The Fall of Adam

August 21, 2009 at 11:19 am (anthropolis, fiction)

The Fall of Adam

Adam looked above him. The woman’s voice had gone now. He was underground. Where he could not know. The man’s voice had gone as well. He could not tell what was happening. He struggled to move but the bounds held him tight, immobile.

“Adam.” The voice came from the shadows, its source invisible, unknowable. “I only wish things could be different, Adam. For you, for me. For all of us. But it has to be this way. I could not save you. Nobody could save you. And you could not save yourself.”

He struggled, the bonds gouging into him. The pain was excruciating.

“You will be remembered, Adam. The lives you touched, the pain you caused. You will be remembered as the man who was forgotten, a memory set free from the man. You have but one task remaining.”

Adam felt a hand on his head, pressing against him. The voice came into his ear, almost a whisper.

“Repent.”

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Entrance

August 17, 2009 at 3:23 pm (anthropolis, fiction)

The tower was huge. Its peak reached into the sky, piercing the clouds, a monument in honour to the gods of the new age. Fear sank into her, a sense of confusion, of the absolute absurdity of the situation. She had chosen to walk into heaven on earth and pick a fight with the gods themselves.

Around her, a beautiful garden, lit to perfection by the moonlight. Plants blossomed, insects flew, birds chirped in the trees. She heard the sound of running water, felt the breeze on her face.

She made her way slowly through the garden, walking as though in a dream, colours lit to unearthly shades, a tranquillity beyond understanding. She approached the tower and pushed on one of the doors around its base, feeling its great weight beneath her touch. It swung open silently, beckoning her inside, a voice whispered on the wind.

She made her way into the tower. The room was vast, empty, giant columns holding up the level above. Its walls were white, the room lit by lanterns and perfumed with incense burning from enormous censers. She walked through the room, touched her hand to the wall. It was cool, pleasing to the touch. The floor decorated with swirling patterns, reflected in the walls, the ceiling.

“You have come.” She raised her head to seek out the source of the voice. The figure was standing across the room from her, dressed in a robe of purest white, smiling at her. Detail – male or female, young or old, angry or calm – was impossible. Were it not for the voice she would have thought she was alone.

“You knew I would.”

“We did.” The figure approached her calmly, moving with discipline. He was a man, yet such a beautiful man as to seem almost feminine in his appearance. He bore a noble face, one with the vigour of youth combined with the wisdom of experience.

“How many of you are there?”

“We are few. Yet we do the work of many.”

“Why? Why do you do what you do?” Their eyes met, hers fiery sparks, his a delicate grey staring out at her with serenity. “People suffer out there daily. Why do you allow it?”

“Why do you?” The tone was not accusatory.

“Who are you?”

“We are necessary. The City needed us and we came. Had we not, another would have come in our place. When we are no longer needed we shall cease to be.”

“That day may come sooner than you would like.”

“So I see.” He stared at her hand. She followed his gaze, seeing for the first time that she had withdrawn her dagger and held it in her clenched fist.

She stood before him. Her knife clutched in one hand. One move and it would be over.

She couldn’t do it.

In the heat of the moment, in the fight-or-flight, do-or-die response, the decision to kill or not to kill is one made more of instinct than of the conscious mind. The conscious is deliberately inhibited in order to allow ourselves to do things our rational human intellect would agonise over. To kill in cold blood must be learned.

And it was too late for that.

He stared at her. “Do it.”

“Why?”

“As man is an organism, so society as a whole functions as one, each part of the body fulfilling a certain task, some healthier than others, some more vicious than others, each desperate to reproduce, spreading their vision of the world through trade and conquest. Like any organism, a society will adapt, change itself according to the climate.

“We – you, I, others like us – are merely fulfilling a role. Rebel and ruler, insurrectionist and king. Roles created out of the mass, required by this organism in order to mutate and survive. If we did not exist the world would have to create us – and create us it did, the right people in the right place to determine the future of the City from this day on.

“In the death of one world, another is born. Do what you must do.”

“Is this my destiny?”

“There is no destiny. There is no chosen one, no course of fate, no great scheme laid out in the sky for men and women to take part in. There is only you and me and the reality we make together. That is all we are, that is all we know. We create the world every day.”

“Is that true?”

“Does it matter?”

As she stared into him a calmness overwhelmed her, a sense of stillness and serenity which overtook her senses and soothed her soul. Their eyes locked, bound by an invisible cord tying them together.

She dropped the knife and made her way from the room, reached the stairs, and began to climb. Behind her the man stared on, smiling softly.

The tower.

She walked up the stairs, her legs straining, her lungs pumping. She began to lose herself, lose any thought of herself, only a chest straining, feet begging for release, as she followed the steps upwards and onwards.

You must make it.

The City burned, Guardsmen scattered, men and women from the Outer Zones and the Inner Zones alike banding together, dancing, fighting. Deborah moved forward with the crowd, taking things from the marketplace and passing them around. She felt her heart burn within her and smiled.

For all of us.

The Inspector raised a glass to the sky as the mob made its way through the streets, destroying temples, taking items from the devastated buildings and sharing them together. And they waved at him, moved on, the streets theirs for the taking. Far away, Levi and Simeon took shelter, avoiding the Guardsmen, making their way back to the house, to whatever had been left for them.

Time runs short.

Alma and Sarah sat together by the side of the road, his arm around her, choking, spluttering. Behind them the talkhouse burned, people escaping, coughing on the smoke which filled the air. In the shadow of the great tower, Elijah stood, clutching Eve to his chest, his eyes closed in silent prayer.

Never surrender.

She reached the peak of the tower and collapsed, holding onto the wall for support.

It is only you, Omega.

Omega straightened, looked out from the Tower. Below her, barely visible, the beautiful garden of the Elect, the home of their mysterious ways, their secrets and powers. As the City stretched out before her she saw the smoke rising from a hundred tiny fires, people filling the streets. Love and destruction, creativity and chaos. She smiled gently, turned her back on the City, and faced into the Tower. Somewhere, a monk, smiling, shifted a final disc into place.

Omega took a deep breath and leapt into the void.

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Escape

August 15, 2009 at 10:58 am (anthropolis, fiction)

They made their way through the night, the three of them moving as one, moving in secret. As the sound of the Guardsmen became more distant, Omega registered her surroundings for the first time. They were beautiful in their simplicity. Here was none of the hectic, flashy, ostentatious piety and material success she had seen on entering the Inner Zones, yet nor was it of the same rudimentary nature of the Outer. Instead it was elegant, refined, minimal.

Levi spoke softly. “We left him there.”

“I told him where we were going. He could have followed. We had to leave. We had no choice.”

“We left him.”

“We did.” Simeon spoke, his voice hollow. “This is too much. Too far.”

“How do you mean?” The question was more for herself than for him. As she stroked her child’s head, felt her heartbeat slow, saw her smile, she understood Simeon in ways even he could not explain.

“All of this. It is too much.” Simeon reached into his pocket, withdrew the storage devices from the terminals. “With these, and with the scriptures of the Elect -” he almost spat the hated name – “we may preserve our past and discover our future. They must be kept safe.”

“So you are leaving?”

“We are.” Levi’s voice cut in, his eyes to the floor. “This is where our part of this story finishes. The ending is up to you.”

“Thank you.” She turned to them, embraced them each in turn. “Thank you for everything. Tomorrow belongs to you.” And with that she turned and disappeared into the night, making her way through the Inner Zones.

Walking and walking. Before her the great tower loomed, while behind her, the symbols of the old order turned to ash, violence erupting through the City, the great City of old. The paradise she had been promised since childhood being struck down piece by piece.

And still she kept walking, her surroundings becoming more simple yet more precious with each step, a sense of beauty found in elegance. Temples surrounded her, words painted on them in shimmering white, the teachings of the Elect placed on the street for all to see. The violence seemed almost a memory, the burning fires of the world behind her merely a dream of another time in another place.

Her daughter smiled now, the past fear forgotten, soothed by the motion of her body. Her beautiful daughter.

It was over. Something was going to change. For better or worse, be it heaven or hell, a new world was being made here tonight. Anger burned like the fires she had seen filling the City, fury spilling over into violence and hatred. This could not be contained. Would not be contained.

Perhaps.

Or perhaps it would all be illusion. Perhaps she was wrong, perhaps they all were. Perhaps tomorrow would dawn on just another day, the world continuing as ever. And the Elect and their servants would erase any sign that anything had happened here tonight. Without memory none of this would matter.

And still she kept walking.

“Omega.” The voice came out of the shadows, yet she was not afraid. Could not be afraid.

“Elijah.” Her voice echoed in the clear night air.

“You have done well.”

The words echoed in her ears. “Thank you.”

He stepped out of the shadows, stood before her. “You know what you must do.”

“I do.” Somehow she did. Deep down, outside of conscious thought, in the world of instinct, of insight, of ego and god. She knew, had always known. Everything she had done was leading to this. The tower.

She began to shake uncontrollably. He moved forward, put his arms around her, held her to his chest. The tears came out in sobs, jerking her body, uncontrollable. Her voice was shaken, yet strong. “I’m so scared.”

“I know.” He looked down at her, tears forming in his own eyes, barely visible behind the mask. She pulled away from him, smiled.

Omega slowly unfastened the clasps on her straps, removed the child, held her in her arms. She looked down at her daughter, the beautiful child, and kissed her once on the forehead. Then she passed her to Elijah.

“Her name is Eve. Care for her.”

“I shall.” Elijah bowed his head. “It is you, Omega. Only you. We owe you the world.”

She smiled and made her way through the final part of the City, finding herself before the great gate, the wall between the tower of the Elect and the people who had become their followers.

Omega took a deep breath, opened the gate, and made her way into the home of the gods.

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Forbidden fruit

August 12, 2009 at 3:28 pm (anthropolis, fiction)

Adam and the gaunt man made their way through the Inner Zones in silence, keeping to the shadows, jumping at the slightest sound of a Guardsman approaching. Behind them, the sounds of the Inner Zones echoed out, the people in the marketplace, the Guardsmen patrolling the streets, the people coming out in curiosity and rage.

And still they walked, keeping to the sidestreets, lurking in shadows. The tower. Why he could not know.

He heard voices ahead of him and raised his hand to the gaunt man for silence. As they approached, he could make out the shadows of countless Guardsmen, massed in the street before him. One of the Guardsmen seemed to be speaking.

“You.” The Guardsman spat. “I know who you are. Heretic OutZone scum, sent here for some blasphemous conspiracy, bringing crime and violence wherever you go. You seek to blame your gods for your own failings and happily hurt others to achieve your own ends.”

“What do you want with us?” Adam recognised the voice, could not place it, a woman’s voice. Clear and pure, ringing into the night.

“Come with us. Everything will be arranged later. You will be treated with Justice and fairness. Do not resist. We are in control here.”

“No.” The voice again, a form of strength in beauty, defiant. “We will not obey.”

“We will not help you.” A new voice this time, male, young. “You are wasting your time. We have nothing you want.”

“Do not think you can deceive us that easily, Simeon.” The Guardsman paused, as if gauging the speaker’s reaction. “We know you better than you know yourself. We have known you since birth, taught you, fed you, clothed you and raised you. The Elect, their servants, guiding you through life. And this is how you would repay us?”

“You give us nothing but control and manipulation. I owe you nothing. I owe the Elect nothing.”

“You owe them your life. Beware or we may simply take it.”

“We will not go with you.” The woman again.

Adam squinted; the Guardsman raised his hand, and in response, a group of Guardsmen left the line and stood by his side. “If that is how you want it.” The Guardsmen suddenly rushed forward, taking hold of them, dragging them forward.

Adam craned his neck as far as he dared. It was her. The woman. Her face bordered with her fiery hair, her eyes tiny sparks lit against the night. The two with her were young, scared. They were being held immobile, a Guardsman on each arm, truncheons at the ready, stun weapons close at hand.

The Guardsman ran his finger down her cheek, watching her shiver under his touch. Without warning he grabbed at her chest, tugged at her, held something before her. Laughing, the sickening laughter of power out of control.

A child. Her child.

Without pausing to think Adam rushed towards them, barged into the Guardsman, kicked him, once, twice. Punched him in the face. He took the child in his arms and kicked the Guardsman again, his boots making contact with skin and bone. The woman lashed out at her captors, broke their grip, the remaining Guardsmen lunging forward.

He ducked as one of the Guardsmen swung for him with a baton, shielding the child with his body, feeling their blows strike down on his back. He reached her, swiped aside one of the Guardsmen with his fist, handed her the child. She stared into him, those beautiful, hypnotic eyes boring into his soul.

“Thank you. Thank you so much.” She cradled the child in her arms. “Come with us.”

“We have to go!” One of the youths tugged on her sleeve and she turned, beckoned to him, ran down the street away from the Guardsmen. Adam stared after her and prepared to follow.

Suddenly his knees exploded in pain and he sank to the floor, feeling the pain blossom, bore into him. He rolled onto his black and stared, confused, into the face of the gaunt man, standing above him with a baton in his hand.

“I…why?”

“I’m sorry.” There were tears in his eyes. “Adam, I’m so, so sorry.”

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Escape

August 10, 2009 at 3:21 pm (anthropolis, fiction)

The three of them made their way down the street in silence, Omega praying for her daughter to remain calm, Levi and Simeon following cautiously behind. They reached the end of a street; Omega peered a little around the corner, saw nothing, beckoned for them to follow.

Levi spoke, his voice low. “What now?”

Omega glanced up and down the street, nervously. “They will check the house. Most likely destroy most of what is inside. They may take the terminals.”

Simeon’s face was grim. “Then they will know everything.”

“They already do.” Omega touched his arm gently, but Simeon pulled away.

“Not everything.”

Levi cut in. “There is nothing we can do about this for now. We need to move.”

“We -” the look on Levi’s face cut her off. She looked over her shoulder and saw the ranks of Guardsmen advancing, saw the batons they wielded, saw the anger, hatred and fear in their eyes. She turned and prepared to run as her daughter began to cry, the wailing lost in the sounds of destruction from the City.

One of the Guardsmen raised his hand; the group as a whole stopped in response. The Guardsman made his way forward and addressed them, a sneer forming on his scarred face.

“You have made a mistake. A grave, grave mistake.”

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The Children

August 7, 2009 at 12:14 pm (anthropolis, fiction)

And still the children danced.

Their eyes, the cameras freed from the iron grip of order and freed to the winds of anarchy, passed over the City, taking in the upheaval. The mass of people in the marketplace broke free, yet still the Guardsmen fought on, lost without their commanders. The people hit the floor, bleeding, screaming, yet the crowd still advanced and the Guardsmen still retreated.

And still the children danced.

In the Outer Zones, the prophets preached to an empty world, as the people rushed through the City, marching, fighting, dancing, singing. Fires burned out of control, symbols of the Elect and their power cast up as burnt offerings to freedom. Some had made it through the barrier and kept coming, making their way into the City without fear, without pride.

And still the children danced.

And through the Inner Zones, people came alive, the screens blaring out their bizarre, surreal messages into the night. The three fighters moved through the City in silence, watched over by eyes now closed to the Guardsmen and their friends but open to the children of the Grid. The one in black, the mysterious one, could be seen moving through the night, all but hidden from view.

And still the children danced. They danced through the Grid, they danced through the City, they danced for themselves and for a world that was going to be theirs.

The children danced.

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The escape

August 5, 2009 at 11:30 am (anthropolis, fiction)

“We need to go.” Levi backed away from the terminals. “Now.”

“We can’t,” Simeon interrupted. “We have come too far. This is our last chance.”

“All the knowledge in the world means little if it dies with us. They are on their way. We need to go.”

“No!” Simeon’s voice betrayed his anger, his hurt, his hope. “Please. Let’s store some of what we have. We can check it later.”

“Simeon.” He snapped his eyes away from the terminal. Omega was staring at him, her eyes conveying a deep sadness, inescapable. “We must leave. All of us.”

“Please. Two minutes.”

“One minute,” responded Omega. She took a seat at her terminal and began to enter instructions into it furiously, drawing information from the Grid, processing it, storing it. Streams of data poured towards the terminal, unordered, unstructured, the blood which kept the body of the City running, the Elect as its perfect mind. She glanced over at Simeon and saw his terminal doing the same, hers from the Outer Zones, his from the Inner.

“Now!” Omega snapped her head up; Levi stood by the door, his face white. “They are here. They will be inside soon.”

Simeon gathered the storage devices from the terminals while Omega took up her daughter. The three of them began to make their way through the house when the door collapsed with a deafening crunch. Behind them, Guardsmen streamed into the house, barking orders and destroying objects at random.

Omega kicked out a window and the three of them climbed through it and ran for their lives.

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Adam

August 3, 2009 at 8:54 am (anthropolis, fiction)

Adam collapsed by the roadside, the gaunt man settling down after him. The stun weapon was beginning to wear off; he could feel the pain in his legs, feel the jarring on his chest as he drew breath. Cautiously, he looked around him, the sparks of pain in his neck making the process a slow one. So this was it. The Inner Zones. The place had the feel of a model, a specially designed illusion. A facade.

The gaunt man glanced over at him. “You okay?”

“I will be.” He gingerly raised his hand, rubbed his neck. He smiled. “We made it.” The Guardsmen were scattered, some blocking the gaping hole in the wall, others attempting to block those who had made it through. Yet more people streamed through, the Guardsmen swinging at them wildly.

They were through. This was life on the other side, a world almost as alien to him as that outside the City. A few paces and a lifetime apart.

The tower. The words came to him, uninvited, unannounced. From somewhere deep in the back of his mind, where god, man and reality became one, it came to him with an unmistakeable clarity.

The gaunt man looked at him, concerned. “What is it?”

“The tower.” Adam dragged himself to his feet painfully, the tingling in his hands giving way to a dull soreness. “We need to go.”

And so they made their way through the Inner Zones, while behind them the people broke free.

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The Raid

July 31, 2009 at 8:47 am (anthropolis, fiction)

The door crashed off its hinges. Alma jumped; the room had fallen into darkness, the switchboards occasionally jumping into life before crashing into silence once more.

“Attention!” Alma squinted into the darkness and made out the figure of a Guardsman standing in front of the wreckage of the talkhouse’s door. Behind him more Guardsmen were entering. “You have been negligent in your duties and allowed unbelievers and blasphemers to wreak havoc on this City and on its people. The Elect do not look kindly on those who betray their fellow men to follow their own delusions and heresies.”

Two more Guardsmen entered, carrying lanterns which cast an uneasy light on the talkhouse and those within it. Sarah spotted him and moved over silently, squeezing his hand for a moment.

“You are to fix this problem immediately. None of you is to leave until communications within this City are repaired. Is that understood?”

The talkhouse remained silent. The workers within it stared at the floor, avoiding eye contact with one another and with the Guardsmen who stood before them, batons at the ready.

“I repeat. Is that understood?”

“No!” The volume of his voice surprised Alma himself. His pulse began to race and he began to sweat as the Guardsman approached him, baton in hand.

“What was that, boy?”

“I….we can’t. The system has failed. All we do here is relay messages and help sort out communications. The main system is out of our control. We cannot fix it here. It simply isn’t possible.”

“Oh really?” The Guardsman smiled gently and turned on his heel. He took a single step before turning and, in a single movement, punching Alma in the mouth. He fell to the floor, clutching his face as the Guardsman stood above him, sneering.

“You will do as is requested of you by the Elect. Nothing more, nothing less.” The Guardsman spat on him in contempt and turned to leave.

“I will not!” Alma gathered himself and got to his feet, his eyes boring into the Guardsman with a mixture of hatred, contempt and fear. “You claim to worship the Elect, to enforce their will, yet the teachings of the Elect offer us good will, morality, respect for one another and obedience to a higher power. You, with your petty violence, your loathing of those around you, your corruption, greed and lust for power of your own – you stand against the Elect and all they have taught. You may call me a heretic yet it is your heresy which has cost lives. I will not help you. Now or ever.”

The Guardsman stared at him for a long moment. He turned and glanced at the others in the talkhouse. “And what of the rest of you?”

“I refuse!” The voice came from out of the shadows; Alma could not even guess its location, let alone its source. But one by one the voices came, some timid, others bold.

Eventually the voices died down. The Guardsman looked at his cohorts and nodded, watched them file out of the room one by one. He stared deep into Alma’s eyes and said, “Have it your way.” Then he left.

For a moment, silence reigned. Without warning, the silence was broken as the lanterns rolled into the room, fire igniting their leaking fuel and bursting into uncontrollable flames.

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Observer

July 29, 2009 at 3:13 pm (anthropolis, fiction)

Omega watched the terminals, entranced. She had watched as their brand of chaos spread through the Grid, destroying, remoulding, creating the changes they wanted. Communication had broken down and the Guardsmen, Watchmen and other servants of the Elect moved in confusion, unable to act without orders.

And they had watched as the City came alive, the children of the Grid taking control and wreaking havoc. She had watched the terminals as huge blocks of lights switched on or off seemingly at random, spelling out huge messages across the Inner Zones. The screens through the Inner Zones had burst into life, sending out confessions, secrets, lies and surrealisms into the world.

In the Outer Zones the people raged, masses of the Disconnected and furious making their way through the City. At the smoking holes in the great wall they banded together and fought.

She smiled, nervous, pleased. The City was alive. She was alive.

Truly alive.

“We must act.” Simeon’s voice came over her shoulder.

“How so?” she asked.

“The secret of the Elect. The secret to their power. The secret to how they have managed to keep control. It’s all here somewhere. It is written into the City, into the way we think, the way we act, the way we live our lives. The way our lives are lived for us, a script written without our consultation or consent. The secret to how, to why. It is here. On the Grid. We must find it.”

“What is it you hope to find?”

“I don’t know.” Simeon’s eyes shone. “I was wrong. Half wrong. The scriptures only give us half the story, they only give us an outline. The Grid brings it to life. Their secrets.” He took a seat, began to type into the terminal. “This is our chance.”

“It may be too late,” Levi broke in. He gestured to one of the terminals. Omega squinted at it for a moment; it was simply a street like any other, rows of Guardsmen advancing down it. Similar scenes were taking place across the City.

She turned to him. “What is this?”

“This, if I am not mistaken, is our street. And I suspect they are coming for us.”

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