FICTION: THE RELUCTANT CHANGELING
He came out at night, deep in the night to enjoy the sparse clarity he loved. There was a silent sense to his life in those moments, a simplicity that he craved now more than ever. The daylight hours were too much for him. They made him feel like an alien in some Russian sci-fi movie of the nineteen sixties. He had learned to avoid the confusion those hours created in his mind.
But the mail told him to report to the Identifier and to appear in person. He had managed to avoid such a meeting for the last many years. But something told him this time he had to obey. The language of the mail had been much more explicit than before. Implicit threats had been made in the event of his non-appearance.
This was his last night before he would obey the summons. Though the night was cool with a fresh breeze blowing the thought of his meeting with the Identifier a few hours hence was making him sweat. He clenched his fists, took deep breaths and tried to hold back his rising panic.
He stood before the main door of the Identity Directorate staring at the cellpad. Slowly he raised his hand to it.
As he knew it would, it responded sharply:
Inside the grey bloc a digital report sped to the next available Identifier. Halsi’s gaze drifted to the screen, eyebrows rising.
Borns were very unusual now and this one, named quite curiously Samuel, made Halsi curious. Such a specimen would be interesting to examine and run through the process.
Halsi signaled ‘ENTRY’.
Outside Samuel navigated the electronic door and found an air message directing him.
‘HALSI. S1 R5’
An arrow hovered above the letters which moved with him as he walked.
Soon enough he sat before the Identifier.
“You are a born?”
“Yes Your Presence.”
He knew there was no sense in denying it.
“You know what this is, don’t you?”
“Why have you resisted the project?”
Samuel hesitated. He knew that his answer could not possibly escape controversy. It was inevitable. Yet answer he must. His fate was sealed in any event. Of course he could have run, not shown up here today… but the next cellpad he had to negotiate would surely have been only hours and a few kilometres away.
“I felt no need to change.”
The Identifier said nothing for a moment, only stared directly at him, his eyes attempting to penetrate this curiosity.
“You felt no need to change.”
“Do you know how insulting that is?”
“No.” “I mean yes Your Presence.”
“Do you mean yes or no?”
“Both Your Presence.”
“I believe in ‘Live and Let Live’.”
“I don’t feel the need to change. But I feel no need to hinder others from changing.”
“But you are aware this attitude is impermissible?”
“But you insist upon retaining this attitude.”
“Are you not ashamed to insult us in this way?”
“I am very sorry but I am not ashamed Your Presence.”
“You are aware you will be punished if you continue to insist on not being changed, don’t you?”
“Yes Your Presence.”
“And that we will now change you whether you agree or not?”
“Yes Your Presence.”
“And you will not agree?”
“No Your Presence.”
Halsi spoke into his screen:
“Samuel Cameron. ID 7sdheR650JJ8a. Incalcitrant. Condition C. Immediate.”
The glass screen between them glowed with an air message that flexed then disassociated itself from the glass to hang in front of Samuel’s face:
‘C PROCESS. INCAL S7 R2’
An identical arrow to that which had guided Samuel to Halsi now directed him further.
Samuel was petrified, completely numb and reduced to an apathy that bypassed tears.
He knew there was no escape. He had known it all along. Yet he was proud of the individualism he had had for his short life. He was eighteen. Time to change.
The C PROCESS area was clinically pure, antiseptic and very white. The staff were white-clothed and silent. He was led gently to the table and infused with a sedating fluid. A hand was placed on his forehead by a member of the C team who said to him gently, “This is for the best Samuel. You will be welcome.”
Upon waking the change was felt immediately.
Gone was the love of the silent dark of night. The desire to remain as a born was gone also. From knowledge of such processes the tag wrapped around his left wrist was examined. It was tugged until the letters became clear, ‘SUUI’. The name was not offensive though it was of course unfamiliar. Suui struggled to recall another name somewhere in the back of memory but it slipped away and would never return.
Perhaps if Samuel had managed to bypass every cellpad, an impossible task, and had found a female born there might have been a chance of something of the old world returning, who knows, perhaps even a child. But such anomalies were now no longer necessary and in fact had become an absolute liability.
Neutering had become the norm. Though there were still a percentage of borns the vast majority were now happily newborns, without gender or desire, content to accept the better, more stable life delivered by CENTRAL.
SUUI looked across the table to VIOLI. He/she smiled and his/her partner smiled back. The café was very nice. The decor comforted their eyes. All was perfectly well. There was nothing to worry about. Neither would say anything. It was better that way. Everything was fine. The music, soothing, the coffee just right. The world about them caused not a flicker of thought. Their smiles and the lighting above them, if not their silent minds, shone very, very bright.