Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Horizon Beckons


In one possible future, where world war has left the earth barren and mostly empty, there exists pockets of individuals, self governed, who live in close nit communities. One such commune, surrounded by a lush green temperate forest, has a population of about 500. They live by a two class system. The two groups are the masters and the slaves.
A unique strategy that the masters employ on the slaves is to have them brainwashed on how they see themselves in relation to their environment. Because of the isolation brought after the last war, the ancestors of the masters had the opportunity to enslave a population of people and domesticate them. By separating the first few generations of children from the adults, the masters where able to change the perceptions of the slaves. The emerging generations started to believe that their only possible existence was to serve the masters; they began to accept this fate and live life from that position. To ensure the slaves remained ignorant, the masters did not reveal to them the arts of literacy and advanced language; so the slaves only could communicate with each other and the masters, with crude and simple language. So symbolic communication, in the eyes of the slaves, became just one of the mysteries the masters possessed; this fed the artificial belief of their identity.
These are the events surrounding one of the slaves known to the masters as #111. He is one out of the 250 slaves in the community. He is about 18 years old with tanned skin and brown hair. He is of average height and medium build. Amongst the slaves he is known as Sky for his boundless imagination. He is always looking far across the horizon, searching for what lies beyond it. He spends his days working the fields of the cooperative, while other slaves are broken up to work other parts of the area; houses, places for carpentry/masonry, and agriculture.
He is assigned a moderately sized portion of land with four other slaves. They can be considered his circle of friends. Rock, for his body shape and firm stance, Muddy, for his lack of good eyesight, Red, for his temper, and finally Fog, for his mysterious nature. Working together all their lives, as well as being around the same age group, they developed an emotional bond. Their tight daily schedule is comprised of eight hours of sleep, four hours at the end of the day to relax, and the remainder of the time hard farm labor; all this, with three meals given throughout.
One day while turning the soil, Sky, looking toward the mountain near their quarter, asked Muddy,
“What you’d think lies outside this corner of farm?”
Muddy replies, “I’m not sure, all I see is green and brown mush!” Red interrupts, “Damn you Sky, get your mind off that stuff already!’ It aren’t helping no one!”
“But we can’t just ignore it, there has to be more to this here all!” reaffirmed Sky. “Look, Enough you too, lets get back to work so we can finish our days quotas!” protested Rock. They all silently returned to their toil. Later that evening, while the slaves had their relaxation time, Fog approached Sky while he was sitting near a hill looking over their field.
“There might be things we shouldn’t ask to know” said Fog to Sky. He continued, “More often in the last few weeks, you kept bringing up what is outside of our reach.” If you keep it up, things are going to change for good.” Fog went on looking down, “Sky, I don’t want change.” Sky touched his shoulder which brought his face up and said,
“This here world is nothing but one big unending flow!” he went on, “Night, day, seasons, weather, the sky, they never look the same twice!” But Fog doubted,
“I don’t know about the heavens, but my life is the way it is and I like it this way.” After their short conversation, the two returned to the main area where the slaves were sitting around a few barn fires.
The masters’ lives in this commune would rival the modern concept of a utopia. They live without crime and violence. All are highly educated in various fields of the arts and sciences. And because of this, the knowledge of the recent and archaic history of the earth is exclusively theirs. Also, many of them routinely take trips outside of the community for goods and news from the other individual groups spread lightly across the world. The general rule of thumb amongst them is not to make personal contact with the slaves. At most, any dialogue toward them is limited to demands and direct questions. But just like the mysteries of the horizon beckon the attention of Sky, a young master girl named Angela was drawn to his curious facial expressions and his pensive appearance. From her bedroom window, with the help of her field glasses, she stalked him while hatching up a plan to come and talk to him. Breaking that taboo she thought would be so scandalous, and also quench her thirst for something outside of the custom. She devised a strategy. Over the course of a few months to a year, she will teach him some basic reading and writing in order to have a discrete affair with him, unbeknownst to her peers and the other slaves. Herself a rebellious spirit, she has grown up with the same kinds of inquiries Sky would have. But unlike him, she had the available potential to do something about it. And her way of exploring started with him.
Her first move was to meet him alone. The best time she thought would be during twilight. While the other slaves start to drift off into slumber, the drowsiness of Sky could not commence until he sat on that hill overlooking the field. She saw this as her opportunity to approach him. While caught in a gaze between him and the moon, Sky heard some footsteps coming from the grass at the bottom of the hill. He quickly assured himself it might be Rock or Fog telling him to go sleep already. But the silhouette of a female raised his suspicions.
“Who’s there!?”, whispered Sky.
“Hello there Sky!” My name is Angela.” Sky quickly got up and became defensive at the sight of the master, he could tell by her elegant clothing in contrast to his standard jumpsuit. He thought he was about to be punished for staying up after bedtime.
“I’m sorry!’ I needed air to get my body to sleep!”
“No, stop right there!’ I want to talk to you.”
“Huh?”
“I have been noticing you for quite awhile now from my window.”
“Noticing me? ’Doing what?”
“I have seen the expressions on your face and how others react to what you say from time to time. I want to know more about you” Sky’s chest started to cave in, a millions whys came into his head concerning her request. But he was reminded of the conversation earlier with Fog, and bit his lip and spoke back.
“I also want to know more about you”
“Perfect then”
“The last few weeks, I have been thinking more about what else is out there to life. Have you come to show me that?” She replied:
“Yes, I have also been thinking that, and believe you can show me as well.” They began to converse and became acquainted, and over time any sign of awkwardness faded. After a couple of hours they decided to keep meeting at that time and called it a night. Sky feel asleep pretty quickly that night. The next morning brought with it all the feelings of awe and fear which had boiled up during his sleep. He contemplated whether or not to let the others know what happened. But remembering their attitude toward new changes, he decided to keep the news to himself. He wanted to see how far this affair would unravel.
The day passed pretty quickly and with few words from Sky. The others did not seem too surprised at his silence, their work filled their minds. When twilight came back around, he waited impatiently on the hill for Angela. She came, but this time, she had some objects with her.
“What are those things with you?” asked Sky.
“These are reading and writing tools. I am going to teach you how.” explained Angela.
“What!? Your going to teach me the signs?” Sky said surprised. “Yes, I want us to have a way to communicate with each other that is secret.” she replied.
Over the next few months, she began to instruct him. Keeping it all to himself, on the fields he would remain quiet, and the others would just think he had finally just accepted his fate. Rock one day even mentioned changing his name as his imagination was not expressed anymore. Sky, started to apply the knowledge to his surroundings. He would see the signs of the masters like “School” or “Garden” and start to question what where these things and why he did not have access to them. At the same time, Angela started to lose her interest in Sky. The taboo of her actions lost their potency. She began to consider stopping the affair.
One night during their confidential meeting, Sky addressed his concerns over some of the differences between the masters and slaves. Hearing, this gave Angela a re-spark of interest in him.
“Have I told you about the barcode?” said Angela.
“No, what’s that?”
“Under the long hair of each of the slaves, at the top of the neck, lies a mark. This mark signifies you as a piece of property. You are created and grown as a worker animal. The life you think is normal, is really fake.”
“But how can this be!? I don’t feel like one.”
“That’s because we have trained you and your group to attach your lives to work. So as long as you guys have something to work on, there will be no thinking outside of the box.”
“Show me this mark.” Angela proceeded to cut some of the hair from the top of his neck, and pointed a mirror so he could see. It was a barcode with the number 111 at the top of it.
“This mark registers you to this land and a kind of job or work.”
“Why is this?” he said to her with stone cold eyes.
“I really can’t answer that. I am as lost as you are, all I know is that I am here and you are there.” A silence came between them, hanging heavy in the air.
“I’m leaving here.” Sky told her, “I knew the horizon was waiting for me, this is my chance to come and get it!”
“Are you crazy!? You have no idea what lies out there. I have just the slightest. Please don’t go, I love you! If you stay we can continue to see each other, and maybe if my guardians allow, we could marry after I show them how you are literate.” pleaded Angela.
“I’m sorry, I must go now.” he said that and ran off to his sleeping quarters. Angela stood paralyzed, she knew she had just unleashed a Pandora’s box unto her small world.
Upon entering the sleeping area, Sky quickly woke up the 4 others in his group. “What the hell!” yelled Red half asleep.
“This better be important!” mumbled Fog as he rubbed his eye. Sky hit Muddy, who was still asleep,
and Rock said “Is everything ok?!”
“What’s going on?” muttered Muddy as he reached for his glasses.
“Everyone! I have been keeping important information from you! For the last few months I-” Red interrupted,
“Does this have to do with you not sleeping here?” Sky retuned, “Yes! Everyone look!” He proceeded to show everyone with a mirror and scissors their barcodes.
“Huh!? they all said.
“What does this mean!? asked Rock.
“We are all property; we are all slaves! We are brainwashed to thinking our labor equals our desire” explained Sky. The whole group, with jaws open, could make no response to what was just said.
“I cant think” said Muddy.
Over the course of the night, Sky briefs everyone on what he learned from Angela regarding their true positions. By the morning everyone was stagnated.
“My whole life… has been a joke?” Fog said with his head down.
“SON OF A BITCH, you fucked up our lives!” Red yelled running toward Sky to hit him. Rock got in the way and stated,
“Its not his fault. We have to think of what to do now.”
“We have to leave here and never look back!” offered Sky, “The horizon calls us to explore it.”
“NO! This is the only life I know. What else can I do? I’m forgetting all of this an keeping to MY work” cried Muddy.
“Look, I cant force any of you, but I promise what lies beyond is more fulfilling then what lays here. Come with me and you will know what it really means to be alive!” said Sky. The others look at each other; Fog and Muddy stepped up to join him.
“I guess I want change” said Fog. Rock and Red both wished them the best but figured to stay with the only life they knew. The fact that Red and Rock both were the oldest in the group, most likely, influenced their decision.
Later that day at the fields, the 3 yet to be runaways, started to plot their exodus. They arraigned to relate their knowledge of the surrounding environment as means of survival. The idea was to see how far they could reach, and to meet anyone else on the way. If not, their lives from that point would be nomadic, always in awe of their limitless opportunity.
“Think about it.” said Sky while plotting, “No one will tell you when to eat or work. Your whole life will be in your own hands. Think of the power we will have!” That night, Sky returned to the hill to see if Angela would be there. To his surprise she was sitting gazing at the moon the same way he would.
“I want to know if you will come with me.”
“I’m sorry Sky, I just cant.” Tears started to fill both of their eyes. “If I go with you, I must give up all certainty in life, I’m not ready to make that jump into faith.”
“This is hard for me to understand, you say you love me, yet you cant make that jump? That is what love is, that is what faith is, a jump into the unknown. All you have in your heart is love, nothing else is clear. I’m leaving tonight before dawn. Bye.” Sky tuned to walk down the hill. Angela could not move, more tears started to come down her face.
The initial plan was simple, before everyone awoke, they would walk out of the commune, and into the forest. Their path was set by their best available judgment. The summer was ending, fall was coming, and the moods of Sky, Muddy, and Fog were full of vitality. Every second of their journey was magnified. They have never breathed in so deeply.