Me and Natalie were returning home from work. There were several bad-lighted blocks between us and my home. I took a deep sip of the fresh evening air:
‘I love the modern world’ - I exhaled. Natalie nodded with a smile:
‘Yes, I remember how last year I used to tremble with fear if only one light burned out’
‘Yup… add a creepy man shuffling behind you’
‘Oh, don’t remind me!’ – Natalie laughed.
‘Ok, bye now, my husband must miss me already’
‘Yeah, I wish I could get someone to miss me at home too’
‘Come on, aren’t there any males at your workplace?’
‘I work at a sewing factory – nada!’
‘Ah, well… try to talk to the Masters. They’ll surely help you! They’ve helped me when we couldn’t conceive a child, didn’t they?’
‘Could you please accompany me? Frankly, I’m still a bit terrified by them’
‘Sure! Silly’ – I giggled, - ‘Why would you be afraid of them? We’ve figured out long ago that they’re not eating humans!’
‘Yeah, but still… Ants that are bigger than Dobermans?’ – she shrugged.
I parted with her at the Town Hall entrance, and entered the ex-jewelry shop, transformed into a cozy two-room apartment over the last year.
‘Honey, I’m home. Are you there? Did our angels drive you crazy?’
‘Nah, but I’m still glad that tomorrow is my turn to go to work’
‘Me too’ – I admitted, hugging and kissing Mary and Dory, who delivered me their experienced during the long day with daddy into both ears.
We tucked them in, on their two-story bed, and lied down on the camp-cot in the dining room. Just in time before the lights went out. After the loud gong, all the lights were extinguished and the stars appeared in our large window.
‘I’ve missed the Milky Way’ – I admitted, sitting up on our bed and peeping out of the window.
‘Well, at least you went camping as a girl. Since I was born in a megalopolis – I’ve never met the Milky Way other than on photographs. At least now I have a chance to admire it properly.
‘That’s true. Just today we’ve discussed with my friend, how amazingly our world has changed in the last year.
‘I still can’t believe that they’ve reached these results in a single year. That’s what is happening if all the Humanity unites for the common good’
‘Well, it’s not exactly the Humanity working together… We’ve had some help after all. Who gave Humanity all these ideas, who united us, who is still watching everything realizing in the right order?’
‘Well, yes… Guess, we should be a bit ashamed. How bad were we doing if it was noticed even from outer space – by “aliens”?!’
‘You know, I remember all that sci-fi we used to love – how many books were written, how many movies were made about one thing – how terrible an alien invasion would be. And always, always the winners are some dirty rebels. I can imagine now that if I find out such underground tramps – I will spank every last one of them.’
‘Teheee, me too! Just thinking that a year ago I knew for sure that I can’t find a decent job without some strings, which I didn’t have. And now we have our own house, and we can get anything we need! One thought about mortgage made my bald spot grow’
‘I remember how we sat on our tiny kitchen, shuddering at our income\outcome table, trying to find a way to get out of a minus after paying for my father’s operation’
‘Gosh, I don’t want to recall that “free” hospital, “Have you got a polis?”’
‘That lazy goat!’ – I clenched my teeth at the memory of that long-nailed secretary with three layers of makeup on her stupid face!
‘There, honey. Let’s not concentrate on the bad memories. We both need a good night’s sleep.
‘Yes, yes, let’s go to sleep. And tomorrow you’ll invent a Perpetua mobile?’
‘Oh, I’ve explained to you so many times how impossible this is! But a hyper drive – quite possibly’
‘Listen, won’t you be disappointed that you won’t buy a yacht and an island for your invention?’
‘Nope. You have a sea-sickness, and I can’t swim’
We hugged and fell asleep.
‘But I’ll definitely ask the Masters for a private Castle,’ – he muttered in his sleep.
Another year passed by. Mary was helping me serve the delivered breakfast – I unpacked it while she placed the servings on the table, and I heard her humming a song.
‘Dearie, you have such a beautiful voice! How come I’ve never heard you singing before?’
She stopped singing abruptly:
‘Oops, I don’t sing in front of people. I don’t want this to be assigned as my main talent and be sent to a motivational radio… I want to become an engineer!’
‘Buy you’re not doing so… well… in Math’
‘Well, hire me a tutor then!’
‘How do you even remember such words? You know – if it doesn’t go – just let it be. Find something that you’re good at, and just develop it! That must be your talent. As the Masters say “Only unhappy people enjoy wasting their life on hardships”. My friend Natalie’s parents wanted her to become a Lawyer, but she dreamt of becoming a fashion designer, and you should see her sketches! If the Masters wouldn’t appear – she would keep fighting with her parents till this day, desperately trying to prove them that she is rightful of choosing her own destiny’
‘Well, I am rightful to choose too, and I want to be an engineer!’
‘Ok, honey. I’ll talk to your dad, he’ll pull you on Math.
I went to my workplace and wondered if my daughter was right. On one hand, she had the right of choice. Obviously. On the other – why would she choose something in which she has absolutely zero comprehension? And what’s so bad in the Motivational Radio anyway?..
I smiled to my colleagues, and walked to the farthest wall in the great well-lit hall to sit by the huge window. Shortly after I started working, I heard the six legs scratching the floor behind me, and turned around abruptly: the Master was peeping over my shoulder, lifting himself up on four legs, trying not to distract me:
‘You’re doing so great! Which era is this? Renaissance? Lovely. That was a good era, right?’
‘Yes. Right now I am painting the portraits of the most famous people of that time, and attaching the photographs of their creations’
‘Marvelous. And you’re sticking them in such perfectly straight lines, so compact and neat, good job.
He stepped down on his six legs and went away, looking at the other workers. I felt that he praised me exactly like I have praised Dory’s doodle yesterday. But still, I felt a wave of positivity and good mood, and continued working with an even merrier enthusiasm. In the great hall there sat several artists, just like me, but who’ve had different lives a couple of years ago. Some of them were drawing privately, never revealing their talent past the close circle of friends or relatives, some have had exhibitions in the prestigious galleries, some have completed orders for pennies. But all of us have had a more or less same amount of skill and ability, and now we worked together – we were creating a colorful edition of the History of Humanity. I’ve begged my Masters not to make me draw the wars, the famine, and the diseases – my hands always trembled when I dived into this horrible world, painted black and red – and they gladly agreed. So I drew the inventors and the Artists, the World Wonder and the simple everyday scenes of ancient cultures – before they were barbarically killed off by yet another conquerors and colonizers. I can’t wait till I get to the recent History and get to draw all these incredible buildings that the “ants” are drawing right now – these huge anthills with neon lighting, that are glowing like a huge Luna Park every night. Ha-ha, yet another gratefully forgotten pit into which many parents used to throw their money to grant their kids some happy memories. How great was the Masters’ idea to install slides on long staircases in hilly cities, and turning the skyscrapers’ elevators into educational and adventurous experience. Even Roller-coasters are easy to meet if you need to ride on a mechanical train from the skyscraper to the other part of town. And the most important part is – they are not only free, but are also time-saving. I remember struggling with the constant dilemma – should I take a vacation and lose my boss’s trust or even money, or should I leave my kids without a fun outing? Now the Masters are proposing to spend a day with a family every once in a while. Not on these ridiculous holidays, inflicted upon us by Religions or Politics, but when it is most needed by our family. Religion and Politics – how happy am I that these two words were erased from our vocabulary and left only in the History book I’m illustrating… I realized, that I got distracted, and got back to work with an inspired smile.
‘For how much longer, do you think, are the Masters staying here?’
‘I don’t know… I guess till the moment when we can support this cool state of symbiosis of humans with each other and the planet’
‘But how will they know that this moment has come, if they don’t ever leave us alone even for a second?’
‘When the new humanity will come of age?’ – Natalie burst in laughter, - ’18 years?’
‘Parents don’t leave their children forever when they hit 18! They are just letting them make their own mistakes’
‘You know, I must’ve used the wrong analogy. ‘Cause the Humanity existed for thousands of years. It made its own mistakes all around. Maybe, now we’re living in a… correctional facility? Then what if we have a life sentence?!’
I smiled. I liked this world. Despite the natural fear before the unknown, a feeling I have shared with the rest of humanity, when I saw on my doorstep an ant the size of a large dog, that started pushing me in a line of my shocked neighbors, half of them still in their slippers… When they spoke on our language, and put a rope with a token on our necks, like we used to put on cows, and forced us to turn our cities into living quarters, and then building fabrics and factories behind the town lines – new ones, so unlike ours (that we had to demolish) – they wouldn’t pollute the surroundings, they wouldn’t suck the Earth’s resources for plastic plates, they didn’t create smoke or dust so dangerous for our lungs, and there were literally no more workplace accidents. Because they’ve softened since then, and started choosing people gently and attentively, listing their skills, talents, and interests, and gave them interesting tasks. They sorted out all the violent alcoholics and other hopeless addicts, pedophiles, killers and maniacs – and drove them away. Who knows, maybe they’ve turned them into meat, or gave them some hard labor – none of us really cared, because deep down, each of us has wished that every monster that has crippled a child or raped a woman would be hanged up a tree by his guilty organ.
And finally there was Peace. Not the Soviet Union through the eyes of conservatives – better! Not the Democracy, not a Golden Age. Just a global harmony and happiness. The word Tolerance was forgotten because people stopped paying attention to others’ skin colors and sexual orientation. Religions were finally proclaimed a global Scam and a money sucking company (big news), and were banned. But no, not really banned – not driven to the underground and left for the elite – just proven useless. The Masters have simply demonstrated that it doesn’t need them. That you may trust each other and not fear death for free, and that the God, the Universe or the Destiny (whatever helps the man fall asleep during a stormy night) – are listening and understanding us when we deserve it and not when we enter a specialized construction and listen to preaches from a man who considers himself much smarter than any of us, though, frankly, I still don’t get how he didn’t end up in a nuthouse after the words “God has told me”. Many see the Masters as teachers, parents, mages, rulers, messiahs. And I agree with them. Each of us, when gets a free medicine, without fearing those old myths about the pharmaceutical companies creating them in a special way to treat one illness, but then make us even sicker and drive in more customers. And without fearing the police’s lawlessness, because it just ceased to exist. Strong and responsible people can help me carry the heavy bags or stop a heated argument on a sidewalk, or carry a girl that fell off a carousel to a hospital.
‘Listen, you’ve become more fit and strong lately, good job,’ – I told my husband at dinner.
‘Well, I’ve been walking to my workplace for the last 5 years. When was the last time you saw an obese man anyway?’
‘Not sooner than a homeless person,’ – I laughed.
Our daughters returned from the playground, quite tired and happy.
‘Well, did you grant electricity to the whole neighborhood yet?’
‘Definitely! We competed with the boys about who could turn the dynamo-carousel faster, and when I started pushing Dory, the lights above the playground became so bright, I thought they’d burn out!’
‘Ok then, come on, dine with us, the food was delivered long ago’
‘Well, everyone who’s not working in the culinary industry. Why would every family keep a refrigerator, a stove and many other kitchen appliances, when not every housewife is using a mixer more frequently than once a year, but it was created from plastic and metals, people were working on a toxic factory day and night for pennies, constructing it. And I’m not even mentioning the waste of electricity and gas on cooking. And what if I have chosen the wrong or low quality ingredients because I believed the advertisement and bought a completely unhealthy product, what if I screw up the meal? All these expenses will find themselves in the garbage bin. And do you know where the garbage used to go, and how it used to harm our planet on a daily basis?
‘And I haven’t even mentioned those common families where both of the parents had to work, and then they would just order something unhealthy and expensive, that was often cooked using old and cheap ingredients without concerning with health standards, and this used to lead to obesity problems, and heart and other problems over the years!
‘I see,’ – Dory said, who ate the whole plate of broccoli and yam soup while listening to our speechmaking.
Another ten years have passed. Or fifteen… I don’t remember.
My husband has returned from work, and I noticed a strange facial expression on his tired face, that I started to see in the evenings, and it seemed like he was too tired to conceal it any longer. This dull gaze of a person, chained and choked into invisible boundaries.
‘Honey, what happened?’
‘Nothing,’ – he replied, massaging his graying temples.
‘How are you doing at work? Have you invented the hyper-drive yet?’ – I joked, trying to lighten up the mood.
‘Remember that conversation we had several years ago, when I promised to invent it “tomorrow”?’
‘Sure, but I thought you were just being facetious.’
‘No. I did. Then. Tomorrow. Several years ago.’
‘Well? And what? You haven’t told me?! Did it not work? Was it unstable and dangerous?’
‘No. The Masters… Our beloved teachers… They said… Yes, I remember it vividly to this day. Two of them came up to me, seated me on a sofa, and said: “But you do understand, that Humanity is not ready to leave the Earthy nest. So for now this toy will rest on a top shelf”.’
‘Yeah, they often talk to us like to children, it’s funny’ – I smiled.
‘Funny?! FUNNY?! Who are you anyway?! Are you my wife of a zombie??? Twenty years ago, in 2018, I’ve invented a technology that would send us to the farthest starts. Our Humanity was looking at them since the dawn of civilization!---‘
‘Yeah, I once drew that very illustration.’
‘--- and here I am, ME! I gave them this opportunity, but some oversized ants yanked my chance to enter History away from me. You won’t draw my portrait. You won’t sketch landscapes of a different planet. Our daughters won’t become the hero’s children. I am an inventor – yes, this is my profession. This is what my intellect and skills allow me to be. But I am forbidden from inventing. Because an anti-matter generator in the wrong hands may bring to a catastrophe. And a water and oxygen generator if used wrong may ruin the natural Earth’s balance, or completely destroy and alien planet’
‘Have you invented all that?’ – I whispered, - ‘in merely two decades? Alone?’
‘No, not alone. I work in a laboratory containing the Humanity’s masterminds. Together we were able to realize all the incredible ideas proposed by science-fiction writers, that me and you loved to discuss when we were young’
I frowned. I should’ve probably cried, but I didn’t succeed in that. But my teeth chattered and my hands trembled. And a single very loud thought materialized in my mind “I shall lead the rebellion”.