by Denise Kawaii
© 2018 Denise Kawaii
All rights reserved. No part of this text may be reproduced without expressed permission from the author. Requests for use may be directed to Author@KawaiiTimes.com
Edited by Ava Roberts
Header font: Magneto, 16pt.
Body text font: Garamond, 12pt.
Adaline; Book One
First edition: September 2014, Second edition: December 2016, Third edition: August 2018,
Fourth edition: November 2019
Letter from the Author
If you happen to care about letters from the author, I’d like to thank you for reading these sample chapters of Adaline Before we get started, I’d like to tell you a little about the series. I’m honored that you have taken the time to try my words on for size and hope that you enjoy them.
Adaline, the first book of the series, was originally going to be a single, stand-alone book. But as it moved forward through its earliest stages, my alpha and beta reading teams both told me that it should be part of a larger series. I relented, announcing that I’d expand it into a trilogy, and then suddenly books four and five were on the table.
The world of Adaline is an uncomfortable one. I’d go a bit crazy if I lived there, myself. It’s no wonder that children like 1124562 have difficulty fitting in, even if they are all cloned from the same genetic material.
It all goes to show that it doesn’t matter how similar we appear from the outside. It’s what’s on the inside that counts.
It had been 2,920 cycles since Boy 1124562 was animated. The scrolling sign posted outside his cube counted each moment of his life, showing statistics of weight and height almost identical to the other Boys in his pod.
Only 35 of those cycles had been spent at the Career Aptitude Testing compound. Before this cube, with its steel walls implanted with sensors, he lived life in the Nursery with the others. The Nursery was open and airy. He had been able to sleep soundly, snuggled against the warm bodies of the other Boys.
In the testing compound he was still among Boys he knew, but they weren’t allowed to play with each other the way they used to. Each had a cube of their own. It was bearable during the day, but sleeping alone was scary and strange to 1124562.
He tossed and turned in his cube, careful not to touch the sensors on the walls that alerted the Nurses to his restlessness. The first night he had pushed against a sensor in sleepy frustration as he fought with his blanket. Almost instantly a Nurse had come to the cube door. It wasn’t like when the Nannies came into the Nursery to gently lull the Boys to sleep with the rhythmic clicking and humming of their gears and circuits. The Nurse sprayed something into his cube that made his eyes heavy and caused him to gasp for air until he fell to the floor in a deep and strange sleep that made his head ache the next morning.
Instead of thrashing about and alerting a Nurse to his sleeplessness, he learned to lie quiet and still on the warm floor covered by his blanket. There was nothing to do but stare out across the hall at the pale blue scrolling statistics of Boy 1123856.
Cycles since animation… 2,920… Height… 114.3 centimeters… Weight… 25.945 kilograms … C.A.T. Result: unknown
1124562 wasn’t sure what the Career Aptitude Testing compound was for, or what the C.A.T. Result was supposed to mean. All he knew was that aside from the quiet sound of dozens of chests rising and falling in unified sleep the pod lay silent. The stillness made him afraid.
It seemed as if he waited in silence forever before the bright tubes of white light flickered and began to glow through the thin clear panels above him. He rubbed his eyes to adjust to the bright light but continued staring at the statistics board of the Boy across the hall. It flickered and updated to read: Cycles since animation… 2,921. Boy 1124562 pushed the blanket off and sat upright in his cube, wiping the dryness out of his tired eyes.
Although his body was exhausted from another night without sleep his senses were alert to the sights and sounds of the other Boys waking in their cubes. He heard each of them stirring from beneath identical white blankets. He imagined each of them putting away their blankets and sitting cross-legged without touching the walls as they patiently waited for breakfast.
1124562 folded his own blanket and put it away neatly behind the small square door marked Blanket before taking the same position in the center of his cube. He closed his eyes and listened for the familiar sounds of breakfast rolling through the steel. His mouth watered as the noise of hundreds of meals tumbling through tubes grew louder. The almost invisible door above him swung open and then clicked shut, depositing three perfectly round breakfast tablets into the bin on the wall marked Food.
“Remember, breakfast is the most important meal of the cycle. Eat up Boys, so that each of you can grow up to be big and strong.” A cold as steel voice repeated the greeting the same way it had every morning since the Boys arrived at C.A.T. Boy 1124562 wasn’t sure where the voice came from, but he imagined it was seeping out of the dozens of Nurses that patrolled the halls.
Dutifully, 1124562 picked up the tablets from the bin, put them in his mouth and chewed them until they turned into a sticky paste against his tongue. He reached up to the ceiling of the pod and pulled down a thin retractable hose, biting the end until the cool liquid forced its way through the slit at the end of the tube. With a few silent sucks from the chute marked Drink, he was able to swallow his breakfast down and feel the satisfaction of a full stomach.
With the excitement of breakfast gone, there was nothing to do but wait for one of the Nurses to let him out of the cube so that he could get ready for class. 1124562 sat perfectly still, closing his eyes and regulating his breathing to stay as quiet as possible. He craved the moment when the Nurse would tell him what a good Boy he had been and let him out into the Dressing Hall. Not only did being a good Boy make him happy, but he’d also get to finally relieve himself and change into a fresh set of clothes.
Not long after he first arrived, 1124562 discovered that Boys who fussed or complained weren’t let out of their cubes. Instead they were sprayed down with the sticky fog that forced them to sleep. The second time he got the fog, it was because he begged the Nurse to let him out before the scheduled time. During the night he drank too much liquid and had to relieve himself so much that it hurt. The Nurse didn’t respond to his cries with help and concern; it merely sprayed him. Almost immediately, he’d fallen into a crumple on the floor only to wake up later covered in his own soil and stink.
“Bad Boys aren’t allowed in class,” one of the Nurses had told him when the sensors in his cube alerted it that he was awake the next cycle. Unlike a few of the Boys in his pod who were sprayed many times before learning their lesson, 1124562 vowed that he would never act out again.
The time finally came for the Nurses to roll across the hard floors on their shiny polished wheels to open the doors to the cubes. One of them stopped in front of 1124562’s door and put its arm into the data lock just outside. The Nurse’s eyes blinked yellow and blue as it downloaded the data from the previous night, and then shone bright green.
“You’ve been a very good Boy, 1124562. Welcome to cycle number 2,921. Please make your way to the Dressing Hall and prepare for class.”
The Nurse unlocked the door and moved away from his cube before 1124562 felt comfortable leaving the tight space. Once he heard it speaking to the Boy in the next cube over he crawled through the low door and stood up straight in the hallway. He stretched his arms and legs as far as they would go and nodded a silent hello to the other Boys spilling into the hall.
A shrill scream cut through the quiet bustle of the morning as a Nurse sprayed mist into one of the cubes. 1124562 and the other Boys pretended not to hear and silently began walking away from the cries coming from the Boy who had not behaved. It was only a moment before the fog silenced the Boy. The hall fell silent again aside from the muted voices of Nurses unlocking doors and the quiet shuffle of bare feet against cement.
The Boys spilling into the hall began to flow quickly towards the dressing area. As 1124562 followed the mass of brothers ahead of him, he looked up. High above them was the long tube system that had brought them breakfast. The delivery system was beautiful; dozens of tubes running the length of the hall at just enough of an incline to keep the food rolling towards the cubes. A scanner at each intersection counted portions for each meal before allowing the tablets to fall into the feeder of the Boy below. It then signaled the tiny trap door to shut so that the tablets behind it could continue their course to Boys farther down the line.
The tube system ended abruptly at the door to the Dressing Hall. He entered one of many lines for fresh clothes, still deep in thought about the feed system. The line moved quickly as each Boy passed through the scanning system that identified their number, checked their body for injuries or illness and then dropped fresh clothes into a bin at the front of the line.
Obediently, 1124562 took the clean clothes assigned to him and moved farther into the cavernous room. He filed into another line for the shower. When it was his turn, he slipped out of his tunic and stood rigid while he was washed vigorously from head to toe by a Shower Assistant. The moment the icy cold water stopped, a blast of hot air engulfed him to dry him off. Scanned again to ensure he was clean, he stepped into the lightweight pants and smock and moved toward the exit so another Boy could do the same.
1124562 wondered what happened to the dirty clothes when he dropped them into a bottomless basket near the Dressing Hall’s exit. He didn’t have time to ponder the fate of the soiled clothes for long though; the moment he passed through the narrow opening he was crowded by his brothers as they pushed along the long and dimly lit tunnel that led to the school.
The tunnel was narrow with a ceiling so low that Boy 1124562 had to fight the urge to reach up and touch it. He knew if he did, the sensors would react, and Transportation Aides would emerge from their places hidden behind panels that blended into the walls. They would search him out of the group and whisk him away to an unseen corridor where he could be reprimanded. That was the problem with the grey mist; it was hard for the machines to direct and could easily be breathed by good Boys on accident if they stood too close. The threat of the Machines kept 1124562 from acting out many of his urges and prevented him from exploring the hidden corridors and shiny contraptions that piqued his curiosity.
His skin crawled at the thought of the Machines touching him with their spongy rubber hands. Their fingers were covered in silent sensors that seemed to pull data from him as they hovered over his skin. A shiver ran through him as he thought about the feel of their cold breath, fanning out from their faces with a metallic smell. Some of them were almost indistinguishable from Men until they came close enough to smell hydraulics lurking beneath their synthetic skin and see the ticking gears move through the glass of their perfectly formed eyes.
Boy 1124562 knew that the Machines were his superiors and fought the urge to squirm or run away when they came near him. Anything that might be interpreted as disobedience was rewarded with the sticky sleep-spray. While most of the Boys found themselves returned to their cube when they woke, some Boys weren’t seen again in the pod.
1124562 felt a wave of relief when he finally reached the door to his classroom and was able to break away from the crowd. He took a couple of deep breaths before ambling over to his desk and taking a seat.
Until C.A.T., 1124562 had only seen a Man once before. The first day of class he was surprised when one entered the room. Each of the curious students fought back the urge to bombard the old human with questions, sitting politely in their desks with curiosity burning inside of them like roaring fires. His low number, 2871, was proof that he was very old. He would have been animated tens of thousands of cycles before the group he now taught. 1124562 was sure he wasn’t the only one staring at the Man’s long black robe and wiry hair sprouting out unnaturally from his face instead of growing atop his head.
This cycle, each of the Boys took their seats in front of their assigned tablets. One by one their faces relaxed, and they began to talk openly to each other. 1124562 kept to himself though, consumed with watching 2871 as he scrolled through the cycle’s tests.
The Man found what he was looking for and flicked his wrist to push it from the tablet in his lap and onto the wall behind him. The wall was not like the cold metallic walls in the other rooms. It glowed steadily white and functioned just like the tablets. 2871 touched the wall without fear or hesitation, and the wall responded by altering the projected image according to the direction of his hands. 1124562 ached to become as confident and unafraid as the Man before him.
The last Boy was seated and 2871 turned to face the class. “This cycle, dear Boys, before we begin our tests I thought we would have a brief discussion. I am sure that by now you have become accustomed to the routine in your pods and learned to behave like good Boys.” 2871 sat down in the high-backed chair hovering at the front of the room and folded his arms against his chest. “But, I am also sure that you have had time to form questions, thoughts and concerns about what you are doing here, Adaline and the Community at large.”
Most of the Boys fidgeted, staring at their blank tablets and stealing quick uncertain glances around the room but 1124562 immediately touched the button on his tablet indicating that he had a question.
“Before I answer any questions, let me say that I have no intention of calling you each by your very long identification numbers.” The teacher looked briefly at the list of student numbers and groaned. “They seem to get longer with every class, and my mind just can’t keep up. Instead, I will call you by your last two digits, and I ask that you please do the same. You, 62,” the Man touched his own tablet to quiet 1124562’s blinking light on the projected screen behind him. “What is your question?”
“What is Career Aptitude Testing?”
“Ah, a wonderful question to begin our discussion.” The Man looked intently into the face of each student before speaking again, the silent pause making the Boys stare back at him in nervous anticipation. “Each of you has his own unique talents. Although we all look the same at animation, we each carry our own strengths and weaknesses. This compound is a place where Boys come to learn to live separately, and are tested to find what those individual strengths and weaknesses are. When you complete your testing and basic function training, you will be sorted into careers and will be trained to work for the betterment of Adaline.”
Instantly the projected tablet began to flash with questions from the other Boys. “18, what is your question?”
A Boy on the other end of the room asked quickly, “What is Adaline?”
The teacher’s face broke into a soft, warm smile. The curves of his face were very unlike the rigid grins of the Nurses. His eyes closed as his cheeks lifted and his eyebrows rose, causing the Boys to smile automatically in return. “Adaline is everything, dear Boy. It is the ground beneath your feet and the nitrogen-oxygen blend in your lungs. It is the world we exist in, and no one in Adaline knows just how far it reaches. It spans many kilometers in every direction, home to thousands of pods and compounds just like this one.”
The next Boy piped in, without waiting for his number to be called. “What is the Community?”
“The Community is our governing body. It lays out the rules and structure that we follow. If you think of the Community as a giant Machine, we humans are the gears and pistons that make the Machine work. Each of us has a different function, but we all work together to keep the Machine moving smoothly. The real Machines that guide us; Nurses, Assistants, Aids and others that you will meet are like the circuits that command each of the gears and pistons to move and sense when there is a malfunction in the system.” 71’s speech broke as he glanced at the wall behind him. “99, what is your question?”
“What is a career, and how do we know what to do with it?”
“A career is a job function. It is your individual contribution within the Community. My job function, for example, is that of Teacher. When I was a Boy…” A quick gasp filled the room, interrupting 71’s explanation. He burst out in laughter and looked around the room to the wide-eyed astonishment of the Boys around him. “Well, I may be old, but I was a Boy once! Yes, just like you I was young and full of my own questions. When it was my time to be tested, I was given the career of Teacher and I have performed my function for more cycles than I care to count.”
The screen on the wall flashed again with questions from throughout the room. “Boy 57, let’s give your question a go.”
“What happened to you to make you look like… like THAT?”
“Oh surely, I don’t look that bad. My Assistant even prompted me to comb my beard when I woke. I’m assuming that you mean how did I get to be so tall, dashingly handsome and well dressed?”
Boy 57 shrugged his shoulders and looked around the room for guidance from his peers. All the other Boys looked equally confused.
“Well,” 71 replied without waiting for an answer from the group, “It’s simple. I grew up, just as each of you is bound to do sooner or later. Oh, don’t you worry,” he winked one eye at 57, “It doesn’t happen overnight. It takes a very long time for you to reach your full potential as a Man. We humans have been given a talent that none of the Machines around us have learned to mimic – we change in time. Yes, we will stay in our assigned careers and follow the Community directive throughout our life span. But we will do so as we grow taller, bigger, stronger, weaker, smaller, smarter, sillier and any other number of things that we can be.”
The blinking on the wall behind the old human never ceased, even increasing as he moved on to new questions. “94, what would you like to add to the discussion?”
“How many careers are there? Which ones are the best ones? How do we get a good one?”
“Oh, my,” the Man rubbed the facial hair he had referred to as a ‘beard’ and scratched where a chin would be. “Three questions from you. Well, let’s see if we can answer them before we run out of time. First, there are hundreds of careers available to humans, but generally they fall into three categories. Education, Defense and Labor. As far as which one is the best, that is something that Men continue to debate even until they are living their final cycle. In truth, all of them are essential to the Community, and so each of them can easily be argued as being the best. As far as getting a career, it will be assigned to you by the Head Machine at the end of your time at C.A.T. based on the talents and strengths that are uncovered during testing.”
Although easily apparent that the Boys were still bursting with questions, the tone signaling that testing had not started on time rang through the air. “This discussion has, I trust, been enlightening. Let us resume our testing. If you have any questions that have not been answered, please hold them until our next opportunity to speak as a class. It helps to keep me from having to repeat myself twenty times.” The Man made a series of motions on his tablet and in unison the wall behind him and the tablet in the hands of each Boy began to shift and change.
The tests intrigued 62. There had not been any instruction on what to do with them during any of the classes since he arrived at C.A.T. and for the first two cycles all he did was stare at the shifting images on the wall. In time, he noticed patterns in the designs and began to select and manipulate them on the tablet in front of him. He found that pushing some of them together created a variety of reactions. Whether a change in color, a sporadic explosion of lines and curves, or simply an enlarging of the image, he quickly discovered he could get an effect with nearly every stroke of his hand upon the screen.
As abruptly as the shifting shapes appeared on the tablets, when class ended the images on the wall and all the individual tablets in the room went dark. By the time the Boys realized that their tablets had turned off, the tones signaling the end of class were echoing through the halls and the Man had already tucked his tablet into his robe and exited the room.
Boy 62 pushed his tablet into the drawer marked Student Tablet and rushed into the tunnel to follow his teacher. 2871 strode forcefully against a sea of Boys pouring out of classrooms, and 62 did his best to push through the crowd. He hoped to see where the Man went at the end of class. He was filled with an overwhelming urge to discover if there were more Men in the compound, and to know if they lived freely or if they were bound to the same cramped cubes as the Boys.
Although 2871 was several heads taller than the
crowd pushing past him, he quickly vanished into the sea of faces. Unable to
make any headway against the strength of his brothers, 62 had no choice but to
reverse course and follow the flow of bodies back to their pods. He sighed in
resignation as he realized there was nothing to do but swallow down dinner and
wait for tomorrow.
Time passed in a blur of Machines, testing, and dark hours spent confined. It took many cycles for 62 to adjust to his new surroundings but he finally learned to quiet his mind enough to sleep when the lights dimmed. 62 found that as the thickness of dinner filled his belly, slumber came quickly. He could now sleep until the sounds of breakfast rolling through the steel tubes above welcomed a new cycle.
As much as he missed the Nursery, 62 looked forward to going to class. In the cycles following the classroom discussion with 71, there had been no further talk about the role of humans in the Community or instruction on how Boys could become Men. 62 hoped that his teacher would open the floor to questions again.
In the meantime, the tests changed from shifting shapes and lines to long lists of simple problems. At least, 62 thought they were simple. Regardless of the type of problem: terminology questions, equations or detailed schematics, the answers seemed to leap out at him. It was almost as if the solutions were being handed to him. Neither the tablet nor the teacher ever told the Boys if they had completed the tests correctly, but 62 rarely worried about whether or not he was making mistakes. While he selected answer after answer without pause, most of the other Boys in the class seemed to scratch their heads and look around the room anxiously between questions.
The time spent sitting at his tablet surrounded by the silence of other Boys deep in thought allowed 62’s mind to wander from the task at hand. His head frequently flooded with questions that he ached to ask his teacher. He didn’t have a way to record his inquiries as they arrived though, so he repeated them over and over to himself until he was sure he had them memorized.
In spite of this curiosity, or perhaps because of it, Boy 62 fell into a pattern of rushing through his tests. Finishing long before the other Boys, he spent the rest of the time in class tracing his finger across the tablet while he thought about the questions mulling around in his mind. A soft grey line followed his finger as he dragged it across the smooth surface, staying for only a few moments before fading back into the tablet’s white background. It didn’t take long for 62 to begin moving his finger wildly across the tablet. He found that by moving quickly enough, he could create whole shapes. He began filling the tablet with pictures so quickly that there would be no more room on the screen and he would have to wait for the lines to fade before he could make any more.
Some of the shapes he created made him feel excited and happy. He fought the urge to show them to the Boys sitting near him. The fear that he would be disciplined for misbehaving outweighed the want to share his creations. So, instead of sharing he smiled to himself and did his best to memorize each image before it disappeared.
When the tone sounded for class to end, 62 sighed in disappointment. He loved everything about class; the mystery of his teacher, the varying complexity of his tests and the chance to play with the subtle images on his tablet. He began to hope that his tests would place him in Education so that he could become a teacher like 71.
A full seven cycles after the teacher initially opened the floor for questions, 71 again sat in his high-backed chair facing the Boys. His long beard wagged back and forth as he turned his head, his gaze following each Boy’s path as he entered the room and sat behind his tablet. Once the door slid closed and the distinct clicking of the locks was heard, the teacher’s eyes twinkled wildly. He cleared his throat and asked, “Well, what have we learned?”
Lights flashed on the wall behind the old human, but he didn’t turn to look at the numbers displayed behind him or glance down to see who had indicated their answer on the tablet on the desk in front of him. Instead, 2871 got up slowly from his seat and began walking up and down the rows between the Boys. “I trust that you’ve learned a few things about the testing. First, that there are no correct answers; or even if there are correct answers you won’t be disciplined for answering incorrectly.”
2871 stopped by a Boy two rows over from 62 and gazed at him knowingly. “In fact, it seems that at least one of you has purposefully answered every problem incorrectly just to find out what will happen.”
The Boy beside the teacher flushed a deep red, embarrassment easily read on his face before he ducked his head and looked at his feet.
71 laughed loudly, louder than any of the Boys had heard laughter before. He slapped the Boy beside him heartily on the back and cheered, “It is always a joy when I find the ones who push the limits!” 2871 turned to the rest of the room with a stern and warning glare, “But be warned, my brothers, you will find that persistently failing your tests will not end well for you. These tests lay out the course of your future in its entirety. None of you want to be stuck cleaning old manuals and dusting off gears for the rest of your lives. You are all much too bright for that!”
He patted the head of the blushing Boy as he continued to pace the room, and the Boy exhaled a deep sigh of relief as the teacher moved on. The Man fell silent as he allowed his warning to sink into the young minds.
“So what else have we learned?” 2871 asked the question more to himself than to the students as he continued his lecture. “Perhaps we have learned that we are able to solve problems we have never had to solve before? Some of you have shown considerable proficiency in diagnosing programming issues, which is a skill that comes in handy no matter what career you are chosen for.” The teacher nodded towards 62 and the Boy sitting in front of him as he spoke these words. “And the rest of you,” he opened his arms wide as if he were going to embrace the entire room, “You each will show your talents in the many cycles to come.”
The Man smiled at the room, his thick eyebrows and long beard rearranging themselves with the changes in his expression. “So, that brings us to what I know you’re all holding back. Are there any questions?”
Lights flashed, covering the tablet projection with blinking indicators for every Boy. “Well, I suppose that should keep us busy for the rest of the cycle,” the Man said emphatically as he gestured to the wall. “Let’s get started, shall we? In order of appearance on the screen, ask your question. Starting with 94. Go ahead, Brother.”
The Boy looked at his teacher with a look of deep concentration, “Last time, you said we are animated all the same, but we have different talents. How can we be the same as well as different?”
“Excellent question, 94. What better place to start to learn about ourselves than at the beginning! How many of you know what the animation process is?” The teacher paused for just a moment until he was sure none of the Boys had an answer. “Of course, I didn’t expect any of you to know the process. Your Nannies would have no reason to educate you. So, let us begin.
“In order to animate a human, two forms of matter are joined. This combining of matter results in the simultaneous division of cells that are so small that they cannot be seen outside of the Laboratory. The Laboratory, of course, is where animation is conducted.
“Over time, the cells divide and grow so much that they begin to form a body and that body grows until it is about the size of your fist.” At this he folded the long slender fingers of his right hand until his hand resembled a tight ball of flesh and raised it in the air for the whole class to see. “At this point, the being is not able to breathe or feed on its own. In fact, it’s completely dependent on the Animators to keep it alive.
“All of the organs and essential tissues continue to form inside this body and the being grows at an incredible rate until it is roughly the size of your head.” Instinctively, all the Boys began to look around the room, judging the sizes of their brother’s identical heads and trying to imagine a body so small.
“Eventually, the body is fully formed and able to function independent of the Animator’s assistance so they cease feeding it, expel it from its protective casing and ship it to the Nursery where it grows and becomes…” the teacher waved his hands wildly around the room, “one of you. Now, because of this process; the indistinguishable tissue used and identical procedures for each Boy’s creation, physically we all appear very much the same. We each have the same brown hair, same pink skin, same brown eyes and same bone and muscle structure. But that is where the similarities end. Each of us has our own mind, our own likes and dislikes, our own strengths and weaknesses, our own wants and desires. So therefore, we are all the same. But we are each different as well.”
The next Boy on the screen, 75, quietly asked his question as the others excitedly poked and pulled at their skin and hair, realizing for the first time that each of them looked identical to the Boys sitting around them. Even 62 was so caught up in the excitement of comparing his bare toes to those of his neighbor that he missed it.
“Fantastic question, 75!” The teacher’s exclamation prompted the Boys to break away from their inspection of one another. “The reason that you must sleep alone in your own cube is that you are growing to become Men. Studies have shown time and again that Men are the most productive if they are kept alone during rest, and come together as a group to solve problems. I know it is lonely, little one, but you will eventually get used to it.”
62 now had his turn to ask the teacher a question, and he sorted through the dozens of possibilities saved in his mind. He quickly identified the one that bothered him the most. “What happens to the Boys in our pod who misbehave and then never come back from their discipline?”
The room fell silent, each of the Boys freezing in the many odd poses they’d configured during their comparison of one another. Regardless of their odd position, each Boy turned eyes full of burning desire and sorrow towards the teacher.
Someone near the door chimed in, “Yes, what happens to them?”
A Boy in the back of the room added, “Are they all right?”
A tentative voice near the teacher whispered, “Will they ever come back?”
The teacher’s expression changed from enthusiasm to sadness and he turned his back quickly on the Boys. “This is not a question that I have the answer to. Boys and Men will disappear from your lives when they are found to be acting against the best interest of the Community. No one knows why they decide to no longer work beside their brothers, but when they make that choice they are taken from us and we must learn to continue on without them.”
A somber grief filled the room as the group mourned the loss of brothers who would never again return to their pod. The teacher remained standing with his back to the class for many long minutes. Finally, he cleared his throat loudly and addressed the class again, a slight crack in his voice. “Enough of such talk. Let us think on more cheerful things. 18, what is your question?”
The questions and answers continued on until the end of the class but 62 didn’t hear the other Boys or his teacher any longer. The sound that rang between his ears was the sobbing cries of the Boys he would never see again. His chest ached as he thought of them being sprayed with the sticky fog of sleep and taken away forever.
Although he didn’t know much about the differences between humans and Machines, he was sure that it must be difficult or impossible to reprogram a malfunctioning human. 62 had seen dozens of Machines repaired in the Nursery and at C.A.T. Machines were worked on out in the open when they broke down, it being easier for repairs to be done at the site of the problem than to lug broken equipment somewhere else to fix. But 62 had never seen repairs done on a human before. He realized that the organs and tissue 71 described during the explanation of animation must take specialized equipment to handle. He had heard of broken Machines being disassembled and discarded. He hoped that this was not the way that the misbehaving Boys and Men were handled.
The thought of his brothers being ripped apart or reprogrammed troubled 62 deeply, and for the rest of the cycle he was lost in thought over the concept. He was relieved when the quiet tones signaled it was time to return to the pods. It would take a long time alone for him to clear his head.
Sleep did not come for 62 that night, and he wondered how his brothers in the adjacent cubicles were able to close their eyes and drift off to sleep without worry. Fear coursed through his veins, and each time his eyes did grow heavy enough for sleep to overtake him he was soon jolted awake by the images of angry Nurses flickering behind his eyelids.
As he had when he first arrived at C.A.T., 62
rolled onto his side and looked up at the scrolling sign above the doorway of
the cube across the walkway. Cycles since
animation… 2,937… Height… 117.3 centimeters… Weight… 26.012 kilograms … C.A.T.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Denise Kawaii is the author of Woman With a Thousand Hats and A Giraffe in the Room. She is a longtime resident of the Pacific Northwest, moving periodically between Oregon and Washington State. When not writing books, Denise plays at being a farmer, feeding her compost bin manuscripts not good enough to show anyone other than the worms.