[Next Chapter 11/28/17]
The Hegeltown folk were summoned to the train station by a great brass bell that gonged thirty three times. The good little serfs, dressed in their drab tunics, brought their burros which pulled carts of genetically modified potatoes and bales of hay stacked in massive bundles upon their sturdy backs. Flocks of mutant sheep followed behind and behind them followed herds of bearded goy which were specially engineered, hermaphrodite goats. The townsfolk and beasts filled the station’s platform with the crowd spilling out into the dusty surrounding streets. They grew increasingly restless as two hours passed.
Someone finally spotted a plume of smoke from a steam engine coming ‘round-the-mountain and alerted the others with a shrieking holler. Everyone cheered and pushed and crowded in towards the edge of the platform, condensing a good portion of the crowd of about a thousand, consisting of five hundred undermen and five hundred four-legged animals. The pine planks of the platform sagged and creaked under their collective weight.
The locomotive pulled alongside the platform and when it came to a complete and final stop it let off one final screeching blast of steam. The train’s bell clanged and a battery of blue, jump-suited bureaucrats de-boarded. They were Gaian officials from the Bureau of Sustainability and with uncommon government efficiency, they assembled a row of tables. One official took a seat at each table and placed a conch-shell looking device in front of them. The herd instinctively formed into lines before each table. Finally, an air-horn was blown, and the bazaar officially began.
Upon advancing to the front of the line, the Hegeltown folk would swipe their right wrist across the conch device and a microscopic radio frequency identifier confirmed their identity. No one was permitted to buy or sell anything unless they had the RFID marker, which was implanted during vaccinations at the age of two. Once identity was confirmed, the townsfolk would present their wares, produce, or hermaphrodite goats which were then loaded into adjacent boxcars and placed into various compartments. The quantities and values of said items were then spoken into the conch device by the officials seated at the officiating tables. The undermen were then directed to another set of tables located towards the back of the train. Only after receiving his/her weekly vaccination could the undermen then receive their sixty-pound blocks of tofu and bags of freeze dried, simulated soy milk. Whatever was not redeemed by the townsfolk in the form of physical goods was left on balance in each of their bank accounts, to be depleted incrementally by daily carbon taxes. Behold: sustainability!
Indigo, an Overman and thus exempt from the allocation bazaar, scanned the crowd for D’naia. At first, he couldn’t find her, but she finally appeared. She was dressed in a black sweater and black tights and black boots, none of which was considered appropriate attire by the community, but her outfit represented her best attempt at blending in. Indigo whistled and she spotted him. She smiled and waded through the crowd towards him, physically nestling in to him which was perhaps a little too close as far as traditional undermen values were concerned. A few town folk gave the conspicuous couple a disapproving glare but Indigo was not bothered.
“I wonder how big the herd is,” Indigo asked, feigning interest in the spectacle of the allocation bazaar.
“It’s twenty five,” D’naia answered.
“Wow. That’s pretty good size. How do you know that?”
“I went down to the corral and counted them this afternoon.”
“Were you bored or something?”
“No, quite the opposite. These events are fascinating to me.”
The two of them stood there making small talk, watching the lines of town folk dwindle until the last of them completed their exchanges, took their vaccines, gathered their rations and was reabsorbed by the collective. But the townsfolk did not disperse. Instead, the mob formed into a gauntlet surrounding the corrals. Early that morning, the corrals were assembled with temporary railing to guide the herd up a set of stairs, onto the platform and right up into the doorway of a just opened cattle car.
Indigo and D’naia talked and talked while the gauntlet formed. They talked about the wonders of the cosmopolitan Atlantican coast. They talked about the urbane life and styroscrapers and the porno-buskers and the quaint, sidewalk cafes. They talked about the absurdity of religion and debated the contradictions of unified Gaian ethics (which made Indigo ill, again). He changed the subject to the topic of the futility of achieving higher Overman degree. Indigo always hoped of eventually getting into the twenties where one no longer has to complete the annual Justification to live application.
D’naia had no illusions about rising up in rank. She had blown her one chance by her academic failure. She would remain a 1st degree Overman until her reclamation (or “death”, as she called it). She said she felt that she was not really wanted by the Overman caste, anyway, being from impure eugenic stock. She made the 1st degree solely because a degree of one was a minimum requisite for enrollment in University. In other words, she was given it by virtue of her guardian’s lotto winning. On a positive note, an Overman rank, even the lowest possible rank, got her out of the allocation bazaar and the ritual humiliation of forking over the fruits of one’s labor in exchange for tofu blocks and injections.
“Why do they do it?” She wondered aloud.
“Do what?” Indigo asked.
“Why do they hand over everything they’ve made or harvested for basically nothing?”
“Because it’s the law?” Indigo offered.
“Yeah, but why? They could live ten times better if they just kept what they made and bartered with their neighbors.”
“Then I suppose it’s their sense of civic duty”
“No,” D’naia objected. “They don’t have any grasp of that.”
“Then why don’t you tell me why?”
“I think it’s about conditioning. They’re like those goats over there. It’s definitely not any sense of ‘duty’. Duty implies some higher sense of purpose and a conscious understanding of it. There’s no purpose or conscious understanding in their minds. Look at them. There’s just habituation and fear of punishment.”
“Maybe that’s why they’re undermen, then.”
“I was one of them,” D’naia cautioned. “They’re still my people. Do you think they’re undermen because they are eugenically inferior? Or are they undermen because they’ve been made into them?”
“I try not to think about stuff like that too much. It makes me ill,” Indigo replied.
A restlessness grew amongst the gathered undermen on the platform and around the corrals. The roundup was about to begin with the herd finally being led up the stairs and in through the gauntlet of split rail corrals that ran across the platform and up into the cattle car.
“There they are!” D’naia exclaimed. “See them?”
They appeared, trotting down the path, twenty five of them in all. Twenty five naked humates, eyes wide with terror, trying not to trip or run over one another as they stumbled down the corral under the hiss of the gathered spectators who spat on them and hurled vile insults. The herd lowered their heads and put one hand up over their faces as they jogged through the gauntlet. They made a turn in the causeway and thumped their way up a wooden ramp, up, up, up into the open door of the boxcar. The crowd hissed and booed ever louder and louder.
Codex enforcers appeared out of nowhere, as if materializing from the shadows, dressed in menacing black suits riveted with silver buttons, their face shields down, clutching batons tightly in their gloved hands. One of them had an electric chattel prod that he jabbed into the mass of naked flesh inside the boxcar triggering screams of agony and terror. “I’ll learn you some respect,” he shouted. The codex enforcer jabbed his prod again and again at the savages. Then another squirted a mist of blinding pepper spray into their eyes. Then another climbed the adjacent corral, dropped his pants, and began urinated on them to howls of approving laughter from the undermen crowd. The screams and coughing and convulsions of the boxed up, naked humates gave the gathered town folk quite a show. Their cheers encouraged the codex cops to abuse them even more.
Then, quite by accident, the cop with the chattel prod sent out an errant bolt of electricity that caught the other cop’s urine stream. The charge ran up into him, knocking him off the fence. The serfs watching the show broke out into a roar of laughter which was immediately met by a swarm of swinging batons and pepper spray by the disrespected cops. The cops turned their aggression loose on everyone. Even the temporarily incapacitated enforcer shook off his fall and jumped into the fray, cracking a half dozen undermen heads with his baton without even bothering to pull up his pants.
“Sad…” Indigo observed of the spectacle. The urinating guard made his way back to the cattle car, slid the door closed and locked it with his pants still down around his ankles.
“Is that an expression of pity or remorse?” D’naia asked him.
Indigo reflected for a moment. He did not want to blow it with the beautiful D’naia by answering incorrectly. He had developed a burning lust for her, but he wasn’t exactly sure what her view was on the whole matter. Having grown up within the vicinity of humates, perhaps she was sensitive to their plight. “I suppose that I do pity them,” is how he finally answered, sensing further contemplative hesitation would jeopardize his standing with her nearly the same as the wrong answer would. He congratulated himself on his clever evasion but D’naia would not let him off the hook.
“Do you consider them human?”
Indigo felt himself smile nervously as the locomotive’s whistle blew. “Human?”
“Don’t be evasive,” D’naia pressed. “Do you consider them human?”
“I don’t know. I haven’t thought about it.”
“Do you believe that they are?” D’naia asked.
“Huh?” Indigo asked, buying time to think.
“Do you believe they are human?”
“…So if they’re not human, what species are they?”
Indigo had an instinctive answer but it was not the answer he intended to give. Humates were eugenic savages, or so it was taught to him at school. They lived in the wilderness. They ate bird shit, slept in their own feces, and lived in caves with rodents and insects and snakes. They worshiped a god crafted in their image which was utterly ridiculous to Indigo who was raised Secular Gaianist. Yet he did feel some pity for them.
Undermen were clearly humanoid— close relatives of Overman. Humates had somehow genetically branched off centuries before, but they appeared close relatives. They had ten fingers and ten toes. They had faces and expressions. If you dressed them up in Mao tunics they would be indistinguishable from the Hegeltown folk. They even shielded themselves from ridicule and spittle and the pain of electric shocks from chattel prods so they must sense pain and fear.
Indigo was suddenly unsure precisely what ‘humate’ even meant. A wolf and a dog are both canines. A dog is a dumbed down, domesticated wolf, but even though they are dumb, compared to wolves, and utterly dependant on humans for survival, dogs were significant enough to be given a name. These humate savages were much closer to human beings than dogs were to wolves, yet they were treated far worse, comparatively.
He started to feel queasy.
Maybe if he could define ‘human’ that would help him to define ‘humate’. The official Gaian definition of ‘human’ was a category of bipedal, mostly hairless primate whose distinction is that he is recognized by the Republic of Gaiastan as having the three unalienable rights of food, shelter, and clothing. Were these humate savages ‘recognized’ by Gaiastan as having rights? Most definitely not. But did that make them any less ‘human’ than a typical Hegeltown person? Why didn’t they have the same rights? No other subspecies of animal that he could think of was differentiated by a government decree.
He was troubled by this mostly because he had never contemplated it before. If a person that looks like a human, walks like a human, talks like a human, feels pain like a human, but is not recognized by the republic as having basic rights, is he therefore not human? Apparently these savages weren’t. Gaiastan officials were the final arbiter of such things. These humanoids were humate because the State had deemed them so and that Indigo decided that was good enough. His illness immediately subsided but D’naia was still waiting for an answer so he had to come up with something that would not be a lie but would not offend her.
“I suppose they look like humans to me,” he answered, surprising even himself at the cleverness of his subtle, non-committal ambiguity.
A burst of steam shot from the engine and it lurched in reverse, pushing the train back down the track, out of town and out of sight. It had been an exciting day for the Hegeltown folk. Thank Gaia, they thought, that those humate savages who drank their own piss and fornicated with animals were captured and hauled away. They might have caused trouble or cannibalized some children or something worse, they thought. Everyone knew that humates were into rites of child sacrifice, cannibalism and even worse… like pollution! Hopefully the savages would be hauled off to be re-educated as good Gaiastolics and ultimately introduced into civilization as born again undermen… just so long as they were introduced “somewheres else, far, far away from here,” the Hegeltown folk thought.
“Do you wonder what happens to them?” D’naia asked.
Indigo never actually pondered that question so he answered, “I was actually just wondering that.”
“Well, I know,” D’naia offered, punctuating her revelation with raised eyebrows.
“Do tell me, then.”
“Some other time.”
“No, don’t be that way. I want to know. Tell me now.”
“Maybe I will but I’ve got to go, now.” D’naia started off but Indigo stopped her.
“Wait! When… when can I see you again?”
D’naia’s eyes locked onto Indigo’s. She tried to muster a smile but it came off more like a smirk. She smirked a lot.
“I assume you’ll be working your route this week?”
“Then I’ll probably see you this week at the kibbutz,” she answered as she turned to leave.
[Next Chapter 11/28/17]
A full PDF version is available upon request.