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Apr 2011 · 1.2k
The Light
Joshua Smith Apr 2011
“You are not special.”
We are not special.
“You are the same as any other person.”
We are the same.
“Science says you are the same.”
If science has proven it, it must be true.
We walk with the Clan.
We breathe with the Clan.
We are Clan.
###
The science is truth.
The science is all.
Repetition, repetition, repetition.
We were born to work.
We were born to serve the Clan.
We must work so we may survive.
The Clan must survive.
###
We gaze into the gray wall.
The clouds are unmoving, unyielding.
The light-globes reveal the path home, to sleep, so we may rise again to serve the Clan.
The logic is clear.
We must serve the Clan if we are to survive.
We must survive so we may serve the Clan.
More techniques are needed, more ways to harness the Unseen.
Only the Exalted may witness it, for all others who were not chosen for it would perish in its fiery embrace.
We must work.
We must work.
Work.
###
Each day leads to the next.
Each street leads to the next.
The path is clear.
Work until nothing is left.
Tick-tock, tick-tock, tick-tock.
We have worked well today.
The new project is finished.
A vague, fuzzy part of the brain attempts to resurface, but it is squelched easily.
We will eat well tonight.
###
“We are not special.”
This day, a new project.
This day, a new group.
This day, a Sweeper tripped off the skyway and splattered in front of me.
It is of no consequence.
Another will be cleaning the refuse by tomorrow.
###
“We are the same.”
The long walk home.
Work on the latest project is finished; another will be brought in tomorrow.
The Unseen is being harvested well, but only for a time.
Various other gray shapes shuffle past, heading home.
The school is on the left, the eating center is on the right.
Suddenly, a commotion erupts.
A siren wails, and people scramble from the front of the school; a flash of black is visible among the masses.
The crowd breaks, an Enforcer visibly seen in the center, beating a boy with a concussion-rod.
“What were you thinking?” The Enforcer screeches, “Do you wish the Clan to fail? Do you wish the Clan to starve?”
“No!” The boy of perhaps eight winter’s old wails, “I just want to go home!”
“You are nothing! There is only the Clan!”
The Enforcer, of perhaps sixteen winter’s old, descended upon the boy, shouting, “You are worthless without the Clan! You had your chance, and you threw it all away!”
The Enforcer beat the boy for several minutes, until the Enforcer realized that it was pointless to further beat the mass of pulp in the street.
The Enforcer rose, exclaiming, “This is unacceptable! The Clan does not tolerate insubordination! And we are all Clan!”
“We are all Clan,” we repeated.
“We are all the same!”
“We are all the same.”
“The logic is truth! The logic is law!”
“We follow the logic. We follow the truth. We follow the law.”
“Now, go home. There is work to be done tomorrow.”
As one, the gray shapes huddle towards home, avoiding the mess in the street.
Maybe the new Sweeper will clean it.
###
“Science says we are the same.”
We work for hours, days, weeks, months.
The day of rest is approaching, and final preparations are being made.
The parade of the Exalted, in all their glory, will feature our new project to harvest the Unseen.
Again, a faint buzzing at the base of the skull, but it is ignored.
Models are built of the various projects of the scientific departments.
We build a Collector, another builds a Transporter, and another is working on a model of DNA.
It is not known why DNA is still being researched with so much else to do, but we do not question orders.
After all, it is said that DNA proves we are ninety-nine percent the same, so perhaps they are studying the remainder.
The parade approaches, we must prepare.
###
The day has arrived.
No laboring for one day, so we may enjoy the work of the year and prepare for the next.
The building-sized models are rolled through the streets, to display the Clan’s capabilities.
Vaguely, a sound is heard from the back of the procession.
A model of a giant metal orb has broken its restraints and is rolling down the street.
The crowd scatters like vermin before the light, and many take refuge in a building next to the skylift.
The skylift is near and the mob approaches, so we bolt for the skylift.
We rush inside the glass box and the door hisses closed behind us.
A blur of motion is visible outside, but suddenly the skylight begins ascending!
We begin to panic, since we are forbidden to travel to the home of the Exalted, but it is too late now.
The gray wall approaches closer and closer, as we huddle in fear upon the floor.
Nothing is outside except the gray, impenetrable wall.
Then, with a sudden jolt, a brilliant flash of radiance enters the small glass box.
The sensation is overwhelming and nothing can be seen nor heard for a time.
Slowly, the brightness dims, and we look about the box we rode in.
Outside, great floating towers with Collector arrays seem suspended in time, slowly revolving to follow the radiance.
The doors open with a whoosh and we find ourselves on a smoothly polished deck that is abundant with bright benches and plants that grow without hydroponics.
These sights are a mystery, but thoughts are scattered as suddenly we notice two figures standing before us to the side of the skylift.
The glow emanating from the beings themselves glistened and rippled with a silvery sheen.
We stared in awe at the raw perfection of their features; the smooth bronze skin, the clear eyes that pierced deep.
“What is this? Why are these Workers here?” one Exalted questioned another with a deep, booming voice.
“I don’t know. Perhaps the Enforcers know of this?” the other Exalted responded in a clear, trebled voice.
The Exalted snorted, “I doubt it. Those children are full of themselves. They are just bitter because they cannot join us until they pass their Ordeal.”
I? What is I?
“It is no matter. Let’s just stick it back in the skylift and let the Enforcers take care of this,” the Exalted continued.
The Exalted approached us and fear overcame our senses.
We backed up into the skylift and watched as the doors closed before the Exalted could touch us.
We watched as the wonderful plants and buildings flashed past, until we descended into the gray wall.

###

We thought.
We saw.
We felt.
Nothing was the same.
Our thoughts clouded, our mind scrambled.
Our work was pitiful, the reprimand was fierce.
Still, this question remained.
What is I?
We thought and thought, but nothing made sense.
We made the trip finally, to search the Records.
We requested a definition of I.
Thousands of responses came, overloading the senses.
We read and read.
It was wonderful!
It was spectacular!
But it still went against the rational mind, our thoughts, the Clan’s thoughts.
How can we be I?
How could our ancestors have been so blind?
Could they not see that to not be one was to be nothing?
But then, there was still the doubt.
There is always that doubt.

###

We moved through life, slippery as soap.
No one must suspect that things were not as they seem.
Every day, we viewed the skylift with envy and curiosity.
Every day, we approached it to ascend through the gray wall.
Every day, we turned away and went home.
Finally, the day arrived.
We resolved to enter the skylift no matter what.
We boldly entered and stood as the doors shut.
As we rose, our knees swayed.
We did not know precisely what awaited us at the top, but we knew that we must see it again.
The Unseen must be seen.
We rose and rose, and so did our spirits.
The pounding in the ears, the raw feeling of energy overcame us.
Now, rising through the gray wall towards the Unseen.
Now, rising towards salvation.
The wall was coming to an end, the freedom was coming.
The radiance burst in again, no less dizzyingly than the last time.
Once we stopped at the flat level again, we tentatively looked around, searching for signs of any of the Exalted.
With none in sight, we bent over and sprinted to the nearest cover, which was a large, fruit-bearing tree.
Now, this was an oddity, since the only plants we ever saw were grown in factories, and they were suspended in water.
We reached up and plucked the nearest fruit, which was about the size of our hand and had a smooth, red exterior.
We split it open, to find that within, it was moist and somewhat white inside.
Slowly, carefully, we placed a bit of the fruit in our mouth and chewed.
How delightful!
It was sweet, moist, crunchy!
We proceeded to devour the rest of the fruit, except the seeds, which were hard and small, and the small twig atop the strange, amazing fruit.
Once finished, we cautiously walked down the central path around the curious, floating buildings that radiated gold light, and pondered the burning questions in our mind.
What if our ancestors had something?
Was their downfall because of individuality, or was it the lack of it?
What if that one percent difference is what matters?
We did not know for certain, but eventually, we had to turn back, because the radiance began to fade and night would soon come.

###

You are not special.
“We aren’t?”
You are the same as any other person.
“Are we really?”
Science says you are the same.
“Is science really so infallible?”

###

So it became routine, to leave work and go up the skylift, to eat the globe-shaped fruit, which we discovered were called “apples”, and think.
Things below the gray, misty wall became less clear, less defined.
We saw the people around us, but it was as if they did not see us.
The gray walls, the gray shapes shifting from home to work, home to work.
Are they blind?
Was this how life has been?
It was uncertain, but thoughts began to form.
The others must know.
They cannot remain ignorant.
All the things they must know.
Above the gray wall, it was clear.
The purpose was clear.
We must leave, gather the knowledge, and teach the others.
We must plan.
We must prepare.

###

We thought, and we knew.
I am unique. I am not the same as everyone else. I think, breathe, eat, and exist for my reasons and purpose, nobody else’s. I will not submit to the will of others. I think clearly and for myself. I will be set free.

###

On the final day, it really wasn’t that difficult.
After work, I began to walk, and never looked back. I approached the edge of civilization. No one stopped me. No one even looked at me. Only the blankness was there. Before me, an endless, barren landscape, devoid of life. Behind me, the same.
I vowed to return, however; the people behind me would know what it was to feel, what it was to see, what it was to live. The Exalted were not so special as to leave the rest of us in the waste and filth. People would be given a chance for redemption.
Time grows short; I must hurry.
Apr 2011 · 493
Pride
Joshua Smith Apr 2011
There you go, keep it going.
You’re doing great, almost done!
Come, just a little more!
Push!
Push!
Here it comes!
Oh, my.
What’s wrong?
Nothing.
Well, what is it then?
Look dear, we have a boy.
A beautiful baby boy.

###

Come on son, you can do it.
Just put one foot in front of the other.
There you go; you’re getting the hang of it.
Keep it up now; see if you can get to Mom.
I’m sorry honey, I just don’t understand.
It’s fine, really.
Fine?
How is this fine?
How many two year olds do you know that can’t walk?
I don’t know, none I suppose.
See?
We need to take him to a doctor.
Maybe he’s mentally challenged.
No, please.
Don’t say that.
Let’s just keep walking with him.
He’ll get it.
All right, if you say so.

###

You’re doing fine son.
Just keep reading.
But this is your favorite book.
Try one more time.
Please, I know it’s tough, but you like this story, right?
It’s fine, don’t cry.
If you really don’t want to, you don’t have to.

###

What’s wrong now?
Well, if you keep playing with ants, you’re going to get bit.
I know, I know it hurts.
Here’s some cream, let me put it on.
It only stings for a little while, honey, here.
Now instead of playing with ants, why don’t you go play with your friends?
Yes you do.
What about Andy?
Oh I didn’t know he moved.
Stephen?
What do you mean you don’t like him?
Oh all right, all right.
Okay and what about Chris?
And Kristin?
You know, the nice girl down the street.
All right, never mind.
Go ahead and play outside.

###

Hey, they you are.
Where have you been?
What were you doing?
Nothing, huh?
Were you at the park again?
You’re wearing all black again, that’s how I know.
You know I don’t like those kids, son.
What’s the matter, huh?
Are you upset because I don’t like your ‘friends’?
Well, good, because while you were at the park neglecting your chores, I talked with your teacher.
You know which one.
You better watch it, or you’ll be grounded.

###

Where are you going?
Come in here, we need to talk.
Your mother and I would like to know what this is all about.
You know what I mean.
You got a D in math.
Well, you never did badly in math before!
Why are you failing?
Last I checked, a D is failing.
The school doesn’t say so, but I do.
It’s those kids you’ve been around, isn’t it?
Honey, please, we promised not to bring this up.
No, he needs to know.
Look son, those kids are a bad influence on you.
You shouldn’t be around them!
Hey, get back here!
Don’t you walk away from me!
GET BACK HERE!

###

Hey, hold on a second.
Just wait a moment, I need to give you a…
What is that smell?
I don’t know, but it’s strong.
It’s you!
When was the last time you showered?
Wait, is that…
Son, tell me the truth.
Have you been smoking?
Don’t start with that attitude!
Tell me the truth!
I knew I never should have let you go with those kids!
All those ***-heads are going to ruin your life.
I care!
I’ve always cared!
Why are you doing this to yourself?
What?!
What do you mean it doesn’t matter?
Please, talk to me son.
Please.

###

What are we going to do?
I don’t know.
He just won’t talk to us, won’t let us help him.
There must be something!
Someone we can talk to, someone who can-
Oh, hey!
How was school?
Oh, okay.
Wait, when did you get a haircut?
Whoa, hold on, don’t go!
Son, wait we just want to talk!

###

What’s been going on with him?
I don’t know, but it’s weird.
He’s been going to that one girl’s house all the time, though.
What’s her name again?
Kristin.
Right, Kristin!
I don’t know, maybe she’s changing him?
Maybe…well, you’re going to be shocked.
What?
No it’s not bad; it’s just that…well…
What is it?
Tell me!
You see…he got straight A’s last semester.
He-he did WHAT?!
You heard me.
I don’t believe it!
I know me neither.
I don’t know how or why, but this is good, right?

###

He looked good!
Yeah, he did, although I think he stumbled a bit.
Oh, stop.
Look, here he comes!
Hey son, let me see.
Wow, an official diploma.
That’s so wonderful sweetie!
Did you shake his hand firmly?
Well, congratulations!
Here, go show your father.
Great job, son.
I’m proud of you…

That was all he ever wanted.
Apr 2011 · 554
Home
Joshua Smith Apr 2011
There is a place, upon a certain hill;
A place of simple antiquity,
Where the sun shown brighter,
The sky was bluer,
And the grass grew greener.

Small blossoms grew at the base of a tree,
And a red swing hung by a tightly bound rope
Swinging softly in the breeze.
Thick, green leaves adorned each twig,
And rough brown bark covered each branch.
A child approaches this place of mystery,
And immediately begins to shout with glee.
Swinging without a care
And climbing with a smile as wide as the sea.
At last, the child slumped against the tree,
A contented sigh escaped, and was free.

The days were warm, too warm.
The child came to play, but grew restless.
Its free spirit was trapped,
Not content to merely admire the leaves rustling
And the birds as they sang.
The child came and went,
Often just swinging idly,
Other thoughts clouding its mind.
The child left, and did not return.

The leaves turned to vibrant pastels
Of yellow and red,
But none ever came.
The swing sat, desolate and forgotten;
No child came to play.

The leaves were gone, and the grass was dead.
The paint peeled,
Brown flakes of a forgotten paradise.
No birds sang, and all was still,
Until one day, for no reason,
The child returned.
It had trouble climbing the hill,
But this one was determined.
After completing this labor,
The child patted the tree,
Tears streaming from its eyes.
There the child sat,
Until the wind caused the swing to creak,
Startling the child from its reveries.
It gave the swing a little push, half smiled,
And walked back down the hill.

Days passed, and the tree remained.
No more leaves were left;
Only gnarled branches and gray bark.
The birds had all disappeared;
The sky was dim, and matched in color to the tree.
A slight breeze moved through,
Pushing the swing to and fro.
Creak…creak…creak…
Joshua Smith Apr 2011
When tomorrow comes,
It will be a time for reflection;
To think back to where I came from,
And ponder whether I took the right direction.

I have many doubts,
But I also have conviction,
That I will not just flare out,
And fall into dereliction.

And so, I implore you,
Think of yourself at this moment,
Ask, “What will I do?
What will I represent?”

During your hour upon the stage,
Will you be among the stars?
Proving wrong the writers of another age;
An example for others visible from afar.

Will you be the one to break down the walls,
Greater than any king?
Or will you be the one who falls,
Truly signifying Nothing.

Will you follow the Road Not Taken,
And make your own way?
Or will you fear being mistaken,
And let others fall astray?

When you feel Death’s cold embrace,
Will you remember your life with pride?
Or will your mind reel and race,
From the opportunities you let slip by?

So make your mark upon the world,
And make it no mystery;
That when that page comes unfurled,
It was YOU that made history.

With many things you can become,
I entreat you to tell me:
When tomorrow comes,
Who will you be?

— The End —