Ordinary World

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It was here in the work centers that existence was the most difficult. The sound of the machines never stopped. The thunderous motors rumbled and roared while the conveyer belts slithered in between the multi-leveled maze of catwalks and staircases. The burning flames that escaped from the huge furnaces reached up into the air like orange hands, the heat would rise to the roof and then, unable to escape would push its way back down to the floors below. But the machines felt and heard nothing; like great metal gods they had stood unmovable and all powerful even before the beginning of time itself.They were the black heart that pumped life into the empire. Day after day they continued to produce more death, and with each new shift the thick black smoke rose into the dirty sky smothering the surface below and blotting out the noon day sun. But how long had it been? When did the world change? Most of the old ones had been removed and those who were approaching "the change" feared the punishment of any such memories. The old ones were the new scourge, the new scapegoats. They were the only bridge to the past. The bridges would be burned for there was nothing before the great war, and yet there was nothing now.

The young ones moved like a thousand ants. With blistered hands and broken backs they toiled at the feet of the mechanical gods. Feverishly working they had little time to think, quotas must be met. The thousand years had just begun and the ordinary world no longer existed. History had repeated itself. The darkness that makes man evil had escaped, set loose again. The reflection had crossed over and had now become reality. All that had been perceived as good was now trapped on the other side of the looking glass. The ordinary world was gone.

Malachi awoke to the sound of the sirens. Another day would begin. It never changed, each day was the same as the one before it. But in these waking moments, these few seconds when dreams linger, he would be conscious, he would feel. Each morning he would try as hard as he could to fight the force that pulled his dreams back. But it would have been easier to hold back the tide. The dreams would fade just as he would hear the second siren. 

Washing himself at the wall sink in his cell, he stopped and stared at his young face in the broken mirror before him. He did not know his age. The hair on his face had not begun to grow yet, but "the change" could happen any time. For some it was sooner, for others it took much longer. But it was the first sign that they looked for, it was the beginning. Malachi raised his wet hand and slowly felt his chin, he brought up his other hand and carefully moved it against the cheek of his smooth face. Just then the door swung open and the escorts entered the room followed by their lieutenant. As was demanded, Malachi bowed his head and stared down at the floor. He waited for what seemed like forever before the lieutenant spoke at him.

"Worker 30591, you are to be assigned new duties this week," he spoke swiftly "yourself and a group of young ones will be responsible for the preparations at the Garden." Malachi had heard of the Garden. It was a great arena where the empire held its celebrations. He listened with excitement since anything was better then the inferno of the factories. The lieutenant, sensing Malachi's happiness was quick to destroy it.
"You are now part of a workforce who will make the Garden ready for the millennium celebration. It is the 60th anniversary of our victory in the great war. You will witness the splendor of our new world.The year 2000 marks the beginning of our
thousand-year destiny."

The brakes screeched as the transport vehicle pulled to a stop, the engine continuing to run. The young ones were crowded together in the back and the ride had been long and uncomfortable. They had ridden in darkness as there were no windows. When the escort opened the large door the sunlight was so bright, Malachi raised his hands to shield his squinting eyes.As the group began to exit one at a time, their leg irons scraped on the metal floor. There was no talking and they all bowed their heads daring not to look about, but at the same time imagining what was all around them. A black haired boy in front of Malachi could not stop himself, and he quickly looked up to the sky and from side to side. At almost the very same instant a heavy plastic riot club cracked the back of his head. His body jerked in pain and he fell lifeless to the ground at the same time dragging Malachi down with him. Instinctively Malachi closed his eyes so as not to receive the same punishment. The black haired boy was removed from th group and no one saw him ever again.

The young ones were led through the giant doors and into the Garden. Malachi could sense its incredible size. He remembered one of the old ones telling him that it could hold thousands of people. He wondered what a celebration was like. He had no concept, nothing to help him understand, no memories, no past. He dared not look around, not yet anyway. For just a moment something felt familiar. It was like the feeling he had in his cell each morning, but he was standing here now, on a bridge to the past. With all his might he struggled to keep from raising his head. Just as hard as he had fought to hold onto those dreams in the waking hour, he now, with all his strength pushed them away. 

They had worked almost as hard at the Garden as they would have at the factory. But still, for Malachi the week had passed all too quickly. The day of the millennium had arrived, all the preparations were now complete. He sat with the rest of them in the food detention area. Their meal was interrupted by a transmission that ironically came over television monitors located in the corners of the room. None of the young ones dared to look up from their plates. It was another cruel assertion of total dominance.
"Attention young ones," it began "your work has been completed without incident. It has been decided that you will be present at this evening's millennium celebration. And so you may better comprehend the futility of your existence you will bear witness to the splendor and glory of the empire. The year 2000 marks the beginning of the new world. Tonight for the first time you will raise your heads and see the vision of a thousand futures."

The sound in the Garden was ten times louder than any factory. Malachi had never heard so many human voices at once in his entire short life. He sat in the first few rows with the others, their heads still bowed in submission. They would be told when to look up. Just then Malachi heard a new sound. It wasn't like the shouting and cheering, no this was not a human voice. But it did remind him of a sound one of the old ones used to make with his mouth. He would make his lips form a small hole and then he would blow air through it. But this was different, it was so loud and full. This was a celebration! The lights dimmed in the Garden and a great chorus of shouts and cheers arouse from the darkness. The music began again. The escorts sitting with the young ones signaled them to raise their heads. Malachi looked up for the first time since that day in his cell.

The hall was bigger than he could have ever imagined. Thousands of screaming people were all around them. It seemed as though the seats rose up forever. In front of them was a great stage. Standing on it were hundreds of men. They wore black uniforms decorated with ribbons and medals. They stood tall in their shiny black boots and high browed hats. They were saluting the crowd and at the same time saying something that Malachi could not understand. He had heard the escorts say it at the factory but had never seen the salute that they did at the same time. He watched them now as they extended their arms directly in front of their bodies in a quick jerking motion. 

The drums and horns sounded the call, and as if to answer the huge banners behind the stage were now hoisted slowly to the rafters. The tens of  thousands in the hall cheered and screamed, and while the giant red and black flags were being raised, a host of escorts carrying smaller banners on poles, paraded through the entrance and marched up onto the stage. Malachi noticed that with exception of some minor variations all the banners had the same symbol on them. He had seen it before on the arm bands worn by the escorts and the lieutenant. It looked like a cross that was tilted off center, and at each of the ends was a perpendicular line. It wasblack on a red circle. Here, in the Garden the symbol
was everywhere. He tried to remember what it was called, but the name eluded him. As the people cheered, the escorts signaled the young ones to again bow their heads. They had seen enough. They had seen a vision of a thousand futures. Then it came to him. Malachi remembered. This thing on the flags and banners, this twsted cross, this symbol of the new world was called a swastika.
Ordinary World - Daniel Byerly  © 1995

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