This Etext was prepared by an anonymous group of volunteers.
by Ayn Rand
It is a sin to write this. It is a sin
to think words no others think and to put
them down upon a paper no others are to see.
It is base and evil. It is as if we were
speaking alone to no ears but our own.
And we know well that there is no transgression
blacker than to do or think alone.
We have broken the laws. The laws say
that men may not write unless the Council
of Vocations bid them so. May we be forgiven!
But this is not the only sin upon us.
We have committed a greater crime, and for
this crime there is no name. What punishment
awaits us if it be discovered we know not,
for no such crime has come in the memory
of men and there are no laws to provide for it.
It is dark here. The flame of the candle
stands still in the air. Nothing moves in
this tunnel save our hand on the paper. We are
alone here under the earth. It is a fearful
word, alone. The laws say that none among
men may be alone, ever and at any time,
for this is the great transgression and the root
of all evil. But we have broken many laws.
And now there is nothing here save our one body,
and it is strange to see only two legs
stretched on the ground, and on the wall
before us the shadow of our one head.
The walls are cracked and water runs
upon them in thin threads without sound,
black and glistening as blood. We stole the
candle from the larder of the Home of the
Street Sweepers. We shall be sentenced to
ten years in the Palace of Corrective
Detention if it be discovered. But this matters not.
It matters only that the light is precious and
we should not waste it to write when we
need it for that work which is our crime.
Nothing matters save the work, our secret,
our evil, our precious work. Still, we must
also write, for--may the Council have
mercy upon us!--we wish to speak for once
to no ears but our own.
Our name is Equality 7-2521, as it is
written on the iron bracelet which all men
wear on their left wrists with their names
upon it. We are twenty-one years old. We
are six feet tall, and this is a burden, for
there are not many men who are six feet tall.
Ever have the Teachers and the Leaders pointed
to us and frowned and said:
"There is evil in your bones, Equality 7-2521,
for your body has grown beyond the bodies
of your brothers." But we cannot change
our bones nor our body.
We were born with a curse. It has always
driven us to thoughts which are forbidden.
It has always given us wishes which men
may not wish. We know that we are evil,
but there is no will in us and no power
to resist it. This is our wonder and our
secret fear, that we know and do not resist.
We strive to be like all our brother men,
for all men must be alike. Over the portals
of the Palace of the World Council, there
are words cut in the marble, which we
repeat to ourselves whenever we are tempted:
"WE ARE ONE IN ALL AND ALL IN ONE.
THERE ARE NO MEN BUT ONLY THE GREAT _WE_,
ONE, INDIVISIBLE AND FOREVER."
We repeat this to ourselves, but it helps us not.
These words were cut long ago. There is
green mould in the grooves of the letters
and yellow streaks on the marble, which
come from more years than men could
count. And these words are the truth,
for they are written on the Palace of the
World Council, and the World Council is the
body of all truth. Thus has it been ever
since the Great Rebirth, and farther back
than that no memory can reach.
But we must never speak of the times before
the Great Rebirth, else we are sentenced to
three years in the Palace of Corrective Detention.
It is only the Old Ones who whisper about it in
the evenings, in the Home of the Useless.
They whisper many strange things, of the towers
which rose to the sky, in those Unmentionable
Times, and of the wagons which moved
without horses, and of the lights which
burned without flame. But those times
were evil. And those times passed away,
when men saw the Great Truth which is this:
that all men are one and that there is no
will save the will of all men together.
All men are good and wise. It is only we,
Equality 7-2521, we alone who were born
with a curse. For we are not like our brothers.
And as we look back upon our life,
we see that it has ever been thus and that
it has brought us step by step to our last,
supreme transgression, our crime of crimes
hidden here under the ground.
We remember the Home of the Infants
where we lived till we were five years old,
together with all the children of the City
who had been born in the same year.
The sleeping halls there were white and clean
and bare of all things save one hundred beds.
We were just like all our brothers
then, save for the one transgression:
we fought with our brothers. There are few
offenses blacker than to fight with our
brothers, at any age and for any cause
whatsoever. The Council of the Home told
us so, and of all the children of that year,
we were locked in the cellar most often.
When we were five years old, we were
sent to the Home of the Students, where
there are ten wards, for our ten years of
learning. Men must learn till they reach
their fifteenth year. Then they go to work.
In the Home of the Students we arose when
the big bell rang in the tower and we went
to our beds when it rang again. Before we
removed our garments, we stood in the
great sleeping hall, and we raised our right
arms, and we said all together with the
three Teachers at the head:
"We are nothing. Mankind is all. By the grace
of our brothers are we allowed our lives.
We exist through, by and for our brothers
who are the State. Amen."
Then we slept. The sleeping halls were white
and clean and bare of all things save one hundred beds.
We, Equality 7-2521, were not happy in
those years in the Home of the Students.
It was not that the learning was too hard
for us. It was that the learning was too easy.
This is a great sin, to be born with a
head which is too quick. It is not good
to be different from our brothers, but it
is evil to be superior to them. The Teachers
told us so, and they frowned when they looked upon us.
So we fought against this curse. We tried
to forget our lessons, but we always remembered.
We tried not to understand what the Teachers taught,
but we always understood it before the Teachers
had spoken. We looked upon Union 5-3992,
who were a pale boy with only half a brain,
and we tried to say and do as they did,
that we might be like them, like Union 5-3992,
but somehow the Teachers knew that we were not.
And we were lashed more often than all the other children.
The Teachers were just, for they had
been appointed by the Councils, and the
Councils are the voice of all justice,
for they are the voice of all men. And if
sometimes, in the secret darkness of our heart,
we regret that which befell us on our
fifteenth birthday, we know that it was
through our own guilt. We had broken
a law, for we had not paid heed to the
words of our Teachers. The Teachers
had said to us all:
"Dare not choose in your minds the
work you would like to do when you leave
the Home of the Students. You shall do
that which the Council of Vocations shall
prescribe for you. For the Council of
Vocations knows in its great wisdom where
you are needed by your brother men, better
than you can know it in your unworthy
little minds. And if you are not needed by
your brother man, there is no reason for
you to burden the earth with your bodies."
We knew this well, in the years of our
childhood, but our curse broke our will.
We were guilty and we confess it here:
we were guilty of the great Transgression
of Preference. We preferred some work
and some lessons to the others. We did not
listen well to the history of all the
Councils elected since the Great Rebirth.
But we loved the Science of Things. We wished
to know. We wished to know about all the
things which make the earth around us.
We asked so many questions that
the Teachers forbade it.
We think that there are mysteries in the
sky and under the water and in the plants
which grow. But the Council of Scholars
has said that there are no mysteries,
and the Council of Scholars knows all things.
And we learned much from our Teachers.
We learned that the earth is flat and that
the sun revolves around it, which causes the
day and the night. We learned the names
of all the winds which blow over the seas
and push the sails of our great ships.
We learned how to bleed men to cure them
of all ailments.
We loved the Science of Things. And in
the darkness, in the secret hour, when we
awoke in the night and there were no
brothers around us, but only their shapes
in the beds and their snores, we closed our
eyes, and we held our lips shut, and we
stopped our breath, that no shudder might
let our brothers see or hear or guess,
and we thought that we wished to be sent
to the Home of the Scholars when our time
All the great modern inventions come
from the Home of the Scholars, such as
the newest one, which was found only a
hundred years ago, of how to make candles
from wax and string; also, how to make glass,
which is put in our windows to protect
us from the rain. To find these things,
the Scholars must study the earth and learn
from the rivers, from the sands, from the
winds and the rocks. And if we went to the
Home of the Scholars, we could learn from
these also. We could ask questions of these,
for they do not forbid questions.
And questions give us no rest. We know not
why our curse makes us seek we know not what,
ever and ever. But we cannot resist it.
It whispers to us that there are great things
on this earth of ours, and that we can know them
if we try, and that we must know them. We ask,
why must we know, but it has no answer to give us.
We must know that we may know.
So we wished to be sent to the Home of
the Scholars. We wished it so much that
our hands trembled under the blankets in
the night, and we bit our arm to stop that
other pain which we could not endure.
It was evil and we dared not face our brothers
in the morning. For men may wish nothing
for themselves. And we were punished
when the Council of Vocations came to
give us our life Mandates which tell those
who reach their fifteenth year what their
work is to be for the rest of their days.
The Council of Vocations came on the first day
of spring, and they sat in the great hall.
And we who were fifteen and all the
Teachers came into the great hall.
And the Council of Vocations sat on a high dais,
and they had but two words to speak to each
of the Students. They called the Students' names,
and when the Students stepped before them,
one after another, the Council said:
"Carpenter" or "Doctor" or "Cook" or "Leader."
Then each Student raised their right arm and said:
"The will of our brothers be done."
Now if the Council has said "Carpenter" or "Cook,"
the Students so assigned go to work and they do not
study any further. But if the Council has said "Leader,"
then those Students go into the Home of the Leaders,
which is the greatest house in the City, for it has
three stories. And there they study for many years,
so that they may become candidates and be elected
to the City Council and the State Council and
the World Council--by a free and general vote
of all men. But we wished not to be a Leader,
even though it is a great honor. We wished to be a Scholar.
So we awaited our turn in the great hall
and then we heard the Council of Vocations
call our name: "Equality 7-2521." We walked
to the dais, and our legs did not tremble,
and we looked up at the Council. There were
five members of the Council, three of
the male gender and two of the female.
Their hair was white and their faces were
cracked as the clay of a dry river bed.
They were old. They seemed older than
the marble of the Temple of the World Council.
They sat before us and they did not move.
And we saw no breath to stir the folds
of their white togas. But we knew that
they were alive, for a finger of the hand
of the oldest rose, pointed to us, and fell down again.
This was the only thing which moved, for the lips of
the oldest did not move as they said: "Street Sweeper."
We felt the cords of our neck grow tight
as our head rose higher to look upon the
faces of the Council, and we were happy.
We knew we had been guilty, but now we
had a way to atone for it. We would accept
our Life Mandate, and we would work for
our brothers, gladly and willingly,
and we would erase our sin against them,
which they did not know, but we knew.
So we were happy, and proud of ourselves
and of our victory over ourselves.
We raised our right arm and we spoke,
and our voice was the clearest, the steadiest
voice in the hall that day, and we said:
"The will of our brothers be done."
And we looked straight into the eyes of the Council,
but their eyes were as cold blue glass buttons.
So we went into the Home of the Street Sweepers.
It is a grey house on a narrow street.
There is a sundial in its courtyard,
by which the Council of the Home can
tell the hours of the day and when to ring
the bell. When the bell rings, we all arise
from our beds. The sky is green and cold
in our windows to the east. The shadow on
the sundial marks off a half-hour while we
dress and eat our breakfast in the dining hall,
where there are five long tables with
twenty clay plates and twenty clay cups
on each table. Then we go to work in the
streets of the City, with our brooms and our
rakes. In five hours, when the sun is high,
we return to the Home and we eat our midday meal,
for which one-half hour is allowed. Then we go
to work again. In five hours, the shadows
are blue on the pavements, and the sky is blue
with a deep brightness which is not bright.
We come back to have our dinner, which lasts
one hour. Then the bell rings and we walk in
a straight column to one of the City Halls,
for the Social Meeting. Other columns of
men arrive from the Homes of the different
Trades. The candles are lit, and the Councils
of the different Homes stand in a pulpit,
and they speak to us of our duties and
of our brother men. Then visiting Leaders
mount the pulpit and they read to us the
speeches which were made in the City
Council that day, for the City Council
represents all men and all men must know.
Then we sing hymns, the Hymn of Brotherhood,
and the Hymn of Equality, and the Hymn
of the Collective Spirit. The sky is
a soggy purple when we return to the Home.
Then the bell rings and we walk in a
straight column to the City Theatre
for three hours of Social Recreation.
There a play is shown upon the stage,
with two great choruses from the Home of
the Actors, which speak and answer all together,
in two great voices. The plays are about
toil and how good it is. Then we walk
back to the Home in a straight column.
The sky is like a black sieve pierced
by silver drops that tremble, ready to
burst through. The moths beat against
the street lanterns. We go to our beds
and we sleep, till the bell rings again.
The sleeping halls are white and clean and
bare of all things save one hundred beds.
Thus have we lived each day of four
years, until two springs ago when our
crime happened. Thus must all men live
until they are forty. At forty, they are
worn out. At forty, they are sent to the
Home of the Useless, where the Old Ones
live. The Old Ones do not work, for the
State takes care of them. They sit in the
sun in summer and they sit by the fire in
winter. They do not speak often, for they
are weary. The Old Ones know that they
are soon to die. When a miracle happens
and some live to be forty-five, they are the
Ancient Ones, and the children stare at them
when passing by the Home of the Useless.
Such is to be our life, as that of all our
brothers and of the brothers who came before us.
Such would have been our life, had we
not committed our crime which changed
all things for us. And it was our curse
which drove us to our crime. We had been
a good Street Sweeper and like all our
brother Street Sweepers, save for our
cursed wish to know. We looked too long
at the stars at night, and at the trees and
the earth. And when we cleaned the yard
of the Home of the Scholars, we gathered
the glass vials, the pieces of metal, the dried
bones which they had discarded. We wished
to keep these things and to study them,
but we had no place to hide them.
So we carried them to the City Cesspool.
And then we made the discovery.
It was on a day of the spring before last.
We Street Sweepers work in brigades of
three, and we were with Union 5-3992,
they of the half-brain, and with International
4-8818. Now Union 5-3992 are a sickly lad
and sometimes they are stricken with
convulsions, when their mouth froths
and their eyes turn white. But International
4-8818 are different. They are a tall,
strong youth and their eyes are like fireflies,
for there is laughter in their eyes. We cannot
look upon International 4-8818 and not
smile in answer. For this they were not
liked in the Home of the Students, as it is
not proper to smile without reason. And
also they were not liked because they took
pieces of coal and they drew pictures upon
the walls, and they were pictures which
made men laugh. But it is only our brothers
in the Home of the Artists who are permitted
to draw pictures, so International 4-8818
were sent to the Home of the Street
Sweepers, like ourselves.
International 4-8818 and we are friends.
This is an evil thing to say, for it is a
transgression, the great Transgression of
Preference, to love any among men better
than the others, since we must love all men
and all men are our friends. So International
4-8818 and we have never spoken of it.
But we know. We know, when we look into
each other's eyes. And when we look thus
without words, we both know other things
also, strange things for which there are
no words, and these things frighten us.
So on that day of the spring before last,
Union 5-3992 were stricken with convulsions
on the edge of the City, near the City
Theatre. We left them to lie in the shade
of the Theatre tent and we went with
International 4-8818 to finish our work.
We came together to the great ravine behind
the Theatre. It is empty save for trees and weeds.
Beyond the ravine there is a plain, and beyond
the plain there lies the Uncharted Forest,
about which men must not think.
We were gathering the papers and the
rags which the wind had blown from the
Theatre, when we saw an iron bar among
the weeds. It was old and rusted by many
rains. We pulled with all our strength, but
we could not move it. So we called
International 4-8818, and together we scraped
the earth around the bar. Of a sudden the
earth fell in before us, and we saw an old
iron grill over a black hole.
International 4-8818 stepped back. But
we pulled at the grill and it gave way.
And then we saw iron rings as steps leading
down a shaft into a darkness without bottom.
"We shall go down," we said to International 4-8818.
"It is forbidden," they answered.
We said: "The Council does not know
of this hole, so it cannot be forbidden."
And they answered: "Since the Council
does not know of this hole, there can
be no law permitting to enter it.
And everything which is not permitted by law
But we said: "We shall go, none the less."
They were frightened, but they stood by
and watched us go.
We hung on the iron rings with our hands and our feet.
We could see nothing below us. And above us
the hole open upon the sky grew smaller and smaller,
till it came to be the size of a button. But still we
went down. Then our foot touched the ground.
We rubbed our eyes, for we could not see.
Then our eyes became used to the darkness,
but we could not believe what we saw.
No men known to us could have built
this place, nor the men known to our
brothers who lived before us, and yet it
was built by men. It was a great tunnel.
Its walls were hard and smooth to the
touch; it felt like stone, but it was not stone.
On the ground there were long thin tracks
of iron, but it was not iron; it felt smooth
and cold as glass. We knelt, and we crawled
forward, our hand groping along the iron
line to see where it would lead. But there
was an unbroken night ahead. Only the
iron tracks glowed through it, straight and
white, calling us to follow. But we could
not follow, for we were losing the puddle
of light behind us. So we turned and we
crawled back, our hand on the iron line.
And our heart beat in our fingertips,
without reason. And then we knew.
We knew suddenly that this place was
left from the Unmentionable Times. So it
was true, and those Times had been, and
all the wonders of those Times. Hundreds
upon hundreds of years ago men knew
secrets which we have lost. And we thought:
"This is a foul place. They are damned
who touch the things of the Unmentionable Times."
But our hand which followed the track, as we crawled,
clung to the iron as if it would not leave it,
as if the skin of our hand were thirsty and
begging of the metal some secret fluid
beating in its coldness.
We returned to the earth. International
4-8818 looked upon us and stepped back.
"Equality 7-2521," they said, "your face is white."
But we could not speak and we stood looking upon them.
They backed away, as if they dared not touch us.
Then they smiled, but it was not a gay smile;
it was lost and pleading. But still we could
not speak. Then they said:
"We shall report our find to the City
Council and both of us will be rewarded."
And then we spoke. Our voice was hard
and there was no mercy in our voice. We said:
"We shall not report our find to the City Council.
We shall not report it to any men."
They raised their hands to their ears,
for never had they heard such words as these.
"International 4-8818," we asked, "will you report us
to the Council and see us lashed to death before your eyes?"
They stood straight all of a sudden and they answered:
"Rather would we die."
"Then," we said, "keep silent. This place is ours.
This place belongs to us, Equality 7-2521, and to
no other men on earth. And if ever we surrender it,
we shall surrender our life with it also."
Then we saw that the eyes of International 4-8818
were full to the lids with tears they dared not drop.
They whispered, and their voice trembled, so that
their words lost all shape:
"The will of the Council is above all things,
for it is the will of our brothers, which is holy.
But if you wish it so, we shall obey you.
Rather shall we be evil with you than good
with all our brothers. May the Council
have mercy upon both our hearts!"
Then we walked away together and back
to the Home of the Street Sweepers.
And we walked in silence.
Thus did it come to pass that each night,
when the stars are high and the Street
Sweepers sit in the City Theatre, we,
Equality 7-2521, steal out and run through
the darkness to our place. It is easy to leave
the Theatre; when the candles are blown out
and the Actors come onto the stage, no eyes
can see us as we crawl under our seat and
under the cloth of the tent. Later, it is easy
to steal through the shadows and fall in line
next to International 4-8818, as the column
leaves the Theatre. It is dark in the streets
and there are no men about, for no men
may walk through the City when they have
no mission to walk there. Each night, we
run to the ravine, and we remove the
stones which we have piled upon the iron
grill to hide it from the men. Each night, for
three hours, we are under the earth, alone.
We have stolen candles from the Home
of the Street Sweepers, we have stolen flints
and knives and paper, and we have brought
them to this place. We have stolen glass
vials and powders and acids from the Home
of the Scholars. Now we sit in the tunnel
for three hours each night and we study.
We melt strange metals, and we mix acids,
and we cut open the bodies of the animals
which we find in the City Cesspool. We have
built an oven of the bricks we gathered
in the streets. We burn the wood we find
in the ravine. The fire flickers in the
oven and blue shadows dance upon the walls,
and there is no sound of men to disturb us.
We have stolen manuscripts. This is a
great offense. Manuscripts are precious,
for our brothers in the Home of the Clerks
spend one year to copy one single script
in their clear handwriting. Manuscripts are
rare and they are kept in the Home of the
Scholars. So we sit under the earth and
we read the stolen scripts. Two years have
passed since we found this place. And in
these two years we have learned more than
we had learned in the ten years of the
Home of the Students.
We have learned things which are not
in the scripts. We have solved secrets of
which the Scholars have no knowledge.
We have come to see how great is the
unexplored, and many lifetimes will not
bring us to the end of our quest. But we
wish no end to our quest. We wish nothing,
save to be alone and to learn, and to
feel as if with each day our sight were
growing sharper than the hawk's and clearer
than rock crystal.
Strange are the ways of evil. We are
false in the faces of our brothers.
We are defying the will of our Councils.
We alone, of the thousands who walk this
earth, we alone in this hour are doing a
work which has no purpose save that we
wish to do it. The evil of our crime
is not for the human mind to probe. The
nature of our punishment, if it be discovered,
is not for the human heart to ponder.
Never, not in the memory of the Ancient
Ones' Ancients, never have men done that
which we are doing.
And yet there is no shame in us and no regret.
We say to ourselves that we are a wretch and a traitor.
But we feel no burden upon our spirit and no fear in our heart.
And it seems to us that our spirit is clear as a lake
troubled by no eyes save those of the sun. And in our heart--
strange are the ways of evil!--in our heart there is
the first peace we have known in twenty years.
Liberty 5-3000 . . . Liberty five-three thousand
. . . Liberty 5-3000 . . . .
We wish to write this name. We wish to speak it,
but we dare not speak it above a whisper.
For men are forbidden to take notice of women,
and women are forbidden to take notice of men.
But we think of one among women, they whose name
is Liberty 5-3000, and we think of no others.
The women who have been assigned to work
the soil live in the Homes of the Peasants
beyond the City. Where the City ends
there is a great road winding off to the
north, and we Street Sweepers must keep
this road clean to the first milepost.
There is a hedge along the road, and beyond the
hedge lie the fields. The fields are black
and ploughed, and they lie like a great
fan before us, with their furrows gathered
in some hand beyond the sky, spreading
forth from that hand, opening wide apart
as they come toward us, like black pleats
that sparkle with thin, green spangles.
Women work in the fields, and their white
tunics in the wind are like the wings of
sea-gulls beating over the black soil.
And there it was that we saw Liberty
5-3000 walking along the furrows. Their
body was straight and thin as a blade of
iron. Their eyes were dark and hard and
glowing, with no fear in them, no kindness
and no guilt. Their hair was golden as the
sun; their hair flew in the wind, shining
and wild, as if it defied men to restrain it.
They threw seeds from their hand as if
they deigned to fling a scornful gift,
and the earth was a beggar under their feet.
We stood still; for the first time did we
know fear, and then pain. And we stood
still that we might not spill this pain more
precious than pleasure.
Then we heard a voice from the others
call their name: "Liberty 5-3000," and they
turned and walked back. Thus we learned
their name, and we stood watching them go,
till their white tunic was lost in the blue mist.
And the following day, as we came to the
northern road, we kept our eyes upon
Liberty 5-3000 in the field. And each day
thereafter we knew the illness of waiting
for our hour on the northern road. And
there we looked at Liberty 5-3000 each day.
We know not whether they looked at
us also, but we think they did.
Then one day they came close to the
hedge, and suddenly they turned to us.
They turned in a whirl and the movement
of their body stopped, as if slashed off,
as suddenly as it had started. They stood
still as a stone, and they looked straight
upon us, straight into our eyes. There was
no smile on their face, and no welcome.
But their face was taut, and their eyes
were dark. Then they turned as swiftly,
and they walked away from us.
But the following day, when we came to
the road, they smiled. They smiled to us
and for us. And we smiled in answer.
Their head fell back, and their arms fell,
as if their arms and their thin white neck
were stricken suddenly with a great lassitude.
They were not looking upon us, but upon the sky.
Then they glanced at us over their shoulder,
as we felt as if a hand had touched our body,
slipping softly from our lips to our feet.
Every morning thereafter, we greeted each
other with our eyes. We dared not speak.
It is a transgression to speak to men of other
Trades, save in groups at the Social Meetings.
But once, standing at the hedge,
we raised our hand to our forehead
and then moved it slowly, palm down,
toward Liberty 5-3000. Had the others seen
it, they could have guessed nothing, for it
looked only as if we were shading our eyes
from the sun. But Liberty 5-3000 saw it
and understood. They raised their hand to
their forehead and moved it as we had.
Thus, each day, we greet Liberty 5-3000,
and they answer, and no men can suspect.
We do not wonder at this new sin of ours.
It is our second Transgression of Preference,
for we do not think of all our brothers,
as we must, but only of one, and their name
is Liberty 5-3000. We do not know why
we think of them. We do not know why,
when we think of them, we feel all of
a sudden that the earth is good and
that it is not a burden to live.
We do not think of them as Liberty
5-3000 any longer. We have given them a
name in our thoughts. We call them the
Golden One. But it is a sin to give men
names which distinguish them from other
men. Yet we call them the Golden One,
for they are not like the others.
The Golden One are not like the others.
And we take no heed of the law which
says that men may not think of women,
save at the Time of Mating. This is the
time each spring when all the men older
than twenty and all the women older than
eighteen are sent for one night to the City
Palace of Mating. And each of the men
have one of the women assigned to them
by the Council of Eugenics. Children are
born each winter, but women never see
their children and children never know
their parents. Twice have we been sent to
the Palace of Mating, but it is an ugly and
shameful matter, of which we do not like to think.
We had broken so many laws, and today
we have broken one more. Today, we
spoke to the Golden One.
The other women were far off in the
field, when we stopped at the hedge by the
side of the road. The Golden One were
kneeling alone at the moat which runs
through the field. And the drops of water
falling from their hands, as they raised the
water to their lips, were like sparks of fire
in the sun. Then the Golden One saw us,
and they did not move, kneeling there,
looking at us, and circles of light played
upon their white tunic, from the sun on the
water of the moat, and one sparkling drop
fell from a finger of their hand held as
frozen in the air.
Then the Golden One rose and walked
to the hedge, as if they had heard a
command in our eyes. The two other Street
Sweepers of our brigade were a hundred
paces away down the road. And we
thought that International 4-8818 would
not betray us, and Union 5-3992 would
not understand. So we looked straight upon
the Golden One, and we saw the shadows
of their lashes on their white cheeks and
the sparks of sun on their lips. And we said:
"You are beautiful, Liberty 5-3000."
Their face did not move and they did not
avert their eyes. Only their eyes grew wider,
and there was triumph in their eyes,
and it was not triumph over us,
but over things we could not guess.
Then they asked:
"What is your name?"
"Equality 7-2521," we answered.
"You are not one of our brothers, Equality
7-2521, for we do not wish you to be."
We cannot say what they meant, for there
are no words for their meaning, but we know it
without words and we knew it then.
"No," we answered, "nor are you one of our sisters."
"If you see us among scores of women,
will you look upon us?"
"We shall look upon you, Liberty 5-3000,
if we see you among all the women of the earth."
Then they asked:
"Are Street Sweepers sent to different
parts of the City or do they always work
in the same places?"
"They always work in the same places,"
we answered, "and no one will take this
road away from us."
"Your eyes," they said, "are not like the
eyes of any among men."
And suddenly, without cause for the
thought which came to us, we felt cold,
cold to our stomach.
"How old are you?" we asked.
They understood our thought, for they
lowered their eyes for the first time.
"Seventeen," they whispered.
And we sighed, as if a burden had been
taken from us, for we had been thinking
without reason of the Palace of Mating.
And we thought that we would not let the
Golden One be sent to the Palace. How to
prevent it, how to bar the will of the
Councils, we knew not, but we knew suddenly
that we would. Only we do not know why
such thought came to us, for these ugly
matters bear no relation to us and the
Golden One. What relation can they bear?
Still, without reason, as we stood there
by the hedge, we felt our lips drawn tight
with hatred, a sudden hatred for all our
brother men. And the Golden One saw it
and smiled slowly, and there was in their
smile the first sadness we had seen in them.
We think that in the wisdom of women
the Golden One had understood more than
we can understand.
Then three of the sisters in the field appeared,
coming toward the road, so the Golden One
walked away from us. They took the bag of seeds,
and they threw the seeds into the furrows of earth
as they walked away. But the seeds flew wildly,
for the hand of the Golden One was trembling.
Yet as we walked back to the Home of the
Street Sweepers, we felt that we wanted
to sing, without reason. So we were
reprimanded tonight, in the dining hall,
for without knowing it we had begun to
sing aloud some tune we had never heard.
But it is not proper to sing without reason,
save at the Social Meetings.
"We are singing because we are happy,"
we answered the one of the Home Council
who reprimanded us.
"Indeed you are happy," they answered.
"How else can men be when they live for
And now, sitting here in our tunnel, we
wonder about these words. It is forbidden,
not to be happy. For, as it has been
explained to us, men are free and the earth
belongs to them; and all things on earth belong
to all men; and the will of all men together is
good for all; and so all men must be happy.
Yet as we stand at night in the great hall,
removing our garments for sleep, we look
upon our brothers and we wonder. The heads
of our brothers are bowed. The eyes of our
brothers are dull, and never do they look
one another in the eyes. The shoulders
of our brothers are hunched, and their
muscles are drawn, as if their bodies were
shrinking and wished to shrink out of sight.
And a word steals into our mind, as we look
upon our brothers, and that word is fear.
There is fear hanging in the air of the
sleeping halls, and in the air of the streets.
Fear walks through the City, fear without name,
without shape. All men feel it and none dare to speak.
We feel it also, when we are in the Home of the
Street Sweepers. But here, in our tunnel,
we feel it no longer. The air is pure
under the ground. There is no odor of men.
And these three hours give us strength
for our hours above the ground.
Our body is betraying us, for the Council
of the Home looks with suspicion upon us.
It is not good to feel too much joy nor to be glad
that our body lives. For we matter not and
it must not matter to us whether we live or die,
which is to be as our brothers will it.
But we, Equality 7-2521, are glad to be living.
If this is a vice, then we wish no virtue.
Yet our brothers are not like us. All is
not well with our brothers. There are
Fraternity 2-5503, a quiet boy with wise,
kind eyes, who cry suddenly, without reason,
in the midst of day or night, and their
body shakes with sobs they cannot explain.
There are Solidarity 9-6347, who are a
bright youth, without fear in the day; but
they scream in their sleep, and they scream:
"Help us! Help us! Help us!" into the
night, in a voice which chills our bones, but
the Doctors cannot cure Solidarity 9-6347.
And as we all undress at night, in the
dim light of the candles, our brothers are
silent, for they dare not speak the thoughts
of their minds. For all must agree with all,
and they cannot know if their thoughts
are the thoughts of all, and so they fear to
speak. And they are glad when the candles
are blown for the night. But we, Equality
7-2521, look through the window upon
the sky, and there is peace in the sky,
and cleanliness, and dignity. And beyond
the City there lies the plain, and
beyond the plain, black upon the black sky,
there lies the Uncharted Forest.
We do not wish to look upon the
Uncharted Forest. We do not wish
to think of it. But ever do our eyes
return to that black patch upon the sky.
Men never enter the Uncharted Forest,
for there is no power to explore it
and no path to lead among its ancient
trees which stand as guards of fearful
secrets. It is whispered that once or
twice in a hundred years, one among
the men of the City escape alone and run to
the Uncharted Forest, without call or reason.
These men do not return. They perish from
hunger and from the claws of the wild
beasts which roam the Forest. But our
Councils say that this is only a legend.
We have heard that there are many Uncharted
Forests over the land, among the Cities.
And it is whispered that they have grown
over the ruins of many cities of the
Unmentionable Times. The trees have
swallowed the ruins, and the bones under
the ruins, and all the things which perished.
And as we look upon the Uncharted Forest
far in the night, we think of the
secrets of the Unmentionable Times.
And we wonder how it came to pass that
these secrets were lost to the world.
We have heard the legends of the great fighting,
in which many men fought on one side and only
a few on the other. These few were the Evil
Ones and they were conquered. Then great
fires raged over the land. And in
these fires the Evil Ones and all the
things made by the Evil Ones were burned.
And the fire which is called the Dawn of
the Great Rebirth, was the Script Fire
where all the scripts of the Evil Ones
were burned, and with them all the words
of the Evil Ones. Great mountains of flame
stood in the squares of the Cities for
three months. Then came the Great Rebirth.
The words of the Evil Ones . . .
The words of the Unmentionable Times . . .
What are the words which we have lost?
May the Council have mercy upon us!
We had no wish to write such a question,
and we knew not what we were doing till
we had written it. We shall not ask
this question and we shall not think it.
We shall not call death upon our head.
And yet . . . And yet . . .
There is some word, one single word
which is not in the language of men,
but which had been. And this is the
Unspeakable Word, which no men may speak
nor hear. But sometimes, and it is rare,
sometimes, somewhere, one among men find
that word. They find it upon scraps of old
manuscripts or cut into the fragments of
ancient stones. But when they speak it
they are put to death. There is no crime
punished by death in this world, save this
one crime of speaking the Unspeakable Word.
We have seen one of such men burned
alive in the square of the City. And it was
a sight which has stayed with us through
the years, and it haunts us, and follows us,
and it gives us no rest. We were a child
then, ten years old. And we stood in the
great square with all the children and all the
men of the City, sent to behold the burning.
They brought the Transgressor out into
the square and they led them to the pyre.
They had torn out the tongue of the
Transgressor, so that they could speak no
longer. The Transgressor were young and tall.
They had hair of gold and eyes blue as morning.
They walked to the pyre, and their step did
not falter. And of all the faces
on that square, of all the faces which
shrieked and screamed and spat curses upon
them, theirs was the calmest and the happiest face.
As the chains were wound over their
body at the stake, and a flame set to the
pyre, the Transgressor looked upon the
City. There was a thin thread of blood
running from the corner of their mouth,
but their lips were smiling. And a monstrous
thought came to us then, which has
never left us. We had heard of Saints.
There are the Saints of Labor, and the
Saints of the Councils, and the Saints of the
Great Rebirth. But we had never seen a
Saint nor what the likeness of a Saint
should be. And we thought then, standing
in the square, that the likeness of a Saint
was the face we saw before us in the flames,
the face of the Transgressor of the
As the flames rose, a thing happened
which no eyes saw but ours, else we would
not be living today. Perhaps it had only
seemed to us. But it seemed to us that the
eyes of the Transgressor had chosen us
from the crowd and were looking straight
upon us. There was no pain in their eyes
and no knowledge of the agony of their
body. There was only joy in them, and
pride, a pride holier than is fit for human
pride to be. And it seemed as if these eyes
were trying to tell us something through
the flames, to send into our eyes some word
without sound. And it seemed as if these
eyes were begging us to gather that word
and not to let it go from us and from the
earth. But the flames rose and we could not
guess the word. . . .
What--even if we have to burn for it
like the Saint of the Pyre--what is the
We, Equality 7-2521, have discovered a
new power of nature. And we have discovered
it alone, and we alone are to know it.
It is said. Now let us be lashed for it,
if we must. The Council of Scholars has
said that we all know the things which exist
and therefore the things which are not
known by all do not exist. But we think
that the Council of Scholars is blind.
The secrets of this earth are not for all men
to see, but only for those who will seek them.
We know, for we have found a secret unknown
to all our brothers.
We know not what this power is nor
whence it comes. But we know its nature,
we have watched it and worked with it.
We saw it first two years ago. One night,
we were cutting open the body of a dead
frog when we saw its leg jerking. It was
dead, yet it moved. Some power unknown
to men was making it move. We could not
understand it. Then, after many tests,
we found the answer. The frog had been
hanging on a wire of copper; and it had
been the metal of our knife which had sent
the strange power to the copper through the
brine of the frog's body. We put a piece of
copper and a piece of zinc into a jar of
brine, we touched a wire to them, and
there, under our fingers, was a miracle
which had never occurred before, a new
miracle and a new power.
This discovery haunted us. We followed
it in preference to all our studies.
We worked with it, we tested it in more ways
than we can describe, and each step was as
another miracle unveiling before us.
We came to know that we had found the
greatest power on earth. For it defies all
the laws known to men. It makes the needle
move and turn on the compass which we
stole from the Home of the Scholars;
but we had been taught, when still a child,
that the loadstone points to the north and that
this is a law which nothing can change;
yet our new power defies all laws.
We found that it causes lightning, and never
have men known what causes lightning.
In thunderstorms, we raised a tall rod of
iron by the side of our hole, and we
watched it from below. We have seen the
lightning strike it again and again.
And now we know that metal draws the power
of the sky, and that metal can be made to
give it forth.
We have built strange things with this
discovery of ours. We used for it the
copper wires which we found here under the
ground. We have walked the length of our
tunnel, with a candle lighting the way.
We could go no farther than half a mile, for
earth and rock had fallen at both ends.
But we gathered all the things we found
and we brought them to our work place.
We found strange boxes with bars of metal
inside, with many cords and strands and
coils of metal. We found wires that led
to strange little globes of glass on the walls;
they contained threads of metal thinner
than a spider's web.
These things help us in our work. We do
not understand them, but we think that
the men of the Unmentionable Times had
known our power of the sky, and these
things had some relation to it. We do not
know, but we shall learn. We cannot stop
now, even though it frightens us that we
are alone in our knowledge.
No single one can possess greater
wisdom than the many Scholars who are
elected by all men for their wisdom.
Yet we can. We do. We have fought against
saying it, but now it is said. We do not care.
We forget all men, all laws and all things
save our metals and our wires. So much
is still to be learned! So long a road
lies before us, and what care we if we
must travel it alone!
Many days passed before we could speak
to the Golden One again. But then came
the day when the sky turned white, as if
the sun had burst and spread its flame in
the air, and the fields lay still without
breath, and the dust of the road was white
in the glow. So the women of the field
were weary, and they tarried over their
work, and they were far from the road
when we came. But the Golden One stood
alone at the hedge, waiting. We stopped
and we saw that their eyes, so hard and
scornful to the world, were looking at us as
if they would obey any word we might speak.
And we said:
"We have given you a name in our
thoughts, Liberty 5-3000."
"What is our name?" they asked.
"The Golden One."
"Nor do we call you Equality 7-2521
when we think of you."
"What name have you given us?"
They looked straight into our eyes and
they held their head high and they answered:
For a long time we could not speak.
Then we said:
"Such thoughts as these are forbidden,
"But you think such thoughts as these
and you wish us to think them."
We looked into their eyes and we could not lie.
"Yes," we whispered, and they smiled,
and then we said: "Our dearest one,
do not obey us."
They stepped back, and their eyes were
wide and still.
"Speak these words again," they whispered.
"Which words?" we asked. But they
did not answer, and we knew it.
"Our dearest one," we whispered.
Never have men said this to women.
The head of the Golden One bowed slowly,
and they stood still before us, their arms
at their sides, the palms of their hands
turned to us, as if their body were delivered
in submission to our eyes. And we could
Then they raised their head, and they
spoke simply and gently, as if they wished
us to forget some anxiety of their own.
"The day is hot," they said, "and you have
worked for many hours and you must be weary."
"No," we answered.
"It is cooler in the fields," they said,
"and there is water to drink. Are you thirsty?"
"Yes," we answered, "but we cannot cross the hedge."
"We shall bring the water to you," they said.
Then they knelt by the moat, they gathered
water in their two hands, they rose and
they held the water out to our lips.
We do not know if we drank that water.
We only knew suddenly that their hands
were empty, but we were still holding our
lips to their hands, and that they knew it,
but did not move.
We raised our head and stepped back.
For we did not understand what had made
us do this, and we were afraid to understand it.
And the Golden One stepped back, and
stood looking upon their hands in wonder.
Then the Golden One moved away, even
though no others were coming, and they
moved, stepping back, as if they could not
turn from us, their arms bent before them,
as if they could not lower their hands.
We made it. We created it. We brought
it forth from the night of the ages.
We alone. Our hands. Our mind.
Ours alone and only.
We know not what we are saying. Our head
is reeling. We look upon the light which
we have made. We shall be forgiven for
anything we say tonight. . . .
Tonight, after more days and trials
than we can count, we finished building
a strange thing, from the remains of the
Unmentionable Times, a box of glass, devised
to give forth the power of the sky of greater
strength than we had ever achieved before.
And when we put our wires to this box,
when we closed the current--the wire glowed!
It came to life, it turned red, and a circle
of light lay on the stone before us.
We stood, and we held our head in our hands.
We could not conceive of that which
we had created. We had touched no
flint, made no fire. Yet here was light,
light that came from nowhere, light from
the heart of metal.
We blew out the candle. Darkness swallowed us.
There was nothing left around us,
nothing save night and a thin thread of
flame in it, as a crack in the wall of a prison.
We stretched our hands to the wire,
and we saw our fingers in the red glow.
We could not see our body nor feel it,
and in that moment nothing existed save our
two hands over a wire glowing in a black abyss.
Then we thought of the meaning of that
which lay before us. We can light our
tunnel, and the City, and all the Cities of
the world with nothing save metal and
wires. We can give our brothers a new
light, cleaner and brighter than any they
have ever known. The power of the sky
can be made to do men's bidding. There
are no limits to its secrets and its might,
and it can be made to grant us anything if
we but choose to ask.
Then we knew what we must do. Our
discovery is too great for us to waste our
time in sweeping the streets. We must not
keep our secret to ourselves, nor buried
under the ground. We must bring it into
the sight of all men. We need all our time,
we need the work rooms of the Home of
the Scholars, we want the help of our
brother Scholars and their wisdom joined
to ours. There is so much work ahead for
all of us, for all the Scholars of the world.
In a month, the World Council of Scholars
is to meet in our City. It is a great Council,
to which the wisest of all lands are
elected, and it meets once a year in the
different Cities of the earth. We shall go to
this Council and we shall lay before them,
as our gift, this glass box with the power of
the sky. We shall confess everything to them.
They will see, understand and forgive.
For our gift is greater than our transgression.
They will explain it to the Council of Vocations,
and we shall be assigned to the Home of the Scholars.
This has never been done before, but neither
has a gift such as ours ever been offered to men.
We must wait. We must guard our tunnel as
we had never guarded it before. For should
any men save the Scholars learn of
our secret, they would not understand it,
nor would they believe us. They would see
nothing, save our crime of working alone,
and they would destroy us and our light.
We care not about our body, but our light is . . .
Yes, we do care. For the first time do we
care about our body. For this wire is as a
part of our body, as a vein torn from us,
glowing with our blood. Are we proud of
this thread of metal, or of our hands
which made it, or is there a line to
divide these two?
We stretch out our arms. For the first
time do we know how strong our arms are.
And a strange thought comes to us:
we wonder, for the first time in our life,
what we look like. Men never see their
own faces and never ask their brothers
about it, for it is evil to have concern for
their own faces or bodies. But tonight,
for a reason we cannot fathom, we wish
it were possible to us to know the
likeness of our own person.
We have not written for thirty days.
For thirty days we have not been here, in
our tunnel. We had been caught.
It happened on that night when we wrote
last. We forgot, that night, to watch the
sand in the glass which tells us when three
hours have passed and it is time to return
to the City Theatre. When we remembered
it, the sand had run out.
We hastened to the Theatre. But the big
tent stood grey and silent against the sky.
The streets of the City lay before us, dark
and empty. If we went back to hide in our
tunnel, we would be found and our light
found with us. So we walked to the Home
of the Street Sweepers.
When the Council of the Home questioned us,
we looked upon the faces of the Council,
but there was no curiosity in those faces,
and no anger, and no mercy. So when
the oldest of them asked us: "Where have
you been?" we thought of our glass box
and of our light, and we forgot all else.
And we answered:
"We will not tell you."
The oldest did not question us further.
They turned to the two youngest, and said,
and their voice was bored:
"Take our brother Equality 7-2521 to
the Palace of Corrective Detention.
Lash them until they tell."
So we were taken to the Stone Room
under the Palace of Corrective Detention.
This room has no windows and it is empty
save for an iron post. Two men stood by
the post, naked but for leather aprons and
leather hoods over their faces. Those who
had brought us departed, leaving us to the
two Judges who stood in a corner of the
room. The Judges were small, thin men,
grey and bent. They gave the signal to the
two strong hooded ones.
They tore the clothes from our body,
they threw us down upon our knees and
they tied our hands to the iron post.
The first blow of the lash felt as if our
spine had been cut in two. The second
blow stopped the first, and for a second we
felt nothing, then the pain struck us in our
throat and fire ran in our lungs without air.
But we did not cry out.
The lash whistled like a singing wind.
We tried to count the blows, but we lost count.
We knew that the blows were falling upon our back.
Only we felt nothing upon our back any longer.
A flaming grill kept dancing before our eyes,
and we thought of nothing save that grill, a grill,
a grill of red squares, and then we knew
that we were looking at the squares of the
iron grill in the door, and there were also
the squares of stone on the walls, and the
squares which the lash was cutting upon our back,
crossing and re-crossing itself in our flesh.
Then we saw a fist before us. It knocked
our chin up, and we saw the red froth of
our mouth on the withered fingers, and the
"Where have you been?"
But we jerked our head away, hid our
face upon our tied hands, and bit our lips.
The lash whistled again. We wondered
who was sprinkling burning coal dust upon
the floor, for we saw drops of red twinkling
on the stones around us.
Then we knew nothing, save two voices
snarling steadily, one after the other,
even though we knew they were speaking
many minutes apart:
"Where have you been where have you been
where have you been where have you been? . . ."
And our lips moved, but the sound trickled
back into our throat, and the sound was only:
"The light . . . The light . . . The light. . . ."
Then we knew nothing.
We opened our eyes, lying on our stomach
on the brick floor of a cell. We looked
upon two hands lying far before us on the
bricks, and we moved them, and we knew
that they were our hands. But we could
not move our body. Then we smiled, for we
thought of the light and that we had
not betrayed it.
We lay in our cell for many days.
The door opened twice each day,
once for the men who brought us
bread and water, and once for the Judges.
Many Judges came to our cell,
first the humblest and then the
most honored Judges of the City.
They stood before us in their white togas,
and they asked:
"Are you ready to speak?"
But we shook our head, lying before
them on the floor. And they departed.
We counted each day and each night as it passed.
Then, tonight, we knew that we must escape.
For tomorrow the World Council of Scholars
is to meet in our City.
It was easy to escape from the Palace of
Corrective Detention. The locks are old on
the doors and there are no guards about.
There is no reason to have guards, for men
have never defied the Councils so far as to
escape from whatever place they were
ordered to be. Our body is healthy and
strength returns to it speedily. We lunged
against the door and it gave way. We stole
through the dark passages, and through the
dark streets, and down into our tunnel.
We lit the candle and we saw that our
place had not been found and nothing had
been touched. And our glass box stood
before us on the cold oven, as we had left it.
What matter they now, the scars upon our back!
Tomorrow, in the full light of day, we
shall take our box, and leave our tunnel
open, and walk through the streets to the
Home of the Scholars. We shall put before
them the greatest gift ever offered to men.
We shall tell them the truth. We shall hand
to them, as our confession, these pages we
have written. We shall join our hands to
theirs, and we shall work together, with the
power of the sky, for the glory of mankind.
Our blessing upon you, our brothers!
Tomorrow, you will take us back into your
fold and we shall be an outcast no longer.
Tomorrow we shall be one of you again.
Tomorrow . . .
It is dark here in the forest. The leaves
rustle over our head, black against the last
gold of the sky. The moss is soft and warm.
We shall sleep on this moss for many nights,
till the beasts of the forest come to
tear our body. We have no bed now, save
the moss, and no future, save the beasts.
We are old now, yet we were young this
morning, when we carried our glass box
through the streets of the City to the Home
of the Scholars. No men stopped us, for
there were none about from the Palace of
Corrective Detention, and the others knew
nothing. No men stopped us at the gate.
We walked through empty passages and
into the great hall where the World Council
of Scholars sat in solemn meeting.
We saw nothing as we entered, save the
sky in the great windows, blue and glowing.
Then we saw the Scholars who sat around
a long table; they were as shapeless clouds
huddled at the rise of the great sky.
There were men whose famous names
we knew, and others from distant
lands whose names we had not heard.
We saw a great painting on the wall
over their heads, of the twenty illustrious
men who had invented the candle.
All the heads of the Council turned to us
as we entered. These great and wise of the
earth did not know what to think of us,
and they looked upon us with wonder and
curiosity, as if we were a miracle.
It is true that our tunic was torn and
stained with brown stains which had been blood.
We raised our right arm and we said:
"Our greeting to you, our honored
brothers of the World Council of Scholars!"
Then Collective 0-0009, the oldest and
wisest of the Council, spoke and asked:
"Who are you, our brother? For you do
not look like a Scholar."
"Our name is Equality 7-2521," we answered,
"and we are a Street Sweeper of this City."
Then it was as if a great wind had stricken
the hall, for all the Scholars spoke at once,
and they were angry and frightened.
"A Street Sweeper! A Street Sweeper walking
in upon the World Council of Scholars!
It is not to be believed!
It is against all the rules and all the laws!"
But we knew how to stop them.
"Our brothers!" we said. "We matter not,
nor our transgression. It is only our
brother men who matter. Give no thought to us,
for we are nothing, but listen to our words,
for we bring you a gift such as had never
been brought to men. Listen to us, for we
hold the future of mankind in our hands."
Then they listened.
We placed our glass box upon the table
before them. We spoke of it, and of our
long quest, and of our tunnel, and of our
escape from the Palace of Corrective Detention.
Not a hand moved in that hall, as we spoke,
nor an eye. Then we put the wires to the box,
and they all bent forward and sat still, watching.
And we stood still, our eyes upon the wire.
And slowly, slowly as a flush of blood,
a red flame trembled in the wire. Then the wire glowed.
But terror struck the men of the Council.
They leapt to their feet, they ran from the
table, and they stood pressed against the
wall, huddled together, seeking the warmth
of one another's bodies to give them courage.
We looked upon them and we laughed and said:
"Fear nothing, our brothers. There is a
great power in these wires, but this power
is tamed. It is yours. We give it to you."
Still they would not move.
"We give you the power of the sky!" we cried.
"We give you the key to the earth! Take it,
and let us be one of you, the humblest among you.
Let us all work together, and harness this power,
and make it ease the toil of men. Let us
throw away our candles and our torches.
Let us flood our cities with light.
Let us bring a new light to men!"
But they looked upon us, and suddenly
we were afraid. For their eyes were still,
and small, and evil.
"Our brothers!" we cried. "Have you
nothing to say to us?"
Then Collective 0-0009 moved forward.
They moved to the table and the others followed.
"Yes," spoke Collective 0-0009,
"we have much to say to you."
The sound of their voices brought silence
to the hall and to beat of our heart.
"Yes," said Collective 0-0009, "we have
much to say to a wretch who have broken
all the laws and who boast of their infamy!
How dared you think that your mind held
greater wisdom than the minds of your
brothers? And if the Councils had decreed
that you should be a Street Sweeper,
how dared you think that you could be of
greater use to men than in sweeping the streets?"
"How dared you, gutter cleaner," spoke
Fraternity 9-3452, "to hold yourself as one
alone and with the thoughts of the one
and not of the many?"
"You shall be burned at the stake,"
said Democracy 4-6998.
"No, they shall be lashed," said Unanimity 7-3304,
"till there is nothing left under the lashes."
"No," said Collective 0-0009, "we cannot
decide upon this, our brothers. No such
crime has ever been committed, and it is
not for us to judge. Nor for any small Council.
We shall deliver this creature to the World Council
itself and let their will be done."
We looked upon them and we pleaded:
"Our brothers! You are right. Let the
will of the Council be done upon our body.
We do not care. But the light? What will
you do with the light?"
Collective 0-0009 looked upon us, and they smiled.
"So you think that you have found a new power,"
said Collective 0-0009. "Do all your brothers think that?"
"No," we answered.
"What is not thought by all men cannot be true,"
said Collective 0-0009.
"You have worked on this alone?" asked
"Many men in the Homes of the Scholars have
had strange new ideas in the past,"
said Solidarity 8-1164, "but when the
majority of their brother Scholars voted
against them, they abandoned their ideas,
as all men must."
"This box is useless," said Alliance 6-7349.
"Should it be what they claim of it,"
said Harmony 9-2642, "then it would
bring ruin to the Department of Candles.
The Candle is a great boon to mankind,
as approved by all men. Therefore it
cannot be destroyed by the whim of one."
"This would wreck the Plans of the
World Council," said Unanimity 2-9913,
"and without the Plans of the World Council
the sun cannot rise. It took fifty years
to secure the approval of all the Councils
for the Candle, and to decide upon the
number needed, and to re-fit the Plans so
as to make candles instead of torches.
This touched upon thousands and thousands
of men working in scores of States.
We cannot alter the Plans again so soon."
"And if this should lighten the toil of
men," said Similarity 5-0306, "then it is a
great evil, for men have no cause to exist
save in toiling for other men."
Then Collective 0-0009 rose and pointed at our box.
"This thing," they said, "must be destroyed."
And all the others cried as one:
"It must be destroyed!"
Then we leapt to the table.
We seized our box, we shoved them
aside, and we ran to the window. We
turned and we looked at them for the last
time, and a rage, such as it is not fit for
humans to know, choked our voice in our throat.
"You fools!" we cried. "You fools! You thrice-damned fools!"
We swung our fist through the windowpane,
and we leapt out in a ringing rain of glass.
We fell, but we never let the box fall
from our hands. Then we ran. We ran
blindly, and men and houses streaked past
us in a torrent without shape. And the road
seemed not to be flat before us, but as if
it were leaping up to meet us, and we waited
for the earth to rise and strike us in the
face. But we ran. We knew not where we
were going. We knew only that we must
run, run to the end of the world,
to the end of our days.
Then we knew suddenly that we were lying
on a soft earth and that we had stopped.
Trees taller than we had ever seen
before stood over us in great silence.
Then we knew. We were in the Uncharted Forest.
We had not thought of coming here,
but our legs had carried our wisdom, and
our legs had brought us to the Uncharted
Forest against our will.
Our glass box lay beside us. We crawled to it,
we fell upon it, our face in our arms, and we lay still.
We lay thus for a long time. Then we rose,
we took our box and walked on into the forest.
It mattered not where we went. We knew
that men would not follow us, for they
never enter the Uncharted Forest. We had
nothing to fear from them. The forest
disposes of its own victims. This gave us
no fear either. Only we wished to be away,
away from the City and from the air that
touches upon the air of the City. So we
walked on, our box in our arms, our heart empty.
We are doomed. Whatever days are left
to us, we shall spend them alone. And we
have heard of the corruption to be found
in solitude. We have torn ourselves from
the truth which is our brother men, and there
is no road back for us, and no redemption.
We know these things, but we do not care.
We care for nothing on earth. We are tired.
Only the glass box in our arms is like a
living heart that gives us strength. We have
lied to ourselves. We have not built this
box for the good of our brothers. We built
it for its own sake. It is above all our
brothers to us, and its truth above their truth.
Why wonder about this? We have not many days
to live. We are walking to the fangs awaiting us
somewhere among the great, silent trees. There is
not a thing behind us to regret.
Then a blow of pain struck us, our first and our only.
We thought of the Golden One. We thought of the Golden One
whom we shall never see again. Then the pain passed.
It is best. We are one of the Damned. It is best
if the Golden One forget our name and the body
which bore that name.
It has been a day of wonder, this,
our first day in the forest.
We awoke when a ray of sunlight fell across
our face. We wanted to leap to our feet,
as we have had to leap every morning
of our life, but we remembered suddenly
that no bell had rung and that there was
no bell to ring anywhere. We lay on our back,
we threw our arms out, and we looked up at the sky.
The leaves had edges of silver that trembled and
rippled like a river of green and fire flowing high above us.
We did not wish to move. We thought
suddenly that we could lie thus as long as
we wished, and we laughed aloud at the
thought. We could also rise, or run, or leap,
or fall down again. We were thinking that
these were thoughts without sense, but before
we knew it our body had risen in one leap.
Our arms stretched out of their own will,
and our body whirled and whirled,
till it raised a wind to rustle through the
leaves of the bushes. Then our hands
seized a branch and swung us high into a
tree, with no aim save the wonder of learning
the strength of our body. The branch
snapped under us and we fell upon the moss
that was soft as a cushion. Then our body,
losing all sense, rolled over and over on the
moss, dry leaves in our tunic, in our hair,
in our face. And we heard suddenly that
we were laughing, laughing aloud, laughing
as if there were no power left in us save laughter.
Then we took our glass box, and we
went on into the forest. We went on,
cutting through the branches, and it was
as if we were swimming through a sea of leaves,
with the bushes as waves rising and falling
and rising around us, and flinging their
green sprays high to the treetops.
The trees parted before us, calling us forward.
The forest seemed to welcome us. We went on,
without thought, without care, with nothing
to feel save the song of our body.
We stopped when we felt hunger. We saw
birds in the tree branches, and flying
from under our footsteps. We picked a
stone and we sent it as an arrow at a bird.
It fell before us. We made a fire, we cooked
the bird, and we ate it, and no meal had
ever tasted better to us. And we thought
suddenly that there was a great satisfaction
to be found in the food which we need
and obtain by our own hand. And we wished
to be hungry again and soon, that we might
know again this strange new pride in eating.
Then we walked on. And we came to a
stream which lay as a streak of glass among
the trees. It lay so still that we saw no
water but only a cut in the earth, in which
the trees grew down, upturned, and the
sky lay at the bottom. We knelt by
the stream and we bent down to drink.
And then we stopped. For, upon the blue
of the sky below us, we saw our own face
for the first time.
We sat still and we held our breath.
For our face and our body were beautiful.
Our face was not like the faces of our brothers,
for we felt not pity when looking upon it.
Our body was not like the bodies of our brothers,
for our limbs were straight and thin and hard and strong.
And we thought that we could trust this being who looked
upon us from the stream, and that we had nothing to fear
with this being.
We walked on till the sun had set.
When the shadows gathered among the trees,
we stopped in a hollow between the roots,
where we shall sleep tonight. And suddenly,
for the first time this day, we remembered
that we are the Damned. We remembered it,
and we laughed.
We are writing this on the paper we had
hidden in our tunic together with the
written pages we had brought for the World
Council of Scholars, but never given to them.
We have much to speak of to ourselves,
and we hope we shall find the words
for it in the days to come. Now, we
cannot speak, for we cannot understand.
We have not written for many days.
We did not wish to speak. For we needed
no words to remember that which has happened to us.
It was on our second day in the forest that
we heard steps behind us. We hid in the bushes,
and we waited. The steps came closer.
And then we saw the fold of a white tunic
among the trees, and a gleam of gold.
We leapt forward, we ran to them, and
we stood looking upon the Golden One.
They saw us, and their hands closed into
fists, and the fists pulled their arms down,
as if they wished their arms to hold them,
while their body swayed. And they could
We dared not come too close to them.
We asked, and our voice trembled:
"How did you come to be here, Golden One?"
But they whispered only:
"We have found you. . . ."
"How did you come to be in the forest?"
They raised their head, and there was a
great pride in their voice; they answered:
"We have followed you."
Then we could not speak, and they said:
"We heard that you had gone to the
Uncharted Forest, for the whole City is
speaking of it. So on the night of the day
when we heard it, we ran away from the Home
of the Peasants. We found the marks of
your feet across the plain where no men walk.
So we followed them, and we went into the forest,
and we followed the path where the branches
were broken by your body."
Their white tunic was torn, and the
branches had cut the skin of their arms,
but they spoke as if they had never taken
notice of it, nor of weariness, nor of fear.
"We have followed you," they said,
"and we shall follow you wherever you go.
If danger threatens you, we shall face it also.
If it be death, we shall die with you. You are damned,
and we wish to share your damnation."
They looked upon us, and their voice was low,
but there was bitterness and triumph in their voice.
"Your eyes are as a flame, but our brothers
have neither hope nor fire. Your mouth
is cut of granite, but our brothers are soft
and humble. Your head is high, but our
brothers cringe. You walk, but our
brothers crawl. We wish to be damned with you,
rather than blessed with all our brothers.
Do as you please with us, but do not send
us away from you."
Then they knelt, and bowed their golden
head before us.
We had never thought of that which we did.
We bent to raise the Golden One to their feet,
but when we touched them, it was as if madness
had stricken us. We seized their body
and we pressed our lips to theirs.
The Golden One breathed once,
and their breath was a moan,
and then their arms closed around us.
We stood together for a long time.
And we were frightened that we had lived
for twenty-one years and had never known
what joy is possible to men.
Then we said:
"Our dearest one. Fear nothing of the forest.
There is no danger in solitude. We have
no need of our brothers. Let us forget
their good and our evil, let us forget
all things save that we are together
and that there is joy as a bond between us.
Give us your hand. Look ahead. It is our
own world, Golden One, a strange,
unknown world, but our own."
Then we walked on into the forest, their
hand in ours.
And that night we knew that to hold the
body of women in our arms is neither ugly
nor shameful, but the one ecstasy granted
to the race of men.
We have walked for many days. The forest
has no end, and we seek no end. But each day
added to the chain of days between us
and the City is like an added blessing.
We have made a bow and many arrows.
We can kill more birds than we need for
our food; we find water and fruit in the
forest. At night, we choose a clearing, and
we build a ring of fires around it. We sleep
in the midst of that ring, and the beasts
dare not attack us. We can see their eyes,
green and yellow as coals, watching us from
the tree branches beyond. The fires smoulder
as a crown of jewels around us, and smoke
stands still in the air, in columns made blue
by the moonlight. We sleep together in the
midst of the ring, the arms of the Golden
One around us, their head upon our breast.
Some day, we shall stop and build a house,
when we shall have gone far enough.
But we do not have to hasten. The days
before us are without end, like the forest.
We cannot understand this new life
which we have found, yet it seems so clear
and so simple. When questions come to
puzzle us, we walk faster, then turn and
forget all things as we watch the Golden
One following. The shadows of leaves fall
upon their arms, as they spread the branches
apart, but their shoulders are in the sun.
The skin of their arms is like a blue mist,
but their shoulders are white and glowing,
as if the light fell not from above, but rose
from under their skin. We watch the leaf
which has fallen upon their shoulder, and
it lies at the curve of their neck, and a
drop of dew glistens upon it like a jewel.
They approach us, and they stop, laughing,
knowing what we think, and they wait
obediently, without questions, till it
pleases us to turn and go on.
We go on and we bless the earth under
our feet. But questions come to us again,
as we walk in silence. If that which we
have found is the corruption of solitude,
then what can men wish for save corruption?
If this is the great evil of being alone,
then what is good and what is evil?
Everything which comes from the many is good.
Everything which comes from one is evil.
This have we been taught with our first breath.
We have broken the law, but we have never doubted it.
Yet now, as we walk through the forest,
we are learning to doubt.
There is no life for men, save in useful
toil for the good of all their brothers.
But we lived not, when we toiled for our
brothers, we were only weary. There is no
joy for men, save the joy shared with all
their brothers. But the only things which
taught us joy were the power we created
in our wires, and the Golden One. And both
these joys belong to us alone, they come
from us alone, they bear no relation
to all our brothers, and they do not concern
our brothers in any way. Thus do we wonder.
There is some error, one frightful error,
in the thinking of men. What is that error?
We do not know, but the knowledge struggles
within us, struggles to be born. Today,
the Golden One stopped suddenly and said:
"We love you."
But they frowned and shook their
head and looked at us helplessly.
"No," they whispered, "that is not what
we wished to say."
They were silent, then they spoke slowly,
and their words were halting, like the words
of a child learning to speak for the first time:
"We are one . . . alone . . . and only . . .
and we love you who are one . . . alone . . . and only."
We looked into each other's eyes and we knew
that the breath of a miracle had touched us,
and fled, and left us groping vainly.
And we felt torn, torn for some word we could not find.
We are sitting at a table and we are
writing this upon paper made thousands
of years ago. The light is dim, and we
cannot see the Golden One, only one lock
of gold on the pillow of an ancient bed.
This is our home.
We came upon it today, at sunrise.
For many days we had been crossing a chain
of mountains. The forest rose among cliffs,
and whenever we walked out upon a
barren stretch of rock we saw great peaks
before us in the west, and to the north of us,
and to the south, as far as our eyes could see.
The peaks were red and brown, with the green streaks
of forests as veins upon them, with blue mists as veils
over their heads. We had never heard of these mountains,
nor seen them marked on any map.
The Uncharted Forest has protected them
from the Cities and from the men of the Cities.
We climbed paths where the wild goat
dared not follow. Stones rolled from under
our feet, and we heard them striking the
rocks below, farther and farther down,
and the mountains rang with each stroke,
and long after the strokes had died.
But we went on, for we knew that no men
would ever follow our track nor reach us here.
Then today, at sunrise, we saw a white
flame among the trees, high on a sheer
peak before us. We thought that it was a
fire and stopped. But the flame was
unmoving, yet blinding as liquid metal.
So we climbed toward it through the rocks.
And there, before us, on a broad summit,
with the mountains rising behind it,
stood a house such as we had never seen,
and the white fire came from the sun on
the glass of its windows.
The house had two stories and a strange
roof flat as a floor. There was more window
than wall upon its walls, and the windows
went on straight around the corners, though
how this kept the house standing we could
not guess. The walls were hard and smooth,
of that stone unlike stone which we had
seen in our tunnel.
We both knew it without words: this house
was left from the Unmentionable Times.
The trees had protected it from time
and weather, and from men who have
less pity than time and weather.
We turned to the Golden One and we asked:
"Are you afraid?"
But they shook their head. So we walked
to the door, and we threw it open,
and we stepped together into the house
of the Unmentionable Times.
We shall need the days and the years ahead,
to look, to learn, and to understand
the things of this house. Today, we could
only look and try to believe the sight of
our eyes. We pulled the heavy curtains
from the windows and we saw that the rooms
were small, and we thought that not more
than twelve men could have lived here.
We thought it strange that men had been
permitted to build a house for only twelve.
Never had we seen rooms so full of light.
The sunrays danced upon colors, colors,
more colors than we thought possible,
we who had seen no houses save the
white ones, the brown ones and the grey.
There were great pieces of glass on the
walls, but it was not glass, for when we
looked upon it we saw our own bodies and
all the things behind us, as on the face
of a lake. There were strange things which we
had never seen and the use of which we do
not know. And there were globes of glass
everywhere, in each room, the globes with
the metal cobwebs inside, such as we had
seen in our tunnel.
We found the sleeping hall and we stood
in awe upon its threshold. For it was a
small room and there were only two beds
in it. We found no other beds in the house,
and then we knew that only two had lived
here, and this passes understanding.
What kind of world did they have,
the men of the Unmentionable Times?
We found garments, and the Golden One
gasped at the sight of them. For they
were not white tunics, nor white togas;
they were of all colors, no two of them
alike. Some crumbled to dust as we touched
them. But others were of heavier cloth,
and they felt soft and new in our fingers.
We found a room with walls made of shelves,
which held rows of manuscripts, from the floor
to the ceiling. Never had we seen such a
number of them, nor of such strange shape.
They were not soft and rolled, they had hard
shells of cloth and leather; and the letters
on their pages were so small and so even that
we wondered at the men who had such handwriting.
We glanced through the pages, and we saw
that they were written in our language,
but we found many words which we could
not understand. Tomorrow, we shall begin
to read these scripts.
When we had seen all the rooms of the
house, we looked at the Golden One and
we both knew the thought in our minds.
"We shall never leave this house," we said,
"nor let it be taken from us. This is
our home and the end of our journey.
This is your house, Golden One, and ours,
and it belongs to no other men whatever as
far as the earth may stretch. We shall not
share it with others, as we share not our joy
with them, nor our love, nor our hunger.
So be it to the end of our days."
"Your will be done," they said.
Then we went out to gather wood for
the great hearth of our home. We brought
water from the stream which runs among
the trees under our windows. We killed
a mountain goat, and we brought its flesh
to be cooked in a strange copper pot we
found in a place of wonders, which must
have been the cooking room of the house.
We did this work alone, for no words
of ours could take the Golden One away
from the big glass which is not glass.
They stood before it and they looked
and looked upon their own body.
When the sun sank beyond the mountains,
the Golden One fell asleep on the floor,
amidst jewels, and bottles of crystal,
and flowers of silk. We lifted the Golden
One in our arms and we carried them to a bed,
their head falling softly upon our shoulder.
Then we lit a candle, and we brought paper
from the room of the manuscripts,
and we sat by the window, for we
knew that we could not sleep tonight.
And now we look upon the earth and sky.
This spread of naked rock and peaks
and moonlight is like a world ready to be
born, a world that waits. It seems to us it
asks a sign from us, a spark, a first commandment.
We cannot know what word we are to give,
nor what great deed this earth expects to witness.
We know it waits. It seems to say it has great gifts
to lay before us, but it wishes a greater gift for us.
We are to speak. We are to give its goal,
its highest meaning to all this glowing
space of rock and sky.
We look ahead, we beg our heart for guidance
in answering this call no voice has spoken,
yet we have heard. We look upon our hands.
We see the dust of centuries, the dust which
hid the great secrets and perhaps great evils.
And yet it stirs no fear within our heart,
but only silent reverence and pity.
May knowledge come to us! What is the
secret our heart has understood and yet will
not reveal to us, although it seems to beat
as if it were endeavoring to tell it?
I am. I think. I will.
My hands . . . My spirit . . . My sky . . .
My forest . . . This earth of mine. . . .
What must I say besides? These are the
words. This is the answer.
I stand here on the summit of the mountain.
I lift my head and I spread my arms.
This, my body and spirit, this is the end
of the quest. I wished to know the meaning
of things. I am the meaning. I wished
to find a warrant for being. I need no
warrant for being, and no word of sanction
upon my being. I am the warrant and the sanction.
It is my eyes which see, and the sight of
my eyes grants beauty to the earth. It is
my ears which hear, and the hearing of my
ears gives its song to the world. It is my
mind which thinks, and the judgement of
my mind is the only searchlight that can
find the truth. It is my will which chooses,
and the choice of my will is the only edict
I must respect.
Many words have been granted me,
and some are wise, and some are false,
but only three are holy: "I will it!"
Whatever road I take, the guiding star
is within me; the guiding star and the
loadstone which point the way. They point
in but one direction. They point to me.
I know not if this earth on which I stand
is the core of the universe or if it is but
a speck of dust lost in eternity. I know not
and I care not. For I know what happiness
is possible to me on earth. And my happiness
needs no higher aim to vindicate it.
My happiness is not the means to any end.
It is the end. It is its own goal.
It is its own purpose.
Neither am I the means to any end others
may wish to accomplish. I am not a tool
for their use. I am not a servant of their
needs. I am not a bandage for their wounds.
I am not a sacrifice on their altars.
I am a man. This miracle of me is mine
to own and keep, and mine to guard, and
mine to use, and mine to kneel before!
I do not surrender my treasures, nor do
I share them. The fortune of my spirit is
not to be blown into coins of brass and
flung to the winds as alms for the poor
of the spirit. I guard my treasures:
my thought, my will, my freedom.
And the greatest of these is freedom.
I owe nothing to my brothers, nor do
I gather debts from them. I ask none to
live for me, nor do I live for any others.
I covet no man's soul, nor is my soul theirs
I am neither foe nor friend to my brothers,
but such as each of them shall deserve
of me. And to earn my love, my brothers
must do more than to have been born.
I do not grant my love without reason, nor
to any chance passer-by who may wish to
claim it. I honor men with my love.
But honor is a thing to be earned.
I shall choose friends among men, but neither
slaves nor masters. And I shall choose
only such as please me, and them
I shall love and respect, but neither
command nor obey. And we shall join our
hands when we wish, or walk alone when
we so desire. For in the temple of his spirit,
each man is alone. Let each man keep his
temple untouched and undefiled. Then let
him join hands with others if he wishes,
but only beyond his holy threshold.
For the word "We" must never be
spoken, save by one's choice and as a
second thought. This word must never be
placed first within man's soul, else it
becomes a monster, the root of all the evils
on earth, the root of man's torture by men,
and of an unspeakable lie.
The word "We" is as lime poured over men,
which sets and hardens to stone, and crushes
all beneath it, and that which is white
and that which is black are lost equally
in the grey of it. It is the word by
which the depraved steal the virtue of
the good, by which the weak steal the
might of the strong, by which the fools
steal the wisdom of the sages.
What is my joy if all hands, even the
unclean, can reach into it? What is my
wisdom, if even the fools can dictate to
me? What is my freedom, if all creatures,
even the botched and the impotent, are my
masters? What is my life, if I am but to
bow, to agree and to obey?
But I am done with this creed of corruption.
I am done with the monster of "We,"
the word of serfdom, of plunder, of misery,
falsehood and shame.
And now I see the face of god, and I
raise this god over the earth, this god whom
men have sought since men came into being,
this god who will grant them joy and peace and pride.
This god, this one word:
It was when I read the first of the books
I found in my house that I saw the word
"I." And when I understood this word,
the book fell from my hands, and I wept,
I who had never known tears. I wept in
deliverance and in pity for all mankind.
I understood the blessed thing which I
had called my curse. I understood why the
best in me had been my sins and my transgressions;
and why I had never felt guilt in my sins.
I understood that centuries of chains
and lashes will not kill the spirit of
man nor the sense of truth within him.
I read many books for many days. Then I called
the Golden One, and I told her
what I had read and what I had learned.
She looked at me and the first words she
"I love you."
Then I said:
"My dearest one, it is not proper for
men to be without names. There was a
time when each man had a name of his
own to distinguish him from all other men.
So let us choose our names. I have read of
a man who lived many thousands of years
ago, and of all the names in these books,
his is the one I wish to bear. He took the
light of the gods and he brought it to men,
and he taught men to be gods. And he suffered
for his deed as all bearers of light
must suffer. His name was Prometheus."
"It shall be your name," said the Golden One.
"And I have read of a goddess," I said,
"who was the mother of the earth and of
all the gods. Her name was Gaea. Let this
be your name, my Golden One, for you
are to be the mother of a new kind of gods."
"It shall be my name," said the Golden One.
Now I look ahead. My future is clear
before me. The Saint of the pyre had seen
the future when he chose me as his heir,
as the heir of all the saints and all the
martyrs who came before him and who
died for the same cause, for the same word,
no matter what name they gave to their
cause and their truth.
I shall live here, in my own house.
I shall take my food from the earth
by the toil of my own hands. I shall
learn many secrets from my books.
Through the years ahead, I shall rebuild
the achievements of the past,
and open the way to carry them further,
the achievements which are open to me,
but closed forever to my brothers,
for their minds are shackled to the
weakest and dullest ones among them.
I have learned that my power of the sky
was known to men long ago; they called
it Electricity. It was the power that
moved their greatest inventions. It lit
this house with light which came from
those globes of glass on the walls.
I have found the engine which produced this light.
I shall learn how to repair it and how to
make it work again. I shall learn how to
use the wires which carry this power.
Then I shall build a barrier of wires around
my home, and across the paths which lead
to my home; a barrier light as a cobweb, more
impassable than a wall of granite; a barrier
my brothers will never be able to cross.
For they have nothing to fight me with,
save the brute force of their numbers.
I have my mind.
Then here, on this mountaintop, with
the world below me and nothing above me
but the sun, I shall live my own truth.
Gaea is pregnant with my child. Our son
will be raised as a man. He will be taught
to say "I" and to bear the pride of it. He
will be taught to walk straight and on his
own feet. He will be taught reverence for
his own spirit.
When I shall have read all the books
and learned my new way, when my home
will be ready and my earth tilled,
I shall steal one day, for the last time,
into the cursed City of my birth. I shall call to me
my friend who has no name save International 4-8818,
and all those like him, Fraternity 2-5503,
who cries without reason, and Solidarity 9-6347
who calls for help in the night, and a few others.
I shall call to me all the men and the women
whose spirit has not been killed within them
and who suffer under the yoke of their brothers.
They will follow me and I shall lead them to my fortress.
And here, in this uncharted wilderness, I and they,
my chosen friends, my fellow-builders, shall write
the first chapter in the new history of man.
These are the things before me.
And as I stand here at the door of glory,
I look behind me for the last time.
I look upon the history of men, which
I have learned from the books, and I wonder.
It was a long story, and the spirit which moved it
was the spirit of man's freedom.
But what is freedom? Freedom from what?
There is nothing to take a man's freedom away
from him, save other men. To be free,
a man must be free of his brothers.
That is freedom. That and nothing else.
At first, man was enslaved by the gods.
But he broke their chains. Then he was
enslaved by the kings. But he broke their chains.
He was enslaved by his birth, by his kin,
by his race. But he broke their chains.
He declared to all his brothers that
a man has rights which neither god nor
king nor other men can take away from him,
no matter what their number, for his is
the right of man, and there is no right
on earth above this right. And he stood on
the threshold of the freedom for which the
blood of the centuries behind him had been spilled.
But then he gave up all he had won,
and fell lower than his savage beginning.
What brought it to pass? What disaster took
their reason away from men? What whip
lashed them to their knees in shame and
submission? The worship of the word
When men accepted that worship,
the structure of centuries collaped
about them, the structure whose every beam
had come from the thought of some one man,
each in his day down the ages, from the depth
of some one spirit, such spirit as existed
but for its own sake. Those men who survived
those eager to obey, eager to live for one
another, since they had nothing else to
vindicate them--those men could neither carry
on, nor preserve what they had received.
Thus did all thought, all science,
all wisdom perish on earth. Thus did men--
men with nothing to offer save their great number--
lost the steel towers, the flying ships,
the power wires, all the things they had
not created and could never keep. Perhaps,
later, some men had been born with the
mind and the courage to recover these
things which were lost; perhaps these men
came before the Councils of Scholars.
They were answered as I have been answered--
and for the same reasons.
But I still wonder how it was possible,
in those graceless years of transition,
long ago, that men did not see whither they
were going, and went on, in blindness and
cowardice, to their fate. I wonder, for it
is hard for me to conceive how men who
knew the word "I" could give it up and
not know what they lost. But such has been
the story, for I have lived in the City of
the damned, and I know what horror men
permitted to be brought upon them.
Perhaps, in those days, there were a few
among men, a few of clear sight and clean
soul, who refused to surrender that word.
What agony must have been theirs before
that which they saw coming and could not
stop! Perhaps they cried out in protest and
in warning. But men paid no heed to their
warning. And they, these few, fought a
hopeless battle, and they perished with
their banners smeared by their own blood.
And they chose to perish, for they knew.
To them, I send my salute across the centuries,
and my pity.
Theirs is the banner in my hand. And I wish
I had the power to tell them that the despair
of their hearts was not to be final,
and their night was not without hope.
For the battle they lost can never be lost.
For that which they died to save can never perish.
Through all the darkness, through
all the shame of which men are capable,
the spirit of man will remain alive on this
earth. It may sleep, but it will awaken.
It may wear chains, but it will break through.
And man will go on. Man, not men.
Here on this mountain, I and my sons
and my chosen friends shall build our new
land and our fort. And it will become as
the heart of the earth, lost and hidden at
first, but beating, beating louder each day.
And word of it will reach every corner
of the earth. And the roads of the world
will become as veins which will carry the
best of the world's blood to my threshold.
And all my brothers, and the Councils of
my brothers, will hear of it, but they will
be impotent against me. And the day will
come when I shall break all the chains of
the earth, and raze the cities of the enslaved,
and my home will become the capital of a
world where each man will be free to exist
for his own sake.
For the coming of that day shall I fight,
I and my sons and my chosen friends.
For the freedom of Man. For his rights.
For his life. For his honor.
And here, over the portals of my fort,
I shall cut in the stone the word which is
to be my beacon and my banner. The word
which will not die, should we all perish in
battle. The word which can never die on
this earth, for it is the heart of it and the
meaning and the glory.
The sacred word:
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