I Followed All The Rules


I follow all the rules of the good nation that I live in.

I have followed them perfectly all of my life.

If I can keep all the rules until my awakening next month, I will become apprenticed to teach what I have learned to those who will come after me. I have much to be grateful for, all the good things I have been given.

It is a great honor that will be bestowed upon me, to be entrusted to teach as I have been taught. The leaders have told me so, and I believe them because they speak truth.

I am greatly excited for the future that will await me when this happens. The only thing I need to do is follow the rules perfectly, to do as I have done. Then I can speak truth to those in the early years, just as it was done to me.

This is not an imposition, these rules. They are a joy and my birthright as one who lives as a citizen I do. The rules are very simple, the leaders have told me from the time of my birth. They are most important to follow. They are the only prescription that will keep us alive, to save us from the plague that cursed the disobedient.

This, I have been told as well. It is well that we have been warned, and I am grateful for what has been given to us so that we can live and not die.

This is the lesson I have learned, the one that all good citizens like myself have learned, and follow with all of our heart, our mind, our soul.

All of the elders and the leaders told me that the rules would make me strong and healthy. They tell me the rules would make me good, that the rules are made for my protection.

The leaders tell me every day that the rules are there for me to live as a happy and productive citizen, free from all diseases of both body and mind so I can pursue a life of meaning.

I believe the leaders speak the truth to me. Because I am strong. I am healthy. So I know I am good.

I have lived my early years as they said I would, so I know they speak truth. I have been productive, and never once ever been diseased in my body or my mind.

I have never seen the plague in real time, in any of my friends who I associate with, nor in my clan unit in which I live. The leaders have protected my mind by telling me of the horror of plague, through the education of my younger years. They graciously showed me moving mirrors and pictures of those who died of the horrible symptoms that the plague inflicted. I am grateful that I have never seen any effect of plague or death in my life because of how they protected me. The leaders tell me that I have much to be grateful for, and I have too much to lose.

I am grateful, and I agree with all they say. I am so glad I have never met anyone who has had the plague that I witnessed in the lessons that were taught to me. I never want anyone I know to ever suffer that agony, ever.

So I am glad to be healthy, to be strong in body and mind. I am grateful for health and happiness, all for following the rules that were laid out so graciously with such perfection. I am excited for the future because of this, and look forward to the life I will lead one day soon when I reach the day of my eighteenth annual.

This sense of satisfaction, of purpose and of happiness is the reward for following the rules perfectly. I have been told this all my life, and it is true because I am a witness to it. Every moment of my day is full of productive work and meaning, just as the leaders have proscribed. I am grateful for the wisdom of the leaders, which is so much greater than mine.

All those I know have lived as as I have, following each and every rule perfectly as I have. Like me, they are strong and good and healthy. Their lives are productive and full of meaning, and they too like me have lived lives free of diseases both of body and mind.

We have been protected from those who do not, those who will bring their disease of rebellion and sickness to us when they do not follow the rules we do. The leaders have provided this protection for us.

Those in our early years like myself have vowed to do all we can to teach those who come after us, when our awakening arrives. The rules are perfect, and thus so are we because we follow them.

Much suffering comes to those who do not follow the rules to perfection. The leaders have showed me proof of these sick ones that we have been shielded from. They showed pictures and of moving mirrors of those who are ill. The ill showed pain on their faces and agony on their lips. They were ill in both body and mind.

The leaders told me that I could not meet the ill personally, because if I did, I would become infected from the disease of their rebellion. I am grateful for this lesson, and so I have never broken one rule, not one.

I feel much sorrow for the sick ones, for they had so much to be grateful for and threw it away. They obviously had been sick in their minds to commit such irrational acts, to break any of the rules.

I do not want to be one of those pitiful ones. I have too much to lose. The leaders have told me so, and I believe them for they speak truth.

I have received these lessons every day for all of my seventeen years because of the kindness and graciousness of the leaders, throughout the time of day before the time of sleeping. Because of their wisdom, as of today I am a citizen in good standing.

Eighteen years ago, from just before I was born, we had the plague. My sister and my father died in it, and I had never met them other than the moving mirrors of their agony as they were punished. It is because they did not follow the rules that they died.

Which rules they broke, I do not know. The leaders have told me from my first lessons that this was not the lesson I should learn, to ask what happened in the past to the cursed and the rebels. That if I am a good citizen, one who wishes to follow the rules perfectly so that I have health in both body and mind, the most important rule is to never question the leaders.

This is because to question the leaders is to suggest that the wisdom offered freely from them is not good enough, and to dishonor the graciousness they have given with their instruction. Since they are wise, any questions of what they do or why they do it, is rebellion and will cause sickness.

I was greatly fortunate to have the opportunity to witness this lesson myself, first hand and with great mercy, without harm to my health either in body or in mind. For by asking the leaders what it was that my father and sister did, I learned I had misused the first and most important of all rules. That is, to know that the leaders are the ultimate of authorities and that to question them is to be in rebellion.

I was fortunate because of the timing I asked the question, and so mercy was bestowed upon me. The leaders are not only wise, but they are merciful as well. This has been taught to me and I believe it because it is what has been shown to me.

This is the mercy that was shown to me, the mercy that I hope to give one day to others.

The mercy I received was quite gracious. For the leaders have determined that those who are under the awakening age of four years are forgiven for their ignorance of the rules. That they are exempted, because of their fragile age. They do not become sick in mind or body when they break rules, for their spirit does not understand yet what it is they do. Hence, the sickness of rebellion cannot be present in those who do not know what it is their spirit does.

This is true, even though all citizens from the time of their birth are spoken truth to by not only the leaders but also by their clan unit, and their neighbors and their friends. The rules are most important, and those who are good citizens do not let the rules slip from their minds and their spirits.

Those under their fourth annual are privileged to absorb, to hear, to learn. They receive special lessons from those who were chosen by the leaders who have been deemed both wise enough to teach and flexible enough to bend like the young minds they will shape. Those under their fourth annual watch the moving mirrors of those who are ill, to watch what awaits them in the future if they choose illness and agony over health and peace.

I was three and several days away from my fourth annual when I asked of my father and my sister. It was in the presence of my mother and that of the one chosen to teach my young mind that I posed this question. When I asked and questioned the leaders, I saw a hint of agony in my mother’s eyes that looked like the fire pain that had been in my father’s as he became ill in his fatal rebellion.

I did not want to kill my mother with the illness of my rebellion, and I knew that my sparing of my life was a blessing that I am still grateful for. My love for my mother is the reason why I still feel energized to follow the rules, because I love her. For her, so that she does not lose more, I follow all the rules for my love for her. I never want to see the pain of plague in her eyes again.

So for my love for her, I have meditated and memorized, contemplated the most important of rules and the nine that follow afterwards. I never want to see the pain of plague in her eyes again, from the sorrow that I may die of the plague that took the sister and father I never knew away from her. I do not want her to die alone.

The most important rule is that the leaders are the fountain of wisdom and are entrusted as such. No one is to question them. They are foremost the true bastion of all knowledge, and all knowledge comes from them. Knowledge is only to speak of what comes from them. To create knowledge that is not of them, this is rebellion that will lead to plague of both body and mind.

The second of rules is to never create any moving mirror or picture that is not first sanctioned by the leaders with their approved seal, for to do so is to suggest that those who are not leaders know what is in their soul better than the wisdom created by the leaders. To create moving mirrors that reflect the past is to not venerate the future that the leaders have given us. In particular, the dead are dead. Moving mirrors and pictures of those who have died of the plague are a contagion, and will cause illness and death who still live. If one needs to see a picture of one who has died of plague, one needs to speak to the leaders so that any moving mirrors are approved by the leaders so instruction can be given along with the request. For any memento of those who are ill has the power to kill, and only the leaders know what is good about the past so that we may better live today. To create a picture or moving mirror on one’s own is rebellion, and will cause one to become ill in body and mind, and cause plague and death.

The third of rules is to never speak ill of the leaders, to slander their words and to criticize what they have chosen. This is rebellion, and will cause plague and death.

The fourth of rules is to devote one’s time to the lessons of the leaders when they are offered on the special hour, whenever they choose to give them. No activity is more important than the recitation of knowledge of the leaders, and one must always put aside other trivial concerns when the lessons are offered on the special hour. There is no reason why any good citizen cannot offer the special hour, as it is only one hour and is a minimal sacrifice for the ones who have given us much to be grateful for. To forego the special hour of the leaders’ knowledge is rebellion, and will cause plague and death.

These are the rules governing the relationship of a citizen to the leaders.

The final six rules govern the relationship of citizens to other citizens, excluding the leaders who as the repository of wisdom are to be regarded as higher and better than all other citizenry. All of the good citizens who are healthy in body and mind know this.

The final six rules are intended to be reflective as an expression of the deep love we have for those who lead us. If one loves the leaders as supreme in ultimate wisdom, then the last six become easy, and all good citizens are only glad to be able to partake in the cohesion of society that this wisdom provides.

The final six rules are these, equal in importance to follow, but important to remember in sequence so the flow of society is spared the plague that murdered many, and took the lives of my father and sister bringing agony to my mother’s eyes. This has been taught to me by the leaders, and I am grateful for the wisdom that they have shown.

As one respects the leaders, one should offer respect to one’s clan as the unit of protection. One’s clan unit is the microcosm of the society that one lives in, and one’s mother and father are thus the demonstration of wisdom in concrete form. The affection that the mother and father give the child translate to a reciprocal relationship where the child respects the mother and the father of transmuted wisdom. This is just as it with the leaders, as the leaders have affection for the citizenry and the citizenry are to respect the leaders. This is the fifth rule to meditate upon and memorize. If one disrespects the family clan, this is rebellion that causes suffering in body and mind.

As the leaders are the wise ones who create law and life, they are the only ones who can terminate life, and only to curtail suffering for those who have become ill in body and mind.

Leaders are the only ones who are authorized to kill fauna for food, as they are the ones who understand what is best for the citizens to consume for the seasons they have monitored.

No citizen is to terminate life of any kind, even in the delusion of self-defense. For to rationalize self-defense is to suggest that one has the discernment to know when one is in danger, and there is no way a citizen can know this without the knowledge of the leaders to tell them.

Therefore, no citizen can ever take life unless expressly proscribed by the leaders, and then only in extreme cases.

To take life in any other case is rebellion and causes plague in both body and mind. This is the sixth rule to meditate upon and memorize.

As the devotion to the citizenry by the leaders is of zeal and dedication, one is paired with only one mate throughout one’s life. One’s mate has been preselected, and is the only mate that one will have throughout one’s life. When the mate dies, or if somehow is rendered sick in body and mind because of rebelling against the rules, one remains solitary in service to the leaders for the remainder of one’s life, which is never a burden for it is a joy to serve those that have provided for us so graciously.

Violating this partnership or the solitary nature from dissolution is rebellion, and causes plague in both body and mind. This is the seventh rule to meditate upon and memorize.

Our leaders have provided so well for us, given us all education, all provisions, all the means and knowledge needed to support all of our needs, that of physical, emotional and even that of pleasure.

Each and every citizen has been provided for in this egalitarian manner and there is no need to take anything that is not designated by the leaders for one’s possession from another citizen, which is known as stealing. Therefore, those who steal must be of the plague and full of rebellion against not only their leaders but their fellow citizenry.

To steal is a mark of rebellion, causing plague in body and mind. This is the eighth rule to meditate upon and memorize.

There are two more rules which are of more subtle but yet important strictures to contemplate. It is obvious through that of the leaders’ wisdom that what we speak and what we think is very important, and that all of these other rules are broken because we do not monitor our speech and our minds.

The ninth rule bestowed by the leaders is regarding all speech. The leaders have told us speech is an oath, and binds us as citizens as no other fauna do. So, all speech needs to be bound in truth, kindness, and friendship so that the witness of our words does not create dissension and incite our fellow citizenry into committing acts that violate the previous eight.

This also is true in thought, for no rule can ever be broken unless one thinks of it to the point that one’s emotions relish disobedience more than the truth and wisdom of what the leaders bestow. The tenth rule says that all thought must be bound in truth, kindness and friendship, so that the seed of rebellion can never come to fruition. Speech and thought are the seat of wisdom as well as the root of rebellion. It is up to us to choose which at any moment.

In this, all of the leaders have great trust and confidence in our ability to do the right thing at all times. It is such an honor to be trusted by the leaders. I am so grateful for them and their trust. I admire them so.

Those who choose to break the ninth and tenth rules become sick in mind but in a way that makes them even more ill than those who come before. They are the creators of rebellion, those who only break these two rules, and are spared further damage through a quieting which is only done in the presence of leaders.

I cannot understand why anyone would ever choose to disobey these rules of simplicity that have been given to us so graciously. I, for one, believe I have too much to lose just to engage in the disease of rebellion to have the horror eat my eyes that causes plague. There really is no reason for such self-destruction, and I am too important to our cause to destroy myself or my future this way for I am a citizen in good standing.

In fact, this day is an important day. For the leaders have decided together what position it is I shall be chosen for, once I reach the maturation of my eighteenth year. I was instructed of this news, midway in the solar time of my learning day.

They have told me I have been honored, that because I have been so faithful in my lessons, I will be given a life of great distinction, and of teaching. So much so, I was told that I could rest for the duration of the day, and could go back to my home to enjoy the last few times before my apprenticeship begins at my eighteenth annual in just several days.

This honor has been given to me, I was told, because I followed all the rules of the good society I have been given. I am excited to go home, to see my mother. She too has been honored for all of her work these years, as she works to create the clothes that we wear from material given by those who have been tasked with the talent of rendering flora into workable forms for our use. I am so glad that she has been one of the lucky ones who have been able to produce work from our home, as I have been able to spend many hours with her.

My mother is my family clan, and she is my honor and joy. I look forward to sharing my new honor and joy with her. I look forward to seeing the joy on her face. I am so happy.

My unit residence is a small one, not far from my learning center. It takes not much time to traverse from one place to another, so that we may all be efficient. As I make my way to my unit residence I walk as many others do. In doing so I pass many of my fellow citizens who I know from the commissary where we eat meals at learning time, and some citizens who are clan unit members of my friends. They smile at me, I at them.

We are so lucky, to be able to have such unity among each other. There is only friendship and camaraderie between us all. I have such joy at this great fortune I have been granted.

At this time of day, my mother is generally in the main common room where we host company. This is where she creates her apparel that she sells to support us, and where she conducts business with those who buy the creations she makes with her hand. The door to our unit is generally closed but not locked, so that people can enter to make purchases and sell material to her while she remains seated at work.

But today, strange as this is, the door is open.

This causes me some surprise, but only for a moment. From time to time, there are customers who might not close the door completely. There has been a leaky hinge on our door which I have asked my mother to fix, but she has laughed this off. Perhaps the leaky hinge caused the door to not close, not fully. This is the most logical reasoning for this discrepancy, and I am happy in the joy of the news I will share with my mother. I look forward to seeing the joy in her eyes at my news.

But my surprise does return, as soon as I walk into my living unit which takes me to the main common room, and there is no one there as I call out my mother’s name. No customers or sellers are seated at the business tables either. This is strange and puzzling to me, and I am unsure of what to do in this scenario. There is no context for me to categorize this experience.

I hear my name being called, but not from my mother and not from a familiar point in the home. It seems as though the voice is female, but subterranean, the latter of which is puzzling to me because there is only a small crawl space underneath our unit and no one can be in this place for long because of the confined air space.

But I hear my name being called again, this time with a command to walk to the back of my unit. So I do as I am told, and I get to the back of my unit behind the common unit and where I find myself in my mother’s sleeping section. I am surprised once more, for I see an opening in the wall that I have never seen before.

I am surprised, and do not know what to do when I see this strange hole. I have lived here for all of my nearly eighteen years, and never had knowledge of this hidden place. What is happening, in the home I have lived all of my life?

I feel more surprise when I see an adult female step out of the hole, for the hole felt so foreign I did not realize it was so large a grown person could walk in and out of it with ease. I almost laugh, thinking that she must be my mother, for she has the same red hair and is just about the same size as my mother.

But she is not, she is one of our leaders who I have recognized from our lessons. The leader speaks my name again, and I realize the voice of this leader is the same voice that called me, just before. I am surprised, yet honored at the same time.

I did not recognize her voice, because I have never had a leader in my home. Whatever this is, this unique occasion of a leader being at the home of ordinary citizens such as myself must be quite important, and I am proud.

And I am correct, for the leader tells me to go through the hole, that there is an important lesson for me to learn, now that I am soon to be of my majority and a teacher to those who are younger than I. I am so glad, so honored. I am no longer startled, no more assailed with anxiety. I feel joy. I am happy, for I have followed all the rules and I will not reap the bounty of all that I have accomplished.

I cannot wait to tell my mother of the honor that my actions have brought to our family. I cannot wait to see the joy in her eyes, the way I feel joy now at my honor.

The joy becomes confusion the very moment I cross the threshold of the hole. I almost trip, not expecting the three stairs that accompany the interior just inside the hole. But I regain my composure enough to step down the three stairs into an anteroom that is completely unfamiliar to me.

The leader asks me if I know about this room, and I say no. She nods, smiling at me and says, your expression and demeanor tell me that you speak the truth and that you are still healthy of body and mind.

She beckons me to follow her. We proceed down a dimmed hall that is illuminated only through a soft orange haze that I recognize as being that of the candles my mother uses, when we as ordinary citizens are cut off from the grid of the main city of the leaders. What is this light that is so strange yet so familiar, and what is its meaning that is so vital to my life?

In an opposition to the light I now observe is so familiar yet so strange, my mother sits at a table where there are pictures that I have never witnessed in my life. There are recording instruments to create still pictures of ocher and charcoal, and freezings of real profiles of people which I have seen in the pamphlets recording current events.

I recognize my mother in one of them, but she looks younger and her stomach is full and round though she is lean and fit in muscles otherwise, and she holds the hand of a young girl who looks like me but with hair darker than mine. There is a man with that darkened hair standing by my mother, and his eyes are oval like mine where my mother’s are round. None of them in the picture show agony. None of them are ill.

I have only seen my sister and my father once, in a time of my younger years, and I recognize both. The man in the picture is my father, and the girl with the hair of dark, this is my sister.

They do not have plague. They resemble me, and I am healthy in body and mind.

There are other pictures of the man that was my father and the girl who was my sister, some in dishes of red and others of ocher in stills. There is another, a moving mirror picture of what appears to be my father and sister reading a book I have not seen with a strange rotated X on it. Many other pictures are here as well.

The leader watches me, and observes me in expression and motion. She points to the pictures of ocher and charcoal, and says, What do you see here?

So entranced I have been in the pictures of those I have never seen but yet know intimately, I have forgotten to look for the seal that marks the approval of the leaders on these visual portraits. I look once, twice, then have to look again. Because my eyes, they must not be seeing the light correctly, because there is something missing from each and every one of the pictures.

But my eyes are healthy, and I say what I know is true to the one whose wisdom is greater than mine, knowing that I will be guided to the direction I will need to go by her.

So I tell the leader what is supposed to be said in these circumstances. I say, these pictures are not sanctioned. I say, they do not have the approved seal of the leaders.

The leader says, you are a witness to a rule now broken.

She does not smile this time as she says it. Yet her eyes are still healthy, at least I believe they are. They seem large, but frozen. What is this that I see in her? What is it that I witness now?

The leader then points to my mother, and asks me to look at woman I love more than anyone in the world.

She asks, what do you see here? What do you see when you look in this ill one’s eyes?

I look into my mother’s eyes. There is agony in them. The same agony which I have seen in the moving mirrors of eyes that have displayed plague now reside in them, here in this place where a rule has been broken, in a place where I have lived, and yet I did not know.

How is this my mother, when she has broken the rules? The rules that our leaders have given, in wisdom and in great mercy? How could she do this to me, to us?

I feel fire in my soul, but not of the love that I once burned for her. I do not know what it is I feel, and I tell the leader of my dilemma.

She says, you feel rage. She says, you feel the fire that is in your bones that will make you a great leader one day. She says, you are almost of the age of maturity, and your lessons are only beginning.

The leader then says, what is it that you wish to do now, seeing plague? What would you believe the one you called your mother would say, in the days she was well?

I am honored, hearing the leader ask me what I wish. I am grateful that whatever plague that the one that was my mother is experiencing now has not contaminated me yet, and I am motivated to continue to my future in pure health of body and mind.

I reply, she would want me to spare her the plague that killed my father and my sister. I reply, she had suffered much when my father and sister died of plague, and she did not want me to suffer as she had. And so, in my love and compassion for her, I wish to spare her the plague my father and and sister suffered from. That is what I wish.

Nodding at me, the leader holds out a vial to me, and in the periphery of my vision, I see my mother’s symptoms increase as she is now shaking and trembling despite the room being warm and comfortable to me in my state of perfect health.

The leader says, give the contents of this vial to this one who was your mother, and make her take it. I will hold open her mouth, and you will pour its contents down her throat. This is for her good, this is what you know what she would want you to do.

I do as I am told by the leader, and the leader is faithful in keeping her promise to hold open my mother’s mouth by pulling her skull and chin in separate directions as my mother’s shakings turn to spasms, fully in the plague that I have seen in the moving mirrors that have instructed me. I look into the eyes of the woman who was my mother, and they are full of plague. The leader closes my mother’s mouth, and after some time, my mother is forced to swallow the vial’s contents.

The one who was my mother spasms some more, then becomes still. Her eyes are quiet, and the plague in her eyes are now gone. I am glad for her, that she is now at peace.

Yet, have I failed a test? I have followed the leader’s instructions, yet of my family clan, I have just killed. For I have seen the moving mirrors depicting death, and I know this is now death I see, and that by my hand I have caused it. Furthermore, the death I have caused is that of my family clan. What is this occurrence I have compelled into being?

Have I failed, somehow? How is it that I followed all the rules, now that they are at opposition? I feel a strange sensation, and look to the leader to see her judgment of me.

The leader turns to me, and smiles. When she does, she looks just like my mother, almost exactly the same. You have done well, she says. You are now ready to teach. You have shown initiative and discernment. For the spirit that was your mother left long ago, and you have done well in listening to the judgment of the leaders over what you thought was loyalty to one that would have made you sick with the spirit of rebellion and contamination. This place is now a contamination zone, and all will be destroyed so no trace will remain. You as a future leader may participate. You are welcome to be with us, for you are honored.

The leader’s words are true, as the shell of the one that stole my mother is taken. The leader’s wisdom holds fast, as all that takes place in this room and the home is ripped up, destroyed, and set into the chasm of the past. I participate in this endeavor, glad to see all that has poisoned this place go to this ending, taking the candle that my mother once used to bring light into our life and applying its flame to snuff out what has only been the lie of rebellion.

As I proceed with this cleansing, there is a picture I see. For some reason, when I encounter this picture I do stop for one second, watching it and looking into eyes of those who now are gone. They like many of the others are of one I know now to be my father and my sister, and the one who was my mother many years ago.

And yet, for this picture unlike the others I hesitate, though I do not know why.

They stand in front of a building, one that I have never seen. There is a strange symbol there on the building, resembling the rotated X that was on the book I had never seen before. As the ones who once were my family clan stand in front of the building, they smile with eyes full of light and health.

I want to smile with them. I almost do.

But then, I feel something burning in my eyes, a pressure that I do not recognize. Is this the plague, or what is it that now throbbing in my chest?

I followed all the rules. I had too much to lose. There is too much to lose now.

For I have much to teach those who will come before me. I have much to give. This is what I have been told. This is all that matters.

I stand with the burning in my eyes, and the fire in my hand. The picture awaits my judgment, and the wisdom of the leaders burns in me as well. And then I realize what I feel.

I am the one who now burns.

Copyright © 2022 by Jessica Kuzmier. All rights reserved.

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