Title: The First To Be Unnumbered (Part 3 of 3)
Author: Mish Gajewski
Rating: PG-13 (violence)
Genre: Dystopian, sci-fi, romance
Summary: Iseult was the first to be unnumbered- but she will not be the last.
The nightspace no longer smells of wind and wheat and earth, but it smells of metal.
I must now admit to knowing that Iseult is gone forever, and I will no longer live happily. The Kings discovered we went into the nightspace, they have found Iseult and taken her, and now they watch us dayworkers so we do not go out again. I can no longer live happily, this I now know in truth. I would choose happiness over this open feeling full of nothing, but it is not a choice for me to make. I can no longer live happily without Iseult. This is not a choice.
This life offers no choices.
It was three moons and seventeen suns ago that I met two-zero-six-zero in the wheat and she told me of one-three-zero-eight. This is the first time the nightspace has not smelled of metal. I hope this means two-zero-six-zero will sleep in peace. I did not enjoy one-three-zero-eight, but I know the mother who will be the one-mother of my children did. Therefore I am sad one-three-zero-eight is gone. I believe I will always be sad because of this.
I hope that two-zero-six-zero will sleep in peace tonight, but I do not believe she will. The nightspace does not reek of metal, but the wheat will still be silent come the morning.
Tonight, the there is no metal in the wind, so tonight I must reenter the wheat. I must return to the last time and place I saw Iseult. I have not said her name aloud in three moons and more. I must enter the wheat and scream her name. I want her back. I need her back. In the dayworking I see my people digging, picking, planting, working and I do not see happiness. They are as silent as the wheat without the wind. The dayworking is hopeless, and I do not want to continue any longer, but what am I if I am not a dayworker?
I asked my one-father this question. He looked at me, his eyes sad and blue, and he kept his silence. I want to ask Iseult, she is the only other who may answer me now. But she is gone. Who is there to ask now?
I remind myself what Iseult told me once, that I have something that will last forever, that I have my name.
You are Geretraud. The Kings might say you are a number, but you will still be Geretraud, even when someone says ‘two-zero-six-zero’ and you turn around: you will still be Geretraud.
I do not want to be anyone else but Geretraud, but I would like to be Geretraud with Iseult.
Tonight, since there is not metal in the wind, I will reenter the wheat, and I will call for Iseult.
I crawl out of my window. This crawling is very easy since my window is only the height of my knee. Inside me, I am speaking to something. I do not know to what I speak. But it is like begging. I am repeating one word, but inside I know I am speaking something much more. Iseult… Iseult… Iseult…
I feel as if thinking her name brings her closer. I hope this is true, but I cannot say that I believe it. I am in the wheat now, and since it is near the time of harvest the wheat scratches me. I remember where Iseult and I went to three moons ago, because the light in the sky shows me. When I reach this spot, I lie down and stare upward. I breathe in and I breathe out, and I hear only my breaths. The wheat, multiplying on all sides of me, breathes too, and it breathes lonely. I am missing Iseult greatly, so I shout her name. The wind takes a moment to pause so I might not think it is answering me. There is nothing all around me. So I begin to cry again.
Time passes and I begin to hear footfalls approaching. I do not care. I lay still, as I had lain before next to Iseult seeing the fullness of the nightspace for the first time, and I shout for Iseult once more. The footsteps grow faster and louder. They stop and I close my eyes, for I do not want to see my tongue being eaten. I open my mouth wide.
Two-zero-six-zero, you must not shout.
It is eight-zero-one-nine. I know that by his voice. I do not open my eyes.
I must. I cannot eat my own tongue, and I no longer want it in my mouth.
You do. You are sad now. But someday you will want your tongue.
I will not.
I want you to have your tongue, two-zero-six-zero.
Then I am glad it is my tongue, and not yours. Go, eight-zero-one-nine, for I will shout again and I do not want to bear your death as well. Go, now.
I will not leave this field without you.
Then you will not leave this field.
I know that you are sad. I feel that sadness in myself, for you. But, two-zero-six-zero, if you are gone tomorrow, I will follow you and shout your name into the wind until my tongue is eaten. I will do this.
Two-zero-six-zero had no tongue. Geretraud ate it and made it hers. Now Geretraud will use it as she likes, until she will not like to use it any longer.
What is Geretraud?
I am Geretraud.
You are two-zero-six-zero.
I was. I am Geretraud now. That is my name. I will be Geretraud forever, even if you call me two-zero-six-zero and I turn to you and answer. Even then, I am Geretraud.
Then, Geretraud, come with me and tell me why you are not two-zero-six-zero. I will listen inside my home. Come.
Not without you, Geretraud.
Then the Kings will be full of tongues tonight.
I open my eyes, see eight-zero-one-nine’s face above mine, full of trouble. I did not wish for him to be here. I am sad that he may be hurt as well, but I cannot last any longer. I will end this in this last nightspace. I take in a deep breath, prepare to shout for Iseult once more, and I see his fist begin to move. I am already screaming as eight-zero-one-nine’s hand collides with my head and the nightspace goes truly black.
I do not know if I finished her name.
In the last nightspace, I used my hands for something that was not dayworking. I have never done such a thing before, save eating and dressing. I used my hands for the forbidden violence. The Kings kill immediately those who use their hands for violence. They do not suffer it, so they say at the Gathering. But I had to. I hit two-zero-six-zero with my fist so she might fall asleep and be quiet. The wind was starting to stink of metal, and I feared she would be found. I could not make her quiet any other way. I did it without thinking, and was relieved when I looked down and she was asleep. I carried her so fast back home through the wheat. I had never been so scared, and I had never been so fast, even with the weight of her body in my arms. The wind had started to scream as I ran, finishing the shout I stopped two-zero-six-zero from making. I thanked the wind, because the wheat I rushed by made sounds which only blended into the sound of the windy nightspace. I do not know how, but I returned to my home safely with two-zero-six-zero, as the air around me sang with the stench of metal and the shouts of wheat. It is now nearly time to start the dayworking, and no Kings have come to eat our tongues. I am thankful, though to whom I do not know.
I try not to think of the name she claimed to have. Geretraud. I like to think of this name but I try not to. The Kings did not give her that name. They told her she was two-zero-six-zero. Why does she think she is not? Why should she be Geretraud? No other dayworker is anything but a number. As I think that, I wish I had a name.
Two-zero-six-zero has not awoken yet. I hope I did not send her to sleep for too long. Perhaps this must be the first time I miss my dayworking, for I will not leave her until she wakes.
As she sleeps, I whisper to myself the name. She said it is her name, but I feel as if she has given it to me. I whisper it one last time, and sit on the floor beside her.
I wake and I see a roof that is not my own and I am lying on a pallet that is not my own. Inside my head there is such a screaming and it hits me over and over like a heartbeat. I sit up and my sight seems to slip until I am straight and still again. I stay sitting up with no moving, thinking with eyes closed about being in the quiet shouting wheat until the screaming inside me slows. Then, I look over to my side, and see eight-zero-one-nine asleep on the floor, shivering under no cover. I push out of his blanket and fling it over his body. This small weight wakes him.
I told you that is not my name.
I am happy he has remembered it. I smile, and he follows me in this. We are smiling at one another, and I do not know why.
Geretraud. How do you feel?
Tired, now. Tired and sad.
My smiling ends as I remember Iseult. Perhaps this pain inside my head is her name trying to escape. Perhaps I should shout once more for her.
I believe one-three-zero-eight is…
Her name is Iseult.
Yes. She was the first to be unnumbered. She was the first to find her name, and she gave me mine.
How did she get the name?
Her one-mother named her when she was within her. Then Iseult was born, and the Kings told her she was a number, but they did not know she was already a name.
And she named you?
Yes. She heard the names. I know not where from. I never asked her, though now I wish I knew. Perhaps I cannot know, for I was a number first before I was a name, and this was never so for Iseult. It is sad, for I will never be unnumbered as she is. She had her name before they tried to make her a number. They tried, but she was never a number. None of us are numbers. We have names and we do not know it. You have a name.
What is my name?
I do not know. Someday we will find it.
Geretraud, I believe Iseult is dead.
And I nodded, because I believed this too. Iseult is dead, and I still have my tongue. I would not if I had been alone last night. I touch my hand to eight-zero-one-nine’s.
Iseult is dead. I will not forget her name. All she was is now held in her name, remembered and known, as no number ever could record.
Iseult is dead, and I thought that would mean I am alone. But I woke to company, and out his window there is a field full others who do not know they are not alone. I am with them and we are not alone. Every number has a name, and these names will bind us when we know them all.
The Kings will tell us we may only be a number, and someday we will tell them no.
Previous: Part 2 of 3.