Posted February 9th, 2015 by EmmaR
Angel of Arumdin |
February 9th, 2015
*It's kind of a crappy title but it needed one, so...
This is an assignment for my Utopias/Dystopias/Science Fiction class. We were supposed to write a story set in a Utopian community because we just read Thomas More's Utopia. So, here's mine! All the names are Slovene because I do what I want.*
“We don’t talk about this outside of this room, we don’t tell our families, we don’t tell our spouses or betrothed, and we especially don’t tell the police. If that’s too difficult for you, you cannot participate. It’s of the utmost importance that this is kept a secret. Understood?” Nobody moved. Slowly, the wide-eyed, dirt-smudged faces staring out from the circle of chairs began to nod. “Good. Let’s start. Say your name, age, stratus, region, medium, and any other pertinent information. I’ll go first, unless we have any volunteers.” Silence. “No? Okay. Avgust av-Lovro, nineteen, apprenticed carpenter, South Hendful, oil paints.” He paused, gesturing to the dank atmosphere. “I created this group in defiance of the laws that keep us from the purest form of creation itself.” He signaled to the adjacent man that he had finished his introduction. The man shifted uncomfortably in the blue plastic chair. He laughed a bit before speaking.
“Marjan an-Hedvika. I recently celebrated my thirty-third birthday, and I’ve been working as a professor of mathematics for twelve years. Um, I was born in Sector Seven but I live with my wife’s family in East Five.” Marjan let out a self-deprecating chuckle before continuing, “My wife, she’s an animator. I write plays, and then I burn them. She doesn’t know anything. About me, I mean.” As he finished, the next man in the circle began his own introduction. In the dark cavern, time was irrelevant. No dinner bells could be heard from the depths below the city center, no whistling alarms of police inspections or clicking of bicycle wheels. As the thirteenth and final introduction finished, silence settled over the group of men. They turned expectantly towards Avgust.
“Well, what do we do now?” the last man, Konrad, an apprenticed politician and secret singer, asked in impatience, tapping his foot erratically on the stone floor. “I told my parents that I had an emergency training session in Six. If they found out I’ve been climbing through the sewers beneath the city center, they’ll turn me in to the police. They’re not like your parents,” he said as he pointed at the sixteen-year-old animator across the circle, who had previously mentioned that his parents knew about his artistic inclinations and broke the law every day by keeping it a secret. “My mother is a judge and my father is senator. If I so much as hum in front of them, my head will be placed directly on the Center Justice Mechanism and my father will petition to swing the blade himself. Are we just going to sit here and do nothing?”
Avgust let out a sigh of contempt. “The point of this group is to form a network of underground support for male artists in a society that refuses to acknowledge our validity. Hopefully, this pocket under the city will also be a safe space to unabashedly create. So, no, Konrad, we’re not just sitting here and doing nothing. Just being here is an act of defiance,” he finished resolutely, sitting back in his chair and crossing his arms.
“It’s shameful,” another man murmured. The group turned to look at the oldest of them, a sixty-year-old factory worker whose hands were permanently stained a blotchy cobalt blue from the industrial chemicals. He put his head in his blue hands, shaking. “It’s shameful,” he repeated softly. “Shameful.” A certain melancholy descended over the room. All that could be heard was the steady dripping of rainwater from the storm drain as the droplets plopped listlessly into a puddle in the middle of the chair circle.
Avgust rubbed his eyes. Fatigued from the meeting and woozy from the smell of oil paints and the claustrophobia of the sewer, he tripped on the stairs leading up to his common residence. Before he could reach for the door, it opened in front of him. His mother stood in the threshold, hands on her hips. She grabbed him by the collar, hauling him inside of the house without a word. He protested briefly, but she whipped her head around and snapped, “Quiet!” before switching her grip to his wrist and pulling him up the stairs towards his room. When they reached the landing, she released him.
“What, Ma?” He asked, rubbing his wrist and fixing his shirt. She was a short woman, and Avgust had to look down to talk to her, but he felt small in the clean and well-lit hallway of their residence.
“Open the door to your room,” she fumed, barely keeping her voice level. “I want you to explain something to me.”
A weight dropped in Avgust’s stomach. He felt sick. He reached for the door, his heart thumping wildly in his chest as he slowly turned the handle with clammy hands. As they entered the room, he felt a sharp pain in his gut. Laid out all around him were paintings. Paintings of himself, of the town, of the sunset, of his mother, all displayed like a sickening gallery on every available surface. At least twenty were stacked unceremoniously on his gray comforter.
“Now,” his mother said as calmly as she could, “I want you to listen to me. We’re going to sit down on the rug.” She sank to the floor, grabbing his wrist again and pulling him down on the only spot not covered by canvases. “You’re going to tell me right now that these painting were all done by Emilija and given to you as a gift, okay? That’s what you’re going to tell me.”
Emilija was the girl who lived down the hall; betrothed to him in a ceremony at age eight. She was an apprenticed judge, not a painter. “I can’t lie,” he finally said after a long pause. He assumed the position of subordination, crossing his legs and folding his head into his lap while grasping his mother’s hands. “I can’t lie,” he repeated, voice muffled by the fabric of his pants.
Katja an-Lovro, a police officer, was no stranger to the law of honesty. Still, she grabbed a handful of his hair and pulled his head up, forcing him to look her in the eye. “Listen to me. Tell me,” she emphasized, “that these were all done by Emilija and given to you as a gift. Tell me that. Please, just say it.”
Avgust’s voice caught in his throat. “They’re mine. They’re all mine,” he choked out, throat at an awkward angle. “Every single one. I painted them. Me!”
She released her grip on his hair, and he straightened. “Look me in the eye,” she said. “I don’t care who painted them, I just want you to tell me it was Emilija. And then, I want you to burn them. After that, we’re having dinner with your father and going to the nightly Justice Circle.”
He didn’t realize he had been crying until he wiped his eyes and his hands came away damp. “Will my head be on the block?” He asked, gathering the paintings within reach and holding them in his lap.
She shook her head. “Not tonight.” She handed him a portrait of herself that had been balancing precariously on the low windowsill. “Not tonight.”
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