Building № 6

The Remains had been there as long as anyone I knew could remember. How could people have live with so little efficiency or uniformity? At one time, I found it astonishing that there wasn't utter chaos. Everyone was so… different. The very idea used to make me shudder.

ΦR79 suggested that we go and explore the remains, in order to learn more about the nature of the past. It was Recreation Time for Building № 6 at the House for Houseless Minors, the specific residence for the terminally Unclaimed. We didn't have names. Names were for Claimed citizens. I was ΩM51.

Headmistress wasn't aware that we were going to The Remains, so we had to be very secretive. If she did know, she would probably report us to our Settlement's Leaders, because visiting the ruins of the abandoned city was strictly forbidden. I think I learned in Antiquities Class that the place was once called Columbius or something like that. The tall, crumbling buildings were visible from Settlement 77, and it was the largest surviving remnant of the Century of Revision in the entire Erie Colony.

As we walked on the paved streets, the six of us were clearly impressed. "Everything is so… large," ΔA16 said. At nine years old, she was the youngest of our group. ΣS20 is the oldest. He was seventeen at the time. I was fifteen. If we are still Unclaimed by our eighteenth birthday, we will be sent to the Colonial Work Force. All of the Unclaimed children face this possibility.

The rusting metal towered above us. Nothing in Settlement 77 was this tall. I could tell ΠG13, who was a year younger than me, was somewhat afraid of the daunting structures. ΣS20 sensed her wariness, and he walked to her side, visibly easing her concerns.

I had a sudden idea. "Let's make up a game," I said. "Someone must have made those number games they have at Building № 6. We can invent our own."

"What should we do then?" asked ΘR79 asked. "We've never made anything new before. Making new things is a job that belongs to the Claimed."

ΦJ72 blurted out, "I've made something new before. Only once though." His interjection was unexpected. He was the quietest member of our small group, and he had actually invented something. The very idea was intriguing. "I made a little cart out of a matchbox and some spare buttons from the workshop. I was scared that Headmistress might find it though, so I destroyed it."

All six of us were skilled with small things, and we all had nimble fingers. We spent our allotted Production Time in the textile workroom, fixing the Leaders' garments. Machines sewed civilian clothing, but we repaired important people's items. We were The Fixers, and patching up clothes was our only real purpose.

I was in charge of the fine stitching. I would sew our authorities' titles onto pockets or do the miniscule repairs of small rips. I used graphite-tone thread, like all of us did. The Leaders' motto was 'Happiness is Uniformity.' Graphite is very uniform, so the Leaders must have been very happy.

"Do you have any ideas?" ΘR79 asked. I realized then that I actually didn't know what new things we could make.

"We could go into one of those buildings," ΔA16 offered.

We all turned to ΣS20, to determine if he approved of her proposition. ΣS20 tended to regulate our group's decisions. He thought for a few seconds, and then nodded.

"Just be sure to pay attention to the time," he stated. "We would be punished for arriving late back at the House.

I saw a building with the word 'library' on the wall facing the street. I knew that word from Antiquities class, where we were taught that there were once large collections of books. We all knew how to read and write, but none of the Unclaimed citizens were allowed to own real books. I was thoroughly intrigued.

"What about that place?" I ask. "It looks interesting."

ΘR79 was shocked by my suggestion. "But that's a library," he responded.
We're not permitted to read any of the books."

"But who is ever going to know?" ΦJ42 asked. "It's not like any of us are actually going to inform Headmistress that we were ever here. We're the Fixers, and we stand together, right?" I approved more of that eleven-year-old in that moment than ever before.

ΣS20 nodded in agreement. "He's absolutely correct. Our knowledge of The Remains will stay strictly confidential, for all of our well-being."

ΦJ42 led the way up the marble steps and through the decrepit doors. With each step, I remembered the sameness of the House and of Settlement 77 in general. ΔA16 grabbed ΣS20's hand, and the six of us entered the library.

The interior of the library was massive. Seven floors were filled with rows and rows of books, each aisle labeled according to category. I recognized some of them, like science and mathematics, but some words I didn't know. Art. Music. Entertainment. Fiction. What were those? I had no clue.

"There is nothing like this in Settlement 77," said ΠG13.

"Yeah," ΣS20 breathed.

ΠG13, ΣS20, and ΘR79 walked together to the mathematics and sciences section. ΦJ42, ΔA16, and I wandered to the mysterious unknown. Fiction sounded appealing to me. As I strolled through the aisles, I ran my fingers over the edges of the books. There were so many titles and so many names. I was amazed, an emotion I had never genuinely felt before.

I picked up a book that looked interesting. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. On the back, I saw the words 'novel' and 'literature'. I didn't know the meaning of these words either. They told us at The House that we were taught everything we would ever need to know. What were we learning now then?

The thought never occurred to me that someone might write down something that didn't happen. What is the point? I thought. Taking that much time couldn't be efficient, and it definitely wasn't uniform. What changed between then and now?

"ΩM51! Come here!" The call was from ΔA16. She and ΦJ42 were staring at a large rectangle placed on the wall. It was a bright image, with colors in a combination that I had never seen before. My companions appeared to be equally as perplexed as I was.

"Do you know what that is?" I asked. "It's so strange."

ΦJ42 shrugged. "I'm not sure. I think it's something called 'Art'. From what it says on this little sign, it was made by a man called Jackson Pollock. I think it's mesmerizing."

"I just want to know why all of this exists," said ΔA16. "I think I learned once that the subject Antiquities used to be called history. I'm going to go read about that."

"I'll come with you," I said to the girl.

ΦJ42 looked up from the book he was examining. "I'm going to stay here and learn more about art. I'm positive that ΩM51 will take care of you just fine. Make sure he remembers the time, though."

ΔA16 and I quickly walked to the history section. I browsed the shelves, searching for the first mention of the word 'art'. When I found the subject, I grabbed the first book I saw. Art and Dissent During the Century of Revision. I turned to the first page and began to read the introduction.

"During the Century of Revision (2020-2120) rapid changes occurred in the world of art. While the government encouraged and enforced an emphasis on math and science, subjects such as art and music were thrust into the background. Artists soon became an endangered species. No longer was creativity supported in the classroom or given any amount of value in the media. In 2082, the persecution and suppression began because, in the government's eyes, artists were unproductive and inefficient members of society whose only goal was to deplete national resources. Artists' supplies were banned, fine arts schools were shut down, and funding for all imaginative works and initiatives were terminated. Many artists fled to the rainforests of South America, where they, presumably, continue to live in peace. Ten years after the mass Central Park Artist Suicides of 2110, the government, which had now been divided into ten colonies as opposed to fifty states, declared the past hundred years the 'Century of Revision'. Art was now extinct, and artists were nowhere to be found."

After reading the awful excerpt, I felt true anger toward the House, Settlement 77, The Leaders, Erie Colony, and the entire Confederation of Colonies. These people eliminated an entire community of people. I slammed the book shut and handed it to ΔA16.

"Read this," I said.

I looked through the maze of books, the countless full shelves of information. What else had we been lied to about? What could we actually accept as true?

I waited for ΔA16's reaction to the words she was reading.

"This is terrible," she said. "I've had never even heard of art before today, but I can't imagine destroying it."

"I know."

ΔA16 checked her regulation-grade watch. "It's been around forty-five minutes," she stated. "We should probably meet with the others now, so that we aren't late."

After gathering near the entrance of the library, all six of us were surprised by the knowledge that surrounded us. ΣS20 was the first to speak.

"There is so much to find in this place."

ΠG13 was extremely animated. "Did you know that before the Century of Revision, people used the sun and the wind to power things? It's practically incomprehensible!"

"They were able to find the slope of a parabola."ΘR79 said. "I can't figure out why we can't do that anymore."

ΣS20 seemed the most affected by the new information. "They were able to talk to people thousands of miles away."

These facts seemed impossible. Why did this technology disappear? I thought of the book I had just read. Maybe after all of the artists had gone, nobody had good new ideas. It seemed like a reasonable conjecture.

"We learned about art," ΔA16 said. "There's nothing like it."

"Art?" asked ΠG13. "What is that?"

ΦJ72 sighed. "It's the most wonderful thing I've ever encountered. I can't explain it. You'll have to see it for yourself."

ΣS20 interrupted, saying "We'll have to look at this later. Leisure Time is almost over."

We walked back to the House in relative silence, the towers of Columbus, Ohio looming over us. The steel was no longer what frightened me. What frightened me was that until that moment, I had never once experienced fear.

We never discussed our trip when we returned to Building № 6. It would not have been easy to hide our discussion from Headmistress if we had. We went back to the Remains around three weeks later. This time, it was ΣS20 who suggested visiting the library again.

When we arrived, ΦJ42 excitedly hurried to show the others the art he had discovered. I went directly to the history section. I wanted to discover the entire truth.

One specific title caught my eye. The Unclaimed. I pulled the book off of the rack and read the first few sentences on the back cover.

"The Unclaimed citizens are the offspring of dissenters against The Confederation. They were born of the most heinous form of rebel – the artist. Most of the parents of the Unclaimed have fled the nation, moving to primitive camps in the wilderness. The children are separated from the superior Claimed children so as to prevent the abominable effusion of hereditary revolutionary tendencies.

We were unwanted, because of our parents' decisions. I ran downstairs to my fellow Unclaimed companions to share the appalling facts. When I arrived downstairs, the group was gathered around the Jackson Pollock painting.

ΣS30 was the first to speak when I returned from the History aisle. "This art we've uncovered is astounding. Where has it all gone?"

"The Confederation got rid of it, as well . There is none left in Settlement 77," I replied.

ΦJ42 looked as if his world had fallen and crashed into thousands of miniscule pieces. "Why would they do that? Did they have a reason?"

"Because they could, I suppose. I read all about it on our last trip here." I sounded more bitter and angry than ever. "And look at this! This is why we're Unclaimed! It's all right there. Just read it."

The four younger Unclaimed children stood behind the seventeen-year-old's shoulder, trying to read the secrets of our mistreatment. I could almost see their thought processes churn as they learned of the truth of the Unclaimed, as well as the reason for Building № 6's existence.

ΘR79 asked, "What do we do now? Continue to keep quiet? That's the safest course of action I can think of."

"No. We'll give ourselves what we deserve,"ΣS20 said with bold authority. "We'll give ourselves names."

We were surprised by his answer. We had already broken so many rules and policies by even visiting The Remain and reading books. Acquiring names for ourselves was unthinkable; we had only just learned that sedition was even possible. I wasn't exactly sure if I knew how to use a name.

"Is that safe?" ΠG13 asked.

"Nothing is safe," ΣS20 said in reply. "It's true. Fixing clothes is unsafe. What if you swallowed that needle that you always suck on? You could die. Safety is really only a measure of desires compared with risk, and I desire a name more than I care about the rules.

"I'll do it," stated ΔA16. "I want a name."

"I'll join you," I said. "And I'm almost positive ΦJ42 will as well." He nodded in agreement.

ΣS20 appeared comforted and encouraged by our support. "Does anyone oppose naming ourselves?" None of us showed any signs of disagreement. "Then it's settled. From this point on, we are all named."

At first, none of us were quite sure about which names we should actually have. Nobody in Building № 6 had a name, and we only knew our strict overseer as 'Headmistress'. Finally, we came to the conclusion that we would create our own new names, based off of words we had found in the library.

We learned a few first names from the fiction section. Apparently, people used to have two, even three, names. We searched throughout the library, book by book, to find the perfect names.

ΘR79 chose first. Carson Idgens. We changed the spellings of the words we found so that we were no longer just items. I chose Paul Lygons, ΣS20 became Sam Pulls, and ΦJ42 decided upon Marc Edding. The girls took longer to name themselves. In the end, ΔA16 became Carrie Okie, and ΠG13 was Anna Lissus. We were the only named Unclaimed children alive.

Being named was liberating. I found myself changing in every facet of my life. I was speaking with a different attitude and thinking in new ways. There was more color in my world and more things that I could describe. I felt self-worth for the first time, and I resented The Leaders. We all had to worry of acting out, of being rebellious. It was difficult, but I somehow managed to stay quiet. As Marc said before we named ourselves, we're The Fixers, and we stick together.

It's been two years since that day at the library. We returned once every week or so, trying to learn as much as we could. Marc began to paint, a skill that he was surprisingly good at. Carson studied mathematics, and a subject called physics was particularly enthralling to Anna. Carrie found history to fascinating. She loved to look at images of clothing, things called 'bell-bottoms' and 'flip-flops'. I was drawn to fiction. I could have spent hours at a time reading stories of the times before the Century of Revision.

Marc found a book with no words printed in it one day. He gave it to me, saying, "I thought you could write in it. Stories, you know." For about a year, the pages remained blank. I didn't want to put anything in it because I didn't know what to write. This is only my fourth entry in the entire book.

Sam Pulls had to leave us five months after our second trip to The Remains. When we woke up on the morning of his eighteenth birthday, he had disappeared. It was obvious where he had gone – the Colonial Labor Force. We don't know how he's doing or what shape he's in. Nobody ever comes back.

I am seventeen now, and I am thoroughly terrified. I don't want to go to work, and I don't want to leave my friends. Before I learned the truth, I never even questioned what my role in Settlement 77 was. I was Unclaimed, and I was a worker. I know that now, I am more. I am a writer, and I am my own person. Maybe I will flee to an artists' settlement before my birthday arrives. I do not know what my future will be. For now, though, Building № 6 is all I am allowed to know.


Please Review... Foreverforpeace loves you!