This Etext was prepared by an anonymous group of volunteers.
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 are required to 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
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
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 what 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 men, 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 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 would come.
All of 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
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 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 in 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 said "Carpenter" or "Cook," the Students so
assigned go to work and 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:
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 as 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 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 has 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
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 great 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
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 is forbidden."
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, and we could not believe what we saw.
No man 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
"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 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
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 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 we have piled upon
the iron grill to hide it from 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. 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 free for the human
heart to ponder. Never, not in the memory of the Ancient Ones'
Ancients, never have men done what 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
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
We stood still; for the first time we knew 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 in 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, and 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 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 other 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
"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 their brothers?"
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 so 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 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 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 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 has 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 him 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 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 Unspeakable Word.
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
it 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
What--even if we have to burn for it like the Saint of the pyre
--what is the Unspeakable Word?
We, Equality 7-2521, have discovered a new power of nature. And
we have discovered it alone, and we 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 all 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 a 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 in more ways than we
can describe, and each step was 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 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 are forbidden, Golden One."
"But you think such thoughts as these and you wish us to think
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 those 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 not speak.
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 had 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 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, the 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
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 we do care about our body.
For this wire is 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
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, 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 with us. So we walked to the Home of the
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 our 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 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 Judge
"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
"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 the Palace
of Corrective Detention, and the others knew nothing. No men
stopped us at the gate. We walked through the empty passages and
into the great hall where the World Council of Scholars sat in
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 a great sky.
There were the 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
"Our greeting to you, our honored brothers of the World Council
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 has 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 on 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 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 voice brought silence to the hall and to the
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 Council had decreed that you 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 one and not
"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 you have found a new power," said Collective
0-0009. "Do you think all your brothers think that?"
"No," we answered.
"What is not thought by all men cannot be true," said Collective
"You have worked on this alone?" asked International 1-5537.
"Yes," we answered.
"What is not done collectively cannot be good," said
"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 is not fit for humans to know, choked our voice in
"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 a 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, had
walked on into the forest.
It mattered not where we went. We knew that men would not follow
us, for they never entered 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 from the City
and 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 to our feet 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 things 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 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
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 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 no pity when we looked 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 from 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 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
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
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 not speak.
We dared not come too close to them. We asked, and our voice
"How come you to be here, Golden One?"
But they whispered only:
"We have found you. . . ."
"How came you to be in the forest?" we asked.
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 be
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 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 a woman 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 smolder 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. Thus we have been taught with our first
breath. We have broken the law, but we have never doubted it. Yet
now, as we walk the forest, we are learning to doubt.
There is no life for men, save in useful toil for the good of
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 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 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 then they frowned and shook their head and looked at us
"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
"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 have 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
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
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
we 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 corners, though how this house kept
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
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 man 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, and 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 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. 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 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 this 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 judgment 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
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 to covet.
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 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 impotent, are
my masters? What is my life, if I am but to bow, to agree, and to
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 spoke were:
"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 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
I have learned that the 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 that 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
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. He will be taught to say "I" and to bear
the pride of it. He will be taught to walk straight 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 last 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 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
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 "We."
When men accepted that worship, the structure of centuries
collapsed 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 as spirit 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 numbers- lose 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 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 had 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,
those 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 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 I shall 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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