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The Outside MAG
Cold Day the 7th – Morning-time:
My village lives only to survive. Our houses are small so that you can’t climb on top of them to see the Outside over the treetops. That is a dangerous place, and the Converted are there. No one has ever told me what it’s like.
My name is Wen. I have two parents, Mother and Father. We own a pet. It is a dog, and we call it Dog. My sister’s name is Susan. She likes to plant the wheat and tomatoes. I prefer greens. This difference between us is of the utmost interest to my parents. There aren’t many other things for them to talk about, I suppose.
Sometimes the people here write, like when we send letters to the Outside for supplies. Mostly drinking water and textiles. Last week, Mother ordered a black jacket; her old one had torn in the Hot Days. In these letters, no one uses their names, full sentences, or comments. Just numbers and the materials we need. “What else could be wanted?” I’m told by my Educators.
Recently, there has been quite a disruption. A boy has entered our village. One of the guards spotted him entering the Northside gate when it was opened for a delivery truck. He sneaked off into the underbrush before anyone could catch him. We are not trained nor prepared to handle intruders. I don’t remember having one before now. The job of the guards is to stop anyone from leaving, not coming in.
I have a secret. This is what I’ve been trying to get at, why I stole this notebook from the Learning Place an hour ago. I have something to say. And no one can know of it, except for you.
The boy is with me. There is a crawlspace under my house, and he sleeps there. He’s been telling me things. The first was that his name is Adam. Other things are not easy to talk about. I’d get in trouble if I said them aloud – well, more trouble. I shouldn’t have this notebook, and I shouldn’t be hiding Evils at my house. But I don’t think Adam is bad, just misunderstood. He helps me. He’s taught me how to write everything that’s here, so that I can “express,” as Adam puts it.
I decided to let the boy stay at my house because he said he used to live in the village, before he was Removed. At the Learning Place, we’re told about people like him. If you break any of the village’s rules, which are taught to every kid at four, the Judgers can vote to
force you into the Outside. The Removed
aren’t supposed to come back.
My mind has been playing tricks on me, lately. I feel like something has moved into my skull and decided to stay. It just won’t budge. To make things simple, I want to leave. I want to go to the Outside. In the Learning Place, we’re told that there are two ways to leave the village. Being Removed or being Converted. The second is nicer because the Converted leave by their own desire. See, the Judgers do not want anyone to live in the village if they do not like it. Anyone is allowed to become Converted. It just takes for you to go to the Justice House and talk to the First Judger and the rest of the Judgers, too. Then they let you go.
Cold Day the 7th – Night-time:
I’m ready to tell you more secrets. Adam wants me to be Converted. He said that he has watched me farming by the Southside gates, where there aren’t any Guards. He likes that I draw in the soil when I’m planting things. Adam wants to help me leave. But this is scary. I don’t want people to not like me anymore. Adam says this is silly because if I’m in the Outside, I won’t even know what people in the village think of me.
But I think I want to do it. The village is so simple. It doesn’t feel like living. I’m curious about the Outside, too. Adam says there are things called “flowers” there. Many are blue.
I have to tell my family at dinner in a few minutes. I’ve practiced a speech with Dog. He’s good at listening, but not at responding. I still like him, though.
With stronger fear,
Cold Day the 8th – Morning-time:
A lot has happened. I’ll start with how it began and slowly draw everything to where I am now.
I’ve told my family. There was milk in our glasses and fish on our plates. It did not smell. Adam says I need to be clearer by that sentence. What I mean is that the fish did not have a scent. Father took the news with silence. So did Mother. Susan, however, did say something. “What’s the Outside, Mother?” Neither of my parents replied. I left the table and went to bed. Behind me, I heard Father say, “What has happened?” Adam’s just told me that you use a separate paragraph for new speakers. My apologies.
When I was back in my bedroom, Adam told me that I didn’t need to worry. I could still go to the Justice House. After all, the Judgers were the ones who made the decision.
A little while later, Mother came in my room. “I do not think you should be Converted. You are too young to make such a big decision. The Outside is dangerous.” She sat down next to me. Looking back on it, I notice how different her face looked from Adam’s. Hers was … empty. There was nothing on it. Just the skin and the eyes and the hair. With Adam, I can tell what he’s thinking. Sometimes his eyes widen, or his brow scrunches up. And other times he’ll show his teeth by spreading his lips to the sides. Once, his cheeks turned red when I touched his hand in giving him a piece of bread. Somehow, those things tell me what he’s going to say. It’s peculiar, like it’s not real. But it is because I can feel it inside of me, his emotions.
That’s what Adam is telling me to call them: “emotions.” They’re in the Outside. Some are blue, just like there are some blue flowers. I like that.
I’m not done with the conversation I had with Mother. “I wish to make my own decisions,” I said to her. “It is what I want.”
Then she said, “I can stop you,”
and I said, “You cannot.” Then I began to cry, which is when your eyes form drops of salty water. Adam says I shouldn’t have split the sentence above with a new paragraph.
“How do you feel when your eyes make rain?” I asked Mother. But she didn’t know what I meant. Mother then stood and left the room without saying anything else. I turned to my window and said, “Adam?” He hopped into sight and kneeled at my feet. “I want to leave now. To go to the Justice House.” That’s what I said. So we left, then and there. The Justice House was open every hour of the day and night.
When we arrived at the building, I knocked on the doors. Adam hid in a tree. An alarm went off. Red lights, sirens. These meant someone wanted to come in. Two men walked out of the building and looked at me. They spoke into a strange, black device that wrapped on their left hand. The alarms stopped. “What do you want?” one asked.
“To leave. I want to be Converted.”
“Come in,” they said. All I can think about, looking back on it, is how plain their faces were. I followed them through the doorway and down a narrow hall. At the end was an iron door without any windows or holes in it. Inside was a large, circular room. Benches and tables were here.
A woman in white robes at the other side, behind a podium, said, “What is it you want?” So, I told her. “Come stand here. I will get the other Judgers.” She went away for a moment while I followed the direction. She was the First Judger. She was in charge.
When everyone came inside, they sat down and waited for me to speak. “I wish to be Converted. I want to go to the Outside.” That’s what I said to them.
“Why?” one of them asked.
“I do not like it here. It is very simple. And no one makes faces.”
“How do you know about such things?” another asked, and I could tell that the folds in his face meant he was angry. Adam had said the Judgers understood life more than everyone else in the village. He said they “lie” to the village people. I don’t know what that means because he didn’t explain. Right now he says he can explain later when I know more about life.
“I want to see what the Outside is like,” I said to the Judgers instead of answering the question.
“And do you know that it is dangerous?” the First Judger said. I nodded. “And do your parents approve?” I nodded again. I wasn’t telling the truth. “We will take a vote and–”
Her voice was cut off by the sound of the alarms. I was surprised – that’s the feeling I felt. Three Enforcers knocked on the iron door and stepped inside. “Come with us.” They said this to me. “Your parents wish to have you back.”
“I do not want to go back. I want to go to the Outside.”
“You cannot make a decision of which they are opposed until you are 15, or when your chest grows, or when a man has given you a baby.”
“I do not care.”
The First Judger said, “Listen to the Enforcers and leave. If you refuse to listen to us, and your parents, we will place you in Confinement.” I don’t want to write what happens there. This notebook should be nicer than that.
“I will come with you,” I said and followed them out of the building. I saw Adam in the tree branches above me on my right. He was pointing toward the gates, to the Outside. I thought for a moment. Then I ran. Adam jumped down from the trees and joined me.
“I will make my own decisions. No one will stop me,” I said.
The gates were very tall. I did not know how I could get through them. Adam took my hand and looked up at a few tree branches, swaying in the night’s wind. We nodded and began to climb, higher and higher. Enforcers were yelling below. Then we were over the height of the gates, so we jumped across and tumbled onto grass.
I expected the Enforcers to do something to us. But it was like they didn’t even know we had left.
“Just landscape,” I said. “So much of it.” That’s what was in front of me. Even now, I can’t describe it well. Not accurately. Adam says I can take some time to think of the right words. “Are there others? Do they have a town?” I asked him last night.
“No,” Adam said to me. “That is our goal, to stay uncivilized. We roam freely.”
I looked at him and felt my face contort into something outstanding. My lips spread apart and stretched. Then I cried, and my brain was tight, and a sound came from my throat like an Animal’s. “You are happy,” Adam told me.
I turned around to see the gate I’d crossed. No sounds came from the other side. And this did not bother me.
The sun is rising, now, after many hours in the dark. It is beautiful. That’s another word Adam taught me. He used it like this: “You are beautiful.” He said it means bright and lovely. He is saying it means more than that. He said that just now.
I think I am beautiful. I am also free, because I am in the Outside. Here, I can do more than farm and eat odorless fish. I can live.
I miss Dog, though. Adam says we may be able to go and get him some day. But for now, I’m experiencing the Outside. “Taking it in,” Adam is telling me. I am telling him that I will put this notebook down in a moment. I want to go and find the flowers. Adam says I will like them.