Moneday, M 5, D 27, 427 AP
A man was being beaten by other men. He looked at me with dark, sad eyes. I felt ashamed and a little frightened. I turned away. Current me screamed at past self to do something, but I kept walking, keeping my eyes on the ocean.
Coward, coward, coward.
I woke up to Richard shaking me. I must’ve left the door unlocked, and Allan never came home. When I looked at him, his narrowed gaze softened.
“What happened to you, Freddie?” He asked all these questions about why I looked so rough. So sad.
I did my best to assure him that I was fine. How could I tell him that his father had killed me? Would kill a helpless boy? Has probably killed many, many people?
He stood up and crossed his arms. “I came to talk to Allan, but maybe you have answers about–”
“I don’t know anything,” I said at about the same time I saw the folded paper in his hand.
Allan had written him a letter. Apologizing.
“That idiot thinks he killed me.”
“He did, Richard.”
Richard rolled his eyes. “What, a lifetime ago? And then he tries to tell me that Maria and I belong together, like that’s a thing. I mean she’s pretty or whatever, but the girl is like a sister to me, and everyone knows she’s head over heels for Allan. He sounds just like my father spewing garbage like that.” This time when he rolled his eyes, he didn’t smile. “What is going on in the world?”
“Richard, Allan is the current copy of Jonathan Vaughn.”
“What?” Richard laughed. “Are you serious? And I’m guess that I’m Michaelangelo. Wow! That makes so much sense. Why my dad… and now this… and Al being absolutely crazy. You know, I know this is why he’s been neglecting Maria. Her poetry is really, really great, but it’s phenomenol now, and I think this is why. Little Byron girl. The name Lovelace really suits her. And yet I am so bad at science! I hate math, I just want to draw stupid pictures of birds that fly over the wall.”
“You’re not mad?”
“No, I mean, I’m a little freaked out. But that’s also kinda amazing. Enemies turned best friends. I don’t know Jonathan, but I know Al. Whatever argument you want to make, the two can’t be the same person.”
“Well, they are.”
“Freddy… you know your brother. And I know Allan Wolfgang Avery probably as good as you. So where’s your brother. He’s going through a stage, and we’ve got to get him before he does something stupid. Not like he already hasn’t”
“I don’t know… Did you know I’m his son?”
Richard’s smile faded. “Okay, little Vivaldi, that’s… uh-uh… no.” He shook his head, but I showed him the frozen holograph. It had been clutched in my hands all night. Richard narrowed his eyes. “Small world,” he muttered.
I changed clothes, and we went on a search for Allan. I asked Richard if he’d ever had feelings for Maria. After prodding, he finally told me that he had liked her at one time. But Maria had chosen Allan. She’s always loved Allan. He was killing her.
“It’s killing him too, I think… What happens if I miss my meeting with Shepherd Jaques?”
“Nothing. Absolutely nothing.” He stopped me. “Vivaldi, go back to your space and try to calm down. You’re shaking like a sycamore leaf in the rain.”
“Richard, why did you never tell me that your father was Chief Williams, the head person of Alexandria?”
“Because,” he looked at the ceiling, “I swear on Shakespeare, Beyonce, and all the greats that my father is the lamest man alive, and I cannot stand him. My mom’s fine, but – plus, it would be weird. And you never had any idea? Richard Williams?”
I went to see Shepherd Jaques anyway. The stained image returned when I demanded why he’d never told me that I had been Reestablished.
“How could I tell you that, Master Avery?” he whimpered.
“You let them do that?”
He told me the seat of Originals was based on a democracy where many are easily swayed.
“The ultimate goal of Alexandria is to keep humanity alive and coexisting peacefully with one another and the world. And with Relocation, it is reasonably argued that such humans don’t actually die, but are relocated with a different family at a different time and place under a new name.”
I demanded to know, what about when the Relocation aspect stops? What happens when future people look back at how people who are inconvenient or handicap or not living up to the standards of creatively contributing?
“Many argue that our written and taught goal will be established for future generations.”
“But it wasn’t for Jonathan Vaughn or even for Chief Williams. Chief Williams is just as guilty as Jonathan was for murder under the idea that he’s doing what’s best. And you keep saying many, like it isn’t you or something.”
“Because it isn’t.” He smiled sadly.
I wanted to know how the people died. Did Monitors do it? Did they care to kill a useless punk or even a little child? Did they make it look like an accident? How did the people not know? Why was no one curious? What had my parents in my previous life been like?
“It is never wise to Root-reach, Master Avery.” Shepherd Jaques’s dark eyes narrowed. “You see what has happened with your brother. Live this life, and live it like it’s your last. That is the duty of the laymen. Only Originals should bear the burden that you are now trying to carry.”
“But everyone has the memories–”
“Yes, but obscure memories mean very little in comparison to life. Root-reaching is a problem among Originals every generation or so. My life spans at least two. With knowledge comes power and also responsibility. If everyone has this power and responsibility, imagine the chaos that would ensue. It is a burden that few are meant to bear, and only the best and strongest are meant to do so to preserve order.”
“But who decides? Who has the right to decide who gets this knowledge and who doesn’t?”
“No one, yet the decision must be made.”
“I was there at the beginning. Why shouldn’t I be an Original?”
“Originals are the ones who originated the cure, the way to preserve humanity, and Alexandria. There are only around fifteen of us, but the oldest hold the most power, meaning Richard and your brother don’t have much of a say.”
We didn’t talk about my dreams. He told me to come back later that day when he had gathered his own thoughts. When I went back to my space and fell onto my bed, I remembered the orison in my pocket.
They found my brother.
I never got a chance to talk to Shepherd Jaques about Meronym, the woman I’ve seen from my dreams.
A Monitor brought me to the western wing of the Institution, the part that acts as Alexandria’s hospital. His skin looked pale, and his eyes were swollen. He laid there like a corpse. My heart fell to my feet and shattered. My ears rang as the Medicator told me that it was poison, that they had pumped out what they could salvaged what life he had remaining.
(I can only write this because I have to. I have to remember my brother for who he was as Allan Wolfgang Avery and what happened to him.)
I crawled onto the bed with my head in that spot between his shoulder and chest. And I wept until I fell asleep.
I dreamt of nothing.
When I woke up, Richard, his father, and Maria were in the room.
Richard’s eyes looked swollen. His arms were crossed and his feet shuffled uncomfortably. “Dad, can you –” Chief Williams left. I hated him. I wanted to watch a spike run through his head.
When I looked down, Allan’s eyes were open. He smiled. It is another tragic stain that will haunt my memories until I die.
Chief Williams hadn’t done this. Allan had done this. He had poisoned himself. He drank an acid that would turn his insides to liquid. Because he deserved it.
“It’s the same poison I used to kill you, Richard.”
“No, Allan!” Richard gripped the end of the bed. “It’s the same poison that Jonathan used to kill Michaelangelo!” He was shaking. “You blame yourself? How do you think I feel? You doing this. My dad told me what happened. My past self never even felt it, Al. Never even saw it coming.”
“I know you didn’t mean it.” Maria stepped forward. Every muscle in her face was twitching. “When you put you could never love me, because you had taken everything from me? I don’t believe it.”
“Maria…” Allan wheezed. “They thought I killed you accidentally…”
“No.” Maria lowered her head.
“…But I found my old journal. You were pregnant. That’s–” He coughed.
“That’s not you, Al!”
“Yeah, you…” Richard shook his head, teeth gritted. They were glaring at him.
Don’t be angry, I wanted to say. Don’t be angry when he’s about to die. Be angry later. Not now. You’ll regret it forever, so not now.
“Your stupid letter,” Richard growled. He crumpled it up and threw it at Allan. It bounced off his chest and landed in the floor.
“I had to do this for you, for everyone… And for me. I can’t… live anymore.”
“Because your past life did something stupid? That’s…” Richard’s breathing sounded like he struggling for air. His face was a mixture of red and pale blotches. I had never seen him cry.
“I want you two to get married. As it should be. And you, Rich, you find that cure. And you have another baby.”
“Allan, I love you.” Maria stepped closer. “I love you.”
“No…” Allan wouldn’t look at her.
“Why would you just leave me like this? Remember when you got inspiration for Song of Glass? You were looking at the stars. And I was looking at the stars. And then you were looking at me, and you said… you said…” She covered her face with her hands.
How long had they been here? Had Allan made them be silent until I woke up? Why? Why?
He had his whole life. I needed to ask him why.
“Maria…” Allan heaved. “Please, don’t make this harder. I can’t. Live. Knowing what I know about myself. About life. About humanity. They have ruined us. Already.” His gaze shifted to me. The whites of his eyes were yellow. “I. Know. Everything.”
“You’re so selfish!” Maria screamed. She threw something down then ran out of the room.
“Go after her,” Allan whispered, but Richard shook his head, teeth gritted, tears swelling in his eyes.
“I wish I had known it, Allan. Just so I could’ve punched you in the face. You’re so… so…” He squeezed his eyes shut, and all the water in his eyes leaked out. “Selfish.” he hissed. “I… wish I could never forgive you.” I could hear the sobs rising in his throat. My heart ached. His lip quivered. “For this. Today. But I love you.”
Allan smiled weakly. “I love you too. Now go–” He coughed. “Go,” he said again more feebly.
Richard shook his head and left. His shoulders were shaking. I watched the doorway after he disappeared.
I looked back down at Allan who did his best to grin.
“I am selfish. You deserve better, Freddy.”
“Stop it,” I said. “No more of that.”
I wanted to ask him why, I still want to demand and scream and cry and lie down on the ground until I disappear into dust. But it won’t help anything. The past can’t be changed.
“Please don’t hate me,” he whispered.
Till that moment, my insides had been trembling, shaken loose by the revelation that my brother would die, that he would die because he wanted to. But then it hit me. Everything broke free and swirled around into a liquified mess of liquified mess of blood, bones, confusion, disbelief, startlement, fear, hopelessness, and uncried tears.
I will never recover.
I want to think of music, but all that comes to mind is poetry about death, sang in notes of sad desperation. And I curl myself up in it, like a dark blanket that can hide me from the rest of the world. I lay here waiting for someone to jerk it off of me and wrap their arms around me and pour the sunshine into my soul, but there’s nothing but this void – a void of where my future would have been had my brother lived to see it. Now, that future is nothing more than an indistinguishable blob of gray.
“I wish you could’ve chosen to embrace this life,” I said. “With me in it. This life that you have now, because it’s the one that matters right now.”
“All life is the same. For a moment we get to be glorious, like ice sculptures bathed in light, but then we melt into an endless span of ocean, so deep and wide and full that it’s like nothingness.” His eyes dulled, and he heaved in a few breaths of air. “I regret everything.”
“You’re wrong,” I said. I wanted to bring up the disabled boy, and how he didn’t have a choice while Allan did, and how Allan should’ve fought, should’ve worked to prove himself wrong, to prove what he wanted to believe as true. But I knew better. “And regrets only last a lifetime. You should’ve never blamed yourself for your past lives. You shouldn’t even blame yourself for yesterday. Or tomorrow. Because you have now. Learn from it and move on.”
Allan managed to laugh. “I love you, Freddy.” His eyes gleamed. “I wish I could cling to hope like you, but I regret living. Ignorance is bliss, but when you learn the toll humans have taken on the earth, have taken on each other, I just – and I know I shouldn’t blame myself. But I can’t help it… Since… beginnings. Mankind was evil. A wave of woe that threatened to drown the earth until she finally fought back… Yet still, we have survived… We try to focus on what is good in mankind, but look where that got us? Look… what they’ve done. The future will be no different.”
“Maybe,” I muttered. I hated listening to him, but I needed to hear him. Every memory of him, the good and the bad makes me both angry and sorrowful. “But Allan, this wave is made of individual drops. Like me, Richard, and Maria. There will always be good in the bad. That’s why the future presses onward, continually, ever continually. Light is too beautiful to ignore, just as life is too beautiful to ever truly end, despite everything’s insignificance. Don’t you think to the universe and whatever lies beyond that everything is meaningless? So you can’t look at it that way.”
My eyes had begun to burn. I kept trying to swallow my sobs. The light was leaking out of his eyes a little at a time. He no longer looked at me but stared at the ceiling.
“Light…” he murmurs then smiles. “Freddy Bear (he hadn’t called me that in years, not since I was at the Academy), I want you to find a girl and fall in love. If they decide to relocate me, I want you to take me. Be… with people I love. Make me… good.”
Allan went silent after that. His eyes remained fixed on the ceiling, lips slightly parted and turning blue. His hand was growing colder, but he continued to squeeze mine every few seconds, then every few minutes, like he was trying to pulse his life into mine.
I didn’t let go, long after the squeezes stopped. I held back the sobs despite the fact that I knew – I knew even though they had taken him off of the heart beat monitor after we’d arrived. I knew his heart had stopped.
I don’t know what happens to souls. Do they float in the air waiting for a new body? And all those souls from so many people, are they flying around, or in the streams and dust? Does God hold them in his hands before fashioning more bodies from earth and dust? Will Allan Wolfgang Avery still be Allan Wolfgang Avery when I have him specially cloned to be my son one day?
I laid my head against my brother’s limp arm and let the tears leak out of my eyes. I still refused to sob and wail because I didn’t want anyone taking Allan away from me yet, even though I knew he wasn’t there. So, I let the cries choke and die before ever reaching my mouth.
I understand Allan and where he came from. With the history of humanity and the leaders of Alexandria proving themselves to follow the exact same path of every other system of power, it’s enough to make you weary of life even if your life has just begun. Just the idea of raising my own father as my son one day in a society where he could be replaced if he’s not good enough, where he could do away with himself if he chooses, makes me wish that I was nothing more than a cloud floating across the sky watching all the sons of men and their histories while my own life was regenerated time and time again through oceans, maybe lakes or streams.
But that’s foolish. If I was a cloud, I would want to be human, so that I could at least try to make a difference, even if I never could. I could try to be that one to stand in the gap.
I will stop taking Invenire. It’s time I focus on my own life. I’ll go back to translating the voice of my poor, neglected violin. I will probably marry that girl who showed me the orison. We will raise my father. When Richard marries Maria, I’ll talk him into remaking the cure. I’ll try to make sure non-traditional relocation never happens again.
I just want to look back on my life – this life – and be content with it.
I thought Maria’s thrown down paper was her letter from Allan, but it was another poem that he never got to read.
The architecture of our souls
We explore with our eyes closed.
We claim our lands and tame our seas,
Carve our name on histories.
Perhaps, somewhere, the words exist
To explain the infinite.
There’s magic, magic in our bones,
Dust of stars within our souls.
Wishing we saw all that we should,
Beauty in our damaged good,
Forgotten time finding ways back,
Grand attempts that do not lack.
(Photo: Dariusz Sankowski)