and niches created unity, not dissension on Ganga. There was no need for conflict to exist. There were no pressing questions as to what a Gangan’s purpose was, so no Gangan asked, or even thought to do so. All Gangans knew the Great Eye expressed the will of the Elements, and was the Great Instructor of all. Because of this, all Gangan citizens were now free to live in the comfort of this knowledge, without conflict within or without.
Take Citizen Alpha J-45, for example. Citizen Alpha J-45, a native and citizen of the commerce region Contuan, had lived in such a blissful manner as this for the entirety of his life. Like all Gangans citizens and the planet itself, he was born and lived in a perfect stasis of harmony. Citizen Alpha J-45’s native region of Contuan, the commerce sector, managed trade amongst the regions. Although all of Ganga maintained the same currency, the cruzon, values and prices of various commodities and products fluctuated with seasons. As this affected supply, and hence demand, prices floated with the differential and had to be adjusted by a third party, to create balance. This function was essential, as it maintained harmony all throughout the planet. This was the way it had been decreed, for years and eons. It had always been this way, and there was no reason for it to be otherwise.
For example, if it was the warm season in the agricultural sector Entanea, the staple runcha, a nutritionally rich starchy vegetable similar to potatoes, was generally at its peak harvest. As an economic commodity, it flooded the market as its supplies were so high. Hence, this reality would affect prices of other things in other regions, such as tuition to universities in Triton, and what kind of education the managers of the region would recommend, and the creative brains would develop. The creative brains in the region of Contuan, called the Omegas, controlled the actual supply of cruzons allocated to each of the five regions, much like a central bank. No one in Contuan had ever seen any of the Omegas, but all Contuans, being Gangans first, knew they were quite vital to the flourishing of a healthy civilization.
In Contuan, Alphas were the price setters and buyers of the other four regions’ commodities, be it education, the arts, and agriculture, or technology. This was the class that Citizen Alpha J-45 had been born into, educated for, and would remain for the rest of his natural life. The second class were comprised of Betas, which like Alphas were also a static class that one was born into and maintained for life. The best way to describe Contuan’s Betas would be to say they were a strange hybrid of artisan class, clergy, small businessman, and middle manager. Since a flourishing society needed all five sectors to be truly balanced, Betas served to maintain the health of sectors that the Omegas and Alphas did not specialize in, taking plans from other regions and executing them. On Contuan, Betas included the programmers, the engineers, the doctors, the priests, the individual store owners, the lawyers, the gentleman farmers, the teachers, the carpenters and utility managers, and the vast artisan class including but not limited to music, art, and theater. Betas developed all the ideas that were exported to them from the other sectors, which in turn, when developed by Betas, was sent back to the other sectors for final approval. A Beta priest on Contuan, for example, would send his or her sermons to the Omegas for approval, even before preaching to his or her flock. This was the order of things. So exacting was this, that a Beta priest on Contuan could not even mitigate his or her own disputes with a congregant. Gangan law, as far as determining who did what and where, had specific rules for who did what at one time, and Betas never negotiated their own conflicts. Take the example of the priest and the congregant. Gangan law was such that if a citizen of any class had a problem with a Beta priest on Contuan, he or she went to the Alphas in charge of managing religion first, not the Beta priest in question. If the citizen’s concerns were not heard, the citizen would go to Elemanna, the religion sector, for the final appeal that the Great Eye would hear, as Elemanna was the place where religious law as proscribed by the Elements was written and deciphered by the Omegas there, the place where the Elements graciously revealed their will to all to the Omegas there. This was the law of the land.
Perhaps it may seem to strange to us, those who live in a world where conflict is everyday and commonplace, that no one ever had ever had need to utilize the strange maze of bureaucracy to settle a dispute. As shared before, there was no word for conflict in all of Ganga, and the culture and human ecosystem reflected this reality. This system of checks and balances that the Great Eye had codified was only proof to all Gangans that the Great Eye saw into all possibilities, and had accounted for all possibilities that were beyond the knowing of any Gangan. They knew something like conflict existed, but saw no need to explain it, or defining it.
Does this seem unrealistic to you, the reader? Perhaps view it this way, to help you picture the mind of the Gangan. Have you ever felt the need to determine or define the exact number of pi? If you are, you are amongst the few. This analogy is similar to what occurs on Ganga regarding the meaning of conflict to most but a few obscure Omegas who would be instructed to care about such a thing. Something like what we call conflict must exist, yes. For obviously the Great Eye had determined that a system that protected against such possibilities took place. But the hum of harmony which buzzed on Ganga seemed to prevent any schism from ever taking place. Hence, no Beta had ever been challenged for his or her actions, and the busy hive of services and activities that they provided continued uninterrupted. All Gangans knew this, and saw this. There was no need to even define conflict when this took place in this fashion. If this seems too strange to be realistic, how troubled have you ever been not knowing the depths and fathoms of pi? Can you now understand how Gangans could operate in a system that quantified the theory of conflict, yet had no idea of what it meant?
To round out the perfect balance of class, in the last order of things, there were the drones. Drones were an unclassified group of citizens, perhaps most equivalent to employee or a working class, usually found in service sectors of Alphas or Betas as assistants, clerks, or other supportive roles. Although their worker status prevented them from ever entering the upper classes, they could change their employment at will if they got approval from the Great Eye, which generally was given liberally and generously. So a drone could one day be an assistant to an Alpha buyer, the next a cook for a Beta restaurateur, the day after a helper to a Beta contractor. In this way, drones could pursue happiness and contentment by developing many skills, a kind of self-improvement. The Great Eye, in its benevolent caretaker status, allowed all citizens to thrive in this way, without any need for any citizen to worry about any tasks of maintenance and drudgery such as sanitation or utilities. That was the Great Eye’s job, so that everyone could live to his or her fullest potential, whether Omega, Alpha, Beta, or drone.
Citizen Alpha J-45 enjoyed a type of managerial position as a price setter of an agricultural product known as tumul, a kind of melon fruit. Citizen Alpha J-45’s name reflected this function he performed, as it had been destined since his birth to fill such a duty. The “Alpha” in his name reflected his managerial status. The letter “J” also was a description of status, nothing accidental or random about it at all. Amongst Alphas, price setters were of a higher status than buyers. So if one was designated a price setter, one was given a letter between A-M, depending on the prevalence of the commodity he or she set. As a price setter of tumul, a less common and more seasonal product than staples such as runcha, the “J” in this citizen’s name reflected his relatively low status amongst other price setters.
“45″ simply meant he was the forty-fifth citizen born at a certain time who priced a commodity that was deemed of “J” value by the Great Eye, whether that commodity was agricultural, educational or otherwise. For example, Ganga’s current Citizen Alpha J-46, the next J of managerial status born after Citizen Alpha J-45, was a price setter for science education on Elemanna, the religion region. In fact, Citizen Alpha J-45 had never even met her, with both of them living in different regions and having such disparate functions to maintain. Such a complex and intricate plan of checks and balances could only be managed by something as all-knowing as the Great Eye.
So you see, from the day Citizen Alpha J-45 was born, his life plan had already been written by his genetics and hence, his name. Like everyone else on Ganga, he knew what his purpose was, for the Great Eye with its great wisdom granted from the Elements had made it so. Citizen Alpha J-45, like his fellow Gangans, was eternally grateful for the Great Eye’s all-knowing wisdom. He felt security that this knowledge gave him the life he had, day by day, day after day. He felt happy, though Ganga’s language did not exactly have a word which described “happy”, nor any emotion at all. There simply was nothing to be dissatisfied about on Ganga.
And so, life continued for Citizen Alpha J-45 on Ganga, every day much the same for him, although he had no reason to be bored. Why would he be, when there was no question of anything different for him? Besides, on this particular day, Citizen Alpha J-45 knew that the Great Eye had plans in store for him that would alter his life. For the Great Eye had plans for all Omegas, Alphas, and Betas once they turned thirty, just like Citizen Alpha J-45 had just done this particular day. Thirty was the age when the Great Eye selected a mate for each of the Omegas, Alphas, and Betas. As a thirty-year-old Gangan, Citizen Alpha J-45 knew that his betrothal ritual would soon take place. There was no real anticipation of this event for him, even though it would mark a what we might call major life change for him.
If his nonchalance toward this major life event seems surprising and strange, this is understandable. But in the world of the Gangans, there was no need to have anxiety, anticipation, or excitement for anything. Citizen Alpha J-45, like all Gangans, had known his day to receive a mate was coming, and that his mate had already been chosen for him. So excitement had nothing to do with it. It was just the will of the Great Eye. Would you be excited because you received a cup of coffee from a deli you’d never been to before, even if it was a new location, a different clerk, perhaps tasted slightly different? Most likely, you would not. You knew a cup of coffee was going to show up, you already had an idea of what coffee tasted like, regardless of location, so in some sense, you knew what to expect despite the newness surrounding experience. Well, this emotional process is precisely how Alpha J-45 perceived his upcoming betrothal ritual. He knew what to expect. He knew the Great Eye selected the best, most compatible mate for him and for the continuance of life on Ganga. What was there to get excited about? It was his version of experiencing a cup of coffee in a new location. Whether that makes sense or not, this is what it was for all Gangans, Citizen Alpha J-45 included.
The day that Citizen Alpha J-45 turned thirty, he woke up to a long beep, just like he had for the entirety of his life, sort of like an alarm clock, except this one was automatic and he had never thought of its source. Except this particular beep on this particular morning was slightly different than the previous ones he’d lived with. The one he’d woken to for his lifetime was high-pitched, like that of the highest ranges of a flute. Today, the long beep was deep and resonate, like a bassoon. In some ways, the change in tone symbolized a rite of passage from puberty to manhood, much like when a boy’s androgynous voice matures into the low tenor of a grown man’s. Perhaps that would be a good analogy for what Citizen Alpha J-45 was experiencing, his real transformation into a complete man. But he didn’t think of it in these terms. He just knew the long beep meant that he was to go to the medical center, in the heart of Contuan’s capitol, Vintack. The Great Eye had designated that all Gangans, when they reached the age of thirty, were to go to the specialized geneticists in their region’s capitol. The purpose of this special visit was to make one final exhaustive diagnostic to ensure the citizen’s health, to make sure that all genetic markers were in tip top condition, and did not need any alteration before the citizen was mated for life.
The Great Eye had designated that thirty was considered the optimum age to catch all genetic impurities, and hence the age that one’s fertility was checked, to ensure that each citizen, except for those in the drone class, would be ready to mate and breed. All Gangans, excepting drones, received medical and genetic checkups annually, throughout their earliest years. Medical abnormalities found during those years were diagnosed and healed, accordingly. If one was considered ill at any of these checkups and could not be healed genetically, he or she would be quarantined away from the healthy population and reassigned to a new position, according to the Great Eye’s wishes and the strength of health of the citizen. There had been thirteen citizens of Citizen Alpha J-45’s acquaintance during his thirty years who had been requisitioned in this way. One day, the citizen would be attending school with him, working alongside him, or perhaps selling something to him. The next day, the citizen would be gone. It wasn’t alarming to him, or anyone else. All Gangans knew that citizens were quarantined and requisitioned from time to time. Impending health problems would make the ill one’s designated work too difficult in the long run. The Great Eye was compassionate enough to ensure that the ill citizen found work more suitable to his or her disability, and taken care of physically. In this way, the citizen was not overtaxed, but also was given work to make him or her feel utilized.
Citizen Alpha J-45 had never met a disabled person who had been requisitioned to his district, nor had he met anyone who had met such a person. This fact didn’t disturb him, it was just a fact of reality. There was no reason to be curious about this at all, for the Great Eye’s assurance that all citizens were provided for took away any necessity for wariness. So, when a citizen was requisitioned and disappeared, Citizen Alpha J-45 knew it was for the good of healthy citizens like himself, and the ill one being requisitioned. What was so wrong with that? This question was so unnecessary for a person like himself to ask, it never was even conceived as a thought, for curiosity itself was a completely unnecessary entity in a place where all things had been decided and planned from birth.
So this day, like all days, Citizen Alpha J-45 began his ritual by pausing at the replica of the Great Eye near his bed. All citizens had one in every room, personal and professional, just like all streets and public buildings fashioned one as well. Wherever the replica was positioned, it was placed in such a way that a citizen could feel the orb’s gaze no matter where he or she was. Replicas of the Great Eye were generally of a yellow cast, a kind of hue that was intended to feel warm and nurturing, just like the one that Citizen Alpha J-45 stood by right at this moment.
The orb in Citizen Alpha J-45’s apartment always stayed yellow, but he had seen orbs in buildings and the streets go red, sometimes black. During the rare color changes that he had personally witnessed, there would be a flurry of activity surrounding a particular citizen on the streets. And once it died down, the orb would go yellow again, the citizen that had caused so much attention evaporated, like he or she never existed. And through it all, no matter what chaos ensued, the replica never, ever blinked, much the way the Great Eye who knew all never did. The first time Citizen Alpha J-45 had witnessed a color change, he was as a thirteen year old on the street near his education center. As the chaos died down and the orb went yellow again he overheard a Beta restaurant owner saying the orb sometimes changed when a person became ill, and needed to be requisitioned. This made perfect sense to Citizen Alpha J-45, so he never had a need to question it further, not that he’d ever thought to question it to begin with. Why would he? All Citizen Alpha J-45 knew was that he was glad when the orb became yellow again, for everything felt all right once more, and life could continue.
This feeling of contentment he’d felt back then was very much what he felt now, rising to greet the day of his thirtieth birthday. He felt content, because the Great Eye replica next to him glowed warm yellow. He felt gratitude as he paused in front of the Great Eye, thanking it for the wisdom and care that it gave him in his life, just like it did for all other citizens. Does it appear to you that his sentiment of gratitude is strange? For it is true, that he did not have any real suffering in his life to compare it to, to enrich the depth of gratitude. He didn’t thank the Great Eye for sparing him from suffering, from drought, famine, or other calamities. He didn’t even know what those things meant, for he’d been sheltered from all illness, and didn’t know what suffering even truly looked like. As far as the other malevolent states of mind, he didn’t even know what those things were. So how could he thank the Great Eye for sparing him from these things?
The basis of his gratitude was much more simplistic, just because there was no effort in stretching his mind past anything he felt in the moment. The gratitude he extended to the Great Eye was a ritualistic experience, but not one done out of obligation or boredom to some rule. All Gangans were taught from the earliest ages to extend thanks to the Great Eye upon awakening. One’s parents were to give a young citizen this instruction, so the children were better socialized when they turned three, the time when the youngsters’ custody was turned over to the education center for full socialization, at least for all Alphas and Betas. This tradition had been true for Citizen Alpha J-45. In fact, this lesson of gratitude was one of the very first memories he ever had, and one of the few memories he had at all of his birth parents. Soon, Citizen Alpha J-45 would be carrying on this tradition of instruction, after the Great Eye chose his mate for him. For a brief second, he imagined what that would be like to have a mate, and the two requisite children he would be having with her. But, unused to thinking of things outside the context of his direct experience, it popped like a soap bubble in midair. So did the memories of his parents. For it, like imagining the future, was not within the context of immediate experience. Both diversions into the past and into the future made Citizen Alpha J-45 feel disorientated, especially as the replica of the Great Eye stared into him. Citizen Alpha J-45 returned the gaze obediently, and the warm gratitude that he was so accustomed to filled him once again. He no longer felt winded, and was stable enough to continue with his day.
He cast his eyes upon his living quarters, casually turning his gaze from one end, to the other. As an Alpha citizen, Citizen Alpha J-45 had what we might consider to be a high end apartment. His apartment was the kind assigned to all unmated adult Alphas, after they completed their education at twenty years of age. Unlike unmated Betas, who were roomed three to an apartment, and drones, who didn’t even live in apartments but instead, in dormitories, as an Alpha, Citizen Alpha J-45 had an entire apartment all to himself. Although there were no walls to separate any of the rooms, except for elimination room and shower stall, making his living quarters a kind of one great room, his apartment was wide and spacious. If he walked from edge to edge, which he did from time to time, it would take him forty steps to do so. As a stature of what we might say as being slightly under six feet or two meters tall, this should give you an idea of the length of each step he took. The walls on three sides were made of sheer glass. So on three sides, no matter where he looked the city of Vintack was there, looking back at him. The fourth side of his living quarters was a sheer white wall, which had a door that led to a small hallway which served as an anteroom where Alphas like Citizen Alpha J-45 could discern between visitors, surveying them through the looking glass at their doorways before allowing them inside. This hallway outside the Alphas’ living quarters contained an elevator shaft, which allowed all Alphas and their visitors to access their apartments. On the exterior three sides of his apartment that sported the glass walls, there was a patio which circled the edge of his living quarters. Citizen Alpha J-45 spent a great deal of time there, sometimes walking the length of that area as well. The floor of the patio itself was constructed of fonta, a white rock-like substance developed in the technology region Juno, while the ledge which lined the apartment were glass, just like the walls which lined his apartment. At the far ends of this three-walled patio were white walls that were of the same substance as the patio walls. On the other side of those walls was an identical apartment to Citizen Alpha J-45’s. Currently, a citizen named Citizen Alpha O–62 who bought computer chips from Juno lived there. Citizen Alpha J-45 had met her only once, as she had just finished her education and only recently had been assigned to that apartment. So in a sense, his apartment was a kind of duplex stacked on top of thirty other floors of duplexes below him.
Today would be the last day for Citizen Alpha J-45 to be in this apartment. The Great Eye would choose a mate for him, and the preparations for his mating life would begin and he would be reassigned to an apartment with his new mate. Citizen Alpha J-45 did not even question that no suitable mate would be found for him. There was no reason for him to. The Great Eye had prepared and balanced everything, in all manners and detail. As an Alpha, it was designated from the beginning that a mate would be his. So, he saw this day as the last day in this place, as he stood outside on the patio for the few free seconds in this busy day before he proceeded onwards. Did he feel nostalgic? Sad? No, not really.
But today, the air he breathed as Light rose with Plexus seemed especially fresh to him. He didn’t know exactly what that meant, but he knew it was a strange sensation which tickled first his nostrils before causing a tingle in his lungs and made him feel even more blissful than he did when he’d contemplated the Great Eye. The purple, red and blue of the daytime sky seemed especially bright. The pale white of Light and Plexus seemed particularly vivid. Citizen Alpha J-45 didn’t know why the heavens seemed the way they did. He made sense of this confusion by deciding it was the Great Eye and the Elements were blessing him, as he moved from unmated to mated, seeing him in a different light. Citizen Alpha J-45 watched for a few more seconds, watching Light move through a small segment of the sky, before he turned his back on the scene and the patio forever.
Citizen Alpha J-45 went back indoors, just as the food dispensary beeped that his meal was ready. This was more than perfect timing, his simultaneous arrival with his morning meal. For on some level, his re-entry to his apartment was instinctual. This particular time, what we might describe as twenty minutes after waking, all Alphas automatically received morning meals from the food dispensary that the Great Eye provided with their apartments. This food service also happened at noontime, and the evening as well, unless the Alpha in question digitally requested otherwise, which is what Citizen Alpha J-45 would do any other day when he went to work or recreation.
Today, though, that gesture was unnecessary, as Citizen Alpha J-45 would never return to this place. The Great Eye would place another Alpha here, as Citizen Alpha would be moved to the Merging House were Alphas and Betas pledged by the Great Eye to another to be mated. For the next two months of their Plexus year, this would be where Citizen Alpha and his future mate would live, the Great Eye coaching him on the specifics expected of him as a Gangan mate and eventually parent. Of course, if today no suitable mate was found for him, he would not move to the Merging House. But although this possibility was something instructed to all juvenile Alphas and Betas in the education center, where they were groomed for Gangan responsibilities, Citizen Alpha didn’t feel any real anxiety or trepidation when he briefly contemplated this option.
Although he personally didn’t know this for sure, for there was no way he could, there was no Alpha or Beta who did fear this happening to him or her. There was no reason to. For all Alphas and Betas knew well that although it was a possibility that one of them might not be compatible with any mate, and also it was a possibility that any one of them might be found to be genetically unable to reproduce, this strange reality had absolutely never, ever happened in Gangan history, throughout the years and the eons. The Great Eye made sure all juveniles were taught this, and as a successful product of this indoctrination, Citizen Alpha J-45 had swallowed this lesson well. Thus, he knew this was the last meal that he would ever receive from his apartment, as this was his last day here. Citizen Alpha J-45 ate his meal of a protein substance similar to quinoa called teinbok, which was fortified with a copious amount of runcha, and drank the water that the Great Eye had given him as well. He thought of nothing in particular as he ate, but watched the replica of the Great Eye by his bedside as he did. It made him feel what we might call content. Even though this was a day of major change for him, this is all that he felt. When he finished his morning supplement, he placed the utensils back in the tray under the food dispensary. Like a trapdoor, the tray gave way, and the utensils were gone forever. Where they went, Citizen Alpha J-45 didn’t know. It had never truly occurred to him to ask, at any point of his life up until now. But for some reason, today he stared at the now empty tray for several extra seconds. The strange tingle that had visited him with bliss just minutes before returned, except this time it led to a strange pulsation in his temples. He didn’t know what it was that he felt, because he had never felt it before in his life. So when it dissipated seconds later, he treated the experience like it never existed, and continued with the rest of his morning chores before he left.
He stepped into the shower stall, and the device complied with his presence by raining water on him for a set time period we would call seven minutes. This water needed no soap, and was different from the water he had drunk with his morning meal. Citizen Alpha J-45 and the rest of the Gangans had no idea what soap even was. The Great Eye had revealed the secrets of the Elements on Juno regarding the life substance of water, and there were times when water was the essence of all life as when it was drank, times when it sterilized according to the needs of hygiene and sanitation, like the shower stall, and times when it supported creatures of the sea, like the area of half of Ganga lived in. The first, the water for life, was provided by the Elements through the heavens as it dropped to the land below for one hour every evening after Plexus set. The last, the water of life for creatures of the sea, was also provided by the elements. The middle level, the water for sanitation and hygiene, was found only on Juno. As the technology region, they held this responsibility in their hands. No Gangan could live without it. All Gangans learned this as children, as well as the vital services of the other sectors. It was so automatic now for Citizen Alpha J-45, he remembered these lessons on so unconscious a level now, he didn’t even know he remembered them.
Now, he would take those lessons to a new stage of his life. He dressed as Alphas all did, in blue, and headed towards the door to leave the residence he had lived in for ten years. When he reached the doorway, he looked back once. He didn’t know why, but he did. He looked out the glass walls that overlooked Vintack one more time. He looked at the sky with its red, blue and purple hues, Plexus and Light dancing in the sky together. For some reason, his face made a strange gesture that he didn’t understand. We would call it a smile. He wouldn’t, because he’d never seen one before. In fact, he had no idea that ‘smiling’ was what he was doing. To him, it was more like a strange reflex had fled from him while he was too distracted to notice its escape. He blinked several times at this abrupt experience, and with that removed the strange gesture from his face. Then he left the apartment, closing the door behind him. He felt nothing then. In a strange paradox, he seemed to recognize from somewhere outside himself that this lack of sensation was familiar, and the one that had provoked what we called a smile was not. More comfortable with the former though unaware he was, he sighed in what we would call relief, and made his way to the elevator shaft, down to ground level, and entered the city streets to begin his journey to the next level of his life.
There was a vehicle waiting for him once he reached ground level, a small blue box that hovered above the ground by several inches. The blue was not random at all, in fact, it signified that it was to transfer Alphas only, even though the drivers were always drones. The vehicle was manned by Citizen Alpha J-45’s personal driver, a drone named Canton. Canton had been Citizen Alpha J-45’s driver for the entire ten years that he had been an unmated price setter. From what Citizen Alpha J-45 knew of that kind of tenure, it was an unusually long one. Drones tended to switch employment rather frequently. But not Canton, at least not from Citizen Alpha J-45’s experience of him. Canton was an older citizen, about sixty years of age or so. He was always friendly with Citizen Alpha J-45, liked to chat about random things, which Citizen Alpha J-45 rarely did with other Alphas. Even though the conversations he had with Canton were unproductive, for some reason, they filled him with a strange warmth that was similar to the sensations he experienced this morning when he overlooked the city from his apartment patio for the last time.
Canton pressed a button as Citizen Alpha J-45 approached the vehicle, which allowed the passenger door to open, and Citizen Alpha J-45 entered the vehicle. The seat would be what we consider to be plush, with a soft fabric called chula, a material similar in texture to velvet. It was comfortable enough to feel cozy in, but not so much that one would sink to the floor. Canton’s seat, though right next to Citizen Alpha J-45’s, was comprised of a single slat of fonta, the same substance that constituted Citizen Alpha J-45’s now former apartment patio. We might call this contrast a disparity, but neither Citizen Alpha J-45 nor Canton had ever seemed to notice the implications of class conflicts in the seating arrangements. Why would they? The Great Eye had taught all Gangans they were equal, and that any difference was just to mark who did what. The idea to even question the setup never came up, to either the drone or the Alpha. Canton, in fact, would seem to us as being glad at seeing Citizen Alpha J-45. We might say, despite his face being seemingly neutral, Canton’s eyes were smiling when he saw Citizen Alpha J-45 enter the vehicle.
“Greetings, Citizen. May the Great Eye bless you with peace and safety.” Canton said, meeting Citizen Alpha J-45 with the customary greeting that all Gangans offered to one another. As a drone, Canton addressed Citizen Alpha J-45 as “citizen”. As an Alpha to a drone, Citizen Alpha J-45 would address him only by name, despite the fact that Canton was an elder twice his age.
“Greetings, Canton. May the Great Eye bless you with peace and safety as well.” Citizen Alpha J-45 recited this automatic greeting without much thought or feeling. As he situated his body in the passenger seat, he pressed his hand to the dashboard. The blue vehicle made a beeping noise. Although all blue vehicles were designated for Alpha transportation, this particular one was configured for him, and him only. The beeping noise the verified his identification. As it did, the passenger door closed automatically. A kind of pressure gently pushed him back further in the seat, keeping him there. This phenomenon was a kind of gravity which functioned as a seatbelt. As a driver, Canton didn’t have the same luxury, for his duties as a driver required him to have range of movement not afforded by the security pressure. But the gravity which pushed on Citizen Alpha J-45 kept him safely pushed into the seat, unless the vehicle had some indication of a crash and the passenger needed to be released. That was the only case that the protective shield would release itself if the vehicle was running at all, sensing the passenger it was supposed to transport and protect. Now that its attendant passenger was secure, Canton the driver could now push the buttons required to program the route to the medical center for Citizen Alpha J-45’s mating ritual examination, just like programming a GPS. When Canton was done, he pressed another button which provoked ignition. The vehicle started obediently, and was on its way.
“Lovely day, is it not, Citizen?” Canton asked Citizen Alpha J-45, as he did every morning. Canton appeared to be staring straight ahead as he gave this customary greeting. However, if one looked more closely at the driver, he or she could see that Canton’s eyes were not static lasers. They darted back and forth from time to time. They took in Citizen Alpha J-45 when they darted right. Yet strange as it may seem, Citizen Alpha J-45 didn’t notice the scrutiny. Canton, for that matter, didn’t even know that his quick assessment when he looked in Citizen Alpha J-45’s direction was scrutiny. There were no words for that kind of thing in their language. Yet this didn’t mean that it didn’t happen, even if no one knew that it did.
“It is, Canton, it is,” replied Citizen Alpha J-45. For it was quite a lovely day. Perhaps it would be best to give the description this way. The star Plexus was rising higher in the sky, while Light the moon trailed after it. Perhaps to us, we might say Light looked like an eager child chasing a parent while playing tag. In the meantime, the reds and the blues and the purples of the sky melded and danced with the pair, creating a merry chorus of light and color. The sky was like this, every day. Rain was only for the hour after Plexus set, and then the sky would clear once again in the haunting light of Shadow. It was all so lovely, all of the time. All Gangans knew this to be so, for the Great Eye had told them so. Just look at the heavens, look! How could a spectacle as this not be lovely? How could you not know how much graciousness the heavens had given you, seeing all this? Citizen Alpha J-45 knew, and he watched the heavens danced.
“So nice that the Great Eye has garnered the blessings of the Elements, don’t you think, Citizen?” Canton’s voice interrupted Citizen Alpha J-45’s thoughts. Perhaps it would appear as though he read Citizen Alpha J-45’s mind. Perhaps on some level he did. But perhaps it was something more, something particular to Canton himself. For although all Gangans would appear somewhat blissful to us, Canton seemed to exude something more, perhaps because his eyes tended to show what we would call emotional expression.
Gangans like Citizen Alpha J-45 did not. His voice was flat in sentiment compared to Canton’s as he replied, “Of course, Canton. All Gangans should be grateful for what the Great Eye has given us.”
At this juncture in their daily introductions, this was when Canton generally would diverge from his automatic greetings, and begin the strange conversations which Citizen Alpha J-45 never quite understood. Today, this last day that Canton would be with Citizen Alpha J-45 as a driver, was no different.
“I’m so looking forward to this day, especially when I go home. My youngest daughter Kalina is going to celebrate her birthday with her friends. She is growing up so fast, I feel.” His eyes smiled brightly, even without having a smile on his face. Citizen Alpha J-45 did notice it. He felt a strange sensation that he couldn’t describe inside himself as he did. Like an enhanced state that he got when he contemplated the Great Eye. His facial expression didn’t change, but the sensation did remain.
“How old is Kalina again?” inquired Citizen Alpha J-45. The life of drones was so different than the life that he lived, it was hard for him to remember the details of their culture.
“Fifteen.” Canton’s eyes widened as he answered. “She is such a joy to me.”
Citizen Alpha J-45 didn’t reply. He wondered what it would be like to have a fifteen year old child living with him. For when he was fifteen, he had been living at the education center for twelve years. This made him wonder what it would have been like to have lived with his own parents himself. It was strange that his mind wandered like this, thinking of things that never happened, and never would. Since Canton’s life was not his to live, for Citizen Alpha J-45 to imagine this kind of life was sheer folly. And yet, he did.
Canton turned to him, as though sensing his thoughts and asked, “You are going to your medical ritual examination today, citizen?” There was a kind of question in his tone, although both he and Citizen Alpha J-45 both knew what the day was. This was the kind of random speaking was what Canton did all of the time. Why state the obvious? Yet he did all of the time, and yet Citizen Alpha J-45 never truly minded it. He didn’t know if he should. It was just different to him, even if he had heard it from Canton for ten years now.
“Yes, Canton, I am,” Citizen Alpha J-45 stated simply.
Staring straight ahead, eyes still smiling, Canton nodded and said, “You will have a wonderful life, having a family of your own. A mate you can call yours, for life. The Great Eye is so good to us, allowing all of us this privilege.”
Citizen Alpha J-45 pursed his lips tightly, not exactly understanding the implication of the physical reaction. “Yes,” he nodded back as he responded to Canton, like something inside of him clicked, reminding him of who he was as a Gangan Alpha. “Yes, Canton. The Great Eye is so good to allow these privileges for us.”
They drove in silence for a short time more, passing all the grey buildings that Contuan’s capital Vintack proudly displayed. Replicas of the Great Eye watched from every corner, as blue and red vehicles flew from street to street. Along the walkways near the buildings, dozens of purple drones and several red Betas and blue Alphas walked in the usual contended fashion towards whatever destination the Great Eye had chosen for them. At least, that was what was true for the Alphas and the Betas. The Great Eye had chosen their path, like his, from their day of their birth.
Yet as Citizen Alpha J-45 watched the purple drones, he felt a strange prickling sensation. How did the Great Eye choose their destination? Sitting next to Canton for the last time in his life while watching the drones mingle on the streets, he found the question becoming louder and louder in his mind. As the blue vehicle that carried him paused by an intersection to allow the traffic in the opposite direction to pass, a replica of the Great Eye stared into Citizen Alpha J-45’s eyes. He stared back. Instead of being grateful, he asked the Great Eye this. Why do you treat people so differently? And for a split second, the Great Eye tinged with red. Citizen Alpha J-45 felt a strange sense of alarm, and blinked. The traffic yielded enough for his vehicle to continue, and the Great Eye became yellow once again. Citizen Alpha J-45’s body shook as the vehicle moved, and Canton glance over to him in that manner where he watched the road, yet still watched all things.
“Are you all right, Citizen?” Canton asked, a tinge of what we would call worry in his voice.
“Yes, Canton, I am.” Citizen Alpha J-45 recovered enough to answer the question confidently. “Perhaps I did not get the required sleep last night.”
Canton nodded. “It is a big day for you. The beginning of your mating ritual, this examination that you will experience.”
Citizen Alpha J-45 breathed, inhaling and exhaling for several seconds, enabling himself to eliminate the physical shaking of his body. Yet he couldn’t quite return to the bland placidity that he normally exuded. Questions were plaguing him, and something inside of him felt the drone next to him was the only one who could answer them. Citizen Alpha J-45 wasn’t sure why he felt this way. All Alphas and Betas had been assured in the education center that the Great Eye had all answers. And yet, here Citizen Alpha J-45 was, on the day of his mating ritual examination, about to consult a drone, because he found he hadn’t had enough questions answered. A drone whom the Great Eye left to his own devices.
Yet didn’t the Great Eye have plans for all, from birth? How could that be so, if the drones lived so differently? So randomly? All Gangans were equally important. So if this was true, why did Citizen Alpha J-45 know so little about one third of the population? Even when he sat next to one, day after day, for ten years? He looked at Canton, watching his eyes, and thought of how he somehow felt a strange affinity for Canton that he couldn’t quite describe. If Citizen Alpha J-45 dared to think about it at all, whatever bond he felt for Canton felt stronger than what he felt when the Great Eye stared at him. A weird rush of blood flooded his head, and his heart thumped. No one at the education center ever said that feeling stronger affection for a person than the Great Eye was wrong. But no one ever said that doing so was right, either.
So given all this confusion, Citizen Alpha J-45 felt his chest thumping as he asked the next question, not exactly understanding the full implication of this sensation, but understanding enough that the sensation was indicating something important. “Canton, how did you meet your mate? The Great Eye doesn’t choose your mate, correct? So how did you engage in your mating ritual? Did you not have a ritual, Canton?”
Canton blinked in what we might call surprise. For the question was unexpected. There was nothing illegal about Alphas and drones co-mingling, after all, the drones were in trusted places of employment in confined places with them, just like Canton was with Citizen Alpha J-45. However, no one truly encouraged it, to the point where most of the classes would not inquire into each other’s lives. At the education centers for Alphas and Betas, they had no instruction as to how the drones lived. There was no reason to, as they lived such different lives from Alphas and Betas and thus, any instruction about their lives was considered irrelevant, to the point that no Alpha or Beta noticed this lack. What they did learn was that the Great Eye had plans for all of them, and there was a reason that one was born an Alpha, Beta or drone. The heavens and the worlds were so complicated, who was to question this order of things? The Great Eye who watched everything was the only one who knew enough to sort out any of it at all. This missive usually sufficed to stifle all curiosity.
For instance, this question that Citizen Alpha J-45 posed to Canton was the first of its kind he’d addressed to the drone. Although he’d been polite to Canton when the latter spoke generalities of his personal life, Citizen Alpha J-45 had never seemed inquisitive at all of his own initiative. Since all Gangans knew that the Great Eye codified all things and generously imparted its knowledge to all of them, Citizen Alpha J-45 had not broken any laws by asking this strange question. Canton, who had always liked Citizen Alpha J-45, was only surprised that he had. And because he liked him, Canton answered the question, about who he was, and what his life was. Because Canton liked him, Citizen Alpha J-45’s question didn’t seem strange, even though in reality it was. Neither did the act of answering it seem strange to him, especially when it came to answering questions about his wife, Dyandra. Any mention of her brought a smile to his eyes, like now.
This is what Canton replied to Citizen Alpha J-45, to explain how he met his beloved mate. “Our families were friends. Dyandra and I grew up together. We were friends as long as I can remember.”
“So your family had a mating ritual for you, when you were thirty, instead of the Great Eye doing so, because you were friends as children?” Citizen Alpha J-45 couldn’t help all his questioning, but he was fascinated by all the things he apparently did not know. He thought of all the machinations involved with mating rituals he had learned of as he digested Canton’s story, imagining many people involved in the arrangement. It cluttered his brain to conceive of it, because he had no context to define Canton’s experience. In the corner of his eye, Citizen Alpha J-45 noticed a Great Eye replica as the vehicle cruised passed a corner street. He blinked, but the Great Eye did not. It felt to him what we might call unnerving.
Because of this, he jumped when Canton responded to his question, if ever so slightly. “Well, not exactly the same as you. We were younger than thirty, for one. And Dyandra and I were not originally planning to mate with each other. We both considered other people to be our mates, before we decided on mating with each other.”
Citizen Alpha J-45’s eyes knitted close together. We would call it surprise. He had never heard of this, having multiple potential mates. There was only one potential mate for each person on Ganga. This had been made abundantly clear in the education center to him, and he had always believed this. But, perhaps there was a reasonable explanation for this anomaly. “Did your first potential mates die prematurely?” he inquired.
Canton’s eyes beamed again before returning to its more restive state, pausing a second before saying, “No. They did not die. They are very much alive, both of them. Dyandra and I are friendly with them, and both of them have found other mates.”
Citizen Alpha J-45 found this information hard to digest. He had never heard of this, breaking from one potential mate, to mate with another. Even more strangely, was the idea continuing a relationship with that person while moving on to another mate. The only reason Citizen Alpha J-45 could imagine for discontinuing a relationship with a live mate was that the Great Eye had saw fit to requisition them, due to illness. And yet, here was Canton saying that both his and his mate’s former potential mates were very much alive and thriving. It made no sense to him at all.
“Why was Dyandra chosen as your mate, over the other selection?” asked Citizen Alpha J-45.
Canton’s eyes, which usually smiled widely and easily, narrowed a bit. We might say, his eyes darkened, but Citizen Alpha J-45 had no language to describe this expression as such. But the change in Canton’s expression was enough for even Citizen Alpha J-45 to react, turning quickly towards him in what we might call anticipation.
“The mates of drones are not chosen in the same manner as Alphas and Betas,” Canton stated.
“They are not?” Citizen Alpha J-45 quickly replied.
“No, they are not.” said Canton.
Citizen Alpha J-45 thought of the examination he was about to undergo. It was how he was taught all Gangans were mated, as all were equal and the Great Eye expressed the will of the Elements equally. Yet if this was so, why was it that Citizen Alpha J-45 had never seen a drone at the education center? Why was it that Alphas and Betas had specific jobs chosen for them at birth, and the drones did not? And now this new information that Citizen Alpha J-45 had discovered, that drones did not even undergo the same medical examinations for the Great Eye to choose their mates. That they chose their own? This novel information caused Citizen Alpha J-45’s mind, which was usually clear and bright, to feel cluttered. He thought he understood the will of the Great Eye. The more that he talked to Canton, he realized he did not. They passed a replica of the Great Eye once more, and Citizen Alpha J-45 noticed that it was slightly red. But Citizen Alpha J-45 ignored it. He had many questions for Canton, and time was running out, for soon they would be at the medical center, and Citizen Alpha J-45 would never see Canton again.
“Why did you choose the mate you did Dyandra, over the other one?” asked Citizen Alpha J-45.
Canton’s eyes smiled once more, as though the darkness he had expressed before never existed. “Because Dyandra and I both realized that we did not want to live a life that didn’t include the other as bonded mates. Neither she or I felt that way about our previous potentials. Luckily, our other previous potentials felt the same way about both of us. Which is why we still choose to socialize, all of us, today, even though Dyandra and I mated thirty-seven years ago. We all like each other, very much.”
“But you chose your own mate, yourself? Were you and Dyandra unusual drones?” Citizen Alpha J-45 questioned.
Canton shook his head. “No, we were not. All drones choose their own mates from amongst the drones. Just as we choose our own employment from the selection that the Great Eye has offered us.”
Citizen Alpha J-45 absorbed Canton’s words, as they passed by the restaurants, stores, and other buildings. Red Betas were opening up their stores, as red and blue vehicles stopped and deposited red Betas and blue Alphas at their requisite destinations. Most Betas were deposited at smaller buildings, at the smaller stores, the smaller offices. Only Beta doctors like the one that Citizen Alpha J-45 would see today generally would be at the larger buildings, which was where the governmental buildings were. Citizen Alpha J-45 would see the doctor he had been seeing since he graduated from the education center. Her name was Citizen Beta Tancka. Up until this moment, he had never thought about why Citizen Beta Tancka was chosen to service Alphas like him. Betas named Tancka were supposed to be the doctors who serviced mating ritual examinations. Yet Alphas were the only ones who were supposed to be in governmental buildings. It was suddenly confusing to him. Since as an Alpha, he was only supposed to be mated to an Alpha, should only an Alpha service him?, he wondered. How would a Beta know who was best for him, an Alpha, if only an Alpha was to be mated to him?
For that matter, his musings continued, why was it that drones such as Canton and his mate Dyandra were allowed to select themselves from amongst the population to mate with one another? Why, if his education as an Alpha was so complete, had he sat next to a fellow citizen for ten years, and yet not known that Canton’s way of life as a drone was so radically different from his as an Alpha? Citizen Alpha J-45 had learned that drones were biologically disposed to be less committed, needing the change of employment in order for them to be fulfilled as citizens. Could that mean that the Great Eye could not determine who their perfect mate was? But how could that be, if the Great Eye knew all? And if drones were so uncommitted and flighty as people, how was it that Canton had chosen to remain his driver for ten years? If Canton was such an uncommitted citizen as drones supposedly were, how was it that he and Dyandra had been mated for thirty-seven years, in addition to feeling committed in some fashion to his mate long before their mating ritual to each other? For that matter, how could the drone’s mating ritual be anything like the one he was going to undergo now, seeing that Canton knew who his mate was before the day he was mated? Did this mean that Canton had known better than the Great Eye what was right for him, if he had successfully chosen his own mate for himself?
It was confusing, because all the things that Citizen Alpha J-45 thought he knew, he apparently did not. His line of thinking swam into further unknown depths, compelling him into daring questions he never would have fathomed only an hour ago. He pondered this: what would it would have been like for him, Citizen Alpha J-45, to have chosen his own mate? Was it even possible to do so? He thought of all the female Alphas he had met, and realized he never thought of them as anything other than fellow citizens. Was there something biologically different between him and Canton that prevented the bonding he had felt for Dyandra?
Yet the more that he thought of the female Alphas he had met, a strange feeling came over him when his memory highlighted several of them. Three of them, in fact. Two in the education center, when he was seventeen and nineteen. One, when he had just begun work as a twenty year old price setter. The female citizens were called Citizen Alpha K-89, Citizen Alpha H-12, and Citizen Alpha Z-58. The Great Eye had taught all of them, Alphas and Betas, that every Gangan was beautiful. Yet when Citizen Alpha J-45 thought of these particular three female Alphas, he remembered they were especially beautiful. Citizen Alpha J-45 had been particularly drawn to their fit statures and their eyes, even though all citizens had good statures and eyes because this was the will of the Elements. Citizen Alpha J-45 had never understood why he had been drawn to these particular females in that fashion and had dismissed it as a passing phase, but talking to Canton he began to wonder. Would this have been the method by which he would have chosen a mate on his own, to be drawn to one female or the other by his own mind and body? It was strange to think of, considering that the likelihood of his being mated with one of them according to the Great Eye was low. And even if he was mated with one of those females were chosen as his mate, why had he been drawn to the other two at all, if the Great Eye had chosen his perfect mate at birth?
“What is on your mind, Citizen?” Canton’s voice cut into his thoughts. It had a light musical tone to it, and he spoke softly and slowly. We might say, there was concern in his voice. “Are you contemplating your life as a mate?”
Citizen Alpha J-45 found himself too blocked inside of himself to answer. For although he didn’t have the skills to fully discern this fact, Gangans were all conditioned to speak nothing but the whole truth. Though there was no word for deception, because in theory it didn’t exist, anything but the entire truth was exactly that. There was no reason not to be anything but fully transparent, because all Gangans were equally blessed by the Great Eye and so fully part of the fabric of the will of the Elements. So for Citizen Alpha J-45 to answer Canton’s question in the fashion that Gangans like him normally did, he would have had to say, no he was not. Yet, a “no” was not completely honest. Citizen Alpha J-45 had been wondering about his life as a mate. Just not the way he would have, if he had not known about the difference between Alphas and drones. That was what he was thinking of, if he were to speak the whole truth. And something about revealing that seemed wrong. It was as though he was criticizing the way of the Elements and the way of the Great Eye. But he had to say something, for Canton had asked a question, and all questions required answers. Citizen Alpha J-45 felt a strange pounding in his head, before finally answering in a way that seemed foreign to him.
“There seems to be such a difference between the ways of the drones and the ways of Alphas and Betas.” Citizen Alpha J-45 finally said.
Canton seemed to pause himself before answering. Citizen Alpha J-45 caught the scene of grey buildings and drones walking the streets. “Yes, there most definitely is,” Canton finally replied.
“How is it that you know of our ways, and we not of yours?” The question dropped out of Citizen Alpha J-45’s mouth before he even knew he had asked it. A replica of the Great Eye cast a hazy orange as they drove by, and the throbbing in Citizen Alpha J-45’s head became stronger. Yet Canton answered, anyway.
“We learn by watching you, and working for you. You do not have to know our ways. They are not relevant to the work that the Great Eye has created for you. You work for the Great Eye. We work for you. So you learn the will of the Great Eye. We learn the ways of you. That is the way it has always been for all Gangans, for all the years and the eons.” Canton seemed to speak slightly louder, slightly faster. Citizen Alpha J-45 noticed the change in tone. What did that mean that Canton had done this, he wondered, and what did the intense sensation in his head mean, for that matter? Everything seemed so strange in a way that Citizen Alpha J-45 had not expected, at all, just by speaking to Canton in the fashion he had this morning. Was it because Citizen Alpha J-45 would never speak to him again, after today? But why would that matter, seeing that Canton was merely a drone in Citizen Alpha J-45’s employment, nothing more?
In all that time of this strange speculation, Citizen Alpha J-45’s mind lost track of its physical surroundings. So much so, that when the blue vehicle that Canton drove stopped in front of the tall grey building that was the medical center and the gravity harness securing Citizen Alpha J-45 depressurized, he jumped in his seat, with what we might say was a kind of startle. Strangely enough to him, for a moment or two he actually forgot why he was at the building, so lost in thoughts and questions he was. But he blinked, and remembered. Canton’s lips, at the edges, raised slightly as he watched Citizen Alpha J-45. We would not quite call this expression on Canton’s face a smile. But, on Gangan, it was perhaps the closest thing to it.
“We have arrived to your medical appointment, Citizen.” Canton’s voice was even softer than it normally was.
Citizen Alpha J-45 turned his face away from the grey building, towards his drone driver and said, “Yes. Yes, we have.”
Canton breathed deeply, in what we call a sigh. So did Citizen Alpha J-45. All this bizarre heaviness hung in the atmosphere, so foreign the experience was to him, that Citizen Alpha J-45 did not have the language to describe it. He wondered how strange it was. He then asked, “Did you feel unusual at all, different than you did before you chose Dyandra, just before your mating ritual?”
Canton’s face remained in that hazy slight semi-smile. “Yes, Citizen. Yes, I did. I am not sure why. But yes, I did.”
Citizen Alpha J-45 sat in that strange heaviness for a moment more, before asking, “You have driven other Alphas and Betas to their mating rituals, before you drove me, correct?”
The semi-smile disappeared from Canton’s face before he nodded. “Yes, Citizen. I accompanied six citizens to their mating rituals before I began to drive you.”
Citizen Alpha J-45 breathed out once, slowly and deeply before asking, “Did the other citizens exhibit the same expressions as I do, right now? Did they ask you any questions about you, or your life, like I did?”
Canton’s jaw jutted out slightly, as though he was clenching his teeth, for just a moment as he replied, “No, Citizen, to either one of your questions. No. All six citizens seemed exactly the same on their day for medical testing, as they did any other day that I drove them. But you seem different from them on this day. You seem different than what you usually are like, all the other days I have known you. It appears you are thinking more than you usually do. Regarding your second inquiry, none of the other Alphas or Betas ever asked me any questions about me, and my life. Not that day of their testing, or ever.”
Citizen Alpha J-45 sat for a second more, without speaking. Now that the questions had been answered, he didn’t know if that had resolved anything at all. The fact that he even had to ask questions to begin with, when everything had supposedly been so obvious yet was not, made his circumstances seem even more blurry and uncharted than before.
Canton seemed to sense his confusion as he said, “Citizen, you should not think of the differences between you and me anymore. They are irrelevant to you and your life. You should not worry about your fate. You will make a good mate. You will make a good breeder. All Alphas do. The Elements have willed it so, for all have their purposes and the Elements have willed you to be entrusted with the duties of an Alpha. All will be well, Citizen.” Canton patted Citizen Alpha J-45’s hand. The gesture was an odd one. There was nothing untoward or illegal about Canton’s gesture. It was just peculiar. Both Gangans realized this, it seemed. Both Canton and Citizen Alpha J-45 looked for a moment at Canton’s hand on Citizen Alpha J-45’s. Canton’s eyes narrowed slightly. Citizen Alpha J-45 felt the strange warmth that had overcome him earlier today on his former apartment’s patio, followed by a pressure under his eyes. None of his reactions had been foretold in the education center. He wondered why.
The blue vehicle that both sat in beeped, alerting them that they had stopped without informing it that its designated passenger was intending to loiter. As Citizen Alpha J-45 was supposed to be leaving immediately upon arrival, Canton had done nothing to tell the vehicle that he was staying at all. Sighing, Canton pressed a button that was much like a snooze button on an alarm clock. In about two of our minutes, it would beep again as before. For Citizen Alpha J-45 would be leaving, and when he did, it would be Canton’s job to reconfigure the vehicle so it would no longer transport him ever again.
Citizen Alpha J-45 knew his time with Canton was limited, and for some reason, that mattered to him. For some reason, he knew that whatever he said to Canton was important. Why, he did not really know. This is what he said, and for some reason it did not feel like the right choice to him, because his words did nothing to stop the pressure under his eyes. “Canton, thank you for your services over the many years. You have been very loyal, and I have enjoyed my time with you. May the Elements always bless you, and may the Great Eye always show you the way forward.” Somehow, he felt he should say more. What, he didn’t know. Yet he felt that way, nonetheless.
Canton’s lips knitted together, his eyes squinting as he blinked quickly several times. “Likewise, Citizen. It has been my honor to serve you. May your life be eternally blessed by the Great Eye.” With that, Canton pressed a button, and the passenger door raised up to allow Citizen Alpha J-45 to depart the vehicle. Which he did, quickly and immediately.
But as Citizen Alpha J-45 stepped onto the pavement away from the blue box that had carried him for so long, he felt compelled to turn around once more, to look at Canton. The pressure under his eyes continued, and he breathed more quickly than he ever had in his life. All these sensations were unfamiliar to him, and he questioned them, puzzled at their very existence.
His only explanation at the feelings he had was that he would never see Canton again, and for some unknown reason, that seemed unsettling to him. Citizen Alpha J-45 couldn’t understand why he felt uncomfortable about this, because after all, the Great Eye had great plans for him today. Canton was merely a drone who had served his purpose for the allotted time. But that outlay of facts did nothing to dispel the disquiet within Citizen Alpha J-45, even as Canton dropped down the passenger door, drove away, and disappeared. Citizen Alpha J-45 felt a deep feeling he didn’t have the words to describe. We would say, he felt empty. The whole situation made him feel disoriented.
As he walked towards the tall grey building which housed the medical testing facility, he felt his actions were not in accordance to what he sensed internally. This felt foreign to him. Until now, whatever he had done physically had felt in harmony with what was inside of him, to the point where he didn’t even recognize what was going on inside of him. Even the strange need to pace the balcony of his apartment felt somehow right to him. But, that was not true now, and he had no explanation for any of this. The Great Eye had said there was a purpose to all that one lived through, willed specifically by the Elements and directed by the Great Eye. What, he wondered, was the purpose of this?
The doors of the medical center opened, specifically for him. The voice of the medical center said, “Welcome, Citizen Alpha J-45. Today is the day you shall be medically assessed for your future mate. Please wait by the front lobby for the medical assistant Citizen Beta Fricktan to accompany you to the testing alcove.” The whole directive was meant specifically for him. Yet he felt so removed from the scenario at hand, it seemed like the computer was speaking to someone else. Citizen Alpha J-45 even looked around the T-shaped orange lobby and with its orange chairs and orange desk, as well as the adjacent hallways to see if there was another citizen that the voice could possibly speak to. But no, there was not. Citizen Alpha J-45 was alone, in the lobby. The voice was speaking to him. But if this were true, why did he feel that everything was happening to someone else?
“Welcome, Citizen Alpha J-45!” A booming voice cut into Citizen Alpha J-45’s thoughts. A tall red Beta of a little more than six feet tall appeared out of nowhere from the depths of one of the hallways approached Citizen Alpha J-45. The wrinkles on his face and the near lack of hair on his head revealed his age to be about fifty-five, and he wore the same placid face that all other Gangans wore. Would you expect a different kind of description regarding one with a booming baritone of a voice? Yet it was not so strange on Ganga. After all, everyone had no reason to be other than content in expression and mind, knowing the Great Eye knew all.
The tall Beta continued with his greeting. “May the Great Eye bless you for all your days, Citizen! I am Citizen Beta Fricktan, your medical assistant. I will be participating in the testing for your mating ritual. I can assure you that I am well-practiced in my profession, as I have been an assistant for twenty-six years now. There has been no failures to find a suitable mate for my patients under my watch. I can assure you the Great Eye will find you the best mate possible with the work of myself and my supervisor. I am very honored and pleased to meet you today, Citizen.” Citizen Beta Fricktan bowed his head slightly to end his speech. As a good Gangan, Citizen Alpha J-45 was to bow back, feeling a sense of honor. But he did not feel this, even as he managed a small reciprocal bow. Something about Citizen Beta Fricktan’s words seemed wrong, off. Why it should seem that way to Citizen Alpha J-45, he really didn’t know. But it did. He did know, however, that this was not the place for him to explore this feeling, at least out loud. He did know what was expected of him to say, and that he did, feeling as rehearsed and false as he perceived Citizen Beta Fricktan’s words to be.
“As it is to meet you, Citizen. I am most honored that the Great Eye has chosen you to cross my path on this most important day,” replied Citizen Alpha J-45. Both men gave a slight uptick of the corners of their mouths, the closest similarity to a smile that would ever take place on Ganga. With the perfunctory greetings over with, Citizen Beta Fricktan made a sweeping gesture of his hand, indicating the direction of the hallway which he had made his entrance from.
“Shall we make our way to your appointment, Citizen?” Citizen Beta Fricktan’s voice resonated throughout the lobby.
“Certainly, Citizen. I am most ready for what the Great Eye has planned for me,” replied Citizen Alpha J-45.
Citizen Beta Fricktan nodded slightly again. “As the Great Eye wishes for both of us, Citizen.” He whirled towards the hallway and began walking. Citizen Alpha J-45 followed several steps behind him. He didn’t know why, as he didn’t seem to understand much of what was going on within himself, but as Citizen Alpha J-45 walked further and further into the hallway, something felt heavier and heavier deep inside himself. He swallowed, watching the man in front of him. This slight distraction worked temporarily, until he saw the replica of the Great Eye over the elevator that he and Citizen Beta Fricktan were to take. The replicas had always filled Citizen Alpha J-45 with peace. Not today. He only was reminded of the heaviness within him, once again. The replica stared back at him, tinged with a slight shade of red. Citizen Alpha J-45 blinked as he watched it, feeling a strange rush when the elevator door opened to let him and Citizen Beta Fricktan into its shaft. We would call the emotion he felt, relief.
Citizen Alpha J-45 stepped into the elevator after Citizen Beta Fricktan, and the doors shut behind them. The feeling called relief dissipated, and suddenly Citizen Alpha J-45 felt as though he was back in his pressurized seat with Canton, but without the feeling of warmth he felt in the driver’s company. We would call this feeling, claustrophobia. All these things that Citizen Alpha J-45 was experiencing he had no language for. There was no words for him to describe anything meant, to him or anyone else.
Despite his foreign misgivings, all was passed on the outside as though nothing was wrong, except for the slight tinge to the Great Eye replicas that Citizen Alpha J-45 had witnessed. And even that phenomenon was so subtle that perhaps he wondered if he had imagined it, and perhaps it had not happened at all. After all, no one had requisitioned him, and was that not what happened when the Great Eye changed colors? Additionally, Citizen Beta Fricktan seemed to not notice anything out of place. Perhaps, then, Citizen Alpha J-45 reasoned, he had not only imagined the discoloration of the Great Eye, but also imagined all these strange emotions within him. After all, how could these sensations possibly exist in reality, if there were no words to describe them?
His contemplations were interrupted by reality, which was represented by a low bell-like tone emanating from the elevator shaft. Afterwards, a digitized voice announced, “Welcome, Citizen Alpha J-45. We have been waiting for you today.” Citizen Alpha J-45 took in his surroundings, gazing at the white walls of the elevator, the silver panel where Citizen Beta Fricktan had punched in the authorization code for Citizen Alpha J-45’s destination, and the Great Eye replica housed above the elevator doors that seemed to have just the slightest red tinge to it. All of it seemed foreign to him. Citizen Alpha J-45 had been in many elevator shafts like this before, this he knew on some level. But for some reason, today it felt like this was the first time he was in an elevator ever in his life. He had no idea why he felt as he did. And he had no way of discovering the reason for this emotional state, so unused he was to looking at his experience outside of the present moment. He glanced at the replica of the Great Eye, and it provided no comfort, or answers with its strange red blush. Citizen Alpha J-45 blinked. The Great Eye did not. Citizen Alpha J-45 looked away.
If Citizen Alpha J-45’s strange state of mind was apparent and visible to outsiders, Citizen Beta Fricktan offered no reaction that it was. Citizen Beta Fricktan remained standing next to Citizen Alpha J-45, head bowed facing forward as the elevator rode upwards. He only turned to Citizen Alpha J-45 when the elevator beeped that they had reached their destination with the same placid expression he had worn from the second since he had met Citizen Alpha J-45. “We have arrived, Citizen.” Citizen Beta Fricktan’s unusually loud voice seemed disorientating to Citizen Alpha J-45, given the enclosed space, and especially given the imbalance he had never known existed as a state of mind before this day. He breathed out, as the doors opened, and Citizen Beta Fricktan walked out.
Citizen Alpha J-45 glanced at the replica of the Great Eye before he followed the medical assistant out of the elevator. It seemed to glow red, filling Citizen Alpha J-45 with a strange alarm that he could not describe, making all of his organs speed faster in a way he could not define. He blinked twice, and noted that the replica was back to its warm yellow cast. He breathed deeply, also two times. The Great Eye replica remained yellow, and Citizen Alpha J-45 exhaled deeply.
If he had the language to describe it, Citizen Alpha J-45 would have thought he had imagined the whole color transformation that he thought he witnessed previously. For right now, the Great Eye cast yellow, signifying its generous blessings upon citizens like himself. All was well, Citizen Alpha J-45 thought. The Great Eye willed it. With these thoughts, he stepped out of the elevator shaft, and into the white haze of the medical facility where the Great Eye would determine who his life mate would be. All was well.
The medical theater where the appointment would take place hummed with brisk yet unrushed activity. Red Beta medical personnel moved back and forth, carrying technological contraptions resembling our digital tablets, walking quickly in the aisle that separated the alcoves where other Alphas and Betas like Citizen Alpha J-45 were celebrating their thirtieth birthday by receiving their medical tests to allow the Great Eye to choose their prospective mates. All the alcoves were separated by a heavy white curtain of a material called hoost, which insulated the privacy of all the patients so that one walking by like Citizen Alpha J-45 could see absolutely nothing but the name of the citizen outside of each curtain.
Citizen Beta Fricktan walked ahead of Citizen Alpha J-45, leading him to an alcove that was designated especially for him, his name already imprinted on the exterior of the hoost curtains. When they arrived there, Citizen Beta Fricktan reached inside his tunic to grab one of the same kind of tablets his colleagues were carrying. He punched a code into it, and the curtains opened with the silent digital command, revealing a room with a white cot and a yellowish table with a Great Eye replica. The alcove was just large enough to accommodate observers to stand around the bed without touching either piece of furniture or the curtain.
On the side of the bed opposite to where Citizen Alpha J-45 and Citizen Beta Fricktan stood was a tall, perfectly erect Beta woman with hair whitened with age. This was Citizen Beta Tancka, the doctor who had monitored Citizen Alpha J-45 since he had embarked upon his professional career ten years earlier. This would be the last day he would see her, just like today was the last time he’d ever see Canton, his driver. He felt pressure under his eyes, just like he had when Canton and he parted ways. In the corner of his eye, he thought he saw the Great Eye tinge red. He blinked away the pressure, and the Great Eye appeared yellow once again.
As with Citizen Beta Fricktan, if Citizen Beta Tancka had noticed the color change of the Great Eye, she gave no reaction. Instead, she bowed slightly to Citizen Alpha J-45, her lips pressed together in a long line that we might perceive as a stern grimace. Of course, things were different here on Ganga, and the gesture conveyed nothing but the way things were with the doctor, each and every time Citizen Alpha J-45 attended his medical checkup. Citizen Beta Tancka returned to her ramrod posture, and produced a tablet of her own.
“Good day, Citizen Alpha J-45,” she said in a crisp tone that we might say befit her impression.
Citizen Alpha J-45 nodded his head slightly, a physical acknowledgment of her gesture and replied, “Good day to you, Citizen Beta Tancka. Has the Great Eye treated you well this past year?”
“Yes, Citizen. Quite well. Have the blessings of the Great Eye touched you as well?” Citizen Beta Tancka inquired.
Citizen Alpha J-45 thought of the visions he had today of the Great Eye bleeding red, but quickly shut his mind to the visions. Instead, he nodded his head in assent, quickly replying, “Yes, Citizen. Yes.”
“Good, citizen. That is as it should be.” The doctor made a grand gesture with her hand towards the cot between them. “Please make yourself comfortable as Citizen Beta Fricktan and I prepare for your medical test. You do not have to do anything differently than you have in your previous tests. When you are ready, please press the button on the side of the cot, as you always have. Citizen Beta Fricktan and I will explain the medical procedure when that takes place.” Both she and Citizen Beta Fricktan bowed their heads slightly in unison, and then both medical professionals departed as the curtains closed behind them, leaving Citizen Alpha J-45 to himself, and the replica of the Great Eye.
In all his other years attending his medical appointments, Citizen Alpha J-45 would have first regarded the replica of the Great Eye, acknowledging it with the admiration that he had been so accustomed to granting it over the years while receiving perfect bliss and peace. For there had been no reason not to. In a sense, there had been no other option to do so.
Today, however, Citizen Alpha J-45 was different. He proceeded to meditate on the blessings of the Great Eye, just as he always had in the past. But as he tried to will himself into the bliss that he always received, the more he felt the placidity that had been so unquestioning eluding him. What had changed?
The replica of the Great Eye stared back at him, answering nothing. Citizen Alpha J-45 felt nothing at all emanating from the object. Not peace, not condemnation. With no language to explain what he was experiencing, Citizen Alpha J-45 was even more at a loss to understand what he was enduring than perhaps we would be in a similar situation. Perhaps we might say, he felt empty. We may say, he felt as though the Great Eye had expelled him from the good graces of the Elements. But on Ganga, on the world of one language where the Great Eye willed all things, Citizen Alpha J-45 was able to say nothing at all.
It was in this state of mind that Citizen Alpha J-45 changed from his normal attire to the robe that was made of a material called linka, which allowed for the digital software of the medical personnel to probe his anatomy but was thick enough to not compromise his personal modesty. In fact, no one had seen Citizen Alpha J-45 unclothed, as the Great Eye had taken care of all the necessary needs that required nudity, including the disrobing needed for bathing when he was a small child. For nudity was considered the most private thing that was shared between a citizen, the Great Eye, and one’s mate for procreating. Perhaps we would find it strange but not even his mother had seen him this way, a woman whom he had trouble remembering.
Though for some illogical reason that he couldn’t explain, at the moment Citizen Alpha J-45 was preparing for his medical examination, he thought of her. Why, he had no idea. His mind stretched for some memory of her, and grasped onto an image of her carrying him in her arms. The posture in which she held him allowed him to look out the window. In that position, Citizen Alpha J-45 was able to see the entirety of the city. Though he didn’t really speculate about it enough to quantify it, mostly because he did not really have the ability to speculate, this was his first memory. This memory always ended with a strange noise. We would call it screaming. But Citizen Alpha J-45 had no language to call it anything, and the memory at that point always went blank. It did today as well. In this numb state, he pressed the button to summon the medical personnel to begin his examination. The air in the space of time between this action and their arrival seemed as vacant as his mind seemed to be.
Soon enough, the two medical officers arrived, their tall red statures encompassing much of the available space surrounding Citizen Alpha J-45’s cot. Both carried tablets in their right hands, but the medical assistant carried a black netted contraption in his left hand, called a neldak. This arched device was designed to fit on Citizen Alpha J-45’s head, and would be configured to an exact match once Citizen Beta Fricktan placed it there. The purpose of the gadget was specific to his examination for a mate, for it would measure all of the synaptic communication of his brain. As thirty was considered the apex of reaching complete neurological maturity, this was why a citizen like Citizen Alpha J-45 had never had this kind of in-depth assessment previously to today. Citizen Alpha J-45 knew that all of this would take place, because the education center had made it clear to him and all Alphas and Betas growing up, but now that it was taking place for real, it all felt out of place, just like the rest of the day had been so far.
Citizen Beta Tancka re-explained the procedure to him in her staccato voice. It seemed distant to him, like the nightly rain that pelted on the windows after just after sunset. Her lecture was like the rain, expected and easily dismissed. He felt himself fidgeting. The Great Eye replica, the hovering medical officers, the enclosed curtains all seemed to be closing in on him. If he had the language to describe it, he might say it felt like they were all conspiring against him, for nothing in the atmosphere he found himself in felt comforting to him. He had no idea why. He had been expecting this event, just like this for years. But he said nothing, because no one else seemed to notice anything out of place, either. Perhaps the Great Eye had refrained from instructing citizens like him about this discomfort, because then more citizens would refuse to go through with it? But why would that be, if the Great Eye only brought peace and bliss, and all things were exactly as they should be? Should he be feeling this out of place, experiencing emotions he never felt before in his life?
“Are you ready to proceed, Citizen?” Citizen Beta Tancka’s voice popped through his thoughts, like pebbles being thrown at a window startling one out of a dream. The silence in the seconds after her question ended seemed to slice into Citizen Alpha J-45 like a knife. He didn’t know why. He knew what he was supposed to say, just that it felt like it was the wrong thing to say. He didn’t know why he felt that way, either. It was strange how unprepared he felt, because he had always believed the Great Eye planned everything, far in advance. His strange state of mind didn’t seem to fit into that scheme, at all.
But, as he had thought before, he knew what he was supposed to say in this situation, even if what he felt inside didn’t seem to match what he was about to express. So he replied to the medical doctor’s question, the way he had been taught by the Great Eye, when all things were well and the bliss of the Great Eye had been his with just a glance. “Yes, Citizen. I am ready for the examination to proceed. I most look forward to the mate that the Great Eye will select, and I am honored that you are here on the most important of days.”
Citizen Beta Tancka nodded, the corners of her stern mouth upturning in just the slightest of motions. The gesture flooded Citizen Alpha J-45 with a strange emotion, one we would call relief. It was as though he had been looking for a particular reaction from the doctor. What, he didn’t really know. But although he didn’t know how to explain what had just taken place, this is what had happened. He was looking to Citizen Beta Tancka for approval, to see if he had been found out. He didn’t have the language for what he had just done. For Citizen Alpha J-45 had just uttered his very first lie, ever in his life, something so foreign to him that there was no word for it. None of his reply to the doctor had been a true reflection of his state of mind.
His mind felt even more in a fog than before as the two medical officers turned to their medical tablets, and each of them ran the instruments over his body. The tablets were intended to calibrate all his systemic functions, whether digestive, circulatory or otherwise. If something out of place occurred, the tablet would beep. The other medical officer would run his or her tablet over the same area, to see if their instruments would corroborate the findings. If they did, which the education center taught it always did, then that meant a physical defect had been found, and more medical testing would be required to determine the illness and whether it was environmental, which it never was, or genetic, which it always was. Citizen Alpha J-45 knew all this, for every year he had gone through the same procedure. Like speculators with metal detectors, the medical officers swiped over his body. A soft whine came from both tablets, indicating that both mechanisms were working properly. No beeps emanated from either one. It never had before, but for some reason this time, Citizen Alpha J-45 kept expecting one or both of them to issue some kind of alarm. But, they did not.
Once this basic procedure took place, yielding nothing out of place, the medical assistant Citizen Beta Fricktan fitted the black neldak on his head. It fit him snugly, yet not uncomfortably. It was as though it had been created to exist, just for him. Because, of course, it had.
“Are you comfortable, Citizen Alpha J-45?” Citizen Beta Tancka’s voice chopped through the air.
“Yes, Citizen.” Citizen Alpha J-45 answered not untruthfully.
“Good. Now, let me explain to you the specifics of this particular aspect of your procedure. As you know, this day we are seeking to find the most compatible mate for you. You probably remember the generalities regarding this procedure from your lessons in the education center. I am certain they instructed you that the purpose of this practice is to measure your brain waves in their full maturation, as you have achieved full adulthood this day, your thirtieth birthday.
“This is what will happen. We will calibrate your specific pattern of brain waves, measuring them with sound. You will hear a kind of musical pattern which reflects what we depict. There is a specific tone we are looking for, as you are an Alpha. It is high in pitch. As all things are interconnected, the music will reflect the genetic health of your anatomy. The specific genetic mapping that we obtain from this work will be matched against other potential Alpha females for your mating procedure. If by some outside change we discover a genetic anomaly, the music will change in tone. Happily, we are pleased to report that there never has been a genetic anomaly in the history of our medical work. The Great Eye has gifted us with this particular skill as a precautionary measure. It enables us to feel assured that the mating rituals we create are done with the absolute perfect vision for the future of Ganga. Do you understand the mechanics, Citizen?”
From beneath the neldak’s sensation on his head, Citizen Alpha J-45’s mind felt strange. The closest metaphor we might use to understand to his experience was that his mind was swimming. If we were in his particular position feeling as he did, we might say we were terrified. But this was not what Citizen Alpha J-45 thought, for he didn’t have the language to describe all he was going through. Gangan language wouldn’t have had it, anyway. In the world where the Great Eye proscribed all things, what was the need for the terror? So in this truncated state of mind, there was only one thing that Citizen Alpha J-45 could do, as this is what the Great Eye would have dictated to do in this situation. He simply replied to the doctor, “Yes, Citizen. I do understand the procedure, perfectly.”
Citizen Beta Tancka nodded once, crisply. “Then let us proceed.” She pointed at Citizen Beta Fricktan, who replied to the gesture by regarding the Great Eye. It was a movement that all citizens would make before something as important such as this, but today Citizen Alpha J-45 found that he was noticing the motions of Citizen Beta Fricktan much the same way he observed data regarding the price fluctuations of tumul. In other words, what Citizen Alpha J-45 was doing was scrutinizing Citizen Beta Fricktan. Citizen Alpha J-45 didn’t know why he was acting in such an unaccustomed manner. After all, there really was nothing for him to scrutinize, as everything was exactly as it should be. The Great Eye had preordained this day for him as a Gangan citizen, and Citizen Beta Fricktan’s actions were exactly as they should be given that he was about to perform such a vital task as a citizen’s mating assessment.
Given all this, Citizen Alpha J-45 didn’t even understand his own actions, even as he continued to watch Citizen Beta Fricktan’s eyes staring into the Great Eye replica. He noticed how the medical assistant’s eyes went round, became motionless. We might use the words, they appeared to be in a trance. Citizen Beta Fricktan was motionless as he contemplated the replica. Citizen Alpha J-45 breathed heavily as he observed the medical assistant. He could feel nothing in his person as this all took place. We might say, he felt numb. It was strange to him. The Great Eye had never made it clear to Citizen Alpha J-45 that he might feel this way during this appointment, so nothing about what he experienced felt appropriate or right.
Yet he said nothing to either medical officer about this experience, even though we might think this would be the time and the place to do so, here in a medical facility. For some reason that he could not explain, Citizen Alpha J-45 believed that speaking of this phenomena aloud to these medical officers about his experience would be even more inappropriate experiencing it isolated in his conscience.
He kept silent even as he felt like running, watching the statue of the medical assistant in contemplation. He listened to his own breathing. He listened to his heart beating. He turned his gaze from the medical assistant in his contemplation to the physician as she examined her tablet. Neither provided any comfort to him. Finally, mercifully to Citizen Alpha J-45, Citizen Beta Frictan broke his gaze with the Great Eye replica. The medical assistant turned his gaze to Citizen Alpha J-45, and immediately it seemed that life had been infused back into him. The medical officer’s eyes flared, and his mouth almost turned back into a grin.
“The Great Eye has bestowed the blessings of the Elements upon us!” he boomed. “May the Elements grace you and grant you the greatest joy in your new life, as you embark upon your journey. I am privileged and blessed to direct you there. So now, dear Citizen, I ask that you close your eyes and relax as I allow the Great Eye to decode your internal map so your mate can be chosen for you. Please let your mind flow, to think of whatever comes naturally to you. Your thoughts and meanderings will give us a real picture as to who you are, as they will emit the waves that will be your particular genetic code. In this way, we will know specifically who you are, and the Great Eye can better align you with the most compatible mate possible. May the Great Eye bless you, Citizen, and again I thank you for honoring me my allowing me to participate in this most important of rituals in your life.”
After completing this speech, Citizen Beta Frictan gave a slight nod to Citizen Alpha J-45, pressing a button on the neldak that Citizen Alpha J-45 wore, located along his temple. A high-pitched tone emanated from it, not so high and loud that it hurt Citizen Alpha J-45’s ears, but high and loud enough that Citizen Alpha J-45 could hear it from beneath the neldak.
With that, the test had begun. Citizen Alpha J-45 closed his eyes, and found that as more time went by, he seemed to notice the musical note less and less, as his mind danced from one undecipherable image to another. Soon, he didn’t notice the tone at all, for his mind slowed down to such a pace that he lingered in a state in between waking and sleeping. He could distinguish the medical officers’ voices, as they calibrated what the neldak on his head was recording. The longer this took place, their voices became progressively slower and deeper, and seemingly further away from him, like he was traveling away from their reality to some other destination.
In the strange twilight state he was in hearing them while experiencing the passing images, Citizen Alpha J-45 was unsure what was reality, and what was not. Curiously enough, in this quasi-waking state, this fact seemed not to matter at all. As everything slowed, the images in his head seemed to solidify, and Citizen Alpha J-45 found his curiosity and focus going to them instead of what was going on outside of him. The more he attuned to them, the more like reality they became, and he would have not known the difference between that world and the one he left if he tried.
What he encountered in this dream state was something similar to an out-of-body experience. In this twilight world, he watched himself as though he was observing someone other than himself. Perhaps you have had a dream like this, where you have encountered yourself as being a character in your dream’s drama, separate from yourself. But Citizen Alpha J-45 had never had dreams like that before. They had always been of shapes and of strange hues of colors. Occasionally, he would dream of the Great Eye, feeling it watch over him. But regardless of what he dreamed before, Citizen Alpha J-45 never felt separated from his own identity in any of them. Likewise, in all of his previous dreams, whether the Great Eye was directly present or not, he felt calm and at peace. Much the way he did when he contemplated the Great Eye in his everyday life.
But in this present dream, he didn’t feel the state of bliss he was accustomed to in this state of mind. In fact, he didn’t feel anything. As an observer to himself, he felt absolutely nothing, physically or emotionally. It was as though the clone he watched had siphoned all sensation from him. He watched the interloper on the internal screen that his mind provided, and even though what was projected was his own life and memories, they did not feel like a part of him at all.
The scene that was displayed in front of him was during his days in the education center, back when he was seventeen years of age. Even as an outsider to himself, Citizen Alpha J-45 was able to pinpoint the exact date of this mental film. There was a very specific reason as to why he knew this date. For this was the date when he saw the female Citizen Alpha K-89. It was also the date when something in him, he was unsure of what, knew she was beautiful. Not beautiful in the way that the Great Eye dictated all Gangans were beautiful, as had been instructed to him in his years in the education center. Beautiful in a way that he had no words to quantify, beautiful in a way that he was drawn to her particularly, even though all Gangans were to be respected in an equal and measured way. In that one moment back in the education, all those instructions were forgotten, for Citizen Alpha J-45 thought she was beautiful, especially so.
He had no idea why he had felt this way about this particular citizen. Not then, as the present day Citizen Alpha J-45 observed his younger self. Nor now, as he watched from the outside. Citizen Alpha K-89 was just like every other Alpha female that he had met over the years. She was several inches shorter than he, just the way all females were, Alpha or otherwise. Her stature was strong and fit. But this was so for all Alphas and Betas in the education center, due to the stringent nutrition and fitness regimen that was dictated to all students by the Great Eye.
But, for some inexplicable reason, when Citizen Alpha J-45 encountered Citizen Alpha K-89 for the first time, her physique was the first thing he fixated on. Instead of seeing her as a fellow Gangan, he found himself looking up and down her body, and a strange flush running through him. And her eyes. The irises were blue, just like his. Just like every other Alpha’s. The Elements had made no distinction between Alphas in eye color, just as they had not in skin color. Yet Citizen Alpha J-45 found himself staring into hers, before she darted her eyes away, as there was something different and special about them over the eyes of other Alphas. He could not recall how long he stared. Was it just one brief second, or many of them? He had no way of knowing. For whatever took place between them, time had forgotten to exist, even in the busy world that the Great Eye planned out so carefully for the both of them.
In that weightless moment that they shared, he noticed that the shape of her eyes were oval. He had never really noticed the shape of anyone else’s eyes, ever before in his life. But he noticed the shape of this citizen’s eyes, memorizing the edges of their curvature. She stared back at him, at least he thought she did, and said hello. In his memory, it was always this way. For some reason, it mattered to him if she did regard him in a special way, and spoke to him in such a soft voice. No one had looked at him this way, ever before. Neither had he regarded anyone in this fashion, either. The only other time he remembered being entranced in this way was when he contemplated the Great Eye. No other time, with no one else. Citizen Alpha K-89 was the first.
For a brief second, the present day Citizen Alpha J-45 observed the movements of the female his adolescent self was so fascinated by. As his memory served him, the way she regarded him was the way Gangans were intended to regard the Great Eye, with deep concentration and intense regard. His present self was filled with a strange flush, just as he recalled feeling back then. Then he blinked, just like he did back in his old memory, and she was gone. Almost like he had never seen her, and he had imagined her. He never saw any trace of her on any of the class rosters, never saw her in the halls of the education center, ever again.
For days on end, he had searched for her, silently and secretly. But he had never thought to ask anyone where she had gone. He never thought to tell anyone about the strange feelings the thoughts of her invoked in him. Why he hadn’t, he didn’t know. His searching for her was silent, even though the turmoil inside him hoped she hadn’t vanished. But after some time he realized that she had, and it was like she had never existed. Perhaps, she never did. If so, he had decided, there was no point to remember her. It would be more logical to forget her, the image of her, and the feelings she invoked in him, he concluded. And, it appeared once he had decided to forget her, this was exactly what he did, totally and completely. Until now, when the hallucination of her existence seeped back into his mind from some deep crevasse that he never knew resided within himself.
Yet, his adult mind kept turning that long ago memory over in his mind, again and again. She had seemed so real to him. What if she had not been a hallucination? A strange flutter ran through him as he pictured her once again, in that one moment that seemed to have no time. Whatever strange sensation that pulsed through him now suddenly led to this thought. If he had thought her to be so real, why had he not thought to look for her more intensely, to search for her until he received the answers he sought? The intensity of this particular question in and of itself seemed strange and intense to him. He had never questioned anything in his life, not then or now. For the culture of his life, and that of all Gangans was simply this. If something took place, then that was exactly as it should be, because the Great Eye had deemed it to be. So if Citizen Alpha K-89 was gone, it was simply because she was supposed to be. That was it. That was the end of it. He should set his mind closed to the subject, just as he had once before.
But as Citizen Alpha J-45 lay in the medical center, thinking of Citizen Alpha K-89. Whether or not she was an illusion, he couldn’t know for sure. But she was real to him, and couldn’t forget her. Nothing could eradicate her from his mind, because there was no good answer to what plagued him about had taken place. He wanted to know why she was gone. If she was real, he wanted to know why she had been in his life, and not anymore. And there was no proof to show evidence she wasn’t real. So, why had she appeared to him, and why had she disappeared? This was the inquiry that planted its roots firmly his mind. For the first time, something in Citizen Alpha J-45 asked this one word, and wouldn’t forget it no matter what the Great Eye willed. This is what plagued him, and would not leave him.
At exactly one moment after he decided not to shut down that question “why”, and at exactly two moments after he relished the flush of emotion that the image of Citizen Alpha K-89 brought him, Citizen Alpha J-45’s entire body jumped. We would say he jumped in terror. He was filled with a strong rush that made him want to run, far away. What made him react in such a way was a loud screech that stabbed through his skull. It sent a surge of pain through him, such that he had never experienced in his life. If he screamed, he had no way of knowing, because the pain was so intense it blotted out any cognizance of telling him what he had done, or not had done. The physical pain abated almost immediately, but tidal waves of deep emotion ran through every part of his body, leaving him shaking in a way that made him feel the world was being ripped out from underneath him.
In reaction to all this calamity, he opened his eyes. Whether it was a second after the first shockwave he experienced, or if it was hours later, he had no way of knowing at all. He woke to hear a loud alarm that pervaded the entire medical room. The screen to his compartment was opened, and several men in white suits, a kind of attire he had never seen before, surrounded him. Citizen Beta Frictan and Citizen Beta Tancka were nowhere to be seen. Citizen Alpha J-45 himself was strapped down to the bed, while the strange men in white suits were scanning his body up and down with medical instruments he had never seen before in his life. A strange red hue overtook his compartment, the likes which also Citizen Alpha J-45 had never seen, before the atmosphere turned a dark grey despite the bright lights which flooded the medical facility. He strained through the alert, to hear if the men in the white suits spoke. He heard the word “anomaly”, all other noise drowning out the voices except for a brief, very brief interchange between two of them. “This has to be wrong. No Alpha has ever had a genetic defect like this. Only those who are drones suffer in this manner.”
The sharp reply was this. “It is not wrong. The Great Eye is never wrong. If this citizen is ill as only a drone is, then a drone he must be. The Great Eye has made it clear of what is right and what is wrong. Do not question his will. This citizen is a drone. He is an imposter, trying to trick the Great Eye with his Alpha mask. This is the ultimate offense. He must be requisitioned immediately– quiet! He is awake.” Suddenly, the alarms abated, and the hue of the room drifted into light yellow once again. It was as though Citizen Alpha J-45 had imagined the whole calamity he had witnessed, and his body was rushing internally for some fantasy that he had concocted. Just like he had supposedly imagined Citizen Alpha K-89, as well.
He blinked for a moment, and then two. He looked at the figures surrounding his bed, and counted three of them. Whether they were male or female, he couldn’t tell, as they all wore white masks which covered their entire heads, except for their eyes. For a second, Citizen Alpha J-45 wondered how they breathed through this, but his mind was too foggy to hold the speculation for long. The citizens wearing white held the same tablets that Citizen Beta Frictan and Citizen Beta Tancka had. The musical note which depicted the frequency of Alphas sang throughout his head. Its resonance was so strong, that it almost blotted out the experience he just had from his consciousness. He looked at the citizens surrounding him, the music that he had just heard. Though he was strapped to the bed, his field of vision was wide enough to catch the replica of the Great Eye in his periphery, and it emanated the same soft yellow that he had always encountered. He began to feel a sense of peace, a sense of bliss. For the Great Eye watched over all, and all was well. Was not everything exactly as it should be? Was not everything in its place, as the Elements had made it so clear?
One of the citizens in white leaned over him. His seemingly male voice asked, “Are you well, Citizen Alpha J-45?”
His pulse relaxing, his mind cleansed, Citizen Alpha J-45 replied truthfully, “Yes, Citizen. I am.”
“Good! This is good.” He nodded emphatically, turning his nodding head towards his other colleagues as he said, “Everything is as it should be.”
“We can proceed, then?” a female voice inquired, from the other side of Citizen Alpha J-45’s bed.
“Yes! Yes. We can proceed with the next step in your process, Citizen.” The first citizen seemed to cast his words on both his colleagues, and Citizen Alpha J-45, simultaneously. The strangest feeling came over Citizen Alpha J-45 in response to this citizen’s words. For it almost was as though the citizen was speaking one thing, but thought another. Citizen Alpha J-45 had just encountered deception. Despite the bliss that pushed through him, Citizen Alpha J-45 knew he was in the presence of something he had never encountered before, even if he didn’t know how to describe this foreign territory.
Perhaps it would seem strange, then that his pulse did not race in response to this unusual experience. It didn’t, as though the bliss running through him was trying to win him over. But it wasn’t quite succeeding. Citizen Alpha J-45 had picked up deception, and his mind would not let it go. An image of Citizen Alpha K-89 flashed through his head, why, he didn’t know, but it was there nonetheless. And that image wouldn’t leave either, nor, Citizen Alpha J-45 found, did he want it to. The image, the memory seemed to fuel him in a strange way. For whatever reason, in that state, he found it not unreasonable to reply, “I am ready for whatever the Great Eye deems,” even though he did not believe one word that he uttered. It still felt like the right thing to say, regardless.
“Excellent, Citizen! We will process the findings we have discovered. Please relax, and soon we will have our results for you.” The lead citizen in white tapped Citizen Alpha J-45 on the shoulder.
“You believe you will find a mate for me?” Citizen Alpha J-45 asked. Citizen Alpha J-45 found the longer he continued in this deceptive pattern, the easier it was. For he knew the question he asked was what we call a lie, as would be the forthcoming answer, even if he had no words to describe his state of deception. How he knew all this without the necessary language, he had no idea. But he did, even as the voice that answered him did so in reassuring tones, belying no lie in its placidity.
“Most assuredly, yes, dear citizen. The Great Eye has selected the best mate for you. We must make sure that our configurations match, so the absolute best match is found. Please be patient, and we will return. May the Great Eye bless you with peace as you await our findings.” replied the lead male white-clad, in a crisp tone that did not quite seem to fit the words he spoke. Hence, the accustomed statement of departure, that of wishing the Great Eye to bestow peace upon the supplicant, did not have the usual effect of comradery and peace that it usually did. It did the opposite. He felt like a hole. He felt like he had been severed into pieces. And as the strange figures in white departed, he felt as though he had been severed from the world he knew, forever.
Lying immobile on the cot in his alcove, Citizen Alpha J-45 tried to convince himself that this disquiet he felt was wrong, out of place. That what he heard was an illusion, just as what he had been told about Citizen Alpha K-89’s disappearance, and evaporation from existence. But he couldn’t, even as the yellow hue that emanated from the Great Eye replica insisted that all was well, and that he was the one out of place. He wanted to believe that, so much.
For to him, the alternative was incomprehensible, literally. For if everything was not well as the Great Eye’s yellow hue was implying, it would mean that the Great Eye was wrong. The very thought sent a jolt through Citizen Alpha J-45. He had never heard of anyone speak of that possibility aloud. So Citizen Alpha J-45 didn’t even know what it felt like to insist that the Great Eye was wrong. That concept didn’t even exist, at least he had thought it had not.
Why, then, was he even contemplating a theory such as this? What was wrong with him, that he conjured these delusions? And yet, as he was pinned into position, remembering the allegation of deception that he heard, he wondered which was the delusion, and which was the truth? That small seed of doubt that plagued him called everything into question. No matter what he had learned over the years, or what had been said to him or what he tried to convince himself, he knew someone had to be wrong. Whether it was he or the Great Eye, he didn’t know for sure, but someone was wrong. And thus, all was not well. This he knew for sure. But he didn’t know what to do with this realization, and paralyzed as he was to his cot, even if he did know, he most likely could do nothing about it.
The hoost curtain screen opened once more, alarming Citizen Alpha J-45’s entire prostrate body with streams terror that rose and fell like the waves of the sea. But instead of the white-clad figures that had approached him before entering the medical alcove, the tall red figure of Citizen Beta Frictan walked through. His gaze at Citizen Alpha J-45 was fierce and direct. From that, there was no way for Citizen Alpha J-45 to determine if he was being visited by a friend or a foe, not that he had any experience in discernment between the two before today, just like he had no experience with deception either. There was no word for deception, or foe, for the circumstances that necessitated these words just didn’t exist on Ganga. But yet, the possibility of this situation was confronting Citizen Alpha J-45, even if it did not exist, or there was no words to describe it. Perhaps it was an illusion? But it felt as real as anything else to him.
Because of this confusion, Citizen Alpha J-45 felt hazy and disorientated. There was no way for him to know how to perceive his bearings, or his experience, or to understand the chaos that was unfolding in a world that he had always taken for granted was perfectly mapped out for him. After all, he was a Gangan, and didn’t the Great Eye prepare the way for all Gangans, seeing that it knew all things, understood everything? Until today, Citizen Alpha J-45 had no reason to think otherwise. Now that he didn’t, there was no way for him to know what to think, believe, or understand. In this circumstance, not even the presence of the vaguely familiar Citizen Beta Frictan was completely reassuring. But at least he was something known, if only slightly.
Citizen Beta Frictan bowed his customary greeting, but this was the only traditional detail in how he directed his conversation towards Citizen Alpha J-45. For the next thing Citizen Beta Frictan did was lean over him in his cot, placing his face in very close proximity to Citizen Alpha J-45’s. Neither gesture was in keeping with Gangan tradition, as it was customary for all citizens to respect the boundaries of all by maintaining a respectable distance, much like our cliche fences make good neighbors.
Yet for some reason this unusual gesture didn’t alarm Citizen Alpha J-45 nearly as much as what he’d experience just before he recognized his visitor. This was the beginning of his discernment, though he didn’t quite know it yet. Though he didn’t have the language to describe it, on some level Citizen Alpha J-45 had decided that Citizen Beta Fricktan’s was an ally, and that the medical officer’s strange behavior was inviting the bewildered Alpha into a pact of sort. It was as though Citizen Alpha J-45 was realizing trusting this Beta was the best choice of bad choices. On some level, he intuited that in a situation where he knew nothing at all, he would have to still would be forced to choose a side, one way or the other. All this analogy took place in the space of what we would call five seconds. It was as though something had been unearthed inside of him, and was now very much alive.
“Citizen, can you hear me?” The raspy whisper coming from Citizen Beta Frictan was as out of character as everything else that was occurring, feeding the sense of distortion that Citizen Alpha J-45 was just beginning to adjust to. But adjusting he was.
Citizen Alpha J-45 nodded in response, without remarking on Citizen Beta Fricktan’s change in personality. Everything had been so perfect until now, he thought. But now it was not. And he would have to live with that reality, he seemed to realize, if he was going to live at all.
“Good.” Citizen Beta Fricktan’s whisper was sharp, and definitive, and he began dismantling the bonds which confined Citizen Alpha J-45. The merriment which accompanied the medical officer’s movements in normal circumstances was gone. He was brusque and efficient, with no sense of mirth in his face at all. We might associate his efficient and detached manner with a soldier on a mission, or a rescue worker bent on saving a soul from drowning, but there was no such analogy like that for Citizen Alpha J-45 to make. Yet he seemed to recognize that this persona that Citizen Beta Frictan employed was necessary for whatever emergency was going on at the moment. He trusted Citizen Beta Frictan in a way he didn’t quite understand, yet felt natural and automatic to him.
“Are you able to move, Citizen?” Citizen Beta Frictan directed once Citizen Alpha J-45 was freed. Still unable to speak from shock, Citizen Alpha J-45 nodded again.
“Good.” Citizen Beta Frictan repeated his reply from before. “We must get you out of here. Now. They are coming for you. Don’t!” His whisper put special emphasis on the last word without any change in volume as Citizen Alpha J-45 began to open his mouth, to inquire. “You must keep silent, Citizen. They will be trying to detect you in any way possible once they realize that you are gone.” He placed a red piece of material over Citizen Alpha J-45’s head which covered his entire face and body, much like a burka would obliterate the individuality of a person as well. This material was called a coolat, which much of the religious sector wore when on duty. The red coolat blotted out Citizen Alpha J-45’s natural bluish countenance, though leaving his vision relatively intact through an opaque visor. But as he was being covered as such, Citizen Alpha J-45 noticed that the complexion of his hands were no longer pure blue, but becoming tinged with the faintest hint of purple. He was frozen, almost unable to move, staring at the skin that had been so familiar for thirty years becoming foreign to him. The whole scene was a nightmare, as even he was becoming a stranger to himself.
“Citizen! You must leave with me now.” Citizen Beta Fricktan’s voice cut through the despair that was sinking Citizen Alpha J-45. “They are coming to requisition you.”
“Why? What is happening? Why would I be requisitioned? What did I do? What is wrong with my skin?” cried Citizen Alpha J-45.
Citizen Beta Fricktan’s whisper became a hiss as he placed his face near Citizen Alpha J-45’s. “Silence, Citizen! There will be time to explain later. For now, we must leave. There is no time. They will return very shortly. We must be on our way.” Without waiting for a response, he grabbed Citizen Alpha J-45’s hand, propelling him to break out of his atrophy and move with him towards the curtain that sequestered his alcove from the outside as the medical officer peered through a small opening through it. “Hurry, Citizen. The Elements are on our side, they are not yet here. But we have very little time.” Citizen Alpha J-45 followed in the footsteps of the medical officer, out of the alcove, and through the room to a door that he hadn’t noticed when he first entered the medical center. All the while, Citizen Alpha J-45 thought of how Citizen Beta Frictan had invoked the Elements, not the Great Eye. Another bizarre experience, but everything was so strange that it almost didn’t seem strange at all.
As he followed Citizen Beta Fricktan’s lead, he thought back to the last moment he stood on his patio in his old apartment, overlooking the city and staring at the sky. It seemed so long ago. He felt so much older. He felt like all of that happened to someone else. A quick glance at the purplish skin on his hand made him think that perhaps it had.
Citizen Beta Frictan placed his hand on the doorway, yet through his visor Citizen Alpha J-45 noticed that he was wearing a whitish-colored glove to do so as it slid open. Citizen Alpha J-45 was too numb to register the implication of this, as well as the meaning of all of the alarms that went on in the medical center just as the two of them slipped through the door. Blindly, he followed the medical assistant down a dark hallway, through another door which led to a wide open atrium, overlooking the city. The echoes of the alarms were silenced once the two men entered this open space. Windows surrounded the entire building, designed to let in the light that Plexus granted to all Gangans. Perhaps this was another strange phenomena that Citizen Alpha J-45 encountered, but it appeared the light that was supposed to be bright with high noon brilliance was much more muted today.
Still moving, Citizen Beta Frictan leaned his head backwards just with the slightest of movement, so subtly that even Citizen Alpha J-45 barely noticed the gesture as the medical officer’s harsh whisper spoke. He also noticed that at some point, the Beta had removed the glove from his hand as he said, “Walk next to me, Citizen. Not behind me like you are an underling. We need to call as little attention to each other as possible. You must remain beside me for the duration until I tell you otherwise.” Silently, Citizen Alpha J-45 slid into position alongside him. Not one passerby, Alpha or Beta, seemed to notice anything unusual about the two men. A medical officer and a clergy man, both Betas, what was there to notice? Though Citizen Alpha J-45’s vision was somewhat obstructed by the burka’s screening, he could make out the shapes of all those around him. He could see in the far periphery, the medical officer’s profile. When they needed to move in a particular path he would tap Citizen Alpha J-45 with the lightest of touches to indicate a change in direction was imminent, and Citizen Alpha J-45 found him following his lead, as though it was the most natural thing in the world. Perhaps that was the most unnatural thing of all in this whole experience.
In this subtle fashion of follow the leader, Citizen Alpha J-45 walked with Citizen Beta Frictan through another door, to another darkened room. Though his head was filled with questions, Citizen Alpha J-45 remained silent. It was in this state that he realized why this experience felt so natural to him. He always told himself that he never questioned anything, ever at all. But now, he knew this was untrue. He had always been questioning life, in one way, or another. Yet he always silenced himself his inquiries, to the point he forgot he even did this, all under the guise that the Great Eye knew all, and who was he to question? This is how he swallowed the inquisitive nature he pretended he did not own.
However, in this moment with his own complexion turning against him and hence his very identity and name, the surface calm he normally sported could not even afford to exist. For it didn’t, in the most literal of ways. Though his heart was pounding, his body shaking, Citizen Alpha J-45 found himself not wanting to know the will of the Great Eye. Why, he didn’t exactly know. But he did notice that in this darkened room that he had been led to, there was no replica of the Great Eye, at all. It was the first room he had ever encountered that had no such thing.
And then it occurred to him, that the replica of the Great Eye in the brightened atrium he had just left with Citizen Beta Frictan had not noticed his deceptive disguise. If the Great Eye knew all, should his duplicity have not been discovered? The questions plagued him, even as the chaos of his circumstances unrolled before him, and Citizen Beta Frictan led him down a dark tunnel which seemed much like what Citizen Alpha J-45’s life felt like at this moment.
The tunnel led the two men to an elevator door, of which it was just light enough for Citizen Alpha J-45 to make out that it was exactly that. Yet unlike all the other elevators that he had seen, this one did not have a panel next to it to punch in an authorization code. Instead, Citizen Alpha J-45 was startled by the regular booming tone of Citizen Beta Fricktan’s voice piercing the darkness by announcing, “Frictan, authorization Tango Zulu Echo, ” which precipitated the elevator door to open. Citizen Alpha J-45 was puzzled by the handle the medical officer used. But he was even more baffled by Citizen Beta Fricktan’s omission of his designation as a Beta Citizen. Only drones were known by one name. Or at least, that was what Citizen Alpha J-45 had been instructed. Yet, this whole day had defied any lesson he learned before, so his confusion tempered out fairly quickly. If anything, this day was teaching him that everything he knew as right was perhaps not so right, after all. Perhaps it did not even exist.
The elevator doors shut behind the two men, and through the restricted visor of his burka, Citizen Alpha J-45 perceived a strange purple hue. He had never been in an elevator like this. Frictan spoke to it, and it spoke back. In his disorientation, Citizen Alpha J-45 had trouble following the conversation’s thread, but it was not too long before he perceived it was possible that Frictan was not talking to the elevator at all, but to a citizen who was somehow concealed somewhere. Something in the intonation of the elevator’s voice gave it away. Citizen Alpha J-45 didn’t know how he knew that difference, but he did.
“Citizen, you are safe now to take off your disguise.” Lost in his musings, Citizen Alpha J-45 just barely registered that Frictan had shifted his focus from the faceless voice to him personally, his tone changing from crisp to a smoother voice. This change filled Citizen Alpha J-45 with a pleasant hum. We would call it warmth, as he felt soothed by his new mentor. In this state, he complied with Fricktan’s suggestion, barely containing his alarm as he noticed how translucent his purple skin was against the similar hue of the elevator. He forgot that he was a shock to himself, so much so that he barely noticed that he had been overheating in the warm elevator with the heavy garment disguising him.
Frictan watched him as Citizen Alpha J-45 transformed himself, and smiled at the younger man. This gesture, a smile, was just as strange to Citizen Alpha J-45 as all the other calamities he had encountered this particular day. Yet, for whatever reason unknown to him, this smile seemed to fill him with the strange warm feeling that seemed to comfort him just before. Citizen Alpha J-45 attempted to mirror the response, but the uptick of his mouth felt so foreign it strained the muscles he was trying to move. Fricktan’s eyes narrowed as he smiled. We might interpret this sign as empathy, but Citizen Alpha J-45 had no way to recognize it.
It was possible that Frictan realized this, because the next thing he said in the warm voice was, “Citizen, I am aware that this is all quite strange to you. But please be assured, it is not the first time I have encountered what you are experiencing in other citizens. It is no accident that I was your medical assistant at your mating ritual today, for the Elements willed that I be your protector. Please believe me, that I have your best interest at heart during this strange phenomena. I will do what I can to keep you safe from this point forward, and this is not the first time I have done so, as you will soon discover for yourself.”
The elevator came to an abrupt halt as Frictan finished speaking. The jolting effect on Citizen Alpha J-45 stabbed through whatever sense of calm he had acquired. For as he stepped out of the elevator into a darkened hall with Frictan, he had no idea if the calming words the medical assistant spoke were true. Additionally, the blackened corridor he proceeded through gave him no assurance that he was in safe hands, not at all. The fact that Frictan easily navigated the blindness and Citizen Alpha J-45 was left consigned to follow the bare outline of his shadow certainly gave him no ease. Why was this place so familiar to the medical assistant? Was his innate familiarity a good thing, or a bad thing, so far as Citizen Alpha J-45’s fate was concerned?
And yet, thought Citizen Alpha J-45, what choice was there for him personally, but to blindly trust the man he was following? He recalled the piercing alarms in the medical facility. He could picture, despite the darkness, the skin he had called his own turning literally foreign on him. The cavernous dimness he advanced through behind his escort seemed eerily appropriate, for his entire life and the future all seemed nothing but a sightless vortex. The burka that he had just discarded, even with its obscurity, felt like nothing compared to this, and the dread that everything was only becoming worse by the moment threatened to envelop him in a world where there was nothing else to replace it.
But what could he ever go back to, even if he could? He thought of his apartment, standing on the balcony, overlooking the city, just hours ago in a space of time that felt like a lifetime. He thought of the palette of colors that splashed across the Gangan sky, Plexus reigning in the center of it all with Light dancing past it. Everything had been so peaceful then, in that moment. Everything had been so right. Now, everything was dark, and nothing seemed right to him anymore.
A maze of dizzying corridors later, and the two men turned a corner leading to a hallway that appeared at its end to have a door alighted with several colored digitized buttons. The light from the buttons was just bright enough to highlight the edges of the doorway. Citizen Alpha J-45 surmised that whatever this door signified, the destination he was fated to was behind it. He said nothing. He realized, from somewhere in the back of his mind, that he might have asked Frictan what the door was about in another life, one that happened just yesterday. For the Great Eye had explanations for all things, and all Gangans were entitled to understand the will of the Elements as told by the Great Eye. Now, just one day later, he remained silent. Citizen Alpha J-45 had only been part of this new life of deception for one day, and yet something inside of him knew that his lack of questioning signified some shift within himself. He thought of this for only a brief moment, before what we call terror pulsed through him and eclipsed any insight he pondered. For he had no way to know what future lay behind the door, or if there was any future at all awaiting him.
Frictan pressed one particular button, a green one. A voice answered the action by saying simply, “Received.” It was different from the one which spoke in the elevator, Citizen Alpha J-45 noticed. He had perceived the one in the elevator to be male. The voice which spoke the singular word now, he deduced as female. Though crisp and efficient, the voice was paradoxically also light, almost musical in tone. And something about the voice, strangely enough, resonated with him. Why, he didn’t know. But it did.
Frictan spoke into what we might call an intercom as Citizen Alpha J-45 mused, and on some level the medical assistant’s words sunk into him even as he was lost in thought as he said. “Hello, Lilith. The package was successfully recovered, and is ready to be delivered.”
The same female voice spoke in the same way, saying the same word, “Received.” Just that one word. Yet it touched Citizen Alpha J-45, this voice. It seemed to pierce every ounce of him, in a way he had felt before but barely remembered. The door buzzed as this was happening, and Frictan pushed on the door. Light flooded the hallway for the brief few seconds before the two men left it for the room behind the door, like illumination of the soul. In this second of enlightenment before he followed Frictan, Citizen Alpha J-45 thought of this, and wondered why it hadn’t occurred to him at all before this. In all this time, since he and Frictan had walked onto the strange elevator, and through the hallway, had there been one replica of the Great Eye. That in itself was a strange thing, Citizen Alpha J-45 thought. But perhaps even more strange, was that he had not even noticed this until this very moment.
The room that the men entered exuded a kind of sentiment we might call warm. Pastel hues of purple and silver greeted Citizen Alpha J-45. Soft music flowed through the room. Citizen Alpha J-45 had heard music before, during special concerts that various artisan Betas gave from time to time. But not randomly, not like this. It was strange to see the colored room, and to hear the music.
But oddly enough, he wasn’t disturbed at all. He felt, in fact, comforted. It had all begun when he had heard the female voice. He wondered where the person behind the voice was, if he would see her at all. It wasn’t fear that he was feeling. It was curiosity, something he had only played with in the solitude of his apartment. Now, it was the first time he truly experienced it in the presence of another. Should that worry him, that he was doing this, playing with such frivolity? The question formed in his mind, only for a second. Frictan looked at him, and smiled. With that, Citizen Alpha J-45 answered the question for himself. Should it worry him that he was letting himself experience curiosity in the presence of another? The answer was no.
“How do you feel, Citizen?” Fricktan asked him.
Feel? Citizen Alpha J-45 wondered how to answer the question. How do you answer this question when curiosity, warmth, and fear have switched disguises all in one flip moment? He answered this way, one that was as honest as he could fathom. “I do not know, Citizen.”
Fricktan nodded quickly, in a fashion we might say, as though he expected this very answer. “This is understandable, Citizen. All will be explained to you, soon enough. But first, Citizen, there is someone that I believe that you will want to meet. I am taking my leave now, because I need to meet up with some of my other colleagues who will help secure your safety. This place is only a temporary holding, and too close to those who are seeking your requisition. I will return soon. But I am sure you will have much you will wish to discuss my colleague here, and you can take temporary rest while I complete our retreat from this place.”
He pointed to a door that was just beginning to open before bowing and taking his leave through another door in the far corner of the chamber, and Citizen Alpha J-45’s curiosity amplified to anticipation as he turned to the first door opening. Who would it be? Would this be the female behind the voice? Strange that he cared so much, he knew, for what difference would it make who she was, one way or the other? But he did, and he wondered, his anticipation becoming more profound the wider the door opened, all in the span of several seconds. Who could this female be?
The door was now opened, after a lifetime of eternity. The female who stood there should have been a stranger to Citizen Alpha J-45. She was purple, hence for all intense purposes, was a drone. And other than Canton, Citizen Alpha J-45 had no real association with drones. This was just not the way that things were, anywhere in Ganga. So to assume this female was anyone other than an unknown citizen to Citizen Alpha J-45 would have been the normal course of logic for him to follow, if everything was normal. But of course, nothing today was normal. In that spirit of everything being out of place, this drone female seemed very, very familiar.
What was it? It did not take long for Citizen Alpha J-45 to pinpoint this source of familiarity, and his entire assessment from curiosity to recognition as the female closed the door behind her ran its full course in less than five seconds. When she turned to face him, he knew exactly who she was. He looked directly into her oval eyes, and he knew. He looked over her physique in one swift gesture, and the familiar feeling he had felt not long ago in the medical facility, yet also so long ago that he had not remembered until now hit him, full force in his chest. She smiled, but he spoke first.
“Citizen Alpha K-89?”
She laughed. Citizen Alpha J-45 did not understand exactly what she was doing, or what it was called, for there was no word for laughter on Ganga. Yet he felt warmed by her odd behavior, drawn to her even more than before. It was also heartening to him to realize he had not been fostering an illusion all these years, that the female called Citizen Alpha K-89 did very much exist. She stopped laughing, and smiled once again. “I haven’t been called that name in years. I call myself Lilith now.”
Lilith approached Citizen Alpha J-45, and embraced him. Lost in emotional terra incognito and unfamiliar with such affectionate gestures, he did not know how to respond, although as he felt her body pressed against him, he felt what we would call affection, with just the slightest tinge of pleasure. He had no words to describe it, but yet on some primal level knew what it was. Why would am I feeling this? he asked himself. To fully explain his inquiry, what he was asking himself was, why am I feeling pleasure during such a confusing, dangerous situation?
But despite the illogic of his physical sensations as pertaining to the reality of his circumstances, feel the pleasure sensation he did. He found himself responding by returning her embrace, pressing his body into hers. He did this, despite his own movements being foreign to him, like he truly was becoming someone other than the citizen he thought he had been all this time. She pulled away first, but still held him, just at arm’s length.
Looking into his eyes with her oval ones, Lilith said to him, “It’s so wonderful to see you again, Citizen Alpha J-45. Somehow, I knew I would see you again.”
Citizen Alpha J-45 found himself blinking away pressure he didn’t quite identify behind his eyes, for never in his life had he cried in his conscious memory. Yet, his mouth reflected back to Lilith the smile she gave him. Every muscle in his lower jaw ached from pushing past the atrophy. In a strange way, he was glad for the pain, because it helped distract him from the emotional turmoil he felt, which somehow seemed worse than any physical agony, and the confusion provoked by Lilith’s words. He finally responded, “You knew we would meet again? What makes you say that, Citiz–, please receive my apologies, Lilith?”
Lilith looked away for a moment, then back at him. “It is hard to say, Citizen. Something inside of me knew in a way that is complicated to explain. The drones call it the ‘knowing beyond all knowing.’ This is what I experienced, from the moment I was separated from you. It was this special knowing I had that I would see you again that kept me strong, during the dark hours.” Lilith’s face was a contradiction, as she smiled yet looked away from him. This expression on her drew something deep from within Citizen Alpha J-45, and he pulled her towards him again. The mystery of her disappearance had always haunted him, and his heart beat in a fierce manner at her words. His face was inches from hers as he looked down to her, as he said. “Tell me of the ‘dark hours’. What are these?”
Lilith looked away from him, gently pressing her palm against Citizen Alpha J-45’s chest. . His heart felt stronger with it there, why, Citizen Alpha J-45 did not know. She whispered, “You must be tired, Citizen. Surely, you want to rest now, before Fricktan returns?”
Citizen Alpha J-45 narrowed his eyes, on some level trying to decipher the oblique implication of Lilith’s words. He concluded that on some level she was trying to evade him. Yet he also sensed that her deception was not with evil intent, thought he was unsure what it was she was concealing, or why. This provoked his curiosity into an even more intent state before he said, “Lilith, I am tired. You are correct about that. But I will not rest with all this strange happenings being unexplained to me. I do not know why I turned purple. I do not know why you are purple as well, when I know full well that we are Alphas and are ordained to be blue. All was fine with me today, and yet I found myself running for my life. So before I choose to rest, I want to know of the dark hours you speak of. I have never heard of them, and yet I believe you when you say that they exist, and that you lived through them. It is strange, I believed my education to have been full and complete, yet I find today that there I little that I know, and I wish to know more.”
Lilith smiled. She exuded what we would call a little laugh, as she remained with her palm on Citizen Alpha J-45’s chest. He felt strange sensations all throughout his body as her breath mingled with his, and as he sensed her touch on him, and the intense desire to understand what had been thrown at him. He was telling the truth, he did not want to rest. All this stimulation he received made him feel very much alive, and very much awake, more so than he had through his entire life. Lilith was still smiling as she said, “Citizen, your desire to know more and feel more is why you are in this position to begin with. As it is with me.” She indicated to several cushioned chairs covered in purple chulan in the far corner of the room. “Come, sit with me, and I will explain. Anything you wish to know, I will tell you, if I have the knowledge to give you.”
Citizen Alpha J-45 followed the shadowed outline of the female who seemed to change everything in him. The curves of her body seemed to flow, sashaying in perfect harmony under the opaque robes she wore. Somehow, all of this fit perfectly into the atmosphere of given the gentle glow in this room. Following her felt to be the most natural thing to him, because even though it was hard for him to understand, he felt drawn to her in such a way that he didn’t want her to leave his sight. He had no context for the word “attraction” when it came to relations between men and women. The closest word he knew for attraction was slinga, which was the relation between atoms when they bonded together to create compounds and mixture. He thought of the word slinga as he followed Lilith. But slinga to describe this circumstance he found himself with Lilith somehow seemed off-putting to him. Instead, his mind drifted to Contuan, his former driver, and the look on his face as he described his relationship with his wife Dyandra to Citizen Alpha J-45 on the ride here today. This association filled him with warmth. It felt more relevant, and appropriate to compare what he experienced now. But on a logical plain, what did it all of this description and analysis mean? What was the relevance, if he tried to place it in the equation of reason?
The threads of this unanswered question still remained frayed as he sat opposite Lilith in the corner of the room. The light, though still soft, was slightly brighter here, and he watched her face. She was different from how he remembered her, which was strange because other than drones, most citizens were the same from day to day, Alpha or Beta. Her purple skin softened the discordance of this association, but when Citizen Alpha J-45 remembered who she was, the bewilderment in his mind only increased, mixing in with the strange feelings that this female generated within him to begin with.
“Do you remember your parents, Citizen?” Lilith’s voice penetrated through the stew of his mind. It was an unexpected question, but his curiosity compelled him to go with the direction she was taking him.
“Only my mother, Lilith. I do not remember my father at all,” replied Citizen Alpha J-45.
She nodded, slowly. “I have the same kind of recollection, only mine is altered in some fashion. I only remember my father.”
Something in Lilith’s voice provoked something deep inside Citizen Alpha J-45. The best way to describe what he experienced was that he sensed sadness in her, and wanted to console her. What he felt was compassion. But not knowing that this is what he felt, or what he was supposed to do with such a sentiment, he said simply, “This may not be so unusual, Lilith. All Alphas and Betas go to the education center at a very, very young age. I have few memories of those early years.”
Lilith was silent for a moment, her oval eyes fixated at some distant point past Citizen Alpha J-45, as though she was searching for something far away. She then asked, “When do your first memories become clearer to you, Citizen?”
Citizen Alpha J-45 reflected on the question, wanting to give as accurate an answer as he possibly could. And as he did, he mused on the fact that he never really thought about when his memories became clear and strong. There had never had been an occasion to consider such a thing, until this moment.
But now, he searched his mind for a correct answer to give to Lilith about the source of his first strong and clear memory. At first, as he contemplated the inquiry, he would say it was when he entered the education center as a three year old citizen. There was something strange being put on his head, which from what he recalled was similar to the neldak he was fitted for today at his mating ritual examination. Through all of this, he remembered hearing screams, almost like it was a live sensation. It was strange to hear that piercing echo from eons past reaching out to him in this peaceful atmosphere.
This was his first clear memory that he could recall, he had always believed. It was as though his life only had commenced at the same time as his formal instruction from the Great Eye, though some strange sensation we would call terror informed him there was fragments of another earlier memory that lay hidden behind this first clear one. So he answered with the truth he had at hand to Lilith, “When I began my education. This is when I begin to remember things well, although I have one memory of what came before.”
Lilith nodded her head slowly, her eyes fixated on Citizen Alpha J-45. In our lives, we might say her expression conveyed that his answer was exactly what she expected to hear as she questioned, “What is the memory of what you have before, Citizen?”
The echo of terror screamed into his consciousness, causing his heart to beat rapidly. It was a relief to him to be able to share it with someone, finally. “I hear screaming, Lilith. I believe it is from my mother. My memory is that I hear my mother screaming. Yet I do not see her, but it is strange, for I know it is she who screams.”
Lilith nodded again, more quickly this time. “This is what I remember first, too, Citizen. My father screaming. Except I do see him in this memory. He is being grabbed. He is being taken away from me, first. I am laying down, and I see him being grabbed by men with white hands. This is my first memory, Citizen. I remember the screaming, as you did. All else before that is gone.”
Something stirred in Citizen Alpha J-45’s chest as he said, “So strange it is that we both remember such a thing. I have not had many conversations, though, with people of their first memories, for I never thought to ask. Perhaps the screaming is common amongst all citizens, Lilith?”
Lilith uttered a long exhale. The wisps of her breath tickled against Citizen Alpha J-45’s face, reigniting the strange fire he felt when he first reunited with Citizen K-89, the female who now called herself Lilith. “No, Citizen. This is not so at all. Fricktan has told us of what the first memories are of most citizens when he assists at their mating ritual examinations. They are not of screaming. To other citizens, screaming is an anomaly, just like we are. It is of the unusual experience for citizens to know of screaming, only when something very strange happens like a building collapse upon citizens, or when vehicles crash because the driver inside is tired. These things happen so rarely. But to most citizens, this is the only time they understand or experience unusual phenomena like screaming.” Lilith paused. When she spoke again, the volume of her voice trailed to a whisper. Citizen Alpha J-45 had to lean in to hear her, feeling a strange tingle as he did. He could not pinpoint its source. But it appeared to be both the emotion her message evoked in him, as well as her physical presence as she completed her message. Lilith continued, “First memories comprised of screaming are not usual at all. Only to a very small number. You are one of that number. I am one. But our numbers are few. We remember the screaming, we few. We remember it all our days. To us, it is not an unusual phenomena at all. But citizen, we few are not like all the others. We are the anomalies.”
Citizen Alpha J-45’s mind lingered on Lilith’s last words as her voice trailed away. They should have brought distress to him, which he seemed to know on some level that he couldn’t articulate. He had been taught he was a singular but vital cog in the Gangan world. Yet here he was, hiding away from those fellow citizens that he thought he would join as a mated adult, awaiting some semblance of an army that would hide him away from all that he had known. His skin was altering in color, in a fashion he had never thought possible, tearing him from the fabric that he thought he was a woven thread tightly secured to. Through all of this, his very identity was being ripped from him. And the female he had once known as Citizen K-89 corroborated all of this with her words, making her an additional witness to the chaos he was suffering. All this discordance should have distressed him beyond any state that he could repair, and even as a Gangan with no word for conflict, he knew this. And yet, it did not. He was strangely at peace, despite all that he encountered. In fact, if he thought about it, which he did, Citizen Alpha J-45 never felt better in his life. This, despite the fact that there was no Great Eye to contemplate. He felt whole and strong in a way he could not describe, for he never felt this way before in his life.
And despite what Lilith said, about how he and she were isolated from all the others because of their strange first memories, he did not feel particularly isolated, either. Why, he did not know. Regarding Lilith, in the soundproof cave where the only noise outside their voices and movements was the soft sound of piped electronic keyboard, her closeness seemed enough. He had never thought that the presence of one individual could make him feel so complete. Was this what the drone Canton meant when he spoke of his strong feelings for his mate, Dyandra? Is this how Canton “knew” that Dyandra was meant for him, feeling that on some unexplainable fashion, she completed him? The questions danced softly through his mind. Yet, they did nothing to disturb the equilibrium that sustained him. What he felt for Lilith was attraction, and an implicit trust in her that went deeper than the proscribed assumption that all Gangans were of one people. The closest he’d ever felt to this singular a bond with an individual was when he’d shared conversations with his driver, the drone Canton. Yet this feeling felt stronger to him. He felt anything he said or did with Lilith was meant for only the two of them, not for the good of all Gangans. What was more, it didn’t even feel wrong, even though it was contrary to all he had learned.
And he was hungry to know more. He craved the truth that had so obviously been denied him. It felt completely natural for him to lean forward, and touch Lilith’s shoulder. It apparently was to her as well, for she didn’t flinch in response a bit as he spoke his concerns honestly, “Lilith, please receive my apologies for offering you so many questions. There seems to be no end to topics that I have such incomplete knowledge of.”
She nodded, slowly, closing her eyes as she did. Her eyelashes were long and graceful in the muted light, and the physicality of them fascinated him as she replied, “I receive your apologies, Citizen. I understand the need to eliminate confusion. There have been many not-truths that have been perpetuated against us. Please feel free to offer as many questions as you need to. I know very little, but through the dark hours I have learned past some of the not-truths that we have received from those who would keep us in shadows. I will answer for you what I can, because I want you to live in truth. I have always had feelings for you that were different than what I felt for all Gangans, so I want you to have all the knowledge you want so you can feel bliss in your own way again, without the Great Eye instructing you.”
There were so many questions that jumped in his head. At the same time, he didn’t want to rattle the heightened bliss he felt. Part of him wanted to do nothing more than explore this new sensation he felt in Lilith’s presence. But there were so many things he needed to know. Reveling in the feeling would have to wait. He could wait for it, if he knew it was there in the future. A strange pulse went through him. He had created a goal all on his own, his very first without the aid of the Great Eye. This accomplishment, and the idea of the goal itself, filled him with a fire that we might call incentive. He wished to be filled with knowledge, so he could better understand what he would be exploring in the future, and sensed that the filling the gaps of his ignorance was the key to doing so. He looked into Lilith’s oval eyes, inhaled one more breath of the fragrance that created desire, before shutting it off once again to begin the questioning. For he sensed there was little time to do so. Why, he wasn’t sure. But in this other frame of mind, somehow he knew, and for this reason spoke in a breathless torrent that surprised him.
“Lilith, you have used the term ‘anomaly’ to describe citizens such as you and I. You also have said, ‘we’ are few. You seem to say with this word that there are more citizens who are “anomalies”. Why is it that we are anomalies, and how is it that there are more citizens like you and I? The Great Eye educated me that there were no anomalies. All of us were educated in this fashion. What is it then, that you mean by this? My skin is now purple like yours. Are we anomalies for some deviant behavior that caused the Elements to physically change us? And who else is an anomaly, like us? For at the moment, it appears that I would be identified a drone if another citizen I do not know passed me. Is this an implication that drones are anomalies, also? And why is it that there is no replica of a Great Eye, anywhere here at all? What does Fricktan have to do with this, as well? Please, Lilith. I know I ask much. But for some reason, I believe I have little time to receive the answers from you.”
Lilith smiled, her oval eyes flickering as she regarded Citizen Alpha J-45. He had the sudden inexplicable urge to touch her lips with his, though surprised he was at this impulse, he held back. The universe was such a stranger to him now, it was a comfort to have at least the modicum of familiarity of her presence with him as she answered him. “You are correct, Citizen. Fricktan will come soon, and we will have to make haste for the safe house where we will keep you. There will be no time to speak then. I understand the questions you ask, as I had them as well. I was educated with the same not-truths as well, that there are no anomalies on Ganga. I discovered much differently, after I was requisitioned and lived through my dark hours. This is why I asked you about your first memory. There are others like us, and you will meet them in the safe house. The Great Eye has called us anomalies, because the way we were born was not in line with how Gangans were taught. There is a reason why you do not remember your father, and your mother screamed. There is a reason why I do not remember my mother, and my father screamed. They lived outside the order of natural law, and we are the anomalies that resulted from that decision.”
Citizen Alpha J-45 frowned quickly, his mouth increasingly comfortable with its new formations, as he asked, “What is it that they decided to do that has resulted so many years later with my very complexion changing? I do not understand at all. What do I have to do with this? And Lilith, please accept my apologies for being so direct, you have not explained your dark hours, or why.”
Lilith nodded as she answered, “I understand. There is so much information to tell you, and everything is webbed together in the end. There is a reason why we are paying for the decisions of our parents. Citizen, you obviously know the Great Eye chooses our mates for us, as this is what you were intending to experience, just today. You also have been well educated that the Great Eye chooses only Alpha mates for Alphas. Betas are only mated with Betas. Drones are mated only with drones. But what you may not know of the drones, is that they choose their own mates themselves at will, just as they choose they employment at will.”
Citizen Alpha J-45 recalled his conversation with Canton, with his describing how he chose Dyandra as his mate before saying, “In fact, Lilith, I do know this. However, I only discovered this knowledge today, not during my time at the education center.”
“Canton was your driver, yes?” Lilith’s voice tinged with sharpness, like when she addressed Fricktan behind the security door, and was still a stranger to him. Citizen Alpha J-45 responded in kind, for the reaction seemed natural.
“Yes, Lilith. You have met him, I seem to understand?”
“Yes, Citizen. Canton is someone Fricktan has made alliances with over the years. He was your driver for a reason. He had affection for you, and wished to watch over you to protect you. He notified Fricktan of your existence, and this is how Fricktan came to be your medical assistant during your examination, and why you have not been requisitioned for the decisions of your mother and your father.”
“Which are what, Lilith? I still do not understand.” Citizen Alpha J-45 shook his head in confusion as he spoke.
Lilith sighed, her exhale causing the sleeve of her robe to billow. Citizen Alpha J-45 watched the waves and tried not to be distracted by them, but he was for a moment. In that small space, he felt the anticipation of the future when he could experience the pleasure he felt being with her. But her words curtailed that emotion, immediately, even as they lost the sharpness and returned to the mellow softness that threatened to melt his concentration. “The Great Eye has misled the people into thinking that classes are so specialized that they must only mate with each others in their class. The Great Eye has also educated citizens with this not-truth, teaching that people are incapable of choosing their own mates or their employment unless they are drones. Because of this not-truth, all education that all Gangans receive is not-truth as well. I do not know why this terrible not-truth has been created.” Her breath exuded another rippling sigh, her words were a glue that kept Citizen Alpha J-45 focused on two levels, the message itself, and the strange emotion Lilith was expressing. She inhaled, saying “No one I know understands why the Great Eye would create this reality of wrong education. But I do know it happens. Because you and I….” Her eyes cast down, she stopped speaking.
Citizen Alpha J-45 touched her sleeve as she silenced. The more he chose to offer this gesture of touch, the more automatic it felt to him. He almost didn’t notice his action, but he did notice the warmth that we would call affection that flowed though him as he did. He then asked, “Lilith, what is it that has made not all right? Did Fricktan save me today from a fate that you suffered?”
Eyes cast down, Lilith nodded her head quickly, then went frozen in both word and movement, like the life had been drained from her. Citizen Alpha J-45 felt a strange fierce flush of emotion rush through him as he witnessed this in her. It was rage. And like all the other emotions he felt today, even if he didn’t have the words for them, it didn’t stop him from experiencing them. And the rage he felt was because Lilith was suffering. Someone had caused this suffering to her. And it made him want to jump, to act. What he wanted to do was avenge her. In this new state of mind, what he said to her, “What is it that we are accused of, with all these not-truths that seem to exist that I never heard of before? What is it that our parents did that must make you live through sufferings, and myself as well?”
When Lilith raised her blue oval eyes to meet his, they were wet and glassy more so than eyes usually were. Citizen Alpha J-45 had never seen eyes like that, but it compelled him to tighten his touch into a squeeze onto her arm as she said, “Citizen, please receive my apologies that I am taking so long to convey the information you seek. The dark hours I lived through have made it hard to speak in normal fashion. You would have lived through them, Citizen, if Fricktan had not intercepted you. I am grateful for this, my dear one.”
A strange tingle threatened to derail Citizen Alpha J-45 from his focus when Lilith uttered the words “my dear one” in relation to him. He put the phrase, the tingle and the questions they raised in the same file where he stored his desire to explore the strange feelings that she evoked in him to begin with, to be opened at a later date. Citizen Alpha J-45 was teaching himself compartmentalization, so quickly he didn’t even realize that this he was instructing himself his own new set of skills. All this took place in the space of second as Lilith continued, “Citizen, this will be strange information I tell you in this next sentence. Because what is strange is that it is counter to everything you have learned. You have learned that all Gangans are equally important, and there is no mistake ever committed by the Great Eye. But this is a not-truth. For Citizen,” she paused and swallowed, not in the way a citizen might eating runcha, but in a hard manner, as though she was trying to consume something indigestible and unpalatable, “The very existence of you and I, as we are in real truth, makes this very statement a not-truth. For you and I are not equal in the state which we have been formed and born. This is what occurred to make us so.” She paused. Strange, but it seemed to Citizen Alpha J-45 that there was much noise in the total silence before she spoke again. “Our parents made a decision to choose their own mates, even though this is not the way of the Great Eye. They lived in this way in secret, and you and I are the product of this secret. This is the truth, Citizen. Because of what our parents decided, we are not like the others. You and I are not fully Alphas. For each of us, one of our parents is Beta. For both of us, this reality is true. Citizen,” she breathed out deeply again before continuing, “You and I are not pure Alphas. We were not born that way.”
The impact of this statement to Citizen Alpha J-45 was like being hit, which had only happened once to him, when a citizen unknown to him collapsed in the street and accidentally knocked into him. But he remembered the feeling, and it cut through the warmth that he had let himself dissolve into in Lilith’s presence. It made his stomach go hard, in knots. He thought of the voices of the figures in white that he encountered in the medical center, before Fricktan had brought him to this place. Was this strange information related to all he experienced today?
He exclaimed in confusion, “What does this mean, ‘you and I are not pure Alphas’? How can this be? I have never heard of this phenomenon taking place. And how is it then, I was seen by the Great Eye as an Alpha, and raised as such, if the Elements knew differently? In what process did all of this take place, if Alphas and Betas are matched by the Great Eye? And why was I not requisitioned earlier?”
“I do not know for certain, Citizen. All that I know is that this experience does take place. We Alphas and Betas can and do mate like drones. In this way, all citizens are the same. But there seems to be some differences, as I have discovered over the years working with Fricktan. Betas are more likely to be requisitioned than Alphas. Drones, more so than Betas. And people like us, those who are a mixture, we are without question by our existence likely to be removed from Gangan life, altogether. We are rare to find, indeed. Why this is so, I do not know. I only use what I have seen to form my ideas of what takes place. I have discovered in my world with Fricktan that Alphas, in their natural state, accept the natural order of things. Betas question many things, which is why they are more likely to be requisitioned, and why Alphas rule over them in all things. Drones are the ones who roam. They have to. It is their nature. They live by what sentiment is inside of them. And thus, they are the ones that most likely to be accused of actions which require requisition. Finally, by definition of the Great Eye’s will, as you have been instructed, you and I cannot possibly exist. So we are the ones who must be eliminated, the most out of all others.”
Citizen Alpha J-45 interjected, “But yet, we do exist. You and I are alive. My very nature is telling me this. There is nothing that tells me this, other than the fact that the Great Eye says I do not. If this line of logic is true, Lilith, it must mean the Great Eye is wrong, yes?”
It was almost expected to him that Lilith hesitated once more before speaking. “Yes, Citizen. We who have left the way of the Gangans know this quite well. The Great Eye is wrong, in this matter and many others as well.”
Citizen Alpha J-45 replied in this fashion. “You have left the way of the Gangans, and yet here I am, not a full Alpha since birth. I have been examined yearly, all the days in my life. I have been watched by the Great Eye for as long as I know. And yet the Great Eye had no knowledge of my true nature until today, even as my parents were requisitioned for the manner in which they created me?”
Another pause before Lilith gave a soft, “Yes.”
“Lilith, this is incredible information, and it is hard to believe except I sit here with you with all of it verified. What makes it so incredible is that the line of logic leads the conclusion that not only is the Great Eye wrong, it does not even know certain things exist. For should not the Great Eye known of my true existence for the entirety of my life?”
Lilith responded, “If it was the true arbiter of knowledge, Citizen, yes. It should have. But it is not. It masks and makes us hide who we really are, Citizen. For example, you have been habituated your entire life to speak to another Alpha as though he or she is a designation, rather than a name. You have known me as Citizen Alpha K-89, and your initial speech to me indicated you remembered me over the years as such. And yet, Citizen, excepting for one slip in the beginning of our conversation, you have had no difficulty in calling me a name without a designation. Can you see how the Great Eye has hidden us? It tells us we are one thing, and yet once we know otherwise, we can change and behave like another. The Great Eye is a strange illusion. One we who have left the Gangan way have not fully discovered yet. But yet it does appear that way, that it is. There is a great not-truth that pervades all of our world that is served by the Great Eye. I have no idea why. No one I know does. But there are those like myself and Fricktan who know that it does, even if the reason is unknown.”
Citizen Alpha J-45 regarded the room with its soft colors before asking, “Is that why there is no replica of the Great Eye here in this place? You have discovered it is nothing more than a not-truth?”
“Yes, Citizen. Does it make you uneasy to not have one here, seeing as you have lived your entire life with it in your presence?” Lilith inquired.
The question Lilith raised had been percolating somewhere deep in Citizen Alpha J-45, buried under all the other layers of questions and confusions he had unearthed and presented to her. But as she raised this concern directly with him, he also met it head-on, like a challenge. And he used the strange inclinations inside of him, the emotional self that he never quite met before, to help him answer. He was as surprised with himself with what answer arrived in his mind as much as the fact that he could so easily answer it to begin with. His answer was this. “No, Lilith. In fact, I find myself quite comfortable without it in my presence. I feel no sense of loss without it. Is this a strange thing, what I am saying?”
Lilith replied, “No, Citizen. In what I have experienced in these twelve years since I have not lived amongst the Gangans, it seems many who have joined us feel as you do. They do not miss the presence of the Great Eye. There are some who do, though. It appears to be an equal number divided between the two. And it has nothing to do with whether one is Alpha, Beta, or drone. Nor does it have to do with male or female. It appears that it just depends on the citizen, in a random way. I, for one, absolutely did not miss it at all. But I have met citizens who have felt uneasy without its presence. For them their experience is like something was cut from them when they first encounter this experience. But almost all of those, in this category, adjust to the new reality without trouble to them. It is only those who have illness that have no cures, that remain sad and troubled. Very few people exist in this manner, but we do what we can to care for them. We do not send them to be requisitioned. We have rejected that way of life.”
Citizen Alpha J-45 thought of the neldak that had gripped his head only hours ago. It seemed like a dream to him, so long ago it felt to him. But he knew it was real. He then replied, “It appears you have made a good choice. It disturbs me, all that you tell me. Yet I know, somewhere, that this is true, all that you say. It seems more real than anything I have been educated with. I am a citizen, and yet, I do not even have a real name. It is like I have been named as a machine.”
The softness of Lilith’s touch stirred him, but in its own way, impassioned him more in reaction to all that he had just heard. He thought of the meal in his apartment, watching the utensils and plate disappear through the trapdoor when he finished eating. His own name seemed just like that rubbish, and he wished he could rid himself of all that he had been exposed to as what we would call lies. Lilith responded to him in this way. “Citizen. You wish to be known by another name?”
One word was all that was needed by Citizen Alpha J-45. “Yes.”
Lilith spoke with her customary pause first before saying aloud, “Citizen, this is unprecedented. Many of those who join us can accept the fact the Great Eye is an illusion. But one’s name is something that he or she has been given, and to change it so quickly is unusual. Even though as an Alpha, you have a designation for an identity, it has been yours since birth. With all that has taken place to you today, are you sure you wish to rid yourself of this core identity?”
Citizen Alpha J-45 responded quickly, “Absolutely, Lilith. I am quite certain. This is what I wish to do. How is it that I choose a name?”
Lilith explained, “How we have gone about choosing names is in the fashions the drones do. They have taught us in the manner of this choosing. Certain names have meanings. The drones have designated meanings of certain names. They have carried these meanings for the many eons of our existence.”
Citizen Alpha J-45 regarded Lilith, catching the outline of her face. It was hard not to be distracted by her physical features. They drew him towards her, just like they did the first day they had met. He understood this is why he never forgot her, and though he was compelled not to feed this mesmerization to a strong extent here, some part of him desperately wanted to at least feast on crumbs, to bond with her on some level even now. This urge made him ask, “Is this how you came to choose your name, Lilith?”
She responded, “Yes, it is. I chose my name based on its meaning, as described by the drones in some of the literature that they discuss and share.”
Citizen Alpha J-45 replied, “It is strange how differently the drones have lived from us, yet we have received the education that there is no difference between classes in education and belief. But enough of that, I believe. What is the meaning of your name, Lilith? Perhaps it will help me choose my own.”
Lilith’s pause was the longest it had been. Citizen Alpha J-45 was just about to repeat the question when she said, “The lore of the drones says that my name means ‘of the night’. For Citizen, the dark hours plague me, yet they give me inspiration. This is why I chose such a name, for the symbolism it brings.”
The emotion called rage threatened to break through Citizen Alpha J-45’s skin, yet Gangan language did not have the range of words for him to even convey this to her. He instead used this emotion to feed the ravenous need to connect with her, in any way he could. So he said this, “What is it, then, the name that means ‘of the light’? I am curious of that.”
Her pause resumed its customary length as she said. “I have heard of the name Aaron being defined as such.” She placed her hand on his knee, staying him from saying more before saying, “In these last years, removed from the Gangans when I thought of you, I always imagined you with this name. It is curious that you request a name which means exactly the name that I imagined you with.”
He responded in a firm tone to her statement, “Then I shall be known as Aaron. From this point on, this is how it shall be.”
Lilith leaned in, close to his face. The citizen once known as Citizen Alpha J-45 felt a flutter within him. It would have once been unrecognizable. But with the guise of his new identity, everything that seemed so uncomprehensible seemed to fit correctly now. It was as though the new skin surrounding him, along with the new name, all conspired to make the strange and unfamiliar quite familiar. Lilith’s proximity also felt as though it had been part of him for his entire life, even though this experience was something he had not dealt with, ever in his life. The citizen now known as Aaron could not explain this. But all he knew was that it felt right to him now, especially as Lilith said, “Aaron. I have been waiting for you so long to arrive here with me. I am glad you have found yourself, as I have.”
She paused, the breath of silence traveling between them, filling the citizen now known as Aaron with an intensity that he found painful, tearing at his chest. This was anguish he was feeling, something that made him feel as constricted as he had when the Omegas nearly requisitioned him. He wanted to push Lilith and probe her for more information, for he perceived that there was much suffering in her silences. And yet, he also perceived that the suffering behind those silences, despite being obvious even to him who barely encountered suffering in all of his life, meant that discussing that suffering was forbidden, in some way, even to him.
So he spoke to her, plainly. He had learned the art of deception today, but felt dissuaded in practicing that art on her. This discretion came to him so naturally, he barely noticed this was what he chose to do. He said, “Lilith, it seems you were lost for many years. I am glad also for you that you found something that has given you peace, and people who have cared for you. I wish to know what it is that made you live through such pain in your dark hours, but I believe that you do not want to discuss it, right now. Do I understand this, in a correct fashion or not?”
“Aaron.” Lilith placed both of her hands on either side of Aaron’s head. “Such feeling I have for you, and you seem to understand much of me despite having only spoken briefly to me before today.” Aaron duplicated her gesture, and they held this position for a moment. The music seemed far away, soft as it was. Everything seemed warmer to Aaron. He had trouble understanding what he was feeling, but he had strange intuition that whatever it was that he felt now was not going to last for a long time. This insight cut into the serenity he felt, and he pulled away.
He said, “We are waiting a long time for Fricktan, does it seem this way to you, Lilith?”
“Yes.” She replied as she pulled away as well, and her voice was crisp, once again. “This is an unusual amount of time he is taking to get the security he needs. Of course, I believe he had little time to prepare for your escape today, even though he knew today would be the day of your mating ritual examination. He had received information that you were suspected of being an anomaly, even before today, because of Canton your driver. This being so, he believes they were already lying in wait for you. I am surprised he was able to intercept you, given this. You must have not been unconscious for very long in the medical facility, for it is harder to wake one up from the trance state.”
“Lilith. I do not believe I was ever unconscious, at all. I was aware of what was around me. I had dreams, Lilith. Yet I was awake, as well. I could hear voices, the entire time that were not part of my dream. And I could tell the difference. Was this the difference in my being able to escape? For although I was secured against my will by a group of citizens, when Fricktan arrived to save me, I was able to walk in my own power without any indication that he needed additional effort to wake me. Do you believe this is a reason why I am here with you, and not in a state of requisition, because I was not fully in the trance state?”
“It is possible, Aaron. It seems so, from what you say. I am so amazed, yet relieved to hear that you never were truly in a trance state. I have never heard of this before. Your ability to remain conscious was what you needed to escape the trap that was set for you. Yet now, because you have foiled their plans, I worry even more. We who have left the Gangans have a way of measuring time on our own, and the time it has taken for Fricktan to survey and secure the resting place for others we have rescued is less than what it has taken today. It gives me great concern. For this is only a temporary place. The fact that it was easily accessed by Fricktan in such quick circumstances does make it easier than other safe places to breach. There is limited food and drink here. It is only used because to bring an entire security team to the medical center in a rescue operation would be less clandestine than the quick distraction one man like Fricktan can rig in quick time, and so this is why we use a place like this at all. It is better than keeping you in the open. You will need to be moved, but we cannot move you unless there is better security to protect you, as the place we will take you is some distance from here away from the prying watch of the Great Eye. This all must be so strange to you, Aaron. Please receive my apologies in how this day has been arranged for you.”
Aaron took her hands in his, in a forcefully protective fashion. He was surprised by his own ferocity in his strength. “Lilith. There is nothing about this day that feels like a mistake to me. I am glad for what this day has been for me, for I am with you. I have thought of you, for many times, and for many days upon days.”
“You have, Aaron?” Lilith’s voice got softer, and smaller again. Aaron was fascinated by the many intonations the tone of her speech contained, and he wished to hear more and more. “Then all that has come before has been worth the suffering I experienced. I am not sure why, but the idea that you have thought of me as I have thought of you makes me feel what the drones call joy.” He felt a lump in his throat as she silenced once more. What he felt but couldn’t quite identify was sadness that he would have to wait, that the circumstance that had thrown him and Lilith together also conspired to sideline much of what he would like to say to her, to learn about her more outside of this particular crisis.
Yet, this sadness also made him feel touched by the beauty he felt she was just by her very existence. It was hard for him to explain. He was touched by the fact also, that she was affected by his thinking of her for so long. It drew him to her, even more strongly than before. In a way, he was solidifying bonds of trust in a type of exclusive bond he never knew existed between males and females before this very day. Danger and desire were new companions to him. They both demanded his attention, equally. It was hard for him to know which was the better leader to guide him, never having met either one in any fashion before.
“Aaron.” Lilith suddenly pulled closer to him. Her eyes were cast down, and Aaron received from this particular gesture that she wished to speak something serious, now. “I do not know how much more time we have here, alone together. In case we encounter danger from those who seek you, I feel I want to tell you of the dark hours. I wish to tell you this, because this is almost what you suffered today. Is this something you wish for me to speak to you?”
Aaron touched her hands, feeling a glow of warmth. This sensation was a kind of compassion that seemed immediate, natural and real to him. For a split moment before he spoke, he wondered if this was so, why it was only now at this stage of his life that he was feeling this. Was it whatever this particular female from his past seemed to draw in him that made it so? Whatever it was, it also made him want to understand everything about her, even the shadows that were her namesake. “Lilith, I do not like to see you suffer in any way. But it seems under all that you say to me, what you suffer from still walks with you in all you do. I want to understand why. I cannot even imagine what it is that created that level of suffering for you. I hope, maybe, by my understanding your experience, perhaps I can help you not live in that state of suffering anymore.”
Lilith smiled, though gave what we might call a small smile. The citizen now known as Aaron interpreted that this particular gesture was not an expression of true happiness, and felt the emotion called compassion as Lilith said, “Maybe this will be, Aaron. But my dark hours are not a secret to those who have left the Gangans. And yet the suffering is still here. But if I tell you what occurred to me then, you will understand what it is you nearly suffered yourself, and what it is that we run from.”
Aaron nodded. “I understand, Lilith.”
Lilith paused, for a long time. Aaron compelled himself to remain still, to not interfere with the pace she was setting. Somehow, it felt important to him not to compel her to go in any one direction, though a feeling inside of himself made him want to run to her instead of remaining still and frozen waiting for her to finally explain what brought her to the place she shared with him. She leaned in and placed her hand on his knee, and it compelled him to lean in closer to her as she began speaking. “Aaron. Do you remember the circumstance in which we met?”
“Yes, Lilith. I do. I recall we were both at the education center. I was seventeen at the age I met you, in the fourteenth year of classes. I believe you were actually a year ahead of me, in the fifteenth class, yes?”
“Yes, Aaron. I was. We did not have the same opportunity to share classes, for this reason and also because I was to create the prices for religious education. Which I believe is why you and I had not met earlier in our life at that place. And of course, it is unusual for males and females to associate outside of formal instruction.”
“I agree, Lilith. This makes logical sense. And it is the way of the Great Eye to separate citizens based on gender, class, and education purposes. The fact we met directly at all was of a very random circumstance. I do remember it well. We crossed paths while I was walking to religious class of how the Great Eye became The Prophet of the Elements. You walked out of the class, which also was unusual because this means you were later than your schedule said you should be at that class. The Great Eye proscribed that your class dismissed much earlier and you should have been gone. But yet, you were still there.”
Lilith smiled. “I dropped my instruction material, and misplaced a report that I had transcribed for my economic instructor. The report would have constituted half my grade for the class. I violated the proscribed time because I was searching for it. Once I found it, I left the room. But because I was outside the regulated time constraint, I received the opportunity to meet you.”
A smiled escaped from Aaron’s lips. “So this is how we so easily received the opportunity to meet. If you had been organized as Gangans are supposed to be, and if you had obeyed the time constraint as a citizen should, you and I would have never met at all.”
“Yes, Aaron. It is through my faults that we received that unusual opportunity.”
Aaron replied, “This is unusual, yes. I agree. Is it because it is unusual that I recall it so well? What I mean, Lilith, was there any other male besides me that you remember meeting on a singular basis?”
“Once, Aaron. Only once before you. But he was a typical Gangan, unlike you and me. He was not an anomaly, for Fricktan has record of those requisitioned and those rescued. This other Gangan male I felt drawn to was not amongst those names. Also, what is strange, I never had long lasting feelings for him as I did for you. No matter how dark things became, I never forgot you.”
Aaron thought of the two other females he had been drawn to, in the way Lilith described her own personal experience, the females Citizen Alpha H-12 and Citizen Alpha Z-58. Those two he recalled in a somewhat stronger fashion than other females he had met. But Lilith, the one who had been formerly known as Citizen Alpha K-89, he recalled the most and the strongest. He wondered about the male that Lilith had been drawn to before him, who he was. For a strange reason, he couldn’t get it out of his mind that he wasn’t the first male that Lilith had been drawn to. Which was puzzling, because after all, she wasn’t the only female that he’d been drawn to. But she had been his first, and this fact seemed to stick in his brain. He was encountering jealousy, and despite his desire to focus on the flow of conversation, it was hard for him to let go of.
So Aaron asked, “You never thought of the other Gangan male, at all?”
Lilith laughed, softly. “Aaron! You are jealous.”
This confused Aaron. “What is ‘jealous’?”
Still laughing, Lilith looked down. “It is an emotion, Aaron. It is something inside ourselves that helps us gauge the world we live in. The drones are most capable of expressing them. The Betas more so than Alphas. Those Omegas I have encountered express their emotions only in their faces, believing themselves to be the most in control. But all Gangans are capable of this ability to have emotions, as I have seen all classes do so. It is the guide to ourselves, when we live outside the purview of the Great Eye.”
Aaron replied, “But what does that mean, ‘outside the purview of the Great Eye?’ I do not understand. Does not the Great Eye see everything? Does it not watch all things, as it does here? Please, I still do not understand how one lives outside the Great Eye. How does something such as this exist?”
Lilith took Aaron’s hand, placing her palm flatly against his, gesturing her head towards this position. “Aaron. Look at us. Look at our skin. You were blue, only this morning. And yet you are still alive. It has been hours since you escaped. If the Great Eye saw everything, and knew everything, do you believe that you would be here? You will never pass as an Alpha now, wearing the color of skin you do now. Yet whomever or whatever the Great Eye is, seems to have seen fit to have anomalies like you and me retrofitted so the sins of our parents are somehow erased, passing us all off as Alphas when clearly we were not. And yet, you did pass as an Alpha, for thirty years. The Great Eye allowed all medical personnel, all scanners, to think so. If the Great Eye knew all, would it allow an anomaly such as you to even exist if the way your parents came together is impossible for Alphas and Betas to do, instead of simply covering its tracks so ignorance of its own sins is not discovered?”
Aaron responded, “But why, then does it allow this game to continue then? Why do we exist at all, if the Great Eye is able to hide our skin color and change it to see fit? Why was your requisition at the time when you met me, not at your time of birth?”
Lilith replied, “I do not know, for sure. When I was requisitioned, they tried to take my memories from me. Perhaps an infant seems like it can be programmed without having to be wiped from existence. Fricktan’s specialty does not allow for him to know what goes on with the smallest of children for sure. We do not have enough Betas amongst us to know what goes on with that practice. Perhaps, and most likely, it is the Omegas who reprogram a child from the beginning, and they are the ones who change our skin to match whatever class they see fit, so the truth of our origins remain unknown. Anomalies like you and I were intended to be purple in nature. Never blue. I do not know if that means we are really drones, because drones are more emotive and expressive than I. I have been away from the Gangans for twelve years now. I am only really now relearning and re-understanding all the ways I am within myself. So I have no idea if anomalies are drones, or if drones are anomalies, or if there is another fashion going on. But as infants, we were changed in some way to show we were blue, hence Alphas. I do not know why this is. None of us knows, for sure. Fricktan was amongst the first of us who left the Gangans, as far as I know. He is the oldest amongst us. He questioned many things, for he was witnessed many of the Great Eye’s lies firsthand. We as Gangans are told there are no anomalies, yes? And yet, Fricktan saw many. He would see the Omegas come for them, and it would be as though the citizen in question never existed. So, in a strange way, the Great Eye did not lie. For the anomalies were removed. Hence, none existed. This is how Fricktan reclassified the knowledge that all of us have received. Then, one day, his friend Traylan was requisitioned, and Fricktan witnessed what happened.”
Aaron quickly asked, “What happened that he was a witness to? I have heard of many who were requisitioned, but not until today did I have an iota of knowledge as to why any would be, other than they were ill.”
Lilith breathed out, deeply. “It appears, Aaron, that the only illness that the Great Eye is concerned about is curiosity, and desires that will compel a citizen to live outside whatever proscribed manner the Great Eye has supposedly deemed perfect for that citizen. In the case of Traylan, Fricktan’s friend, he simply made the bad decision to question in the middle of a tavern the existence of Omegas. Fricktan claimed Traylan said, “What is an Omega? No one has seen the Omegas. I say the hell with them!’
“Then in no time, red Beta soldiers came for Traylan, took him away. They said he was ill, and needed help. But Fricktan thought of all the times he was told there was no such thing as an anomaly, and yet he had seen so many. He said that what the Beta soldiers were telling him about Traylan’s fate felt like the same kind of not-truth that the Great Eye had told him about anomalies.” Lilith took a deep breath before she spoke again.
She continued, “So at that moment, he made a very interesting decision. He decided to follow the Beta soldiers, to see where they would take Traylan. He found his friend, later on in a strange place, one that seemed dark and cold and not a place at all where you would expect the ill to be cared for. Fricktan saw a kind of contraption encased over Traylan’s head. And there were lights that came in waves over Traylan’s head. His eyes were opened and he appeared awake, so Fricktan decided to go to speak to him. But when he did, Traylan screamed saying that Fricktan was a stranger. Aaron, Traylan and Fricktan had been friends since the education center, for over twenty years. And yet, here he was, saying this friend for twenty years was a stranger. This, Fricktan knew for sure was a not-truth. This was when Fricktan knew for sure the Great Eye knew nothing. He was able to walk away, without being requisitioned himself, confirming his belief that the Great Eye knew nothing. Else, how had he escaped the watch of the Omegas so easily?” She paused, looking to Aaron as though he would answer. But he couldn’t, for he had none. There were many questions that he had no answers for now, more so than he ever imagined.
After a pause, Lilith continued. “And it became his mission to save the anomalies, perhaps even to uncover the truth of why all of this chaos has been existing in a world where we have been taught all are equal. So far, he has saved many anomalies, like yourself. But why all this has taken place, this has been harder for him to do. Saving anomalies from the fate of his friend Traylan has been his purpose since then, twenty-five years ago.”
Aaron had an intuition of what the answer to this next question would be, but felt it important to verify it with information. “Has Fricktan ever discovered what happened to his friend Traylan after that incident?”
“No, Aaron. After that day in the strange facility, he has never seen his friend ever again.” Aaron’s intuition had been confirmed. And it was correct.
And so he asked, “Lilith, this destruction of memory that Traylan experienced. Was this what happened to you?”
Aaron was not surprised at the pause before the answer. “Almost, Aaron. They tried to inflict much pain on me first, for my offense. Then they tried to take my memory, but I held on. I thought of you, and nothing they tried to do could take it away. It is in this strength I found that all my other memory remained. I did not know this would work, but it did. So I was able to hold on for a short time, but Fricktan found me not long afterwards, gave me the life I have now, and now I am here with you.”
“Lilith, what was your offense that was so serious that you needed to be requisitioned?”
Lilith smiled. For some reason Aaron could not explain, he watched her mouth, and wanted to touch it with his. It alarmed him, this impulse, but only for a moment. There seemed to be so many reasonable explanations for the things he felt today, and he was beginning to get used to this strange barrage of sensations. But he sensed that if he acted on the impulse, it would stifle the answer he wished to hear. This impulse, like many others he felt today with regards to become closer to Lilith, seemed to have to wait until some other time when those who sought him were not so nearby. He believed he could intuit why she was requisitioned, just as he had predicted the answer to whether Fricktan and Traylan had been reunited. But as before, he waited for information to confirm this impulse.
And then Lilith spoke. “It was my desire for you, Aaron. I would miss classes, to follow you. I would watch you go about your schedule, and imagine we were together the way the drones are with their homes and their lives. I tried to think of what that would look like, and I wanted to be as close as I could to be with you as possible, even though there was no occasion for you and I to be together in the proscription of the Great Eye. But Aaron, the will of the Great Eye was of no concern to me. I did not care about price setting for the lessons of the religious elders. I did not want to wait twelve years for the Great Eye to mate me to a stranger. I wanted you. You were the only thing important to me, and I wanted you to one day be the mate for me. I chose you, Aaron. That decision made me aberrant. This is what I was requisitioned for, and only the memories I had of you from when I followed you kept me whole and sane until Fricktan arrived for my rescue.”
Aaron got a strange feeling of wonder and asked, “You wished to have me as your mate, Lilith? To choose me as our parents chose each other, and the way drones choose their mates? This is what you wished for?”
Lilith leaned into Aaron, embracing him. He could feel the press of her smile form upon his shoulder, where she rested her head. “Yes, Aaron. This is what I wished. More so than whatever it was I felt for the first one, I assure you. The memories I attained of you because of my desire is what caused the Great Eye to requisition me. But those memories are what kept me strong. The affection I have for you, there is no one else I wish to have with in my life. I am glad you are here today, that you escaped the machinations of the Great Eye. And Aaron, in my own way I was glad you were determined to be an anomaly. For while I was afraid for your safety today, Aaron, there was also a part of me which was afraid that you were an Alpha, that we had been wrong. And if that were so, you would not be with me also, because the Great Eye would have proscribed to you a mate amongst Alpha strangers that was not me.”
Aaron felt a drawing towards her, deep inside his soul. His chest felt fuller. We might say, his heart went out to her. We might also say, the intensity of his desire became stronger in this moment, for though he didn’t quite understand why, the impact of Lilith’s particular words seemed to convey to him that whatever slinga or affection this was going on, it was mutual and strong enough to have lasted a long forced separation. Aaron had no way of knowing through his education if this was good. But he thought of Canton, and what he said of his affection for his spouse, Dyandra over the many years they had together, and how he seemed to glow like the warmth of the Great Eye at peace just mentioning her name. There could be nothing wrong with that, could there? Was the depth of what he felt for Lilith similar to the bonds that allowed the drone couple to have such affection of the many years?
There was a sudden shrill piercing that interrupted his philosophizing. It was nearly identical to what he had heard in the medical center earlier that day, and the memories of being strapped down and white bodies hovering over him hijacked his mind. He kept wanting to see Lilith, but this other memory threatened to annihilate this pleasurable alternative, to the point where he almost couldn’t tell if she was the reality, or if he had never left the nightmare of the medical facility to begin with. He heard Lilith’s voice over the din of the reality/hallucination of the medical officers getting ready to probe him through the contraption on his head. He heard her say to hold onto her, that she was what was real. That everything was all right. He was beginning to slip away, when he remembered how she said that thinking of him gave her strength to overcome the dark hours. He thought of the pleasure of her touch, and rested in the memory of her face leaning against him. It began to soothe him enough that the images of white-colored ghosts began to fade away. And he awoke to Lilith shaking him.
“Aaron! We need to go, now! Someone has tripped the alarm. This means that whomever is coming here is not one of us. There is little time for us to escape, but there is a means for us to do so whereby we can escape them. Come! Follow me, Aaron!”
This Lilith was forceful, not soft at all like the one Aaron had just met with moments ago. Yet Aaron felt no less comfortable with her judgment. He trusted her. Additionally, he was adapting to different levels of trust, in a way he never thought he would encounter in a world where the Great Eye knew all and proscribed every little thing from the beginning, to everyone. Except, he thought with what we would call irony as he scurried to follow Lilith, when the Great Eye did not. Like when anomalies such as Lilith and he were created, and manufactured to be someone else to go from blue to purple in an instant, because they were not made according to plan. If the Great Eye had to issue corrections, its supposed infallibility was the greatest not-truth of all visited upon the Gangan people. This thought seemed most prominent to Aaron, as the disruption and chaos of the alarm disrupted the safety of the chamber, and swept him from the embrace of the female he had never forgotten.
The process of this thought took less than a fraction of what we call a second, but yet was so profound to him it felt like it lasted for eons. It seeped through him as he jumped from the comfort of the purple chair and followed Lilith as she dashed towards the back of the chamber. She pressed on the wall with her hand, and a passageway that had previously been obscured opened at her behest.
Aaron was only mildly surprised by the existence of the secret entranceway. The fact that his reaction was so tepid caused him no alarm. Nothing was as it seemed. This was his lesson today. Because of this, despite not knowing anything but the lies of the Great Eye before this day, he didn’t even hesitate to follow Lilith when she entered the clandestine passageway, and closed it behind the two of them once he entered. He only reacted with what we might call mild alarm when he heard a loud crash come from behind the wall, which Aaron took to mean that something amiss had taken place in the chamber he had just shared with Lilith. She had told him of the dark hours, and remembering her as he had over the years, because of what she said, the dark seemed as real as the light to him. In some strange way, he thought as he ran through dimly red-lit passageways with Lilith in the lead, he had always known they were equally real. Light and Shadow existed in the same sky, and he knew this not only because the Great Eye had told him so, but because he never forgot the screaming of his mother, even though the Great Eye had tried to make him forget. In that endeavor, Aaron concluded, the Great Eye had failed miserably.
As he thought these things, Lilith and he rounded corner after corner, again and again. The maze, the frenzy, and the chaos the two had descended into swirled together in dizzying fashion, threatening to throw Aaron off balance. Only the last thought he’d taken with him from the chamber centered him. He thought of the contraption he’d been imprisoned with, how he had been moments away from the process of losing his ability to remember anything of his own choice, of remembering the female in front of him and the memory of his mother. He didn’t have the language, but understood that he had almost been robbed of something essential. This innate knowledge kept him focused enough to not let the disarray of his exterior let him succumb into a vertigo he would not recover from. He would remember, for Lilith. For his mother. And although he never would meet him, for Traylan. The fate of the unknown Beta struck Aaron in some way that he couldn’t quite understand, but whatever it was, it kept him on his feet, moving forward. He would not let Lilith out of his sight. Not this time.
Suddenly, the light which illuminated the passageway became brighter. But it was not because Lilith had led them to a new place of safety. No, this was not why, at all, unfortunately. This source of light existed because about twenty of Aaron’s paces in front of them, he and Lilith found themselves confronted by five individuals dressed in completely in white, just like the ones he had encountered in the medical facility hours ago. Each of the white-clad individuals wore a headlamp around their foreheads, each which shone a beam that temporarily blinded both Aaron and Lilith. He thought of how he wished for shadows now where he could hide, for the light was too bright for him to see and move as one of the white-clad citizens yelled, “There they are! The imposters! We must claim them now!”
Aaron was unsure of the reason why he did what he did next, but the action was so instinctual that he didn’t even contemplate a deduction to execute it. He immediately grabbed Lilith, flung her down, and covered her body with his. There was no reason in the world for him to have chosen such a thing, but this is exactly what he did. And based on the following occurrence, it turned out it was the most correct thing he possibly could do.
For out of nowhere, a strange swoosh of noisy blue light rushed past him and Lilith, above their flattened figures. Aaron had never seen or heard such a thing in his life, and he almost was awed by it. Yet the instinct in him that believed that the wild phenomenon he just encountered was on some level lethal to both him and Lilith prevented him from becoming completely enthralled, which would have distracted him from the danger they faced.
“They are trying to evade us! They are on the floor! We need to claim them, now! Be sure to only neutralize them, for the Wise One wants their information. Be careful!”
Aaron, of course, had no idea who the Wise One was. But he didn’t care. Whoever the Wise One was, Aaron had no intention of giving him, her or it any information. His goal was simple. Get past these attackers, and get himself and Lilith to safety. Individuals like this almost got him once today. They almost destroyed Lilith. Something like fire rushed through him. It fueled a thought. He would not let these individuals, whoever they were, succeed in their mission to capture either he or Lilith.
He leapt up from his position on the ground, rushing forward in a hunched position. His calculation was such that he anticipated they would aim the strange light at him and Lilith once again, but at a lower angle. Though he was in the line of fire, he got the idea that if he charged forward, he might be a smaller target than if he were taller, if the white-colored individuals decided they would aim directly at him, and if he and Lilith were moving it might throw off their attackers’ aim. His intention was to use his body to ram the nearest attacker, for he believed that in the relatively confined space he would be able to assault at least one of them. Perhaps, he thought, this would cause enough of a rift to confuse their assault on them, and he and Lilith could escape.
Like many of the other things he thought and felt, he was unsure of what source this train of thought was born in. He had never escaped from anything before, at least not that he knew of. Yet here he was, planning attack and strategy, although he didn’t use those words, since in Ganga there was no need for attack or strategy and hence there were no words to describe such a thing. So he operated, instead of a world where language spoke to him on a subconscious level, on one that was visceral and instinctual.
With this primal mindset guiding him, his head made contact with the nearest attacker. The target had no give, as Aaron hit just under the figure’s ribs. Pain seeped through his head, similar in nature to what he had experienced earlier in the medical center. Yet it was not quite the same; that had been more a piercing. This felt blunter, and slower to reach the entirety of his brain. He felt numb in his skull and through his nostrils. It caused vertigo to travel throughout his body as he stumbled back to a standing position. For what we call a second, he wondered if he had made a mistake.
But as his victim staggered and gasped, falling backwards into his comrade and causing the two of them to tangle up together, Aaron realized his tactic had worked. He used the confusion to his advantage, grabbing an object from the hands of the one he attacked deliberately. He had no idea what this object was, but deduced that there was a handle, and that the barrel that extended from it should be pointed away from him. This is all he knew about this object, but it felt natural to him. And it was enough for the three figures still on their feet to halt completely in front of him as the fourth one struggled to get up, and the fifth remained lying down. One of the figures stepped ahead of the others, and Aaron pointed the object he handled at the figure.
“Citizen Alpha J-45!” a female-sounding voice announced from behind the white shroud of her face. “Please! Put down that device! You have not operated it before, and you will cause harm to another, and we will have to requisition Citizen Alpha K-89 if you do so. I am sure you do not wish this, is this not true, Citizen?”
A flash of something emotional flew through Aaron as the vertigo just had. It was pure terror, but he decided that to show this emotion to this individual would not be a sign of strength. He relied on evasion instead, the primal self inside him deciding this would be a better weapon here. He held his position, and the object he handled in the same place as well before asking her, “Who is this that I speak to at this moment?”
“Citizen! We come to you as friends. As all Gangans are. We have been proscribed by the Great Eye to oversee all things. As the Great Eye’s emissaries, we have nothing but the highest desire to ensure your safety, and that of your friend Citizen Alpha K-89, whom you choose to call Lilith.”
How did they know her name? Aaron wondered, but knew he had little time to ponder this, and that the fact that they did know made their situation all that more dire.
“I have seen firsthand what your desire yields!” Aaron pointed the object in his hand at her, and at another figure that advanced slightly towards him. The second figure retreated, but not the lead female. So Aaron resumed training the object on her. “I have seen you inflict pain on me! Look at me! You choose to address me as an Alpha, yet my skin had transformed into that of a drone’s. You choose to call me a friend now, yet you addressed me as an imposter before you tried your non-truths on me just this minute. So you are aware of all that has transpired to me, and yet you choose to say you have my highest desires for me, even after believing me to be an imposter, Citizen?”
The female in white responded, “Citizen, I speak the truth. There is nothing else in the world but the truth. All else is that exists is something that the Great Eye corrects. You are an Alpha. You were always an Alpha. You are only ill, and we will assist you in your illness. You must know that no one is mistreated here on Ganga. What evidence do you have of this Citizen, other than the words of the ill one with you, Citizen Alpha K-89?”
By this time, Lilith was on her feet, standing just behind Aaron. “You speak in sentences that reject truth!” she shrieked at the white-clad leader. “You call me a name that is nonexistent. I am not that name! You steal truth, not speak it!”
“Citizen Alpha J-45,” the figure said. “Please listen to what your friend says. But not the words she says. You believe you know emotions, after what you have lived through today? Then let your emotions tell you what your friend is saying. Does she not sound upset? And is that not an anomaly, in a world where the Great Eye has been so gracious to us all? Is it not an anomaly to not recognize this wonderful gift the Great Eye has given to us, and only us? Your friend, please receive my apologies, seems to not recognize what all of us have been taught over the years and eons. That the Great Eye loves us, cares for us, and is never wrong. Yet your friend is upset anyway, to the point where she has perpetrated not-truths, steering those who are in need of special assistance like yourself in a direction that is not correct. The Great Eye has the best intentions for you. She does not. She left the way of the Gangans long ago. And are you not a Gangan, Citizen? That being so, do you really feel that she has your best interest at heart, or is it we who do, those who know the Great Eye and have never left?”
As the figure spoke, a myriad of emotions flooded Aaron in the same way the numb pain in his head did. We would call them anger, doubt, and confusion. The white-clad leader was right. Lilith was upset. And yes, this appeared to be an anomaly, based on what he had been taught in the world. And yes, there was no real evidence that what Lilith had said was true. He had not been there when she was requisitioned. He didn’t even know if Traylan was a real person. He had no idea if Fricktan had actually done harm to him by removing him prematurely from the medical center. Nothing that Lilith or Fricktan said or did was evidence of anything, other than the fact that they lived in opposition of the Great Eye. The white-clad leader, if she was looking to convince Aaron of their deception, based on their words alone, would have a very logical argument, even as he felt the warm touch of Lilith on his back, as though she was trying not to let him disappear from her.
Lilith, though she didn’t know it, didn’t have to worry. The reality was that the white-clad leader of their attackers didn’t have enough facts. Just that reality alone was enough for Aaron to surge past the inkling of doubt that threatened to spawn in him. For apparently, even though the white-clad leader knew the will of the Great Eye, who was supposedly all-knowing and all-benevolent, she didn’t know that the medical officers had called him an intruder, an imposter. She apparently didn’t know the pain that the Great Eye had let him suffer, just because he had the audacity to ask why. She had no idea that the officers had said anomalies never happened, and yet here she was, as the Great Eye’s emissary, acting as though anomalies were things that the Great Eye cared for with compassion, which logically meant that they existed, contrary to what the Great Eye supposedly preached to her. Not only that, if the Great Eye saw everything, how is it that Lilith had been able to walk free at all? Neither she, or for that matter he, should have been even able to escape. And yet, here she was, even after all those many years.
But what it was that truly decided the deception lay has his attackers’ feet was the screaming that he recalled as his first memory. There was nothing that could take this away from him. This didn’t sound like the product of good will for all citizens. The Great Eye had inflicted pain on his mother, or at least allowed it to take place. If the Great Eye had such good intentions for all, why would he ever remember that like some kind of anomaly, and yet be permitted to be educated and work as a regular citizen, an Alpha? The deception, or as he called it the not-truth, was not from the female who rested her hand on her shoulder, not Lilith. It was from the one in front of him. He toyed with the object in his hand, just slightly so it would not seem obvious what he was doing, as his finger found a trigger which he hoped would spew the strange noisy light upon these speakers of not-truths and dispensers of shadows.
In conclusion to all this action and thinking, Aaron said to the leader, “Citizen, my emotions have spoken.”
The four standing attackers faced him, and the leader seemed to stand taller as she replied, “Yes, Citizen?”
Aaron said, “You are the one who speaks in not-truths. Not Lilith.” With that, he pressed against the trigger he had been toying with, hoping it would do what he gambled it would do. Luckily, many of us might say, he hit it big and the gamble paid off, even as the recoil and noise from the shot almost toppled him. But not quite, because again luck was with him, as Lilith steadied him, enabling to stand and watch streams of blue light flood the attackers, knocking all four standing attackers to the floor to join the original colleague that Aaron had disabled.
Aaron had no idea what he had just accomplished by unleashing this strange blue light that blinded him for several seconds before he blinked the darkness away. He also didn’t quite have the knowledge to discern between killing and stunning individuals, deliberately or otherwise. But he knew enough that whatever he had done had bought him enough time to attempt his own goal, which was to escape with Lilith away from whomever these people were, with their maniacal plans and agendas.
Apparently, so did Lilith. She grabbed his arm, crying “Aaron! We must run while we still have time. The Omega agents will send more to attack us, and we have little time, especially when these ones do not return to their base in due time, and these ones here will awaken soon enough from their stillness. Hurry!”
Once again, she resumed the lead, Aaron following. But it was hard for him to evade the sprawled bodies in the blinding light that streamed from the headlamps of the downed attackers and keep track of her at the same time. As he kept his eyes on the silhouette of her back, he was distracted for just a fraction of one of our seconds at her beauty. He caught and redirected his mind, but was too late to avoid stumbling across the head of the first attacker he had injured, the one not paralyzed by the blue light he had fired. As he tripped, he felt two hands clamping onto his ankle, causing him to flip forward and bang his head as it hit the cold stone ground and drop the object he held in his hand. The pain of his original assault, when he had injured his current attacker, had dissipated enough that he had forgotten it during the adrenaline-fueled melee he had Lilith had broken out of. But now the agony returned, at full force and with even more brutal than either previous incident today.
“Aaron!” Lilith screamed, rushing towards him.
“Lilith! Leave me!” Aaron replied, everything inside of him pounding in pain and fear. The pounding became even worse as he watched Lilith disobey him, running towards him, kneeling down and grabbing his hand.
“No, Aaron! I will not leave you! I have had too much taken away from me to lose you again, especially to the dark hours that these ones will take you to.”
The white-clad one who grasped Aaron’s leg laughed. It was a strange laugh, one with a tone that Aaron had never heard before. And despite the fact he knew full well there had been many lies, or not-truths, perpetrated upon him today, and many more truths uncovered, he wasn’t prepared for the tone of the laughter he heard, and it chilled him the way he had been terrified just moments before. He had no language for this experience, but what was happening was that he had never heard laughter tinged with cruelty before, ever in his life. But his emotions understood the experience, even if he couldn’t quantify it specifically with language. He was cold now, this new experience freezing him in a way that made it hard for him to even think, even as he was being pulled in two directions, one way by one who loved him, and another by the one who hated him.
His captor still laughed the strange laughter as he said in a strange raspy voice, using language Aaron had never heard of in his life, “Listen to the two of you. The ‘dark hours’, the ‘shadows’. You sound like fools and idiots. Anomalies like you are such trash, rubbish. You think you will be able to go on, be aberrant degenerates fornicating your lives away with your disgusting affection for one another? You are both a disgrace to all of Ganga. I look forward to seeing both of you wiped into shells, getting rid of the slime that is your soul. You both are disgusting wastes.”
Aaron suddenly felt a sharp pain in his leg, in the one that his captor trapped. He had no idea what the pain signified, but it caused him to thrash uncontrollably, futilely trying to end whatever was causing it. In response to this, Lilith let go of his hand, causing him to collapse in his front. The pain was still in his leg, but was not as acute, as he heard crunching and groaning noises coming from behind him, as well as Lilith yelling.
“You dare call either one of us aberrant, you supposed agent of the Great Eye? You are the fool! Spreading not truths, thinking you are some kind of hero! You are the one is disgusting, all of you! The Great Eye is so great, you pathetic fool? Then why did it create us, if it is so wonderful! Yes! Tell me that! You! Fool!”
Aaron recovered enough physically to turn around to witness a spectacle he never thought he would see in his life. As she yelled, Lilith was kicking Aaron’s former captor, in the face, in the stomach, and in the groin, each time eliciting a deep grunt from the man. But what awed Aaron was Lilith herself. She was wide eyed, her hair flailing around her as she gunned up for one more assault on his captor, than another. Clearly, he had been subdued enough, for Aaron was now free. But she continued to assault him anyway. Aaron would have remained mesmerized, if not for the fact that he saw the other four beginning to stir from their stunned state, and this propelled him into a more aggressive state of mind, despite the stab of pain in his leg. He managed to stand, but received the instinct not to touch Lilith as she was in this mode of direct attack. Instead, he yelled, just as she did. It was a strange state, but he realized he needed to scream louder than Lilith was, to compel her to hear him. It was a strange state, because he had never yelled like that ever in his life. Yet, he did.
“Lilith! Please, I beg of you to let this one go. It is a distraction to us, and we have little time. Forget his disservice to us! Please!” His words had the desired effect, and Lilith stopped yelling, though she didn’t move either, at least not at first. She stood over her victim, heaving and panting. Aaron took this to mean she might be ill, and went to her, hoping he could help her before their attackers resumed their strength again. Lilith held up her hand, which compelled Aaron from embracing her.
“I am all right, Aaron. My anger got the best of me. I understand you have not lived that emotion to its fullest yet. I will explain at a later time, but you are right. We must leave.” She pointed at his leg. “Are you ambulatory, after he attacked you with his mouth?”
So that is what happened? Aaron thought. The attacker had bit at him, as though Aaron was a piece of food? Who were these citizens, who acted in such a foul form? Lilith was right. These people were disgusting. It was a strange thing to be saying about a fellow Gangan, and it made Aaron feel dark. We would call this emotion disappointment. And he felt it profoundly, because although he wished he could come to a different conclusion, there was no evidence he could do so. The pain in his leg told otherwise. The lies of the Great Eye were greater than he imagined, he thought as he put weight on his leg and moved. “Yes, Lilith. It appears my attacker was not successful in subduing me completely.”
“Let us leave then.” Lilith reached down and removed the headlamp from the one who had attacked Aaron, both ignoring the groans that came from him. “I will wear this, as we may as well have as much advantage as possible.” She reached down, grabbing the object that Aaron dropped with the light illuminating it. “And in that respect, you should retain this weapon. You seem to have much innate talent in using it, Aaron.” Her voice had a strange musical tone in it that warmed Aaron, despite her use of the strange word “weapon”. We might recognize Lilith’s tone as being teasing. Though Aaron was unfamiliar with this tone, he was not offended, and instead smiled just a little bit despite the danger surrounding them.
Lilith held the lamp so its direct beam was at their feet, so he was able to see her fully. Instead of instantly fitting it on her head as he expected she would do, she leaned in towards him, gently placing her hand on his shoulder, and leaned her face up into his. What she did next startled him, for it was unexpected. She brushed his lips with hers, before she pulled away from him. “For the blessings of the Elements.” she said. Her tone was not mysterious, but her words were. But paradoxically, even though the whole brief encounter felt incredibly foreign to him, it also felt incredibly right.
There was no time, however, for any contemplation of this experience. For there were banging sounds coming from both directions they could travel, in front of them and behind them, loud booms which caused the entire tunnel they were traveling in to vibrate. Aaron darted his eyes back and forth between the two passageways, anticipating attackers in both directions, while their original assailants began to stir. Simultaneously, as though they were thinking as one, both he and Lilith headed in the direction away from where their attackers were laying, in the original trajectory they had been traveling before they were ambushed. Somehow, it just seemed more logical to Aaron to go that way, away from the place they had escaped from, even though it appeared the danger they faced had no discrepancy as to where it was spawned or attacked. It was almost because the danger was so universal in nature that Aaron found it easier to decide what to do, on his end. If all choices were bad, then why not make the best choice you wanted to do? This is what Aaron reasoned, as he fled with Lilith following him towards the unfamiliar that lay ahead.
The headlamp Lilith wore revealed a white passageway that seemed to be made of the ubiquitous fonta, if Aaron’s brief touch of the place was accurate. For it to be constructed to this extent, someone had to have put great planning and effort for it to be here, he thought as they darted through the passageway. According to Lilith’s light, they would be approaching a turn. It occurred to Aaron that while Lilith’s headlamp was making it easier for them to maneuver in the short run, the illumination of the light might alert someone approaching the corner from the other direction might be aware of their comings. It also occurred to him that since it was the headlamp of the enemy, someone might not anticipate that they were the targets, and instead confuse them for the Omega agents that they subdued. So while he was concerned that they would be noticed, he decided it might be advantageous if this took place, seeing that they might have an edge. It would only be a concern if somehow their defeated victims notified their comrades of the sabotage, and of that, he had no way of knowing if this took place. He could only hope that the headlamp would provide some deception, at least initially. But he kept the thing that Lilith called a weapon readied as they approached the corner.
He stopped her as she ran behind him by raising his hand, then slowly peered to glance around the way. The slanted light from Lilith’s lamp provided enough information to show that no one was there in the immediate wake, though the banging they had heard was getting louder. Aaron wished he could understand what was causing it. After today, he could only assume that whatever was causing it was against him, and against Lilith. Her presence was an assurance that not everything had completely collapsed in the world that he thought he always could count on until this day, as they darted around one corner and yet another corner in what seemed like an endless maze of danger.
Aaron’s head was dizzied by the quick jerking from corner to corner and the blows he had attained in the altercation with the Omega agent. So his equilibrium was even more drained when the momentum of the many corners ended, and the two of them were instead confronted by a long corridor with a door that seemed to be emitting white light from around its edges. The abrupt change of scenery was disorientating to him, as the two of them stopped. He collided into Lilith, and it was only her quick thinking that balanced the two of them, as she held them and he steadied his hands on her shoulder.
“Aaron, are you all right?” She inquired.
“No, Lilith. I am not. But I believe I will survive this, as I have survived most of this day. Please, do not distract yourself with my concerns.” He instinctually brushed her lips as she had to him. Her eyes seemed to flash wide for a moment, and the strange rush that had visited him before cascaded his already beating heart. Both of them, however, seemed to understand that this kind of behavior would have to wait for some other time, and they quickly disengaged from each other. Despite his vertigo, Aaron moved in front Lilith, pointing the weapon towards the loud banging that was coming from the door down the hall. He wished that he could cover her on both angles, and wished that she had thought to grab a weapon for herself. Yet she hadn’t, even though she had on opportunity to do so. He had no idea why, but he would have to cover her on both flanks now. He hoped that he would be able to confront both of them with equal success.
Just at that moment, the loud banging behind the door became a reverberating boom. In an exploding cloud, shards of the door became projectiles that hurtled towards Lilith and Aaron. Just as he had when the Omega agents attacked them, he leapt to cover Lilith with his body, only to look up and see the ones they had subdued before charging toward them. Both options now appeared to be compromised, and there was nowhere for him and Lilith to go. They were trapped and cornered, and the disappointment that he had experienced earlier when he was dejected about the Omega agent biting him in his leg flooded through him. This time, the new painful sentiment was directed toward himself. As it became clear that they were cornered and trapped, he was disappointed that he’d failed in his objective to protect the two of them. Aaron, for the first time in his life, felt failure, even as he readied his weapon towards their attackers.
Something in him decided that even though he and Lilith were most likely to be captured, he should fire the weapon anyway. The thought occurred to him that if he was going to be defeated, he should fight until he couldn’t do so anymore. It was an illogical thought. But feeling Lilith’s hair tickle his throat as he covered her, he knew nothing logical was happening right now. For here, in a supposedly perfect world where everyone loved one another and was equally of value, he and Lilith were being attacked for being an anomaly, a lesser breed. So the illogical thought to fight in the face of certain defeat didn’t seem so illogical, after all. In a world where there was no logic, this emotional decision to fight even in the face of certain defeat was as logical as anything else he’d encountered in a world full of lies, or as the Gangans would say, not-truths.
So he unleashed the weapon towards his attackers from his lying position, until the weapon wouldn’t fire any more. The decision to fire and discharge it completely had taken place in a matter of seconds, and when Aaron was done, all five of his attackers were on the ground once more. But in the meantime, whatever had taken place behind them by the door was still unfolding. The shards of fonta from the explosion pelted Aaron, sending stinging pains throughout his body.
But the adrenaline coursing through him was enough for him to ignore the assault, as he felt Lilith squirming underneath him. Their attackers momentarily subdued, he turned his body to look at the now blown-out tunnel. He yelled behind him, “Lilith! Grab one of the weapons from the Omegas!” without looking to see if she did. For there were figures appearing in the haze from the explosion. They were all wearing white, and they all carried weapons such as the one which he had used to disable the first wave of Omega attackers.
One of them began speaking at a volume that Aaron had never heard before, in a voice that seemed to bounce off of the tunnel’s walls, almost as though it was crushing him. The hall was such a haze, and Aaron was so disorientated from the assaults and action he had experienced that day that he couldn’t determine which one was speaking.
“Citizen Alpha J-45 and Citizen Alpha K-89! You are rogue citizens, and you are requested to come with us for immediate requisition. We appreciate in advance your willing complicity in this matter! We are certain that as a loyal citizen to all Gangans, you will agree with us that this is the course of action that you wish to take, yes?”
Trembling, Aaron rose to his feet, though his body felt as though it was shaking too hard to maintain him for much longer, the stabbing throughout him becoming worse and worse. He could feel Lilith’s feet slip away from him, and the tiny touch she brushed him with as he stood felt like a temporary salve, like a surge of electricity charging through him. It bought him enough strength to confront the voice that threatened to pressurize him, to counter, “No, citizen! I do not wish to join you! For you speak to me in not-truths and couch it in virtue! For how is it that I am a rogue citizen and a loyal citizen in the same strain? How do you think I should choose to rectify these words you speak to us?
“Citizen!” The voice boomed even louder as it through the halls, and pierced through Aaron’s skull on all sides, compelling him to press his hands on his head to help quell the pain. It did little to do that, nor did it do much to muffle the loud voice as it continued to speak. “You are the one who lives in not-truths! All citizens are equal in this world, and all good obedient Gangans know this. What is this of what you speak, saying you are regarded by your fellow citizens as rogue and then contradicted as loyal? All Gangans are loyal! The Great Eye has made it so! You are a valued and treasured member of our family. You and Citizen Alpha K-89 are in need of our assistance, and we as Gangans are all concerned for your well-being. As the Great Eye each has a place for us, the Great Eye has a means for you to be restored to the greatness you have seemed to have momentarily misplaced. Please feel the beauty of the Great Eye. We love you. The Great Eye loves you.”
Try as he could, Aaron’s strength was nearly spent. His injuries, coupled with the weight of the unidentified voice coming from all corners were just about ready to collapse him. But he managed to say,“The Great Eye loves me? It cares for me? I was an Alpha, my skin was blue. But look at me now, Citizens!” He thrust his arm out, the blue skin he once knew totally purple. “Would you care to tell me what I look like now, as you address me as an Alpha? Do I resemble the world of Alphas to you, Citizens?”
“Citizen Alpha J-45! You are purple! As all Alphas are! Where is it that you have learned this non-truth, that Alphas are blue? You are mistaken, and this is evidence that the Great Eye needs to heal you. The Great Eye is concerned about the not-truths and you and Citizen Alpha K-89 have digested. Please, we are here to help! You must allow us to! We will not hurt you! Come with us, Citizen! You know your world must include this lesson, that we will always be with you! You must want us to assist you to restore you. What else would a Gangan ever want, but the will of the Great Eye? Please! The Great Eye will help you, now!”
The not-truths were weakening Aaron in way he could not even follow or track. Had he always been purple? He barely could remember. He remembered his apartment. He remembered his work station. He remembered speaking to a driver, purple like him, but was he an Alpha, as well? Yet in all of this, Aaron could not remember his own skin, or even its color. He remembered all the scenery. He remembered all the other actors in them, what they looked like. But he had forgotten himself. Who was he? When he did conjure an image of himself as a blue-skinned citizen, it felt forced. But why? Who was the bearer of the not-truths? What was truth? The pain of the question, and the injuries he vaguely remembered suffering, stabbed him from every direction.
He fell to his knees, and all was silent. He wished he could look behind him, but the silence that resided in that direction almost seemed more dangerous than the voice he was confronted with, face to face. He felt a touch on his shoulder, and reflexively turned to see who touched him. He had almost forgotten about Lilith, but she was there. He felt the tickle of her breath on his ear as she whispered, and it was the most tangible truth that seemed to exist in all the confusion that had been thrust upon him.
“Aaron, remember me. If you forget everything else, remember me. It will keep you strong, if you suffer the dark hours as I have. Remember you have chosen the name of light. Be that light, and remember me. I am true, and you know it to be. For you always remembered me.” This is what he held onto as a blue swish of light enveloped the tunnel, and he fell to the ground with Lilith clasping his arm, both barely evading the stream that was intended to subdue them. He focused on her touch as fatigue from his injuries threatened him. Yes, she was real. This was truth. He reached up to grab her fingers, and they clasped them together as darkness began to fall around them and their attackers began to move in once more.
As the figures neared, a different light permeated the room. It seemed to come from within the cadre of agents that were approaching him, taking up the entirety of the hallway as it formed a shape that had been a familiar companion to Aaron all the days of his life. In particular, he recognized the soft feeling the light generated in him, and the familiar hues and shapes of the Great Eye’s replica. As he had for many hours in the days of his life, the citizen who once called himself Citizen Alpha J-45 was once again contemplating the Great Eye. It filled him with peace. It filled him with bliss. This wonderful feeling began to eclipse all of the pain that he had experienced that day, making it a puzzling memory that he had trouble believing ever happened. What was he ever thinking, to call himself such a name as Aaron? He was an Alpha, Citizen Alpha J-45. Of course it was. Had not the Great Eye dictated this to him, all the days of his life?
But then he remembered things that could not quite be silenced with the bliss that was eclipsing him. What of the screaming he kept remembering? And where was Citizen Alpha K-89? He was once more the seventeen year old citizen, stretching in his mind to search for the female he knew had existed once, yet never seemed to again. If there was nothing but bliss, then why did this memory still exist in him? He wanted to believe, as the Great Eye wanted him to, that an aberration in his thinking was taking place. He wanted to believe that to be requisitioned would mean that he would be spared the agony of wondering what this strange memory reflex meant.
But yet, he thought of the touch that he felt when the one called Lilith brushed on him. He thought of the touch of her lips upon his. He thought of what it felt like when she embraced him, and he returned that touch. He remembered the soft chamber where they rested just hours earlier. All this was stronger, deeper than whatever it was that the Great Eye was trying to offer him now. This he knew.
And with all of this, he knew that the truth he sought was not in the light that was trying to tell him who he was. All that he knew, all that was true, that was what was contained within himself. What the Great Eye offered was nothing more than a not-truth to make him forget what he knew to be true. In that moment, the Great Eye began to turn red. Then Aaron lifted his head just enough that he was on eye level with his nemesis as he said, “You are the real bearer of not-truths, and I will show the world your evil ways.”
There was much chaos and confusion that happened in those seconds that Aaron refused the truth of the Great Eye and chose to speak of it. For there was the rush of activity that came from behind the agents which confronted Aaron and Lilith. A blur of red, purple and blue bodies, led by Fricktan himself, burst upon the white-clad agents, knocking them flat with their own blue lighted weapons. An onslaught of blue flew between the new arrivals and the white-clad agents behind Lilith and Aaron. Lilith lifted her head, touching Aaron, as the blue lights slid around them and the figure of the Great Eye, between their opposing targets. If you were to watch, it would appear as though Aaron and the Great Eye were encapsulated in an insular world where nothing could touch them, like they were locked in a singular battle which existed outside of all else.
But then, something strange happened. As the white-clad agents lay prostrate, allowing for Lilith and Aaron to escape with Fricktan and his army, a darkness fell in the tunnel. The blackness seeped through the halls to the opening which had reflected the glories of Vintack’s dusk just moments before. If you were on the streets of Vintack, whether drone, or Beta, or Alpha, you would have seen it just as much as the actors which surrounded Aaron and Lilith in the tunnel. The citizens of Vintack had no way of knowing this, but the darkness they experienced now flooded all of Contuan, bleeding its way around the world of Ganga little by little. All throughout Ganga stopped to turn and look, for a darkness like this had never pervaded the world where the Great Eye watched over all, knew all and saw all. All of Ganga was there to watch as the world they knew to be so blessed in perfect harmony changed before their very eyes, just as Aaron , the citizen once known as Citizen Alpha J-45, declared war on the Great Eye with his words. All of Ganga fell into darkness as he stared down the Great Eye, the first of Ganga ever to do so.
The darkness fell, because for the very first time throughout the land, in all the years that Ganga had been the center of all the universe, the Great Eye who watched over all and saw all did something it had never had in all the eons that Ganga had been blessed with over the years.
And as they ran through the darkness, Aaron felt something else that he had never felt before. It made him feel like flying. It made him feel like soaring. We have a name to describe what he felt. And what it was that he felt for the first time was this.