by Allen Kopp
part 1 of 2
I’m not allowed any visitors. I said my goodbyes to my parents a week ago on my eighteenth birthday. My mother cried and my father was without emotion. They were told I was to be made one with the essence of the Nonpareil, which means I’ll be gassed and my body placed in a thick block of cement that will be used in one of the public works projects. Maybe someday the cement containing my body will crumble and my bones or whatever is left of me will again be exposed to the light of day.
I’m in a little room somewhere, but I’m not sure where I am. I have nothing to do but wait for the end. A utility robot brings me food three times a day, but I don’t eat much. Since I have no future, I try not to think about anything and try not to feel anything.
I have a little window up high, and I spend most of the daylight hours looking at the blue sky, at the tops of the trees off in the distance and at the birds flying from tree to tree. Occasionally I see an airship moving ponderously across the sky and wish I was on it. At night I love looking at the stars and sometimes I catch a glimpse of the moon.
How I came to be here is a long story. I was the only child of my parents and a disappointment to them. From the very first, I did not take well to the teachings of the Nonpareil. I was rebellious and moody and I refused to march in lock-step with other children my age. I was in constant trouble at school until my father was told to make some other arrangement for my education. I was placed in another school and then a succession of schools after that.
My parents were determined to find out what was wrong with me. They took me to a series of doctors who subjected me to every physical and psychological test known to man. After a period of time, the doctors found that I had no mental or physical impairments that would keep me from conforming the way I was supposed to conform.
I was a healthy boy and there was no reason I couldn’t be like the other boys my age: a wholesome example of obedience and loyalty to the Nonpareil and all he espoused. There was no reason I wouldn’t live to pass on my seed of obedience to the next generation. The doctors advised more rigorous mind control and an aggressive drug regimen to be administered by the state.
My father knew that, in spite of everything that could be done to change me, I would never be what he wanted me to be. When I was ten years old, I overheard a conversation he had with my mother late at night in which he stated that he had given up on me and was ready to see me made one with the essence of the Nonpareil before I caused him further trouble and heartache.
My mother pleaded with him and begged him to give me another chance. It was only after she threatened to leave him, disgracing him, that he agreed.
It was when I was fifteen years old that my rebellion took shape and developed a purpose. I was introduced at that time to one of the underground “secret societies” that detested mind control and conformity and advocated the overthrow of the Nonpareil and a return to a free and democratic society and form of government.
The secret society was a place of free thought and free speech where the forbidden ways of the Old Time were revered. I knew finally what it was I had always longed for.
I discovered a whole new world in the secret society. I was made to feel welcome, for the first time in my life, with a group of people who thought as I thought. I was surprised at the many people of all ages and backgrounds who belonged.
We studied the ways of the Old Time and longed for the day when we would be free. Many of us believed the overthrow of the Nonpareil was only an airy dream that would never happen, while others were sure the day of deliverance was close at hand.
Membership in the secret society was, of course, a serious offense to the Nonpareil and was strictly prohibited. Cells of secret societies were constantly being flushed out — many times from the tips of anonymous paid spies — and members gassed, that is, made one with the essence of the Nonpareil. These events were always highly publicized to make examples of the members and to discourage other miscreants from wanting to join.
Over the years I had accumulated some books and texts on the ways of the Old Time. I had traded them with other members of the secret society and had in some cases bought them on the black market that operated on the fringes of the law.
I kept them locked in a foot locker under my bed. When I was alone in my room at night, I would take them out and read them and study the pictures and dream about what life in the Old Time was like and what life might someday be like again.
My mother discovered these books — not by accident but by prying open the foot locker with a crowbar — and that’s when things went really bad for me. She informed my father that I was in possession of forbidden materials; he called the police and I was arrested that night. I was incarcerated in a correctional facility where I was forced to submit to electroshock therapy that was supposed to “reorder” my thinking.
I was kept locked in a tiny white cell — white was thought to be purifying and cleansing — for over a year. During that time, I saw only utility robots and had no contact with anyone. My mother was allowed to speak to me on the picture phone for a few minutes once a month, during which time she cried and attempted to get me to reform, to confess to all my wrongdoings and apologize for all the trouble I had caused. My father refused to expend further effort on my behalf.
During all this time, of course, no one had been able to “break” me. I remained true to what I had always been, and that was the only thing I had. No matter what they did to me or in what way they threatened me, I was not going to change and become the boy they wanted me to be. Not now. Not ever.
When I still showed no signs of “improvement,” my father requested — he had the legal right to do so — that I be made one with the essence of the Nonpareil; and the court, after reviewing my case, complied with his request. I was brought here to wait for the end of my life. My parents were told I would be here for three or four days — a week at the most — but that I would be treated well and fed regularly, like an animal locked in a cage, no matter how long it took.
I’ve been here now for a week and two days. I have no calendar and no clock, but I’m still able to keep track of how many days have gone by. Not that it matters much. Every day I think will be my last. Every time I hear the door being opened, I think it will be them coming to get me. I’ve been told it will be easier for me if I don’t resist. When the time comes, I’m going to be cool and calm; I’m going to show them I don’t feel anything at all. They can kill me but they can’t hurt me. I’ve rehearsed it in my mind a thousand times.
On my ninth night in the little room — it must have been two in the morning — I woke up to the moonlight streaming through the window. I was surprised at how bright the moonlight was, but I thought no more about it and turned over to go back to sleep. That’s when I realized it was not the moonlight that had wakened me but a sound, and someone was coming quietly into the room.
I propped myself on my elbows in the bed, thinking my time had come. I saw a dark figure coming toward me and when I started to get out of the bed he held up his hand.
“Don’t make a sound,” he said.
“What is it?” I asked sleepily. “Who are you?”
“Get out of the bed and put these on,” he said, handing me a small bundle of clothing.
I did as I was told and discovered that what he handed me was a black tunic, a pair of soft black trousers and a pair of black leather boots.
“What is this about?” I asked.
“Don’t ask questions,” he said. “Just do as I tell you if you want to live past tonight.”
After I was dressed, I could see his face better in the dim light. I had never seen him before.
“Who are you?” I asked again.
“It’s better if you don’t know who I am,” he said. “And anyway, it doesn’t matter. I’m an interested party who knows what is about to happen to you.”
“What are you talking about?”
“Tonight is your last night. They would have come for you in about an hour or so. I’m offering you a chance to escape if you just take it.”
“Why would you want me to escape? Who are you?”
“Be quiet and just listen to what I’m going to say.”
I sat down on the bed and laced the boots while he continued to stand.
“I’ve sent the two guards on a small errand that will take them five minutes or less,” he said. “That’s all the time you have to escape.”
“You’re letting me escape?” I asked.
“I’m going to walk away from this room without re-locking the door. One minute after I’ve left, you may go out the door and to your left down the hallway to a flight of stairs. Go down the stairs and at the bottom of the stairs go to your right down the long hallway. At the end of the hallway is a door. You may leave by that door.”
“Walk away from the building for about a quarter of a mile until you come to a gravel road. Turn left on that road and stay on it until you come to a paved road called the Hyphen Road. Start walking on it toward the east.”
“How do I know this is not a trick?”
“You don’t, but it’s your only chance. Stay on the Hyphen Road east for five miles, at which time you will see an airship docked at a small airfield. The airship will leave exactly at dawn and it won’t wait for you if you’re not there.”
“Why would anybody take me on board? An escaped miscreant?”
“Tell them your name is Lloyd David and that Mr. Thackeray sent you. Can you remember that?”
“Can you walk five miles without stopping?”
“I haven’t ever tried.”
He gave me an identification tag to show in case I was stopped along the way, and then, without speaking another word, he was gone.
Copyright © 2011 by Allen Kopp