Art work by Enrique Cropper
With the children safely put to bed, the adults could settle down to restoring the story circle. So they turned their attention their newest member, Grhm, whose needs had been so rawly evident at mealtime an hour before.
Grhm had made a surprise arrival at the fraternum’s door seven weeks earlier. Ssn, who had already spent long hours with Grhm, had been sat conversing with him, awaiting Slv’s return from putting the children to bed. Now, with her characteristically mature sensitivity, her hand placed comfortingly on Grhm’s, Ssn turned to the group,
“Grhm” she said, in a heartfelt, reassuring tone. You have indicated to me your readiness to share with the fraternum your experiences in the lead up to your decision to come here. I thank you for giving me the honour of learning about your life prior to joining us.”
Grhm grasped her hand tightly and then, as Ssn continued, slowly relaxed his grip.
“I am satisfied that you understand, now, that only when you have exteriorised, to your fraternum brothers and sisters, the events of your life in the Wst, will you be able to work with them on the challenges that you face in the adult life you are preparing yourself for in the coming future”. She paused. “I invite you, on behalf of your friends here. Take your time, Grhm, but now you must speak.”
Grhm, his eyes by now fixed on his hands crossed together on his knees, looked up towards the circle of sincere faces around him. “Ssn,” he said in a half-broken voice “my friends, I am ready” and he went immediately into his story.
“I was born eighteen years ago in the Brx precinct, in a birth-hospital”.
Brbr immediately flinched, her visions arising in her mind and her eyes darted towards Grhm. He didn’t notice as he was looking towards the others and concentrating on continuing his story. “I was placed in the best neonate-raising programme the society had to offer, as my inheritance would dictate. I passed through the infant and puerile phases and stayed there the full ten years,” he started recounting in a voice so fused with abstraction, that it reflected on everyone in the group the clinical perfection of the biochemically regulated system in which he had grown up.
“I owe a lot to my gamete-sponsors” he continued, “In that programme I saw them much more than other minors. Also, I received 360-degree stimulation, which stood me well because I progressed, while the others stood still in their Knowledge Acquisition” he described, a faint grin flickering in the corner of his mouth as he added “and so I became the strongest performer of my cohort”.
Slv, with her unique capacity for perceiving the feelings of others in vivid, pictorial imaginations, saw how Grhm still held on with pride to the material achievements of his childhood. In her mind’s eye, she could see a dark spiralling vortex enclosing the delicate pastel colours of his inner self. Slv uttered silently to herself a few words of support for Grhm, which acted like a salve to his soul. She noticed him pause, a look of authenticity returning to his face.
“Because of my Advanced Knowledge Acquisition status, I did well in the Adult Induction Programme and was qualified as Fully Able by 13, instead of the customary 15 years of age. I was always a quick learner, you see”, he added a little hastily. “My inductor kept urging me on, telling me that I was on a steep learning curve. I can tell you, when I saw the graphs of my Knowledge Accumulation, compared to my contemporaries, he said I was meeting entirely their expectations. You see, I liked to learn and the constant supply of rewards really spurred me on,” he continued, the fraternum group around him listening with apprehensive faces. “At the end of the Programme, my inductor told me that, given such high performance ratings, I could do anything I liked with my future”.
Grhm then turned to Ptr, and, with an uncomfortable wagging-finger gesture, explained. “One thing you need to know is that during those years of Adult Induction, we were never permitted to tell stories. Once a co-juvenile on our programme told our inductor that he had heard about the Prometheus myth. The next thing we knew he was removed from the Programme”.
Grhm then spoke at some length about other aspects of the Programme that kept him very happy and the benefits he obtained by doing what was expected of him, acknowledging that he would ask his inductors lots questions about the Knowledge Topics but would seldom ask himself too much about why things were the way they were. “We had such good times” he commented placidly.
Then he began to tell them about the uncomfortable sensation that came over him each time there was a change in the training module and he had moved up an echelon to the next learning stage. “What we have just taught you at Stage 2 was not true because it was a very simplified version of how things really are”, the inductor had announced in this introduction to Stage 3. “To me,” explained Grhm, “this sounded very much like what the inductor before him had said to us at the beginning of Stage 2. While I was still happy to be moving up the learning scale, I began at that moment to think that something was wrong”. There was a discernible release of tension in the group. “It was as if they weren’t letting us know the Truth.”
Grhm suspended his storytelling for a few seconds, leaving the group members naturally reflecting on his last word, “Truth”. Then he lifted his tone once more and continued.
“It’s strange, it was just after that we got our new Knowledge Enhancement helmets, which opened up new horizons and knowledge opportunities for me. The helmets kept all of us in the Programme very engaged”.
Slv’s heart sank on hearing this. She confessed to herself how blessed she felt never to have been exposed in her youth to such a contraption. Grhm responded to the glimpse of incomprehension on her face and renewed his efforts to tell his story with full transparency.
“You could instruct your helmet to project any scenario you wished. One of my favourites was to be a Pharaoh. Over a couple of years, I returned four times a week to explore the Ancient Egyptian civilisation, all from the comfort of my living zone. It was fantastic!”
Then, in a more objective tone, he continued. “I also gained the grade of Food Plant Provider from a scenario I lived in where I learnt all the necessary procedures for crop production, genetic manipulation, advanced hydroponic nutrition levels and food preservation and preparation techniques”. Grhm then recounted how his programmers had pointed out to all that they lived in a “Land of Plenty” and that technological advances over the centuries had achieved overcome the challenges from resource limitations and created a stable civilisation, without risk of disturbance.
Ssn knew from their previous conversations, as well as direct perception of Grhm’s persona before her, that, though there was no doubt about what a highly trained individual from the civilization of the Wst he was, there were more pressing issues that he needed to tell the others.
Seeing that he was avoiding the less comfortable aspects of his personal history, she took the unusual step of interrupting Grhm’s monologue, as gently as she could, and prompting a new direction for him through the question “Grhm, what motivated you to leave the society you were born into?”
Grhm halted, belying his inner turmoil through the rapid shift in the look on his face. He glanced towards Ssn, suddenly fretful, and the paused to take up his story again a few moments later, now with greater focus and tenacity.
“Things changed for me the day I had been let out in the exterior zone and my Knowledge Enhancement helmet fastening came undone .”