aperture-anim

In the wake of the recent revelation of the ‘Heartbleed’ OpenSSL bug, online security personnel have discovered yet another hack that threatens to reveal your computer secrets.

Computer experts are reporting a new ‘backdoor’ hack, discovered in part due to the Snowden leaks. Apparently this zero-day style exploit takes advantage of a weakness in the garbage collection routines of most common computer servers and computing devices. It essentially scoops up key portions of the files that are presumed to be already deleted by the system whenever these garbage collection routines go into action. It then picks through these recycled tidbits for useful chunks of information before sending them off the violated computer to the outside attacker, essentially taking advantage of the systems’ waste-removal mechanism.

Image

Fartbleed logo

The experts who discovered this exploit are calling it:
Fartbleed’

The assaulting trojan uses a new penetration method called an Externally Negotiated Erased Memory Assault. This ENEMA method is capable of flushing out large quantities of data previously presumed to already be dumped from the system’s internal storage. Computer attendants first caught wind of the possibility of something afoul after examining some of the papers Snowden left behind in an airport restroom before fleeing the country.

“After going through multiple system logs, we ended up stepping right into the problem,” said security expert William MacDougal. “It’s running through systems all over and leaving quite a mess behind.”

Some allegations have recently surfaced that suggest that the NSA has been aware of this method of intrusion and has been taking advantage of it for at least 18 months. One CERT team member commented that “it shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that the NSA has been both aware of this bug and exploiting it,” saying “everyone knows by now that the government has been going through our shit for years!”

In response to media inquiries, an NSA spokesman did offer helpful advice today in a press briefing saying, “all computer users should just change their computer password to something on our ‘recommended safe list’. We have determined that these ‘safe’ passwords are the only ones immune to numerable cyber-penetration methods.” The NSA safe list include: love, password, jesus, qwerty and 123456 and for bank pins they recommend using either 0000 or 1234.

(continued from part 3)

Enlightenment

The act of running was now no different than any other action she had ever undertaken in her whole life.  There was no longer any thought or purpose to it.  Some instinct had caused her legs to start to carry her into the forest, up the hill, toward the light of a campfire.  The direction of that instinct was all that would drive her now to one sole purpose — to reach the light and whatever it might hold.

The fact she had never run before, no less run in a dark forest, did not matter.  The branches lashing her clothing and skin, logs and rocks unbalancing her forward motion, the cuts and bruises she gained as she continued on were but minor distractions and ultimately insignificant compared to the momentum that drove her forward.  A momentum born from survival instinct itself.

She ran until she could run no further.  As another branch caught and tore at her gown, another rock slipped beneath her feet and her body gave way to the exhaustion from the exertion.   She fell to the ground face first into a pile of leaves and branches.  The pain now came to her attention from the multiple scratches and lashings, from the sore, strained muscles and in her chest from her now labored attempts even to breath.

Had her body not succumbed under the combination of it all, her will would have kept her moving but her entire reserve of bodily energy was now sapped.  She rolled over onto her back and lay flat as stars in her eyes mixed with the stars visible in the sky through a small opening in the trees above her.  All her attentions now focused on simply getting her breath and she found that by concentrating on maintaining deep, consistent breaths that it distracted from the other miseries her body had endured from her impromptu flight.

She continued in this way for some time as her breathing slowly returned to a more manageable cadence and the roaring of the blood in her ears subsided to a lesser hum of white noise.  As she came more to her senses, her attention was brought back to her current situation when she heard the voice of a man.

It was crystal clear above the muted sounds of the forest and the now subsiding sound of her own breathing even though it was discernible as still coming from some distance away.  The voice was animated and spoke in cadences and with manner of emphasis that she had never heard before.

O, what a rogue and peasant slave am I!
Is it not monstrous that this player here,
But in a fiction, in a dream of passion,
Could force his soul so to his own conceit
That from her working all his visage wann’d,
Tears in his eyes, distraction in’s aspect,
A broken voice, and his whole function suiting
With forms to his conceit? and all for nothing!

As she listened to the voice she turned herself back on her stomach and through aching muscles managed to bring herself up onto all fours.  The roaring in her head began again as a result of even this minor effort and drowned out the distant voice of the man.  But lifting her head she could now see the light from the fire clearly on the limbs of a group of trees encircling what appeared to be a small clearing some 200 yards further up near the top of the slope.

She could neither see the fire itself nor the man due to a small outcropping that intervened between her and the source of the sound of his voice.  Her movement, the distance and the renewed activity from her own bodily travails prevented her from hearing any further words.  But, even though she didn’t recognize that many of the words, the manner of it’s being spoken drew her curiosity to move closer.  She managed with some struggle to move forward, taking great care to both coddle her own sore bones and muscles and to minimize her own sound upon doing so.  If there was a chance that her prior manic flight had not drawn the man’s attentions, she did not want to add to it before she could get a better comprehension of just what it was she had run into.

Her curiosity was now just as much to whatever assistance this stranger could provide her in her ‘escape’ from whatever awaited her down below as it was to the words he was speaking.  As she came in view of the fire, she could see the figure of a man sitting on a rock behind just a small pile of flickering embers.

Although she was still some distance away, she could make out that the man seemed to be reading from a book.  The combination of the image of a man stooped over the book and the albeit smaller fire reminded her again of the orators in the village and the fire of the Declaration from  less than an hour before.  It seemed now like a long time ago.

But this man was not reading from any Book of Council, at least none she had ever heard and he seemed to express himself with the phrases.  As though he were not reading it for the benefit of others — for the good of the People — but for the benefit of himself or of someone specific.

She ducked down a moment as he paused to look around briefly into the darkness.  Then he stood up and flipped the pages of the book until he found something he was seeking.  Turning his back to her so he could get the light of the fire to illuminate the words, he read again but louder and with even more expression, pausing between key words as though to somehow give them more emphasis.

To be …..  or not to be     …..   that …. is the question:

He cleared his throat a moment then continued with greater purpose

Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them? To die: to sleep;
No more; and by a sleep to say we end
The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to, ’tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wish’d….. To die….,  to sleep;

With that he turned to look straight at where she lay atop the small outcropping and she could see his face for the first time clearly.  It was the strange escort who had led her to the Declaration.  But she now noticed in the dim light of the fire that his clothing was not that of a Council member.  His clothing was not that of anything she had ever seen anyone wearing before.  He wore some kind of blue pants and a red shirt with black lines making square patterns upon it.

He reached out his hand in her direction and smiled.  “I know you’re out there.  Come, come.  I will not hurt you.  I’ve been expecting you.  You are why I am here.”  He paused to squint into the darkness and it seemed that he had not seen her, but he obviously knew she was there somewhere.  “Oh come on, I am not your enemy.  I’m sure you have questions, I am here to answer them.”  And with that he backed up a few steps to put the book down and put his hands in his pockets, shifting his weight onto one leg.

She stayed in her hiding spot behind the rise a moment but, being too used to following the directions of others and realizing that she didn’t really seem to have anywhere else to go, she slowly climbed up onto all fours and struggled to stand where she could be seen in the light of the fire.

The man saw the movement and seemed to squint again and his expression changed to sympathetic shock at her appearance.   “Oh my oh my,” he said coming toward her in urgency, grabbing some things from his place by the fire as he came.   “Some of you do go overboard,” he said to himself but continued to offer her words of re-assurance as he approached her.

She quickly realized that it took a great deal of her energy just to stand and then, she noticed what he had seen as she looked down at herself in the light of the fire.  Her gown was in tatters from the waist down and both her arms and legs were covered in scratches and bruises from her rush through the branches and limbs of the dark forest.  By the time she looked up again, he had already reached her and offered her an extended arm to help her up the hill.

“Are you alright? Can you walk?” he asked.

She didn’t speak but simply nodded and accepted his extended arm placing her own around his shoulders as he helped her the rest of the way up the hill.  He assisted her to a place near the fire and rather immediately pulled his pack from his shoulders, taking a towel and warm water to clean her various cuts and scrapes.

She was too sore and spent to resist and after her long ordeal, she frankly enjoyed the almost motherly attention.  The man just looked up at her occasionally and smiled and even stroked her hair once as she lay her head on the arm that he still held around her back after settling her down to tend to her wounds.

“Well, it seems you didn’t do yourself too terrible there with that dash into the woods.  It appears to be nothing but a few scrapes and bruises, but no doubt you’ll feel some of them for a while.  Does anything hurt particularly bad?  As in more than anything else?” he asked.

She continued to look forward and only shook her head in response.   “OK fine, don’t want to talk yet.  Well maybe you’ll eat.  They generally don’t like to feed the ones they select,” he said reaching around behind her to a small kettle settled into some rocks next to the fire.  As he pulled it up onto the stone beside him and removed the lid, she could smell whatever it was and was struck with just how famished she had been.  He was right, they had not allowed her to eat since the morning meal.

When the man handed her a bowl full of some kind of stew, even though she was reluctant to doing much of anything she couldn’t resist the urge to eat.  It was only luke warm, ‘but very good‘ she thought looking up at the man as the first mouthful seemed to explode with flavors she had never experienced.

“Eat, eat!  They never feed you folks enough anyway.  I have plenty more with me.  Eat!”  Seeing the look on her face as she experienced the flavors of his food, he added.  “Mom’s secret recipe.  Yeah it’s a bit spicy, but it’s one of my favorites and I figured if one of you was to come up the hill tonight, it might be a good thing to have something a little more ‘interesting’ to eat than the bland gruel they serve every day.”

She was only half listening as she finished the bowl and he offered her another.  She took it.  She could only half understand him anyway as he used many words she had never heard before.  Once he was confident that she was doing well on her own, he left her to finish the stew and moved off a bit to allow her room to eat and regain her senses.  His behavior as well as some of his comments made her think this wasn’t the first time he’d been in this position of assisting someone such as herself.

As she finished the second bowl he reached back again into his pack to pull something out.  “I guess we should begin.  If you have no questions for me yet, I can take the initiative.”  He handed her what he had pulled from her pack, a pair of gloves.

The shock showed on her face, and he laughed.  “Sorry,” he began, “I don’t mean to bring back bad memories but they told me this all started over a pair of gloves so it seemed like a good enough place to begin.”  He pulled at a small spot on one of the gloves to show a small tear in one of the fingers.  “You have skills with sewing, yes?  It is suggested we remain consistent from the beginning, and since I am to assist you, we will begin with you assisting me in exchange.  It is important for you to learn that I do not do this solely out of charity.”

He handed her the gloves and she accepted them, then he pulled out a small kerchief containing a small spool of thread and some sewing needles that she also took.  “That will help pay for the stew,” he said simply.  She knew not what the words ‘charity’ or  ‘pay’ had meant but understood enough about the word ‘exchange’ to assume the words were related.

He sat watching as she began to thread the needles, smiling his infectious smile.  He continued to sit patiently as she worked and in no time at all she had the tear sewn up and he seemed quite satisfied.  “Good as new!” he said as she handed them back to him along with the needle and thread.

He put the gloves and the thread back into his pack and again turned to her expectantly.  “Now you must have some questions.  You’re free to stay here all night if you wish, but sooner or later we must get down to what to do with you.”

She considered in a rush of thought all the questions that had been running through her mind since she was first left in the room by herself.  All she could seem to stutter out was the same recurring question that had kept coming back to her all day, “why…..?”

“Ah!” he exclaimed suddenly, “You do have a voice!”  He chuckled, reassuring her upon seeing his sudden utterance had startled her.  “That is the question of the ages isn’t it?  Why???  But I’m afraid you’ll need to be a bit more specific than that!  I assume you mean, the whole process of selection as one of the potential Chosen?”

She understood what he meant about specific, but the question had come to her lips because she had so many questions about so many things and they all boiled down in her mind to that one word, ‘why?’ But the subject of the selection was a good enough place to start so she nodded modestly in response.

“Well, well, well…” he said taking a deep breath.  “To explain that I guess I’d better begin with a bit of history.  They don’t teach you much of that down there, it wouldn’t be good for the People.”   He paused a moment to consider the best way to begin explaining such a complex collection of information to someone from such a confined existence as her’s.

“You see, there’s a lot more to the world than just that Community down there.” he again paused as he arranged his thoughts.  “And throughout that history — and this is a considerable over simplification mind you — there have basically been two classifications of people.  Now, not all of them fit wholly onto one side or the other but the basic motivations for what they do stem from one way of thinking or another.”

He could sense that even his attempt to simplify the explanation were adding to her confusion so he attempted again.  “You see, there are people who are independent, and people who tend to be dependent upon others.  The one seeks to do for themselves and to fend for themselves while the other believes that for a man to do well, he needs to depend on others and vice versa — like your Community does.”

He waited to see if she understood that much before going on.  “For thousands of years, these two different ways of thinking co-existed in various forms and various degrees.  Sure, there were some groups more like your little town and others more like the place where I come from.”

This comment caused her to look up at him.  It was the first she had considered that there was someplace ‘different’ than the community from which she came.  Her flight from town had been from the terror of some unknown consequence.  Her desire to seek the fire and whoever made it was in part to seek refuge from that consequence.  But she now realized that, yes, something in her had sought something ‘else’.  Something other than the ‘will of the People’ and the ‘good of the Community’.  And now she had her first notion that there might be such a different place.

He noticed this interest and got a sense of what was running through her mind and responded.  “Yes, the place where I come from is nothing like the Community,” he said pointing down to the darkened rooftops in the valley below.  With that he continued his explanation.

“As I was saying, there were different societies that were founded on one way of thinking or another and there were often conflicts as the ideas of the opposite creed crept  in and overtook the people in each who sought to live one way or the other.  But as a general rule, the places where the ‘common good’ became the motivation for society, the society itself stagnated where those in which the men were allowed to seek their own motivations prospered.”

He again paused to let the ideas sink in before beginning again with more emphasis.  “The place where I come from, well,” he again laughed, “is nothing like that place down there!”  He again pointed down into the valley but this time in a more indignant fashion.

The manner in which he said this reminded her of the manner in which he had read from the book and she turned to look down at it.  He noticed her glance and picked it up.  “Yeah,” he said nodding.  “Kind of like the difference between old Bill here and that tripe they read to you all the time.”  Then he said half to himself, “I can’t imagine living without a good book!”  as he stroked the leather bound cover of his volume of the Works of Shakespeare.

“What is it?” she asked in a way that almost implied the addition of the question, ‘is it your Book of Council?’

This caused him to laugh out loud in a manner that again startled her a little.  “This?” he said holding the book up.  “It’s my little form of poetic justice.  A little irony to get the ball rolling!”  He again laughed at some concept she did not understand.  He placed a hand on her shoulder and added, “It got your attention didn’t it?  Let’s just say it provides a little contrast to the monotony of ‘their’ book to help pique your curiosity.  There’s PLENTY more where this came from,” he said patting the book before setting it back down next to his pack.

“Now where was I?” he continued.  “Ah yes!  Suffice it to say, some years ago — long before you or I were born — the men who created the society in which we both live began to realize that the ‘public good’ was nothing of the sort.  But they believed in the freedom of men to decide for themselves.  As the ideas that they upheld grew and gained more acceptance, less and less people wished to live in a world where others such as the first members of the Council wished to live.  The end result was that a firm line needed to be drawn in the sand between the two ideas.”

He again sensed that some of his figurative way of expressing things was confusing her some, so he repeated it simpler.   “They needed to find a way in which people could decide for themselves the way they wanted to live.  To live for themselves or to live for others.  Thus Communities like yours were born, so that people who wished to live for the ‘common good’ could do so at their own choosing.”

The last word caught her attention.  He stopped his explanation to allow her to think over the whole of what he had said and awaited her next question or response.  The world he described was obviously foreign to her.  All she ever knew was the Community, the Council, the People…. and the Chosen.  “Choosing?”  She hadn’t even realized she had said it aloud.

“Yes,” he said.  “That ‘is’ why we are both here now isn’t it?”  He again waited for her to take it all in.

He waited a considerable amount of time before he spoke again.  “Each reservation, what you know as the ‘Community’, is in their own way unique.   Most are founded on the same basic principle of public contribution, but the level of that contribution varies and the manner of maintaining it does as well.  This is one of the more extreme examples.  But to continue to exist, it is necessary for them to adhere to the law of the land which says that each of us must be free to ‘choose’ the way we wish to live.”

She was feeling more comfortable with the kindness and openness of the man at this point and was enjoying the ‘teachings’ even if there were many concepts and even words in his explanations that she couldn’t even begin to understand.  She recognized one thing he said though and asked now openly about it.  “The Law – you mentioned this earlier.  What do you mean when you said that even the Council must obey the law?”

Something in his face lighted up at her new found confidence as well as to the intelligence behind the question.  “Yes, the law.  It is the manner in which men and women govern the interactions between them.  Not much unlike the rules your Community puts in their book.  Sure, they don’t call them rules or laws and they don’t phrase them as a ‘do this or else’, but they still comprise rules by which to live.”

“When people, as I mentioned, began to see more and more, the benefits of allowing men to decide their own destiny and in holding each responsible for their own welfare, some people still wanted to live with and for the benefit of others.  Initially entire regions included policies of this sort,” he paused at the use of the word ‘policy’ realizing she would not understand it.  “Rules such as that — on a local level.  But as the ideas of independent men became more widely accepted, a compromise had to be reached.  Anyone desiring to live in such a manner of public motive had to create their own sub-society within the greater society.  But such societies are still bound by the same fundamental laws that govern all of us – freedom to decide one’s own fate.”

“It was realized that you cannot force men to exist for themselves if they do not wish to do so.  It would be a betrayal of the very notion of self-determination.  If men are allowed to decide for themselves what they wish to do with their lives, they must also be free to decide to turn their lives over for the public good.  As I’ve alluded to, this led to local communities springing up where people seeking that way of life, that choice, could go.  The ideas of independent men continued to grow and with them, the Communities such as yours grew smaller and also saw an increasing need to further isolate themselves from free society.  Ones such as this one moved deep into the mountains.  As time went by, those content with living for the public good remained and in their isolation, they began to forget any alternative way of living existed.  As new generations started to be born, it raised a new problem — how to determine if anyone born within such a place actually wanted to remain there.”

“After many years of varied approaches, arguments from the leaders of collective communities as well as the leaders of the independent men, a compromise was finally reached. Any Community that wished to continue to exist needed to both identify and provide the opportunity for such a person — a person who might desire an alternative to living in the Community — to show their true desire and thereby to exercise their own free will.”

She thought of the other concept that had eluded her all day.  She knew not how to ask of it, but decided to try.  “While they allowed me to be alone — when I was left to ‘think’ as you say, I considered what the Community expected of us.  There was some concept for which they gave us no word.  What they expected of us — in regards to the words of the Book of Council.  I tried to think of what it was but know of nothing to call it.”

He thought about it a moment.  “I think the word you were looking for is to ‘believe’ it.  To consider it to be good without questioning it, without thinking about it.  Not to ask ‘why’ as you should, can and are doing of me, but simply to accept it.”

“eks-sehpt,” she slurred out in response.

“Yes, accept,” he said half smiling, half laughing.  “That is one of the problems you see.  As the collective Communities became smaller and more isolated, their structures to uphold their way of life became more and more all inclusive.  The people that remained did not simply choose not to be responsible for themselves, they actually chose not to choose at all.  They chose not to even think for themselves.  Thus the process of Identification was created and required to spot even the smallest deviation from the directions and rules — in your Community’s case, the Book of Council or the directions for the daily labors.”

“It is of no benefit for such a Community, where the people don’t even want the responsibility to think, to have someone who wishes to do so.  So creating the process of selection for the potential Chosen was created.  The communities Identify potential volitional minds, and provide them the opportunity to think on their own should they choose to do so.  To think by themselves without the necessity to ‘do’ — a mental Review.”  He saw the look on her face that was half confused, half realization.  “Yes, the Review was more for your benefit than it is a part of any function of the Community.  The Declaration is a necessity to let someone like me know that there might be a member of the Community interested in leaving.  As it turns out, I was already in the area picking up a load of goods and bringing supplies in exchange.  This is why I was able to attend the Declaration itself, normally my arrival would follow the ceremony.”

“So you are one of the ‘traders’?” she asked.

“I guess you could say that.  My official title is a bit different.  My responsibility is to monitor the Community and handle any necessary interactions, including primarily intercepting anyone who may want to leave.  It’s a rather mundane job these days.  As you well know, people are not selected every day.  So I also serve as the liaison for goods and supplies.  There is an interest in goods produced by such backwards societies among some collectors, in much the same way people used to collect goods from antiquated religious groups.” He realized she did not understand the last part.  “It’s all Greek to you, but you can learn more of it soon enough if you decide to come with me.”

At this she showed astonishment.  “Decide?” she asked confused.

“Yes, you must decide.  I cannot force you to come with me.  But with that said, I cannot mislead you either.  Your society,” he paused and again pointed down the hill, “down there, still tends to a lot of your basic needs.  While it is true that there are a great many people who will be more than willing to assist you toward the goal of becoming an active member of free society, it won’t be easy.”  At this point he stood up and began to add emphasis to the words that reminded her of a Council foreman when one of the People needed an instruction repeated in a workshop.

“You will be expected ultimately to think and do for yourself, to take responsibility for yourself, and to be accountable for your own actions.  For someone coming from a Community such as the one where you have lived your entire life, this is no easy task.  The rules of the Council don’t even allow you time think, but if you choose to come with me, you will have to not only think, but learn to do it in such a way that will enable you to make decisions for yourself and your own livelihood.  If you come with me, others will help you, but much like those gloves that I had you sew for your stew, they will expect you to earn the privilege.  That is our way.”

“I don’t mean for it to sound so horrible, it isn’t.  But for someone coming from your background, it may seem that way at times.  I cannot possibly imagine living in a place like the one where you were raised.  That to me is the horror.  But I am not you and I cannot decide for you.  As much as being responsible can be a lot of hard work, it also includes the right to enjoy the rewards of your achievements as much as it does suffering the consequences of the failures.  And you will fail, many times.  But that is the marrow of life.”

He looked down at her legs and arms.  “The failures are like the scratches on your arms.  They heal over in time and, if you learn from your experiences, you realize it is not wise to repeat the same mistakes.  You improve and change your decisions based on what you have learned from both the successes and the failures.  That is the glory of being alive.”

He again went quiet to let her think of all the things he had told her.  He assured her that there was no hurry.

“But if you so choose, you can go back to the village and, if you can, turn off your mind again or at least feign that you have.  Although I doubt with all you have heard you will, you can decide to live out the rest of your life with them.  That is what this whole selection process means, either way.  To think or not think.  Or in the words of Shakespeare,” he patted the book on the ground behind him, “To be, or not be.”

He grabbed her hand and raised her chin so her eyes could see his.  “The decision itself has to be yours to make.  And I cannot emphasize this enough, it is your life, to do with as you please.  Either way, to come with me or to go back there  – what is written in the law of free men, the compromise of which I spoke:  Even if someone seeks to live their life absent of all responsibility, if they ever demonstrate the slightest inclination to individual thought and a desire for self-determination — the path they follow from that moment forward, the life they seek to live,  must be…. Chosen.”


SWWood Scott Webster Wood
TheWild Webster

treii28@hotmail.com
Thoughts from the Wild
The ObjectOpus
Things You Ought to Know

(continued from part 2)

Determination

As directed, she made her way to the workshop where she had just half-a-day’s prior been told she was to be selected for the Chosen.  When she was escorted out, she had been amid a day’s work fashioning gloves at the direction of the foreman.  As she entered the workroom now, the room was almost dark except a single lantern at the desk of the foreman who only looked up briefly from his reading as she entered and another lantern hung over her workstation.

The tabletops were raised on the back end so she could not see what awaited her behind her station, but she walked as she always did down the aisle between the benches to take her place.  As she came upon her station, she found placed in the middle a single pair of what appeared to be finished gloves. She did not know what this meant, but before she considered how to proceed, she first took her seat.

Normally one would begin by pulling down the box of needles and a spool of thread, arranging their thimbles and other items as needed but she found that all of her items were left as they had been when she was summoned.  All that was out of place or significant was the single pair of gloves sitting in the middle of the bench.

After assuring that all the other items were where they should be as the directions stated, she focused on the gloves.  Lifting them lightly off the table she turned them over slowly examining them abstractly as she tried to sort out what it meant.  She had been called upon before to do inspections of finished products.  When one took over work for another member of the People, they would often need to follow through the process of the directed steps in the same manner they were expected to inspect another’s work. She first followed the seams around the outside.

She had to assume that these particular gloves must have been a pair she had sewn.  It was the only thing that made sense.  Something must be problematic.  Something must have been done incorrectly.  The exterior appeared as it should.  She would indeed need to follow the stepwise pattern as though she were sewing the gloves from scratch but without doing the actual sewing – as they were directed when inspecting.

She turned the gloves inside-out one by one. Lifting the first glove she followed the seam all the way around as she would do when sewing.  She watched the spacing of the stitchings, looked at the depth of the stitch.  All seemed as it should be.  Up one finger, down another.  Around the tips and down the line of the thumb, back down to the other wrist.  She could spot nothing that should cause a problem. She set the glove back down and picked up the other one.  But before she began her scan she not only saw it, but remembered it as well.

There it was, plain as could be.  She stared at it both in shock and amazement.  She could not believe her eyes and in her mind, came again the word “why?”  The question ‘why?’ as to so many thing.  ‘Why had she done it?’  ‘Why is it a problem?’ ‘Why do they even care?’

What she recalled was just a minuscule memory from earlier in the morning, hours before her being ‘selected’.  The process of cutting the patterns for the gloves was handled on a different occasion.  Each task that members of the Community were given were short, simple and repetitive.  The directions were thus kept similarly simple and succinct.  The task of doing something as rudimentary as making gloves such as these was thus broken down into smaller functions.  One group would cut the patterns, another would stitch them together, yet another would inspect them.

She, as any other member of the Community, had been moved through many such tasks at many such steps in the production of all the goods produced by the Community — produced on behalf of the People at the direction of the Council.  Some days she had been directed to the task of cutting the patterns for gloves and for other clothing.  On other days she was put to the task of the sewing.  On still others she would help with the inspections.  Seldom was the same group directed to do any step-wise processes in the making of any one item.  The tasks were separated so everyone had something to do, everyone contributed to the public good.

This morning as with any other day when directed to sewing, she had been given a stack of the pre-cut patterns at the start of the day as was every other member of her work crew in the sewing workshop.  She had proceeded to making the gloves as she always did.  The only reason she even had the slightest recollection of this particular pair of gloves was because of the minute deviation that it had been from the whole, mundane process.

When discovering any type of flaw, whether you had just finished sewing it or whether you were on the post-sewing inspection teams, you were to place the flawed item in a special bin separate from the bins for the completed items.  Flawed items would be inspected yet again by a mending team, and if they could be mended they would be based on another set of directions that guided them in that task.

On this pair of gloves she had seen a flaw, a very minute flaw.  One of the pattern cutters had accidentally nipped a small cut into the corner of the fabric about the width of the tip of her little finger.  Had she been on a mending team, this would have been deemed, by the Council guidelines, to be ‘mendable’ and 2-3 stitches would be put in the corner to facilitate fixing the flaw.  But she was not on a mending team — she had not done as directed.

Seeing that it was such a small flaw, and knowing how such small flaws were mended, she hadn’t thought twice of adding the three stitches at the end of her stitch line.  She had not seen the cut until she had already sewn all the way around the glove  –  she already had the needle and thread.  It seemed natural to add the other three loops of the thread to bind up the error.  She had not thought a lot of it. But, she ‘had’ thought of it.  One was not supposed to think.  One was supposed to follow the directions.  To deviate from the directions of the Council was to deviate from the will of the People!

She was still so perplexed by it all. ‘Such a little thing,‘ was the thought that kept going over and over through her head.  Yet at the same time, she could sense that any deviation was not such a little thing in the Community.  At least such a little thing seemed not to be such a little thing based on all they had put her through.

She hadn’t digested it enough yet to be frightened, but she did sense that her hands were cold holding the gloves. She glanced up at the foreman but he was still busy reading.  Foreman often read the following day’s directions to themselves at the end of a workday to familiarize themselves with the following day’s tasks. Even though she had been through the process of sewing the gloves many times before, even though she had heard the directions time and again when she didn’t really need to hear them more than once, she still could not think of what to do next.  The combination of all she had been through that day and the flurry of thoughts trying to congeal something tangible into her fledgling of a consciously thinking mind could not sort out the next step.

She focused her attention on the gloves.  ‘You must finish the gloves, how do you finish your task?  What is the direction?‘  Then she remembered.  Flawed items go into the flawed bin.  ‘Is that it???‘  she thought to herself.  They couldn’t possibly want her to remove the stitches.  The stitches shouldn’t have been there in the first place.  She had no direction to add them.  If one saw a flaw, they were to put them in the flawed bin.  That was the only direction she had.

She sat a minute longer and stared at the gloves running it over and over again in her mind.  That was the only direction she had.  She was to follow directions.  The directions of the Council, for the good of the People.  ‘But it can’t be that simple?‘ she thought.  ‘All this so they can get me to put a pair of gloves in the other bin?

It so overwhelmed her capacity to reason it out that she finally gave in to it. ‘If that’s what they want, let them have their flawed glove!‘ she thought.

She collected up her things and put them all in their respective places as a worker was expected to do upon finishing their last item for the day then she grabbed the gloves, turned them right side out, rose from her station and walked to the bins at the front of the room.  She placed the ‘good’ glove in the finished bin and the ‘flawed’ glove in the ‘flawed’ bin.  She turned to the foreman but he had already risen from his seated position.

“Are you finished with your tasks as directed by Council?” was all that he asked.  She simply nodded in response. “Is your work station in order?” he asked as he collected his own things off his desk, grabbed his own lantern and began walking toward the doorway.

“Yes,” she answered.

“Have you been given further direction as to how to proceed upon finishing your work?”

She thought back to the words of the head councilman at the completion of the Declaration.  ‘When the work has been completed as directed, it is the will of the Council that you report to your dormitory for the night’s rest.‘  She again nodded her head.

“Then so be it,” said the foreman.  “You will need a light to find your way,” he said pointing to the lantern on her desk.  “I must return to the Council dormitory,” was all that he said after gesturing at the lamp and he stepped out the doorway into the dark street.  As he stepped out, he instructed the orator who had been reading outside to follow him back to the Council sleep quarters for the evening.

Again, she was left alone.  No escort.  Just her directions.  No guide.  ‘And no supervision?’ she thought.  ‘Was it yet another test?’
She stood at the doorway looking out on the now empty, completely dark street.  It seemed so inconceivable to her that no one was watching yet she didn’t want to spend too much time looking around either.  To show suspicion of being watched might be just what they were looking for.

She glanced back inside the workshop to notice the only light, the dim lamp still set above her work area.  Being overwhelmed with just how dark everything was outside, she walked to get the lantern without really thinking.  Her brain was running over the situation itself.  She still assumed some imminent doom or consequence must waiting for her.  Or at least will await her if she slips up in some way. Perhaps the strange escort was waiting somewhere around a dark corner – maybe that’s what he had meant when he said he might see her again?

As she reached the lantern on her work table she became aware how bright the light seemed compared to the darkness now engulfing the entire town.  The circle of light put out by the small lamp barely lit an area a few feet around her with any reasonable amount of light.  And the light seemed to block her own ability to see in the dark.  Something in her decided instead to quench the light all together.  She just left the lantern, it’s wick still glowing a dim amber-red and walked robotically toward the door.

Although it was quite dark, she had walked that path autonomously so many times before that she had no problem finding her way.  The darkness, like the feeling of impending calamity, completely enveloped her.  She walked on as her feet traced the path out the doorway, down the street and toward the dormitory.  Her eyes stayed fixed in front of her but her perception was casting it’s attention to every corner of her vision.

She was so overwrought  with the anticipation of something horrible awaiting her that her mind played tricks on her.  She could seem to sense motion in every shadow and corner.  Her eyes were still not fully adjusted to the light and she tried not to obey her suspicions or disobey her feigned obedience to this town and it’s People but she still occasionally turned her eyes only to find stillness and darkness.

She stiffened herself more to the task and all but closed her eyes.  But this brought the sound of every crunch of her soft soled sandals.  They seemed to her to be the crushing sounds of heavy stone upon stone.  The town itself was so quiet that any sound she made, even her breathing, was overwhelming to her overly focused attentions.

The illusionary tricks of her hearing and vision seemed to intensify until that was all she could focus upon.  She couldn’t help herself from occasionally turning her head now at the slightest sound or straining her focus on a perceived movement.

Finally she resolved to grasp ahold of her fears and pin her visions straight ahead.  That was when she noticed the first thing — in her paranoia, she had walked well past the door to the dormitory.  Not simply past the door but she was a good building-and-a-half past her directed destination.

She froze where she stood not wanting to move or make a single sound, not even to breath.  ‘If something is to happen to me, it will surely happen now!’ she thought but she could hear nothing.  Ahead she could see nothing but darkness from the buildings and the windows.  Nothing in the entire town was moving, nothing made a sound.  She stood frozen staring straight out ahead, but focused on all that was behind her, wondering what to do next, wondering if she would turn to find her doom, wondering if someone was watching, waiting….

Then she saw the second thing, something that shouldn’t have been there.  It was beyond the street, beyond the buildings, beyond the boundaries of the village itself.  She turned her head upward for a comparison with the stars in the night sky, but it was not a star.  Her eyes were adjusting now well enough to just make out that it was below the line of of the hills that surrounded the small village.  It was a small light part way up the hill itself.

She strained her eyes to make sure that it was not just another trick of her imagination, but it was definitely there.  In her curiosity at this thing, this pin-prick of light up on the hills, she forgot all about the panic she was experiencing just moments before.  Her feet moved involuntarily as she stooped and bent a little this way and that to try to make it out better through the trees.

It was a flickering yellow.  ‘A campfire!‘ she thought, but it was too far up the hill to determine any more than that.  There were no buildings outside of the village limits.  The People never left the village limits.  It was common knowledge that traders from other villages occasionally came to exchange goods but they came during the day.  This was a fire, someone’s fire, after dark and outside of the village limits.

She thought briefly, unconscious of her still walking forward, that no one in her Community ever left the village to trade.  The traders always came here and the same traders left.  The People themselves never delt with the traders, that was a function of the Council. But other than the Chosen, no one, not even members of the Council was ever was gone from the Community.

Who were these traders?’ she wondered for a moment.  If no one ever left her Community, the thought occurred to her that perhaps no one left the other Communities either. She pondered as to whether or not these traders might actually camp outside of town before heading wherever they went.

Then who were these traders??‘ she found herself wondering again with the sudden realization that the reason behind her curiosity entailed a desire to seek their assistance — to see if they could help her leave the Community and the unknown fate that she was certain awaited her.

This realization both frightened and exhilarated her.  Frightened her in that she suddenly became aware that her attempts to get a better look at the light had brought her even closer to the edge of the village and obviously well outside what was expected of her by ‘the direction of the Council.’   It exhilarated her because she had never considered that her real desire was to run, and before she had realized it she was.

She ran as she had never run before.  In actuality there was no reason to run in the Community but none of that mattered now.  She simply ran — ran down the remaining street, ran into the line of trees, ran up the hill toward the light, toward some hope of leaving the terror behind.  The running wasn’t now specific to getting away from the Community per se, but getting away from the horror she felt awaited her here amidst whatever other arrangements the Council still had planned for her this day.  There was no stopping to think what might await her, she hadn’t stopped to wonder if this might be the very test she feared or could even be how they may have planned to reveal her betrayal and seek her ultimate demise.

She simply ran as though her life depended upon it, for in her mind at that moment, it did.

(to be continued in part 4)


SWWood Scott Webster Wood
TheWild Webster

treii28@hotmail.com
Thoughts from the Wild
The ObjectOpus
Things You Ought to Know

Chosen – part 2: Declaration

Posted: January 1, 2014 by TheWild Webster in Dystopian Fiction, Fiction, Mysteries, Political Fiction

(continued from part 1)

Declaration

The center of town served as the focal point for any Community functions. Wooden platforms encircled the back half of a large open round area with a small depression in the middle dug for ceremonial fires.

Large tarps had been laid out, presumably while she slept. She stopped to ponder as she never had before as to the purpose of it all.   The streets and the central annular clearing were surfaced with nothing but earthen ground. She wondered if the tarps were there for appearances or if they served some purpose such as to keep the clothing of the People clean.

The preparations for Declaration weren’t too complex. Wood was piled in the center pit, the tarps had already been spread and all she could see being done now was a small number of torches and lanterns being placed on the perimeter. Once these were lit, she settled low in the frame of the window to contemplate her fate as there was little to see until the People were summoned to gather.

Nothing was written in the Book of Council as to what happened to the Chosen. They either returned to their work or they vanished. Was she to vanish also? She had never thought that far ahead or in depth on the subject of the Chosen. She had never been allowed to think that much on anything.

As she pondered these things she could hear the voices of the orators outside becoming more perceptible now. Her vantage from the window was limited but before too long her assumption was confirmed. The People were being lead to the Declaration. She watched as the People filed in as directed. Each going to a particular location as they always had. As they always did at the direction of Council.

One of the members of the Council that had been placing and lighting the lanterns and torches around the circle a few minutes earlier now went to the pyre in the middle and applied his brazier to various places around the base of the wood that had been stacked there.

She watched as the flame slowly licked up and around the cluster of logs. She couldn’t help but imagine how that was the way her mind was now working. Soon the fire would be a roaring blaze as her thoughts had been in the last few  hours. But it starts with nothing but a few flickers applied around the edges.

Her focus and her thoughts were fixed on the fire.  So much so, that she failed to hear the Councilman coming up the stairs. The sound of the door unlocking suddenly made her realize that the orator had stopped his reading. She turned to see that the reader was now gone but instead found a man dressed in a council robe.  But this man’s face seemed more animated than the one that had come to attend to her Review. His was not as lifeless…. and he smiled!

“I have come to escort you to Declaration my dear,” he said relaxing his smile seemingly in response to her surprise by it.

His initial manner was so foreign that she had to do her best not to show astonishment at it. No one was ever animated in the Community. Not even members of the Council.  And he was using pleasantries in his speech she had never heard before.

‘My dear?’ she thought. The last she could recall hearing those words spoken was somewhere way back in her memory. Perhaps from her childhood.  She maintained her stone-faced expression not knowing what this new twist meant for her. ‘Might it not be yet another test of some sort?‘ she thought.

In her astonishment she had not risen which is what might have been expected. She could have sworn he had to stifle a chuckle before he gained a stiffer posture that almost seemed to be half hiding a smirk.

“Alright,” he said almost to himself, pausing a moment before again extending his arm in a more formal manner. “It is the will of the Council that I escort you to the ceremony of Declaration.”

Although it, in itself was a strange way to deliver the Council’s will, it served to snap her mind back to the moment at hand. She rose slowly and solemnly and stepped forward, toward the man. Again he gave a slight smile before again returning to a stone-faced expression as he turned toward the door.

By the time they reached the front door to the building, all of the People were gathered in a semi circle around the now roaring fire. A member of the Council stood at the fore reading from the Book of Council as she had seen done at previous Declarations.

“The will of the Council is the will of the People.
The will of the People is to do what is right on behalf of the People.
To do right is to do good.
We gather for Declaration as directed by Council.
One of the people has been selected at the will of the Council on behalf of the People.”

She thought to herself how mundane it all was. As frightened as she was at what might await her, she knew that nothing spectacular ever occurred during the Declaration. The person selected stood as the book was read. The whole thing was rather clinical and scripted. Much like the rest of the life in the Community.

As they approached the fire, her escort stopped and she did also a few feet behind him. The member of the Council reading from the book temporarily ceased his reading as the head of the Council gave a small acknowledging nod to the escort.

The escort then turned to her and placed his hands on her shoulders to move her a into the position before the fire then all but gave her a wink before returning to an expressionless face and moving to take his place somewhere behind her.

She didn’t pay any more attention to the festivities going on around her than she had the dozens of times before when she had been present as another faceless member of the People. Her mind was pre-occupied with her immediate past, her immediate future and the strange behavior of the Councilman who had escorted her to the Council ring. She couldn’t help but feel he was watching her. She couldn’t help but wonder that it was another test for her.

She stood and stared into the flames, the heat from the blaze upon her face, the crackling of the dry logs ringing in her ears. She thought briefly of what was in the minds of the People gathered, but she had a pretty good idea what they thought. She had been one of them. They were as she was. Following along, following the direction of the Council for the good of the People.  She considered again the concept for which she had no word.

As the reading continued on, she again thought of the strange councilman. She considered further the pleasantries of his manner. She tried to picture him in her mind and found that she could. Even his face struck her as different.

He wore a short, graying beard and matching gray splattered hair – not in itself an oddity for a member of Council – but it framed skin that seemed more touched by the sun and aged. Had she known the word for it, she would have considered it as ‘weathered’.  She watched the head of Council and his unwavering stance and contrasted it in her mind to that of her escort.

When she did stop to consider what might happen after the Declaration, she had no more answers than she did questions. ‘What led some to return and others to vanish? What was it all about anyway? It was all so stiff, as stiff as everything else in the community. Unwavering as the posture of the head of Council.

The reading from the Book made up the bulk of the ceremony.   Truth be told, reading from the Book made up the bulk of life in the Community.  She didn’t hear any of the words.   She realized she hadn’t really heard the words all her life. She knew what they said, yes. But they were just part of what being in the Community was.  One did not need to stop and consider them.  One needed only to do as they were directed.

She wondered what it was all for. The question “Why?” came back to her mind and the wordless concept. As all these waves of thoughts — the mysteries and questions — passed through her head, she completely lost track of the passage of time. Before she knew it Ceremony was reaching it’s conclusion and her mind was suddenly struck with the imminence of the ‘unknown’ that would visit her next.

The people began to rise from their positions as directed by the various Council members distributed around the circle.    They rose and began to file off to their sleeping quarters. Declaration was over. The People began to file out.

She no more looked upon them than did any of them pay any particularly obvious notice of her. She was just one of the Selected, they were all just members of the People.

As groups filed past, she felt a body crowding against her right shoulder. She assumed it was someone stepping out of the way of the passing groups when she felt the hair of a beard lightly against her neck and heard the whispers of the escort in her ear.

I must leave you now little one. You are not yet among the Chosen but should that become your fate, we will likely meet again. Even the will of the Council must obey the letter of the Law.

She continued to stare forward as he did this and noticed the head member  of the Council turn his attention toward her and the escort.  As quickly as the Council head’s glance landed upon them, the presence on her back moved off.  The escort was moving away somewhere behind her. She could tell this was so as the Council leader’s eyes followed him for a few seconds longer before returning forward again to oversee the last of the procession.

She pondered the whispered words and wondered what they meant and why he had said them.  ‘the Law?‘  What was meant by that?  She had a vague recollection of the word and remembered it having a context with that of ‘rules’.  But even the words of the Council were no longer spoken of as rules.  It was simply the Council’s will.  It simply represented the will of the People.

As the last of the People were led off by their respective foreman from the Council circle, the Council leader finally turned to speak some words of direction to one of the men at his side then directed a few others to begin the process of dousing the flames and clearing the ceremonial grounds.

She was expected to do nothing more than stand and wait for further direction so she held her vigil.  When he eventually finished giving his directions, the chief Councilman finally turned to walk over and to stand before her. He examined her face at length, his expression not changing. She was no longer thinking of anything else.  She just focused on him to await whatever came next.

After a few more moments passed, he said in the manner of a cold statement of fact, “The Declaration is now complete.”

He paused and didn’t even seem to breath as his stare went right through her.  He continued,  “When you were selected you were at the task of making gloves for the benefit of the People. The work station was relieved by another member of the Community but your work is not yet finished.”  He seemed to add emphasis to the word ‘your’.  “It is the will of the Council that you return to the workstation and finish the day’s task as you were directed by the foreman. The foreman is waiting there.  The foreman will provide further direction as is necessary should it be required. When the work has been completed as directed, it is the will of the Council that you report to the dormitory for the night’s rest.”

He paused a moment, still watching her face to make sure she understood her direction.  She could not quite decipher if he was still adding an emphasis on every use of the word ‘you‘ or if it was simply the lack of such a word being spoken frequently by a member of Council that drew her own attention to it.

She nodded slightly to acknowledge that she understood and he added, ” The will of the Council is to do the will of the People. The will of the People is to do what is good .”

With that he raised his right hand in the direction of the workshop but his composure did not change. She stood only briefly but noticed upon her momentary pause that the Councilman’s brow seemed to stiffen to add further emphasis to the directions.

Go finish your work and go to bed?‘ she thought to herself as she turned to comply. Nothing made any sense anymore so she resolved not to try to unravel it. Instead she turned and did as directed. She turned to go back to work.

(continued in part 3)


SWWood Scott Webster Wood
TheWild Webster

treii28@hotmail.com
Thoughts from the Wild
The ObjectOpus
Things You Ought to Know

Identification

You have been selected as Chosen.”

That was all that was said. That was all that was ever said. All that need be said. She arose from her work and followed the foreman as she was expected to do.

Review

She sat facing one of the few bare spots on the wall near the only window. A small window that looked out on the nearly empty street. The walls of the room were surrounded by words in large lettering. Words of the Council. Words she had heard spoken as far back as she could remember. What little she could remember with any clarity.

She had lost track of time presently, but assumed it to be mid afternoon. The streets were empty because the People were at work. An orator continued to read from the ‘Book of the People’s Council’ from his kneeling posture on the other side of the door in the opposite wall.

The will of the Council is the will of the People.
The will of the People is to do what is right on behalf of the People.
To do right is to do good.
It is the will of the Council to do good for the People….

He continued to read on as all orators had always done. His voice blended in with the faint voices of the orators crossing below in the street.

The desire of the People is to do the will of the Council.
The will of the Council is to do the will of the People.
The will of the People is to do right.
To do right is to do good on behalf of the People…

The words seemed to echo through her head more than usual, but she seemed to hear the words even less than when she was at her job – a job that was assigned by the direction of the Council. She heard the sounds now. When she was working, it was background noise.

‘The orator reads from the Book of the People’s Council to re-enforce the will of the Council. The will of the Council is to do the will of the People. The will of the People is…

These words came to her thoughts now, even though they were not the words being read by any of the orators she could currently hear. They came to her from memory. Something she had heard once at a Council gathering. Occasionally the Council held such gatherings to elaborate further from the non-orated texts of the rules of the People’s Council.

To question the will of the Council is to question the will of the People.
The will of the People is to do what is good and right.
To question the People is to question the right.

She wasn’t sure if she was hearing the words as read by the Orator at the door or echoing through her thoughts. ‘One was not to question the good and the right,” she thought to herself.

‘Thinking to herself!’ She blushed and hung her head. ‘They were right to have selected me as Chosen,’ she thought. ‘Community members do not “think for one’s self.”

To do good is to do on behalf of the People.
A member of the Community must do on behalf of the People.
A member of the Community must do as directed by the Council.

These words did not come from the door but a voice she could hear in workshop across the street. These particular words were no longer necessary to be read for the ‘Chosen’. She was no longer directed to ‘do’. She could only sit and think.  People did not think in the Community– People simply ‘did’. ‘A member of the Community does on behalf of the People,’ she found herself recalling out of habit.

She could not help it. It was all people thought. It was all people heard. It was read in all shops while labors ‘on behalf of the People‘ were undertaken. One was not afforded time to think.  A Community member was not expected to think except as to what was necessary to ‘do’. To do for the benefit of the good. To do for the on behalf of the People. To do at the direction of the Council.

The words were not separate. They were always spoken together. They were always read together. They were always read period. Now all she could ‘do‘ was to listen. She had nothing to do with her body and thus nothing on which to focus her actions and thereby pre-occupy her mind. She was thinking. She never thought except to think about what she was doing. Doing on behalf of the People. Doing at the direction of the Council.

When she had risen from her work upon being told she was selected as Chosen, she had been directed here. No one really knew where the Chosen went before the Declaration. No one knew what occurred when they were guided away. No one needed to know. To be selected as Chosen was the will of the Council. The will of the Council is to do the will of the People. The will of the People is to do what is good on behalf of the People.

She could no more stop herself from thinking in the words of the Book of the People’s Council then she could stop herself from thinking about those words now. They were the only words she knew, the only words anyone ever heard. There was not time for talking when there were things that needed doing. Needed doing by the Council. Needed doing for the good of the People.

Community members were simply to hear the words and to do. To hear them and to….

She knew there was some other concept there, but she had never stopped – had never been allowed to stop – to think of it before.  Community members were not supposed to think about it they were to just… hear? No. She did not have a word for it. She had never heard such a word for the concept she now had.

Although she understood that her thinking had ‘changed’, she could not separate when it had. Did it change from lack of things to ‘do’? She was sure the lack of ‘doing’ effected her thinking now. But was this the reason she was now selected as Chosen? She had no concept of logic or deduction. Deduction was not necessary to follow direction. Deduction was not needed to do as the council instructed. But her mind seemed to understand that changes in her thinking which ‘followed’ the act of being selected as Chosen did not precede the event itself. What had changed? She could not quite recall ‘why’…. why? The word hung in her head for a moment.

Not even in the Council gatherings, nor at the Declarations themselves was it ever spelled out as to ‘why‘ someone was selected as Chosen. But it was understood within the words of the book. One was picked as Chosen for not doing as the words specified, for not following the will of the Council. How had she not followed the Will of the Council? She tried to remember but the days all blurred together, the moments are not specific. All moments are directed by the Council. All actions are for the benefit of the People. She had always tried to follow their will before. She had always tried to do good.

The orator happened to read the words in a timely manner drawing her attention as she thought this. “It is the will of the People to do good…”

‘Yes, she had tried to do good.’ Her thoughts continued, ‘but one does not ‘try’ to do good. One must simply do it. One does not question what is good. One does not work to do good. Doing is good. Good is just… well just good!’

She began to consider the alternative. ‘If “doing” is good and she is not doing good, but simply “trying” to do it….,‘ but her attention was distracted mid thought. She caught sight of a crew of laborers now coming down the nearly empty street through the narrow window. They were leaving their workplace to go for their afternoon meal. Behind them marched the foreman who doubled as their workplace orator. As always, he read from the Book of the People’s Council as they walked from the workshop toward the lunchroom.

She spotted faces she recognized. Not ‘friends’. She had no concept of friend. Friends were not necessary to do right or good. Friends were not in the interest of the Council. The interest of the Council is…

Her thoughts broke off as she saw a young blonde boy and the thought occurred to her for the first time that the boy was attractive. She did not think the word ‘attractive’ but she thought he looked ‘good’. There was no need for ‘attraction’ to do good, so there was no word for it in the words of the Community.

She thought, ‘it was not good in a way that is good for the People, but in a way that is good to “her”’. She turned her head away from the window in disgust at her own thoughts. One does not think for themselves. One thinks for the good of the People….

But I am no longer asked to do for the People,‘ was the thought that interrupted the recollection of the council words and her glance involuntarily wandered back to the window to look for the good-looking boy. But the boy had already vanished into the lunchroom.

Still, she could picture his face in her mind. This took her by surprise as it was not something a member of the Community was expected to do, to remember one of the People in detail.  Community members only needed to know what another was directed to ‘do’ and only when they needed them to do something to assist them in what they were doing.  A member of the Community did not need to know what other People’s distinct features were. Distinction was not necessary to do the People’s will. Therefore distinction was not the will of the Council.

That which is not the will of the Council is not good for the People.
The will of the Council is to do the will of the People.
And the will of the People is to do what is good.

She couldn’t even sort through her own mind to tell if the words came from the lips of an orator in the present or in the past. A member of the Community did not need to tell the difference. The words of the Book were all the People needed to know, all the People needed to think. All that was necessary to do – to do what is good.

The thought hadn’t even occurred to her to shout out to the boy.  A member of the Community does not shout out to others. A member of the Community has no reason to shout out to others. But something inside her considered it in retrospect now. It was not specific to the boy per se. But to contact. He was no one, just another face of another member of the Community. Just one of the People. Socialization was not necessary to do the People’s will. Doing was all the People were expected to do, all the People were allowed to do. What socialization did happen, occurred in the process of the doing. Only when it was necessary to do as directed – to do the will of the Council.

No, she did not crave to see the boy or anyone else specific. To her everyone was essentially the same. Everyone did – did for the public good. Everyone was the same. She just craved contact. Any contact. She looked up at the orator, but he droned on and on like a machine.

The Council directs what the People do.
The will of the Council is to do good for the People
The Council directs the People to do what is good…

She recalled being met by a member in council clothing when she had first been brought to this place. Before she had been left in this room. He had explained to her – amidst phrasing that may as well have been read from the Book – that those selected as Chosen were not to do things such as shout out. That it did not serve the people to do anything while she was here. It was the will of the Council for her to be here for Review.

Review follows being selected as Chosen. Review will determine the good. Review will examine the right. It is the will of the Council to do the will of the People. And the will of the People is to do what is right on behalf of the People,” he had told her.

He had given no explanation of ‘Review’. Just that it was the Council’s will that any selected as Chosen under go Review. Since she was selected, she would undergo this Review. “It is the will of the Council that you wait here as part of Review. The Council directs you to wait. You are to do nothing while you wait. Nothing that is not at the direction of the Council. It is the purpose of the Council to do the will of the People.”

At that he had left, the orator was summoned and here she remained. Alone. Alone with her thoughts.

She suddenly realized that not only was a Community member never left unoccupied with tasks that would allow them to think. Community members were never left alone at all. Every task, every transition between tasks, eating, sleeping, even trips to the bathroom were all done with others. But now she was alone. ‘To be Chosen is to be alone,‘ she thought. She was not sure she liked being alone, but suddenly realized she didn’t really like being with the others either. At least not the others in the Community – not when ‘others’ all blended together.

There would be no real difference being here,‘ she considered, ‘if only I had something to do. Something to occupy my time. Something to keep me from thinking. Thinking is not in the interest of the good.

She looked down upon the floor. Not even a spec of dust or dirt. Someone must have cleaned the room. Someone always cleaned the rooms. It was something that needed to be done. Needed to be done for the good for the People.

She looked up to the words on the wall. She had read all the words many times already. She had read them over and over to occupy her mind. She had read them until she could not stand to read them any longer. She knew them all but she read them anyway. She did not want to read them any longer. Did not want

One does not want,‘ she thought but now couldn’t help cracking a slight smile. She smiled because of something underneath it. Something she would have called ironic had she known of the word irony. She suddenly realized that she actually ‘wanted’ to think these things. That some part of herself was enjoying it.

One does not enjoy,‘ she thought now and almost laughed out loud. She had to resist the urge. She had never had such an urge before. She had never laughed, no less out loud. Laughing was not necessary – not necessary to do what was good – good for the People. She looked up at the orator, but if he had noticed any change in her composure he had not been distracted from his machine like recitation from the Book.

She knew not what they would ‘do’ if he had seen something and communicated it to another. She had already been selected as Chosen. What else would they do? What else could they do?

No, they did not make clear what happened after a Community member was selected as Chosen. Sometimes the people came back to work after the Declaration, sometimes they were never seen again. A member of the Community does not question the will of the Council. A member of the Community does not need to know what happened to such people.  A member of the Community only needed to know what the Council was directing them to do next. To do on behalf of the People.

As she was thinking of these things – yet still trying not to think these things – she became aware that her focus had become fixed on something. She glanced briefly over her shoulder but the Orator just read on as always, focused on the Book. She looked down at her shadow. Her body was between the Orator and what she had seen. She returned her eyes to the thing.

Right at the base of the wall near the corner of the recess that led to the window was a small, barely noticeable crack in the plaster of the molding. A crack that made a half circle intercepted by the floor. The floor and the walls were perfectly clean and smooth here – smooth all except for the crack. She shuffled her body a little closer to the window frame and reached down toward the crack.

Inserting the tip of her fingernail she found it fell loose of the molding rather easily. She carefully picked it up and pulled it closer to her face being careful not to let the gesture be visible to the orator. It was just a simple piece of plaster. A small chip. But it was a flaw. It was a deviation from the monotony of this place. It was something to do.

She stared at it for close to a minute, tracing the edge with her eyes, following every curve, gauging the thickness as it tapered to a thin edge and widened again, but only to the thickness of the fingernail she had used to dislodge it. She continued to look it over before she noticed it.

As she flipped the small chip over in her hand, being careful not to damage it, she could just make out a very thin, very faint layer of dust on the backside. On one end of the dust, she could see a slight fingerprint. It was undeniable. It was the mark left by a human finger. But why was it there?

This drew her attention and focus and now her thoughts raced. She didn’t fight them like she had fought the other thoughts. ‘A fingerprint can only be made by a finger. Someone at some time had touched this chip. Yet the floor is spotless, the walls are smooth. Smooth all except the faint line of the crack surrounding this chip.’

If someone cleaning had seen the chip, they would have ventured to fix it – no, they would have brought it to the attention of their foreman from the Council, and the foreman would have directed them to fix it – fix it for the good of the People. Had they not noticed it, it would have been left in place. Yet this chip had been seen, been removed, been touched – touched with a human finger – touched and then put back. Put back on purpose??

The thought perplexed her. It made no sense. There was no good in it, no benefit to the People. No benefit to the Council. Yet someone had done it. ‘Someone had…,‘ she paused as she thought the words as they seemed inconceivable. ‘Someone else had defied the will of the People.‘ She didn’t even realize that her thoughts included the word ‘else’ – a thought that would have, had she noticed she had done it – equated to an admission of complicity with the defiance. Instead, she suddenly became aware of another likelihood. Someone else selected as Chosen had been in this room!

Suddenly she didn’t feel as alone, even though she was. Suddenly she held in her hand the connection she was craving. A connection greater than any connection she had previously experienced with the people with whom she worked. Worked for the good of the People. No! This chip, this small flake of plaster was not dislodged for the public good. This flake was not put back at the will of the Council. This flake was once held by someone in her place, perhaps sharing the thoughts that she has now. Perhaps experiencing the same confusion and conflict she felt as she thought – as she enjoyed thinking, but as she did not enjoy the obvious turmoil with all she had ever heard. That such thinking was not deemed ‘good’.

She continued to stare at the small flake – for how long she did not stop to consider. Many many thoughts raced through her mind. She was not stopping, or at least not as often, to consider the defiance of those thoughts as she held it – as she connected with this mere piece of plaster.

She traced the edges of the chip with the tip of her finger when another thought occurred to her. ‘This someone, whoever had touched this chip before… they must have examined it as closely as I am now. They must have also spent as much time looking at every aspect of it. They must have examined it in as intimate of detail. Yet they left a fingerprint, albeit a barely perceptible one, on one edge.

Although she had no way of knowing it for certain, she couldn’t help but wonder if it was intentional. It led her to a single thought. Being careful not to disturb the scarce white powder that outlined the impression that was already there, she moved her own finger over the other end of the flake, lightly touching the surface and lifting it off. There it was – her own mark. There were now two distinct sets of prints that could be seen in the gray plaster on the back side of the thin flake of wall.

She held it for another few seconds there in her palm feeling a sense of both unity with whoever had previously touched the thing but also feeling something akin to a condemnation. As though the mark signified a pronouncement of her guilt. Guilt against the public will. Guilt of defiance before the Council. Despite this feeling she lowered the chip just as carefully as she had removed it and eased it back into it’s place on the wall, rubbing the paint side with her finger until it was again only a miniscule line, all but unnoticeable at the base of the window recess.

She turned her body to place her back against the wall, her fingertips still lightly over the spot on the wall that hid her shame and her act of rebellion. ‘Did this mean she was not good?‘ The words somewhere passed through the back of her mind, but now she just focused on her breathing. It seemed incredibly loud in her ears. So loud, it seemed, that it would give away her act and show as her guilt.

The Orator still sat, and still read. She hadn’t heard him the entire time. Her face was flushed, her skin was hot and no doubt red. She concentrated on calming herself and in doing so continued to focus on the task of breathing. Just breathing. Trying to breath normally.

Normally?‘ she thought. ‘What is normally?‘ but quickly returned to breathing. She was not used to all this thinking. Again, she would have attributed what she felt to confusion had she known a word to assign to it. Instead she just focused on being less confused. Less excited, another word she had never been granted. More normal – whatever that was. As she continued to breath and began to calm herself back down her exhaustion from the whole ordeal as well as the experience with the flaw in the wall and the connection to some unknown predecessor overtook her. Before she knew it she had fallen asleep.

Somewhere in her dreams the voice of an unknown orator read the words:

To be normal is to be like everyone else.
To be normal is to do the will of the Council.
The will of the Council is to do the will of the People.
The will of the People is to do what is good on behalf of the People.

They were not words from the book but they could have been.

Her dreams were not much different from her waking moments. At least not much different in content. She worked. She walked. She ate. It was all she knew. It was all anyone knew. It was all that was allowed. It was all that was necessary. So it was all she could dream.

But the connections in dreams are not an even, seamless flow like moments experienced while awake. One moment she was sewing a glove, the next she would look down upon a tray of food. A moment later she was walking between the buildings, then was seated again at a bench organizing parts into a feed tray for one of the machine presses. In actuality, although the transitions were erratic, the resemblance to the waking world wasn’t much different. Her life not much unlike her dreams had no significance. No significance beyond… ?? Again, this required a word she did not have for a concept she had never before considered.

The next thing she became aware of was a hand lightly shaking her shoulder. Stooped over her was a man. He was dressed in a robe that signified he was from the Council. The orator still sat behind the closed, metal barred door to the room, continuing to read from the Book. But it seemed to her he was reading softer than he had before. She could hear no sounds from outside and realized that the room, and the world outside was dark.

She had rarely seen the streets at night. Everyone was worked non-stop all day. Everyone was exhausted by the time they were allowed to sleep. As far as she knew, everyone slept. She had never been allowed to sleep during the day and just became aware that she had done it on this day. The only time the People were out after dark was walking to the sleep quarters after the work for the day was completed and for the purpose of the Declaration.

She glanced outside the window briefly in fascination at the silence. At the darkness. The only activity that could be seen were a small number of people in Council robes preparing the central square for the Declaration. She had never looked upon the empty streets at night. It had never been allowed. It was not necessary. It was not the will of…

She looked back to the man. His face was expressionless. This was generally the case with members of the Council or their representatives. It was generally the case for everyone. As he caught her eyes he stood up a little. In his right hand he held a lantern which provided the only light in the room. The yellow light cast shadows around the room and across his face. It gave an ominous look to his features as well as to the words on the walls.

I am here as part of Review,” was all he said at first. He turned to walk a few steps across the room and she became aware that there was a small stool placed there now where before the room had been completely empty. He sat down on the stool and set the lantern on the floor. He crossed his hands on his lap and sat there for a moment, almost seeming to be waiting for her – but to do what?

She realized she had slept cramped up near the recess and thought briefly of the crack. But she didn’t turn to look. His eyes were focused on her’s. He did not seem occupied by anything else. His expression remained lifeless and communicated nothing. But she still had the sense that he was watching her every move.

She had the perception that whatever she said, whatever she did, was somehow being watched, perhaps for whatever purpose the process of ‘Review’ was designed. She thought to keep her face expressionless as well, but this was not a difficult thing to do as it was what was normal to do.

There was that word again – normal. Somewhere in the back of her mind a thought from a dream sat just below perceptibility, but she focused on the moment and on the man. The man from the Council.

She was not sure what he waited for but she straightened her posture where she sat against the wall to turn her body directly toward him. She knew not if he expected her to speak or if he was waiting to see if she would. She could think of nothing to say so she said nothing and just returned his gaze.

After a few more moments had passed, and with no further expression he asked “Do you know why you are here?”

She looked at him but showed no indications of any thoughts in particular. She thought of the only answer she could think as she was still coming out of her sleeping state. “Because I have been selected as Chosen.”

She phrased it as a statement and not a question. His expression still remained as it was before but he took in another breath before speaking again. “But do you know ‘why‘ you have been selected?” he seemed to pause to separate the use of the word ‘why’ from the rest of the question. Something about it rang in her ears but she did not stop to ponder what. Something about the way he said it made her think that something in this particular question was the entire focus of Review. That it wasn’t just the question and whatever answer she might give to it, but how she answered it and what words she used.

She was still not sure what being Chosen meant so she could not imagine why she had been selected to be subject to it. She again gave the only answer she could think of, but not without picking her words carefully. “Because I have done something that is not the will of the Council. Something that is not good for the People.”

She stated it as a statement of fact. It was the only reasonable conclusion. But to her it was as much an inquiry as a statement as she was still unsure if that really was the reason she was here even if it seemed the most likely cause.

What was it that you did?” was his response, which neither confirmed nor denied the assertion.

She thought about it for a moment but the question had no resonance. She had no answer for it. She could think of nothing to say. She said simply. “I do not know.”

He moved his hands down to the sides of the stool and swayed back briefly taking another long breath before returning his hands to crossed upon his lap. Despite the change in his posture, his expression and his actions gave nothing away as to his thinking. Nothing except a slight perception on her part that whatever it was he was expecting to see in her, her behavior or her answers to his questions, he was not finding it either. If he was seeking an answer to something, she had not yet given it and he had not yet found it. Not one way or the other.

He continued to look at her with his impassive countenance and she returned the look with similar focus. They looked upon one another for what seemed like a long while when finally he seemed to break as though he was waiting for something to signify what he was seeking but she had not delivered it.

Do you remember anything specific that occurred before you were told that you were selected?”

This caught her by surprise as it was not something people asked, not even members of the Council. Remembering anything, no less something specific, was not something mentioned or discussed – not outside of the directions for a specific task. It was not of benefit to the People to remember specific things. It was always assumed a Community member needed to be told. Even when being directed to a particular task, even a task someone had done an uncountable number of times before, they were always told the instructions in the same manner that the Orator read from the Book. Even the word remember was so rarely used that it was barely recognizable and required her to think harder to ‘remember’ what it meant. You either knew something or you didn’t. You were either told something or you were not.

Her surprise must have shown through her composure, but she did not get the feeling that this was a bad thing based on his response to his question. Some of his stiffness seemed ever so faintly to relax a little as though it was expected in some way. As though it was an issue the Council was seeking to clarify by way of Review. Whatever it was, this change to even the slightest bit more of a casual stance made her presume this meant it was a ‘good’ response on her part.

So many of these thoughts were going through her mind, she hadn’t even stopped yet to consider the question itself. In fact, her surprise was to the question. The reality unknown to her was that he perceived her surprise as lack of recognition, an inability to remember. The reality unknown to him was that her confusion, or whatever of it had shown, was to the act of it having been asked at all.

Although she had at least thought of the moment when she was told she was selected as Chosen, her focus upon that moment was on the recollections after it was said. Almost as though all before it did not matter or had not existed. In a manner of speaking it hadn’t. Before she heard those words there was no reason to remember. There was nothing worth remembering. Before it had happened she was simply doing as she had always done.

Try as she may, any events before that moment seemed to be vacant from her memory even though many things immediately after were crystal clear – so clear she could still recall the musky odor on the man who escorted her out and still hear the crunching of the gravel under his boots as they walked down the street. As though it had happened but a moment ago. But before that?

It was as though those words, “You have been selected as Chosen”, had suddenly turned her brain on. Turned it on for the first time. Anything before it, the days, weeks and years which had preceded that moment were just a blur of similar moments such that they all blended together into a timeless smudge.

She gave the only answer she could give. “No.”

He let out a long breath and even seemed to give the slightest hint of a smile. He uncrossed his hands and set them lightly upon each leg, pausing a moment before reaching for his lantern and his stool and walking toward the door. At his direction the orator stopped his reading and set down his book momentarily to open the latch on the door. He turned briefly toward her.

It is the will of the Council that you wait here until the Declaration,” and simply turned to walk out of the room. The orator non-ceremoniously closed the door behind him and resumed his reading.

For a short while she pondered those events but could neither make heads nor tails of anything from it. Thinking about it, assuming what it all meant, made her head hurt to think of it. She could get nothing from it – there was nothing to get. She decided to focus her attention instead on what was occurring outside the window.

(continued in Part 2 – Declaration)


SWWood Scott Webster Wood
TheWild Webster

treii28@hotmail.com
Thoughts from the Wild
The ObjectOpus
Things You Ought to Know