When he was born, he filled his lungs and tasted the sharp, sweet air of life. He was called the Woken, and he was given a number.
He was meant to be cold, hard, fast. He was bred to kill. To slaughter with both eyes open, steady fingers gripping at cool, merciless steel.
He was Woken to destroy.
He is destined to die.
They are more animal than man, this soldier and his unit. They act on command. They breathe for a purpose. In and out, the thudding organs beneath their bones exist only to pump blood through their veins. Behind their eyes, there is nothing but black, interminable instinct. There is no room for fear. There is no hidden corner for remorse to blossom, shivering and uncertain.
He is not supposed to think like this, he is told. Thinking is forbidden. All forms of reflection are prohibited. They sleep, they wake, they kill. That is all that is written in their creed. That is all that they were made to do.
And yet last night he stared down at the blood on his hands—red and shining and wet—and his fingers trembled.
Miriam says it wasn’t always like this. She tells me that the world was different once—that the sun was dimmer and the ocean was deeper and the gnarled trees that grow in the greenhouse put their knotted roots down deep into the cracked and bleeding earth outside the walls. She says that, in spite of what we’ve been told, the seven sins of mankind aren’t what killed the world. It was much more black and white than that. It was the government. It was war. Needless, endless war.
It’s treason, the things Miriam says. It’s against the rules to speak out against the Second Life that was given to us in the Revival. But her mind is slipping with age. Her memory twists and turns down hidden pathways, opening doors that were meant to stay locked. She says things she doesn’t mean—things she can’t possibly understand.
I can’t let myself believe what Miriam tells me. I can’t afford to think that things were ever better than they are now. I think they were worse, once upon a time. I know that things were much, much worse in the world before than they are now. There’s proof of the damage done everywhere I look—proof of the deep scars that the seven misbehaviors of man left upon this earth.
And yet, somewhere deep within me, I believe every word of what she is saying. I believe that the secrets and the lies go deeper than I can possibly imagine.
I believe that there is more to my world than meets the eye.
I believe, but I won’t say a word. To speak out—to ask questions—could mean a fate worse than death.
And I desperately want to live.