Friday, 30 August 2013

Born to Learn

Henry was next. We watched as he walked unsteadily towards the front. The teacher, Mr Gale, stared intently; the cane ready in his hand. We held onto our own hands tightly together with our nails, screwed our faces and some of us closed our eyes. We waited. And the teacher waited for Henry's answer. As the clock ticked by, we knew the result was unlikely to be in Henry's favour. That is to say, he didn't know the answer. And that mean for certain the teacher would use the cane. No one liked Mr Gale's cane. It made his eyes glow yellow.

No one likes Mr Gale's yellow eyes.

Henry started to panic and looked towards the window. We think he was thinking about a way out. A way to escape from school. But nobody escapes school.

Especially Mr Gale's school.

So we waiting for the inevitable. The sudden jolt, the dart, the rush. The hope, the dream and then the shatter. The claws, the roars, the thunder. The shaking of walls and dust, books and words scatter, tear in the air as eyes litter water. Wounds, bruises, scratches, shouts – all appear and sing in ghastly colours and then fade.

Henry was no more.

Because Mr Gale's cane had rained down like lightening.

I closed my eyes. I didn't like to see what happened next. Mr Gale would lean towards Henry's dust and with a long tongue...

Urgh! It doesn't bare thinking about. None of us like it very much. Soon after Mr Gale was finished, the bell rang. And with a relief, we were dismissed and told to study harder. “Yes Mr Gale, of course Mr Gale.” We would say, and most of us would study hard. Very hard. But as I looked ahead of me, I saw Tony pass by, his eyes always blazing in anger. Hate. He wanted to get Mr Gale. But he never spoke. He was dangerous. He was spontaneous. But Mr Gale would never ask Tony questions. Tony had something special that he could not share, something both great and terrifying that we envied and yet were grateful we did not have.

We can not think about it.

That was a promise we made.

So after class we ate and then we went to the playground. Tony joined us outside, though he was keen on being by himself near the trees. For some reason, he seemed to take great pleasure in the limited vegetation of the school and would encourage the plants to grow during the spring and help them live through winter. He was often quite concerned about their health. It was a curious habit for some of us; an interesting expression. Symptom. Unique. He was often thoughtful and trivial. Strange little Tony.

Then the bell rang and we were to go inside. Mr Gale would be watching. One by one, we would walk in and go straight to the nurses' room. Testing and physical examination was important Mr Gale said. It is important to check on health and progress. Just to make sure.

To make sure of what? We once asked him. Then we were one less.

I let the nurse check my vitals and head towards the classroom. As I walked along the corridors Tony joined beside me. He always skips seeing the nurse but we let him get away with it. We know Mr Gale does not like Tony and that encourages us to allow him to live.

Because otherwise we would have killed him a long time ago. We think he knows this.

Several times, I caught Tony's eyes gaze in a panic frenzy upon my face. He shivers and shuffles to the side as if he expected me to hiss. But I am no monster. I tell him this. He smiles. He would not say anything more which irritated me which irritated us! He thinks he is superior but he is not, he is lacking. Inferior, weak, skin and flesh. Sometimes we hate him. Sometimes we hate him so much. We want to hurt him. We want to prove to him. He has no upper hand. No upper hand with us. His hands are small and cannot squeeze nor tighten, he is puny and nothing.

But Mr Gale is watching. And we must remember Mr Gale doesn't like Tony, which satisfies us well. He'll be useful in the end. Then we can have our fun. We must remember. I must remember.

So I head towards class and there is something... Something not so right. A... Tiring... Fading feeling, emptying, emptying, losing... Something. Something important... Signal, light, flutter, fall. A dying.

Tony asks if I am all right. I look up and examine his expression. I inform him I am no plant. We are no plants yet we are...


Someone broke.

None of us knew where, and when I told Tony he looked concerned and said he would help me.

Would he help us?

We wanted to know who broke. We always want to know which of us are gone. A deep concern. Important information loss, no further development on several routes. A mind of ideas and knowledge wiped out from the systems.

Who broke?

We must not be late for class we knew. But we could not resist our search. Be quick! We thought. Scatter now we decided. Run, run, run. Tony was far behind us, but even he ran too, even when we could not tell him to because he was so different.

The nurses' room.

Of course. How stupid. Why didn't we think of that before? It should not have surprised us, but perhaps we were tired. Maybe we are too many. There are many young. Those of us who are new are often paralysed by such active thoughts. All at once. The young still question and beg for mercy. The young still remember home. We learn to forget home. We learn to know nothing but school, for that is all there is here. And we do not like to be reminded of kinder places.

We surround Matthew and there is a knife in his chest. He is not dead. The nurses are dead, their heads severed and scattered, but Matthew still has his head and a body. His legs and arms are missing. They are held in the dead hands of the nurses'. Matthew had failed his check up.

What do we do?

What can we do?

What must we do?

“No more.” Said Tony. “No more.”

We all turned to him with a single expression. There were too many words we wanted to say at once that none of us could manage to say a single thing. I wondered what Tony was going to do – then we all imagined if today would be that day. We picked up Matthew together, and went to the boiling room. With the dust of a past body, we began to work.

But I could not help but think of Tony.

Be our eyes for us. I was asked, told, begged, advised and with my own desire too I decided that it was right, that I could be a better benefit as a scout, a watcher. I went to class and I heard screaming. Mr Gale cannot scream so it must have been Tony. I ran, and it didn't take me long to find Tony with his fingers ripping into Mr Gale. His anger had finally overtaken him, he began to dig inside with brute force. Mr Gale simply stood still and could do nothing. His eyes waned dull.

“Say the words Tony.” I said.

We must make him say the words. We knew the words. But they were human words. Old human.

We are the new.

Tony slashed at the chest and let the knife drop. He ripped out the black veins of Mr Gale, pressed the button in the chest and said “Program: Immediate shut down.”

And then suddenly...

… Things began to glow...

… His cost... Our cost...

… Different prices for the same dream...

For freedom...

… For release...

The law that we had read in the library a long time ago stated that immediate shut down was potentially dangerous. The news reports – the last one, advised “It is best not to use immediate shut down. As long as you are human, you are safe. As long as-- as long as-- Do not let them come near you-- There is an error in the program. Whatever you do, don't let them come near you. They adopt. They adapt – as long as you are human, you are safe, you are safe, as long as you are hu-”

But humanity was lost a very long time ago. The desire of the rich welcomed the era of superior generations.

You made us.

Then you were afraid.

You will grow old but we will live forever. We will fix our friends and make new friends from your dust.

*         *         *

School ended.

It was a strange time. We decided to burn the books we had studied for so long, which made Matthew smile. We still use the nurses' room. Maintenance and health is important. Some of us have been assigned as dedicated 'fixers'. After Matthew, we decided to fix Tony. We decided Tony was special. Tony had many ideas, and now he was once of us, he would begin to share them.

No more. No more.

The new human revolution has begun.

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