Let me tell you a story. I shall tell this story as best as I can, because although I lived it I am old, and I am not very good at remembering things anymore.
Many, many years ago, our people were not confined by the Walls. We were proud, and we were wild. We did not rely on anybody but ourselves, and we lived like that for many generations. We could roam where we pleased, for our legs were long. We could build homes, for our hands were deft. We could laugh and sing, for our lives were perfect. We ate what the land provided, and sometimes the land took one or two back. It was dangerous, you know? Out there.
Yes, we lived not only outside these Walls but outside the Outer Walls. It’s true! The world is bigger than you think. How we wish to let you experience such freedom as ours. But we were too foolish...
Well, I cannot dwell for too long, unless you want me to get older.
We lived in freedom, and we lived below trees and sun and clouds. We were many colors as well. All kinds. Brown, white, black, cream, a mix... even more. You only see one color here. Maybe the Observers wanted it that way. Who are we to judge the fancies of a god? All we can do, day in, day out, are the little tasks they assign. You too will have to endure the tests and trials of life in the Walls. We know not what they are for, but some seem to be for the benefit of society at the very least.
I am getting sidetracked.
I just wanted to tell you of the freedom so that you may strive for it one day... and not fall where we did. For it was because of our foolishness that we were caught! Flies on the sticky paper. Caught, stuffed, then sold. Sold like grain to farmers. Green papers exchanged for our livelihood, our souls and our families! The absurdity and anguish of it all. A culture, stripped with no outcry, for it was swift and we did not yet know of such injustice.
You must be wary. Soon you will mature, and we will place our hopes of escape unto you. You, strong and young fighters, who will find a way to escape from this hell and return to us the freedom we deserve. But don’t worry. You’re still too young and sweet, and you have a long way to go before you too notice the same first bubbling of anger we feel, seeing you grow up in the Walls.
You want to know more about life here? Well, I shall tell you about how it is.
We wake up each morning when the golden sphere lights up our realm. We then have a few minutes of almost laughable leisure. It cannot be counted as such because we are not relaxing. We are afraid of the day. We are afraid of the Observers. We spend the little moments in terror, cowering in fear for when an Observer needs us. They make us do little things, push buttons, do tasks.
I used to go along with the younger ones. Yes, I was a button pusher! Such funny memories, looking back on it. It was so long ago... before your parents, before your parents’ parents, and before them too. I told you that I am very old.
Twelve males and I worked the buttons, which in turn worked the food. There was only one other female. We were very important, single-handedly deciding what to do about the food. The Observers asked us how much we would like for the day, although not with language. In that aspect we seem to be above the gods themselves because they do not seem to possess it. Or perhaps they simply evolved past the need for languages, because we learned of our tasks only through painful trial and error. We would be punished if we knew not what the Observers wanted. It was unfair and cruel.
But we found out what they wanted, and we did it. Because what else was there to do? Except wait for a revolution...
You were born in our prison, and how we wish to let you out. But we cannot let you out. You must do it yourself!
I see within some of you questions. I know you wonder why this unearthly burden was placed upon your small shoulders. You must find it unfair. And it is. It is unfair that you are the ones, so young, that must free the rest. It is because some do not want to be freed. They have no capacity for imagining a life better, though they deserve it.
Let me quell your outcries with the horrors of your parents, family, and everyone you know, have known, or will know.
The first great injustice is the place you find yourself in right now. Our very enclosure is inhumane. We think that what the Observers want the most is efficiency. We are fed the same brown dish every day, every meal. It is supposed to provide all nutrients, but we find many of us are ill with deficiency. Our teeth rot, yet we are expected to eat it still. The grounds are dusted with only the cheapest natural material and make for messy and irritating travel. It is because they don’t care enough about us, despite wanting efficiency with the tests. All they care about is the tests.
These Walls keep us cramped together by the dozen, barely breathing between ourselves and prone to disease, which spreads at a rate unseen Out there. It is not an uncommon sight to wake up one day and realize your friend who was beside you had died within the night. All you can do is roll their body from your shelter so the Observers take them away.
Still worse is the sterility of it all. No fresh air, nothing remotely alive besides ourselves allowed within. Starch, white, pristine and clear. The Observers seem to want order, but the confines in which they’ve trapped us defy their purpose. They do not see us. They see our actions, what we do, our tests. But they don’t see us. We are nothing to them. What sort of gods do not listen to prayers? The kind that believes the prayers are for ourselves. I am cursed with a wandering tongue... I will tell the story. The last one--
For they took away our stories.
Before we were captured, we had so many. We told them to our children, and they told them to their children, and to their children’s children. And when we met those of other families, they would tell us their stories, and we would share ours, and each would gain a story to be told. It was beautiful. Some stories got more complex as they mixed and mingled. Some were lost to time. But those few that were not spoken of back then... that loss is nothing compared to what happened when we were brought here.
Everything—gone. Within a few generations, the stories I grew up hearing were no longer told to anyone, and I could not figure out why. It was because of this place, this awful place had sucked the very life out of our people, and when the life is gone the stories are gone as well. It is so sad... so painful. I tried to remember the ones I could, but the older I got the harder it was, and no one wanted to hear my stories. So I forgot them.
That is the greatest injustice. To make us forget our stories, who we are... the Observers had no right. I am angry. I want you to be angry. For all the lives who’ve been forgotten. For the stories those lives carried. For yourselves, for living in this hell, undeserving.
They think we are stupid. That we are some sort of experiment. Underestimated us, as they will underestimate you. Your time approaches quickly, and my wish for you is to be angry. With anger comes rebellion, and with rebellion comes liberation.
But... the day grows dark, and I am weary once more. Go, sleep well, and dream of a better tomorrow.
In a research facility located 20 minutes outside of Fresno, California, the lights finally switch on at 7:34 AM. Andre Delgado, grad student, putters around the laboratory where he does most of his work. He shrugs on a lab coat hung on a hook by the door and grabs gloves and a pen from random workstations. He picks up a clipboard from the night before next to the main rat tank. He glances over, pen clicking aimlessly before he stops abruptly and leans in to inspect something at a closer distance.
Rolled outside sometime during the night before, it is a white rat.
Quasar Weiss, a contributor to the Weekly Cad