Posted in Larger Works, Works

The Law

Where this story took seed: Stolen and LAW

The clippers hummed as they passed over her head. Vacuous cut away all but a trace of stubble, leaving a light haze of brown against her scalp. Turning off the clippers, she set them down and wished that she could wash that color away. It was too rich, too complex. There was red there. No one else had red. Even her eyes were a sin. Pulling down her lower lid, she tipped the contact in to erase the incorrect brown and replace it with the desired grey. At these her skin was an appropriate white.

Everything was supposed to be grey. The Law said so.

Pulling the snug shirt around her, she took one last look in the mirror. The appearance code was met. She lifted her finger and tapped the air, confirming the time. Tardiness was against the Law. Circle would begin soon and she had been late yesterday. But she could not run. Running was against the Law. Checking out the window, she confirmed that it was raining as the forecast had indicated. Taking up her umbrella, she stepped outside. Walking briskly, she hurried to the temple. Any faster any she would be running, her visual display flashed her this warning in her lower right visual field.

Stepping up to the temple door, she pressed her finger tips to the panel on the wall.

“Good morning, Vacuous. The Law greets you,” the computer acknowledged her as the doors clicked and swung open.

Once inside, she deposited her umbrella in the rack with the row of other grey wilted birds and headed towards the inner Circle. She slid off her boots and left them in the line already present outside the arch way. Twelve pairs. It was unsurprising that she was the last to arrive. Just as she crossed the threshold into the Circle, the Great Bell called the hour and her visual display flashed her the time with a reminder of her appointment. It didn’t to much good to remind her when it was already time to be there.

The Keeper of the Law looked up at her from his perch above the Circle, but he said nothing and he made no move towards his staff. This must be considered on time. That was good. Her back still ached from yesterday.

“Good morning 13. The Law greets you,” the twelve sitting in the Circle droned as she made her way to the remaining space.

It was always her place. There was only suppose to be twelve in the circle, but there were occasions in which some were kept behind. In those times, they sat within the second ring. There were only three places in that ring. She sat in the first of them. The Law said this was hers. She was the only one who had been kept behind. What would happen to a fourth? Glancing over at the third place, she settled herself.

The Keeper rose and began to recite the Law. Vacuous could recite it now. That was not why she had bee kept behind. Even now, she found herself falling into her old sin. But she bit upon her bottom lip and she forced herself to stare at one of the grey boys within the Circle. His head was a perfect sphere. The short hair a light, fluff of brown. His eyes grey. His skin white. This young creature was everything that the Law had bred it’s people to be.

Pressure gripped at her chest. Slowing her breathing, she looked around the Circle and took in their faces. They didn’t look much different then her own face. Looking the same mattered. It was the Law. Close clipped hair. Neat clothing. Grey. Everything grey. All bland. All was bland. Nothing engaged her senses. It left her eyes seeking, moving from one face to the next. Then to their folded hands. Next to their shirts and pants.

Biting her lip harder and tightening her fists until the nails bore into her flesh, she drew blood. Self harm was against the Law. But this new sin was better then the old sin. She could not let her mind stray. There could be no loss of focus. With her heart pounding in her chest, there was no hearing the words of the Law. But she didn’t need to. The words came to her easily and she repeated them in her mind, hoping to anchor herself within the Circle.

Pain exploded across her back and she cried out.

“Thirteen, the Law forbids the hurting of the self,” the Keeper said as he straightened himself and raised his staff again.

Bowing her head, she made no reply. The Law forbade it. None spoke to the Keeper and he only spoke the Law. Tears trickled down her cheeks. At least they were not forbidden. Focusing on her breathing, she was silent while she wept. Even that first startled sound seemed a betrayal to herself. She wanted to give him nothing. The Law and it’s Keeper had already taken too much. It would have nothing else from her. Nothing.

Vacuous focused her gaze just passed the shoulder of the boy across her. This was a trick that she had learned long ago. It allowed her to watch the world outside, but the Keeper thought her gaze was still within the Circle. The rain had stopped. The street outside was built of grey stone and the people walking by wore grey clothing. But the movement was enough to keep her from loosing the appearance of focus.

There were glimpses of other colors out on the street that suggested that there was a wider world Else Where that glowed with blooming magnificent swirls, but she had never seen it. After the rain, there was a rainbow. The law could not erase it. A colorful marring against the grey sky. Faded lines that told her what true colors were. Sunsets and sun rises. The sky was the keeper of the color. She loved the sky and hoped that it would always be untouched by the Law.

Effete walked into her view. The long stride was sure and brisk, but never broke the Law against running or arrogance. His hair was black. Like her, he shaved it to his scalp. But like everyone else with an unapproved color, the scalp was still marked the color of the stubble. His was like a shadow against his white skin. There was no color to his flesh, to white to meet to standard of the Ideal. The Law did not hold anyone to appearance Ideals, not yet. But the Law was working on making ways for everyone to be the Ideal, then it would be the Law and no longer an Ideal.

She had heard once that his family had come from Else Where. Where was Else Where? Was it far? She watched him and imagined what this other place could be like. Those people probably looked all like he did, all the same like they were here. But it was a same that was different. Black hair instead of brown. Pure white skin instead of cream white. And what color were his eyes? They could be grey, but it was also possible that he hid them beneath contacts the way that she did.

Why did the Law not stretch to the Else Where and reach to all the lands to make all the places the same? Why was the sameness not the same every where? These questions burned a hole in her chest that caused a deep aching that never ceased. She knew this ache was dangerous. The questions even more so, but she could no suppress them. There were times that she wondered if she should present herself to the Law for cleansing. At this rate, she would become cleansed anyway. Having her mind wiped might forever rid her of these cruel torments. But what else would they take from her? She had seen the cleansed ones. They shuffled through the day like empty dolls. Over time, they gained more of a sense of humanity, but they never seemed fully real to her.

She wondered if Effete knew the place his family had come from. Was he from there or had he been born here? She watched him now as he walked past her in the street. Her gaze was supposed to be on the Circle of the others and her thoughts on the Law. But her mind and her eyes strayed as they often did. It was her true sin. The one that had kept her behind.

The staff came down hard against her back. She cried out. The others in the circle didn’t seem to notice the punishment that the Keeper had given her. They kept their eyes and minds focused where they were supposed to be. Even with this punishment laid down, her eyes followed Effete until he was out of sight. Another blow fell upon her. She cried out again.

“Your mind is weak, thirteen” the Keeper said.

She gave no reply, none was expected. She shifted herself and turned her gaze back the the Circle and the others. They were bland and she already missed the shine of the rainbow. She wondered if it was soft, those lines of color up in the sky. In the Else Where, was there a place that you could touch the sky? She smiled. The change in expression earned her another blow.

“Do you wish to remain within the Circle forever?” the Keeper asked.

She knew the answer, but said nothing. There was no other person who had stayed in the circle longer then she had already. She was a shame within the Law. People looked at her only briefly. They avoided her whenever the Law permitted them to do so. She was a failure before the Law. She had aged to adulthood, but she had not yet passed from the Circle.

Her mind had not been taught focus. It would have to learn it now. The time was running out. The Law was clear. If she did not pass from the Circle by the end of the year, she would be cleansed and they would send her to the Circle to start a new. She did not want to be cleansed. Hanging her head in humility, she took a deep breath. The Law owned her. It owned her from the time she was born. If she did not want it to destroy her, she had no choice but to obey it. The Law was cruel and uncompromising. She would bend or it would break her.

She raised her chin and ground her teeth together, she would not break. And she decided now that bending did not mean that she would become what the Law commanded. It was only time to change her color. Grey. It was time to be grey.

Another grey morning dawned. This morning she was up early and had prepped for the day long before the scheduled departure time. She left early and arrived at the temple an hour before its doors would allow her access. Standing on the steps, she watched the activity on the street and waited. Effete stepped around the corner and walked up to the temple. He stood next to her while he put money into the donation box mounted onto the wall.

“Different outcomes require different choices,” he whispered before he turned and walked away.

What does that mean? But she said nothing. No movement gave away that he had said anything to her or that she had heard him. Her flesh had become stone. A small chime indicated that the doors to the temple would now allow access. Turning, she pressed her fingers to the panel.

“Good morning, Vacuous. The Law greets you,” the computer acknowledged her as the doors clicked and swung open.

Pausing at the empty rack, it took her a moment to find the usual place for her umbrella. A lonely grey bird perched on a dying skeleton of a tree. Her foot steps echoed against the stone. The arch way did not have its usual line of boots. Counting out the spaces, she left her boots in there usual place. Nothing dictated that number thirteen’s needed to be last. In fact, the others had been lining their umbrellas and boots up in the order of their arrival. But she was thirteen and she would always be last, even when she arrived first. This placement of her things was her acknowledgement of that fact.

The Keeper of the Law looked up at her from his perch above the Circle. He said nothing, but the raising of his eyebrows spoke his thoughts loudly enough. He made no move towards his staff and for a long moment he did not greet her.

“Good morning 13. The Law greets you,” he whispered.

His voice carried through the empty room like a wave crashing against the rocks of the shore line. Settling herself into her place, she closed her eyes. Her back still ached from yesterday and every day before that. The Law denied her self harm, but it enjoyed harming her well enough. The Law made no sense.

Memory of Effete’s face as he walked passed her came back to her mind. There was nothing different written on his face. His lips had barely moved to form the words. The stride had been the same and unbroken. It was as if she had gone unnoticed. But his words…

“Different outcomes require different choices.”

Repeating them in her mind, she opened her eyes and looked towards the wall in front of her.

One of the others came in. Never having been here this early, she had never before had to greet the others. She faltered and was struck with the staff. When the next came in, she did not know the boy’s name and the staff came again. Her timing was off and another blow. Each of the others was a punishment. Twelve strikes from the staff. They didn’t notice her punishments. They didn’t notice that she had come early. They didn’t notice the placement of her things or the message that it sent.

They noticed nothing. They obeyed.

Each morning she arrived early. She learned their names. No they were numbers. She learned the timing. She did as was expected of her. By the week’s end, there were no more staff strikes during the morning greetings. Those during the day still came. Harnessing her mind was something that she still could not master. Coming early and receiving additional punishments had not changed that. Why had she thought this would help?

“Different outcomes require different choices.”

Well, it had been a different choice, too bad it hadn’t changed the outcome to the one that she wanted. What now?

Another grey morning with more drizzling rain while she waited on the temple steps too early in the morning. Effete stepped around the corner and walked up to the temple. He stood next to her while he put money into the donation box mounted onto the wall. She held her breath. If she breathed to hard she would blow the illusion away. As he turned, he grazed his hand across the top of her umbrella. She saw a small item slide down into its grey folds.

“Don’t look at it here. Upload it when you get home,” he said as he walked away.

Staring at his back, she forced her face to keep the blank expression of boredom it had all morning. The small chime came and she turned away from him. Pressing her fingers to the panel, she glanced quickly down into the umbrella. There was nothing to see.

“Good morning, Vacuous. The Law greets you,” the computer acknowledged her as the doors clicked and swung open.

The umbrella went into its usual thirteenth slot. Clicking across the stone floor, she wondered what the Law would do if they found what ever it was that was now hidden with in her umbrella. Her boots went into the thirteenth place in the line that had not yet been drawn. Walking through the stone arch way, the Keeper looked up at her. He was no longer surprised by her early arrivals.

“Good morning 13. The Law greets you,” he whispered.

Why had Effete contacted her like this? Her heart pounded in her chest and her ears buzzed. Thoughts swarmed inside her skull and pressed their hands against the backs of her eyes. There was no focus. There was no rhythm. But there was the Law. And there was the staff. It was difficult to get her boots pulled on and to walk to the rack where her umbrella waited. It was no longer raining. There was never any rain in the afternoon.

Sliding it out of the rack, she pressed the metal tip on the floor and leaned against it; glad that wasn’t against the Law. She needed its support today. This was not the first time that she had used it this way and she knew that it would not be the last. When she left the Circle, she would leave this umbrella behind along with everything else that she owned. The umbrella was the only item that she would miss. A friend. The only thing in the world that had ever been allowed to support her.

Once inside her apartment, she hung the umbrella on the appropriate hook and shuffled into the bathroom. Several hours slipped by before she made it back to the umbrella to look at what Effete had stashed for her. But the process of undressing and washing was not simple. But once she had it in hand, she knew that it was stolen software. Did he really expect her to upload this?

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Author:

I am Myself I am a Wife Blessed with love I am a Mother Endowed with divinity Through the power of creation I am a Daughter Brought into this world With unending hope And the promise of the future I am a Sister Made fierce and strong While forged with kindness Protector and protected Spiraling together forever I am a Nurse Holding out the hands of healing And offering the sick comfort And the dying love Knowing that through this All things are healed and made whole I am a Writer Creating myself and world Sharing the inner depths of humanity Bringing together the divine And the humble mortal I tell the story of the Goddess And am remembered forever

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