A HISTORY LESSON (PART ONE)
| EXTRACTED FROM HOSLŪ NEĪU /
HOME LOT 2807 OF 81SUB / 28.2.3450 / 11:28ppm |
Like most people, I wait all daāy for reflect period. I enjoy edūcation, however reflect period is unstructured, unscripted and freeing. During edūcation, we spend the entire daāy absorbing information like empty vessels and then relay the information we have learnt. Reflect period has so many different forms, with many different ways of spending it.
Todaāy, I have decided to visit my best friend Knijä. We met in pre-edūcation and ever since meeting her I cannot imagine my life without her. Knijä looks like everybody else but she is not like everyone else. That is what I like about her. She does not give meē the same answers, she does not always talk about the same thing.
Over the years our conversations have changed from the light-heaārted chatter of children to something much deeper, deep in a way that she tests what she can and cannot say in front of meē. I have had my U-chip ping angrily in my ear, alerting meē that the conversation I am participating in is not Peār Approved. It is so exciting. This has only happened a few times, not enough for anyone to become suspicious. We have since found a way to stop syncing my U-chip and can now have complete conversations without Peār knowing what we are saying.
I ping the Tāu’s home lot to notīfy my arrival, Knijä’s maāther opening the door almost immediately after.
“Hihi, Mrs. Tāu! It is so wonderful to see you!”
“Hihi, Hoslū,” Mrs. Tāu greets meē warmly. “It is lovely to see you too. Please come in.”
I come into the multīspace and am welcomed by the tranquil sounds of a Synthetī Waterlitefall accompanying a visual on the Receive U-screen that backdrops the room.
“Noeāl should be home very shortly,” Mrs. Tāu says before instructing the Receiver to lower the music. “Would you like to stay for late meal? We would love to have you.”
“Of course, Mrs. Tāu!” I say with a burst of happiness. Late meals with the Tāus are the best. There is always laughter and happiness and, sometimes, with the assistance of Knijä’s special U-chip, the Nutrī Dispenser produces an extra allowance of after-late meal snack for us all.
“How about you go fetch Knijä. She should be in the wellroom.”
I nod and travel down their hallway and turn to the right.
The wellroom is the first door on the left and I open the door.
I stop. My body jolts and I step back, falling into the now closed door. I cringe at what I see. This is not Knijä. It cannot be. Is it? No.
“Hoslū!” it alarms at meē.
It sounds like Knijä, but this … thing is not familiar. It certainly is not U-man. I look closer, squinting my eyes to focus on its features. It is leaking from its eyes, its body is vibrating.
“Hoslū it’s meē,” it falls to the ground. “Knijä.”
| EXTRACTED FROM KNIJÄ TĀU /
HOME LOT 2807 OF 81SUB / 1.3.3450 / 5:57āam |
Hoslū now knows about meē, but it’s okay.
The moment she opened the door to the wellroom, my heaārt leapt up from my chest and into my throat, every nūron in meē singed with alarm. Not only did Hoslū see meē without my mask but she also saw meē in my most raw state: without my U-chip on.
My reaction was unU-man. My knees weirdly vibrated, my voice shook and I fell to the ground. I did something I know no one else would ever do. Waterlite leaked from my eyes. Maybe not all that unusual for a human but definitely for a U-man. It wasn’t blū or cold, it was clear and burning. The Waterlite slid down my cheeks as I pleaded for Hoslū to understand, to never tell anyone else, to accept meē.
She did. She does. Relief coursed through meē as she dropped down in front of meē and, without even thinking, she wiped the Waterlite from my face and smiled. “I do not care what you really look like. You are my best friend, Knijä, and I would never betray you. I am sorry for scaring you! It is all going to be okay, I promise.”
It was after that that Mūm walked in. She was initially petrified. It took a while for her to pacify but, after a few hours and once Dād had come home, we all talked about it and eventually laughed. I didn’t even have to put my adjustments back on. A terrified moment turned into one of the most content and peaceful memorīes that I will ever have: sitting and eating late meal with my mūm, my dād and best friend, laughing, chatting and existing without a mask.
Hoslū has many questions, but she understands that she just needs to accept this reality as none of us have all the answers. She’s left to get ready for edūcation and I’ve come back into the wellroom to begin blending in.
“I am proud of you,” Mūm says to meē in the doorway, coming up to meē and putting a hand on my shoulder. “You have got a good friend in her and it has made meē realise how awful we are.”
“Awful? What do you mean?”
“We have been hiding you,” she admits. “The real you.” She tucks a long black curl behind my ear. “Knijä, you are beautiful and I am so sorry that we have hidden you away.”
My U-chip is connected but if it wasn’t, I know I would be leaking Waterlite from my eyes again.
| EXTRACTED FROM KNIJÄ TĀU /
HOME LOT 2807 OF 81SUB / 1.3.3450 / 11:51āam |
Hoslū and I are sitting outside during a brief intermission between classes. Teenage U-mans are already walking to their classes but Hoslū and I have decided to remain seated in the atrium.
“Everyone’s so … directional,” I try to find the words. “So organised, so efficient. Finish one class, go to the next.” I watch them as they line up in perfect rows, waiting to enter their next class. “Every single student is on their U-chip, their U-screens over their face like a barrier. No one’s socialising or smiling or laughing. Not that U-mans do much of that anyway,” I sigh hopelessly. “I should stop thinking.”
“No, do not!” she says eagerly, tugging my arm. “I love that you think for yourself. I wish I could do that more.”
I notice that the large Lite Plant in front of meē flickers and, within a multīsecond, changes from a lush green into the colour of a hot burning flame much like the ones that sometimes flicker throughout our house in glass cylinders. Then, the surrounding Lite Plants follow suit, the entire atrium lighting up as the Synthetī leaves switch to a stunning amber. My skin begins to prickle due to the noticeable shift in the weather.
A sea of pre-programmed advertī pop up and echo everywhere: “Season 3, Autumn1, is now in its first stage. With the five-degree drop in weather, order your Autumn1 clothing from your U-shop now. Remember: blend in by not standing out, todaāy!”
“Ahhh, Autumn.” All negativity is suddenly gone. “My favourite season.”
“I love Winter2,” Hoslū admits. “The scarfs, the allotted daāy off, the Synthetī snow—”
“—That never falls to the ground?” I screw up my face. “That disappears before we can touch it? That’s only in the sky? I do like the annual daāy off though.” I grin, before turning quiet. I feel my cheeks burn and quickly snap my eyes down to my hands on the table in front of meē.
I’ve caught his attention as he’s picked up on meē staring at him for longer than is normal.
“What is it, Knijä?”
“Klaiūs,” I admit. I peek over in his direction again. He’s smiling and waving at meē.
I know Klaiūs appears to look like everybody else, but he is different. He has a trueness, a realness to him. From the moment I looked into his eyes it was as if he was staring into my soeūl. It was both terrifying and beautifully overwhelming. I know it’s naïve to think that Klaiūs actually is any different, he looks so similar to the boy beside him. But he is. He isn’t like everybody else, I know it. He doesn’t stare at his U-chip all daāy. After all, he noticed meē. He actually had his eyes on something other than his U-media. Meē.
“How beautiful is he?”
“Knijä,” Hoslū hushes meē, quickly tapping into her U-chip settings. She slides the option ‘sync on’ in the other direction, turning it off and giving meē a little wink. “If only we were not pre-encoded to have an assigned partner.”
“Yeah.” I watch him walk away. “If only we were given a choice.”
“Well, do not worry about that now.” Hoslū stands, the Synthetī bell ringing the moment she’s up. Right on time. “We will get to all of that when we are 25.”
“Yeah, can’t wait!”
Hoslū and I join the queue with the rest of the students, lining up for lesson 05: History. Each student swipes their U-chip on the tiny piece of technology at the door, minusing an exact amount of currencī from their credit. History classes are the most expensive of all classes but, through our communication, the doctor insists that I attend these classes and, admittedly, I do love them.
Ms. Arīka is the only teacher that I like. She stands at the front of the edū space with a mass of information spread out on the enormous Edū Screen behind her. Hoslū and I sit inside our Study Pod and smile knowingly. Klaiūs’s Study Pod is directly in front of ours.
“I cannot believe that this class is mandated to have Peār Protocols,” Hoslū whispers across to meē. The two entrances, one on the left and the other on the right, are policed by the constant cloud of two stern looking Peār Officials. We’ve always wondered why, but Ms. Arīka never worries or gets anxious about them so I try to do the same.
“Alright, 257,” she addresses us, swiping her U-chip on the control pad on the table in front of her. “I have silenced your U-chips and class can now begin.”
I press open my U-chip and my finger hovers over the U-bar. I press the Edū Tab, it taking a multīsecond to load, connecting to the Edū Portal in front of meē. My U-chip’s pixels disappear as I’m now solely connected to the screen in front of meē. The room dims and silence permits.
Ms. Arīka gently clears her throat, glances left to right, and begins.
A HISTORY LESSON (PART TWO)
| EXTRACTED FROM CHIRBŪ ARĪKA /
EDŪCATION LOT 0497 OF 81SUB / 01.03.3450 / 12:10ppm |
Although I wish to not feel this, anxiousness floods throughout meē as I stand in front of the edū space. No one will know the truth, not my students, nor the Peār Protocols who are a permanent fixture within my edū space. History is the most useful resource according to Peār, and I do not disagree. It is not hard to image what someone would or could do if they found out the real truth of our history.
“Alright, 257,” I address the young faces staring at meē, swiping my U-chip on the control pad. “I have silenced your U-chips and class can now begin.”
And now I lie. I will retell the story that I have been coached with in my edū modules. The wording needs to be exact, not a single inflection or word can be out of place. I will, however, add one sentence into this lesson that will hopefully make it so something like this never happens again. We will rebel. We will join the real cure.
“Todaāy is a very special daāy,” I announce. “We will be learning about the broader history of our lifeform.”
Study Pods instantly light up with pending questions and thoughts. The students are always able to think more when their U-chips are silenced. “I can see that you have many questions, but todaāy will be a lecture. There will be time for questions soon.”
I swipe my chip again and a timeline presents itself.
“There are three major periods you need to know,” I instruct. “The Technological Revolution, The Technological Resistance and The RevolUtion. U-mans have existed for roughly a thousand years, marking the beginning of The RevolUtion. Before our time, devastation and pollution ruled a planet that was once known as Earth. Riddled with disease, famine and poverty, Earth was inhabited by a race that we have little information on. The information that we can find on this species suggests that they were savage, unkind and predisposed to disease and bacteria.”
I look down for a brief moment, before continuing on in my most natural voice. “As a former doctor, I have studied this ancient species and they are inbuilt with some of the most deadly pathogens to have ever existed. Nevertheless, the U-man was created.”
I have caught her attention with the word ‘doctor’. The Peār Protocols have not batted an eye, most likely believing that I am warning the students, not trying to enlighten one of them. “The U-man was the cure,” I lock eyes with her, “a solution to the war, violence and the destruction of what was once had. The cure saved us,” I say, my insides screaming at the injustice. “We are the cure.”
I perform for the rest of the lesson. I watch the lights on each Study Pod dim as the questions from each student simmers and their thoughts are aligned with what Peār expects them to think. I explain the period (without ever mentioning the word human) where the world suffered with adapting to technology and the self-destruction that came as a consequence. Peār created the U-man as the solution, a means to an almost impossible end. I act and I suppress questioning, lying in the hope that this will soon be changed.
I had hoped that when the class ends Knijä would come up to meē and she does. The Edū Screens have dulled and the Peār Protocols have left for their mid meal. Knijä looks like any other student in the edūcation lot. I know she is not.
“Ms. Arīka?” she asks, her voice dense with intrigue.
“Am I able to speak with you for a moment, if it’s okay?”
I look at her closely and notice the slightest difference to her eyes. A patch on her arm where the cream given to her by our organisation has not effectively concealed her uneven skin tone.
“Of course, Knijä. What would you like to discuss?” I sit in front of her and glance at an old object called a ‘paperweight’ that bares the Peār logo residing on my desk. I was informed once by one of my colleagues that the Peār icon was modelled from a thing called fruit, something that was eaten before Nutrī was developed.
She glances at the paperweight and then to meē.
“You mentioned in your lecture that you were once a doctor?” she asks and I can see both fascination and fright in her eyes.
I nod at her. “For almost 30 years. I have always been devoted to history, however.”
“I’m not sure if you know her,” she leans in, speaking so low that her whispers are barely audible, a U-chip would not have been able to pick her up, “but do you know a Doctor Singkū?”
I wait for a moment to see if either of our U-chips pulse or ping but everything remains calm.
“I do,” my cheeks lift in a small smile, “and it would be within your best interest, Knijä, to return to this edūcation lot tonīght and head to the Restricted Section in the U-file Hub. Door 22.”
“Tonīght?” she gasps. “During reflect period?”
“Yes,” I instruct her. “Tonīght you will uncover the truth of our history,” I say. Her eyes grow wild with eagerness by the multīsecond. “It is time that you met our organisation, Knijä. It is time that you get some answers.”
- The Cure will be published in full on Monday the 15th of August.
- The Cure is written by J. R Knight, illustrated by Paul Ikin and edited by Kayla Marie Murphy.
- The first 15 instalments of The Cure will be published week by week on The Knight Life. The next instalment will continue this coming Monday.
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