June 5, 2012
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I am a “perfect child,” though that is not much to say in a world full of “perfect” children. My parents still say so all the time, as if to inspire within me perfect words, actions, and attitudes through incantation.

As I sit and pound on the piano for hours on end, they occasionally pass by with mawkish grins on their faces. Sometimes they have me play when their friends come over.

“Oh, just listen to her beautiful melodies,” my mother cries, turgid with pride, “I knew the extra splice was worth it.”

Therein lies the secret of my genius. Not through natural born talent, but through engineering. In the year 2051, what was at the time the United States government approved a large scale human study of piecewise embryo development. Splices of DNA were assembled to create a highly specific genotype for a child. The initial results were ghastly, like another generation of the children of thalidomide. The babies that were decidedly defective were sent to either be adopted by poor people who couldn’t choose their babies or live in orphanages; money-back guarantees for whoever didn’t get what they paid for. Then in 2094, when the technology was almost fully functional, a human genomics project was initiated to recover some of the greatest genes from history. The remains of geniuses gone were excavated and eventually the genes coding for their most salient traits were isolated and replicated. Now, anyone with enough money can try and buy the wit of Stephen Hawking or the humor of George Carlin.

“Well, Cesaria, we know what you’re capable of. It’s in your DNA. You have to live up to that potential,” Dad says disapprovingly whenever I fall short of expectations.

The argument never used, we paid good money for those talents, perpetually hangs in the air, almost tangible in the most heated arguments.

I finish playing the final notes of Montoya’s (one of the first generation ‘hand-selected geniuses’) concerto and retire to the kitchen. There on the counter awaits a miniature ice bath, meant just for my aching fingers. One thing all of us know is this: everything comes at a price, and I’m not just talking about money this time. The specially engineered fast twitch muscles in my fingers are dexterous and deft while playing the piano, but slowly the tendons are beginning to detach from my hands, and by the time I’m fifty they’ll be severely crippled. It’s depressing to think about, but now with all of the medical focus on developing superhuman offspring, elderly people are forgotten. It’s hard to believe that in history elders used to be respected; now life experience gets you thrown into a home to die.

The next morning I roll out of bed and lumber into the bathroom to start the daily routine. My mother insists I look my best at all times.
“You don’t want all that pretty potential going to waste. Can’t go around looking like a Commoner,” she utters disapprovingly, whenever there is a hair out of place. She claims my looks are “natural,” but my eye color was only really naturally found in Elizabeth Taylor. Guess she doesn’t want her daughter to think she’s a total Barbie doll.

The school I attend is an integrated school. There are two classes of people: the Elite and the Commoners, or in scientific terms, Homo sapiens sapiens and Homo sapiens. The Commoners are the poorer people who can’t afford to buy genes for their kids, so they’re like how people used to be: natural. They are becoming scarcer and scarcer as the years roll on because of health care. If a Commoner inherits a disease, they’re as good as gone. The Elite don’t require much, and almost all doctors spend their days piecing together sections of DNA for new embryos instead of preserving the life that’s here.

Arriving in school I wave at my group of friends and stroll on over to chat. As Elenora is babbling on about the jet ski her dad just bought, I notice him. He walks into the school with an impressive confidence, and it takes him standing almost directly next to me to realize he’s not Elite. I nod in agreement with whatever my friends are chatting about, and wander into homeroom still wondering about the intriguing boy when I see him sitting in the front of the room. I go to my usual desk, and stay standing for The Oath.

The Oath is something we all do to show patriotism to our government. We pledge to all work up to our potential, to accept our places within society, and to remain loyal to the council of Elite who run the world. Yes, the world. It used to be split up into countries, but when the United States started breeding the Elite, they soon took over in the greatest wave of imperialism of all time.

As the class monotonously mumbles the words we are programmed to repeat, I notice the new boy sitting in silence. Some kids give him weird looks, but nobody says anything, even the teacher seems unprepared to handle such surprising behavior. The period eventually draws to a close and everyone pours out of the classroom. I notice a group of people gathered around something, or someone. It’s the boy, and they sound harsh and threatening.
After the crowd disperses, I approach him and introduce myself. He seems to appreciate the gesture and in turn introduces himself as Aiden. Then, he initiates a day that will be a turning point in my life.

“Today just doesn’t seem like a good day for school. Let’s get out of here.”

Normally I wouldn’t ever dream of doing such a thing, but the rebellious glint in his hazel eyes is pretty convincing. I follow him out the door and down the street.
“So,” I finally get the nerve to ask, “why didn’t you say it? The Oath.”
“Why would I ever do that?” he snaps back, “admit my inferiority, bow down to pieces of human beings who care nothing for me, acquiesce to whatever they decide I’m capable of?”

I have never heard anyone speak this way.

We continue on until we arrive in front of a small house, Aiden’s. When we walk into the kitchen, his parents are sitting at the table drinking tea.

“They work night shifts, and their schedules get messed up. Probably won’t even realize we’re supposed to be in school,” he whispers.

They stand up and warmly introduce themselves as Amy and Bill. They get us some tea and start chatting. When I mention I play piano, she gasps.

“That’s wonderful! We just love music, don’t we?”

She runs over to the living room and sits at a piano. The second she touches a key, a little girl who looks to be about four runs over and sits next to her. Aiden and Bill join as well, and she begins to play a simple melody, something I could probably play with my feet. Then the rest of her family begins singing some song I’ve never heard, and it’s stunning. Aiden’s sister has a screechy little girl voice as she belts out the words. Aiden has a deep quiet voice, and Bill is mildly tone deaf. They are four of the happiest people I have ever seen.

Watching these people take joy in what they do, I realize my life has been a shallow existence. Do my parents really love me like that? Did they want a certain karyotype of child, or me? Aiden’s family love each other for who they are, and still would even if they had turned out differently. They can take joy in things instead of constantly striving to be the best in a world full of perfect.

Tomorrow in school, I will sit with Aiden rather than pledge allegiance to a flawed system that puts people down and makes us all pawns. Tomorrow, I take a new oath. To find true happiness, however it may manifest itself to me.

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