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I live in a clean world, where everything is safe. That’s what everyone says. That’s the way it has always been.
Any contamination is unheard of—all of those plants and dirt and other disgusting carriers of disease have long since been replaced with much nicer, sanitary ground coverings of metal and plastic, so everyone can be safe.
Food we eat is created from molecules in safe little boxes, using a complex formula that changes molecules of air into molecules of vitamins, and carbohydrates, and fats - everything that is necessary for human survival. It is all clean. It is all sanitary. It is all safe.
Animals, those filthy, despicable lower life forms, have been given only the finest treatment possible. Those Who Run The Zoos have been more than generous with them, giving them three times their body mass for enclosures, and only the best food once a day, which is more than necessary. Unfortunately, as dirty and despicable as these creatures are, they do not appreciate the kindness shown to them and seem almost unhappy with their lot.
We, the human race, do not feel sadness. Such a thing would be unclean, and has as a result been completely wiped from our brains. A metal chip implanted in our heads stops the sadness from circulating so everyone is much more clean. Other emotions, such as anger, jealousy, or fear have also been discontinued.
Once, when I was a little immature child, still living away from home in the Child Purification Center, I asked questions about our way of life. I was so naive then, but now I have learned to trust in the guidance of The Powers That Be. I can still remember my foolish questions.
“Why do we treat the animals like this?” I would ask, my soft, high little voice adorable. But unclean. Such movement in voices was not sanitary, not orderly. It could not be allowed.
“Because this is how they deserve to be treated, Tariaa,” the Child Purification Specialist would explain. “They are not clean. They are not orderly. They cannot be allowed to infect us all. You would not want us to get sick, would you?”
“Of course not,” I replied, confident in my abilities to know the answer to any question they asked.
“Well, the animals could make us sick. So we don’t let them do that. Instead, we take care of them to keep them happy and keep us safe.”
“They don’t look happy,” I invariably would respond. “They look really sad. They make me sad. Their eyes look like they are crying.”
“You should not feel emotion, Tariaa. What is emotion?”
“Emotion is not orderly. Emotion is not sanitary. Emotion is not clean,” I repeated the rule of life that I heard every day.
“Good. Now, see, this is proof the animals are unclean. They feel emotions. And they have no reason to cry. We give them more than enough space to live - three times their own size! Now, let’s go on to learning our next lesson, and let’s have no more of this nonsense about animals being sad.”
“Okay,” I answered, not completely satisfied. “When will I see Mommy and Daddy again?”
The Specialist sighed, probably sick of repeating the answer to this question every day. “When you are clean. When you are pure. Now, focus. Why do we stay away from plants and flowers?”
The lesson would continue.
From that time on, I knew only three basic facts of life.
Any life other than human life was unsanitary, disorderly, unsafe, and unclean. It was forbidden.
The Powers That Be were the highest people in the land. They were the cleanest of all, without any of the minor pollution that one can expect to gain after time. Their word was law, and they were in charge of you.
You were not to speak out against the rules.
For a while, my rebellious nature could not take the forced submission. I could not accept the boredom of metal and plastic, of cold, hard, unfeeling surfaces everywhere. I felt as if my whole world was a wall of ice: cold, smooth, un-breaking, unfeeling, unchanging. It was hard to get used to the constant politeness (discourtesy would be unclean) and the ever-present formality - saying Mom or Dad would be the height of disorder and chaos.
But I managed. I became Tariaa Starshaper, daughter of Herella and Melius Starshaper. I was the obedient child, never pushing boundaries, never breaking rules.
I began to learn the family trade of molding the fallen stars into rich, delicate jewelry for the Powers That Be. I never paid any attention to how, although the Powers That Be got anything they wanted for free, we and the rest of our clean world starved without the money to purchase clean air molecules to form into food.
I never dreamt that our world was unsafe, or unsanitary, or disorderly.
It never crossed my mind that there could be more to life than I knew.
I never believed for even a moment that my world, that my life was anything other than clean.